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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
April 2, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel Schedule
    • U.S.-EU Energy Council Meeting / U.S. Middle East Negotiating Team
  • EGYPT
    • Terrorist Attacks Near Cairo University / U.S. Condemns Terrorist Attacks / Condolences to Families / Encourage Government and Opposition to Work Together
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's Phone Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Russian Troops Amassed on the Border
    • NATO Suspension of Civilian - Military Cooperation with Russia
    • NATO Augmentation of Baltic Air Policing Mission
  • MOLDOVA
    • Additional U.S. Assistance to Moldova / U.S. Working Closely with Moldovan Government
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • Russia's Escalatory Action / NATO Alliance
    • Price of Natural Gas in Ukraine / Energy Security
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Update on Talks / Focus on Progress
    • Secretary Kerry's Engagement with Parties
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel in the Region
  • JAPAN
    • Second Thomas Shoal / Revision of Japanese Policy on Defense Equipment Exports
  • CHINA/PHILIPPINES
    • Issues Should be Resolved with International Resolution
  • R.O.K./D.P.R.K.
    • Reports of South Korean Discovery of North Korea Drones
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Nominee for Representative to United Nations
    • Nuclear Agreement
  • SYRIA
    • Status of Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC
    • Special Envoy to Syria Rubenstein's Travel Readout
  • IRAN/RUSSIA
    • Reported Transactional Agreement Between Russia and Iran
  • EGYPT
    • Terrorist Attack / Troubling Developments
    • U.S. Delegation in Egypt
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • Inquiry into Muslim Brotherhood
  • LIBYA
    • ARB implementation / Security of U.S. Posts abroad
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Letter Regarding Bagram Prison
  • TURKEY
    • Secretary Kerry's conversation with Foreign Minister Davutoglu
    • Twitter Ban / YouTube Ban
  • IRAQ
    • Elections are an Important Step Forward for People of Iraq
    • Escalating Violence
    • U.S. Security Assistance to Iraq
  • PAKISTAN
    • Construction of New U.S. Embassy in Islamabad / Embassy Art


TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then I am happy to open it up for questions.

A travel update: Secretary Kerry is currently en route to Algiers, Algeria, where he will resume his trip schedule as planned. Today, the Secretary co-chaired the U.S.-EU Energy Council meeting this morning. On the margins of this meeting, he met with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, U.K. Foreign Secretary Hague, Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski, and Norway’s Foreign Minister Brende. Those all happened on the sidelines of the U.S.-EU meetings. He remains in touch with the U.S. Middle East negotiating team on the ground, and today has spoken over the phone to both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. Finally, he’s conducted several other calls with foreign counterparts, including with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Second item at the top: In terms of Egypt, you may have seen a statement released by our Embassy in Cairo earlier today, but I’d like to reiterate here that the United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that took place near Cairo University earlier today, which killed at least one individual and injured many more. I believe it was two or three bombs that went off near the university. As we have said before, there is absolutely no justification for such attacks. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed and our hopes for the swift and full recovery of those who were injured.

With that, Lara, kick us off.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that, on Egypt, just to get this thing out of the way?

QUESTION: Well –

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: -- I was just going to start off actually with Lavrov.

MS. HARF: Do you have a quick follow-up on Egypt? And then we’ll do Lavrov and then we’ll go in.

QUESTION: Just real simple on Egypt.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I believe – according to our reports, it’s a brigadier, a police brigadier general who was killed in this this morning. You may not have that confirmed.

MS. HARF: I don’t have that confirmed.

QUESTION: The simple question I wanted to ask is, even though I understand your condemnation of it, do you have any belief that such violence – reprehensible as it may be – simply reflects the failure of the Egyptian governing authorities to reach any kind of a political accommodation with large parts of their society? I mean, is it – are – is there not some responsibility on the other – on their side to try to reach out to their opponents?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to venture to guess why terrorists would undertake these kinds of attacks near a university. I don’t believe anyone’s claimed responsibility, but let me be clear that under no circumstances is this kind of terrorism acceptable. What we’ve encouraged both the government and the opposition to do is work together without violence to forge a path forward for Egypt. And I don’t have the detail about the person who was killed.

Lavrov.

QUESTION: Do you have some details on the --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- or readout on the call?

MS. HARF: I do. During a brief phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning, Secretary Kerry conveyed the strong support he was hearing for the people of Ukraine and the legitimate Government of Ukraine from his counterparts during his NATO meetings in Brussels. Secretary Kerry reiterated the objective of de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine, including through engagement – direct engagement between Ukrainian and Russian officials and the return of Russian troops to their barracks. And he once again conveyed the importance of Russia sitting down at the table with the Government of Ukraine. Again, it was a brief call.

QUESTION: Did he initiate the call or did Foreign Minister --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure who initiated the call.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports by General Breedlove yesterday regarding the capabilities of the Russian forces amassing on the Ukraine border?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: His assessment was that there were enough forces, and they brought the whole kit, that they could go in, invade, overtake things in a matter of days. Does the State Department agree with that assessment?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m certainly not going to disagree with the military assessment of one of our top commanders. As we’ve said throughout this entire situation, we are very concerned about the Russian troops amassed on the border. We’ve said that we can’t confirm independently reports that even a small number have been pulled back. That still remains the case. And they are sitting on the border, where we’ve said they should not be anymore.

QUESTION: And maybe the better question is: What is the United States prepared to do about this?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know if you’re specifically asking about something concrete or specific. I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to, but I would make a few points about what we did at NATO yesterday. As a direct result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, yesterday NATO decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Political dialogue will continue as necessary at the ambassadorial level and above. I think I also have a few points on some other reassurance we’ve done.

In recent weeks, we’ve augmented NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission with six additional F-15s. We’ve deployed 12 F-16s to Poland to train with the Polish air force. We’ve extended the deployment of the USS Truxtun in the Black Sea, and now that it has departed, another naval vessel is on its way to the Black Sea. And again, yesterday NATO members pledged their support to help as we do this, so other NATO members to do so as well.

QUESTION: And do you have any idea how many U.S. forces or troops might be sent in for NATO exercises in Ukraine?

MS. HARF: I don’t. In response, obviously, to the concerns raised by NATO allies, we have tasked the Supreme Allied Commander – obviously General Breedlove – to develop recommendations for additional reassurance measures for our Baltic and Central European allies, as Secretary said yesterday, to make clear that our commitment to Article 5 is unwavering. I don’t have a prediction for what those recommendations might look like.

QUESTION: Can I – just one quick one on that?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You reiterated all the points that I think were being made before I went on vacation, which was his support for the people of Ukraine, desire --

MS. HARF: Our support for the people has not changed since you’ve been on vacation.

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: No, that’s good – nor has the crisis, though – de-escalating the crisis, Ukrainian-Russian talks, Russian troops returning to their barracks. Have you made any progress, do you think, in achieving any of those ends?

MS. HARF: Well first, we haven’t seen further escalation by Russia, which I do think is a good thing. Obviously, we want to see de-escalation now. So I know there was a lot of talk about what the Russians might do, and we haven’t seen them take further steps.

In terms of some of the augmenting in terms of NATO, I think some of that is new in terms of what we’ve sent to the region, to the Baltic States, and our other NATO allies, to reassure them. We’ve also had yesterday Congress finally pass a monetary assistance package that provides loan guarantees to Ukraine and also further sanctions some Russians – officials I believe. So on the support on the economic side, we’ve moved forward with that as well. We’ve moved forward with two rounds of sanctions, I think probably since you’ve been on vacation.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I can’t remember when you left, Arshad. But look, we’ve been working very closely directly with Foreign Minister Lavrov to see if there’s a diplomatic path forward here. So that process continues. It’s a difficult one, but it does continue.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for them to meet again, the Secretary and Lavrov?

MS. HARF: I don’t know of any plans specifically to meet in person. But we’ve said, after their meeting in Paris, that they will continue to be in consultation with each other, and if they need to meet again somewhere, they will.

QUESTION: Marie, you did confirm that a U.S. vessel is going to the Black Sea?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know what kind of vessel? Is it a --

MS. HARF: Let me see.

QUESTION: -- like a destroyer? Is it --

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: -- or is a task force? What is it?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. And our – my colleagues at the Defense Department probably have more details.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have an assessment of the size of the Russian military that is deployed on the border?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is there are tens of thousands of Russian troops there. We haven’t gotten into specifics here. I know there are a wide range of reports, but the bottom line is there are too many and they need to not be on the border anymore and they need to pull back. As I said at the beginning, we can’t independently confirm that even a small number has been pulled back from the border. Obviously, we need to see much more movement there.

QUESTION: Are they on their side of the border?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Can we change topics?

MS. HARF: We can – anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Okay. One more on Ukraine.

QUESTION: First, you mentioned many times and it was mentioned that the de-escalation of the crisis. In meantime, there is a movement of more troops or more equipment, military equipment, in the Eastern Europe. How you justify or how you explain to regular people what that’s – that’s not a de-escalation or escalation?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a response to escalatory moves that Russia has already taken, and a response to the fact that they haven’t taken moves to de-escalate. So obviously one of the cornerstones of our NATO alliance is the goal of a Euro-Atlantic region whole, free, and at peace. And what the Russians have done with their actions is threaten that. And we have been very clear that if the Russians don’t de-escalate, we will take steps in response to their escalation. So that’s what we’ve done. They’re the ones who sent troops into another country and attempted to annex it. They’re the ones who’ve undertaken actions that are in contravention of international law. The actions we’ve taken are fully consistent with our NATO alliance and partnerships.

QUESTION: There is another question related to the – raised in Eastern Europe in particular, and some other places, related to the Ukrainian – and related to the American role. Is – United States is transferring what the Ukrainians are demanding or trying to do, or it’s proposing its own suggestions?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously our goal throughout this process has been for the Ukrainians to decide their future. So while we are, yes, in talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov, all of the topics for discussion on the table are fully, 100 percent coordinated with the Ukrainians. These are ideas the Ukrainians themselves have talked to us about and now the Russians about directly and also very publicly – monitors, de-escalation, returning to their barracks. These are all things the Ukrainians themselves are putting on the table. We are playing a role obviously in these discussions, but any discussions we’re having back and forth with the Russians are ideas that the Ukrainians are really feeding into.

QUESTION: So in --

MS. HARF: But that’s why we’ve also said there needs to be direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia.

QUESTION: Just to follow up to what you said: There are two issues, which is, like, first some changes in the constitution of the Ukraine in order to give some more rights to the Crimean and Russians or all these thing. And the other concept is the concept of federation.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: And another issue was raised last week. It was the possibility or the necessity of putting international monitors. Are these issues are still on the table?

MS. HARF: So a couple points on that. On federalism, obviously as I’ve said, any decisions about the future of Ukraine need to be made by the Ukrainians themselves. And I do believe the Government of Ukraine has made it clear that they’re willing to work towards constitutional reform and ready to do so, that they’re ready to grant greater autonomy for Crimea, and to take other steps to address legitimate issues regarding minorities in Ukraine. So the government said they’re willing to, but on any issue, whether it’s federalism or any other issue, the Russians don’t get to decide that, the Ukrainians need to.

On the issue of monitors, absolutely yes, that is certainly part of what we need to see in terms of de-escalation. There are a number of monitors from the OSCE and elsewhere who are ready to go into Crimea. Some of them are in Ukraine, but we believe they need to be able to go to all parts of Ukraine, including Crimea. To my knowledge, they haven’t gotten in yet, but I’m happy to check on it.

QUESTION: So just last one. I mean, when the issue of Crimea was raised, there was always this fear, or whatever you can call it, or expectation that a similar thing may happen in Moldova. Are still – this fear, it’s there? Or it’s gone?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain concerned about any possible Russian escalation anywhere, including in Moldova. And I don’t know if you saw the announcement this week that we are providing an addition $10 million in assistance to Moldova – Assistant Secretary Nuland announced it during her trip there earlier this week – and we’ll provide equipment and training to the Moldovan border police and customs service. I would note that over the last 20 years, our assistance to Moldova has totaled approximately 1.2 billion, including over 22 million just in Fiscal Year 2013 alone.

So obviously, we are working very closely with the Moldovan Government on a range of issues and are concerned, of course, about Russian escalatory moves anywhere in the region.

Anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Is sending a warship to the Black Sea escalating the force in the area?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I just addressed that. It’s not. It’s a response to Russia’s escalatory action. We said we would take steps to respond to the escalatory action, and alternatively, if they de-escalated, we would take steps in response to that as well. So this is fully in line with our commitment to defend our NATO allies, fully in line with those commitments we all signed up for, and Russia’s the one who has taken steps that are not in line with their international obligations.

QUESTION: Because yesterday in Brussels, the Secretary said the USS Truxtun would remain in the Black Sea --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and now we hear reports that Truxtun was not in the Black Sea and is returning.

MS. HARF: Yeah. We extended the deployment of the Truxtun and now it’s departed, we are sending another U.S. naval vessel to the Black Sea to replace it.

QUESTION: Would it have the same offensive capabilities as a guided-missile destroyer?

MS. HARF: I’m going to check on what kind of vessel is – I know you’re the expert on this, but let me check on that, and I’ll check with my colleagues at DOD and see what they have. You’re welcome.

QUESTION: It’s a destroyer probably, because – according to DOD officials. But --

MS. HARF: Tolga’s filled us in from DOD.

QUESTION: Yeah. What is the reason that you submitted to Turkish Government to use the Turkish straits for access of this warship to the Black Sea? What is the reason that you sent? What --

MS. HARF: What’s the reason we’re working with a NATO ally to reassure our NATO allies on this issue?

QUESTION: No. According to the international law, you have to submit a reason to Turkish Government to use the Turkish straits.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So again --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see what the reason was, if there’s officially a reason submitted. Obviously, Turkey’s a NATO ally --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- and this is all about our NATO alliance and how we reassure our NATO partners that we will stand by them.

QUESTION: So you are sending this warship --

MS. HARF: That’s my reason. Let me see if there’s an official reason given.

QUESTION: Yeah, you – actually – so, you mean Turkey when you are talking about to defend the NATO allies?

MS. HARF: I’m talking about the Baltic States, I’m talking about a whole number of folks in the region.

QUESTION: The Black Sea?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. This is – yep, this naval vessel’s currently on its way to the Black Sea, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. And so you are talking about Turkey when --

MS. HARF: I just said I’m talking about a number of NATO allies in terms of how we want to bolster our defenses there, not just Turkey. We care about all of them.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No, but I’m – Black – I mean --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into a geography lesson with you here. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: So we are bolstering our defense because – the United States is bolstering its defense because diplomacy is not working?

MS. HARF: No, because it’s the prudent thing to do, because the Secretary just had conversations with our NATO allies following Russia’s military intervention and they asked for General Breedlove to look into how we could further do this. We can do two things at once. Obviously, we’re working a diplomatic track, but we need to have things in place that do reassure our allies in case the diplomatic track takes longer than we want or while we try to make progress on it.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Ukraine, yeah.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Because I just remembered this. Related to the energy, I mean, it was – some steps have taken already to raise the price that – of the gas that’s passing through Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: So do you have anything about that?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Especially that you mentioned at the beginning there was a meeting today with EU and --

MS. HARF: We do. I have a little bit on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So we very strongly believe that countries should not use supply or pricing terms as tools of coercion to interfere in other countries’ affairs in Ukraine or anywhere else. So yesterday, Russia did raise the price of natural gas for Ukraine by more than 40 percent. Today, President Putin signed into law to abrogate the 2010 agreement between Ukraine and Russia in which Russia pays rent and provides a 30 percent reduction in gas prices. So it looks like Ukraine’s gas prices will be going up even further.

I would note that the average price EU members pay for natural gas, despite the greater distance to ship it from Russia to these countries, is about $370 per thousand cubic meters. Ukraine is now paying 385, a price which is going to go up, despite the shorter distance it has to travel. So we are taking immediate steps to assist Ukraine. Today, Secretary Kerry and Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Poneman were in Brussels, as I said, for the Energy Council meeting. They talked to our EU partners about energy security specifically – not just for Ukraine, but for all of Europe. And we are taking some steps, including providing emergency finance and technical assistance in energy security and energy sector reform.

So we’ll keep working with them on it. Obviously, it’s something we’re concerned about.

QUESTION: The issue with the EU – for a while it was raised after this crisis --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that at least most of them, if not Germany in particular, between 30 to 40 percent of their needs are coming from the Russian gas and the oil. So how was this issue discussed, too little by little replace it, or it’s like it’s too far to do it?

MS. HARF: Well, we have worked with Ukraine and other allies on its western borders to encourage them to prepare to reverse natural gas flows in some of their pipelines currently so that Ukraine can access additional gas supplies if needed.

We’ve made the point, certainly, to Russia but with our partners as well that if Russia – any disruptment of Russia shipments to Ukraine and the rest of Europe is actually a losing situation for Russia, who needs to sell this and would lose out the most from this. So we are obviously working with our European partners on this and believe energy security is an incredibly important issue. We’ll continue the conversations.

QUESTION: Can I change topics --

MS. HARF: We --

QUESTION: -- on Palestinian (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: One more. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Justice Department today announced that a Ukrainian industrialist, Dmytro Firtash, as well as a member of India’s parliament and four other people have been indicted for being involved in a suspected corruption scheme of trying to bribe Indian officials. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t, and not anything beyond the release they put out at the Justice Department.

QUESTION: Okay. And you – have you – you haven’t gotten any protests from the Indians about this or --

MS. HARF: I’ll check. I know the indictment just came out.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: The Palestinian --

QUESTION: Marie, just one.

MS. HARF: Just one.

QUESTION: Last one, to clarify.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There are three countries who are close to Black Sea in the area: Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: It’s safe to assume that U.S. is sending this warship to defend those three NATO allies in the area?

MS. HARF: We are sending warships, F-16s, F-15s, a whole host of items to the region to defend our NATO allies writ large. I’m not going to get in what specifically is used to defend what country. Obviously, it’s just a show of support, a show or force that we are doing right now.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Can we move to Palestinian-Israeli --

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: -- non-talks, talks. Could you update us on what has transpired since last night’s – since the Secretary announced he was not going to Ramallah?

MS. HARF: I can. Well, our team remains on the ground. Ambassador Indyk and the team remains on the ground, in touch with both parties. As I said, the Secretary spoke today with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas.

What we’ve said is this is one of those points in the negotiations where each side has to make tough choices. We’ve been clear that they’ve made courageous decisions throughout this process, but we can’t make the hard choices for them. And throughout this process, we have been engaged with both sides because it has been, it continues to be, and it will in the future be the right thing for the United States to do. I think it’s an easy story to write – to say that making Middle East peace is hard. That’s not a tough story to write. But what we’re focused on right now is working with the two sides, again, because it’s the right thing to do, to see if they can make some more tough choices and to see if we can make some progress here going forward.

And again, the team remains on the ground. The Secretary is in touch with the team.

QUESTION: So the talks are not at a dead end at this point?

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you aware of any meetings between Palestinian negotiator Erekat and Israeli negotiator Livni today, this evening?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I can get the latest update from our team on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. And as far as you’re concerned, you’re not assigning – since you are not calling the talks to be over, you are not assigning any blame to any one particular party?

MS. HARF: Absolutely not. Look, to be clear, over the last 24 hours, there have been unhelpful actions taken on both sides here. And we didn’t think it was a productive time for the Secretary to return to the region. That’s why he didn’t go today.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: But we’re not playing the blame game.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Again, what we’re focused on is seeing if we can make progress. There is a chance to move this process forward. There is still a chance for this. That will require tough decisions by both of the parties. They’ve made tough decisions up until this point, but we can’t make them for them. They need to make them now.

QUESTION: Now, the agencies, the type of agencies that Abbas announced and so on were, in fact, as articulated by the Secretary himself, they are not really that important in terms of shifting or doing any --

MS. HARF: I don’t think he said they were unimportant.

QUESTION: Well, they’re important, but they’re not the kind of agencies that would threaten or would actually go contrary to Palestinian promises. He said that the Palestinians adhered to their promises, didn’t he?

MS. HARF: Well, what I just said, without going into more details, is that we’ve seen both sides take some unhelpful actions over the past 24 hours and didn’t think it was a conducive environment in which the Secretary should travel there right now. But again, what we’re focused on is how to move this process forward. It’s up to the two parties to determine what the path forward looks like. As we go forward, obviously, our team will continue working with them. I don’t have anything to add to what the Secretary said yesterday in terms of the specific announcements yesterday.

QUESTION: Would the path forward include, let’s say, Israeli pullback from Area C, so to speak, and allow more movement for the Palestinian Authority? And would it include also the release of more prisoners?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into specifics about what that path forward might look like. I will reiterate again that both parties have to make tough decisions. We can’t make them for them. It’s up to them. We will play a role, as we have. The Secretary has worked, I think, as hard as humanly possible on this issue because it’s the right thing to do. Everywhere he goes around the world, people want to ask him about Middle East peace. People talk a lot about U.S. leadership in the world, whether we’ve disengaged. The fact that we are heavily engaged in trying to solve one of the toughest challenges in the world right now, I think, flies in the face of that false notion that some people have put out there. So again, it’s not a hard story to write that it’s hard, that it’s tough, but that’s exactly why we think it’s so important to make progress here.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the Jewish Republican Coalition meeting that took place in Las Vegas and was attended by prominent Republicans, including former Vice President Cheney, who basically called Secretary – the Administration’s and Secretary of State in particular – policies in the Middle East a total failure, from one failure to another? Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the meeting. I haven’t seen, quite frankly, or had time to look at any of those specific comments. What I’ve been focused on, what our team has been focused on, is the work at hand --

QUESTION: Uh-huh.

MS. HARF: -- and making progress, working with the parties, and figuring out where this all goes from here if they’re willing to make tough choices. I, quite frankly, don’t have time to read what former officials say at some meeting in Las Vegas.

QUESTION: But you certainly disagree with Mr. Cheney that your policies in the Middle East peace process has failed, and Iran – and with Iran has failed, and Syria has failed, all over.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Again, I didn’t see his specific comments, but when you look at Middle East peace, we’ve made a lot of progress here, quite frankly. There’s much more work to be done, and there’s still room to make more progress, but certainly, we’ve made progress with the two parties.

On Iran, we have them at the negotiating table today with our P5+1 partners. Their nuclear program is, for the first time in almost a decade, halted. I don’t think that ever occurred when the former official you were referring to was in office. So I think that right now what we’re seeing is a diplomatic opportunity we’ve never had before.

On Syria, it’s a tough challenge. Nobody is naive about that. We are continuing to try to move the ball forward on that as well.

QUESTION: Marie, what’s the progress that you’ve made on the peace process?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen eight months of very intense negotiations where both parties have made courageous decisions. Not only through the decisions of both parties but through the Secretary’s direct involvement did we get the talks restarted, which was a very important milestone. We’ve had eight months of negotiations where we’ve narrowed gaps, they’ve made tough decisions, and where we still – we know we still have more work to do, but that’s certainly been moving the ball forward. The question now is whether the two parties can make the tough decisions to keep moving the ball down the field.

QUESTION: You’re running out of time, and you still have around 28 days to achieve an agreement. Do you still consider that you are able to achieve an agreement in this upcoming weeks?

MS. HARF: Look, we know this process is going to be very difficult. What we’re focused on now isn’t a timeframe. It’s not a date on a calendar. It’s whether – again, I know I sound a little bit like a broken record today – but whether the two parties can take this moment, which is a tough moment – we’ve seen tough moments before – but take this tough moment, make tough decisions, and move the process forward.

But as I said very clearly, we still do believe there is a path forward here. Our team remains on the ground. The Secretary just today has had conversations with both leaders and is trying to move the ball forward, so that’s what we’re focused on right now.

QUESTION: In his conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, did the Secretary discuss the issue of Israel moving forward on another 700 homes in East Jerusalem?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details to read out from their conversations.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Middle East peace?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Because you mentioned that we don’t want to play the blame game --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. But it seems that the two sides are blaming you, that you are not coming to conclusion. I mean, how you cannot blame them, at least explain to them what’s going on?

MS. HARF: Well, I said that both sides did take some unhelpful actions over the past 24 hours, so I did say that there were some things done on both sides that we didn’t think were particularly conducive to moving the process forward. But again, this is not about the United States.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: We engage in this because it’s the right thing to do, for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. We’ve been very clear about that, even though it’s tough. But again, this is up to them to make these tough decisions. We believe they can, but it is up to them.

QUESTION: There is another question, probably Said asked – you mentioned in the different times the issue of the cancellation – or maybe you don’t like that term, which was used yesterday of the trip of the Secretary --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- trip to Israel. Still it’s not clear why. The reason I’m asking, because always when there was any problem, you said engagement is necessity --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- to make it. But this time, there’s – it was disengagement, not engagement.

MS. HARF: No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a different kind of engagement. So first, we didn’t think that in this environment, after some of the actions we’ve seen over the past 24 hours, not in response to any one thing but the totality of the actions on both sides, that it was conducive for the Secretary to travel back to the region right now. But that doesn’t mean we disengaged. The team remains on the ground deeply engaged with both sides, and again, as I just said, the Secretary’s had phone conversations with both parties today.

So again, in Brussels, he had five bilats about really important issues today, including Ukraine. So it’s not that he just decided not to go and just took a 24-hour vacation. He has other things he’s focused on. He’s had important phone calls with both parties today. We will remain engaged, we will remain in contact with both parties, and our team will remain on the ground to see if we can get the two parties to move this process forward.

QUESTION: But whose side (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to play the blame game. I’m really not. I know it’s a tempting question to ask.

QUESTION: Picking favorites.

MS. HARF: We’ve seen unhelpful actions on both sides, but I would also reiterate that both sides have made courageous decisions throughout this process, and we believe there’s still room and time for the two parties to keep doing so.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else on Middle East peace?

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about when you became aware of the unhelpful actions. Because it seemed with some of the conflicting statements, as the news was coming out of the Middle East, that it would have come as a surprise or that the U.S. side was caught off guard. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to further outline what those unhelpful actions were on each side, so unfortunately, I can’t get into more of a tick-tock. But I think the sense that emerged over the last 24 hours – certainly now probably more like 36 – that both sides had taken some unhelpful actions. And the Secretary – I mean, I stood up here in the briefing room yesterday and said he was still going – there was a decision made shortly after that he would not be.

So it’s a very fluid situation and I don’t think anyone can accuse him of not being willing to go or engage, but this just wasn’t the right time for him to do so.

QUESTION: So were you caught off guard?

QUESTION: Will he come home this weekend?

MS. HARF: He is scheduled to come home this weekend after Morocco, yes.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: Were you caught off guard, then --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: -- by the Palestinian actions?

MS. HARF: It’s – I’m not going to characterize it any further, Said. It’s a fluid situation. It’s moving very quickly. I’m not going to characterize privately what our discussions looked like leading up to or during or after any of these actions.

QUESTION: So do you feel that Abbas maybe committed an underhanded thing by going right before the Secretary of State --

MS. HARF: I am not at all going to play this blame game.

QUESTION: -- was about to leave?

MS. HARF: We saw unhelpful actions on both sides. I am not going to further characterize the actions of either party in any way.

QUESTION: But he did catch you by surprise, right?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to further characterize it, Said. Anything else on Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Were you fully briefed on his decision in advance?

MS. HARF: I was not, no. I was out here briefing you all. I’m not going to get into what the discussions with the team were like before, during, or after these conversations.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we pivot to Asia now?

MS. HARF: We can always pivot to Asia, yes.

QUESTION: First of all, on Japan, what’s your reaction on Japan ends its export – weapon export ban?

MS. HARF: Yes, thank you for the question. We welcome this revised Japanese policy on defense equipment exports. It expands opportunities and simplifies processes for defense industry cooperation with the U.S. and other partner nations. What the change really does is allow Japan to modernize its defense industry and processes so it can participate in the 21st century global acquisition marketplace. We think it’s mutually beneficial for both Japan and cooperating nations, I would assume including us.

QUESTION: But, I mean, given the timing, China and South Korea both come out and they have concern about the regional tension and the transparency of this ban. Do you share the concern with your ally, South Korea?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those specific comments. Obviously, we believe this is a good step. We welcome this step. And we have noted that Japan has been very transparent as it’s discussed all issues relating to defense both publicly but also with us as well, which we think is a good thing.

Do you have one more?

QUESTION: I have one on Philippine if --

MS. HARF: Did anyone else – anything else on Japan? Okay. We’ll do Philippines and then I’ll go to you next. Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen the Chinese Ambassador during Philippines statement on China is rejecting Philippines proposal to bring this issue to international arbitration? What is your response to that?

MS. HARF: Yes. Wait, which issue specifically? Are you talking about the Second Thomas Shoal?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Yes, I do think I have that.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) see if --

MS. HARF: Let me check and see if I still have that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have. We obviously believe this is an issue that should be resolved with international resolution. I’m not sure I have the specifics about the – what you mentioned in terms of the filing. I can get that for you, though.

QUESTION: But if China is rejecting to go to the international arbitration, what’s the next step?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks and see. I know they have some more details on that. I’m sorry I don’t have it for you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, on – back on the topics of – the topic of weapons, the South Koreans discovered two North Korean very crudely designed drones. One of the drones were believed to have images from the Korean Blue House. Does the State Department have any comment on that or --

MS. HARF: Oh. I – for anything they’ve said, I would refer you to them. I’m happy to see if there’s anything we have to say on it. Not to my knowledge do we have a comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. HARF: Yeah, let’s go to Iran.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have an update on the visa application of Hamid Aboutaleb to be Iran’s next ambassador to the United Nations?

MS. HARF: To be their next perm rep, yes. Let me look and see what I have on that. So, no update. Obviously, we don’t talk about visa cases individually as they’re being adjudicated. So I won’t go into the specifics of this case, but I will say that we think this nomination would be extremely troubling. We’re taking a close look at the case now, and we’ve raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the Government of Iran. I’m not going to get into specifically how we’ve done that, but we have done that. As host nation of the UN, except for in limited exceptions, we’re generally obligated, as folks know, under an agreement between the U.S. and the UN to admit the chosen representatives of permanent – of member states into the U.S. for purposes of representing their country at the UN. But no predictions in terms of this specific visa case for you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Senator – excuse me, one more. Arshad, one more?

MS. HARF: No, let me – Lucas – let Lucas follow up on it.

QUESTION: Senator Schumer, in a letter to the Secretary, used slightly stronger language. He said that Hamid Aboutalebi is a, quote, “major conspirator to the hostage crisis.” Do you have a reaction to that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still taking a close look at the case in terms of this individual about – but I’m not going to comment on him specifically. But we do take our obligations as host nation for the United Nations very seriously. Again, I don’t have any specifics to preview for you in terms of his case.

QUESTION: And numerous former hostages have – who were held for 444 days – you can understand their outrage. There’s been numerous statements in the past 24 hours. Do you have any message to them?

MS. HARF: Well, I said that it is extremely troubling to us and that it raises some questions that we have raised directly with the Iranian Government. We obviously – many of those hostages were State Department people.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And we very much value their service and we’ll keep having the conversation.

QUESTION: Do – does the State Department view this as a, quote, “slap to the face”? A number of people have used that reference.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: And is it also a slap to the face to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to describe it that way. Obviously, it’s troubling. We’ll talk about this with the Iranians. But the nuclear negotiations are separate.

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: The fact that we’re negotiating on the nuclear issue, which is incredibly important to us, doesn’t negate the serious problems we have with Iran’s behavior in a number of areas – including Syria, including with terrorists, including with human rights. So the nuclear negotiations we’re focused on. We go back to Vienna next week for the third round of comprehensive negotiations, and we’re very much focused on seeing if we can get a comprehensive agreement.

QUESTION: You’re right that they’re separate issues, the nuclear negotiations and this appointment. However, in terms of just having a willing partner, what does this say about our relationship right now?

MS. HARF: Well, I would note that Iran has until this point upheld every commitment it made in the Joint Plan of Action, which was obviously the first-step nuclear agreement we reached last November in Geneva. So we can only judge them by their actions. On the nuclear issue, they have upheld their commitments, we hope they will continue to, and that’s what we’ll judge them on in terms of the P5+1 talks going forward.

QUESTION: So Iran should be commended for their actions of late?

MS. HARF: I in no way said that.

Yes. What else?

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Oh, on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah. On Mr. Aboutalebi’s being named, is the State Department looking into exactly what his involvement may or may not have been in the hostage situation?

MS. HARF: Well, the U.S. Government is certainly looking into this case. In terms of him, I just don’t have anything further for you on that.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A quick question on Syria, on the Syrian Embassy. Now that it --

MS. HARF: The Syrian Embassy in DC or our embassy there?

QUESTION: In Washington, in Washington.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Now that it’s been completely closed and no third party was named and nobody’s taking care of – do you provide security for such a structure, the building itself?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t – I honestly don’t know the answer. I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Or is it the responsibility of the city police? Or I mean, how --

MS. HARF: It’s actually a good – there are stories from time to time about embassies that are no longer occupied in Washington. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. HARF: And I did have an update. Folks have asked about Special Envoy Rubenstein’s travel. I just wanted to give folks --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- an update because I had – I know people had asked. He returned to Washington on March 31st. He went to Turkey where he met with members of the Syrian opposition, including SOC President Jarba, reaffirmed our support for the moderate Syrian opposition. He also met with Turkish officials on the issue. He went to Geneva, where he met with a range of humanitarian professionals and international organizations’ leadership and continued the discussions on how we can address the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. In Paris, he met with French officials as well as members of the opposition, also met with Joint Special Representative Brahimi, where they discussed the political track moving forward and how we could make some progress there. And lastly, he went to Amman, where he met with Syrian opposition members and Jordanian officials to continue our close coordination on the issue. I know folks had some questions about travel.

QUESTION: Can I have one on Iran real quick, please?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Iran ever apologize for its role in 1979 hostage crisis?

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Would you like to see an apology if this ambassador, Mr. Aboutalebi, will go forward? Would you like to see an apology from the nation of Iran?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to make predictions here.

QUESTION: On Syria, Marie.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Did you have a chance to look at the situation on northern Syria and Latakia, the (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you in terms of the battlefield situation. I talked with our folks; there was no update.

Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: What’s his next plan for Syria?

MS. HARF: The special envoy?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: In terms of travel?

QUESTION: Yeah. Any action, any agenda, any --

MS. HARF: Well, what we’re really focused on right now is a couple of things – obviously, how we can get Geneva II back on track, and really, Joint Special Representative Brahimi is focused on that. We’re focused on how we can support that process, particularly with the opposition side as well, continuing our support for the opposition, continuing to work with the Russians and others on the chemical weapons destruction. So those are certainly things that are ongoing. Also, continuing on the heels of the President and the Secretary’s trip last week to talk to our partners in the region about how we can support the opposition, including Saudi Arabia and others.

QUESTION: Bringing --

QUESTION: And – sorry.

QUESTION: Bringing the Geneva talks back with the Russians?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly we want to see how we can get the diplomatic track back on track.

QUESTION: With the Russians?

MS. HARF: Well, between the two parties, but yes, we convened it with the – under the UN auspices between us, the Russians as host nations, and then with the opposition and the regime, yes.

QUESTION: Any decision regarding delivering MANPADS to the rebel?

MS. HARF: No, nothing has changed. Do you want me to repeat the line again from the other day?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Our position on this has not changed. It didn’t even come up during the discussion with the Saudi king, contrary to some reports. It’s just not an issue that was discussed.

QUESTION: Marie, do you feel that the Syria issue has been eclipsed by the Ukrainian issues, giving advantage to government forces to go and do plenty of what they are doing now?

MS. HARF: Not at all. I think that the Secretary and his team and the people who work in this building and around the world can focus on many different things at once. Obviously, we have teams in place working every single day on both issues. I would entirely take exception to that idea.

QUESTION: One quick one on Iran?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on a report that Iran and Russia are making progress toward their proposed barter deal?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any confirmation of those reports. I know this has been out there as a rumor for a while. We have made our concerns crystal clear to both sides, that if the deal were to move forward, it would raise serious concerns. It would be inconsistent with the terms of the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action, could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions against the entity and individuals involved in any related transaction. So as I said, we’ve talked to both sides about how concerned we would be if this were to move forward, but I can’t actually confirm that it is.

QUESTION: Okay. And this is – I mean, that’s identical, I think, to what you said about it in January when it first came out, right?

MS. HARF: And I have no indication it’s moved anywhere since then.

QUESTION: Good. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: At the beginning of this briefing, you mentioned a statement about what happened this morning --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and you condemned it. How do you see its – is – because you said the terrorist acts and all this description – how do you see this is different from other times? Especially because the other times, you were always stressing other incidents, similar incidents, or maybe not similar from your perspective. You’re asking for reconciliation and all this, and this time you didn’t mention that.

MS. HARF: Well, I was condemning a terrorist attack near the university. Obviously, our position on Egypt writ large hasn’t changed – that we need the government, the opposition, all parties and groups to work together inclusively to see if we can move Egypt forward here. We have seen, as we’ve talked about a lot in here, some very troubling developments over the past several weeks in Egypt, so we’re continuing to have those conversations as well.

I would say that Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne and State Department Counselor Ambassador Thomas Shannon are leading a U.S. delegation that includes the Treasury Department and the NSC. They’re in Cairo from March 31st to April 3rd, so right now as we speak. They’re meeting with senior Egyptian officials and business leaders to discuss ways to support Egypt, to encourage a sustainable and nonviolent transition to democracy, and explore ways to strengthen the Egyptian economy. So there’s a delegation there right now engaging at a very high level about how we can work with them going forward.

QUESTION: And as much as I remember, this is the same delegation was in U.A.E. --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and other places to support, to get --

MS. HARF: Apparently, they like traveling together, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It is. It is.

QUESTION: So there is another issue which is related to Egypt in – the prime minister of – British prime minister orders inquiring to Muslim Brotherhood in London.

MS. HARF: I saw those reports. Let me check with our – I don’t --

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Do you want a comment on that, or --

QUESTION: Comment on that. I mean, it’s like --

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks on that.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s a proper thing to do, how it is proper?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Because it’s looking to Muslim Brotherhood activities, whether political or military.

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks and see. I don’t have the specifics, because I have seen some of those reports.

QUESTION: And if you are going – you are appreciating something like this, or thinking it’s an obstacle in the reconciliation that you are asking for.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me check with our team. I did see those reports.

Lucas.

QUESTION: Staying in the region?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Marie, the State Department has always emphasized its commitment to implementing the security-related recommendations in the Accountability Review Board that produced a report after the Benghazi attacks.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: But now there’s a new report from the Office of the Inspector General of the State Department, just released, which finds that more than a year and a half after the Benghazi attacks, the State Department does not have any systems in place to track requests for security upgrades or what was done to one, which includes as a result, and I quote from the report, “could not ensure that the highest priority physical security-related needs at overseas posts were corrected, and that posts’ vulnerability to threats has been sufficiently reduced.”

Do you care to comment on this report?

MS. HARF: When did you say the IG report was released?

QUESTION: It was dated March 2014.

MS. HARF: Okay. I have not – I haven’t read the IG report. I’m happy to take a look at it and see if we’re going to respond.

QUESTION: Okay. One more from the report. There’s been a --

MS. HARF: But obviously, we have made significant progress in terms of ARB implementation, including on security. But let me take a look at the specific IG report.

QUESTION: But this – inspector review boards says otherwise.

MS. HARF: Let me just check on that. I’ll check on it.

QUESTION: Not that everything an IG says is fact, of course.

MS. HARF: Exactly. And I just am not familiar with the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay. One more quote from the report --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- is, “The lack of standard documented policies and procedures may result in post physical security needs not being addressed adequately and promptly.”

Bottom line, aren’t these findings a damning indictment on the laxity of the security of the Obama Administration in the post-Clinton and now Kerry offices?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is that we take security of our posts around the world incredibly seriously. These are procedures that are not put in place, “by the Obama Administration.” These are State Department procedures put in place by a lot of Foreign Service officers and Civil Service officers and people who’ve served under many administrations, both Democrat and Republican. So what we’ve said post-Benghazi is that we are 100 percent committed to making sure our people have the security they need overseas. We are implementing the ARB recommendations. We know we can do better, and we have been doing better.

So, again, I’m not familiar with the IG report. I’m happy to take a look at it. But the notion that somehow this Administration or this Secretary does not take security incredibly seriously and has not moved to implement additional security measures is just not correct.

QUESTION: We know from the podium you’ve said how seriously you take security --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and for months and almost a year and a half now, you’ve said we are planning on implementing the findings of the ARB --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and this report says otherwise.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve put out multiple documents talking about ARB implementation in terms of what we’ve done to implement their findings. We’ve implemented many, many of them. So again, I will take a look at the IG report and maybe I can comment on it tomorrow.

Yep.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On another IG – this is a letter, actually, on Afghanistan, Baghlan Prison. Have you seen this safety alert letter?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, I haven’t. I need to check – clearly check in with our IG folks.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Is it from the --

QUESTION: I’ll send it to you.

MS. HARF: Yeah, send it to me and I’ll get you something.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, the Secretary --

MS. HARF: Do you have an IG question also? (Laughter.) Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary met with the foreign minister of Turkey. Do you have a readout and if they discussed Cyprus?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any readout from their conversation.

QUESTION: Can you check for us?

MS. HARF: I will check, yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if the Secretary and Mr. Davutoglu will talk about the elections?

MS. HARF: I will check and see if I can get you a readout. I just don’t know what they talked about.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about the constitutional court’s decision about the Twitter ban in Turkey, Marie? Because the U.S. Embassy in Turkey just released a statement about how they are welcoming the decision of the constitutional court.

MS. HARF: Well, clearly, we said the Twitter ban needs to end, and any court decision would need to be implemented to ensure that it does end. I know this just happened, I think, very recently --

QUESTION: Today.

MS. HARF: -- today. So I’d defer to the folks on the ground, but obviously we think it needs to end. And if there has been a court decision, we think it needs to be implemented quickly, as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Just a technical question. Just Twitter or (inaudible) on YouTube?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding the court ruling was just about Twitter.

QUESTION: About Twitter.

MS. HARF: Yeah. But we obviously don’t think YouTube should be banned either.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The death toll as a result of violence in March was 1,888 in Iraq. And as we’re getting closer to the election day, what is the United States providing in terms of security aid, trying to help the Government of Iraq stemming the violence?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. Let me be clear that the elections need to happen. We have every expectation they will. This is an important step forward for the people of Iraq in choosing what they want their country to look like going forward, so elections need to happen as scheduled.

We are concerned by the continued escalation of violence in Iraq. We know there’s been a number of adverse impacts on the population, including massive civilian displacement.

In terms of security assistance, I don’t think I have anything new to update you for on that. I would – and so we are working very closely with the Iraqi Government on the security issue. I can see if there’s more update for you on what we’ve provided. We believe it’s very, as I said, very important for these elections to go forward. They’ve held successful elections in the past during periods of significant violence, which is obviously not the situation we want to see, but I think – I just want to underscore the importance for the Iraqi people of these elections going forward.

QUESTION: Could you – these deliveries that were promised last fall, could you update us or --

MS. HARF: Which ones are you talking about specifically?

QUESTION: Well, there were the Hellfire missiles --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the – other equipment, helicopters and --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me see. Said, let me take that and check with our folks and see what has been delivered.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Wait, one more on that IG report from the ARB.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Is the IG required to announce to you when they issue a report? I realize you’re responsible for all the world’s events and can’t keep up with them --

MS. HARF: Right. But they are independent. The IG is independent.

QUESTION: So are they supposed to just --

MS. HARF: So I don’t know.

QUESTION: They can release something just quietly?

MS. HARF: I have no idea what the procedure is like for how they can release things. I will check on that.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: These reports about the Art in Embassy program purchasing a $400,000 camel statue for Islamabad Embassy, can you comment on that and the reaction that that’s been getting, and the Art in Embassy program more generally?

MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. Let me just give folks a little bit of background here. We are – the Department is currently building a new embassy in Islamabad. So what – the procedure we go through when we build new embassies is to have our folks curate them, get pieces of art to curate our embassies for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that our embassies are the face of the United States overseas. And what better way to represent U.S. culture – these would be pieces taken from American artists, Pakistani American artists, and Pakistani artists themselves. So what better way to showcase the United States culture than through this program?

When we build new embassies, we spend less than 0.5 percent of our construction budget on the entire art collection, just to put it into some perspective for how much this costs. Well also have over $300 million of art that’s on loan to us, that artists have donated to us for free for no cost to display around the world at our embassies as well. So I just want to put it into perspective a little bit.

Obviously, we believe very strongly in the Art in Embassies program. We think it fosters cultural connections, we think it’s an important way to showcase the cultures, both ours and the host country, bring them together and showcase them for our visitors to these embassies. So right now, we’re still making decisions about what the art will look like specifically in our embassy in Islamabad. We haven’t made any final decisions about that piece or any other piece. It’s my understanding we’re still trying to make those determinations, but if there’s any update I’m happy to get it for you.

But some of this stuff is pretty amazing if you’ve been our embassies around the world. It really is a good way to showcase our artists, and I think they take quite a bit of pride, and I think there’s a sense of patriotism if they do have something displayed in one of our embassies.

QUESTION: But a couple of years ago when the plans for Embassy Islamabad was announced – or the plans were announced, it was then thought to be – it was going to be the largest U.S. embassy in the world, basically. And at that time it would have surpassed Baghdad, which itself is ginormous. So I’m wondering if there’s been any kind of reassessment in the years since then as the posture has changed in the region as --

MS. HARF: In terms of size?

QUESTION: In terms of size, which I think would relate directly to how much is spent on art, right? I mean, if the embassy --

MS. HARF: If it’s .5 percent of the construction budget --

QUESTION: And this construction budget is much smaller because the footprint is smaller.

MS. HARF: I will be happy to check. I actually don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: I’d be interested. Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes. But it is a pretty amazing program to some folks now.

What else? Anything else? Great. Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

DPB # 58



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