1:21 p.m. EDT
So first, a trip update. The Secretary attended NATO foreign ministerial meetings in Brussels today. I’m sure many of you saw his press avail. He also participated in bilateral meetings with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. Tomorrow in Paris, where I think he’s en route there on the train right now because of a strike in Brussels --
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Who’s on this – who’s going on a train?
MS. HARF: The Secretary is taking the train from Brussels to Paris because of, I think, a transportation related strike in Brussels.
QUESTION: Why not --
QUESTION: That doesn’t affect the trains?
MS. HARF: Apparently not.
QUESTION: No, it’s an air controller strike.
MS. HARF: Apparently, it’s an air related --
QUESTION: I see. Is it a private train, or is it the regular Eurostar?
MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get you all the details of his train travel.
Tomorrow in Paris, Secretary Kerry will be meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh to brief them on his trip to Iraq and to discuss the grave security situation on the ground there, as well as the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Secretary Kerry will also meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman and Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri tomorrow as well. He will then travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday to brief King Abdullah on his discussions in Iraq.
QUESTION: By train? (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I’d like to see that one. It’d take a few days.
QUESTION: Well, how’s he going to get the plane from --
MS. HARF: I have – I will check, Matt. I have no idea how the plane will get from Brussels to Paris.
QUESTION: Well, okay, so I mean --
MS. HARF: I will check.
QUESTION: Isn’t there supposed to be --
QUESTION: Won’t he be flying to a military airport?
MS. HARF: Guys, I really don’t have any more details on the plane or the train or how he is moving around.
QUESTION: Is he going first-class on the train?
MS. HARF: I will check.
QUESTION: Did he get a Eurail pass? (Laughter.) I don’t even know if they have those anymore actually.
MS. HARF: I do love trains in Europe, though, I will say – and trains here for that matter.
QUESTION: Is it a fast one or the scenic one?
MS. HARF: So, second item on Sri Lanka.
QUESTION: Matt doesn’t want to talk about anything if it doesn’t have to do with trains. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Me either, actually.
QUESTION: Or Belgian air controllers.
MS. HARF: Or Belgian air controller strikes.
The United States welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s – excuse me – announcement of the distinguished experts who will advise the panel conducting the international investigation into the alleged human rights violations and related crimes in Sri Lanka, as called for in the March 2014 Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka. We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner and its investigation. We continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its obligations to its own people and to take meaningful, concrete steps to address outstanding concerns related to democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, justice, and accountability. The United States stands ready to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating progress on these issues.
With that, Matt, train or other related questions.
QUESTION: Well, actually, I was just thinking. I mean, a propos of that, I suppose it is possible that you could get --
MS. HARF: Are you actually looking at that map? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. He could get on like the Orient Express or something and get to Istanbul and then go south. But of course, he’d have to go through Lebanon and maybe – and Syria, which would be a bit of a problem. Anyway.
MS. HARF: It’d be a bit of a travel problem.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, so apart from the train I want to talk about Iraq for – quickly.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Is it at all concerning to you that you seem to be on the same side now as not only the Iranians --
QUESTION: And the Syrians.
QUESTION: -- but President Assad?
MS. HARF: In what way?
QUESTION: In terms of all of you – you are helping Maliki to defend and to push back ISIL.
QUESTION: Well, correct. Maliki is shorthand for the Iraqi Government. So are the Syrians apparently, militarily, with these air strikes, and so are the Iranians. Is this a – is this problematic at all?
MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s a couple issues all tied up in that question. First, we know that ISIL is a threat to the entire region, including to Iran. We know that – we’ve talked about that over the past few weeks in this room and elsewhere on that front. But to be clear, one of the, if not the main, reason ISIL has been allowed to grow in strength is because of the Assad regime, because of the climate they’ve created in Syria. And it’s been a direct result of that.
So look, our interests in Iraq are to have as quickly as possible an inclusive government formed that can create a path forward and to help the Iraqi Government push back on ISIL.
In terms of these strikes, we obviously are aware of these reports. I don’t have any reason to dispute them at this point and, more broadly though, underscore the point that the solution to the threat confronting Iraq is not the intervention of the Assad regime, which, again, really allowed ISIL to drive into Iraq in the first place. But it’s the kind of solutions we’ve been talking about over the past few days.
QUESTION: But he’s actually doing something that might have a – that may have an immediate impact on the ground in Iraq.
MS. HARF: Well, everything he’s done over the past several years has led to this point where we are where ISIL is threatening Iraq.
QUESTION: All right. Well, two things --
MS. HARF: So again, I can’t underscore enough the culpability lying with the Assad regime for creating this climate that could allow ISIL to flourish.
QUESTION: Well, two things about – well, two things. One is that for the past several years, as you have pointed out, the Assad regime as well as the Russians have been saying that this is a fight against terrorism. Is that what it is?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the Assad --
QUESTION: Were they right the whole time?
MS. HARF: I think the Assad regime has used that term very loosely to define a whole number of opposition members, including the moderate opposition that we support. So we’ve been very clear there’s a terrorist element, Nusrah and ISIS, inside Syria that we think is a threat and we have been working to help other countries in the region confront. But when the Assad regime uses the word terrorist, it’s been my understanding that they’ve used it very differently.
QUESTION: You --
MS. HARF: They’ve used it as an excuse to crack down on their own people and indeed the moderate opposition.
QUESTION: And one more thing is that you – the Secretary was obviously there talking to Maliki. The U.S. and others have been very forthright and public about calling for there to be governmental change.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: You’ve been looking at July 1st. But today, Maliki came out and said that he is opposed to and won’t create a national salvation government.
MS. HARF: He --
QUESTION: Is this --
MS. HARF: I think that’s been misreported a little bit, so let me clear that up.
MS. HARF: And then we can talk about that a little more.
What Prime Minister Maliki was referring to and what he said today was that he rejected this notion of an emergency government, some sort of imposition of an interim government that’s outside of the constitutional process that the Iraqis have in place. In his remarks today, he clearly committed to completing the electoral process, to convening the new parliament – excuse me, hiccups – to convening the new parliament, and to moving forward with the constitutional process for government formation. And we think these commitments are very much in line with those that he made to the Secretary during the visit. I think there’s just been a little confusion about what he was ruling out here.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So these aren’t problematic comments to you?
MS. HARF: No, no, very much in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary.
QUESTION: But is it not the case that this is an emergency?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s why we’ve said they need to move forward with government formation as soon as possible. But they need to do so under the constitutional process they have set up, which he’s committed to. What he was ruling out is doing some extra-constitutional emergency government separate from that process,
QUESTION: You don’t believe then that the situation is dire enough that there needs to be some kind of extra-constitutional move?
MS. HARF: Well, we believe it’s dire enough that they need to move as quickly as possible – and we believe they can – to form a government, but they should not do things outside of their own constitution. The parties have committed to that constitutional process that’s in place.
MS. HARF: And they can do it quickly enough.
QUESTION: They can?
MS. HARF: We believe they can. The question is whether or not they will choose to.
QUESTION: The constitution does allow for emergency situation, including, I presume, the formation of an actual salvation government.
MS. HARF: Again, Said, there is a constitutional process in place. That kind of suggestion is outside of that process, and we believe they can use the process they have in place to form a government that’s in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary and in line with what we’re calling for.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it your understanding that Maliki actually rejected an idea that was presented to him by anyone?
QUESTION: By Ayad Allawi.
QUESTION: Ayad Allawi.
MS. HARF: I’m not in a position to comment on internal Iraqi deliberations or discussions. Again, the prime minister, what he said today was in line with the commitments he made to the Secretary.
QUESTION: Okay. And I have one question on the Syrians pursuing ISIL.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Now, you’re saying that the Syrian regime was culpable in the creating of ISIL?
MS. HARF: In creating the climate that has led to ISIL to flourish and indeed to cross over from Syria into Iraq.
QUESTION: How so? Could you explain that?
MS. HARF: I mean they’ve created a huge security vacuum. They’ve instigated a civil war in their own country, attacked their own people, led to a breakdown in security where groups like Nusrah and groups like ISIS and ISIL have been able to flourish.
QUESTION: But they have been – to my understanding, they have been at the receiving end of the regime of these groups that have infiltrated into Syria many times through the support of some neighboring countries.
MS. HARF: Well, in terms of some of – in terms of ISIL, what we’ve said in their support is we don’t have any evidence that foreign governments are supporting them. We know there’s some possibility of funding from private citizens in other countries, and obviously, we take that very seriously.
QUESTION: And lastly, can you confirm that actually the Syrian air force did strike?
MS. HARF: As I’ve said, I’m aware of those reports.
QUESTION: Okay. They denied it.
MS. HARF: We have – I have no reason to dispute them, but I can’t confirm them.
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: Yeah, Lucas.
QUESTION: If the State Department is open to Russian and Iranian intervention in Iraq in a nonsectarian manner, why not open to --
MS. HARF: I definitely didn’t say that. I don’t think I said we’re open to Iranian intervention in Iraq. I said that – I have said that Iran could play a constructive role in promoting an inclusive government in Iraq, as all of its neighbors should do.
QUESTION: Okay. Now how about Russia?
MS. HARF: Any – look, anyone who has leverage with the different parties in Iraq should use it to push for an inclusive government to be formed very quickly.
QUESTION: So that includes Iran?
MS. HARF: Look, if they’re willing to act constructively here, all of the neighbors.
QUESTION: So why not Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, again, everything we’ve seen from the Assad regime over the past several years has been pointed towards the fact that they have led to the security situation where this group could flourish. They have killed their own people. They have allowed groups like ISIL to perpetrate attacks in Syria and now cross over into Iraq. So I think Syria’s a very different situation.
QUESTION: Marie, do you have any guidance on why the Secretary is going to meet with Hariri in Paris?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything specific. I’m happy to check. Obviously, we’ve been talking to a number of our partners in the region about the security situation. Obviously, Lebanon has its own security challenges. I think just another bomb went off fairly recently in Beirut today. So I’m sure that will be a topic of conversation.
QUESTION: And since he’s meeting with the Saudi foreign minister in Paris, why is he going to Saudi Arabia?
MS. HARF: Because he’s going to meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: And on Iraq, and what’s the difference between the national emergency government and inclusive government?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So when we say – talk about forming an inclusive government, there is an electoral process that’s in place. They had elections. What happens next is they will convene a parliament and then move forward with the constitutional process for government formation. It starts with a COR speaker and then I think president and then prime minister. So that’s laid out in the constitution. They’ve already had the election, so they’ve committed to moving along that process.
I think what you’re referring to would be the imposition of an interim government, separate from that process, which, of course, isn’t something we would support and was not what Prime Minister Maliki – was what he was saying he would not support either.
QUESTION: And I know that they’ve asked Secretary Kerry this question about Iran, that it is directing surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment and supplies to Baghdad. Can you confirm these reports, especially that New York Times quoted a U.S. official on this?
MS. HARF: Well, I can’t confirm the specifics in those reports. What we’ve said is what I just said, that anyone in the region shouldn’t do anything that might exacerbate sectarian divisions, that would fuel extremism inside Iraq. And look, we know Iran and Iraq are neighbors with close ties, and again, believe Iran could play a constructive role if it’s helping to send the same message to the Iraqi Government that we’re sending. So I think --
QUESTION: Well, wait, that doesn’t – I mean, the question would be: Do you think that the provision of military equipment by Iran and their flying surveillance drones over, does that exacerbate sectarian – would that exacerbate sectarian tensions?
MS. HARF: Again, I can’t confirm those reports, one way or the other.
QUESTION: I’m not – well, I’m not asking you to confirm them.
MS. HARF: Right. And so I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical. What I’ve said --
QUESTION: So --
MS. HARF: -- or whether one thing would exacerbate tensions or not. As I’ve said, no country in the region should do anything to exacerbate those tensions.
QUESTION: Well, but if you don’t explain – and this is the same thing we had an exchange about yesterday. If you don’t explain what would be bad in your view, how are people supposed – how do you expect people to know what it is they shouldn’t do?
MS. HARF: Again, Matt, I just don’t have anything more for you on what Iran is or isn’t doing inside Iraq.
QUESTION: But do you think that Iran delivering – doing the same thing that the United States is doing would be – would exacerbate sectarian tensions?
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to do any more analysis on what Iran might be doing.
QUESTION: So it’s – so you’re saying it’s okay --
MS. HARF: I’m not saying anything. You’re trying to put words in my mouth.
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to comment on this one any further.
QUESTION: I’m trying to find out what the U.S. position is, in terms of Iranian intervention in Iraq.
MS. HARF: If there’s more to share with you, Matt, I’m happy to see if we can share it.
QUESTION: Well, it’s happening, and you --
MS. HARF: Well, I can’t confirm those reports.
QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t matter whether you can confirm them or not. It’s happening.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And I want to know if the U.S. thinks that what Iran is doing – not asking you what they’re doing – but if the U.S. thinks that Iran – whatever it is they’re doing – is helpful or harmful. And I don’t know why it is that you guys can’t come out and say that. How are the Iranians supposed to know – not that they would listen to you in the first place, but how are they supposed to know that if you think that flying – helping them by flying surveillance drones is a bad thing?
MS. HARF: Matt, I just don’t have any more analysis to do on what Iran may or may not be doing inside Iraq. If there’s more to share at some point, I’m happy to.
Yes, let’s go to – or – no. Iraq.
QUESTION: Excuse me, one more on Iraq, please.
MS. HARF: Let’s finish Iraq.
QUESTION: Yeah, please, please.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: One more on Iraq and Syria. Is the U.S. in contact or in communication with the Syrian regime about the situation in Iraq?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check.
Yes. On Iraq?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. ask the Iraqi Government if they asked the Syrian regime to do – to launch the air strikes against the terrorists?
MS. HARF: I’m sure there are conversations happening on the ground. I think the Government of Iraq is probably best positioned to speak about this, but let me see if there’s more we can get you on that.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up on the Secretary’s travel.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: If he’s already meeting with his Saudi counterpart in Paris, why does have to go to Saudi Arabia to meet the King?
MS. HARF: I think that was what Michel just asked.
QUESTION: Right, he did.
MS. HARF: I think he thinks it’s important to brief King Abdullah on his visit to Iraq, on what he saw on the ground, on the conversations he had. Obviously, King Abdullah is a leader of incredible importance when it comes to regional issues and cares very deeply about the situation in Iraq. They share the concerns we have about ISIL and the threat it poses to the region, so looking to engage with the King in addition to the foreign minister.
QUESTION: Back a little while ago, you mentioned something about funding.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Or you said there was no evidence the governments in the Gulf – the Arab --
MS. HARF: Are funding ISIL?
QUESTION: Right. That there’s no evidence – I think that’s what you said – no evidence that they were --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you said you were aware that there was funding from some private people.
MS. HARF: We said we’re aware of reports that there is.
MS. HARF: But on the funding piece, much of ISIL’s funding actually comes from criminal activity – kidnappings, stealing money from banks – things like we’ve seen in Iraq. So much of their funding actually comes from that kind of activity.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. at any point express concern to Gulf countries that they were – they may have been encouraging or allowing money from private citizens – of their private citizens to flow to --
MS. HARF: Certainly we discuss terrorist financing and funding with partners in the region all the time. I’m not familiar with specific conversations we’ve had, but again, no evidence that governments are doing this kind of thing.
QUESTION: Right, right. Apart from governments.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Quick follow-up. You agree that you have one enemy in common – you, the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Iranians – in ISIL. Do you agree with that?
MS. HARF: I agree that ISIL is a threat to the entire region.
QUESTION: But you do --
MS. HARF: That doesn’t mean we have overlap --
QUESTION: -- share enmity, overlapping.
MS. HARF: That doesn’t mean, Said, we have overlapping strategic interests just because we have a common enemy. Those are two different things.
QUESTION: Yeah, Sudan.
QUESTION: One more, Arshad.
QUESTION: Please. No, please.
QUESTION: Do you think that Prime Minister Maliki’s statement today on the government helps the process of forming a new government?
MS. HARF: Well, again, in his comments today, he committed clearly to completing the electoral process, to convening a new parliament, and to moving forward with the process for government formation. That’s what we’ve called on them to do. It’s what he committed to doing. So that’s certainly what we need to see happen here. That’s why I wanted to clear up some of the confusion about his comments.
QUESTION: Have you got clarification from him in --
MS. HARF: I don’t think we were looking for clarification. His comments were quite clear. I think they’ve been misreported a little bit in some outlets, and then that sort of spread. And so I wanted to make very clear what he actually did say.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and that she had not been arrested.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He lawyer told us that she had been arrested, that he was at the prison – that he was at the police station with her. We quote him today as saying that she’s been charged with forging a South Sudanese passport or producing a forged document.
MS. HARF: So I do have an update for you --
QUESTION: Great. And --
MS. HARF: -- that explains the discrepancy in the statements.
QUESTION: And I’m particularly keen to know whether the U.S. and South Sudanese – but you may only be able to speak for the U.S. – ambassadors or envoys had been summoned by the Sudanese foreign ministry over this.
MS. HARF: Yeah. So midday yesterday when we talked, she had not been arrested at the airport. Subsequent to the briefing – timing is often very important here – the family was taken to a police station for further questioning, where police subsequently rearrested her on charges related to her travel documents. She has been held since then at the police station. Her family is with her. She is in the custody of the Sudanese police while the issues related to her travel – their travel documents, excuse me, are sorted out.
Embassy staff have been in frequent contact with the family, our lawyer – and it’s lawyers – excuse me – and have provided needed supplies to the family while she’s been in the custody of the police, so have been able to visit her and give her some things she needs. The Government of Sudan has assured us of their – the family’s – safety. Obviously, that’s of utmost importance to us. We will continue monitoring the situation and discussing it with them.
Finally, at the request of the Government of Sudan, our charge de affaires met today with the Sudanese foreign ministry to discuss the case. He reaffirmed our concern that the family should be allowed to depart swiftly from Sudan, that we would work on that with them. You are right; I cannot speak for the South Sudanese Government. Let me see if I have any other updates.
And to the best of our knowledge, these charges aren’t related in any way to the previous case. They are related to her travel documents. I think that’s --
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MS. HARF: -- my update I have.
QUESTION: According to our reporting, she had – or the allegation is that she had a South Sudanese passport with a visa for the United States in it. If that were the case, you would’ve – the U.S. Government would’ve granted her a visa. So can you address whether the U.S. Government gave her a visa to come to the United States? And then secondly, if you did, did you have any concerns about the authenticity of her travel document?
MS. HARF: Can’t comment a lot more on the specifics of her travel documents. Obviously, we’re working with her and her family and the Government of Sudan to try and get everything in proper order so she can, and her family, depart swiftly.
QUESTION: But what about – did you give her a visa?
MS. HARF: We can’t comment any further on the specifics of her travel documents.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking about her travel documents; I’m asking about a visa.
MS. HARF: Well, a visa is technically a travel document, Arshad, so --
QUESTION: Is it really? I thought a visa – a travel document referred to a passport.
MS. HARF: A visa to give you entry to a country, we consider that as part of a travel document colloquially when I’m answering your question. We have nothing else to say about passports, visas, anything. We’ll continue working with the family and with the Government of Sudan.
QUESTION: I think there’s a concern – the reason why this question is coming up, there’s a concern that this might have been some bungled attempt to get her out of the country. Do you --
MS. HARF: Bungled by who?
QUESTION: By – I don’t know. By the South Sudanese, by you guys. I don’t know.
MS. HARF: There are processes in place for people to leave certain countries. We have been working with the family to ensure that they can swiftly depart from Sudan. We know there are a number of documents needed. We want to make sure everything’s in order. We’re working with them right now to see if we can help in any way.
QUESTION: Your understanding is that this woman is a citizen of South Sudan?
MS. HARF: I don’t have much more to comment on in terms of her specific travel documents or citizenship or which – how she may have been attempting to leave the country.
QUESTION: All right. And then just given the interest that there was on this at yesterday’s briefing, was there some reason why we couldn’t get an update, like, off-camera? When did this information about their re-arrest come out? Was it, like, 8 o’clock at night or something?
MS. HARF: It was coming out overnight and this morning, actually. I think the details were still a little murky and we were trying to confirm them, quite frankly.
QUESTION: So – okay.
MS. HARF: So --
QUESTION: I’m not complaining. I’m just kind of curious. Did – and you’re – but you’re satisfied that this new account from the Sudanese authorities is correct as far as it goes?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a new account; it’s an updated account.
QUESTION: All right. Well, that’s what I’m --
MS. HARF: What I said yesterday was the situation at the time.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re confident that this is accurate now?
MS. HARF: Yes. Yes. I mean, we’ve met with her in the prison, or in the custody of the Sudanese police. I wouldn’t refer to it as a prison. I don’t have all the specifics on that.
QUESTION: Okay, but --
MS. HARF: We’ve met with her and given her some items she needs. And they’ve said they will keep them safe, and we are absolutely going to make sure they do so.
QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, as far as you know, as of when you got up here to the podium, what you have just --
MS. HARF: This is the problem with news happening while – in real time.
QUESTION: All right, well, no one’s expecting you to know what’s happened between when you got up here and – or even ten minutes before you got up here. But as far as you know, this is 100 percent accurate, as far as you know?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes, that she is in the custody of the Sudanese police; her family is with her; this is related to an issue with travel documents; we’re trying to help work that out.
QUESTION: And when the charge met with the Sudanese foreign ministry, I presume he – well, I mean, what was his message to the Sudanese, or was he not there to deliver a message, he was there to – I mean, why did the Sudanese say they wanted him?
MS. HARF: His message was that she – well, I’d let them speak for themselves. But his message was that they need to be able to depart as swiftly as possible from Sudan and that we are happy to help in any way we can, but obviously, that’s our bottom line here with the Government of Sudan, and that they should be kept safe.
QUESTION: Same topic?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So you are still confident to make the family leaving the country, and you are satisfied with the cooperation you have with the Sudanese officials?
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: You are not accusing them of kind of harassment or --
MS. HARF: I’m certainly not going to at this point. What we’re focused on is getting her and her family swiftly out of the country – that’s certainly our goal – and keeping them safe until they’re able to.
QUESTION: When you say “her family,” do you mean her U.S. citizen husband their two children?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: What --
QUESTION: And to your knowledge, have they been – are they under any charges, or are they just staying with her out of solidarity?
MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that her husband has not been arrested. Obviously, I don’t think her children have been either. I do believe they’re staying with her to be with her. But again, this is moving very quickly.
QUESTION: As the spouse of a U.S. citizen, is she eligible for what they call a safe, let’s say, or re-entry travel document?
MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any more details to share with you about travel documents.
QUESTION: Regardless of – I know that you can’t talk about travel documents, but – this specific here. But in general – I’m presuming; please tell me if this is correct – a U.S. consular officer in an embassy abroad would not issue a – would not put a valid visa into a fake passport, correct?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: So you would have to --
MS. HARF: In general, yes, of course. We would not --
QUESTION: So are there exceptions to that rule?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: No. So you would never – if there was --
MS. HARF: To put a U.S. visa into a falsified passport?
QUESTION: Right. To put a genuine visa into a fake passport or a --
MS. HARF: Nope. We don’t do that.
QUESTION: Okay. So that – if she did have a visa, it was not obtained by some kind of subterfuge involving --
MS. HARF: Our consular officers do very good work all over the world --
MS. HARF: -- making sure they’re using the correct documents, yes.
QUESTION: Since Ms. Ibrahim possess now U.S. travel documents and a visa, does the United States bear responsibility for bringing her home?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I confirmed what travel documents she has, but what I said is it’s very much our position that they need to be able to depart Sudan swiftly. I don’t have any more details on what their travel will look like. But we clearly care about this very deeply and have raised it at the highest levels, and are working very hard to resolve it.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. It’s on the report that the State Department had given out upgrading or whatever – changing the status of LET.
MS. HARF: There’s no change in the status, but yeah.
QUESTION: The change of status means you have got all these new names, Jama’at --
MS. HARF: We’ve added some aliases.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: And so – and you have given a list of attacks which are – you’re saying that Mumbai attack, this, and then the recent attack in Afghanistan --
MS. HARF: In Herat?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So how are – is the U.S. going to deal with it now?
MS. HARF: Well, just to give everyone else the background, what we did today was add – designate a number of aliases for LET under the Foreign – FTO designation, and also amend the EO to add some to that as well. We also did the mandatory every-five-year review process and re – continued to have them designated as well. So those two things happened today.
And we did, as you note, list a number of attacks that they were responsible for. In terms of the Herat attack, we have said this now: Based on credible information – can’t get into more specifics about what that means – the U.S. Government has assessed that LET was responsible for the attack in Herat on May 23rd, 2014. This is the attack on the Indian consulate.
QUESTION: Now the question, right, is that in – with respect to the Benghazi, the repeated thing that is coming out, that if somebody harms an American citizen we don’t leave them scot – go scot-free.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So if you remember, in the Mumbai 2008 attacks there was a number of U.S. citizens who were killed.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So – and we have identified LET. So how are we going to get these people --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- and bring them to book?
MS. HARF: Yeah, a couple points. First, the designations help us cut off support and funding to LET so they can’t undertake future attacks. Also, cooperation between the United States and India has already led to several Mumbai terrorists – including David Headley, if folks remember him – being brought to justice. So to date, the Department of Justice and FBI have provided extensive assistance to the Government of India in their investigations into the Mumbai attacks, including access to interview David Headley and substantial additional evidentiary evidence as well. The President and everyone have been very clear that we will continue working to bring other perpetrators of this attack to justice.
QUESTION: On that same thing?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: The credible thing that was said, is it based on your own assessment of the (inaudible) information, or based on information received from (inaudible) that you gained after the attack (inaudible) and LET (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: Well, we make our assessments based on a wide range of all-source information. In this case we believe, based on this information, it’s credible. We look at number of different sources that we gather on our own. We have assessed that LET did perpetrate this attack.
QUESTION: And have you shared that information with India?
MS. HARF: We share information with them all the time. I’m not sure about this specifically, but I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Just to --
QUESTION: On the Mumbai terrorist attack, India has sought for the second time access to David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. Is U.S. considering giving them another round of access to --
MS. HARF: I don’t have – DOJ would probably be better able to speak to that, and the FBI. But I know we have given them access in the past.
QUESTION: One quick one on that.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have anything – any update on what you are going to do with (inaudible) --
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on that.
QUESTION: -- who is going around --
MS. HARF: No, I know we’ve – you asked about it before and we’ve talked about it a little bit, but no update on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes, let’s go to the back here. You haven’t had one yet.
QUESTION: Yes. About ISIS, I want to go back to ISIS for this one.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Yeah. So now, like, we have Iraq and we have Syria, and now there are terrorism in Lebanon. So --
QUESTION: Yeah, no, no, it’s like three countries that have Sunni and Shia, the same combination that have conflicting in Iraq and Syria. And it seems like their approaching Israel. I mean, terrorism in general – do you --
MS. HARF: Well, again, the terrorist threat to Israel is also not a new thing, unfortunately.
QUESTION: I know, but if, like, those three areas, like, conflicted all at one time, then it’s like kind of like have a nuclear bomb near Israel --
MS. HARF: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- and it might spill over.
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: Have you heard anything about – and I’m real sorry to interrupt you, but have you heard anything about --
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: -- connection, contacts, possible contacts between Hamas and any of the terrorism organizations that is actually, like, active in the area?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on that. I don’t have all the background on that. Look, as we’ve said, though, our position on Hamas is not changed. They’re a terrorist organization. That’s why we’ve helped and stood by Israel to fight that threat. If you look at all the funding and security assistance we’ve given Israel, if you look at Iron Dome or other ways we’ve assisted Israel by helping them fight this threat, we’ve certainly understood how serious it is.
And look, the terrorist threat is not new in the region. But I think what you heard the President speak about at West Point is how it’s evolving and how it’s changing and how we’re going to confront that. Part of that is through this new counterterrorism fund where we’re helping countries like Lebanon and Jordan and others build their capacity to fight this threat together and on their own. And that’s certainly something I think you’ll see more of going forward.
QUESTION: The reason I’m asking, because there is some fear that was, like, told to me, like, by some expert in insurgents group, and he suggested that ISIS is actually – is following Abu Musab al-Suri, like, theories about like that Qaida or whatever. Like, I believe that ISIS is replacing Qaida now in the region, but, like, Qaida has to have cells in every country surrounding Israel. And so, like --
MS. HARF: Well, al-Qaida, actually, I think, if we remember the history here, rejected ISIS as too brutal --
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. HARF: -- which, I think, says a whole lot about ISIS and the kind of tactics they’ve used. Nusrah, we know, has ties to al-Qaida. But again, this is a threat that’s evolving. And we certainly know there’s a threat to Israel, to other partners in the region as well. All we have to do is look at what’s happened over the past month in Iraq to know that that’s the case.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask one about Libya?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. So General Hiftar kicked out the Qatari and Turkish citizens from Libya. That’s what I have here. Do you have anything about that? Do you know --
MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with those reports. I’m happy to check and see if there’s something we can say.
QUESTION: I would be happy if you could do that.
MS. HARF: Okay, great. Thanks.
MS. HARF: Said.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Libya.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Any – do you have anything on the elections in Libya?
MS. HARF: I do. So we welcome today’s parliamentary elections in Libya. They were organized by the High National Electoral Council, which announced that 1.5 million registered voters have the chance today to cast their ballots. There are 1,600 polling centers around the country. They’ll be electing 200 members of the new council of representatives. Obviously, credible elections are an important part of any country’s transition here, and this is – would be an important step for Libyans as well. I don’t believe there’s any results yet, but we will keep following them, and if there’s more comment, are happy to make it.
QUESTION: There’s only 1.5 million registered voters in all of Libya?
MS. HARF: That’s my – who registered to vote in this election, that’s my understanding. Yes.
QUESTION: Is that it? Is that a disappointing number? I mean, I don’t frankly know what the population is.
MS. HARF: Quite frankly, the number --
QUESTION: Six-point-two million.
MS. HARF: The number didn’t jump out at me.
MS. HARF: But I’m happy to check with our folks.
QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know what the voting eligibility is. Anyway.
QUESTION: Do you think that --
MS. HARF: We’ll see if they’re higher or lower than U.S. congressional elections.
QUESTION: -- the security situation in Libya allows the Libyans to vote in a fair --
MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see how today’s election goes. It’s ongoing or just ended is my understanding, so we’ll see if there’s more to say. We know the security situation is challenging. We have supported the electoral process through support in this instance to Libyan civil society organizations that have fielded domestic observers, also have funded technical support for the electoral council in coordination with the UN and other international partners as well. So we’re trying to help them go forward with these elections that seem to have happened today, and if there’s more to say tomorrow, we will.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: There’s a report that Charlene Lamb is retiring from the State Department. Can you confirm that?
MS. HARF: I will check with her.
QUESTION: And also in Benghazi, there’s a report that – on the attacks in 2012 – that – from three sources, two in Washington and one on the ground – that State Department computers were stolen. Do you have anything on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Lucas. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Okay. And that because these computers – reports of these computers being stolen led to locally employed staff receiving death threats. Do you have anything on that?
MS. HARF: I’m happy – I’m not familiar with that. I’m just – I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: And did the special mission compound in Benghazi have SIPRNet access?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. I will take all of the computer-related questions and see and what I can get you for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the Secretary’s meetings tomorrow?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. He’s meeting with the Saudi, with the Jordanians, with the --
MS. HARF: And the Emiratis.
QUESTION: -- and the Emiratis. And then with the Israeli – Lieberman. Is it – is he meeting with any --
MS. HARF: And the Lebanese.
QUESTION: -- Palestinians? And the Lebanese. Is he meeting --
QUESTION: Okay. Because I think Abbas is visiting Russia today or Moscow. So is he likely to --
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary is not in Moscow.
QUESTION: Okay. I know. But is he likely to speak to him --
MS. HARF: But was happy to speak to him yesterday. Yeah.
QUESTION: -- tomorrow? Okay. Is it safe to assume that the Secretary of State will raise with Mr. Lieberman to sort of lighten up on their heavy hand in the West Bank and --
MS. HARF: Well, Said, as we’ve said, we’ve called on both sides – all parties – to exercise restraint, to show restraint. In the call with President Abbas yesterday, Secretary Kerry thanked him for his efforts to find the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers and also emphasized the need for restraint from all sides during this difficult time. He also agreed to stay in touch in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Israel launched a couple of air raids on Gaza yesterday. Although Hamas, the head of the politburo, basically said we have nothing to do with the kidnapping. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of those reports. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: The foreign minister of Japan announced that they were holding talks with North Korea next week to dig in – dig more into the abduction issue and North Korean efforts to resolve that. First, just on that, do you have any comment or response?
MS. HARF: Let me see if I have anything on that. I know we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past in terms of how they handle the abductions issue. I don’t think I have anything new on that. I’m happy to see if there’s anything to say.
QUESTION: Okay. More broadly, do you have a concern that progress between the DPRK and Japan on a purely bilateral issue might complicate efforts to coordinate on issues that are of mutual concern with the U.S.?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re very closely coordinated with Japan on issues when it comes to North Korea, but on other issues as well. And we know these are very important issues for the Japanese, and again, happy to check and see if there’s anything more to say on that.
MS. HARF: Yes. I got answers for you. Are you going to ask the same --
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: I’ll wait to see if you ask the same questions. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, I ask the --
MS. HARF: On Hong Kong?
QUESTION: On Hong Kong, yeah. Could you just --
MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have. Okay. So you asked a couple, and let me see if I answer them. And if I don’t, please follow up. That we, in terms of elections, support Hong Kong’s well-established traditions and basic law protections of internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as, of course, freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. The details of the election process for the chief executive in 2017 have yet to be worked out, is my understanding. But we do believe that the legitimacy of the chief executive will be greatly enhanced if the promise of universal suffrage is fulfilled and if the election provides the people of Hong Kong a genuine choice of candidates representative of the voters’ will.
So I know there’s still some details that need to be worked out, but in general, that’s still our position. Of course, our longstanding policy – and I think this was part of your first question yesterday – is supportive of the principle of one country, two systems, and the high degree of autonomy maintained by the basic law, that that, of course, has not changed, and I think that – maybe that answered all of your questions.
QUESTION: Okay. So have you communicated these opinions to the Chinese Government? Or is --
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve certainly been very clear publicly and privately about this. I don’t have any specifics to share with you.
QUESTION: On China, you were asked yesterday about the move in Congress and also in DC city council to change the name of the road.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: You’ve seen, not surprisingly, the Chinese are not very happy about this. Do you – or do you guys take a position on kind of needling foreign governments with steps like this? Do you think it’s appropriate?
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: Do you think that it’s helpful to your broader foreign policy aims?
QUESTION: Can I ask why? The Administration routinely takes positions --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- and puts out statements of --
MS. HARF: And we routinely don’t. In some cases we do, in some case we don’t.
QUESTION: Well, this was one that seems to – that seems like it would have – it has a direct foreign policy element to it. It certainly intended to send a message. Do you think that renaming streets in this kind of way, that are designed to be provocative, in general is a good idea?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have a general comment on this, because you’re trying to get me to weigh in on a specific issue, and we just aren’t going to comment on this kind of pending legislation.
QUESTION: Okay. So that means that you --
MS. HARF: It doesn’t mean we don’t have a position, it just means I don’t have one to share.
QUESTION: Oh, so you do have a position?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say we did. I said it doesn’t mean we don’t, doesn’t mean we do. I just don’t have one to share.
QUESTION: But it’s a secret position --
MS. HARF: Sometimes we make our --
QUESTION: -- from the most transparent Administration in history.
MS. HARF: Sometimes we don’t – most of the time, actually, we don’t comment publicly on our positions on pending legislation. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t.
QUESTION: Well, but this is more than just pending legislation.
MS. HARF: But we clearly communicate – no, it’s not. It is by definition pending legislation.
QUESTION: This is – but this is the renaming --
MS. HARF: I think by definition, that’s accurate.
QUESTION: This is the renaming of a street --
MS. HARF: Okay. I will take your suggestion --
QUESTION: -- that is intended to provoke and annoy --
MS. HARF: -- on board.
QUESTION: -- a foreign government.
MS. HARF: I’m not going to have any comment on it.
QUESTION: And I’m just wanting to know of the State Department thinks that that’s a good thing – a good way to practice foreign policy.
MS. HARF: I’m not going to have any comment on this pending legislation.
QUESTION: You’re going to – I’m going to bring this up every day --
MS. HARF: Fine.
QUESTION: -- until you do.
MS. HARF: Happy for you to waste everyone’s time in doing that when you know the answer.
QUESTION: No. It’s not a waste of time.
MS. HARF: I’ll let you know if the answer changes.
QUESTION: It is intended to get EAP or someone at your congressional liaison people – me raising it every day – to get a straight answer on what seems to be a pretty easy question.
MS. HARF: Matt, we don’t always communicate our position on pending legislation publicly for a variety of reasons that you are very well aware with.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- the Chinese embassy has said that it’s an attempt driven by some personal interests and it runs counter to the efforts by an interest of the vast majority of people in both China and the U.S. to pursue a win-win cooperative partnership between the two countries. Do you have a comment – would you like to assuage the Chinese embassy that their concerns are unfounded?
MS. HARF: I’m just – I’m not going to comment on the pending legislation. We’ve been very clear about the fact that we would like to have and do have a constructive and productive relationship with China. You’ve seen that from a variety of senior officials, including, of course, the President’s conversations with his counterpart. So --
QUESTION: So you would communicate to the Chinese that this shouldn’t impact the relationship --
MS. HARF: I am not commenting on this one way or the other.
QUESTION: No, I’m not asking you to comment on the legislation itself.
MS. HARF: On just what they should think of it?
MS. HARF: Right. So I’m not going to comment on that either. But good try.
QUESTION: So you still expect the S&ED in Beijing to go along just swimmingly after the indictment of the PLA guys who will never, ever be tried in the United States and efforts like this in --
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly expect the S&ED will – is an important forum. We’re looking forward to it, as are the Chinese. Look, that doesn’t change the fact that when we disagree on things, including cyber issues, we won’t make that clear.
QUESTION: Right. Well, it’s just a question of whether you agree or disagree with Congress, which seems to want to annoy, intentionally provoke a response from the Chinese. And if you’re fine with that, okay.
MS. HARF: I didn’t say we were or weren’t.
QUESTION: On Bangladesh. Have you seen this statement issued by the head of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association --
QUESTION: -- BGMEA?
MS. HARF: I have.
QUESTION: Yeah. He says that anyone from Bangladesh who contacts the U.S. Government and the Congress directly should be tried for sedition. Do you have anything --
MS. HARF: It’s Congress hour here in our briefing. Yes. Thank you for the question. We have grave concerns about these statements that have been attributed to the head of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that individuals and labor rights activists who directly contact the U.S. Government or Congress should be prosecuted for sedition. These statements, if true, are outrageous and unacceptable. Bangladesh enjoys a rich tradition of parliamentary democracy, free speech, free association, and any attempt to muzzle civil society, including through these kinds of means, would be to the detriment of all Bangladeshis.
QUESTION: One on Egypt.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, yesterday you said that no aid was being withheld from the Egyptian Government.
MS. HARF: No. I don't think I said that. Let me just – let’s go back to the aid numbers here. I know there were some questions. So for 2014 FMF, $650 million has been appropriated. We recently obligated $572 million of that in FY 2014. And we went into these numbers a little bit yesterday, Lucas. They were notified in late April. So 78 million of that, of the notified overall 650, two missile systems and 10 Apache helicopters remain on hold pending further discussions with Congress. Just clearing up the numbers there. I know – I’m sorry there was some confusion on this over the last few days.
QUESTION: So none of the Apaches that were suspended – whose delivery was suspended last year have yet been delivered, correct?
MS. HARF: Correct.
MS. HARF: All 10 remain in storage in Fort Hood, Texas.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you for that detail.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: And have there been any conversations in the last 24 hours between – at a high level about the journalists issue?
MS. HARF: I can check. Not – from the Secretary? Let me check --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, you are continuing to raise this with the Egyptians, right?
MS. HARF: Of course. Yeah. Let me see if there’s any details about that.
QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?
QUESTION: Just one more question on Egypt. Yesterday at the White House, Josh Earnest said that additional assistance remains on hold. Is this the additional assistance?
MS. HARF: Yeah. That’s what he’s referring to.
QUESTION: But you know in the Congress they are trying to propose legislation to reduce the aid package by 30 percent. Are you aware?
MS. HARF: Is this the Schiff Amendment?
MS. HARF: So here I’m going to comment on something with Congress.
QUESTION: On pending legislation, my God.
QUESTION: How surprising. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: So this amendment, if we’re referring to the same one, would have limited our --
QUESTION: Yes, we are.
MS. HARF: -- would have limited our ability – I don’t think it actually passed. I think it was pulled down, but let me double-check on that – to respond to emerging needs in Egypt and divert it from the focus of our request for Egypt. And we were already supporting many of the areas addressed in the amendment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thanks. What else?
QUESTION: So just before I get to Ukraine, can I just say, why is it that you’re willing to talk about that and not the other one? Will you – can you just --
MS. HARF: Because every --
QUESTION: Can – will you acknowledge the fact that you are willing to talk about legislation pending or otherwise --
MS. HARF: Sometimes.
QUESTION: -- when you think that it serves your interests?
MS. HARF: No. Look, Matt --
MS. HARF: There are some times we think it’s in our best interest to communicate privately to Congress how we feel about legislation, and sometimes we believe it’s important to do so publicly.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the Chinese foreign ministry says that this move to on the street is a farce and a sham and intended to hurt – harm relations. What do you think about their – what do you think about those comments from the Chinese foreign ministry on the record from them?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to comment on this pending legislation or what it might do. I – we made very clear the importance of our relationship with China. And you know very well that there are times we comment on legislation and times we don’t, period. You are well aware of that history. You can disagree with it --
QUESTION: I’m aware that you comment on legislation --
MS. HARF: -- but it should not be surprising to you.
QUESTION: -- when you think that it’s in your – I just don’t understand why you think not commenting on this legislation or this move in general is detrimental.
MS. HARF: I will certainly take your advice on board, Matt.
QUESTION: All right, fine. I don’t expect anything, but thank you for doing that. Anyway you --
MS. HARF: It’s good to keep your expectations low.
QUESTION: I always do. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: So do I.
QUESTION: Good. Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: You will have seen that the – there was a four-way phone call this afternoon --
QUESTION: -- between President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, President Poroshenko --
MS. HARF: Poroshenko.
QUESTION: -- and President Putin.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I don’t presume that you were listening in on the call, although since Chancellor Merkel was on it, maybe you were. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I think we made very clear we don’t do that.
QUESTION: What do you make --
MS. HARF: I just want to know what language they all spoke. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What do you make of it, because there –
MS. HARF: I actually --
QUESTION: -- have been various readouts of it from each government. I’m just wondering if you can give us --
MS. HARF: So I haven’t – our folks are still looking at them. We don’t have any analysis to do on it now, but we will shortly.
QUESTION: But the mere fact that this call took place --
MS. HARF: We said dialogue is important.
QUESTION: You think that it’s a good thing?
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: We do think dialogue, particularly between Poroshenko and President Putin, is important.
QUESTION: There are numerous – well, at least two, probably more by now – about new sanctions being prepared by both the Administration and your – the European Union --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- ahead of this EU summit that’s coming up tomorrow and --
MS. HARF: The EU Council, I think, meets Friday.
MS. HARF: And sanctions will be one topic discussed among many there.
QUESTION: Right. Can you say – are you close to an agreement with the Europeans on doing this, and are you concerned at all that President Putin’s announcement yesterday and then the move today by the state council, or whatever it’s called, to revoke --
MS. HARF: The upper chamber.
QUESTION: -- the upper chamber to revoke --
MS. HARF: Yes, which is not the Duma. I was incorrect yesterday when I said that.
MS. HARF: It is the Russian Federation Council.
QUESTION: -- the Federation Council to revoke the use of force authorization, that that would have an effect on whether or not the Europeans would be more of less enthusiastic about going for new sanctions?
MS. HARF: Well, we are working intensively with our European partners. As I said, they have a meeting on Friday where this will be one of the topics discussed. And we are judging every single day on a daily basis progress or backsliding. Yes, this was a good step in terms of the revocation of the law, but as you heard the Secretary say, it could be put back on very quickly. What we have said is we need to see Russia secure its border, stop the flow of fighters and weapons into Ukraine, and call on separatists to lay down their arms and release the OSCE hostages.
So those are the important actions we’re looking for, and we will continue to judge Russia by those actions. We have additional sanctions ready to go. We’re continuing to talk to the Europeans, and if we’re going to impose them at some point, we will do so.
QUESTION: Like ready to go, like they could be done in --
MS. HARF: They can be done very quickly.
QUESTION: With a signature?
Can I --
QUESTION: Just on this?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I just want to --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: When you say that you’re judging every single day --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s your judgment today?
MS. HARF: You want me to do another analogy yesterday with steps forward and backwards?
QUESTION: Well, you said --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, in response --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) fighters crossing --
MS. HARF: Yes. So again, we welcome the Federation Council’s decision to repeal the resolution authorizing the use of military – Russian military force in Ukraine. The repeal is a step in the right direction. We, though, are aware that a number of Russian combat units have deployed to locations close to the Ukrainian border. This is not in keeping with the intent – with the Russian intent to de-escalate the situation. We have seen Russia take some steps, again, including by revoking the resolution. But we really need Russia to do more.
So today we’ve seen some tiny steps, but much, much more needs to be done.
QUESTION: So you do think that the Russian intent is to de-escalate?
MS. HARF: Well, they’ve said it is.
MS. HARF: But their actions have not backed up those words.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- you said we have seen a number of Russian combat forces deployed near the border with Ukraine. Is that in the last 24 hours, or is that in reference to the massing over the last --
MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that that’s ongoing, but let me check with our folks and see.
QUESTION: Okay. And any more – sorry. Any more on materiel either being readied to cross the border or crossing the border?
MS. HARF: Nothing new. Nothing new on that.
QUESTION: Is it – so is it continuing?
MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday I think that in my – one of my questions I misstated what the U.S. position might be regarding – we were talking about Iraq, and then I tried to segue into Ukraine, talking about --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- what kind of government that you would like to see in Ukraine. What --
MS. HARF: I think I may have misspoke here a little bit.
QUESTION: If – well, I misspoke as well, because I was the one that kind of said – but I just want to know, what is the Administration’s position on what an acceptable, inclusive, fair, representative-of-everyone government would be in Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Yes, yes. And I think we both got tangled up over words.
So what we understand is that President Poroshenko has offered greater decentralization of authorities, and that’s the word I should’ve used. He’s not talking about creating what we would call a federal structure. So what that looks like is obviously up to the people of Ukraine to decide, but as part of his peace plan he’s talked about decentralization. What that looks like they’re talking about internally right now.
But I think there was some confusion, particularly in the Russian press, about what I said in terms of the word “federal” --
QUESTION: But --
MS. HARF: -- which has a very different context in Iraq and a very different context in the United States. So I want to be very clear that’s not what he’s offering or what we would support in Ukraine.
QUESTION: What – right. Well, I’m – I mean, I’m interested in what he’s offering, but I also want to know what the U.S. would think is a good idea. So you think that a --
MS. HARF: We support greater decentralization that all of the Ukrainian people agree to.
QUESTION: Can you explain, though, what – or is that for the Ukrainians to decide, how much decentralization --
MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s for the Ukrainians to decide.
QUESTION: But you’re not looking for – it could be its own model. It’s not something that’s modeled on, say, what we have, or what Brazil has, or what Iraq had or may have in the future.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: It’s --
MS. HARF: It’s up to them to decide what that looks like --
QUESTION: It’s a Ukrainian model, all right.
MS. HARF: -- but I know that the – particularly the word “federal” is a particularly loaded one in the Russia-Ukraine context, and I want to make clear that’s not what we support there.
QUESTION: All right. And then you will be familiar – I think, maybe – with the comments that the NATO secretary general made today. Are you familiar with them?
MS. HARF: I – which ones specifically?
QUESTION: At one point he said that NATO has tried for the past 20 years to work with Russia, but they have broken the rules and eroded trust. I’m wondering if – that was Rasmussen. Does the United States – does the Administration agree with that?
MS. HARF: I think we would certainly agree with that. We’ve said very clearly that what they have done in Ukraine is in violation of international law, they have broken the rules, and that it has eroded trust. When they’re sending tanks and RPGs over a border into a sovereign state, I don’t know how it could do anything but, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Okay. But this – he seemed to be talking about the last two decades, that they’ve been doing this the entire time. Are you just --
MS. HARF: Oh, I --
QUESTION: Are you agreeing with him over – in the course of the – just in terms of Georgia and Ukraine?
MS. HARF: I’m talking about recently. I’m talking about recently.
MS. HARF: Look, more broadly speaking – I guess I can speak for this Administration – it has been a complicated relationship. There have been times we’ve been able to work together, whether it’s on New START, whether it’s on the resupply lines into Afghanistan, other issues – Iran being one, the nuclear issue – but there have been places where it’s been much more challenging.
QUESTION: Well, I’m wondering if you think it is – if you could – if you can – if you agree with what the secretary general said.
MS. HARF: And I didn’t see them in context, so I don’t want to --
QUESTION: Right. Well, I mean, that was pretty much a – it was a context about – talking about Ukraine and talking about the strained relations between NATO specifically and Russia.
MS. HARF: Russia, over Ukraine.
QUESTION: Well, not just over Ukraine. I mean, he’s talking about 20 years. So I assume he’s talking about Georgia as well; I’m assuming he’s talking about other things.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I mean, we’re all aware of the tough history here.
QUESTION: But what I’m wondering is if you agree with that, if it’s not – if you can’t also see Russian complaints that NATO may have acted in the same way, you – would you reject that?
MS. HARF: Reject out of hand, absolutely. What – the difference here is that any activity we’ve done to shore up our NATO partners, any actions we’ve taken have been to defend our partners and to defend sovereign countries. What Russia did was very different. Invading neighboring countries, sovereign states – there’s just not an equivalence here.
QUESTION: Right. But from their perspective, going back many years, NATO and the United States in particular as the main ally in NATO, has done equally – well, maybe not equally, but has done provocative things, at least provocative to them. It’s expanded into their backyard, it’s --
MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear that expansion is not intended at all to be a provocative step.
MS. HARF: So we would disagree with their characterization of it.
QUESTION: But just because you say so doesn’t mean that that’s the way they see it, right? And so, I mean, if you’re trying to find a common understanding here, I’m not sure – you say you’re trying to find a common understanding and to cooperate with them, but at the same time you completely reject out of hand all of their arguments that are very similar to what the NATO secretary general said about them.
MS. HARF: Well, no, I think they’re just – they’re drastically different situations. But that’s why, as we’ve expanded NATO, we’ve talked to the Russians about it. When we’ve talked about other issues like missile defense, we have talked to them about it. We know their position, but we have consistently tried to make it very clear to them that it’s not directed at them.
QUESTION: Yeah, but – see, every time you’ve done a NATO expansion or done a missile defense, they’ve said no, no, no, don’t do it, it’s a bad idea, and you say, well, sorry, thanks for telling us, but --
MS. HARF: Right. We’re not going to not do things that are in our national security interest because the Russians don’t like them. But we do think it’s important to make clear to them what our intentions are, and that’s very different – talking about missile defense is very different than invading a sovereign country.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not going to argue, but --
MS. HARF: Right. So I think if they see them equally in some way, that’s just delusional.
QUESTION: So everything that you say and do is right and everything that they --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- say and do is wrong? I mean --
MS. HARF: I’m saying everything we do in terms of NATO reinforcement and reassurance, including missile defense, we make very clear to them, transparently, is not aimed at being provocative at Russia.
QUESTION: Right. I understand that you tell them that, but they clearly --
MS. HARF: Whether or not they choose to believe that is their decision. I think the world can see --
QUESTION: So it’s their fault, then. Right?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the world can see the blatant differences between missile defense designed to not confront Russia and invading a sovereign country.
QUESTION: Can you think of one time where you have gone to the Russians and said, okay, we want to do X, Y, and Z, and you have actually taken their concerns on board?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly take their concerns on board and have discussions with them. That doesn’t mean we’re going to change --
QUESTION: Before rejecting them.
MS. HARF: It doesn’t mean we’re going to change what we think is in our national security interest to do.
QUESTION: Okay. So your argument is that the United States and NATO do what is in the national interests of its members and NATO’s interests, and what Russia does that they think are in their – is in their interest – that what NATO does is good and that what Russia does --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- in pursuit of what it thinks --
MS. HARF: What NATO does to protect its own sovereign territory is in our interest. What Russia has done is invade another sovereign territory.
QUESTION: Okay, you don’t --
MS. HARF: I’m not sure how that could be in Russia’s interest.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Anything else? Good? Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)
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