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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 9, 2014


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:32 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Hello. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh my.

MS. HARF: So today is the – thank you – the dean of our press corps, it’s Matt Lee’s birthday. (Laughter.) So I wanted to start the briefing on a nice, positive, friendly note with some balloons, and he has to have them the whole time he asks questions today. So Happy Birthday. (Applause.)

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: So that’s the one that said the big 3-0, so just feel free to use that if people ask. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, then. Thank you very much. (Laughter.) It’s a great day mainly because the Bills are staying in Buffalo, so that’s the best present --

MS. HARF: There you go.

QUESTION: -- I have so far.

MS. HARF: Are those – (laughter). Can we just – maybe we can --

QUESTION: I’ll put this right here.

MS. HARF: -- tie them down with – oh, good. Anyways, Happy Birthday, Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: I do not have anything at the top. The Secretary is on his way to the region right now to continue working on building an anti-ISIL coalition, as we’ve talked about a lot. But besides that, nothing else at the top except for Matt’s birthday.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I may have gotten the tip from a few people that it was your birthday.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, you have good sources.

MS. HARF: Not as good as you do, but – (laughter).

QUESTION: Anyway, thank you again. Let’s start with – on a little bit more serious note, on the Dutch report on the MH17 --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- downing. What do you make of it? What do you think that it says? What --

MS. HARF: Well, today’s preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board underscores everything we’ve been saying since the downing of MH17, and it highlights questions for which Russia still must answer.

Just a couple notes about what’s actually in the report: They presented factual information based on sources available to them; found that the Boeing 777-200 aircraft broke up in the air as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside. That’s consistent with how these Buk missiles that we had talked about at the time operate. It’s consistent with our original assessment that it was likely shot down by one of these surface-to-air missiles fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.

It also noted that there was no sign of mechanical problems, no sign of structural problems. The black box did not give any sense of problems before it was downed. I understand the Dutch will continue the investigation, but again, the preliminary report is consistent with what we’ve been saying now for many weeks.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t come to any hard and fast, definitive conclusion as to who – and I realize it wasn’t expected to, but it does not assess blame or responsibility for --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- for who did this, nor does it actually say that it was, in fact – does it actually say that a missile brought it down?

MS. HARF: It does not. It says that it was caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside. Again, that’s completely consistent with our assessment that it was a surface-to-air missile, and I’m unaware of other objects or ways it could be brought down that are consistent with that finding.

QUESTION: All right. But are you disappointed that it didn’t at least confirm or come to the conclusion that it was, in fact, a missile definitively?

MS. HARF: Not that I’ve heard, no. And again, this is just a preliminary report. This is another piece of information that is consistent with our assessment as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And what is – so what would you like to see happen going forward?

MS. HARF: With the --

QUESTION: Sorry, this is very distracting.

MS. HARF: It’s okay. You’re not blocking anyone. What the report – (laughter) --

QUESTION: It’s over here.

QUESTION: I think it’s throwing him off his game.

MS. HARF: This is what happens when it’s your birthday.

QUESTION: Yeah. I hope they don’t fall.

MS. HARF: Yeah, they’re good. They’re good.

What do we want to see with the report or the investigation --

QUESTION: No, with the --

MS. HARF: -- or in Ukraine --

QUESTION: Well --

MS. HARF: -- or both or all of the above?

QUESTION: All of the above.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: But let’s start with, first, the investigation.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, this report seems to be like the opening – it’s the first official formal result of the investigation, so where does the investigation go from here?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: And then is there anything that you are expecting or want to see the Russians do in response, or the separatists or the government in Kyiv to do in response to the report?

MS. HARF: So they will continue their investigation – the Dutch will – in the months to come. The Dutch Safety Board expects to publish their final report within a year of the crash, so that’s the timeline we’re tracking towards right now.

Again, I would say that this leaves and highlights many questions that Russia must still answer about the possible involvement of its equipment, about the separatists it backs, about their involvement in the events that led to the crash of this airplane. So obviously, we – and not just us, but more importantly, the families of the victims deserve answers, and we’d like the Russian Government to provide some of those answers.

QUESTION: Okay. You just spoke of the possible involvement of its equipment. That seems to be a little less definitive than what you guys had been saying.

MS. HARF: I did not mean to indicate anything less definitive, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on that?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: What is your assessment over the last 24 hours of the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: Our assessment is that the ceasefire in general is mostly holding, although there are reports of mortar attacks and small arms fire around a couple places, including the Donetsk airport, and reports of more intense violence in Luhansk and Donetsk as well. So obviously, it’s something we’re continuing to monitor. But again, it’s mostly holding. We know there’s some calls for monitoring by the OSCE. We’re in close touch with them.

QUESTION: And given that this is the second day in a row that you’re saying that the ceasefire is mostly holding, do you think that Putin gets to avoid another round of sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: The EU meets tomorrow.

MS. HARF: That’s true. The United States is finalizing measures to both deepen and broaden our sanctions across Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors. We’re in close coordination with the EU on this. Yesterday the EU did decide to impose additional sanctions on Russia pending this assessment in the next few days of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace plan. So we have tools at the ready. We are finalizing these packages. But we’re going to make decisions based on what’s happening on the ground in the next few days.

QUESTION: So given that it is mostly holding, do you think that those sanctions – that both the EU and the U.S. will hold back on those sanctions --

MS. HARF: I don’t have a predication, honestly. No prediction to make for you. We are ready to impose more if we feel they’re necessary.

QUESTION: And how is the – when is the U.S. going to decide? After the EU comes out with its final call?

MS. HARF: We’re making our decisions on our own timeline but obviously coordinating very closely.

Anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: I just wanted – just back on the report for one second. There is nothing in the report that you believe is not consistent with your – with what you have said?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team. Not that I’ve heard.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Because you said that it’s consistent with what you believe and what you have said.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But there isn’t anything in there, no matter how small or minor, that is inconsistent with that?

MS. HARF: Let me check. Let me check on that.

Anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Just one more.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On Crimea, according to Mustafa Dzhemilev, who is the leader of the Crimean Tatars community, I believe yesterday he stated that there is an ethnic cleansing going on in Crimea against the Crimean Tatars. Do you have any update on that issue?

MS. HARF: No update. Obviously, we have been very concerned about that issue. Senior State Department officials have met with representatives of the Tatars since this began. I can see if there’s an update for you on that engagement.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Mostly Russia and Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: But the question is: There was an incident in Estonia a couple of days after the President had left between Russian and Estonian – there was an Estonian official abducted. Do you see this as a part of this Russia provoking the West, or is this a completely isolated incident in your view?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen these reports that an Estonian internal security service employee was seized near the Russian border in Estonia on September 5th. According to some eyewitness accounts, he was seized while performing official duties, was taken into Russia. Details remain unclear regarding the individuals who seized the Estonian Government official. The Estonians are in contact with the Russian Government on this.

We are following this issue as it develops and call on Russia to act expeditiously to ensure the employee is returned safely and immediately to Estonia. I don’t have more analysis about why this might have taken place. We’re still gathering details.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Moving on. Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout of the meetings today between the Secretary and Deputy Burns with Miss Ashton?

MS. HARF: Just a brief one. The Secretary and a group of senior State Department officials met with High Representative Ashton today. They discussed Iran, particularly the nuclear negotiations; the threat from ISIL; also just talked about the range of issues we work with the EU on. Obviously look forward to continue working with Lady Ashton for the next few months as she finishes out her term, but obviously are very linked up on a whole host of issues with her and with our EU colleagues.

QUESTION: Is she staying on in that role for – just as Burns and Sullivan are for the U.S.? Is she --

MS. HARF: I’d refer to her – it’s my understanding, but I’d refer to her people. I don’t know the exact timing.

QUESTION: And do you have a readout of Secretary Kerry’s meeting with the President?

MS. HARF: I do not.

QUESTION: The dinner he attended last night at the White House?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any readouts.

QUESTION: But I thought he was also meeting today at 10 o’clock.

MS. HARF: He did. He did. Obviously, they talk very frequently about the range of issues, including, of course, ISIL and the Secretary’s upcoming trip.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did you put a readout about the bilateral talks that Deputy Burns held with the Iranians last Thursday and Friday in Geneva?

MS. HARF: We didn’t put a full readout out, but I just have a little bit of information if you’ll just give me a second. This book grows by the day, I think.

So the meetings in Geneva, the bilateral meetings, were an in-depth exchange on the core issues in our effort to reach a joint comprehensive plan of action. As we’ve said, the goal of this is to verifiably assure us of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

All countries in the P5+1 have bilateral discussions with the Iranians, and it’s all done, of course, in the context of the EU-led negotiations, part of the discussion that they had with Lady Ashton today. But these were, again, in-depth discussions. We will be looking towards the discussions we’ll all have around the UN General Assembly, particularly the P5+1 meeting that begins the week before on the 18th.

QUESTION: Did the talks include discussions about Syria and Iraq?

MS. HARF: Well, the nuclear negotiations are separate. We’ve always said they’re separate from this issue. As you know, in the past, Deputy Secretary Burns brought it up briefly on the margins of one of the talks in Vienna. Again, discussion of these kinds of threats does arise from time to time on the margins of these meetings, and it did in this latest round as well.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

MS. HARF: Briefly on the margins, yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – this is a situation where clearly you don’t – you say repeatedly over and over again that there is no coordination with --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- Iran on the military side of this.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But this is a situation where both you and the Iranians have a similar – if not the same, a similar interest. So why not?

MS. HARF: Why not coordinate?

QUESTION: Why not expand? Why not expand this to more than just a brief – brief discussions on the sidelines of the nuclear talks?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not – as I said, I’m not ruling out further discussions that are more than just brief. We’ve said we’re open to having the conversation with the Iranians to engaging them, as we do other players in the region, about the threat from ISIL. So I’m certainly not ruling that out. I’m just saying the nuclear negotiations tend to be focused on the nuclear issue. But again, we’re not considering coordinating with them, but certainly not ruling out other discussions.

QUESTION: Is it possible those discussions could come out – come up at UNGA?

MS. HARF: Between the United States and Iran about --

QUESTION: On ISIL?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly there will be many discussions at UNGA about the threat from ISIL that I’m sure many countries will be a part of.

QUESTION: Including Iran?

MS. HARF: I would venture to guess there will be a discussion at UNGA that they are probably a part of that has to do with ISIL. I think ISIL really will be one of the main focuses of UNGA in a variety of different fora. Obviously, the President’s chairing a foreign fighters Security Council session. But we will have the separate P5+1-EU nuclear negotiations, which we have tried to keep very separate.

QUESTION: So following up on Matt’s question, so where do you see Iran’s role in this – if it’s not going to be part of the coalition and is on the side, where do you see its role?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve encouraged anyone, particularly any country with influence in Iraq, to support the formation of an inclusive Iraqi Government and indeed governing in an inclusive manner. We had a key milestone yesterday in that regard in this formation of the new Iraqi Government. So we certainly pushed any outside country to support that process and also to support the Iraqi forces themselves and the Kurdish forces as the answer, security-wise, to the ISIL problem; it’s not militias; it’s not extra-governmental organizations.

QUESTION: On the formation of the new government --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- do you believe the Iranians played a helpful role or a useful role?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any – I don’t – quite frankly, I don’t have any assessment of the role they did or did not play. This was an internal Iraqi process. I don’t have any assessment of that.

QUESTION: On the same subject, during these meetings with the Iranians, have you – or have the U.S. officials ever asked Iranians about the findings of the U.S. Treasury, pointed to Iran that they facilitated and funded al-Qaida-affiliated groups and fighters into Syria?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. As I’ve said, the discussions with the Iranians are about the nuclear issue, and that would seem to be a separate issue.

QUESTION: But you also talk about ISIL. You said that.

MS. HARF: I said we’ve discussed it twice briefly on the margins. I don’t have a full readout of those conversations for you.

Anything else on Syria or Iraq, ISIS?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Just on the question of the government formation, as of yesterday, when Secretary Kerry came out and spoke about it, two major members of the cabinet had not yet been selected, the defense minister and the interior minister. I just wanted to ask what, if any, concerns the Secretary has about the fact that these two positions have not yet been filled.

MS. HARF: We’re not concerned about it. Prime Minister Abadi said he will appoint these two in the next few days. We expect that he will do so. That will happen soon. It’s important that the security ministers reflect a general consensus. We commend the prime minister for continuing to work with all the political blocs to gain this consensus. So again, not a lot of concern on our part on that regard.

QUESTION: Just on the Secretary’s trip.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Has there been any additions or do you have any more information since they’re in the air and not contactable now?

MS. HARF: No, nothing new. Obviously, Iraq’s accomplishment of forming a national unity government yesterday is a cornerstone for this coalition we are working to build. And one of the pieces that I would note is that now we will be having – the U.S. Government, writ large will be having – in depth conversations with Iraqi leaders about increasing our support to them. This is a key moment, and that’s really the conversation that will be taking place. As you know, Brett McGurk is still on the ground there. This has really been a key moment in how we increase support.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m – my question is more directed at who – the Secretary in terms of who he’ll be meeting in the places that he goes. The Saudis have announced that they’re going to be holding this conference --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and that he’ll be there for that --

MS. HARF: We don’t have additional – correct. And I don’t have additional details to share. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to share some of those.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: An Iraqi news agency said today that the Secretary will visit Iraq tomorrow.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates on his schedule in terms of travel for you.

QUESTION: Marie, more broadly about the trip, is there any concern that with Secretary Kerry’s very public and forward courting of these countries that these Arab countries that he’s going to might balk at the idea that this is such a U.S.-driven enterprise, that they might be seen as being – following the lead of the United States rather than this being a mission that’s being initiated by countries in the region who might have more of a regional concern about ISIS? So is that --

MS. HARF: Well, to be fair, the countries in the region want the United States to play a leadership role here and have said so publicly, starting with the Iraqis, who’ve invited us in. And we’ve already taken, I think, around 150 air strikes against ISIL targets, taken a number of their fighters off of the battlefield and pushing them back from some areas.

But I think the purpose of building this coalition, particularly in the region, is so it is a multilateral effort. This cannot be a United States only effort, nor should it be. But just practically speaking, to really do all of the things we have to do to fight against ISIS, we need countries in the region who are at most direct threat from ISIS to step up to the plate and join this coalition. So certainly U.S. leadership is playing a key role here, but a large part of that role is bringing these other countries together and saying we all have a role to play here. That’s certainly the balance we are striking.

QUESTION: And may I digress back to Iraqi Government formation for just a second. The – I think it’s the defense – the – sorry, the nominee as interior minister has ties to the Badr Brigade, which is seen as an organization very closely aligned to Iran. So, I mean, that nominee has not yet been announced as a part of the government, but are there concerns on the part of the United States that someone with such close ties to Iran would become part of the new Iraqi Government?

MS. HARF: Well, this is an internal Iraqi process, and we’ve commended Prime Minister Abadi for taking into account the views of all of the political blocs to come to agreement on these important security positions and all of the cabinet, but particularly these positions. So before there’s someone named to that, I don’t have much more analysis to do.

Iraq, Syria, ISIS?

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the coalition against ISIL? And specifically yesterday was the U.S. Secretary of Defense was in Turkey. Openly the Secretary states that Turkey is needed in the coalition --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- whereas we don’t hear such statements coming out of Ankara. Is there any --

MS. HARF: Well, I think what you heard the Secretary of Defense speaking to was the fact that a broad range of countries – particularly those in the region who are at most threat from ISIL – should play a role in this coalition. Now what does that mean? It’s not just a military coalition. It’s a financial coalition, a diplomatic coalition, a coalition to fight foreign fighters, a humanitarian coalition – really a broad-based, holistic coalition that we are working to build. The role that every country will play in that is an ongoing discussion. That’s why the Secretary of Defense was there. That’s why the Secretary of State’s going to the region today.

QUESTION: One more on that. It looks like several regional states, including Turkey, also asked U.S. to take measures against Assad regime as well as ISIL. If there will be a coalition, it should be against both. Are you considering such --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into discussions that we have privately and diplomatically. We’ve been clear – and the President was clear this Sunday in his interview – that President Assad has lost all legitimacy to lead Syria. The threat we’re focused on right now and particularly with this coalition is building an anti-ISIL coalition. That’s what we’re focused on; those are the discussions we’re having.

Part of that though is increasing our support and helping to build up the moderate opposition in Syria, who are not just fighting ISIS but are also fighting against the regime. So all of this is very intertwined, but in terms of the actions we’re talking about today and the coalition, that’s very much focused on ISIL.

On the same topic? Same topic? Yes.

QUESTION: There have been several media reports of civilian casualties in Syria as the government takes efforts to target ISIL militants. The U.S., of course, has said it’s not going to engage directly with the Syrian Government. Is there going to be perhaps an effort to get some of the coalition partners to engage with Syria, if for no other reason than to look at ways of diminishing the civilian casualties?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question that I, quite frankly, don’t know the answer to. I’m happy to check with our team and see if those discussions are ongoing. Throughout the Syrian conflict, we have engaged with countries like Russia, for example, who have some leverage over the Syrian regime, the Assad regime, particularly to get them to stop killing civilians en masse, whether it’s with chemical weapons or barrel bombs. I don’t know if we’re doing the same thing now, although we certainly have in the past. So let me check on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up your previous statements, you said that – I believe U.S. also looking to coordinate with the Syrian opposition – moderate opposition while --

MS. HARF: We certainly have been and that will continue and increase.

QUESTION: Is there a new move on this side? Because we know that half a billion aid is still waiting at the Congress --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and there is no light under tunnel.

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let Congress speak for themselves on that issue, but this is an ongoing process, an ongoing consultation with them about how we can do more to support them. I don’t have anything new to announce today.

And I’m sure you did all, by the way, see the White House’s announcement of the President’s speech tomorrow night at 9 p.m.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you care to add anything to --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- what your colleague at the White House said about it?

MS. HARF: I do not.

QUESTION: Could you tell us --

MS. HARF: Obviously, it’s at 9 p.m. tomorrow night, so I don’t have anything else to add to it.

QUESTION: Can I go back to --

MS. HARF: I just wanted to make sure everyone had seen it.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran for a second?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: I’m Raf Sanchez from The Daily Telegraph.

MS. HARF: Oh, thank you. Thank you for introducing yourself. I appreciate it.

QUESTION: No problem. I came for Matt’s birthday. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Well, see, it’s a full house today, Matt.

QUESTION: Just on Iran. The Iranians made a relatively rare announcement about the Supreme Leader’s health, saying he’s recovering from prostate surgery. I just wondered if the U.S. read anything into them talking about his health and whether the U.S. had any messages for his recovery or anything like that.

MS. HARF: I saw that. I don’t have any analysis to do for you on those reports.

Anything else today?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. HARF: Turkey, and then I’ll go to Matt.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just yesterday, there are – trials are going on now in Turkey. It’s about the Gezi protests happened a year ago. And now there’s a group called Carsi, which is – it’s a soccer team fan club, which – my soccer team. And it looks like now they are on the trial for coup plotters. Do you have any comment on those trials?

MS. HARF: I saw those reports. Obviously, we support freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest in Turkey and around the world. Have looked to Turkey to uphold those fundamental freedoms, but don’t have more comment on it than that.

QUESTION: And there is also new legislation now in Turkey, which is – tightens internet control. It looks like – there are lots of details, but it’s extremely, interestingly, increases control of the state without any kind of court reference. Do you have any comment on those?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve regularly raised our concerns about media freedom with Turkish officials, and have continued to urge the Turkish Government to ensure open access to all social media. And that’s a conversation we will continue having.

Matt.

QUESTION: By the way --

MS. HARF: Matt.

QUESTION: I just want to know – I think this is going to be short because I – your answer will be short, because I don’t think there is. Is there any update on your – the situation in Afghanistan? Do you have any new comments from – new from what Jen said yesterday?

MS. HARF: Nothing new from yesterday.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: On Ebola.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The U.S. this morning announced further assistance on healthcare – to provide healthcare workers to West Africa to tackle this. But does the State Department or do you think that enough is being done to fight this disease?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s clearly a huge challenge. And I think you heard the President speak about this a little bit; certainly the Secretary has. We are increasing our support. We are working very closely with non-governmental organizations, with partners on the ground here through the Centers for Disease Control to do more. The Department of Defense will be doing more, and I have a little bit on this. Secretary Hagel has approved the deployment of a 25-bed deployable hospital facility, equipment, and the support necessary to establish the facility in response to a State request for DOD to provide humanitarian assistance to West Africa. These are conversations we have that are ongoing with the folks on the ground determining what they need, how we can help. It’s a huge challenge, though. And you probably saw the note I put out this morning about the fourth American as well.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And you have not identified that American?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Africa?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was an incident earlier this week in Nigeria on a flight involving an air marshal that was ejected, I think.

MS. HARF: In an airport, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have anything to add to – from here regarding that incident?

MS. HARF: Well, we can confirm reports that an unknown assailant injected a substance into the arm of a U.S. federal air marshal at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria. U.S. law enforcement agencies are jointly investigating the incident with Nigerian authorities. The substance is unknown at this time. The Nigerian authorities are fully cooperating with our efforts. The air marshal did return to Houston early Monday morning, underwent some CDC on-site screening. Nothing to add beyond that.

QUESTION: ABC News is – has learned that the TSA has suspended air marshals flying into Nigeria pending the investigation into this incident. Is there anything you can add from here about the presence of air marshals on these flights, and also any diplomatic communication that’s happening between the U.S. and Nigeria on any efforts to – is there going to be a Travel Warning or anything like this in light of the situation?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to DHS in terms of issues regarding air marshals writ large. I can check on the diplomat piece.

In – yes.

QUESTION: On Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The floods – there have been unprecedented floods that have devastated large infrastructure and swaths of territory. Are you in contact with Pakistan? Have you offered any help?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team. It’s my understanding they haven’t asked for our assistance. Obviously, we have a number of resources that can assist if we’re asked to – and if we’re called upon to do so. Let me check with our team and see what the latest is.

QUESTION: And also on the same subject, the prime ministers of the two countries in the wake of these floods have exchanged letters expressing support for relief of people on both sides of line of control – in Kashmir, especially. How do you see those contacts in the – following the cancelation of talks that were supposed to be held in --

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen the reports of those letters, but broadly speaking, as we’ve said, we would support any effort between the two countries to improve their relationship to talk about these issues directly. Again, haven’t seen the letters, though, but in general would support such efforts.

QUESTION: And later this month the prime ministers of the two countries are expected to attend UN General Assembly. Are you hoping that they will be able to meet to --

MS. HARF: I don’t have any preview yet in terms of any schedule for anyone, certainly, for the UN General Assembly yet. Obviously, I’d refer you to them to see if they plan to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the meeting that Ambassador Davies had with his Korean counterpart this morning?

MS. HARF: I do. Give me a second. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies met with the Republic of Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs in Washington today. They had a very productive discussion on a wide range of issues related to DPRK. Obviously, we agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea, and the special representative’s visit reflects the close cooperation between our two countries and our continued focus on pursuing denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on your effort to get the Americans released from North Korea?

MS. HARF: No update. We have said repeatedly out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request that the DPRK release them so they may return home, and also request that the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae, grant him special amnesty, and immediately release him so he may be reunited with his family, also so he can seek medical care.

QUESTION: Did this issue also come up during the meeting between the ambassador and --

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m happy to see if that’s something we can find out and share.

Yes. Up here, and then I’ll go in the back.

QUESTION: On Libya?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Marie, in Friday’s briefing where you addressed the stand-down controversy, you repeatedly said that there was “a short delay” that was ordered by the chief of base that night was smart and prudent because it was designed to help the CIA security contractors obtain, as you put it, additional backup and additional weapons. From whom and where did the chief of base expect to procure this additional backup of weapons?

MS. HARF: I don’t have details for you on that, but again, he thought it was prudent to take a short time to see if they could get additional weapons and backup, given they did not know the severity of the security situation they were sending their men into. Of course, wanted to avoid additional loss of life, but again, as I said on Friday, there was no stand-down order. There’s a fundamental difference between a short delay for these kind of security considerations and a stand-down order, which implies some effort to prevent people from aiding those under attack. As we know, these gentlemen eventually did go and assist, so disproving the theory that there was a stand-down order.

QUESTION: But you can’t say who they were requesting --

MS. HARF: I can check and see if there are details on that.

QUESTION: It wasn’t the February 17th Brigade?

MS. HARF: I can check and see what the details are on that.

QUESTION: Okay. As we look back on Benghazi with almost two years from now, can we say with certainty – just given how the events unfolded that night – that it was indeed a mistake to invest such confidence in local militias there to help these U.S. diplomats?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s, quite frankly, grossly simplifying what was a very sad and tragic day, where we know more could’ve been done with security. We knew the situation in Benghazi and in the rest of Libya was a dangerous one, but State Department employees and our counterparts from other agencies serve in dangerous places because we believe it’s important for America to lead and to be engaged and to help promote freedom and democracy and help people who are working towards those ends.

So obviously, we’ve said that more could have been done with security. We’ve spent these last two years doing more: implementing the ARB’s recommendations, making our people safer overseas. That’s been the focus of what we’ve done. But broadly speaking, of course, we believed it was important to engage there, and we still believe it’s important, even given today’s, quite frankly, tough security environment in Libya.

QUESTION: Which is so tough that you’ve closed your Embassy and they’re now operating out of Malta.

MS. HARF: That our – we haven’t closed our Embassy, but --

QUESTION: Well, you --

MS. HARF: Right, exactly.

Yes, in the back. And then I’ll come up to you, Leslie.

QUESTION: Follow-up on the three U.S. citizens detained in North Korea. Considering previous cases, sending high-profile officials or envoys to North Korea was the best way to secure the release of the people, but it seems to me that the U.S. Government is hesitating to sending any high-profile envoys to North Korea this time. Is there any concern that you have with that, like being dragged into a totally different talk with them?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t always outline publicly everything we’re considering doing to help get the release of our citizens who are detained in North Korea or things that we’re considering here, quite frankly, or our efforts. So without commenting one way or another on that, we have said that the North Koreans should release all three men out of humanitarian concern, immediately pardon Kenneth Bae, but again, don’t always outline every effort we are undertaking publicly.

Yes, Leslie.

QUESTION: Coming back to Iraq, the French have just announced that they’re going to host a conference on Iraq security on September the 15th, and it’s going to include the new Iraqi president and leader and regional and international powers. Does – what is the U.S. role in this, who’s going, any information you can give?

MS. HARF: I don’t have details for you on that. We’ll get some for you after the briefing tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yeah. What else? Anything else?

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Scottish referendum --

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: -- which is happening in nine days’ time?

The President was asked about this issue in June, and he said, “We obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united, and effective partner.” And I just wondered if you could outline why it’s the opinion of this Administration that the UK – that it is in America’s interest for the UK to remain united.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve also repeatedly said that the U.S. regards the Scottish independence referendum as an internal United Kingdom matter. I don’t have anything additional to add to what the President said.

QUESTION: But – I totally respect it being an internal matter, but the President said that it’s --

MS. HARF: I understand.

QUESTION: -- in the interests of the United States --

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything more to add to what he said. I will let his words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Well, apart from what the President said, the British Government, as well as the opposition in parliament, have made it a priority of theirs to try to convince Scottish voters to vote no. They – I think all the leaders – the prime minister and the leaders of all the – the other two – other – several other parties are going to Scotland – today, I think, no? --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to try to lobby the Scots to vote for no. Given the fact that you do have this special relationship with the UK --

MS. HARF: We do.

QUESTION: -- why are you hesitant to take a position supporting the stand of what appears to be everyone in the one – in the British Government?

MS. HARF: Because we believe it’s an internal matter. And we, despite our special relationship, don’t take positions on every internal UK matter, nor do they take positions on every internal American matter.

QUESTION: Right. But this is something that’s not just – this is not like a local zoning dispute. This would create a new country. You would have to – is the U.S. --

MS. HARF: I’m aware of --

QUESTION: Is the U.S. --

MS. HARF: -- the referendum.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. prepared to have its consulate in Edinburgh turned into an embassy for Scotland?

MS. HARF: Again, our --

QUESTION: Do you know if there are contingency plans for that?

MS. HARF: Our position is clear. It’s an internal matter.

QUESTION: Put it --

MS. HARF: As much as I love Edinburgh and Scotland personally --

QUESTION: Put it this way. Edinburgh. Put it this way --

MS. HARF: Oh, excuse me. Matt is a Scottish expert today. Your birthday, you’re allowed to.

QUESTION: I went to school there.

MS. HARF: You’re allowed to correct me on your birthday.

QUESTION: How about --

QUESTION: That would explain it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How about – how about this, Marie? Does the United States believe that --

MS. HARF: Or do you want to – do you want to go serve there?

QUESTION: Does the United – does the Administration believe that Britain can be great without Scotland?

MS. HARF: I’m not even going to – I think the United Kingdom is an incredibly close partner. We have a special relationship with them. I am not going to get into that semantics with you.

QUESTION: So then you think that it should stay united?

MS. HARF: I said it’s an internal United Kingdom matter for them to decide.

QUESTION: And you don’t think that hiving off a significant portion of that into a country that would be – into a new country would get in the way or have any problems you – doesn’t give you any concerns?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more analysis on this.

QUESTION: Well, as we get closer, I’m sure you’re going to be asked this again because I think the --

MS. HARF: And I’m sure I’ll say the same thing: It’s an internal United Kingdom matter.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if Texas was going to secede from the rest of the United States --

MS. HARF: I think I’ll withhold my comments on that.

QUESTION: Well, I can imagine that some other countries might have something – have some concerns about it.

MS. HARF: Again, we see this --

QUESTION: So you have – are you saying that you have zero concerns about Scottish secession, about the possibility of Scottish secession?

MS. HARF: I’m saying we regard this as an internal United Kingdom manner – matter, excuse me – and I don’t have any further analysis to do for you on this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but Marie, has there been a discussion at all about it? I mean, the fact that the President does remark on it, it must have been a discussion with the UK.

MS. HARF: Again, I will let the President’s words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: And is there any shift from the U.S. position as it was in June when the President was pretty clear?

MS. HARF: We’ve always had the same position. Again, the President’s words will speak for themselves. I have no more to add on this.

In the back, yes.

QUESTION: But – sorry, sorry. The position is --

QUESTION: Hold on a minute. You say you always had the same position.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: The problem is you don’t have a position.

QUESTION: What is the position?

MS. HARF: That it’s an internal United Kingdom matter. That actually is a position.

QUESTION: But that’s not what the President said in June.

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any more analysis to add.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Previously I asked a question to you – IAEA reported recently North Korea has resumed the nuclear reactors. Did you find that out --

MS. HARF: I did not. Let me check on that again for you. My apologies on that.

QUESTION: Also, do you think that North Korea linked the detainee issues and the nuclear issues?

MS. HARF: Well, they certainly shouldn’t be linking them at all, period.

QUESTION: But what do you guess?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything else to add to that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Yes.

QUESTION: The State Department is leading a delegation that will meet with officials in Moscow on Thursday --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- to look at a possible violation of the 1987 nuclear accord. What, in general, are you expecting out of this meeting? Are you looking for a Russian admission? And then secondly, are these talks complicated by tensions over the Ukraine-Russia situation?

MS. HARF: Well, you are correct. A U.S. delegation led by Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, also a native of Ohio, will travel to Moscow for discussions on the INF treaty on Thursday, September 11th. So this Thursday. We first requested these talks in July when we announced our determination that Russia was in violation of the INF treaty. We will make every effort to resolve concerns we have about Russian compliance and to ensure the continued viability of the treaty. We’re going to pursue this issue until our questions are answered, so one key part of this conversation will be some of our questions. And of course, the goal is for Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the INF treaty. We will continue these discussions, as I said, in Moscow on the 11th.

QUESTION: So this could end up being one in a series of meetings?

MS. HARF: Well, we hope it all gets resolved in one meeting, but this is a conversation – we had discussions with them before we announced their noncompliance as well. So obviously, we hope this can be resolved as soon as possible, but we will keep working on it with them.

With that, thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)

DPB #156



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