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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
March 24, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • U.S. Condemns Death of Radio Free Iraq Journalist
    • Update on President Obama's and Secretary Kerry's Travel
    • White House Announces Nuclear Security Summit Steps
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's and Foreign Minister Lavrov's Meeting
    • CW Elimination Effort / Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Resolution 2118 Obligations
    • Isolating Russia from the G8
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • Secretary Kerry Encouraged Russian FM Lavrov to Meet with Ukrainians
    • G7 Meeting
    • U.S. Coordinating Actions on Sanctions
  • IRAQ
    • Iraqi Judiciary Investigation of Crime / Strong, Continuing Partnership with the Iraqi Government
    • Terrorist Activity is Result of Situation in Syria
    • Hellfires and ScanEagle Surveillance Platforms
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • Concerned about Russian Aggression
    • Russian Troops Discussed
    • U.S. Commends Ukrainians for De-Escalatory Steps
  • EGYPT
    • Absentia Death Sentences of 529 People
    • U.S. Calls for Fair Proceedings of Detainees
    • Policy Towards Egypt
  • TURKEY/SYRIA
    • Syrian Jet Shot Down
    • U.S. Committed to Turkey's Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity
    • NATO
  • TURKEY
    • U.S. Supports Freedom of Expression / Encroachment of Freedom of Expression / U.S. / In Touch with Twitter and Turkish Government
  • SYRIA
    • Constant Review of U.S. Policy
  • TAIWAN
    • U.S. Supports Taiwan's Vibrant Democracy
  • VENEZUELA
    • U.S. Unable to Schedule B1, B2 Visa Applicant Appointments
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • U.S. Dialogue with Both / Working Towards Framework
    • Disappointed in Lack of Apology
  • CHINA
    • U.S. Intelligence Activities Focused on National Security
  • D.P.R.K.
    • U.S. Monitoring Situation of Rockets Fired
  • THAILAND
    • U.S. Advocates for Democratic Solution
  • MALAYSIA
    • U.S. Working Closely with Malaysian Government on Missing Plane
  • UGANDA
    • U.S. Deploys CV-22 Ospreys, Refueling Aircraft, and Support Personnel / Remove Joseph Kony / Support for LGBT Community / Suspending Start of HIV/AIDS Survey
  • RUSSIA
    • G8 / Economy


TRANSCRIPT:

1:42 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Happy Monday, everyone. Sorry for the delay. I have a few things at the top, including a travel update, and then I am happy to open it up for your questions. So, first item is on Iraq.

The United States condemns the murder of Radio Free Iraq’s Baghdad bureau chief, Mohammed – excuse me, let me start over here. I haven’t briefed in a while.

The United States condemns the murder of Radio Free Iraq’s Baghdad Bureau Chief Mohammed Bdaiwi al-Shammari, which occurred following a confrontation at a checkpoint in Baghdad on Sunday. We are deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding his death and we call on the Government of Iraq to conduct a full investigation into the incident and to hold the perpetrator of this criminal act to account. The killing of any innocent is to be deplored. The murder of a journalist is a particular affront because it strikes at a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Our understanding is that the case is now with the Iraqi judiciary, and we call on the Iraqi Government to ensure that the investigation is handled in a manner consistent with the constitutions and laws of Iraq. Mr. al-Shammari’s death is a major loss for the entire country of Iraq, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his families – to his family and to his colleagues.

Okay, travel update. I have a bunch of things here so bear with me, and then we’ll do questions. As you know, today Secretary Kerry is in The Hague. He’s had a number of meetings with the OPCW director general, Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif – excuse me – Dutch Foreign Minister Timmermans, British Foreign Minister Hague, and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov – and I will have a readout of that meeting for you.

He also joined President Obama for his meetings with Chinese President Xi, and shortly they’ll be going into the G7 summit. The visit to the Netherlands is part of a larger trip in which the Secretary is accompanying President Obama during his visit to The Hague, Rome, Vatican City, and Riyadh.

First, on the Nuclear Security Summit, we announced – the White House announced a number of steps that Japan, Italy, and Belgium took today. So if folks have questions on that, I’m happy to take those. Today – obviously, this is an important part of the Secretary’s trip and the President’s trip. The Nuclear Security Summit is obviously a key component of that.

And I’m looking for the – I might have the Lavrov readout over there, so let me get it for you. And then we can do questions first and then I’ll have someone hand me the Lavrov readout. Hold on one second. I think I might have stuck it in my book or left it over there.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Nope, just give me one second. You can tell I haven’t briefed in a few days, huh? Let me see. I thought I printed that right before I came down here.

QUESTION: Do you want us to ask --

MS. HARF: Yeah, go ahead, Matt, while I’m paging through this book.

QUESTION: As you are probably aware, that Foreign Minister Lavrov met with the Ukrainian foreign minister --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in The Hague. Do you know – recognizing that most of the Ukraine – U.S. views on Ukraine are going to come out of the President, the White House, and --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary, but I’m just wondering: Do you know if – did the Secretary encourage them --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- such a meeting?

MS. HARF: I found my readout.

QUESTION: Oh. Okay.

MS. HARF: Sorry. This is the problem with this book being this big. I need to tamp it down a little.

So they met for a little over an hour today. The last ten minutes were one-on-one. They actually took a walk outside. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov met on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit. Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern about the massing of a large number of Russian forces on the border and of the treatment of Ukrainian military forces, including many Ukrainian service members who are missing.

Secretary Kerry pointed to the sanctions announced last week and the new executive order signed by President Obama that provides the flexibility to sanction specific industries if Russia continues to take escalatory steps. He provided an update on the steps the Government of Ukraine has continued to take on constitutional reform, to counter extremists, and to prepare for elections on May 25th.

He urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to deescalate the situation and pursue a dialogue with the Ukrainian Government. As you note, he was scheduled to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. I don’t have a readout, obviously. It wasn’t our meeting, but --

QUESTION: Wait, wait. No, no, I’m sorry. Wait. The Secretary was, or Lavrov was?

MS. HARF: No, Lavrov was.

QUESTION: Yeah. Right. Okay.

MS. HARF: Given the pressing timeline for completing the CW elimination effort, Secretary Kerry also expressed the urgency of Syria accelerating efforts to fulfill its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Resolution 2118.

As you know, the G7 is about to meet right now. Obviously, we want to isolate – continue isolating Russia from the G8, see no reason to meet with the Russians in the context of the G8 given their current actions, and we’ll be coordinating our actions within the G7, including sanctions and broader action against the Russian economy should they continue to escalate. So those discussions will be happening momentarily in The Hague.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, recognizing that --

MS. HARF: Sorry for my --

QUESTION: No, that’s okay.

MS. HARF: I’m all over the place today.

QUESTION: No, that’s all right. Just recognizing that that’s all a work in progress --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: One, is a meeting between – is the meeting – I mean, there’s photographic evidence of the meeting --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- between Lavrov and the Ukrainian foreign minister took place. So --

MS. HARF: After the Secretary’s meeting.

QUESTION: Right. Correct.

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: Is that something that you see as a positive sign?

MS. HARF: We do. It was something the Secretary encouraged. We’ve encouraged the Russians from the beginning to directly dialogue with the Ukrainians --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- and in the meeting today it’s something Secretary Kerry specifically urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to do. I think talking is good and it’s an important step, but what we need to see are Russian actions.

QUESTION: All right. And then on the G7 thing, and I realize that this is mainly – this is – the White House has been talking about this. But in terms of not having a G8 meeting in Sochi, is the G7 going to still try to have a summit, or is this – someplace else or in the summer, around the same time as the Sochi one was supposed to happen? Or is the one that’s happening now it for this year?

MS. HARF: Well, I think (a) I don’t know what the future plans are for G7 meetings. Obviously, as you said, they’re about to meet right now, so I assume we will know more about future meeting plans after the G7 meets today in The Hague. As we’ve said, we’re not going to Sochi.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And if we have to have meetings around the same time, we will. But I don’t think I have anything else on that specifically to preview.

QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted – I was just curious if the idea was in isolating Russia in the context of the G8 if you – if the idea was also to go ahead and have a summit around the same time that the Sochi one was supposed to happen but someplace else.

MS. HARF: The answer is I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I think we’ll probably know about where the G7 goes from here after the meeting today. As I said, we’re coordinating our actions on sanctions, certainly, and we’ll take broader action if Russia continues to escalate.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Thanks, Matt. Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Get me back on track here.

QUESTION: Yeah, right. Great. Can we go back to – you started at the top with Iraq.

MS. HARF: I did, yes.

QUESTION: On the killing and the murder of Mohammed Shammari.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, are you saying that the government forces may have killed him? Is that what you’re suggesting because he – it was altercation at the checkpoint?

MS. HARF: Well, what I said – I said a couple things. First, the Iraqi judiciary is just beginning their investigation into this crime. I think a lot of the details about what actually happened have already been reported in terms of it being a security guard. As I said, the judiciary is beginning their investigation. I don’t want to speculate on all the facts, other than to say, obviously, we strongly condemn the actions that took place here and want the Iraqi Government to investigate what happened.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, do you – would you describe your relationship with Iraq as being at least precarious at this point? Because yesterday Prime Minister Maliki really criticized your allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He basically accused them of being behind all the terrorism that is taking place in Iraq. I mean, them being your close allies, security, and you have a lot of security coordination, do you also arrive at the same conclusion that the Saudis and the Qataris are behind it?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see his comments specifically. I’ll make a few points. The first is that we have a strong and continuing partnership with the Iraqi Government. We have said since we ended the war there that we will continue working with the government and the people of Iraq to help them build their capacity and move forward past the situation they have been in.

Secondly, what we’ve said is separate from – you’re talking about terrorist attacks in general in Iraq.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: In terms of the terrorist activity inside Iraq, we believe it’s a direct result mostly of the situation in Syria and the destabilizing impact that Syria has had on Iraq in terms of foreign fighters being able to flow into Iraq and really wreak havoc there as well. So again, I didn’t see his specific comments, but that’s how we look at the situation. We’re working with the Iraqi Government to increase their capacity to fight these threats on their own.

QUESTION: Okay. So would you give credence to his claims? Because you also --

MS. HARF: I didn’t see the claims, Said. I’d have to take a look at his specific claims.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you one last question on this. There was supposed to be deliveries of Hellfire missiles, other equipment, helicopters and so on to Iraq.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Is that still – or is it on hold now, or is it being delivered?

MS. HARF: Not to my understanding.

QUESTION: Do you know – what is the status?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding it’s ongoing. And we talked about some Hellfires that we delivered, I think back in December, and some ScanEagle surveillance platforms as well. It’s my understanding it’s ongoing, that’s nothing’s changed there, because we do think this is a very important fight to help the Iraqis build their capacity to go after themselves. But I’m happy to check. I just don’t think anything’s been changed.[1]

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the meeting between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov? Was there any talk about Transnistria and concern that there is some in Transnistria that now are talking that as they voted years ago that – to secede and join Russia, that they now want Russia to annex them? And is there a concern that this is going to – all of these kind of orphan territories are going to --

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t – I don’t know if that was specifically discussed. I can check with our team on the ground. I know they’ll have more details on whether that was discussed in the hour-long meeting. We’ve said, obviously, we’re concerned about Russian aggression in the region, broadly speaking. Obviously, we know this is one region where this has long time been a concern. We talked to our partners in the region – the Moldovans and other – about this specifically. But I can check and see if it was brought up.

QUESTION: But when you specifically talk about Secretary Kerry expressing concern about Russian troops along the border of Ukraine, it was limited to Ukraine for right --

MS. HARF: I don’t know if the conversation was broader. I know they certainly discussed the massing of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. I don’t know if there was a broader discussion.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And what was the minister’s response to that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’ll let Foreign Minister Lavrov speak for himself, which he’s very good at doing. We raised our concerns. We have said that the Russians need to have a direct dialogue with the Ukrainians, which, as we’ve seen, they did. Now will – I think it remains to be seen whether there will be actions that match those words. But I’ll let Foreign Minister Lavrov speak for himself here about what his thoughts are on the issue.

QUESTION: I’ll let – you can let him speak for yourself on his thoughts, but do you – when they say that they’re not planning to annex or to go into the rest of Ukraine, do you believe their – do you believe them?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s about believing what they say; it’s about judging them by what they do. And what we’ve seen up until this point, and why you’ve seen escalation on our side, is they have taken escalatory steps on their side. So when we have said not to do things, they’ve done them. We’ve responded in kind.

So it’s not really about what they say; it’s about what they do. They can do things to de-escalate the situation. We’ve commended the Ukrainians, for example, for taking de-escalatory steps. Everything we’ve seen from the Russians is the opposite. So again, the Secretary has talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov about this. We’re meeting with the G7 right now, without Russia purposefully, to coordinate our efforts going forward.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary ask Mr. Lavrov to use – for Russia to use its influence with the Assad regime to return back to the Geneva negotiations or --

MS. HARF: Well, I know they discussed CW specifically. I can check and see if they discussed the Geneva negotiations. Obviously, we’re very focused on some of the timelines we need to see on CW movement right now. But I can see if there was any discussion of that.

QUESTION: While we’re still on Syria --

MS. HARF: Is there anything more on Ukraine? And then we’ll go to Syria.

QUESTION: Okay. Sure.

MS. HARF: Ukraine? Matt.

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Ukraine, one more?

MS. HARF: Okay. Let’s do Ukraine, and then we’ll go to Syria, and then we’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: Do you think that the meeting between Lavrov and the Ukrainian foreign minister is a recognition or that Russia accepted the legitimacy of the new government in Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to speak for the Russian Government on what they do or don’t think about the Ukrainian Government. We certainly do. And we’ve encouraged dialogue all along between the two governments. We’ll remain – I think what remains to be seen at this point is whether there will be any actions to follow up on that dialogue.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt first and then – it’ll be very brief --

MS. HARF: Yeah, uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and not ponderous at all. Just any response – U.S. reaction to this – the rather large number of death sentences that were handed down?

MS. HARF: We are deeply concerned – and I would say actually pretty shocked – by the sentencing to death of 529 Egyptians related to the death of one policeman, as well as the spate of violence against police stations and security personnel in the aftermath of the clearing of two squares in mid-August. It’s our understanding that over half of those convictions were in absentia. Obviously the defendants can appeal, but it simply does not seem possible that a fair review of evidence and testimony, consistent with international standards, could be accomplished with over 529 defendants in a two-day trial. It sort of defies logic.

So we have continued to call on the Egyptian Government to ensure that those detained are afforded fair proceedings that respect civil liberties, and as – that we’ve said many, many, many times, that the appearance of politically motivated arrests, detentions, and convictions will just continue to move Egypt’s democratic transition backwards and not forwards like we hope it does.

QUESTION: Sorry, just one.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: It sort of defies logic, or it does defy logic?

MS. HARF: I’ll retool that. It defies logic that over 529 defendants could be tried in a two-day period in accordance with international standards. Yeah.

QUESTION: Has there been any current or any similar situation where that number of people was actually sentenced to death in one trial?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. It’s a good historical question. I don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Okay. But shouldn’t this really – more than just shock – I mean, shouldn’t you be outraged to the point of actually taking some action?

MS. HARF: Well, what action are you suggesting we take?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re constantly --

MS. HARF: We’re certainly raising it with the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: -- you’re constantly waving the sanctions scare for other countries and so on. Why not Egypt in this case? I mean, this is 500 people sentenced to death all in one shot. That’s – no pun intended, but I mean, 500 --

MS. HARF: Yes. I think a few points. The first is that we’re still – we’re talking to the Egyptian Government. We’re trying to ascertain all the facts here. Obviously, as I said, it’s a pretty shocking number. But we’re gathering all the facts and determining what we do going forward.

Our policy towards Egypt all along, since July, has been governed by a few principles. One is that it’s an important relationship. The second – so we don’t want to completely cut off the relationship, as you saw when we made the decision about aid. The second is that there are principles that we stand up for that include things like right to a free and fair trial that we will continue pushing with the Egyptian Government. And the third is that we will engage with all parties and all groups in Egypt to make sure that as their democratic transition moves forward, it’s done so in an inclusive manner. Obviously, there have been setbacks along the way and there’s much more work to do, but we’re going to keep working with the Egyptian Government, including to get more information about this situation.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria unless somebody --

MS. HARF: Anything else on Egypt?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Okay. Then we’ll go to Syria.

QUESTION: So do you think the Egyptian authorities are serious about carrying these sentences through? And what do you think this kind of trial and similar trials that have been taking place in Egypt say about justice system in that country at this moment?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know if they’re serious. What we’ve said – I don’t want to ascribe motives here or motivations here – what we’ve said is that everybody needs to be given a trial in accordance with international standards and that politically – there’s no place for politically motivated arrests, detentions, convictions, in a country that’s moving towards democracy. So we’ve been very clear about the fact that these are setbacks, that politically motivated arrests are not acceptable, and that they have been pretty significant bumps in the road here as we’ve tried to work with Egypt to move its democratic transition forward. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that it’s been easy or without problems, and I think this is an example of that.

QUESTION: What about the justice system?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I probably want to make a broader analysis of the justice system writ large, but what we have said is that there have been a number of politically motivated arrests and convictions and detentions in Egypt since July, and that that has been very disturbing. And it’s a trend we are worried about, it’s a trend we don’t want to see continue, and we’ll keep working with the interim government to see if we can make some progress here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yes, Syria.

QUESTION: Syria. Yes.

MS. HARF: I promised him Syria.

QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the downing of a Syrian jet apparently --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in the Syrian airspace yesterday by the Turkish?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we’ve been following the issue closely. We have been in close contact with our Turkish counterparts – I would remind you, NATO allies – regarding the incident. We are committed to Turkey’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We note that the Turkish Government has been fully transparent about the rules of engagement it is operating under since the Syrian Government shot down a Turkish aircraft in 2012. The Turkish Government in this case said its forces only fired after the Syrian military aircraft violated Turkish airspace and after repeated warnings from Turkish authorities. Obviously, the Government of Turkey is looking into the incident more, but we are talking to them and will remain in contact with them.

QUESTION: So to the best of your information, do you have any independent information that it was actually shot down over Syrian airspace or Turkish airspace?

MS. HARF: Where it was actually shot down, I don’t have specific information about that, but as I said, the Turkish Government said it only fired on the aircraft after it violated Turkish aircraft – or, excuse me, airspace, and was repeatedly warned by the Turkish Government not to do so.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that any escalation might involve all other NATO allies, considering that you have some sort of a pact with Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s a little soon to sort of take this more broadly. I would note that I don’t think Turkey has asked for anything yet in terms of NATO. Obviously, we’re talking to them about how to move forward here, but again, I think it’s too soon to sort of draw broader characterizations about what might happen next.

QUESTION: And finally, Brahimi said that he doesn’t see Geneva II reconvening anytime soon. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we have obviously been working with the special representative quite closely. We want – all want Geneva – the Geneva process, I would say, to reconvene when we can make progress. And up until this point, we’ve seen the Syrian regime not come to the table as a party that wants to make progress here. So I know he’s working on it to see if and when we can reconvene this and how, to see if we can move this diplomatic process forward.

QUESTION: So you said that Turkey has been fully transparent about the rules of engagement? What does that mean, exactly?

MS. HARF: That it has operated under since the Syrian Government shot down a Turkish aircraft in 2012.

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. HARF: So I think what it means, without knowing all the specifics here, is that, for example, it repeatedly warned --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- the Syrian aircraft not to violate its airspace. It only then took action. That’s what I think rules of engagement refers to here.

QUESTION: Right. Right. But the rules of engagement, are they public? You don’t have --

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: Is that what that means in terms of --

MS. HARF: Or do we mean transparent with the United States? I don’t know.

QUESTION: Well, transparent – I mean, maybe you’d like to see --

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: -- the Turkish Government tweet the rules of engagement or perhaps put them on Facebook or YouTube or something like that.

MS. HARF: I would note here that there have been more tweets from Turkey since the government blocked it than there were before.

QUESTION: So can we just --

MS. HARF: Which is an interesting, I think, signal to people that try to clamp down on freedom of expression that it doesn’t work and isn’t the right thing to do.

QUESTION: Are you helping in this?

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: Hold on. We’ll – let me finish Matt.

QUESTION: So do you have any additional comment on the Twitter ban? When Erdogan announced that he was going to do this, he said now every – he didn’t care about international reaction and now the world would see the power of the Turkish Republic.

MS. HARF: Well, I think what the world saw was the number of people inside Turkey tweeting about what they thought about it being blocked there.

QUESTION: Well, could I ask you what you think --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- about the power of the Turkish Republic since they have failed so dramatically to enforce this ban?

MS. HARF: We have conveyed our serious concerns over this action directly to Turkish authorities, both from here and on the ground. Obviously, we support freedom of expression in Turkey and everywhere else. We oppose any action to encroach on the right to free speech, and continue to urge directly the Turkish Government to unblock its citizens’ access to Twitter and ensure free access to all social media platforms --

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. HARF: -- so they can see what you and everyone else tweets.

QUESTION: Right, but what does it say to you, if anything, about the power of the Turkish Republic?

MS. HARF: In what respect?

QUESTION: The fact that they’ve tried to ban it and it hasn’t worked. I mean, is this the kind of thing that you want to see a NATO ally doing or boasting about --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- beforehand, and then --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- failing miserably at it?

MS. HARF: Well, the second part – clearly, we think it’s good that people inside Turkey are still able to express themselves, but that doesn’t mean that it should be blocked. I wasn’t trying to give that statistic --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- in terms of saying that it’s an acceptable action.

QUESTION: So you’re --

MS. HARF: No, clearly this is not an action we think the Turkish Government should take. We’ve told them that directly. We will continue to tell them that directly. There’s no place in a democracy for this kind of clamping down on people’s right to free speech. There’s just not.

QUESTION: Okay. And so you would encourage people in Turkey to defy – to continue to defy the prime minister’s ban. Is that --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go that far, but I – what I will say is it’s important for people all over the world to hear what the Turkish people have to say.

QUESTION: Do you see any connection between the Twitter issue and the downing of the plane, the Syrian plane, perhaps that Mr. Erdogan is trying to export his --

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: -- local issues? You don’t see that?

MS. HARF: Not at all. No, not at all.

QUESTION: Are you helping the Turks in breaking the blockade?

MS. HARF: Is the United States Government?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge. We’ve been in contact with Twitter and with the Government of Turkey about this, but to my knowledge, no, we are not. But we’ve said very clearly to the Turkish Government that this is not acceptable and that we do not think they should be able to block their citizens’ access to these kind of social media platforms.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And --

QUESTION: Just to clarify, Marie, you – I asked this question last week, that whether United States Government is involved with this case in the --

MS. HARF: With Twitter?

QUESTION: In this dispute between the Twitter and the Turkish Government in terms of the legal process, and you said no. Still the case? Still --

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I said no; I think Jen said no. But we saw over the weekend, I think, some more actions being taken, right? So I’m not sure exactly how you asked the question last week, but what I can say is that we have been in contact with Twitter and separately with the Government of Turkey to talk about the fact that people should not have their access blocked to Twitter.

QUESTION: So it is a legal dispute right now, and that maybe – I mean, Turkish Government is pursuing this ban, and they took several additional measures during the weekend to stop the people to use Twitter, like DNS ban, et cetera.

MS. HARF: Which we think is an encroachment on their citizens’ freedom of expression, and we don’t think that it should be continued.

QUESTION: You are in contact with the Twitter in terms of legal dispute or --

MS. HARF: I’m not say in terms of any – I don’t know the legal – the specific legal aspect you’re referring to. We are in touch with Twitter, yes, broadly speaking. I don’t know exactly what that contact is like, but I don’t know if the legal – if that’s an internal Turkish matter, I’m not exactly sure, but we’ve been in contact with both Twitter and the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: I mean, because Twitter is represented by the lawyers right now in Turkey, and there will be maybe case against --

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on any legal action that may or may not be happening in Turkey. I just don’t have those details. What we’ve said is separate and apart from that. People should be able to express themselves freely, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter or whatever – Flickr, Tumblr, whatever people want to use – and that governments should not encroach on their – they shouldn’t block access for their citizens to do so. I don’t have a lot more information.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

QUESTION: What about Instagram?

MS. HARF: And Instagram too.

QUESTION: Yeah, the problem --

QUESTION: Not Instagram.

QUESTION: Not – (laughter). Don’t play favorites now, Marie.

MS. HARF: I am not. I am not on Instagram, but --

QUESTION: The problem, the Turkish Government is trying to get some information about some users, specific users who are tweeting against the government and --

MS. HARF: What I’m saying is that we oppose the Turkish --

QUESTION: And the Twitter – and my question – okay. My question is --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- Twitter assured to Turkish Twitter accounts users that they will not disclose any private information.

MS. HARF: That would be a question for Twitter, not for me.

QUESTION: Yeah. But are you supporting this stand of Twitter against Turkish Government?

MS. HARF: That’s not something that I should take a stand on. I don’t think that’s something that the company, Twitter, can decide on its own.

QUESTION: Because --

MS. HARF: What we have said is that governments should not block access for their citizens.

QUESTION: Yes. But at the same time it’s a privacy question – not only freedom of expression, but the people are also trying to protect their privacy --

MS. HARF: Again, that a question that’s --

QUESTION: -- and the Turkish Government is trying to get the information of all of the users.

MS. HARF: That’s a question, I think, is better addressed to Twitter, who controls that issue. What I am saying is people’s freedom of expression should not be blocked by their own government.

QUESTION: So no comment about the privacy?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more for you than this – for you on this case than that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s more.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I just don’t think I’ll have more.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Please.

And another question about the jet incident.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this confrontation between Turkey and Syria can turn into a more broader confrontation just before the elections, because ---

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s the question Said just asked, and what I said was it’s a little too early to make sweeping characterizations about what may come from this. Obviously, we know there was a situation here where the Turks repeatedly warned the Syrians before taking action. I don’t think I want to probably draw broader conclusions about what will happen going forward.

QUESTION: No, I’m – my question wasn’t related NATO that Said asked in terms of the NATO involvement. Beyond the NATO involvement, are you encouraging the parties to deescalate the tension?

MS. HARF: I mean, we’re certainly in contact with the Turkish Government here on this issue. I’m not – I mean, in terms of the parties, you’re talking about the Assad regime?

QUESTION: No, the parties – NATO ally, Turkey. Because there will be an election this week --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- and the main --

MS. HARF: I’m not seeing the connection here.

QUESTION: The main opposition party urged to not do any military intervention, military – I mean, unilateral military action against Syria just before the election, to use a populist tool just before the election. So this is the concern of the main opposition party and other parties in Turkey.

MS. HARF: I think I probably don’t have much comment on internal Turkish politics or how they may or may not respond --

QUESTION: It stirs an international crisis.

QUESTION: Well, are you encouraging the Turks to kind of remain calm and not escalate the situation?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure how they – I mean I’m not sure there’s even talk of escalation here. I’m happy to check with our folks and see. To my understanding, it was a limited situation. I haven’t heard that there is escalation here.

QUESTION: Is --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our team. We’re still talking to the Turks to get the facts about what happened here, but I, quite frankly, haven’t heard talk that people are worried about that.

QUESTION: So – because my question is related to another religious site within Syria belonging to Turkey. This is a Turkish territory, 35 kilometers from Turkish broader within Syria, and it’s under threat some groups, ISIS and other radical al-Qaida-affiliated groups. And some cabinet members, Turkish cabinet members, even urged not to do anything to provoke Turkey for any unilateral military action, for example. This is another concern for Turkey to be part of the unilateral military action within Syria. So only – not only the jet, but this is another risk for Turkey to involve with Syria in terms of this kind of military action.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any, in terms of that specific question, any details for you on that. Again, I think I’ll let the Turkish Government speak for what their response will or won’t be here. As I said, we’ve talked to them, we’ve gotten the facts of what’s happened here, and if there’s more to share tomorrow, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Marie, a question that is on Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are report that 600,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Europe and the United States. Could you tell us the portion of that that is being sought with the United States?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer, Said. Let me check with our folks and see. I don’t have the numbers.

QUESTION: Just one more question on the Syrian jet.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said we’ve established the facts and multiple warning were issued, I guess.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. By the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: How – yeah. How did you establish that? Did they share any information with the State Department?

MS. HARF: The Turkish Government?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: With the United States Government they did. I don’t know if it was us or with the Defense Department, but --

QUESTION: Yeah. But they shared, like, intelligence information about the incident?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if it’s intelligence they told us. They warned the Syrians multiple times. I don’t know the details of exactly what that --

QUESTION: Yeah. But how did you verify what they actually conveyed to you?

MS. HARF: I can check with our folks and see.

QUESTION: Were you in touch with them in real time during the incident?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I’m happy to check. It might be – and it might be the Department of Defense, but I’m happy to check with them.

QUESTION: So did you --

MS. HARF: I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Did you say that these pieces of information were verified, or you’re not sure?

MS. HARF: We have no reason to believe that it’s not accurate, correct. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. But --

MS. HARF: And I’m happy to see if there are more details about how we verified it, correct.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask one more.

QUESTION: No, no. One more on Syria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: News reports said that the U.S. Administration has finished its review on its policy towards Syria and decided not to intervene militarily and not to provide the opposition with sophisticated arms and not to allow Saudi Arabia to provide this kind of arms.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure those reports are true. I haven’t seen them, but I haven’t heard those reports. In terms of the first, we’ve always said all options except for boots on the ground are on the table. Happy to check with our team, but it’s my understanding, as we’ve talked about in here, that this is an ongoing discussion of what policies we should undertake in Syria. I’m happy to check and see if there’s been some decisions made, but to my knowledge there haven’t been.

QUESTION: Is there any review?

MS. HARF: As I said – we went over this, I think, ad nauseam one day, but there’s constantly a review of our policy in Syria. We are constantly looking at options, what we could do, what more we could do, how we could influence the situation. That’s ongoing, yes. But to my knowledge, there hasn’t been some sort of major decision on what we will or won’t do.

QUESTION: Can you check on this, please?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: In the back. Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to East Asia please?

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, there have been massive student demonstrations in Taiwan against the government’s handling of a trade pact with the Chinese mainland. Do you have any comment on that? And the student demonstrators have taken over the legislature. They tried to move into the Executive Yuan but were put out by riot police.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How do you see the government’s handling of the situation? Do you have any concerns?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy, which allows for this kind of robust political dialogue on a range of issues. The agreement on cross-strait trade in services that I think you’re referencing is an issue for Taiwan to decide. We hope that the discussion can be conducted peacefully and civilly. We have welcomed steps taken by both sides on the Taiwan Strait that they’ve taken to reduce tensions and improve relations between Taipei and Beijing. We’d encourage them to continue this constructive dialogue. And again, the specific, I think, agreement you’re referring to is really an issue for them to decide.

QUESTION: Are you offering any counsel to the – President Ma’s government as to what to do and what not to do in terms how – in terms of how to deal with the demonstrators?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Marie, on Venezuela, please.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) robust political dialogue – does that extend to fistfights on the floor of the parliament?

MS. HARF: I think democracy can take many forms, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, on Venezuela --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Embassy down in Caracas announced over the weekend that it will stop reviewing new visa applications. Any further explanation as to why?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Let me just pull that up. Yes. So our Embassy in Caracas. Just give me one second. I do need to clean out this book. As a result of the recent expulsion of several consular officers and Venezuelan Government delays in issuing visas for incoming officers, we regret that the United States Embassy is unable to schedule appointments for first-time tourist visa applicants, except in emergency situations, at this time. So basically, for first-time B1 or B2 visa applicants, we don’t have the resources or the manpower to schedule appointments for them to come in and apply for a United States visa. Venezuelans wishing to apply for their first B1 or B2 visas or to renew one that has expired more than a year ago can make an appointment at other U.S. embassies and consulates to do so.

QUESTION: Do you have an estimate of how many applications will stop being reviewed?

MS. HARF: I don’t. It’s a good question. I can check and see with our folks and see how many sort of first-time visa applications we get. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Is there a fear that there could be a rush of Venezuelans trying to flee the country, given that the protests are entering the second month and the number of deaths keep climbing also?

MS. HARF: Is there a fear that played into this decision?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: No. This decision was completely resource-based, personnel-based. It was just a numbers issue. We just don’t have the manpower now because our folks were expelled and we don’t have new people that have replaced them to just handle the applicants.

QUESTION: This also being read from both the government and the opposition as a hint of possible sanctions that have been called not only from Venezuela --

MS. HARF: I think people are trying to read a lot of tea leaves here. As I said, it’s a personnel issue. If they were to move forward and get our folks in there, then maybe we would be able to have these appointments be scheduled. Again, we’ve said we’re looking at what steps to take, separate and apart from this. But this truly is a issue of not having enough folks there to handle the applications.

QUESTION: Marie, a quick follow-up to the Taiwan question.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern at all over any possible widespread – further spread of the demonstrations and instability in Taiwan?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, not that I’ve heard. I’m happy to check with our folks, but not that I’ve heard at this point.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli?

MS. HARF: Sure. And then we’re doing the row behind you.

QUESTION: Okay. Very quickly, in the last few days tensions have gone up a notch, with the Israelis announcing more settlement housing and then raiding the refugee camp in Jenin and killing three Palestinians. And I know that the special envoy, Ambassador Indyk, met with both Abbas and Erekat. Could you update us on what is going on?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s really nothing new to update you on. We are in dialogue with both parties. We have said that we’re getting very close to the time when really tough decisions have to be made. And we know we’re up against time here, right? We’ve talked a lot about this since we restarted talks nine – almost nine months ago now. So we’re still working towards a framework, towards what that will look like in getting both parties at the table operating under that framework, but we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: Could you share with us if you have any information on the 29th of March deadline for the release of Palestinian prisoners? Because Palestinian Authority President Abbas is making this a big issue, and he’s saying we are not even going to go the full nine months if these Palestinian prisoners are not released, while on the other hand we heard the minister of justice saying that if the Palestinians don’t agree to going further in the talks we may not release them. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t, Said. As we’ve said throughout this process, both parties have made courageous decisions throughout it to move the process forward. And I just don’t have anything on that specific for you.

QUESTION: Do you have any specifically to say about the incident in Jenin?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m happy to check with our folks. I don’t, though. Let me see if I have --

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about – how frustrated are you with the Israeli minister of defense for not apologizing for what he said?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly disappointed that he didn’t apologize.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And as Jen said, his comments just don’t reflect the true nature of our relationship with Israel.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And we are very disappointed that he made them and that he has not apologized for them.

QUESTION: So – but you’re not asking for – you’re not asking again that this apology must come forward, are you?

MS. HARF: I mean, we’re disappointed we didn’t get an apology, but --

QUESTION: But you’d like to see him apologize, correct?

MS. HARF: Of course we would. But at this point, we’re moving forward and trying to get a framework and dealing with the two parties to see if we can get that done.

Yes.

QUESTION: China?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The Chinese foreign ministry expressed some indignation at these allegations that the NSA infiltrated the servers of Huawei, the telecommunications company. I think President Obama and President Xi also discussed it in their meeting as well, but I was wondering if you have a reaction and whether you’re planning to provide any more explanation to the Chinese side.

MS. HARF: Well, I know it won’t surprise you that I can’t comment on specific collection activities or on intelligence operations of specific foreign countries. But I can say a few things.

One is that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country. Two, we collect signals intelligence exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counter intelligence purpose. PPD-28 is clear that the collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect the national security of the United States or its partners and allies. So in other words, we don’t collect these things to give U.S. companies economic advantage. We’ve said that for months now.

And obviously, as we’ve said, many other countries can’t say the same thing and don’t say the same thing. So we’ve been very upfront about – without talking to specifics – why we would collect certain information.

QUESTION: Sure. I mean, just to follow up, though, there have been some instances where the Administration has acknowledged that it perhaps overstepped some boundaries and thus decided to review or curtail certain intelligence-gathering operations – spying on heads of state, for instance, dragnet surveillance domestically, those kinds of things. But you’re saying that this instance is not one of those things?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not speaking to this specific instance. What I am saying is that when we collect, broadly speaking, signals intelligence, there needs to be a foreign intelligence or a counter intelligence purpose, and that if we do this in the economic realm – right – it’s not to give U.S. companies economic advantage; that it’s to protect the national security of the United States.

And what I would say on the first part of your question is that the review was really about looking at what we collect and making sure we have to have it, not just that we can – right – collecting what we need, not just what we can collect. And as you said, retooling some of our efforts to make sure we were focused securely on what – solely, I would say, rather, on what makes our nation more secure, and again, not just collecting information because we can.

QUESTION: Will you be following up with the Chinese to address their complaints on this?

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

QUESTION: Marie, you do understand, though, it’s not a question of whether or not it is written in the U.S. law that this is not supposed to be done. It is the fact that countless time, in other instances, that law has been broken or it has been bent or --

MS. HARF: I don’t think everyone – anyone’s talked about the law being broken in terms of surveillance.

QUESTION: And – well, no, in terms – I’m talking about in terms of any law that this Administration --

MS. HARF: Okay. But let’s talk about surveillance.

QUESTION: Right, but this Administration would argue that – argues that waterboarding is torture and --

MS. HARF: No, but we’re talking about surveillance here, which is different.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough.

MS. HARF: You can’t combine all intelligence under one umbrella.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not trying to – hold on. I’m not trying to say that --

MS. HARF: No, but they’re different things.

QUESTION: Well, no, they are different things.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And when --

QUESTION: But the problem is, is that the U.S. Government has shown itself, on occasion – and I think some would say on more than just small numbers of occasions – to violate laws that it – that are supposed to – that exist to regulate what it can and can’t do.

MS. HARF: Well, let me say one thing about surveillance. What the President said when he announced the findings of the review was that there were no indications that --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- people did anything wrong here. It was a question of whether we should be collecting what we were collecting.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: And that’s an important distinction, I think.

QUESTION: But – well, fair enough, but the concern is, is that the rules aren’t always followed or may not always be followed, and it’s very much --

MS. HARF: Well, we have no indications they weren’t followed here.

QUESTION: Right, but it’s very – but that’s the concern, and --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m telling you we have no indications that happened here.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, that’s what you say today, but who knows what’s going to happen? You can’t predict the future any more than – anyway, are we done? Because I want to shift gears to --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The Chinese --

MS. HARF: And then you shift to whatever you want to shift to, yes.

QUESTION: The Chinese foreign ministry also, I think, quite interestingly demanded a – well, demanded that Washington stop its cyber espionage activities. Do you have any reaction to that claim?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see those comments. I think a few things. The President today had, I think – he has had up until this point, and I’m sure had today, very good discussions with the Chinese about a whole host of issues and about the whole breadth of the relationship. So I understand the focus on this aspect of it, but our relationship is much broader, and obviously, they talk about much broader things.

I would also point to the fact that, as the Director of National Intelligence has said, we do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. And I would remind you that’s a claim that many other countries cannot make.

Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know that already, the past couple days, North Korea launched another short-range missiles --

MS. HARF: Rockets, I think, is the more technical term, yeah.

QUESTION: -- 30 – yeah, rocket – 30 times toward the – near east coast of South Korea. Are these missile launch --

MS. HARF: Rockets.

QUESTION: -- a violation of the UN Security Resolution 1874.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, we’re obviously aware of reports that they fired a number of rockets into the sea. I think “rockets” is the more technical term. We’re obviously monitoring the situation. To my knowledge, I think because these are, again, short-range rockets, they would not be in violation.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Staying in Asia?

MS. HARF: Yeah, I’ll go here and then I’ll come back to you, I promise. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right, this is going to be very brief. Do you have any comment --

MS. HARF: You always say that.

QUESTION: Well, I think it is.

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the nullification by the Thai supreme constitutional court of the elections last month?

MS. HARF: I do, yes.

QUESTION: And am I right? Is it going to be brief?

MS. HARF: I think so.

QUESTION: Yeah? See, I can predict the future. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Throughout the situation in Thailand, we have consistently advocated for a democratic solution to Thailand’s political crisis, which means the people of Thailand get to pick what happens next, and that would be, of course, through elections. So I’m not going to sort of do more of an analysis of Thai law here, but we do think that the people of Thailand need to have confidence in their judicial system and that they should get to pick their future. So we will continue talking to the government there to see if we can move forward in a way that allows the Thai people to, in fact, pick their future.

QUESTION: So – but you don’t have any specific response to the court’s order?

MS. HARF: Well, not specifically, although broadly speaking, we do want the Thai people to have confidence in their judicial system that they will allow them to pick their future.

QUESTION: Do you think that this is shakes that confidence?

MS. HARF: I think it remains to be seen.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, do you have anything to tell us on the plane? As you maybe know – I’m sure you know the prime minister of Malaysia said that they plane landed in the Southern Indian Ocean.

MS. HARF: I saw those comments. I don’t have any independent corroboration of that. Obviously, we’re working very closely with the Malaysian Government, as are a number of governments, on the investigation, which they have the lead for. But I don’t have anything new to update you on. As we get more information, I’m happy to share it.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: How does the decision to send more U.S. troops to Uganda affect the review to do anything about the anti-homosexual law?

MS. HARF: Yeah, well, a couple points on that, and thank you for the question. Just a couple points on what we actually did. At the President’s direction, the United States has deployed CV-22 Ospreys, refueling aircraft, and associated support personnel to augment U.S. support for the African Union Regional Task Force Counter-LRA Mission. This comes, obviously, as the latest step in what we’ve been very clear is an effort to counter the LRA, including take Joseph Kony off of the battlefield.

So a couple points on that. We obviously still have incredible – incredibly serious concerns about the enactment of the anti-homosexuality act, but ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violations like the LRA and protecting LGBT rights aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, we have to do both, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.

We have done a few things immediately to demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda. And if folks aren’t familiar with them, I’ll run through a few now. We are shifting funding away from partners whose actions don’t reflect our values, including the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. We are suspending the start of an HIV/AIDS survey that would estimate the size of key at-risk populations because proceeding with it could pose a danger to respondents and to the staff. We are redirecting approximately $3 million in funding previously designated for tourism promotion there, and we are shifting the DOD-sponsored Africa Air Chief Symposium and East Africa Military Intelligence NCO course to locations outside of Uganda. We’re looking at further steps.

So we’ve taken steps in response the enactment of that act, but we also do think it’s a very serious security priority to counter the LRA, to try and find and take off the battlefield Kony and his associates. We’ve have some success, but there is much more work to do here.

QUESTION: I have – if I can take you back to Russia on the G7. So Foreign Minister Lavrov said today that it was no problem if the G8 didn’t want to meet. He said, “If our Western partners believe that that format has exhausted itself, we won’t cling to that format,” and, “We don’t think it’s a big problem.” Meanwhile, he met today with the foreign ministers of the BRIC countries, where they discussed Ukraine, Syria, other issues. And is there a concern that if you move away towards this G8 format and you kind of kick Russia out and --

MS. HARF: The G7.

QUESTION: -- away from the G8 towards the G7 --

MS. HARF: Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in an effort to isolate Russia, that it’s going to move more towards making the BRIC countries, of which you are not --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And some of these are the world’s growing – biggest growing industrialized nations, like the future members of that format. Is there a concern that you may be shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d say a few points. The first is that Russia needs membership in the G8 much more than we need Russia to be in the G8, right? So on those --

QUESTION: But does it need its membership in the BRICS, which are a growing organization?

MS. HARF: Well, no, but look at the – that’s true, but look at the economic situation. Russia wants to be a part of the G8. They need for their economy to be a part of the G8. I know we’ve ticked through this, but I’m going to do it again today. The Russian stock market is down 20 percent this year already. They’re the worst-performing index in the world. That’s $75 billion of market value wiped away, due in large part to the power and reach of our sanctions. The Russian currency is near an all-time low as investors have lost confidence in the economy and fled into – no surprise here – dollars. And Russia’s actions in Crimea have caused a deterioration in foreign international investors’ confidence in Russia, whose economy is already stagnating from a lack of investment.

So they can look for other partners, they can look for other places to grow their economy, but there will be increasingly significant consequences for their economy if they do not de-escalate the situation and do things to remain a part of this group of nations.

QUESTION: I understand, but what is it about the group G7? It’s a club. It’s just a club of --

MS. HARF: Very well-performing nations economically.

QUESTION: Well, yes, it’s a club of very well-performing nations, but the BRIC countries are also a group of very well-performing nations, and that includes China, which is one of your biggest international partners on a whole host of issues. So, I mean, I --

MS. HARF: There is no substitute for the G8. There are other places they can look, but there is no substitute for the G8.

QUESTION: But Marie, until today, Russia was a part of the G8 and --

MS. HARF: And there will be increasing --

QUESTION: Yeah, and it’s stock market still went down 20 percent, according – if your figures are right.

MS. HARF: What I said --

QUESTION: It’s still a member, right?

MS. HARF: The figures I said were almost all directly a result of our sanctions we’ve put in place recently.

QUESTION: So – but you said since the beginning of the year.

MS. HARF: On the stock market, yes, but in terms of the market value.

QUESTION: Right. Okay, and the other --

MS. HARF: But what I’m saying is, look, Russia’s economy is not in a good place already.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Put on top of that sanctions, put on top of that international isolation --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- from Europe --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- from the United States, from possibly other places, and that doesn’t spell economic success for Russia here. They can certainly look other places, but their economy is already stagnating, and there will be increasing consequences on them if they don’t de-escalate.

QUESTION: Right, but I mean, it’s not as if countries don’t recover from economic stagnation. Correct?

MS. HARF: That’s true, but Russia worked very hard to get into the G8 --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- and --

QUESTION: So they’re basically – so Lavrov, when he says, well, we don’t care, you think that he’s lying.

MS. HARF: I have no idea why Foreign Minister Lavrov says what he says.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just one other thing.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said the ruble is down and that they’ve all been converted into dollars? Is that --

MS. HARF: It’s near an all-time low as investors have lost confidence --

QUESTION: So every --

MS. HARF: -- and fled into dollars.

QUESTION: And not into euros?

MS. HARF: I have dollars here. Some of it may be euros. I don’t know.

QUESTION: I’d be interested to know, actually --

MS. HARF: Yeah. I --

QUESTION: -- if it’s more to dollars than --

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: -- than euros.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on this point --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- perhaps a little bit philosophically? Are you concerned that the prophecy --

MS. HARF: All of your questions are philosophical, Said.

QUESTION: No, not really. Okay – now that the prophecy, The West and the Rest of Mr. Niall Ferguson become true, that in fact you are dividing the world now, you have the West and the rest of the world is all together?

MS. HARF: No, not at all. I think what you see here is Russia is all by itself and the rest of the world is united in the fact --

QUESTION: Not if they can bring in China and Brazil --

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s all hypothetical, Said, that we have not seen happen yet. And I would point out, at the United Nations in the Security Council, China abstained during a Security Council resolution and did in fact not vote with Russia, so I would be a little hesitant to say that they’re just going to follow everything Russia does here, because they haven’t, in fact, as we’ve seen.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: One more?

QUESTION: How about on the planes crash? Did you mean to say the United States does not agree with Malaysia’s announce --

MS. HARF: I did not mean to say that at all. I said I have no independent confirmation. We’ve been talking. I have no reason to believe it’s not true. I just don’t have any update for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Okay. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)

DPB # 51

 


[1] The ScanEagles have not yet been delivered to Iraq but are on track for delivery in the next few months. As for equipment recently delivered to Iraq, see the statement issued by Embassy Baghdad on March 16: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/pr-03162014.html.



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