1:41 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have two items at the top.
First, on the NATO Summit. The United States fully supports today’s NATO Wales Summit declaration. This is a pivotal moment in Euro-Atlantic security. Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have fundamentally challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. The greatest responsibility of the alliance is to protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5. We are committed to further strengthening the transatlantic bond and to providing the resources, capabilities, and political will required to ensure the alliance remains ready to meet any challenge.
Today we reaffirm our strong commitment to collective defense and to ensuring security and assurance for all allies. We are adapting our operations, including in Afghanistan, in light of progress made and remaining challenges, and we are strengthening our partnerships with countries and organizations around the globe to better build security together. We stand ready to act together and decisively to defend freedom and our shared values of individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. These values are as relevant if not more relevant today as they were at NATO’s founding in 1949.
Second item at the top – second and final item at the top. Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk arrived in Baghdad today for several days of discussions with Iraqi leaders on our mutual efforts in confronting ISIL to include the next steps in building a regional and international coalition to support those efforts. He will also support the efforts of Ambassador Beecroft in encouraging the Iraqis to complete their government formation process as soon as possible. McGurk will also travel to Erbil for discussions and then later join the Secretary during his onward travel to the region following the NATO summit as well.
QUESTION: Is he going to Iraq?
MS. HARF: No. Following – he will then join him in his regional travel elsewhere in the region.
QUESTION: In Iraq.
MS. HARF: Elsewhere in the region. And we haven’t announced the full schedule yet.
QUESTION: On the NATO summit.
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: The Russian foreign ministry, as you might expect, was not impressed with the results of the – of the summit. They say that the gist and tone of – I’ll just read this one bit -- “The gist and tone of statements on the situation around Ukraine and the announced plan of NATO countries to conduct joint drill – a joint drill with Ukraine on its territory before the end of the year are bound to escalate tensions, threaten the start of progress regarding a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, and contribute to the deepening of the split in Ukrainian society. Moreover, they testify to NATO’s unreserved support for Kyiv’s neo-Nazi and extremist forces, including the right sector.” Do you have a – would you care to comment on that criticism?
MS. HARF: Well, I would say first that the only reason Russia was a topic of discussion at the NATO summit is because of their escalatory, interventionalist actions they have undertaken in Ukraine over the past months now. So the reason they’re even on the agenda at the NATO summit is because of their own actions. I’d remind them of that.
Second, we have made very clear that we will act in conjunction with our partners. You heard the President say today just recently that we are finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions against Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors. Those are conversations that are entirely appropriate to discuss with our allies that were at the NATO conference.
QUESTION: So you absolutely reject any suggestion that the tensions are rising not just because of Russia’s actions but also because of NATO actions?
MS. HARF: Absolutely, wholeheartedly reject that.
QUESTION: And what about this – the claim – or what they say is that what was done “testifies to NATO’s unreserved support of – for Kyiv’s neo-Nazi and extremist forces”?
MS. HARF: That’s fairly offensive language, but we have said we will --
QUESTION: Well, it’s not mine; it’s theirs.
MS. HARF: I – and I was responding to theirs, didn’t say it was yours. Look, we have said that we will support Ukraine in its fight here because we, as NATO, stand for some principles: democracy, peace, security. These are principles that Russia has ran rough-shod over in the past several months as they’ve done armed interventions into Ukraine, not just in Crimea but in eastern Ukraine now. So these principles are core to NATO, and that’s why we have said collectively that we will all support Ukraine and will increasingly support Ukraine.
QUESTION: So you would – when you say the language is offensive, the neo-Nazi --
MS. HARF: The neo-Nazi language.
QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But do you not have any concerns about that kind of behavior or thought among some in Ukraine that you’re supporting?
MS. HARF: Well, no.
MS. HARF: We are supporting the Ukrainian Government that was elected --
MS. HARF: -- in an election. And what we have seen is Ukraine, a sovereign territory, been repeatedly had Russia in an armed way intervene in it. And that is not acceptable. That directly contravenes the principles on which NATO was founded.
QUESTION: Okay. So they have – there’s no point at all, or there is no logical – you don’t think that there is any logical or rational reason for the Russians to be complaining that NATO is raising tensions in Ukraine.
MS. HARF: I absolutely do not in any way.
QUESTION: All right. And then I just wanted to ask: Do you have anything to add – and I doubt you do but maybe you will – to what the President said about the ceasefire that has been agreed?
MS. HARF: Just a little bit. Obviously, we have welcomed the news from Minsk of a ceasefire reached, one of the results of the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group there. You know our preference has always been for them to find a mutually acceptable, peaceful resolution – by “them” I mean Russia and Ukraine – to the crisis that Russia has caused. But as the President did say, there needs to be follow-through now to the words. We are hopeful but we are skeptical. We know there’s still fighting happening. The ceasefire did take effect, I think, at 11 a.m. eastern today. It looks like it’s holding for the most part, but we know that there has to be a lot of follow-through here. Again, hopeful but we’ll be watching.
QUESTION: Ukraine. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has actually asked if the United States and Europe would act as guarantors to the ceasefire. Is that something that the United States would be prepared to do?
MS. HARF: Well, this obviously is a ceasefire that has to be held between Russia and Ukraine. I don’t have any analysis for whether or not that’s something we might consider. We’ve obviously been in contact with the Ukrainians and other parties as well about it, but this is really something that they need to hold to themselves. This isn’t about the United States; this is about them.
QUESTION: No, sure. But they’re asking for help, I guess, in monitoring or making sure that it actually stands. I mean, would that be something given the --
MS. HARF: I can check with our team. I don’t know where we stand on that. I can check.
MS. HARF: Ukraine still?
QUESTION: Yeah, Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: You said that that description was offensive, neo-Nazi and so on. How would you describe or characterize the Government of Ukraine? Is it liberal lefty? Is it conservative? How do you describe it?
MS. HARF: It was democratically elected.
QUESTION: It was democratic --
MS. HARF: That’s how I would describe it.
QUESTION: What about the government that was before the 22nd of February last year? Was that a democratically elected government?
MS. HARF: Well, there were some significant governing challenges that they had. I think that’s why you saw the Ukrainian people themselves rise up and say they wanted a say in their future, they wanted to get rid of the rampant corruption that we saw under the previous government.
QUESTION: But you don’t say that the current government in the Ukraine has, like, mainstream or left or right or --
MS. HARF: I’m not going to in any way analyze their politics.
QUESTION: Okay. If I may just to follow up on the Ukraine --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any figure on the number of refugees that may have fled eastern Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. We’ve seen some UNHCR reporting suggesting that nearly a million people may have been displaced. Now, that’s not all people leaving Ukraine but been displaced because of the fighting, again, that Russia has actively fomented, has encouraged its separatists to undertake. So obviously, this is a large number, and that’s why we think a ceasefire needs to be put into place and eventually, hopefully, some sort of diplomatic resolution to this because there are this huge number of people that the Russians have displaced because of their actions.
QUESTION: So will the United States of America support any kind of humanitarian corridors or anything if such a thing were to be adopted or would be adopted at the United Nations at the Security Council level?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to preview on that for you, Said. Obviously, we think it’s important to get an independent assessment on the ground in Russia because it’s sort of impossible to know the exact numbers, so those are things we’re interested in right now. Don’t have anything else to preview.
QUESTION: And finally, the ceasefire, does it call for a total cessation of hostility or things remain in place – I mean, these forces remain, I guess, in place?
MS. HARF: I would refer you to them for the terms, but I can check and see if there are more details.
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Ukraine?
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Let’s stay on Ukraine, then we’ll go to NATO generally.
QUESTION: Marie, coming back to military exercises, so you are telling that basically military exercises are a response to Russia actions in Ukraine, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, they’re actual annual – they’re not in response to any recent event. They’re annual --
QUESTION: No, I mean NATO exercise that happened.
MS. HARF: Yes. They are not in response to any current ongoing events. They are annual exercises that we do every year and we announce them well in advance.
QUESTION: Okay. But NATO any way plans to intensify its cooperation with Ukraine? Is that a response?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly are intensifying our cooperation, but the exercises are not being held in response to current regional events or directed in any regional actors.
QUESTION: Okay, and another one. Yesterday, if my memory serves me right, Wall Street Journal claimed in an op-ed that President Obama should listen to his own State Department and to send arms to Ukraine. I’m not asking for a comment, but just to clarify: Is there anybody in State Department who supports sending arms to Ukraine?
MS. HARF: The State Department is a very big place; I can assure you of that.
QUESTION: No --
MS. HARF: But I will say Ukraine has made a variety of requests for different types of aid, and Ukraine’s partners, including the United States, are reviewing all of them to see how to best further support Ukraine. The President spoke about this in Estonia this week just a little bit. We’re reviewing those requests right now. It’s an interagency process that we are a part of.
QUESTION: Sorry, you said that the – and you said this yesterday, and I believe Jen said it the day before, too – that the exercises are not related to any current event.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: But the creation of this rapid reaction force –
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: -- Is related to recent developments, right?
MS. HARF: That’s something separate, yes.
QUESTION: And you don’t see that as in any way provocative?
MS. HARF: No, we don’t.
QUESTION: Setting up a permanent --
MS. HARF: It’s a high readiness joint task force able to deploy within a few days to challenges that arise. It will contribute to ensuring that NATO remains responsive to its alliance, capable of meeting its current challenges. Again, this is in response to escalatory action the Russians have taken. It’s a little disingenuous to say something that NATO is doing in response to Russia’s action is somehow escalatory, that NATO should just sit by while Russia sends arms, sends men, sends troops into Ukraine and say, “Oh, we’re not going to respond.”
QUESTION: Well, but isn’t it also disingenuous to claim that you’re – I mean, Ukraine --
MS. HARF: It’s – but we don’t seek confrontation.
QUESTION: Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO.
MS. HARF: That’s true.
QUESTION: So you’re setting up a rapid reaction force in response to what you – to something that you say is happening in a country --
MS. HARF: In part.
QUESTION: -- that isn’t a NATO member. So --
MS. HARF: In part to – in part because of – wait, let me rephrase this.
QUESTION: Are you --
MS. HARF: Wait, let me rephrase, Matt, and then go on.
MS. HARF: In part because of Russia’s escalatory actions, yes, in Ukraine, but obviously we’re concerned about Russia’s escalatory actions just period. And so as we modernize the alliance, as we put more resources into it, part of the NATO summit every year is to talk about how we can have the best tools for the alliance to work together.
QUESTION: So where else have you seen Russian escalatory measures, and specifically in terms of NATO members, countries that are --
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have – I’m not – I don’t have anything like that to outline for you. Obviously, we’re focused on Ukraine, which, as you said, is not a NATO member.
MS. HARF: But this is very close to NATO. NATO is committed to a Europe free, whole, and at peace, and obviously there are threats to that right now with Russia’s actions.
QUESTION: Well, okay.
MS. HARF: I’m not sure what you don’t understand about this, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, it just seems to me that if it is true – if what you say is true about – and I’m not going to argue with it, but if what you say is true about Russia’s escalatory actions in Ukraine, I don’t understand why it is that you say or why it is that NATO putting together a rapid reaction force to station close by so that it can respond to crises like this in the future --
MS. HARF: Respond is the key, because --
QUESTION: -- is not a --
MS. HARF: Respond is the key term there. That’s a defensive measure. Wait, wait. Let me finish, Matt.
QUESTION: But wait. Let me finish the question, though. It may be a defensive nature – defensive in nature, but as you pointed out, Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: So I’m saying – and you didn’t want to get into escalatory actions that you’ve seen Russia take with regards to countries that are members of NATO --
MS. HARF: Matt.
QUESTION: -- and which Article V would apply to, so that’s --
MS. HARF: What NATO has done – everything that we have done with NATO since Russia’s intervention into Ukraine has been of a defensive measure to be able to protect NATO and our members, and also working together to help countries like Ukraine. There is nothing confrontational about it. It is not designed to confront anyone. That’s not how it’s being used. That’s not how it’s designed. I – in no way – I just don’t understand logically how you can look at what – something NATO is doing to protect our countries and compare it in any way to Russia sending surface-to-air missile systems across the border into Ukraine, which are by definition an offensive weapon.
QUESTION: My --
MS. HARF: Those are just categorically different things, Matt. And you’re buying into the Russian propaganda if you equate them, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Well, no. I’m just trying to --
MS. HARF: Well, you are, actually, I think.
QUESTION: No, I just --
MS. HARF: The tone of the question does.
QUESTION: Well, but you say “our countries.”
MS. HARF: NATO.
QUESTION: Yeah. And Ukraine is not a NATO member.
MS. HARF: I understand that.
QUESTION: So that’s – I’m just – so the point of my question is: Why is it that you can’t see or why do you reject out of hand the Russian complaint that this – the creation of a Russian reaction force --
MS. HARF: Because there’s nothing offensive of – there’s nothing offensive about a rapid reaction force. It’s a defensive tool. How can that be threatening to Russia? How can a defensive tool be threatening to Russia?
QUESTION: Not necessarily threatening to Russia, but provocative. And that’s what I – that’s the point.
MS. HARF: Because countries have --
QUESTION: And I’m not buying into any – anyone’s propaganda, and I think that’s the whole point.
MS. HARF: You are. I actually think the tone of your questions on this – on these exercises has been a little bit. I think there’s absolutely no equivalence between countries taking steps to protect themselves, their partners, and their territory against someone who is sending arms and troops and men over the border into another country. They’re wholly different things. No one’s going to sit by and not stand up for our principles and say, “Go ahead, Russia. We’re not going to take any steps to protect ourselves.”
QUESTION: Marie, you guys object to other countries’ objections about your military exercises all the time, and you think that they're perfectly legitimate. You say they’re perfectly – your concerns are perfectly – that their concerns are not –
MS. HARF: Every case is different.
QUESTION: -- are not legitimate. And so --
MS. HARF: The reason our exercises are – we – they’re annual. We announce them well in advance, and they are transparent. The Russians have used military exercises to cover activities they are taking very close to the Ukrainian border to hide actions they are planning to take inside Ukraine. They have used them as cover for that and not transparently on very short notice. They’re wholly different things.
MS. HARF: Moving on.
QUESTION: Can we go to ISIS? Move to ISIS?
MS. HARF: Anything else on Ukraine?
MS. HARF: NATO. We’ll finish NATO.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just an hour ago, President Obama and President Erdogan met, and it looks like they met about 90 minutes, so it was a long meeting. I was wondering if you have any readout, first of all, from the meeting. We haven’t seen –
MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the White House for readouts of the President’s meetings.
MS. HARF: They’re a NATO ally first, and obviously we’re talking to a whole range of partners about a whole range of issues, including Ukraine, including ISIS, and including Afghanistan and other issues that we work with our NATO partners with as well. As you know, today Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel convened a meeting with a number of our partners in Wales to talk about ISIL particularly. Turkey obviously was a part of that, as was Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom. So it was a topic of conversation.
QUESTION: So can you tell – can you define those countries – you counted about dozen maybe – that might be the core members of the coalition?
MS. HARF: I think I would urge some caution in trying to come up with a list of what that looks like. These are people we talk to. We talk to a range of countries, not just these countries.
QUESTION: What’s the next step --
QUESTION: Is there any specific – is there any specific help or mission you are expected from Turkey at this moment?
MS. HARF: We’re having conversations with a number of partners about the coalition and what that might look like. I don’t have any specifics to outline for you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit on that appointment?
MS. HARF: Yep. So John Bass, who is President Obama’s nominee as ambassador to Turkey, is awaiting a confirmation vote from the Senate as are 50 other – over 50 other ambassadorial nominees awaiting a vote. So we are facing the prospect of a long-term gap in filling this crucial position of ambassador to Turkey. Obviously, we recognize the centrality of a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship, so the Secretary has asked Ross Wilson to return to Ankara – he served as ambassador there from 2005 until 2008 – to serve as the charge d’affaires until John Bass is confirmed as the ambassador. We, as we do with all of our nominees, encourage the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Do you fill other posts in other countries in this way? I’ve never heard of this kind of temporary appointment.
MS. HARF: We do – no. That’s not unusual. If we have a slot that needs to be filled, we can send people there. It’s not unusual. But obviously, we think the Senate should confirm John Bass and all of our other ambassadors who are waiting – I think the longest now is over 400 days – as soon as possible.
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: Could you just tell us what the next steps are? Obviously, we saw the statements from – the joint statement from Secretary Kerry and Hagel – Secretaries Kerry and Hagel today, and they had this meeting. What is the next step that you’re going to do with these countries that you met with today?
MS. HARF: Well, with these countries, obviously we’re going to continue the conversation about how to do this. The Secretary and Secretary Hagel will have some onward travel. We haven’t announced the specifics yet. We’re still working through schedules, as you know happens often, to have conversations with other partners in the region about pulling together countries to build a coalition to take the fight to ISIL. We think it’s important to do this in a systematic, methodological way given the fact that we need to do this right. We are going to go after ISIS. We’ve already done it in Iraq, but we think that this deliberation allows us to do this in the right way. We think that’s important, so those conversations will continue.
QUESTION: Are you still – my colleague asked whether this is the core coalition. Are you trying to involve other countries around the world in it as well?
MS. HARF: Absolutely, and this is not just – I think people think of the word coalition as military, and certainly when you’re going after a terrorist organization, it’s not just military. There are financial tools, there are diplomatic tools, humanitarian tools we can use. We’re having conversations with countries around the world who can give any resources to help in this fight.
QUESTION: And do you expect it to – you mentioned various different things, but do you expect it to be primarily militarily?
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say that. I think we’re looking right now at all the different ways. I mean, if you look at a terrorist organization – and I think the President outlined this in a good way today how you begin to degrade and ultimately defeat a terrorist organization. You first push them back from territory, right? That’s partly military, in large part military. Also, working with partners on the ground, you systematically degrade their capabilities. Part of that is financing and fighting the foreign fighter network. You narrow the scope of their action, you shrink their territory, you take out their leadership. Again, some of that is military, some of that can be intelligence and law enforcement. And then over time, they aren’t able to as significantly plan attacks or threaten U.S. homeland or U.S. interests.
Obviously, there will always be people who are terrorists in the world; we can’t kill or capture all of them. And as the President said, we will continue to hunt them down where they operate, where they plan, and go after them.
But that’s how you take the fight – as we’ve done in Pakistan, as we’ve done in Yemen, as we’ve done in Somalia. If you saw today, we confirmed the U.S. military strike did kill the leader of al-Shabaab. These are all tools, and we need all of those tools – not just military – to go after this fight.
QUESTION: So you want to hunt them down where they operate, but of course, they operate not just in Iraq, but also in Syria.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So does that mean that you’re anticipating operations within Syria?
MS. HARF: We’re looking at a number of options right now. Decisions have not been made about what that might look like, but we know, obviously, that this is a – we will not stop, as we’ve said it, at geographical borders in trying to take the fight to ISIS.
QUESTION: Marie, this is some rapid – some very quick criticism of this coalition and its – the core and its size --
MS. HARF: A coalition we have not even talked about publicly or outlined countries that are a part of.
MS. HARF: I love criticism that comes before we even talk about things publicly.
QUESTION: I mean, some of those countries, though, are already saying that they’re going to be involved. I mean, UAE, France, Britain, Canada – they’ve already publicly said that they’re involved.
MS. HARF: And – exactly. And they can certainly speak for themselves. What is the criticism, Matt?
QUESTION: Well, the criticism is that it’s very – that it’s small, that the 2003 coalition for the Iraq war was much larger --
MS. HARF: I’m going to say – wait, before you go on. I am going to venture to say that when we talk about what we are doing today, in no way do we want it to resemble anything that was done in 2003 and the invasion of Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay, well --
MS. HARF: Let’s be clear about that. I don’t want the comparison there at all.
QUESTION: No, no – well, no. I’m – but that’s something – I’m just --
MS. HARF: And we’re certainly not using that playbook.
QUESTION: Okay, but my question is: How was it that – why were there not – why weren’t other members, other countries, at this meeting? Why was it only --
MS. HARF: Well, this was a meeting --
QUESTION: Why was it only 10?
MS. HARF: This was a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit. There’s not a specific rhyme or reason why these countries were included. We’re having a broad conversation with a number of countries. That’s why the onward travel will be taking place. We also have commitments from countries like Australia to Japan, across the globe --
MS. HARF: -- for help here. This was just one specific meeting, but there will be many conversations about that.
QUESTION: I understand the argument and I understand – not the argument. I understand the point that it was a NATO meeting, but Australia, the last time I checked, wasn’t a member of NATO.
MS. HARF: Well, again, this was a meeting of people we got together in this specific venue.
MS. HARF: That is certainly not --
QUESTION: But so why weren’t the – like the Jordanians there?
MS. HARF: We’re having a --
QUESTION: I mean, King Abdullah was at the --
MS. HARF: We’re having conversations with the Jordanians as well, separately.
QUESTION: So you --
MS. HARF: There’s no rhyme or – I will be clear.
QUESTION: Well, I hope there is some rhyme or reason to who --
MS. HARF: Well, no. I would not read anything into it --
QUESTION: I mean, each of these countries can – okay.
MS. HARF: -- about who will help us in this effort, I guess is my point.
QUESTION: All right, so – okay. So are you saying that with the exception of Assad and his government, anyone can – anyone else can join – can be part of the coalition, or are the Iranians – this goes back to my question yesterday. Is it – are you willing to have this coalition be a big tent that can include countries that you might not agree with on every point, like Iran, like Russia, like --
MS. HARF: We believe that all countries, regardless of their differences, should work together toward the goal of degrading and ultimately defeating ISIL. This isn’t about a U.S. coalition. This is about a global coalition.
QUESTION: Well, I understand --
MS. HARF: And we think all countries should work towards that goal.
QUESTION: I understand that. But --
MS. HARF: Now, who will we work with as the United States? That’s a different question.
QUESTION: So what the Secretary – what the President has announced and what the Secretary is going off to do next week and through the UN – I presume it will continue there --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- is very much open to anybody except for Assad? I’m just trying to figure out – I mean, will you – would you welcome the help of Iran? And then I --
MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran. We have no plans to do so. Again, but we’ve been clear that ISIL represents a threat not only to the U.S., but also to the entire region, including Iran. And believe all countries, regardless of our differences, should work towards the goal of degrading and ultimately defeating ISIL. Each country is a little different, right? How we have the conversation with each country will depend on their capabilities, what relationships they have in Iraq or other places that we’re trying to fight ISIL in. So it’s just country by country the discussion and what that looks like.
QUESTION: There have been numerous reports over the last 36 hours about the U.S. and Iran --
MS. HARF: And that’s why I was very clear: We do not coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran, and have no plans to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. But wouldn’t it make sense to not take action against ISIL that might also – I mean, you don’t want to work --
MS. HARF: At cross purposes.
QUESTION: Whether or not you’re going to coordinate with them or not, you don’t want to be – work at cross purposes.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: In other words, you don’t want an airstrike – a U.S. airstrike to destroy some Iranian operation --
MS. HARF: Right --
QUESTION: -- that is also going after ISIL, right? Or --
MS. HARF: Correct. Well, in that context, and as we’ve said previously, we are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat. Deputy Secretary Burns discussed Iraq with Iranian interlocutors on the sidelines of the P5+1 round in Vienna recently – or several months ago now – and have had similar consultations with them about Afghanistan in the past.
So there is a precedent here throughout these conversations that we’ve made clear that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected. We all need to focus on helping the Government of Iraq build an inclusive government. So we’re open to having the conversation, but we won’t be coordinating military action with them.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if that conversation – the one that you mentioned from several months ago – was continued at the current meetings?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. But I – again, they’re ongoing, so I can check with the team on the ground.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t – okay. Could you --
MS. HARF: I just don’t --
QUESTION: I’m just wondering --
MS. HARF: The answer is I just don’t know.
QUESTION: -- because given the fact that this coalition is being launched, put together now, wouldn’t it make sense to have a second or whatever number it would be consultation with the Iranians --
MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me check with the – yeah. And I – again, the meetings are ongoing as we speak, so I can check there.
QUESTION: Marie, on the Jordanians, you mentioned in Jordan, there are reports that say that actually Jordan does have forces at the borders, special forces aided --
MS. HARF: I’d refer to you to Jordan for those reports.
QUESTION: Well, aided by American Apaches and Blackhawks and probably being ferried by Chinook helicopters. Can you confirm that?
MS. HARF: I have no idea what you’re talking about, Said.
QUESTION: The size of a battalion --
MS. HARF: I know there have been some erroneous reports out there about this.
MS. HARF: I can’t confirm those, but I’d check with DOD.
QUESTION: Okay, let me just – let me ask you another question on ISIS. The second in command, Omar Shishani, is a Russian, apparently was in the Georgian army, and trained by Americans on counterterrorism. Can you confirm that?
MS. HARF: I have no idea if that’s true and had not heard that. Let me check.
MS. HARF: Elise. Let’s go to Elise.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic, or --
QUESTION: No, just a couple more.
MS. HARF: I think we should – need to stay on ISIS, yeah.
MS. HARF: It’s okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday we asked about if you had any information that Baghdadi’s right-hand man had been killed in an airstrike in Mosul. Any update today on that?
MS. HARF: No, and we actually don’t think those are accurate. I can’t confirm them, certainly, but we’re leaning towards thinking those are not accurate.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you find out about Omar Shishani --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- whether he was, in fact, trained by Americans on counterterrorism?
MS. HARF: I will see if those – if what you say is accurate, Said.
QUESTION: Yes. The 10 countries that you mentioned – it was a sideline meeting at the NATO summit, but when the U.S. or other countries will bring this topic to UN General Assembly this month, what will be NATO playing a role in this --
MS. HARF: At UNGA? At the UN?
QUESTION: At the UN, yeah.
MS. HARF: Well, obviously, the members of NATO are also the members of the General Assembly. But we will be talking in that multilateral forum. As you know, the President will be chairing a session on foreign fighters particularly, but we will be having a number of conversations with a range of partners, not just our NATO allies, at the UN General Assembly to talk about how we can do all of this. We’re not waiting for UNGA to have these conversations, but I’m certain it will be a key topic of conversation.
QUESTION: But will NATO play a role in this, I mean, when you prepare a roadmap in this --
MS. HARF: NATO always plays a role in everything we do.
QUESTION: And when it comes to Turkey with the appointment that you mentioned recently, was it related to an urgency imposed by ISIS, this temporary appointment?
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say that, necessarily. But obviously, we believe this is an important moment. Turkey is a NATO ally, we are confronting a very serious threat together, and we’ve gone a long time without an ambassador there because the Senate has refused to act. So we believed it was important to send Ambassador Wilson there.
QUESTION: Yeah, because when it comes to foreign fighters or the funding of ISIL, the Turkey --
MS. HARF: All important issues we talk about together.
QUESTION: Marie, just a logistical thing.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Last night, the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that the Secretary would be testifying on the 16th, I believe.
MS. HARF: They did, yes. That is correct.
QUESTION: Do you know, is that the only testimony that week that he --
MS. HARF: Likely not, no.
MS. HARF: Likely not. I don’t have anything more to announce, but likely not.
QUESTION: And you – your understanding of his appearance is that it’s going to be focused primarily on this ISIL --
MS. HARF: Yes, correct.
QUESTION: -- and the coalition building?
MS. HARF: Well, all of the issues surrounding the Iraq-Syria- ISIS issue.
QUESTION: Okay. But just that, and it’s not going to – well --
MS. HARF: That’s my – but again, I think they just announced it yesterday.
QUESTION: And on the session in the Senate, how many days are there for business day for Senate before the elections? Do you know?
QUESTION: Well, let’s see. In September, I think they’re in session eight days. Don’t quote me on that. It’s either six or eight days. It’s a single-digit number in September, then they go out of session again, and I think they’re out until – either until the election or right before, so it’s a very small number of days. Now, they can always come back into session if they have business to get done, but we’ll see if they do.
QUESTION: How many of the career diplomats are still being held up?
MS. HARF: We have, I think, 65 overall nominations. A large number of those are – I can get you all the statistics – I should have them in my book, I’m sorry – after the briefing. A large number of those are career people, including, of course, a number of our ambassadors.
QUESTION: Can you get us a list of ones that are being held up in the countries that – and whether they’re --
MS. HARF: Yes, we can send that out after the briefing. I will just point out a few. One, I think the third-longest waiting is our ambassador to Sierra Leone, a career Foreign Service officer. Obviously, confronting Ebola and other issues in Sierra Leone, it’s important for him to be there. We have a whole number of other people as well – as I mentioned, Turkey. We have a large number of ambassadors and other officials waiting to be confirmed. A number are related to international organizations as well. Obviously, UNGA’s coming up, a huge time for international organizations.
Also, Frank Rose, who’s our nominee to be assistant secretary for arms control verification – we talk about Russia and issues related to arms control there around the world – he has been waiting for a very long time as well.
QUESTION: But you do have an ambassador to Russia --
MS. HARF: We do, Ambassador Tefft.
QUESTION: -- who arrived today.
MS. HARF: He is there.
QUESTION: In that case, then Ross Wilson can stay at least six months in Turkey as an charge d’affaires at the interim --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- because of this tight schedule in Senate?
MS. HARF: He could be there, but obviously, we – for a while, but we obviously want the Senate to move forward. We need ambassadors in places like Turkey and other places because we think it’s very important to have high-level representation.
QUESTION: But once there will be a vote, his assignment will be done.
MS. HARF: Correct, yes. Ambassador Bass – I like the way that sounds – when confirmed will be headed to Turkey.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Anything else on ISIS? Two more. We’ll go to the back and then I’ll come up to you.
QUESTION: The Kerry-Hagel statement --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that you referenced earlier today mentions in several places a need for significant cooperation with the Iraqi Government. President Obama, in his comments, later made similar statements. The U.S., of course, does not have the same type of relationship with Syria. But is there concern that with all of the emphasis on supporting efforts in Iraq, this could inadvertently strengthen ISIS’s presence in Syria?
And then secondly, a follow-up to earlier statements about Iran and engagement in this effort: Do you have any reaction to a BBC report that Iran’s Supreme Leader has approved cooperation with the U.S. as part of the fight against ISIS?
MS. HARF: On the second question, I believe the Iranian foreign ministry or an Iranian spokesperson may have already responded to those reports, so I’d let those comments stand, and we can see if we can get those to you after the briefing. I certainly don’t want to speak for the Supreme Leader. But as I said, I made very clear what our position is – that we don’t coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran. Of course we’re open to engaging them, as we have in the past, most notably on Afghanistan. But we will not be coordinating our action together.
In terms of your first question, ISIS has been very strong in Syria for quite some time because of the security vacuum the Assad regime has created in the way they’ve, in many ways, encouraged them and allowed them to flourish. So again, what you heard the President say – how you ultimately defeat a terrorist organization like this is to push them back when they’ve taken territory, which we’ve really seen them take in Iraq but also in Syria, and then start degrading their capability, narrowing the scope of their action. This is an issue that we’re going to have to address wherever they operate. How that happens is the conversation that’s ongoing now.
QUESTION: A follow-up on this question?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: For last two days, the photos, pictures show that the Iranian commander of Quds Forces, Qasem Soleimani in Amirli --
MS. HARF: I saw some of those reports online. I don’t know if those are true or not. I’d ask the --
QUESTION: There are also videos and photos.
MS. HARF: I’d ask the Iranians.
QUESTION: It was celebrating about the victory there, and apparently, the U.S. forces played big role there.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said publicly that we played a significant role in humanitarian airdrops around Amirli and on breaking the siege of that city.
QUESTION: As well as doing some strikes on the ISIL.
MS. HARF: Yes, to break the siege of the city.
QUESTION: So many people conclude that basically, Iran and the U.S. coordinated in Amirli.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I just made very clear that we do not coordinate military action, period. So those conclusions that people have would be incorrect.
What else? Yes.
QUESTION: Are you going to get cooperation from the Syrian Government on finding American Ahmad Abousamra, the terrorist who was apparently fighting with ISIS and --
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t cooperate with the Syrian Government, to be clear, as I just made very clear.
MS. HARF: And you’re talking about – the FBI has actually spoken out about him quite a bit. They had a statement on December 13th, 2013, noted that he’s of Syrian descent, has dual citizenship. The FBI release stated that he was indicted after taking multiple trips to Pakistan and Yemen, where he allegedly attempted to obtain military training for the purpose of killing American soldiers overseas. In 2009, a federal arrest warrant was issued for him in the U.S. District Court in Boston. FBI will have more details on that.
QUESTION: Will you be open to dialogue with Syria, eventually, to find him?
MS. HARF: We don’t work with the Assad regime.
QUESTION: Okay. You have said the Administration believes there’s about a hundred Americans fighting with ISIS. Do you think --
MS. HARF: Or that have traveled to Syria --
QUESTION: Traveled --
MS. HARF: -- so that could be Nusrah, it could be ISIS.
QUESTION: A terrorist organization there.
MS. HARF: Yes, correct.
QUESTION: Do we have good visibility on the ground there, or is that just a ballpark number? How are you guys getting those figures?
MS. HARF: Well, we have a variety of intelligence tools to track foreign fighters, including Americans, if they do join the fight. Obviously, we’re not going to outline all of those. It’s something we are very focused on, though, from a resource allocation perspective. The intelligence community is very, very focused on that, on tracking who may have gone. The State Department obviously doesn’t track American citizens overseas. I don’t think these guys are probably registering on STEP online. So we’ll focus on it through the intelligence means, and it is a high priority, though.
QUESTION: Marie, there’s some on the Hill who think that – who say, who make the argument that simply traveling – for an American citizen to travel to Syria right now should be enough to either, one, revoke their passport, or two, revoke --
MS. HARF: Just for someone traveling to Syria? That’s a --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: -- interesting way of reading United States law and the Constitution in terms of passports and citizenship.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I think that they’re suggesting that maybe it should be written in – the Brits have announced their plans to do --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- to step up their procedure for doing this kind of thing.
MS. HARF: Well, look, there are American citizens who travel to Syria, even though we tell them on to, as – for example, reporters or aid workers.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: So you would – this is not my --
MS. HARF: Well, traveling to --
QUESTION: This is not my idea.
MS. HARF: I know.
QUESTION: It’s some – it’s other people’s idea, and I’m just --
MS. HARF: I know. It’s sources on the Hill.
QUESTION: Well, it’s --
MS. HARF: Some on the Hill.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz, your favorite senator, is tweeting this kind of thing.
MS. HARF: Oh, God. Here we go again. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So – no, look.
MS. HARF: Wait – this is a real question, though.
QUESTION: So – it is a real question.
MS. HARF: I know. I just said it was.
QUESTION: So you’re saying you would oppose – you would oppose some kind of a blanket --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- law or legislation that would strip people of their passports and citizenship for going to a place --
MS. HARF: Well, let’s – first of all, I’m not going to take a position on hypothetical legislation. Certainly, that’s not my purview. But let’s start here. For one point, we – people who just travel to a country I think I would feel comfortably – comfortable legally saying is not grounds for revoking your citizenship or taking your passport.
QUESTION: I know it’s not now. I think the point is –
MS. HARF: I don’t think it – not traveling to a country, nor should it be. There’s travel restrictions in place. Now, the question of how you prevent Americans who have traveled to a place like Syria and joined a terrorist organization, that is, said they want to attack the U.S., that is a separate question. We have the authority now to revoke their passports under U.S. law if the Secretary makes a determination about their threat to U.S. national security. We already have that power. We also have the power if there’s a law enforcement request --
MS. HARF: -- to revoke their passport if there’s an outstanding warrant or something like that.
QUESTION: So yesterday, you raised the example of Mr. Awlaki.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: And I’m just wondering – I realize that there are privacy restrictions in place, but can you say if there are any others, and if there are, how many passports have been revoked for this national security reason?
MS. HARF: I do not have that information in front of me. I’m not sure we would be able to share it.
QUESTION: Even just the number? Not their names.
MS. HARF: I – to be – honestly, I don’t have it. I will see if there’s information we can share. I’m guessing there won’t be --
MS. HARF: -- for privacy reasons. Obviously, Anwar al-Awlaki was somewhat of a unique case in some ways.
MS. HARF: Yes, you can.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the IAEA report which you referenced yesterday which came out today. They --
MS. HARF: It was not released publicly yet by the IAEA.
QUESTION: Oh, is it not? Okay.
MS. HARF: It came out publicly through other means.
QUESTION: Okay. So apparently, Iran has failed to meet the deadline to provide more information about its – the military aspects of its nuclear program. There’s also been suggestions that there was more construction going on at Parchin than had previously been thought. I wondered if we could have your reaction to it, please.
MS. HARF: Well, unfortunately, because it hasn’t been released publicly by the IAEA yet, I can’t get into specific substance in the report. In general, as I said yesterday, we’ve continued to call on Iran to cooperate fully without delay in working with the IAEA. Again, can’t, unfortunately, as much as I would love to, comment on the substance yet.
QUESTION: If the tenor of this report is correct, does this cast any shadow or any – raise any questions over the upcoming talks in New York?
MS. HARF: Well, I would caution you from characterizing the tenor in any specific way based on any one thing in the report. We know there are outstanding issues with the IAEA – that is by no means breaking news to us – with Iran’s possible military dimensions. So I think we look at this in a comprehensive way. We are having the bilateral discussions right now. Those are ongoing. We will all have conversations at the UN at – but this is a key part of it. You are right, and it’s something we are very concerned about.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And it looks as if there’s some cooperation with the Cubans on this, and I’m wondering if you could –
MS. HARF: Yep. So just a few facts here. As of 11:30 a.m. Eastern today, two F-15 fighter jets under the direction of NORAD launched to investigate an unresponsive aircraft currently flying over the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft had departed Rochester, New York, with a flight plan filed to land in Naples, Florida. The plane’s occupants did not respond to attempts to communicate. NORAD jets were used to monitor it. NORAD is in contact with the FAA. They’ll provide more information on that. We have been in touch with the two countries over whose – in whose flight space it went through, the Bahamas and Cuba. I don’t have more details on those conversations, but obviously this is an issue of security and safety, and so we were in touch as well.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, given that there are many issues of security and safety and it seems as if you have the channels to the Cubans that you can speak to them – I mean, there are other ways that you can kind of communicate with the Cubans on issues of national interest, like expand that to, like, other areas?
MS. HARF: Well, we talk to them – we have, for example, regular consultations and conversations about postal issues or maritime issues, so we actually have a number of conversations with them about some of these mutual interests of – or issues, excuse me, of concern.
QUESTION: I’m talking about other security interests. I mean postal --
MS. HARF: Like what?
QUESTION: Well, I mean other issues of security in the region.
MS. HARF: Well, again, we talk to the Cuban Government about specific issues, as we say very openly in this room. I don’t have more for you on that issue than that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then do you have anything on a plane being forced to land in Iran with a number of U.S. citizens aboard?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that for you.
QUESTION: Have you –
MS. HARF: I just don’t have any details to share at this time.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up on Elise. Is the communication between the United States and those two countries – assuming because it’s coming from you, that’s happening at the State Department.
MS. HARF: I don’t have more details about who that conversation is taking place between. U.S. officials.
QUESTION: Maria --
MS. HARF: On the plane?
QUESTION: Different subject.
MS. HARF: Okay. Go ahead. Change the subject.
QUESTION: Okay. IAEA reported that recently North Korea has resumed the nuclear reactors. Do you have anything on this?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to check with our team.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes. Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Three security operators at the secret CIA annex in Benghazi claim that they were given an order from the CIA station chief to stand down and wait to save the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans during the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya. What is your response to --
MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear here. There was no stand-down order from anyone in Washington, in the military community, or in the intelligence community. I would point you to Congressman Ruppersberger who is the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who released a statement today that said, “Although some security officers voiced a greater urgency to depart for the compound, no evidence was ever found by the committee that CIA personnel were ever told to stand down. This finding is completely consistent with the Senate’s report as well.” Congressman Ruppersberger went on to say, “After interviewing these individuals, including those writing this book, and all of the others on the ground that night, both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded there was not, in fact, an order to stand down. No evidence was found to support such a claim.”
I think that, again, this is one of those topics of conversation that keeps coming up. It’s a question that keeps coming up, and every time it comes up it is repeatedly proven otherwise by multiple bipartisan investigations, by the independent Accountability Review Board here at the State Department as well. The Senate, the House, a number of people have looked at this and cannot find any evidence for this even after including interviewing the authors of this book.
QUESTION: Well, who at embassy in Tripoli was aware that there was a CIA annex in Benghazi?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s a different place. Benghazi is a different place than Tripoli. Obviously --
QUESTION: Yeah, but did – was anyone aware that this place existed, that these people were actually willing to help and that –
MS. HARF: Well, obviously there is a chief of mission authority under – for our embassy in Tripoli, which includes the entire country. They are aware of all of our facilities in any given country, State Department or otherwise. As I said, there – this has been looked into multiple times and found that there was no stand-down order, period. Multiple people have said that in multiple investigations. Obviously, these gentlemen wanted to go help, but it was the smart and prudent thing to do to take a short delay for very good security reasons to get additional backup and to get additional weapons. But again, there was no stand-down order, period. That has been debunked multiple times by multiple investigations.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that what they’re saying – their claims are false then?
MS. HARF: Their claims have been proven false not by me, but by the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the State Department’s independent Accountability Review Board and a number of other people as well, and including some of those committees who interviewed these same gentlemen.
QUESTION: Wait, Marie. There’s a difference, I think, between what you’re saying and what – are you saying that the CIA station chief on the ground did not tell them to hold off?
MS. HARF: There’s not a station chief in Benghazi because the station wouldn’t be there.
QUESTION: Well, the – whoever the – are you saying that they --
MS. HARF: Well, details matter.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, they do, which is --
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: You’re saying that no one in Washington --
MS. HARF: No, I’m saying there.
QUESTION: No one – so you’re saying that their claim --
MS. HARF: They – wait – is wrong – is correct.
QUESTION: -- that their boss – that their boss did not say --
MS. HARF: Correct. No evidence was ever found by the House Intelligence Committee that CIA personnel were ever told to stand down, period. They found no evidence to back that up.
QUESTION: So – and you would take issue with the – you just said, though, that they were told hold off a bit. You’re – so you’re making – you’re drawing a distinction between a stand down order and a delay.
MS. HARF: Correct. There was a short delay – there was a short delay so they could get backup and get additional weaponry before they went into a situation that they were unaware of what they were going to be encountering on the other side. But to be clear --
MS. HARF: -- there was no stand down order given from anyone. There has been no evidence to support that claim throughout this entire process. It keeps coming up, and every time it does, we will keep saying there’s no evidence.
QUESTION: There was a wait order. They said wait up to 30 minutes before they went in, though, so you’re not disputing that.
MS. HARF: To get backup and additional weapons so they – when they did engage, they had additional – again, weapons and backup and resources to fight back, because they did not know the full situation they were going into, and it would be irresponsible to send our security officers into an unknown security situation without additional weapons and additional backup. But the notion that the CIA and its team in Benghazi did anything less than act heroically in the middle of a crisis, I think, is really just totally at odds with reality.
QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on this, hopefully once and for all – so you’re not disputing that the guy on the ground in Benghazi said hold off. You’re just disputing that it was a stand down order, and --
MS. HARF: Those are two very different things.
QUESTION: I know. I understand that.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure that – and – but you’re also saying that this hold off or wait 30 minutes or whatever it was didn’t come from Washington at all; it came from the local person on the ground.
MS. HARF: Correct, who said let’s assess the situation, let’s get you guys more weapons and more backup.
QUESTION: But no one in D.C. said hold off for 30 minutes, or --
MS. HARF: Not that I’ve found any evidence of. And I think this is just an example of what I would call sort of this stand down story that is increasingly – every time it comes up, it’s – the story changed and it keeps shrinking and what you’re saying, right? It’s – first it was Washington; it was the President, it was the Secretary. Then it was Panetta, it was Secretary Panetta. Then it was the military, then it was the guy on the ground. It’s like you can’t find evidence for any of those, so you keep moving the ball and trying to find evidence.
QUESTION: I mean, these guys are coming out with a book. The three guys that were there – these special operatives – said this is what happened. So – and then --
MS. HARF: Well, these three men were also interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee in a bipartisan fashion, who found there is no evidence of any stand down order, period. So I think I’ll --
QUESTION: No, I mean, you can’t – moving the ball forward, I mean, this is a new thing. This is a new claim that’s coming out, and that’s why --
MS. HARF: Well, it’s just this incredibly shrinking stand down story that it seems to be perpetrated by some parts of this country who want to keep this story going, but there’s no evidence to back it up.
QUESTION: I mean, the book, and then along – The New York Times had an article written up on that. Are you saying that they’re trying to move the ball forward and saying that – what are you --
MS. HARF: I’m saying that the notion that there was evidence of stand down order given by anybody, including the CIA chief on the ground in Benghazi, is false. There’s no evidence to back it up, and when we make claims, I think it behooves all of us to have evidence there. And the notion that people on the ground didn’t want to do everything to help, but do it in a responsible and safe way – that’s what happened that night, and trying to find evidence otherwise when there isn’t any is just irresponsible.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. HARF: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: Can we go to Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
MS. HARF: We can.
QUESTION: Let me stay on Libya for --
QUESTION: Not this, but --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- just the general situation in Libya --
MS. HARF: We can.
QUESTION: -- right now. Do you have anything new on either attempts to – or the situation at the residential compound, or --
MS. HARF: Nothing new.
QUESTION: It’s all – there’s nothing – okay.
MS. HARF: I mean, nothing new than we’ve talked about before. No update. Sorry.
Yes, go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly. On Monday, the Israelis announced the confiscation of 1,000 acres. On Tuesday, the Secretary called Prime Minister Netanyahu. On Wednesday, the Israeli Government announced that – another settlement, and then today they just announced another settlement. I know that you keep saying that your position is clear, and we’re aware that you’re --
MS. HARF: It is clear.
QUESTION: -- unhappy, you’re expressing your displeasure. But it seems that the Israelis are not really heeding your – either your call or your advice, and in fact, they react – every time that you express your displeasure, they go ahead and just do it – I don’t know. Like, I don’t want to --
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let them talk about why they make decisions when they do. The Secretary continues to raise this in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, including in their most recent call.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you this: Is the Secretary going to the – to Israel and Ramallah?
MS. HARF: We have not announced a travel schedule yet. When we have one finalized, we will send it out.
QUESTION: Okay, I understand. He met with the Palestinians, of course --
MS. HARF: He did.
QUESTION: -- and he’s going to be meeting, I think, with an Israeli delegation sometime next week when he comes back. But the other --
MS. HARF: I can check on the schedule.
QUESTION: Okay. Are there any plans to meet with any – with both during this trip?
MS. HARF: Again, we don’t have a trip schedule yet.
MS. HARF: We’ll give you more details when we have them.
QUESTION: Okay. And my last question: There are reports – in fact, confirmed – that Hamas has agreed to a state on the 1967 borders – two-state solution, and so on. Would that be a welcome gesture?
MS. HARF: I don’t – I haven’t seen those reports, and I don’t have any comment on them.
QUESTION: If Hamas were to come out and say we agree to all the agreements that the PLO has conducted on the behalf of the Palestinians, two-state solutions on the borders of 1967, would it then be accepted as a partner by the United States?
MS. HARF: No comment on that hypothetical, Said.
Yes, in the back, and then I’ll come up to you, Jo.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Two Korea-related questions?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So one is: Can you confirm that Sydney Seiler will be the new special envoy to Six-Party Talks?
MS. HARF: Yes, Sydney Seiler on September 2nd joined the State Department’s team handling North Korea-related issues. His title is Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks at the State Department, a position previously held by Ford Hart. Mr. Seiler previously served as director for Korea at the National Security Council. He joins Glynn Davies and Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Robert King in the Department’s Office for North Korea Policy.
QUESTION: Okay, and then one more is can you give us any details on reports that South Korea’s representative for Six-Party Talks, Hwang Joon-kook will be visiting Davies next week? Any details on that? Ambassador Davies.
MS. HARF: Yes, I can. Special representative for North Korea policy Glynn Davies will host a bilateral meeting in Washington on Tuesday, September 9th with his Republic of Korea counterpart to exchange views on a wide range of issues related to the DPRK. This visit reflects the close cooperation between our countries, our continued focus on pursuing the verifiable denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) The position that Sydney Seiler is taking up has been vacant for a year. The Six-Party Talks have been inactive for, I think, six years. Should we take this as some kind of renewed vigor in order to try to reactivate the talks from the Administration?
MS. HARF: It’s not an indication of any change in policy.
QUESTION: Just you thought that the position had been vacant too long --
MS. HARF: Good time to fill the position.
QUESTION: -- you decided to get someone in there?
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: And his tenure at the NSC was finishing up, and so we brought him on here.
QUESTION: Whether Sung Kim, former Korean Ambassador to – I’m sorry, the U.S. Ambassador to Korea – is he new position joined with the Six-Party Talks delegations?
MS. HARF: I’d refer you to them to speak to that.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Jo.
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: The trial is due to happen tomorrow of Maryam al-Khawaja, and I wondered if you were planning to send anyone to observe what happens.
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. Let me check.
QUESTION: Would you be prepared --
MS. HARF: We provided – what? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Would you be prepared to send an observer?
MS. HARF: I can check. I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer to that.
QUESTION: And more generally, I know you’ve expressed already concerns about this case. What would you hope to see happen tomorrow?
MS. HARF: Well, we are concerned about the detention. We continue to follow the case, and we are continuing to urge the Bahraini Government to ensure full due process rights and handle it quickly and transparently. Let me check on the observer issue though.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Now I asked yesterday about the team --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Ambassador Indyk’s team and so on. I understand the Mr. Makovsky also left yesterday.
MS. HARF: He has.
QUESTION: So is the team still in play? Or is it shrinking?
MS. HARF: Yes. You ask every day. Frank Lowenstein is getting offended that you think his team is no longer in place, Said.
QUESTION: I’d – I would like to maybe get an interview with Mr. Lowenstein. I don’t know.
MS. HARF: (Laughter.) That was good. Frank Lowenstein remains our acting special envoy. There’s a whole team of people, including Ilan Goldenberg, who many of you know; Sam Sutton, who many of you know. She’s our press officer who handles these issues. There’s a team here. Mr. Makovsky was always meant to have a temporary tenure at the State Department. The team yesterday – Frank Lowenstein and team met with Saeb Erekat and his team as well, so the work continues.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Are you looking for a job on it, Said? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you have – can you give us a read out about the meeting?
QUESTION: They do need some new blood. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I don’t have any readout of it.
QUESTION: I’m old blood, but I’m good.
MS. HARF: I don’t have a readout of that meeting.
Yes, I’m going back.
QUESTION: Do you have any information from the Secretary’s meeting today with the prime minister of Albania or any additional information from yesterday’s meeting with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional information. In terms of the Secretary’s meeting with Albania, it had been pushed back a little bit. So because of the time, I don’t have a readout yet. I checked right before I came out. I’m sorry. We’ll get one around after I get off of the podium.
QUESTION: While the NATO thing – summit was wrapping up, there was the – there was this incident with an Estonian. Do you know anything about this?
MS. HARF: I saw those reports, and we’ve seen them. We don’t have any information on it.
Yep. Elliot. Yes.
QUESTION: Marie, quick question back on ISIS real quick.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: There’s been – we’ve talked a lot in here about social media and strategic communications --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- with regard to that organization. There’s a movement in Lebanon riffing off the ice bucket challenge to burn ISIS flags online.
MS. HARF: Oh, really? I hadn’t --
QUESTION: Is that something --
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that.
MS. HARF: I’ll check and see if we have a comment.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
MS. HARF: Not sure how it’s related to the ice bucket challenge, but – yes.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on a question.
MS. HARF: Think Again, Turn Away.
QUESTION: Think Again, Turn Away. Exactly.
MS. HARF: It was close. It was close.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Almost. Have you ramped up the messaging for that campaign?
MS. HARF: Well, we have. It’s been appearing in Arabic for quite some time. We are doing more in English as well. This is produced by the Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. The goal, obviously, of this is to – it’s targeted at potential recruits, potential sympathizers to show and expose the brutality of terrorist organizations, including – there’s been a lot of talk about ISIS recently, but really to point out the fallacies of what they’re talking about, point out the inconsistencies, point out how this is contrary to Islam and really make very clear what this group is so people don’t join it. We’ve done a lot of it in Arabic and other languages as well, including Urdu, other languages, but much more in English now too. I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to it lately. But it’s something that we’ve put a lot of resources into.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Anything else?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Happy Friday, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)