US State Department: Daily Press Briefing - August 12, 2013

Published: Tue 13 Aug 2013 04:46 PM
Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 12, 2013
08/12/2013 06:23 PM EDT
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 12, 2013
Index for Today's Briefing
12th Annual African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum Being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Security of HST Building during Keystone XL Pipeline Protest / Release of Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) after Public Comments are Incorporated
Ambassador Indyk and Deputy Special Envoy Lowenstein in Region / Another Round of Talks This Week / Both Sides Committed to Pursue Continuous Negotiations / Next Round of Talks to Occur in Jerusalem on August 14
Secretary Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice Meeting with Muslim Leaders
Deputy Secretary Burns' Travel / Politically Motivated Arrests and Detentions / Egyptian Choice
Concern of High-Level Statement from an Al-Qaida Leader
18 of 19 Embassies Reopened
U.S. Condemns Attack / Uptick of al-Qaida in Iraq and terrorist attacks in Iraq / Secretary Kerry's Meeting on Thursday with Foreign Minister Zebari
Situation has Fueled Tensions in region / Negative Effect on Situation in Iraq
Secretary Kerry's 2+2 Meeting on Friday with Foreign Minister Lavrov / Remain Committed to Geneva 2 Conference as Early as Possible
Readout of Ambassador Ford's meetings in Paris
U.S. Committed to Providing Humanitarian Assistance to the Syrian People
U.S. Remains Deeply Concerned of Reports of Ongoing Clashes between Extremists and Kurds
U.S. Concerned of Violence / U.S. Continues to Hope India and Pakistan Will Improve Their bilateral Relations / Keep Taking Steps to Improve Trust / Pace, Scope, and Character of India's and Pakistan's Dialogue
Aware of Reports of U.S. Citizen Expelled
Family Rescued at Sea
Kenneth Bae's Hospitalization
Secretary Kerry's Trip to Bogota / Meetings with Colombian President Santos and Foreign Minister Holguin / Secretary Kerry's Trip to Brazil Tomorrow / Meeting with Colombian Peace Negotiators
NSA Surveillance
U.S. Military Programs Postponed or Canceled / national election committee
Malians Peacefully Cast Their Vote for the Next President / U.S. Commends Malian People for Their Enthusiasm and Engagement in Election
Communication to the Government of Robert Mugabe
1:17 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a short statement to read at the top and then happy to open it up for questions. The 12th Annual African Growth Opportunity Act Forum is currently being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It runs from August 9th through 13th. As many of you know, AGOA is the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. By providing duty-free access to the U.S. market, AGOA has succeeded in helping eligible sub-Saharan African nations grow, diversify their exports to the United States, and create employment in sub-Saharan Africa.
This forum will include meetings for the private sector, civil society, and with African Women Entrepreneurs Program participants followed by a ministerial forum, which begins today. Again, AGOA enables the 39 eligible sub-Saharan African countries to export most products duty free to the U.S. Total African exports under AGOA have more than quadrupled since the program’s inception. Some experts estimate that expanding trade under AGOA is responsible for 350,000 direct and one million indirect jobs in Africa as well as about 100,000 jobs in the United States. In several African countries, AGOA is transformative and diversifying and modernizing economies and work forces. The discussions will pave the way for the President to work with Congress and other stakeholders on AGOA’s extension after September 2015 when the current act is due to expire. And the U.S. delegation is being led by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
With that, I’m happy to open it up for –
QUESTION: Can I ask an off-that-topic question?
MS. HARF: You may, yes.
QUESTION: How many unarmed, peaceful, environmental protestors does it take to close down the State Department’s main entrance for two and a half hours?
MS. HARF: Well, Matt, we are aware of the demonstrations that have been taking place here at the State Department today. Of course we recognize and respect the right to peacefully assemble and express views. I don’t have a number for how big the protests were. As we’ve mentioned before, we consider inputs and feedback from the public to be an important part of the review process, which is why we’ve hosted a public meeting on this in Nebraska in March and are working to incorporate more than 1.2 million public comments into our final supplemental environmental impact statement.
QUESTION: Well, I’ll get to the policy issue – the policy question in a second.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: This wasn’t a policy question.
MS. HARF: I don’t –
QUESTION: It’s more about –
MS. HARF: In terms of a number of protestors, I don’t have an estimate for what the group was today.
QUESTION: Well, it was roughly – a little over a hundred maybe.
MS. HARF: Okay. I’ll take your word for it.
QUESTION: A smaller number would still have caused the massive presence from DH – I guess would still have caused the same security situation where 22nd Street was blocked, where there were barricades put up in front of the driveway on the C Street entrance, where there were more than 70 that I counted armed guards?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have details for you on what our specific security posture looked like in response to the demonstrations. Again, we respect the right of peaceful protests, as these people were, but we also have responsibility for the security of the building and I’m sure acted appropriately in taking whatever steps we felt were necessary.
QUESTION: Okay. So does that mean that the State Department is not able or doesn’t think that it’s able to protect its or to secure its own building without –
MS. HARF: Not at all.
QUESTION: -- the help of other agencies? Well, then why were there –
MS. HARF: Not at all.
QUESTION: Can you explain or can you take the question as to why it was deemed – were you expecting these people to be violent?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. It’s my understanding that U.S. Government facilities around town, when there are protestors or demonstrations, take additional precautions out of an abundance of caution. I don’t think this is a particularly unusual –
QUESTION: Presumably the same thing would happen overseas at embassies, consulates, stuff like that.
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to equate the two in any way. I think this is comparable to what our response would be for any government facility.
QUESTION: Yeah? Okay. You don’t think it was a bit of an overreach? No?
MS. HARF: I do not.
QUESTION: To the policy then. So what’s – is there any update on when the review will be done?
MS. HARF: No timeline. Right now we are incorporating, again, the more than 1.2 million public comments into what will be the final supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. We are doing this in a rigorous, transparent, and efficient manner, but no update on timeline. It’s just a process that takes a little while to incorporate all of the public comments.
QUESTION: Okay. Sorry. I’m – rigorous, transparent, and efficient manner?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Where’s the transparency?
MS. HARF: Well, we post periodically batches of public comments on our website.
QUESTION: But that’s the transparency of what people have told you in public –
MS. HARF: Correct, which is what we’re currently incorporating into --
QUESTION: Right, right, but what about the transparency of the actual review?
MS. HARF: Well, we will release a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement when we’ve incorporated all the public comments. I think transparency refers to a couple of things, but one of which is that the public is able to be a part of the process. We’ve been transparent about how the process will work, and people are allowed to give us their opinion, and then we will release the report, and then there’s a process after that as well.
QUESTION: I understand. So but the transparency refers to once the – sharing the public comments, but does not apply to the actual product – the review that you’re working on until it gets released. Is that correct?
MS. HARF: Well, correct. It’s in draft form. Let me double check on the specifics of when we release things publicly and when we don’t. I just want to make sure I have all the facts on this correct.
QUESTION: Okay. I just want to know what is – what you’re saying is transparent about this. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah, but let me double check again on when we release – if we release drafts or not. I’m just not positive.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
QUESTION: Can I change the topic to –
MS. HARF: Yes, we can.
QUESTION: -- the Palestinian-Israeli talks?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We’ve seen an announcement – gosh, it was yesterday – regarding the proposed release of the prisoners. At the same time, the Israelis moved forward on Sunday to build 1,200 homes for Jewish settlers. Doesn’t this go against what – first of all, does this compromise the talks at all?
MS. HARF: Well, we feel strongly that the best way to resolve differences between the two parties is at the negotiating table. That’s why Ambassador Indyk and his team are in the region right now. That’s why we’re having another round of talks this week. Both sides have committed to pursue continuous negotiations, and we have encouraged them to remain focused on the ultimate goals of a permanent agreement, and that’s why we will continue to engage with both sides to make concerns known when we have them, but also to work to keep them at the table talking as they’ve committed to doing.
QUESTION: But does the building of the –
MS. HARF: I’ll get to you in one second.
QUESTION: -- settlement – does the building of these new homes, and if they are new homes – and they are new. These are not preannounced ones. Does that not compromise – is that not a dent in confidence-building measures ahead of discussions?
MS. HARF: Well, announcements that you’re referring to certainly come at a particularly sensitive time with the negotiations continuing in the region. We continue to engage with the Israeli Government to make our serious concerns known. We again stressed to them how important it is for the parties to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for talks, as we have seen recently in other moves by both sides including security cooperation and the decision to release prisoners that you referred to. So we will continue making our concerns known to the Israeli Government about that specific issue, yes.
QUESTION: Have you asked them to put that on hold?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into specifics about what those diplomatic discussions entail other than to say we’ve made our concerns known.
QUESTION: So they’re not following suit with what European allies who strongly condemn this act as hindering the peace process?
MS. HARF: Well, I think I just made clear that our position on settlements has not changed, that these announcements do come in a particularly sensitive time, and we have made our serious concerns about this recent announcement known to the Government of Israel.
QUESTION: Okay. But because in the statement, a European Union statement, also states very clearly that the settlement are contrary to international laws and, in fact, an obstacle to peace. Do you concur with that?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to comment on their statement, I’m going to make clear what our position is, which is that --
MS. HARF: -- let me finish – which is that it has not changed. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. That hasn’t changed. And again, we’ve raised the concerns – these concerns with the Government of Israel. Our focus has been getting both parties to the table, which they are now, to talk about the whole range of issues that are on the table. Nobody’s naive that these conversations won’t be difficult at times, but that’s exactly why we have our team there on the ground to help facilitate these discussions.
QUESTION: So you don’t find this particular announcement to be particularly disturbing being on the eve the resumptions of the talks in Jerusalem?
MS. HARF: Well, I think I was clear that these announcements come at a particularly sensitive time, and that we’ve raised serious concerns with the Government of Israel. I think that statement should speak for itself.
QUESTION: Okay, and today – let me just follow up – today, Martin Indyk met with Mahmoud Abbas. Could you tell us what the content of their meeting was?
MS. HARF: Well, you are correct that Ambassador Indyk is in the region right now. He’s having a number of meetings to help facilitate these negotiations. He’s accompanied by Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein. I think one thing is important to point out at this point, now that we’re starting additional rounds of talks that don’t involve the Secretary, that I think it’s important to set expectations. We won’t be reading out every single individual meeting that happens on the ground. As you can imagine, some of them are scheduled on the fly. It’s very fast-moving, so we’ll update you as progress is made, as big meetings are held, but there will be a variety of meetings that Ambassador Indyk has throughout the coming days, and we’re not going to read out every single one of them.
QUESTION: But given the context of these announcements being made, I mean, you basically had the Palestinians threatening on Sunday evening to just walk out even before the meetings start. Then we’re right back to where we were in 2010. Given that the Embassy has already made it clear in the past several days that the U.S. does not approve of these settlements, what has the Secretary himself done?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything to read out for you about the Secretary’s activities. As you know, right now he’s in Colombia and Brazil tomorrow. He’s obviously very engaged on this topic as we all have talked about many times in this room.
Ambassador Indyk is on the ground right now working with both parties. We expect fully the next round of talks to occur on the 14th in Jerusalem, and that’s exactly why we think people should come back to the negotiating table, because that’s the place to hash out these really difficult issues and that’s the place where ultimately we can get some resolution to them.
QUESTION: With all due respect, yes, the Secretary may be on travel in Latin America --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but there is a phone on his 757 --
MS. HARF: There is.
QUESTION: -- and it would seem that given that the Prime Minister was indisposed over the weekend that something from the Secretary should have been conveyed to his government about the particular delicacy of the moment.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any specifics for you on at what level we’ve expressed our concerns to the Government of Israel on this issue. Clearly, the Secretary is deeply involved with our team in discussions about how we’re going to address some of these issues going forward, but I don’t have any specifics for you on calls the Secretary has made. I can check into that and see if there’s anything additional to share.
QUESTION: Can you just follow up on this? Since you talked about sensitive time and you’re both – asked both sides to refrain from taking any provocative action --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- don’t you think that the Israeli action now is a slap in the face in your efforts to trying to bring the two parties together?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to characterize it in those terms.
QUESTION: Well, why not?
MS. HARF: Because I’m not going to. I think I’ve made clear that we have serious concerns and we’ve raised those with the Government of Israel. I think you’re right, the Secretary has stressed that both sides should refrain from taking actions that could possibly undermine trust. But the other thing that he’s repeatedly emphasized is that clearly there are difficult issues, clearly there are going to be bumps in the road, but these discussions are taking privately for a reason. Because they are so difficult that the most chance we have for success is not to play them out in public. It’s not to have these discussions in public. It’s to have the two parties sitting down face to face talking about them, which is exactly what they’re going to be doing on the 14th.
QUESTION: So you’re still hoping that this action --
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Go ahead, Nadia.
QUESTION: So you’re still hoping that this action by the Israelis still will not undermine the peace – the negotiation, and the Palestinians will go along with it?
MS. HARF: Well, clearly --
QUESTION: That’s your hope?
MS. HARF: -- clearly we believe that the two parties are at the table acting in good faith right now, that Ambassador Indyk and his team is on the ground working with them, and we’re continuing on our path with the two sides to eventually hopefully reach a final status agreement. So we are moving forward with our plans. We’ve always said there will be difficult times. There will be bumps in the road. If this were easy, it would have been done decades ago. The fact is we are where we are today and we’re going to continue facilitating between the two sides.
QUESTION: When you consider that –
QUESTION: So you think the Israelis --
MS. HARF: I’ll get to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- are acting in good faith? I mean, you just – they’re acting – both acting in good faith? I’m asking you, are the Israelis acting in good faith?
MS. HARF: We – the Secretary has made clear that both of the negotiating teams are at the table acting in good faith. We’ve also today made clear that we have serious concerns with this recent announcement. So we’re going to move forward towards the meetings on the 14th and we’ll update you as necessary from there.
QUESTION: I guess the problem is that they’re not at the table at the moment, so I don’t know why – how – right, I mean, they’re not --
MS. HARF: Well, Ambassador Indyk is meeting with both sides and his team is meeting with both sides right now. We have a meeting scheduled for the 14th, so we have a meeting coming up.
QUESTION: So the answer to Said’s question, when he asked if you believe that they’re both still acting in good faith, your answer is yes, you do believe that they are both --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- both sides are acting in good faith?
MS. HARF: We believe both sides are at the negotiating table in good faith, and on the 14th we will have another round of discussions and then go from there.
QUESTION: Well, but – okay. Can you explain what – in good faith, meaning what? That they’re – that both sides --
MS. HARF: That both sides understand that peace is imperative, that this is a goal worth working for, even though it’s difficult, and that that’s why you saw them standing here with the Secretary just a few weeks ago, saying exactly those things.
QUESTION: But you say that you’re concerned about – you have serious concerns about this announcement --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and they come at a particularly sensitive and at a time when you’re asking both sides to create the positive atmosphere.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you not think that this undermines the positive atmosphere or whatever --
MS. HARF: Again, the --
QUESTION: -- positive atmosphere there was?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I don’t want to characterize it in that way. I’ve said and I will continue to say we have serious concerns, because this is a particularly sensitive time. What we’re focused on is our team working with both sides and saying, okay, what are we going to discuss on the 14th, what are those discussions going to look like. These things aren’t mutually exclusive. We can both at the same time, which I think is what you’re seeing right now.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but the point – I guess the question is, though, that you said that you think that these issues need to be negotiated between the parties themselves at the table.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But this isn’t a problem at the – just the Palestinians have with the Israelis; this is a problem that you have with the Israelis, that the Europeans have with the Israelis, that everyone but some in Israel have with the Israelis.
MS. HARF: Well, again, I’d make – go ahead. Excuse me.
QUESTION: So outside of the context of the closed-door, super-secret talks, which no one’s ever going to talk about, this is an issue that you can address and that needs to be addressed.
MS. HARF: Well, I would say two things, Matt. The first is that our position has not changed. Our U.S. Government policy has not changed on settlements. So that’s A, in column A. In column B is the work that Ambassador Indyk and his team on the ground is working on the ground to facilitate discussions between the two sides about all of these thorny issues that are on the table. So again, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. They clearly know what our policy is, but there’s a reason we want both sides at the table – because ultimately, it’s in both of their interests to discuss and eventually agree on the outcome of these issues between the two of them.
QUESTION: It’s – okay. So what do you tell the Israelis then, other than saying we have serious concerns about this because it comes at a particularly sensitive time? Do you just say, are you still willing to be at the table? What do you ask the Palestinians? Are they still willing to be there? And to the best of your knowledge the answer is yes?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to detail specific diplomatic conversations beyond what I’ve already said. But clearly, Ambassador Indyk is there meeting with both sides, working on what this next round of talks is going to look like on the 14th, and making all of this known to both sides as we go into the 14th.
QUESTION: But if one side continually does things, does – takes actions that you disagree with, and has been doing so for years and years and years, even knowing full well your position on it, you don’t believe that that undermines any kind of positive atmosphere that might have existed after the first round here?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it in those ways. I would also actually point out – I’m not going to characterize it in that way, but I will point out to you that the Israeli Government is also taking a very difficult but necessary step in part of the peace negotiations to release a number of prisoners as well.
QUESTION: So that’s a good thing that contributes to the positive atmosphere, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, we think that it demonstrated a willingness by the Prime Minister to make tough decisions when he determines it’s in the best interests of the Israeli people.
MS. HARF: So again, this is a process.
QUESTION: Right. So that contributes to the positive atmosphere.
MS. HARF: I’m not going to detail what contributes to a positive atmosphere and what doesn’t.
QUESTION: Well either it does or it doesn’t.
MS. HARF: Well, we --
QUESTION: And something – an action either does contribute, or it doesn’t, or it’s neutral and has no effect.
MS. HARF: Well, the world isn’t that black and white.
MS. HARF: I’m saying we have serious concerns about this latest announcement of settlements --
MS. HARF: -- period.
QUESTION: And you don’t think that it has any – it doesn’t do anything to affect the atmosphere around the next round of talks?
MS. HARF: I’m not going – I mean, Ambassador Indyk is meeting with both sides.
QUESTION: Why are you – if you’re willing to praise the Israelis for releasing the prisoners --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and you’re willing to say that you have concerns with them --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- surely you can say that that’s going to have some kind of – I mean, maybe the two wash each – maybe the come out – maybe this is a zero-sum game. Maybe the two, in your opinion, the Administration’s view, cancel each other out and so there’s a – the net impact is nothing.
MS. HARF: I think I would refrain from trying to game one against the other. I think this is a topic and these negotiations include a variety of very complicated issues – not just one, not just two, not just 10, but a number of them. All right?
QUESTION: Are you suggesting --
MS. HARF: Let me finish. And then, of course, we are doing everything we can to create a positive atmosphere between both sides. That’s why they’re both working with us. That’s why Ambassador Indyk and his team are meeting with both sides right now. We’re going to express our concerns when we have them; we’re going to say the sides are doing things that we think are necessary and positive when we feel that way.
QUESTION: But you won’t go after them if you do think they do take actions that are negative and --
MS. HARF: I don’t think I can – I mean, I don’t see what’s not clear about saying we have serious concerns and we’ve raised them with the Government of Israel, as an action.
QUESTION: Well, I just don’t understand why you can’t make the leap between saying that you have serious concerns and saying that you’re concerned about the effect on the talks. Now, maybe you’re not concerned, but come out and say that.
MS. HARF: We are planning to have the next round of talks on the 14th.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Clearly these are delicate issues, but I’m going to use the words “serious concerns.”
QUESTION: All right. Then let me just ask you about the – and this will be it for me –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- on the long-stated position we do not accept the legitimacy of settlements, does that – is that a synonym for saying that you believe that settlement activity is illegal?
MS. HARF: I’m going to state our position exactly as I said it. We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.
QUESTION: Okay. The word --
MS. HARF: I’m not going to further parse it for you.
QUESTION: Does – you don’t --
MS. HARF: Period.
QUESTION: You don’t know?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to further parse it for you.
QUESTION: You don’t know the definition of the word “legitimacy”?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to further parse it for you, Matt.
Next question.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that the release of these 26 prisoners slated for Tuesday in any way mitigates the government’s decision to go ahead and authorize this? Because certainly that is --
QUESTION: -- what some of the survivors of those who were killed by those who are in prison are suggesting.
MS. HARF: And to mitigate what, excuse me?
QUESTION: To mitigate the decision to go ahead and authorize these new settlements.
MS. HARF: No, I’m not going to characterize it that way. I’m not going to speak for the Government of Israel or why they’ve decided to take certain actions at one time or another. That’s really for them to discuss. But I’m going to – when – again, when we think things are helpful and necessary, we’ll say so. But I don’t want to compare one to the other or do a zero-sum-game analysis of these two specific incidents.
QUESTION: So these issues are separate in your opinion, correct? I mean, the prisoners issue and the settlement issue are completely separate?
MS. HARF: Well, they’re both part of discussions about how to move forward with the peace process, so of course they’re not completely separate. They’re both part of a discussion about the peace process.
QUESTION: Okay. But each one, on its own merit, is separate? Because these prisoners were supposed to be released back in 1993, many of them.
MS. HARF: In terms of whether they’re separate, they are separate government decisions by the Government of Israel. That’s my understanding. Again, you’d have to talk to the Government of Israel for them to explain why they made these decisions, at what time. And I’m not going to go into the history about prisoner releases or --
QUESTION: I understand, but --
MS. HARF: -- who was released when. Again, we’re talking about today, where we are now in August, and we’re saying that this is a difficult but necessary step at this time.
QUESTION: Marie, does – do you think – does the State Department think --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that 26 Palestinian prisoners is enough of a confidence-building measure to get the start – to get the talks started?
MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t want to put a specific number, a threshold, or a bar. As we’ve said, I think this – well, we believe that this did demonstrate a willingness by the Prime Minister to make a tough decision, and that this is a difficult but necessary step to give peace negotiations a chance, and we do believe that it’s a positive step forward and that it shows that the Government of Israel is investing in the success of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace. Again, those are positive steps as part of this process.
QUESTION: And then with the settlements, after what happened on – over the weekend, has the U.S. asked Israel to stop?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to outline specific diplomatic conversations, other than to say that we have serious concerns and we’ll continue to raise them.
QUESTION: Does the Department --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) government (inaudible) --
QUESTION: -- does the Department notice a pattern that every time there’s a high-level visit, or every time there is a negotiation, the Israelis seem to accelerate the cross-settlement. Do you concur with that analogy?
MS. HARF: Well, Said, I’m not going to play historian up here. We’ve all watched this process play out in various ways throughout the decades, and I’m not going to make a sweeping generalization about how it’s played out in the past. What we’re focused on right now is how it’s going to play out in the future.
QUESTION: Well, if you don’t see a pattern that every time there is something like this, the Israelis – perhaps to placate their constituencies – there is an announcement of settlement activities, or increased activities?
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to use those terms. I’m not going to do a historical look at what has or hasn’t happened in the past with these negotiations. We’re focused on what’s happening now, on how we can continue to build trust between both sides and move forward with the discussions.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Mark Regev, told reporters on Sunday that this new development is already on land that is going to be part of a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Is he telling the truth? Has he told the U.S., or has the Israeli Government told the U.S. that is indeed what is happening here?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those specific comments, so I wouldn’t want to comment on those specifically, other than to say that all of discussions about those issues are being held in private, they’re ongoing. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the process that’s currently ongoing, discussing those issues. But again, I haven’t seen those comments and I wouldn’t want to comment on them.
QUESTION: You’re saying – wait, wait. You’re saying that U.S. and Israel are having private discussions about the scope and placement of settlement – new settlements?
MS. HARF: No, that’s not at all what I said. I said I hadn’t seen the comments, and I couldn’t --
QUESTION: Well, you said --
MS. HARF: I said that this --
QUESTION: -- all of the discussions --
MS. HARF: -- all of those discussions right now between both – all parties involved, us and both sides, are about a broad spectrum of issues, including, of course, this one.
QUESTION: Settlement.
MS. HARF: But I haven’t seen those comments and can’t comment on them one way or the other.
QUESTION: So the U.S. is consulting or talking to Israel about where and – the size, where, and when they put settlements?
MS. HARF: I did not in any way say that. Clearly, we’re talking – let me finish.
QUESTION: I’m trying to find out what you – what it actually was you said, then.
MS. HARF: Clearly, we’re talking to both sides about the issues that will have to be discussed as part of a final status agreement. Clearly, this is one of those issues.
MS. HARF: I’m not sure what’s not clear about that.
QUESTION: Once there – well, the question is whether you’re talking to the Israelis about their settlements --
MS. HARF: I said we’ve raised our --
QUESTION: -- about where --
MS. HARF: -- serious concerns about that.
QUESTION: -- yeah, yeah, concerns saying, “You know, we don’t think it’s a good idea. You shouldn’t do that.” That’s what you’re saying. But it sounded as if, from your answer to Roz, that you’re talking about more – that you’re talking about specifics, like, maybe it would be okay to put some here, because that might be – that looks like land that you’re going to get as a result of a final agreement.
MS. HARF: Well, clearly, as part of the discussions that are happening on the ground between us and both parties, we are discussing the host of issues and how they each might play out as part of an eventual final status agreement. It should be no surprise that we would talk about possible eventualities with both sides. That’s why we’re there, facilitating.
QUESTION: Yes. But a whole idea of a final agreement with the – was that – is that – well, one of the whole ideas of it is that once you get one, there won’t be any complaints about settlements anymore because all the land will have been spoken for and divided up.
MS. HARF: Which is why we think it’s so important to get a final status agreement done.
QUESTION: Right, but --
MS. HARF: Exactly.
QUESTION: But he made it sound, when he spoke to CBS News, that this was already a fait accompli.
MS. HARF: The settlements?
MS. HARF: I can’t speak for the Government of Israel or where they are in the process for this announcement. Again, I said we have serious concerns with it, but I really can’t speak to where the process on any new settlement activity is.
QUESTION: In your – in one of your answers to Lesley, you said that the prisoner release was a positive step --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in the context of the – now why can’t you say that the settlement announcement is a negative step in the context of the process?
MS. HARF: Because I’m choosing the words that I want to use, and I’m saying that we’ve raised our serious concerns with it.
QUESTION: So besides being concerned --
QUESTION: So, that does not mean that it’s a negative.
MS. HARF: I’m not --
QUESTION: I don’t understand why you’re so afraid to criticize --
MS. HARF: It’s not that I’m afraid to criticize them, Matt. It’s because I’m using certain words because I think that they’re important to use them in a certain context.
MS. HARF: We have serious concerns and I’m not going to go any further, and I’m not going to use the words you want me to use.
MS. HARF: I’m going to use the words that I think are appropriate.
QUESTION: So besides being concerned, are you at least disappointed? Are you at least disappointed that the Israelis decided to do this at this particularly sensitive time, as you describe it?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it any other way than I already have. We have serious concerns.
QUESTION: You have, in the past, expressed disappointment. Do – you don’t express disappointment this time around?
MS. HARF: I don’t know why everybody’s trying to get me to use different words. I’ve been clear we have serious concerns.
QUESTION: Because we want you to show that you are at least a little bit disappointed or outraged or --
MS. HARF: I don’t know what else you think serious concerns would mean.
QUESTION: Can I just – on the use of the words – you talked about how the prisoner release is difficult and necessary --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So those are words that you are deliberately choosing to use, and you’re deliberately choosing not to say that the settlements are problematic or negative in terms of the environment of the peace process. Is that correct? Am I correct?
MS. HARF: I think you’re correct in assuming that words I use up here I use for a deliberate reason all the time, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So you are deliberately choosing not to say that the settlement announcement has a negative – that you believe it has a negative impact on the atmosphere?
MS. HARF: I am deliberately choosing to say that we have serious concerns with this announcement --
MS. HARF: -- particularly given the timing, and that we will be raising this with the Government of Israel going forward, and we already have done so. I think that’s a very clear statement that we have concerns about this.
QUESTION: It is. And so is praising the Prime Minister for a difficult --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- and necessary --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Can we have a change of subject?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: One last thing.
QUESTION: One – one --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Go ahead, Michel. I’ll ask (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Just to elaborate on this meeting --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- between the Secretary and the Muslim leaders on Friday --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- regarding the peace process --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- was it trying to shore up support from within the Muslim community in the United States or the equivalent of meeting with the Jewish community? What was the purpose?
MS. HARF: Well, we put out a readout of both, and if you didn’t get it I’m happy to send it around. I – both meetings were designed – they were with Secretary Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice – to update both communities on the progress we’ve made in the resumption of final status negotiations, also with a recognition that both of these communities have long been involved with peace process issues, play a key role in the United States and in the region with fair constituencies on these issues. So we’ll continue to engage with them going forward, but this was part of the Secretary’s and the White House’s outreach as part of this effort, yes. And if you didn’t get the readout we can send it around.
QUESTION: Thank you, please. Yes.
QUESTION: One more on the peace process, too.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: What are the topics that they will be discussing on Wednesday in the first round of discussions? Refugees, security, borders?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have specific topics, and we may not be able to get specific topics. Again, Secretary Kerry’s been clear that we’re going to be private with what we’re discussing. I don’t have anything to announce at this point. If I do tomorrow, I can do it then.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Any plans for --
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MS. HARF: Change topic.
QUESTION: On Egypt. I want to – has Deputy Secretary Burns decided to go back to Egypt at all? Where do the discussions and the mediations stand on trying to resolve the crisis in Egypt?
MS. HARF: Well, no update on any travel to announce. As you know, he just returned late last week from his trip to Egypt. We’re continuing to engage with all parties to push towards an inclusive, democratic process. We’re continuing to talk to everyone on the ground about it; our diplomats on the ground are as well. But I don’t have any update for you on other high-level engagement.
QUESTION: The Egyptian authority decided to extend detention of former President Morsy for another 15 days. Do you see this as part of a judicial process, or do you see it as politically motivated?
MS. HARF: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. We continue to call for an end to all politically motivated arrests and detentions and emphasize that this won’t help Egypt move beyond a crisis. Our position has not changed.
Yes, Jill.
QUESTION: Other subject.
QUESTION: Hold on.
QUESTION: Just a quick one on Egypt.
MS. HARF: Okay. Mm-hmm. Back here.
QUESTION: Yes. The last time you – anybody talk about what’s going on in Egypt was last Thursday. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and I can say even Monday because it’s the end of the day over there. Any contacts? Any communication? Any kind of consulting with each other or something going on in the last four days?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any readouts of communications diplomatically to give to you today. Clearly, our folks are very engaged on the ground and in Washington with the different parties to help move them back towards a political process that’s inclusive and democratic, but no updates on engagement.
QUESTION: So there is another thing --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- which is related to this sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adawiya.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And still people over there –I mean, I – as much as we are – is reported, they are talking about reinstating President Morsy as the President of Egypt. Do you have anything about this?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s up to the Egyptian people to decide what their government looks like going forward. We’ve repeatedly made clear that it’s not for us to decide, it’s up for them to decide. So what we’ve emphasized is what we’ve always emphasized, that there needs to be an inclusive, democratic process going forward. What the makeup of that eventually looks like isn’t for me to – or anyone else in the U.S. Government to – predict.
QUESTION: If – let’s say the Egyptian authority – or let’s say now who are in charge of Egypt --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in order to be more specific, decided to disperse, or whatever they call it, get rid of this sit-ins.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: At that time, I’m – do we have it to expect that you are going to say the Egyptians are going to make their own decisions?
MS. HARF: Well, in terms of that specific question, we’ve repeatedly made clear that the Egyptian authorities have both moral and legal obligations to respect the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble. We are especially concerned – very deeply concerned today – about the potential for violence in Egypt. We’ve obviously seen these reports, and from the start we’ve emphasized to those within Egypt that violence only sets back the eventual cause that they claim to be working for and need to allow people to protest peacefully.
QUESTION: Yes. Another thing which is related to U.S. role –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and participation quote/unquote “interference” in Egyptian affairs, as it was described by all these demonstration – both sides even.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I assume that the front page story of Wall Street Journal on Friday was really explaining in details all these things. And in the last two days there are more coming out of Egypt regarding whether it’s Patterson, whether it’s expected of Ambassador Ford or whoever is there, is there any steps taken to let’s say if it’s not improving the relation at least improve the image?
MS. HARF: Well, I think Jen has said this repeatedly, that the best antidote to the false information that we’re taking sides or that we’re too involved in ways we shouldn’t be is to get the facts out there. And Ambassador Patterson and our folks here have made it clear – including Deputy Secretary Burns – that our role is to help facilitate; it’s to assist them in any way that would be helpful to bring the sides together, to get people on the same page, to help quell violence, and eventually to get back to a democratic process. So we can – we’re going to keep saying the same thing to try to dispel some of these rumors.
QUESTION: Yes. I just want to – because it’s like I ask the same question on Wednesday or Thursday, as a matter of fact --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and I almost get the same answer.
MS. HARF: Well, that’s because we have the same message, and that hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: No, I mean, I’m not trying to get a different message. I’m just trying to figure out what does this message means.
MS. HARF: Well, the message means that we don’t take sides; we’re not going to decide what the future of Egypt’s government looks like. We will work with all parties and all groups. We will encourage them to come to the table as part of an inclusive process that eventually leads back to sustainable democracy. And we are going to keep repeating that message as long as we have to, because it’s an important one.
QUESTION: And the last one – I hope it’s the last one and thank you for your patience.
MS. HARF: Of course.
QUESTION: It’s related toward misinformation. I still – it’s – in old days when we were in school that when you say something, you heard something, we say give me examples. What kind of misinformation you are talking about?
MS. HARF: Well, I think some – it’s some of what you’ve alluded to, that there’s different information about whether the U.S. Government is taking sides, whether we think one party or one group or one person should eventually be part of this new government. You’ve mentioned some of the comments about our diplomats serving there. But we’re just trying to make clear that that’s not the case and that that’s not the truth, and trying to convey to people what our policy actually is, which is to work with everyone as part of an inclusive process.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) statement about the concern --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that this building has today about the potential for violence --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why shouldn’t we find it curious that there hasn’t been any contact between this government and the Egyptian Government that you’re able to read out over the past four days?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t – I wouldn’t say that there hasn’t been any contact. I just don’t have any to read out for you. The Secretary, as you know, has been very engaged with this. I believe he has made some calls related to this. I can endeavor to get a list to give to you after the briefing. And rest assured that our diplomats on the ground are in constant contact with the interim government and with all parties. So don’t assume that there’s a lack of contact. I just don’t have any specifics to read out from here.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to assume that the message is going through, don’t crack down on the demonstrations --
MS. HARF: Absolutely, absolutely.
QUESTION: -- don’t do it, there’s too much at risk if you do so?
MS. HARF: We’ve consistently said that demonstrators need to be able to protest peacefully and that this is a pivotal time for Egypt, that it’s a crucial time, that everybody needs to act as if it is a crucial time and act accordingly and not take steps that would take Egypt towards more political polarization, or worse, violence, but back in the other direction towards a democratically elected government.
QUESTION: What happens if they don’t listen to the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to predict what that would mean. But our point isn’t that they should listen to the U.S. Government because it’s in our interests, it’s because it’s in the people of Egypt’s interest that they represent, that they are tasked with leading, that the new government will be tasked with leading. And so it’s in the best interest of their own people, not in the – it’s not for us to decide what the process looks like or who’s part of that – excuse me. It’s in the interest of the Egyptian people to get back towards that process.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just in the answer to the very first question on Egypt about former President Morsy, you said you continue to call for the end to all politically related detentions.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I just want to check to make sure that you believe that his detention is politically motivated.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes. And then the – when you say – when you say that your message – or when you try to be clear about your message going to the Egyptians and that you mention the misinformation, disinformation, are you concerned at all that the message that you’re not taking sides has been compromised by the fact that you essentially did take a side by not calling what happened a coup?
MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree with that assessment, Matt. We made a determination – let me finish. We made a determination that we did not have to make a determination one way or the other, that we weren’t going to either (a) call it a coup or (b) say that it wasn’t. So there were three options that could happen here. The other two options which we didn’t take, I think many of us would argue would have been seen as taking one side or the other.
QUESTION: Up until that day that you did that there had never been a third option, there were only the two options, so you basically invented the third option. But do you concede – can you understand why your message is not getting through or why there is some confusion over the message because of that?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to --
QUESTION: Or do you think that the Egyptian public should be fully informed of the nuance of all of your decisions? Because for most people, it’s either – it is a black and white thing, and when you choose a third gray path --
MS. HARF: A third option that deliberately was meant not to – to make it appear as if we weren’t taking one side or the other. Because let’s take a step back. If hypothetically we had just made a determination the other way and said officially we’re not calling this a coup, which was option b, then the other side would have thought we were taking sides.
QUESTION: So not --
MS. HARF: So all we can do --
QUESTION: So there should be proof, then? That’s – your decision, your policy should be proof to the confused Egyptian people that you’re not taking sides?
MS. HARF: I think this is certainly one data --
QUESTION: Is that --
MS. HARF: Yes, I think this is certainly one data point. I think the other data points include public comments at many levels of this government, including from this podium repeatedly that we are not taking sides, that we will meet and work with all parties going forward. Yes.
QUESTION: Other subject?
QUESTION: Oh, one more.
MS. HARF: One more on Egypt.
QUESTION: Sorry, I thought she was going to – the fact that we haven’t seen any sign of a resolution of Deputy Secretary Burns going back or the EU or anyone, anyone else, that leaves you with the impression that these talks have – that the mediation and the talks have failed and that this is just a period of waiting now.
MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t want to use that term. I think everybody’s been clear that this is a very difficult process, and we have been clear that the time for dialogue has not passed. We want to make that crystal clear that this is an ongoing process, that the time for dialogue is still open, and that these are very complicated issues. There’s a lot of political polarization. We’re all very well aware of that. And that’s why we want to continue to play a facilitating role and to help bring all the parties together. But again, I would stress that the time for dialogue has in no way ended just because Deputy Secretary Burns returned to Washington last week. In fact, it’s actually the opposite.
QUESTION: What are they waiting for?
MS. HARF: What is who waiting for?
QUESTION: The mediators. I mean, obviously there are some steps that they’re waiting for to be taken or they’re waiting for the Egyptians to make a decision on which way they want to go. What exactly --
MS. HARF: Well, I think we made this clear last week that we have – we’re encouraging certain confidence-building measures, and we outlined some of them last week but I’m happy to go over them again.
QUESTION: No, I’ve got that.
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, some of them, just for folks who weren’t here, include things like public statements condemning violence, commitment to meaningful negotiations. There’s a number of confidence-building measures that we’re working on all sides to agree to. But again, this is a very complex, difficult situation. Nobody thinks this would be easy. But our goal remains the same and we’re going to keep continuing to work with all parties to help achieve that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: On Egypt still?
MS. HARF: Okay, just one second. We’ll go here and then back there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: The head of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Abu Basir al-Wahishi , has addressed a message to his followers, imprisoned fighters, encouraging them, don’t worry, eventually you will get out. Is this raising concern here at the State Department that there could be a more prison breaks stirred up by him? And what is the risk that he will do that, that he will stir this up?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve repeatedly said we’re concerned – excuse me – about prison breaks. We’ve talked about them in Yemen before. So clearly, it’s an ongoing concern for us. I would reiterate that we and the Government of Yemen work very closely and cooperatively together on counterterrorism issues. We’ve been clear that we’re going to take steps to protect our people, our interests, or our facilities from potential threats from AQAP and others.
QUESTION: But this is basically the guy who started the prison breaks, and then we had all of the embassy closings. So is there a higher level of concern that he’s coming out with this statement?
MS. HARF: I think there’s always a high level of concern about this. And anytime there’s a high-level statement from an al-Qaida leader like him, clearly it’s of concern and our folks take a look at it and analyze what it means and how the threat picture – what it looks like, whether that should change or not. This is no different, but clearly it’s an ongoing, serious concern for us.
QUESTION: And just for the record, is there any update on the closings?
MS. HARF: So yesterday, on August 11th, we reopened, as we said we would. There’s no update, but we reopened 18 of the 19 posts that had been closed recently due to this threat emanating for the potential for terrorist attacks from AQAP. As we said, the Embassy in Sana’a remains closed because of this ongoing threat, and our consulate in Lahore remains closed as well due to a separate credible threat to that facility. So no update, just reiterating where we are and where we were last week.
QUESTION: Related to al-Qaida --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- al-Qaida claimed responsibility for a very bloody weekend in Baghdad. Do you have any --
MS. HARF: In Iraq?
QUESTION: -- anything to say about that? Iraq.
MS. HARF: Yes. And we put out a statement over the weekend, so I’d encourage folks to take a look at it. We condemn in the absolute strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks that took place in Baghdad, especially the fact that they were targeting families celebrating the Eid holiday. These terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community.
We made clear in our statement that most of these attacks have been perpetrated by al-Qaida in Iraq. We put out some more information over the weekend about their leader and the reward that we have out there for his capture. But again, I would reiterate what we’ve said that a majority of Iraqi people have rejected this kind of terrorist violence and that the leaders of Iraq have been working together along with us in a supporting role to help fight this common enemy.
QUESTION: So you did express your desire or your intent to shore up Iraq’s ability to fight al-Qaida. What kind of new efforts that you are doing with the Iraqis to do that?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything new to announce for you, and as a general matter we often don’t discuss specifics about counterterrorism cooperation. I will say that we’ll continue to work with Iraq to both overcome the threat of terrorism but also to bring justice to those who continue to perpetrate these crimes. Obviously, these are a constant reminder of the challenges that Iraq faces, but we will continue to explore at the same time possible ways to increase our counterterrorism cooperation going forward.
QUESTION: Has the Iraqi security force been capable up until this recent wave of bombings of maintaining security inside the country? And along with that, why couldn’t it be argued that this might be a possible moment for the U.S. to revisit the question of a status of forces agreement with Iraq to help it stabilize and restore security particularly in Baghdad?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple points. I think the first is that we have seen an uptick in recent months in al-Qaida in Iraq and terrorist attacks in Iraq. So we will continue working with the security forces, with counterterrorism cooperation. As al-Qaida has perpetrated more attacks, clearly we will look for new ways to cooperate on counterterrorism. I don’t want to venture to guess, hypothetically, what that might look like. Clearly, we have a close relationship with the Government of Iraq and will continue working with them, again, to fight this shared enemy.
QUESTION: What sort of proposals might Secretary Kerry bring to the Foreign Minister, Mr. Zebari, when he visits here on Thursday?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any specifics to preview for you. I will just give you a quick preview of Foreign Minister Zebari’s visit. He’ll be visiting this week to join Secretary Kerry in co-chairing a meeting of the Political and Diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee under the U.S-Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement. This meeting will take place on Thursday morning at the State Department. Foreign Minister Zebari will also engage with a number of senior State Department officials who will participate in the committee meeting, and then there’s a lunch to follow. I’ll have more details on this specifically later in the week.
QUESTION: It’s been suggested that a lot of this instability has been in large part because of what’s happening next door in Syria, that for all the hell, frankly, that’s happening inside Syria, that AQI is seeing an opportunity to perhaps expand it into Iraq. Is that something that needs to be looked at again as the U.S. tries to figure out how to mobilize an end to the Syrian civil war?
MS. HARF: Well, the situation in Syria has clearly fueled tensions in the region, and foreign fighters, many of whom become suicide bombers, like some of the attacks we’ve seen in Iraq, are flowing into Syria and then many more of them are making their way into Iraq. So clearly, there are a number of reasons that we believe a political solution to the situation in Syria is imperative – of course, most importantly for the people of Syria who are suffering under the brutality of the Assad regime, but also because of the destructive and violent impact it’s had in other parts of the region, Iraq and elsewhere.
So I would underscore that the situation in Syria, we would agree, is having a very negative effect on the situation in Iraq.
QUESTION: Just related to Syria, there’s actually an ad in the metro close to you, trying to get your attention, with President Assad wearing a T-shirt that says, “I love the U.S. because they’re keeping me in my job.” What happened to your call for him to step down? And do you think this is part of the freedom of expression, that people are allowed to do that, or are you keeping him in his job?
MS. HARF: Well, certainly we believe in freedom of expression. I’ve seen that ad. I’d make a few comments. I believe it talks about the Russians and the U.S., so let me just make a comment about the Geneva conference after the 2+2 on Friday. Following the Secretary’s meeting on Friday with Foreign Minister Lavrov, both sides agreed that they remain committed to holding a Geneva 2 conference as early as is practically possible. On Friday, both sides also discussed the devastating humanitarian situation on the ground and pledged that their staff would follow up to see what more we can all do to alleviate the suffering inside Syria. Our position on Assad has not changed, that he has lost all legitimacy. He must go. It is inconceivable that the regime will be able to regain control over all of their territory. So we’ve made that clear and we’ll continue working towards that goal.
QUESTION: There were some talks that the conference might take place in October. Is this some date that we can provide?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any timeline to announce for you. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed as soon as practically possible. Obviously, there are still some logistical issues and substantive issues that are being discussed right now. But our goal is to move as quickly as possible, when we can have a conference that has the best chance to succeed. We’re not just having a conference to have a conference.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. HARF: No, we’re – yeah.
QUESTION: It’s inconceivable that the Assad – that Assad will ever regain --
MS. HARF: That the regime, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Regime, yeah. Is that because you think that no matter what, that this is a military stalemate?
MS. HARF: I’m – I don’t – those two things are a little separate. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No. I mean, why is it inconceivable that --
MS. HARF: That we seriously doubt that the regime would ever have an ability --
QUESTION: Well, “seriously doubt” is a bit different than “inconceivable.”
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, either word you want to use – we’re all about parsing words today, I understand that.
QUESTION: No, no, you’re the one who talked about how you deliberately – use words very deliberately.
MS. HARF: I do.
QUESTION: So let’s --
MS. HARF: Our point is that --
QUESTION: Why is it – does that mean that the U.S. believes that this is a military stalemate that neither side can win on the battlefield?
MS. HARF: I think those are a little separate things, but let me try and take them both. We have been clear that there are going to be gains one way or the other on the ground. I think we’ve seen some gains for the opposition, actually, in the past few days in different places in Syria as well. So when one side is up or one side is down, I think two – a couple things are clear. One, that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. Two, that the regime will be unable to reassert control over all of its territory. And three, the best, and we believe only, solution to this problem in Syria, to the crisis in Syria, is a political solution. Because we could go one side up, one side down; there’s not going to be a military solution. I’m not going to use the word stalemate, but I will say that we look at a situation on the ground where each side sometimes makes advances, sometimes doesn’t, and that’s exactly the reason why we need to bring the parties to the table to have a political solution.
QUESTION: You do not believe that either side has the ability or – means or ability to win a decisive military victory. Is that correct?
MS. HARF: We do not believe that there’s a military solution to the conflict.
QUESTION: Military solution? Which means – that’s the same thing as saying a stalemate.
QUESTION: But this tug of war, this tug of war back and forth could conceivably prolong the regime for many years to come, correct?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry? Say that --
QUESTION: This tug of war – I mean, the fact that one day the opposition gains ground and the next day the regime gains ground could actually prolong the regime for many years to come?
MS. HARF: Exactly, which is exactly the reason – well, it could prolong the crisis for many years to come --
MS. HARF: -- which is exactly why we have been clear that the longer we go without a political solution, the more suffering the Syrian people endure, and that that’s the reason we and the Foreign Minister from Russia and the UN and our other partners agree that we have to move as quickly as possible to a political solution, because every day that we don’t, every day that we have ups and downs on the ground and fighting and attacks and violence, is another day that the Syrian people are suffering at the hands of the Assad regime.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to deal with this crisis conceivably for four or five more years to come?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to get into a hypothetical about how long this may go on.
QUESTION: Well, I’m putting it in terms of the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis that may result of this war going on for a long time.
MS. HARF: Well, we’re clearly committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people both inside Syria but also those that have been displaced in neighboring countries, working with those countries to help deal with the influx of refugees that they’ve taken in. So clearly we’re committed to helping with the humanitarian situation as we need to.
QUESTION: If both you and the Russians are so sure, so convinced that this conference is necessary and crucial to ending the – what is the hold-up?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve talked about some of the issues in this room, that we need to decide – together with the UN and the Russians, we’ve been in discussions, as you know, about attendance, about date, about location, about agenda. We all know that there are some thorny issues that are still being worked for. I’m not going to detail what the current diplomatic discussions are focused on in terms of moving forward with Geneva, but I think we’re all well aware of the difficult issues that we are discussing in the lead-up to scheduling Geneva.
QUESTION: Right. It was to have been held two months ago. Was that correct? That was the goal, original goal?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said we want to hold it --
MS. HARF: -- as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Right, but, I mean --
MS. HARF: And we’re not going to do it just to do it. We need to hold it at a time and place when we feel like --
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. HARF: -- it has the chance for success.
QUESTION: I guess what I’m trying to find out is why --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- why is having it tomorrow not – why is that not --
MS. HARF: Because there are clearly some outstanding issues that still need to be resolved. I’m not going to detail them for you.
QUESTION: But you can’t get into them?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to detail them for you here. But there are clearly some --
QUESTION: How about anywhere else?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to detail them for you.
QUESTION: At all. Right. Okay, so what – so the Syrian people can look to what as the reason that their suffering is continuing?
MS. HARF: Well, they can look to the Assad regime, first of all. I would start there.
QUESTION: Okay. So they’re the problem with this conference?
MS. HARF: Well, with the conference or with their --
MS. HARF: You asked me where they can look to about their suffering.
QUESTION: Well, you said that – well, you said that the only way to end this is a political solution --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. That’s right.
QUESTION: -- and that – then the Geneva conference is crucial to that.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So I’m just trying – and you say that you and the Russians agree that you have to have this as soon as possible.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I’m just trying to find out why, then, if you both agree, the two main --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- sponsors of this both agree on this, what it is that’s keeping it from happening and that’s prolonging the Syrian people’s misery. I mean, you’re not going to get, it doesn’t look like, Assad stepping – heeding your call and just leaving power on his own. So --
MS. HARF: Well, for – let’s – for one example, I will say that we’ve been clear that the formula for a political transition was outlined in the Geneva communique, and that Russia, the UN, the EU, the Arab League, and other countries support it. The opposition supports this goal; the Assad regime does not. So that’s --
QUESTION: So it’s the Assad regime.
MS. HARF: -- clearly one sticking point here in moving forward.
QUESTION: What about the Russians’ refusal to stop giving weapons to Syria?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new for you on that. Clearly, we’ve made our concerns known with the Russian Government about their support, at times, of the Syrian regime, and we’ll continue to do so. But I would underscore that in the meeting Secretary Kerry had with Foreign Minister Lavrov, they both agreed that we need to move forward with the Geneva convention as soon as possible because the situation is so dire and we need to move forward with the process.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. HARF: New subject, or Syria?
QUESTION: How about Syria, one more?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Just a minute ago you said that the opposition supports this goal of Geneva 2. So I --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- can we take it, then, that it’s the position of this Department, the Syrian – the various Syrian opposition groups are sufficiently organized at this point to effectively participate in Geneva 2?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been encouraged by some steps we’ve talked about. The first, of course, was elections of a political leadership. We’ve talked a lot about how that was a key step towards Geneva 2. Again, the details about who might attend and who might not are still being worked out. But broadly speaking, the SOC, which is the body we recognize as the umbrella organization for the opposition politically, is committed to this process, yes.
Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: One more.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The opposition leader, al-Jarba, has said yesterday or on Thursday that he is working with the Free Syrian Army to form unified armed forces, includes of all rebels groups. Do you support such a move?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those comments. I think, generally speaking, we’ve made it clear that the SMC is the overarching military body for the Syrian opposition. I’m not exactly sure what specific comments you’re referring to, but we will continue working with General Idris going forward.
QUESTION: And Kurdistan Region President Barzani has threatened that Iraqi Kurdistan is ready to defend Kurds --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- living in Syria if it’s found that they are being threatened by al-Qaida. How do you view – this threat?
MS. HARF: Well, we continue to remain deeply concerned by reports of ongoing clashes between extremists and Kurds following last week’s attacks in Aleppo province. We’re aware of the comments by Mr. Barzani and urge all groups to avoid any actions that could exacerbate tensions and increase the risk of violence inside Syria and beyond its borders. We’ll continue making the point that overt-sectarian provocation cannot be justified, and that we condemn any of these attacks that we’ve seen in Aleppo and elsewhere in the strongest terms.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Syria?
MS. HARF: Syria.
QUESTION: Yeah. Jennifer said last week that Ambassador Ford was in London for talks with the Syrian opposition about unifying –
MS. HARF: I think Paris. I think Paris.
QUESTION: Paris? To unify their ranks and have one representative to the Geneva when it goes on. Any progress on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on Ambassador Ford’s work on this. I can endeavor to see if there’s a readout and get back to you if I have anything to share.
MS. HARF: Syria? New topic. Jill.
QUESTION: Russia, Snowden.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: His father now says that he has a visa, he’s going to head for Moscow, he’s going to talk with his son about defending himself against these charges –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and there seems to be a little glimmer that maybe they would be open to coming back, inducing him to come back. Is that how you read it? And is the State Department involved in any type of discussions with the family?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to your second question. I will endeavor to find out if we are and get back to you on that.
In terms of the first, we’ve been clear that Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States to face the charges with which he’s been – he faces. We’ve also been clear that when he does so, he will be able to make his case in a free and fair trial.
QUESTION: But his father has advised him, as a matter of fact, not to make a deal with the Government of the United States. Are you aware of that?
MS. HARF: I have not seen that report, Said.
QUESTION: Have you seen the comments, though, about – from the father about President Obama, about the U.S. justice system? I mean, they’re pretty strong comments. What do you say to the father of Snowden?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple points: that the Attorney General made it very clear in a letter that we sent to the Russian Government that when Mr. Snowden returns to the United States he will face a free and fair trial; we will not seek the death penalty; he will not be tortured. We were clear in the letter that he will be afforded his rights under the law as someone charged with very serious crimes. So I think that was made absolutely clear from the U.S. Government. And again, his chance to make his case is in a court of law where he will face his charges.
QUESTION: Of course, promising not to kill and torture someone is hardly the most welcoming way to get him back. Would his father face any problems with his passport for visiting his fugitive son in – and just in general?
MS. HARF: Not that I know of.
QUESTION: In other cases like this, there’s no – there isn’t –
MS. HARF: U.S. passport issues?
MS. HARF: Not that I know of. We don’t generally comment on specific passport issues –
QUESTION: No, no, but I mean in general –
MS. HARF: -- but I wouldn’t want to speculate –
QUESTION: -- if you go to a foreign country, use your passport to go to a foreign country to visit with someone who faces charges back at home, I’m just wondering if there’s any possible ramification for him.
MS. HARF: The answer is: I don’t know. But our focus isn’t on Mr. Snowden’s father; it’s on him. He’s the one that’s been charged with very serious crimes, and he’s the one that needs to return to the United States to face those crimes as soon as possible.
Snowden? Are we good?
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. HARF: New subject, yes.
QUESTION: The anger is spreading throughout India and in the Indian parliament as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned. Two prime ministers supposed to meet in New York at the United Nations summit, but it looks like it’s just like U.S. and Russia are between India and U.S. now. My question is that now the Indian Defense Minister, Mr. Antony, is saying that those who killed five Indian soldiers on the border of Kashmir were killed by the Pakistani army, not by the terrorists Pakistan was saying. And Pakistan is, of course, denying. And what Indians are saying that always Pakistan’s policy is do and deny, and then later let the world decide what’s the future.
My question is: Has Secretary spoken with anybody in India or in Pakistan? Because it looks like from words of peace, it’s maybe coming to the words of war between the two countries. And remember Kargil was also took place during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that time, which he denied that there is no activities on the border of Kargil, but war took place and thousands died from both sides.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any Secretary phone calls to read out for you. I’d make a couple points. First, that we’re aware of these reports and are concerned about any violence, as we always are along the Line of Control, and we continue to press and hope that India and Pakistan will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve their bilateral relations. Beyond that, I don’t have anything further except to reiterate what we’ve always said, that they need to keep taking steps to improve trust and improve their relationship.
QUESTION: But Indian Government or Indian officials and also Indian parliamentarians are saying in the Indian congress that – among Indian congressmen that how can you have a peace process and peace talks with a neighbor, with a country where violence continues and they support the violence on the border and also against India from their soil?
MS. HARF: Well, we believe, as we always have, that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine. These are discussions that happen in those two countries among their own two governments, and that’s the appropriate place for that determination to be made.
QUESTION: My question is really that Pakistan should stop terrorism against India, but that’s what anger among Indians and among the parliamentarians in the Indian parliament. That is the question: What U.S. is doing about this, because U.S. is already saying that there is a terrorism problem? There are terrorists and core terrorism and core to al-Qaida and Taliban inside Pakistan, and they are harming a number of countries in free India.
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’re talking about two separate issues here. I’d want to make a distinction between the Kashmir issue, which I’ve just talked a little bit about, and the broader issue of our concern about extremism in that region. I would emphasize that those are two separate issues and that I think our views on both are well known.
QUESTION: There is no Kashmir issue. There is a terrorism issue, really.
MS. HARF: Again, our position on Kashmir has not changed, and I have nothing further to add on that.
QUESTION: On the same subject?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I think this thing has gone beyond the LOC, and now there were at least one incident of firing across the international border in Sialkot, and there are – if you read Indian media, you see almost every day a piece by politicians to – for punitive action against Pakistan, and the sentiments are not very different in Pakistan. So I have two questions. One is: Do you see this actually leading towards a war between India and Pakistan? Both of them have nuclear weapons. And also, don’t you think it’s about time for the United States to get more actively involved in preventing a war between two nuclear-armed nations?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you’re getting way ahead of where we are today. I don’t want to venture a guess hypothetically at what might – as to what might happen next. I noted that we hope they will continue the steps that we have seen recently to improve their bilateral relations. Of course, we remain concerned about any incidents of violence and we’ll make that clear, but I’m not going to hypothetically venture to guess what will happen next.
QUESTION: Are you saying that they are – despite the tension, they are still continuing to talk to each other, engage with each other?
MS. HARF: I don’t have updates for you on what the two countries are doing bilaterally. I’d refer you to either of the countries for that.
QUESTION: Have you been involved in persuading them to talk to each other? Have you contacted them?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you on that or any details about communications to read out.
QUESTION: But the fighting is not only taking place across the Line of Control in Kashmir. The point was that there was an international boundary in eastern Pakistani city of Sialkot. There was fighting by the Indian soldiers. And in another part, in Rawalakot, in Kashmir, one civilian was killed by the Indian firing. Do you think that India at this time, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered peace talks, should have responded to his peace overtures this way?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to do that kind of political analysis from the podium. Again, I will check in with our team on this issue. I know there’s a lot of interest in it, and if I have anything additional to add, I’m happy to share that tomorrow at the briefing.
QUESTION: But that meeting, that jingoistic mode and in the media and Indian politicians, is it harming the prospects of the two Prime Ministers meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN summit?
MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything additional for you on this topic. Again, I’m happy to check in with our team and we can continue the discussion tomorrow.
Next topic.
QUESTION: Could you just --
QUESTION: Staying on India?
QUESTION: Could you just take as part of that question, just to find out if it’s your understanding, if it’s the Administration’s understanding based on the conversations that I’m sure that you’ve had with both sides, whether it’s your understanding that the initiatives that – the things that you were talking about, the recent positive steps, that they’re both interested or they’re both willing to continue along those lines?
MS. HARF: Yep, absolutely.
QUESTION: And I ask that with – keeping in mind the fact that in another I situation, you have been willing to say that both sides are still at the table --
MS. HARF: Operating in good faith.
QUESTION: -- in good faith.
MS. HARF: I will take that as part of the question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: I know there’s a lot of interest in this and I will endeavor to get more details for you for tomorrow’s briefing.
QUESTION: Different subject – India.
MS. HARF: Different subject, yes.
QUESTION: But India.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Anna Hazare, the firebrand anticorruption leader of India, is coming to U.S. this month and he’s addressing audiences in New Jersey, in Maryland, in San Francisco – everywhere. Is he going to – is there going to be any meeting with the U.S. Administration, State Department, with him?
MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to your question. I will take it --
QUESTION: Can you take – yeah.
MS. HARF: -- and I will find out. Yes.
QUESTION: And the second thing is that, with the 2014 elections coming in India, are you allowing the Indian political parties to bring their political fray on the U.S. soil in different ways?
MS. HARF: I’m not sure I understand your question.
QUESTION: There are political --
MS. HARF: Yes, there are elections. I’m aware of the elections, yes.
QUESTION: -- there are organizations here which are supporting one or the other party, and they are – the leaders from India are visiting. So it’s, in a way, a kind of a proxy war going on here. So do you allow that, because the constitution – the U.S. Constitution doesn’t?
MS. HARF: Well, we, as the U.S. State Department and U.S. Government don’t take sides and don’t pick who we think should be winners of elections. We’ll work with whoever the elected winners are at the outcome of that election. But in terms of a U.S. Government position, we certainly don’t take sides.
QUESTION: But if you allow them to --
QUESTION: What he’s asking is if they should be allowed to campaign inside the United States for their parties?
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of this specific report. I will add it to the list of questions I need to get an answer to on India, and we can talk about it tomorrow.
Yes, Jo.
QUESTION: One last one.
QUESTION: Just one more on Asia. Just a quick one on the region. I’m sorry. There is a $10 million reward against Mr. Hafiz Saeed from the United States, and he is openly in Lahore, is giving speeches against the U.S. and just now recently on Eid at the Qadhafi stadium in Lahore he was seen, and according to the press reports by Pakistani and Indian reporters, and still U.S. is not after him. And also, Mr. Dawood, wanted by India, is in Karachi openly, and they are both giving speeches against India and against the U.S.
MS. HARF: I saw some of those reports from the weekend. I don’t have anything for you on them. I’m also happy to add that to the list, and we can have a fulsome discussion on all India-related issues tomorrow in the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Jill. You’re welcome.
QUESTION: Just a brief one other subject. This American teacher who was expelled from Bahrain, what can you tell us about her?
MS. HARF: Yep. Let me pull that up. We are aware of the press reports regarding the deportation of a U.S. citizen from Bahrain. The U.S. Embassy in Manama was not contacted for consular assistance. Due to privacy considerations, I don’t have further information at this time and would refer any further questions to the Bahraini authorities, again, because we were not contacted for consular assistance.
QUESTION: Well, if you weren’t contacted, how can there possibly be privacy issues?
MS. HARF: Because in order for --
QUESTION: In other words, because you don’t know anything about the situation --
MS. HARF: No, no, you can --
QUESTION: -- you’re not going to talk – don’t say the Privacy Act.
MS. HARF: No, no, no, that’s actually not true, Matt.
MS. HARF: No, because we were not contacted --
MS. HARF: -- have not been in contact with this person, therefore they cannot sign a privacy waiver to allow us to talk about their case.
QUESTION: Yeah, but – (laughter) – you don’t know anything about the case.
MS. HARF: That’s what I said. We’re aware of press reports.
QUESTION: Well, but don’t say that it’s because of privacy reasons that you can’t say anything about it.
MS. HARF: I said we have no further information about it.
QUESTION: Well, you don’t have any information about it because you weren’t contacted.
MS. HARF: Except for the press reports, correct. Yes.
QUESTION: So – all right. That just gets my – can I – I’ve got another one that’s going to involve the Privacy --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you know --
MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: -- what happened – I’ve got three, two of which have to do with – may have to do with the Privacy Act.
MS. HARF: Should I be writing this down?
QUESTION: One is, this family from northern Arizona that was rescued at sea and they ended up in Chile, and I understand that the U.S. – that the Embassy in Santiago helped arrange for them to get back to the – I’m just wondering, have they gotten back? Have they left Chile to the best of your knowledge?
MS. HARF: Again, we’ve seen those press reports. The U.S. Embassy in Santiago did provide consular assistance.
MS. HARF: Here we go. Due to privacy considerations, we cannot provide further details.
QUESTION: Do you know whether the family will have to repay all of the governments involved: Venezuela, Chile and the U.S. --
MS. HARF: I don’t have any other details.
QUESTION: -- for basically saving them?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any further details for you at this point.
QUESTION: Can you just explain what it is in the Privacy Act that prohibits you saying whether or not it’s your understanding that they’re still in Chile or whether they have left? Just, I don’t – I’m not even asking for their destination; I just want to know if they’re still in Chile.
MS. HARF: Well, it’s my understanding that unless we have a Privacy Act waiver, that we cannot provide any information beyond what’s in the press and beyond saying that we provided or did not provide consular assistance.
QUESTION: Are you able to say whether anything that they have said to reporters is accurate or inaccurate?
MS. HARF: I am in no way able to provide any further details other than what I’ve already said.
QUESTION: The Americans imprisoned in North Korea, Mr. Kenneth Bae --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- do you have any update on his situation?
MS. HARF: I do.
QUESTION: And remind me that did he signed a Privacy Act waiver when he was in a North Korean prison; is that correct?
MS. HARF: Yes, we do.
MS. HARF: I think. So clearly there’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of citizens abroad. We continue to urge the D.P.R.K. authorities to grant Mr. Bae amnesty and immediate release. The Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, which serves as the U.S. protecting power in North Korea, was granted a seventh consular visit on August 9th at a hospital in Pyongyang. This is the first visit since May, when he was visited in prison. It’s clear that Mr. Bae’s health is deteriorated – we’ve – deteriorating. Excuse me. We’ve been concerned about his health for a long time, and is of deep concern to us today. We are in regular communication with the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang about Mr. Bae’s case and we remain in close contact with his family.
QUESTION: Do you have in there when he signed the Privacy Act waiver?
MS. HARF: I do not.
QUESTION: Then just back on the Chile one, do you – can you say affirmatively that the family was given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver, or is that covered by the Privacy Act as well?
MS. HARF: I don’t have that in front of me; I don’t know the answer. But I assume it’s standard procedure, but I don’t want to --
QUESTION: Can you find out?
MS. HARF: -- say that definitively in this case.
QUESTION: It’s allegedly standard procedure, but I have deep suspicions about that.
MS. HARF: I will take your deep suspicion into account --
QUESTION: Deep concern, serious concern about it.
MS. HARF: -- and I will try and find out in this case. Serious concern, okay.
QUESTION: No, I was going to ask about Mr. Bae. But do you have any kind of readout on how ill he is?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more specifics about his health condition. We do know it’s been deteriorating and that he is now in a hospital, but again, we will continue to urge the D.P.R.K. to grant him amnesty and immediate release so he can return home.
QUESTION: I have one more very brief one.
MS. HARF: Okay. And then one in the back.
QUESTION: Go ahead. Go back first.
MS. HARF: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. On Secretary Kerry’s South America trip --
MS. HARF: I was wondering when we were going to get there.
QUESTION: Yes. How are concerns over – that have been expressed by South American nations over the NSA surveillance programs – how are those playing into his trip? And also, can you touch on the scope of the concerns expressed by the international community? How many countries have tried to talk to Kerry or other U.S. officials about the extent of the surveillance?
MS. HARF: Well, let me say a few words about his trip and then I will answer your questions about the NSA issues as well. The Secretary is currently in Bogota. Tomorrow he will go to Brazil. In both of these places, he is working to further cooperation and dialogue with important regional partners. He arrived in Bogota last night. He meets today in Bogota with Colombian President Santos and Foreign Minister Holguin to discuss our robust bilateral partnership. He will also meet with the Defense Minister to highlight the importance of the U.S.-Colombia counternarcotics partnership and discuss regional security cooperation. In support of the Colombian Government’s peace efforts, the Secretary met today with Colombian peace negotiators and attended an event for wounded and disabled Colombia veteran and civilians.
He will travel to Brasilia tomorrow, and we can talk about that a little more tomorrow.
Obviously he’s discussing a wide range of issues. Our relationships involve everything from trade, of course in Colombia with the Free Trade Agreement, counternarcotics, other security issues of mutual concern.
And we’ve been clear that we’ll continue discussing with our partners through diplomatic channels the issues that have been raised by some of the NSA disclosures. We’re not, obviously, going to comment publicly on what those discussions always look like, other than to say that as a matter of policy we’ve been clear that the U.S. gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations, that it’s based in law, and it’s subject to oversight by all three branches of our government.
I would also point you to the comments the President made on Friday, pledging increased transparency and public discussion of these programs going forward. He talked a lot about this in his press conference and also released some new information about additional oversight. So these will be part of the discussion, of course, but in no way overshadow the important work we have to do with both countries on the economic and security and diplomatic fronts.
QUESTION: And what about other countries that have expressed --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- concerns? Can you talk about sort of the scope, the extent?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a full list of the countries that have expressed concerns. But we’ve made clear to all of our – anyone who’s raised a concern, any country, that we, again, gather intelligence of the kind that’s gathered by many nations, that it’s rooted in law, that it has strong oversight, and that we believe it’s important that this discussion, while in and of itself is important, but it shouldn’t detract from the broad bilateral relationships we have around the world with a variety of countries that we work with both on security cooperation but on a host of other issues as well.
QUESTION: One of the things the President mentioned --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in his press conference about this was that it is not good enough for him just to be satisfied that this is --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- so why should – and that other people – that these additional steps need to – should be taken --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- to improve people’s confidence.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, so why should a foreign country believe you, if the President himself says – admits – allows that the American people aren’t – that it’s not enough just for him to think that it’s okay. How can --
MS. HARF: This is --
QUESTION: How exactly is it when the President says something like this that you can go to a foreign country and say that this is rooted in law --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and has strong oversight, when the President himself said that the roots in law and the strong oversight isn’t good enough, because it’s not --
MS. HARF: Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, Matt. We have been making the same --
QUESTION: If they’re not good enough for him, why should they be good enough for other countries?
MS. HARF: He was making those comments in the context of the fact that going forward we are going to be taking additional steps to increase transparency about these programs.
MS. HARF: And that’s why we’ve been engaging at very high levels diplomatically when other countries have raised concerns with us.
QUESTION: Yeah. But why should they – if he, himself, says that it’s not enough and that these additional steps have to be taken, how is it that it should be good enough for a foreign country to accept your assurances about things that have been done prior to Friday --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- or prior to these new reforms being enacted?
MS. HARF: Right. Well, I would say two things. Needless to say, our diplomatic conversations with other countries about these programs go beyond a topline we have oversight and it’s rooted in law.
QUESTION: I would hope so.
MS. HARF: So --
QUESTION: But why should they believe you on those two things if the President himself says that he’s not – that it’s not enough for him just to know this.
MS. HARF: Well, there’s a difference between a diplomatic, private conversation we have about these issues, which we’ve had with a number of countries, and the need and the desire of the Administration to make increased information available to the public. Those are two different things. And we’ve had --
QUESTION: So the public – so the American public isn’t worthy or deserving of the same kind of explanations that you give foreign governments?
MS. HARF: I would actually say the opposite.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS. HARF: The President made very clear on Friday --
QUESTION: All right. So --
MS. HARF: -- that we are going to continue to talk about this publicly, increase transparency.
MS. HARF: We’ve been open and honest and upfront with our foreign counterparts when they raise the issue, and we’re going to keep sharing as much as we can and be even more transparent where we can going forward, both with the public and with our foreign counterparts.
QUESTION: Okay. My last one; it’s very brief. Do you have anything on Cambodia and their suspension of military cooperation with the United States and apparently some other countries?
MS. HARF: I do. Following the elections, the Cambodian Ministry of Defense postponed or canceled a number of international military programs, including with the United States. We would not categorize the cancelation of programs as a suspension of military ties. We haven’t indicated that we would suspend military ties. This was, I believe – again, I don’t have a lot of details on it – but a suspension or cancelation of some specific programs.
QUESTION: Do you know which American programs are affected by their move?
MS. HARF: I don’t know that, no. I can endeavor to get more information shared if I can. I just don’t have that in front of me.
QUESTION: And also, you said that you hadn’t – this is not something coming from the U.S. side, this is something they did unilaterally?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was there not any discussion beforehand with the Cambodians about the possible suspension or possible --
MS. HARF: I don’t know that. I don’t know if there were any discussions. I’m happy to look into it. We --
QUESTION: Before the election, basically if the election goes poorly then there might be some consequences --
MS. HARF: I’m not aware of any.
QUESTION: -- and this might be one of them.
MS. HARF: I can look into it. I just don’t know the answer. And if there’s something additional to share, I’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Do you – are you disappointed in this move? Do you think that it’s a bad thing?
MS. HARF: Well, again, we are kind of waiting to see what happens next. We don’t view this as a suspension of the overall military ties or relationship. We haven’t indicated that’s something we want. So this is, obviously, in the context of the National Election Committee announcing some preliminary results, so we’re going to keep watching the process as it unfolds and see where we go from here.
QUESTION: Would you like them to reverse their decision? Would you like to have this cooperation back?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to hypothetically say whether or not we’re going to be raising this with them. I’m not aware of us having raised this with them specifically, but I’m happy to look into it when we get more details.
QUESTION: Okay. I don’t understand how that’s hypothetical --
MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get more details for you on this, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: On Mali’s presidential election --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- what’s the U.S. take on the runoff? And also, what’s being planned in terms of resuming direct cooperation or assistance to Mali when the new government is in place?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. So despite heavy rains, Malians took to the polls in large numbers yesterday to peacefully cast their vote for the next president of Mali. We commend the Malian people for their enthusiasm and engagement in this election.
The United States congratulates the interim government for securing a peaceful and orderly environment in which Malians were able to vote. We understand that many of the logistical challenges from the first round were overcome for Sunday’s second round. We now call on the candidates and their parties to show patience as vote tabulation continues, and to refer any electoral disputes to their constitutional court. We are eager to see Mali move beyond its transitional phase to begin the process of national reconciliation.
In terms of the – I think you were referring to the coup restrictions, we have made clear that following the return of a democratically elected government we will seek to normalize our foreign assistance to Mali. These programs will be reviewed and revised to assess the security and development needs in the light of the new environment. I do understand there is still some procedural issues to be worked out with vote tabulation, so I don’t want to get ahead of the process here, but certainly our goal is – if this is determined to be a democratically elected government that’s returning to office – that we will move forward lifting those restrictions.
QUESTION: You’re not going to determine that you don’t actually need to make a determination on whether there’s a – you might save some money if you don’t make the determination.
MS. HARF: I will take that on board, Matt, and --
QUESTION: I want to know if the third way – if the third --
MS. HARF: -- let our people here know that you’ve suggested that as an option.
QUESTION: -- the unprecedented third option, yes, to not decide is being considered.
MS. HARF: I’ll make sure everyone knows you think that’s an option in this case.
Thank you. Oh, wait.
QUESTION: I just --
MS. HARF: One more.
QUESTION: On Zimbabwe. Has there been any communication to the government, Robert Mugabe?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We know that the MDC opposition has made an appeal, but has there been any kind of formal --
MS. HARF: Not that I know of. I don’t have an update on that for you. I can check in with our folks and see if there’s anything additional to share.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:41 p.m.)

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