1:27 p.m. EST
MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Happy New Year. Welcome to the --
QUESTION: Happy New Year.
MS. HARF: Oh, look at that. Welcome to the first briefing of 2014. I have a few things at the top, and then I’m happy to turn it over to Matt wearing another – what is the scarf? Let me see it.
MS. HARF: Nice.
QUESTION: Hoya Saxa.
Just a quick trip update: As folks know, this morning Secretary Kerry arrived in Jerusalem. He’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by a dinner later this evening. Tomorrow, he will be meeting again with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas as well. Obviously, updates will be coming from the road, but I’m happy to talk through some of the issues they’ll be dealing with.
Two other things at the top and then we’ll open it up for questions. The first, on Lebanon: The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s terrorist bombing in the Haret Hreik region of southern Beirut. We send our condolences to the victims and their families. We urge all parties to refrain from retaliatory acts that would further escalate tension and threaten Lebanon’s stability and the lives and livelihoods of the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people must be allowed to carry on their lives free of fear from attacks.
We reiterate our support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and internal security forces as legitimate government institutions that protect and serve all Lebanese, and we renew our call for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1559 – 1559, excuse me, and 1701, the Taif Agreement and the Baabda Declaration to ensure Lebanon’s sovereignty. Implementing and adhering to the letter and spirit of these resolutions and agreements is the way to support a stable, secure, and free Lebanon.
Last thing at the top: The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco was damaged after being targeted by an arsonist on Wednesday, January 1st. We take this incident very seriously, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is working with the FBI and local authorities to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators. Department officials are communicating with Chinese officials to provide support and updates on the case.
With that, Happy New Year, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you. Happy New Year to you, too.
MS. HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: I have questions on both of those issues.
MS. HARF: Okay. Whichever one you want to start with.
QUESTION: But let’s start – well, let’s start with the consulate because --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- it’s less open – and less of an open-ended question. Why do you refer to reports that – are you not convinced that there actually was a fire?
MS. HARF: No. We – the reports are that it was --
QUESTION: Reports that it was an arson?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: So you have not made – or the – whoever it is that does this, I presume the San Francisco Fire Department --
MS. HARF: Yes --
QUESTION: -- has not determined to your knowledge 100 percent that it was arson?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So I have a few more details on that. San Francisco police and fire departments and Diplomatic Security agents were notified and responded to the report of the fire at the front entrance. The fire and police departments in San Francisco reported that two gas canisters were lit on fire in front of the consulate by an unknown male, which caused damage to the front entrance. The FBI is actually leading the investigation into the incident. No suspects have been identified or taken into custody, and I don’t think a determination has been made definitively about exactly what happened.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: So yes. The answer to your --
QUESTION: -- but if some guy lit two cans of gasoline on fire, then that’s clear that it wasn’t like an electrical fire. It was intentionally set, right?
MS. HARF: They’re taking the lead on it. As we have more to update, I’m happy to --
QUESTION: Okay. And what is the role of the State Department in this now post-fire? What is it that you do with the Chinese or with the local authorities? Are you a liaison, or what is it?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So we, after the incident, were in immediate contact with the Chinese Consulate and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. We continue to work diplomatically and update our Chinese counterparts on the case as more information comes in. As I said, the FBI has the lead on it, but --
MS. HARF: -- we liaise directly with the Chinese Government.
I think there might be a few more on this.
MS. HARF: And then we’ll go, Matt, to the other – yes?
QUESTION: Okay. Just a follow-up question.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So why couldn’t this incident be prevented from happening? So was there a lack of enough security protection to the Chinese Consulate from the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: Well, again, the FBI is looking into the incident. We can refer you to them for those issues. As we – they do an investigation and we, of course, work with them and support them in any way we can. If we have more to share on that, I’m happy to. I think it’s just a little too early to make any judgments on that without knowing all the facts.
QUESTION: Are there any additional steps are you going to take to ensure the safety of the Chinese diplomats, and also the Chinese diplomatic facilities in the U.S.?
MS. HARF: I can check with our folks. We don’t always talk about specific security precautions we take, but I’m happy to check with our team – again, this is just unfolding – and see if there’s anything new on that front.
QUESTION: And also, like, besides the Chinese ones, there are so many foreign diplomats and foreign diplomatic facilities in the U.S.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So how can you ensure their safety here in the States?
MS. HARF: Well, clearly it’s something we take very seriously, as we do when our folks go overseas as well. It’s something that’s always of concern to us and important to us. I’m happy to check in with our folks and see if there are more specifics I can add on that front. I just don’t have all the – we don’t know all the facts on this incident yet, and I just want to get a little more before I make other statements on it.
QUESTION: Marie, the Chinese Consulate issued a statement and they specifically asked for the U.S. have further protection on the embassy – on the consulate. So I wonder, what’s your reaction to that? And will you increase the security in Washington, D.C. on the Chinese Embassy and other consulates in the United States?
MS. HARF: Again, I’m happy to check with our folks. We don’t always talk about specific security precautions. I know our folks and the FBI have been talking to the Chinese Government on this, so let me check in with them and see if I have more to share.
Matt, do you want to --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just more broadly, apart from this, are you concerned that this is really – it’s – situation is spinning out of control?
MS. HARF: In general?
QUESTION: In Lebanon.
MS. HARF: In Lebanon?
QUESTION: Yeah. Considering this is within the last week, this is --
MS. HARF: I would – I wouldn’t go that far, no. I think – a couple points on that: The first is that we’ve seen, not just in Lebanon but in Iraq and other places throughout the region, the incredibly destabilizing impact that Syria has had throughout the region. We’ve seen it, again, in Lebanon, in Iraq and elsewhere. We strongly support the Lebanese Government, the Lebanese Armed Forces in this fight against – our shared fight against these kinds of terrorist attacks, certainly.
And one thing we’ve done is continue working with countries in the region to help them with their capabilities as they’re facing this threat, but it is certainly a challenge. That’s one reason why we repeatedly say we need to work to end the conflict in Syria because it is so incredibly destabilizing. But we’ll keep supporting the Lebanese – other folks in the region do as well, as you know – and continue building their capabilities.
QUESTION: Right. Well, before we get to other folks in the region --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you have reason to believe that this is somehow linked to the situation in Syria?
MS. HARF: I don’t – the Lebanese Government is taking the lead on investigating. I don’t have anything yet on who was responsible for this. You asked broadly speaking.
MS. HARF: And broadly speaking, what I would say is we’ve seen the destabilizing impact that Syria has had throughout the region. On this specific incident, I just don’t have anything yet on who was responsible. The Lebanese are taking the lead on that. Obviously, it just happened.
QUESTION: Right, but you think that this is somehow reflective of the situation in Syria?
MS. HARF: This – well, this specific incident --
QUESTION: This and in Iraq, too?
MS. HARF: I think we need to look into why this – who was behind this specific incident. You asked a broad question --
MS. HARF: -- and I was answering broadly --
MS. HARF: -- about what we’ve seen in Lebanon and Iraq and elsewhere.
QUESTION: Okay. And then your mention of people in the neighborhood supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces – I don’t know if you addressed this because I’m not sure it had been announced --
MS. HARF: The Saudis?
MS. HARF: I didn’t get asked the question.
MS. HARF: I think it had been announced and --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you – well, what do you make of that? Do you think that this gift or donation or contribution, however you want to phrase it, is a good thing?
MS. HARF: Well, we would certainly welcome further assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces of this kind. I think the reports were that Saudi Arabia plans to provide, I think, a $3 billion grant to the Lebanese Armed Forces. We certainly support them. We will continue to support them and support other folks in the region doing so as well. So the answer is yes.
QUESTION: So if the Iranians decided to give $5 billion, you would support that too?
MS. HARF: Every situation’s different. If that happens, I’m happy to answer the question that day. This is talking about the Saudis providing support to the Lebanese Armed Forces --
MS. HARF: -- something we, in this case, think is a good thing.
QUESTION: Right, but if you – okay, so the donor matters?
MS. HARF: I think everything matters, all the details in these situations, and in this case, we welcome it. If there are other people that want to give money, I’m happy to address it then.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The Secretary, could you – you’ve been helpful before in giving some details about how he rolls up his sleeves and gets things done. Could you give us a little bit of color? What exactly is he going to be doing to get this framework agreement?
MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me – he gave a short statement with the prime minister before they went into their meeting. I’m not sure if folks had a chance to see it, so let me go over a little bit of what he said and hopefully give some more details.
Secretary Kerry said that he plans to work with both sides more intensely in these next few days to narrow the differences on this framework that we’ve talked about in here a little bit that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations. As we said, this will take time. It will take compromise from both sides. But this kind of agreed framework would be a significant breakthrough for a couple reasons. It would address all of the core issues. It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know sort of where they’re going and what the end result can be. It would address all of the core issues that we have been addressing since day one.
Obviously, a couple other points to emphasize: That the discussion around this agreed framework has emerged from the ideas that both parties have put on the table. This isn’t about imposing American ideas on either side, but really facilitating their own efforts.
One more point on time, and I know we’ve talked a lot about that: Secretary Kerry referenced the fact that the time – excuse me – is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make some very difficult decisions. We’re close to that time – if not at it, I think is what he said – and we all understand the circumstances under which we are working. We’re five months into the negotiations. We’ve always known this would be complicated. But his goal over the next few days is to roll up his sleeve again at dinner tonight – a meeting today and dinner tonight with the prime minister, meetings tomorrow – and continue narrowing those differences to try to get a framework done.
QUESTION: Can you confirm some of these reports that the Israelis will hold off announcing yet more settlements?
MS. HARF: I know there are a lot of reports out there. I’d refer to the Israeli Government for any planned announcements they may or may not plan to make at some point in the future. What we’re focused on now is sitting down with both sides and really trying to narrow these gaps to get these guidelines done in a framework.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, you could look at it – as you said, it could be a significant step or accomplishment, but some – or a breakthrough, I think you said – but some people would say the only way anything’s going to happen is for the Secretary to get involved because the two sides are stymied; they can’t do it by themselves. So what are you saying?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think anyone could accuse the Secretary of not being involved. He left January 1st, the first day of the new year, to head back to the region. He’s been there countless times now personally involved in it. So I think his involvement has been consistent, very detailed, talking to both sides when appropriate. Other folks as well, as everyone knows, have been on the ground consistently working with both of the parties. But I think he’s been very involved as folks who are – have traveled with him know, and will continue to be, as appropriate.
QUESTION: Can I just take exception to your use of the phrase “countless times”? It’s --
MS. HARF: Always, because we can, in fact, count them.
QUESTION: You can, in fact, count them on two hands.
MS. HARF: That’s – I will take that definition correction from Matt.
QUESTION: That will be 10, so it’s not --
MS. HARF: I’ll give you that dictionary correction today.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Are you disappointed at all that the prime minister chose to spend at least what appeared to be about half of his opening comments complaining about the Palestinians and how they continue to incite violence against the Palestinians? It was rather a backward-looking statement other than what the Secretary appeared to want to talk about, which was looking ahead.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I obviously will let the prime minister’s words speak for himself. The Secretary is focused on where we go from here. We think both sides have shown courage, including with the latest prisoner release, throughout this process and stuck with the negotiations despite voices on both sides, quite frankly, who have tried to stymie them. We knew this would never be easy, and quite frankly, the release of prisoners has every time been a bit of a difficult process. That’s why we think it is a courageous decision, and again, he’s focused on where we go from here.
QUESTION: Well, understood, but Prime Minister Netanyahu was particularly upset by the Palestinians’ reception of these prisoners. He complained that they – the Palestinians called them heroes and that they were basically giving Palestinian youth the wrong impression not preparing them for a potential peace agreement. Do you agree with that criticism? Are you upset at all that the Palestinian reception of these released detainees was as rapture – I don’t know – that’s a bad word to use in terms of release – was as it was?
MS. HARF: We know this is a sensitive issue on both sides, and that’s why we’re not focused on the words, we’re focused on actions. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu took this courageous decision, again, to release prisoners, we said that was something we very much welcomed. We’re focused on moving forward. We know these are sensitive issues. We know this is complicated and there will be bumps in the road. But what we’re focused on is the fact that all parties are sitting down together, we’re making progress towards a framework. And that’s what the Secretary is focused on right now, and hopefully we’ll make some progress over the next few days.
QUESTION: So you’re not able to say that you share his unhappiness at the reception?
MS. HARF: I think I’ll let the prime minister’s words speak for himself. What I did say is that --
QUESTION: No, no --
MS. HARF: Well, no, let me finish. What I did say is we think there are people on both sides who have shown courage, including President Abbas. We’ve said that repeatedly. We’ve said, for example, by not going to the UN, we think that’s a positive thing that’s been part of the negotiations. We certainly believe there are partners for peace on both sides. That’s what we’re operating under. That’s why we’re there at the table with both sides. So I will let the prime minister speak for himself. I can just say that the Secretary believes we have partners for peace on both sides.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m not asking you to speak for the prime minister. I’m asking what the U.S. Government’s view is about the Palestinians receiving these prisoners as heroes. I mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu was very specific about his anger that some of these people are murders and ax murderers, he said – I have no reason to doubt that, but maybe it’s wrong. But I mean, do you not take exception to the fact that these people, because it is so sensitive, that the Palestinians received these people as heroes returning home?
MS. HARF: I just don’t think I have further comment on this issue.
QUESTION: All right, and then just one last thing. You said you applauded President Abbas for being courageous.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Explain to me why it is that it is courageous for the Palestinians not to go to the UN. What kind of courage does that show?
MS. HARF: Well, I think broadly speaking, there are voices on both sides pressing their leaders to either not be a part of a process, to try to stymie the process, and each of them have taken steps, quite frankly, to stay at the negotiating table even though politically it’s often very hard for them. So we have encouraged both sides to not do things that would be counterproductive to the process; and when they do things that we think help move the process along, we say so.
MS. HARF: Obviously, a lot of this is private. A lot of this isn’t discussed publicly. But the Secretary has repeatedly said both sides are committed to this, and that’s certainly what we’re operating under.
QUESTION: So my last one on this is you do not believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments – very, very critical comments of President Abbas and the Palestinians more in general, that you don’t believe that that is a problem, that that’s a setback?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to do analysis on the prime minister’s comments one way or the other. I’m happy to tell you what our position is, but I’m not going to analyze his comments further.
QUESTION: Happy New Year.
MS. HARF: Happy New Year.
MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. So we continue to follow closely events in Anbar. We’re working to help all leaders focus on the threat to Iraq posed by al-Qaida. This is a common threat that we are obviously very familiar with, and we are helping to support the Iraqi Government in this common fight. We’ve been in constant – in close communication with the Iraqi Government. Ambassador Beecroft on the ground, Brett McGurk here from Washington have been engaging with government officials at the highest levels across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum in Iraq on this issue. We’ve encouraged the government to work with the population to fight these terrorists to draw on some of the lessons, quite frankly, we learned when we were there, to isolate extremists which exist on both sides, and encourage moderates on both sides. We obviously condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks we’ve seen. There’s no place for this kind of violence in Iraq, and we are very committed to continuing to work with them to fight this common enemy together.
QUESTION: Do you think the threat from al-Qaida is increasing in the Middle East?
MS. HARF: That’s a pretty broad question. I think there are in some places, as I said I think to Matt’s question, either al-Qaida affiliates or groups that may share some sort of extremist ideology with al-Qaida, that in some places, particularly because of the civil war in Syria, have taken advantage of the security situation to perpetrate terrorist attacks. That’s certainly what we’ve seen in Iraq, we’ve seen it in Lebanon. It’s something we’re concerned about. I think it’s not as simple as saying al-Qaida. Each of these groups is a little bit different, and that’s important because when you’re trying to figure out how to combat them and fight them, it actually matters who they take guidance from and who’s giving them orders and who’s planning these attacks.
QUESTION: So do you blame Syria for the increase of violence in Iraq?
MS. HARF: That’s certainly a huge part of it, absolutely. We’ve seen the kind of terrorist violence we’ve seen in Syria, and that’s certainly spilled over into Iraq. But we are very concerned about it. That’s why we’re engaged consistently with the Iraqis to help fight it together. But it is a problem we’re very concerned about, absolutely.
QUESTION: Yep. Wait – anything else on the Middle East?
QUESTION: India has deployed around 150 security personnel outside the U.S. Embassy in Delhi. Was there any security threat, or is it – what’s – do you have any --
MS. HARF: I wasn’t aware of that. I’m happy to look into it.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the Indian diplomat case getting before you --
MS. HARF: No update.
QUESTION: -- for the UN --
MS. HARF: We received – we did receive the paperwork. I think folks had asked on Monday, and we received it on Friday, December 20th. I ended up getting the date. It’s under review. We can’t predict when that review will be complete and can’t compare it to previous requests because each is different and we evaluate each on their own merits. So no update for you on that yet.
QUESTION: What’s the normal general process being adopted?
MS. HARF: The normal process?
MS. HARF: Well, I can see if there’s more specifics on how these are reviewed. Each case is reviewed on its own merit, obviously. Each case is a little bit different. I’m happy to see if there are general process points, but it’s under review right now. I just don’t have an estimation for when that’ll be done.
QUESTION: So is this case following the normal routine process, or there are some basic legal hurdles in this?
MS. HARF: Well, each case is evaluated on its own merits and they all go through the same process, but each is evaluated, as people would hope, I think, based on the merits of the case.
QUESTION: So what’s the merit of this case? Is it headed towards getting the ID card or not?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into the considerations we’re taking right now on the case. Broadly speaking, I think it’s important to take a step back. What we’re focused on at the State Department is moving forward with the bilateral relationship. Obviously, there’s a legal process that is ongoing; it’s separate. But we’re focused on moving this relationship forward, working together on all the issues we work together on all the time. That’s certainly what our focus has been here.
QUESTION: Has there been any additional phone calls in the new year?
MS. HARF: Not from the Secretary, no. There’s obviously a lot of communication at the ambassadorial level and from Washington, but none from the Secretary that I have.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah. India still?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador to India, she also expressed regret, but it seems that that was also not enough. So where do we stand today? They are asking for – that all the charges should be withdrawn or things like that.
MS. HARF: Well, the legal process is separate, so obviously the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York are handling those discussions. We think it’s important right now for there to be space for these private diplomatic conversations to continue. We obviously are committed to working with the Government of India on a way forward. The ambassador obviously has been working on this a lot on the ground. But we’re focused on where the relationship goes from here and how we get there, and that’s what we’re going to keep working on.
QUESTION: But what we hear from Delhi is that they are asking for that apology which is not coming forward, and --
MS. HARF: Well, every day you ask about that, and all I know is what our folks here tell me and what they’re – the discussions they’re focused on are now to move the relationship forward. We’ve obviously expressed regret at the highest levels here, so that’s – we’re certainly looking forward.
QUESTION: No, but you talk about sustaining this dialogue and diplomacy. If there – is there – at this moment it looks like there is – everything is at a standstill.
MS. HARF: In terms of what?
QUESTION: You say that we are moving forward in the relationship, but the only thing we hear about is this subject.
MS. HARF: Well, maybe that’s because it’s what you’re focused on, but I would note a couple other things. Today, Ambassador Powell is in Hyderabad for a number of official events, including meeting with business leaders and participating in a clean water event. I think her trip is just one example, but it shows how much we and India are both focused on the way forward. And I think she noted this in her new year’s message: We’re both committed to continuing our cooperations on all aspects of our bilateral relationship. So this is just one example, but I think it depends on what you’re focused on. But I think a lot of the bilateral work we do is just moving forward. That’s what we’re hoping to focus on.
QUESTION: Sorry, you mentioned – you said you thought it was important now for there to be space --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for these private diplomatic talks. Which private diplomatic talks?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re in constant conversation with the Government of India on this issue when they raise concerns or there have been a lot of demarches towards us. We’re having those discussions privately. That’s what I was referring to. The judicial process is separate and also private diplomatic conversations, but not ours.
QUESTION: I’m sorry – not ours?
MS. HARF: Not the State Department. I mean, the judicial process is being handled by the Department of Justice in the Southern District of New York. People have asked a lot about the diplomatic demarches and their communications to us, when they raise concerns, when we have concerns. Those are private diplomatic conversations that have been ongoing since the beginning, and those will continue.
QUESTION: Well – but are they – but they are unrelated to the legal case?
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, they’re not entirely unrelated. It’s – they’re discussions based on a legal case that’s ongoing, but the legal aspect of it is, of course, being handled by the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: All right. I’m just not sure --
MS. HARF: And you can’t totally divorce them --
QUESTION: -- to what --
MS. HARF: -- from each other.
QUESTION: To what end are these diplomatic – private discussions --
MS. HARF: From here --
QUESTION: -- happening?
MS. HARF: -- they’re focused on how to move the relationship forward, how to get past this incident, and the work we have to do together going forward.
QUESTION: Okay. So there isn’t any kind of plea bargaining or anything like that going on in the diplomatic discussions between --
MS. HARF: Well, the Government of India is having discussions with the judicial folks, which would be considered diplomatic discussions. But that’s certainly their ballgame, not ours.
QUESTION: So you’re not involved in that?
MS. HARF: We’re involved in the discussions at a range of levels, Matt, but that’s obviously a situation for the judicial process to work out. Obviously, we’re all talking, but I’m not going to go further into sort of what those discussions --
QUESTION: No, I’m just curious about the separation of powers here.
MS. HARF: Right. That’s what I’m saying --
QUESTION: If the executive – if the Executive Branch is getting involved in --
MS. HARF: No, obviously, we talk to them about how to move the bilateral relationship forward. The Southern District of New York and the Department of Justice are in charge of the legal aspect.
QUESTION: But the case was investigated by the Department of State. The case was filed by Department of State. So --
MS. HARF: Well, the case was brought by the Southern District of New York.
QUESTION: No, but if you’ve seen the --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- seen the indictment which has been filed in the Southern District of New York, which is publicly available now, it has been signed by a special agent --
MS. HARF: Right, because they investigate it.
QUESTION: -- but you don’t, diplomatic --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yeah, investigator.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s the campaign --
MS. HARF: But we don’t bring charges against people. The Southern District of New York does.
QUESTION: The four or five counsels are there, all assigned by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security agent of the Department of State, so not signed by --
MS. HARF: Right. We investigate these things. We don’t bring charges.
QUESTION: But investigations found out those – the diplomatic --
MS. HARF: Investigations play into when the district attorney decides to bring charges or not. We could have investigated and they could not have brought charges, so that’s not our decision.
QUESTION: So – but do you stand by your investigation?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: The Department of State --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- stands by its investigation?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Any updates on the list of demarches that you had received?
MS. HARF: No, I don’t have any – let me see what I have. I don’t think I have any updates on that. The only new – I don’t know if this is new, but – thing I have is that we’ve provided interim responses where appropriate to some of the diplomatic communications. We continue to review and discuss all of the Government of India’s requests for action, and we’re working closely with them on these issues. That’s the latest.
QUESTION: How many demarches have you seen?
MS. HARF: I don’t have numbers, and again, probably wouldn’t prove them anyways, but I don’t have them in front of me.
QUESTION: Sorry – what’s an interim response?
MS. HARF: A response that’s not final yet.
QUESTION: A response that says thank you very much for your demarche; we’ll get back to you?
MS. HARF: I don’t know what the interim responses look like. They could look like a variety of things, Matt. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: The Indian Government says it wrote to the State Department several times since June when the maid went missing, but there was no response from the State Department except for one instance. But you have been saying that there have been communications back and forth.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: But we haven’t got any details like the Indians have said – given to us --
MS. HARF: We prefer to keep those discussions private, in diplomatic channels. I’ve been very clear that we had constant communication with them throughout many months as this played itself out, but we keep them private for a reason.
MS. HARF: Well, welcome to the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you, Happy New Year.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: What do you respond to Chinese opposition that that the U.S. transfer three Uighur detainees from Guantanamo to Slovakia? Chinese argue that these are suspects of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was labeled by the United Nations as a terrorist group and terrorist supporters. And do you think this is going to damage sort of China-U.S. – sort of cooperation on antiterrorism? Or if these folks later are engaging terrorist activities, would the U.S. be held responsible? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Well, thank you for the question. Again, welcome to the briefing. The U.S. Government long ago determined that it did not seek to detain these individuals, the Uighurs, as enemy combatants. And in 2008, these latest ones that were released were among 17 Uighur detainees ordered released from Guantanamo by a U.S. federal court. Five other Uighur detainees had already been released by that point. We started with 22. So now all 22 Uighur detainees originally detained have been resettled. Slovakia is the sixth country to resettle Uighurs from Guantanamo.
We’ve long maintained our position that we will not repatriate Uighurs to China from Guantanamo, due to our humane treatment polities. As we’ve also said, we’re taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay. And it is certainly our position that these latest transfers mark an important step in furthering that objective.
QUESTION: There is wide criticism in China that the U.S. is being very mean about condemning Xinjiang’s Uighur separatist bombing against a Chinese civilian. And is there a justification for these Uighurs to target civilians? Was there any difference from other bombing of civilian targets?
MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’ve said – and I got asked about this a little bit on Monday – is that every situation is different. We gather all the facts about situations before we put labels on them. As I said, we – the U.S Government long ago decided not to classify the Uighurs as enemy combatants. We remain deeply concerned about discrimination and restrictions placed on Uighurs and other Muslims in China. We raise that issue with the Chinese.
To your first question, we obviously don’t want this to impact our broader relationship that we do work together on a whole host of issues on. When we have issues, we’ll raise them and when the Chinese have issues, they raise them as well.
QUESTION: But is there any justification for whatever reason to target civilians for these Uighurs? I mean, like in Tiananmen Square, everybody knows the victims are civilians. They are not military soldiers.
MS. HARF: Well, I would caution you or anyone else from making broad generalizations about situations. We take a look at each situation. Obviously, broadly speaking, there’s never any justification for violence against civilians, but on these specific cases, we take a look at the facts, we make our own determinations about what happened and what we’re going to label things going forward. I know it’s a constant issue of discussion in here and with the Chinese.
QUESTION: Do you know the U.S. has examined any evidence – Chinese, I think, they provided evidence about this Guantanamo Uighur detainees?
MS. HARF: What kind of – to us, you mean?
QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t – they are sort of suspected, related to this Eastern Turkistan group which was al-Qaida supporters, labeled by the UN.
MS. HARF: Again, we determined a long time ago that we were not going to detain these individuals as enemy combatants. A U.S. federal judge – again, in 2008 – ordered the Uighur detainees released from Guantanamo. We have a legal process here. That’s why we follow it with Guantanamo and anything else, and that’s certainly been our position and it has not changed.
QUESTION: And how long have these three been in Guantanamo?
MS. HARF: The last three that just got sent to Slovakia? I don’t know. Oh, I might know actually. Hold on one second. Let me see what I have.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that during their time of detention at Guantanamo that they were involved in any kind of attack on civilians in China or anywhere else?
MS. HARF: I certainly don’t.
QUESTION: Would you think it would have been possible while they were in lockdown in Cuba?
MS. HARF: I certainly don’t think so, no.
QUESTION: So is it the U.S. position then that these detainees, as well as the other ones who were previously released, had not actually committed any sort of act that would mean that they should be treated as enemy combatants, but not that they – not necessarily that they had committed no terrorist act at all?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to look. I’m not familiar with all the details. I’m happy to look at the federal court ruling when they made it ordering their release in 2008. I’m just not familiar with the details of it. But obviously, I’m sure folks in the judicial system take into account a variety of factors, including the potential for recidivism, when making these decisions.
QUESTION: Marie, so by releasing them, one of the reasons is because the U.S. think they are not a threat to the U.S. anymore. But by releasing them, you’re not concerned they are going to pose threat to China, aren’t you?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I’m happy to look at the federal court ruling which ordered them released. I’m happy to go back and take a look at the decision-making that went into that release. But again, these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and we think this an important step forward in eventually closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which as we know, is an important – one of our goals here going forward.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: No development on BSA, so has the U.S. started the process of planning for no troops in Afghanistan post-2014?
MS. HARF: Well, our position continues to be that if we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, then we will initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. and – or no NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. That’s not a future we’re seeking, let me be clear. And we believe it’s not in Afghanistan’s interests. But the further this slips into 2014, the more likely such an outcome is. At this point, I would expect that as we continue to consider options to present to the President and the interagency for a post-2014 presence, we will have to increasingly factor in the lack of a BSA into that planning. We’ll need to frame decisions based on our position that we can’t pursue a post-2014 mission without a BSA.
So again, it’s certainly our goal that it gets signed as soon as possible, both for our planning but also for certainty for the Afghan people who want to know what comes next and don’t have that without a BSA in place.
QUESTION: So you have been talking about promptly for several weeks now, so what’s the likelihood of 40 percent to 60 percent of chances are for U.S. having no troops in Afghanistan in 2014?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into playing a percentage game. Obviously, these are all decisions the President will make at the appropriate time. But again, the further this slips into 2014, the more likely the outcome is that we will not be able to have troops there. Again, this isn’t an outcome we’re seeking. This isn’t a future we’re seeking. That’s why we believe it’s important to get it signed as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And has Secretary made any further phone calls to the Afghan president?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Any high-level calls?
MS. HARF: I can double-check on that.
QUESTION: I have one more on --
MS. HARF: Yes, did you – and you had a question. I’ll go back to you. Go ahead. Yeah. Go ahead.
MS. HARF: I don’t have a lot of an update from when I think when we talked about this on Monday. As I said then and I still will repeat it today, we believe it’s even more urgent than ever for the major parties to redouble their efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. They need to find a way forward, to hold free and fair elections that are credible, and violence is not acceptable – never acceptable – because it subverts the democratic process.
We – there are parliamentary elections this weekend, as I understand. We will not be deploying observers for this election. We’re disappointed that the major political parties have not yet reached a consensus on a way to hold free, fair, and credible elections. Obviously, that’s what we’re encouraging, and we will keep monitoring the situation and engaging as necessary.
QUESTION: More than half of the seats in Bangladesh parliament are remaining uncontested because, one, major political parties are not contesting the election. Would you recognize the election results?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to get ahead of what we’ll say in response to the election results. As I’ve been clear, they haven’t taken steps to hold free, fair, and credible elections, so clearly that’s not a good sign. But I don’t want to prejudge the outcome or what we’ll say afterwards.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the house arrest of the leader of the opposition?
MS. HARF: I don’t think that I do. I can check with our team and see – I don’t have anything on that. I’m happy to check with our folks.
Yes, sorry. I will go back to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On China, are you still not determined to characterize the Tiananmen Square attack as a terrorist attack?
MS. HARF: Nothing on that has changed. Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. On Japan? Japan’s Internal Affairs Minister Shindo visited the U.S. Yasukuni Shrine yesterday, following Japan’s prime minister’s visit to the Shrine. Although the internal minister says that he thought his visit is – was unlikely to become a diplomatic issue between China and Japan, but China already strongly protested his visit. So what is your comment?
MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve indicated many times, we have encouraged and will continue to encourage Japan to work with its neighbors to resolve concerns over history in an amicable way through dialogue. We spoke at length about this issue last week. And at this point, we’re focused on where we go from here. We believe that strongly constructive relations between countries in the region are what will promote peace and stability and are in the interests of these countries, but also in the interest of the United States.
QUESTION: Can I go back with a few questions on the consulate fire?
MS. HARF: Of course.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Japan?
MS. HARF: Okay, yeah.
QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead. No problem.
MS. HARF: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll finish Japan. And then I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry had a meeting – have a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
MS. HARF: Yeah. On Tuesday.
QUESTION: Yeah. At the end of the last year. I think it’s Tuesday. And they talked about Mideast and North Korea. And at the same time, they talked about China-Japan relations.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did they talk about the Yasukuni and the Senkaku issues?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on specifics. I don’t have those in front of me. I’m happy to see what else we can share if there’s anything else we can share.
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates on – or any more specifics, I guess, on what they discussed. Our position, of course, on North Korea has not changed, our call for them to denuclearize – none of that has changed. It’s a conversation we have with the Chinese all the time, but I’ll see if there are more specifics to read out.
MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go – yeah, let me --
QUESTION: Any thoughts or reflections on the New Year’s address?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m certainly not going to parse the lengthy speech.
QUESTION: I’m not asking – not asking you to parse.
MS. HARF: The only thing I would note is the absence of any mention of North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization, as I just said. We will continue to judge North Korea by its actions, not by its words. So they’ve, as I’ve said repeatedly, have committed on numerous occasions to denuclearize. That’s certainly still our goal. We’ve also long made clear that we’re open to authentic and credible negotiations to implement the September 2005 joint statement, and we’ll see what happens from here.
QUESTION: Okay, well, if you’re – if you say you’re going to judge them on their actions and not their words, why would you note the absence of words?
MS. HARF: I wasn’t judging; I was noting.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough, but if he had said something about denuclearization, would you have welcomed that?
MS. HARF: It depends on what he would have said.
QUESTION: But if you’re – if you’re --
MS. HARF: It depends on what he would have said.
QUESTION: If you’re – but you’re not entirely – when it comes to North Korea, you’re not entire – it’s not entirely actions and not words. There are --
MS. HARF: Well, words matter.
QUESTION: Words generally – exactly.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And they tend to precede action. So if he didn’t – if he did mention denuclearization, then it might be --
MS. HARF: It depends on how he mentioned it.
MS. HARF: But he didn’t.
QUESTION: If he said – all right. Never mind. Thank you.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
Wait, back here. And then Lucas, I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: So another Japanese senior official visited Yasukuni. It seems they just ignored your previous statement and your disappointment. So are you ready to increase your voice? And are you disappointed again that Abe administration just ignored your previous statement?
MS. HARF: Well, I think every case is different. Obviously, last week we talked about this with Mr. Abe. This is a different person, different position. What we’re focused on now is encouraging Japan to resolve these issues diplomatically through dialogue and moving forward.
QUESTION: But are you saying they are trying to resolving the issue or are they actually increasing the tension?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re encouraging them to and encouraging everyone not to take steps that would increase tension, certainly.
And I think that’s probably the extent of my comment on this.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Now that the Syrians have missed their deadline for getting rid of all of their chemical weapons, what is the United States going to do next?
MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is these were always milestones and that we purposefully set an ambitious timeline because of the severity of the problem, and as long as we saw forward progress, that would be good.
Now, obviously, they need to move quickly, but I would note that both the OPCW and the UN cited security and weather concerns. Obviously, these are serious concerns. We’re trying to destroy all these weapons in the middle of a civil war. We knew this would take time, but we do need to keep seeing forward progress, and in fact, we have. I talked a little bit about this last Monday, not last week. But so far, we actually have achieved quite a bit. We have disabled – functionally disabled all of Syria’s declared production, mixing, and filling equipment. And we announced on December 6th that all unfilled munitions that had been declared have been destroyed. So basically, they can’t weaponize what they still have.
Now, they need to destroy it, but we have been very clear that this will take time. We need to keep seeing forward progress. I think some folks went and saw the Cape Ray ship today that’s about to sail, I think in about two weeks, to help with the destruction effort. And so again, we’re keeping to move forward on the process, and it’s up to the Assad regime, quite frankly, to take the next step, which is delivering the chemicals to the port.
QUESTION: And does the United States feel like it’s getting help from its allies in this effort?
MS. HARF: Absolutely, yes. And I have some information on that. Danish and Norwegian ships with Finnish support are in Cyprus ready to leave for the port to load the bulk agent for removal from Syria. Russia and China will help to provide security in Syrian territorial waters for the Marine loading operation. The Italian Government has also made available a port in which to conduct trans-loading operations from the Danish ship to the Cape Ray, and the United Kingdom has agreed to destroy a portion of the precursor chemicals through commercial incineration. So a lot of people are pitching in. It’s a massive effort. If you think six months ago they didn’t even admit they had chemical weapons, now we have a massive international effort to destroy them, and we’ve seen progress. I think we’re getting there.
QUESTION: And when you mentioned overcoming problems, you mentioned the weather, and certainly can understand how foul weather can play a part in the removal --
MS. HARF: And security.
QUESTION: -- and security. Do you see that the weather or security improving in the next few months?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s up to the Assad regime to provide security for them to get the chemicals to the port. So this is – the onus is on them. They’ve committed to this and they need to do it. Weather, obviously, I’m not a expert on the weather. But obviously, I think there are probably good days and bad days. And I know it’s winter and things are hard, but they need to take steps to get this done.
QUESTION: And so will the United States – if they don’t get this done soon, I know you’ve mentioned June in the past --
MS. HARF: We’re still tracking towards June for the total destruction. We always knew this was an ambitious timeline. That’s why these are milestones, not hard and fast deadlines.
Yeah. Yes, we’re going to you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, good. I’m with KTVU out of San Francisco.
MS. HARF: Welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Are you aware of any threats to that specific consulate or any other Chinese consulates in the U.S. ahead of the alleged arson yesterday?
MS. HARF: I’m not – I’m happy to check with our team.
QUESTION: Also, when it comes to added security, would it have to be from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? What is San Francisco police wanted to step in? How is that handled?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. Those are, quite frankly – not to dodge your good question, but those are sort of hypotheticals. I’m not exactly sure how it works on the ground. Again, I’m happy to check in with our team. I know there’s a lot of questions on this, and we can talk about it a little more later today or tomorrow on the security issue particularly.
QUESTION: And I guess one more then.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Would you all wait for the investigation or maybe some sort of declaration from the FBI since they’re leading this to say okay, this was arson, now let’s beef up security? Would you wait for that determination?
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Again, I’ll check with our security folks and see what the latest is.
QUESTION: All right, thank you.
MS. HARF: Yep. Yes.
QUESTION: On this security issue, the Indian embassy here has been requesting the State Department for several months that the parking lot across the embassy was removed from reserved for the diplomats. Now it’s made public, so the Indian embassy is saying that it has increased the security threat to the embassy. Has the State Department taken note of it, taken any steps?
MS. HARF: I am not familiar with that issue. I’m happy to check on it.
QUESTION: It has been going on for past several months also.
MS. HARF: Okay, happy to check on it. Yes, Lucas, and then I’ll go back.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on a report that two American military personnel are being detained again in Benghazi?
MS. HARF: I just saw that before I came out there. I don’t have anything to confirm it one way or the other. I know a lot of folks are interested in it, though, so when I get back to my desk I’ll see if I can get something. If we need to send something out to the bullpen, I’m happy to.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a clarification. This Devyani Khobragade case was not the first one involving the Indian diplomats. It was a third one in a row. And there are a lot of more diplomats with maids made in India and bringing them from India. Is there any other investigation going on against anyone else?
MS. HARF: Well, the answer, first, is I don’t know. And second, if I did know, which I don’t, I don’t think I’d be able to share that here.
QUESTION: No, but --
MS. HARF: But as I said – as I said on this case, when there were allegations made, we informed the Indian Government that they had been made and that we’d be looking into them. But I don’t think that’s something we share publicly.
QUESTION: There were no arrests in the earlier two cases and --
MS. HARF: I’m not sure which two cases exactly you’re referring to. I’m happy --
QUESTION: The New York ones. The – Mr. --
MS. HARF: I think there maybe were some prosecutions in the past.
QUESTION: Mr. Dayal and –
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on the specifics. I think there may have been some prosecutions in the past.
QUESTION: And they left U.S. and in this case – but I am more interested in what is the ongoing investigation in some more cases because that is --
MS. HARF: Again, if there were, which I don’t know if there are, that would be information that I don’t think we would be able to share publicly.
QUESTION: Have there been any other complaints, any against any other Indian diplomats --
MS. HARF: Again, I don’t --
QUESTION: -- on --
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. If we had, I don’t think that’s information I’d be able to share.
Anything else? Lucas, one more.
QUESTION: Do you have anything – is the State Department or the United States Government assisting in the rescue efforts of the vessel in Antarctica?
MS. HARF: Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I’m happy to take it and look into it. It is fascinating, though. I don’t know. I’ll look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: One more. Oh, oh --
QUESTION: On China. Yesterday was the 35 years anniversary of the establishment of the China-U.S. diplomatic relations, and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrote an article says that the U.S. needs to have a correct understanding of the China’s strategic intentions and honor real actions, which is the U.S. should truly welcome a successful, stable, strong China to remove the suspicions. So what is your comment about the 35 years anniversary?
MS. HARF: Well, in general, we remain committed – the United States does – to building a stable, reliable, and continuous relationship with China on the military-to-military side, diplomatic side, economic side, and we welcome the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China that plays a constructive role in the region. This is certainly not a zero-sum game. We continue to pursue greater cooperation and engagement on our common interests.
Obviously, we disagree sometimes; but if you look at the last year, some of the things we’ve worked together on through the P5, through other venues, we’ve really worked together on some important issues. Obviously, we disagree sometimes. And as you, I think, heard the Vice President say recently, being able to show – the strength of a relationship is being able to say when you disagree and move together constructively to work on issues that we both care about. So we’re certainly looking forward. Secretary Kerry is very committed to the relationship, and we’ll see what 2014 has in store for all of us.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)
DPB # 1