1:35 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Look at this full house on a Friday. Hello. Welcome to the briefing.
QUESTION: Happy Friday.
MS. HARF: Happy Friday, everyone. I have just two quick items at the top. First, a quick travel update. The Secretary, as you know, is in Saudi Arabia where he met with King Abdullah, also met with President Jarba of the SOC, of course, and is on his way back to Washington – I think en route to Shannon right now and then will be on his way back.
And would like to welcome the group in the back of the room. We’re welcomed today by 20 Pakistani broadcast journalists who have spent the past month working in newsrooms across the country – wave hi. (Laughter.) They’ve spent the past month working in newsrooms across the country as participants in the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism. Since 2010, more than 180 Pakistani journalists have come to the U.S. on this exchange; 30 Americans have traveled to Pakistan for reciprocal programming. This is one of the many exchange programs sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that support the Department’s commitment to promoting free and open press around the world. And thank you so much for being here today. Hopefully we’ll have instructive and lively briefing.
So with that, Matt.
QUESTION: I am sure that we will be able to produce that.
MS. HARF: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Before we get into other things, I got two really quick that may or may not be breaking. One, are you aware of a shooting incident with Mexican law enforcement authorities shooting into Arizona?
MS. HARF: I am not.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you – maybe somebody – it happened earlier today.
MS. HARF: Yeah. We can check, but --
MS. HARF: I just have a quick update, and I know we sent around one last night as well. She was released yesterday by the Sudanese police on bail. The family has been taken to a safe location. For their safety, we won’t be discussing the family’s location from here. We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible. And again, we believe that she and her children have all the necessary travel documents to allow them to enter the United States.
QUESTION: And – okay. Well, her lawyer says that she – that they’re at the embassy. You cannot --
MS. HARF: For safety reasons, we won’t --
QUESTION: You can’t confirm that? Okay.
MS. HARF: -- be commenting on specifics from here.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. I’ll let someone else go before we get back into Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Cede the ground. Who’s next?
MS. HARF: Said, I’m looking at you.
QUESTION: Okay. On Saudi Arabia, can you at least update us on what possibly they may have agreed to? Is it – did they focus on Iraq or did they focus on Syria? I mean, things seem to be mixed up because he met with Jarba, they announced the $500 million in aid and so on.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So if you’d just bring us up to date, up to speed on that.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, in terms of the meeting with SOC President Jarba, just a quick readout. Talked about our ongoing efforts to strengthen the moderate opposition. President Jarba thanked Secretary Kerry for the President’s recent request yesterday to Congress for additional funding to train and equip vetted members of the armed opposition. Secretary Kerry encouraged President Jarba to continue to take steps to reach out to people within Syria, to continue to expand the leadership of the opposition. Finally, they also discussed the threat from ISIL, of course, not just to Iraq and Syria but to all countries in the region. Secretary Kerry provided President Jarba with an update on his meetings in Paris, the ones he had with the foreign ministers from the region, and reiterated the shared commitment to a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
With King Abdullah, I don’t have a fuller readout yet, but know they talked about Iraq certainly, our efforts against ISIL, and to support the Iraqis as they form an inclusive government; also talked a little bit about Syria and the recent request as well.
QUESTION: Seeing how these groups, these militant groups, moderate or otherwise, find – morph into something like ISIL, or potentially morph into something like ISIL, is it really wise to provide them with $500 million worth of aid and equipment? I mean, because that is – these are fungible groups. They go from one to the other.
MS. HARF: That’s true. So a few points on that. To mitigate the risk of assistance falling into the wrong hands, all of the moderate units that are receiving or will be receiving our assistance are vetted through our formal process – we have a process in place – and are coordinated with the Supreme Military Council as well. So this is one of the things we’ve always talked about, right, vetting who we give this to, and we’ve – that’s also why we said, look, we need to be very careful and deliberate as we decide who to give assistance to. So we give it to the moderate opposition and are very clear about the fact that ISIL and Nusrah are of course terrorist organizations and we don’t want anything to fall into their hands.
QUESTION: And just yesterday, the Free Syrian Army handed over, without a fight, without firing a shot, a town called Albu Kamal, Bukamal, which is al-Qaim on the Iraqi border, without firing a shot to ISIS. So do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to give, I think, a battleground update.
QUESTION: Isn’t that the moderate opposition that you talk about?
MS. HARF: Well, we know the situation is complicated on the ground, and that’s exactly why we have said we are going to provide additional assistance to train and equip the moderate, vetted, Syrian opposition. We know they need more resources. We have been steadily increasing – excuse me – our resources to them. As you know, last year we increased our assistance both in the scale and scope. The President at West Point said we’d be doing more, and you’ve seen with the announcement last night or yesterday afternoon that, indeed, we are going to be doing more.
QUESTION: The $500 million is part of that $5 billion that the President spoke about in West Point?
MS. HARF: It is. So yesterday we provided Congress with an amendment to the President’s FY 2015 request. This is $500 million for a proposed authority to train and equip. That falls under a request for 1.5 billion, which will be dedicated to a regional stabilization initiative. There’s a lot of numbers we’re throwing out here. Of the 5 billion that we are requesting for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, State will receive 1 billion of it, and the Defense Department will receive 4 billion of it.
QUESTION: Marie, a few points on this.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: One, there have been many critics who have been saying for at least two years, not leaving out members of Congress, who have said --
MS. HARF: Why would we leave them out?
QUESTION: -- yeah – who have said that the U.S. should have been providing lethal assistance to the opposition then and that the only reason why this money is being provided now is because of the intensity with which ISIL is wreaking havoc in neighboring Iraq. Is it because of ISIL that this Administration has decided to provide aid that before now it had said, for the same reason, we don’t know who’s going to actually control this equipment and we don’t want to take the risk of it having – having it fall into the wrong hands?
MS. HARF: Well, a few points. First, ISIL is only one part of the decision to provide this assistance. So overall, we have a number of goals with this assistance: of course building the Syrians’ capacity to help secure and stabilize Syria; also helping the moderate opposition defend civilians against attacks by the regime and by extremists, so by both, really the threat is clearly coming from both; to counter terrorist threats to stabilize areas under opposition control – that’s obviously an important component of this – and help facilitate the provision of essential services. So also when we talk about things like humanitarian, when we talk about things like getting other kinds of assistance, nonlethal, to the opposition, this can help secure areas to do that.
And I think what we’ve also said is last year we did announce that we had expanded the scale and scope of our assistance. We don’t detail all of that. But we have continued to ramp it up and we do believe this new effort is really complementary to what we’ve already done and will just build on the work that we’ve already done.
QUESTION: A number of military analysts have been looking at the situation inside Syria, and they suggest that the Syrian Government has regained enough control where it really does have the advantage at this point. So another way of asking the question: Is this money coming too late for the Syrian opposition to engage in a fair fight?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve been – this assistance does not come in a vacuum, right? We’ve been continuing to increase our assistance. Again, last year we made a fairly significant announcement when we announced that we had upped the scale and scope of our assistance, and we’ve been doing that continuously.
But we know the situation on the battlefield is a challenging one for the moderate opposition, again not just because of the regime, but because of the terrorist element that is also wreaking havoc with so much of the security. So this is an ongoing fight. We’ve been committed to standing by the Syrian opposition as they’ve engaged in it, but we know that they need some more assistance, which is exactly why we’re doing it now.
QUESTION: This money is going up in a supplemental appropriation, to use the colloquial term. Given that Congress is out for at least the next week, and given that there is growing sentiment about U.S. involvement in any sort of conflict in the region, how confident is this Administration that it’s going to get this funding approved without too many strings attached?
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it – just to do a little history on this funding, the language in this request builds on a provision that Senator Levin introduced with overwhelming support from his committee during the Senate Armed Services markup of the NDAA in May. Again, that amendment had gotten a large amount of bipartisan support from the committee, so we’ll keep working with Congress. But this is something I think they’ve been interested in doing and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: So is it reasonable confidence, strong confidence that this money will be appropriated so that --
MS. HARF: Well, we --
QUESTION: -- people aren’t waiting another six months to find out?
MS. HARF: Right. No, no. We – and we certainly have – are working with them. They’ve indicated support for this kind of support in the amendment they had passed to the NDAA in May. So, look, we’ll work with them, but we think this is something we should be able to get done fairly quickly.
QUESTION: So you know what I’m going to ask you, right?
MS. HARF: I have no idea. Are you going to ask me about the Chinese street right now? (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Because very often, more often than not, we don’t comment on pending legislation.
QUESTION: Except that you just did.
MS. HARF: Right. Sometimes we do.
QUESTION: So if it’s something you want, then you’ll talk about it. If it’s something you don’t want --
MS. HARF: Your analysis on this, while entertaining this week --
MS. HARF: -- has, I think, gotten to a point where you’re going to get the same answer every time.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: But I am going to bring the street up again later.
MS. HARF: Okay. I’ll make sure to --
QUESTION: If – but I want to go to Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Well, is there anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: On Syria.
MS. HARF: Okay, and then we’ll go to Ukraine, Matt.
QUESTION: Just a couple days ago, President Obama was interviewed and asked why the Administration didn’t help the opposition. And he actually said that the challenge is if you have former farmers, teachers, and pharmacists who are taking up opposition against a battle-hardened regime, it’s difficult. It is just a couple days ago he stated this.
MS. HARF: Well, it’s still difficult. That doesn’t change the fact that we believe it’s important to provide this additional assistance at this time. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
QUESTION: So a couple days later, White House stated that $500 million are going to the moderate opposition.
MS. HARF: As part of a broader package with some more money. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: So many people are confused to reconcile these two statement or the policies --
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think there’s any confusion about those two statements. The President has made very clear that the situation in Syria is a complicated one, and that as we make decisions about providing assistance, we need to take a look at all of the factors, including how it could affect the situation on the ground, making sure the folks that we’re giving it to are vetted. Those all play into our decision making.
So what the President said is true. It is complicated. And when you have a regime with the – both the will and the ability to use barrel bombs, to use chemical weapons as they have in the past, that’s a really tough fight. But that’s why we’re committed to helping the opposition, and indeed, why yesterday you saw an announcement of additional assistance.
QUESTION: So the --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just follow-up on same statement.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Since the President stated this, there have been a lot of reactions to this. And just yesterday, Washington Post publish another piece and saying that founding fathers of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson was a former farmer, John Adams was teacher, and Benjamin Franklin was pharmacist. So --
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I didn’t see that entertaining piece from The Washington Post, but look, the President has been clear that we support the moderate opposition, which is made up of a whole range of Syrians who stood up and said they want a better future. And that’s why we’ve consistently increased the funding to them. But again, this is a tough fight. I think what the President was saying and was underscoring is that the regime has a number of tools they have shown themselves willing to use to put this down forcefully, and that’s why we need to keep increasing the support to the opposition; this is just the latest step in that. We think it’s an important step. But I don’t have much more analysis to do on what The Washington Post may have said, which, of course, I didn’t see.
QUESTION: One – go ahead.
QUESTION: When do you expect this money to be available to the opposition?
MS. HARF: We don’t have a specific timeline. As you know, we – I think we have to obviously get it approved by Congress and there’s some logistical issues that still need to be worked out, but I don’t have a – obviously, as soon as possible, but no specific time.
QUESTION: Months? Years?
MS. HARF: I don’t have even – no, well, hopefully not years. No, no. But I don’t have a guess on specifics.
QUESTION: Just one more on this.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: The Pentagon said last night that it needs to figure out plans for spending most of the money that’s going to be appropriated for this aid and training. What is the State Department going to do with its share of the money?
MS. HARF: We’re still looking into that. Obviously, how it will specifically be broken down I think is still TBD at this point. Our portion of the money will – then this is, again, a billion dollars – will help mitigate in general the spillover effects on the neighbors by helping to curb violent extremists – extremism, limit the flow of foreign fighters, will also enable us to bolster our partners’ civilian counterterrorism capabilities, including law enforcement, prosecution, judicial as well. So we will be working with countries in the region with our bucket of money. I’m not sure that we know yet how it will be broken down.
QUESTION: But there’s no rough plan, knowing that this was coming?
MS. HARF: I mean, there are rough thoughts on it, but we don’t have specifics to share at this point.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Yep. Okay.
MS. HARF: Ukraine.
QUESTION: You have seen and the Secretary put a statement out on the EU accession partnership deal – accession.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I’m not – so I’m not asking about that because we already know what you think about that. I’m wondering more specifically about this giving – them giving Russia until Monday to prove that it’s willing to honor the – or – and support the ceasefire. Is that something that the Administration agrees with? And are you also going to wait until Monday before possibly doing any new sanctions?
MS. HARF: Well, just a few points, and just very briefly. One sentence on the association agreements, you saw the Secretary’s statement – I think it is noteworthy that exactly what President Putin was trying to prevent from his interfering in Ukraine has now happened, and he has on top of that a lot of baggage to go with it – and with Georgia and Moldova, happen more quickly than it would’ve otherwise. So what he was trying to prevent, exactly the opposite happened today.
QUESTION: All right. So you would agree, then, with, perhaps – tell me, would you agree with your former predecessor of yours, PJ Crowley, who said that this – these accession agreements are a big win for the West?
MS. HARF: I think that we absolutely think – look, this isn’t about a win for the West; it’s about a win for these countries who were able to decide who they wanted to partner with.
QUESTION: Right, so you don’t --
MS. HARF: But yeah, we do think this is a very good thing.
QUESTION: But you don’t – you would not say from the podium that this is a big win for the West, as he said?
MS. HARF: As much as I would like to always repeat what PJ has said. No, look, I agree with the sentiment, certainly.
QUESTION: You do. Okay. Well, then --
MS. HARF: Yeah, I think this is a good thing.
QUESTION: -- how can you guys claim, then, that this is a zero-sum game – that it’s not a zero-sum game, that there isn’t a Cold War, that if you guys are --
MS. HARF: I love these questions that you tee up like this.
QUESTION: -- cheering up?
MS. HARF: I wasn’t cheering anything; you teed it up that way. I said I agreed with the sentiment. But what I said first --
QUESTION: Well, exactly.
MS. HARF: -- wait, what I said first --
QUESTION: And then you said it was a big deal.
MS. HARF: -- what I said first was that this is a win for the people of these countries --
MS. HARF: -- who were able to choose who they could trade with more freely, who they wanted to partner with. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not at all.
QUESTION: Well, it sounds as though people are reacting to it like that.
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to use those words --
MS. HARF: -- and I’m not going to repeat what PJ said.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. HARF: So, yep.
QUESTION: Okay. So let’s go to the three days, the Monday thing.
MS. HARF: Okay. So, yes. So the European Council did make it clear. They – I think they laid out some conditions. We have never outlined a deadline for sanctions, as I said yesterday. We are in very close consultation with them, but obviously, we can make decisions at the time of our choosing on sanctions, and we have done so and will continue to do so. But look, Russia has standards now it can live up to, right. They’ve said these are three things you can do --
MS. HARF: -- and we’re going to see if they do them.
QUESTION: But you agree with those things? I mean, you --
MS. HARF: That they need to do them.
QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.
MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. Yes.
QUESTION: I mean, you – so you are on board with the European Council giving them until Monday to --
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly agree with the steps they’ve been asked to take. Again, this is a time the European Council decided on. We also note that President Poroshenko has extended the unilateral ceasefire by three days. So some of this timing does match up.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: But you are in basic agreement even though you’re not going to be bound – like, you could act tomorrow on sanctions if you wanted to, but --
MS. HARF: Absolutely. Absolutely. And also note that the four of the OSCE monitors were released, which we also do believe is a good thing. There are still four being held. Obviously, we want them to be released.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any comment on the former prime minister’s case being thrown – or Tymoshenko’s being cleared --
MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m happy to see if there’s anything we want to say to that.
QUESTION: Now last week and again this week, both you and Jen were very dismissive of these reports of thousands of people fleeing --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- Ukraine into Russia.
MS. HARF: And I’m going to be again today, but let’s talk about it a little bit.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, last Friday, in response to my saying my question, which was have – you have seen nothing like this, that there is no mass exodus or even close to thousands that are crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia, fleeing their homes, and Jen replied, “Correct.” And then I asked again on Monday – you – and I said it’s still your understanding that reports in Russia of enormous amounts of refugee flows are incorrect, and you said, “Incorrect, yes.”
Well, today the UN refugee agency comes out in Geneva and says that 110,000 Ukrainians have fled this year for Russia – fled Ukraine to Russia – and that 54,000 have fled their homes in Ukraine but have stayed in Ukraine. I’m wondering, were you guys just completely misled by the Ukrainians and by --
MS. HARF: We don’t think those numbers are credible.
QUESTION: You think that the UN refugee agency is wrong?
MS. HARF: Right. So let’s talk about this a little bit. Let’s talk about this a little bit. There – look, it is certainly likely and probable, right, that some thousands may have crossed the border. There’s been quite a bit of border crossing both ways, we should note. So there’s been a – people go back and forth quite frequently. This is a – as we’ve now seen – fairly porous border. So the notion that there may be some thousands that have crossed is certainly probable. What we’re saying is not credible is the notion that there’s 90,000, hundreds of thousands that are fleeing from Ukraine to Russia. We just have seen no evidence to support that. We don’t believe they’re credible. We’re watching; we’re monitoring the situation. And obviously, this is – this isn’t a science. This is an art in some respects, because you can’t have people all along the border. But we just don’t think that the hundreds of thousands number is credible. We don’t have anything to corroborate it.
QUESTION: But it’s not hundreds of thousands, it’s 110,000.
MS. HARF: Or that 100,000. We don’t – we just don’t have anything to corroborate that or show that it’s credible.
QUESTION: But I mean – okay, so you --
MS. HARF: We don’t have our own evidence.
QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. But then you – that’s understandable, but this is the UN. This isn’t the Russians saying this. This is the United Nations --
MS. HARF: Right. I’m not saying there’s any --
QUESTION: This is an agency that you guys give millions and millions of dollars to --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- and they’re now no longer credible?
MS. HARF: We don’t have anything to back up that number, Matt.
QUESTION: Well – but you cite UNHCR and you cite the UN Human Rights Commission --
MS. HARF: We do.
QUESTION: -- upon plenty of things that you have no – don’t have your own evidence to back up.
MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: When we use numbers from people – outside agencies, I think we tend to back them up with our own analysis as well. But on this we just don’t have anything to corroborate the --
QUESTION: You do? So that when they say something about North Korea, where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, you don’t have anyone on the ground --
MS. HARF: I would take issue with that a little bit, “have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”
QUESTION: Well – yeah, but there’s no way that you can back up World Food Program statistics on hunger or malnutrition in North Korea on your own. You just take them and you accept them as credible, because they come from the UN.
MS. HARF: I think you’re making some sweeping generalizations about how we do analysis.
QUESTION: I’m wondering why – is it something with the UN refugee agency that you don’t believe? What --
MS. HARF: No. No. Again, we’ve seen numbers thrown around by a number of people, including the Russians. We don’t have any – we don’t think that those huge numbers are credible. We don’t have information to back it up. So until we do, I’m not going to stand up here and make assumptions without having facts. So we’ll keep looking at it.
QUESTION: I mean --
MS. HARF: And again --
QUESTION: -- some would argue that you – that by – that you’re doing that already.
MS. HARF: Well, I’m happy to have that argument with someone, whoever that someone might be. But my point is, look, as I said, I can see that – the fact that there are numbers of people who do travel back and forth.
MS. HARF: It’s a very porous border. There are families that have contacts on both sides. So I can’t rule out the possibility that even up to thousands of people have crossed one way or the other.
MS. HARF: But this notion that there’s 100,000 Ukrainians who have fled en masse to Russia we just don’t believe is credible at this point. We’re looking into it. I’m not ruling it out entirely for eternity that we ever could get to that assessment, but we just don’t have anything to back it up.
QUESTION: Okay. But I – is there anything – can I ask: Do you have doubts about the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on other --
MS. HARF: We don’t.
QUESTION: -- another situation?
MS. HARF: Look, this is a credible organization.
QUESTION: This is the only one?
MS. HARF: Right. It’s a credible organization, and we’re looking into these reports and seeing if we can confirm them.
QUESTION: Okay. It’s a credible organization with incredible figures.
MS. HARF: We just can’t confirm their data on this one issue, Matt. I think you can understand that.
QUESTION: So do you think that they have the wrong data, or --
MS. HARF: We don’t know.
QUESTION: -- they have some sort of a hidden agenda?
MS. HARF: I don’t think they have an agenda. At least, I haven’t heard of one. We just don’t know, and we can’t back it up. And we want to be precise before we come out with our own assessment about what we have information on and what we don’t.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you believe that what happened today will give Russia cause to become more belligerent?
MS. HARF: What happened today in terms of what?
QUESTION: In terms of joining the – trading with the Europeans and all the – the decision to do that.
MS. HARF: Well no, because as we’ve said, look, it’s up to the people in these countries to decide their futures. Russia has a path forward here the European Council and others have laid out for them, steps they need to take, and we hope that they take some of them.
QUESTION: So you think this will give them pause to sort of take a look back and maybe --
MS. HARF: We certainly hope it does.
QUESTION: -- be – okay.
MS. HARF: We certainly hope it does.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: We saw the Secretary’s statement. We didn’t see the word “resignation” or “resign.” Why?
MS. HARF: Right, because you all like to use words that aren’t always accurate.
QUESTION: Why? He didn’t resign today?
MS. HARF: Well, he will technically, I think, probably – no, yeah. Yeah. The AP had a line particularly – the term “quit” I think is a little negative in tone. But yes --
MS. HARF: Huh?
QUESTION: Well one, I don’t write headlines. (Laughter.) But two --
MS. HARF: I know you don’t, I know you don’t.
Wait, just going back to that, he will be --
QUESTION: “Quit” also means “to leave.”
MS. HARF: Well, it has a negative connotation.
QUESTION: Well, it isn’t intended to be negative.
MS. HARF: Okay.
He will be leaving his post here. I’m not sure bureaucratically, technically what he has to do, whether that’s submit a letter of resignation. It probably is. But he will be returning to the Brookings Institute. Frank Lowenstein, who many of you know, who has worked for the Secretary for a decade now – was his chief of staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been very involved in these negotiations – will be serving as the acting special envoy. Ambassador Indyk will continue to work closely with the Secretary on these issues from his position at Brookings.
QUESTION: But as a paid --
QUESTION: So what was the reason why?
QUESTION: As a paid advisor, or just --
MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge is he – I don’t believe he’s going to be paid.
QUESTION: So then he did – I mean --
MS. HARF: I think he probably will technically have to, yes.
QUESTION: He didn’t --
QUESTION: Why are you using --
MS. HARF: He’s not taking a leave of absence. Let me check on the bureaucratic paperwork here.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Why do you think he stayed long time after the failure of the peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re in a pause right now.
QUESTION: No. It took him more than two months to resign or to leave this position.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: Why is that?
MS. HARF: But that’s why I said we’re in a pause in the negotiations right now. And I think he’s been working intensively with the parties to see if they could come back to the table in a meaningful way, and we haven’t been able to get there yet. So he will continue advising the Secretary on this, but will be going back to Brookings for the time being.
QUESTION: Can we assume that this was his decision?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: That --
MS. HARF: That yes, it was his decision.
QUESTION: Okay, so --
QUESTION: I just want to clarify --
QUESTION: -- what was the justification?
MS. HARF: Wait, wait, wait, Said. Let me do Roz first.
QUESTION: So what was his justification when he told the Secretary that he would be returning to Brookings? Did he say --
MS. HARF: Well, it was a decision they made together.
QUESTION: Well, did he say, for example, I keep talking to both sides and neither side is willing to even come back into the same room --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- to acknowledge each other’s existence?
MS. HARF: In general, I’m not going to get into the specific language he used, but it, since the negotiations have been suspended, seemed to be an appropriate time for him to return to his job at Brookings. At this point, there are no current plans to find a permanent replacement for him. As I said, Frank Lowenstein will continue as acting special envoy.
QUESTION: Well, if there’s no plan --
QUESTION: But is he --
QUESTION: If there’s no plan to find a permanent representative, does that mean that for all intents and purposes the talks are dead, and not in a pause?
MS. HARF: No. No, I wouldn’t say that. Look, the Secretary and the President, certainly, are still committed to trying to make progress here. We’re still deeply engaged with both of the parties to see if they can get back to the table. That process is ongoing, it will continue. But again, this seemed like an appropriate time for him to return to Brookings.
QUESTION: So is that – well, so why would Frank Lowenstein, if he – how can he be acting if there are no plans to find a permanent – you’re going to just have a permanent acting person? Why not just give Frank Lowenstein the job or just not have a special envoy?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything to preview in terms of what might happen down the road. But obviously, if folks remember, Frank was also a senior advisor to the Secretary last summer when the talks got restarted. So he’s been very involved in the process.
QUESTION: So I don’t understand what the point of having an acting is. Why not either give him the job or not have a job?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ll make decisions about what that job will look like in the coming days and weeks, I think.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: The title of “acting” is --
MS. HARF: Hold on, Roz. Let me go to Said.
QUESTION: Could you clarify for us if the team’s still – is here?
MS. HARF: It is.
QUESTION: I mean, David Makovsky, Phil Gordon. I mean, all the others that are members of the team.
MS. HARF: Phil Gordon works at the White House.
QUESTION: I understand, but he was sort of --
MS. HARF: Yeah. He certainly works on this issue.
QUESTION: -- loaned out to work. Right.
MS. HARF: Yeah. A lot of the folks you all are familiar with are still part of the team. They’re all still working. This is just Ambassador Indyk going back to Brookings.
QUESTION: Okay. So although the talks are suspended, the team is still in place.
MS. HARF: The team is still in place.
MS. HARF: They’re still engaged with both parties. That’s why, look, this is a pause. It is a tough time. We’ve said that since the talks did go on a pause, but they’re still very deeply engaged.
QUESTION: Are there – is there any engagement ongoing now by the team --
MS. HARF: There is.
QUESTION: -- and the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MS. HARF: There absolutely is. We’re not going to outline all of it, but there is.
Yes, Roz. Sorry.
QUESTION: Is there – how much credibility can Mr. Lowenstein have if he is an acting person? How much authority can he convey as the interlocutor during this period?
MS. HARF: As I just, he was a senior advisor to the Secretary when we got talks restarted last summer before Ambassador Indyk came on. So Frank has been deeply engaged with both parties, has very good relationships with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I don’t think our interlocutors always look at the title. I think they look at the person and the relationship they’ve built with them, and they’ve certainly built a very strong one with Frank.
QUESTION: But certainly, wouldn’t that – having the formal job as Elise was suggesting – make it easier for one negotiator to return to his or her government, as the case may be, and say the Americans are suggesting that we take a look at the issue this way? Doesn’t it come with more weight?
MS. HARF: I don’t think the presence of that word in his title affects his credibility or his influence in any way, shape, or form. He’s been deeply engaged with both sides, has a lot of credibility with both sides. Again, he was playing the key role with the Secretary when the talks got restarted, so I think he absolutely – people know that when he speaks on this issue, he has the full confidence and backing and is speaking for the Secretary.
QUESTION: This is the second run at trying to broker some sort of peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Is the Administration going to try for a third time?
MS. HARF: Well, the second effort at this is still ongoing. While the direct negotiations have taken a pause, our efforts behind the scenes to work with both parties to get them back to the table are ongoing. It’s challenging, certainly, but we’re still in discussions and we’re still in negotiations talking to them about how they could do that.
QUESTION: And one more. The Secretary’s statement alluded to the progress that was made while Ambassador Indyk was in the position. What are they?
MS. HARF: Well, in general, we were able to define the gaps between the two parties on all the core issues in a fairly detailed and significant way. That’s something that we broadly knew before that, but I think was one of the things we would say was important. You can’t bridge gaps until you’ve defined them.
Also, American bridging ideas were developed in negotiations with the different parties to try and make progress on some of those gaps. Now again, we are in a pause. We haven’t been able to move forward with that. But these are key parts and components of the process that need to happen in order to eventually get to a deal.
QUESTION: That’s a pretty low bar for saying “progress.”
MS. HARF: Well, you’re happy to do your own analysis on this, Matt.
QUESTION: Really? Defining the gaps? You didn’t know them before?
MS. HARF: I don’t think for the two – specifically defining them. Specific areas, really drilling down on what those might look like. I do think that for those two parties, sitting down and talking about that directly is significant progress.
QUESTION: Really? Okay. So you didn’t realize before --
MS. HARF: Again, you can do your own analysis on it, but I would say that that is progress.
QUESTION: Well, let’s just take one of the issues: right of return, right?
MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into specifics on any of the issues.
QUESTION: The Israelis say no way, no right of return; the Palestinians say we have to have it. There’s the gap right there.
MS. HARF: Well, they say something --
QUESTION: And you learned more?
MS. HARF: They say certain things publicly, Matt. But privately, when you drill down on specifics on all the issues and where the gaps actually lie – those are broad gaps. We’re talking about specifics. It’s very different. We think there was progress made, but clearly much more work to do.
QUESTION: So you think that you define – so you think that there was some – you got more information that you were able to --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- about every single one of the points of contention.
MS. HARF: About all of the gaps, yes. We do.
QUESTION: And – but – and you call that progress? Isn’t progress --
MS. HARF: I think more information on gaps is progress, yes.
QUESTION: Well isn’t – no, isn’t progress actually narrowing the gaps?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s part of what progress will look like. But in any negotiation, you have to define the problem specifically before you can go about narrowing those gaps, and that’s certainly what we did here.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know, but it just seems to me that – and I think to most of the world that the problem is obvious.
MS. HARF: Well, but within each of those issues, Matt, it’s – it may be obvious to you, but what those gaps actually look like is quite complicated. If it were as obvious to you as you seem to make it seem, we would’ve done this a long time ago. So while I appreciate your analysis of how simple the situation is, when you get in that room and you say, “Let’s look at these issues; let’s look at all of them in detail,” those specific gaps in where we cannot come to agreement are what will define the negotiation progress going forward.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: And we hadn’t done that in the current situation until this last round.
QUESTION: But that’s not – I mean, I’m not the one who’s saying that progress was made. You guys are.
MS. HARF: No, I am. Exactly.
QUESTION: Exactly. So --
MS. HARF: You’re disagreeing with my analysis here.
QUESTION: I’m saying – I’m not. I’m just saying that I don’t see how you can call defining the gaps that you already knew progress.
MS. HARF: We didn’t know them at this level at --
QUESTION: The bar is very low, Matt.
MS. HARF: We didn’t --
QUESTION: Apparently so. Or non-existent.
QUESTION: I mean, just --
MS. HARF: We didn’t --
QUESTION: I’ll drop it. I just --
MS. HARF: We didn’t know the specificities --
MS. HARF: Wait. Wait. We didn’t know the specificities at this level in all of the issues. No, we had not had those specific-level conversations with the two parties in the same room for a long time.
QUESTION: Since Camp David?
QUESTION: Let me ask you a question on this.
MS. HARF: Yeah, Said.
QUESTION: Not to belabor the issue, but if the talks – should the talks restart --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- any time soon, will you have to start all over again, or will you begin from where you ended?
MS. HARF: Well, the goal certainly is always to build on the progress you’ve already made.
QUESTION: I – no, I mean, what is the perception? That you will begin from where the talks ended, or will you begin anew?
MS. HARF: That’s – well, again, those discussions are going on right now, what it might look like if the parties come back to the table.
QUESTION: Because every time there seems to be a round of talks, they start all over again. I mean, are you closer, let’s say, on Jerusalem? Are you closer on the issue of asylum?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into any of the specifics on the issues. I think we’ve exhausted this topic.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: In his statement, Secretary Kerry has said that the United States remain – or remains committed not just to the case of peace, but to resuming the process when the parties find a path back to serious negotiations.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Does this mean that Mr. Lowenstein will be waiting for the two parties to find a path forward --
MS. HARF: Well, we’re working with him to find that region.
QUESTION: -- to call him back to the region? Or he will initiate a plan or --
MS. HARF: Well – oh, in terms of his travel. Well, we’re engaged with the parties, whether it’s from here or on the ground, to try and get them back to the table. Beyond that, I don’t have any more specifics.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just on Frank’s position, you said that he’s acting. Is he going to be dealing with other issues as well? Is he going to be given --
MS. HARF: Than Middle East peace?
QUESTION: Than Middle East peace.
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Just full time on --
MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Can I --
MS. HARF: I think that’s enough for one person.
QUESTION: Can I ask about – this is a little off topic – about Qatar, about the case of Matthew and Grace Huang. A few months ago, you said – when they were convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, you said you were surprised and disappointed by the trial court’s decision. You had concerns throughout the trial that not all the evidence was weighed by the court. And I was wondering if you have an update on this case, what you’re doing to try and make sure that they receive any --
MS. HARF: I have no update on it. I’m happy to check. That was several months ago. I’m happy to check and see what the latest is.
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MS. HARF: I just don’t know what the latest information --
QUESTION: I understand. But this Department and the building has kind of spoken out on unfair trials around the world, about people that are --
MS. HARF: And we spoke out on this one.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t think it’s fully maybe as --
MS. HARF: I think that statement you read from me was pretty full.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you’re so – these are American citizens now.
MS. HARF: Yes. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: These aren’t people from another country.
MS. HARF: And we said we had concerns with the trial. We were working with the Government of Qatar to express our concerns.
QUESTION: Okay. If you could take the question what you’re doing with – to address the concerns with the Government of Qatar --
MS. HARF: I’m happy to see if there’s an update.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I wanted to know if you can today offer any independent confirmation of the projectiles launched by North Korea.
MS. HARF: We don’t have anything new on that, still looking into what those may have been.
MS. HARF: Nothing new.
QUESTION: Another issue?
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Stay on North Korea, please. Today, maybe you can try again to comment on --
MS. HARF: Nothing new on the video.
MS. HARF: On the movie.
QUESTION: On the movie?
MS. HARF: Sorry.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Question for our colleagues in the back. Since they have left Pakistan, a lot has happened there back home, and they may be aware of this Pakistan – what some people in Pakistan are saying that Pakistan is burning today, politically, civil unrest, and counterterrorism – terrorism is going on, Taliban and so forth. And hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are refugees in their own hometown because of this fatwa, and they’re running around the country, and they are saying that not much has been going on as for taking care of their food, shelter, and medicine and so forth. My question is: What message do you have for our colleagues back home here and also for the Pakistanis back home? And finally, if U.S. has been asked for any help to help these people through this?
MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. First, as I talked about yesterday, in terms of the clearing operations in north Waziristan, the fatwa, it’s entirely a Pakistani-led and executed operation. We’ve long supported Pakistani efforts to extend their writ of government throughout their country and to increase internal stability.
In terms of the displaced persons issue, we are closely monitoring the situation, in coordination with the humanitarian community. We do understand that the Government of Pakistan is working with the appropriate international and donor organizations to ensure that assistance is in place for displaced peoples and their families. The USG is a major contributor to such organization – organizations, excuse me, and we stand ready to assist the IDPs in any way we can.
QUESTION: And madam, is U.S. worried about the instability, political instability going on and civil unrest and so forth because of the old jobs and electricity and other basics are not there for the people?
MS. HARF: Well, look, broadly speaking, we’ve said that we are working with the Government of Pakistan not just on security issues like our shared counterterrorism interests but also on education and economic issues and energy issues. We work together on a whole host of topics. We know that Pakistan has challenges, but are also committed to working with them.
QUESTION: And I have one on Iraq, please.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: At least two Indian nurses were beheaded by the ISIL and they were serving (inaudible) and the sick and needy in hospitals and around the country. And at least 40 Indians are still being held, and if Indian Government has asked any help from the U.S. or what’s --
MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I don’t know the answer to that. Obviously, both of the incidents you just mentioned really underscore the brutality of ISIL. This is a group that al-Qaida has even deemed to be too brutal for it, which I think is saying something.
So clearly we know there’s huge challenges here. I can check on that specifically.
QUESTION: Marie, on Iraq, this has – we haven’t asked this for a while – but are you aware, since Vienna, I mean – yeah, Vienna and Deputy Secretary Burns’s meeting with the Iranians on the Iraq issue. Are you aware if there have been any more contacts?
MS. HARF: I am not. But let me double-check. I am not, but --
QUESTION: The reason I ask is because the Pentagon now says that, yes, it is flying drones --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and the Iranians are also flying drones. And I’m just wondering what the mechanism is to prevent these drones from flying into each other.
MS. HARF: I am happy to check and see if there is anything we can share on that.
QUESTION: Okay. I would be --
QUESTION: Any coordination with the Iranians?
MS. HARF: No. None.
QUESTION: Right. But in terms of contacts in Baghdad and --
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Not to my knowledge, but I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Okay.
QUESTION: Just follow-up on hostages. There are still eight hostages – Turkish hostages in Mosul as well. Do you have any update on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on those as well.
QUESTION: And on Kurdistan region, last couple of days both the Israel officials and today Turkish spokesman – administration spokesman – again talk about the independence of the Kurdistan region. And they would support or – it’s inevitable. Do you have any change of analysis on the Kurdistan?
MS. HARF: No change of policy here. We’ve said that a unified Iraq is the strongest Iraq, and have said that an inclusive government that includes Sunni, Shia, and Kurds needs to be formed as soon as possible to help deal with this crisis.
QUESTION: It looks like ISIL’s forces are gaining some more momentum around the borders. Do you have any assessment on the --
MS. HARF: We don’t have a detailed battleground assessment to share. Obviously, the threat from ISIL is very serious and we know that it’s very challenging on the ground. We know that units are trying to fight back, but that’s why we’re trying to provide more assistance to help them do that.
QUESTION: One more on this.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
MS. HARF: A larger deal?
QUESTION: If the --
MS. HARF: I mean, we certainly talk to them about our efforts. But --
QUESTION: So if we – if the United States kicks in more money to fund the moderate opposition and this is what the Gulf states had supported, is the deal for them to take out – take care of some of the financing to some of these groups?
MS. HARF: Well, that – we’re not talking about a deal here, obviously. What we’ve said is we believe this is in our interest to do, separate and apart from any concerns we have about funding from private citizens that may go to these groups. That is also a topic of conversation with our Gulf partners.
QUESTION: Was that part of the conversation with the king today?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a full readout yet. Let me check on that.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on a question I asked a few days ago confirming that consulate computers were taken during the attacks in 2012?
MS. HARF: Yes, so I have a little bit, Lucas. Information about our computers – excuse me – is largely classified, but I can say that during the evacuation of the special mission compound to the annex, all classified computers were safely removed by the DS agents. No classified information was compromised. Obviously, we have procedures for safeguarding or destroying equipment and information during emergencies. Despite the suddenness and lack of forewarning of the attack, because of the actions of the people on the ground, no classified information, again, was compromised.
QUESTION: And what about any computers at the special mission compound?
MS. HARF: Well, I just said all of our classified computers were safely removed by the DS agents.
QUESTION: But you said the annex.
MS. HARF: I said the special mission compound to the annex.
QUESTION: Oh, excuse me.
MS. HARF: Sorry.
QUESTION: But the --
QUESTION: Hold on. Is that – but does that mean that some unclassified might have been?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. I think his question had been about classified information that’s --
QUESTION: Or both – or unclass, just computers.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on that as well.
QUESTION: And because – also, do you have any confirmation that locally employed staff were threatened via text message after the theft of the computers?
MS. HARF: We are not aware of any specific threats in this instance. Obviously, unfortunately local employed staff do face threats from time to time overseas, but again, not aware of anything related to this.
QUESTION: And also, sources in the region have said – insist that Abu Khatallah, who is on the U.S.S. New York right now awaiting extradition back to the United States, is a small-time operator. Can you comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think some of those same people for the last two years have been asking us why we hadn’t brought him to justice yet. So he clearly is a significant figure. We have been committed to bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks in Benghazi. There’s been a great amount of media attention paid to him, and I just would categorically deny any assertion that he is anything other than significant here.
QUESTION: And Abu bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo suspect – or Guantanamo detainee, trained in Usama bin Ladin’s camps. He has been named also as a suspect in Benghazi attacks. Are there any updates on the investigation to bring him to justice?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything new on that. I’m happy to check, Lucas. I don’t think I have anything new on that. I don’t.
QUESTION: Finally, the Libyan landlord that rented out the consulate and the annex to the Americans says the United States owes him money. Is the United States planning on making any kind of payments?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard that. I hadn’t seen that report, so don’t --
QUESTION: Is he a suspect at all in the attacks?
MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with this. Let me check.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Just with the U.S. announcement today --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- I was wondering whether there was an expectation or a hope that other countries would follow through, notably India, Pakistan, Russia, China.
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly share the goals of the Ottawa Convention, which is what this is all sort of falling under that rubric, and have encouraged other countries to do the same. We know this is a complicated issue. We were glad that we could announce today that we will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, and that includes not replacing existing stockpiles as they expire. Again, we’ve been working with a number of countries on this. I don’t have anything specific for you on those countries you asked about.
QUESTION: Is there a reason why it was made today? I mean, obviously, it’s because the conference is going on in Mozambique, but --
MS. HARF: I think the timing is largely tied to the conference.
QUESTION: But in terms of the strategy, I mean, some have argued in the past that the North Korean border, that that was an issue for the United States. Have those concerns been alleviated?
MS. HARF: Well, we know the situation on the Korean Peninsula does present unique challenges when it comes to this topic. We have pursued other solutions that would be compliant with the convention and that would ultimately allow us to accede to the convention. We’ve been working very closely with our South Korean ally on this. This announcement does not in any way affect the defense of the Korean Peninsula. But again, we understand that in this particular place there are some challenges we were working through and do believe that the announcement today is a good step forward.
QUESTION: But if you’re pledging that you’re not going to replace existing stocks --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- which means what, if one mine is used --
MS. HARF: As they expire, not use.
QUESTION: Right – well, okay. Or --
MS. HARF: We don’t --
QUESTION: -- used or expire because you can’t use them more than once, right. They only blow up once.
MS. HARF: Right. But I also – I mean, we’re not using new ones.
QUESTION: Well, I know. Well, but you --
MS. HARF: As they expire.
QUESTION: They are – you are using landmines. You use them on the – you just said, they’re in between the North – in the DMZ, right?
MS. HARF: Well, no.
QUESTION: That’s using them, right?
MS. HARF: No, you talk – most people tend to talk about operational employment of them, which is different.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, that’s – “operational employment”?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Really? That doesn’t equate to “use”?
MS. HARF: No, it does. That’s what I’m saying.
MS. HARF: But that’s not what you’re talking about.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Well anyway, do those expire? Do those have a limited shelf life?
MS. HARF: I’m assuming they do, but I’m not an expert on this.
QUESTION: Well, if they do, and you’re not going to replace existing stocks, what are – I mean, are you hoping that there’s going to be a unification of Korea in the next – I mean, the next couple of years or something?
MS. HARF: We have many tools at our disposal --
QUESTION: They haven’t been (inaudible) years.
MS. HARF: -- to defend our South Korean allies. Obviously, we’ve been talking to them about this. I --
MS. HARF: Yeah?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I just --
MS. HARF: You look dubious.
QUESTION: I guess the question is better asked to the Pentagon because --
MS. HARF: Probably.
QUESTION: -- I don’t know how long the shelf life or the --
QUESTION: Well, are you going to redouble efforts to, in the next 20 years, to --
MS. HARF: To defend our South Korean ally?
QUESTION: -- to unify the Korean Peninsula?
MS. HARF: No, we’ve stood – look, we stand by our South Korean allies. We have many tools at our disposable to help defend them.
QUESTION: I realize it might be more of a Pentagon question, but the – is there still a use for mines on – in the DMZ area?
MS. HARF: Check with the Pentagon on that. I don’t have more details on this.
QUESTION: Marie, and I just want to go back – this “operational employment.”
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is that – that’s a Pentagon phrase, or is that a --
MS. HARF: I think it’s a technical term. There’ve been some questions about whether we have operationally employed any of these landmines. And since the Ottawa Convention came into force in 1999, we are – or since 1991, excuse me – we are aware of only one confirmed operational employment by U.S. military forces, a single munition in Afghanistan in 2002.
MS. HARF: We are only --
QUESTION: One mine?
MS. HARF: We are aware of one.
QUESTION: Okay. But – I’m just curious about “operational employment.”
MS. HARF: Check with the Pentagon.
QUESTION: How about “plant”?
MS. HARF: I’m sure they have more details about the difference in phraseology here.
MS. HARF: Yep. Mm-hmm.
MS. HARF: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- finishes. And Prime Minister Modi said that his government has accomplished more than what the congress did in last 60 years. What my question is: What do you think about this one month, if anything has been accomplished between the U.S. and India?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I have any political analysis about comparing his tenure to anyone else’s. Look, the Indians are close partners no matter who’s in charge.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: The South Korean Government announced today, the 27th, that President Xi Jinping will visit South Korea officially. It’s a state visit on July 3rd and 4th. But historically speaking, Chinese president have visit – not visited North Korea before visiting South Korea. It is – today at this time, it’s kind of unusual. So my question is: Do you think in President Xi Jinping’s visit leads to the change of the political power balance in peninsula?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that China needs to have good relationships with all the countries in the region, including South Korea. I haven’t seen the specifics about the announcement, but I’m happy to see if there’s more details we have to share.
QUESTION: And then how the United States expect that both leader are talking about the peninsula issues, North Korean issues?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly share concerns that both countries have about the nuclearization of North Korea and share the commitment to denuclearizing the peninsula. So I don’t have any predictions for conversations we’re not going to be a part of, but clearly we’ve worked very closely with both on this issue.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay on China?
MS. HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: I got to get in my street-renaming question here. Have you received from the Chinese a formal complaint about this proposal? And if you have, what’s been your response?
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of one, but again, I can’t rule it out. We’re still checking with our folks to see if we have.
QUESTION: Would you reply to them that you don’t comment on pending legislation?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into private diplomatic communications with them, Matt.
MS. HARF: To use another one of your favorite lines.
QUESTION: But would you --
MS. HARF: I’m not going to tell you how we would reply to them, if we had received one, because that’s a private diplomatic communication.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. Yeah.
MS. HARF: Just driving you crazy today.
QUESTION: No, you drive me crazy every day. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Since it’s confirmed that Iran is also flying drones over --
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t confirm that, but I know there have been reports to that.
MS. HARF: Matt confirmed it for you earlier. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have any issue – are you taking any issue with Iran is flying drones over --
MS. HARF: Well, we had this – Matt and I have had this conversation this week a few times in this room. Look, what we’ve said is any actions that Iran or any other country in the region should take should all be used towards promoting an inclusive government to helping the Iraqi army shore up and be able to fight ISIL. It shouldn’t be about promoting sectarianism or promoting militias. So I’m not going to comment specifically on some of the reports about Iran, what Iran may or may not be doing, other than to say that anything they would do should – we would push them and encourage them to play into this overall strategical*.
QUESTION: Have you been also able to ask the questions regarding U.S. Treasury’s findings, recent year’s findings, that many operatives in Tehran funding and transferring fighters and funds to Syria and to create --
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on that specific issue. Again, if it’s a Treasury issue, I’d point you to them.
QUESTION: And one last question. I couldn’t find this quote earlier. A key Turkish administration spokesman, *Huseyin Celik*, today said about the U.S. when he was asked about Kurdistan that U.S. did not bring peace, stability, unity, they just left widows, orphans in Iraq, and they created a Shia bloc to the south of our country.
MS. HARF: Well, this is not our countries’ future to decide. This is the Iraqis. It’s the Iraqi leaders who needed to step up after we ended our mission there and give their country a better future. We gave them the opportunity to do so. We haven’t seen that take place yet. And what needs to happen now is not blame on any outside forces but looking at the Iraqi leaders and saying this is very serious time, you need to come together, and you need to give your country a better future. It’s not up to us, the United States or Turkey or Iran or any other country to fix this for the Iraqis.
MS. HARF: One more. Last one.
QUESTION: Apparently Maliki in his interview with the BBC said that they’re considering buying fighter jets from Russia and Belarus, and I wondered if you had anything about that.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I --
MS. HARF: I think they may have already did so.
MS. HARF: But we have said that we don’t oppose legal Iraqi efforts to meet their urgent military requirements. Obviously, we’re expediting our own assistance and understand that Iraq has pursued military equipment from a variety of countries, including Russia – and I think they’ve actually purchased some of that – the Czech Republic, South Korea, and others. Again, we share a goal here of helping them fight this threat.
QUESTION: How do you criticize the bureaucracy in the United States that delayed the delivery of the Apache --
MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, look, we understand the grave situation that Iraq faces, but blaming others is, in part, what created this crisis. So they need to stop looking at others and start looking in the mirror a little bit more and make the tough decisions they need to.
QUESTION: How do you feel that the Russians are trying to kind of usurp you as a provider of weapons to your allies?
MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do.
QUESTION: Really? They’re doing it in Egypt; they’re doing it in Iraq.
MS. HARF: No, I wouldn’t --
QUESTION: You don’t think so?
MS. HARF: That’s not – I think a lot of countries are trying to help Iraq. We certainly are trying to do so, and --
QUESTION: It doesn’t bother you that the Russians are selling them at all?
MS. HARF: To Iraq? Not to my knowledge, no.
QUESTION: But do you have any concern that this hardware might end up in the hands of ISIL, given your lack of confidence in the Iraqi military?
MS. HARF: Any of our hardware?
QUESTION: No. Well, the hardware that the Russians --
MS. HARF: Well obviously, any --
MS. HARF: -- country who provides assistance, military assistance to the Iraqis needs to take proper precautions to make sure that it doesn’t. Obviously, we’re doing that with our assistance that we’re providing.
QUESTION: How do – how --
MS. HARF: There’s a variety of ways. Depends on who you give it to and who you sell it to and --
QUESTION: Like a remote control off switch that --
MS. HARF: -- the restrictions --
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you --
QUESTION: I mean, what --
MS. HARF: There’s just – there’s a variety of ways to do that, Matt.
QUESTION: Like an – but something beyond just like an end user kind of agreement?
MS. HARF: I mean, you can check with the Russians on what they’re doing, but obviously, we don’t want any munitions to fall into the hands of ISIL.
QUESTION: Okay. But are you confident that the people who are selling this to countries that are going to be selling this stuff are taking those precautions to --
MS. HARF: We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis, but I have no indication that they’re not concerned about it. I think we all share the same concerns here and are taking steps to mitigate that.
QUESTION: Okay. So you --
MS. HARF: I just don’t have specifics.
QUESTION: All right. I mean, I just – I just want to make sure you don’t have a problem with this because you think that they are taking the proper precautions to --
MS. HARF: Well, there are legal mechanisms for the Iraqi Government to purchase military assistance. And as long as it falls in those categories and goes towards the goal of promoting – not promoting sectarianism, then broadly speaking, we don’t have a problem with that.
QUESTION: I guess what I’m saying is you’re not concerned that they’re just going to like dump all this weaponry into Iraq --
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen any indication of that.
QUESTION: -- and then it might get taken over by – might be stolen by ISIL.
MS. HARF: I mean, I haven’t seen any indication of that.
QUESTION: Well, I mean the same concerns that you have about your own weaponry.
MS. HARF: Yeah, right. And I don’t have any indications that the Russians aren’t --
MS. HARF: -- taking steps to mitigate that.
QUESTION: Just one on this phase, Marie.
MS. HARF: I think we have a few more.
QUESTION: Will there be any delay on the delivery of the F-16 next fall to Iraq, or not?
MS. HARF: So – no. We’re committed – let me make a few points on this. We’re committed to delivering F-16s to Iraq as soon as possible. The delivery of the first two has long been scheduled for this fall, pending a number of final preparations on logistics, mostly for housing, securing the aircraft, completion of pilot training. The current situation makes some of those steps a little more challenging, so it’s possible that it could be delayed. But we’re committed to moving it forward as soon as possible.
QUESTION: By “the current situation,” you mean the fact that --
MS. HARF: By the crisis.
QUESTION: -- Balad has been taken over by --
MS. HARF: Right. I mean --
QUESTION: The place where they – these jets were going to be based is now in the control of --
MS. HARF: There are some significant logistical challenges.
QUESTION: Yeah. “Significant” is an understatement, so --
MS. HARF: Yeah. But we’re committed to doing it as quickly as possible, but we have to deal with some of these logistical challenges.
QUESTION: But there is a possibility for a delay?
MS. HARF: It could be – the timelines could be affected.
QUESTION: Well I mean, is the plan still to send them there when they go?
MS. HARF: I can check with our folks. I don’t have the details.
QUESTION: Is that something that you do, or is that something the Pentagon --
MS. HARF: I’m not sure, because it’s FMS. Let me check.
QUESTION: Marie, any --
MS. HARF: Probably a combination, but --
QUESTION: Any comments on Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s calling for a new – or a new prime minister in the next four days, new government?
MS. HARF: Yes. So we echo today’s call by Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s representative in Najaf for Iraqi leaders to agree on the country’s next leadership without delay as they prepare to convene the first session of their new parliament on July 1st. It’s my understanding he was calling for a process that’s part of the – that’s in line with the constitution, just to do it very quickly, which we certainly agree with, because we think the situation has – is so serious that they need to move with urgency.
QUESTION: My understanding of what he said was that he actually said that Maliki had to go. Are you --
MS. HARF: I didn’t see that comment.
QUESTION: Okay. So when you say --
MS. HARF: I’m not echoing that comment.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. So when you --
MS. HARF: I think I was very clear about what comments I was echoing of the Grand Ayatollah’s.
QUESTION: And so you are still not prepared to say, or you still won’t say that you – the U.S. wants Maliki out. It’s up for the Iraqis --
MS. HARF: It’s up for the Iraqis, not up for us to decide.
QUESTION: But Sistani is an Iraqi. And if he --
MS. HARF: Correct. And I’m happy for the Iraqis to weigh in on who they would like to lead their own country. It’s not up to us to weigh in on that specifically.
QUESTION: Finally, one more: There’s a new Pew research poll out that says 44 percent of Americans are not proud to be an American, and 56 percent are proud to – only 56 percent of Americans are proud to be from this country. Any --
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that poll. And I would strongly disagree with any of those people who would’ve voted that way, clearly.
So with that --
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: -- happy Friday, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:32 p.m.)
DPB # 114