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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
December 5, 2013

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Death of U.S. Citizen in Benghazi
    • Condemnation on Attack at Ministry of Defense
    • Death of U.S. Citizen in Benghazi / International School / Travel Warning / Contact with Family / Consular Assistance
    • Indictment of Russians in New York / Legal Procedures / Reviewing Charges / U.S.-Russia Relationship
    • U.S. Engagement with Syrian Groups / Need for Political Solution
    • UNSC Resolution / Humanitarian Challenges / Chapter 7 Mandate / Need for International Community Support
    • Violence in Bangui
    • U.S. Assistance
    • Press Freedom
    • Draft Constitution / U.S. Concerns / Up to Egyptian People / Demonstration Law / Following Process
    • Vice President Biden's Meeting with American Journalists
    • Attack at Ministry of Defense / Suicide Bomber / Travel Warning
    • Secretary Kerry's Meetings / Continuing Discussions
    • Talks with Jordanians
    • Security Situation
    • Kim Jong Un's Uncle Jang Song Thaek
    • Merrill Newman / Kenneth Bae / Contact with Families


1:48 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hey guys, sorry I’m late. Another scarf today, Matt. I like it.

QUESTION: Buffalo Sabres, baby.

MS. HARF: I have a couple things at the top, and then I’m happy to open it up for questions. And again, I apologize for being a little late today.

As I noted in an on-the-record statement, we can confirm that a U.S. citizen named Ronald Thomas Smith II was shot and killed in Benghazi. He was a teacher at the International School there. We offer our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends and loved ones. We are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance. Out of the respect for the privacy of those affected, I don’t have a lot of further details at this time. For questions on the investigation, of course, we’d refer everyone to the Libyan authorities.

I have one more thing at the top, then I’m happy to answer questions on either. Just give me one second. Also, the United States condemns the terrorist attack against the Yemeni Ministry of Defense, which resulted in the senseless killing and wounding of dozens. We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims. We stand with Yemen against this violence and remain firmly committed to supporting the Yemeni people as they seek to conclude the national dialogue and move forward peacefully with Yemen’s historic democratic transition.

And with that, Matt.

QUESTION: Just on the Benghazi situation.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know what exactly your – the Embassy’s role is in – now? I mean, are they getting the --

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t have a diplomatic presence, as you know, in Benghazi.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean the Embassy in Tripoli.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We’re providing consular – appropriate consular assistance.

QUESTION: Can you say what appropriate consular assistance is in this kind of a case?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on that. I’m happy – again, we’ve been in touch with the family from Washington. I’m happy to see if there’s more details on that.

QUESTION: Do you – would it be normal in a case like this for the Embassy to help in repatriation of – that’s the kind of thing that I’m asking.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’ll get some more details. Again, this is just unfolding. Let me get some more details on that.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Do you keep track of Americans working for the International School?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t keep track of Americans working overseas statistic-wise. We encourage people to register online with the STEP Program so we do have a way to contact people overseas. As everyone knows, there are pretty severe Travel Warnings in effect for Libya, particularly Benghazi, but we don’t keep track of American citizens in that way, obviously, operating overseas.

QUESTION: If in this case American citizens in Benghazi need some sort of immediate or urgent help, what – where do they go? Who do they go to?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. The reason we have a Travel Warning – and I can just read from it. The Travel Warning from June 7th states – advises U.S. citizens against all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya. We have advised also against any but essential travel to Tripoli. In part because of the instability and violence, our ability to provide consular services in these regions is extremely limited.

Obviously, we again do have an Embassy, we have an Ambassador there, but there are different ways we can provide consular assistance. It’s just very limited in some areas.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any figures on how many Americans are in Benghazi?

MS. HARF: We don’t --

QUESTION: Not in Tripoli.

MS. HARF: No. We don’t keep any statistics because they just wouldn’t be reliable because people aren’t required to register when they travel abroad. They just wouldn’t be reliable statistics.

QUESTION: So not even a rough idea of how many Americans?

MS. HARF: Uh-uh, no, because people aren’t required to, so the numbers just – we have no idea if they would be reliable or not.


QUESTION: But you do have a number?

MS. HARF: Of American citizens overseas?

QUESTION: Of people who have registered at the – with the Embassy.

MS. HARF: We do, but that’s not – we don’t think that that’s necessarily an accurate representation of the number of Americans that might be in any given place.

QUESTION: Without getting into the numbers, can you tell us how common it is for Americans to be in that area teaching or with any NGOs?

MS. HARF: I really don’t have any way to – in any way characterize it. Again, our Travel Warning is very explicit in advising against all travel to this area. That’s sort of what we can do, is advise our citizens, and then it’s up to people individually to make decisions. I just don’t have any way to characterize it.

QUESTION: Jen, can you shed some light on how Americans go to Benghazi? Do they go there directly, they get a visa from Washington, or they go via a third country? I mean, what is --

MS. HARF: I have no idea, Said. I don’t know if there’s one specific travel route to Benghazi or how logistically people do.

QUESTION: Marie, I’m sorry, I missed the top of the briefing. What is the U.S. doing to help find the killer, or what have you asked, or do you know anything behind the killing?

MS. HARF: Well, again, this is just an ongoing situation. We’ve been in contact with the family, are providing appropriate consular assistance. In terms of an investigation, refer you to the Libyan authorities. We are working with those authorities to ascertain the facts related to the case, which again, there are a lot of unknowns right now because this tragedy occurred just recently today, so --


MS. HARF: We’ll update folks as we get more.

QUESTION: There was a video released recently by Adam Gadahn who basically asked for Muslims in Libya and elsewhere in the world to enact revenge for the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi by Special Operations Forces. Is there any indication or anyone looking into whether or not that video played a role in the killing today?

MS. HARF: I think you’re getting about 15 steps ahead of where we are. We have no idea why this happened, no one’s claimed responsibility, we don’t know who did it or why. Those are all the facts we’re looking into right now. Certainly we know there are threats in Libya. That’s why the Travel Warning’s written as it is. As we get more facts and the investigation unfolds, I’m sure we’re happy to have this discussion.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what the State Department’s involvement was in this investigation into alleged fraud by Russian diplomats in New York?

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

QUESTION: We understand that there was some involvement. I know it’s an ongoing legal issue, but I don’t – I’m not asking about that.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do they have immunity? Have you asked the Russians to lift the immunity?

MS. HARF: Here’s what I know about this so far and we’ll see if this is enough, or maybe if we can have more as this unfolds.

So criminal charges against 49 Russian citizens, including current and former Russian diplomats and their spouses, were unsealed in federal court in New York today – today’s the 5th. The Department of Justice obviously will have more of the details on the indictment. The charges are the result of alleged unlawful behavior by a group of individuals. We have informed our Russian counterparts in Washington, New York, and Moscow. I think that’s probably what you’re referring to in terms of the State Department action.

We are still at the State Department reviewing the charges that were unsealed. We’re not yet in a position to speak to the types of specifics about what might happen. Obviously, there is a legal procedure that will be unfolding from this point.

QUESTION: Well, has the Department of Justice asked you to ask the Russians to waive their immunity?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any further details about internal discussions about the case. I’m happy to keep looking into – I’m not sure we’d be able to share that even if they had, but I just don’t know what the facts are here.


MS. HARF: And not all of them are diplomats. Some are current, some are former, some are, I think, neither, but --

QUESTION: Well, does it concern you at all that employees of the Russian Government, while in this country, were involved in – allegedly involved in such a scam? Will you ask the Russian Government to repay what was – what they allegedly stole, for lack of a better word?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still looking into the charges and the type of specifics in terms of reimbursement and all of that. We’re still – we don’t have any position on that yet. We’re still looking at the charges. And as we go forward, we may have more to share.

QUESTION: Well, what does it say about the state of the reset in relations that Russian Government employees are --

MS. HARF: I don’t think I would probably draw a broad --

QUESTION: These are --

MS. HARF: -- yes – a broad generalization about our relationship with Russia based on a handful of some current Russian officials and some former who are charged with an alleged crime. I think the relationship is much bigger and deeper and broader and more complicated than that.

QUESTION: I would suggest to you that 49 is more than a handful, and this appears to have been going on over a sustained period of time. And it’s unlikely that the Russian Government was unaware that these people were –

MS. HARF: I don’t know if they were --

QUESTION: You’ve read the charges?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if they were --

QUESTION: I mean, they were buying incredibly expensive jewelry, taking these fabulous vacations. You would think --

MS. HARF: I honestly don’t know if they were aware. We don’t think this should affect our bilateral relationship with Russia. Quite frankly, there are too many important issues we have to work on together. The justice system will proceed in the way that it does here in the States, and we don’t think it should impact our relationship.


QUESTION: Can we change topic --

MS. HARF: Of course.

QUESTION: -- and go to Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday – apologies for not being here yesterday – but I read the briefing and you talked about the dialogue or the negotiations that you have with the Islamic group.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you tell us whether you are talking to, say, the Muslim Brotherhood? They are the only group that is really organized in Syria.

MS. HARF: Well, I would hesitate to say they’re the only group that’s organized in Syria. We obviously work with the SMC and a lot of groups in Syria.


MS. HARF: We aren’t going to outline each contact we have. We engage with a broad cross-section of groups, including some Islamist groups in Syria. Obviously, we don’t engage with who we consider to be terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: Apologies. I didn’t mean the only – they are the only political Islamic party that is recognized. That’s why --

MS. HARF: Again, we engage with a broad cross-section of groups. I’m not going to detail each one specifically.

QUESTION: But do you consider – under that rubric or whatever, you consider, let’s say, the Free Syrian Army as a secular movement, or is it as an Islamist movement? Because their rhetoric is quite Islamist.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t – I’m not going to use the term “secular,” but we have said that we engage with the moderate opposition. We’ve said the SMC is part of that opposition. This article was talking about the armed opposition, which I think is what you’re referring to, which is why I keep bringing up the SMC. So we’ll keep engaging with all these groups, because the reality is that we need all of them to buy into an eventual political solution forward here.

QUESTION: Okay. And my last question on Syria: Yesterday, Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, denied that Ms. Pillay, the Commissioner of Human Rights, placed Bashar al-Assad on a list of war criminals. Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the UN for those comments. We’ve said, broadly speaking, there needs to be accountability for folks in Syria who have committed these atrocities, including Bashar al-Assad. For any type of UN list, I’d refer you to them.

What else? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’ll change continents, then --

MS. HARF: Go for it.

QUESTION: -- and go to Africa.

MS. HARF: Go for it.

QUESTION: So the UN voted today on a French – to authorize an African French force --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in Central African Republic. I wonder what the – Ambassador Power’s been talking about it, saying that there needs to be a credible international force and that the U.S. supports his moves.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I know that the United States has already pledged some $40 million to help set it up.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: More broadly, what about any kind of UN peacekeeping force? What would be the United States stance on that?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. And as you mentioned, today, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a strong and forward-looking resolution to address the most pressing humanitarian challenges facing the Central African Republic. You are right. Ambassador Power did speak about this a little bit today. The resolution speaks to the deployment of MISCA and French forces with a Chapter 7 mandate, which we believe provides the most immediate vehicle to protect civilians, prevent atrocities, and restore humanitarian access.

The resolution also – and this speaks to your question – asks the UN Security – or excuse me, Secretary General – to begin contingency planning on a possible transition from MISCA to a UN peacekeeping operation if conditions warrant and allow for it. We’re not there yet. I don’t want to get ahead of that process. But broadly speaking, the resolution also does speak to that. Right now, we believe it’s imperative that the international community fully support the rapid deployment of this AU-led force, MISCA, and the increase of French troops, which of course we also do support.

QUESTION: So what kind of conditions on the ground are you looking for to be able to transition to a UN force, then?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are and lay that out. We’re focused on the action that was taken today. We do believe it’s important to support the AU in taking the lead in this matter. And should a UN peacekeeping operation be appropriate – deemed appropriate at some point, we do believe that a strong and well-equipped, well-financed MISCA will allow for a swifter transition. So I don’t want to outline steps, but we think this is a positive step in the process to helping this horrible situation that’s going on.

QUESTION: And talking about the horrible situation, just wondered if you had any reaction to the overnight shootings that happened in Bangui. There was quite a lot of violence. We were reporting that there were about 80 bodies found lying around a mosque.

MS. HARF: Well, we – I put out a statement yesterday about – the reports yesterday of the murder of innocent women and children, appalled by this violence. These horrifying accounts you mentioned, one, are just the latest in a string of reports that illustrate the really deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic. We fear this could lead to an escalation in violence, further atrocities. That’s why we think today’s step at the Security Council is a move to help try to prevent some of this going forward.

QUESTION: Can you explain why the Administration doesn’t think that it’s appropriate at this time to have a UN force there?

MS. HARF: Well, we believe that the African Union should take the lead in this. We support the French mobilization of troops. We’re just not at the point where a UN peacekeeping force, we think, is appropriate. But it’s a – the resolution is, as I said, one of the things it does is help set a path where we might have to do so.

QUESTION: Can you explain why you think that it is not appropriate at this time?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to see if there’s more information on why we feel that way.

QUESTION: Because your answer to my question, “Why is it not appropriate?” was because it’s not appropriate.

MS. HARF: We believe the AU should be in the lead.

QUESTION: Well, but can’t the AU take the lead in a UN mission?

MS. HARF: I can check on what the logistics of that look like or if there’s more to share on this.


QUESTION: I wondered also as well, above and beyond the $40 million that the U.S. has already pledged, are there any plans for any kind of American military involvement in this force?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. Again, the 40 million we pledged in support to MISCA, that’s an initial pledge. We’re calling on others to join us in pledging financial and logistical support as well. Again, no other plans or anything to announce at this point.

QUESTION: So no plans for any – like you did with the – for instance, in Mali, where you had trainers in other countries who were helping the troops?

MS. HARF: Nothing to my knowledge. But again, this is a situation we’re very focused on. I know lots of people around the U.S. Government are focused on it. And if we have more to add or announce in the coming days, I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: And what about – I mean, other than the UN stuff that’s going on, what about a diplomatic solution to this? Is the U.S. involved in – I mean, you’ve got Feingold involved in Congo, actively involved, and it seems to be making a difference. What kinds of steps, other than this one, is the U.S. involved in to get a diplomatic solution?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t have a lot of details on that right now. Obviously, we were focused on the peacekeeping operation today. Let me check in with our folks and see what the latest is in terms of a diplomatic solution to this situation.

QUESTION: And the last UN report on CAR makes reference to the possibility that it could become a safe haven for terrorists, that it has a lot of resources and is potentially dangerous in that regard. How worried is the State Department that CAR would devolve into a place where terrorists could operate freely?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly concerned about the deteriorating security situation for a number of reasons, most importantly because of the risk it puts citizens there at, as we talked about some of the atrocities that have been happening recently. That’s obviously a concern. That’s certainly a concern as well. Any place where there is this kind of security vacuum where there’s this kind of situation, that’s always certainly a concern.

QUESTION: Staying in the region then?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Then I’ll go – yeah.

QUESTION: Kenya? Kenya’s just passed today some amendments to a media bill, which has raised concern internationally about press freedom and rights of expression. Do you have a reaction?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that actually. I’m happy to look at it. We’ve, I think, expressed our – about Kenya and elsewhere – our feelings that it’s very important for media to be allowed to operate freely. We’ve talked about this a little bit in the wake of the attack there. I haven’t seen these new amendments, but I’m happy to look and check in.

QUESTION: Would you take the question? Would you --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: There’s also some proposed NGO law that’s quite similar to the stuff that you --

MS. HARF: In Kenya?

QUESTION: Yeah. So if you --

MS. HARF: Okay. I’ll take both of them. I just don’t have anything on that.

Said. Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The other day you said that you were looking closely at the draft constitution that was submitted to interim President Alat Mansour. What does that mean? Or Adly Mansour, I’m sorry. What does that mean when you say you are looking at it closely? Do you have a copy of that draft constitution?

MS. HARF: I don’t have one here in my book.

QUESTION: No, I’m saying do you --

MS. HARF: I can check and see if --

QUESTION: -- does the U.S. Government have a copy?

MS. HARF: I actually don’t know the answer to that, who has a copy, where. We obviously have been talking to the interim government about this since the beginning. As I said the other day, this is up to the Egyptian people to decide. This will go to a popular referendum. We do think that the draft constitution, as we talked about, provides some greater protections of some rights and freedoms. As I also mentioned, there are some provisions which we have, as I have said earlier, have some concerns about, including the civilian trials issue. So we’ll keep looking at it. But again, at this point, we think it’s up to the Egyptian people to make a decision.

QUESTION: So once you really scrutinize or you go over, you look at it very closely, as you put it --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how will you make your – you will say that we don’t like this article, we like this article?

MS. HARF: Again, I’ve said we have some concerns about some parts; we’ve raised them in the past. But at this point, the process is in the hands of the Egyptian people to make a decision voting on whether or not they accept this in their referendum.

QUESTION: Do you expect the Egyptians to stick to the 30-day timetable?

MS. HARF: To have a referendum?


MS. HARF: I certainly have no reason to think they won’t.

QUESTION: When you say it has some greater protections in it, greater than what? Previous drafts or the previous constitution?

MS. HARF: I can see what specifically that means.

QUESTION: And also when you said you have some concerns --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are you able to tell us what concerns you have?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said specifically the provision that allows for military trials of civilians in some cases. That’s the one I think we’ve talked about most frequently.

QUESTION: What about the law, the right to demonstrate and so on? It has departed from the past one, it seems. Do you have a position on that? Because that allows for the trial of let’s say like we have seen with the girls last – or, I’m sorry, the teenage girls a couple weeks ago or a week ago.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple points. We have been deeply troubled by some reports that activists have been ordered to stand trial under the recently decreed demonstrations law for protest-related charges. There have been several other detentions and arrests under this same demonstrations law. And we don’t believe that these steps match the government’s stated commitment to protecting Egyptians’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights, and reiterate the concerns that we share with civil society representatives inside Egypt that the demonstration law is restrictive and does not meet international standards.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any view on the ability of religious political parties to be involved in the political process? Does this new draft actually give everyone, regardless of whether they’re secular or religious, a role in the political process?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said, we’re continuing to follow the constitutional process. We’re looking at this draft, and we have said that we’re looking to the constitution to protect the fundamental freedoms and rights of all Egyptians. We’re not going to make sort of a blanket statement one way or the other on the constitution, but obviously, that’s what we’re looking to it to do.

QUESTION: I guess another way of putting it is: Do you feel that all parts of Egyptian society would have equal footing under this new constitution?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly what we’ve said is the goal of it, and we’ll leave it up to the Egyptian people to decide.

QUESTION: The banning of religious parties notwithstanding? I mean, you support --

MS. HARF: Again, we’re – the constitution is going to be voted on by the Egyptian people. That’s the goal that we think should come out of this process, but I don’t want to get ahead of the process.

QUESTION: Can you – are you concerned that taking any kind of a position on this constitution will somehow affect the vote?

MS. HARF: I just don’t think it’s appropriate when it’s going to a popular referendum for us to come out and say necessarily that we support this, we don’t support it. I think that it’s a complicated process and we make our concerns known when we have them.

QUESTION: Well, but it’s not a question of whether you support it or not. It’s a question of what your concerns are. You mentioned the one, but there are others, apparently, because you used the word “concerns” plural.

MS. HARF: And we discussed this privately with the interim government as well.

QUESTION: So are you worried that if you take a stance on anything more than just the civilian trial thing, a public stance, that that somehow is going to affect the vote?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that at this point we don’t think it’s appropriate to do.

QUESTION: So conversely, let’s say you make your points known on all these things, on the demonstrations law and so on. You could also encourage the Egyptians to vote yes or no one way or the other, correct?

MS. HARF: And that’s not what our role here is. It’s up to them to decide. Our role here is to talk about what, broadly speaking, our policy is, what we want the outcome of this process to be, but it’s not to tell the Egyptian people how to vote.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there is nothing wrong with sticking to your principles, say that our position --

MS. HARF: I don’t think that those two things are mutually exclusive. You can stick to your principles and – one of those principles is not telling other people how to vote.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your Vice President has met journalists in Beijing. What kind of message were you or he or United States trying to convey through that meeting?

MS. HARF: With the meeting with journalists? He did meet with a group of American journalists during his visit to Beijing to hear directly from them about their work in China and the treatment they receive in China. One of the issues they obviously talked about was a visa issue which the Vice President also raised in his official meetings. But I would refer you to the White House for more details about that meeting.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Yemen, I just see that you’ve put out a statement, but I’m not able to read it.

MS. HARF: I read it at the top as well.

QUESTION: I’m so sorry.

MS. HARF: I was late. It’s okay.

QUESTION: Next time I’ll --

MS. HARF: It’s my fault I was late, and then I gave a quick 2-minute warning.

QUESTION: Were there any Americans involved in --

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. We don’t have a lot of details at this point on casualties. Let me just pull this back up again. I’m just teasing you, by the way.

QUESTION: Don’t worry. Don that, too.

MS. HARF: We don’t have a lot of details of this point about the attack or casualties. It bears the hallmarks of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. It was a suicide bomber followed by some gunmen. We’re still seeking additional information on it. The embassy is advising all of our employees to avoid the area and the vicinity of the Ministry of Defense in Sana’a, and the Department of State obviously strongly recommends that U.S. citizens defer all nonessential travel to and around Yemen.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building spoken with anyone in the Yemeni Government? Has anyone spoken in particular with President Hadi?

MS. HARF: I can find that out. I don’t know the answer. I know the Secretary hasn’t as of the time I came out here. Minister Ahmad is currently in the U.S. He was here earlier this week for some meetings, actually, at the State Department. So I can get some updates on what conversations we’ve had.


QUESTION: Secretary Kerry’s trip or visit?


QUESTION: Today, he’s met or is meeting --

MS. HARF: As we speak.

QUESTION: -- as we speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He’s supposedly presenting Mr. Netanyahu with a security plan. Could you please elaborate on that if you have any information?

MS. HARF: Well, this morning, Secretary Kerry and General Allen, who as you know has been working on the security issue with a core team of defense experts, provided Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military leadership with some thoughts about a particular security challenge that we’re – security challenges that we’re going to be facing – that the Israelis are facing that we’re working with them on as part of this discussion. This conversation will continue over dinner, which I believe is happening right now, and possibly into tomorrow morning. And this isn’t a plan per se. This is really part of an ongoing conversation, a continuation of a conversation. More details certainly were provided, but it would be incorrect to say that some final plan was put on the table for discussion. It’s just a continuation of the discussions they’ve already had.

QUESTION: I understand this is not a plan where you say this is it, you can take it or leave it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But on the other hand, is it something that you discussed with the Palestinians?

MS. HARF: What, the security situation?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS. HARF: Well, Secretary Kerry, before --

QUESTION: The security arrangements. I mean, these security arrangements are --

MS. HARF: Well, that’s something we talk about with the Palestinians all the time. Secretary Kerry, I think, mentioned that in comments he made about his discussions with President Abbas just today that we discussed the security situation. Obviously, it’s a conversation we have with both sides.

QUESTION: Also, did you discuss these arrangements with the Government of Jordan, because there are people in Jordan that say yes, that you did discuss them and that, in fact, Jordan is not completely rejecting the notion or idea of having some sort of Israeli military presence along the Jordan River. Could you comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we talk to the Jordanians all the time about Middle East peace, about the different parts that are going to go into this, about Israel’s security, certainly. All the time we talk to the Jordanians about it. I am sure those conversations have been ongoing and will continue, but I’m not going to get into specifics about what those conversations entail.

QUESTION: Can you confirm or deny that this new security arrangement plan includes --

MS. HARF: You keep using that word “plan.”

QUESTION: Well, okay, whatever. Arrangements. They include maintaining all the settlement blocs under Israeli control?

MS. HARF: We’re just not going to get into the details about what those discussions look like on the ground. They’re ongoing. And if we have something more to say, I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: Same topic. Kerry today made the remark that there is some progress being made on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Can you outline some of that progress for us?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to detail, as we said to everyone’s, I think, chagrin in this room, what that looks like all the time on the ground. The discussions continue. The Secretary is there all day today, part of tomorrow, meeting with both the Israelis and the Palestinians on these issues. Today, we’ve talked a lot about security. So the process keeps moving forward, but obviously, there’s still a lot more work to do.

QUESTION: Well, he suggested that he would probably be heading back to the region, perhaps within the next week.

MS. HARF: I saw that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is – what more insight do you have into that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any other travel for the Secretary to announce at this point. He obviously travels there quite frequently.

QUESTION: Well, he said it would be depending on where we are in the process. I mean, so what is he looking for?

MS. HARF: Again, the conversations are ongoing. He is always happy and willing to go on the ground if it’s helpful, if he can help move the process forward. But nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: So on the peace process on the direct talks themselves, I’d asked a couple of days ago how many – when was the last talks held, and I believe you didn’t have an answer at that point. But the Palestinians said today that the last talks were actually held on November 5th, which is exactly a month ago today.

MS. HARF: Let me double-check that. I don’t know if that’s the case. Let me double-check.

QUESTION: Which would seem that if we’re in a nine-month process, we’ve had a one month of non-growth of talks.

MS. HARF: Let me double-check on that. I just don’t know when the last round of talks were.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I just – I mean, on the peace process itself on the direct negotiations, what is actually – are there plans for more talks? Are they going ahead, or is it just --

MS. HARF: Well, it absolutely still going ahead. The process is moving. It’s not all direct talks. Some of it’s our talks with each side. As you know, that’s happening today. Let me check and see what the status of the direct talks is.

QUESTION: You objected to the use of the word “plan.”

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And you used the word – you yourself used the word that – said that Secretary Kerry and General Allen presented Prime Minister Netanyahu with “some thoughts.”

MS. HARF: And some more details.


MS. HARF: But not --

QUESTION: Well, isn’t it fair to say that they’re more than just thoughts? They are --

MS. HARF: No, I don’t think so.

QUESTION: Really? So you’re really – so there hasn’t been any progress then on the security – on a security plan either?

MS. HARF: I don’t – that – Matt, those – A doesn’t follow B there. Sitting down and discussing more details about the security situation and what it might look like going forward, how this can be part of the negotiations, is progress. These are detailed discussions we haven’t had up until today. We’re putting more details on the table. But the notion that there was plunked down on the table some sort of this is our plan for security, thumbs up or thumbs down, just isn’t accurate.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I don’t think anyone said that.

MS. HARF: Well, I think Said sort of asked that.

QUESTION: But it is a plan, and I think – I just think it’s disingenuous not to say the plan is made up of thoughts from --

MS. HARF: Well, actually, I have talked to our team on the ground --


MS. HARF: -- who’ve said that what we presented them with was more details and more thoughts about the security situation and how we can work on this going forward. So I’m going to rely on what my team on the ground tells me.

QUESTION: All right. Well, I just think that you’re – the thoughts that they presented are part of a plan or a potential plan.

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Could you tell us if these thoughts began to germinate when the process began back in July, at the end of the July, that General Allen started working on that almost immediately?

MS. HARF: Well, General Allen is certainly a key part of this process, but these are issues we’ve been working on for a long time. We obviously – we started this process in July, I believe it was, and this is part of that process.

QUESTION: And – but they still remain in sort of the loose term of thoughts, correct?

MS. HARF: And more detailed. I said more details.

QUESTION: Was it presented in a written form or in oral form?

MS. HARF: I can find out.

QUESTION: I think in written form makes it obviously much more formal.

MS. HARF: I can try to find out. I can try to find out.

QUESTION: One on D.P.R.K.?

MS. HARF: Yeah. And I’m on a little bit of a tight time schedule, and I’m sorry because I was late.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. HARF: So no, ask your question, and then will be the last one, I think, unless anyone has any other cats and dogs.

QUESTION: Your Vice President seemed to have a talk with the Chinese regarding the DPRK’s internal issue --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the – Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on it?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details. I know the Vice President discussed it in that meeting, as you mentioned, but no additional details.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out if there’s going to be any more information out on Mr. Newman?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. There is not. The only other update I have is that we spoke to Mr. Newman and Mr. Bae’s families both yesterday, on December 4th. We’re in regular contact with the families of both. That’s my only update.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Who --

MS. HARF: The State Department.

QUESTION: -- spoke to --

MS. HARF: Both the families of Mr. Newman and Mr. Bae.

QUESTION: The families. All right. As far as you know, there hasn’t been any additional contact between either of them and the Swedes – I mean – yeah, the Swedes.

MS. HARF: The Swedes in either of the – not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: And as far as you know, the North Koreans have still not informed the Swedes of what charges or what --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen that there’s been some – the Korean --

QUESTION: No, I know that.

MS. HARF: -- Central News Agency report, but I don’t have any other additional information beyond that about the reason for his detention.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

DPB # 199

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