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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 16, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel
  • SYRIA
    • Condemnation of 'Barrel Bomb' Attack
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Administration Heavily Engaged in Process / Strong Partnership with Saudi Arabia Continues
  • SYRIA
    • Committed to Geneva Communique
    • Political Transition is Needed
    • Russia, U.S. and the UN Are Committed to Moving Forward on Geneva II
    • Humanitarian Assistance
    • Final UN Sellstrom Report
  • EGYPT
    • Popular Referendum on New Constitution
  • UKRAINE
    • Demonstrations Were Large Scale and Peaceful
    • Stress Importance of Dialogue
  • CHINA
    • U.S. Military Operations in International Waters and Airspace
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister
  • UAE
    • Incarceration of Shezanne Cassim for Posting Parody Video
  • INDIA
    • Procedure for Arresting a Foreign Diplomat versus Non-Diplomatic Personnel
  • MEXICO
    • Secretary Kerry's Letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Signing of BSA
  • DPRK
    • Dennis Rodman Travel
  • RUSSIA
    • Deployment of Missiles
  • LEBANON / ISRAEL
    • Incident on Israeli-Lebanon border
  • MALI
    • Second Round of Legislative Elections
  • CHINA
    • Lunar Landing
  • DPRK
    • Execution of Kim Jong-un's Uncle
    • Anniversary of Death of Kim Jung-il
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Security Situation
  • TUNISIA
    • Election of New Prime Minister
  • INDIA
    • U.S. Ambassador Summoned by the Indian Government in Delhi
  • JAPAN / YEMEN
    • Japanese Diplomat Attacked in Yemen


TRANSCRIPT:

1:33 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Happy Monday, everyone. I have a couple things at the top and then I am happy to open it up for questions. Just a quick travel update. Over the weekend, Secretary Kerry traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the Mekong Delta. Some of you may have seen some of the pictures and video coming out of that trip.

Today in Hanoi, he met with the Vietnamese prime minister and a host of other officials. In his meetings, Secretary Kerry emphasized the need for Vietnam to make continued progress on human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.

During many of his meetings, he also stressed the importance that maritime security plays for the region, announcing that the U.S. is pledging $32.5 million in new assistance for maritime law enforcement in Southeast Asian states. This assistance will foster greater regional cooperation on maritime issues and ultimately provide the ability of Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, to carry out humanitarian activities and to more effectively monitor their waters.

As you know, his visit to Hanoi is part of a larger swing through Vietnam that focuses on strengthening people-to-people ties, trade relations, the environment, and regional security. And of course, he will go on to the Philippines.

And one more quick statement at the top and then I’ll open it up for questions.

We strongly condemn the latest development from over the weekend that the Assad regime has drooped barrel bombs in and around Aleppo, killing dozens, including women and children. These bombs and the explosive materials contained within them further underscore the brutality of the Assad regime and the lengths they will go to attack and kill their own people. This is yet another deadly weapon that Assad is using, again, against his own people.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time these barrel bombs have been used against innocent civilians, and regime air raids in and around Aleppo have continued unabated. We are committed to our efforts to end the bloodshed there, to put an end to these horrific attacks. As we know, I’m sure there will be questions in here about where this process is going forward, but at the top wanted to very strongly condemn this latest development.

With that, Deb, kick us off.

QUESTION: The Saudi Prince al-Faisal says that the Obama Administration is indecisive. They’re wondering about the commitment that Obama has to the Middle East peace talks. They’re saying the U.S. is not trustworthy, not a trustworthy ally because of the secret talks with Iran. He says that the U.S. is losing influence in the Middle East. Does he have a point?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I would make a few points in response. The first is that, as you know, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a long and close strategic partnership. We share the same goals for the region. Whether it’s Middle East peace, whether it’s preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, whether it’s ending the bloodshed in Syria, we have all of the same strategic goals. And I think one of the hallmarks of a good partnership is the ability to have quite frank conversations, even maybe when we disagree, about these very important issues. That’s certainly the case with the Saudis and others.

On some of the specifics, obviously, we all are incredibly concerned and frustrated by the situation in Syria and are working towards a Geneva II conference to get a political transition there. We and the Saudis and others are working very hard towards that end.

If you look at Iran, I mean, we can talk about how hard we’ve all worked to get this first-step agreement. And quite frankly, the Saudis and others in the region have long said that the P5+1 should just be focused on the nuclear issue and not talk about broader regional issues because they’re not a part of those discussions.

And on Middle East peace, I don’t think anyone can accuse Secretary Kerry or this Administration of not paying attention to the process and not trying to move the process forward. Again, we saw Secretary Kerry there just a few days ago talking with both sides about how to move that forward.

So I think it’s clear that we remain heavily engaged in all of these issues. They’re complicated and they’re challenging, and we’ll keep working with the Saudis going forward.

QUESTION: Okay, a couple things. One, on the Middle East peace part, he didn’t say that the U.S. wasn’t committed to – that the U.S. wasn’t working on this. He said that he wondered if the President at the end of the day would be committed to sealing a deal, okay, that he worried about the end commitment of President Obama on that.

MS. HARF: Well, I think all you have to do is listen to what President Obama said at the Saban Forum a couple weeks ago talking about this and about the Iran issue. I think the President’s been very clear that we are committed to this. He’s tasked the Secretary of State to spend all these man-hours working on it. If he wasn’t committed to getting this done in the end, why would we be undertaking this process? It just doesn’t make any sense. So I can assure you that the President and the Secretary are very focused on seeing if we can get this done. We know it’s challenging.

QUESTION: Just generally on the accusation that the U.S. is losing influence in the Middle East, do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t know how helpful it is for me to stand up here and go tit-for-tat with someone who’s not even a government official at the moment in Saudi Arabia. Again, we have discussions about all of these issues with a wide range of senior government officials on the Saudi side and we’ll continue to do so.

I think that if you just look at all of these issues, it’s clear that we remain engaged and that we do have an important role to play. Obviously, we’re working with our partners on all of these issues right now and trying to move the ball forward on all of them.

QUESTION: But to follow up on this --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on --

MS. HARF: Yes, yes, yes. We’ll get to – go ahead and then I’ll go around. Arshad.

QUESTION: What has the President done to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process besides encouraging the Secretary of State to spend so much time on it and the President’s having made the Saban speech? And of course, he referenced it at the UN, and of course, he met the chief negotiators at the White House, but can you point us to specific things other than a speech here or there where the President has himself gotten directly involved and therefore might counter the Saudi question about how committed he is to it?

MS. HARF: Well, I think a couple data points I would point to. The first is that when the President went to Israel and the Palestinian territories however many months ago now, he made a very powerful, persuasive I would say, speech about the importance and the possibility of peace for the people in the Palestinian territories and for Israelis as well. He spoke to a group of young people and made a very direct case for why the U.S. cares and why we’re going to engage on this even more.

I don’t think I would downplay the task that he gave Secretary Kerry and the fact that in a UN generally assembles – General Assembly speech where he could’ve talked about anything in the world, he focused on a very narrow set of issues, one of which was the importance of the peace process and how he has directed his Secretary of State who also has a lot of issues on his plate to spend this many man-hours working, again, getting both parties back to the table in final status negotiations. Putting that at the top of our agenda, I think, is not a move that’s without importance, certainly. And I think that’s why the Secretary appointed a special envoy, why we’re there on the ground working with these parties constantly to move the process forward.

QUESTION: And I --

QUESTION: Well, can I – I mean, you’re talking --

QUESTION: Go ahead. I have another one but it’s okay.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Talking about being there on the ground --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Israeli press is – today is tweeting that Secretary Kerry is considering going back there on his way back from Manila. Is that something you can tell us about?

MS. HARF: Nothing new on travel to announce at this point. The Secretary’s always said that if it make sense for him to go and it could help move the process forward, he’s happy to do so.

QUESTION: I think the idea was be – that he wanted specifically to see President Abbas. Is there a notion perhaps within the building that the Palestinians are the ones who are the hardest to persuade, to bring into this process fully?

MS. HARF: No, I would discount that – that notion. I think it’s important for him to engage with both sides, which is why every time you go there you see that happening. So I wouldn’t put it on one side or the other in any way.

QUESTION: Well, he did – first of all, he did have several more meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu last time. Is that why he wants to --

MS. HARF: Again, I wouldn’t read anything into this. We don’t have any travel to announce at this point.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: If he thinks it’s important to make progress, he’ll certainly go back.

QUESTION: Okay. Back to the Saudi Prince’s comments.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, one of the things that he said is we’ve seen several redlines put forward by the President on Mideast peace – on Mideast policy which we went along with, which became pink as time grew and eventually ended up white – meaning that like when the President lays out policy, he doesn’t stick to it. And he said that there’s an issue of confidence, and he particularly spoke on Syria. And one of the issues that you even spoke about today is there has been so much focus now on this chemical weapons deal, because that was the biggest danger. But as you see, the Assad regime is now killing people in other crude or --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- continues to kill people in other crude ways. So, I mean, how – while you are in the process of eliminating the chemical weapons, it doesn’t seem as if this is stopping the violence in any meaningful way.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is that this easy rhetorical line about redlines was referring, in fact, to chemical weapons use. And when we first determined they had used it in a limited amount of cases back in June, we took action and increased the scale and scope of our support. And then in August, of course, when we determined they had used it on a very large scale, we took steps to now, as we’ve seen, destroy their entire chemical weapons stockpile, which is good, honestly, for the entire region, including Saudi Arabia. The fact that if the largest chemical weapons, I think, stockpile in the world is gone, that’s good for regional security and certainly something that’s good for Saudi security as well.

So we’ve been very clear on the chemical weapons issue, that when redlines were crossed, we’ve acted. None of us are naive about the fact that the situation, as I said at the top, remains incredibly dangerous, the Assad regime’s brutality continues, and that’s exactly why we need to get everyone at the table at a Geneva II conference to get a political transition in place here because we know there’s no military solution. If we can’t get a political solution, this violence will continue unabated, and that’s just not what we need to see happen here.

QUESTION: Marie, can I get one little one? Just --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: You referred to Prince Turki al-Faisal as somebody who’s not even a member of the government. He is, however, a member of the royal family. He was the head of intelligence for Saudi Arabia for decades, if I’m not mistaken. And he was the U.S. ambassador to --

QUESTION: And U.S. --

MS. HARF: And ambassador.

QUESTION: He was the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Do you think he’s just freelancing this? Or do you think maybe he is the Saudi royal family’s chosen messenger to deliver this message, and therefore maybe what he says should not be sniffed at as the comments of an out-of-government official?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t sniffing at them, I was merely stating a fact that he’s not currently in government at this moment. The other point is that we routinely discuss all of the issues Turki al-Faisal raised with Saud al-Faisal, with King Abdullah, with other senior Saudi officials, so it’s not a secret that we talk about these issues with senior Saudi officials all the time. And when there are disagreements, we all talk about them openly. That’s what people that work together do.

So I don’t want to venture a guess as to what his motivations are, and he’s certainly entitled to his own opinion. But what I’m conveying is that we do discuss all of these issues with senior members of the Saudi Government and they convey to us when they have issues and we discuss it.

QUESTION: And can you go into your --

MS. HARF: Yes. Let me go over here – hold on. Or do you have another one? Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah, this was my question about the --

QUESTION: Please, please.

QUESTION: -- I have two on – two questions on Syria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Two – ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden has said yesterday that Assad wouldn’t may be Syria’s best option. Are you considering this option?

MS. HARF: I did not see those comments by the former CIA director. We’ve been very clear what our position is, that Assad has no place in the future of Syria. That hasn’t changed – period, full-stop – in any way shape or form. But one of the reasons we believe that we need a political transition through a Geneva-like process – a Geneva II process – is because we want to give the transition period the best chance to move forward with some cohesion around it, with structures in place, to move forward with as much stability as possible, even in an incredibly unstable situation. Certainly, that’s why we need a political transition, but Assad has no place in that. Certainly, our position has not changed.

QUESTION: Another one on Syria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Are there any meetings between any American officials with the Islamic Front in Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, no announcements or details to provide at this time. We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front, but again nothing to announce at this time. If and when we have announcements to make, I am happy to do so. Again, nothing official. I know there’s been some rumors out there.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the barrel bombs?

QUESTION: On this context --

MS. HARF: Hold on one second.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the barrel bombs?

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Are there any additional measures that you’re considering as a consequence for these type of things? We haven’t seen a whole lot of new sanctions or any type of new measures against the regime for its continued violence against its people. So I know that you had this deal on the chemical weapons --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which saved them from military action. But I’m wondering: Where is the consequence for this action and brutality that you discussed today?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check. I honestly don’t have anything new to announce, don’t know what folks are considering on our team in terms of next steps. But this isn’t about consequences, it’s about putting an end to the bloodshed, and that’s exactly why, again, we believe that we need to move forward with the Geneva II process.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, I understand what the Geneva II process – but truthfully, I think everyone acknowledges that the chance that you’re actually going to be able to produce a political transition from this one conference are very slim. But at the same time, you had said all along that the policy was to continue to put pressure on Assad so that it would change his calculus, and then he would be willing to accept a political transition. But it doesn’t seem as if there’s any more pressure on him from the international community to change his calculus. And his calculus is that he doesn’t feel like he needs to step down anymore. He feels more emboldened than ever. So how is his calculus going to change?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure, quite honestly, if I would necessarily agree with the assessment that he feels more emboldened than ever. I think there’s a lot of international pressure. I think when you look around the world and see that Russia and the U.S. and the UN are all committed to moving forward with a process that, by definition in the Geneva communique, would end with a new government in Syria that – that, I think --

QUESTION: It’s just a piece of paper, though. I mean, he has said, “I’m not leaving.”

MS. HARF: Again, the Geneva communique, which outlines very clearly what a transitional government needs to look like, has been signed up to by a number of people, including Russia, who as we know, does exert some influence on the Syrian regime. We’re tracking towards a Geneva II conference, as we all know. But again, I don’t want to downplay the – how complicated this is or sound naive about the challenges that we face. This is why, for example, we’ve called on the Assad regime to allow humanitarian access in certain places to try and get some humanitarian assistance to folks on the ground, because the Syrian people, as you said, are suffering incredibly not just from these awful bombs, but from the fact that it’s freezing cold and it’s snowing and they can’t get food.

And so we’re trying in every way we can and are committed in every way we can to help on the humanitarian side, to help end the bloodshed, to help on the diplomatic side. But I’m not going to stand up here and say that it’s not really complicated and really difficult.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Can I follow up just on that access issue?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Then I’ll go – I’ll get to you. Yes.

QUESTION: What exactly are – you all are doing to try to increase access? Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: On the humanitarian side?

QUESTION: Uh-huh.

MS. HARF: Let me see the latest I have. If there’s anything new – I would remind folks – and let me just go through a little bit of this; I don’t know if we have anything new. I think right now what we’re doing is evaluating how best to help going forward, if we can provide additional assistance, provide additional measures like that. As folks know, we’ve provided $1.3 billion in humanitarian assistance. Nearly $700 million of that is for assistance inside Syria. As we know, this helps with life-saving medical care, food, clean water, shelter, and relief supplies. We’ve called repeatedly on the regime to immediately lift all arbitrary bureaucratic locks on visas for humanitarian aid workers and UN security personnel and to facilitate – excuse me – the delivery of urgently needed aid.

I think on Sunday night the World Food Program was able to airlift 40 tons of food to northern Syria. Again, this isn’t – of course, this is a good thing that we could get it on the ground, but this is a very complex and expensive alternative to simply permitting humanitarian access. So this is one of those examples where we were able to get some food in through the World Food Program, but it wasn’t the ideal or best way to do it.

So we’re going to keep working to try and get this assistance in any we can.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that, since you mentioned northern Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the status of the nonlethal aid to northern Syria which was suspended last week after the warehouses were --

MS. HARF: No update on that. Same as last week.

QUESTION: I mean, do you – what is your reply to the contention which is emerging in the European press that this is being perceived as a dropping in support for the SMC and the military rebels in Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, I would emphasize that in no way this is indicative of some sort of drop in support for the SMC, for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, for General Idris. We very come out – come out very clearly and said that they’re the legitimate representatives of the Syrian opposition and the Syrian people. Obviously, this is a logistical challenge and a security challenge. But this is no way is indicative of any drop in support for the folks that you mentioned.

QUESTION: I think the message is getting a bit mixed, though, because people talk about aid, and so they think the aid’s being cut off. And I think there was some wrong reporting out in Europe that it was the cutoff to all – of all aid to the Syrians. How do you address that mixed message that’s getting out there?

MS. HARF: Well, try and very clearly state what’s true and what’s not. I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I would say that as we go forward and talk to different Syrian opposition factions – certainly the SMC but also if at some point we discuss this with the Islamic Front – we would expect that nonlethal assistant be returned – assistance, excuse me – be returned to the rightful recipients. If and when at some point we engage with the Islamic Front, we would underscore this point for exactly some of those reasons that you mentioned.

QUESTION: So you say, “if and when.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you actually actively preparing to meet with the Islamic Front?

MS. HARF: We’re always open to meeting with a wide range of opposition groups. Obviously, it may make sense to do so at some point soon. And if we have something to announce, we will.

QUESTION: And would this be led by Ambassador Ford?

MS. HARF: Not necessarily. He’s obviously a key interlocutor with the opposition, but not necessarily.

QUESTION: And where is he at the moment? Is he in --

MS. HARF: He is somewhere in the region. I’ll double-check on exactly where he is. At some point, I think he will be going to Turkey, but I’m not sure he’s there yet.

QUESTION: And I just had one more question on this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You did say previously that you were holding groups of a wide section of the opposition, including the moderate --

MS. HARF: Islamists.

QUESTION: -- Islamic groups which are not designated as terrorists. Have those – where have those meetings taken place? Have they been in Turkey, or --

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: There was a question about whether they had actually met in London as well.

MS. HARF: I can check. I actually just don’t the answer. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Marie, why isn’t it –

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you consider the Islamic group a moderate group?

MS. HARF: The Islamic Front?

QUESTION: As in Front, yes.

MS. HARF: Well, they’re not – as folks, I think, probably know, they’re an alliance of prominent Islamist groups in the Syrian opposition. They don’t include al-Nusrah, which, of course, we designated last year. And we do – we can engage with the Islamic Front, of course, because they’re not designated terrorists.

QUESTION: And do you have any problem if they go to Geneva II?

MS. HARF: Again, no decisions have been made on, I think, who will make up the delegations of the opposition and the regime, and, of course, external participation. There’s a trilateral in Geneva at the end of this week to hash out a lot of these logistics.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said that nothing should suggest the diminution of your support for the SMC. Given that they’re not capable now even of protecting the warehouses where they store the nonlethal goods you give them, why mightn’t you – why wouldn’t you think twice about your support for them?

MS. HARF: Well, this is one development in an ongoing conflict that’s been going on over many months, and I wouldn’t say this is the end-all be-all in terms of evaluating the strength of the SMC, this one incident that’s happened with the Islamic Front in their headquarters. We remain committed to them. We continue to have discussions with them and we’ll keep working with them.

QUESTION: But it was enough for you to cut off your aid to northern Syria, nonlethal aid to northern Syria. So it was obviously serious enough for that.

MS. HARF: Well, the assistance that we had to stop providing was purely because of security reasons. It wasn’t indicative of any sort of lessening of support.

QUESTION: Does that speak to the nature of what you were providing rather than the security of how it was kept?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it was purely a security issue about getting things to where they needed to be.

QUESTION: Same subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just, like, on the same subject, there are some confirmed reports that the meeting between the Islamic Front and the U.S. officials will take part tomorrow on the – or in the Turkish capital. Do you confirm those reports?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I just said I don’t have anything to announce, and I think we would be the ones confirming any meeting between U.S. officials and the Islamic Front. And when we have something to confirm or announce, we will do so.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

MS. HARF: It’s okay. And then I’ll go to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: Just on a purely logistical question, I wondered what the status of the Embassy is in Damascus at the moment. It’s closed, yeah?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And how are you managing to keep it secure?

MS. HARF: I will find out. I don’t know.

QUESTION: And I wondered – because there have been some European diplomats who’ve gone back into Damascus to check on the buildings and so on and so forth --

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: -- and I just wondered whether – yeah.

MS. HARF: It’s a good question.

QUESTION: When would you even consider reopening the Embassy?

MS. HARF: I have no idea what those discussions are like. Let me double-check with our folks and see.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes. I’m going to you.

QUESTION: This is – the first thing regarding the humanitarian aid.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You mentioned the number 1.3 billion.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to challenge that number, but what UN is asking yesterday, the partners or whoever is the international community, it may reach to $13 billion, or at least they need now almost $6 billion. Are you ready to participate in this huge number, which is, like, U.S. now is giving one-fifth of it or something like that?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, we’ve been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance, and we’re looking at what more we can do and what makes sense. We’re determining the best way to do that going forward. And if there’s an opportunity to provide more assistance in a way that makes sense, of course we’re happy to evaluate that.

QUESTION: Do you have any update regarding the reaching of the humanitarian aid? Because this is still a big problem with – seriously with the – even with the snowstorm.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A lot of complainers that the roads are blocked and nothing is reaching to anybody – or most of the people, they don’t get what they need.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It’s a horrible problem. We continue and will continue to work through all possible channels to most effectively deliver this aid. I would note also another statistic: The U.S. food aid accounts for more than one-third of all food assistance received by conflict-effected Syrians. Obviously, food is a huge problem, and shortages there. We’re going to work through all available channels. But I don’t want anyone to think that we don’t understand the severity of situation. That’s why we’re so committed to doing whatever we can, even though it’s pretty hard to do so.

QUESTION: So another related to the reality on the ground, or let’s say realities on the ground.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Almost a week ago, you said that this warehouse was taken by the whatever --

MS. HARF: The Islamic Front.

QUESTION: -- some militias or whatever.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you talk about General Idris, and then we are talking about the possibility of meeting Islamic Front.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What you are trying to do now exactly? Can you explain to me?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said for a while that we are open to meeting with a broad range of Syrian opposition groups that make up the opposition, so this isn’t new, necessarily. Obviously, if there would be a meeting with the Islamic Front, it would be in the context, certainly, of the taking over of the SMC headquarters. But what we’re trying to do, broadly speaking, is to encourage the opposition to coalesce to get folks to buy into the notion – and in practice, certainly – of a Geneva II conference. So we need the opposition to buy into that – the broad swath of the opposition, right? So, obviously, that’s something we would talk about.

Also in our conversations with different groups that make up the opposition, we talk about the fact that we don’t work with al-Qaida linked groups like Al-Nusrah. We make that very clear in all of our conversations. And we also, as I said, made clear that if – that we need to channel assistance through the proper ways we do that and groups we do that, and we’ll continue doing that going forward.

QUESTION: There is another thing which is one of the realities on the ground, that most of this group, whether Islamic Front or others, probably armed ones, they are almost working proxy for other people, which is, like, either funded or somehow sponsors or somehow helped by neighboring countries, and including some of them, whether Turkey, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, whether Qatar and other countries, they are even friends or allies to United States. Are you talking to those people to close the tab, or talk to their proxies, or something like that?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly talk to all of those countries you mentioned in the region that we work with about Syria all the time – also about other issues, whether it’s Iran or Middle East peace. And our message is exactly the same as I just said, that we need to – all of us who are working with the opposition to help get the opposition coalesced into a political transition process, to buy into that process and indeed support it. So those are the same conversations we’re having with our partners that I’m saying right here.

QUESTION: So another which is – I was trying to ask this question at the beginning when they were talking about the Saudi Prince Turki. He mentioned this thing similar criticism to United States. And by the way, he was stressing that – he said there is a long and strong partnership between Saudi Arabia, United States. I mean, I’m sure that --

MS. HARF: The first thing I stressed here, too.

QUESTION: I mean, which is – that’s why I’m reminding you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, there is no difference at that point. But what – he mentioned that the criticism mentioned almost a month ago in Washington, and now he is doing it through the American press all over people to read it. Why – what, do you think the message was not reached to him, or he didn’t get the message?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t want to venture to guess why he gives interviews or says what he says. We talk all the time with the Saudis about these issues. We don’t need to do it in the press; we do it privately, with high-level Saudi officials. And as I said, we do have a longstanding partnership, we value that partnership, and believe we’re moving forward with the same strategic goals for the reason. When there are issues where we have disagreements, they raise them with us, privately, diplomatically, and we discuss those with them as well. So none of that’s a secret. And again, I will let Prince Turki speak for himself and explain why he made the comments that he made.

QUESTION: Okay. Change the topic?

QUESTION: Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. HARF: Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: Syria, please?

MS. HARF: Let’s finish Syria, and then I will let you change the topic. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. Can I ask about reaction to the UN weapons report that concluded that it was Syrian Government troops that were also victims of the attack of the sarin gas, and not necessarily just the rebels?

MS. HARF: Well, the UN Sellstrom report, as you mentioned, it was finalized recently. And again, I would remind folks that the mandate of it wasn’t to assign blame. We were very clear that our intelligence community after this attack in August did an incredibly thorough, extensive assessment regarding the August 21st attack. It included intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for the attack and its means of delivery. It included multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. So we did an assessment at the time. I was very – we were very open in talking about it, that there was no one else in Syria with the capability to launch such a massive attack using chemical weapons, and that all of our intelligence certainly pointed to the regime’s culpability. The UN report, which we welcome, of course, shows the horrific effects of chemical weapons. And again, our assessment, which is a very strong one, is that this is, of course, the regime who did this.

QUESTION: But was the regime attacking their own troops?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that part of the report. Honestly, I haven’t seen that part of the Sellstrom report. I’m happy to look at it. But again, our assessment of our intelligence community, everybody else who’s looked at this, is that the regime is responsible for this. Indeed, that’s why we’re moving forward right now to destroy their chemical weapons stockpile. I don’t have a breakdown of all of the victims of this attack, certainly.

QUESTION: South China Sea?

MS. HARF: I told Said I would let you change the subject. I promised. And then I will get around the room.

QUESTION: It’s Egypt.

MS. HARF: Egypt, yes.

QUESTION: So the interim government announced that – or the interim president announced that on 14 and 15 is going to be referendum about the new constitution. Do you have any comment about that, anything to say?

MS. HARF: Nothing new. As we’ve said, this goes to the popular referendum. They’ve named a date, it looks like. And we’ll leave it up to the people of Egypt to decide one way or the other whether they support this.

QUESTION: So a week ago or two weeks ago when it was – the draft was issued, you mentioned that you are studying it. Do you have any outcome of that studying or reviewing, or we don’t have anything still?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our team again. As I said at the time, we’ll certainly be looking at it, but it’s not for us to make public pronouncements one way or the other about how people should vote in this popular referendum. It’s up to the Egyptian people. I’ll check in with our team again and see if there’s any new analysis.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we move to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes. And then we can go to South China Sea, I promise. Yes.

QUESTION: You have probably seen that the EU, or at least one EU commissioner has announced the suspension of all talks with Ukraine on their partnership, so how did you take this strong decision? And more broadly, the U.S. is pushing very hard Ukraine to become an EU member. Are you convinced --

MS. HARF: An association agreement.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean, as an EU member, are you convinced that the EU wants or is ready to welcome this country?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, the talks between the EU and Ukraine are bilateral in nature. I would refer you to them for more specifics. It’s our understanding that these talks are ongoing. I know you mentioned one, I think maybe it was a tweet of someone. I just don’t have the latest on where those talks stand. I’m sure that they do.

I would note that the demonstrations over the weekend were very large scale in nature and they were peaceful, which we condemn – or – condemn, excuse me – commend – sorry, it’s Monday – commend everyone for ensuring that they were, in fact, peaceful. We continue to stress the importance of dialogue, of no violence, of all sides respecting human rights, and avoiding violence going forward.

In terms of whether – the EU is clearly committed to – High Representative Ashton’s been very clear that they’re committed to moving forward with the association agreement, and I think that should speak for itself.

QUESTION: We see, like, not just – we saw Senator McCain over the weekend talking about sanctions. Can you say anything about where your consideration of (inaudible) any type of sanctions are at this point?

MS. HARF: Nothing new other than what we’ve talked about before, that all diplomatic tools are on the table, including sanctions, as we said. But at this point, we have urged the Ukrainian Government to deescalate the situation and forge a consensus path forward for Ukraine. That’s certainly what we’re calling on them to do right now.

QUESTION: You have a lot of celebrities now talking out about this. You have this George Clooney message --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and some others sending direct messages to the people of Ukraine – something you really hadn’t seen a lot in the Arab Spring or anything like that. Is there anybody in this building reaching out to people to be --

MS. HARF: To George Clooney?

QUESTION: To George Clooney.

MS. HARF: I haven’t, certainly.

QUESTION: I know you’re doing it, Marie. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I have something to announce. No – (laughter)

QUESTION: Is there any kind of --

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of coordination with anybody in Hollywood --

MS. HARF: Honestly, the answer is I don’t know. I’m happy to check and see if anyone is.

QUESTION: Okay. Maybe you can call George Clooney and ask.

MS. HARF: The predecessor up here maybe is calling George Clooney himself. Assistant Secretary --

What?

QUESTION: A follow-up to this question.

MS. HARF: Yeah. It’s a good – I just don’t know. I’ll have to – I’ll find out.

QUESTION: Celebrity level are doing thing with the demonstrators.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Are you keeping the diplomatic channels with the official people or not?

MS. HARF: Certainly, we talk diplomatically with Ukrainian officials all the time. Assistant Secretary Nuland has been very engaged in this issue, as have others. Yes, absolutely. We’re not passing messages back and forth through George Clooney if that’s what you’re asking. (Laughter.)

Your turn.

QUESTION: No, thank you. Thank you for (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: It is about South China Sea. In the United States, it is reported that a Chinese naval vessel official tried to force a U.S. warship to stop in international waters. But on the contrary, in China it is reported U.S. ship harassed China’s fleet. It’s totally different. So what is – what’s the truth and how do you comment this condition?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. As you probably know, the U.S. regularly conducts military operations in international waters and airspace. In terms of this issue, the U.S. has raised it at a high level with the Chinese Government. For more details, I think I would refer you to the Department of Defense for any further comments. Obviously, this is in their lane of the sea, I should say.

QUESTION: But in this case – yeah, I know this comment. United States has raised --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this issue at the high level. What do you mean that the issue is at the high level? You discussed what --

MS. HARF: Who, specifically?

QUESTION: United States has raised --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- yeah, with Chinese Government. So what do you mean by the high level and this issue at the high level? You criticize or discuss what kind of things?

MS. HARF: I’ll see if I can get more of a readout of those discussions. I just don’t have one.

QUESTION: I wonder at the time, what does – what did the U.S. ship do during – in that sea area?

MS. HARF: Again, it’s a Defense Department ship. I’d point you to them to discuss the incident further.

QUESTION: What does this incident mean diplomatically?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if I would read anything sort of macro-level diplomatically into it. Obviously, we work with the Chinese on a number of issues. Secretary Kerry spoke with the Chinese foreign minister on the 15th, if that was yesterday, I think. They talked about a wide range of key bilateral and regional issues, including the DPRK and the Middle East. So obviously, we work together closely on a whole range of issues, and I would point you to DOD for any specifics on that.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this Shezanne Cassim case on the UAE video? The family just put a statement that they’re disappointed that the court date was changed and no action has been done to release this filmmaker.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you from last week. As I said, we’re troubled by his prolonged incarceration, are providing consular services to him, and have talked to our UAE counterparts about this issue and raised it, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: What are you raising specifically with them, that the video is ridiculous and is not a threat to UAE national security?

MS. HARF: Broadly speaking, we’ve urged a fair and expedient trial and judgment. We’ve raised our concerns about his prolonged incarceration without coming to a judgment, and will continue to raise those concerns with the Emiratis.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, this is an incident that you’ve spoken out in other countries and other cases about. Should this person be on trial for a spoof parody video on terrorism or charges to threatening a country’s national security? I mean, you’ve seen the video.

MS. HARF: I have.

QUESTION: Do you think – what – do you think that this gentleman’s video is a threat to UAE national security?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do some sort of either security analysis or legal analysis about the UAE legal system. What I will say is our diplomats have raised it directly with the UAE Government. We --

QUESTION: The charges per se or just the prolonged --

MS. HARF: We’ve raised his case, certainly. We’ve urged – and said we’re troubled by his prolonged incarceration. We’ve urged them to proceed with a fair and expedient trial. Obviously, I think there was another delay just today. So, again, this is something we’ll continue raising.

QUESTION: Who was exactly arrested? And then --

MS. HARF: One was --

QUESTION: -- why you are using the word “prolonged”? I mean, just I want to figure out.

MS. HARF: So he’s been incarcerated since April 7th of 2013.

QUESTION: April 7th.

MS. HARF: So that’s been a little while – before I was at the State Department, yeah, certainly. He was incarcerated for five months before he was notified of the charges against him, and eventually was charged with national security violations.

QUESTION: Why you didn’t – sorry to --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why you didn’t raise this issue in the last five or six months?

MS. HARF: We certainly have raised with it with the Emiratis directly.

QUESTION: From the beginning, you mean from April?

MS. HARF: Absolutely, yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If there was – if this was any other country, you would be screaming from the rooftops that this is the most ridiculous charge and that the idea that this gentleman has been in jail for three-quarters of a year is completely preposterous. And I don’t understand why, in this case, you’re just asking for a fair trial.

MS. HARF: I would disagree, probably, with your assertion about what I would say in any other different case. Every case is different. And the point here is that we’re raising it with the Emirati authorizes who, of course, have some power here to help move the process forward.

QUESTION: My other question, related: Is he treated properly, or you don’t know?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly providing consular services to him. We’ve visited him regularly and attended all of his court hearings. I can double-check and see if we have any indications that he’s not. But again, part of why we’re troubled by this was he was incarcerated again for five months before he was even notified of charges against him.

QUESTION: Staying on diplomatic cases.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today the Indian Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Mia Kumar and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon canceled their meetings with the visiting bilateral congressional delegation --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because of Miss Devyani. Are you concerned?

MS. HARF: I think I’d probably point you to the congressional delegation to comment on that. I’m happy to look into what happened exactly further. I just don’t know the details. And if I have anything more to share tomorrow, I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: Two --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify some points.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports now that the Indian diplomat was strip searched in police custody. We are expecting other nations to respect our diplomats. Why we are not respecting the basic courtesies that should go to a diplomat in this case?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: This will not be DOJ; this will be the State Department.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple points. The State Department’s Diplomatic Security – followed – excuse me – standard procedures during the arrest. After her arrest, she was passed on to the U.S. Marshals for intake and processing. So for any additional questions on her treatment, obviously, this would be the U.S. Marshals and not us. I would refer you there.

QUESTION: I have a --

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: Yeah, go ahead. Continue.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. That – we expect a certain degree of courtesy from others. And the Indian Government has asked – repeatedly asked now. What is your reaction – what reaction have you given to the Indian Government?

And then there is another thing that the Indian Government has said that Indian Government had conveyed to the U.S. Administration about the maid fleeing. Why nothing was done, no action was taken for that?

MS. HARF: Well, again, that’s why Diplomatic Security, which is under the State Department purview, followed standard procedures during her arrest. In terms of that specific, I think I’d probably – if it’s part of the ongoing investigation and case, I’d have to point you to the Department of Justice for those specifics. I just don’t have those details.

QUESTION: Can I ask, just about this?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: In the instance where a foreign diplomat is arrested and charged with criminal activity in the United States --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as a matter of course, are they not treated as regular criminals or alleged criminals might be treated, or are they supposed to be treated differently from other alleged criminals?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Could you check?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I don’t know what courtesies should or should not have been extended to a foreign diplomat who is accused of a crime --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- but it would be helpful for everybody to understand if they are entitled to any kind of special treatment or not.

MS. HARF: Right. No, and it’s a totally fair question. Again, our Diplomatic Security folks followed our standard procedures, which I’m assuming are standard for diplomats because that’s who our Diplomatic Security deals with. I can’t speak for the U.S. Marshals, obviously. That’s for them to speak to. But I’ll check and see --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- if I have any more on it.

QUESTION: Just a quick --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is the diplomatic immunity only up to your diplomatic services, your diplomatic actions, or is it to the person? Like, how do you define it? Why this – hell is being raised.

MS. HARF: Well, there’s diplomatic immunity; there’s consular immunity. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Indian deputy consul general enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions. Again, there’s different kinds of immunity. This isn’t just in the U.S.; it’s all around the world. So in this case, she fell under that specific kind of immunity, and would be liable to arrest pending trial pursuant a felony arrest warrant.

Elise. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: (inaudible) – on Texas, this is about the Secretary’s letter to Governor Perry and the attorney general about this Mexican man who’s on death row.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Apparently, the Secretary said that if he were to be executed, this would hurt U.S. efforts to have consular access overseas. Can you discuss that?

MS. HARF: Yes. No, and I discussed this a little bit last week, but thank you for the question. The Secretary did write a letter in September to Governor Perry about this case specifically, based on the notion that it’s important that people around the world see the U.S. judicial process as fair and that we uphold our obligations, our international obligations, to provide consular access. What his point was is that U.S. compliance with these obligations is critical to our ability to ensure consular access and protection for our own citizens, including, for example, members of our armed forces, who are arrested or detained by foreign governments, and to maintain cooperation with other foreign governments as well.

So what the Secretary was asking in his letter – let me just pull this up – is to delay the execution until this Mexican national can be provided with review and consideration, as required in an international court case, about whether his lack of consular access prejudiced the outcome of the trial.

I’d point out a few other things: that there’s no dispute that Mr. Tamayo was not afforded consular notification and access in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Again, this is something we ask other countries to provide our citizens. We talk about that a lot in this room. And the Secretary’s point was that: How can we ask others to uphold their international obligations when we don’t do the same thing here?

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. No, go here and then I’ll go to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I go to Afghanistan --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- if that’s okay?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’m wondering where we are on the status of the BSA.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday in his interview with ABC, the Secretary seemed to open the door to the possibility that the – that President Karzai’s successor could sign it. He said, “I believe that Hamid Karzai, either he or his successor, will sign it – this.” And then he said, “I think he,” i.e. Karzai, “needs to sign this.”

Are you – would you be happy with the successor signing this?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals here. What we’ve said is that any delay in signing the BSA has substantial costs in terms of the political will of the international coalition, in terms of planning for the international coalition, and perhaps most importantly, the uncertainty that the Afghan people will have because we haven’t gotten a BSA done. So he, I think, went on to very explicitly state that President Karzai should sign this as soon as possible, and that’s – our position on that certainly has not changed.

QUESTION: And so we’re now two weeks off the end of the deadline, which is December 31st, for all intents and purposes, of which one week of it – (inaudible) going to be closed here because it’s the holiday season. How realistic is it that this will be signed by the end of December?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t want to put hard and fast deadlines on things. We’ve said that this needs to be signed as soon as possible. That hasn’t changed. Our position on that hasn’t changed. And we’ll continue the discussions with President Karzai, with the Afghans about how to get this done as soon as possible.

QUESTION: So if it bleeds into the new year, though, are you still looking to President Karzai to sign it?

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think the elections aren’t until April, if I am correct.

QUESTION: April.

MS. HARF: And our view is that this needs to be signed as soon as possible, and we’ll keep working with them to get it done.

QUESTION: And I think Arshad asked the question last week: Who would sign on the American side?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if I actually got an answer to that about who actually would sign it on the American side. I’ll find out.

QUESTION: It wasn’t me, I don’t think.

MS. HARF: Oh.

QUESTION: But I have another question.

QUESTION: Arshad signed it.

MS. HARF: Throwing it to – yeah, yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m happy to sign it. I’ll sign it. I’ll sign it right now for you. (Laughter.)

Just – I’m asked to seek a comment about Dennis Rodman’s plans to make a third trip to North Korea this week. Maybe he --

MS. HARF: I hadn’t actually heard about that.

QUESTION: Maybe he could stop in Kabul and sign it on the way back, but – (laughter) – so you have no comment on him going or whether he has any --

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard about those reports. I’ll check.

QUESTION: Can you check?

QUESTION: Well, it’s been out there --

MS. HARF: He obviously wouldn’t be there – I didn’t know if there was something this – I just haven’t seen this --

QUESTION: Well, it’s been out there for some time that he’s – I mean, I know that he’s --

MS. HARF: Are they playing a basketball game or something?

QUESTION: Yeah, he’s going for – I mean, I know that there’s this tendency to kind of roll your eyes when you hear about him going there, but is there any usefulness in trying to reach out to him and say, “Look, you have influence with this regime, can you” – you encourage people, whenever they’re talking to people that you have issues with, that you recommend that they urge them to do the right thing. So is there any usefulness in reaching out to Dennis Rodman and saying, “Since you seem to have a good relationship with this leader, maybe you can talk to him on behalf of Kenneth Bae,” for instance?

MS. HARF: I can double-check with our team. Again, he is not there on behalf of the U.S. Government, never has been, but I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: Good. Thanks.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: Marie, change of subject?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Russia’s deployment of some short-range missiles in their western section? It’s near the Baltic Sea.

MS. HARF: In Kaliningrad?

QUESTION: Yes. And Lithuania’s upset about it, worried about militarization of the region.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve shared with Russia the concerns that countries in the neighborhood have – I think you just mentioned some – regarding Russia’s deployment of the Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. We’ve urged Moscow to take no steps to destabilize the region. We’ve made that point with them.

QUESTION: So the answer is?

QUESTION: When (inaudible) – I’m sorry. Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Yes, it’s my understanding this has happened fairly recently.

QUESTION: No, no, no. When did you make the point to them?

MS. HARF: I’ll check and see what the specifics are.

QUESTION: So you’re not worried about it, then, or --

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve made our concerns known, but --

QUESTION: What concerns do you have, though?

MS. HARF: We don’t want them to take steps that might destabilize the region.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We certainly know that countries in the neighborhood have expressed concerns over it, and we’ll keep talking to them about it going forward.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any credible reports of what really happened on the border between Lebanon and Israel?

MS. HARF: Oh, yes. Thank you for the question. I know there’s been a lot of conflicting information out there on this. Let me see what I have.

We are concerned by the recent incidents that occurred at the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. We extend our condolences to the family of the Israel Defense Force soldier who was shot and killed on Sunday the 15th. We have seen – there were some unconfirmed reports about possibly two Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers who may have been shot and wounded. We don’t have anything to corroborate that. I’m not sure that that actually is backed up by facts here.

What I would say is that we commend the Government of Lebanon and Israel for taking steps to prevent this from escalating further. It’s my understanding that they’re talking. And we certainly call on them to continue not allowing this to escalate further.

QUESTION: But did you know what happened exactly?

MS. HARF: We’re still getting the facts about exactly what happened. I’d also point you to them. But we’ll continue gathering facts, and if I have more to share, I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: About China?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: And then I’ll go back to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: Marie?

QUESTION: Arshad (inaudible) – sorry.

MS. HARF: I know. I’ll just talk all day if you keep asking me questions. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any praising comments on the second round of the elections in Mali?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have here. I think I have something. Yes.

The Government of Mali held the second round of legislative elections on December 15th. That was yesterday. We applaud the Government of Mali on a largely peaceful second round of legislative elections and for the technical improvements to the voting process they have implemented since the presidential elections in July and August of this year. The U.S. provided over $10 million in democracy assistance programming in support of these elections. I also would note that they were observed by domestic monitors, by international observers from the EU, the African Union and ECOWAS. Seventeen U.S. Embassy observer teams also visited 85 polling site – or centers, excuse me – and over 250 polling stations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, back?

QUESTION: (inaudible)

MS. HARF: Sorry, and then I’ll come up to you, Elliot. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Chinese space program?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The government in Beijing has announced it’s going to move forward with its space program in hopes of a lunar landing in 2020. So what does it say for their standing and their power in the world? The U.S., obviously in the space race, we rode those coattails for quite a long time. We no longer are participating.

MS. HARF: A few decades ago, yeah.

QUESTION: Been there, done that.

QUESTION: Been there, done that.

QUESTION: But China is now leading the way --

MS. HARF: Actually, it was my understanding that China actually landed a spacecraft – a lunar landing on the moon already. That was my understanding.

QUESTION: This will be a manned lunar.

MS. HARF: Oh, I’m sorry, okay. Well, I certainly congratulate China on its successful lunar landing that it already had – that it just had. I’ll check and see if we have any comments on its future space aspirations.

QUESTION: But what about their standing in the world?

MS. HARF: What about it?

QUESTION: Again, the U.S. is not doing much in that, and it helped us rise to a greater power. What does that mean for China?

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve said that as China grows, we will be a partner with them working on a whole host of security challenges around the world, and that this isn’t a zero-sum game, and that we’ll work with them when we can. When we have disagreements, we’ll raise them. But in terms of whether their space program has any specific – and if there’s any specific analysis to do on that, I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: But any concern that there could be potential military applications involved?

MS. HARF: I’ll check with our folks and see. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Wait. I’m going to go to Elliot.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry.

MS. HARF: I promised. Then I’ll go around.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. On North Korea?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Just going back quickly, Secretary Kerry mentioned during his interview with ABC, he touched on the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, and also mentioned a couple times the need to move forward with denuclearization of the peninsula. Can we sort of take that as a preview of increased U.S. diplomatic activity in the region, or --

MS. HARF: Certainly we’ll continue consulting closely with our allies and partners in the region. I think we talked about this (inaudible) the week, and we’ll do that in – probably a little bit more in the wake of what we’ve seen, quite frankly. The Secretary spoke about this issue, as you said, at length on ABC. I don’t have anything specific to announce, but our core goal remains the same. And I think we would just stress that this is a point in time when North Korea has a choice to make about where it goes from here and whether it continues down this path of brutality, of isolation, of ruthlessness, or whether it takes steps and starts to take steps to come back in line with its international obligations, certainly.

QUESTION: But in terms of U.S. policy toward the DPRK, there’s no moderation in the stance that --

MS. HARF: Hasn’t changed at all.

QUESTION: -- they need to first show some kind of tangible sign of --

MS. HARF: Hasn’t changed at all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il is coming in hours, and there’s going to be a huge ceremony, and Japan and South Korea is watching closely for the new leadership. Is U.S. also?

MS. HARF: It’s safe to say we watch what happens in North Korea closely all the time. I’m sure our folks are paying attention to this, and if we have any analysis of it, I’m happy to chat about it tomorrow.

Yeah.

QUESTION: And on that, are there any concerns --

MS. HARF: And then I’ll come to you back there.

QUESTION: Are there any concerns that the DPRK might use the occasion of Kim Jong-un’s anniversary for any provocative actions? And what would you have to say to that?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly encourage them not to do so, to not take provocative actions, as we always do. But we’ll wait and see what happens, and if we have further analysis to do over the coming days, I’m happy to.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any new information on South Sudan, where the government says it prevented an attempted coup --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and there have been reports of retaliation and some violence in the streets.

MS. HARF: We are concerned by reports out of Juba, particularly, and are monitoring the situation closely. We call on all parties to resolve their differences through peaceful democratic means, not through the use of violence. As you know, it’s a very fluid situation. We’re going to keep monitoring it. Our paramount concern is the security and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. We’re very closely reviewing the security situation in South Sudan. We’ve issued three Warden messages updating U.S. citizens of the situation right now.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that with the tensions with Sudan that this might be an inroad for more problems regionally and not just within the Government of South Sudan?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly don’t want that to be the case. That’s why we’re calling on all parties to resolve their differences through peaceful means. But certainly it’s something we’re concerned about and watching.

Yes, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry. Last one from me.

MS. HARF: No. I’ll stay up here all day.

QUESTION: Last one from me: Do you have any reaction to the vote over the weekend from the Yemeni parliament that they’re going to ban drone strikes?

MS. HARF: I don’t. Let me check on that. I don’t have any response.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the appointing a new prime minister in Tunisia?

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: And – because it’s coming in the political impasse.

MS. HARF: Let me just grab that. I do have that. We welcome this development, the selection of a new prime minister, which contributes to moving the country out of its current political crisis and advancing Tunisia’s democratic transition. I would note, though, that this is only a first step. We look forward to the installation of a new government, of effective and competent ministers to lead the country until early elections can be organized, and would also encourage Tunisia’s leaders to continue their efforts to finalize a constitution that respects all of their citizens’ rights.

QUESTION: Yes. The other day I ask a question regarding the drone attack in Yemen, and it’s part of this political discourse going on there now between the government and the parliament, or the representatives. Do you have anything to say about it?

MS. HARF: Nothing to update you on on that front. Anything else?

QUESTION: Marie, just a quick point that it’s missing.

MS. HARF: You guys are free to leave if you don’t want to stay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, that’s – it’s --

MS. HARF: The door’s right there.

QUESTION: It’s that on December 13, the U.S. Ambassador was summoned by the Indian Government in Delhi, and they lodged a complaint. What is the reaction to that? That has nothing to do with DOJ. It’s the State Department.

MS. HARF: I can double-check. I wasn’t aware of that. I know that after the arrest, our Assistant Secretary discussed this matter with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy. I do know Ambassador Powell has had discussions on the ground. I just don’t have an update. I’m happy to check in with our team.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Have you seen – sorry, one more – have you seen reports of a – this – a Japanese diplomat being attacked in Yemen? There was an attempted kidnapping.

MS. HARF: I saw those reports briefly. I don’t have any details on it. I’m happy to look into it. I just don’t have any details.

QUESTION: But no response from the U.S. side in terms of raising security?

MS. HARF: Our security level for U.S. citizens is already incredibly high there, as is our security posture at our Embassy. So I don’t have anything additional, but I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. HARF: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: We’re all comedians here today.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)

DPB # 205



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