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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
January 15, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:03 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. HARF: I have a couple items at the top, and then you two can fight over who gets to start.

First, a trip update: The Secretary began his day in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he met with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, who was also in town at the same time. Then he met with the Bulgarian president, prime minister, and foreign minister. His meetings in Sofia focused on security cooperation, energy diversification, and the bilateral trade and investment relationship, also highlighted the importance of rule of law and helping Bulgaria to realize its full potential as a vibrant European democracy.

He is now in Paris, where he will have meetings tomorrow with French President Hollande and Foreign Minister Fabius. The full details of his schedule are still being worked out, and we’ll have the traveling team get those to folks when they’re ready.

And one more item at the top. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be leading a delegation to Niger from January 20th through 21st, 2015. While there, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield will participate in a ministerial conference hosted by Niger to discuss steps in the fight against the terrorist organization Boko Haram, threats to security in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, and activities of the Multinational Task Force, the MNTF. She will also hold high-level bilateral meetings on related topics of concern.

With that --

QUESTION: So I was going to go first --

MS. HARF: And my mother’s here. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yes. I was going to say, is there somebody you would like to introduce to the rest of us? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: My mom, Jane Harf is here. It’s her second briefing, she’s been to, so everyone has to be really nice today, not that you aren’t always.

QUESTION: We’ll certainly give it a go.

MS. HARF: Lesley, go for it.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to start, but given that you mentioned Boko Haram --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- perhaps my colleague from AFP --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you, Lesley.

MS. HARF: So polite.

QUESTION: Thank you. Since you mentioned Boko Haram, yes.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the Secretary in Sofia talk about a British-U.S. initiative against Boko Haram. So if you could elaborate on that. And the Secretary mention also that what Boko Haram is doing is a crime against humanity. Does it mean that there will be legal consequences in the U.S. against this group?

MS. HARF: Well, first, not a whole lot more details beyond what the Secretary said. We’re talking to the British, but also to others, about ways we can do more to help the Nigerians and others in the region fight Boko Haram, so nothing new beyond what he said. But it’s certainly a topic we’re discussing very closely with the British. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to note Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield’s upcoming travel related to this threat.

In terms of the accountability question, no more details to share on that, beyond what the Secretary said. I think what he was conveying was the horrific nature, of course, of what we’ve seen, particularly the escalation in attacks and the number of casualties, but also underscoring the Nigerians’ need to move forward with their elections, even despite what has been a pretty significant amount of violence.

QUESTION: A follow up to that. Given that the cooperation between the Nigerians and the U.S. has not really been effective on the ground in curbing the activities of Boko Haram, obviously you’re looking further afield. And what could those plans look like? What sort of cooperation do you think you need to go to to really have an impact?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – a few points. It’s primarily the Government of Nigeria’s responsibility to take the steps it needs to to protect its citizens. We know this is a very significant threat and a very challenging one for the Nigerians. That’s why we’ve offered to work with them; we have done some joint training; we have a security cooperation relationship. But more broadly in the region, we’re working with other partners – whether it’s Cameroon, Chad, or others – to fight this threat, because it is a regional threat. That’s certainly been ongoing.

I would also say the Secretary has, on a diplomatic level, engaged with the Nigerian president and with others to try to increasingly work with them to fight this threat.

What else? Any on this?

QUESTION: Anything on --

QUESTION: Just on Boko Haram, has the Nigerian Government sought any kind of additional assistance from the U.S.? They stopped that training program in December.

MS. HARF: They did, unfortunately, stop that training program in December. We do have an ongoing security cooperation relationship. I’m not aware of additional requests from them. But we’re constantly talking to them about what more we are willing to provide and what might make the most sense.

QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that President Jonathan may, indeed, have traveled to northeastern Nigeria today as a show of support for the people in that region?

MS. HARF: I saw that right before I came out, and I can’t confirm it. But if true, obviously – look, would be a show, I think, of – an important show to his people about how seriously he certainly takes the threat. But I just saw it before I came out.

QUESTION: Would it be too much to suggest that this building might consider that a little too late, given the ongoing rise in violence in the past year?

MS. HARF: I think anytime you can demonstrate to your people that you take a terrorist threat seriously, no matter when, is probably important.

QUESTION: You also said that you think that the – you continue to think that the elections should go ahead.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But how can it go ahead when many people cannot vote, and especially an estimated 20,000 that have been forced to flee the country?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been working – the U.S. Government has been working with the Nigerian Government, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, which, I think, is a separate body handling the elections, and civil society to emphasize the need for a clear and well-coordinated election security plan and to offer assistance specifically on that front. Obviously, it’s the responsibility of the Government of Nigeria to protect and enfranchise its citizens. But a key pillar of our elections engagement strategy is the importance of enfranchising displaced voters, what you were asking about. I know the INEC has embraced that point. They understand the importance of it. We’ve urged the Nigerian Government to provide adequate security, improve security coordination, and to make arrangements for these internally displaced persons to be able to vote where they are.

In terms of the U.S. support, a U.S. Government election security expert had visited Nigeria in the fall, has been consulting with Nigerian counterparts in the intervening months, and will embed with INEC for a week in mid-January, and then return for election day in February to help on the engagement side. USAID is also exploring ways, through their Electoral Empowerment of Civil Society Project, to assist IDPs with voting.

Look, this is a challenge. We’ve talked about this in other countries who’ve had elections in pretty significant security-challenging environments. But we are assisting. We’re offering it, certainly, yes.

QUESTION: Still on Boko Haram, are you seeing any kind of cooperation between Boko Haram and ISIS, any kind of collaboration there?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. Operationally, Boko Haram has really been focused regionally and not really externally, like we’ve seen other terrorist groups. Obviously, it’s a concern we watch for.

Yes.

QUESTION: I’m Tyrel Ventura with RT America. With the release of the Amnesty photos this morning that kind of showed that destruction and devastation up there, has that changed at all the State Department plans in dealing with that region? Has it sped things up? Has it – what is the --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say it’s --

QUESTION: Has it had an effect, that evidence?

MS. HARF: -- changed it. I think it underscores what we have seen for some time, really the brutality and the scale and scope of Boko Haram’s attacks. We can’t independently confirm some of the numbers, and just want to caution people that we don’t always have a good way of doing that. So it’s not a precise figure that I think – we don’t have one we can put out there. But I think it just underscores the threat. We are constantly engaged on it, though.

QUESTION: Would one of the areas that the U.S. be looking at and that we haven’t really seen, because it’s difficult to track the financial flows of an organization like this – but is one of these plans maybe looking at intensifying or trying to come up with efforts to sanction this group and its leaders?

MS. HARF: I can check on the financial piece of this. I don’t have the details about where they’re financed or how they’re financed in front of me. I just don’t know that. Let me see if I have anything else in here on the economic piece. I don’t think I do. So let me check with our team and see if there’s more on that.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Go ahead, and then I’ll go back to you. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: Today’s announcement on Cuba --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- which is a major development.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The one thing I was wondering about was were these various steps discussed with the Cubans and agreed with them beforehand.

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding – and I’m checking with our team – that, given these were changes to U.S. regulations, this was really steps the Commerce and Treasury Department took on their own. They’re certainly completely in line with the discussions we had with the Cubans, right, in general about the policy change. To my knowledge, they weren’t specifically discussed with the Cubans, but I’m checking on that just to make sure.

QUESTION: So I guess the question now would be whether the Cubans would allow a lot – some of this to take place on their side, or is that not really an issue?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I haven’t heard that it’s an issue, but I’m happy to check further on that.

QUESTION: And then when you come – my last question is: When you get to – given that the talks are next week, is there any other announcements that you expect could come from this side ahead of it? And how do you see the announcement today playing into as a gesture of confidence ahead of those talks?

MS. HARF: Not that I – I’m not aware of any other announcements coming before the talks. Obviously, things can change. I think I would put it in the context of we announced we spent many, many months negotiating both the spy swap and then decided on our new policy from our side. There are a series of milestones that will have to be a part of this moving forward, and one of those was the prisoners being released, one of them was announcing the new regulations, one of them will be this first set of normalization talks, and then we’ll keep hitting milestones as we go. So this is all part of a process not geared towards the migration talks – the upcoming talks – but geared towards the longer-term policy change.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you expect to reopen your embassy immediately after the talks, or it will be a longer process?

MS. HARF: There’s a process that has to occur. I don’t have any prediction for you. We’ll see how the talks go. But I don’t – I have no prediction on when that might happen.

Yes.

QUESTION: About this, the regulations, do you know if it’s like – if President Obama has reached the limits of his executive power? Or in order to do more, will he have to have the cooperation of Congress?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, that’s a question I can ask my legal team about. We – there are a number of steps we can take and we have taken on Cuba, even before the policy change, through executive action. I can check and see if there’s more details on that. But obviously, in terms of the embargo, there would have to be a congressional piece to that. We’re consulting with Congress, talking with Congress about all of those issues.

On this still, Elliot?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: One of the things that was announced was a general license authorizing transactions with Cuban official missions and their employees in the United States to, I guess, facilitate the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. I guess I was a little bit confused about the actual practical impacts of that and how it helps you guys from your end. Can you go into a little bit more detail?

MS. HARF: I can certainly check with my colleagues and see if there’s more detail on that.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Do you know whether that has anything to do with the banking issues that the interests section had last year?

MS. HARF: I’m wondering if it does. Probably, but let me double check with our experts on that.

QUESTION: And then, on – regarding the fact that building materials can now be exported to Cuba for private homes, houses of worship, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, realistically, how much does the U.S. expect can be provided to people in Cuba?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if we have an estimate for that. I’m happy to check. I haven’t seen one.

QUESTION: There was also a line in the fact sheet regarding unlimited – I don’t know the exact words now – can’t think of them. It’s basically unlimited financial transactions for humanitarian projects. Can you say a little bit more about that? What kind of humanitarian projects?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure I have more details on that. Let me see if I do. I have a lot of Q&A on this, obviously. You’re asking specifically on the – what – humanitarian projects?

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: So this is where OFAC – it has now issued a general license, as we’ve all talked about. We don’t need a specific license anymore. These authorized humanitarian projects include medical and health-related projects, construction projects intended to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups, environmental projects, projects involving formal or non-formal educational training within Cuba or off-island on the following topics: entrepreneurship and business, civil education, journalism, adult literacy, vocation skills – sort of things that we’ve talked about a lot. Grassroots projects, small-scale private enterprise, agriculture – those are all things that fall into the humanitarian projects.

QUESTION: Journalism?

MS. HARF: It says journalism here.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay.

MS. HARF: There you go.

QUESTION: There’s been talk before that these things have been discussed in general during the talks before the President’s announcement. How eager were the Cuban negotiators to have this kind of assistance provided to their citizens, whether it’s the building materials or the funding for humanitarian aid or the ability of Americans who are there for any reason to be able to use credit cards? How interested were they in having these sorts of things made available to U.S. citizens going there?

MS. HARF: I think I would probably let them characterize how they felt during parts of the negotiations and probably aren’t going to outline all of that publicly from our side.

QUESTION: Will President Obama meet with Raul Castro, perhaps in April in Panama, or --

MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to ask the White House questions about the President’s schedule.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Anything else on – you’ve been waiting very patiently. Go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: So diplomatic records of bilateral negotiations between U.S. and Japan were disclosed today in Japan, and the documents show that a speech by then-Japanese Prime Minister Sato in 1965 was revised under U.S. pressure to emphasize the important role of Okinawa in its security. Given that there is a strong opposition against the U.S. military base in Okinawa, can you tell us how the U.S. Government views the importance of a U.S. military base in Okinawa?

MS. HARF: Well, U.S. and Japanese officials have both worked together, I would say, pretty extensively to sustain the presence of U.S. forces in Japan. We’ve talked a lot about the relocation of the Marine Corps air station, which will reduce our footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa and enable the return of a significant amount of land back to the people of Okinawa while continuing at the same time to sustain the U.S. military capabilities vital to the alliance and also to peace and security in the region. So look, these are meaningful results of many years of sustained work between the U.S. and Japan, really a critical step toward realizing our shared vision of a realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa. And I think, beyond that, probably my Defense Department colleague can speak a little more to the specifics.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The same – this Department records also says in 1970, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Laird told the Japanese defense chief Nakasone that there was constitutional problems in terms of national defense, and he showed an interest in Japan’s constitutional – I’m wondering if U.S. Government still see that there is a constitutional problems in terms of national defense in Japan, and if U.S. Government expect to see an actual constitutional revision in Japan.

MS. HARF: Well, I – we’ve certainly see the historical reports, and, I think, are looking into those for a little more detail. But in terms of today where we are on that specific issue – look, we’ve encouraged and we support Japan’s efforts to play a more proactive role in contributing to regional peace and security, including by re-examining its interpretation – the interpretation of its constitution relating to the right of collective self-defense. So obviously, that principle is recognized in the UN Charter. We’ve supported expanding the role of Japan’s self-defense forces within the framework of the alliance, specifically, and also appreciate Japan’s outreach to explain its security policies, including by sending its officials to foreign capitals in a very transparent manner. So that’s, I think, where we are on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Cuba for one second?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Specifically Guantanamo.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary Jacobson prepared to discuss the future status not just of the military prison, but of the naval station at Guantanamo Bay during next week’s talks?

MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that question. I can ask.

On Guantanamo specifically, if folks saw the Department of Defense release last night, that five detainees had been transferred to third countries – four to Oman and one to Estonia. So I just, on Guantanamo, wanted to update people on that. I can ask about that.

QUESTION: Yeah, that would --

MS. HARF: That’s obviously a Defense Department issue, but let me check.

QUESTION: Right. But because there have been a lot of tensions about the presence not just of the prison but of the base itself --

MS. HARF: I absolutely understand the question and why you’re asking. I just don’t know the answer. Let me check.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

QUESTION: While we’re back on Cuba, can I just ask one more as well?

MS. HARF: Let’s – yes.

QUESTION: Sorry. The – one of the other measures announced was a general license to authorizing foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain trade in Cuba. A while back, there was a case of a ship that was detained in Panama after docking in Cuba that was carrying --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- military equipment from North Korea.

MS. HARF: North Korea, yes.

QUESTION: Was that case --

MS. HARF: That was one of my first briefings at this podium, by the way, to remind people.

QUESTION: Okay. It was like a year and a half ago, I guess.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Was that case sort of – factoring that into consideration, is there any concern that this measure would sort of lead to smuggling of that kind of contraband into the U.S. or the – more flow of that kind of thing? Is there any particular additional restrictions being placed to prevent that from happening?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Not that I’ve heard of, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian issue?

MS. HARF: Yes we can, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Today – just now, as a matter of fact – the Security Council called on Israel to unfreeze the tax funds that they have frozen in the past that amounts to about $106 million. Is that a position that you also take? Do you urge them to sort of release the funds because of the hardships the Palestinians are facing?

MS. HARF: Let me – Said, I hadn’t actually seen those reports out of the UN. Let me check and see the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay. And now while we’re still on the topic of the aid to the Palestinians, could you update us on the situation of American aid to the Palestinians? Is that still ongoing? What’s in the pipeline keeps ongoing, or is there any kind of hold? I know there was a threat to withhold aid if they went ahead with – but they did.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said we’re looking at what our obligations are under U.S. law given the recent events. To my knowledge, there’s been no change. Let me check, though.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re aware that Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation, I think it was, last week that – to cut off all aid to the Palestinians. You don’t support the senator?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly know that assistance to the Palestinians has been beneficial, certainly, on a number of fronts, as we’ve talked about. But look, I – let me check and see where we are on that. I want to get the latest.

QUESTION: Okay. And just a couple more on the Palestinian issue.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: There is also – the Palestinians are saying that they are going to reintroduce another UN resolution, perhaps, on a different draft with different elements and so on. Have they discussed that with you? Are you discussing that with them, or would your position remain the same, so to speak?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly aware of those reports. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals at the UN. I would say that we do not think that another Security Council resolution at this time would be constructive. We’re obviously in constant contact with our partners there to talk about the path forward, but don’t think that would be constructive at this point.

QUESTION: And finally, I wonder if you have a comment – the Israelis have just taken the decision that the Swedish foreign minister is a persona non grata, that she cannot come to Israel – she was planning to go there this week – because they recognized the Palestinian state back on October 30th. And we have seen a number of countries that did that afterwards, including France and so on. One, do you have any comment on that or – and second, do you expect the Israelis – that they will do this with France and other countries?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. Let me check.

QUESTION: But what is your position on declaring her a persona non grata?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen those reports, so let me check with our team and see what our position is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s – just actually moving over to Iran --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: We’re watching the Jeffrey Sterling trial on the – in that trial that’s going to come out about CIA Operation Merlin, where they were trying to give, essentially, incomplete nuclear weapon plans to Iran to kind of slow down their development of a nuclear weapon. Could the information coming out in this trial at all affect the ongoing talks between Kerry and Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, given I’m not familiar with the specifics of that trial, and I’m not sure our team that’s talking right now in Geneva is either, look --

QUESTION: It’s just kind of out in the public.

MS. HARF: We’re --

QUESTION: Anyone can pick it up, and I just (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, so look, I’ll check with our folks. But broadly speaking, we are moving forward with these nuclear negotiations, with the P5+1, and with us, with our partners. Their teams are meeting right now with Wendy Sherman and the other negotiators for a couple days of bilateral talks, and then with the rest of the P5+1. That process is moving forward, and hopefully we can continue making progress. Obviously, there’s a lot of history here. We all are well aware of that. What we’re focused on now is what happens going forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the current bilats?

MS. HARF: I don’t have one yet. I don’t have one yet.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said yesterday U.S. remains open dialogue with North Korea.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And what is the United States preconditions for the direct talks with North Korea? Do you have any guidance?

MS. HARF: Well, look, the U.S. has offered the DPRK and continues to offer the opportunity for meaningful engagement and improved bilateral relationship provided it demonstrates its willingness to uphold its international obligations and commitments. Unfortunately, North Korea continues to rebuff or ignore these offers while instead preventing us with the kind of – presenting us with the kind of false choices and a series of provocations we’ve just seen even recently. So we’re open to talking, certainly, but haven’t seen that reciprocated.

QUESTION: But are you not upset that the North Korean offered that if U.S. have a temporary suspending of joint military exercise with South Korea, then are they – if you accept that, then North Korea would – willing to direct talk with the United States about that? What is the U.S. position?

MS. HARF: Well, the offer, as I understand it, which we see as an implicit threat, is for the U.S. to stop doing something that is routine, that is transparent, that is defensive in nature, and that is annual that we do every year, in exchange for the North Koreans not doing something that is prohibited under multiple UN Security Council resolutions and that they are not supposed to be doing. That’s really a false choice here. They’re not equivalent in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’m going to go to you. Yes, we can.

QUESTION: The case of Jason Rezaian.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information about what he’s been charged with? Have the Swiss been able to meet with him? Does he have a lawyer? What’s – what is his situation right now?

MS. HARF: Well, during the meetings yesterday, Secretary Kerry raised U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian’s case. They discussed the report stating that his case had been referred to a court. The Secretary reiterated our call for his immediate release, as well as for the immediate release of detained U.S. citizens, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, and of course, for the Iranian Government to work cooperatively with us in locating Robert Levinson, as we always do.

This is a discussion we have with them very frequently. I don’t have many more details than that. Of course, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are seeking further information about what might come out of this move to refer the case to the court. I know The Washington Post – one of their editors also said they hope this is a way the judicial process can be moved forward and Jason can be returned to his family. We certainly share that sentiment.

QUESTION: But you’re not aware of whether there have been any contacts between Jason and Swiss officials?

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not aware of any, but I’m happy to check for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. HARF: Yes, Turkey.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. Yesterday, you were asked about a situation regarding press freedom in Turkey, but just within day a few developments happen. Some of the columnists who published this cartoons, French cartoons, are under threat. Newspaper (inaudible) is now – there’s an investigation launched just this morning. And also Prime Minister Davutoglu gave some remarks and said that basically this newspaper, (inaudible), had it coming.

My question is: Are you following this situation in Turkey or are you concerned with the situation?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly following it. There’s been a lot of debate about these cartoons – not just in Turkey, I would say. And what I’ve said over the past few days certainly stands. There are very strong feelings about these cartoons. It should be up to media organizations to make the decisions about what to publish and whether to publish them. These are very complicated decisions. I know you all have probably had these conversations with your news organizations. But the way to respond to speech you don’t like isn’t with violence, it isn’t with threats; it’s with more speech. That’s what we believe very strongly here, I know the French believe, and others believe. So clearly, we think that media organizations should have the right publish what they want. Doesn’t mean they have to to prove that they can. It’s obviously a decision for them to make.

QUESTION: Just today, European parliament passed a resolution condemning the ongoing raids on press freedom in Turkey. There is still a journalists and there is new legislation just passed that gave more authority to police and more authority to detain, all these developments. Just yesterday former Ambassador Ricciardone gave a remark and said that Turkey and U.S. do not share values anymore; we share interests. Would you agree with this statement?

MS. HARF: Well, these aren’t about U.S. values. We have repeatedly urged Turkey, as our NATO ally and friend, to ensure their actions uphold Turkey’s own core values and democratic foundations. And we’ve made clear in the past that we have concerns about government interference in freedom of expression. It’s an ongoing conversation with them, certainly.

QUESTION: So when you say “sharing values,” it is the universal values. Do you still think that U.S. and Turkey share these --

MS. HARF: Turkey is a close friend and NATO ally. These are conversations we have with them all the time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you know – on the issue of sharing values, it’s a point that I raised the other day. I mean, you don’t really share these values with any other country. I mean --

MS. HARF: We don’t agree with anything any other country’s --

QUESTION: -- but we know that --

MS. HARF: -- right, everything.

QUESTION: -- there are other countries in Europe, Western democracies and so on, that do have laws in place because of their past history and so on, which we don’t have in this country. So you don’t expect, let’s say – I mean, we don’t have any laws against speech, period, in America. So you don’t expect --

MS. HARF: Well, that incites violence, we do. But --

QUESTION: That incite violence.

MS. HARF: -- I’m not an attorney, so I don’t want to go too far down that road.

QUESTION: Right. So you don’t expect Turkey to adopt the same thing.

MS. HARF: We expect countries around the world to uphold the basic fundamental human freedoms that include freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to be able to choose your own future and say what you want and speak your mind, even if that speech is offensive to some people. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to say things that are offensive to prove you can. These are individual decisions for people and organizations to make.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. HARF: Let’s go here. And then Roz, I’ll go to Pakistan.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Syria, yes.

QUESTION: Did you get in touch in the last 24 hours with the Syrian opposition? And if so, did you urge them to attend Moscow talks?

MS. HARF: Well, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein just returned from a trip overseas to a number of countries in Europe, I think including Turkey and others, where he was continuing his routine engagement with international partners and Syrian opposition members about efforts to advance a negotiated political solution – against ISIL, of course – and to expand our support to the armed opposition through the launch of DOD’s train and equip program. So he was – had some meetings there. Special Envoy Rubinstein and Major General Michael Nagata met earlier this week with a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition and civil society leaders in Turkey to talk about a number of things, including the train and equip program.

QUESTION: So did you urge them, or not?

MS. HARF: Oh, on Moscow. Look, this is a decision for the Syrian opposition to make. They can make it on their own.

QUESTION: Because the Secretary yesterday spoke in a way that he implicitly urged them to attend.

MS. HARF: He did not. He said --

QUESTION: He said they won’t lose anything if they attend.

MS. HARF: He said, “We hope that the Russian efforts could be helpful,” quote. And as I said yesterday, in an extended exchange, I don’t know what he would have said instead – that we hope they’re not helpful? That seems to just defy logic. So we hope any effort to advance a political solution in Syria could be helpful. It doesn’t mean we’re saying the Syrian opposition should or shouldn’t go. It’s a decision for them to make.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: But going along with to what you said yesterday, that all along you have said that there’s only a political solution basically to the Syrian crisis, I mean, holding the conference at the end of the month is a good thing, isn’t it? It would be a good thing and you will do all you can to make it happen, wouldn’t you?

MS. HARF: Well, this isn’t our conference.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: This is a Russian-led effort.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So the Syrian opposition can decide if it wants to go. There’s also talks in Cairo. We hope any effort aimed at achieving a political solution could make progress and be helpful, certainly. But we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Okay. Envoy Staffan de Mistura also said today, I think, or yesterday, that people agree that we must resolve the Syria issue politically this year. I mean, I know everybody wants to resolve it yesterday, I mean. But he’s saying, like --

MS. HARF: I couldn’t agree with that more.

QUESTION: He’s saying as if there were some sort of a common agreement that everybody’s going to do their best to do this, including the opposition, including the United States, including the Russians. Are there any things that you are doing or conducting with the Russians to facilitate their meeting, to make it inclusive, to make it really happen, and go to the next step?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not working with them, to my knowledge, on this specific meeting. But generally speaking, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have had numerous conversations at their level, certainly at other levels as well, about how we can work together to get to a political solution, separate from this upcoming round of talks in Moscow.

QUESTION: Now, let me just follow up very quickly. The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview, and he said basically that you – the fight against ISIS by the West, by the American-led coalition, is basically – it’s like just window dressing, not real substantive. Can you comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that the ISIL terrorists who have been at the receiving end of U.S. bombs probably don’t feel that way.

QUESTION: Okay. But so he’s saying that there’s – more effort needs to be done and more coordination, and that Syria has been at the receiving end --

MS. HARF: We’re certainly not coordinating with the Assad regime. We’re coordinating with 60 coalition partners, including Arab states, to fight ISIL.

QUESTION: Okay. But considering that they are probably the larger target of these attacks by ISIS and other terrorist groups – al-Qaida, al-Nusrah, and so on – wouldn’t it make sense to coordinate at one point how you can perhaps direct a more devastating blow to ISIS and other terrorist groups?

MS. HARF: Not with the Assad regime, Said. Look, they talked on the one hand about fighting ISIL and on the other hand they allowed them to grow. So we are coordinating with over 60 coalition partners. We’ve conducted with our coalition partners over 1,600 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August. They continue on a nearly daily basis. We’ve taken out their fighters, their commanders, hundreds of vehicles and tanks, nearly 200 oil and gas facilities – the infrastructure that funds their terror – as well as more than 1,000 fighting positions, checkpoints, buildings. This is a long fight, but it’s a sustained one that we’re very focused on.

QUESTION: General Allen will return from his travel to the Middle East?

MS. HARF: General Allen. Special Presidential Envoy General Allen and Deputy Envoy Ambassador Brett McGurk met today with the Dutch foreign minister and other Dutch national security officials in The Hague. Following their departure from Iraq, they actually delayed their return to the U.S. to have some consultations with Dutch leadership on countering ISIL, got added to the schedule. They thanked the foreign minister for the Netherlands’ ongoing coalition contributions, including their F-16s flying tactical missions in Iraq, their planned train-and-advise support for Iraqi Security Forces, and their leadership on countering the flow of foreign fighters. It is my understanding they are then returning to the United States.

QUESTION: Back on Syria, I have a question.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon gave an interview today to a television, revealed that he met with some leaders from the Syrian opposition trying to help reaching a political solution in Syria. Were you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Let me check.

QUESTION: Marie, what --

MS. HARF: I just – I hadn’t seen those reports.

QUESTION: What is the (inaudible)? What is your reading on the motivation of the Russians to have this meeting unless you can have both sides there?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure I’m probably well positioned to judge Russian motivations. I’ll let them speak to that. It’s my understanding, though, this is an intra-Syrian meeting helping the Syrian coalition – or the Syrian opposition better coalesce. That needs to be an important part of how we eventually get to a political solution. So that’s my understanding that that’s the point. But I’m not – I mean, motivations, who knows? We talk to the Russians a lot about advancing a political solution and working together on that. So I’m guessing it would help play into that effort.

QUESTION: And if the moderates who the U.S. supports do not go, I mean, is there any – I don’t – I mean, what is the value of the meeting?

MS. HARF: Well, as the Secretary said, we hope this meeting could be helpful in advancing a political solution. We’ll see what comes from it.

(Phone rings.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: A follow-up on the same question, please?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry’s remarks widely read as U.S. is supporting Moscow talks, so you are saying --

MS. HARF: Well, I would say they’re widely misread then.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I just read you exactly what he said. We certainly hope they can be helpful. I’m not sure what the alternative language would have been. We don’t hope they’re helpful? We hope they’re unhelpful? That’s sort of crazy and defies logic.

QUESTION: Do you think if the Assad regime may – will go to Moscow, it looks like, they should be at least doing some – take some steps? Do you have any precondition for Assad regime to participate this kind of conference?

MS. HARF: These are not our talks. Ask the Russians.

QUESTION: The Russians invited Iran to attend the talks. How come they didn’t invite the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Ask the Russians.

QUESTION: And one more. You talk about train and equip --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- program that U.S. team met with the Syrian opposition. Is there any update on this?

MS. HARF: Not really. The Department of Defense has announced that we begin – we expect training to begin in early spring. As we’ve talked about, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have agreed to host training sites. We’re working right now with the interagency and foreign partners to identify recruits for the program. Once we identify personnel by name, the vetting process begins, and that can take around a month, depending. But obviously, we need to vet people before we start training and equipping them.

QUESTION: And the final question is semi-Syria. The Hayat – this one of the partners of suspect or killers in Paris, Hayat – I don’t remember her --

QUESTION: Boumeddiene.

QUESTION: Okay. She – do you have any update on her whereabouts?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Did you talk to Turkish Government? You got any information during her stay in Turkey?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any – anything to share on her today.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Yeah, let’s do Pakistan, then Afghanistan. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on reports that the Pakistani Government may, in fact, be outlawing the Haqqani Network? And if so, when was the U.S. Government notified, and is the U.S. being asked to help sustain the new status quo?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So we welcome reports that the Government of Pakistan plans to outlaw the Haqqani Network, I think 10 or 11 additional organizations linked to violent extremism. This is an important step toward eliminating terrorist activity in Pakistan. Obviously, the Secretary was just there and had a wide-ranging conversation with the Pakistanis about counterterrorism, certainly. He emphasized that we’re committed to deepening our security partnership with Pakistan, and obviously had many conversations with Prime Minister Sharif and others. I don’t have many more details than that. I know this was just an announcement that this is planning to happen. I don’t have more details on when it might.

QUESTION: And when the Secretary talked about deepening commitment, does that mean more military advisers? Does that mean weapons? Does that mean money? All three?

MS. HARF: Don’t have many more details. He did announce the over 250 million that’s allocated for the relocation, shelter, and food and livelihoods of those affected by the counterterrorism operation – so to help the Pakistanis with this IDP issue they have because of ongoing counterterrorism operations. That was an additional 250 million. I don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Ashish. Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the Haqqani Network question, Admiral Mullen had said – described it as a veritable arm of the ISI.

MS. HARF: I remember those comments.

QUESTION: Is that a description that you agree with, and are you seeing those linkages – an end to those linkages?

MS. HARF: Well look, we have a long history of close cooperation with Pakistan on counterterrorism efforts. We’ve been very clear with the Pakistani Government that they need to crack down and go after all terrorist groups that threaten them, threaten their people – their people are, unfortunately, the victims of more terrorist attacks than, I think, people probably anywhere else. So it’s an ongoing conversation, certainly, but this would be a very important step.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that the State Department spent four billion on counternarcotic initiatives in Afghanistan. Despite this, the United Nations reported that Afghanistan set a record for producing opium in 2014 and that 80 percent of the total opium production in the world comes from Afghanistan. Was it the goal of the United States Government to eradicate poppy production in Afghanistan while we’ve had forces there for 13 years?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks. Obviously, while we’ve had military operations underway in Afghanistan, we have focused on other issues, including the narcotics trade. Certainly, we’ve talked about this a lot, and I know we have put a great deal of effort into helping the Afghans grow their capabilities to crack down on this. Let me check with our team and see. I hadn’t that SIGAR report.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: A follow-up to that: The Congressional Research Service says, “After 2014, the State Department does not plan to have a permanent counternarcotics presence outside Kabul.” Has the U.S. Government given up on trying to stop post-war Afghanistan from being the opium production capital of the world?

MS. HARF: Well, I can certainly answer your second question and say no, obviously. In terms of staffing and where people are located, I can check and see if there’s a specific reason for that. But clearly, we have people in Afghanistan and back at the State Department very focused on this issue – very focused.

And then you, yep.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more about the authentication of the AQAP video?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: About the content?

MS. HARF: The content – I don’t. We continue to look into the investigation about the claims in the video. That is ongoing, so I can’t confirm any of those. The intelligence community is still looking at that. No update there.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask about Sri Lanka?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: After the elections, there were reports that President Rajapaksa had asked the army to help him stay in power, but when the army refused to do so, he stepped down. Did the U.S. convey any messages to the president at the time to – or the army to respect the outcome of that vote?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly seen those reports, and I don’t think we’re going to have any comment on those; would refer you to the Government of Sri Lanka. As Secretary Kerry said in his phone call to the new president, obviously we’re looking forward to working with the new administration to achieve its goals.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Today, a woman convicted of killing her stepdaughter was beheaded in public. Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports.

Anything else? Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the video?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: So it means that you are still not sure that AQAP is behind – is responsible for the attack against Charlie Hebdo?

MS. HARF: Correct. We’ve assessed that the video was made by them, distributed by them, but we cannot confirm all of the claims they made in it about their possible involvement.

QUESTION: And what about the other attack? Do you believe that Coulibaly was part of the Islamic State?

MS. HARF: We’re still looking into all of those pieces. I know there’ve been a lot of different reports out there. Nothing to convey on that.

QUESTION: And nothing – no update about the fact that he was apparently on a U.S. terror list?

MS. HARF: No update on any of that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)1:03 p.m. EST

 

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. HARF: I have a couple items at the top, and then you two can fight over who gets to start.

First, a trip update: The Secretary began his day in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he met with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, who was also in town at the same time. Then he met with the Bulgarian president, prime minister, and foreign minister. His meetings in Sofia focused on security cooperation, energy diversification, and the bilateral trade and investment relationship, also highlighted the importance of rule of law and helping Bulgaria to realize its full potential as a vibrant European democracy.

He is now in Paris, where he will have meetings tomorrow with French President Hollande and Foreign Minister Fabius. The full details of his schedule are still being worked out, and we’ll have the traveling team get those to folks when they’re ready.

And one more item at the top. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be leading a delegation to Niger from January 20th through 21st, 2015. While there, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield will participate in a ministerial conference hosted by Niger to discuss steps in the fight against the terrorist organization Boko Haram, threats to security in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, and activities of the Multinational Task Force, the MNTF. She will also hold high-level bilateral meetings on related topics of concern.

With that --

QUESTION: So I was going to go first --

MS. HARF: And my mother’s here. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yes. I was going to say, is there somebody you would like to introduce to the rest of us? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: My mom, Jane Harf is here. It’s her second briefing, she’s been to, so everyone has to be really nice today, not that you aren’t always.

QUESTION: We’ll certainly give it a go.

MS. HARF: Lesley, go for it.

QUESTION: Well, I was going to start, but given that you mentioned Boko Haram --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- perhaps my colleague from AFP --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you, Lesley.

MS. HARF: So polite.

QUESTION: Thank you. Since you mentioned Boko Haram, yes.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the Secretary in Sofia talk about a British-U.S. initiative against Boko Haram. So if you could elaborate on that. And the Secretary mention also that what Boko Haram is doing is a crime against humanity. Does it mean that there will be legal consequences in the U.S. against this group?

MS. HARF: Well, first, not a whole lot more details beyond what the Secretary said. We’re talking to the British, but also to others, about ways we can do more to help the Nigerians and others in the region fight Boko Haram, so nothing new beyond what he said. But it’s certainly a topic we’re discussing very closely with the British. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to note Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield’s upcoming travel related to this threat.

In terms of the accountability question, no more details to share on that, beyond what the Secretary said. I think what he was conveying was the horrific nature, of course, of what we’ve seen, particularly the escalation in attacks and the number of casualties, but also underscoring the Nigerians’ need to move forward with their elections, even despite what has been a pretty significant amount of violence.

QUESTION: A follow up to that. Given that the cooperation between the Nigerians and the U.S. has not really been effective on the ground in curbing the activities of Boko Haram, obviously you’re looking further afield. And what could those plans look like? What sort of cooperation do you think you need to go to to really have an impact?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – a few points. It’s primarily the Government of Nigeria’s responsibility to take the steps it needs to to protect its citizens. We know this is a very significant threat and a very challenging one for the Nigerians. That’s why we’ve offered to work with them; we have done some joint training; we have a security cooperation relationship. But more broadly in the region, we’re working with other partners – whether it’s Cameroon, Chad, or others – to fight this threat, because it is a regional threat. That’s certainly been ongoing.

I would also say the Secretary has, on a diplomatic level, engaged with the Nigerian president and with others to try to increasingly work with them to fight this threat.

What else? Any on this?

QUESTION: Anything on --

QUESTION: Just on Boko Haram, has the Nigerian Government sought any kind of additional assistance from the U.S.? They stopped that training program in December.

MS. HARF: They did, unfortunately, stop that training program in December. We do have an ongoing security cooperation relationship. I’m not aware of additional requests from them. But we’re constantly talking to them about what more we are willing to provide and what might make the most sense.

QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that President Jonathan may, indeed, have traveled to northeastern Nigeria today as a show of support for the people in that region?

MS. HARF: I saw that right before I came out, and I can’t confirm it. But if true, obviously – look, would be a show, I think, of – an important show to his people about how seriously he certainly takes the threat. But I just saw it before I came out.

QUESTION: Would it be too much to suggest that this building might consider that a little too late, given the ongoing rise in violence in the past year?

MS. HARF: I think anytime you can demonstrate to your people that you take a terrorist threat seriously, no matter when, is probably important.

QUESTION: You also said that you think that the – you continue to think that the elections should go ahead.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But how can it go ahead when many people cannot vote, and especially an estimated 20,000 that have been forced to flee the country?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been working – the U.S. Government has been working with the Nigerian Government, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, which, I think, is a separate body handling the elections, and civil society to emphasize the need for a clear and well-coordinated election security plan and to offer assistance specifically on that front. Obviously, it’s the responsibility of the Government of Nigeria to protect and enfranchise its citizens. But a key pillar of our elections engagement strategy is the importance of enfranchising displaced voters, what you were asking about. I know the INEC has embraced that point. They understand the importance of it. We’ve urged the Nigerian Government to provide adequate security, improve security coordination, and to make arrangements for these internally displaced persons to be able to vote where they are.

In terms of the U.S. support, a U.S. Government election security expert had visited Nigeria in the fall, has been consulting with Nigerian counterparts in the intervening months, and will embed with INEC for a week in mid-January, and then return for election day in February to help on the engagement side. USAID is also exploring ways, through their Electoral Empowerment of Civil Society Project, to assist IDPs with voting.

Look, this is a challenge. We’ve talked about this in other countries who’ve had elections in pretty significant security-challenging environments. But we are assisting. We’re offering it, certainly, yes.

QUESTION: Still on Boko Haram, are you seeing any kind of cooperation between Boko Haram and ISIS, any kind of collaboration there?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. Operationally, Boko Haram has really been focused regionally and not really externally, like we’ve seen other terrorist groups. Obviously, it’s a concern we watch for.

Yes.

QUESTION: I’m Tyrel Ventura with RT America. With the release of the Amnesty photos this morning that kind of showed that destruction and devastation up there, has that changed at all the State Department plans in dealing with that region? Has it sped things up? Has it – what is the --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say it’s --

QUESTION: Has it had an effect, that evidence?

MS. HARF: -- changed it. I think it underscores what we have seen for some time, really the brutality and the scale and scope of Boko Haram’s attacks. We can’t independently confirm some of the numbers, and just want to caution people that we don’t always have a good way of doing that. So it’s not a precise figure that I think – we don’t have one we can put out there. But I think it just underscores the threat. We are constantly engaged on it, though.

QUESTION: Would one of the areas that the U.S. be looking at and that we haven’t really seen, because it’s difficult to track the financial flows of an organization like this – but is one of these plans maybe looking at intensifying or trying to come up with efforts to sanction this group and its leaders?

MS. HARF: I can check on the financial piece of this. I don’t have the details about where they’re financed or how they’re financed in front of me. I just don’t know that. Let me see if I have anything else in here on the economic piece. I don’t think I do. So let me check with our team and see if there’s more on that.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Go ahead, and then I’ll go back to you. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: Today’s announcement on Cuba --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- which is a major development.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The one thing I was wondering about was were these various steps discussed with the Cubans and agreed with them beforehand.

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding – and I’m checking with our team – that, given these were changes to U.S. regulations, this was really steps the Commerce and Treasury Department took on their own. They’re certainly completely in line with the discussions we had with the Cubans, right, in general about the policy change. To my knowledge, they weren’t specifically discussed with the Cubans, but I’m checking on that just to make sure.

QUESTION: So I guess the question now would be whether the Cubans would allow a lot – some of this to take place on their side, or is that not really an issue?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I haven’t heard that it’s an issue, but I’m happy to check further on that.

QUESTION: And then when you come – my last question is: When you get to – given that the talks are next week, is there any other announcements that you expect could come from this side ahead of it? And how do you see the announcement today playing into as a gesture of confidence ahead of those talks?

MS. HARF: Not that I – I’m not aware of any other announcements coming before the talks. Obviously, things can change. I think I would put it in the context of we announced we spent many, many months negotiating both the spy swap and then decided on our new policy from our side. There are a series of milestones that will have to be a part of this moving forward, and one of those was the prisoners being released, one of them was announcing the new regulations, one of them will be this first set of normalization talks, and then we’ll keep hitting milestones as we go. So this is all part of a process not geared towards the migration talks – the upcoming talks – but geared towards the longer-term policy change.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you expect to reopen your embassy immediately after the talks, or it will be a longer process?

MS. HARF: There’s a process that has to occur. I don’t have any prediction for you. We’ll see how the talks go. But I don’t – I have no prediction on when that might happen.

Yes.

QUESTION: About this, the regulations, do you know if it’s like – if President Obama has reached the limits of his executive power? Or in order to do more, will he have to have the cooperation of Congress?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, that’s a question I can ask my legal team about. We – there are a number of steps we can take and we have taken on Cuba, even before the policy change, through executive action. I can check and see if there’s more details on that. But obviously, in terms of the embargo, there would have to be a congressional piece to that. We’re consulting with Congress, talking with Congress about all of those issues.

On this still, Elliot?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: One of the things that was announced was a general license authorizing transactions with Cuban official missions and their employees in the United States to, I guess, facilitate the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. I guess I was a little bit confused about the actual practical impacts of that and how it helps you guys from your end. Can you go into a little bit more detail?

MS. HARF: I can certainly check with my colleagues and see if there’s more detail on that.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Do you know whether that has anything to do with the banking issues that the interests section had last year?

MS. HARF: I’m wondering if it does. Probably, but let me double check with our experts on that.

QUESTION: And then, on – regarding the fact that building materials can now be exported to Cuba for private homes, houses of worship, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, realistically, how much does the U.S. expect can be provided to people in Cuba?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if we have an estimate for that. I’m happy to check. I haven’t seen one.

QUESTION: There was also a line in the fact sheet regarding unlimited – I don’t know the exact words now – can’t think of them. It’s basically unlimited financial transactions for humanitarian projects. Can you say a little bit more about that? What kind of humanitarian projects?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure I have more details on that. Let me see if I do. I have a lot of Q&A on this, obviously. You’re asking specifically on the – what – humanitarian projects?

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: So this is where OFAC – it has now issued a general license, as we’ve all talked about. We don’t need a specific license anymore. These authorized humanitarian projects include medical and health-related projects, construction projects intended to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups, environmental projects, projects involving formal or non-formal educational training within Cuba or off-island on the following topics: entrepreneurship and business, civil education, journalism, adult literacy, vocation skills – sort of things that we’ve talked about a lot. Grassroots projects, small-scale private enterprise, agriculture – those are all things that fall into the humanitarian projects.

QUESTION: Journalism?

MS. HARF: It says journalism here.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s interesting. Okay.

MS. HARF: There you go.

QUESTION: There’s been talk before that these things have been discussed in general during the talks before the President’s announcement. How eager were the Cuban negotiators to have this kind of assistance provided to their citizens, whether it’s the building materials or the funding for humanitarian aid or the ability of Americans who are there for any reason to be able to use credit cards? How interested were they in having these sorts of things made available to U.S. citizens going there?

MS. HARF: I think I would probably let them characterize how they felt during parts of the negotiations and probably aren’t going to outline all of that publicly from our side.

QUESTION: Will President Obama meet with Raul Castro, perhaps in April in Panama, or --

MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to ask the White House questions about the President’s schedule.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Anything else on – you’ve been waiting very patiently. Go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: So diplomatic records of bilateral negotiations between U.S. and Japan were disclosed today in Japan, and the documents show that a speech by then-Japanese Prime Minister Sato in 1965 was revised under U.S. pressure to emphasize the important role of Okinawa in its security. Given that there is a strong opposition against the U.S. military base in Okinawa, can you tell us how the U.S. Government views the importance of a U.S. military base in Okinawa?

MS. HARF: Well, U.S. and Japanese officials have both worked together, I would say, pretty extensively to sustain the presence of U.S. forces in Japan. We’ve talked a lot about the relocation of the Marine Corps air station, which will reduce our footprint in the most populated part of Okinawa and enable the return of a significant amount of land back to the people of Okinawa while continuing at the same time to sustain the U.S. military capabilities vital to the alliance and also to peace and security in the region. So look, these are meaningful results of many years of sustained work between the U.S. and Japan, really a critical step toward realizing our shared vision of a realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa. And I think, beyond that, probably my Defense Department colleague can speak a little more to the specifics.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The same – this Department records also says in 1970, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Laird told the Japanese defense chief Nakasone that there was constitutional problems in terms of national defense, and he showed an interest in Japan’s constitutional – I’m wondering if U.S. Government still see that there is a constitutional problems in terms of national defense in Japan, and if U.S. Government expect to see an actual constitutional revision in Japan.

MS. HARF: Well, I – we’ve certainly see the historical reports, and, I think, are looking into those for a little more detail. But in terms of today where we are on that specific issue – look, we’ve encouraged and we support Japan’s efforts to play a more proactive role in contributing to regional peace and security, including by re-examining its interpretation – the interpretation of its constitution relating to the right of collective self-defense. So obviously, that principle is recognized in the UN Charter. We’ve supported expanding the role of Japan’s self-defense forces within the framework of the alliance, specifically, and also appreciate Japan’s outreach to explain its security policies, including by sending its officials to foreign capitals in a very transparent manner. So that’s, I think, where we are on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Cuba for one second?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Specifically Guantanamo.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is Assistant Secretary Jacobson prepared to discuss the future status not just of the military prison, but of the naval station at Guantanamo Bay during next week’s talks?

MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that question. I can ask.

On Guantanamo specifically, if folks saw the Department of Defense release last night, that five detainees had been transferred to third countries – four to Oman and one to Estonia. So I just, on Guantanamo, wanted to update people on that. I can ask about that.

QUESTION: Yeah, that would --

MS. HARF: That’s obviously a Defense Department issue, but let me check.

QUESTION: Right. But because there have been a lot of tensions about the presence not just of the prison but of the base itself --

MS. HARF: I absolutely understand the question and why you’re asking. I just don’t know the answer. Let me check.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

QUESTION: While we’re back on Cuba, can I just ask one more as well?

MS. HARF: Let’s – yes.

QUESTION: Sorry. The – one of the other measures announced was a general license to authorizing foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain trade in Cuba. A while back, there was a case of a ship that was detained in Panama after docking in Cuba that was carrying --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- military equipment from North Korea.

MS. HARF: North Korea, yes.

QUESTION: Was that case --

MS. HARF: That was one of my first briefings at this podium, by the way, to remind people.

QUESTION: Okay. It was like a year and a half ago, I guess.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Was that case sort of – factoring that into consideration, is there any concern that this measure would sort of lead to smuggling of that kind of contraband into the U.S. or the – more flow of that kind of thing? Is there any particular additional restrictions being placed to prevent that from happening?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. Not that I’ve heard of, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian issue?

MS. HARF: Yes we can, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Today – just now, as a matter of fact – the Security Council called on Israel to unfreeze the tax funds that they have frozen in the past that amounts to about $106 million. Is that a position that you also take? Do you urge them to sort of release the funds because of the hardships the Palestinians are facing?

MS. HARF: Let me – Said, I hadn’t actually seen those reports out of the UN. Let me check and see the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay. And now while we’re still on the topic of the aid to the Palestinians, could you update us on the situation of American aid to the Palestinians? Is that still ongoing? What’s in the pipeline keeps ongoing, or is there any kind of hold? I know there was a threat to withhold aid if they went ahead with – but they did.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said we’re looking at what our obligations are under U.S. law given the recent events. To my knowledge, there’s been no change. Let me check, though.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re aware that Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation, I think it was, last week that – to cut off all aid to the Palestinians. You don’t support the senator?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly know that assistance to the Palestinians has been beneficial, certainly, on a number of fronts, as we’ve talked about. But look, I – let me check and see where we are on that. I want to get the latest.

QUESTION: Okay. And just a couple more on the Palestinian issue.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: There is also – the Palestinians are saying that they are going to reintroduce another UN resolution, perhaps, on a different draft with different elements and so on. Have they discussed that with you? Are you discussing that with them, or would your position remain the same, so to speak?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly aware of those reports. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals at the UN. I would say that we do not think that another Security Council resolution at this time would be constructive. We’re obviously in constant contact with our partners there to talk about the path forward, but don’t think that would be constructive at this point.

QUESTION: And finally, I wonder if you have a comment – the Israelis have just taken the decision that the Swedish foreign minister is a persona non grata, that she cannot come to Israel – she was planning to go there this week – because they recognized the Palestinian state back on October 30th. And we have seen a number of countries that did that afterwards, including France and so on. One, do you have any comment on that or – and second, do you expect the Israelis – that they will do this with France and other countries?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. Let me check.

QUESTION: But what is your position on declaring her a persona non grata?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen those reports, so let me check with our team and see what our position is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s – just actually moving over to Iran --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: We’re watching the Jeffrey Sterling trial on the – in that trial that’s going to come out about CIA Operation Merlin, where they were trying to give, essentially, incomplete nuclear weapon plans to Iran to kind of slow down their development of a nuclear weapon. Could the information coming out in this trial at all affect the ongoing talks between Kerry and Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, given I’m not familiar with the specifics of that trial, and I’m not sure our team that’s talking right now in Geneva is either, look --

QUESTION: It’s just kind of out in the public.

MS. HARF: We’re --

QUESTION: Anyone can pick it up, and I just (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, so look, I’ll check with our folks. But broadly speaking, we are moving forward with these nuclear negotiations, with the P5+1, and with us, with our partners. Their teams are meeting right now with Wendy Sherman and the other negotiators for a couple days of bilateral talks, and then with the rest of the P5+1. That process is moving forward, and hopefully we can continue making progress. Obviously, there’s a lot of history here. We all are well aware of that. What we’re focused on now is what happens going forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the current bilats?

MS. HARF: I don’t have one yet. I don’t have one yet.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said yesterday U.S. remains open dialogue with North Korea.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And what is the United States preconditions for the direct talks with North Korea? Do you have any guidance?

MS. HARF: Well, look, the U.S. has offered the DPRK and continues to offer the opportunity for meaningful engagement and improved bilateral relationship provided it demonstrates its willingness to uphold its international obligations and commitments. Unfortunately, North Korea continues to rebuff or ignore these offers while instead preventing us with the kind of – presenting us with the kind of false choices and a series of provocations we’ve just seen even recently. So we’re open to talking, certainly, but haven’t seen that reciprocated.

QUESTION: But are you not upset that the North Korean offered that if U.S. have a temporary suspending of joint military exercise with South Korea, then are they – if you accept that, then North Korea would – willing to direct talk with the United States about that? What is the U.S. position?

MS. HARF: Well, the offer, as I understand it, which we see as an implicit threat, is for the U.S. to stop doing something that is routine, that is transparent, that is defensive in nature, and that is annual that we do every year, in exchange for the North Koreans not doing something that is prohibited under multiple UN Security Council resolutions and that they are not supposed to be doing. That’s really a false choice here. They’re not equivalent in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’m going to go to you. Yes, we can.

QUESTION: The case of Jason Rezaian.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information about what he’s been charged with? Have the Swiss been able to meet with him? Does he have a lawyer? What’s – what is his situation right now?

MS. HARF: Well, during the meetings yesterday, Secretary Kerry raised U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian’s case. They discussed the report stating that his case had been referred to a court. The Secretary reiterated our call for his immediate release, as well as for the immediate release of detained U.S. citizens, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, and of course, for the Iranian Government to work cooperatively with us in locating Robert Levinson, as we always do.

This is a discussion we have with them very frequently. I don’t have many more details than that. Of course, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are seeking further information about what might come out of this move to refer the case to the court. I know The Washington Post – one of their editors also said they hope this is a way the judicial process can be moved forward and Jason can be returned to his family. We certainly share that sentiment.

QUESTION: But you’re not aware of whether there have been any contacts between Jason and Swiss officials?

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not aware of any, but I’m happy to check for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. HARF: Yes, Turkey.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. Yesterday, you were asked about a situation regarding press freedom in Turkey, but just within day a few developments happen. Some of the columnists who published this cartoons, French cartoons, are under threat. Newspaper (inaudible) is now – there’s an investigation launched just this morning. And also Prime Minister Davutoglu gave some remarks and said that basically this newspaper, (inaudible), had it coming.

My question is: Are you following this situation in Turkey or are you concerned with the situation?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly following it. There’s been a lot of debate about these cartoons – not just in Turkey, I would say. And what I’ve said over the past few days certainly stands. There are very strong feelings about these cartoons. It should be up to media organizations to make the decisions about what to publish and whether to publish them. These are very complicated decisions. I know you all have probably had these conversations with your news organizations. But the way to respond to speech you don’t like isn’t with violence, it isn’t with threats; it’s with more speech. That’s what we believe very strongly here, I know the French believe, and others believe. So clearly, we think that media organizations should have the right publish what they want. Doesn’t mean they have to to prove that they can. It’s obviously a decision for them to make.

QUESTION: Just today, European parliament passed a resolution condemning the ongoing raids on press freedom in Turkey. There is still a journalists and there is new legislation just passed that gave more authority to police and more authority to detain, all these developments. Just yesterday former Ambassador Ricciardone gave a remark and said that Turkey and U.S. do not share values anymore; we share interests. Would you agree with this statement?

MS. HARF: Well, these aren’t about U.S. values. We have repeatedly urged Turkey, as our NATO ally and friend, to ensure their actions uphold Turkey’s own core values and democratic foundations. And we’ve made clear in the past that we have concerns about government interference in freedom of expression. It’s an ongoing conversation with them, certainly.

QUESTION: So when you say “sharing values,” it is the universal values. Do you still think that U.S. and Turkey share these --

MS. HARF: Turkey is a close friend and NATO ally. These are conversations we have with them all the time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you know – on the issue of sharing values, it’s a point that I raised the other day. I mean, you don’t really share these values with any other country. I mean --

MS. HARF: We don’t agree with anything any other country’s --

QUESTION: -- but we know that --

MS. HARF: -- right, everything.

QUESTION: -- there are other countries in Europe, Western democracies and so on, that do have laws in place because of their past history and so on, which we don’t have in this country. So you don’t expect, let’s say – I mean, we don’t have any laws against speech, period, in America. So you don’t expect --

MS. HARF: Well, that incites violence, we do. But --

QUESTION: That incite violence.

MS. HARF: -- I’m not an attorney, so I don’t want to go too far down that road.

QUESTION: Right. So you don’t expect Turkey to adopt the same thing.

MS. HARF: We expect countries around the world to uphold the basic fundamental human freedoms that include freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to be able to choose your own future and say what you want and speak your mind, even if that speech is offensive to some people. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to say things that are offensive to prove you can. These are individual decisions for people and organizations to make.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. HARF: Let’s go here. And then Roz, I’ll go to Pakistan.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Syria, yes.

QUESTION: Did you get in touch in the last 24 hours with the Syrian opposition? And if so, did you urge them to attend Moscow talks?

MS. HARF: Well, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein just returned from a trip overseas to a number of countries in Europe, I think including Turkey and others, where he was continuing his routine engagement with international partners and Syrian opposition members about efforts to advance a negotiated political solution – against ISIL, of course – and to expand our support to the armed opposition through the launch of DOD’s train and equip program. So he was – had some meetings there. Special Envoy Rubinstein and Major General Michael Nagata met earlier this week with a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition and civil society leaders in Turkey to talk about a number of things, including the train and equip program.

QUESTION: So did you urge them, or not?

MS. HARF: Oh, on Moscow. Look, this is a decision for the Syrian opposition to make. They can make it on their own.

QUESTION: Because the Secretary yesterday spoke in a way that he implicitly urged them to attend.

MS. HARF: He did not. He said --

QUESTION: He said they won’t lose anything if they attend.

MS. HARF: He said, “We hope that the Russian efforts could be helpful,” quote. And as I said yesterday, in an extended exchange, I don’t know what he would have said instead – that we hope they’re not helpful? That seems to just defy logic. So we hope any effort to advance a political solution in Syria could be helpful. It doesn’t mean we’re saying the Syrian opposition should or shouldn’t go. It’s a decision for them to make.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: But going along with to what you said yesterday, that all along you have said that there’s only a political solution basically to the Syrian crisis, I mean, holding the conference at the end of the month is a good thing, isn’t it? It would be a good thing and you will do all you can to make it happen, wouldn’t you?

MS. HARF: Well, this isn’t our conference.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: This is a Russian-led effort.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So the Syrian opposition can decide if it wants to go. There’s also talks in Cairo. We hope any effort aimed at achieving a political solution could make progress and be helpful, certainly. But we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Okay. Envoy Staffan de Mistura also said today, I think, or yesterday, that people agree that we must resolve the Syria issue politically this year. I mean, I know everybody wants to resolve it yesterday, I mean. But he’s saying, like --

MS. HARF: I couldn’t agree with that more.

QUESTION: He’s saying as if there were some sort of a common agreement that everybody’s going to do their best to do this, including the opposition, including the United States, including the Russians. Are there any things that you are doing or conducting with the Russians to facilitate their meeting, to make it inclusive, to make it really happen, and go to the next step?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not working with them, to my knowledge, on this specific meeting. But generally speaking, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have had numerous conversations at their level, certainly at other levels as well, about how we can work together to get to a political solution, separate from this upcoming round of talks in Moscow.

QUESTION: Now, let me just follow up very quickly. The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview, and he said basically that you – the fight against ISIS by the West, by the American-led coalition, is basically – it’s like just window dressing, not real substantive. Can you comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that the ISIL terrorists who have been at the receiving end of U.S. bombs probably don’t feel that way.

QUESTION: Okay. But so he’s saying that there’s – more effort needs to be done and more coordination, and that Syria has been at the receiving end --

MS. HARF: We’re certainly not coordinating with the Assad regime. We’re coordinating with 60 coalition partners, including Arab states, to fight ISIL.

QUESTION: Okay. But considering that they are probably the larger target of these attacks by ISIS and other terrorist groups – al-Qaida, al-Nusrah, and so on – wouldn’t it make sense to coordinate at one point how you can perhaps direct a more devastating blow to ISIS and other terrorist groups?

MS. HARF: Not with the Assad regime, Said. Look, they talked on the one hand about fighting ISIL and on the other hand they allowed them to grow. So we are coordinating with over 60 coalition partners. We’ve conducted with our coalition partners over 1,600 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August. They continue on a nearly daily basis. We’ve taken out their fighters, their commanders, hundreds of vehicles and tanks, nearly 200 oil and gas facilities – the infrastructure that funds their terror – as well as more than 1,000 fighting positions, checkpoints, buildings. This is a long fight, but it’s a sustained one that we’re very focused on.

QUESTION: General Allen will return from his travel to the Middle East?

MS. HARF: General Allen. Special Presidential Envoy General Allen and Deputy Envoy Ambassador Brett McGurk met today with the Dutch foreign minister and other Dutch national security officials in The Hague. Following their departure from Iraq, they actually delayed their return to the U.S. to have some consultations with Dutch leadership on countering ISIL, got added to the schedule. They thanked the foreign minister for the Netherlands’ ongoing coalition contributions, including their F-16s flying tactical missions in Iraq, their planned train-and-advise support for Iraqi Security Forces, and their leadership on countering the flow of foreign fighters. It is my understanding they are then returning to the United States.

QUESTION: Back on Syria, I have a question.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon gave an interview today to a television, revealed that he met with some leaders from the Syrian opposition trying to help reaching a political solution in Syria. Were you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Let me check.

QUESTION: Marie, what --

MS. HARF: I just – I hadn’t seen those reports.

QUESTION: What is the (inaudible)? What is your reading on the motivation of the Russians to have this meeting unless you can have both sides there?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure I’m probably well positioned to judge Russian motivations. I’ll let them speak to that. It’s my understanding, though, this is an intra-Syrian meeting helping the Syrian coalition – or the Syrian opposition better coalesce. That needs to be an important part of how we eventually get to a political solution. So that’s my understanding that that’s the point. But I’m not – I mean, motivations, who knows? We talk to the Russians a lot about advancing a political solution and working together on that. So I’m guessing it would help play into that effort.

QUESTION: And if the moderates who the U.S. supports do not go, I mean, is there any – I don’t – I mean, what is the value of the meeting?

MS. HARF: Well, as the Secretary said, we hope this meeting could be helpful in advancing a political solution. We’ll see what comes from it.

(Phone rings.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: A follow-up on the same question, please?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry’s remarks widely read as U.S. is supporting Moscow talks, so you are saying --

MS. HARF: Well, I would say they’re widely misread then.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I just read you exactly what he said. We certainly hope they can be helpful. I’m not sure what the alternative language would have been. We don’t hope they’re helpful? We hope they’re unhelpful? That’s sort of crazy and defies logic.

QUESTION: Do you think if the Assad regime may – will go to Moscow, it looks like, they should be at least doing some – take some steps? Do you have any precondition for Assad regime to participate this kind of conference?

MS. HARF: These are not our talks. Ask the Russians.

QUESTION: The Russians invited Iran to attend the talks. How come they didn’t invite the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Ask the Russians.

QUESTION: And one more. You talk about train and equip --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- program that U.S. team met with the Syrian opposition. Is there any update on this?

MS. HARF: Not really. The Department of Defense has announced that we begin – we expect training to begin in early spring. As we’ve talked about, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have agreed to host training sites. We’re working right now with the interagency and foreign partners to identify recruits for the program. Once we identify personnel by name, the vetting process begins, and that can take around a month, depending. But obviously, we need to vet people before we start training and equipping them.

QUESTION: And the final question is semi-Syria. The Hayat – this one of the partners of suspect or killers in Paris, Hayat – I don’t remember her --

QUESTION: Boumeddiene.

QUESTION: Okay. She – do you have any update on her whereabouts?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: Did you talk to Turkish Government? You got any information during her stay in Turkey?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any – anything to share on her today.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Yeah, let’s do Pakistan, then Afghanistan. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on reports that the Pakistani Government may, in fact, be outlawing the Haqqani Network? And if so, when was the U.S. Government notified, and is the U.S. being asked to help sustain the new status quo?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So we welcome reports that the Government of Pakistan plans to outlaw the Haqqani Network, I think 10 or 11 additional organizations linked to violent extremism. This is an important step toward eliminating terrorist activity in Pakistan. Obviously, the Secretary was just there and had a wide-ranging conversation with the Pakistanis about counterterrorism, certainly. He emphasized that we’re committed to deepening our security partnership with Pakistan, and obviously had many conversations with Prime Minister Sharif and others. I don’t have many more details than that. I know this was just an announcement that this is planning to happen. I don’t have more details on when it might.

QUESTION: And when the Secretary talked about deepening commitment, does that mean more military advisers? Does that mean weapons? Does that mean money? All three?

MS. HARF: Don’t have many more details. He did announce the over 250 million that’s allocated for the relocation, shelter, and food and livelihoods of those affected by the counterterrorism operation – so to help the Pakistanis with this IDP issue they have because of ongoing counterterrorism operations. That was an additional 250 million. I don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Ashish. Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the Haqqani Network question, Admiral Mullen had said – described it as a veritable arm of the ISI.

MS. HARF: I remember those comments.

QUESTION: Is that a description that you agree with, and are you seeing those linkages – an end to those linkages?

MS. HARF: Well look, we have a long history of close cooperation with Pakistan on counterterrorism efforts. We’ve been very clear with the Pakistani Government that they need to crack down and go after all terrorist groups that threaten them, threaten their people – their people are, unfortunately, the victims of more terrorist attacks than, I think, people probably anywhere else. So it’s an ongoing conversation, certainly, but this would be a very important step.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that the State Department spent four billion on counternarcotic initiatives in Afghanistan. Despite this, the United Nations reported that Afghanistan set a record for producing opium in 2014 and that 80 percent of the total opium production in the world comes from Afghanistan. Was it the goal of the United States Government to eradicate poppy production in Afghanistan while we’ve had forces there for 13 years?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks. Obviously, while we’ve had military operations underway in Afghanistan, we have focused on other issues, including the narcotics trade. Certainly, we’ve talked about this a lot, and I know we have put a great deal of effort into helping the Afghans grow their capabilities to crack down on this. Let me check with our team and see. I hadn’t that SIGAR report.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: A follow-up to that: The Congressional Research Service says, “After 2014, the State Department does not plan to have a permanent counternarcotics presence outside Kabul.” Has the U.S. Government given up on trying to stop post-war Afghanistan from being the opium production capital of the world?

MS. HARF: Well, I can certainly answer your second question and say no, obviously. In terms of staffing and where people are located, I can check and see if there’s a specific reason for that. But clearly, we have people in Afghanistan and back at the State Department very focused on this issue – very focused.

And then you, yep.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more about the authentication of the AQAP video?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: About the content?

MS. HARF: The content – I don’t. We continue to look into the investigation about the claims in the video. That is ongoing, so I can’t confirm any of those. The intelligence community is still looking at that. No update there.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask about Sri Lanka?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: After the elections, there were reports that President Rajapaksa had asked the army to help him stay in power, but when the army refused to do so, he stepped down. Did the U.S. convey any messages to the president at the time to – or the army to respect the outcome of that vote?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly seen those reports, and I don’t think we’re going to have any comment on those; would refer you to the Government of Sri Lanka. As Secretary Kerry said in his phone call to the new president, obviously we’re looking forward to working with the new administration to achieve its goals.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Today, a woman convicted of killing her stepdaughter was beheaded in public. Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports.

Anything else? Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the video?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: So it means that you are still not sure that AQAP is behind – is responsible for the attack against Charlie Hebdo?

MS. HARF: Correct. We’ve assessed that the video was made by them, distributed by them, but we cannot confirm all of the claims they made in it about their possible involvement.

QUESTION: And what about the other attack? Do you believe that Coulibaly was part of the Islamic State?

MS. HARF: We’re still looking into all of those pieces. I know there’ve been a lot of different reports out there. Nothing to convey on that.

QUESTION: And nothing – no update about the fact that he was apparently on a U.S. terror list?

MS. HARF: No update on any of that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:46 p.m.)

 



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