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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 17, 2015

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 15:24

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 17, 2015

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12:28 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a few items at the top and then we’ll get started.

First, a travel update. Secretary Kerry – sorry, let me start over there. Just tripped over my words. Secretary Kerry will travel to Iqaluit, Canada on April 24th to attend the biennial Arctic Council ministerial. During the meeting, Secretary Kerry will begin a two-year term as chairman of the Arctic Council. We succeed the Canadians, who had the chairmanship last year. Secretary Kerry will present the 2015-2017 U.S. Arctic Council chairmanship program, One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities, to the seven other Arctic Council member states and six permanent participants of the council as well. U.S. chairmanship priorities include addressing the impacts of climate change; Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions for people in the Arctic as well. The ministerial meeting and a subsequent press conference will be livestreamed on the Arctic Council website, and that is just a day trip for him.

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, General John Allen, is in Singapore to deliver keynote remarks at the East Asia Summit symposium on countering violent extremism. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and – Public Affairs, excuse me – and Public Diplomacy Rick Stengel is also participating in this symposium. General Allen will also meet with Prime Minister Lee to discuss coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, noting the progress Singapore has made in countering violent extremism and reintegrating radicalized individuals. As you know, this comes on the heels of the work we did here at our own CVE summit. General Allen will then travel to Cairo. He will meet with Foreign Minister Shoukry and Arab League leadership on April 19th to discuss coalition efforts, again, to degrade and defeat ISIL.

And just two more items at the top. I know a lot of you have questions about Erbil, so I just wanted to give you some information at the top. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was detonated directly outside an entry point on the perimeter of the U.S. consulate in Erbil today. AT 10:44 a.m. Eastern, the duck and cover protocol was activated at the U.S. consulate. All chief of mission personnel have been accounted for. There are no reports of injuries to chief of mission personnel or to the local guards.

Host nation fire assets responded to extinguish the fire. Local authorities have also responded and are securing the area. We appreciate the rapid response of the Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to this matter, and we will work with them to investigate the incident to determine the facts behind the explosion.

And then finally, the United States is deeply concerned that Chinese journalist Gao Yu has been convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison after a closed trial on charges of leaking state secrets to a foreign news outlet. The conviction of this veteran journalist is part of a disturbing pattern of government action against public interest lawyers, internet activists, journalists, religious leaders, and others who peacefully question official Chinese policies and actions. We call on the Chinese authorities to release Ms. Gao immediately and to respect China’s international human rights commitments.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about the – when you said that all chief of mission personnel are accounted --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- safe and accounted for --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- that includes the local employees, the --

MS HARF: That is the information I have. Obviously facts are still coming in, but that’s what I have from our team there.


MS HARF: What else?


QUESTION: Is there any --

MS HARF: (Coughing.) Excuse me, guys.

QUESTION: Was there any intelligence or any sense that something of this nature could happen inside Erbil?

MS HARF: I’ve --

QUESTION: It’s very out of character for this city.

MS HARF: I think that Iraq remains a dangerous place – many parts of it do. So I’m not going to get into specifics, but we know that the security environment there is quite a challenging one and obviously take a number of security precautions when it comes to our people and our facilities.

QUESTION: Is there any early consideration of changing the travel patterns of consulate staff?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure why an explosive device outside the consulate would change travel patterns, given this happened outside the consulate. But there’s already a high level of security at the consulate, at our embassy in Baghdad. Obviously, this is something we take very serious in Iraq.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can you say how many personnel, roughly, work out of the consulate?

MS HARF: We don’t generally give those numbers, for security reasons.

QUESTION: Yeah. I figured that.

MS HARF: But good try. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Any idea of responsibility?

MS HARF: We do not have any details on who’s responsible at this time.

QUESTION: And – that’s it for me.

MS HARF: Is that it?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iraq?

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Okay. Today some pictures were shown --

MS HARF: Sorry. The one thing I will say also – there have been mixed reports online about other possible casualties of Iraqis, and we can’t confirm those reports, obviously are looking into that. But go ahead.

QUESTION: I – another topic on Iraq, which is Izzat al-Douri. He was Saddam’s deputy and his – the longest surviving member of the top leadership. Today there were reports that he may have been killed. Could you comment on that? Do you have any --

MS HARF: We can’t confirm them. Our folks are looking into them at this point. I don’t have independent confirmation of that.

QUESTION: As far as you know, was he the only member of the 52 deck of cards that was --

MS HARF: That is a good question.

QUESTION: -- or maybe second in line --


QUESTION: -- that was not accounted for or not --

MS HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: -- caught or captured or killed?

MS HARF: I don’t actually know. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. And if it is true, do you feel that this may be a turning point in the fight against both al-Qaida affiliated or ISIS --

MS HARF: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- insurgents?

MS HARF: -- we can’t confirm it. If it’s true, I think it would probably be a victory for the Iraqi Security Forces, certainly. But I just don’t know yet. We’re looking into it.

QUESTION: Yeah. Since a lot of the Sunni officers basically reported to him directly and he had a great deal of influence, wouldn’t it be logical to expect that if he is gone then maybe that organization could collapse, conceivably?

MS HARF: I don’t have more analysis on this to do. I’m happy to check with our team as we get more facts here.

What else?

QUESTION: So you’re not even going to characterize his importance post the Saddam era --

MS HARF: I – yeah, I don’t have more on that.

QUESTION: -- and the demise of ISIL?

MS HARF: We’re looking into it. I just – I don’t have more on that for you all today.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Did the State Department try to enlist Sony Pictures to promote U.S. foreign policy narrative?

MS HARF: We work with a variety of – or I should say interact with or communicate with a variety of outside people and – in this country to talk to them about what our priorities are. Sometimes they come to us. But certainly, their decisions about what they produce, their content, their movies, their productions are all entirely up to them in terms of the content they produce. But we often have conversations with people inside the country about issues that are important to us.

QUESTION: There’s – WikiLeaks published emails between Richard Stengel, State Department official, and Michael Lynton, Sony CEO, and it says: “Michael, it was great to see you yesterday. As you could see, we have plenty of challenges encountering ISIL narratives in the Middle East and Russia narratives in Central and Eastern Europe, and it’s not something that the State Department can do on its own. Following up on our conversation, I’d love to convene a group of media executives who can help us think about better ways to respond to both of these large challenges. This is a conversation about ideas about content and production, about commercial possibilities. I promise you it will be interesting, fun, and rewarding. Best, Rick.”

So --

MS HARF: Is there a question, or did you just want to do a dramatic reading of his email?

QUESTION: No, no really. Is this --

MS HARF: No, really, is there a question?

QUESTION: -- the State Department trying – trying to get Sony Pictures --

MS HARF: No --

QUESTION: -- to try to push --

MS HARF: Look, as we’ve said around the CVE summit --

QUESTION: -- U.S. foreign policy objectives?

MS HARF: -- as we’ve said around – very openly around the CVE summit, around that we talk to social media organizations, entertainment organizations, other people on the outside that aren’t affiliated with the government about our anti-ISIL efforts and about --

QUESTION: So it is a yes, basically? Is it a yes?

MS HARF: Can I finish?

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, sure. But it’s the same that you – where you answered previously.

MS HARF: Well, no, I think it’s a little ironic that you’re asking about this issue. But I will say around the CVE summit we were very clear that we talk to a host of government and nongovernmental actors about the anti-ISIL coalition. This is certainly a very, very small part of that.

QUESTION: Now with Russia too.

MS HARF: I wouldn’t sort of draw any – I wouldn’t draw any big analytical statements from this other than we’re very clear that we believe people who have platforms who can speak out against ISIL should do so. But their content, what they choose to say, what they choose to print, what they choose to make in terms of movies is obviously entirely up to them.

QUESTION: About putting ISIL and Russia --

MS HARF: And I think Sony would say the same thing.

QUESTION: About putting ISIL and Russia in one category, when former BBG chief Andrew Lack did that, you – and I mean the U.S. State Department – said that you wouldn’t put the two in one category.

MS HARF: Absolutely not. We would not.

QUESTION: From these emails, it seems that’s exactly what you did.

MS HARF: How – I didn’t hear Russia even mentioned in that email. I’m not sure how you --

QUESTION: Well, so I’m reading it again: “As you could see –

MS HARF: Was Russia mentioned in this?

QUESTION: Yes. Richard Stengel --

MS HARF: Okay.


MS HARF: Rick Stengel.

QUESTION: “As you could see, we have plenty of challenges encountering ISIL narratives in the Middle East and Russian narratives in Central and Eastern Europe.” That’s in one sentence.

MS HARF: He didn’t say they were the same thing, though. They’re different challenges. I’ve talked very publicly about the very high level of Russian propaganda that I’m sure you’re familiar with that is put out by the Russian Government to hide what they are doing in Ukraine. That is a very different thing than the anti-ISIL piece of the component here that we’ve talked about in terms of public messaging. Those are two very different things.

QUESTION: Are you saying --

MS HARF: I’ve spoken about them very differently from this podium a number of times. They’re very different challenges. You are right; there is a challenge with the extraordinary level of Russian propaganda – factually blatant lies about Russia’s doing in Eastern Ukraine. That’s one challenge for us. There’s a very separate challenge that we’ve talked about in terms of the piece of the anti-ISIL coalition that deals with their propaganda and their narrative. And they’re very different, of course, and we would in no way compare them.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the U.S. --

MS HARF: That may be shorthand in an email, but that’s certainly not how we see them.

QUESTION: Are you saying that the U.S. always tells the truth, and Russia always lies?

MS HARF: That’s not what I said. I always tell the truth when I stand up here, and we’re very clear about the fact that there is a massive level of Russian propaganda. Just this week we heard President Putin say there were no Russians in Ukraine, which there – I mean, there are photos. There is a overwhelming amount of evidence to show that is not the case. I’m not sure how you could push back on that.

QUESTION: He didn’t say there were no Russians; he said there were no Russian soldiers.

MS HARF: No Russian soldiers. Thank you for correcting me, yes.

QUESTION: Well, actually, can – more broadly, if in fact --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I haven’t seen this email, but if in fact there is a discussion going on with Sony and potentially other company – other Hollywood –

MS HARF: Right. I don’t think that should be surprising to people.

QUESTION: No, no. I’m not surprised by it. I’m curious, though, how you think the effort is going at countering the propaganda either from –

MS HARF: Well, and just keep in mind this is a very --

QUESTION: -- Russia or from ISIL?

MS HARF: -- working with the entertainment industry is a very small piece of the anti-propaganda efforts. I mean, a lot of what we’ve talked about is working with religious leaders, for example, who have platforms and credibility who can speak up against ISIL’s propaganda as well. We’ve spoken very openly about this for many months. As I said, Rick Stengel is in Singapore today working on this issue.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, do you --

QUESTION: But were you surprised --

QUESTION: -- think that in general that it’s working?

MS HARF: I think there are tough challenges here, and I’ve said this before: The internet is both a blessing and a curse, that terrorists can propagate their message much further and much faster than they ever have been able to before, and that’s a huge challenge. But I do think in places like Iraq you hear tribal leaders and regional leaders and local government leaders and religious leaders standing up and saying this doesn’t represent us, and we’re not going to let them take over our country. And I do think that on a daily basis you see people standing up and saying that. That’s only one piece of the coalition, though. It’s matched with military action. It’s matched with cutting of their financing and their foreign fighter flows. So this is a holistic effort that’s going to take some time.

QUESTION: Marie --


QUESTION: -- could I just follow up on the presence of Russian military – or Russian soldiers --

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: -- in the Ukraine? Now you mentioned this yesterday. Do you know what the strength level of these units? Are they battalion strength, company strength, brigade strength, or individuals?

MS HARF: I can check on the numbers. I know there’s a lot – a huge number. I just don’t know what the exact number is. We do know that Russian military forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, and as the Secretary has said, no amount of propaganda can make true what we know blatantly to be false. So I think we are very focused on the fact that Russia can live up to its Minsk obligations here, can pull back. There is a diplomatic off-ramp here. They haven’t taken it yet, though.

QUESTION: Do they operate in combat capacity, or do they operate in an advisory kind of capacity?

MS HARF: Well, I think a couple points. Russia has sent heavy weapons to the front lines in eastern Ukraine in violation of the Minsk agreements. They have command and control elements in eastern Ukraine to coordinate military operations there. They’ve trained separatist fighters in gunnery and artillery firing. They maintain advanced surface-to-air missile systems near the front lines, also in violation of the Minsk agreement. So I think that’s a very clear picture of how active Russia is in the fight in eastern Ukraine, and I know that’s something, of course, we’ve talked about a lot.

QUESTION: How could – how could Sony Pictures and other entertainment corporations help the U.S. to counter ISIL and Russia? In what ways?

MS HARF: It’s not about helping the U.S. The anti-ISIL coalition is a global coalition that includes countries across the Middle East, Muslim countries around the world. This isn’t about the U.S. This is about people who have platforms understanding that they do have a way to counter this very hateful, very destructive, very violent propaganda. And this should in no way be surprising to people. These are just conversations that we’re having with governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

QUESTION: I’m just referring to the challenges listed in this email.

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But how would – how could Sony Pictures help in that regard just specifically?

MS HARF: I’m happy for you to ask Sony their thoughts on that. As I’ve said, we have a dialogue with companies, with social media companies about the ways – the challenges as we see them --

QUESTION: Yes, but the U.S. --

MS HARF: I’m going to finish --

QUESTION: -- but the State Department --

MS HARF: -- my sentence and then --

QUESTION: -- would expect them --

MS HARF: -- I’ll take your next question.

QUESTION: -- to do something. What is it?

MS HARF: No, that’s not what I said. I said we have a conversation with them about the challenges as we see them and what we are doing to counter that kind of propaganda. They have their own tools and their own decision making about how they could do that. It’s more of a conversation about the challenge, what we’re doing, and then they can do – make their own decisions about what they might do, certainly.

QUESTION: Can I just stay on Ukraine and –

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: -- just ask about --

QUESTION: Wait. I just want one more general – and again, I’m not familiar with these emails, so I don’t know, but is there some kind of discussion that you’re aware of, or is there a discussion going on with entertainment companies like there was between the U.S. Government and filmmakers, say, like – I think it was John Ford, the Why We Fight series back in World War II, which was – I mean, is that something that’s happening?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not familiar with the details of those conversations, but certainly – I mean, we were very open around the CVE summit that we are having this conversation not just with social media companies, but other people who have public platforms and that could be entertainment organizations. I know the FBI has done some work on this in terms of inside the U.S. There’s certainly conversations that are ongoing --

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS HARF: -- with a variety of nongovernmental actors.

QUESTION: But there seem – but I’m just wondering if there’s a stepped-up interest in this. I mean, your former employer, for example --

MS HARF: Which one, Matt?

QUESTION: The one over in --

QUESTION: Langley.

QUESTION: -- Langley cooperated with the – what was the name of the movie? Now I’ve forgotten. This is bad. Well, you know the – and the Pentagon cooperates with – and so --

MS HARF: But those are – I would say those are very, very different things; very, very different.

QUESTION: Well, but they do push a U.S. Government narrative, do they not?

MS HARF: Well, but I would really separate out what the State Department might do in our conversations, or the FBI or others in our conversations with people who have public platforms from anything related to the intelligence community. I want to make those – that separation very, very clear. And look, these are – certainly, we’ve stepped up our conversations with public entities since the rise of ISIL. That is true. We’ve talked about that very openly in this room, whether it’s YouTube or Twitter or other people who might have public voices here. So certainly, that’s been stepped up given the concern about ISIL and its propaganda.

QUESTION: Okay. But it’s not something you’re trying to keep secret, is it?

MS HARF: Not at all.


MS HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: In fact, there was a movie that was basically --

QUESTION: Zero Dark Thirty, that was the name.

QUESTION: Zero Dark Thirty, and there was also the Green Berets, which the CIA basically (inaudible).

MS HARF: Again, I want to really separate out anything the State Department may do in our contact with nongovernmental organizations from anything the intelligence community might do.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: North Korea. Did you see the apparent threat by an arm of the North Korean Government toward Ambassador Lippert?

MS HARF: On the ambassador, we did.


MS HARF: We’ve seen the statement, unfortunately consistent with the nature of the regime and its rhetoric. We’ve seen statements like this before. Safety and security, obviously, of U.S. personnel is among our highest priorities. As you know, we talked about his security a lot after the previous attack on his security. The posture there hasn’t changed since then.

QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine? I had --

MS HARF: Yes, and then I’m going to you. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. I just wondered if you could talk – I’m sorry, I’m a little bit underprepared – the – we’re reporting that there are some U.S. advisors who have landed in Ukraine to help with --

MS HARF: The National Guard training?

QUESTION: Yeah, with the National Guard training.

MS HARF: Which begins next week.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you give us some details about that?

MS HARF: Sure. The State --

QUESTION: Is that a State Department operation?

MS HARF: The State Department and the Defense Department notified Congress last summer of the Administration’s intent to provide training to the Ukrainian National Guard, using the Global Security Contingency Fund authorities. This is a joint DOD-State initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities. We’ve been doing this with Ukraine, I think, for about the last 20 years in some form or fashion, so this isn’t new. It’s a continuation of ongoing training for Ukrainian National Guard units, for internal security and territorial defense.

As I said, the training will begin next week. Approximately 290 U.S. troops will conduct the National Guard training mission at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. I think the UK and Canada have also publicly announced similar training for Ukraine. And this is in line with other training we do, such as civil-military cooperation, civil emergency planning we’ve provided to Ukraine, as I said, over the last 20 years bilaterally and as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace.

QUESTION: 290 U.S. troops?

MS HARF: Approximately.

QUESTION: Is this more than you would usually send, given the situation in Ukraine at the moment?

MS HARF: Not – I don’t have all the numbers from previous iterations of this, but it doesn’t sound abnormally high to me.

QUESTION: And does it take on a different kind of --

MS HARF: Are you okay, Justin?

QUESTION: I’m concentrating, yeah.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: No, I’m good.

QUESTION: Does it take on a different kind of allure because of what’s happening in eastern Ukraine?

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Do you expect them to do something different than they have done in the past?

MS HARF: Well, it really is part of our ongoing efforts here to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal defense operations. Again, we did this under President Yanukovych; we’ve done this, I think, for somewhat – about 20 years at this point. Obviously, there’s the reality of the situation in eastern Ukraine. So this is part of our ongoing effort, but of course, we’re all aware of the situation there.

QUESTION: Marie, are these – the Ukrainian guardsmen that are – or guard corps that are being trained, are they vetted at all?

MS HARF: They are --

QUESTION: And so --

MS HARF: -- as we do human rights vetting.

QUESTION: Right. Are there any units that are not eligible to be trained because of this vetting?

MS HARF: I can check. I’m not familiar with the specifics on it.

QUESTION: There’s one brigade in particular that, at least in Russia, seems to provoke a lot of angst.

MS HARF: Okay.


MS HARF: I’m happy to check on the specifics on vetting. I just don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Change topic?



MS HARF: Oh, sorry. And then I promise you’re next.



MS HARF: Said, so nice on a Friday.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Egypt. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that came out of Cairo this week that an Egyptian court has ruled police can deport foreigners they suspect of being gay? And this is in particular reference to a case of a Libyan man who was ordered to return to Libya, and he’s not allowed to return back into the country. And there’s obviously a lot of LGBT human rights issues going on in Libya with ISIS and everything.

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: Are you aware of that at all?

MS HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports, and I’m sorry about that. Let me check with our team. Obviously, that sounds like something that would be very concerning to us. We’ve spoken out very publicly about similar situations in other countries, and I’m sorry I don’t have the details. So I’ll check for you.

QUESTION: And just as an add-on to that too, this is certainly the latest of a long series of examples of Egypt’s LGBT rights record. Has the Secretary – I know he was in Sharm el-Sheikh recently and met with representatives of the Egyptian Government, including President Sisi. Has he had any more specific conversations about human rights and LGBT rights specifically since Sharm el-Sheikh?

MS HARF: Since – let me check on that.


MS HARF: I’m sorry. I know he’s spoken to Foreign Minister Shoukry a couple times. As you know, he’s really spoken out about this issue in a number of meetings, whether it’s with African heads of state or foreign ministers or other places. So let me just check for you --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: -- and I will let you know.

QUESTION: All right.


QUESTION: Yemen? Okay.


QUESTION: Yesterday, the envoy to Yemen, the UN envoy, resigned --


QUESTION: -- Jamal Benomar, and the name that is being sort of considered is Ismail Ould Cheikh, who is really – his expertise is in humanitarian and development and so on. Does that tell you that maybe the direction of the UN is less political from now – this point on and more humanitarian?

MS HARF: Well, we look forward to an appointment of his successor. I know that hasn’t moved forward officially yet. This is a UN process, so I’m not going to get ahead of that or speculate on possible successors.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m asking about the principle. If that is the case, if they focus on a guy who’s --

MS HARF: Well, I just said I’m not going to speculate given we don’t have a successor yet.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you feel – let me ask you this: I mean, in principle, would you like to see someone who is political because it is a political mission, much like Syria and Iraq and so on --

MS HARF: I just don’t have criteria to outline for you. There are a variety of people, I’m sure, that could play important roles here. I just don’t have more to outline for you.

QUESTION: Okay, but then – but also the secretary general called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and that everyone should be involved. But the message from the Saudi-led coalition is that they are going on with their mission and basically want --

MS HARF: Well, they’re responding to the Houthi aggression.

QUESTION: How are they responding to the Houthi aggression? Are the Houthis attacking Saudi Arabia?

MS HARF: The Houthis – I mean, you’re aware of the history over the last month, Said, of what the Houthis did.

QUESTION: Right. I certainly am, yes.

MS HARF: Right.


MS HARF: I don’t think we need to relive all of it, but the Saudis are responding to what was blatant Houthi aggression, taking over parts of the country, large parts of the country, pushing the government physically out. I mean, I think you’re aware of the history here.

QUESTION: Right. I am. Do you agree that maybe the Saudi interference is somewhat foreign interference and not local?

MS HARF: We’re supporting the Saudi in the GCC-led efforts here.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. Thank you.

MS HARF: What else?

QUESTION: On Syria, President Assad has denied the Human Rights Watch reports about his use of chemical weapons in some cities in Syria lately. Do you have anything on this?

MS HARF: Well, we saw those reports. These are just, I think, the latest denials of his that are really not credible, sort of bordered on delusion. We have a lot of evidence about what’s happening here, not just in this most recent attack, but certainly before that. So --

QUESTION: And how will you react to his use of chemical weapons?

MS HARF: Well, as we’ve said, we are looking very closely, particularly into the latest one, are considering next steps. We can’t confirm all the details. There’s an investigation ongoing. But we know this has been going on for some time, certainly, and we will get all the facts and determine what our next steps will be.

QUESTION: But these allegations speak of ammonium chloride, which is really available on the open market, commercially available to everyone.

MS HARF: So – right.

QUESTION: It could conceivably be used by other groups, correct?

MS HARF: Chlorine – well --

QUESTION: Chlorine, right.

MS HARF: Chlorine, right, can be used, obviously, in a variety of ways. It can be used as a chemical weapon. I would note that in the past, the OPCW has determined that this was delivered from helicopters. And we’ve said in the past that only the Syrian military possesses the capability to use helicopters in such attacks. So we don’t have all the facts about this latest one yet, but even if it’s chlorine, there are ways that only the Assad regime could use it, and that’s what we’ve seen in the past.

QUESTION: The Syrian president also accused Turkey of sabotaging effort to bring about ceasefires in Aleppo. Can you comment on that? Are you aware of that?

MS HARF: It’s the Assad regime that bears the overwhelming responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in Syria and in the region, and Assad often presents this false choice between his regime and terrorist groups like ISIL. And that’s certainly not how we see it. I just – I’m not giving a lot of credence to his comments given his actions over the last many, many months.

QUESTION: So would you agree that Turkey is not helping to bring about or to stem the violence in Syria?

MS HARF: I would say very clearly, as we’ve said, that Turkey is a key member of the anti-ISIL coalition. We work very closely with them as a NATO ally and partner on this and other issues.

QUESTION: Although most foreign fighters go through the Turkish border?

MS HARF: And they are taking a number of steps to crack down on their border given the fact that they know that’s an issue.

QUESTION: Marie, does the redline still exist?

MS HARF: Can you please expand your question?

QUESTION: When the President drew the redline to the Syrian regime because he used the chemical weapons, and after the agreement with Russia to take out --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- the chemical weapons, is the redline still there or not?

MS HARF: I think that’s a rhetorical question that’s not really based in substance. As we said at the time, the President was willing to undertake military action in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. Instead, we were able to negotiate an agreement where we were able to get the – all of the declared chemical weapons out of Syria, which, to be fair, military action would not have done. And without the threat of military action, we don’t think we would have been able to get that diplomatic resolution at that time. So we were very clear when they have used chemical weapons in the past that we would take action. That’s why we threatened the use of military force, that’s why we negotiated an agreement to get all of their declared weapons out, and that’s why we take all of these allegations very seriously.



QUESTION: On Cuba, if we could go there.

MS HARF: Jumping around today.

QUESTION: Yeah, let’s jump around. The – you’ve seen that some members of Congress have threatened to not fund a U.S. embassy in Cuba. Is that something they can even do? I’ve heard that that’s --

MS HARF: We already have an interests section there.

QUESTION: Right. So is there a way that – because I’ve – somebody was telling me that this may not be possible, but is there a way that Congress could sort of intervene with funding, screw things up with --

MS HARF: I’m happy to check with our legislative team. I’m not sure.


QUESTION: And if there is, could you tell us exactly what it is, so that they know what to do? (Laughter.)

MS HARF: Right, I will be sure to outline that for everyone.

QUESTION: Any other foreign policy initiatives, the one thing that could ruin them, we’d be happy to – (laughter).

MS HARF: I will say that, as you know, we already have an interests section there --


MS HARF: -- and that having a presence on the ground does a number of things, including help American citizens who may be there. So obviously, we believe it’s important to have a diplomatic representation there, mainly – for the most part to help our citizens, but also to promote our interests and values.

QUESTION: Any update --

QUESTION: Right, and now let’s go to the step-by-step way Congress can destroy an Iran nuclear deal. (Laughter.) Have you --

MS HARF: Happy Friday, everyone.

QUESTION: Any date on – update on when the talks – next round of Cuba talks might be?

QUESTION: Hey – yeah.

MS HARF: I – oh, Cuba. No.

QUESTION: No, I’m serious. I want to go to Iran.

MS HARF: Okay, that’s fine.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I just wanted to ask --

MS HARF: I know you’re serious. I always think you’re serious.

QUESTION: -- just ask the question at this moment.

MS HARF: We do not, no.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS HARF: Matthew.



QUESTION: You may have seen that following former Secretaries Shultz and Kissinger’s piece about the nuclear deal, that former Secretary Baker has also joined in expressing concern.

MS HARF: I did see that today, yes.


MS HARF: He also expressed some positive things about what we were doing.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.


QUESTION: But on his concerns specifically – and I won’t go through them – they’re similar to what Kissinger and Shultz said. But I’m just wondering, do you – now that you have three former secretaries of state coming out and expressing these concerns, do you accept any of them?

MS HARF: Well, I certainly think, Matt, that we agree with the premise that I think has been in both of those pieces, that we need to have a more – a regional security strategy. And we do, and I think that’s why you see the GCC heads of state coming here in May, why we have done an enormous amount of outreach to the GCC countries, also to the Israelis about doing even more for their security if there are ways to do that. So we certainly agree with the premise I think they posited in some of these pieces about having a regional security strategy, and that’s why we do and that’s why we’re working on this.

When it comes to the actual nuclear agreement, we also agree that there’s a lot of work to do over the next three months – or two and a half months, I guess, at this point – on some of the details, and that the details really matter. And that’s why I think you’ve heard Secretary Kerry saying if we can’t get agreement on every crossed T and dotted I we need, we’re not going to get an agreement.

QUESTION: So it --

MS HARF: So I think we certainly agree with the fact that there is work to do over the next two and a half months. This is not a final agreement yet.

QUESTION: Okay. So it sounds as though you’re not as – well, you’re not as --


QUESTION: That you accept the general ideas that they’re putting out.

MS HARF: Well, I think there are certainly things – and I’m not going line by line in the pieces either – but certainly things that they raise that we also care very deeply about. And we believe that the way we’re going about this, by dealing with the nuclear issue, separately dealing with the regional security piece, and how we’re going about trying to get to our bottom line is the best course of action.

QUESTION: Okay. Now on the regional security strategy --


QUESTION: -- which you say the Administration has --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- the security of the Middle East right now is not particularly good.

MS HARF: Well, when we talk about the regional security strategy, we mainly talk about protecting the Gulf states and Israel from – if we talk about reassuring them from Iran when it comes to ballistic missiles or other things like that. So when it comes to the regional security piece in our defense of their countries, I think that’s what we more specifically refer to here --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS HARF: -- when we talk about reassurance of the Gulf countries.

QUESTION: So Syria being embroiled in civil war and Yemen being the mess that it is --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- don’t count as part of --

MS HARF: It’s not that they don’t count, but two things I would say – first of all, given the instability in many parts of the region, that’s why we believe it’s even more important to get a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue; I’d say point A there. But point B is when we talk about the reassurance piece it’s for the countries you’ve often asked me about, whether it’s Israel, whether it’s the UAE, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, whether it’s other countries in the Gulf --


MS HARF: -- talking to them about what U.S. military assets are there that can reassure them that we are there to help or other things we can provide to them.


MS HARF: It’s just a more limited --

QUESTION: Oh, I understand. But I think when --

MS HARF: -- when I – yeah.

QUESTION: -- you refer to a regional – the Administration having --

MS HARF: It’s shorthand for the Gulf security strategy that we’ve talked about.


MS HARF: And I would put Israel in this – in the same category.

QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, Yemen borders the GCC countries and --

MS HARF: That’s correct. And Yemen is a --

QUESTION: -- and the Iranians have been accused of --

MS HARF: -- huge problem. And we --

QUESTION: -- and the Iranians have been accused of nefarious activity in Bahrain.

MS HARF: Right. But you know what we’re talking about when we talk about the Gulf reassurance piece specifically, I think, because DOD’s talked about this at great length when it comes to the – the ways that particularly the U.S. military but others can reassure them of the security piece. I think you’re aware of some of those details.

QUESTION: Well, I am.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But I just don’t get why – how you can separate out Iraq, Syria, and Yemen from --

MS HARF: Well, we’re not separating it out, but --

QUESTION: -- the broader region and say that --

MS HARF: Well, we’re not separating it out. But when we talk about the reassurance piece for our partners in the region, what – mainly we get asked from you all a lot of questions about the UAE or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Qatar, any of these other countries. That’s why we talk about, in general, the Gulf reassurance piece that we are doing with them, with the Israelis, and then all the other issues in the region we’re trying to deal with.

QUESTION: But I think some people would make the argument that the Saudis, that the GCC, and particularly the Israelis are not reassured.

MS HARF: Well, that’s why we’re taking all these steps to do so, Matt, and to first, on the one hand, be very clear with them about the assets and the ways we are willing to support them directly, whether that’s with Israel, all the ways we give them assistance from the security perspective, whether it’s with the Gulf states – we do this in a number of ways --


MS HARF: -- and at the same time that we’re working on Iraq, on Syria, on Yemen. These are very difficult challenges.

QUESTION: I get that. But the problem is that the reassurance seems to be – your reassurance policy seems to be threatened, at least, or hurt in their eyes by the Iran negotiations and the emerging deal. Because none of --

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re conflating a few issues here, though. I think you’re conflating some things. When we talk about the Iran nuclear negotiations and reassuring our partners and allies in the region of what we are willing to do to help their security, I think that is a very robust conversation. It’s been going on for a long time in this Administration.

QUESTION: I get that. But --

MS HARF: And I do think they see that a little not separately from Syria, but that they know we are doing all these things in other areas to reassure them of their territorial and their security at home.

QUESTION: Well, that’s fine. But they’re worried and they’re not reassured by the --

MS HARF: And we’re worried about that too. But these are just different --

QUESTION: -- by the --

MS HARF: -- a little different conversations. I think you’re --

QUESTION: But I – well, no. I get what you’re saying. The problem is that --

MS HARF: I’m not sure you do.

QUESTION: -- that a reassurance of protecting Saudi or the Gulf --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- states or the Israelis on their home turf gets diminished or in their eyes gets diminished if by the emerging Iran nuclear deal, which they, in particular Prime Minister Netanyahu --

MS HARF: Which is why we are taking all these steps to reassure them. That’s what I’m saying.

QUESTION: Yeah. But then you think it’s working? Because --

MS HARF: I think that we’re having the conversation. I think the President is bringing the heads of state to Washington.


MS HARF: I think the Secretary’s going to be meeting with foreign ministers.


MS HARF: I think we are having a number of conversations with the Israelis. We are doing everything we can to say --


MS HARF: -- we understand your concerns, here are all the ways we’ve already been supporting you, here are all the additional things we’re going to do.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the problem is that they don’t seem to --

MS HARF: I’m not sure what else I can say to your questions, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, do you think that it has worked to date? Because they --

MS HARF: Why don’t you ask them?

QUESTION: Well, they come out and talk about it all the time, I believe.

MS HARF: Then go ask them. That’s fine.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: May I just turn – may I turn Matt’s question slightly on – slightly around another way? What is it about the emerging deal, or if you get a deal, that you feel will change the situation in the Middle East so that other countries can feel assured of their own security?

MS HARF: Well, I wouldn’t exactly make the causal linkage in that way. I would say a few things. First, if we can imagine the destabilizing role Iran is playing in the region today, imagine what they – the power they would be able to project if they had a nuclear weapon. So we’ve said that, that think about – you’re concerned already; well, think about if they could project even more power. That’s certainly a key piece of it. And if we could resolve this diplomatically and not have to use other means to resolve this, which would undoubtedly roil the region in even more turmoil, I think they understand that diplomacy is the best way to handle this.

Now when it – there is a reassurance piece here, and we know that. That’s why the President’s bringing the GCC leaders here, it’s why we’re meeting with them, it’s why there are all these conversations, because we know they’re worried. This is their backyard; this is their neighborhood. We know that. But there are things we can do to reassure them of our capabilities and what we can do to help them feel more secure. I think you’ll be hearing more about specifics in the coming days and weeks. Quite frankly, as the GCC countries come here, as we talk more to the Israelis, I think you’ll see more of those specifics. It’s incredibly important to us, though.

QUESTION: But there is an argument from some that say that getting an Iran deal only emboldens Iran further in its ambitions across the Middle East.

MS HARF: So what would the alternative be?

QUESTION: Well, this is your regional security strategy.

MS HARF: Well, but – look, diplomacy – there are only a variety of ways you can resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. There’s diplomacy, which is the most durable, gives us the most transparency, and actually is the least disruptive in terms of regional stability that’s already quite threatened. There are other ways we have of dealing with this issue, some of which my colleagues at the Defense Department and elsewhere have talked about, that would be much more destabilizing and not as durable and not give us any transparency.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to --

MS HARF: So if the Israelis and the Gulf countries want to have eyes-on access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, if they want to have IAEA access, if they want to know what’s going on in there, you want a diplomatic agreement, because that’s how you get it. That’s how you push them to a year of breakout from today two to three months. That’s how you get more security.

QUESTION: But how do rein in other ambitions, which are actually dealt with by other sections of the Iranian leadership?

MS HARF: That’s true. That’s why I was saying to Matt they’re a little – they’re not totally separate but they’re a little separate. There are a variety of ways we have of countering that, whether it’s through sanctions on other issues, whether it’s by working with our regional partners to shore up their own security – like the Lebanese Armed Forces, for example, if you’re looking at a threat like Hizballah. So we have ways of countering them in a variety of different countries in a variety of different ways.

QUESTION: On the other side of that, do you feel that actually their reaction was less – in terms of opposing it, less vociferous than was anticipated before the framework agreement? Because that’s --

MS HARF: Look – well, I think two things. I think people were surprised – pleasantly, many of them – by the number of details we were able to put out and by the assurances we have already been able to get. But I do think what I said to Jo remains, that this is their neighborhood. They are right there. This is a very serious situation. Not only do they have Iran but, Matt’s right, they have Syria, they have Yemen, they have Libya. So they look around the region and it’s a pretty scary place at times, right. So we understand that, and that’s why we are undertaking all these steps in a variety of ways to reassure them.

QUESTION: Marie, you talk about sanctions --


QUESTION: -- but we all know that the sanctions didn’t prevent Iran from making progress in its nuclear program.

MS HARF: That wasn’t really the intention of them. It was to change their calculation to get them back to the negotiating table. But you’re absolutely right that people who say putting on more sanctions will make them not move their nuclear program forward is just at odds with the entire history of the Iranian nuclear program. You’re absolutely right.

QUESTION: But if you want to counter Iran influence in the Middle East through sanctions, maybe it won’t work too.

MS HARF: Well, we have sanctions in place on Iran for other issues, like its support for terrorism. Also, many of the ways they are destabilizing the region actually don’t take all that much money. So they’re able to today, under incredibly strict sanctions, still do what they’re doing in Yemen, still do what they’re doing in Lebanon. So it’s not always a one-to-one comparison here.

QUESTION: Well, except that they get billions and billions of more dollars than they’ll be --

MS HARF: Well, I think a --

QUESTION: -- or they’ll be able to do that much more --

MS HARF: Well, a couple things. I think analysts who look at the Iranian economy understand that the access to their reserves they might be able to get under a final agreement, given the state of their economy and given that the Iranian leadership is so focused on rebuilding that would have to go to that, or else they would – that’s what their people have said they want out of a nuclear agreement, is fixing their economy at home. They do what they do in the region under sanctions or not, so I think that – look, the sanctions were put in place to get to the diplomatic table. They were put in place to get an agreement, and if we get an agreement, I mean, we’ve been all been clear that they would under a final agreement be able to be suspended.

QUESTION: But I presume that you would say that even one dollar more that they spend to destabilize is bad.

MS HARF: Absolutely, and we have ways of countering any – even then, we would have ways of countering their support to terrorist organizations through sanctions. So even if they took that money and were to use it for any of these nefarious things, we still would have ways of countering that.

QUESTION: Of course, you – one way to counter it would be not to give it to them in the first place. Right?

MS HARF: Well, Matt, these sanctions were put in place explicitly by Congress to get Iran to the negotiating table. And they said at the time if we can get a final agreement, that would – there would be a mechanism for lifting them. So you can’t then change the rules.

QUESTION: Congress can. That’s what they do.

QUESTION: Can you explain – and it’s a pretty basic question – why there are three U.S. officials who are experts on sanctions taking part in next week’s meetings in Vienna? What --

MS HARF: They’re always the same people. They take place in every round.

QUESTION: Well, it’s – is there something specific about what they’re doing now that there is this agreement?

MS HARF: No. They’re the same people who’ve been part of our delegation all along.

QUESTION: And – I guess what I’m looking at – because the Iranians have kept saying, “We want relief immediately. We want to sign this deal.”

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: “We need this relief” – is there going to be a change in the agenda that these officials are having with their Iranian counterparts?

MS HARF: No. I mean, there’s a number of nuclear experts going next week too. If you take a look at the delegation list, this is the same delegation we’ve been sending to every round. There’s a lot of nuclear technical issues that need to get worked out as well. There’s a huge sanctions piece too, that is true, but as we go forward, we’re going to see a lot of technical experts really be engaged in this – a lot.

QUESTION: But I guess – I guess I’m just fundamentally confused, because so much before the achievement of this deal was focused on if we get this deal, then we’ll spend the rest of the time working on the technical issues --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- the scientific issues.

MS HARF: Technical, both nuclear and sanctions. Technical doesn’t just cover the science, it covers the Security Council resolution and the snapback. Technical covers all of those pieces, not just the nuclear technical issues.

QUESTION: Well, if the sanctions already exist, what is there to discuss? Is it simply explaining to the Iranians, “These are the things that you need to do in order to have them removed”?

MS HARF: That’s --

QUESTION: I mean, I would think they have their own lawyers who could look at these sanctions and explain them.

MS HARF: And I’m sure their delegation list will include their own lawyers as well. Look, there’s the pace and scope of sanctions relief, and the sanctions are quite complicated. I’ve learned a lot about these – the U.S. sanctions and the UN sanctions – over the past many months now. They’re quite complicated, and how you begin to suspend what that is in response to what they need to do, what then we do, how that works, what snapback looks like – those are all just very technical conversations, many of which we’ve already had, some of which we still need to work out the details on.


MS HARF: Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date as to payments made to Iran involving unfrozen Iranian assets? When was the last one, how much it was for, how many there’ve been in all --

MS HARF: Say that again. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the status of payments made to Iran involving unfrozen Iranian assets?

MS HARF: Right. As part of the Joint Plan of Action that we put into place in January of 2014, there is monthly installments of their assets that they have overseas that are unfrozen for them. The Treasury Department manages that. I’m sure they can get you the latest, but they’ve been going forward on a regular basis since then.

QUESTION: Are these releases of frozen Iranian funds linked in any way to court cases, sometimes involving judgments awarded, where U.S. citizens have sought reparations from the Iranian regime for terrorist attacks and the like?

MS HARF: Not at all, and we’ve never said they are. These are Iranian assets frozen overseas. On the hostage issue, we’re committed to working with members of Congress to explore options for providing the former hostages with additional compensation consistent with our regulations, our foreign policy. We believe the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013 aims to achieve these goals. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee by unanimous bipartisan vote favorably reported the bill on June 25th, 2013, so there’s a bill out there.

We’re continuing to work with Congress on these issues, but we’ve always said that there are – every issue is separate from the nuclear issue, that we don’t tie the nuclear issue to resolution of any other issue with Iran, because let’s say you can’t get a nuclear agreement. We wouldn’t want to not be able to resolve the other issues.

QUESTION: And why didn’t the Obama Administration make it a point to link the Iranian assets --

MS HARF: I think I just made that clear in my answer.

QUESTION: Okay. So secondly --

MS HARF: I guessed your next question that was coming.

QUESTION: So Helen Gao, State Department contract interpreter, is now under investigation for alleged contact with Chinese intelligence agents. Was State Department aware of the FBI investigation, and does she still work at State?

MS HARF: I think as I told you in an email earlier, I can check into it. Personnel issues are tricky, obviously. I have no idea. I’m happy to check for you.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick question on the Palestinian issue?

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Okay. There was a meeting today between the European and American consul generals with the Palestinian prime minister to discuss the financial situation. The Israelis are holding 1.7 billion shekels, or $500 million. But they’re saying that the American consul general suggested that there may be a resolution in the next 24 hours. Are you aware of anything like this?

MS HARF: I’m not going to get into our private conversations. We want there to be a resolution as soon as possible, Said.

QUESTION: In the event that the funds are not released and they continue to be frozen and more funds are frozen, is there any sort of – like the old days, when you guys used to have a waiver with the government --

MS HARF: “The old days.”

QUESTION: I mean before, let’s say, a year ago or so --

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- when the President had a waiver of some sort to infuse some funds into the PA and save it from collapse as has happened in the past. Is there anything of the sort this time around?

MS HARF: I haven’t heard anything, Said. We think this just needs to be resolved.



MS HARF: And there’s mechanism to do so.

Yes, go ahead. And then Abigail, and then --

QUESTION: Turkish foreign minister is coming to town tomorrow. Is there any meeting with Secretary Kerry during --

MS HARF: I expect they will meet at some point. I don’t have a schedule update for you, though.

Yes, Abigail.

QUESTION: Azerbaijan.

MS HARF: Well, let’s go to Abigail first.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Going back to the blast in Erbil.

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Were there any Americans injured or killed in the blast that were not Embassy staff that you’re aware of?

MS HARF: I said we – I’ve seen reports that there were other casualties that were not chief of mission personnel. We just can’t confirm them at the time.

QUESTION: You can’t say – you don’t know if there were Americans or not, though?

MS HARF: I haven’t seen – we don’t even know if they’re true.


MS HARF: I haven’t heard that there are, candidly, other Americans, but the facts are still coming out.

QUESTION: But what about --

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don’t expect you to have a comment on this because it’s happened while you were out briefing, but according to this site, website, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Had you heard anything about that possibility?

MS HARF: I had not. That’s why I told you we have no details on who’s responsible. I mean, it wouldn’t be surprising, but I can’t confirm that.

QUESTION: What about the number of the injured. I mean, do you have a figure, like 20?

MS HARF: I think I just said I --

QUESTION: Somebody said --

MS HARF: -- can’t confirm --


QUESTION: Yeah, so --

MS HARF: -- any of the other casualties.

QUESTION: There were reports when it first happened that there was shooting. Was there any indication that there was more than one attacker storming the consulate or anything like that?

MS HARF: All I have here is that the IED exploded outside of the consulate. I don’t have those reports here. That may have been the local authorities that responded. I’m just guessing.

QUESTION: Is there an IED, or is it a booby-trapped car?

MS HARF: It was vehicle-borne.

QUESTION: Vehicle-borne.



QUESTION: Can I just – on Iraq, sorry.

MS HARF: Yeah, and then I’m going to you next. I promise.

QUESTION: And just a quick one. You might not be able to give us anything on it, but the Iraqi authorities are saying they’re going to test the body of a man who was killed in clashes in Salahuddin province today who may be Izzat Ibrahim.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Did you ask about that?



QUESTION: I didn’t. Someone else did.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: You were (inaudible).


QUESTION: It’s – the identity of this guy.

QUESTION: You can’t confirm al-Douri – that al-Douri has been killed?

MS HARF: No, I cannot.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sorry, apologize.

MS HARF: It’s okay. It’s okay.

Go ahead, yes.

QUESTION: There are reports I think coming out from KRG health ministry that I think one U.S. national and a Turkish national wounded, but not part of the mission, I think. And --

MS HARF: The one U.S. citizen is what? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: It – was injured as the result of Erbil blast.

MS HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: So – okay. The other thing --

MS HARF: Thanks for asking again.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday Iraqi prime minister at the reception, U.S. Chamber of Commerce reception --

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- said that as a result of the empowering U.S. bilateral trade, bilateral with Iraq, they will change the regulations for the U.S. citizens when they apply for the visas. Is there anything --

MS HARF: I hadn’t heard of anything new on that. Let me check with our team.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there anything discussed with the State Department regarding (inaudible) --

MS HARF: I honestly haven’t heard, so let me check. I know it’s an issue we obviously are always working on, but I haven’t heard of anything new, so I’ll check.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS HARF: What else? Yes.

QUESTION: On Azerbaijan, you had a statement yesterday about the conviction of human rights activist Rasul Jafarov --


QUESTION: -- saying you were deeply troubled by that conviction in an apparent politically-motivated case --


QUESTION: -- and it’s a setback for democracy. But beyond this, given this ongoing crackdown on civil society, is the U.S. doing anything to hold Azerbaijan accountable for this kind of thing?

MS HARF: Well, I think we make clear our disappointment. I think there have been times where we have raised these cases. I don’t have anything specific for you on that. But certainly we make clear our position on these.

QUESTION: The Azerbaijan Government has reacted with the oh-so-unpredictable complaint that this is interference in its internal affairs – that your statement from yesterday is. I’m assuming you do not agree. Is that correct?

MS HARF: I stand by the statement, yes.

QUESTION: But do you have a response to the Azerbaijan Government?

MS HARF: I don’t. I don’t.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) also a follow-up. On the official Azerbaijan newspaper today they ran a front-page editorial accusing President Obama and Secretary Kerry of pursuing a pro-Armenian policy and trying to destabilize the region. I sent you all a link. So what is your reaction to this, and how do you define your relations? It’s a strategic partnership?

MS HARF: I actually haven’t seen the link. I’m happy to take a look at it. And look, we are very clear when we speak up about our concerns about human rights someplace. And attempting to blame us for things or turn the tables on the United States is really just a distraction from their own situation, which we have been very concerned about in terms of the human rights there. So I just – I think we’re very clear when we disagree on human rights issues, and I don’t have much more for you than that.

What else? Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Happy Friday, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:19 p.m.)

DPB # 65


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 16, 2015

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:29

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 16, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:34 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the daily press briefing. I don’t have anything at the top. Matthew.

QUESTION: Nothing? Nothing at all?

MS HARF: On your toes, Matt. Get us started.

QUESTION: Sorry. Actually, you caught me by surprise. I’ll defer.

MS HARF: This is like the first – let’s just all take a moment to pause.

QUESTION: No, it’s --

QUESTION: It’s the second time in a week, actually.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: A couple of things. Do you have anything on the Ukrainian journalist with pro-Russian views who was shot dead in Kyiv?

MS HARF: Yes. I think there was one journalist and a parliamentarian, maybe. Let me check. Yes. We condemn the murders. There was a Ukrainian journalist and a former member of parliament from Ukraine’s former opposition party, the Party of Regions, who were killed. We send our condolences to their family and friends. Call for a complete, thorough, and transparent investigations, which I understand President Poroshenko has called for as well. Don’t have more details.

QUESTION: You know anything about who might be behind this?

MS HARF: I don’t have more details on it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) been a spate of murders in Kyiv recently. Are you concerned that there’s – that there may be some kind of campaign going on?

MS HARF: Well, we’re certainly concerned by any violence or any situations like this. That’s why we’ve called for a thorough and independent investigation. But don’t have much more analysis to do than that.

QUESTION: All these – a follow-up on this. All these people that have been (inaudible) killed, they are anti the current president or anti the current government in Kyiv. Does that concern you or does that --

MS HARF: Any violence concerns us, Said, and I don’t want to make pronouncements about possible motives given there needs to be an investigation.

QUESTION: Let me ask you more directly: Do you feel that there is an anti-opposition campaign that is under way in Kyiv?

MS HARF: Well, as I said, there needs to be investigations here and we need to get the facts, and then we’ll make pronouncements if we can do so at that time.

QUESTION: I guess somewhat related to this, did you see or hear or read about any of the extended call-in show that President Putin had --

MS HARF: I did. Four hours, I think. I think a whole half hour was spent on some – like subsidies and milk.

QUESTION: Yeah, I guess. I don’t know.

MS HARF: There were three and a half other hours that dealt with other issues.

QUESTION: Right. But specifically on Ukraine --


QUESTION: -- he said again that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. You take issue with that I presume, but I don’t know if --

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Do you believe he’s telling the truth?

MS HARF: No. As Secretary Kerry has said multiple times, no amount of propaganda can make true what is not. I think we know as of early April that Russian military forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine. This isn’t just our word for it; there are pictures, there is evidence out there for everyone to see about this. Despite public pronouncements about the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons, pro-Russian separatists maintain heavy weapons near the frontlines in violation of Minsk. Russia has command and control elements in eastern Ukraine to coordinate military operations there. Russia has established training areas in eastern Ukraine to train separatist fighters in gunnery and artillery firing. So all of the evidence points to the contrary and that’s, of course, what we’ve said for many, many months now.

QUESTION: On the S-300 sale, did you have any response to what the president said – President Putin said?

MS HARF: Well, I saw what he said. As we have made very clear, we have significant concerns about the – their intention to lift the hold on the transfer of this – the sale of this defensive system to Iran. We’ve previously made our objections known. We, look, aren’t going to speculate into Russia’s decision making. I think that was part of what he talked about today.

Certainly the case that Russia’s economy has been under incredible strain and that, as some press reports have noted, it may be that Russia is doing this purely for the money involved given they need an influx of finances given the state of their economy.

We do not – and we agree with what President Putin did say that we don’t expect this to impact the unity of the P5+1 inside the negotiating room. He said that, and we certainly believe the same.

QUESTION: No, but he said – but he said that it was – that one reason for lifting the ban was because of the flexibility shown by Iran in the nuclear talks. Do you agree that Iran has shown flexibility in the nuclear talks?

MS HARF: Well, there’s two separate questions here. As I just said, I am not going to speculate on why they made this decision. I noted, as some --

QUESTION: That’s not my question.

MS HARF: I know. But let me – I’ll get there. As some repress – as some press reports have noted that a possible reason may be for the money, and that’s something I think I would take note of.

Look, I’m not going to comment one way and the other on – or characterize, I guess, how Iran has been inside the negotiating room. We have our bottom lines. Those have been met with the parameters that we have agreed to. And so the right combination of factors, of centrifuges, of cascades, of stockpile, of R&D – all of those things combined together have met our bottom lines. And that’s I think what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: All right. One thing you said about the Russian economy – President Putin said that the Russian economy was actually improving and doing okay and was made – actually made stronger by the sanctions. There does seem to be a little bit of evidence at least to support that, at least in the terms of the rebound of the ruble. Are you still so sure that the sanctions have made an impact, because again --

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- if you say that – if you say that the President is not telling the truth when he says that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine, whatever impact on the Russian economy there has been doesn’t appear to have changed any behavior, if you’re correct.

MS HARF: Correct. Well, and I’d just note the IMF’s latest projections released this week forecast that Russia’s real GDP will contract by 3.8 percent in 2015 and 1.1 percent in 2016. That’s just one measure. There’s other measures we’ve talked about as well beyond just the currency measure. There have been many other measures we’ve talked about as well, including their ratings and such.

So we know that the sanctions are having an impact. We know the longer they’re in place they have more of an impact. And ultimately, the goal is to get to change Russia’s calculation so we can get to a different place with – with respect to Ukraine.


MS HARF: And that’s why they’re going to stay in place, and if we need to put more on, we will.

QUESTION: And while you say that you don’t want to speculate as to their motive on the S-300s, you say it’s to – it may be to – you noted reports that say that --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it might be for money. So is that – if that is, in fact, the case that your sanctions are causing this hurt and that the Russians need the money so therefore they’re going to transfer this system that you don’t think they should transfer to Iran, is it worth it?

MS HARF: Is what worth it?

QUESTION: Well, are the sanctions worth it if the Iranians are going to get an S-300 system, which the Israelis believe --

MS HARF: Well, the easiest way for the Russians to help fix their economy is to stop doing the things that required sanctions to be put on in the first place, Matt.

QUESTION: Or, apparently, to sell advanced weapons systems --

MS HARF: Well, I don’t --

QUESTION: -- to countries that you don’t want them to send them to.

MS HARF: I don’t think that’s going to – correct. But I don’t think that’s going to fix their economy in the long term. It may be a short influx of cash. And I don’t know when this projected sale may go forward. It could be many, many months from now. I’m not sure I’ve seen details about that yet.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS HARF: But the point is that in the long term the only way Russia will be able to fix its economy and to get out from under these sanctions that have been placed on it is to make different decisions.

QUESTION: Okay. So is it fair to say that the Administration’s reaction to the whole call-in show itself was that you’re not particularly impressed and you don’t believe that what he said was correct, at least as it relates to non-domestic Russian issues?

MS HARF: Certainly, the reports I’ve seen – I did not listen to the whole four hours, I’m sorry to say. But when it comes to his characterizations of what’s happening in Ukraine and elsewhere, I do think that there were some things we take issue with.

QUESTION: Can we go --

QUESTION: Can we stick with that, just one thing?

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just one of the things he said was that Washington has told leaders of other countries not to attend the World War II parade. My memory is that – well, rather than quoting back to you what you’ve said about this, is it true that you’ve told other leaders of other countries not to go?

MS HARF: Well, a couple points, Arshad. The first is that, as we’ve said, there are a variety of ways that the world will honor Victory in Europe Day, including on May 8th here in Washington. Some European capitals will also mark it. At the military parade specifically in Moscow on May 9th, we’ll be represented by Ambassador Tefft. In considering our representation, we took into account Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty, as have several of our European allies independently. And we would certainly suggest other countries consider this as well when determining their participation.

QUESTION: So you wouldn’t say that you’ve actually told – well, has the U.S. Government told any other leader, “Don’t go”?

MS HARF: Well, every country makes their own decisions. We’re talking to them, clearly, about how we made our decision and encouraging them to take the same considerations into account.

QUESTION: Yeah. But you can’t say no, we haven’t actually told them not to go?

MS HARF: I’m just not going to talk about what the specifics of our diplomatic conversations are. I think I was just clear about the message we were passing along.

QUESTION: Did you not – did your ambassador to the Czech Republic not suggest that the president of the Czech Republic was making a mistake in the current – in view of the current situation to go?

MS HARF: Well, as we’ve always said --

QUESTION: So it's true. I mean --

MS HARF: Well, no, those are two different questions.


MS HARF: He said publicly that this isn’t time for business as usual with Russia and that countries should take Russia’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty into account when considering their representation --

QUESTION: Yeah, but it is not --

MS HARF: -- as we did.

QUESTION: But it is not incorrect to say that the United States would take a dim view if the – if a European leader went and participated or attended the parade?

MS HARF: I don’t necessarily want to say that, Matt. I think we make --

QUESTION: I know you don’t want to say it.

MS HARF: Well, because I don’t think it’s accurate necessarily.

QUESTION: Oh, you would say that that was a good thing, shower and heap praise on him?

MS HARF: Well, I think there’s maybe a middle ground here that’s probably more accurate. I think from our – there is. Don’t look so dubious at me. I think from our perspective, we took into account what’s going on in Ukraine, clearly, when we decided on our representation and also noted that there are a variety of ways to mark Victory in Europe Day. We obviously honor the sacrifice of those who fought in World War II, including many, many Russians who sacrificed.

QUESTION: Twenty-five million.

MS HARF: Exactly. So this is – this is something we feel very deeply about. But for this military parade specifically, which is one – one event, we took into account what was happening in Ukraine and we are encouraging other countries to take the same thing into account.


MS HARF: They can make their own decisions about who they send, and it’s not up to us to make – to pass judgment on that. It’s their decision. We’re just making clear what our position is and that we hope they would consider the same.

QUESTION: Well, if it’s not up to you to pass judgment, why did the ambassador to the Czech Republic say – express displeasure with the --

MS HARF: Well, I think he was expressing what I’ve expressed from here and what others have expressed --


MS HARF: -- that now is not the time for business as usual. And I think there is actually a debate inside the Czech Republic, separate from the ambassador, about this issue as well.

QUESTION: Yes. And now he’s decided that he’s not going to go to the parade.

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: But I don’t believe you can say that it’s not correct --

MS HARF: I think the ambassador was expressing what I’ve expressed to you.

QUESTION: Marie, I understand that. But the point is is that if you – even if you didn’t tell them, “No, don’t go,” you made it clear that you were sending your ambassador, not anyone higher level.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And that they should – that they should take the same thing into account --

MS HARF: Take the same things account. Correct.

QUESTION: -- which suggests that you think that they also should send their ambassadors, not higher --

MS HARF: I think each country has a variety of things to weigh when they make these decisions.


QUESTION: Marie, I want to follow up on this 300 system.


QUESTION: You said – I think I heard you correctly. You said that it is a defensive system.

MS HARF: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Why would you oppose to the transfer of defensive weapons? Obviously, the Iranians will not use it unless attacked. Would that – do they have a legitimate right for – to self-defense?

MS HARF: Well, Said, I think we have long said that, given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, we did not think these kinds of weapons sales were a good idea, particularly at this time, given the ongoing negotiations. I don’t have much more for you than that.

QUESTION: So do you think that these systems would sort of bolster Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region?

MS HARF: Again, we don’t think this is the right time to do this. I’m not going to get into more details about why. We have repeatedly made our objections known. Part of it is the fact that we are, right now, standing with the world in trying to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran. And now is just not the time for this kind of activity.

QUESTION: But then you’re – the implicit suggestion here is that somehow those 300 undermine the ongoing process – the negotiating process.

MS HARF: No. I said we don’t believe it will impact the unity of the P5+1.


QUESTION: Are you giving Israel any assurances about its security in light of the S-300 sale?

MS HARF: Well, again, I think I just made the point that it’s a defensive system. Also we give Israel assurances all the time about its security. Let’s talk about the Iron Dome system we helped them build, which we have put a lot of effort and attention and money into, certainly since the beginning of this Administration, the largest security assistance in history with Israel under this Administration. There’s a variety of ways with Israel, also with our Gulf partners, that we have worked to assure them that we will stand by them, help bolster their security. And I think we’ve done that in a variety of ways, certainly. And I think that we’ll be doing more in the coming weeks and months.

QUESTION: Are you – I know you’ve already sort of complained. Are you actually trying to dissuade the Russians from going forward with this?

MS HARF: Well, the Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov and made clear our objections, and yes, made clear that we did not think they should go forward.

QUESTION: Can we go to – just one thing. Is part of your concern about this system – you’ve said several times it’s defensive, but is part of your concern about this system that it might be converted to an offensive weapon?

MS HARF: I haven’t heard that, Matt. But let me check --

QUESTION: Because --

MS HARF: I have not heard anyone say that. But let me check with our team.

QUESTION: So even if it is a surface-to-air missile --

MS HARF: I’m not sure if that’s technically possible. Let me check with our team.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS HARF: That it could be converted.

QUESTION: But it’s going to explode someplace, right? So --

MS HARF: Let me check, Matt. I really have – I need to check with the experts here.

QUESTION: Can we go to the visit of the Iraqi --

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: -- prime minister (inaudible) to Washington. He spoke today and he refuted the claims that – the press claims that there was a difference or a point of difference between the United States and Iraq on the delivery of weapons, that that was not an issue of contention between the two.

MS HARF: (Inaudible) delivery weapons to Iraq?

QUESTION: Right. So --

MS HARF: Correct. Yes. Which I’ve been saying for weeks from this podium, yet I’m glad he was on the same page.

QUESTION: So should we expect – I mean, there are all kinds of reports suggesting that the F-16s will be delivered perhaps this summer. Is that – would you confirm that?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check on the latest there, Said. I don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Okay. He also talked about offensive – I mean, heavy weapons you called it – for two divisions that he’s awaiting. Is it safe to assume that these weapons will be delivered --

MS HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: -- as they gear up to sort of liberate Ramadi?

MS HARF: Let me check on that. I know there’s a lot of moving pieces with our weapons deliveries here, so let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. Also he talked about a lot of issues, but one of the issues he addressed was the bombardment of Yemen.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: He disagreed with it completely yesterday. Today he was less --

MS HARF: Yeah. I think it’s – yeah.

QUESTION: -- less abrasive today. But yesterday he was quite clear, in fact, prompted the Saudi ambassador to hold his own press to say that you do support the bombing that is going on. Do you or do you not support the Saudi bombing, the Saudi-led bombing that is going on in Yemen?

MS HARF: Well, the U.S. is clearly supporting the Saudi-led coalition that’s responding to the Houthi aggression in Yemen. But on Prime Minister Abadi’s comments, I think the message he was conveying – and I won’t try to speak for him, but I think the message he was conveying – and this is certainly the message --

QUESTION: But you will.

MS HARF: I said I’m going to see what I think he was conveying. What the message President Obama was conveying was that this shouldn’t escalate into a broader conflict, that ultimately the conflict can only be settled through a political negotiation involving all parties. I think that’s the crux of what Prime Minister Abadi was saying, particularly because he’s seen his country go through such violence and strife, and he really knows firsthand how damaging that can be to a country. So I think those sort of topline messages were the same. And I know the prime minister spoke about this today as well. We are firmly supportive of the current GCC-led operations to defend Saudi Arabia’s southern border, to push back on the Houthi aggression. And when it comes to the joint fight against ISIL, that’s really a separate issue. I think some people were trying to conflate the two. It’s really just a separate issue from the discussions about what’s happening in Yemen.

QUESTION: Now, let me ask you something: If the situation or the current bombardment led by Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is not really changing the situation on the ground – in fact, does not change the position or calculus on the ground – why then support it? I mean, why not perhaps entice everybody to come into some sort of accommodation on --

MS HARF: Well, we’re trying to. We are trying to get the parties back to the negotiating table, and I know that the UN is trying to do so as well. We are all trying to work together on that, but the Houthis undertook a number of aggressive actions – military actions – and that’s why you saw this GCC-led operation really come to fruition here. But the goal of all of this is to get back to the table.

QUESTION: And my last question, on the Americans left in Yemen.

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on that?

MS HARF: Nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Is the UN envoy leaving?

MS HARF: He is, and I’m sure he will be replaced quickly. He is.

QUESTION: I’m – just today, al-Qaida’s affiliate, AQAP, has made some significant gains in southern Yemen. They’ve taken over an airport; they’ve taken over a port and an oil depot. And I’m wondering, given that, are you concerned at all that the strikes against the Houthis by the Saudi coalition are actually helping al-Qaida expand its territory?

MS HARF: I think in general, Matt, the security situation or lack of security situation on the ground in Yemen has given space for AQAP to operate, certainly. I mean, they’ve had space for a while to operate there, but the security situation caused by the Houthi and former President Saleh’s actions – taking over of territory, forcing the government out – physically out – has led to the security situation on the ground there. So I would actually attribute it to the opposite from what you just did.


MS HARF: That this is because of the situation that the Houthis and President Saleh created with their actions that have destabilized the country and led to a situation where AQAP can start to take more territory.

Now, we can’t confirm some of those reports about the airport. There’re a little conflicting reports. I’ve seen them, certainly.

QUESTION: Right, but --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: Cannot.

QUESTION: But doesn’t the introduction of these airstrikes from the Saudi coalition on – against the Houthis help AQAP and its (inaudible)?

MS HARF: I would not say that. No, not at all. I would not say that.


MS HARF: Because they’re not the ones responsible for creating the security situation. It’s the Houthis who are responsible for the destabilization that we’ve seen in Yemen. The Saudi-led, GCC-led coalition is responding to that.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, are they targeting AQAP at all?

MS HARF: The GCC operation?


MS HARF: Let me check. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Well, I think the answer to that --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: I’m happy to check. I just --

QUESTION: I think the answer is no.

MS HARF: I’m just not sure.

QUESTION: Can we --

QUESTION: Well, would you like them to?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check and see what the facts are, Matt.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

QUESTION: Can I just close on (inaudible)?

MS HARF: Let’s keep going on Yemen. Let’s do one topic at a time.

QUESTION: Just – you can’t confirm the report about the airport --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- or – how about the port and the oil terminal?

MS HARF: I don’t think we can confirm any of them. I’m not – don’t have reason to believe they’re not true, but we just don’t have independent confirmation.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.


QUESTION: Prime Minister Abadi was supposed to make some requests for military assistance, and the White House said he hadn’t.

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on --

MS HARF: No, he did not.

QUESTION: Or any --

MS HARF: I think – and Said just – I think maybe you came in a little late. Said just referenced that. He made clear today – Prime Minister Abadi did – that he didn’t know where those reports had come from and they weren’t true, so he did not. We obviously – he did not make such a request. That’s not what the meetings were about. They were much more strategic in nature. So I’m not sure where those originated, but --

Yes, Michael.


MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: How hard is the June 30th deadline at this point to you?

MS HARF: It is a deadline.

QUESTION: It is a --


QUESTION: Well – because there’ve been, obviously, other deadlines, but I’ll take that to mean it’s a hard deadline.

MS HARF: Well, I don’t – just to be clear, in practical terms, I’m not – I don’t know exactly what you mean by that. The Joint Plan of Action and its – the pieces of it were extended until June 30th, so the obligations of everyone who signed on to that go through June 30th.

Now, there’s a lot of work to be done in that time period, but it’s a deadline for a reason and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: Are there any expectations of a meeting in New York at the end of the month?

MS HARF: Yeah, we’re not sure exactly yet. Some of you may have seen, the EU announced this morning that next week political directors will meet in Vienna. There will be a plenary of all the P5+1 political directors, the EU, and Iran. I think it’ll be towards the end of next week. We’re finalizing dates. We expect that Under Secretary Sherman will lead our team; there will also be a number of experts there. So that will happen next week. And then I think we’re trying to figure out the schedule for the rest of the month.

QUESTION: And in your – in terms of some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of Iran in terms of the build-up to (inaudible) sanctions and the like, is your understanding from the negotiations that their understanding is that that is referring solely to nuclear-related sanctions? And they do recognize that sanctions related to other issues will not be looked at, period.

MS HARF: Correct. And I think if you just look at our parameters document that we put out on April 2nd, it makes very clear what has already been agreed to, and we’ve said there’s some left to be negotiated. But yes, when we talk about this this is about nuclear sanctions.

QUESTION: So you dispute or disagree with what President Rouhani said, that the sanctions must be lifted?

MS HARF: Well, he was – it’s my understanding he was referring to nuclear-related sanctions.

QUESTION: He – what the – maybe an implicit suggestion that --

MS HARF: I don’t think --

QUESTION: -- they should be lifted as the deal is signed.

MS HARF: No, I would be careful with that, Said. I think there have been a number of Iranian officials who have come out and said, acknowledged basically, that they will get to an agreement, they’ll take the nuclear steps, they’ll get the sanctions relief. Now if they can do that all on day one, then they’ll get the relief faster. I think it’ll take a little while for some of the nuclear steps to be undertaken.

QUESTION: So in theory, if they do all in day one, as you suggested, the sanctions would be lifted the same day.

MS HARF: Well, the suspension comes first. There’s suspension then termination, as we’ve talked about. Suspension – they’re just different things legally; when it comes to U.S. sanctions they would be suspended first, and then after a period of time we would ask Congress to terminate those that Congress put into place, but there’s a difference between the two terms.

QUESTION: Can I ask a logistical planning type schedule?

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On consultations with the Hill.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Since the committee passed the bill, are the consultations – at least formal ones like the – at least involving the Secretary – going up there and speaking – are those --

MS HARF: Right. Well --

QUESTION: -- now done?

MS HARF: No. Let me – and I – this is a good question, Matt. Thank you. I want to make a point on this. The two classified briefings the Secretary did this week were not about the legislation. They were actually about the details of what had been agreed to. There were a couple – I – but there’s – actually I’ve gotten some questions about this, so I just wanted to put this on the record. There were a couple questions out of like six hours about the legislation, but that was really to walk them through what had been agreed to.

The consultations with the Hill on the legislation were done by the President, the Secretary, others, in individual calls mainly over the phone. So the substantive briefings will continue mainly at the expert level – we have experts talking – but other officials as well to members of Congress and their staff, as they have questions about the substance of the agreement. But in the terms of the legislation? Yes. I mean, we have to see what the final bill looks like, but yes, those consultations --

QUESTION: But does he expect – and I’m talking about the Secretary, the person you speak for --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- does he expect to go up for more --

MS HARF: I haven’t heard of --

QUESTION: -- like, big briefing?

MS HARF: No, I haven’t heard of anything scheduled. This – the reason it took us about a week after we got back from Lausanne, but this was really his chance with his counterparts from the cabinet to talk through the specifics of the agreement. Our experts and others are making – still making dozens of phone calls to members, individually, and talking to their staffs to answer all the substantive questions they have. That will continue. But when it comes to the legislation I think we still have to see what the final bill will look like, but I think we’ve all spoken to that and we feel like we can move forward.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Yes. I want to talk about the occupied West Bank. Last week, I raised the issue that a Palestinian legislator was placed under administrative detention by the Israelis and she remains there, because for some reason they (inaudible) and she wouldn’t go. Have you checked with the Israelis on the status of this Palestinian legislator?

MS HARF: I can check. I don’t know, Said. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you on – with all this that is going on, with all these crises coming all together, would you say that the importance or the priority of the Palestinian-Israeli issue has fallen down, in your estimation, greatly?

MS HARF: I think if you talk to the Secretary, he would very strongly disagree with that notion.

QUESTION: Okay, can you tell us --

MS HARF: This is still a top priority for us. We’re aware of the realities here of how difficult this has been. But I think you know from the amount of time the Secretary personally has put into this that he still very much cares about the issue.

QUESTION: I understand and that’s really what prompts my question – I mean, it being a top priority as the Secretary keeps saying. What are – what is taking – what are you doing currently to make sure that this remains an issue that garners the kind of attention it should?

MS HARF: Well, I think a couple things. First, we’ve encouraged all parties at this moment while we’re not in negotiations to not take steps that could escalate because that’s not helpful to getting back to the table. The Secretary’s also remained in contact with our partners, with the different parties on the ground, and talking about what might happen. The Israelis just went through an election. They haven’t formed a government yet. I think a few things need to happen, but it’s certainly still a top priority for the Secretary. But I have nothing to sort of preview for you about where it possibly might go from here.

QUESTION: Okay. My last question: With the PA being on the verge of bankruptcy, and they’re saying that either all or none in terms of the tax money is concerned, are you talking to the Israelis and the Palestinians to help sort of ease this financial crisis?

MS HARF: We have repeatedly been talking to the different parties, yes.

QUESTION: And what are they you telling you in --

MS HARF: I’m probably not going to get into those private conversations.

Yes, Michael.

QUESTION: I noticed the Vice President’s going to Israel’s anniversary commemoration here in Washington.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When was the last time the Secretary or one of his deputies or assistants spoke with Ambassador Dermer?

MS HARF: Ambassador Dermer?


MS HARF: I’m happy to check. The Secretary talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu quite frequently, as you know. But I can check on Ambassador Dermer. I, quite frankly, just don’t know off the top of my head.


MS HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Have they spoken to the Palestinian – PA president in recent weeks or days?

MS HARF: Has the Secretary?


MS HARF: I can check and see. I don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Bangladesh?

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Thank you. Monday I asked you, like, what is the update you might have for upcoming election in Dhaka and Chittagong.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: So I’ll see what I get from you.

MS HARF: And I got a little bit on that, yes. So we welcome the announcement of municipal elections. We have called on those who are administering them and participating in the elections to uphold their responsibility to ensure they are free, fair, and nonviolent. We have encouraged the Government of Bangladesh and the elections commission to protect citizens’ rights to free expression and association during the campaign, again, to ensure free, fair election on polling day. We also expect all parties to follow democratic practices, and really, there could be no room here for violence or intimidation. That’s the message we’ve been sending to the Bangladeshis as they go forward here.

QUESTION: Yeah. We saw today on the report that one councilor candidate had been arrested by police. And also there’s a major oppositional candidate from Dhaka, Mirza Abbas, and he went to court for bail and there was a divided rule of the court. One judge says grant the bail; another said not. So how you define this? Like, they’re not actually – there – there is no level playing field, actually, for oppositions.

MS HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen those reports today. Let me check with our team and see if there’s more to say about this.

QUESTION: Thank you, please.

MS HARF: Yeah. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Pakistan.

MS HARF: Well, let’s – okay, go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry called Pakistan – the Pakistani prime minister yesterday.

MS HARF: He did.

QUESTION: And after that, the prime minister’s office issued a brief statement saying that the situation in Yemen and the resolution in the Pakistani parliament passed, which sort of discourages Pakistan involvement, and that possible Pakistani military assistance with Saudi Arabia were discussed. So would you like to comment?

MS HARF: Yes. Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Sharif on April 14th about a range of issues, as you mentioned, including Yemen, also including the release on bail of the alleged Mumbai attack planner, Lakhvi. The Secretary expressed concern that the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack be brought to justice. He noted that 166 innocent people were killed in the attack, including, of course, six Americans. The Secretary also noted the need to keep known terrorists behind bars and to expedite justice for the victims of the family. The prime minister expressed his commitment to seek justice for the families of the victims and to pursue all means to move the trial forward. As I said, the two leaders also spoke about the need to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end through a sustainable political resolution and a political transition.

QUESTION: It seems that the focus was on Mumbai and not Yemen.

MS HARF: They were both – they were both focuses.

QUESTION: So are you urging Pakistan to contribute troops or --

MS HARF: It’s up to them. It’s a decision they can make. I think the point of the Secretary’s conversation was that they both agreed that the path forward here needs to be a political dialogue and transition.

QUESTION: What date did that happen?

MS HARF: The 14th.

QUESTION: So two days ago, not yesterday?

MS HARF: Correct, correct. The 14th.

QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that the Secretary’s emphasis on the path forward being political dialogue and your earlier comment about the Administration’s view that they didn’t want to see this conflict escalate in Yemen, does that add up to the United States – even if it is a Pakistani prerogative – would prefer not to see Pakistani troops fight in Yemen?

MS HARF: I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t draw that judgment from that.

QUESTION: So you’d be okay with it?

MS HARF: I wouldn’t draw that judgment either, Arshad. It’s a decision for them to make.

QUESTION: But I mean, I --

MS HARF: It’s a decision for them to make, and really it’s up to them. I don’t think you can take from that that we would or wouldn’t be okay with it. I think I made very clear that it’s really up to them.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is you’d rather it not happen?

MS HARF: I didn’t say that. You can draw any conclusion you want, but it’s not what I said. I said it’s up to them. We’re supporting the coalition; countries can make their own decisions.


QUESTION: There was a report this morning in The Washington Post about the U.S. opposition to South Korea joining the TPP. Do you have any response to that or can you clarify your position about South Korea and the TPP?

MS HARF: Let me see if I – I don’t know if I have anything on that. I’m happy to check with our team.

Yes, Abigail.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on reports that a U.S. citizen was hurt in an attack in – I think it’s Karachi, Pakistan?

MS HARF: Mm-hmm, I do, just a little bit, not a lot. We have seen the reports that a U.S. citizen was injured in a shooting incident in Karachi. Our consulate general there is in close contact with Pakistani authorities and is working to obtain more information. The local police authorities in Pakistan are handling the investigation. They may have more details.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Israel and the --

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: -- and the Palestinians for one second?

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: That is, the reports out of Israel yesterday and today about more than a dozen European Union countries wanting products produced in the West Bank to be labeled as such – do you guys have any position on this?

MS HARF: I mean, I’d refer you to them. I don’t know if we have much.

QUESTION: No, on whether you would like the same --

MS HARF: I think the --

QUESTION: -- for this (inaudible).

MS HARF: For – I think the Treasury Department handles that, so I’d check with them.

QUESTION: So you’re not aware – so you are not aware --

MS HARF: I would just check with – yeah.

QUESTION: Are you aware of a report that was submitted by the director general – I think that’s his title – of the Israeli foreign ministry, Ben-Sheetrit, addressed to the departing foreign minister, telling him that the crisis with the United States is not likely to go away anytime soon and --

MS HARF: I was not aware of that --

QUESTION: Okay. It’s in Haaretz, so --

MS HARF: -- and probably not going to weigh in on internal --


MS HARF: -- Israeli conversations. We have made clear how important the Israeli relationship is to us, and we certainly talked a lot about that recently, particularly from a security perspective.


QUESTION: I don’t think I asked you about this at the time because we were in Lausanne, but the – it’s Yom Hashoah, so it’s a relevant time to ask you about Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest. Do you have any comment on that?

MS HARF: I hadn’t seen reports of an actual cartoon contest.

QUESTION: Submissions were due on April 1st, so --

MS HARF: Were due on what? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: April 1st.

MS HARF: Well, a couple points. Obviously, we have for a long time seen very offensive and disgusting anti-Israel, anti-Semitic remarks coming out from Iran’s leadership. And every time these kinds of remarks come out, we speak up as strongly as we possibly can against them. As I said, they are offensive and they’re disgusting and they have no place at all in any kind of dialogue, period. We’ve certainly made that crystal-clear, I think, every time. Again, I hadn’t seen the cartoon issue, but I take every opportunity I can to make clear how awful these are.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Just one more thing from Bangladesh.


QUESTION: It’s like former state minister Salahuddin Ahmed has been disappeared for a while, and the family is complaining, including to the prime minister and all others, that he’s kidnapped by – or taken by law enforcement. And it’s – but government is clearly saying we don’t know. Do you have any information on that?

MS HARF: I don’t. I’m happy to check with our team.

QUESTION: Please, thanks.

MS HARF: I don’t. Yes, I will. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Oh, wait, I have a Cuba – excuse me, Cuba question.


QUESTION: Yesterday from the podium and also in a letter that the President, I believe, sent to the Congress, it was discussed that the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to set up this law --


QUESTION: -- enforcement dialogue with --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- an eye towards, from your point of view, addressing the situation of the – of U.S. fugitives that are living in Cuba.

MS HARF: Correct. Yes, that is correct.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this dialogue will also include the Cuban – people that Cuba says are fugitives who are living in the U.S., or is it just a one-way street here?

MS HARF: I can check. I don’t know, Matt. That’s a very good question. It says fugitive cases, so I would assume both.

QUESTION: For both sides?

MS HARF: But I don’t know, so let me check.

QUESTION: All right. And then also, in those comments from yesterday, the idea that Cuba and Spain are involved --


QUESTION: -- in a dialogue on the ETA fugitives who are living there, do you know --


QUESTION: -- one, is that --

MS HARF: On a bilateral process, yes.

QUESTION: Right, and you’re not involved, but this clearly came up during the negotiations --

MS HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: -- with you guys.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So is this a new thing or is this something that has been going on before --

MS HARF: I believe --

QUESTION: -- December?

MS HARF: Well, I believe it’s now underway. I’m not sure when it started. I know it’s now underway, but I’m not sure it started before December.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this is similar to what they agreed to do with you --

MS HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- or is it focused only on the one way and the potential extradition of --

MS HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- these ETA people? Can --

MS HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Is it possible to find out?

MS HARF: Yes, I will check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes, yes. Anything else?

QUESTION: Also – yeah, on Cuba also, are there going to be another round of talks between the U.S. and Cuba on embassies or --

MS HARF: Absolutely. We have – still have work to do on opening embassies, on re-establishing diplomatic relations. There will be, I’m sure.

QUESTION: So – and, like, in person, in Washington?

MS HARF: Many more conversations. We’ve had them in Havana, we’ve had them in Washington. I don’t know where or when they’ll be.

QUESTION: But you’re expecting, like, another in-person round?

MS HARF: Absolutely. We have to – and someday, we’ll open an embassy, which will be in-person by definition, so – thank you, everyone.


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

DPB # 64


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 15, 2015

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 15:33

Jeff Rathke
Acting Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 15, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


12:40 p.m. EDT

MR RATHKE: Good afternoon.



QUESTION: Happy Wednesday.

MR RATHKE: Thank you, and likewise. I have three things to mention at the top. The Secretary is on his way back from Lubeck, Germany today where he participated in a meeting of G7 foreign ministers. The ministers discussed key global challenges such as the Iran nuclear negotiations, Yemen, and other key issues. They also issued a joint communique, which is available online and underscores G7 unity in responding to these and many other challenges.

Second item: We welcome the convening today of the next round of UN-led Libyan political dialogue talks in Morocco. As Secretary Kerry said in a statement on April 12th and the UN Security Council reiterated on April 13th, we strongly urge all Libyan stakeholders participating to agree on arrangements to end Libya’s political, security, and institutional crisis. We condemn today’s airstrikes in Tripoli and again call on all parties to cease hostilities as there can be no military solution to Libya’s challenges. To that end, UN – U.S. officials – pardon me – met today in Washington with a delegation from the Libyan house of representatives to urge their continued engagement in the UN-led process to form a national unity government, which we believe is an essential prerequisite for any effective international support for Libya’s successful democratic transition and security needs.

And lastly, just to welcome two guests. We are joined today by Lucy Poni and Michael Atit, who are here from South Sudan on an exchange program with Voice of America to learn more about U.S. democracy, diplomacy, and news reporting. So welcome to you. And with that, Matt, over to you.

QUESTION: Let’s start with Iran, surprising – surprise, surprise.


QUESTION: I’m just wondering: Yesterday the Administration seemed to do kind of a backflip. While the Secretary was up on the Hill imploring senators not to do anything, the White House changed its mind and decided it could go along with and the President would sign this Corker-Menendez-Cardin bill. How much of a surprise was that to this building and the Secretary, and why is it that you think that you can – that this is okay and is not unwarranted congressional interference in the executive’s prerogative on foreign policy?

MR RATHKE: Right. Well, as I think was mentioned yesterday, the Secretary was on the Hill. There were – there was also the markup happening and negotiations. I think Josh Earnest spoke to this extensively yesterday in the White House press briefing, so he’s explained a lot of the background. And I think as the Secretary said in Lubeck today, we are confident in our ability for the President to negotiate an agreement, and to do so with the ability to make the world safer.

We’ve engaged with Congress extensively throughout this entire process. We’ve talked about the numbers of phone calls – over 130 phone calls from the President and cabinet members and other senior officials. And the reason we’ve engaged with Congress so extensively is because we acknowledge the important role that Congress has played thus far and that they should and would have a role in this process when it comes to voting on the sanctions that Congress put in place. So I think there’s – I wouldn’t categorize it as a surprise. We’ve been coordinating closely with the White House, and, of course, the Secretary and Secretary Moniz and Secretary Lew and other officials were up on the Hill yesterday to explain the framework understanding, and also to talk about the way forward.

QUESTION: You say that you acknowledge the important role of the Congress. What exactly do you mean by that? You weren’t very happy about the letter that was sent by – well, weren’t very happy; that’s an understatement. You were furious at the Cotton letter to the Iranian leadership. I’m just wondering what it is that you appreciate so much about what Congress is doing right now.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we had, of course, concerns about – I think we’re speaking more directly about the legislation that was marked up yesterday and voted in the committee --

QUESTION: You think that that is – you appreciate that? You think it’s constructive?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think --

QUESTION: You wouldn’t have preferred it not happen?

MR RATHKE: I think it’s important to point out that there were changes made to the legislation. Again, the White House has spoken to those --

QUESTION: Is it still the case, though, that you would have preferred they had done nothing?

MR RATHKE: Well, the point is that we believe that with the bill, as it was amended, that some of those concerns that we had were addressed. And of course we still need to see the final bill; it’s at an early stage of the process, but then we’ll be able to move forward. But I think the White House has laid out clearly their readiness to move ahead on that.

Anything more on Iran? Lucas.

QUESTION: Yes. Will the Corker – will this Corker bill now prevent the Administration from lifting sanctions immediately if a deal goes through?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, as I said in reference to Matt’s question, this bill is not final yet; it’s passed – it’s been passed in the committee. It has to work its way through the Senate and the House. We’ll wait to see and we’ll defer to the White House, of course, on their final determination on supporting the bill. So I don’t have anything to add to what the White House has already said on it.

QUESTION: But is it the view of this building that if Iran were to comply with the terms that are negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran, that it will – that the State Department is willing to lift all sanctions immediately?

MR RATHKE: Well, our position on sanctions relief also remains the same as it was negotiated in the framework understanding: that sanctions relief will come after Iran meets the key nuclear requirements.

QUESTION: But Marie indicated on Monday, I believe, that the State Department was willing to lift sanctions immediately if Iran were to abide by its terms.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, it depends on Iran fulfilling the requirements.

QUESTION: So if Iran fulfills its requirements, will sanctions be lifted immediately?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I think we’re in now an area of technical detail that is still to be further negotiated. Of course, we have to wait and see what bill is passed by Congress, so --

QUESTION: But you can’t rule it out right now?

MR RATHKE: Rule what out?

QUESTION: Lifting of sanctions immediately.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, this is a bill that’s making its way through Congress. We’ve got to see what the final result of that is. I’m not going to talk about – I’m not going to speak to the details of what the current bill right now would do. That’s being discussed between the Administration and Congress.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: Sorry. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to make sure – not that – I don’t think anything has changed; I just want to make sure. It is still the – excuse me – the Administration’s position that once Iran complies and is found to be meeting the terms of any agreement, that you will – that the sanctions will be removed, right? At least the --

MR RATHKE: “Suspended,” I think, is the --

QUESTION: Suspended, whatever.

MR RATHKE: Yeah. But the sanctions relief --

QUESTION: That hasn’t changed, has it?

MR RATHKE: No, and the sanctions relief depends on --

QUESTION: I mean, Iran doesn’t – if Iran complies, they don’t get nothing, right?

MR RATHKE: No, right. No, the sanctions relief is dependent on Iran meeting its requirements.


MR RATHKE: Yes, Roz.

QUESTION: Let me try to take a run at Matt’s question a slightly different way. Yes, the Secretary was on the Hill with his counterpart from Energy to explain the view of why they thought the Corker-Menendez bill was not a good idea. Is it reasonable to assume that at some point they switched from simply lobbying against this piece of legislation to actually being involved in the negotiations on the compromise, since the negotiations, as I understand it, were still ongoing yesterday morning while they were on the Hill?

MR RATHKE: Well, let me go back to the start of your question, though, because the Secretary, along with his cabinet counterparts who went to the Hill – they went there to explain the framework understanding. That was the first opportunity that they had in a classified session with all members available in town and able to participate to talk about the details in a classified setting of the framework understanding. So I think it would be a mischaracterization to say that they went up there to negotiate on the Corker bill. Of course, we have been involved; we’ve had discussions, including the President and the Secretary themselves directly, with Senator Corker, as well as with many other members of Congress, over the last several days about the bill. But I think it’s – I think that’s different from the purpose of yesterday’s trip to the Hill, which was to provide a classified briefing on the framework understanding.

QUESTION: Okay, but that was the original purpose. Did their trip to Capitol Hill change over the course of the morning?

MR RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: Did they end up having to call the White House and just say, “Look, these are the things that we are hearing from members coming out of this session that indicate that the bill that’s going up for markup this afternoon is going to be very different from what we thought they would be discussing this afternoon”?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to get into the – again, it was classified session, so I’m not going to characterize those exchanges they had with members of Congress while they were on the Hill. Of course the Administration has been engaged with Congress, and as we saw yesterday, there were – some of the concerns that the Administration has were addressed in the markup. I’m not going to pinpoint – I’m not going to try to point to one specific conversation or engagement that led to that happening. We’ve been working, of course – reaching out directly to Senator Corker; also in touch with ranking member Senator Cardin – to talk through our concerns. And so that’s what has yielded the bill that was passed in the committee yesterday.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m – I guess what I’m trying to suss out is whether or not Secretaries Kerry and Moniz were aware of what this piece of legislation was going to look like before 2:15 Eastern or whether they were in fact blind – sideswiped.

MR RATHKE: No, they were neither blindsided nor sideswiped, but I’m not going to get into the details of the back-and-forth on the legislation.

QUESTION: Or blind-swiped. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It works for me.

MR RATHKE: I don’t think that either. (Laughter.) Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I just – I’m still a little bit perplexed about --


QUESTION: -- what happened yesterday, because at the weekend, Secretary Kerry made it quite clear that he was going to go up to the Hill to brief them about the negotiations because he wanted to be able to continue the negotiations without interference – that was his quote – from Congress. So what is it about this bill, which would give them authority to review any agreement you strike on June 30th, before or after, that isn’t interference? You believe that the Congress has – yeah, why isn’t it interference in what the Secretary and his team are trying to do?

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, as the White House pointed to yesterday, we had a number of concerns about the original draft of the legislation that included linking the nuclear negotiations to other issues with Iran. It included the desire to have – of some to have Congress vote on the agreement itself rather than a future vote focused solely on congressional sanctions, as well as a review period that could delay implementation. So those concerns we have certainly highlighted, and some of those concerns were addressed, and as I think the White House has explained, the decision to support the bill as it was amended. And I don’t have anything to add to that. And that is – but those factors taken together, I think the Secretary, as he put it today, we’re confident in our ability for the President and our negotiators to negotiate an agreement that will make the world safer.

QUESTION: It’s just if you dial back a few weeks or months, the message coming from the podium was always that Congress would have a vote, but it’d be mainly on having to lift – it’d be purely on having to lift the sanctions. There was no talk about giving it any kind of congressional oversight of the deal and being able to say yea or nay to the deal.

MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything to add to that. We’ve been actively engaged with Congress. I think we’ve seen the results in Congress of that engagement. I don’t have anything further to add.

QUESTION: Do you think this will strengthen your hand in the negotiations or weaken it?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to comment about how this is going to affect the --

QUESTION: Well, that’s good. I hope – I would hope you wouldn’t say it was weakening --

MR RATHKE: No, I’m not going to comment about how this is going to affect negotiators --

QUESTION: Are you communicating with your other partners or the P5+1 partners about the (inaudible)?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course, many of them are also in the G7, and the Secretary made the point of the trip to Germany so that they could talk about important issues, including the Iran negotiations. I don’t believe there’s been systematic outreach to each of the P5+1 at his level, but we remain in contact with our negotiating partners on an ongoing basis.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: So has the Administration’s concern been alleviated regarding whether Congress is eventually going to vote, give a nay or yea vote, on the agreement in general, or not?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I think the White House has spoken to this yesterday about the bill. I don’t have anything to add to their comments.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: Is this the – just a moment.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t --

MR RATHKE: Anything more on – excuse me?

QUESTION: I don’t know if he really – if Josh Earnest really said anything directly in this regard. I don’t know. From what I heard, I didn’t get an answer to this question whether the Congress is still insisting on voting on the agreement – voting the – putting the agreement to vote or not, in general.

MR RATHKE: Well, it’s a bill in the Senate. I’d refer you to them about their – about those details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Several questions about Cuba.


QUESTION: And also, as we know, since President Obama is trying to, or intends to remove the list – I mean the Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism. So what was the evidence or basis that United States put Cuba into the list in 1980s? And why now? And what is the evidence now to remove Cuba from the list?

MR RATHKE: Well, the Secretary – the Secretary issued a statement yesterday, in addition to the statement from the White House press secretary. And the Secretary’s statement goes into detail about that. There – the time when Cuba was listed as a state sponsor of terror, which was back in the 1980s, the world looked a lot different then; Cuba’s activities also were different in terms of support for international terrorism. And as a result of the review, which was based on the facts and on the statutory standard, the Secretary of State made a recommendation to the President. And the President has made that recommendation – has adopted that decision now to rescind the designation. I’d refer you back to the Secretary’s statement on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I know – but it seems that Cuba has done this kind of activity a long time ago. And why – how often do you update this kind of list? And why – I mean, six month – I mean, the evaluation for the time, because --

MR RATHKE: Well, this review was – if we go back to December 17th of last year, the President, in announcing his policy changes on Cuba, he asked the Secretary of State to conduct a review of Cuba’s presence on the state sponsors of terrorism list. And so that’s what the State Department has carried out.

QUESTION: Because some analysts say Cuba’s designation has nothing to do with – I mean, terrorist activity – so it’s more to do with politics. And to many people, the decision to remove Cuba from the list, affirmed obviously because U.S. is seeking normal ties with Cuba – is a kind of way of changing ideology, or any comments on the analysis?

MR RATHKE: Well, there were – as our submission to Congress points out, there were specific assurances that were provided by Cuba with regard to international terrorism and its – that it would not and had not supported international terrorism. We’ve looked at our own sources of information. We came to a conclusion that over the last six months, which is the relevant period under the statute, Cuba had not provided any support to international terrorism. And so in combination with those assurances, which dealt with, among other things, things related to terrorism, such as terrorist organizations like the FARC in Colombia and ETA in Spain and in Europe, that on the basis of that information and the thorough review, the State Department made its recommendation to the White House.

QUESTION: Isn’t it correct, though, that the Cubans said that they couldn’t see normalization proceeding without their being removed from the list?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’d refer you back to the Cubans on that. Our position on this is, then, that this is – that we see this as a separate – as an important process, but separate from the discussions about re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies.

QUESTION: I mean, I’ll have to go back and look at the record, but it seems at first that this building basically said there couldn’t be a linkage between their removal from the list and the effort to try to establish diplomatic relations. And then suddenly, it’s now just what you’ve done --

MR RATHKE: And we haven’t drawn such a linkage. We have not made such a linkage.



QUESTION: But I had one other question, Matt. There is this 45-day period during which Congress could try to object. If Congress were able to pass a joint resolution that is veto-proof, that could override a presidential veto, and says no, we don’t believe that Cuba should be removed from the list, what happens to the process of normalization?

MR RATHKE: Well, there’s a couple layers of hypothetical there.

QUESTION: But it’s a very real --

MR RATHKE: Now you’re right --

QUESTION: But it’s a very real possibility.

MR RATHKE: You’re right that there is – but you’re right; there is a provision that Congress can pass. If Congress passes a joint resolution opposing the rescission, then the Administration would have to respond to that. But again, I’m not aware of there being any particular discussion about such a joint resolution, so I’m not going to go down the road of speculating about a joint resolution that hasn’t even been proposed and what its prospects would be and how the Administration would respond to it.


QUESTION: Can I – yeah, I want to ask the same two questions that I asked in the conference call – on-background conference call yesterday, neither of which I got a satisfactory answer to. The first one is: What public – what assurances did the Cubans give you that they would not engage in this kind of activity in the future? Because as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been any kind of a statement out of Havana that resembles in any way the statements that you made – the North Koreans and the Libyans make in public – public declarations – before they were removed from the list.

MR RATHKE: Well, the Cuban Government provided the United States with assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future, consistent with the requirements --

QUESTION: When was that?

MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t have a date, but it’s been as part of our process of dialogue with them about this issue over the recent – over recent months.

QUESTION: But Jeff, they claim that they should – they claim that they never have supported terrorism in the past and that they never will, and think that they shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place. That is irrelevant to my question, pretty much.

My question is: What assurances do you – are you referring to if – they’ve said since they were put on the list in the ’80s that they shouldn’t be on it, that they don’t support terrorism. What, if it – what is different now?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think there’s two --

QUESTION: Why didn’t you make the Cubans do the same things that you made the North Koreans and the Libyans do when they – the last two countries to come off the list?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think I’d separate two things here. One is about the assurances and one is the public versus official nature of them. There’s not a requirement in the statute for public – for a specific public statement by a government connected with removal from --

QUESTION: Well, it was – but it was important for the administration --

MR RATHKE: -- the state sponsor of terrorism list.

QUESTION: -- the previous administration to get public assurance from the Libyans and the North Koreans.

MR RATHKE: Okay. Well --

QUESTION: Why was it not important to get that – for this Administration to get that public assurance from the Cubans?

MR RATHKE: Well, I would --

QUESTION: Why was it decided that it was okay --

MR RATHKE: Maybe it’ll help if I go into a little bit of the detail --


MR RATHKE: -- surrounding the particular aspects of this that were addressed, because there certainly have been concerns and reasons that we have listed Cuba in the past. I mentioned, in particular, connections with FARC and with ETA. So as – just to talk to those two examples, the Cuban Government provided the United States in writing official assurances in connection with – that it will not support acts of international terrorism.

Now, if I go to those particular examples, with respect to ETA, there are – there are some ETA members who have been in Cuba. The Cuban Government has provided assurances that it would never permit the ETA members living in Cuba to use Cuban territory for activities against Spain or any other country. That was part of this review process, so this is recent. We have no information that Cuba has recently allowed any of these ETA members to plan or finance, lead or commit acts of international terrorism while residing in Cuba. And additionally, for those two ETA members whom Spain has requested extradition, Cuba and Spain have agreed to a bilateral process to resolve that matter, and that’s now underway. The Government of Spain has assured the Government of the United States that it is satisfied with this process.

And then if we talk about Colombia and the FARC, our review process included a comprehensive review, and there is no credible evidence that the Government of Cuba has in the last six months provided material support, services, or resources to members of the FARC or to the ELN outside of the facilitation of the internationally recognized peace process between those organizations and the Government of Colombia. And the Government of Colombia has indicated to the United States that it has no evidence that Cuba has provided any political or material support in recent years to either of those organizations in support of any terrorist activity in Colombia. And the Government of Colombia believes that the Government of Cuba has played a constructive role in the peace negotiations.

So I think that gets at some of the particular details that are relevant.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah. I wonder why that couldn’t have been said yesterday in the background call. I don’t know if it’s newsworthy, but it’s certainly informative.


QUESTION: And you have written assurances from the Cuban Government on both of those issues?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have the level of detail to know whether all of those are written assurances.

QUESTION: All right.

MR RATHKE: But in the – we have gotten written assurances from the Cubans on key issues.

QUESTION: And then there are at least one and probably several American fugitives in Cuba, and I’m just wondering if that – if that was part of this process.

MR RATHKE: So the questions – let me speak to the question of the fugitives and then I’ll connect it to the process, if that’s all right.

So we share the concerns regarding fugitives from the United States in Cuba. We’re working closely with the Department of Justice and other agencies to bring those fugitives to justice. And --

QUESTION: Well, but you have to – okay.

MR RATHKE: Yeah, go ahead. No, go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, don’t you have to work with Cuba to get them back?

MR RATHKE: Of course.


MR RATHKE: The return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. Justice – it’s an issue of longstanding concern to the United States, and it will be addressed in the broader context of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba. We have been raising these fugitive cases, including Joanne Chesimard, William Guillermo Morales with the Cuban Government at every appropriate opportunity. I would point out that Cuba has expelled to the United States at least four non-Cuban national fugitives, fugitives from U.S. justice since 2011.

So we see the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of an embassy in Havana as the means by which we’ll be able more effectively to press the Cuban Government on law enforcement issues such as fugitives. And Cuba has agreed to enter into a law enforcement dialogue with the United States that will work to resolve these cases.

QUESTION: So does that mean that by the time – that as a result of normalization the fugitives will be returned, or just that as a result of normalization the Cubans will talk to you about it?

MR RATHKE: Well, there’s been – I can’t say we’ve got an agreement on any specific outcome of that dialogue, but Cuba has agreed to open a law enforcement dialogue and this will be part of it.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second question which was not answered, at least that I didn’t think was answered because it was said to be a hypothetical, which is how long – it would appear that Cuba has not engaged in this kind of activity not just for the last six months but for a period prior to that. And I just – and my question is: When could they have been taken off this list – a year ago, 18 months ago, 24 months ago, 30 months ago, 36 months ago?

MR RATHKE: Well, it’s – that’s quite hard to say, Matt, because as I mentioned in going into the details of the written assurances and in the question of the ETA and the FARC issues, that involved a process of dialogue with Cuban authorities in order to clarify and also to get the proper assurances that enabled the State Department to make its recommendation to the White House. So it’s – that was an essential part of the process, so without that kind of dialogue in order to establish to our sort of statutory but also for our own confidence, that had to be a part of it. So --


MR RATHKE: I can’t go back in time and pinpoint something on the timeline.

QUESTION: All right. Well – and then in terms of the state sponsor designation, in the terrorism – annual terrorism – country reports on terrorism, when was the last incident that you have documented proof that Cuba was involved in international terrorism?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that in front of me. I’d have to go back and look at the previous report.

QUESTION: Well, didn’t one of the officials who briefed yesterday --


QUESTION: Didn’t one of the officials who briefed reporters yesterday say that there wasn’t a periodic review component of the SSOT list, and that – and essentially, it would have to be a request from the President to take a look at whether a country still merited being on this list?

MR RATHKE: No, I wouldn’t put it that way. It is accurate that, as was stated yesterday in that call, there is not a process neither in the statute – there’s not a process in the statute for there to be a periodic review of countries that are on the state sponsor of terrorism list. That’s correct. But you can’t jump from there to say that the only means by which a review could be undertaken is because the President asks for one. That’s how it happened in this case: The President instructed the State Department to do the review, which we did. But that’s – that is not the sole exclusive means by which a review could be undertaken.

QUESTION: Does that mean that at some point or at several points in the past, that State did take a look at all of the countries on the list and do its own review just to see whether or not the designation was still merited – doing a proactive review, if we can call it that?

MR RATHKE: Again, we don’t have a timeline or a periodicity of those kinds of reviews. Of course, as you’re aware, we do an annual – we do annual country reports on terrorism that cover the entire world, and our list of state sponsors is part of that. So we are regularly looking at the terrorism situation across the globe, but we don’t have a specific timeframe for reviewing that.

QUESTION: But you wouldn’t be able to --


QUESTION: But you wouldn’t be able to say that during the annual review that there wouldn’t have been someone --

MR RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: -- in counterterrorism or in some other part of the building who would have said maybe we should take a closer look at whether Country X really should still be on the list and perhaps send a recommendation --

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that level of detail. But also I would point out that this is – this review of Cuba for the – on the state sponsor of terrorism list has been quite extensive. It’s taken four months and a lot of – it requires a lot of resources. So that’s – it is a – it is not unique, but it is different from our normal process of looking at patterns of global terrorism.


MR RATHKE: Sorry, I think we’re going to move on.


MR RATHKE: On Cuba? Yes.

QUESTION: Jeff, after 50 years or so, the Soviet or the now-Russian influence or domination on Cuba, you think it has gone down? And what made Cuba now to turn around all the way and – to this agreement and other agreements? You think they are leaving Russians or influence no longer in the area?

MR RATHKE: Well, I would let the Cubans speak to their own relationship with Russia or any other country. I think that our decision and the policy change that the President initiated four months ago is based on what’s in U.S. interests and the interests of the people of Cuba. For decades, the United States tried a policy of isolation to bring about change in Cuba, and we did not succeed through doing that. And so we are pursuing a new policy of engagement, and we see a strong majority in the United States, and in Cuba in fact, that says that our engagement and our opening up of commerce and travel and people-to-people exchanges is ultimately going to be good for the Cuban people and also for the United States.

QUESTION: And Jeff, finally --


QUESTION: Finally, Cuba is also being helped or have close relations with North Korea, and you know North Korea is – I mean, what North Korea is doing?

MR RATHKE: We’ve spoken to those issues. Again, that’s separate from the terrorism issue.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR RATHKE: On Cuba or can we move on?

QUESTION: One more on Cuba.

QUESTION: Another one.

MR RATHKE: Okay. All right. Go ahead, Elliot, and then Lucas.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks. I just wanted to jump back to the fugitive issue --


QUESTION: -- because Assistant Secretary of State Jacobson has said in the past that when they bring up the issue of Joanne Chesimard and others who are being harbored in Cuba, that the Cubans just refuse to talk about it, that they don’t get any traction at all. And I was wondering if there’s been any change in that recently, if you’ve gotten to the point where they’re actually talking about it, if there’s more of a constructive process going on.

MR RATHKE: I don’t have details from those discussions to read out, but again, as I said, we’ve agreed to a law enforcement dialogue that will address law enforcement cooperation, including issues related to fugitives.


QUESTION: Just a few days ago, Senator Bob Menendez said that while the United States is making all these concessions, Cuba really isn’t doing much in return. I know you just answered Matt’s question on this subject. My question is: Do you disagree with Senator Menendez’s characterization?

MR RATHKE: That characterization being?

QUESTION: That the United States has made a lot of concessions with Cuba, not received much in return.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, as I said in response to the earlier question, we have had a policy for 50 years of trying to isolate Cuba, and the end result of that was to isolate the United States substantially from many of our partners in the hemisphere and not to affect positively the situation in Cuba. So we believe that new approach to Cuba is going to expand our contact with the Cuban people. It’s going to expand commerce and people-to-people ties, and we think that this new direction, which also provides opportunities for U.S. business and our – has support in the United States, in Cuba, in the international community. I think if you look at the Summit of the Americas and the positive dynamic there, we think that this is – that there is ample evidence that this is the right way forward. So that’s the way we look at it.

QUESTION: So just simply, do you disagree with Senator Menendez?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I think I’ve laid out pretty clearly how we look at it.

Yeah. Go ahead, Jo. Yes.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait.


QUESTION: I just have one more, because you talk about this 50 years of isolation, you succeeded in isolating only yourselves, which is totally accurate, especially at the UN, where every year this farce of a vote comes up where the entire world votes against you and Israel, who’re the only members that support it. But ending the embargo – it’s the embargo I’m talking about – ending the embargo will take congressional action, and it may take some time. When this vote comes up at the United Nations the next time, if the embargo hasn’t been lifted, will the U.S. Government continue to vote against it, or will you vote in favor of ending the embargo in the General Assembly?

MR RATHKE: Oh my goodness. Well, that’s – I don’t have a prediction to make about what resolution may be --

QUESTION: Well, why wouldn’t you? You no longer --

MR RATHKE: -- may be made in the UN General Assembly. We are --

QUESTION: But the Administration no longer supports the embargo.

MR RATHKE: My count is five months away from the General Assembly.

QUESTION: Right, but the Administration no longer supports the embargo. Isn’t that correct? And would like Congress to see it – to remove it.

MR RATHKE: Well, but that’s – it’s a leap to go from there to say that – how we would vote on a specific resolution --

QUESTION: Would you vote against your own legislature?

MR RATHKE: -- and that we would vote against our own legislature.

QUESTION: Would you?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to suggest that that would be our vote. Again --

QUESTION: Because it would be pretty silly if you continued to vote against.

MR RATHKE: Let’s also see whether there would be such a resolution given the --

QUESTION: If the embargo still exists, there’s still --

MR RATHKE: -- change in the international environment.

QUESTION: Well, but if the embargo still exists, if Congress hasn’t moved to remove it, the resolution is going to come up then.

MR RATHKE: Well, I think it’s also quite clear that the Administration has taken what steps it can under existing authorities.

QUESTION: I understand. I just want to know if you’ll vote against Congress at the United Nations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) so is it your --

MR RATHKE: Again, I don’t think we’re planning to --

QUESTION: Is your prediction that you’ll – we’ll have --

MR RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- the reopening of the embassies within the next five months, then?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a prediction on that. Of course, we want to see that happen quickly, but it requires --


MR RATHKE: -- making progress in those talks.

QUESTION: I wanted to move to Syria, thanks.

MR RATHKE: Yes, please. Let’s do.

QUESTION: Yes. So the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is holding consultations and wants to hold separate consultations next month in Geneva with anyone who has influence in – all those who have influence in the conflict in Syria. So I think separate negotiations with the regime, separate negotiations with the opposition, obviously in a bid to try and get some kind of peace process moving again. Firstly, is this something that you would support?

And secondly, is it something that the United States has – he says he’s still putting his guest list together, but is it something, as a party to – because you support the moderate opposition, would it be something that the United States would expect to be involved in?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think we’re at a pretty early stage here. We’re aware of reports of this idea, but at this stage we don’t have any comment on those ideas. They haven’t really taken shape in a form that we can comment on, so I would refer you at this point to the special envoy’s office for how they see this developing.

QUESTION: Not even as a – that is a good idea to try and get some kind of peace process moving again?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course we’ve always been supportive of a process consistent with the Geneva framework that – but the problem has been the regime’s readiness to engage. So if it’s possible to get to that process, that’s something we have supported and continue to support. But the particular – which particular steps may get us there is hard for us to predict right (inaudible) stage.

QUESTION: What about the involvement of Iran in any such process? Obviously, you’ve said – or from this podium it’s been said time and again that Iran has an influence in Syria, so that would suggest that if it’s going to be talks for all those with influence, that Iran should therefore be invited.

MR RATHKE: Well, I think at this stage, we would refer back to the special envoy’s office about how they conceive of this. I think the nature and the scope and the participation in such possible talks is still not clear, so I don’t have anything further to add on that.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Considering what America’s position was on Iran’s involvement or invitation to Geneva II, has the stance changed at all? I mean, de Mistura’s trying to get this process going with the goal that there could be some sort of a peace conference, whenever that may be, into this process. So do you support or not support Iran getting invited to that, or are you --

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I think this idea has just been aired in the last day or so. It’s unclear what the scope, what the participation, what the nature of these talks would be. So at this point, I don’t have anything to add to our position on it.

QUESTION: But what about the principle of discussing ways forward and ending the conflict in Syria with Iran?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I don’t have anything to add on that at this point.

QUESTION: And so you cannot talk about the – I mean, the rumor is that after these Geneva talks, there might be a possibility of some kind of peace conference later on in the year, maybe in New York in June.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I think that’s pretty far down the road. I don’t have – I don’t have a comment.

QUESTION: There’s – you’re not involved in anything like that?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have – I’d refer you back to the special envoy’s office about that.

QUESTION: So you don’t see --


QUESTION: You don’t see any reason to just categorically rule out Iran’s participation in trying to resolve this?

MR RATHKE: I said we don’t have anything new to offer on these talks. Again, the idea behind these talks is – this particular idea is new, and I don’t have further comment on it.

QUESTION: Ambassador Power has been in consultations, though, with de Mistura about this.

MR RATHKE: Well, we remain in regular contact with the special envoy and his team, but – and we’ve always supported efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution, but I don’t have any details to offer from our ongoing contacts with them.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Jeff – thank you, Jeff. Deputy Secretary Blinken will host a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japanese vice foreign minister on Thursday this week. Will this meeting be prepared for the Six-Party Talks or other issue they going to discuss about?

MR RATHKE: Well, this meeting which, as you said, will happen tomorrow between Deputy Secretary Blinken, Japanese vice foreign minister, and the Republic of Korea vice foreign minister will be a reflection of the close cooperation between our three countries on regional and global priorities. We – I think you asked last week and I answered with respect to Six-Party Talks. I have nothing new to add on Six-Party Talks. Our position on that remains the same. So we have a broad relationship with Japan and the Republic of Korea, so I anticipate those discussions will cover the breadth of our relationship. They’re not focused exclusively on the North Korea issues.

QUESTION: What is the main issue that you’re going to talking about (inaudible)?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we have a variety of regional and global priorities. I think we’ll have more to say on this tomorrow when the talks happen.


QUESTION: Yeah, Jeff, two things. One on – this afternoon Deputy Secretary Blinken will participate in a chief of mission plenary session of the counter-ISIL coalition at the State Department, and the Iraqi prime minister will be attending this session. Can you tell us anything about it?

MR RATHKE: Well, you’re right that today we will have a meeting – today later in the day with Deputy Secretary Blinken and General Allen. They are going to host a plenary session of ambassadors from coalition countries, those countries involved in the counter-ISIL coalition. And Prime Minister Abadi is expected to address the group to provide an update from his perspective on the fight against ISIL. General Allen will also be updating the plenary on coalition activities and he’ll give a readout of the small group meeting that happened last week in Jordan. We anticipate putting out a readout of this session a little bit later today, so we should have more to share with you as we get closer to the end of the day after the meeting has concluded.

QUESTION: And my second question on Libya. You said that the State Department officials have met with a Libyan parliamentary --

MR RATHKE: Will be meeting, yes.

QUESTION: Will be. And --

MR RATHKE: So this delegation from the Libyan house of representatives, they are going to meet with the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jerry Feierstein in our Near East Bureau. Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson is traveling so she’s not available to meet with them, but our senior Middle East official who’s in town will be meeting with that delegation.

QUESTION: You’ve invited them to come to Washington?

MR RATHKE: The Libyan embassy invited the delegation to come to Washington is my understanding.

QUESTION: And is this visit related to the peace talks that are happening in Algeria and Morocco between the Libyans now?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course, we see our meetings with the house of representatives officials as an important opportunity to reaffirm our support for the UN-led political dialogue talks, and so certainly that is a component of the discussion.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) India?

MR RATHKE: We’ll come to you in a second. Abby, you had a question?

QUESTION: The New York Times had a report out today showing that Congress – or Chairman Issa sent a letter to Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State asking about her use of personal email, and the State Department got back after she had left in March of 2013. Do you have any response to that or --

MR RATHKE: Response to what particular aspect of it?

QUESTION: The reason for the delay in response or why it was that the response didn’t occur in December of 2012 when the letter was first --

MR RATHKE: Well, I think as you’re probably aware but maybe it bears repeating, we receive thousands of requests from Congress every year. We responded to this request in – it was in December of 2012 that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent a letter to the State Department and other cabinet agencies, and it requested information on the department’s policies and practices regarding the use of personal email and other forms of electronic communications. And so in March 2013 the department responded to the inquiry. We described our policies in detail. We included also relevant attachments that governed the department’s policies. So that’s – that was the nature of the response, and we continue to work closely with Congress on various issues related to the policies and procedures of the State Department.


QUESTION: But the (inaudible) did not answer the questions from Issa’s letter, did you?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, the chairman’s letter asked about the department’s policies and practices, and we responded on those policies and practices.

QUESTION: But the first question from Chairman Issa’s letter was: Does any senior official at the State Department use a private email account? And I did not see that in the response.

MR RATHKE: Well, we responded to the committee in detail on our policy. I don’t have anything more to add.

QUESTION: But do you acknowledge you didn’t answer the question?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, the question was focused on on the policies and practices. I don’t have anything further to add.

QUESTION: But the first question is: Does – was very specific. It said: Does anybody, any senior official, have a private email account?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. I just don’t have anything more to add on that.

QUESTION: Well, in March ‘13 did any senior official have a private email account?

MR RATHKE: Did any of them have a private email account? How do you --

QUESTION: Well, when you answered the letter, did any of them have – first of all, why – is three months the normal timeframe that it takes to respond to a --

MR RATHKE: I don’t know if I have the statistics on the length of time to respond to congressional inquiries. I mean, sometimes the response takes some time. I don’t --

QUESTION: Three months? I mean, is that --

MR RATHKE: Again, we get --

QUESTION: You said you’re deluged with them, and I’m just wondering.

MR RATHKE: We get thousands of requests. I don’t have a timeline of the average response time.

QUESTION: Okay. But the question that Lucas raises – well, the question that Chairman Issa raised in the letter was not answered, correct? I mean, it may be that by the time that you got around to answering the letter the people who had private email accounts had already left and weren’t working for the State Department anymore and --

MR RATHKE: Yeah, I’m happy to look and see if there’s – if there’s more detail on that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

MR RATHKE: Yeah. Yes, Goyal.

QUESTION: On India, thank you. It’s been, Jeff, eight months since the Prime Minister of India Mr. Modi was in Washington and four months since President was in January in India. So many agreements were made in Washington and also in Delhi, and now prime minister is visiting or traveling in France, Germany, and now in Canada for the same agreements that he’s making with those countries. My question is: What is the future of India-U.S. agreements made and several high-level visits from the U.S. were in India for making all those agreements in place and also changing the rules and all that?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course, the Secretary has been there. Secretary of Commerce Pritzker has been to India as well, as have many other senior officials. I don’t have the full catalogue in my head. But of course, we are very excited about continuing to build our relationship with India, so that remains a focus of our diplomacy and that will continue.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Was the State Department able to confirm that the spiritual leader of AQAP, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in a drone strike in the last 48 hours?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not in a position to comment on those reports. We – I can say generally when it comes to our counterterrorism strategy, we continue to monitor actively terrorist threats that emanate from Yemen and we have capabilities postured in the area to address them. And as we’ve also said, we will take action to disrupt continuing imminent threats to the U.S. and our citizens. That remains a priority, but I don’t have any specific comment on that particular report.

QUESTION: Even though there was a multimillion dollar price on his head, would it make a difference, do you believe, to the government? Does the government believe it makes a difference whether or not he’s still alive? Does it affect AQAP’s ability to launch terror attacks?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not in a position to confirm those particular reports. I can certainly remind that the State Department in the past has described Ibrahim al-Rubaysh as a senior leader of AQAP who had been engaged in attack planning and also serving as a senior AQAP advisor providing the warped justification for the group’s terrorist actions. He’s also made public statements including one in August – excuse me – August 2014 where he called on Muslims to wage war against the United States. The United States designated him a specially designated global terrorist last December, so our views about him and his activities are pretty well known.

I think --


QUESTION: I have some on Yemen.

MR RATHKE: Yes, Yemen. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have just a couple quick ones really. There’s news out that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are considering having military exercises in Saudi Arabia, and that is causing some concern or some speculation that there could be – that the air campaign could expand into a ground operation in Yemen. Have you been apprised of any possible military exercises between those two countries?

MR RATHKE: I’m not familiar with those reports, but I would have to check to see whether that’s something we had heard about.

QUESTION: And what would the U.S. position be on any kind of possible military ground operation by any of those countries in the region?

MR RATHKE: Again, I think the deputy secretary spoke to this on his trip to the region last week, that he was – that we were not aware of discussions of a ground – of ground activity. But again, I’m not familiar with that report you’ve referred to. So let me take a look and see what --


QUESTION: Thank you.

MR RATHKE: Thank you.

QUESTION: Quick one – one more?

MR RATHKE: What’s that?

QUESTION: Just a quick one – excuse me.

MR RATHKE: Will you indulge, Matt?

QUESTION: Matt, if you don’t mind?


MR RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A quick one on Russia, Russia and Ukraine.


QUESTION: From this podium many times, I’ve heard you want OSC in E monitors inside Ukraine.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Chairman Wes Clark recently came back from the Ukraine and spoke at the Atlantic Council in late March, and he said that half the OSC in E are former Russian military. Is that true?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have the details of the makeup of the OSCE monitoring mission, but let me just say that we certainly stand by the fact that the OSCE has a role under the Minsk commitments, it has a responsibility, and it is essential that the OSCE carry out that role.

QUESTION: But if half the OSC in E are former Russian military and allegedly Russian spies and they’re reporting on the Ukraine military’s positions back to Russia, how are they being helpful?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not in a position to confirm those reports, but certainly the OSCE has a role to play. They’ve been denied access in many cases by Russian-backed separatists, and that’s clearly been a problem in implementing the Minsk agreements.

QUESTION: And one more, a follow-up from the intercept of the Russian flanker on the air force recon aircraft over the Baltic Sea. DOD said the State Department would be filing a complaint. Has a complaint been filed to the Russian Government?

MR RATHKE: I’ll have to check about the status of our sort of diplomatic communications with Russian officials on that. I don’t have that at my fingertips.

Okay. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:31 p.m.)

DPB #63

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 14, 2015

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 14:51

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 14, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


12:02 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: I have two quick items at the top and then, Matt, I’m turning it over to you.

QUESTION: Right-o.

MS HARF: First, the White House announced today that on Monday, April 20th President Obama will meet at the White House with the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to consult on a wide range of regional and bilateral issues. As you know, we work together and talk about regional issues, whether it’s Iran, whether it’s ISIL, violent extremism, so obviously we’re looking forward to that visit. I just wanted to highlight that for people.

And then I want to welcome the FSI class of Department Foreign Service officers in the back. These folks will be department information officers and assistant information officers at posts around the world. I think they’re heading out to places like Burundi, Afghanistan, The Gambia, Mali, Macedonia, South Sudan, and Latvia. So thank you for coming. There’s more of you today than reporters, so you can just feel free to start asking questions too. But thanks for coming and happy to have you heading out to post soon.

QUESTION: Did you say Maui or Mali?

MS HARF: Mali.

QUESTION: Mali. Oh, too bad.

MS HARF: I said it with my Ohio accent, which sometimes --

QUESTION: Too bad. Maui would be nice.

MS HARF: I did not – who wants to go to Maui? No, I said Mali.

QUESTION: All right.

MS HARF: With a little bit of a Midwest accent.


MS HARF: Which I caught as soon as I said it.

QUESTION: Can we start with Iran?

MS HARF: We can.

QUESTION: And the Secretary, who was up on the Hill --

MS HARF: Yep, he’s still there. He’s still there.

QUESTION: -- yesterday and again this morning.

MS HARF: Yep. He’s still there right now as we speak.

QUESTION: Judging by the meetings themselves, as well as the reaction from lawmakers as they came out, it – well, how would you say these briefings have gone? Because it certainly doesn’t appear that any minds have been swayed.

MS HARF: Well, I haven’t done a full survey of everyone who was in the meeting on the congressional side, but I know the Secretary values the consultation, values the ability with his colleagues, Secretaries Lew and Moniz, to go into more details with them up at the Senate right now. So I think we’ll let those conversations continue and certainly speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, just two of the more colorful responses that I saw last night from House members were, one, that this is – it’s not a deal, it’s total surrender. That was one. And then another one was that I – I can’t remember which congressman it was, but said he had this sense that Secretary Kerry was trying to sell him a car. How is --

MS HARF: Is there a question?

QUESTION: Yeah. How are you – these people do not seem – are you of the feeling that minds have been made up and can never be changed and if you --

MS HARF: No, of course not.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS HARF: I think that we’ve heard from a lot of members of Congress who value the fact that we are coming to speak to them, I think very much value Secretary Moniz, for example, walking through why we are confident in the science behind what we’ve already agreed to. And I know that those conversations are continuing. So some people’s minds may already be made up. I think what we have said to them is before making up your mind about an agreement that’s not even a final agreement yet, hear from the experts who were in the room, who are doing the scientific calculations. I think that’s a key part of members of Congress deciding where they fall on this.

QUESTION: So you still think that people are – can be convinced that this is --

MS HARF: I do. I do.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, good luck on that.

MS HARF: I do. Thank you, Matt. I appreciate the well wishes. Anything else?

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Zarif said that the next round is going to be – I think the 21st, he said.

MS HARF: Right. And we always, as you know, defer to our – the EU as the coordinating --

QUESTION: That sound about right?

MS HARF: -- party to make an announcement as to the specifics of the next meeting between the P5+1 and Iran. As I said yesterday, we expect to reconvene with the parties next week at the expert level and possibly the political director level. But we don’t expect Secretary Kerry or Foreign Minister Zarif will be a part of that.

QUESTION: Do you know where the --

MS HARF: We don’t. The details are still being worked out.


QUESTION: Can I just go back to the Senate?

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: And yesterday Senator Bob Corker said on CNN – this is before the Secretary went up to brief – that he believes they could be close to getting the 67 votes they need in the Senate to override any kind of presidential majority, which would then give Congress an oversight, a review, of any final deal. Do you think that’s likely? Do you think that’s possible?

MS HARF: I think the conversations are ongoing. And I understand that the committee’s marking up the bill this afternoon. I don’t want to get ahead of that process and what the final legislation that comes out of that markup ends up looking like. So we’ve had many, many conversations as – yesterday, I was looking for some numbers, and I have them here today. The President and Vice President, Cabinet members, and other Administration officials have made over 130 phone calls alone to members of Congress since the announcement of the parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action. So that’s just since April 2nd. So we’ve had many, many consultations, both on what’s in the agreement, what’s been agreed to so far in the parameters, but also on what possible oversight role and legislation might look like. And I don’t want to get ahead of today’s markup.

QUESTION: But do you envisage some kind of role for Congress of this deal?

MS HARF: Absolutely. Absolutely. We always have said that.

QUESTION: There was – I think it was Senator Risch was just talking again to CNN, saying that he believed that Congress should have a vote after you’ve hammered out the final details. Would that be more acceptable than a vote before?

MS HARF: Well, at a baseline, we’ve always said they will have an eventual vote to lift sanctions, that only a vote by Congress can eventually terminate U.S. sanctions when it comes to the sanctions they’ve put in place. So that’s always been a way they would be able to vote. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of the conversations in – with Congress right now. The Secretary’s up there as I speak. I think we’ll probably have more to say about this in the coming days.

QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t think he was talking about a vote on the sanctions. He was talking about a vote on what the deal --

MS HARF: I know, but I was saying they will have – in order to fully implement the agreement at a baseline they will have a vote on terminating sanctions. So that has always been the case. But in terms of what the legislation might look like, again, those conversations are ongoing and I just don’t want to get ahead of them.

QUESTION: Can I turn to something that I saw Senator Corker as being quoted as saying? “By the way, I know they’ve made comments that somehow they have been working with me. I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve had no conversations about the substance of this bill with any principal – whether it be the President, Secretary Kerry, or others.”

MS HARF: I know the President and Secretary have both spoken to Senator Corker. So --

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s what I had thought, which is why I wanted to check.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And that was – just to be clear, that was about his legislation or about the deal more generally, or both?

MS HARF: About both. It’s my – check with the White House on the President’s call. I, obviously, am familiar with the Secretary’s call, but it was, in general, about both.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: But the draft legislation from – about – setting aside the one about the possible sanctions, which is a different one, but the Corker co-signed legislation about having a vote or approving the deal – is that something that you intrinsically disagree with, or do you believe there could be a way of writing that legislation that would make it acceptable to the Administration?

MS HARF: I think we’ve been over this a lot, as has the White House. The President has said if the bill comes to his desk in the current form then we would veto it – then he would veto it.

QUESTION: So there is a way to rewrite it to make it acceptable.

MS HARF: But what we’re talking about – well, we don’t know. Right? What we’re talking about with all these conversations is the possible way we could move forward, Congress’s appropriate oversight role. Those discussions are ongoing and I really just don’t want to get ahead of the mark-up that the Senate committee will be doing this afternoon on this legislation. I think we’ll have more to say about this in the coming hours and days as this moves forward.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern that even if this bill comes before the President and he vetoes it that that could have an effect on the negotiations?

MS HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. I mean, you’re – you seem to be – well, you don’t seem to be, you are saying that you’re opposed to the legislation in its current form.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So is the concern that even if it’s going to be vetoed, if it goes ahead – if they go ahead that that will also impact the negotiations?

MS HARF: I think let’s just see how this plays out over the coming hours and days, and I think we’ll have more to say about it as this moves forward. I just don’t have much more to offer today.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you think that once it does – once the committee does do the mark-up you’ll have – or the White House will have something to say about it?

MS HARF: I’m guessing we may.

QUESTION: You will?

MS HARF: Yeah. What else? This is a thin crowd today, people.



MS HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: Iran – still staying with Iran, but on Yemen. Foreign Minister Zarif apparently said to Spanish reporters today in Madrid that he’s put forward a peace plan for Yemen. Are you aware of this? Has it been communicated to you? Is it something that you might support?

MS HARF: Well, we’re certainly aware of what he said in terms of having a plan. Obviously, Iran plays a role here given their support for the Houthi. And I think what would be most helpful from the Iranian side at this point is to respect this newly imposed UN arms embargo that was just passed today and stop supporting the Houthi. So broadly speaking, of course, we need to get back to the political dialogue, that that’s always what we said the way forward is. So whatever Iran can do to push the Houthi to do that obviously is the direction we need to go in, and want to make sure going forward now that all countries understand what their obligations and responsibilities under this new UNSCR that, again, was just passed today. So I know those are conversations at the UN that are happening right now.

QUESTION: But the call for Iran to abide by the terms of the Security Council resolution is interesting to me. Can you --


QUESTION: Because I’m not sure Iran has ever abided by a Security Council resolution.

MS HARF: So we shouldn’t try?

QUESTION: Well, I don’t – I’m not saying that, but I mean, doesn’t – if in fact Iran does not – and I realize this is hypothetical, but it plays into the whole idea of whether Iran is really interested in or is committed to upholding its obligations, because it certainly hasn’t upheld or it didn’t – wasn’t upholding its obligations under the nuclear-related sanctions.

MS HARF: Right, but it has upheld every obligation under the Joint Plan of Action.

QUESTION: Yeah, but we’re talking – you’re talking about enshrining whatever agreement you get, if you get one, in a UN Security Council resolution.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm. Correct.

QUESTION: And that they haven’t abided by them in the past --

MS HARF: But, I wouldn’t --

QUESTION: -- and so why would you expect that they would abide by this one on Yemen now?

MS HARF: Well, because – well, you’re mixing, I think, three or four different issues here. The UN Security Council resolution that would be a part of a comprehensive agreement would only be part of this. There would be a joint comprehensive plan of action that they would be required to abide by, as they have with the Joint Plan of Action, and if they don’t, there are ways – there are consequences, right. So that’s a little separate. But we think it is important that the Security Council today did adopt this measure to put an arms embargo, a global asset freeze, travel bans, targeted arms embargo, other things as well, and really shows, I think, that the council will take action quickly in this regard, which is good. But again, we understand the complications here. You are right: Iran has repeatedly been incredibly destabilizing in places in the region. So it’s not about hope here; it’s about trying to get the parties on the ground in Yemen back to the table.


MS HARF: And this is just another tool that’s helpful.

QUESTION: On the American citizens who are remaining there --

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the Embassy in Djibouti has received and is helping some that have arrived there with consular services.

MS HARF: And I have a little bit more information. I think you asked me about what they’re doing on the ground in Djibouti.

QUESTION: Right. The ambassador said today earlier, I think, that they were getting reinforcements to help. What does that mean?

MS HARF: Yeah, so I have some – yep, I have some more information on that. So while awaiting security screening and processing by Djiboutian immigration officials, U.S. citizens and their families have been offered food, water, medical attention, hygiene items, infant care items, access to phones to contact relatives, and when feasible, a place to – it’s quite hot there; I think a place to stay and remain that’s out of the heat and a little more comfortable. These have been – much of this food and the items have been provided by embassy employees and local staff, which I think is important. The Department of Homeland Security has granted exceptional authority for the consular team in Djibouti to accept and approve immigrant visa petitions for spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens. The State Department is working to transfer immigrant visa cases for recently arrived refugees to Djibouti. We are also increasing consular staffing in Djibouti in order to process petitions for immigrant visa cases as quickly as possible; also to help Yemeni – help U.S. citizens with Yemeni family members find long-term housing while they work through their options here.

So we are doing a number of things in Djibouti. This is where many of people – the people leaving Yemen have gone. Our ambassador, I think, is sharing some of these experiences on Twitter, so I’d check those out as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s where that came – but do you have a rough estimate? Is it a couple hundred people? How many are we talking about?

MS HARF: We’re not exactly sure. We’ve – I think he tweeted something like 149 or something like that. We know of a couple hundred; we just don’t know if that’s everyone.


MS HARF: So we don’t know how accurate it is.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t – that’s only the ones who have American citizenship. That might not include --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- their families and spouses.

MS HARF: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: And so when you have – DHS has given your – are they sending people there, or is it they’ve just basically delegated --

MS HARF: Our – I think our consular team is sending additional people there.

QUESTION: So if you are a – the wife of an American citizen who is trying to get an immigrant visa, what’s the timeframe we’re talking about – looking at here?

MS HARF: I don’t know what the timeframe is. I’m happy to check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: But they would have to stay, though, in Djibouti until --

MS HARF: Well, they couldn’t come to the United States, ostensibly.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But the process, though, is not a short one, is it? I mean, it’s --

MS HARF: I – Matt, I --

QUESTION: I’m not saying – I’m not making the argument that it is.

MS HARF: I don’t know. I’m happy to check. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw that – sorry, are you still on Yemen?


QUESTION: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: And I apologize that I missed the top, if you’ve already addressed this. But there are reports out that Secretary Kerry thanked Lavrov for Russia’s involvement and using a Russian ship to bring 18 U.S. citizens --

MS HARF: I can check on that. We do know that some Americans were able to board a Russian ship, I believe. And we have – I am happy to thank the Russians publicly for that. The Indians, the Djiboutians, and the Koreans have as well. I can check and see if that came up in the call. I’m not positive.

QUESTION: Are those – sorry, but are those ships still – to your knowledge, are those ships still going back and forth, or has it stopped?

MS HARF: I don’t know. I don’t know.


MS HARF: And as we get that information, we’re sending out security messages to U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: I saw some of them on the website, yeah.

MS HARF: Yeah. So I just don’t know.

QUESTION: You don’t know if there’s more today or --

MS HARF: Yeah. We’ll get you the latest information, but probably the website’s the best place to go.


QUESTION: Ukraine. Six Ukrainian servicemen or troops are said to have been killed and 12 wounded in the latest fighting, and both sides are trading accusations that the other is building up weaponry and materiel in areas that they shouldn’t under the agreements. What is your comment on this, and are you doing anything to try to de-escalate the situation?

MS HARF: Well, yesterday, as I think you all know, the foreign ministers from Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia met to discuss implementation of Minsk. We, I think, welcomed this meeting and think this is an important forum for discussions to continue. We understand that there was agreement to withdraw additional types of heavy weapons and tanks from the front lines and to launch discussions and working groups in the coming weeks as soon as possible. Basically, these are also things we support.

But the Russian-backed separatists continue to take aggressive action in Ukraine. They continue to have ceasefire violations reported by the OSCE, access problems on both sides, and the Russian-backed separatists continue to stall Minsk implementation. So we are concerned. I know it’ll be a topic of conversation when the Secretary goes to the G7 later today. Ukraine certainly will be, as will some other issues as well.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I missed what you said about both sides.

MS HARF: That there have been access problems with the OSCE on both sides.

QUESTION: Thanks. Got it.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Could we just – if we haven’t got any more on Ukraine, can I just stick with a slightly tangential Russia question?

MS HARF: You can stick with whatever you want, yes.

QUESTION: May 8th is the 70th anniversary.


QUESTION: I know that we’ve already discussed this here and that the Secretary has no plans to go to the parade in Russia.

MS HARF: Correct, correct.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication yet what level of representation the United States may have at that parade?

MS HARF: We did this last week, but that’s okay.

QUESTION: Oh, did you? I’m sorry, I wasn’t here last week. I apologize.

MS HARF: It’s okay. I’ll do it again. I was in Panama, I think, when we did it, so we can just all do it again.

QUESTION: And also, if there’s any celebrations, commemorations that will be going on here.

MS HARF: Yeah. So we, as I think we’ve said, certainly honor the sacrifice of those who fought against Nazis in World War II, including, I would note, millions of Russians who sacrificed as well. As you know, President Obama and other heads of state met in Normandy last year to commemorate World War II. There are a variety of ways I think people across the world will honor Victory in Europe Day. On May 8th in Washington, there will be a flyover to mark the occasion here in Washington. I think some European capitals will also be marking that day.

At the military parade in Moscow on May 9th, we expect to be represented by Ambassador Tefft.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

MS HARF: Yes. Wait, hold on. Let’s go back here. Or do you have some related?

QUESTION: It’s Russia.

MS HARF: Okay. Sorry, stay on Russia.

QUESTION: Well, related to these ships that are in the English Channel, do you have anything to say about this, considering your special relationship with the Brits, who seem to be concerned about it?

MS HARF: Who seem to be what?

QUESTION: Concerned about it.

MS HARF: I would – I mean, I would check – I don’t think their level of concern has been --

QUESTION: No, but they’ve mentioned it.

MS HARF: They mentioned it, right. We certainly recognize the need for routine military training activity. As we’ve said in the past, any such activity must be consistent with international law and conducted with due regards for the rights of other nations, the safety of aircraft and safety of vessels. I think the Russian Government probably has more details, but that’s where we are.

QUESTION: All right. And then I’m just wondering, is the – is your unhappiness with the S-300 transfer, has that been conveyed in its entirety to the Russians, or is it still going on, or was it only --

MS HARF: Well, Secretary Kerry conveyed it yesterday.

QUESTION: I know. But is that --

MS HARF: That’s pretty high-level.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. I’m not saying it’s not high-level. I’m just wondering if you’ve --

MS HARF: If we continue --

QUESTION: -- if you’re finished, if you’re finished with it, if you’ve made your – because I noticed that Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Putin today and said we don’t like this either. So I’m just wondering, are you going to continue --

MS HARF: I don’t have anything --

QUESTION: -- to press the Russians on it?

MS HARF: We will. I don’t have anything new to outline for you.

QUESTION: And did you get asked yesterday about the relationship between the ability of the S-300 to prevent aerial attacks and the credibility of the U.S. threat to potentially use a military option against Iran?

MS HARF: I think DOD is probably the best place to answer that question. I spoke with them about this this morning, so I’d point you there. I think in general, we’re confident in our capabilities that we have, but I’m not going to get into more details than that. They may be able to.


QUESTION: All right. Pope Francis over the weekend and his characterization of the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a hundred years ago as the first genocide of the 20th century. And since we are marking the anniversary, if you could restate the U.S. position on what happened?

MS HARF: Yes. The President and other senior Administration officials have repeatedly acknowledged as historical fact and mourned the fact that 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and stated that a full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests, including Turkey’s, Armenia’s, and America’s.

One of the principles, I think, that’s guided the Administration’s work in this area and in atrocity prevention more broadly is that nations are stronger and they progress by acknowledging and reckoning with pretty painful elements of their past; doing so is really essential to building a different, more tolerant future. And I think that sort of guides how we look at this and other issues.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the Pope?

MS HARF: Nothing beyond what I just said.

QUESTION: Are you --

QUESTION: And so you’re asking for Turkey to make that public acknowledgement then? Is that what you’re saying?

MS HARF: Nothing more than I just said.

QUESTION: The Turks recalled their ambassador to the Vatican. Erdogan has said today that he condemns the Pope for these comments. Are you concerned at all at this kind of uptick in tensions surrounding it --

MS HARF: I don’t think --

QUESTION: -- regardless of the use of the word --

MS HARF: I don’t think I have much more to say on this.

QUESTION: All right. Can you remind us what candidate Obama’s position was on the Armenia --

MS HARF: I’m happy for you to check with the 2008 Barack Obama campaign, Matt. I don’t speak for them. I speak for the State Department and the Administration.

QUESTION: Does anyone still speak for the 2008 campaign?

MS HARF: I’m happy for you to call someone and find out.

QUESTION: Because I seem to recall that he was in favor of using that word.

MS HARF: I’m happy for you to get in touch with the campaign.

QUESTION: It’s interesting how many candidates run on that, as that as part of their platform, and then upon winning change their minds because Turkey is a NATO ally and no one wants to upset them. Is that why?

MS HARF: Why what?

QUESTION: Why the President has revised his position on whether what happened was a genocide?

MS HARF: I’m happy for you to check with the White House on the President specifically.

QUESTION: Okay. As --

MS HARF: As I said, he has made clear and what our policy is is clear.

QUESTION: As it relates to the State Department then, what is the State Department’s position?

MS HARF: I just outlined what our position is very clearly.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for any commemorations again, given it’s the 100th anniversary?

MS HARF: Let me check. I don’t know.

Anything else? Abigail.

QUESTION: A Connecticut soldier vanished in a scuba diving trip in Thailand. There have been reports about that.

MS HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Happy to check.



QUESTION: On South Korea.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday South Korean Government lifted their travel ban for Japanese journalist, Sankei Shimbun journalist, Mr. Kato. He is accused of defaming President Park. Do you have any comment on the issue and the South Korean humanitarian situation?

MS HARF: Well, in terms of this specific exit ban being lifted by the Seoul prosecutor, we’re certainly aware of those reports. We’ve seen them and have been following the investigation since its initiation closely. Don’t have much more to say than that.


QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government make some effort to lift the ban?

MS HARF: Well, it’s a decision for the Seoul prosecutor’s office. I just don’t have more for you than that.


QUESTION: Yes, on Bosnia. The senior leader of the Bosnia’s ruling party told Bosnian media over the weekend that the party will vote on and adopt a resolution calling for a “free and independent Republika Srpska,” seeking independence from the rest of Bosnia. And the party leader said that it’s a move in response – it’s a move, rather, in response to increasing say by other ethnic groups on Bosnian Serb positions in key institutions. So what is a – any concern about what something like that might do?

MS HARF: Well, the U.S. – we’ve long said that territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina are guaranteed by the Dayton Peace Accords. Neither the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina nor, I think, any other part of the Dayton accords offers any entity the right to secede. And any action taken towards the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina would violate the Dayton accords.

Yes, anything else? Abigail.

QUESTION: It’s the anniversary of the kidnapping of 200 girls in Nigeria, and I was wondering if you had any comment on that or what the U.S. is – what the involvement still is of the U.S. to help locate the girls.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, as you know, as we’ve talked about, we’ve been involved for some time here, and again, on this anniversary call for all hostages held by Boko Haram, including these girls, to be released immediately without preconditions. We have supported Nigerian efforts to bring about the safe recovery of those who’ve been kidnapped, certainly not just the girls but others as well.

Secretary Kerry, when we were there in Lagos in January, made an important point about Nigeria having peaceful and credible elections in order to effectively combat Boko Haram. And as we’ve seen with the conduct of the recent elections as well as, I think, President Jonathan’s statesmanship in accepting the results that this, I think, bodes well for ongoing and future counterterrorism actions. And President Buhari has indicated that he wants to focus on counterterrorism as well.

We still have an interdisciplinary team in Abuja that consists of specialists on temporary assignment and personnel assigned to the Embassy from a number of U.S. Government agencies. The number varies from time to time depending on specific assistance being requested by the government, whether this can be staff already in Abuja or whether we need to send new people. So we’ve continued to help both in the search, providing training, equipment to try and help them find not just the girls but all of those kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Yeah, I just had one. This is a logistical thing about Lubeck.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have any meetings other than the group G7 foreign ministers meeting, or is he going to meet people on the sidelines?

MS HARF: I don’t believe so. I don’t believe so, but we’ll keep you all posted over the day tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is he going to speak at all in a public setting, for example, in the opening session?

MS HARF: I think there may be a camera spray at the top of the plenary, is my understanding. There may be. I can double-check. But we don’t have a press availability given the amount of time we’re there.

QUESTION: But do you expect him to – I mean, does he have remarks at that, or is that just a quick camera spray and --

MS HARF: I’m not sure.


MS HARF: I’m happy to check. But if it’s with all the foreign ministers, I’m guessing it’s just a quick photo.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – sorry if I missed this at the very top: Did you address the Blackwater sentencing yesterday?

MS HARF: I did not. I did not.

QUESTION: Can I ask for the reaction to the --

QUESTION: Good catch.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: No, I mean --


MS HARF: Well, we respect the court’s decision in this case and have no comment regarding the findings, the decisions here. Refer you, I think, to the Department of Justice for any comment that it would wish to make. As you know, following the tragedy there, the Department took a number of steps to strengthen oversight of private security contractors, such as moving quickly to improve investigative policies and strengthening procedures for use of force and less-than-lethal force by security contractors.

QUESTION: So are you confident that the procedures that you took in the wake of this incident mean that it’s unlikely any such instance could occur again, in a different country, obviously, but --

MS HARF: That certainly was the goal of undertaking this – to put in place better and more robust oversight, of course, to make sure that we had better rules and regulations for private security contractors.

QUESTION: But it didn’t lessen your willingness to work with private contractors in such situations?

MS HARF: Well, in some places we have to, for a variety of reasons. But that’s why I think the Diplomatic Security Bureau, but others here who deal with this issue went to great lengths to make sure we had in place what we needed here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:29 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 13, 2015

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:14

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 13, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:35 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing. I just have one item at the top, and then we’ll get to your questions. Just a schedule update. As many of you heard the Secretary announce over the weekend, today, this afternoon, he will be briefing all members of the House in a classified session on the Iran negotiations. Tomorrow morning, he will be doing the same thing with the Senate, again, all on the Iran negotiations. And then tomorrow we will leave for Lubeck, Germany for the G7, as we announced last week, and we’ll be back late on Wednesday from that. So that is my update at the top.

QUESTION: That’s an awfully long way to go for such a short time.

MS HARF: Well, the G7 is very important. I know a number of topics will be discussed, including Iran I know will be discussed in depth while there. Under Secretary Sherman leaves today for the G7, actually. On the sidelines of that, she will be having a meeting with her European counterparts, the political directors, to update on the Iran talks since we left Lausanne. She’ll be dealing with a number of other issues as well.

QUESTION: Is there anything to update them on? Has anything changed since --

MS HARF: To talk about the way forward.

QUESTION: -- Lausanne? In other words, like setting up the next round?

MS HARF: Correct. Yes, correct.

QUESTION: All right. I’m sure we’ll get back --

QUESTION: So nothing’s been set up yet for the next round, though.

MS HARF: Correct. No, we expect that possibly as early as next week the experts would reconvene and start working. We don’t have anything nailed down yet, though.

QUESTION: So I’m sure we’ll get back to the specifics of the Iran deal, but I just wanted to ask. The White House mentioned – also the Russians have said that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov --


QUESTION: -- had a conversation today.

MS HARF: They did.

QUESTION: Your colleague at the White House said that one of the things that came up was the decision to reverse or end the ban --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- on the S-300 sale. Can you elaborate at all on what the Secretary – more on what the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov and let us – and tell us what else was discussed, if anything?

MS HARF: Well, we’ve certainly made our concerns with the sale of the S-300 system to Iran known for some time. This certainly isn’t new. The Secretary raised those concerns in a call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this, but we’ve worked very closely with the Russians on the P5+1 negotiations. We don’t think this will have an impact on unity in terms of inside the negotiating room. So they did discuss it, discussed the Iran negotiations in general as well, and I don’t have more of a readout for you than that.

QUESTION: Did – and we’ll get back to Iran in a second. Did they also discuss Ukraine at all?

MS HARF: I – let me check. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it the Administration’s position that the S-300s, the transfer of them to Iran would violate existing sanctions?

MS HARF: In terms of UN Security Council sanctions, it’s my understanding that it would not.

QUESTION: It would not.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So your concern is – or your objections are based on what?

MS HARF: Well, there’s a number of factors, obviously, here. And we think given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them. So in general, that’s what our concerns are based on.

QUESTION: Your understanding is --

MS HARF: And we have concerns about things separate and apart from whether they would be a violation of Security Council sanctions.

QUESTION: No, I know. But I just wanted to know if your objection was based in – based on – if your understanding of your objection was that it was a violation of sanctions.

MS HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not.

QUESTION: Continuing on the Russia theme, yesterday on two of the Sunday shows, Secretary Kerry made mention of this statement from –


QUESTION: -- Deputy Foreign Minister --

MS HARF: Ryabkov.

QUESTION: -- Ryabkov.


QUESTION: Do you – in its entirety at least as reported –

MS HARF: By Interfax.

QUESTION: -- by Interfax --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- he does say that the parameters – the fact sheet issued by --

MS HARF: Reliable.

QUESTION: -- you guys is accurate and reliable.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But he also says that it leaves out things that --

MS HARF: That haven’t been agreed to.

QUESTION: -- that have not been agreed to, meaning –

MS HARF: Which we’ve said as well.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But do you – so you agree with all of the – what Ryabkov said, not just the part where he says that it’s accurate and reliable?

MS HARF: Well, I think he – well, it’s my understanding, having looked at some of these reports, he then, as you said, went on to say there are things that haven’t been agreed to yet. And I’ve spoken about those very clearly from this podium, whether it’s specifics you’ve asked about others. So certainly, we agree with him that there are things that need to be worked out over the next two and a half months.

QUESTION: And is it not the case that those things that need to be worked out over the next two and a half, three months are potential deal breakers?

MS HARF: Correct. Yes. We need to get – what we need to get in terms of meeting our bottom lines on all of these different issues in order to get to an agreement, that’s right.


MS HARF: Anything else?

QUESTION: From me?

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. I was going to let someone else –

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- have a chance.

MS HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know if you could give us a sense of who the Secretary has spoken to so far in Congress, specifically Senators Cardin and Corker. How have those discussions gone?

MS HARF: He has spoken to both of them. He’s spoken to a number of senators, as has the President, as has Ambassador Rice, Deputy Secretary Blinken. I think we’ve been doing calls sort of at all levels here with members of both the House and the Senate and with staff as well. I think I have some numbers here in terms of congressional outreach. Let me just see what I have here just to give you a sense for the sheer number of calls. I may not.

But yes, the Secretary has spoken to both of them. Obviously, he always likes talking to his former colleagues. I may not have the numbers. I’m happy to get them for you afterwards. But certainly done a robust amount of outreach. As I said at the beginning today, he’ll be briefing all members of the House in a classified session tomorrow morning, all members of the Senate.

And in all of these calls, we’re discussing – first hearing their ideas, obviously. This is a consultative process. He briefs them but also takes their questions, takes their ideas – I think this is something he’s looking forward to doing today – and in all of these calls discussing with Congress what the oversight role could look like in terms of how this moves forward from here, what role they could play, while at the same time preserving our ability to implement an agreement if we can get to one and certainly preserving presidential prerogatives.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you’re making progress in what you want, I mean, in terms of getting them to delay the bill or change the bill to your satisfaction?

MS HARF: Well, it’s an ongoing conversation, of course. And I think the Secretary’s looking forward to going up on the Hill today and tomorrow to really get into all of the details with his colleagues from across the interagency, with members of Congress, about what we already have agreed to, what we still need to work on. And we’ll continue the conversation.

QUESTION: Is there any one concern that, like, is raised more commonly than others when they’re talking to the lawmakers? I mean, is there any one issue that just really keeps coming up over and over from their side?

MS HARF: I’m just not going to characterize those private conversations more, I don’t think.

QUESTION: Did you say, Marie, that you expect that the Secretary will be able to tell members of Congress more than what the Administration has said in general – generally in public about --

MS HARF: I think so. I mean, the purpose of doing this in a classified session is so he can be as forthcoming as possible. Obviously, I know that’s the goal here. So yes, I think he will be able to tell them – obviously, the fact sheet had a lot of details in it. I think some people were surprised by how many details it had in it. But beyond that, I think he’ll be able to share some more with Congress.

QUESTION: So – and without asking you to predict the future, when members of Congress, particularly those who are – had previously said that they are opposed to this, come out and say they’ve heard nothing new in what the Secretary said and that it’s basically just a recitation of no previously known – previously publicly known things, you would say – you will – you would say that that would be wrong?

MS HARF: I expect that not just Secretary Kerry, but also the other cabinet members that are going up and briefing with him, whether it’s Secretary Lew or Secretary Moniz, will be able to share more in a classified session than we are able to share publicly.

QUESTION: And then you said that – in your – that this is a consultative --

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- process.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And that he – that the Administration is taking the ideas of lawmakers, taking their ideas and their questions. I’m just wondering – the opposition to this is not new. It’s been around for quite some time now. Are you aware of anything in the – that – in the Administration’s negotiating strategy that you have taken on board so far from members of Congress?

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: In other words, is there anything that has changed about the U.S. position or stance based on concerns from Congress?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics about our negotiating position.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking you – I don’t want the specifics, just --

MS HARF: Right. Let me finish, let me finish.


MS HARF: But I do think that members of Congress highlight certainly for the Administration things we are already concerned about but make clear to us things they’re particularly concerned about and things we need to make sure we address. A lot of this in some ways is we share many of the same concerns, whether it’s on R&D, whether it’s on the pace and scope of sanctions relief, so it is good for the Secretary to go talk to them to hear from them what’s most important to them.

But our bottom lines haven’t changed here, and I think a lot of – there’s a lot of technical details here. And I think one of the things that will happen tonight and tomorrow morning is Secretary Moniz being able to sit down with members and say: Let’s talk about the science behind this; I know there’s a lot of politics, but let’s talk about what we actually have here. And I think that’ll be a helpful conversation.

QUESTION: Well, I guess my question is though: Can you say definitively that – without being specific – if any congressional concerns have thus far changed the way that --

MS HARF: I would say the consultations with Congress have undoubtedly played a role in how we’ve moved forward with our negotiating strategy.

QUESTION: Right. But that doesn’t mean that any of their concerns have been addressed. You just say --

MS HARF: Well, they can speak about their concerns. I am saying it has – of course, these conversations and consultations have definitely impacted the way we’ve been negotiating and sort of what we focus on. And I know it’s certainly had an effect.

QUESTION: But don’t you think that if they – if they saw it that way, the objections would be less strenuous?

MS HARF: I’m not going to speak for them, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But I mean, I don’t know – can you say then – if you say that it has had an impact, how, what impact that is?

MS HARF: As I said, I’m just not going to get into specifics inside the negotiating room. But we’ve been talking to them for a very long time about this, and how we formulate what we’re most focused on, what we need to get to get in any agreement, is informed, certainly, by these consultations.

QUESTION: Marie, is this consultative in terms of what happened in the past – going back or going forward? I mean, what if they come up with new demands or new suggestions that basically would require you to take out a point, as illustrated --

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- with the factsheet? How would that impact or play?

MS HARF: Well, one thing we’ve said is Congress has an appropriate oversight role to play and that is very important. In terms of legislating what can be in a final deal, that is much harder for our negotiators and actually makes their job harder. So what we’ve said is we want to hear what your concerns are, we want to hear what you’re focused on, but it needs to be up to the negotiating team and the experts inside the room to determine what substantively meets their bottoms lines, meets our bottom lines, meets their concerns. So I think that’s where they have an oversight role but legislating what can be in a final deal is problematic, given that Iran needs to be negotiating with one executive branch, not 535.

QUESTION: Okay, but since this was really a lot more in depth than people expected, and suppose one of the legislators says, “I want to raise this point,” would the Secretary say, “No, I’m sorry, we have already agreed on that point. We can go to another point”?

MS HARF: Well, certainly, if they raise an issue that there has been agreement on I think the Secretary and Secretary Moniz, particularly, will be able to say we already do have agreement there, or here’s where we have some more work to do, and I really think that in a classified session, boring down on the details of what we have, what we still have left to do, I think that is really what they’re looking forward to doing today.

QUESTION: Marie, could I ask on the UN part of this? One of the sections – one of the things still to be resolved is this whole sanctions issue, of course. And there was a suggestion in the factsheet that this would be done – there would some kind of component from the United Nations. Can I ask what your understanding is of the kind of mechanism that might – you might be thinking of putting in place for a snapback?

MS HARF: In terms of snapback. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: In terms of snapback. And also what you might be thinking of and what you are now doing at the UN to sort of trying to get that in motion.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, if Iran violates the JCPOA then all previous UN sanctions can be re-imposed, and Russia and China have agreed to this principle that’s very important. We’re still developing the exact modalities by which the UN sanctions would be re-imposed. This is one of the issues the details of which still needs to be worked out. We have already made clear to Iran and the P5+1 that we need clear procedures in place to trigger re-imposition of the UN sanctions if we have evidence that Iran is cheating. We believe there’s a path forward to achieve this objective here over the next few months.

QUESTION: So this would only be for the UN sanctions?

MS HARF: Correct. I mean, U.S. --

QUESTION: What about the U.S. sanctions?

MS HARF: Well, U.S. sanctions are – it’s just us, so it would be – we don’t have to negotiate with anyone else about how U.S. sanctions would be imposed.

QUESTION: Is that how the Iranians are seeing it, though? Are they understanding that the – that you would retain the right to have your own snapback procedure?

MS HARF: Absolutely. That we – so would the EU. Now, there is a resolution mechanism if there is a disagreement about whether Iran is in compliance or noncompliance. But we absolutely retain the ability to snap U.S. sanctions back into place.

QUESTION: And it would be based on what evidence? On the evidence of the IEAA – IEE --


QUESTION: -- or your own determination or evaluation?

MS HARF: Well, I think both would play a role. Obviously, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals, but we have a mechanism that we’re working on for how if there are disagreements about whether there’s compliance or noncompliance, how some of that can be worked out. But we certainly have our own ways of determining that. The IAEA, though, will play the principal role in determining compliance.

QUESTION: And your diplomats at the UN – Ambassador Power is already working with her counterparts from other P5+1 countries on what a mechanism could look like, is she?

MS HARF: Well, we’re certainly working inside of the negotiating room with the P5, in terms of the actual teams out in Lausanne or wherever we will reconvene these talks. Ambassador Power’s been very engaged in this as well. I don’t have specifics of her conversations with counterparts at the UN, but we’ve been talking to all of them at different levels – obviously, the permanent members, given they’re part of the talks.

QUESTION: But would you anticipate that the modality, as you call it, of such a snapback resolution at the UN would already be enshrined in any deal that comes out of June 30th?

MS HARF: Yes. Yes. That would have to be resolved. Yes.

QUESTION: Right. Okay.


QUESTION: Marie, on --

QUESTION: Can we go back to S-300 sale?


QUESTION: When you said that you believed that the S-300 sale would not violate any UN Security Council resolutions, do you also believe that the proposed oil-for-goods swaps that Russia says it has now begun with Iran violates any of those sanctions?

MS HARF: We saw those reports and we’re actually right now looking into what exactly the ground truth is here. We’re studying the details, and obviously just don’t have an assessment yet of what was in the press is, in fact, happening. We know they’ve been talking about this for some time but don’t have an assessment on whether it might – as we’ve said, if something does violate sanctions, obviously we would take action. But we just don’t know about those reports yet.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one other one. You said that you did not think that the S-300 delivery would undermine the unanimity within the negotiating room.

MS HARF: That’s true.

QUESTION: Why not? Wouldn’t you have preferred to keep pressure on Iran in all sorts of ways, including the denial of transfer of such military weaponry, while you’re negotiating for the next two and a half months?

MS HARF: Well, a couple points. First, we and Russia have been in lockstep inside the negotiating room in these negotiations, either when we – even when we disagree on many other issues, including, at times, Iran – other issues, not the nuclear issue, but other issues like this weapons deal; Syria; other things as well.

So we’ve been able to maintain unity. This is a little bit of a separate issue than the nuclear issue. So we don’t – and I talked to the Secretary about this this morning. We don’t think that this will – we don’t expect it to impact the unity on the talks. Obviously, we don’t think this is the time to be doing this. I think some of the press reports also mentioned that this might take a while to actually come to fruition, so I’d point people there as well.

QUESTION: And one more question about this. My understanding of the U.S. concerns about the S-300, should it ever be obtained by Iran, is that it could make it – it could make it easier for Iran to defend its nuclear or other facilities from attack. And so I thought it was related to the nuclear issue in the sense that an actual delivery would decrease the potential threat or – or of a military action.

MS HARF: I’m happy to check with our team on that, Arshad. I actually just don’t know the facts here. I think that when I said separate, it’s not – the S-300 isn’t part of the negotiations over their – the composition of their nuclear program. But I’m happy to check with our team.

Elise, yes. Wait, let’s have Elise.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to snapback for a second.

MS HARF: Yeah, and then I’m going to Elise.

QUESTION: You said that Russia and China have agreed that --

MS HARF: To the principle.

QUESTION: Yeah, to the principle, but isn’t the --

MS HARF: But we’re still working out the modalities.

QUESTION: Isn’t the principle that they agreed to, that was agreed to in Lausanne, that one country cannot block snapback.

MS HARF: It’s a little more, I think, complicated than that. That’s what Secretary Moniz has said publicly. We’re still working out the modalities of how this would all work. But as I said, I think last week, Secretary Moniz made that comment, certainly, but the principle is that all previous U.S. sanctions could snap back into place and we have to have a way to do that, and that’s what we’re working on.

QUESTION: But the question is: You don’t have a way to do that now and --

MS HARF: We’re talking. We have a path forward here. We – there are ideas on the table. We weren’t able to resolve it before this last round ended, but we think we have a path forward here to get there. We’re confident that we do, actually.

QUESTION: You’re confident that you have a path forward to get there?

MS HARF: To get someplace that’s acceptable to all of us.

QUESTION: On all levels of sanctions – UN, U.S. and EU?

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So the thing is that it’s not a guarantee; it’s not a done deal, in other words?

MS HARF: No, and if we can’t get agreement on this we won’t get a deal.

QUESTION: Is the – so this is one that is a deal breaker is what --

MS HARF: Well, you keep using that word. We’ve always said that all of the issues need to be resolved. All the t’s need to be crossed, the i’s need to be dotted to get to a final agreement. How UN sanctions snap back into place, yes, would be a crucial part of this.

QUESTION: The impression that has been left by this is that the P5+1 – this was an issue within the P5+1, not necessarily with Iran because they don’t have a vote on the council, they --

MS HARF: Right, although they care deeply about this issue.

QUESTION: Of course they do, but this is something that has to be resolved within the P5+1, not --

MS HARF: Correct, and there’s a bunch of actually different ideas on the table, some from the Russians, some from others. So actually, we see a path forward here, it’s just a little complicated and we’re going to lock it down in the next two and a half months.

QUESTION: Right. Is it not the case that basically this was put on the shelf in order to maintain unity within the P5+1 in Lausanne?

MS HARF: No, I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say that. We – I mean, we had agreement in principle on the fact that there needed to be a snapback mechanism. That’s what we needed to get by the end of last month, of March, which we got two days later. So no, it’s not that this was shelved for any other reason other than this is one of the outstanding issues, we knew there would be details that we needed to keep working on, and this was one of them.

QUESTION: Well, the problem is that an agreement in principle really doesn’t mean much of anything, because, I mean, you and the prime – the Administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu agree in principle that Iran should never be able to develop a nuclear weapon.

MS HARF: Well, this is a little more detailed. We agree --

QUESTION: I understand that, but --

MS HARF: No, I wouldn’t – I would say on this that we believe we have a path forward here. There are a number of good ideas on the table. We think we’re going to be able to get to agreement on what the snapback mechanism looks like. We have details still to work out, but this is not a place – I think this is a place we know there is a path forward and we are fairly confident we can get there.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on what the ideas are?

MS HARF: I cannot at this point. I’m not going to get into internal negotiations.

QUESTION: All right. But you’ll let us know when you can.

MS HARF: You’ll be my first call.


MS HARF: Wait, let’s go to Elise. She just got here.

QUESTION: Let’s go to Elise.

MS HARF: Welcome back to the briefing room, Elise.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was wondering if we could take it a little bit back, more to the Hill and the briefing of the Hill, and the idea of this Corker-Menendez pending legislation that does seem to have close, at least at this point, to a veto-proof majority. There was just a conversation with some former congressmen – Mike Rogers and John Tierney – on the Hill, and it seems as if Corker-Menendez is seen as either, on one hand, a potential deal killer if they’re able to have an up-or-down vote, or just some people think, like, yes, Congress should have its say but not until the deal is completely done. I mean, if in fact Corker-Menendez would give the Congress a veto-proof majority on a deal, don’t you think it would be better to kind of bring them in more – not that they would be negotiating the deal, but more into the discussions about shaping the final deal, as opposed to going through all of the effort, time, and energy to negotiate a deal with Iran that you feel is solid to only have it potentially voted down by Congress after the fact, which would be even harder to kind of re-litigate with Iran? I mean, how do you --

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re – I think you’re getting like six steps ahead of where we are right now. I would note a couple points. First, the President has been clear that if the Corker legislation in its current form comes to his desk, he will veto it. But as I’ve also said, he, Secretary Kerry, others have had conversations with Senator Corker, Senator Cardin, Senator Schumer, senators across the board, about what the proper oversight role might look like where we preserve our ability to implement an agreement – because if we don’t start implementing, it would be sort of unthinkable that Iran would start implementing as well. That’s an important principle. There are other important principles that are part of this discussion.

So I understand there will be a lot of activity up on the Hill over the coming days. The Secretary will be up there tonight and tomorrow morning to talk about really the details of the deal, but I am sure that what their proper oversight role could be might come up. So I actually wouldn’t get ahead of those discussions. I think we’ll see what sort of happens in the coming days.

QUESTION: But you’re talking about Congress implementing a deal that you would agree to with Iran, but you might not even get to that point if they have a say on whether that deal would become --

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re moving like four or five steps ahead of where we are here. I really just think we need to see how this plays out over the next few days, our conversations on the Hill, internal Hill conversations about what the legislation might look like, and I think we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Because I mean, as you know, you’ve heard – you’ve spoken about Senator McCain and some of that criticism, but there are – there is a lot of criticism in terms of there’s concern about the deal that you negotiated going forward.

MS HARF: Which is the reason the Secretary is going to spend today and tomorrow with all members. He’s offering a classified briefing to all members of the House and Senate with Secretary Lew, with Secretary Moniz – our lead nuclear scientists there with us – to say this is what we have, this is why we’re confident it meets our bottom lines, this is what we still have to negotiate, and, oh, by the way, at the same time we’re taking all these steps to protect Israel’s security, to protect the Gulf states’ security, we are countering Iranian activities in the region separate and apart from this. So I think that’s really why you see the secretaries going up there today and tomorrow to have these conversations. And I really think that we shouldn’t get ahead of where those are, and we should see what happens in the next few days.

QUESTION: But you don’t anticipate, I guess is what I’m asking, of when you go back to negotiate the final comprehensive deal --

MS HARF: Well, the details that fill out the parameters.

QUESTION: -- the details that fill out the framework, re-litigating it, any of it, based on any concerns that Congress may vote it down afterwards?

MS HARF: Again, we’re having these conversations, Elise, with Congress. We know what their concerns are. We share many of their concerns. And what we’re focused on inside the negotiating room is getting a good deal that meets all of our bottom lines that we can defend to them, that we can defend publicly. I think the Secretary’s been extremely clear about that, and I think that’s what he’s focused on.


QUESTION: Can I just ask – you probably dealt with this last week, and I apologize I wasn’t here.

MS HARF: That’s okay.

QUESTION: But obviously, there’s been messages coming out of Iran, particularly about the sanctions, and President Rouhani said clearly last week that they would not sign a deal unless the sanctions were lifted from day one. Is your understanding that he means that all sanctions are lifted from day one? Now, clearly the fact sheet that was put out by the State Department says that there will be a lifting if – if they are in compliance with various steps.

MS HARF: After they undertake – and other Iranian officials have also said the same thing. Now, if they can do them all on day one, then they would be – then obviously, the relief would happen on day one. Some of these are a little more technical steps that may take a little longer.

But the Secretary, I think, was very clear about this over the weekend when he was asked about this, that we are confident of what we have in the parameters document that we released. Something similar happened after the Joint Plan of Action was finalized before it was implemented in January that they went out and said some things publicly to fit their narrative, we said things publicly, of course, as well. And what mattered is when it was implemented, Iran lived up to every obligation that we put out in terms of the facts. And we are confident that what we put out now is what has been agreed to. And look, if there’s attempts to re-litigate or re-negotiate any of this, the Secretary has been very clear we won’t get where we need to be here.

QUESTION: So you’re confident that they will stand by a phased lifting of the sanctions if it comes to that in the future?

MS HARF: We are confident in what we’ve agreed to inside the room. That was outlined in our parameters document. And we have also said that is key to what happens here. Look, if Iran can take these steps more quickly, then they’ll get the relief more quickly. So that’s – and I think others, including other senior Iranian officials, have come out and said similar things.

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: Is it just about your political posturing them from the – to fit their own domestic audiences?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not going to, I think, make judgments about --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: I’m going to answer this one first. Okay, thanks.

I think that I’m not going to get into why they say things publicly, but we’ve seen this before. And what matters to us is what actually happens if this is implemented. And under the JPOA, regardless of the fact that for two months we had said something, sometimes they had said things, that people took to be a little at odds, that they implemented it and that the IAEA verified that and continues to verify that. So I think that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: Yes, Marie?

MS HARF: Yes, go ahead. Let’s --

QUESTION: My name is Sharafat Hussain and I’m from Weekly Bangladesh.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: Wait, I’m not sure we’re done on Iran yet. Hold on.

QUESTION: So no --

MS HARF: Is this on Iran?

QUESTION: I have a question about Bangladesh.

MS HARF: Let me finish Iran, and then we’ll go to Bangladesh. I promise.

QUESTION: I just want to --

QUESTION: Can I just ask you real quick --


QUESTION: -- just to clarify, on the S-300?


QUESTION: You’re not having a – do you have a position yet? I mean, a --

MS HARF: I think I was very clear what our position is, that we have concerns.

QUESTION: Okay, because I think I came in a bit late.

MS HARF: I think – it’s okay.

QUESTION: You’re concerned, but you – you’re not saying whether they have violated or they are violating – they have lifted or they are lifting?

MS HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: I mean, they already lifted, or are they --

MS HARF: Lifted what?

QUESTION: The ban on selling the Russian --

MS HARF: Well, there – well, the – as I said before you came in, Secretary Kerry --

QUESTION: Right, sorry.

MS HARF: -- spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning to express and expressed our objections to this going forward. We’ve had these objections for a long time. I also said it’s my understanding it’s not a violation of UN Security Council sanctions or resolutions.

QUESTION: On this. The Israeli Government, or at least one prominent member of the Israeli Government – I believe it’s Minister Steinitz – said that the Russian decision on this, on the S-300s, was a direct result of the Lausanne framework. Do you agree with that?

MS HARF: I’m not sure I follow the logic there. In what way?

QUESTION: His – I believe his suggestion is that this is a – that what happened in Lausanne and the arrival at the framework – at the parameters for the framework or however we’re – whatever we’re calling it – led the Russians to take – to make this decision.

MS HARF: Well, I don’t – I – look, I can’t speak to their decision-making, the Russians’ decision-making process, but I understand they have been talking about doing this for a long time.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that what happened in Lausanne or what’s happening in the negotiations more broadly --

MS HARF: I have heard no --

QUESTION: You don’t see this as having an impact?

MS HARF: I have heard no one indicate that whatsoever.

Anything else on Iran?


MS HARF: Yes. And then I promise you’re next.

QUESTION: You said that you are countering the Iranian influence in the region. Can you elaborate on that? How are you doing this?

MS HARF: Well, I think we’ve elaborated on this sort of ad nauseam over the past week and a half, but I’m happy to do a little more. Obviously, you are aware of our very close and continuing security relationship with Israel, the closest of any administration in history, most security funding. We’re looking at other ways we can assist them going forward to increase their security even more. That’s an ongoing conversation. When it comes to the GCC, we’ve taken a number of steps. As you know, the President will be hosting leaders from the GCC at Camp David in a few weeks. We are having constant communications at very high levels about how we can do even more to shore up their security as well.

QUESTION: But how are you countering the Iranian influence in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, for example?

MS HARF: Well, we have a couple of ways: first, supporting our partners and allies in the region who are working actively, whether it’s supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, whether it’s supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces in Lebanon. We certainly take a number of steps in that regard. And then I would say we also have ways, like sanctions, of countering their destabilizing activities, like their support for terrorism. So we have our own way to do that as well.


QUESTION: Hi. Mike Hughes, I’m with Sputnik News, by the way. Nice to meet you.

MS HARF: Nice to meet you. Thank you for coming.

QUESTION: Going back to the weapons sale.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He did have reasoning, Lavrov – Foreign Minister Lavrov talked to those principles.

MS HARF: Foreign Minister Lavrov always has reasoning for things --

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS HARF: -- I have learned in this job.

QUESTION: -- going back to what Matthew was saying about – he said they’re put in place to support the nuclear talks. Now the ban – they want to lift the ban because he sees them as obsolete because there was a lot of progress made during that talk. So he made that connection earlier today.

MS HARF: Well, I’m sorry, I didn’t see those comments. I just know what the Secretary spoke to him about, so I’m – apologize. I haven’t seen those comments. But I think what I’m trying to indicate is we see this as separate from the negotiations, and we don’t think this will have an impact on our unity. But I’m happy to take a look and see if there’s more to say.

QUESTION: So why do you – why oppose it?

MS HARF: Well, we’ve long opposed it, for the reasons I think I laid out earlier, that Iran plays a destabilizing role in the region, that we would have concerns with these kinds of shipments being made to Iran at this time.

Yes. Actually, I promised him I would go here. Go ahead. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m talking about Bangladesh. After 92 days of political unrest, there’s going to be an election held on April 28 in Dhaka and Chittagong, the major cities. So is there any update on political level playing field, that opposition parties going to get their political activity normal way, not the way they past six years been doing by (inaudible) government?

MS HARF: Well, let me check with our team. I don’t have a lot on those upcoming elections. I think they’re still a couple weeks away, so I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have some analysis to do beforehand. We’ve obviously expressed concern over the past weeks and months about the political unrest in Bangladesh and the situation on the ground, but I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to share.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sharafat Hussain and I’m weekly – from Weekly Bangladesh.

MS HARF: Great. Thank you for coming. We hope to have you more.

QUESTION: On Bangladesh?

QUESTION: I have a Bangladesh question, actually.

MS HARF: Let’s – we have a few more, but you’ve started a few more Bangladesh questions.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, you put out a statement telling --


QUESTION: -- calling on the Bangladeshis not to carry out the execution of the war crimes convict. And I don’t know if it was an hour later or within several hours --

MS HARF: I think a few hours.

QUESTION: -- they went ahead and executed him. One, what do you think of that? And two, what does this say about American influence in Bangladesh?

MS HARF: Well, I don’t have much more to say beyond the statement that we laid out this weekend in terms of the principles of how we see this process: that of course we support bringing to justice those who committed atrocities in the 1971 war. We understand this is an important process for Bangladesh to undertake.

We also, though – I think this is what you saw in the statement – believe that the trial should be fair and transparent and in accordance with international standards that Bangladesh itself has agreed to uphold. So we’ve seen progress in these – in this process, and that, I think, has been a good thing. But we still believe that further improvements to the ICT process could ensure that these kinds of proceedings meet domestic and international obligations. And that’s something we’re talking to the Bangladeshis about, I think something we’ll keep talking to them about, but don’t have much more analysis other than that of what happened.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but I mean they didn’t do what you asked them to do. So is there any kind of consequence to that, or do they just get another stern talking-to?

MS HARF: Well, we’ll continue – we understand this is a complicated issue and I think we’ll continue having those conversations with the Bangladeshis.

QUESTION: Right, but your statement talked about how they should hold off because of the irreversibility – sorry – the irreversibility of capital punishment.

MS HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: And they basically – either they didn’t read it or it wasn’t communicated to them directly, or in direct contravention of what the Administration would’ve preferred them to do, they went ahead and executed this guy.

MS HARF: Well, I don’t think – we made our views clear, I think, and Ambassador Rapp has also talked publicly about other countries who have the death penalty and how it should be imposed – obviously with great care given the costs here. But look, Bangladesh has decisions to make on its own. We make our point of view known, but I wouldn’t draw much more analysis from it than that.

Yes, another --

QUESTION: Do you think he faced a fair trial, by the way?

MS HARF: Well, as --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I mean --

MS HARF: As we’ve said – I’m probably not going to on this specific trial, but we believe that trials in general should be fair and transparent, that Bangladesh has made some progress but there is still more work to do. And so that’s a conversation we’re having with them.

QUESTION: About Yemen?


QUESTION: So I know State Department talked to this a little bit last week, but we know that 41 U.S. citizens have filed a lawsuit against State Department and Defense Department for allegedly failing to evacuate them from Yemen. So I know that State Department said they advised people not to travel to Yemen and --

MS HARF: Since the mid-1990s we have.

QUESTION: Yes, and sent several travel alerts. But if they are trapped in Yemen, that this mean they have to find their own way get out of Yemen?

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, any new comments on that?

MS HARF: Just to put – not much new, just to put some numbers on this. Since January of 2014 alone, we have distributed 27 security messages and/or travel warnings, all of which urged U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and urged those in Yemen to depart. So we are – as we’ve said, we’re not going to comment on pending litigation. We’re working with partners, having conversations with them about how people can get out.

And I just have a couple more minutes before we have a bilat upstairs, so let’s do some – just a few more.

QUESTION: But many people are very curious about why the most powerful military cannot evacuate its own people. I mean, is America --

MS HARF: Well, it’s not that we can’t. These are decisions we make based on a variety of factors, including the security situation --

QUESTION: So what kind of factors? Is United States abandoning --

MS HARF: I think I just said one. The security --

QUESTION: -- abandoning American citizens in --

MS HARF: No. Wait, let’s be clear here. I answered this at length last week, so I’m going to answer it and then move on, I think, because we’re limited on time. But we’ve been warning Americans for a very long time not to go to Yemen. We are currently also warning them that the safest thing to do might be to shelter in place. So they need to look at their own security situation, and if they think it’s safest to stay where they are in Yemen than try to get to a port, get on a boat, that may be the safer option. There are security challenges here with trying to use American assets to do this, and those are the kinds of factors we consider.


QUESTION: But you did evacuate some people, right?

MS HARF: The United States?


MS HARF: We have not, no.

QUESTION: Okay. But some Americans were evacuated from Yemen.

MS HARF: Correct. Some have gotten on boats that other countries have been able to dispatch.

QUESTION: But there is no – that’s not a problem?

QUESTION: But if you’re not abandoning, why don’t you take more actions?

MS HARF: We are giving Americans opportunities – information about opportunities, I should say, to use other methods of leaving Yemen, and that’s why we have been very clear since the mid-1990s that people should not travel to Yemen. We are doing what we can now, but there are obviously some constraints here.

QUESTION: Downstairs --

MS HARF: I think I’m going to move on, though. I answered this at length last week.


MS HARF: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: You did, but downstairs as you walk --

MS HARF: But you just don’t like my answers.

QUESTION: I don’t know if I would say that. It’s just the – my question is that if you go walk downstairs, the – there’s a sign that says the State Department’s biggest or highest single --

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- responsibility is the protection of American citizens abroad.

MS HARF: Absolutely. That’s why we --


MS HARF: -- have been telling them not to go to Yemen.

QUESTION: Yeah, I get that. And I know that the White House – your colleague there gave the same answer about these travel warnings that you put out, issued. Does that mean that you no longer believe that you have an obligation or a responsibility --


QUESTION: -- to help protect American citizens?

MS HARF: Not all, but I – that’s why we are providing information about opportunities for American citizens to leave Yemen. We are sending them messages, letting them know if there are certain boats or flights that they can possibly get on. We are giving them as much information as possible, but there are factors you have to take into account when you determine whether an American asset should be sent to a country, and this has been our determination about what’s safest right now.

QUESTION: Is one of those factors you have to decide whether the people are actually worth saving?

MS HARF: Not at all, and that’s a --

QUESTION: That’s the impression that --

MS HARF: But that is an absolutely --

QUESTION: -- I think you’re seeing.

MS HARF: -- offensive assertion.

QUESTION: Well, but that’s what the critics of this are saying.

MS HARF: Well, I’m telling you it’s patently wrong.

QUESTION: Okay. So other than the security of assets, what else is a factor?

MS HARF: I’m not sure – I mean, how – the security of trying to have all the Americans gather in one place.

QUESTION: So you’re worried that if they gather in one place to be evacuated, they might become a target.

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Is that --


QUESTION: Very quickly.

MS HARF: Just a couple more on this, guys.

QUESTION: Really quick one.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: For those who are in Djibouti and so on, will you help them come home and so on?

MS HARF: We provide – well, we provide consular assistance to Americans wherever they are --

QUESTION: But no transportation --

MS HARF: -- with the resources we have.

QUESTION: -- back to the United States?

MS HARF: I can check with the team and see what the facts are on that. Let’s go – I’m just going to do three more, guys. In the back.

QUESTION: Hi there. Do you have anything on the Russian intercept of a U.S. reconnaissance plane near Poland? And did the Secretary bring it up with Lavrov?

MS HARF: I don’t believe it came up in their conversation. This is really more of a DoD issue. But in general, yes, on the morning of April 7th, an RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner. The U.S. is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate official and diplomatic channels, and I think that’s all I have on that.

QUESTION: Sorry, and if the Secretary didn’t bring it up, it wasn’t of concern? Or is this --

MS HARF: No, and through the appropriate channels. As I said, this is more of a DoD thing.

QUESTION: What is that appropriate – is that like through the military attache at the embassy?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Can you check that one for us?

MS HARF: Yeah, I’ll check.

QUESTION: Any comment on the presidential elections in Sudan?

MS HARF: I don’t have one. Let me check with our team.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, the Egyptian court sentenced 37 people to life in prison and 14 to death, and I know U.S. State Department released a statement, but only mentioned one person’s name.

MS HARF: Mohamed Soltan?

QUESTION: U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I was wondering, do you have anything to say about other 50 people?

MS HARF: Well, I didn’t see all the details on that. I know last week that another mass trial of 379 members took place actually. So in general, without knowing the details, we remain troubled by the practice of mass trials and sentencing, which we’ve said run counter to what we think due process under the law should look like. I’m happy to check and see if there are more details.

QUESTION: And just follow-up question on – just recently U.S. lifted the hold on military assistance to Egypt.

MS HARF: We did.

QUESTION: And considering the recent events, what has changed so far in Egypt regarding the human rights and democracy considering that the main motives for all this withheld was the human rights and democracy issues in Egypt?

MS HARF: Well, the recent decision regarding military assistance to Egypt neither, I think, suggests that the human rights situation in Egypt has improved nor represents some sort of endorsement of the Government of Egypt’s approach to domestic dissent. I think we’ve been clear that the threats to Egypt’s security have increased over the past few months, and obviously we are making decisions based on that. That includes the growth of ISIL and other things, but that’s why we speak out very strongly and we still have concerns about the human rights situation, including with Mr. Soltan.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this recent surge in fighting in Ukraine?

MS HARF: Not really. The Russians and the separatists need to implement Minsk. It’s up to them. They need to pull back. I don’t have much more than that.


MS HARF: Last one, guys. I really have to go.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction on the Chinese releasing three of the five women activists this morning?

MS HARF: We’ve seen that. We obviously believe that all of them should be released. I can’t confirm those reports independently that they have, although I’ve seen them. We believe that all of the – let me bring out the exact language I have here – that we have issued public statements but also believe privately that they should all be immediately and unconditionally released.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Abigail, last one.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the UNICEF report released today about the amount of children who are having to flee violence in Nigeria?

MS HARF: I hadn’t seen it. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Thanks, guys. Sorry for the – a little, abbreviated briefing today. We’re having bilats moving around time-wise, so I appreciate it.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:16 p.m.)

DPB # 61

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 10, 2015

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 14:52

Jeff Rathke
Acting Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 10, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


12:53 p.m. EDT


QUESTION: Happy Friday.

MR RATHKE: Well, thank you. And to all of you as well.

One thing just to mention at the top: Secretary Kerry is in Panama City today. This morning he held bilateral meetings with Canadian Foreign Minister Nicholson, Mexican Foreign Minister Meade, and Vatican – sorry – Foreign Secretary Meade and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin. The Secretary also participated in President Obama’s meeting with Panamanian President Varela, and he returns to Washington tonight.

Last night, of course, as you know, the Secretary met with Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez. You may have seen the note we sent around on that meeting which took place rather late last night.

So, Matt.

QUESTION: I – I’m going to defer to Arshad for the first question.

MR RATHKE: Okay. Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we – do you have any reaction to the Pakistani judicial system’s decision to free on bail Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is one of the people alleged to have helped plot the 2008 attack in Bombay?

MR RATHKE: Yes. We are gravely concerned about the release on bail of alleged Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. We have communicated that concern to senior Pakistani officials over the course of many months, and as recently as yesterday. Terrorist attacks are an assault on the collective safety and security of all countries. Pakistan has pledged its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators, financiers, and sponsors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice, and we urge Pakistan to follow through on that commitment to ensure justice for the 166 innocent people, including six Americans, who lost their lives.

QUESTION: Who communicated that concern as recently as yesterday? Was it the ambassador? (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: I believe it was in Islamabad. I would have to check to see whether it was the ambassador. So I can look for that detail.


MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Will this be just the words to tell them that you are supposed to – have pledged and you are supposed to – you are giving them quite a bit of a deal on defense equipment. Will there be any repercussions of this? Or just words?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speculate about consequences or repercussions from the podium, but I think I’ve made clear that we’re, again, as I said, gravely concerned about this development.

QUESTION: But if there are no teeth to your grave concern, if there are no consequences that are possible, then why should the Pakistanis take your grave concern seriously?

MR RATHKE: Well, I would just, again, say that this has just happened in the last few hours. So of course we’re going to look at this development and decide what consequences to draw from it. But I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

QUESTION: Just to – it’s not just the Mumbai attacks, it’s that six Americans died. And as President Obama has repeatedly said that anywhere where you will run, American is lost, we will hunt them down. And it doesn’t look like – as Arshad said, there’s no teeth. And so where do we head from here? Like, in other countries, when we’re dealing with other countries, we immediately talk about sanctions, we talk about – so when can we see any teeth or anything more? And you say that it’s 24 hours. What about maybe 48 hours? One week? Should we wait?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to put a timeline on it, Tejinder. But certainly, bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice is a key priority. And we stand by that. So we’ll continue working in that direction, but I don’t have any further specific steps to outline right now.

QUESTION: Well, when you said --

MR RATHKE: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: -- we will look at this development and decide what consequences there will be, does that mean that there will be consequences, or you decide what, if any, consequences?

MR RATHKE: I’m – what I’m trying to indicate is that this development has just happened, so of course we’re going to look at it. And – but I’m not trying to foreshadow any specific steps.


MR RATHKE: We’ve got to look at this and decide what --

QUESTION: Forget about specific steps, how about any steps? Are you saying there will be, or is that --

MR RATHKE: Well, that’s what we’ve got to consider. I don’t – I’m not trying to say that there necessarily will be a particular step.

QUESTION: So it’s decide what, if any, consequences there will be?



MR RATHKE: All right. New topic?

QUESTION: A question on Iran?


QUESTION: So with Iran, I know there’s going to be some briefings next week on the Hill for members here. There have been some members of Congress who have been very critical of the tentative framework here. Pete Roskam in particular said, quote, “They have kept members of Congress entirely in the dark” – his words. How do you respond to those criticisms, particularly from the right, who aren’t pleased with this arrangement and what’s been coming forth to keep them apprised of what’s happening?

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve had unprecedented levels of cooperation, consultation, and briefings with Congress throughout the entire process of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. So we have made people available for testimony, we’ve had meetings, we’ve had phone calls. This has been a central part of our approach to the talks, is making sure that people in Congress are up to speed on the status and indeed, since the framework understanding was reaching in Lausanne, to reach out as well. I mentioned yesterday that the Secretary and Under Secretary Sherman and others are keeping in touch. The Secretary has made several phone calls to the – to members of Congress. Under Secretary Sherman briefed Senators Schumer and Cotton yesterday. And we remain in contact; in fact, we’ve offered even this week for Under Secretary Sherman to talk with members. So this will continue next week as well, when we anticipate that the Secretary will brief Congress. The exact timing and scheduling of that is still taking shape, so I don’t have scheduling details to announce. But this is – this has been what we’ve been doing and it’s what we’re going to continue doing.

QUESTION: What do you think spurs that? Granted, this is – you think that’s coming from people who are just opposed to this? And again, this is criticism coming from the right.

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to try to ascribe motivation to people who are being critical. I would just reiterate that we have made it a point to be in touch with members of Congress, and indeed, as recently as this week after the conclusion of the framework agreement, to offer to meet and discuss the details, and that will continue next week as well.

QUESTION: This briefing yesterday with Under Secretary Sherman and Senators Schumer and Cotton – excuse me --

MR RATHKE: Those were separate. It wasn’t – so it was a phone call that Under Secretary Sherman had with Senator Schumer, and then she had a meeting with Senator Cotton.

QUESTION: In person?


QUESTION: So were they the only two that took you guys up on the offer for yesterday?

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve made – we’ve offered, and those are the people who have taken the offer.

QUESTION: Do you have any more of a readout about the --


QUESTION: -- in-person meeting between Under Secretary Sherman and Senator Cotton?

MR RATHKE: No, no I don’t. I don’t have any further details to read out.

QUESTION: And – but it was at their request after you offered? Or did she reach out to these two in particular?

MR RATHKE: Again, we’ve made clear that Under Secretary Sherman was prepared to talk with members of Congress, and as I understand it, they took up that offer.

QUESTION: I’m sure we’ll ask Senator Cotton’s office how – what his impression of the meeting was. You don’t want to offer us what – offer us the State Department’s view of the meeting?

MR RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, this building and the White House were extremely critical of Senator Cotton’s letter to the Iranian leadership.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering how this meeting went. Do you think you’ve won him over on this?

MR RATHKE: I’ll let him speak for himself, but the – certainly it was an opportunity to talk about the understanding that we reached and why we consider it an important start on the way to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that we aspire to conclude by June.

QUESTION: You can’t say that the meeting was cordial, or friendly, anything like that?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m not trying to hide something, I just don’t know. I didn’t take a barometer --

QUESTION: Okay. All right, but if you could --

MR RATHKE: -- of the meeting.

QUESTION: -- if you can find out, it would be interesting to know.

MR RATHKE: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Was it a full and frank exchange? (Laughter.)

MR RATHKE: Again, I don’t have a characterization, not because I’m trying to hide one – I just don’t --

QUESTION: Did it happen here or did it – for Cotton, did it happen here or did he --

MR RATHKE: I believe it happened here, yeah. Okay.


MR RATHKE: Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Can we stay on Iran?

MR RATHKE: Oh, sorry. Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to know, I mean, have you – do you know if there’s been any conversation at the Under Secretary Sherman level or the negotiator level with the Iranians about the divergent narratives that have emerged from Lausanne in any attempt to get – in any event, to make sense of what are almost diametrically opposed accounts of what was agreed or not agreed to?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not aware of any direct contact with the Iranians in the last couple of days about that topic. Again, I – we stand by the information that we have circulated. I would also point out that I believe that our German counterparts made a similar comment today in a press briefing that they did about the question of sanctions relief. So the substance of what we have shared publicly and our fact sheet, again, we stand by that.

Yes, Michel.



QUESTION: The news reports --

QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

MR RATHKE: With your indulgence, Michel, we’ll stay on Iran --

QUESTION: No problem.

QUESTION: -- with Pam and then we’ll come back to you. Yes.

QUESTION: Could I get your reaction to Iran’s acceptance into the Chinese-led AIIB? In particular, with both China and Iran being part of the ongoing nuclear negotiations, does this type of relationship pose a risk, first of all, of destabilizing the talks?

MR RATHKE: No, we don’t see – we don’t see such a risk. The P5+1 have remained united in our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and we expect that to remain the case regardless of other outside events.

QUESTION: What about the sanctions that are imposed on Iran? Could Iran’s affiliation with this bank have an impact on the international sanctions against the regime?

MR RATHKE: We do not expect that Iranian membership in the AIIB would have any effect on the international sanctions regime that’s in place on Iran.

Okay, Michel.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. A news report has said that the State Department approved the selling of Hellfire missiles to Egypt in addition to training and logistical support worth some $57 million. Was it accurate, and when the delivery has or will happen?

MR RATHKE: On Tuesday, the State Department notified Congress of a potential sale of Hellfire munitions to support Egypt’s efforts in countering the terrorism threat that the country faces, particularly in the Sinai. So no sale has been concluded yet. This was a notification of a potential sale, as required by law.

QUESTION: And when do you expect this to happen – the delivery?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we have – it’s a potential sale. So the sale has not been concluded yet, so I think it’s premature to speculate about delivery. But this is the step where we are in the process. We have done the notification to Congress. That has a particular time period associated with it. After that, a sale could be concluded, and then after that, we would – there would be – it would be possible to talk more about delivery schedules. But we’re not at that point yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Is this the kind of potential sale that until the White House made its decision last week would have been – on military assistance that would have not been able to have – would not have been able to have happened or would not be able to happen?

MR RATHKE: Well, this is part of our counterterrorism cooperation with Egypt. And as you point out, the Administration decided to lift the executive holds on the delivery of certain weapons systems and will continue to request 1.3 billion in annual military assistance for Egypt. So this falls under that --

QUESTION: So in other words, prior to last week or whenever it was that they made that, this sale could have not – or potential sale would not be --

MR RATHKE: Well, it would have gone under – it would have – there was a process in place. So yes, this is able to go forward following the Administration’s decision. Yeah.

New topic? Laura.

QUESTION: Can we go to Cuba?


QUESTION: First of all, I know you didn’t have much on this yesterday, but do you have anything more on what the State Department’s recommendation was with regard to the state sponsor of terror designation for Cuba?

MR RATHKE: Well, as we discussed yesterday, I’m not going to talk about the content of the State Department’s recommendation which was sent over to the White House. The President yesterday outlined where that stood from the White House perspective now that they’ve received the State Department recommendation. And I think the President also pointed out that he’s not going to talk about the recommendation or his decision, because it’s with the White House for their review and for him to decide. So I’m not going to get into the content of it.

QUESTION: Did this come up – can you say – in Secretary Kerry’s meeting with his Cuban counterparts? Can you say anything about what message he might have had on that?

MR RATHKE: Well, the meeting between Secretary Kerry and the Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez, it was lengthy; it was very constructive, in our view. They both agreed that we would continue to work on outstanding issues, but I don’t have further detail to share from the discussion.

QUESTION: Can I go to Venezuela then?


MR RATHKE: Yeah, but – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: What progress – I mean, I think the readout that you gave – you’re right, you said it was very constructive. So how is it constructive? I mean, was it constructive toward the formal restoration of diplomatic ties? Was it constructive toward the potential removal of Cuba from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list? Was it constructive in terms of Cuba adhering to the kinds of human rights standards that the United States would like to see? Was it constructive on any of those things?

MR RATHKE: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to break it down, but I’m not going to get into more detail about which particular areas and to evaluate each of the component parts. Of course, we are embarked upon a – the negotiations on the one hand to reestablish diplomatic relations and open embassies in our respective capitals, and there are a number of other dialogues that have been happening over the last few weeks, including talks related to human rights, talks related to communications, to maritime issues, migration. So those are all parts of the discussions we’re having with Cuba as a result of the President’s policy change. But I don’t have more detail on what they expressed yesterday.

QUESTION: Can you say whether yesterday’s talks covered all those topics?

MR RATHKE: I’m not in a position to outline every – whether every single one of those was touched on. I could see if there’s more information to share.

So you wanted to switch to Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yeah, if no one else has anything on Cuba.

MR RATHKE: Go ahead. Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have any further readout of Tom Shannon’s trip? Did he meet with President Maduro while in Venezuela? Anything you can tell us on that?

MR RATHKE: Counselor Shannon met on April 8th with Venezuelan President Maduro. It was a productive exchange and the United States welcomed the opportunity for direct dialogue. From our point of view we believe it’s in the interest of both countries to work together where we can, while we recognize that we will continue to have differences. And so we have said also repeatedly that we are open to direct engagement with Venezuelan officials, and it was in that connection that the meeting happened. So that’s the readout I’ve got on the meeting.

QUESTION: Did the issue of sanctions come up during this meeting, and in what way?

MR RATHKE: Well, the – again, the meeting happened at the invitation of the Venezuelan side, to send an official to talk with President Maduro. Among the topics they discussed included human rights and democracy concerns, from our side. I don’t have further detail on whether the sanctions issue was raised. I would refer you to the Venezuelan side if they want to characterize how they addressed that, if they did.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are any plans for any U.S.-Venezuelan interaction in Panama?

MR RATHKE: There are no bilateral meetings planned. Of course, it’s a big, multilateral summit, but it’s not – there’s no – there are no sit-down bilats or other kinds of meetings planned.

Yes, Abby.

QUESTION: Did the issue of Venezuela come up in the discussion with the Cuban foreign minister and Secretary Kerry?

MR RATHKE: So I’d put that in the same category as Arshad’s question. I’ll check and see if there’s more to say about that.

Yes, Pam.


MR RATHKE: Yemen, yes.

QUESTION: The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee say they filed a lawsuit against Secretary Kerry and also Secretary Carter for what they say is the U.S. Government’s inaction in evacuating U.S. citizens from Yemen. From this podium you all have previously said that the State Department has been alerting U.S. citizens on opportunities to leave the country. So with that in mind, what is your reaction to this lawsuit?

MR RATHKE: Well, let me separate this into two pieces, if I could. On the one hand there – you’re right, there was a filing in – yesterday and as is customary, we’re not going to comment on the particulars of an ongoing litigation.

But on the other hand, you’ve touched on the question of evacuation of American citizens, and also I think it’s worth pointing out that back on April 3rd, we – that was our most recent update to our Travel Warning – but for more than 15 years the State Department has been advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen, and we’ve been advising those U.S. citizens who are in Yemen to depart. So I think it’s important to keep that in mind in – we’ve been – this has been our consistent position going back into the 1990s, that we advise people not to travel to Yemen – that is, U.S. citizens – and those who are there to leave.

Now with respect to the particular details and the advice we’ve been giving to American citizens who do happen to be in Yemen, we have been updating on almost a daily basis with the options that exist for people to leave if they choose. There was – you may recall over the last few days we’ve talked about there were flights and also ships from India, as well as from Djibouti. It’s our understanding that now the governments of Djibouti and India have suspended their evacuation efforts, and we also understand that the Government of India has closed its embassy in Sana’a. There are still attempts by the International Organization for Migration, the IOM, to organize flights out of Sana’a, and we continue to provide updates to American citizens about those opportunities and about any other opportunities that exist for people to leave.

QUESTION: You’re – the part of the response that says – your response that says, “For more than 15 years we’ve been telling Americans not to go and telling Americans who are there that they should leave” sounds an awful lot like you’re saying, “It’s your own fault that you’re there. If you’re stupid enough to go or stupid enough to stay, your government isn’t going to have any responsibility for helping you out.” Am I correct? Is that the right --

MR RATHKE: No, no. I’m not --

QUESTION: Well, why even mention that, then?

MR RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, people are there. Some of them may not have had a choice in going there, and now they’re looking for help from their government.

MR RATHKE: Right, and so --

QUESTION: And you’re basically telling them to – well – (laughter).

MR RATHKE: Continue. Finish your sentence. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Fill in the blank.

MR RATHKE: Well, no. I would --

QUESTION: No? Well, okay. What are you doing for them?

MR RATHKE: I think I’ve just discussed --

QUESTION: Nothing.

MR RATHKE: No. That’s not true. That’s not accurate.

QUESTION: Well, you told them to go to India, or told them to get on the Indian boat or the Djibouti boat --

MR RATHKE: There are a number of American citizens who’ve taken advantage of those opportunities.

QUESTION: -- but now – right, right, but now those are no longer options.

MR RATHKE: Well, some of them. As I said, the IOM continues to try to arrange flights out of Sana’a, so we’re keeping Americans updated about those efforts.

QUESTION: Okay. But it sounds as though you don’t have any – you don’t have a particularly – you don’t have any sympathy or much sympathy at all for American citizens who are stuck in a war zone.

MR RATHKE: No, no. We’re doing everything we can to help them find ways to leave.

QUESTION: Short of doing anything.

MR RATHKE: Look, again, I disagree with you. What you’re --

QUESTION: Well, what is the U.S. --

MR RATHKE: What you mean by “doing something,” I think, Matt. But tell me, what do you mean by “doing something”? You mean sending --

QUESTION: Something other than – I don’t know. Doing something I think would mean something other than putting out a notice that says, “Hey, there’s a ship to Djibouti and a” – I mean, the U.S. Government itself is doing nothing other than telling people, “Hey, here’s a potential option for you to get out if you can make your way to the port at Aden and get on a ship that’s run” – on an Indian ship, which is now no longer an option.

MR RATHKE: Well, we are unfortunately in a situation where access to Yemen is extremely difficult, and to do so with U.S. Government assets could put other lives at risk. And so we are doing the best with – in the circumstances as they exist.

QUESTION: I don’t think anyone’s debating – no one’s taking issue with that. That’s just a fact. But the idea that you’re actually doing something seems not to be borne out by the facts, because it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything at all other than telling people, “Hey, here was a way you could’ve gotten out three days ago, but it’s no longer available.”

MR RATHKE: Well, no, I think that’s unfair, because we’ve been telling people in advance of opportunities. We’re not telling people after the fact.

QUESTION: Well, you’ve also been telling them for 15 years not to go there and that it’s essentially their own fault that they find themselves in this situation, and sorry --

MR RATHKE: We’re not suggesting that anybody is at fault. I’m simply pointing out that for a long time the advice has been not to travel.

QUESTION: I know that you don’t or can’t talk about pending – the lawsuit, but I’m just wondering, is this something that – in general, can the government be compelled by a court – is there any precedent for private groups going to a court, demanding that the – demanding that a court order an evacuation or something similar? Is this something that falls solely within the executive’s purview to do, or is it something that a court can order?

MR RATHKE: Well, I can’t speak on behalf of the court. I can check with our legal folks and see if we’re aware of any such precedent. I don’t have that information in front of me, but I can check and see.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m just wondering if there – if you can be – if the executive, meaning the State Department and the Pentagon, can be compelled to carry out a – what essentially is going to be a military operation, although non-combat – but carry out an operation that would involve sending troops or government personnel into harm’s way to rescue people, if that’s even allowable.

MR RATHKE: Right. No, I understand the question. It’s quite possible that an answer to that question would essentially be a comment on an ongoing litigation, but I’m happy to talk with our legal team --

QUESTION: Well, you’re not aware of it ever having happened in the past, are you?

MR RATHKE: I’m not aware of, but I also haven’t researched the question, so I’m happy to ask our legal experts whether they know more about that.

QUESTION: Can I just get a quick update on --

MR RATHKE: Yes, Tejinder. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I had asked earlier and Marie, I think, didn’t have the number of Americans who were evacuated by the Indian – Indians. Do you have a number now, like how many people, American --

MR RATHKE: Well, we’re not giving out public numbers of people who have taken advantage of these opportunities. We are certainly aware of some American citizens who have left by a variety of means because there have been several of our partners who have offered to help in transporting Americans, and we certainly appreciate those offers to cooperate and assist. So – but we don’t – we’re not giving out numbers about those.

All right?

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Libya?


QUESTION: So four years ago, there was a lot of push, certainly the State Department, for the end of Qadhafi’s regime there, and now there are 12-plus ISIS training camps set up there. With that push from the State Department, do you think that the folks in Libya are better off now than what was happening when Qadhafi was there, considering the influence of ISIS in Libya now?

MR RATHKE: Well, you start – you point out that, of course, under the Qadhafi regime the Libyan people suffered tremendously, and the Libyan people rose up in opposition to that regime. And the response of the Qadhafi regime was to brutally suppress the expressions of the Libyan people for freedom and for a greater say. And so that was an uprising that came from inside Libya.

And in response to that, of course, there was support from the international community to prevent those kinds of atrocities. And of course – and now there is still a long road to go. The situation in Libya is not an easy one, but I think also if you were to ask and if you look at the situation in Libya compared to the Qadhafi regime, if you ask Libyans, I think that would be for them to voice.

We certainly have been supporting the Libyan people and we will continue to support the Libyan people. We have – we remain engaged with people on the ground, also with the UN, to promote a peaceful political process. There have been some talks recently. There’s still a lot more to do, and we’ll continue to support that process.

QUESTION: And I guess the follow-up on that then is, though: Is the ISIS threat, because of the effort to try to move something through Congress, to try to engage the United States militarily there, with having that influence of ISIS on the ground there, did that make things better? Is there a different type of threat that --

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to draw comparisons to those situations, but of course we’re deeply concerned about the threat from terrorist groups in Libya, including from ISIL-affiliated groups, who have expanded presence in Libya because of the absence of a strong, united central government. And so again, what this comes back to is that the ongoing escalation of violence against Libya points out the need for a political solution, and that’s what we’re working to try help bring about.




QUESTION: There is a report that the delegation from the Libyan parliament coming next week to Washington to ask the State Department and Congress for arms and support. Do you have anything on this?

MR RATHKE: There are reports that the Libyan parliament is going to be making a visit here. I can confirm that a delegation from the Libyan house of representatives will be in Washington next week. The Libyan Embassy here is arranging their visit, so I think they would have more details about the specific elements on their itinerary. We look forward to discussing their work with the UN Special Representative Leon in support of the UN-led process to constitute a national unity government.

QUESTION: Do you know with whom they will meet here?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have that detail. We’ll see if we have anything on the schedule that we can tell you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


Yes, on the right, and then we’ll come to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is Sekae Toiyama with Ryukyu Shimpo Okinawa newspaper. I would like asking to the Futenma relocation issue. And U.S. and Japanese Government agreed to return Futenma in April 12, 1996. And it’s 19 years already passing, but Futenma isn’t – have not returned yet. How do you think about it taking so long time to that this issue is not solved?

MR RATHKE: Well, we remain committed to construction of the Futenma replacement facility. We are working with the Japanese authorizes in that regard. And of course, this is an issue on which our Department of Defense colleagues are in the lead since it’s a military facility. But we certainly are – continue to work with our Japanese counterparts toward that end.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea nuclear issue, I know the North Korea nuclear – excuse me – issue is totally different than Iran, but does the U.S. have any schedule to a nuclear negotiation with North Korea in near future in some times this year or, I don’t know?

MR RATHKE: Well, our position on the Six-Party Talks hasn’t changed. As we’ve made clear for a long time, in conjunction and consultation with our partners and allies, we remain open to dialogue with the DPRK with the aim of returning to credible and authentic negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But the burden is on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearization and to refrain from provocations. So that’s where we stand. It’s where we’ve been for a while, unfortunately, and our position on that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: What does “authentic” mean?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think what we mean by that is we – the point is not to have talks about talks. It’s to have negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, to return to the heart of the issues that the Six-Party Talks should be dealing with.

QUESTION: Do you think the Six-Party Talks will help denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula? I don’t think --

MR RATHKE: That’s the international framework. That’s what we’re working --

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t work. So for long years --

MR RATHKE: Well, this is – again, it’s on the North Korean side to take steps to show a readiness to return to meaningful negotiations.

QUESTION: Going back to the --


QUESTION: -- point raised by Matt. There’s a – the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR, along with two other organizations, have already filed a lawsuit against --


QUESTION: -- Secretary of State John Kerry.

QUESTION: He answered this question.

MR RATHKE: Right. That’s what Pam was also asking about and Matt followed up.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on that?

MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, we’re not going to comment on an ongoing litigation. And we talk more generally though about the evacuation questions.

QUESTION: I have a --


QUESTION: -- follow-up to a question I asked yesterday --


QUESTION: -- about Bahrain.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The answer on the question about Nabeel Rajab, the --


QUESTION: You said that you urged the Government of Bahrain to drop these charges. And the question has arisen: Are you seeking the government to drop the – all of the charges he faces, just the new ones, just – or just the old ones, or both sets?

MR RATHKE: Right. So let me just – so there are two different sets of charges here. First, there was an April 5 court date that had been set for Nabeel Rajab, and that was for his appeal of prior charges. That hearing was postponed. And in addition, there was an April 2nd arrest of him. He was arrested on April 2nd – he had been out on bail – and those were on new charges related to posting of information on social media. We are deeply concerned by the arrest, and we urge the Government of Bahrain to drop those charges; that is, both the case for which he was supposed to have an April 5th hearing that was postponed and the new charges on April 2nd. So the short answer to your question is yes, both.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

MR RATHKE: Yes. All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 9, 2015

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 19:15

Jeff Rathke
Acting Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 9, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


12:42 p.m. EDT

MR RATHKE: I just have one thing to mention at the top. As many of you know, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Panama today to join President Obama at the Summit of the Americas, which will include participation by all 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere for the first time. Today he will meet with Colombian Foreign Minister Holguin, and throughout the trip Secretary Kerry will champion collective hemispheric efforts to advance our shared commitments to democracy, human rights, and inclusive economic development. The Secretary will also underscore the importance of engaging with civil society as well as highlighting the importance of increasing student and faculty exchanges, fostering innovation, and addressing climate change.

And with that, over to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, on that, there had been some discussion or some speculation that there might be a meeting with the Cuban – the Secretary might have a meeting with his Cuban counterpart. Is that not yet decided or --

MR RATHKE: I don’t have any other scheduling announcements to make.

QUESTION: All right. And then the President in Jamaica said just now that he has received the review or the recommendation of the Secretary on the state sponsor of terrorism designation for Cuba. Can you elaborate on what the recommendation is?

MR RATHKE: Well, I won’t get into the recommendation’s contents. But yes, the President did say just a few minutes ago that the White House has received the State Department’s recommendation. He’s spoken to that and to the process going forward, so I would say while that process remains underway we’re not going to comment on any of the particulars.

QUESTION: Back in December when the President announced the – his decision to move ahead with normalization, he said that he had instructed Secretary Kerry to review the designation with an eye towards removing Cuba from the list.

MR RATHKE: I don’t believe he used those words. I can go back and check exactly --

QUESTION: Oh, so you’re going to keep --

MR RATHKE: -- how he put it.

QUESTION: So you’re going to keep --


QUESTION: You’re leaving open the option that the recommendation is to keep them on the list?

MR RATHKE: No, I’m simply saying that I don’t think the President put it that way, that --

QUESTION: Well, why would you do a review if you weren’t going to take them off?

MR RATHKE: Well, it’s clearly an important concern and an important issue, so the review was worth doing.


QUESTION: One historical question that I think you guys have given us the answer to, but I just don’t remember it: Can you remind us when was the last time that a U.S. Secretary of State met with – or indeed any U.S. official – but a U.S. Secretary of State met with the Cuban Foreign Minister?

MR RATHKE: Okay, we may have that date. I understand the reason of the interest. I’m not confirming any changes to his schedule, but we’ll look for that and get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay, that would be great.


QUESTION: And – no, that’s it for me on Cuba.

MR RATHKE: Anything on the same topic or move over?


MR RATHKE: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: You will have seen, undoubtedly, or at least heard of comments made today by both President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader about the nuclear deal. Do you have any general thoughts about what they said? And then I’ll get – ask you specifics.

MR RATHKE: Well, I think the first point I would make is we’re not negotiating in public. We’ve talked a lot over the last week about the parameters of the framework, and we’ve certainly gone into some detail about them. So we’re not going to negotiate on those terms in public. Of course, there are a number of details that remain to be negotiated. That’s why we have the process that will run until the end of June, and we will negotiate those details with our partners.

QUESTION: On any number of points, the president, but more specifically the Supreme Leader, appear to have just simply restated Iran’s opening position from two years ago. Is that your read on it?

MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t want to – from what I understand, I think each of these speeches was rather long and I haven’t read them in their entirety, so I don’t want to comment – I don’t want to characterize them.

QUESTION: Well, did you hear anything new?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think, again, the – we’re working toward the end of June and completing many of the details that remain to be elaborated.

QUESTION: Well, if it is in fact the case that the positions outlined today are pretty much the same as they were – as their positions were before the negotiation ever began, I’m just trying to figure out what exactly was agreed to at Lausanne, particularly on the issue of sanctions removal, where the Supreme Leader says that they have to be removed the day the agreement is signed, not the day that it is certified that they are complying with it; and also on the question of PMDs, which you guys say will have to be addressed if there is to be a final deal and the Supreme Leader says that there will be no access, no inspections of military or security sites. And I don’t understand how you can combine the two and get a deal – the two positions – your – unless your position has shifted somehow.

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to – again, we’re not going to respond to every public statement made by Iranian officials or negotiate in public. Just as one example, though, under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments under a finalized joint comprehensive plan of action.

QUESTION: And you’re saying that that --

MR RATHKE: And that process – and that was – those are among the agreed-upon parameters.

QUESTION: At – from the Lausanne --

MR RATHKE: From Lausanne. And so --

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t appear that way, since the Supreme Leader says that they have to be taken off immediately on the signing of a deal.

MR RATHKE: The process will only begin after --

QUESTION: Is he just badly misinformed by his negotiators?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to characterize their internal processes or respond to all those public statements, but again, I think on this point it’s worth mentioning that the process of sanctions suspension or relief will only begin after Iran has completed its major nuclear steps and the breakout time has been increased to at least a year. So that’s consistent with what we’ve said over the last week or so, and that was agreed upon by all the parties in Lausanne.

QUESTION: You’re pretty sure of that? Because it doesn’t sound like it was agreed at all.

MR RATHKE: I don’t have further comment on the Supreme Leader’s remarks.

QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on it --


QUESTION: -- it is still entirely the U.S. Government’s position that, as laid out in the parameters described by you guys in your fact sheet, that sanctions relief will only occur as Iran meets its nuclear commitments, correct?

MR RATHKE: Right. That’s right.

QUESTION: So it is – so from your point of view, it is inconceivable that sanctions relief could occur on the date that an agreement is reached, or is it conceivable that they could take every step necessary on that one date and then everything could be released that day?

MR RATHKE: That would be up to them. I think that there would – that would be a technical question, whether it would be possible to carry out all those steps. I’m not in a position to comment on that technical feasibility, but again, suspension will be phased upon verification of Iran’s completion of specific commitments.

QUESTION: And if – President Rouhani also said something, at least the quote that I saw in English, that suggested that all the sanctions had to be eased on the date that an agreement is reached. Do you think that they have not taken on board what the negotiators and particularly what Foreign Minister Zarif negotiated with you?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to draw a conclusion about their internal processes. I don’t have a comment on that. But our understanding and the understanding that we reached in Lausanne remains as I described it and, of course, others have gone into much greater detail about the particulars, including what’s in the fact sheet.

QUESTION: And are you troubled by the Supreme Leader’s statement, since he’s ultimately the decision-maker, that he does not take a position on the parameters that were reached in Lausanne?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to put a value on it either way. I would just say that as the President and the Secretary have said, we have a political framework, an understanding, but over the next two to three months, we have a very tough series of negotiations ahead of us to try to reach a comprehensive plan of action. And so we’ve always acknowledged that we’ve got a lot of tough work ahead of us.

QUESTION: As I understood your answer to Arshad, when you – when he asked if it was “inconceivable” – great word, by the way, have to get Princess Bride script in here more often – (laughter) – on the sanctions issue, your answer was essentially yes. You are not going to agree to anything in the final deal that deviates from what you have just outlined is in the Lausanne parameters, which is phased on completion verification of Iran’s steps.

MR RATHKE: That’s the framework understanding that guides the work from here.

QUESTION: So it is inconceivable for you to agree to something that would immediately ease or suspend the sanctions upon signing, unless, of course, it’s possible for Iran to comply immediately on signing.

MR RATHKE: Well, again – and that’s – and the – I don’t want to parse the Supreme Leader’s words on that or get into analyzing that further, but certainly, we stick by the framework understanding.

QUESTION: All right. But would you – so how about on the PMDs? Is it also inconceivable for you to accept something that doesn’t fully address the question of PMDs, particularly in light of the Supreme Leader’s comments that no security or military installation will be allowed to be subject to monitoring?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, the particular details and modalities of the inspection and verification are to be worked out in the follow-on talks.


MR RATHKE: And I think with regard to PMD, we’ve also said that that is – that that – Iran’s program and the framework understanding, they have to undertake a process that will address the IAEA concerns about PMD.

QUESTION: Well, can that be done without having access to the military and security sites that --

MR RATHKE: I’d have to talk to our technical experts about that. But the point is that verification and transparency in order to assure that all of the four pathways are closed down is an essential part of the agreement, and that – and it was – and that’s the understanding that was reached.

QUESTION: Can I ask you one question --


QUESTION: -- on the issue of signing? It’s my understanding – maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought that the JPOA from November of 2013 was not actually signed.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Right.

QUESTION: Is that not correct?

MR RATHKE: I’ll be honest. I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll verify.

QUESTION: Okay. So I guess then the next question is whether the comprehensive agreement, if there is one, would actually be signed by U.S., Iranian, members of the P5+1, and the European Union representatives or not. Because my – since it’s not a legally binding understanding, it’s just not clear to me whether there’s actually going to be a piece of paper that actually gets signed. So can you take that?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. Sure. Yeah.

QUESTION: Was the JPOA signed, and would you expect a comprehensive arrangement to also be signed?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. We’re happy to look at that.

Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Related to that --


QUESTION: -- Yemen and Iran.


QUESTION: Secretary Kerry had pretty strong words yesterday night on PBS against Iran, and at the same time, Iran had pretty strong words against Saudi Arabia. So I know that the two things are different, but there may be a connection. So do you think that it will be more difficult to reach a final agreement on the nuclear issue because of the situation in Yemen and because Iran and the U.S. are on different --

MR RATHKE: I don’t think we’re at a point where we’re going to draw that conclusion. We have been, of course, focused on the nuclear issue in the nuclear talks. But as the Secretary made clear, we have continued throughout to make our views known, publicly in many cases as well, about Iran’s behavior in the region that causes us great concern – support for terrorism, detention of American citizens, and so forth. Those remain concerns of ours and – but we’re not going to draw a conclusion about the impact it might have.

QUESTION: Any update --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: Just we’ll let Nicolas follow up, and then we’ll come to you.

QUESTION: Just an update on the U.S. citizens still trapped in Yemen. Do you have an assessment of the number of people who are still there and the efforts to try to evacuate them?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. So I don’t have a number to share about – but as it’s – the situation remains similar to what it’s been in recent days. We are aware of some American citizens who remain in Yemen. We remain in contact through a variety of means to advise American citizens in Yemen about the opportunities that present themselves for people to leave, if they choose to.

Just yesterday we put out two rather detailed but – messages to American citizens in Yemen about opportunities to depart. So that is, of course, something we remain focused on. And we are monitoring the situation in Yemen closely because, of course, protecting American citizens is a top priority for us.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Going back to Secretary Kerry’s PBS interview last night, one specific thing that he said is that he’s very concerned about Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels. And this was in response to the reports of Iran moving ships closer to Yemen’s shore. What additional steps is the U.S. taking or looking at taking to address these concerns?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to spell out steps we might take or that we might contemplate taking in the future, but the Secretary was quite clear that we have concerns about support for the Houthis that comes from Iran. It is quite clear – and we’ve said for some time – that the blame for the conflict, as it currently exists in Yemen, lies squarely at the feet of the Houthis and also those who are supporting them. So that’s clearly a concern for us.

Same topic?

QUESTION: Yeah. Iran.

MR RATHKE: Iran. Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we just go back – sorry, I know you don’t want to parse words and – but I want to look at this – the business about the fact sheet for a second, Jeff. You’ve said repeatedly here, as has the Secretary of State, that we don’t want to negotiate this deal in the press. And yet this department circulated a three-page document outlining the parameters of what was agreed to in Switzerland, and here now we have the Iranian Supreme Leader saying that it was inaccurate. Actually, what did he call it? Lying, most of it was against the agreement and wrong.

So was the fact sheet that was circulated translated into Farsi? I mean, there was also a Farsi fact sheet that came out from Tehran right afterwards that was different from the one that this department circulated. Why did you guys circulate that fact sheet – that’s my question – if you’re not trying to argue this in the public space?

MR RATHKE: Well, the distinction I would draw is we’ve – as we’ve said, we are not negotiating in public. The fact sheet represents understandings from – that were reached at Lausanne.

QUESTION: That the Iranians agreed to.

MR RATHKE: And we stand by that. And of course, as we’ve said all along, we consider it important as well to explain to the American public, including to Congress but to the public more broadly, what we’ve achieved in those talks. So I don’t see a contradiction between those two things.

As to the Iranians, their characterization of it, again, I’m not going to parse it.

QUESTION: But they agreed to the fact sheet that was circulated by this department?

MR RATHKE: No. It wasn’t a negotiated fact sheet that was released by the United States based on – we told them that we were going to talk about the agreement publicly, but it wasn’t a negotiated document.

QUESTION: So does it actually reflect what happened in the talks?

MR RATHKE: Yes. Yes, and we stand by it.

QUESTION: Because it was circulated like 10 minutes after the President announced that there was this historic development. It seemed like it was directly connected to what the focus of the talks were.

MR RATHKE: Well, yeah. And it reflects the understandings achieved there.

QUESTION: And so the Iranians agreed to what was in that document? Not --

MR RATHKE: Yeah. Not to the document itself. It isn’t like we had a process of negotiating that specific piece of paper. That’s the point I was making. But that fact sheet reflects the understandings achieved at Lausanne.

QUESTION: According to you.

MR RATHKE: Yeah. But – and we stand by it.

QUESTION: Right. But at some point somewhere down the line, presumably by the end of June, you’re going to have to produce – everyone at the table is going to have to produce one fact sheet that everybody agrees on. It doesn’t sound like you’re anywhere close to that.

MR RATHKE: Well, that’s the goal – is a joint comprehensive plan of action.

QUESTION: Right. Well, can you guarantee to us that if there is an agreement, it will be agreed to by everyone, and we won’t have the same kind of back and forth post agreement come July 2nd?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to speak to the final shape and form of the agreement. And that’s also the nature of Arshad’s question --

QUESTION: The problem is that it just appears that – I know. It just appears because of the conflicting interpretations of what happened at Lausanne that, in fact, while you are saying that your version is correct and these things were agreed to, in fact, it’s not at all clear, at least to the Iranians, that they agreed to this. In fact, they say they didn’t, which is --

MR RATHKE: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- problematic when you’re – which is a bit problematic if you’re negotiating with someone and you think you’ve agreed on something and they say no, we didn’t agree to this at all, right?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we stand by that.


MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Going back to what Khamenei said today about sanctions, and also the (inaudible) have been asking. So it seems like these – he has set these two redlines. Is this a deal-breaker? I mean, is it worth going for the next three months talking and not getting anywhere?

MR RATHKE: Again, no, we’re not negotiating those details in public, and so I’m not going to comment on his public statements. And we’re not – as this process goes forward, we’re not going to react to every public statement made by Iranian officials.

Arshad, you had a question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Even if the fact sheet that the U.S. Government provided was not a negotiated document with the Iranians, did U.S. negotiators make clear to the Iranian negotiators not merely that they were going to talk about the agreements that were reached, but that they were – did they make clear the basic substance of the things that they were going to describe in the fact sheet?

In other words – yeah, let’s put it that way. Did the U.S. negotiators tell the Iranian negotiators the basic substance of the items that they were going to disclose?

MR RATHKE: Right. I’ll go back and check. I believe Marie has spoken to this. I don’t have her remarks in front of me to characterize them precisely, so I’m happy to go back and look at that and come back to you.


MR RATHKE: Same topic?


MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Did the Under Secretary Sherman talk to members of Congress today about the agreement?

MR RATHKE: So with regard to the discussions with – pardon me for a moment – right. So we have offered briefings by Under Secretary Sherman starting as early as this week, and of course, the Secretary and a number of members of his team have been keeping in touch with members by phone. But I don’t have anything further to read out right now --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR RATHKE: -- on meetings or contacts.

QUESTION: So there was – I mean, Marie said yesterday there was a meeting, that she would begin these meetings today with the leadership and the (inaudible).

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve offered some – I don’t have any meetings to confirm that have (inaudible).

QUESTION: Are there members of Congress who are turning down these meetings? I mean, recognizing that Congress is out right now.

MR RATHKE: Well, yes, many members are not here. As I said, the Secretary has also had discussions, as have others, by phone.


MR RATHKE: But Under Secretary Sherman has offered to meet in person as well.

QUESTION: Well, can you --

MR RATHKE: But I don’t have any of those to confirm.

QUESTION: Can you find out if a meeting is happening today or has happened today --


QUESTION: -- or if members were just not available or they said thanks but no thanks?

MR RATHKE: Yeah, yeah. We’ll look and see if there’s any specific meeting to confirm.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the Iran-Yemen subject, is there any communications of what – any level regarding the subject, the Iranian – I mean, the U.S. is talking about Iranian involvement; Iran is talking back, accusing the U.S. of different things. Are there any exchanges on the – how to resolve this issue between the U.S. and Iran?

MR RATHKE: No. I think we mentioned some time ago when the discussions were happening in Geneva – or, no, at that point, I think it was already in Lausanne --

QUESTION: Lausanne.

MR RATHKE: -- that the Secretary raised the matter in a discussion with Foreign Minister Zarif. He brought it up. It wasn’t the subject of a long discussion. But as we’ve always said, our focus is – in our discussions with Iran is on the nuclear issues, with the addition of the American citizens detained in Iran, which we raise whenever we have the opportunity.

QUESTION: Well, nothing besides that? I mean --


QUESTION: -- this week, since the talks --

MR RATHKE: No, no.

Same topic?

QUESTION: Yemen, yes.

MR RATHKE: Yemen, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Given that we’re now into the 15th day of airstrikes in Yemen and given the growing humanitarian crisis that the Red Cross has expressed concern about, has there been any contact between the U.S. and the Saudi coalition to ask them to do something to reduce the humanitarian suffering, to get humanitarian aid in, and to do something about the humanitarian and civilian casualties that are being suffered, particularly when we’re hearing reports of severe fighting in places like Aden?

MR RATHKE: Well, you’ve mentioned the humanitarian situation. I think it’s worth pointing out that yesterday, we understand that the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with staff from Doctors Without Borders, successfully docked a ship in Aden to deliver medical supplies and surgical teams. ICRC would have more detail on that, but we also understand that they continue to work with Saudi officials in order to bring humanitarian supplies into Yemen.

Now on humanitarian issues more generally, we remain in close coordination with Saudi authorities. Deputy Secretary Blinken, of course, was there just this week. And we continue to call on all sides to comply with international humanitarian law, and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.


QUESTION: Regarding Yemen and the possibility of some sort of peaceful solution to this war that is happening there. The Oman Government – the Omani Government – the Omani Foreign Minister has offered to try and kick-start some sort of talks, mediation. The Iranian Foreign Minister was actually in Muscat yesterday on his way to Pakistan, stopped there, and Iranian media reported that he was there specifically to have this discussion about the possibility of Oman playing intermediary. Does this department have a position on whether or not Oman could play that role between Tehran and Riyadh? And would we get behind that? Would the United States get behind that?

MR RATHKE: Right. Well, we continue to call on all parties in Yemen to return in good faith to political dialogue. And we also call for a renewed commitment to a peaceful, political transition which is consistent with the GCC initiative, the National Dialogue Conference, and all the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Yemeni constitution. As to a particular proposal, I’m not familiar with that one. But we don’t have a specific comment on those particulars. But certainly we see a need to return to political dialogue, and that’s something that the Houthis have to signal their readiness to do. There is – there are ample means to do it. There’s the UN-led process, and we certainly think that’s the way to achieve a political resolution.

Same topic, or --

QUESTION: Yeah. Still on Yemen.

MR RATHKE: Okay. This, and then I think we need to move on. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government doing anything to help with the humanitarian situation, or are you quite content to leave it to ICRC and Doctors Without Borders?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course, we’re the biggest humanitarian donor in the world. I don’t have figures in front of me particular to Yemen, but we can consult with our team and then come back to you.

Yes. New topic?


MR RATHKE: China. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you see the comments made by the Chinese Government regarding their land reclamation efforts? And if so, do you have any comment on their claim that these land reclamation efforts are beyond reproach, entirely within their sort of national prerogative, and are designed both for a military and some civilian purposes to help other countries?

MR RATHKE: Well, in our view, China’s land reclamation and construction activities are fueling greater anxiety within the region about China’s intentions amid concerns that they might militarize outposts on disputed land features in the South China Sea. So we’re watching these developments closely and we continue to raise our concerns with China, as well as with others in the region, to urge all parties to avoid destabilizing activities. And we encourage all claimants, as we have for a long time, to pursue peaceful and diplomatic approaches to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. We don’t take a position on the underlying sovereignty question in these territorial disputes, but it is certainly important for all claimants to pursue their claims peacefully.

QUESTION: And do you regard the – I just want to make sure – I mean, I heard that you said that you felt they were feeling greater anxiety about the land disputes or territory --

MR RATHKE: No. What I said was “fueling greater anxiety… about China’s intentions amid concerns” – yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you – okay, got it, about its intentions. Do you regard the land reclamation in and of itself as destabilizing?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think our Assistant Secretary for East Asia Danny Russel may have spoken to this as well. We’ve – we see it as destabilizing, and we’ve said it from this podium as well. And if you look at the commitments that countries in the region, including China, have made; and if you look at the size of the reclamation work over the past two or three years; and if you look at the Declaration of Conduct between China and ASEAN, which dates back over a decade, where the – where all parties committed to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes, it’s certainly our – we very much hope that China would recalibrate in the interest of stability and good relations in the region.


QUESTION: Hi. My name is Toru Takei of Kyodo News, Japanese wire service.


QUESTION: There is a report that says Deputy Secretary Blinken will be meeting his counterparts from Japan and South Korea next week here in Washington.

MR RATHKE: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Do you have anything? Do you know which day --

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a formal announcement to make, so I think that as we get closer to that meeting we will have – we will put out more details about the particulars of the meeting. I don’t have a formal announcement to make.

QUESTION: So you don’t know which day next week?

MR RATHKE: I’m happy to check on that and we can come back to you --

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR RATHKE: -- with the date.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MR RATHKE: Ukraine, yes.

QUESTION: Amnesty International has a new report that’s focused on human rights issues in Ukraine. It details atrocities that include abuse of detainees and also killings by pro-Russian separatists. Have you seen the report, first of all? And secondly, some of these are things we’ve talked about before, but if you have seen it, what is your reaction to the findings in this report?

MR RATHKE: Well, we are deeply troubled by reports of summary executions of captured Ukrainian security forces by Russia-backed separatists. These serious accusations must be thoroughly and transparently investigated, and any perpetrators must be held to account. So yes, we are familiar with the report.

Additional topics? All right, thank you.

QUESTION: No, sorry, just one brief – on Bahrain?

MR RATHKE: Bahrain.

QUESTION: Yeah. The continued – wondering if you have anything to say about Nabeel Rajab’s case.

MR RATHKE: Is there something in the last day or so that you’re referring to?

QUESTION: I believe it was back – what’s today? The 2nd – no, today’s the 9th. It may be a few days old now.


QUESTION: I think he was rearrested.

MR RATHKE: So we certainly are deeply concerned about the arrest on April 2nd of Nabeel Rajab on new charges related to posting information on social media. And so we’re actively monitoring this case. We also understand there had been an April 5th court date for his appeal but that that has been postponed again. We urge the Government of Bahrain to drop these charges against Mr. Rajab and to release him immediately. As we consistently say around the world, the United States does not agree with prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful expression. We believe that societies are strengthened and not threatened by peaceful expressions of opinion and dissent.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 8, 2015

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 07:23

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 8, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


2:43 p.m. EDT

MS HARF:  Hello, everyone.  Welcome to the daily briefing.  Thank you for your patience.

QUESTION:  Is this Wednesday’s briefing or Thursday’s briefing?

MS HARF:  Really?  I briefed in the dark yesterday, Matt, and you’re giving me grief?

QUESTION:  Well --

MS HARF:  Really?  I briefed on Friday after we got here at 6:00.  Really? 

QUESTION:  It’s true.

MS HARF:  Were you here on Friday?

QUESTION:  No, no, I was not.

MS HARF:  Oh, okay.

QUESTION:  I was not.  I was asleep.

MS HARF:  Uh-huh.  Welcome to the daily briefing.  I have one item at the top, then I will be happy to answer all of your questions.

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Lubeck, Germany from April 14th to 15th to attend the 2015 G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting.  During the meeting, the ministers will discuss key global, political, and security issues.  While in Lubeck, Secretary Kerry will hold a series of bilateral meetings.  That’s it.

QUESTION:  That’s all?

MS HARF:  Get us started.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So I want to go back to something we talked about briefly yesterday before the lights went out, because I’m still confused about it.

MS HARF:  Okay.

QUESTION:  This is --

MS HARF:  I don’t want you to be confused.

QUESTION:  Right, and I watched the White House briefing --

MS HARF:  Great.

QUESTION:  -- and it didn’t really come up there, at least that I saw, so I want to ask you again.

MS HARF:  Okay.

QUESTION:  So yesterday, when you were asked about the President’s comments in the NPR interview about the 13, 14 years, you said he was --

MS HARF:  Yep, that he was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal.

QUESTION:  Right, but the reason I’m confused is because he was asked a question about aren’t you concerned about stockpiles of enriched uranium under the deal, if a deal --

MS HARF:  I’m conveying to you what he was conveying in the interview.

QUESTION:  No, I – right, I understand, but – so the question was:  Aren’t you worried about enriched uranium stockpiles even if there is a deal?

MS HARF:  Okay, fine.

QUESTION:  And what the President – what it sounds like the President said afterwards was no, not worried about that because it will be either taken out of the country or diluted or some combination of both, but what you should really worry about is the R&D with the advanced centrifuges, because after this year, whatever it is – 13, 14, or 15 – the limitations on them will be gone, and so --

MS HARF:  Well, just a couple points.  First, I’m happy to repeat again what we said yesterday.  I’ve talked to my colleagues at the White House.  They have made very clear on the record, as have I, that he was referring to a scenario in which there is no deal.  That is what the truth is here.  If he could have said it more clearly, that’s a different issue, and I know what the discussions are like inside the room about those years and about R&D, and obviously that doesn’t match up to that.  So he was talking about a scenario in which there is no deal.  I know you all wish he had been clearer when he said that, and I’m sorry if it’s not clear from the transcript.  That is what he was talking about, though.

QUESTION:  But why would he even mention 13, 14, or 15 if he was talking about a scenario where there is no --

MS HARF:  You’ll have to ask the White House, Matt.

QUESTION:  All right.  Okay. 

MS HARF:  I can’t parse this much further for you.  I’m sort of --

QUESTION:  Well, I’m not the only one who is confused about this.

MS HARF:  -- done all I can on this.  Well, I’m happy for you guys --

QUESTION:  Prime Minister Netanyahu has put out a statement, right – probably unsurprising to you – but he put out a statement that says Israel shares the view that upon the expiry of the nuclear agreement with Iran, their breakout time to achieve nuclear weapons will be zero.  So is he --

MS HARF:  Well, that’s just factually inaccurate.  I don't know what --

QUESTION:  Is he --

MS HARF:  First of all, this deal doesn’t expire.  There are pieces of this deal, important transparency measures, that go forever.  So the notion that this deal expires and on the next day they’re at zero is just factually inaccurate because parts of it never expire.  As we know, we pushed them under this deal to a year of breakout time.  So I don't know how he’s – on what technical basis he is making that assertion.  There isn’t one.

QUESTION:  Well, I think he’s basing it on what the President himself said in the interview.

MS HARF:  But the President was referring – as we’ve said publicly, Matt – I cannot be more clear about this – he was referring to a scenario in which there is no deal.  It may not be clear in the transcript.  I’m telling you what my colleagues at the White House have told me he was referring to.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I mean, but the --

MS HARF:  Do you think that he was referring to something different and we’re just all saying something else? 

QUESTION:  I don’t --

MS HARF:  I admit that it could have been clearer in the transcript, but I am conveying to you what he was attempting to convey.

QUESTION:  Well, do you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows better than to – or is he just trolling the President?  I mean, what – I don’t get it.  I mean, if he’s confused --

MS HARF:  I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear his opposition to these negotiations and to this agreement --


MS HARF:  -- sometimes with not all of the facts about what’s in it before they’ve – because they haven’t been negotiated yet.  He’s making assumptions about things, he’s making assertions about things that aren’t based on the science that our technical experts feel very confident in.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So you’re saying that even after 13, 14, 15 years, the breakout time will remain at least a year indefinitely?

MS HARF:  I haven’t said that, Matt.  As I --

QUESTION:  Well, I’m asking --

MS HARF:  I know, but we’ve gone over this every day.  And I’m happy to do this every day, but I think let’s try not to.

QUESTION:  Well, what --

MS HARF:  So – okay, let me back up.  So as I said, we don’t know what the exact calculation for breakout time would be after a decade because some of that still has to be negotiated.  Some of the pieces of the equation about – that feed into what gets you to a breakout time have to be negotiated.  So we can’t say with certainty at this point, but the notion that it would be zero in any of those years is factually inaccurate.

QUESTION:  Well, okay, but he says – and I understand you’re saying he’s talking about a hypothetical in case there’s no deal, but he – almost down to zero, not zero.  But then he goes on --

MS HARF:  Okay, but he was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal.

QUESTION:  Well, but then he says, essentially, we are purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year.  That’s --

MS HARF:  Exactly.  So then he goes on to say with this agreement, this is what we are getting.


MS HARF:  Right, in opposition to a scenario where there’s no agreement and we have almost zero breakout time.

QUESTION:  No, but --

MS HARF:  See?  The two are in opposition to each other.

QUESTION:  So the second paragraph in the --

MS HARF:  I’m not going to go line by line of his interview with you, Matt.  You can talk to the White House.  We’ve been clear what he was referring to, and I’ve been clear that the breakout time will not be zero in those years, so I’m not sure what else we can say on this to convince you.


MS HARF:  Okay.

QUESTION:  All right.

QUESTION:  Do you have any context about what happened in Jalalabad today with the shooting --

MS HARF:  Is there nothing else on Iran?  Sorry.

QUESTION:  Yeah, I have more on (inaudible).

MS HARF:  Don’t look so downtrodden there.

QUESTION:  But we can go to Jalalabad first.

MS HARF:  No, no, no.  Let’s do one topic at a time per our usual practice.

QUESTION:  Does anyone else have Iran?

QUESTION:  Yes, yes.

MS HARF:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  For years, the U.S. has cited Iran as the main reason for a missile defense system in Europe.  Does the agreement with Iran affect the missile defense plans?

MS HARF:  Well, as we’ve said, we have concerns about Iran’s conventional weapons, including ballistic missiles, separate from the nuclear program, obviously.  That’s not – that doesn’t go away.  Those concerns don’t go away with the nuclear agreement.

QUESTION:  So would you say that the U.S. will proceed with missile defense plans regardless of how this deal plays out?

MS HARF:  Well, I don’t have anything to announce in terms of changes in our missile defense.  Obviously, we’ve said that the reason for missile defense is the Middle East – obviously Iran, but I don’t have anything to announce for you today on any changes to that.  Again, our concerns about ballistic missiles will remain.

QUESTION:  What are the threats right now at the moment?  What is the reason for a missile defense plan in Europe?

MS HARF:  I think if – I’m happy for you to take a detailed look at all the information out there about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its conventional weapons program.  This has been well documented.  There have been sanctions put on them at the UN level, at the U.S. level over this program.  None of this is a secret.  It’s all out there for you to find.

QUESTION:  Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on Tuesday on the measure to impose more sanctions on Iran.  Is --

MS HARF:  Are they?  I’m not sure that’s what they’re voting on.

QUESTION:  Yeah, that’s my understanding.

MS HARF:  Not the Corker legislation?

QUESTION:  Yeah, Corker legislation.

MS HARF:  Okay.  I think it – well, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Is – how robustly is the Administration reaching out to members of Congress, given that they’re still on a recess, and try to basically prevent Congress from doing something that the Administration would consider harmful to ongoing negotiations?

MS HARF:  Well, very robustly.  The President, Secretary Kerry, other senior Administration officials, Ambassador Rice, Under Secretary Sherman have made a number of phone calls – individual phone calls – to key members of Congress to brief them on the details of this agreement.  We’ve done, I think, in the last year something like over 320 engagements with Congress.  I think over half of those have come since the beginning of this year.  I can check on those exact numbers for you, but we’ve done a lot of outreach.

Under Secretary Sherman has also – we have offered a briefing tomorrow here, I think at the State Department, for any members who are interested.  Secretary Kerry will be going up and speaking to folks next week as well.  So it’s really – we’re talking to folks at a variety of levels – staff members, Senate, House, Democrats, Republicans – about what’s in this agreement. 

And as the President has said, we are looking for ways to talk to Congress about what role they might play here.  Obviously, it has to preserve presidential prerogative, and anything would have to allow us to implement the agreement.  If you can imagine a scenario where we can’t implement the agreement, why would Iran start implementing the nuclear steps?  And I think Congress would say they want Iran to be able to start implementing the nuclear steps.

QUESTION:  How worried is the --

MS HARF:  So that conversation’s ongoing.

QUESTION:  How worried is the Administration that members of Congress will be able to find a bipartisan way of putting curbs on this deal with Iran?

MS HARF:  Well, we’re in conversations with them.  And as we’ve said since the beginning, Congress has played a key role in getting us to this point, certainly, with passing sanctions.  And we want to talk to them and consult with them about this, but their priority should be not making the U.S. negotiators’ job harder, not making it tougher for us at the negotiating table by doing things that are harmful to that process and not by taking away presidential prerogative.  So I think that’s the conversation we’re having with them now.

QUESTION:  And when you say that the Secretary is going up to the Hill, is he actually testifying in an open session?  Is he holding closed-door meetings with members of Congress?

MS HARF:  I think we’re --

QUESTION:  Is he going to the Senate radio/TV gallery and holding a presser?  (Laughter.)  Like, how’s he carrying out this outreach?

MS HARF:  Yeah, we’re still working out the details.  I think there will be opportunities for closed briefings – classified briefings, I should say – of members.  I think we’re still working out the details given the Secretary’s travel schedule, but that’s something we’re very committed to.  As I said, he’s had a number of one-on-one conversations, as have many other members of the Administration as well.

So we want to keep talking to Congress about this, and we want to see if there’s a way for them to play a role that doesn’t take away our ability to implement this or take away the presidential prerogatives that I know Republicans and Democrats think are important.

QUESTION:  And then I just wanted to touch on what you just said, presidential prerogatives.

MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Is this the Administration’s argument for basically preserving what it sees as its historical role in conducting foreign policy?

MS HARF:  Well, that’s part of it, and that’s sort of a broad generalization.  There are some specific pieces of the proposed Corker legislation, I think, that – and I’m not an attorney and I’m not going to go line by line on it – but that threaten that presidential prerogative Republicans and Democrats I think both think is important to maintain.

But just on the implementation piece, I think most members of Congress, if not all, would agree if we get a deal, Iran should start implementing its nuclear commitments right away.  Well, if we can’t, what incentive does Iran have to?  So I think that’s just – there are a lot of arguments here.  We’re talking to Congress at a host of levels and seeing what the path forward might look like here.

QUESTION:  So does that mean --

MS HARF:  Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  -- that the Corker legislation might be salvageable with some tweaks made to it?

MS HARF:  Well, I’m just not going to get into hypotheticals.  The President has said if the Corker legislation as written comes to his desk, he will veto it, so – yes.  On Iran still?


MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  On that same front, the Corker legislation --

MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  -- our understanding is that you guys are pushing for a couple of amendments to be tweaked or fixed, including removing the idea that the President would have to certify that Iran is a state – is no longer on the state – sponsoring terrorism against the U.S. and either shortening or removing the 60-day provision in terms of Congress weighing in sanctions.  So I guess I was wondering, besides those two, what other amendments would you guys like to see to the legislation?

MS HARF:  Well, in terms of the state – Iran is on the state sponsor of terrorism list. 

QUESTION:  I think -- no, it’s the certification that Iran is not sponsoring terrorism against the U.S.  It’s something – some wording along those lines.

MS HARF:  I haven’t heard that discussed at all in these conversations.

QUESTION:  Well, that’s built into the Corker legislation --

MS HARF:  Right.  But in – I mean, that – I haven’t heard that discussed. 

QUESTION:  In a form.  Yeah.

MS HARF:  Right.  In terms of what specific --

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MS HARF:  Right.  Well, I’m not confirming those are things that we’re discussing --

QUESTION:  Fair enough.

MS HARF:  -- and I’m not going to get into our internal discussions with members of Congress or their staff about what role Congress might play.  This is an ongoing process.  We have been very clear that we need the room to negotiate and that these next three months are going to be tough and we have a lot of work to do.  But we’re also, as the President said, open to working with Congress to see what role they can play.  I have nothing to predict in terms of what that might look like, in terms of the Corker legislation or amendments.  That’s just – I’m not going to get into any of that up here.

QUESTION:  I do have a quick follow-up.

MS HARF:  Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Henry Kissinger and George Shultz published a piece in the Wall Street Journal today that raised a lot of questions about the deal.  These are diplomatic statesman types.  Do you guys have any reaction to that?  Do you think they were fair? 

MS HARF:  Well, the Secretary has spoken to a number of his predecessors that were former secretaries of state since we got this agreement – or since the parameters – excuse me – we got the parameters finalized.  And we’re having conversations with other senior officials.  We are happy to have that conversation about what this agreement is, what it isn’t, the work we still have to do, and how we are very confident that this achieves our objectives.  And that conversation will certainly continue.

QUESTION:  Do you feel like this – having Henry Kissinger and others come out and say this, I mean, isn’t it kind of undermining your case a little bit?  I mean, would you --

MS HARF:  I think that their piece is a little more --

QUESTION:  Have you talked to him?

MS HARF:  I haven’t.  I think --

QUESTION:  I mean, has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF:  I think their piece was a little more nuanced than that.  And we are all for robust debate about what this looks like, and that’s why we are being very clear publicly – whether it’s the Secretary going out and speaking, having private conversations with former officials, having private conversations with Congress, classified conversations – to make the case for why this does what we say it does.  And the we’ve always said the best way to defend this is to get a good deal, and that’s what we’re – we’ve done and what we’re working on for the next three months.

QUESTION:  Has the Secretary spoken to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz?

MS HARF:  I said he’s spoken to some of his predecessors here.  I’m not probably going to get into more specifics.

QUESTION:  Well, why not?  Because if he has --

MS HARF:  I’m happy to check.

QUESTION:  If he has spoken to Kissinger and Shultz, they clearly weren’t very persuaded because this is --

MS HARF:  I’m happy to check on the full list.

QUESTION:  -- their article, their column is far from nuanced, I think. 

MS HARF:  Really?

MS HARF:  It basically says that this is --

MS HARF:  You don’t think it’s nuanced?

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, I’ve read it and it’s pretty --

MS HARF:  I also read it.

QUESTION:  Yeah?  And you don’t think it’s pretty damning?

MS HARF:  I wouldn’t say that it’s damning.  I think that there are a lot of opinions on this and the Secretary is happy to speak to people to let them know what we’ve done, and that conversation will continue.

QUESTION:  All right.  Well, maybe there’s invisible ink or something like that or you’re reading between the lines.

MS HARF:  Is there a question or are you just commenting?

QUESTION:  Well, I want to know what you – you just reject it --

MS HARF:  I’m not going to go line by line.

QUESTION:  -- outright?  I mean, they say --


QUESTION:  -- that this is a recipe for disaster, basically.  You say no, clearly.  I mean, you wouldn’t be pursuing something you thought was a recipe for disaster.  Is that correct?

MS HARF:  Correct, Matt.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So one of the things they say is that “absent a linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony” in the region.  Not true?

MS HARF:  I would obviously disagree with that.  I think that an Iran backed up by a nuclear weapon would be more able to project power in the region, and so that’s why we don’t want them to get a nuclear weapon.  That’s what this deal does.

QUESTION:  Back when --

MS HARF:  And I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives.  I heard a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and those are certainly – there’s a place for that, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.  I know the Secretary values the discussions he has with his predecessors regardless of sort of where they fall on the specifics. 

QUESTION:  Well, I guess one of the criticisms is that there aren’t enough big words and big thought – or people argue that there are not enough big words and big thoughts in what the Administration is pursuing, its overall policy, particularly in the Middle East right now, which has been roiled with unrest and uncertainty.  And I think that’s what the point is they’re making.  That you reject, it, I understand that.  One of the --

MS HARF:  Well, in a region already roiled by so much uncertainty and unrest --

QUESTION:  Right.  You don’t want to introduce the bomb.  I understand that.

MS HARF:  Correct.  Think about – well, think about this, Matt.  Think about either an Iran with a nuclear weapon.  Think about how that would create even more instability.  Think about having to utilize other options to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon and the kinds of instability that would lead to.

QUESTION:  In the President’s first Inaugural Address he had that famous line --

MS HARF:  Wow.  Someone did some research today.

QUESTION:  Well, this is a pretty famous line, I would say.

MS HARF:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  You know the line, we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.  Does this fall into that category?

MS HARF:  This what?  What’s this?

QUESTION:  The negotiations.  The nuclear deal.

MS HARF:  I think this is something we talked about a few days ago.  As we’ve said, the President has been very clear that we want better people-to-people ties with the Iranian people.  And that’s why he sends Nowruz messages to them and does – and does things like that to reach out to the Iranian people.  These negotiations are not about having a better relationship with Iran at the government-to-government level.  They’re not about trusting Iran.  They’re not about lessening our concern with everything else they’re doing in the region.  They’re about one discrete issue, a very important one, and seeing if we can resolve that.

QUESTION:  But as a result of the letters that he’s sent and others have – messages, the contacts that have happened between the Secretary and the Iranian foreign minister, the Nowruz messages, these negotiations, which have a benefit for Iran in terms of sanctions relief if they comply, I mean, is Iran unclenching its fist?  Does the Administration believe that?  Is it doing it slowly, one finger at a time, maybe, starting in the middle?  I mean --

MS HARF:  I just don’t think we’re going to do analysis of that based on the nuclear negotiations.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but --

MS HARF:  Because we’re not going to.  You may want me to, but I’m not going to.

QUESTION:  I don’t – so you don’t think – you reject the Kissinger-Shultz line that political restraint and the nuclear issue should be linked?

MS HARF:  What kind of political restraint do you think they’re referring to?

QUESTION:  Well, this is what they’re talking about.  They’re – I believe that they’re talking about Iran’s destabilizing role in places like Syria and places like Lebanon and places like Yemen --

MS HARF:  Right.  So we have always said that once you start linking the nuclear issue, which is complicated enough on its own, with all these other issues, it’s really hard to get anything done.  And we need to deal with – I mean, they are right now at breakout time of two to three months.  Ideally, yes, would we like them to stop supporting Hizballah?  Would we like them to stop supporting the Houthi?  Would we like them to release the Americans and have a better human rights record?  Of course.  They’re at two to three months of breakout time today.  If we have a chance to increase that by up to six times with a nuclear agreement that doesn’t do all those other things we would want them to do, why would we not do that?  It just defies logic to make that argument.

QUESTION:  Well --

MS HARF:  In a perfect world, of course, we would have an agreement that did all of these things.  But we are living in the real world --


MS HARF:  -- and that’s the responsibility of the Secretary to negotiate where we can see if we can get this one issue dealt with.  That’s how important it is.

QUESTION:  That would not be the MTV Real World, right?  That would be the other --

QUESTION:  But along those same lines --


MS HARF:  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  -- you would be kind of entrenching the regime in a sense, right? I mean, if you deal with this particular regime, you risk emboldening them, you risk the idea --

MS HARF:  So what’s the alternative?  Negotiating with someone who’s not in power over a nuclear program they don’t control?  That’s a great academic argument.  Again, that’s not the real world. 

QUESTION:  I get the --

MS HARF:  Do you have another question? 

QUESTION:  Yeah.  It’s just that the idea though of the non-sunset, that this is a forever deal --

MS HARF:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- that kind of thing.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, for whatever reason – and you say he’s wrong – but is convinced --

MS HARF:  Matt, I don’t say he’s wrong.  He is wrong.

QUESTION:  -- convinced that at some point there are going to be restrictions that have been in place for 10 years that are going to start gradually being eased.  Is that correct?

MS HARF:  Some restrictions are 10 year, some are 15, some are 25, and some are forever.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So, but after the last restrictions are eased --

MS HARF:  Well, there – some are forever.


MS HARF:  So there’s no last restrictions.  The Additional Protocol is a forever commitment.

QUESTION:  If you abide by it. 

MS HARF:  Correct.  And if they don’t, we have all the options we have today will still be on the table then.  We can take any of the actions then that we could take today, but we will have pushed their breakout time --

QUESTION:  All right.  So your argument --

MS HARF:  We will have cut off pathways.  We have gotten rid of 98 percent of their stockpile.


MS HARF:  We will be in a much better place then than we are today.

QUESTION:  So there is no sunset?

MS HARF:  The Secretary said there is no sunset to this agreement.


MS HARF:  I will repeat that.

QUESTION:  Is the Secretary still doing his meeting at 3 o’clock, by the way, for any of us who wanted to go attend that, or has that been delayed a little bit.

MS HARF:  No, he is.

QUESTION:  It’s at 3:00?  Okay.

MS HARF:  He’s running a little late today.


MS HARF:   I don’t have his latest schedule in front of me.


MS HARF:  But he doesn’t push meetings back till after my press briefings, usually.

QUESTION:  Well, I wasn’t sure.  Yeah.  I mean, this is --

MS HARF:  I know.  I mean, it’s a big draw, I admit.

QUESTION:  Has he had his meeting with the Jewish American leaders about the Iran deal?

MS HARF:  I believe he has.  I know it started.  I don’t know if it’s still ongoing.

QUESTION:  So you don’t have a readout yet on --

MS HARF:  I do not.

QUESTION:  One thing on Under Secretary Sherman’s meeting tomorrow with members of Congress.  That’s open to anybody?

MS HARF:  So we’ve offered it.  Yeah, I don’t have a full list of who will be attending.  We can give some more detail on that tomorrow.

QUESTION:  But it went out to all members of Congress?  It’s not just like committee leaders --

MS HARF:  Actually, wait.  I might have something.  It may just be leadership and national security committees.  I can check.  Oh wait, here.  So she along with the Treasury, Energy Departments and intelligence community offered to brief members of the Senate and House who sit on national security committees as well as leadership.  So --

QUESTION:  Okay.  But all of our rank and file – someone like Senator Cotton is not going to be invited?

MS HARF:  I think he may sit on one of those committees.

QUESTION:  He might?  Okay.

MS HARF:  I think he might.  Yes, and also Under Secretary Sherman was meeting today with the ambassadors from the GCC countries here at the State Department, I believe, on Iran and Yemen, and I’m sure other issues may have come up. 

QUESTION:  Jalalabad?  Can we talk about that?

MS HARF:  Anything else on Iran?


MS HARF:  Okay, let’s do Jalalabad.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Right.  So what happened there today?  Can you tell us why – what the meeting was about?  What --

MS HARF:  Which meeting?

QUESTION:  Well, the meeting – I guess an hour after the – some senior U.S. officials were in Jalalabad having a meeting with provincial leaders --

MS HARF:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- there was a shooting.  So --

MS HARF:  Correct.  But I don’t know if we have any idea whether it’s linked to that meeting.

QUESTION:  Well, okay, that’s what I’m asking.  Do you believe that this was a sort of classic green-on-blue insider attack?  Or do you believe – do you have any reason to believe that this attacker may have been targeting U.S. civilian leadership?

MS HARF:  A couple points.  First, we don’t have confirmation that it was, quote, a “green-on-blue” attack.  We don’t have confirmation of that.  We don’t know whether the attacker was actually a member of the military or was posing as one.  So I think the Defense Department probably can give you more details as that investigation unfolds.  We can confirm there was an exchange of gunfire involving service members near the provincial governor’s compound in Jalalabad.  This took place, as you said, after a senior embassy official had held a meeting with the provincial governor.  That was Ambassador Don Yamamoto, who’s the U.S. senior civilian representative in Bagram.  He was meeting with the provincial governor approximately an hour before the incident took place. 


MS HARF:  I have seen nothing to indicate they were targeted, though, and I know the investigation is ongoing.


MS HARF:  What else?  Iraq, yes.

QUESTION:  Yes.  Today prime minister – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, he visited Anbar and he was talking about the operations to liberate the entire province, and there was some kind of stories in the Iraqi media, local media, that there are disagreement between the United States and Iraqi Government on the problem of operations either in Mosul or in Anbar.  So if you have any comment on that.

MS HARF:  I hadn’t seen those reports, but I haven’t heard of disagreements.  As we’ve always said, these are decisions for the Iraqis to make in terms of what the next offensive should be.  As we saw in Tikrit, that will, I think, hinge on a cooperative approach with Iraqi ground forces that are under Iraqi command and control.  That’s obviously supported by coalition airpower, but the timing and what comes next is really up to the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION:  So the first time, when they have done that – or conducted operations in Tikrit, it was not consulted with – they didn’t consult with the U.S. and the coalitions.  For the Anbar one, did they ask --

MS HARF:  Well, we’ve consulted with them on an ongoing basis, but these are Iraqi-led operations.  That’s --

QUESTION:  Did they – because that – he was in Anbar and I see the retweet by Ambassador Brett McGurk, that he was also like endorsing his activities, the prime minister’s activities in Anbar.  So are you talking to them on when the Anbar liberation should be conducted?

MS HARF:  Well, we’re certainly in close cooperation with them and in conversations with them about the timing of what happens and what comes next, but again, these are Iraqi decisions to make.

QUESTION:  You don’t have any disagreement on the decision they made to – either on --

MS HARF:  These are their decisions to make, and we’re happy to keep talking about it.

QUESTION:  Any – okay.  Anything, do you have anything on prime minister’s visit to Erbil?  Are you encouraging that or not?

MS HARF:  Let me see.  I had something.  Didn’t that happen a couple of days ago?


MS HARF:  He met with President Barzani.  Yes.  Well, we welcomed that meeting on Monday, I think, in Erbil between Prime Minister Abadi and the KRG President Barzani.  Obviously, we’ve said many times President Barzani and the people of the Kurdistan region are essential partners in the fight against ISIL.  We appreciate the coordination that’s taking place between them and welcomed this visit.

QUESTION:  One more last one.

MS HARF:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Since Prime Minister Abadi is going to visit next week, is going to visit Washington, is there any plan to invite President Barzani also since he refused it last time due to the visa issues?

MS HARF:  I don’t have more details about that visit.  I’m happy to check.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  And do you know anything – going back to the situation in Tikrit, do you have anything more on reports that there might have been some retaliation attacks between Shia and Sunni?

MS HARF:  I had something on this yesterday.  Let me see what I have.  That we obviously take seriously any of these kinds of reports.  We believe the initial reports of widespread looting and burning of homes appear to have been exaggerated, but we do remain concerned by reports that appeared over the weekend and have raised our concerns with the Iraqi Government.  I think it was on Monday that Prime Minister Abadi vowed to protect the people who had been under ISIL control from any retribution or rights violations when the lands are retaken by government forces.  So this is something that we talk to the Iraqis about quite a bit.

QUESTION:  Is there a mechanism for working particularly with the Iraqi military to make certain that they’re not engaging in something?

MS HARF:  Well, this is something that Prime Minister Abadi has pledged and it’s up to them to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Yes, go ahead.


MS HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  So speaking yesterday at the Washington Foreign Press Center, Assistant Secretary Jacobson said that the State Department is nearing completion of --

MS HARF:  Yes, she is correct.

QUESTION:  -- its review of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.  Do you have any more details about when a decision might be forthcoming?

MS HARF:  I do not.  I do not.  When we have something to announce, we will.  I know everyone’s on the edge of their seats.  I have nothing to guess about.

QUESTION:  Tomorrow?

QUESTION:  Is there any response to Senator Menendez, who was – came out with a fairly vituperative statement --

MS HARF:  Good word.

QUESTION:  -- against the State Department?  Thank you.

MS HARF:  I like that that’s going to be in the transcript today.  I haven’t seen the statement, quite frankly, and I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of a review or speak about that publicly until we have something to announce.  And I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION:  Okay, just --

MS HARF:  But there is a process that – a process that’s in place where you – when you undertake a review.  There are very clear criteria.  So I’m sure that our team used those and we will see what we see.

QUESTION:  Can I just go back to Cuba for one second? 

MS HARF:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  And I know you probably addressed this before, but can we just – since it’s going to be, it sounds like, in the news in the coming days, can you give us a little bit of context as to why Cuba is considered at this point to be a state sponsor of terrorism?

MS HARF:  I don’t have in front of me all of the criteria that we used in the last report outlining that.  I’m happy to check with our folks and get that to you after the briefing.

QUESTION:  But I mean – all right.  So, no.

MS HARF:  I’m happy to check.

QUESTION:  I have a tangential question to that.

MS HARF:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Tom Shannon is in Venezuela.

MS HARF:  He is.  Just give me one second.  The Venezuelan Government recently invited the U.S. Government to send a senior official to Caracas to meet with President Maduro in advance of the Summit of the Americas.  The Secretary asked Tom Shannon, the Department’s counselor, to go to Caracas.  He arrived on the 7th, will return on the 9th.  The Venezuelan Government has often called for direct dialogue, and we have always made clear that we maintain diplomatic relations and are willing to talk directly.  I don’t have more of a readout from him on the ground as to what has happened.

QUESTION:  The 9th is today or tomorrow?  What’s – I don’t know what today’s date is.

MS HARF:  What’s today’s date?

QUESTION:  But he’s not going to --

MS HARF:  Tomorrow.

QUESTION:  Tomorrow.  So he’s not going to go to Panama, to – Shannon is not going to go to --

MS HARF:  I don’t believe so.  It says he’ll return to Washington, so I’m assuming he’s coming back here.  But I can check on the travel.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I’m just wondering if he’s going to go from his meeting with Maduro to see the --

MS HARF:  It’s a good question.  It says here that he’s coming back to Washington, but it’s a fair question.

QUESTION:  All right.

QUESTION:  Can we go back to Cuba --

MS HARF:  We can.

QUESTION:  -- and the SST designation?

MS HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  It was my understanding that the review had until sometime in June to be completed.  Is there any pressure from the White House on this building to undertake this review and to get it done sooner rather than later?

MS HARF:  No.  I mean, the Secretary has made very clear, starting in this building, as has the team here who works on Cuba, that this is an – the review is an important part of the policy changes we announced several months ago.  We take our responsibility to do this review very seriously and believe – I know the Secretary does, as does Assistant Secretary Jacobson and our whole team, that these things should be done as quickly as possible.

QUESTION:  Is it incorrect to assume that part of the review is because of the Cubans’ insistence that they be removed from the list in order to allow the reopening of the U.S. embassy?

MS HARF:  Well, I think we made clear when we announced the policy changes that this was something we felt was important to undertake, and that’s why we’ve done it.

QUESTION:  But you’re not saying that there’s a direct linkage, as the Cubans apparently want there to be?

MS HARF:  Well, we announced the – we announced this review when we announced the policy changes.  I’ll just leave it at that.


QUESTION:  Yesterday you said that you would be checking with Mr. Blinken’s team regarding his remarks saying that the U.S. is speeding up arms supplies to (inaudible).

MS HARF:  Yes.  And I was – this is the first time I think I’ve ever said this.  I was wrong yesterday.  It was reported accurately.  So there you go, mark that down.

QUESTION:  What did you say?

MS HARF:  I said I was wrong – I said I thought it was reported inaccurately.

QUESTION:  (Laughter.)  Okay.

MS HARF:  And I just said I was wrong yesterday.

QUESTION:  Oh, you said you were wrong.

QUESTION:  That’s the first time you’ve ever said that from the podium?  (Laughter.)

MS HARF:  One more than you’ve ever said in this room. 

Okay.  So thank you for the question.  Yes, we have strong, longstanding military-to-military relationships with partners in the region, including the Saudis and the UAE.  We are working to deliver some pre-existing orders for military equipment more quickly, obviously, given the ongoing situation, to the UAE and to the Saudis, and continue to provide logistical and intelligence support, as we’ve said.  I think DOD has more specifics on what that is.  I know I think that was your follow-up, probably, but I was able to get more clarity from his team.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Related to Yemen?

MS HARF:  Yes, and then I’m going to Pam.  Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Sorry, you can go to her first, because --

MS HARF:  No, go ahead.  We’re on Yemen anyway, so --

QUESTION:  Okay.  I just – you may or may not be aware of this, but there are a couple of groups that are – say they’re going to file a lawsuit tomorrow --

MS HARF:  I’m not aware of this.

QUESTION:  -- to try to force the State Department and the Pentagon to organize an evacuation of American citizens.

MS HARF:  I wasn’t aware of this.

QUESTION:  I know that you won’t comment on pending legislations, but – I mean --

MS HARF:  Litigation.

QUESTION:  -- litigation even though it – I guess the suit hasn’t even been filed yet, but is this something that a court can order the executive branch to do?

MS HARF:  I will ask our lawyers.  I don’t know.

QUESTION:  Can you find that out?  Thanks.

MS HARF:  I don’t know.



MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  I know this came up at the Pentagon briefing today, but if you could weigh in also, it would be great.  The country’s foreign minister is saying that Kenya needs more assistance from the U.S. and European allies to fight militants.  Has there been a formal request, is State aware of a formal request for additional assistance from Kenya?  And then secondly, currently, what kinds of U.S. assistance is currently being provided to the country?

MS HARF:  I’m not aware of a new request, but I’m happy to check with our team and see if one has come in here.  I don’t know if the Defense Department spoke to that piece specifically.  We continue to provide training, material, and technical support to assist Kenya and other AMISOM troop-contributing countries who are fighting alongside Somalia against al-Shabaab in Somalia.  That’s certainly part of the assistance we’ve been giving when it comes to al-Shabaab.  And with Kenya we’ve been in direct and frequent contact with them.  We have worked closely with them on security matters, but I’m not aware – I’m not sure if they’ve asked for more.

QUESTION:  I know I’ve asked this question before, but does this building believe that Kenya has taken full advantage of the assistance provided to it by the Americans?

MS HARF:  Well, I think a couple things:  First, that the threats – there are frequent threats inside Kenya, many different threat streams that are reported, they – that come in, I know, to the Kenyans.  So this is clearly a very difficult challenge for them.  I think it’s probably no surprise that the security forces need to do better.  I mean, I think that’s just sort of a factual statement.  That’s why we’re trying to work with them.  I think, in part, there have – al-Shabaab has suffered some leadership losses over the last three months, and I think these kinds of sort of high-casualty, in some ways low-resource or lower-resource attacks are a way they’ve tried to respond to some of those leadership losses, and to sort of reassert themselves, and they certainly know the operating environment in Kenya very well.  So we are working very closely with the Kenyans; they are resourced-constrained.  Part of, I think, what needs to happen is to really – they have these resources that they try to match to shifting threats, and that is a challenge, right, and so we’re helping them do that going forward, but it is a tough challenge.

QUESTION:  Russia?

MS HARF:  What else?  Yes.  Go ahead on Russia, and then I’ll go to you.  Yes.

QUESTION:  On Yemen.

MS HARF:  Oh, on Yemen still?


MS HARF:  Okay.  Let’s finish Yemen, and then we’ll go to Russia.

QUESTION:  I’m sorry if this was said.  One of my colleagues pointed out to me that the Saudi ambassador said last week that the Houthis should be designated as a terrorist group.  Do we --

MS HARF:  They are not designated under U.S. law as a terrorist group.

QUESTION:  Right.  Should they be, is the question.

MS HARF:  Well, I’m not sure I’m going to analytically weigh in on whether they should be or not.  That’s an interesting question that I’m just not going to probably take a stance on.  They are not.  We have said they are an incredibly destabilizing force.  They undertook unilateral armed aggression against the Government of Yemen, but there’s a process for doing this and I just don’t have much analysis to do on that.


MS HARF:  Yes, go to Russia.

QUESTION:  For many years – for years, the U.S. has maintained that the missile defense system is not against Russia.

MS HARF:  That’s true.

QUESTION:  Would you say the same now in light of tensions --

MS HARF:  Correct, absolutely.  We have been crystal-clear about that, yes.


QUESTION:  On Pakistan, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the State Department has approved an approximately $1 billion of arms, including Hellfire missiles and helicopters, to Pakistan.  Can you confirm?

MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  And then what is the status of this arms sale and proposed --

MS HARF:  So the State Department did approve a possible foreign military sale to Pakistan for helicopters and associated equipment, parts, and support for an estimated cost of about $952 million.  This proposed sale of helicopters and weapons systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism operations inside the country.


QUESTION:  What does it mean when you say it’s “possible”?  What is the status of this proposal now?

MS HARF:  Yeah.  So I believe that we are required to submit this notification, which – to Congress 30 days in advance of when this actually will happen.  So it’s my understanding that at the conclusion of the 30 days, we would then move towards finalizing.

QUESTION:  Has it been submitted to the Congress or not?

MS HARF:  I believe that it has, but let me double-check.


MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  This sale --

QUESTION:  On Pakistan --

QUESTION:  -- came up in a vague sort of way in Senator Paul’s White House presidential speech.

MS HARF:  Oh, really?  I missed that.

QUESTION:  We shouldn’t be borrowing from China to give to Pakistan --

MS HARF:  Interesting.

QUESTION:  -- and – relations with countries that burn the American flag.  Any response in terms of the defense of military support to Pakistan?  It’s obviously been problematic.

MS HARF:  Well, I didn’t see those comments.  One of the nice things about this job is I don’t have to pay too much attention to American politics at the moment.  But in general, we have a very close counterterrorism relationship with Pakistan for a very – for very good reasons.  There’s still a serious threat in Pakistan from terrorists who have either attacked the United States or American soldiers in Afghanistan, who have tried to plot and plan against the West, including the U.S.  Obviously, the remnants of core al-Qaida are in the – mainly in the tribal areas of Pakistan.  So the Pakistanis have a serious problem still, and that’s why we’re trying to help them.  This is in our national security interest to do so.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) I think it was – the request was made by Pakistan.  When was this request?  Do you have --

MS HARF:  I don’t have more details.  I’m happy to get those for you.  I’m sorry, I don’t have those in front of me.


MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Along the same lines, so there’s this possible weapons deal or whatever with Pakistan. 

MS HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Today the Iranian foreign minister is in – or was in Pakistan talking to them about – apparently about Yemen.  The Saudis apparently want Pakistan to send ground troops to Yemen.

MS HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  Are you guys confident that Pakistan is going to use America’s aid and support for the purposes in which you want it to use, as opposed to these other things – Yemen or aiming this stuff against India?  I mean, how is this relationship going --

MS HARF:  Right.

QUESTION:  -- especially since in the past it has not been the most constructive at times?

MS HARF:  Well, I would say when it comes to these capabilities, they are for internal counterterrorism uses inside Pakistan – so to be very clear about that, going after terrorists inside their own country.  So this is what it’s designed to do.  And we obviously have many ways of monitoring how weapons we sell to any country are used in terms of end use and how we monitor that.  That’s obviously something we care very deeply about. 

QUESTION:  Do you trust the Pakistanis?

MS HARF:  This isn’t about trust.  This is about being able to see where our weapons go, see what they’re used for, and that’s something we are confident we are able to do.

QUESTION:  What if they use – what if, for example, you find out that Pakistan is using the arms by the U.S. in Yemen, for example?

MS HARF:  I think that’s a bit of a not realistic hypothetical here.  I don’t think that would be very cost effective.

QUESTION:  Possibly if they get the resources from the U.S., that means they can devote other resources they might have had to sending soldiers or whatever to Yemen.  So I mean, it is --

MS HARF:  I’m not sure there is a factual basis to back up these questions.  I understand why they’re interesting, but if you think there’s actually a realistic chance that would happen, I’m happy to entertain those questions with my team.

QUESTION:  Do you get – do you guys support Pakistan sending ground troops to Yemen?

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MS HARF:  I understand that.

I’m sorry?

QUESTION:  Do you guys support --

MS HARF:  But I think the Pakistanis want these because they have a problem in their own country that they need to work on.  So --

QUESTION:  But do you support them sending ground troops to Yemen?

MS HARF:  Every country can make their own decisions about how they – if and how they participate in the Saudi-led coalition.  We have said that we are supporting them logistically, as I said, with munitions and other arms as well.  Every country can make their own decisions about that.  That’s not for us to decide.


QUESTION:  You said it isn’t about trust, but Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally and there is an element of trust that goes into that, is there not?

MS HARF:  Absolutely.  But we don’t just base these things on trust.  There are ways in our weapons sales with other countries that we have of monitoring their end use and where they end up.  That’s why these things are built into these kinds of deals.

QUESTION:  I have one more, unrelated.

MS HARF:  Yes, okay.

QUESTION:  Are – North Korea says that it has deported an American woman.

MS HARF:  I saw that.  We can’t – we’ve seen the reports.  We can’t confirm that yet.  We’re trying to.

QUESTION:  Well, do you – I wasn’t aware, but I’ve been preoccupied with Iran and not really paying attention.

MS HARF:  As have I.

QUESTION:  Exactly.  But did you – were you aware that this woman had been – was in custody?

MS HARF:  We had seen those reports and we’re also working – we’ve been working to confirm them since – I think since some of these reports started coming out, and for privacy don’t have much more to share.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Well, do you know, did the Swedes get to see her?  Is this recent?

MS HARF:  For privacy reasons I don’t have much more to share, or anything else to share.

QUESTION:  So you can’t confirm that she’s been deported; you can’t even confirm that she was detained?

MS HARF:  Correct.  We don’t know – we can’t confirm any of the details that have been reported.

QUESTION:  Anything.

QUESTION:  Can I stay on North Korea?

MS HARF:  You can, yes.

QUESTION:  Yesterday, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command Gortney said in a briefing U.S. Government assessment is that North Korea has the ability to put the nuclear weapon on KN-08 and shoot it at the U.S. homeland.  And then today, South Korean Government said they contacted the U.S. Government to have the clarification on his statement, and then they said the U.S. Government said his remark is not the U.S. Government’s position.  Do you --

MS HARF:  Did you check with DOD on that, given it was a Defense official?  I don’t actually know the facts here.  I hadn’t seen his comments.  I’m happy to check with my colleagues at the Defense Department, but they’re probably better able to speak to one of their official’s statements.

QUESTION:  But no comment on --

MS HARF:  I hadn’t even seen the comment, so I don’t even know what the answer is.


MS HARF:  But check with DOD.

Yes, Abigail.

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

MS HARF:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  And I apologize if you’ve already addressed this, but would it be – will we know when Kerry has made his recommendation to the President or – when it comes to the state sponsor of terror?

MS HARF:  There’re – these are all parts of the internal process.  We’re just not going to get into when different pieces happen.  When we have something to announce, we will do so.

Anything else?

QUESTION:  Just a house --

MS HARF:  Yes.  Okay, go ahead, yes.

QUESTION:  It’s just a housekeeping --

MS HARF:  Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION:  On Kerry.  You – I’m sorry.  You said the Secretary is going next week to the Hill on Iran, or --

MS HARF:  So – yes, I said he will be.  We don’t – I don’t have more details to share.  We’re trying to work out his travel schedule.  We’re going to Germany for the G7.

QUESTION:  But it is next week.  It’s not --

MS HARF:  That’s what the – no, it’s not this week.  We go to Panama tomorrow morning and aren’t back till late on Friday night, so not much more time.

Yes, Abigail, and then we’ll go around the room.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Back to the hacking thing that was discussed yesterday and the reports that are saying that hackers, Russian or otherwise, may have come through the State Department portal in order to access the White House.  Do you have any comment on that, or if there was any --

MS HARF:  We don’t.  As people know, this is referring to the same incident we talked about months ago, but we don’t have more comment on those reports.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) as to that incident months ago, some of the reports are that the hackers haven’t left.  So it may have happened months ago, but traces of the attack are still present.  Can you deny that?

MS HARF:  As I said, we don’t have much more comment on this than we’ve already said.

QUESTION:  Because you can dismiss it as old news, but if they’re still --

MS HARF:  I wasn’t dismissing it.  I was just being clear there wasn’t something new.  I think some people were confused about that yesterday.

QUESTION:  But if they’re still in there, then it’s --

MS HARF:  Technical term.

QUESTION:  Yeah, well --

MS HARF:  “In there.”

QUESTION:  -- look it up.

MS HARF:  I just don’t have much more comment on this for you.


MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  I was wondering if you had any information – apparently the U.S. helped Uganda in the arrest of this former detainee from Guantanamo who was arrested for assassinating a prosecutor. 

MS HARF:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can you just elaborate or give us more details on what specifically the U.S. role was in assisting the Ugandans?

MS HARF:  Yeah.  So we can confirm that U.S. Government personnel supported a Ugandan operation that successfully apprehended several individuals suspected of being involved in the assassination of the senior principal state attorney.  This support was provided at the request of Ugandan authorities.  We’re not, I think, going to get into the details of the nature of that support; can confirm that one of those detained in the operation was a former Guantanamo detainee who was released in 2006.

Anything else?

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MS HARF:  Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:27 p.m.)

DPB #58 

# # #


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 7, 2015

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 21:52

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 7, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


MS. HARF: Hi. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have two items at the top, and then we’ll get to your questions. And I have to be off the podium at about 5 till 1:00 so let’s – your questions are always essential, I know, but let’s keep them extra essential today.

Some readouts of Deputy Secretary Blinken’s meetings overseas yesterday: He was in Lebanon in Beirut, where he met with the Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the Lebanese Armed Forces commander, the speaker of parliament, and the UN special coordinator for Lebanon. He also participated in a roundtable of UN and NGO officials to discuss the humanitarian response in Lebanon and the way forward.

Today he was in Riyadh, where he met with Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, the Minister of Interior Mohamed bin Nayif, Yemeni President Hadi. He also met with the Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman. He, I think, did a press conference or will be shortly, so be on the lookout for that transcript as well. His next stop is Abu Dhabi.

And today, the Kyrgyz Republic commemorates the fifth anniversary of protests calling for greater public accountability and respect for human rights. This ultimately led to the first democratic transition of presidential power in Central Asia from the interim president – and I’m going to do the best I can at these names, everyone – Roza Otunbaeva – baeva, to the current President Almazbek Atambayev as well – I know this name sounds sort of familiar, so I wanted to be as accurate as I could there – after elections in October 2011. It’s also fitting that today marks the arrival of their foreign minister in Washington to co-chair the Third Annual Bilateral Consultations in which we will discuss a full range of bilateral and regional issues.

Brad, start us off.

QUESTION: Just following up on the Deputy Secretary’s meeting --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- with the Yemeni president. What was his message? I didn’t see the press conference. Maybe it’s happened.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure of the timing, if it’s happened or will shortly.

QUESTION: I’m not sure we’ll be able to see it here.

MS. HARF: We’ll certainly have a transcript. Hello, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you just describe the message he was coming to – with to meet the Yemeni president?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s the message we’ve said repeatedly over the past several days and weeks, that we – that President Hadi remains the legitimate president of Yemen, that we are supporting the Saudi-led coalition in a variety of ways in their response to the unilateral aggressive military action by the Houthis. So this was a message he spoke with the Saudis about and also with President Hadi about as well.

QUESTION: How fast would you hope to see him return to his country that he is the legitimate leader of, as you say?

MS. HARF: As quickly as possible, of course.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any hopes of that being immediate, do you?

MS. HARF: Well, this isn’t about what we hope for. It’s about what we think is possible. We believe that the path forward here needs to be a return to political dialogue. Obviously, that is a challenge at the moment. So we hope that this will happen soon.

QUESTION: Just on the sequencing of that, do you hope that the dialogue would facilitate his return, or that the military efforts of the Saudis and others would lead to his return and then Houthis that are on the run would then ask to join the dialogue?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to predict in terms of sequencing.


QUESTION: Can you talk about the --

QUESTION: I mean, do you have a --

MS. HARF: -- I have no idea.

QUESTION: What’s the strategy here? It’s not working at this point, right?

MS. HARF: Well, the strategy writ large has been to support the anti-Houthi coalition as they are taking action against the Houthi in order to prompt a return to political dialogue. I don’t have more specifics to outline about the timing of what each piece of that might look like.

QUESTION: So what are the --

MS. HARF: Yes, Roz.

QUESTION: So what is the decision to send in more arms to the coalition – what kinds of weapons are we talking about? How quickly can they be delivered? And is it envisioned that at some point the U.S. might be joining the air war against the Houthis?

MS. HARF: Well, I saw those reports, and I think those actually aren’t entirely accurate representations of the conversations on the ground. I’m checking with the Deputy Secretary and his team. I don’t have a full readout of those meetings. But it’s my understanding that he reiterated in general what our policy has been to logistically support this coalition, including with things like intelligence. So obviously, that’s what we’ve been doing for a long time. I think some of those reports might have been a little inaccurate, so I’m checking with our folks and seeing if we can clarify a bit.

QUESTION: But the Reuters report is quoting him on the record as saying we’re going to speed up weapons deliveries to the coalition --

MS. HARF: I’m checking to see if those are accurate, Roz. I’m not entirely sure they are. That’s why I’m checking with the team on the ground.

QUESTION: And what about the idea of whether the U.S. would be inclined to join the air war in any fashion beyond providing refueling?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard talk of that. As we’ve said, we are supporting this effort with logistical support, intelligence support, obviously, to the Saudis as they lead this effort. But I don’t have anything else to predict in terms of what might happen.

QUESTION: You don’t have or there is no intention to speed up the arms --

MS. HARF: Support?

QUESTION: Yeah, to the Saudis.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said we’re giving logistical support, including intelligence. I don’t have any new announcements to make for you about what that support might look like. We understand this is a very serious situation. We’ve been providing it as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: What about the possible deployment --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that one just --

MS. HARF: I think Said had a follow-up, and then I’ll go to you, Arshad.

QUESTION: It’s okay. Very quickly, what about the possible deployment of ground forces? I mean, there was talk that they are reaching out to the Pakistanis. There is talk that they are doing it among themselves – the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’m not really going to get into hypotheticals, I don’t think. I’ve seen some of those comments, but I don’t have any more analysis to do of what that might look like.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Just on the – clarifying on – you’re uncertain about those reports being accurate.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re talking about the reports quoting Deputy Secretary Blinken?

MS. HARF: Saying that we had promised to send weapons and additional weapons to the anti-Houthi coalition, that’s correct. I just spoke with his team. I’m going to talk to them on the ground. It’s my understanding that he reiterated our longstanding policy of providing logistical support that the military is providing to the Saudi-led coalition, but I’m checking on those details.

QUESTION: Okay. Because what he’s quoted as saying is, “We have expedited weapons deliveries,” so I just wanted to see if your concern was that he was misquoted and that’s not what he said, or if he said it but misspoke.

MS. HARF: Arshad, this just happened. I’m trying to talk to the team on the ground. I’m trying to get a little more clarity about all of those issues right now. I just don’t have any more updates for you.

QUESTION: A couple more on Yemen. Do you have any updated plans or non-plans on possible evacuations?

MS. HARF: Nothing to update for you on that. As we’ve said, we are putting out information – and yesterday, I think Matt asked how we’re sending information to American citizens. If you enroll in STEP, which is our online system, we will text message you or send you emails. We also post it on our website, our embassy website, disseminating information to folks to let them know what their options are. I think one thing to remember here is that it’s – really, each individual needs to assess their security situation and determine whether it’s better to shelter in place or try and take advantage of one of these other opportunities that we are alerting people to.

QUESTION: And then I just had a separate question on Iran’s role. Is it your understanding that Iran’s support in terms of weapons and/or other, let’s say, questionable assistance to the Houthis continues, or has that dried up at this point?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it continues. I haven’t heard that it has ended.

QUESTION: I mean, how are they still getting weapons into the country if --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on how that’s actually working on the ground --


MS. HARF: -- but it’s my understanding their support continues.

QUESTION: Staying on evacuations --

MS. HARF: Well, let’s go to Matt – okay, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was late. I’ll wait.

MS. HARF: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: And it’s on the same topical – the Indian ministry of external affairs has posted on their Facebook page more than 26 countries requesting them for help in this, and U.S. is one of them in there.

MS. HARF: (Sneezes.)

QUESTION: Bless you.

QUESTION: Bless you. Can you --

MS. HARF: Okay. It’s allergy season, everyone. Sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you confirm if we have requested them, or what is the status?

MS. HARF: Well, we sent messages – an emergency message to American citizens in – who had – in Yemen and posted on our website that advised – on April 6 that advised they may be able to leave Yemen on an Indian naval ship. We also understand that the Government of India may be chartering flights out of Sana’a. The airports remain closed, but they are open on a case-by-case basis for, I think, chartered flights. So the Indian Government has offered to assist American citizens with – and give them the opportunity to use these – either the ship or other ways to get out of the country. So we are grateful for that.

QUESTION: How many have availed of this opportunity? Do you have any figures?

MS. HARF: We’re aware of some American citizens, a small number, who have availed themselves of these opportunities. We just don’t have a good estimate on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: I would like to go to Iran --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and the President’s rather unusual sales job in this most recent interview in which he said that after 13 years, Iran would have the capability or could have the capability to produce a weapon. Is the idea simply --

MS. HARF: That quote, I think, that people are referring to – I think his words were a little mixed up there, but what he was referring to was a scenario in which there was no deal. And if you go back and look at the transcript, I know it’s a little confusing. I spoke to the folks at the White House and read it a few times. It’s my understanding that he was referring to – even though it was a little muddled in the words – to a scenario in which there was no deal.

QUESTION: But I thought that without a deal, they could – they’re at breakout in two to three months --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- not 13 years.

MS. HARF: Right, right. He wasn’t saying something different. It was more of a hypothetical: Well, look, without a deal, this is what could possibly happen. He was not indicating what would happen under an agreement in those years.

QUESTION: So after 13 years, if there is a deal based on the parameters that you got in Lausanne, the Administration’s contention is that they still would not be able to – they would still not be able to produce – they would still be a year away?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said, we needed to get to a year breakout – up to – at least a year breakout time for at least 10 years. Given that we’re still – part of the negotiations remains what happens to some of those pieces in those further-on years, I don’t have a specific breakout time to put onto those years at this point, but obviously we want as long of a breakout time for as long as possible.

QUESTION: So the year --

MS. HARF: So it would not be zero. I mean, that’s why he was addressing a hypothetical scenario in which there was no agreement.

QUESTION: Does that mean that the year – say, year 11 – hasn’t been decided?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our technical team, Matt, and see. There’s some – there’s still some items to be negotiated in those years and when it comes to some of the research and development, for example, which affects breakout time.


MS. HARF: As I said, I think, yesterday or the day before or last week, breakout time doesn’t go up very quickly, it doesn’t go down very quickly. These – there’s all these different pieces to this.


MS. HARF: Given there are still pieces of those additional years to negotiate, I don’t have a specific breakout time to give you today.

QUESTION: But we’ve been told since the beginning that there would – 10 years for one thing, 15, 20, 25 --

MS. HARF: Fifteen, 25, absolutely. Those are – and – but many of those are transparency measures. Some of the issues that affect breakout, like research and development, for example, in outer years, is still being negotiated.

QUESTION: So your contention would be, then, that in the out years, should Iran move within the agreement to closer than a year breakout or even actually develop a weapon, they --

MS. HARF: Well, they would not be able to develop a weapon under the guidelines they are operating under, including the Additional Protocol, which is a forever commitment.

QUESTION: Well, if they abide by it.

MS. HARF: Correct, and if they don’t, we will see that very quickly, and we will have every option on the table --


MS. HARF: -- we have today. We will have them then to respond quickly.

QUESTION: So the benefit is that you’ll be able to see them building a bomb, right?

MS. HARF: That’s – Matt, that’s what we’ve always said, that they have the technological knowhow in their country already. They have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. So the goal with this agreement has always been to push their breakout time to a year, to get the kind of transparency that we would see very quickly if they attempted to break out and we would have time to act. That’s always been the premise underlying this agreement.

QUESTION: Okay. So – all right. But you’re saying that all of the out-years stuff is still to be negotiated?



MS. HARF: I said some of it is, and so that’s why I don’t have a precise breakout time to give you today.

QUESTION: In terms of the --

MS. HARF: Not all of it; some of it.

QUESTION: And the transparency, though, is resolved?

MS. HARF: Well, as we – well, transparency’s a big topic with a lot of things under it. Obviously, the Additional Protocol is a key part of transparency. That’s a forever commitment they’ve already agreed to, as is modified Code 3.1. When it comes to the three covert – or, excuse me, overt facilities – Arak, Natanz, and Fordow – we’ve already worked out with them a very serious inspections regime to include technological things like cameras. So there are some details, yes, that still need to be worked out. But much of the transparency already has been.

QUESTION: Is it not correct that Iran already said that it would abide by the Additional Protocol --

MS. HARF: As part of this --

QUESTION: -- years ago?

MS. HARF: They may have said that, but they haven’t.


MS. HARF: And so as part of the JCPA, they have agreed to first provisionally apply it and then ratify it, which is the process countries go through under the Additional Protocol, and they have agreed to do that.

QUESTION: Okay. Is PMD something that’s in the out years?

MS. HARF: Well, PMD’s always an issue. As I’ve said on PMD, and I’m happy to say it again, that we have with the Iranians – this is obviously one of the issues that still needs to be discussed, but we have a path forward and have an agreement that they will undertake a PMD access list process. Now what that – how that plays out over the next three months is something that still needs to be negotiated.

QUESTION: I understand, but you’re – you envision that within the first 10 years or you envision that within the out years?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics than that.

QUESTION: So it could be either, is that what you’re saying?

MS. HARF: Well, it still has to be negotiated. But the PMD access list obviously is something that’s very important to us, period.

QUESTION: Yeah, but anyone can draw up a list. That doesn’t mean – a list of sites, you mean?

MS. HARF: A list, as I said, of people and places where the IAEA will have access required. That’s the process we will undertake over the next three months to come to an agreement on that list. As I’ve also said, the Additional Protocol and what we’ve agreed under the parameters have built-in mechanisms for the IAEA requesting access anywhere --

QUESTION: Right, right. But is that --

MS. HARF: -- and the process for resolution if there are disagreements about whether they should have access.

QUESTION: Is that – does that – is that list actually to be negotiated?

MS. HARF: Correct, there’s a --

QUESTION: So in other words, they could give you --

MS. HARF: They’ve agreed to undertake this process.

QUESTION: They could give you a list that, say, does not have Parchin on it?

MS. HARF: As I said on Friday – I know you weren’t here – we would find it very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such access at Parchin. But yes, the specifics of that list are – still remain to be negotiated, but we won’t agree to a final comprehensive joint plan of action if we can’t agree to a list that we are happy with.

QUESTION: So Marie --

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? On the ratify, on the --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s my recollection that the JPOA did indeed say, in sketching out the outlines of a future comprehensive agreement, that Iran would implement and seek to ratify.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But the parameters that were released on Thursday doesn’t – in the portion on the Additional Protocol does not say ratify, it just says implement. And I wanted to ask --

MS. HARF: There’s no reason. It’s the same thing. Same context.

QUESTION: It’s the same thing. So you still expect them to ratify.

MS. HARF: And they’ve agreed to do so. Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: Great. And then second thing –

(A power outage occurs. There is a pause before recording resumes.)

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you about (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for the dispute (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Sure. You can put them right here. Look, at the lip right here. Keep going, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah. And you said that you would check to see if there’s more you could share on that.

MS. HARF: Yeah. We don’t have more details on that to share publicly at this point. But suffice to say it would be a quick resolution process, and when we have more on that I’m happy to share.


QUESTION: One last one for me on this.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: In terms of the Additional Protocol, you’re, I’m sure, well aware that there’s a visa clause in the Additional Protocol that requires – in the model one – that requires the country to grant a visa within 30 days, which is not that --

MS. HARF: A visa for the inspectors?

QUESTION: Correct. Yes.

MS. HARF: Got it.

QUESTION: But it’s a way to ensure that the country doesn’t just slow-roll things by not granting the visas. But my question is: Does your dispute resolution process envisage something quicker than 30 days? Or is it the benchmark and the Additional Protocol --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to say that 30 days is what is in our dispute resolution process. We’re just not going to get into more details on that. And I am happy to check on the visa clause. I actually wasn’t aware of that, so I can check.

QUESTION: Okay. But my – just so we’re clear, when you say you’re not going to talk about that, you can’t say if it would be quicker than 30 days or --

MS. HARF: I understand that you want more details on it, but I’m just not going to give them to you at this point.

QUESTION: May – I just want to follow up on the inspections. I asked you yesterday about precedent, if there is any precedent --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that the IAEA could follow. Absent precedent – or maybe there is in Iraq precedent – by the way, this reminds me of the Iraq (inaudible).

MS. HARF: This is amazing.

QUESTION: So how would they do it? I mean, they would have offices, they would come like in (inaudible)? How would they do it?

MS. HARF: In terms of the centrifuge storage – I’m trying not to laugh; this is just amusing to me – but in terms of the centrifuge storage, so they will be stored by – they will not – excuse me. The centrifuges will not be stored by the IAEA. It will be stored under IAEA surveillance and monitoring. And yesterday I said they will be stored in facilities that are monitored by the IAEA. They – we have confidence in their ability to do this. I don’t have more details for you on where else they might have done this – in other countries, I think you’re asking, right?

QUESTION: So is this like the minibar, where if they pull one out it automatically goes to their computer --

MS. HARF: I’m probably not going to use that example --

QUESTION: Bad example.

MS. HARF: -- to compare something in Iran to.

QUESTION: That they will know immediately if one is taken off the shelf?

MS. HARF: Correct. And as I said yesterday, in order to put back together the centrifuge cascades in their configuration to enrich uranium, that would take over two years.

(Announcement about power outage.)

MS. HARF: Breaking news: The power’s out. (Laughter.) I’m not sure the Iran team meeting’s going to start at one if the power’s out upstairs.

QUESTION: Let’s remove that number from the transcript.

QUESTION: I hope they have generators for upstairs. Don’t you?

MS. HARF: I don’t know, guys. This is – okay.

QUESTION: Let’s move on.

MS. HARF: Let’s just do a couple more.

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on, I think, Cuba, you wanted to ask about? Anything new on the state sponsor of terror review?

MS. HARF: No. The process is ongoing. I think you heard Ben Rhodes today on a conference call mention that we believe it will be completed soon. I’m not sure what his exact words were. So the process is moving forward. I would agree with his assessment that nothing new to update folks on today.

QUESTION: And when you say it will be repeated – will be finished soon, that means you have basically all the information you need to make the assessment --

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into the internal process, but --

QUESTION: But you do on things like Keystone, for example.

MS. HARF: No. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the internal process.

QUESTION: You’ve said that we have received all the information from other agencies --

MS. HARF: Well, but that’s a total – that’s a different kind of – I mean, yes, the internal process continues. I’m not going to get into the specifics, but --

QUESTION: Why? Is – are any of the agencies slow-rolling you?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure this is the same in terms of other agencies. I understand that they provide input, but I think that may have happened a while ago.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) not complete --

QUESTION: There’s a report out there that the State Department will --

QUESTION: -- the review is not complete?

MS. HARF: Let’s just do one at a time. Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So the review is not yet complete?

MS. HARF: And when we – when it is complete and ready to go and we have something to announce, we will do so.

QUESTION: Have something to announce is different from it being complete.

MS. HARF: I just said when it’s complete.

QUESTION: Right. So you’re not saying whether it’s complete.

MS. HARF: I’m saying – well, which part of it, Arshad? There are a number of parts of it. Eventually the President will have to make a determination.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m talking about the State Department review. Is that now complete?

MS. HARF: Well, but the State Department review is part of a bigger review that we make a recommendation, the President signs off on it. No, we do not – that process is still ongoing. It is not yet complete. When it is complete, we will let folks know. But we do expect that to be soon.

QUESTION: You expect that to be soon. Do you expect that to be before the Summit of the Americas?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specific predictions to make for you on timing, except for that we hope it’s soon, or we expect it to be soon.

QUESTION: There’s a report --

MS. HARF: Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There’s a report that says within a day you will recommend that Cuba be taken off the terror list.

MS. HARF: I’ve seen a number of anonymous reports guessing about when this might happen. Given the process is still ongoing, I don’t have anything else to predict at this point.

QUESTION: And is it yet on the Secretary’s desk? I mean, is it --

MS. HARF: I can’t see who that is.

QUESTION: Is it still not to the Secretary’s --

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to get into where it is in the internal process until we’re finished.


QUESTION: On Japan, do you have a reaction to the blue book on foreign policy?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. You have to speak up, because there’s no microphones.

QUESTION: On Japan, they just now issued a blue book on your foreign policy. What’s your reaction?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Let me check with our team and get you a response.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick one about a treaty between the U.S. and Canada?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: The Columbia River Treaty is apparently now being reviewed after 50 years of being enforced. Can you update us on where the review process is and what the deadline is to make a decision on whether to re-ratify the treaty?

MS. HARF: Yes. The U.S. Government has already begun to engage internally on the Columbia River Treaty. We’re deliberating issues surrounding the treaty, gathering input, Brad, from various federal agencies at this – federal government agencies at this time. We will get perspectives from people. Also, there is no deadline for negotiations on this. It does not have an expiration date. It is an agreement that went into effect in 1964.

QUESTION: Is there any anticipation that the U.S. would want to withdraw from the treaty for any reason?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard any more on the treaty except for what I just told you.

QUESTION: Okay. Any indication from the Canadians that they’re also undertaking a similar review?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I haven’t heard, Roz. I’m happy to check for you.


MS. HARF: Just a couple more.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask on the Palestinian issue real quickly.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I wonder if you followed up on the arrest of the Palestinian legislator, the female Palestinian legislator Khaleda Jarrar.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything more for you than yesterday, Said.

QUESTION: I also wanted to bring your attention, today the Israelis raided a house and actually handed over a warrant – like an arrest warrant for a child 11 years old, that has agreed to go and turn himself into the (inaudible) at the settlement of (inaudible). I wonder if you have any comment on (inaudible).

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Let me check with our folks. That’s helpful. Thank you. Thank you, I’ll check. Yes.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything on Pakistan? The judge ordered that criminal charges be filed against a former top CIA lawyer who oversaw its drone program.

MS. HARF: I had not heard that.

QUESTION: His words --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check, but I expect we’ll have no comment.

QUESTION: Marie, just one more on Japan. Have you seen the – their decision on the textbook changes and where Japanese Government they want to use a textbook and also soften the tone on the – their aggression in World War Two?

MS. HARF: What was your second question? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: What’s your reaction on Japan’s adjustments to their textbook, especially on the part where they want softened tone of aggression (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: So we don’t have specific reactions on particular textbook questions. I know we’ve gotten these in the past, and we’re just probably not going to wade in there. In terms of historical issues, we have consistently encouraged Japan to approach these historical issues arising from the past in a manner that is conducive to building stronger relations with its neighbors, but no specific comment on the textbook.

QUESTION: But in general, do you think the moves to adjust the textbook on the historic issues (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: We just don’t have more comment on the textbook issue.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have just a question on new information relating to Sergeant Bergdahl. There is allegations now – it’s related to the NCIS investigation in 2009 that showed he apparently showed intent to travel to Uzbekistan, did multiple searches on his computer related to Russian organized crime, and also made contact with a local Afghan in what seemed to be an effort to basically ease his departure from the base. So I was just wondering if you have any comment on these allegations and whether in light of this information it’s changed the position that he served with honor and distinction.

MS. HARF: Well, I think those are – given there’s an investigation ongoing – questions not best answered here. But there is an ongoing investigation, so I’d point you to the Department of Defense. I know they’re the ones undertaking the investigation. They can speak to that; we certainly can’t.

Anything else? In the back. I can’t see who it is.

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s Alex (inaudible) with ABC News.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: I was just wondering, is there any planned meeting between Bruno Rodriguez and John Kerry?

MS. HARF: Between the Secretary of State and the Cuban foreign minister?


MS. HARF: We expect there may be at the upcoming Summit of the Americas. The schedule’s not quite confirmed yet, but we will let folks know as we are able to do so. But nothing – nothing to confirm at this point, but there’s a chance that there will be.

QUESTION: Is there a chance that the President might meet with President Raul Castro?

MS. HARF: I think the White House has spoken to this and said that they’re – they expect to interact --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: “Interact,” I think, is the word they used, or there to be an interaction. But I think they can speak more to the President’s planned schedule.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SYRIARUSSIA">MS. HARF: Anything on the meeting between the Syrian regime and the opposition, internal opposition in Russia?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. This is hard to do with one hand. Okay. Yes, just give me one second.

This is a Russian-led initiative, as we’ve said before. We were not invited nor were we involved in the planning. I think the Russian Government can give you more details. We’ve been clear that we welcome any initiative that makes genuine progress towards addressing Syrians’ core grievances and works towards a sustainable solution to the conflict, of course, in line with the Geneva communique principles. But we’re not involved in it.

QUESTION: And any update on the Yarmouk camps?

MS. HARF: No, no update on that today.

Anything else? Yes. So just – I have to hop off in just a second anyway, so --

QUESTION: Just one minute. Can we go back to the non-evacuation of U.S. citizens from Yemen?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: The website Matt was mentioning yesterday, StuckInYemen, they say that hundreds of U.S. citizen are still trapped in Yemen. There is a U.S.-American --

MS. HARF: (Sneezes.) This is like the most crazy press briefing today, by the way. (Laughter.) I’m sneezing. There’s no lights. Yes.

QUESTION: There is a Yemeni American citizen who is coming back to San Francisco this afternoon. So I don’t – I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I don’t understand why what the Indians are able to do would not be possible for the U.S. to (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Well, it’s just a balancing act – hi, Matt – between resources and the security situation. We have at the State Department heard from probably hundreds of American citizens, many Yemeni Americans, and not all of them ask how they can leave. Some of them just ask what resources we have, what we could – what other – what possibilities there are. But not all of them uniformly ask to leave, so I just want to put that in a little context.

And that’s why we’re highlighting for people opportunities to leave on other, as we’ve said, aircraft or maritime vessels. And at this point, again, no plan to evacuate American citizens. We are giving them opportunities, though, to do so or are highlighting opportunities for them elsewhere.

QUESTION: Marie, I know you probably talked about this before. Are they mainly Yemeni Americans or are they like (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Overwhelmingly dual citizens.

QUESTION: Are there families with children and so on?

MS. HARF: The ones that we are aware of are overwhelmingly dual citizens. But again, we don’t have a good count for how many there are just because there’s no way to do this. We would encourage people who, as Nicolas mentioned, go on this other website, they should go on the State Department website. That’s the best way for them to get information from us about possible ways to either get out or support that we can offer.

Anything else, guys?

QUESTION: Good, thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 6, 2015

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 15:58

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 6, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


MS HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have one item at the top.

QUESTION: Does it have to do with opening day?

MS HARF: It doesn’t, although I tweeted about it. Happy opening day, everyone. I bought my Cardinals tickets for when they’re in town to play the Nats in a few weeks, so very excited about that.

One item at the top on Afghanistan. Today we honor the memory of Anne Smedinghoff, a Foreign Service officer who was taken from her family, her friends, and this department in an attack two years ago today in Zabul province, Afghanistan. We also honor the memories of three U.S. soldiers, an Afghan-American translator and an Afghan doctor who were also lost that day. In honor of Anne Smedinghoff and the others killed in Zabul as well as the seven individuals wounded who still carry their injuries with them to this day, the Embassy in Kabul today continued her mission by delivering textbooks to Afghan school children in Zabul province, part of our ongoing public diplomacy efforts similar to the ones she was working on there. We honor their memories and their service to the United States and Afghanistan.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. I recognize that Secretary Moniz was at the White House and --

MS HARF: I know. I’m sorry. I don’t have a special guest today like the White House did, but --

QUESTION: Well, you know. Whatever.

MS HARF: I know. The Secretary of Energy can only be in one place at one time.

QUESTION: Well, we’ll take you, Marie.

MS HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. And I – he said something that I have a question about.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And this has to do with plutonium --

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the spent fuel to sent – to be sent out of the country for --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- the entire lifetime of the Arak heavy water reactor.

MS HARF: That is correct.

QUESTION: And then that any excess heavy water will be sold on the international market.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So what is the point of running these things if the product of it for R&D is not for electricity or energy, but it’s just to produce this excess, what will all be sent out of the country or sold?

MS HARF: Well, I think I would ask the Iranians what the purpose of that is. Of course, as we’ve said, the goal with Arak was to shut down the plutonium pathway. It does – it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. And as he said – you mentioned some of the other things he said about what will happen to what comes out of that process. But you’d have to ask Iran what the purpose would be of having that reactor there.

QUESTION: Well, I mean is it turning – basically it turns into like a money-making proposition where they can sell what – I mean, is that the idea here?

MS HARF: I am quite honestly not sure. I’m happy to check with our team.

QUESTION: Because it --

MS HARF: And just to follow up on a question someone had the other day about heavy water reactors – sorry, then you can go on – a number of other countries have heavy water reactors for the production of civil nuclear energy or medical isotope production, including Argentina, Algeria, Canada, China, Romania, the ROK, and some others. So other people had asked if other countries had --

QUESTION: Right. But --

MS HARF: -- heavy water reactors for non-weapons purposes.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re saying you don’t know what they would use them for. I mean, and it doesn’t say – I mean, maybe they will use them for power generation.

MS HARF: It will support peaceful nuclear research and radio isotope production.

QUESTION: But if they have to send everything out of the country or they’re going to, I mean, this seems to be a money-making thing for them.

MS HARF: Well, no. I think it’s a research thing on – research effort on radio isotope production, so non-weapons-related research.

QUESTION: Right, but if they have to sell everything – I mean I guess my issue is --

MS HARF: It will still support this radio isotope production is my understanding.

QUESTION: But isn’t that what the Fordow and that – all that is already going to do?

MS HARF: Well, I think it’s a little different technically.

QUESTION: But I mean, here’s my – my issue with – well, issue. Not issue. My question is, I mean, it seems to me like you’re – this isn’t a lemonade stand that’s being set up for them to make a little money.


QUESTION: I mean, it seems like they’ll make a little money on the side here.

MS HARF: I don’t think this has anything to do with money, making money.

QUESTION: It doesn’t? Okay.

MS HARF: I have not heard that --

QUESTION: All right.

MS HARF: -- from the team in the last several weeks we’ve been there.


MS HARF: I’m happy to check and see if that’s a part of this, but I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I just – I wanted to know: Is it correct that verification – transparent verification, IAEA, is still – IAEA is still to be negotiated, like their access and that kind of thing is still --

MS HARF: Well, to which piece of it? A lot of the details of that have already been worked out. Are you talking about a specific facility or --

QUESTION: I’m talking about the whole thing. I mean, are there details of the IAEA access and what they will actually be able to do and when they will be able to do it that are still to be negotiated between now and --

MS HARF: There are some that are still to be negotiated, but as we’ve said, they will have daily access to the three overt facilities through a mix of inspections and other means, like technical means such as cameras. That’s obviously the overt pathways. In terms of the covert pathway, we will have monitoring of the entire supply chain from uranium mines and mills up through centrifuge production. We’ve also said that under the Additional Protocol, which is obviously something Iran has said they will first provisionally implement, then ultimately ratify, we will have additional transparency measures that are built into the Additional Protocol.

QUESTION: So what is left to be determined as it relates to verification and access for the IAEA?

MS HARF: Well, I think some of the technicalities about how it will actually work. These are obviously the parameters and the principles that we have agreed to, but there are a lot of details about how this will actually work. But everything we’ve outlined publicly has been agreed to.

QUESTION: I understand, but like what? What still needs – can you give me an example of, like, what --

MS HARF: I’m happy to see what more details still need to be looked at on this.

QUESTION: Because, I mean, that seems like a – if there’s a technicality that has to be still negotiated and it ends up that Iran can say no, then that would seem to be a big problem, right?

MS HARF: Well, they can’t say no. As you say – I mean, everything that we have in the parameters was already agreed to transparency measures, including most importantly the Additional Protocol, which is the forever commitment which says that Iran will be able to – or the IAEA will be able to request inspections anywhere in Iran whenever they wanted to. There is a mechanism to resolve disputes that may arise from those requests to do so in a timely manner, as Secretary Moniz has said, to get the IAEA the access it needs.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that, but I mean you say, as you just pointed out, it gives them the ability to request. Does it not – it does not give Iran the ability to say no?

MS HARF: Well, as we’ve said – I said on Friday, we negotiated a specific provision for the JCPA that would essentially guarantee the IAEA could access where it wants to go in a timely manner if Iran initially refuses. So there’s a resolution mechanism for that that we have negotiated.

QUESTION: And that – okay. And that is done? I mean --

MS HARF: Well, nothing is final until everything is agreed.

QUESTION: Right, but I want to know --

MS HARF: Nothing is, quote --

QUESTION: -- but you’re saying that there are still --

MS HARF: -- finalized till the final agreement is done.

QUESTION: But there still are some things about access and inspections that --

MS HARF: I’m happy to check if there are specifics --

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one --

MS HARF: -- to share.

QUESTION: -- and your colleague at the White House made a valiant attempt to answer this, but I’m not sure he did, and that is on the sanctions relief.

MS HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What – there does seem to be a discrepancy between what you guys are saying, or what the Secretary – if we go back to Thursday in Lausanne, what the Secretary said and what Foreign Minister Zarif said, and this has continued through the weekend, about the timing of the sanctions relief. Is there any part of that that still is to be negotiated?

MS HARF: There is not a – I think in some of the comments the foreign minister made over the weekend there’s actually not a discrepancy. He acknowledged that as soon as Iran undertakes these steps, they will have the sanctions relief. His – the foreign minister’s point, I think, without speaking for him, is that Iran, if they can do these very quickly, will get the relief very quickly. It’s tied to how fast they can take these nuclear-related steps. I believe he even said it could take five weeks. He put a time period on it.

QUESTION: So in other words --

MS HARF: So there’s no discrepancy between us --

QUESTION: So it --

MS HARF: -- about the fact that after they undertake the key nuclear-related steps, the sanctions suspension, the initial relief will occur. If they can do that more quickly, the relief will come more quickly.

QUESTION: But there isn’t any relief more – there isn’t any relief beyond that already provided by the JPOA on – immediately on the signing of the final deal. Is that correct?

MS HARF: That is – immediately on day one?

QUESTION: Like, June – say, June 30th or who knows, July 1st or 2nd hopefully.

MS HARF: Good estimate. Right.

QUESTION: Hopefully it doesn’t bleed into Independence Day.

QUESTION: Yes, on day one.

QUESTION: But on day one, there isn’t any sanctions relief that – I mean, unless they can do everything – unless they can implement everything --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- in 30 seconds, there is no implementation on day one of more relief?

MS HARF: Correct. Now – that’s correct – the JPOA relief will continue for the next three months. So that continues.

QUESTION: Right. No, but the additional stuff.

MS HARF: But additional relief. But again, if Iran can undertake these steps very quickly, that relief will come very quickly. That’s why what I said on Friday was purely an estimate.

QUESTION: Got you.

MS HARF: And I think that’s what Foreign Minister Zarif said as well over the weekend.

QUESTION: And that relief, when it does come if there is an agreement, will only come after the IAEA or whoever it is that’s going to be – is able to verify that they have taken the steps that they have agreed to do. Yes? Is that correct?

MS HARF: I can double check whether that’s the IAEA. I would assume so. They’ve been doing so under the JPOA.

QUESTION: Whoever it is.

MS HARF: But it would be after those are verified, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And, Marie, one follow-up on what Matt was asking about, specifically on the question of a circumstance in which Iran might refuse access to a site that the IAEA wanted to go to. You said that there was a mechanism that would be set up that would allow for IAEA inspectors to visit such a site --

MS HARF: That is correct.

QUESTION: -- in a timely manner.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What does – how do you define “in a timely manner”? Is that within a day or a week or a month?

MS HARF: I can check and see if there are more details to share on that for you.

QUESTION: Okay. The reason I ask is that because of --

MS HARF: I understand the reason, I think, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Do you? Oh, I’m so glad you understand it.

MS HARF: Go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: The question was asked on Friday: Do you have a sense of the schedule, the timeline of the next round of talks?

MS HARF: We don’t quite yet. Obviously, our experts will get back to work, I think, in short order given so many of these are very technical issues. I don’t have more of a schedule than that for you. I would like one as well.

QUESTION: Marie, on this, when the Secretary participates in the negotiations and --

MS HARF: We just don’t – I mean, I certainly expect him to participate in much of these discussions, we just don’t know yet what the schedule or the work plan will look like.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HARF: On the Secretary’s schedule, though, I’m sorry I forgot to announce at the top: This Thursday and Friday, the Secretary will be going to Panama City for the Summit of the Americas with President Obama. I will have more details to share about his trip in the coming days. But I forgot to do that at the top, sorry.

QUESTION: I knew there was something that you were missing.

MS HARF: Sorry.

QUESTION: One other thing that Secretary --

MS HARF: You’re keeping me honest, Matt.

QUESTION: So one other thing that Secretary Moniz said, which was about – this is about sanctions and snapback in particular.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He said no one country can block snapback.

MS HARF: On UN sanctions.


MS HARF: Obviously, not on unilateral sanctions.

QUESTION: I understand that. So does that mean that two countries could? I’m thinking of two veto-wielding Security Council members.

MS HARF: I – let me check and see. I – let me check and see on the specifics of that.

QUESTION: But is that – is he correct when he – and I realize he is the --

MS HARF: He is correct in --

QUESTION: -- scientific expert, not necessarily the political expert, so --

MS HARF: He is correct in what he said that no one country can.


MS HARF: Let me check and see if there are more specifics.

QUESTION: Well, so in other words, if the Russians and the Chinese both decide --

MS HARF: Let me check, Matt. I’m not sure that’s the case. Let me check.

QUESTION: Well, it seems to be a pretty --

MS HARF: I’m not sure that’s what he was trying to indicate, is my point, by saying no one country can.

QUESTION: As far as you know, is the snapback provision within the P5+1, is that done?

MS HARF: Well, as I’ve said, nothing is done until it’s all agreed.

QUESTION: I understand, but this --

MS HARF: Let’s be careful saying that term.

QUESTION: -- particular issue --

MS HARF: Let me check with our team and see if we can say more about how the UN snapback would work.

QUESTION: Marie, just to clarify this very point.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So in laymen’s terms, if, let’s say, Russia decides to go ahead and do business as usual with Iran, it can or cannot?

MS HARF: I’m sorry, what are you --

QUESTION: In terms of trade and breaking sanctions and so on. I mean --

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- could, let’s say, Russia or China or any of the permanent five do trade and so on independent of the rest.

MS HARF: Well, each country is a little different because we all have a little bit different sanctions.


MS HARF: When it comes to UN sanctions, though, as we’ve said, the current Security Council resolutions will be replaced by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPA and provide sanctions relief, again, only when Iran has taken steps to resolve key nuclear issues. The new UNSCR will impose ongoing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear procurement, requiring states to get approval before supplying sensitive items or engaging in certain nuclear activities with Iran. And as part of this arrangement, restrictions relating to Iran’s arms transfers and ballistic missile activities will also remain in place for a period of time.

So I think I can’t answer that generally. There will still be some restrictions in place; and obviously, everyone will have to operate under those.

QUESTION: And I know you probably addressed this before I got in. Sorry for being late. In terms of the talks, when are they going to resume?

MS HARF: We don’t know yet.

QUESTION: You don’t? Okay. Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes. On this topic still?


MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was hoping you could shed additional light at a point that was --

MS HARF: Can you speak up a little bit?

QUESTION: Oh, sure. Sorry about that.

MS HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: There was a point in the key parameters that you published, a reference to a conflict resolution mechanism that the sides are about to create. What – well, any meat --

MS HARF: Which – there’s a – we have a couple resolution mechanisms we’ve talked about. Specifically regarding which issue?

QUESTION: To be honest with you, I don’t remember. I remember that --

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- only one.

MS HARF: Let me see if I can find the one you may be referring to in the parameters.

QUESTION: Yeah. I was wondering if --

MS HARF: So there’s a dispute resolution process under sanctions. Is that what you’re referring to?

QUESTION: And what is the other one?

MS HARF: Well, there’s also one on inspections.

QUESTION: I would take both if you can do both. (Laughter.)

MS HARF: Okay. What’s your question, I guess, regarding that?

QUESTION: Any additional meat on that? Who’s going to be the arbiter --

MS HARF: I’m about to sneeze.

QUESTION: -- who is going to be taking --

MS HARF: (Sneeze.)

QUESTION: Bless you.

QUESTION: Bless you.

MS HARF: Excuse me.

When it comes to – I don’t have more details to share about either. When it comes to the dispute resolution process for sanctions and whether sanctions – whether any parties not in compliance with the JCPA and therefore sanctions would be snapped back on Iran, there is a process that will enable any JCPA participant to seek to resolve disagreements about commitments through that specific process. There’s a separate process that resolves disputes about requested IAEA access to sites inside Iran, and I don’t have more details about either of those to share at this point. I’m happy to see if there’s more we can say publicly.




MS HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: You’ve probably seen the new article in New York Times regarding Israel’s proposal to this understanding. The Israeli intelligence minister has put out a few points and has said that he’s – or Israel’s going to be talking to the U.S. and the P5+1 in general.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Number one, has – as in before, has anybody from the Administration already spoken with the Israelis on the details of this understanding? And what would you say regarding these points that’ve been offered?

MS HARF: Do you have any – there are a number of points in there.


MS HARF: Do you have any specifics you want to ask about?

QUESTION: Well, regarding research and development in Fordow, there is one. And also they want further reduction in number of centrifuges.

MS HARF: Yeah, and actually, I would say a couple points. The first – and I heard Prime Minister Netanyahu make this argument over the weekend on the Sunday shows about dismantling centrifuges, so I have a little bit more on that that I’m happy to share.

He said that Iran would not dismantle any of its centrifuges; but under the JCPA, Iran will physically remove about 13,000 centrifuges from where they stand today in Iran’s nuclear facilities. All of the pipework that connects these centrifuges to actually enriched uranium – they have to be connected in order to enrich – will be dismantled and also removed. This dismantling will ensure that these centrifuges cannot be brought back online for a long time. And to be very precise, it would take well over two years for Iran to build back what it has today; so in order to reconnect everything that will be disconnected, all those 13,000, as part of this deal.

Obviously, international inspectors would detect within days if they tried to do that, especially given how long it would take them to rebuild. So I think that’s a key point that the prime minister mentioned, and I think I just wanted to give a little more clarity to what will actually happen to the centrifuges that are indeed removed.

QUESTION: Right. They’ve also – there’re also – they want Iran to actually be more transparent about the PMD. Did that come up during the talks at all?

MS HARF: Well, as we said last week, it did come up. Obviously, we want them to be as transparent as possible as well. And as I said on Friday, we are still negotiating over all of the people and places where the IAEA will have access. But we have a path forward: an agreement that Iran will undertake a PMD access list process. I said that very clearly on Friday. That’s one of the things we still have to negotiate the specifics of, but they have agreed in principle to that concept.

QUESTION: So will U.S. Administration officials be speaking with the Israelis soon?

MS HARF: We have spoken to them a number of times. I believe that the President has, although I’m happy to check. Under Secretary Sherman has. Secretary Kerry, I believe, either has or will be speaking to the Israelis today. We have engaged with them throughout this process at the political level, at the expert level. And I think beyond all the details, which we are, of course, sharing with them, the notion that today Iran is only two to three months away from breakout time, and we have pushed that with this agreement to up to six times that – so to a year, at least a year. And so I think at a very top level, our argument is that, of course, makes Israel more secure and safer than the situation they’re in today.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I haven’t been following everything minute by minute. But this question – is there any possibility that you might not come to an agreement at the end of June?

MS HARF: Of course there is. There are a lot of – there’s a lot of work still to be done, as the President and the Secretary have said. The details really matter here. We came quite a long way. I think people – many people were surprised about all the details we were able to announce at the end of this last round of talks. But there is a lot of work to be done, and we are very committed to seeing if we can get it done. But we have to have our bottom lines met in that process, and we don’t know if we’ll be able to. We certainly hope we can.


QUESTION: Marie --

MS HARF: Hold on, Said. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Marie, I have a couple questions. The first one deals with Iran’s regional influence. And you’ve talked about this prior, but not since we’ve had this framework plan and some of the nuts and bolts of what a final agreement might look like. So my first question is: How does State feel at this point about a deal, and how would – it can impact Iran’s relationship with some of its neighbors, in particular in Yemen, in Iraq, in Lebanon? Going forward, how do you feel about this, and is there any additional concern that an agreement could broaden Iran’s influence and destabilize these countries?

MS HARF: Well, at the same time we negotiate over the nuclear issue, we have consistently raised our concerns with Iran’s destabilizing activities in a number of countries you just mentioned there, whether it’s Yemen, whether it’s Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and others. So that’s something we’re very focused on. And I think one of the reasons we are so committed to seeing if we can prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon is if you can imagine how much power they’re able to project today, they would be able to project even more power if that was backed up by a nuclear weapon. So that’s part of the reason we’re so focused on this, and we will continue to speak up and to take actions to counter their destabilizing activities in the region.

QUESTION: And my second --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS HARF: Wait, she has a couple –

QUESTION: A follow-up on the --

MS HARF: Wait. Michel, let’s let her finish all her questions, and then we’ll go around. Yes.

QUESTION: My second question deals with the U.S. position on how an Iran nuclear deal might affect U.S. relations with Afghanistan. In particular, Afghanistan has received development assistance support from Iran. Could a nuclear deal and an eventual lifting of sanctions allow Iran to broaden its influence with Afghanistan at a time when the U.S. is still involved in efforts to help stabilize the country?

MS HARF: I, quite frankly, haven’t heard anyone raise that, and I’m not sure exactly how it – how it would impact Afghanistan. I just haven’t heard that mentioned.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Marie, a follow-up on Pam’s question. Will you start to talk to the Iranians about the issues that concern the United States and the Middle East, especially the states that Pam mentioned? Or you will be waiting for the end of the three-month, and then you will see if you will talk to them?

MS HARF: Well, we’ve said that from time to time these other regional issues have come up on the sidelines of these negotiations. So we’ve said that and been very open about that for some months now. But we’re certainly not coordinating with them or working with them on any of these, and we have publicly been very clear about our condemnation of much of what they’re doing in the region.

QUESTION: But you were saying in the past that the negotiations are concentrating on the nuclear file only, and --

MS HARF: That’s true. And we’ve also said in the past repeatedly on the sidelines of these talks some of these other issues have, at times, come up. It would be sort of odd if they didn’t, given what’s going on in the world. But these are negotiations just about the nuclear issue.


QUESTION: Marie, very quickly, you mentioned the prime minister of Israel on all the talk shows. He told CNN that, contrary to your position, Iran now will be able to walk its way into a nuclear bomb. So why such, I mean, diametrically opposed positions and so on between you and his?

MS HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Why does he feel that things have been made a lot easier for Iran to --

MS HARF: Well, you’ll have to ask him. I can’t speak for him, Said.

QUESTION: No, I mean --

MS HARF: But look, from our perspective, right now Iran sits at about two to three months of breakout time. That’s the amount of months it could take it if decided to break out to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. We have pushed them in this agreement to at least a year breakout time, so that’s actually the opposite of prime minister – what Prime Minister Netanyahu says. We are pushing them further away from nuclear material, so I’m a bit perplexed about some of his arguments, to be honest with you, because they just don’t line up with the facts as our experts and as our P5+1 experts see them.

At the – and this is not a sunsetted agreement, as the Secretary said. There’re some 10-year commitments, some 15-year, some 25-year, and some forever commitments. And under this deal, under this agreement, if we can indeed get to one, we will have more transparency, more visibility into Iran’s nuclear program than with any other option that’s on the table.


MS HARF: Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to Yemen?

QUESTION: No, wait, wait. I’ve got just a few brief – very brief ones.

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So on the centrifuges, on the 13,000 --

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that will be dismantled.

MS HARF: Removed. Mm-hmm. Physically removed from there.

QUESTION: And put where? In a closet someplace?

MS HARF: In IAEA-monitored storage.


MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And they won’t have – actually they won’t have the key to the door?

MS HARF: Well, they may have the key. I can check. But it’s going to be IAEA-monitored access.

QUESTION: Right. Well, if --

MS HARF: I believe some of them will be able to be used if the other – if the current centrifuges, they’ll be able to maintain, crash or fail, as they often do, the IR-1s that they will still have installed. So I believe that’s part of what they’ll be able to use some of the excess centrifuges for, only to replace ones that have crashed. But they will be under IAEA-monitored storage. And again, if they decided to take them out and try to put them back in and connect them all again, that would take, we said, well over two years for them to do so.

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t expect that you would know this, because I know that you’re not a scientific expert. Maybe this is --

MS HARF: I have learned more about this in the last two years in this job --

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, do they really need 13,000 centrifuges to serve as replacement – do they fail that often? I mean, are they that crappy, these things?

MS HARF: I think – you’re right, I do not know the fail rate for the IR-1 centrifuge.

QUESTION: So why would they – all right, so why --

MS HARF: I’m not saying that’s the only reason they have them in storage. But they will be placed in IAEA-monitored storage, and that’s where they will be, that’s where they’ll be kept.

QUESTION: So they’re not going to be, like, running blood samples or something like that? They’re not going – they’ll be doing nothing? They’re basically going to be collecting cobwebs?

MS HARF: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: All right.

MS HARF: Because they will be disconnected.

QUESTION: All right. And then – although I’m still not sure I understand why they need to have them. Even if they’re just sitting off to the side, they could be destroyed, right? Or taken out of the country or sold, since --

MS HARF: You’re obsessed with the selling concept today.

QUESTION: Anyway, the Administration has for some months denied over and over again suggestions that you’re trying to achieve some kind of grand bargain with Iran --

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that you hope that your – it is not the goal of these negotiations to open up a – necessarily open up a broader rapprochement.

MS HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: But the President, in his interview yesterday with Tom Friedman, seemed to suggest otherwise.

MS HARF: No, I don’t think that’s true at all.


MS HARF: The President has, in multiple Nowruz messages, in messages to the Iranian people, said that in the future, the United States would like to have a different relationship with the people of Iran. We don’t want to have this kind of relationship that we have now.


MS HARF: That does not mean we would open a broader rapprochement with the Iranian regime on issues like, for example, Yemen. So I think these are a little separate concepts, but obviously, we don’t want the kind of relationship we have with Iran, but there’s a reason for it.

QUESTION: But don’t you – doesn’t the Administration see this as the first successful – successfully completed as a first step?

MS HARF: To a rapprochement with the regime?


MS HARF: I would not – no, I would not say that. Do we think this can improve people-to-people ties with the Iranian people? Possibly. That’s obviously always something we’ve said we hope could improve. But I want to be very clear that we are not looking at a broader rapprochement with the Iranian regime on all of these issues that you all have mentioned that we have very serious concerns on.

QUESTION: Why not? I mean, why not have a broader rapprochement with Iran? On all these issues, wouldn’t that be better for the rest of the world, for anybody --

MS HARF: Well, because these are very serious problems we have with Iran’s behavior.

QUESTION: I mean, it would be the ultimate goal, is to really have good relationship and bring back Iran into the community of nations.

MS HARF: Well, the ultimate goal would be for Iran to stop being a state sponsor of terror, to stop having gross human rights violations, to release the Americans it continues to detain. And there are all these things that Iran needs to do on issues separate from the nuclear issue.

QUESTION: By the way, is there a precedent where the IAEA did keep something in storage, centrifuges in storage, and was able to monitor it (inaudible)?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check, Said.


QUESTION: How is that different --

QUESTION: On the centrifuges --

MS HARF: Let’s do one at a time. Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Well, how is that different from the efforts to normalize relations with Cuba? Cuba is still considered a state-sponsor of terrorists.

MS HARF: Our review is undergoing right now.

QUESTION: Right. But that wasn’t under review until the U.S. decided to pursue normalization. The Cubans still have, in the U.S. view, a very poor human rights record.

MS HARF: But that’s different than the state sponsor of terror issue. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Right. But you just said that Iran – both state sponsor of terror, terrible human rights record – what’s the difference between the two countries?

MS HARF: Well, there’s massive differences between the two countries. I would note that the Cuba policy was one that has been outdated for decades now, that is based in a decades-old way of thinking about Cuba that has quite frankly lessened the U.S. influence in Cuba, in promoting our values and our interests in Cuba, and indeed in the entire region. So they’re just a wholly different situation. They’re in different regions, they are just different politically – they’re just wholly different situations.

QUESTION: Is it because – and I’m trying to follow your argument – is it because Iran presents more of a direct challenge to U.S. interests across the greater Middle East? Would that be fair?

MS HARF: It’s for – 500 reasons Iran and Cuba are different. And I’m not going to go into all of them. I think I just named a number of the top ones.

QUESTION: Marie, on the centrifuges, you just mentioned there’s a possibility of them breaking down and everything.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm. There is a crash rate, technically speaking, for IR-1 centrifuges, given they’re first generation.

QUESTION: Right. According to the interim agreement two years ago, each generation is supposed to be replaced by the same generation. Is that, do you think, still going to hold or is that still up for discussion?

MS HARF: Well, they won’t have installed, as we talked about, the further-out generations of centrifuges, so it’s a little bit different. I’m happy to check with our team. I would also note that we haven’t lost anything we got in the JPOA in the JCPA, so obviously all of those provisions will still stand, but let me check with our team.

QUESTION: So there might be some limitations on the generation of the centrifuges?

MS HARF: Correct, and I think a lot of that’s being worked out. But when we look at the – what’s still installed, obviously we’ve been clear about what that is.

Still on this?

QUESTION: So – no, another question, another subject.

QUESTION: Can I go to --

QUESTION: No, no, no, can we stay on --

MS HARF: Let’s go to – wait. Is there anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran? Yeah, yeah.

MS HARF: Last one, then Michel is going to go to Yemen.

QUESTION: Spent fuel from Arak reactor supposedly is going away from the country.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Highly enriched uranium, part – at least part of it has been – well, it’s confirmed on Thursday – is also – well, might also leave the country.

MS HARF: Might also.

QUESTION: Might also leave the country.

MS HARF: Correct. That’s one of the options.

QUESTION: I’m guessing you discussed specific countries that will be a destination point.

MS HARF: Do you have any specifics you’re interested in?

QUESTION: Yeah. I – one of them you – as you guessed, is Russia. And I was hoping to hear if you discussed all this between not only yourselves, and I mean the P5+1, but also with Iran. Are they aware of that?

MS HARF: So we did walk within the P5+1 and with Iran about the different options they will have to ship the stockpile that they – or to dispose of the stockpile, whether it’s shipping it out, whether it’s selling it on the international market, whether it’s diluting it and disposing of it in country. So we’ve certainly discussed all of those options within the P5+1, including Russia, of course, and with Iran. That’s one of the things that still needs to be worked out in the next three months, the disposition of that stockpile, which is about 90 – a little over 97 percent of it will be going away.

QUESTION: Can I ask about last week you talked about that there are no plans to evacuate Americans from Yemen.

MS HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: But over the weekend the Indians have been able to evacuate people, other countries have been able to evacuate people. With the U.S., with having so many military assets in the area, why can’t you?

MS HARF: It’s not that we can’t. There’s always a decision – different factors are weighed, whether it’s the security situation, whether it’s how we would be able to do this. We have sent out emergency messages to U.S. citizens remaining in Yemen to alert them to opportunities to leave the country. We’re continuing to reevaluate the situation, and if we have any changes to whether or not we’ll evacuate people, we will certainly let folks know.

At this point, we have encouraged all U.S. citizens to shelter in secure locations until they are able to depart safely. The airports are still closed is my understanding, which is part of the challenge. When we evacuate citizens from countries, sometimes we do it commercially through aircraft or through chartered aircraft, so that’s obviously not a possibility at this time there.

QUESTION: And do you have a sense of how many there are? There’s a group that’s --

MS HARF: We don’t.

QUESTION: -- this CAIR and others have said that about 200 have signed up to their website,

MS HARF: Well, they should sign up to the U.S. State Department website, which asks U.S. citizens overseas to do so, so we have some accounting. People are not required to, but that is the place we go to to determine U.S. citizens overseas.

QUESTION: But surely you would have a number of --

QUESTION: You must --

QUESTION: -- who have so far.

MS HARF: But we just have no idea if that’s 10 percent or 70.

QUESTION: Right, I know. Right. But I mean, at least you have an idea of – I mean, you know how many people have --

MS HARF: Who signed up?


MS HARF: I’m happy to see if we can share that number.

QUESTION: And when you say – how did this message get to the people?

MS HARF: We send emergency messages out.

QUESTION: So how many messages did you send out?

MS HARF: We – overall?

QUESTION: Well, no, no.

MS HARF: We sent out two this weekend.

QUESTION: I mean for this specifically – I – no, no, no, no. How do they get to the people who are there?

MS HARF: They are --

QUESTION: Are they --

MS HARF: I believe they are sent out online on our website --

QUESTION: Okay, so --

MS HARF: I believe if you register online, I think you may get them over text message or email. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: So there is a number that you have of known – of people who have registered.

MS HARF: Yes, but we just don’t know --

QUESTION: There is a number. I understand that that’s not all of the ---

MS HARF: -- if that represents 10 percent or 80 percent.

QUESTION: I know, but it gives you an idea.

MS HARF: But we don’t know what it gives us an idea of.

QUESTION: All right. And when you that you alerted them of opportunities to leave the country --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- what are those opportunities now, like swim? Well, come on. I mean, the airports are closed. How are they going to get --

MS HARF: So the one that we sent out on April --

QUESTION: Go to Aden, jump in the water? What – I mean, what --

MS HARF: The one we sent out on April 5th was a specific boat that was crossing from Aden to Djibouti.


MS HARF: The one we sent out on the 6th was from an Indian naval ship that was boarding passengers as well. So we are alerting people to – these are mainly maritime opportunities.

QUESTION: So maritime. So --

MS HARF: Because the airports are closed.

QUESTION: Understood. So – but you have ships there too, right?

MS HARF: At this point, there are no plans for U.S. assets to be used to do this.

QUESTION: All right. And --

QUESTION: And there was a --

MS HARF: Yes. Wait, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- mention made of the fact that some international operations were going on, such as the Indian and the Chinese. Have any of these U.S. citizens taken advantage of those other international operations?

MS HARF: It’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to see if there’s anything we can confirm.


QUESTION: I have a question.


QUESTION: So another session of strategic dialogue between Morocco and U.S. will be --

QUESTION: Wait, I – Yemen?

QUESTION: -- this week.

MS HARF: Is this on Yemen?


QUESTION: No, no, it’s about Morocco.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS HARF: Okay, I think we need to finish Yemen. I’m going to do one topic at a time.

QUESTION: Sorry. Answer me later?

MS HARF: I will ask to you later. Yes, I promise.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Russia has put forward some kind of proposal at the UN Security Council for a 24-hour pause in fighting. Is the U.S. supporting that?

MS HARF: I haven’t seen specifics about a Russian proposal at the UN. I have seen some specifics about possibly getting a humanitarian pause.


MS HARF: It’s my understanding that the Red Cross, actually, on April 4th called for an immediate 24-hour humanitarian pause so they could get medical supplies in. It’s my understanding this has not happened yet. I think the details about why not are a little unclear at this point. Obviously, we believe that they should be able to get medical supplies in, but more broadly, we don’t think there should be a 24-hour pause. We think there should be just a pause and that the parties should get back to political dialogue and end the fighting.

QUESTION: So how does that leave the U.S. support for what the Saudis and others are doing there, given that they’re supporting a military operation which is only going to lead to more conflict?

MS HARF: Well, it was a military operation in response to aggressive unilateral offensive action by the Houthis. The legitimate president of Yemen, obviously forced out of his position and out of the country – he remains the president. We have said that’s one of – the main goal of this military action is to ensure, actually, that they get back to political dialogue, and to push back on this aggressive action by the Houthis. So our position on that remains unchanged.

QUESTION: But, Marie, today the – or, yeah, this morning, the Houthis said that they are willing to indulge in dialogue if the bombardment stops. Would you support such a --

MS HARF: Well, any return to dialogue must involve all of Yemen’s key political parties and figures.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS HARF: That includes President Hadi. I’m not sure their statement said that. It would not be possible to hold this process without the presence of the president.

QUESTION: Okay. But it is not unrealistic of them to ask for that? I mean, “If you stop the bombing, we’ll go into talks”?

MS HARF: Well, let’s see what the other details are.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie, are you aware of the news reports that said that a Russian airplane has shipped arms to the Houthis?

MS HARF: I had not seen those. I’m happy to look into them.

Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Just on – back to Am Cits who are there. I mean, if you’re an American citizen in Yemen right now, your advice to them is to shelter in place, but there’s nowhere that they can go to --

MS HARF: Until they can find a way to leave.

QUESTION: I understand, but there’s nowhere that they can go. You still don’t have a protecting power, right?

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: I mean, so there isn’t – so why --

MS HARF: I would also note that we have issued 24 travel warning --

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

MS HARF: -- well, no – for the last – over the last 10 years on Yemen. So we are very clear with American citizens that this is not a place they should go, that we have limited ability, particularly now, to assist from a consular perspective.

QUESTION: Can you explain why it is – I mean, when did the embassy get closed down?

MS HARF: The embassy closed on February 11th, 2015.

QUESTION: Right, right, which is a month and a half ago.

MS HARF: But for the last 10 years, we’ve issued 24 separate travel warnings for Yemen --

QUESTION: I understand. Why has there --

MS HARF: -- so this is not a surprise that the security situation was a poor one.

QUESTION: Why is there no protecting power yet?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check and see on the latest.

QUESTION: Have you asked Iran? They might be able to help.

MS HARF: You’re just feeling feisty today.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m serious. Have you asked anybody?

MS HARF: I’m happy to check and see.

QUESTION: Is there anybody to ask?

MS HARF: I am happy to check and see for you, okay?

QUESTION: All right, thank you.


QUESTION: One more on Yemen. Pakistan’s parliament is considering this Saudi request to send in ground troops among other things. Considering that Pakistan shares part of its border with Iran and Iran has been supporting the Houthis, how would the U.S. feel about Pakistani involvement at this level? Would you consider it beneficial or would you consider it destabilizing?

MS HARF: Well, every country can make their own decisions about whether to join these kinds of efforts. The same goes for the Pakistanis, certainly.

QUESTION: But how would the U.S. feel about it?

MS HARF: I don’t have much more analysis on it to do for you.


QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue?

MS HARF: Actually, I promised I’d go to Morocco.

QUESTION: Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Please, by all means.

QUESTION: Yes, that’s fine. So this week on Thursday – so there is another session of Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and Morocco with the – with Mr. Secretary John Kerry and Morocco’s foreign minister. So how much is Morocco a big ally for U.S., especially regarding the trade cooperation and security cooperation?

MS HARF: Well, I think it’s important that the Secretary participates in these kinds of activities and strategic dialogues. There’s a reason we put them in place and are very committed to them. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there are specific agenda items for the Strategic Dialogue, and I’m happy to get those to you afterwards.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. First, I want to ask you about the Yarmouk camp, which you are following the situation --


QUESTION: -- in the Palestinian refugee camp --


QUESTION: -- near Damascus, if you could comment?

MS HARF: Yes. The U.S. strongly condemns ISIL’s attacks against the besieged Palestinian neighborhood of Yarmouk, which is in southern Damascus, as you know. ISIL’s violent advance on Yarmouk, reportedly with the support of al-Nusrah Front, has put the roughly 18,000 civilians in the area at severe risk. They’ve been under siege by regime forces since 2013, but really, the situation has deteriorated quite significantly. Recently, they’re experiencing severe restrictions on food, medicine, clean water, and electricity. They’ve left the population on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. We are calling on all parties of the conflict to allow regular, uninterrupted humanitarian access to the population in Yarmouk. Obviously, this is something that’s quite concerning to us.

QUESTION: Would you assess the – and providing or delivering humanitarian aid to the refugees?

MS HARF: I’m not sure what that would look like from a logistical perspective, Said.

QUESTION: All right. Let me ask you this: Would you support perhaps to relocate them in their home country, in the West Bank, or in present-day Israel?

MS HARF: Well, we certainly believe that those who want to leave should be able to do so with safety and dignity. They must not be arrested, subject to interrogations, or separated from their families. But I don’t have much more than that on whether or not they should be able to leave.

QUESTION: So if it’s feasible or plausible, you will support their return, let’s say, to the West Bank?

MS HARF: That is not at all what I said, Said. You are just putting words in my mouth. I said they --

QUESTION: No, I’m just asking your --

MS HARF: I said they should be able to leave Yarmouk if they want to.

QUESTION: Okay. But it is the humanitarian thing to do, correct?

MS HARF: I am not going to --


MS HARF: I am just not going to get into that, Said.

QUESTION: Let me just ask you on – the Israelis arrested a Palestinian legislator over the weekend and put him under administrative detention for six months because they basically exiled her from her home to Jericho and she refused to go. Do you have any comment on that?

MS HARF: We’ve seen the reports. I think the Israeli Government is best equipped to speak to this.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he will not take a partial payment of the tax money that had been frozen by Israel. Do you support his call for the total release of all the amount?

MS HARF: Well, we’ve long expressed our concern over the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority. We welcome the decision of the prime minister to release the withheld revenues, and we understand there is currently disagreement over deductions. We encourage the parties to work this issue out in a fair and equitable manner.

QUESTION: So these deductions, I think to pay for electric bills and things of that nature – is that your understanding?

MS HARF: I don’t have more details on what the deductions are.

QUESTION: Just on the middle question there about the woman who was arrested --


QUESTION: -- you – basically you have no comment on it. Is that --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Then on the – is it your understanding that there is a mechanism for them to solve the debit from the tax money?

MS HARF: The deductions?


MS HARF: We’ve encouraged them to do so.

QUESTION: Well, I know. But is there one?

MS HARF: I don’t know – I do not know that. I am happy to check.

QUESTION: And if there – but you’re not – you are not involved in that process at all?

MS HARF: No, we’re not currently involved other than expressing our desire for the parties to work this issue out.

QUESTION: But presumably you are – well, not presumably; you said you welcome the prime minister’s move, so you think that the Palestinians should get the money.

MS HARF: We’ve long expressed our concern about their fiscal viability.

QUESTION: But you take no position on the deductions?

MS HARF: We think they should work this out in an equitable manner.

QUESTION: But let me ask you: Why don’t you have a position on the arrest of a legislator who was not really enticing or incitement or doing something like this?

MS HARF: I am happy to see if there is more we can say, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes, go ahead. Hold on, Matt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But this is about the Palestinians.

MS HARF: Okay, never mind. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The International Criminal Court --

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: My understanding the last week is that you guys are just not – you’re just refusing to accept that the ICC --

MS HARF: Our position is well known on this.

QUESTION: And your position is that the – Palestine is not --

MS HARF: They are not eligible to accede to the Rome Statute and the ICC.

QUESTION: Okay. But are you in any – I mean, you’re not in – you’re not a party to the Rome Statute. You are a member of the Security Council, which has something to do with the ICC. But I’m wondering, if the ICC itself accepts Palestine as a state party, I mean, how are you in any position to say or – I don’t understand how you can insist or just close your eyes to the fact that they are in fact recognized by the ICC as a state party.

MS HARF: Well, it’s our opinion, and it’s a legal one. It’s based in our legal assessment that they are not a party – they’re not able to accede.


MS HARF: I’m happy to check with our team --

QUESTION: Is there any way you can act on that?

MS HARF: That’s what I was going to say. I’m happy to check with our teams and – I got the crux of where you were going with that, so – yes, we’ll go to Ukraine now.

QUESTION: Probably a month ago, Assistant Secretary Nuland testified before Senate and before House foreign committees. And she was asked about a report on military assistance to Ukraine --

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that was supposed to be submitted – the deadline was February 15. And she --

MS HARF: What deadline are you referring to? Was it based on the legislation that was passed?


MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: It was on Ukraine Freedom Support Act.

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And she told it will be submitted in days or weeks, or was it --

MS HARF: I believe it has been. Let me check for you.

QUESTION: It has? Okay.

MS HARF: I believe it has been, but let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. And a second question. There’s a donor conference, financial donor conference planned in the end of month of – in Ukraine. It will be – any participation from the United States?

MS HARF: I will check. I hadn’t heard of that.

QUESTION: Okay. And the last one.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Similar. We are months ago from the 70th anniversary of the victory of the end of World War in Europe. And probably you know that there will be a big event in Moscow. According to reports, the invitation was sent to United States, but President Obama probably will not go. So will somebody represent United States?

MS HARF: We haven’t made decisions about our participation yet.

QUESTION: But somebody will --

MS HARF: So I’m sure someone will go; we just haven’t made decisions about participation yet.


MS HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Marie, on Ukraine? Just I’m wondering if – President Poroshenko said today that he would accept a referendum in the east. And I’m just wondering if – what your thoughts are about that. Is that okay with you guys, not --

MS HARF: Well, today – and he made those comments at the first meeting of Ukraine’s new constitutional commission. So obviously, we welcome – we congratulate Ukraine on this meeting. This is where he made his remarks. To be clear, though, he was referring to the Ukrainian Government’s commitment to the decentralization of powers to all of the regions of Ukraine. This isn’t specific to eastern Ukraine. It’s meant to bring the government closer to the people and to strengthen regional and local institutions. These commitments were made by President Poroshenko and others in his government immediately following the Revolution of Dignity on the Maidan and applies to all of Ukraine. Again, it’s not limited to the Minsk process in the east.

QUESTION: So that means that the referendum, as far as you understand, would be across the entire country --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and the people in the east, even if they voted no, if the majority voted yes, they would still be subject to that result; is that correct?

MS HARF: Well, as the Ukrainian Government has said before, it will confer the benefits of decentralization on the conflict areas in the east after legitimate local elections have been held under Ukrainian law and with international monitoring. In the meantime, Ukraine will continue discussion of how to implement the decentralization with the Russia-backed separatists in the context of the Trilateral Contact Group, as called for in the Minsk agreement.

QUESTION: I understand. So what you – but the referenda would be country-wide --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- including the conflict areas. So if in the conflict areas they voted against or voted differently to what the majority – the whole country did, they would be stuck with the result of the – right? Is that correct?

MS HARF: I’m happy to see the details of how it would work, Matt. I don’t want to speak imprecisely here.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Staying in eastern Europe, there has been a public clash between President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman and U.S. Ambassador to Prague Andrew Shapiro. Apparently, the president was not too happy when the ambassador inserted himself into a debate on whether or not the Czech leadership was supposed to be in Moscow on May 9th to take part in the celebration of the VE Day events. And the president went on publicly to say that from now on, the U.S. ambassador is barred from his presidential palace. I was hoping you might say something on that, and I also wanted to ask you if you think your ambassador acted appropriately in the situation.

MS HARF: Well, as the ambassador said, the United States certainly understands the desire to honor all those who sacrificed in World War II. And of course, each country can make its own decisions about attendance. As I just said, we haven’t decided about ours yet.

We’ve also said, though, broadly speaking, that this isn’t the time for business as usual with Russia. And the Czech Republic is obviously a NATO ally; we share a close and collaborative partnership with them and have stressed the importance of unity with our European allies and partners in pressing Russia to stop fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

So I think that pretty much sums up where we are on this issue. I know there’ll be lots of questions about this over the coming weeks. And again, we haven’t decided on our participation.

QUESTION: But in terms of – so will there be some kind of a ramification or implication if – within NATO if the Czech president does attend?

MS HARF: Each country can make their own decisions about participation in these kinds of events.

QUESTION: I understand. But you just said that – you noted that they were a NATO ally, so I’m just wondering if there’s some kind of --

MS HARF: That was a positive statement. I was --

QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re also saying that it’s a negative statement for a NATO ally to send its head of state to --

MS HARF: That’s not – I certainly did not just say that. I said we enjoy a close and collaborative relationship with the Czech Republic. They are a valued NATO ally. And we understand that countries want to recognize those who sacrificed in World War II. We’ve also said this isn’t time for business as usual.

QUESTION: So you don’t agree with Ambassador Shapiro that it is – that it is inappropriate for a head of state --

MS HARF: I didn’t comment one way or the other on whether I agree with what he said.

QUESTION: Well, can you – do you stand by Ambassador Shapiro?

MS HARF: I think I just made – absolutely. We stand by Ambassador Shapiro.

QUESTION: So he said --

MS HARF: Wait. Let me finish, Matt. Let me finish.


MS HARF: He has our full confidence. What I said is, is basically a version of what he said, that we understand that countries want to honor those who sacrificed in World War II.


MS HARF: He also said this isn’t time for business as usual with Russia. It’s an ongoing conversation with our partners about whether they travel there, the kind of relationship that they have with Russia. We certainly believe European unity is important.

QUESTION: And this is – this would be a display of disunity; is that what you’re saying?

MS HARF: I’m not saying that. I’m just saying in general that’s the principle that guides our conversations.

QUESTION: Well, yeah but --

MS HARF: I think you’re --

QUESTION: Well, no. He was decidedly more negative about the prospect of the president going than you are being. And I’m just wondering if there’s some – if you’re attempting to walk away somewhat from what the ambassador said or if you’re --

MS HARF: No, I think – I think we’re saying the same thing from a conceptual argument. I’m not sure I would have used the exact same words he did, but conceptually, we’re in the same place that this isn’t time for business as usual with Russia. We know people want to honor those who sacrificed in World War II. We want to as well. We’re just talking through it with our partners about how this might play out.

QUESTION: Okay. But you say business as usual, but this is a big event, right? It’s an unusual event, it’s – because that it doesn’t happen every day.

MS HARF: I understand.

QUESTION: So it’s not really usual. But I’m just wondering, is there any implication – is it causing Ambassador Shapiro any problem to be banned from the presidential palace?

MS HARF: I can’t confirm that he has been. I’m happy to check with him and see.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can I follow up on --

MS HARF: I understand that as well. So thank you, Arshad.

QUESTION: But why do you think that the celebrations or attending celebrations of VE Day should be a part of business? You’re saying that it’s not time for business as usual, but this is just a historic event. It’s not a question of having good or bad relations with Russia if you attend or not the --

MS HARF: Well, and I said we’ll attend. We just don’t know who will attend yet. So we’ll keep everyone posted as we make those decisions.


MS HARF: Let’s move on. Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, this is Sekae Toiyama with Ryukyu Shimpo, the Okinawa newspaper. And the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and Okinawa Governor Onaga and they discussed about Futenma base and relocation on last Sunday. The two sides remained as far apart as ever, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga failed to persuade the governor. How do you think the U.S. Government think about that?

MS HARF: Well, I’m happy – I’m not familiar with those conversations last week, I think you said. I’m happy to check with our team. But we’ve said that construction of the replacement facility is a meaningful result of many years of sustained work between the United States and Japan, and a critical step forward toward realizing our shared vision for the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa. I’m happy to check with our team. It was my understanding that we expect that construction will proceed as planned, so I’m happy to get the latest for you.


QUESTION: So if the relocation plan doesn’t go forward, then is it safe to assume that the U.S. Government will continue to use Futenma Air Base?

MS HARF: It’s my understanding it will proceed, so let me check with our team and see if there’s more to share on that.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Happy Monday, everyone. Happy Opening Day.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

DPB #56

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - April 3, 2015

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 16:56

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 3, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:51 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily press briefing. Sorry for the delay. It’s been a busy few days, as you all know. Hi.

QUESTION: You’re sleeping it off?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, we landed at about 6:00 a.m. this morning from Switzerland, so --

QUESTION: You look none the worse for wear.

MS. HARF: I am exceedingly happy to see all of you right now. Thank you, James. That’s very kind of you.

A couple updates at the top, and then I will get to all of your many questions that I am sure you have. Again, as I said, as you know, the Secretary and his team landed this morning at about 6:00 a.m. at Andrews Air Force Base returning from Switzerland and the Iran negotiations.

Just a couple of data points about the Iran talks that I think at this point make sense to have out there, and then, of course, a couple of other items and then we’ll go to questions.

So since March 1st, the Secretary has spent a total of 19 days in Switzerland working on the Iran talks. That’s a combination of Geneva, Montreux, and Lausanne. We’ve had two negotiating sessions at Lausanne that have lasted a week or longer. Surrounding the Switzerland trips, the Secretary had 17 calls with other P5+1 foreign ministers. So over the last week, I know there have been a lot of questions about who’s where when in terms of his colleagues, when they’re in Switzerland and when they’re not. I think this just shows that even when they’re not all together in one place they are constantly coordinating, strategizing, updating each other. That’s certainly been the case as well.

QUESTION: Just – I’m sorry. Is that 17 calls with P5+1 foreign ministers or --

MS. HARF: Yes. P5+1 foreign ministers and the High Representative Mogherini. Those are individual calls, though.

This morning, the Secretary convened a conference call with the foreign ministers of the GCC to update them on the latest in the Iran negotiations. This included the Omani foreign minister, the Saudi foreign minister, the UAE, Kuwaiti, Qatari, and Bahraini foreign ministers on one conference call as well.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken will travel next week to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Tunisia to meet with a wide range of government officials and nongovernmental experts to discuss key political, economic, and security issues. First, from April 5th to 6th, Deputy Secretary Blinken will meet with senior government officials in Beirut as well as civil society representatives working on humanitarian and education issues in Lebanon. He’ll then travel to Riyadh on the 7th, where he will meet with senior Saudi officials. On the 8th, he will travel to Abu Dhabi and meet with senior Emirati Government officials to discuss our continued cooperation on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. In Muscat on April 9th, he will meet with senior Omani officials to discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues as well. And his final stop will be in Tunis on April 10th to meet with senior Tunisian government officials and civil society representatives. Deputy Secretary Blinken’s visit reinforces the U.S. steadfast support for Tunisia’s democracy in the face of the recent Bardo Museum attack.

Obviously, Iran will be at the top of the agenda at every stop, both the parameters for an agreement that were agreed to in Lausanne, but also other issues that our Gulf partners care about – and Lebanon as well, including their destabilizing activities in the region. Obviously, he’ll be discussing a range of issues, including the coalition to counter ISIL.

Just two more items at the top and then, Brad, we’ll get to you.

The United States reiterates in the strongest possible terms its condemnation of the April 2nd al-Shabaab terrorist attack on Garissa University College in Kenya. As the families of the innocent victims deal with this tragedy, we urge Kenyans of all faiths to come together in peace to defeat violent extremism. Terrorists seek to sow religious and ethnic division, and we must not let them succeed. The United States continues to stand resolutely with the Government and people of Kenya to bring those behind these attacks to justice and to end the scourge of terrorism.

And then finally, I’d like to welcome our group in the back, students from the University of New Mexico who are in Washington as part of the Fred Harris Congressional Internship working in the offices of the five members of the New Mexico delegations. You’ve picked a very interesting day to be here. You will probably learn a lot about nuclear technology today. We’re happy to have you here today. And thank you for your patience as well.


QUESTION: I expected an even longer radioactive half-life to that opening, but --

MS. HARF: Oh, that’s good. That’s good.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can we start with the fact sheet?

MS. HARF: I’m glad that will be memorialized in the transcript.

QUESTION: In the transcript, yes.

MS. HARF: For everyone. We may.

QUESTION: Can you explain why the fact sheet was issued just by the United States and not as a P5+1-plus-Iran agreement?

MS. HARF: Well, the Iranians and the U.S. both released information. We called ours the parameters. I’m not sure what the Farsi translation was.

QUESTION: What did you call them?

MS. HARF: Parameters.


MS. HARF: So the Iranians did put out to their press information about what had been agreed to. We did as well. It’s my understanding that some of our European colleagues are using the same parameters that we’ve been working from. This isn’t unusual. Often, the U – or the EU, excuse me, and Iran will issue a joint statement at the end of some of these rounds and we’ll each put out our own media notes or specifics on them. That happened with the JPOA as well.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because – and I have a few, so just bear with me.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The foreign minister immediately pounced – the Iranian foreign minister immediately pounced on the notion of the sanctions drawdown, pointing out what was in his joint statement with High Representative Mogherini and the notion of gradual drawdown in the parameters. How do you reconcile those two?

MS. HARF: Well, we made very clear that one of the things that has always been a part of our position on this agreement was that sanctions would be phased. Certainly, you saw us outline how that might work, that Iran will receive sanctions relief if it verifiably abides by its commitments. U.S. and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. Suspension is obviously the first step. In terms of U.S. sanctions, it’s suspension and then later termination to ensure that Iran has abided by its commitments. But we were very clear that this is what was agreed to, and that’s what we’re working on here.

QUESTION: I think the Secretary put a timeframe on when that first --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- tranche might be expectable.

MS. HARF: Yes. So it will likely take at least several months. I think he said six, possibly six after the JCPA is finalized – so it obviously wouldn’t start till the end of June if we can come to a final agreement – before Iran is able to complete the steps it must for suspension of sanctions to occur. We expect that suspension – so the suspension piece – to happen generally within the first year. But again, this is – if Iran takes these steps more quickly, then the suspension could come more quickly. It’s dependent on them taking steps, and again, we just can’t predict.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And now, another issue with the sanctions was the notion of snapback with – which I think both the Secretary and the President mentioned.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Yet enshrined in that parameters that you guys released was a notion of a dispute resolution process. How would you be able to snap back sanctions immediately and somehow address any allegations of cheating through a dispute resolution process at the same time? Wouldn’t that --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- imply that that takes some time?

MS. HARF: Well, the dispute resolution process, all the details still have to be worked out. But it would enable any GC – JCPA, excuse me, participant to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of commitments, certainly, with the process. And the details about those are still being figured out.

But certainly, on the U.S. side, if at any time we think that Iran is not living up to its commitments, we can certainly snap back sanctions into place. The EU – or the EU and the UN can as well. The exact specifics of timing and how that all works will be part of these discussions over the next three months. But that concept that we can snap back very quickly – obviously, there are some bureaucratic challenges.

QUESTION: You could – what you’re saying is --

MS. HARF: You could do it.

QUESTION: -- you can snap back without going – exhausting whatever dispute resolution process is in the agreement?

MS. HARF: That’s not what I’m saying.


MS. HARF: I think the dispute resolution process is still – the details of it is still to be negotiated in terms of timeframe --


MS. HARF: -- for what that resolution process might look like. But the concept of quick snapback has been, as you said, enshrined in the parameters. Keeping in mind nothing is finally agreed until everything is agreed.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: But yes, that concept is certainly important to us.

QUESTION: But snapback, then, is not subject to negotiation, is what I’m trying to get at.

MS. HARF: Well, correct, right. But I think the broader point, though, is that if one of the members of the P5+1 or the EU or Iran says one of the other parties to the JCPA aren’t living up to their obligation, it’s a good thing that there’s a resolution process where we can resolve these disputes about whether people are in compliance or not. Right? So how that will work is still being determined. If one country says, “We don’t believe that Iran is complying with item X,” then we have a resolution process to confirm whether they are or not.

QUESTION: Correct. Right, but the notion that you could then respond very quickly, that’s something you could do independent of that resolution or --

MS. HARF: Yes.


MS. HARF: We always reserve the right to snap sanctions – the ability, I should say, not the right – the ability to snap sanctions back into place. But again, the details of the dispute resolution process are part of this next three months of negotiations.

QUESTION: But those sanctions you’re talking about, they don’t require voting or deliberation within the countries involved? These are just instant, instantaneous sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, nothing is instant. But --

QUESTION: Right. But like “snap”? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Like “snap” means instant.

MS. HARF: That was a technically --

QUESTION: Yeah. So my question is –

MS. HARF: -- challenging question.

QUESTION: Could you truly snap them back into place --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- if they require, as you said, some bureaucratic challenges?

MS. HARF: Well, not challenges, but if you ask the Treasury Department how – if you have to sign the paperwork --


MS. HARF: -- it doesn’t come the next minute, right.


MS. HARF: But very quickly, yes. When sanctions are suspended and not terminated – termination is different, but even then --


MS. HARF: -- those could be snapped back in. But when sanctions are suspended through things like executive waivers, then you can re-impose them fairly quickly.

Yes. James Rosen.

QUESTION: Hi, there.

MS. HARF: Making an appearance in the briefing room today.

QUESTION: Drawn by you.

MS. HARF: I’m sure.

QUESTION: And thank you. I, too, have kind of a series of things I want to go over --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- with your indulgence and that of my colleagues.

MS. HARF: It’s a Friday. I’m sure they’ll indulge you.

QUESTION: First, Secretary Kerry in his remarks yesterday very pointedly sought to rebut the idea that there is a sunset --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- provision to this entire deal. And in his very next set of sentences, he mentioned how some of the clauses expire after 10 years, some after 15 years, some after 20 years, some after 25, and then some --

MS. HARF: And some --

QUESTION: -- that don’t at all.

MS. HARF: Correct.


MS. HARF: So the deal as a package never – there are pieces of it that will go on forever.

QUESTION: So isn’t it accurate --

MS. HARF: Which is contrary to “sunset.”

QUESTION: Isn’t it accurate to say that many key provisions are, in fact, sunset?

MS. HARF: The deal overall, as people have reported over the last few weeks before they knew the details of it, is not a sunsetted deal. There are provisions that will be in place for certain periods of time. That is true. There are different phases in this. There’s a 10-year, a 15-year, a 25-year. Again, I think some people who just said this would be 10 years might be a little surprised at what we announced yesterday. But the key point about the forever commitments are that these are the ones that get at transparency and monitoring and verification, which is so important to us, particularly when it comes to the covert path. If you talk about things like the additional protocol, modified Code 3.1, these are the things that get us insight into Iran’s nuclear program. So that, for us, is an incredibly important piece of this that never expires, certainly.

QUESTION: Let’s move to some of the transparency measures.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the fact sheet that was distributed setting forth the parameters --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in all of the provisions relating to inspection, I didn’t see any reference to the ability of IAEA inspectors to conduct snap inspections – that is to say, to be able to go where they want to go when they want to go. Am I correct in my interpretation?

MS. HARF: Well, first, Iran has agreed under this to the most robust and intrusive inspections in transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history. The IAEA will be allowed regular access to all of Iran’s declared facilities; that’s Arak, Fordow, and Natanz. Inspectors will also have access to the entire uranium supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program from start to finish, and these elements, as we’ve said, have the – are the best hedge, really, against a covert path. The IAEA will also be permitted to use technology, such as cameras, in all three declared facilities to accomplish their traditional safeguards mission as well as to monitor compliance. So even if there’s not an inspector there, there will be a camera there at all --

QUESTION: Not in all places and cases; in certain places and cases.

MS. HARF: In all three declared facilities – Arak, Fordow, and Natanz.

QUESTION: Declared.

MS. HARF: And so I think most people would think those are the important ones. The IAEA, under the newly implemented additional protocol which Iran has agreed to provisionally start immediately implementing and then will ratify would be able – the IAEA would be able to request inspections anywhere in Iran whenever they wanted to. We have also negotiated a specific provision for the JCPA that would essentially guaranteed that IAEA could access where it wants to go in a timely manner if Iran refuses, even though the additional protocol says they can request inspections wherever they want and whenever they want.

QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on this --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the IAEA inspectors will be able to go where they want when they want?

MS. HARF: Under the newly implemented additional protocol, the IAEA would be able to request inspections anywhere in Iran whenever they wanted them. That is the --

QUESTION: They can --

MS. HARF: Wait.

QUESTION: Excuse me. That’s --

MS. HARF: That’s part of the additional protocol. That’s part of the additional protocol.

QUESTION: Okay. So it is the view of the --

MS. HARF: Which Iran has agreed to.

QUESTION: It is the view of the United States Government that notwithstanding decades of massive deception on the part of Iran, that Iran should be entitled to all of the benefits and codicils of the additional protocol that they disregarded for so long?

MS. HARF: I’m now sure how the additional protocol is – benefits to them when it lays out a very stringent inspection transparency regime they will be party to.

QUESTION: Well, in other words --

MS. HARF: That’s not a benefit to them; that’s a restriction on them.

QUESTION: Well, but, for example, the additional protocol --

MS. HARF: And if they don’t live up to it, they would be in violation of a JCPA commitment.

QUESTION: Okay. So just not to get too bogged down, they cannot go wherever they want to go when they want to go. You’re telling me they can request to go wherever they want to go when they want to go.

MS. HARF: And then I said we have negotiated a specific provision for the JCPA that would essentially guarantee the IAEA could access where it wants to go in a timely manner if Iran initially refuses. Now, two more points on that. The details of that are part of what will be worked out in the next three months. But again, if under the IAEA the – or excuse me, if under the additional protocol the IAEA has this ability, Iran has to maintain compliance with the additional protocol to be in compliance with the JCPA and to not have sanctions re-imposed.

QUESTION: Moving just to – just a couple more, real quick, Said.

MS. HARF: So again, this is the most intrusive transparency regime that has ever been negotiated in the history of any nuclear program. The measures that are included in this are things that I think many people would look at and say, “Without this, we will have none of these. Without this agreement, we will have none of this transparency.”

QUESTION: So you would expect all military sites that the IAEA wants to see to be – for them to get access to that?

MS. HARF: Well, we are still negotiating over all of the people and places where the IAEA will have access required when it comes to possible military dimensions. We have a path forward here, an agreement that Iran will undertake a PMD access list process to form out that list when it comes to potential military sites. That’s part of what will be negotiated over the next three months, but in principle, we have agreement that that is a process they will undertake.

QUESTION: But you can’t say with definitive clarity at this point that, for example, inspectors will be allowed into Parchin?

MS. HARF: Well, we would find it, I think, very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such access at Parchin.

QUESTION: Now, it’s been my observation in studying the transcripts of the briefings very closely that the briefers at this podium have been kind of all over the place in terms of whether or not the resolution of the PMD issues was in fact a part of the Joint Plan of Action for the past 16 months. There have been times when the briefers have indicated that that was, in fact, embedded in the JPOA, and times when the briefers have sought to argue that, in fact, that was a totally separate process of some kind.

MS. HARF: I don’t think I’ve ever argued that. I think you’re conflating a couple issues, and I’m happy to unpack it a little bit. But if you have a question --

QUESTION: Be all that as it may --

MS. HARF: Well, right, but I think you’re mischaracterizing it.

QUESTION: Again, why should – I understand that – why should Americans have faith that over the next three months, U.S. and allied negotiators will be able to arrive at some satisfactory process for resolving the PMD questions when not only has Iran failed to do that over many years’ time, but in fact failed to do it over the course of the JPOA when they were required to do so?

MS. HARF: If you look very specifically at the language in the JPOA – I was there when it was finalized; I’m very familiar with it – it said in order to get to a joint comprehensive plan of agreement – so there was a part at the end that talked about what we needed for a final agreement – that past and present concerns would need to be resolved. So when – that’s the statement that references PMD in the Joint Plan of Action. So just staying on our negotiations for a second, when we say we have a path forward, they have agreed to undertake a PMD access list, that is something that is very important to us. Obviously, there is work over the next three months to do on this, but that is part of what we were getting at in the JCPA.

There is also – you are correct – a separate process the IAEA has been undertaking. We work with them very closely, obviously. We have encouraged Iran to work with them. But when it comes to this agreement, we have always said we will not sign onto any final agreement that does not meet our standards for what we need to see here in terms of PMD, even given the fact that this is an agreement about the future, not about the past, and that’s something that’s very important to us.

QUESTION: Two final question, two final ones.

QUESTION: And then I have (inaudible).

QUESTION: Very grateful.

MS. HARF: Brad doesn’t want to indulge you, but –

QUESTION: On the repurposing of the facility at Arak.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Understanding that these are just the kind of precise technical details that the negotiators hope to hammer out over the next 90 days, nonetheless I wonder if you could tell us or point to a single instance of a heavy-water reactor like the one at Arak having been repurposed in the way you envision such that it could not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

MS. HARF: Well, there are a number of countries that have heavy-water reactors that do not produce weapons-grade plutonium. We’re happy to get you a list of those. I don’t have all of those in front of me. However – wait – under this agreement, the plutonium pathway will be shut down. And our goal, our bottom line here, has always been to get to that. Iran will fully design its Arak reactor under strict international oversight so the reactor does not produce weapons-grade plutonium. The original core of the reactor, which would’ve enabled the production of significant quantities of plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.

So our bottom line of ensuring that Arak cannot lead to the plutonium pathway to a bomb has been met. We’ll hammer out all the details in the next three months, but that is very important to us, and there are examples of other countries who indeed use heavy water reactors for non-weapons-grade purposes.

QUESTION: Final question. I want to get at something that is a broader theme here surrounding these negotiations. And you’ve heard it articulated from many places, and including individuals whom you would regard as partisan, but probably also from some individuals whom you greatly respect as arms control experts and foreign policy intellectuals: Namely, that the Obama Administration, in concert with its negotiating partners over the course of these negotiations, scaled back its aims, dialed back its negotiating posture, conceded too much.

And as evidence for that, I want to read to you a statement by President Obama himself to the Brookings Institution in December 2013 as these negotiations were just getting underway. The President said, and I quote, “We know that the Iranians don’t need to have an underground fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program, unquote”

Isn’t it self-evidently true that President Obama dialed back his negotiating posture over the course of these negotiations in order to concede further and further to the Iranians?

MS. HARF: Not at all, James, and I would note in the quote you just read, he didn’t say, “So therefore, our negotiating position will be X.” He was making the rhetorical point that Iran claims their program is for entirely peaceful purposes and they don’t want a nuclear weapon. However, historically, they have done things that led people to question that, including those two things he mentioned.

Our bottom lines here, James – our bottom lines in this negotiation have never changed. We need to cut off the four pathways for Iran to get to a nuclear weapon and we need to get Iran from currently two to three months of breakout time up to six times that, so to a year – at least a year breakout time under this agreement, and that’s what we have done.

Our bottom lines here in terms of what we needed to get at the negotiating table have never changed. That’s why we didn’t take a deal last November or last July or at any point. That’s why it took so long between when we finalized the JPOA and now.

QUESTION: You know that only Heinonen challenged this notion of the breakout time being a year based on 6,500 centrifuges?

MS. HARF: And he also used a much higher – he, I think, used 500 kilograms of stockpile. Under this agreement, we have 300 kilograms of stockpile, which is a key part of the equation that gets us to a year breakout time. We also have fewer centrifuges as well. So when it comes to the breakout calculation, he was using numbers that are much greater. He was also using a calculation, my experts tell me, that doesn’t account for how any of these centrifuges operate in the real world. And essentially, he was using a textbook calculation which doesn’t account for things like breakdown of centrifuges, which, when our intelligence community and our experts calculate breakout, they calculate it as it happens in the real world.

And that’s how we get, using our experts at DOE and the labs – nonpolitical, nonpartisan people who have served under Democratic and Republican administrations – they are confident in the science behind what we have done that with this equation, we get to at least a year breakout time.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you all. Appreciate it.

QUESTION: Let me get several questions out of the way, and I’ll try to do this --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- like speed round.

MS. HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: All right. On --

MS. HARF: I’m not tired or anything. It’s fine. I’m just going to start leaning on the podium a little more. (Laughter.)


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there were some vague words like “limited” --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- “certain” restrictions. Is that to say that R&D remained unsolved at the time of the agreement?

MS. HARF: So in general, Iran will be permitted limited R&D under this deal in a manner that constrains its developments for at least 10 years. It is true that details still remain to be worked out on many R&D issues. On a couple of key facilities, though – for example, Iran will not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow, for example. So in general, we still have some R&D issues to work out, and those are among the most challenging, to be frank.

QUESTION: On years 10 to 15, there was no mention of the breakout time. Is that still to be determined or is there no limit whatsoever on breakout timing here?

MS. HARF: So we are – we’ve always said, again, our bottom line was at least a year breakout time for at least 10 years.


MS. HARF: Given that some of the R&D is still being negotiated and some other issues, I don’t have more specifics than that. But obviously, we want to push breakout as far as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Okay. And then – I’m just going to do them fast, sorry. Is June --

MS. HARF: It’s okay. I haven’t briefed all week.

QUESTION: Is June 30th a fixed deadline or is it a flexible deadline like we saw on March 31st?

MS. HARF: Well, I would remind people that it just took us a couple extra days to get to this, which I think most people would say is probably within the margin here. But June 30th is – look, the reason we put these dates in place – there are a couple reasons. The first is a bureaucratic or a logistical one, I should say. The Joint Plan of Action was technically extended till the end of June, so the provisions of it, including, on our side, the sanctions waivers, are extended till the end of June. So that’s just a technical point.


MS. HARF: But second, I think if anyone who followed this over the last week can see, these deadlines are actually – can be a very helpful forcing mechanism to get people to make decisions. And I think that’s part of one of the reasons we put March 31st in place, and I actually think that that worked. So yes, we believe this is a important deadline. Obviously, I have no idea how these next three months are going to play out.

QUESTION: Would the final accord need to be followed up by an implementation agreement like --


QUESTION: -- with the JPOA?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding – and I can check with our experts – but that these annexes in the next months is – that is the implementation --


MS. HARF: -- piece of what you’re referring to, I think, from the JPOA.

QUESTION: Yeah. Have more talks been scheduled or mulled yet?

MS. HARF: They have not been scheduled yet.


MS. HARF: Everyone’s mulling them right now --


MS. HARF: -- after they wake up from very long sleep. We just don’t know yet, but we obviously want to get to work as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Has there been a date to brief Congress yet or any planned – any concrete plans?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I know the Administration has done a number of individual congressional calls over the past 24 hours. I don’t have a date for a briefing or a hearing yet.

QUESTION: And then can you say anything more about what the President said yesterday on working with Congress on an oversight role? What did he mean? And is there any flexibility on, for example, Senator Corker’s legislation in particular on giving Congress a say?

MS. HARF: Well, the President has said that if the Corker legislation comes to his desk, he will veto it. And he also, though, said yesterday that we will be engaging with Congress on what that oversight role might look like. I don’t have more details to share at this point.

QUESTION: So that veto threat stands?

MS. HARF: Correct.


QUESTION: Marie, since all the bases have been covered, technical and otherwise, let me ask you a very simple question.

MS. HARF: I told our guests they were going to get a lot of information about how to make nuclear weapons today.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. Let me --

MS. HARF: Or how not to make nuclear weapons. Let’s put it that way.

QUESTION: Right. Let me ask you --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- a very simple question regarding the Iranian claim. They said that they basically offered you the same deal, the same kind of framework deal, back in 2003. Do you refute that?

MS. HARF: Well, I certainly wasn’t here in 2003.

QUESTION: Well, I mean – but I’m sure that --

MS. HARF: And their nuclear program was actually at a very different place in 2003. The number of centrifuges was much lower, their stockpile was lower. So in terms of our side, we need that equation to get to a year breakout time. I don’t know how you can compare the two points in history.

QUESTION: And I believe that was said in response and sort of refuting your fact sheet in a way.

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see that, Said. As I said, they also put out their own --


MS. HARF: -- set of facts in a sheet to reporters, so I think I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: I have couple more questions on the Camp David meeting next week. So will that --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is it next week, next Thursday?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. You’re talking about the one the President announced?

QUESTION: The President called – yeah.

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on that for you.

QUESTION: Would that be – okay. We don’t know the details. Will that be just sort of dedicated to the – this Iran deal, or is going to – is it going to talk about other things and include --

MS. HARF: I’m sure they’ll talk about other issues, but obviously, the security of our Gulf partners is incredibly important to us. I know a lot of them have questions about – that’s why the Secretary spoke with their foreign ministers this morning, so I imagine other issues are likely to come up, very likely to come up. But I don’t have more details to share at this point.

QUESTION: Did you find the statements made by Congress yesterday – by Senator Corker, for instance – to be more flexible than it was before? Or do you expect it to be more flexible?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there was a range of reactions from Congress. Many were very supportive, and I think many notably expressed pleasant surprise that as many details had been put under these parameters as were.

QUESTION: Okay. And are we to expect that prime minister of Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, will come to Camp David as well?

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s what the President announced, Said.

QUESTION: And I know he did not announce.

MS. HARF: I think he talked about the GCC.

QUESTION: Is that something to be expected?

MS. HARF: I would – I have no way to answer that question. I have not heard anything about that. I have nothing to read out in terms of possible meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President spoke with him. Our – his views on this are clear, but I haven’t heard anything indicating that he would be coming to the United States.

QUESTION: And my final question – actually, just a follow-up to Brad’s: On terms of schedule or agenda, I mean, are you looking at, let’s say, meetings maybe in the next month – over the next – this month?

MS. HARF: We literally landed at 6:00 a.m. this morning. We don’t have a meeting schedule yet.

QUESTION: I understand, but you really don’t have that much time between now and June 30th, so --

MS. HARF: That is true, we do not. I think we’ll have some more clarity by early next week.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: One of the things that the prime minister --

QUESTION: Can we go back to – sorry --

QUESTION: Sorry, Justin. One of the things that the prime minister said was that any final deal that’s reached in June, if that happens, needs to demand that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist. Is that an appropriate thing to include in a deal of this sort, in the U.S.’s view?

MS. HARF: Well, this is an agreement that is only about the nuclear issue. We have purposefully kept that separate from every other issue. That issue is complicated enough to deal with on its own. No, this is an agreement that doesn’t deal with any other issues, nor should it, and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: To go back to Brad’s question about the understanding, did you attempt at any point to put together a joint parameters note rather than each do individual notes about what was agreed upon?

MS. HARF: I mean, we – what we --

QUESTION: I mean, because if it was an agreement, you would think that one parameters could suffice.

MS. HARF: Well, not necessarily. I mean, keep in mind this isn’t the final agreement.


MS. HARF: So this – we believe this was most appropriate at this point. We had – look, the conversations inside the room were focused on the substance, not necessarily what was put down on paper and who signed on to it. We had discussions with them about what we would say publicly and they let us know they would say things publicly, and I’m not really concerned about sort of this – how they will sell this back at home.


MS. HARF: But we certainly had conversations with them about the – our need, certainly, for our purposes, to be able to say as much of this publicly.

QUESTION: And you didn’t have any problems with the stuff that they put in their parameters? I hadn’t seen them.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t read Farsi yet, unfortunately, so I don’t know exactly what all the details were. But I haven’t heard much feedback from people.

QUESTION: Yeah. Google translates now.

MS. HARF: Always really accurately, too, I think.

QUESTION: And – but so would you be willing --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure I’m going to rely on Google Translate to answer questions at this podium. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right. Do you have a copy of them, and would you be willing to share their parameters?

MS. HARF: I’m – I think you can probably ask them.

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t have a copy, though?

MS. HARF: I think you can probably ask them. They’re online. They’re on – they’ve been linked to on Twitter. So I’m happy to Google that for you, or you can find it.

QUESTION: Beyond the parameters of their parameters, just in their broader dialogue or the statements made in English by Foreign Minister Zarif, are you aware of any misrepresentations of the deal by the Iranian side, to your knowledge?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to take a look, James. Again, I’m not really concerned with how they’re going to be talking about this publicly back in Iran. What we’re focused on is what was we discussed at the negotiating table. As the Secretary said, I think, in his interview – one of his interviews that we did, I think, maybe with CNN – that we’re quite confident about the parameters as they’ve been articulated, and that’s what’s most important to us.

QUESTION: On the sanctions, Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On the sanctions. Now the Secretary said something like six months, but the agreement --

MS. HARF: He said “possibly.”

QUESTION: Possibly six months.

MS. HARF: He said it could take, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. But he also said that Iran has honored all its commitments.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: So you have no reason, or at least no past evidence, to sort of say that Iran basically may not honor its commitments between now and the June 30th deadline.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that’s – I don’t know how to make that prediction.


MS. HARF: Under the Joint Plan of Action, they’ve lived up to all their commitments. That is true.

QUESTION: Well, and if they have actually stuck to their commitments over the past 18 months, one would expect that they will stick to their commitments when they are so close to having the sanctions lift, wouldn’t they?

MS. HARF: I don’t really have expectations one way or the other. We just need to see them do it.

QUESTION: Okay. And just one last question on this issue. So suppose there is a deal on June 30th. Why would the sanctions remain for another additional three months?

MS. HARF: Well, if Iran can complete all of its nuclear-related commitments quicker, then they’ll get the sanctions suspension quicker. That they have to take the nuclear commitments, the key ones that will be laid out, before the sanctions are suspended. So if they can do it more quickly, then we would suspend sanctions more quickly. It’s tied to how fast they can do things.

QUESTION: On the sanctions?

MS. HARF: Sanctions, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. From this podium, you and others have addressed the issue of sanctions playing a role in the India-Iran trade. They went from not using dollars. They went on barter and all, and they were on a list of – and then over a period of time, all those, after hiccups, finally they were cleared. So have the Indian Government been told about the – what is coming, or they come to know through media? Or is – are you going to --

MS. HARF: I’m sure we’ll be reaching out to them. Again, anything that talks about Iran’s oil purchases, none of that would change, obviously, until (a) we either get a joint comprehensive plan of action finalized in June, by the end of June, but then obviously for a period of time until Iran completes steps related to its nuclear program. So we’ll have the conversation with India. We’ve been in constant communication with them. And the other – there are five countries and Taiwan, I think, that still export – import, excuse me, Iranian oil. So those conversations will be ongoing.

QUESTION: So because these deals, they don’t – are not snapped back into action, as the word has been used. It takes some time for these governments to finalize these deals. So when do these governments expect a word from here?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m sure – we’re having constant conversations about – with them, and I can check and see what the conversations with India have been. But again, none of this could even start even taking impact – or effect until after this agreed to, which the deadline is the end of June. So at this point, we’ll have the conversations but nothing’s imminent, I would say.


QUESTION: Marie, did you even try to work out a document that, for all of us in the press, that would serve as a, like, common position of all the participants of the talks, other than having your own principles separately and the Iranian principles separately, and maybe some other countries’ principles separately?

MS. HARF: Well, these aren’t our principles, as it said at the top of the parameters document.

QUESTION: Parameters, yes.

MS. HARF: These were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland, and these elements will form the foundation upon which the JCPOA will be written. So --

QUESTION: Okay. But this is how you present them. Does this mean that all the other countries agree with them, all the other participants?

MS. HARF: As we’ve said, this is what was agreed to in Lausanne.

QUESTION: Okay. And speaking about all of the participants, I am obviously interested in Russia, so a very simple question like Said’s: How important has it been for you to have Russia on board to reach this deal? And how important is it for you to have Russia on board to reach the final deal, if it ever happens, at the end of June?

MS. HARF: Absolutely, and it’s incredibly important, and the fact that we and Russia, even though we disagree on so many issues, are on the same page when it comes to the Iran nuclear program has been very helpful inside the negotiating room, certainly. I think it has shown the Iranians that even though we disagree on so many issues, we agree on this. I think on a couple of technical pieces, the Russian team has been also particularly helpful. Obviously, they have a lot of nuclear technological knowhow. That’s very helpful. When it comes to talking about UN sanctions and the UNSCRs and possible action there, obviously being a permanent member has been very helpful as well.

QUESTION: And the Russians have always stressed the importance of a linkage there between the program – the agreement of Iran to do the program, and the lifting of the sanctions. Do you find that helpful?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, they have, yes, across the board played a helpful role in these negotiations, I would say.


QUESTION: Change topics?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you a very quick one on Iran.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, potentially about the possible opening of relations or exchange of relations between the United States and Iran. I mean, people were dancing in the street. There is obviously popular support. There’s a great deal of goodwill. Is that something that’s been talked about, restoring relations and perhaps --

MS. HARF: No, it hasn’t been.

QUESTION: -- an opening?

MS. HARF: No, it hasn’t been. This is not what these negotiations are about.


QUESTION: Can we talk about the --

QUESTION: You did a good job laying out what you guys got out of the deal, but as we know, and just in laymen’s terms, all negotiations come with compromise. So if you had to lay it on the table, what concessions would you say the U.S. made in these talks?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about concessions, Justin, because --

QUESTION: It’s not? Okay.

MS. HARF: It’s not. No. Look, there are a lot of technical ways, as we’ve always said, to put together the number of centrifuges, the type, R&D, stockpile, to put that all together, to cut off the four pathways and get to a year breakout. There are a number of different ways you can configure that at all of the different facilities.

QUESTION: So you made no concessions is what you’re saying?

MS. HARF: This – I’m saying this isn’t about concessions. This is about us having our bottom lines met, that we needed to make sure the four pathways were cut off, and that they got to a year breakout. There are a number of different ways you can do that. We needed to try to find a way that also Iran could agree to that met what they said they wanted, which was a civilian, peaceful nuclear program. Obviously, you go back and forth and you trade ideas and you try and find something where both sides can get to yes. But we absolutely made no concessions on our bottom lines, and that is the only thing that’s important here.

QUESTION: What I don’t understand is if breakout time was so significant and so guiding in your efforts, how come you’ve agreed to a framework and you don’t know what the breakout time would be in year 11?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying we don’t know. I’m saying that we haven’t agreed to all of the specifics about what those years will look like, and those are conversations that will be ongoing.

QUESTION: I understand you haven’t agreed to the nuts and bolts, but what is --

MS. HARF: But the nuts and bolts are what matter when it comes to breakout.

QUESTION: Well, no, you said that you had this redline of a one-year breakout time for the first decade.

MS. HARF: For at least 10 years, yes.

QUESTION: And the nuts and bolts work together to reach that goal.

MS. HARF: And we’re still working out --

QUESTION: So what is your --

MS. HARF: -- what the nuts and bolts will look like for those years.

QUESTION: Right, but what is – right, but you reverse engineered it in essence. You had a one-year breakout time as the goal, and then you found the ingredients to reach that goal, correct?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So what is the goal now for year 11 to 15?

MS. HARF: Those are conversations that are ongoing, Brad. Look, these are – this is part of what’s going to be negotiated over the next three months. Our goal in general is obviously always to get Iran to as long of a breakout time as possible. And breakout timeline doesn’t – it’s something that changes – it doesn’t just change overnight. It takes time to ramp up or ramp it down. So --

QUESTION: Which is why I didn’t say year 10, day one, but --

MS. HARF: Right. No, I know, but these are ongoing conversations.


QUESTION: Was there any rough agreement on the division of uranium stockpiles that would be diluted and kept onsite and those that – the volume of it that would be shipped offshore?

MS. HARF: Well, we – that’s one of the things that still needs to be negotiated, the disposition of the stockpile, the 300 – excuse me, everything but the 300 kilograms. As we’ve said, you can dilute it, you can sell it on the international market, you can ship it overseas. We’re talking to them right now about what – or not at the moment right now. We will be talking to them in the next three months about exactly how to do that. What matters to us is that they get rid of it.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Kenya, please?

MS. HARF: Yep, Roz, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. This is the worst attack in 17 years since the embassy bombings. It’s almost a year and a half since the Westgate Mall attack. Because Kenya has been trying to crack down on al-Shabaab, obviously, al-Shabaab has essentially declared war on Kenya. There is a lot of criticism inside Kenya today about the seeming inability or unwillingness or lack of political will – whatever you want to call it – of President Kenyatta to not deal with what is a very serious security problem, despite intelligence being given to him by the U.S. and the UK, despite the UK’s warning to its citizens in the last 10 days to not visit parts of Kenya because of the threat from al-Shabaab. Does this building believe that Uhuru Kenyatta is dealing with the problem of al-Shabaab? And if not, what can be done on the part of the international community to try to shore up the security in this country?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. Our embassy has been in touch with Kenyan officials, including their security services, in the wake of this attack and is providing assistance. In general, Kenya is a partner in the fight against terrorism, and we work with them very closely to try to improve their capabilities. Al-Shabaab is a very serious threat and it is a tough challenge for the Kenyans. We provide a range of security assistance, including training and equipment, to many key Kenyan military and law enforcement units.

So that’s certainly something that we’ve been focused on. But again, it is a challenge. I think we’ll be having conversations with the Kenyan Government in the coming days and weeks about how they can do better, how we can all help them do better.

QUESTION: Can you talk more about the apparent lack of capacity to deal with al-Shabaab? What is it that Washington has seen that the Kenyatta government has not been able to achieve or has been unwilling to achieve?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I have much more analysis to do for you, Roz. Obviously, this is a very serious threat they’re facing. We’re working with them to increase their capacity. They’re trying to do so as well. And I can check and see if there’s more specifics, but I just don’t really have much more to share with you at this point.

QUESTION: Is there any sense that Kenyatta is basically trying to protect the country’s tourism industry by downplaying suggestions that al-Shabaab is as much a threat to his country’s citizens and visitors as intelligence would suggest otherwise?

MS. HARF: I don’t think there’s any doubt, probably around the world, about the kind of threat al-Shabaab poses to Kenya. All you have to do is look at news reports from the last 24-36 hours. So I don’t have much more analysis to do on the president of Kenya. But again, with Kenya writ large, we do have a longstanding counterterrorism cooperation relationship, and that’s important to us.

QUESTION: What can be done, given that you still have a very fragile government next door in Somalia? What can the U.S. propose to do? Is it time to bring in the African Union and for the AU and the U.S. to discuss ways of shoring up their ability to support these two countries as they’re trying to deal with al-Shabaab?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I don’t have any other predictions to make for you about how we can help more. I’m happy to talk with our team and see if there’s more we can say about this. I just don’t have much more.


QUESTION: Do you have an update on what the U.S. is doing in Yemen?

MS. HARF: In terms of what?

QUESTION: In terms of assistance for the Saudi-led mission.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new, I think, to share today.

QUESTION: Okay. And --

QUESTION: Nothing beyond refueling (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think we ever said it was limited to refueling. We said it was intelligence, logistical support. Let me see if I have any more here. I mean, certainly nothing new.

QUESTION: But the refueling is new?

MS. HARF: I don’t think it’s new that we’re doing it. I think the specificity just had not been out there before, but it’s certainly not new. It’s logistical and intelligence support.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Why would they need refueling when it’s really – it’s a very short distance. I mean, I’m trying to understand that.

MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to ask the Department of Defense about why that might be needed.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, I have a follow-up on Yemen. Today the speaker of the Lebanese parliament said that Lebanon is willing to host talks between the two different groups in Yemen. Would you support something like this, or is that something that Tony Blinken will discuss on his trip?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m sure he will discuss Yemen when he’s in Lebanon. I don’t know if he’ll discuss this proposal. But we certainly believe that dialogue is the way forward here, and that’s what needs to happen.

QUESTION: Marie, I also have a follow-up on Yemen, strangely enough. It’s been a subject --

MS. HARF: It doesn’t have to be strange. Yes.

QUESTION: It’s been a subject that’s been of interest to my audience back home. People have been asking why is it that the president, the Yemeni president, who fled from his capital, remains legitimate in your eyes.

MS. HARF: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Whereas, like another president who fled. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t use the term “fled” when he was forced to because the armed Houthis were increasingly taking over parts of the capital and then the capital and more of Yemen. So I wouldn’t use the term “fled.” That sounds a little more proactive, probably.

But there is a constitutional process in Yemen for who is the president.

QUESTION: Right, and --

QUESTION: To be fair, from this podium you said he left voluntarily when he left.

MS. HARF: Well, that was the very first day, but then I think it was very clear that it was because of the security situation that he left the country.

QUESTION: It was very clear, I think, at the time to all of us, but yes. Do you have --

MS. HARF: Wait. Were you done?

QUESTION: May I ask about --

MS. HARF: Sorry.


QUESTION: Yes. If you refer to a constitutional process, then you – obviously, you understand where I am drawing a parallel with. So the Ukrainians, right? Was the constitutional process observed in the Ukrainian case?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to draw parallels here. We’ve been very clear how we feel about Ukraine. And it was also – last time I checked, major parts of Kyiv weren’t being taken over by an armed rebel group when President Yanukovych left, so I think it’s pretty different.

QUESTION: Just on Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- has made significant gains in the last few days while you were in Swiss luxury, negotiating in the wee hours of the – nah. But there was a prison that was --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- where all the inmates were freed. There was a military base overrun. How concerned are you that the fighting between the Houthis and the Sunni forces writ large will take all the attention away from AQAP?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I mean, I haven’t heard concern about that. Obviously, there is a great amount of concern about what AQAP was able to do in terms of the prison and in terms of the robbery of the central bank, but the fighting remains ongoing on the ground and the situation is fairly fluid.

QUESTION: How much would you like to see a quick resolution to the fighting, even if it’s imperfect, given that the longer this goes on the more we know AQAP will take advantage of it?

MS. HARF: Well, I think, certainly, it is essential that we get to a political process here as quickly as possible for obvious security reasons, not just related to AQAP.

QUESTION: Is there any effort by the U.S. to, I don’t know, push parties toward at least a ceasefire so that counterterrorism goals are not lost?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know about a ceasefire specifically. I do have just one quick update, sorry. Ambassador Tueller met with President Hadi on April 2nd in Riyadh. I don’t know if we had put that out there yet, but I’m happy to now. We’re certainly in conversation with him about getting a political process. Obviously, the Houthis are the ones who initiated this military action, and I know other people have been talking to them to try and urge the same thing.

QUESTION: Different subject – oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Very, very quickly al-Qaida.

MS. HARF: A couple more on Yemen.

QUESTION: The leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said that he’s going to dissolve the organization and have each group function as an autonomous or an independent, as a matter of fact, organization.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that, Said.

QUESTION: Well, that’s what he’s saying, so --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to take a look at that.

QUESTION: -- that is likely to complicate the situation for you, especially in Yemen.

MS. HARF: Well, I think, for all intents and purposes, many of al-Qaida’s affiliates are already acting very independently. I mean, AQAP has enormous ties to AQ core – what’s left of it – in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but certainly, obviously, operates very far away from AQ core. They have funding; they have leadership. If you look at other AQ-affiliated organizations, they certainly operate independently, even though they are still affiliated as well. So I’m not sure what the practical impact might be from something like that, and again, I hadn’t seen his comments.

QUESTION: Few more on this?

QUESTION: Marie, if I can go back for a second --

MS. HARF: Let’s just do a few more.

QUESTION: Yes, for a second to my line of questioning. President Yanukovych – when he fled, his residence was immediately mobbed, captured, and ransacked by the mob in Kyiv. And then he claims – I don’t know if it’s true or not, but he claims that he was under attack when he traveled, that people shot at his car and he was under immediate physical threat. So I don’t see how --

MS. HARF: Well, I certainly can’t confirm those.

QUESTION: Yes, I don’t see how you can --

MS. HARF: It’s completely different.

QUESTION: My question is the same. The similarities between the two cases are striking.

MS. HARF: In that there aren’t many?


MS. HARF: In that there aren’t many similarities?


MS. HARF: Oh. Okay.

QUESTION: There are a lot, I think, but anyways --

MS. HARF: Okay. We can agree to disagree.

QUESTION: Okay. I wanted just to remind you also that in about a month we’ll have an anniversary of one of the worst atrocities in recent history in Europe: the torching of this building in Odessa during May Day holidays, where several dozen people were killed, were burnt alive and clubbed when they tried to escape. At that point, you condemned the incident, and if I remember correctly, asked for an investigation.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But now a year later, I will be asking you about the result, okay?

MS. HARF: Okay. I appreciate the heads up. But I would also say when you said it was one of the worst atrocities in modern European history, it was certainly a horrible tragedy – as I said at the time, we condemned it – but let’s put that into context next to the downing of a civilian airliner, MH-17, with hundreds of people onboard, with the violence that the Russian separatists have perpetrated all over eastern Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea. I think we need to put things in a little bit more perspective here.

And we’re moving on.

QUESTION: Staying on Yemen.

MS. HARF: Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: Yemen. Yeah, are you able to confirm the death of an American citizen in Yemen?

MS. HARF: We can’t. Let me see what I have on that. We’ve certainly seen the reports. Let me see. I have something on that. We’re aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen was killed in Yemen on March 31st. We’re working to verify the information. We cannot do so at this time.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for the U.S. to take a more proactive role in evacuating U.S. citizens who are still on the ground in Yemen?

MS. HARF: There are not.


MS. HARF: Well, first, we have been warning for I think a decade now that American citizens not travel to Yemen. So that’s not a reason why not to; I’m just reminding people of that. The second is that in each of these cases, we have to make a decision based on the security situation and what is feasible to do. And given the situation in Yemen is quite dangerous and unpredictable, doing something like sending in military assets even for an evacuation could put U.S. citizen lives at greater risk. In some other places we’ve helped evacuate U.S. citizens. For example, airports were still open and you could evacuate people on commercial airlines. Obviously, that’s not the case in Yemen. So we’re continuing to evaluate the security situation, and we’re continuing to look at what our options are, but at this point, no plan – no change in plans.

QUESTION: Okay. A lot --

QUESTION: Do you see --

QUESTION: Sorry, one more on this. A few other countries have used their own military assets.

MS. HARF: It hasn’t – they haven’t continuously been open because of the fighting, but go ahead.

QUESTION: A few other countries have used their own military assets to --

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: -- evacuate their citizens, and in one case a Chinese ship was used to evacuate foreign nationals.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you – if you are unwilling to use your own military assets to evacuate U.S. citizens, are you considering asking other countries for help?

MS. HARF: I have not heard that we’re considering proactively asking other countries for help.

QUESTION: Okay. What would you say – I mean, it seems like U.S. citizens – Yemeni-Americans on the ground are making statements to the point of essentially feeling abandoned by their own government.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly not abandoning them, Elliot, but I think the challenge for us is that we have had very strict travel warnings in place for a decade now for Yemen, including multiple travel warnings telling people not to travel there and that if they do, the U.S. can provide only limited assistance, especially now given that our embassy is closed. So we certainly understand the challenge. We are looking at what our options are. But you have to balance what options we have for a possible evacuation against the security situation, against what is feasible, against what kind of assets could do this, and what the risk is to those assets. So it’s just a balancing act situation, and that’s what we’re looking at or the way we’re looking at it.

QUESTION: On Bahrain?

QUESTION: A quick one on Yemen.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Just – sorry. Pakistan has --

MS. HARF: I’m going to start keeping this to essential questions. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Pakistan has joined Saudi Arabia in this fight that’s going on in Yemen. Do you feel this will affect the Pakistan’s capabilities to deal with the terrorists?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m going to just keep my answers shorter. Maybe that’s the way to do this.

James Rosen.

QUESTION: Our colleagues at The Daily Caller have published a story reporting that potentially millions of current and former illegal immigrants now have the opportunity to fly their children to the United States with taxpayer dollars and that upon arrival these individuals will be eligible for benefits, including free education, health care, and food stamps. The story further alleges that this is a program being jointly administered by DHS and the Department of State.

MS. HARF: Well, the first sentence you said was not true. This program is not a pathway for children to join undocumented relatives in the United States. The program only allows parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who are lawfully present in the United States to request U.S. resettlement for children under the age of 21 who are still in one of these three countries. So the parent or parents in the United States have to be lawfully present in the U.S. We’ve established this program to provide a safe, legal, and orderly alternative, as we talked about, to this very dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to join parents in the United States.

QUESTION: What’s the price tag?

MS. HARF: The price tag? I don’t know.

QUESTION: But it’s --

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: It would seem that it would be significant, right, given the number of children we’re talking about who would qualify?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not – do you know what the number is, or are you just assuming it’s high?

QUESTION: I think it’s a safe assumption, no?

MS. HARF: I don’t make assumptions about things I don’t know the facts on, so I would not make that assumption unless I knew.

QUESTION: Is there some price tag associated with it?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look. I think – obviously, this is I think partly administered by DHS. I’m happy to check and see if there is. But I would note, when you’re talking about dollar numbers, if their parents are lawfully present in the United States, I’m not sure you can put a price tag on preventing kids who are minors from taking a very dangerous journey to try to join their parents here. I’m not sure you want to attach a dollar value to that.

QUESTION: I’m not attaching a dollar value to that. I’m --

MS. HARF: Well, you asked about a dollar value.

QUESTION: I’m asking about the dollar value – the price tag associated with the provisions being made.

MS. HARF: With joining parents – children with their parents?

QUESTION: With the affirmative actions being taken. That’s all.

MS. HARF: Well, but the affirmative actions being taken are joining children under the age of 21 with their parents who are lawfully present in the United States. I can see if there’s a number we can get you, but I’m not willing to put a price tag on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Bahrain?

MS. HARF: Bahrain, and then I’ll come over here.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that Bahrain is pushing or encouraging the U.S. Government to lift arms restrictions as a way of helping them aid in the fight against Islamic State. Are there any such efforts underway or any discussions related to that, and would that be something the U.S. would consider?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard about discussions. We obviously continue to approve exports to Bahrain on a normal case-by-case basis of items related to external defense, counterterrorism, and the protection of U.S. forces. At this time the U.S. Government continues to withhold exports to Bahrain of things like crowd control items and other items that have a potential internal security use, and have made no decision at this time to resume those shipments. But on the counterterrorism issues, we evaluate them just on a case-by-case basis.

A couple more. Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: On the Tikrit operations --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- if you have any update. But the question is: There was a report or a story on the Foreign Policy, talking about that the United States is helping the ethnic cleansing, which the argument was that you are helping the Iraqi army and the Shia militia on the ground, and there are some footages also for that – and the United Nations Human Rights Office. So is there any mechanism that if the Tikrit is liberated, I think it is – a large part of it is liberated, that you can oversee the process to prevent the ethnic cleansing and the revenge act, anything like that?

MS. HARF: Well, first, backed by coalition airstrikes, Iraqi forces have advanced to the heart of Tikrit, taking the city center and other major areas of the city from ISIL. I think this is pretty impressive progress by the Iraqi Security Forces and a severe blow to ISIL. There are still some remaining pockets of Tikrit that are – need to be cleared. This will be painstaking work. IEDs are also a concern, as are possible snipers and potential holdouts of ISIL fighters. So we will continue working with our Iraqi partners until ISIL has been completely forced out from the area around Tikrit. We are concerned by sporadic reports of looting and the burning of some homes in Tikrit. We have raised those concerns with the Iraqi Government.

Prime Minister Abadi has ordered the Iraqi Security Forces and federal police to arrest and prosecute anyone who was involved in such activity. It’s the responsibility of the Iraqi Government to ensure that such abuses and criminal behavior are not allowed, to avoid any rise in sectarian tensions. I would note that Prime Minister Abadi and the governor of Salah ad Din province raised the Iraqi national flag during the prime minister’s visit to Tikrit on Wednesday – I think an important sign of Iraq’s united effort to defeat ISIL – excuse me – and cooperation between national leaders like the prime minister and provincial leaders like the governor.

QUESTION: How about the working of the destabilization working group? Is there anything, like – because it’s – United States is part of that, that you work with them?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional update on that.

QUESTION: One more on the visa process. Maybe it’s the DHS more of that. There is a process for special immigrant visa for Iraqi nationals worked with U.S.

MS. HARF: There is, correct.

QUESTION: Yeah. And that’s also one of the reasons that – why I’m here. But there are also hundreds of others waiting, like, for maybe for more than two years. Is there any – I think there is a process going on in the court suing United States Government by a U.S. retired general or colonel. But is there anything that you can work with the DHS to review the process? Because what they want is an answer – either refuse, or accept the application.

MS. HARF: And we obviously believe greatly in the SIV process, both for Iraq and for Afghanistan. And actually, it is housed at the State Department, a huge part of this process. And we have taken great strides over the past months to improve the speed of the process, given the security situation. After the briefing, let me have our folks send out our latest numbers and statistics about how we’ve done so. I know we have them and I know we’ve worked very hard on this, so let’s get all of those out to you and make sure you have – we have your information so we can get that to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: I have a quick question on the Palestinian issue.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority became a member of the ICC. I wonder if you have a reaction to that.

MS. HARF: Well, they tried to accede to the ICC, and the U.S. position on this issue is well known. We do not believe the Palestinians are eligible to accede to the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court.

QUESTION: But I think the Court disagrees with you. They said that they are entitled to be a member. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think our position is clear.

Yes, right here.

QUESTION: Thanks, Marie. Just a brief one, if you have a readout from Sung Kim’s visit to Moscow this week.

MS. HARF: I do have a brief one, I think. Let me see what I have here. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim met April 1st with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov – Morgulov – am I saying that right, Andrei?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: -- thank you – and other Russian officials to discuss a wide range of issues related to North Korea. These discussions are the latest in a series of regular, ongoing consultations with our five-party partners, all of whom remain united in pursuit of their shared objective: a denuclearized North Korea.

QUESTION: Any plans for follow-on meetings?

MS. HARF: Not that I know of. Not that I know of.

Yes, Brad.

QUESTION: A quick one. On Cuba – have you gotten all the information you need from other agencies to make the state sponsor of terrorism decision?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. I know the process is ongoing.


MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I have a question on Indonesia.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Cuba real quick?

QUESTION: You can.

QUESTION: Has anything developed in the talks thus far to make it more likely that Secretary Kerry will be paying a visit to Cuba, and doing so soon?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said he will go at some point; nothing in terms of what that timing might look like.

QUESTION: Does it – would it appear imminent to you?

MS. HARF: How do you define imminent? Are we leaving tomorrow?

QUESTION: The next month?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I wouldn’t – I would not define month as imminent, as a broad point of clarification.

QUESTION: Put it this way: Will he visit Tehran before Havana at this point?

MS. HARF: No. James, in all honesty, we do not know when that might happen. I don’t think anything is imminent. But I would define imminent sooner than that, but we just really don’t know. No clue.

QUESTION: Well, how do you define imminent?

QUESTION: Can you say how likely it is that the embassies --

MS. HARF: The bottom line is we have no idea when we’re going. I wasn’t trying to talk around it there. We really don’t.

QUESTION: Can you say how likely it is that embassies would be opened in Havana and Washington before the Summit of the Americas, or is that looking pretty much not possible?

MS. HARF: Well, the summit starts six days – we leave, I think, six days from now, so that’s imminent. Six days is imminent.

QUESTION: So you would say not likely?

MS. HARF: It’s not a lot of time, let’s put it that way.

QUESTION: Can I – I had a question on Indonesia. There’s an operation today to rescue hundreds of fishermen who had been in slave-like conditions. Is the United States Government involved in that operation in any manner?

MS. HARF: In the operation?


MS. HARF: I don’t believe so. We – I don’t know the details of that. We understand the Indonesian minister of fisheries has reported she intends to freeze the fishing permits of the boat companies and the media as – because they’ve left, allegedly, these fishermen stranded, that she’s ordered an investigation into the reports. We are certainly following the situation closely. We’ve been in touch with the governments involved – the Thai, the Burmese, and the Indonesians. We’ve raised our concerns and we hope they’re working towards a resolution.

QUESTION: Now the Thai Government sent a delegation to visit this area yesterday, I believe?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And they said there was no signs of any labor problems whatsoever. Now they could either have not seen it or maybe they have a different interpretation of what proper labor standards maybe are. Are you going to bring this up with them to express any concern?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been in touch with the Thai Government on this issue. The Secretary and the State Department are deeply concerned about human trafficking in the fisheries or seafood sector. I think we raised this in our annual TIP report as well. It has become, I think, increasingly clear that workers in this industry, particularly many of whom are migrants, are exploited at multiple parts along the supply chain here. So this is something we have discussed with the Thai.

QUESTION: Now the Burmese have been slow in the past to provide papers for people like this who are returning. Is this something you’re going to work specifically with the Burmese on?

MS. HARF: Yes, and we have raised it with them in the past.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, may I re-ask my earlier question in a different way?

MS. HARF: This is the last time you get to ask the question.

QUESTION: On Iran, when you say were saying you – I saw you trying to emphasize that you value highly the Russian contribution to this.

MS. HARF: Absolutely, absolutely.

QUESTION: Would it be possible, do you think, for the talks to conclude at this point with this intermediate agreement without support from Russia?

MS. HARF: No, they’re part of the P5+1. And I would also note that Moscow hosted a round of P5+1 talks many – before my time here, but they have been a key part of this process.

QUESTION: How confident are you that they will keep this support?

MS. HARF: I am confident that the P5+1, including Russia, will remain united in our objectives, in our approaches. But there is a lot of work to do over the next three months, and I will say that. This is a very good step we have taken, but we have to get all the technical details right, we have to get all of this down on paper for the next three months.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The French claim that they toughened the agreement by not accepting some of the things you and the Iranians had suggested.

MS. HARF: I have no idea --

QUESTION: Do you accept that narrative?

MS. HARF: -- what they are referring to. I have absolutely no idea what they’re referring to. We have internally, inside the P5+1, always said we all have national positions on issues, and that’s why we have all these coordination meetings to say, “Okay, here’s what we think, here’s what we think.” But we are all committed to getting to the same goal here, so I don’t have any idea what they’re referring to, certainly.

QUESTION: So what do you attribute these comments to? Posturing by the French Republic?

MS. HARF: The French are a key partner in these talks, Brad, and I am really just not going to do more analysis about what is said publicly and why. They have been absolutely a key partner here.

QUESTION: Marie, I’m wondering if you want to comment on the State Department’s anti-ISIS, anti-radicalization information campaign. In the wake of now three American women who have been arrested in the United States for either plotting to detonate bombs in the U.S. or to travel overseas to ISIS, I mean, how – is there an update on that campaign? Why do you think women now are being radicalized? And is there anything being done to reach out to women specifically?

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of the State Department’s campaigns, those are designed mainly for a foreign audience. We deal with the foreign public. Obviously, Twitter is – everyone can see it and that’s – certainly, people can see what we do, but the State Department’s counter-ISIL message and campaign is – tends to be focused overseas. Other government organizations deal inside the United States with counter-radicalization programs, whether it’s DHS or the FBI or others. We certainly work with them. But we’re mainly focused overseas and I don’t have much analysis to do for why women want to join ISIL. I don’t really know why anyone would want to join ISIL, but – not any gender-specific analysis for you.


MS. HARF: A couple more, guys.



MS. HARF: Yep, okay.

QUESTION: You said that you purposefully separated the Iran nuclear deal from --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- other issues.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: And I think the whole purpose behind preventing Iran getting their nuclear bomb is to the safety of the region and your allies there.

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: But Iran is still doing destabilization effort. And what is the point if they are still doing that and you are not doing what you have done?

MS. HARF: Can you imagine how much more power they would be able to project in the region if that was backed up by nuclear weapons?

QUESTION: But still, they are doing their efforts to destabilize --

MS. HARF: Right, which is the reason we need to deal with the nuclear issue. And if you try to deal with every regional issue that we had problems with that Iran was doing, I’m not sure how long those negotiations would take, but the nuclear issue is tough enough as it is. But on those other issues, we have other ways of combatting and countering that, whether it’s sanctions, whether it’s increasing security to our Gulf partners, whether – there’s a variety of ways we can do that.

QUESTION: That’s what you are going to do after the deal.

MS. HARF: No, we’ve been doing that for many, many years. We’ve sanctioned Iran for its human rights record, for its terrorism support. They are a state sponsor of terror. We support the security of our Gulf allies because Iran is destabilizing in so many places. So these things aren’t mutually exclusive, but the nuclear agreement is focused on a very complicated and very technical and very critical security issue, which is the nuclear issue – because we don’t want them to be able to project more power backed up by nuclear weapons when the region is already so destabilized.

QUESTION: So that’s what I – if I – if it’s correct that you think – United States and the world power that if Iran doesn’t have the nuclear bomb, then it will have less influence in destabilizing the region? That’s --

MS. HARF: Well, you flipped what I said. I think they already have a great amount of influence in the region and they are very destabilizing in many, many places, which we sanctions them for, which we work to counter in a number of ways. So certainly, we’re very concerned about that activity. That’s why the leaders of GCC nations will be coming to Camp David to meet with the President to discuss exactly this issue.


QUESTION: Yeah, on Iran and North Korea.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Iran – I know that Iran and North Korea are totally different cases, but in some aspect the Iran’s nuclear deals could affect North Korea’s nuclear deals. I mean, though, my question is: What does this Iran’s deal mean for North Korea? And is there any possibility of a resume – I mean the resuming talks over the negotiation with North Korea about nuclear things?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that these really are very different issues, and what Iran chooses to do or not do doesn’t have a lot of bearing on whether North Korea lives up to its international obligations. So we have said that if North Korea is open to coming back to the table in a credible way as part of the Six Party Talks, obviously, we believe the goal is the same. We need to get to a denuclearized Korean peninsula. So the responsibility is on them, though, and regardless of what’s happening in other nuclear talks around the world.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Everyone, have a great holiday weekend, a happy Passover, a happy Easter, Good Friday.

QUESTION: Thank you for briefing, Marie.

MS. HARF: We hadn’t briefed all week. I take my responsibility seriously.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)

DPB # 55


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 30, 2015

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 16:18

Marie Harf
Acting Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 30, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:22 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Thank you so much and thank you, everyone, for joining the phone briefing today. I hope everyone can hear me. If you can’t, let me know when you ask your question. We used to do these – folks remember – back when I did the Iran talks in Vienna. So thank you for being flexible with us given schedules this week.

Just a quick travel update: No surprise where the Secretary is, as you know, in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Under Secretary Sherman, Energy Secretary Moniz, and the whole negotiating team, meeting with our P5+1 partners and the Iranians to see if we can get a political understanding. The deadline is obviously tomorrow at the end of the day, so I think these next 36 hours are going to be fairly busy ones for all of us – I’m sure all of you as well.

I don’t have much other to say at the top, so if someone wants to go ahead and get us started – it looks like the first question is fittingly from the Associated Press, from Brad Klapper. Go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: Thanks, Marie. Congratulations on your new title as well. Can you just give us an update on some of the various reports regarding the Iran talks that have come out in the last few days? We just really haven’t had a chance to talk about some of them: One, the issue of enrichment, of the enriched stockpiles that may or may not be shipped out of the country, how much of a setback would it be if Iran refuses to not send that to Russia. And then some of the issues regarding PMDs, Fordow – how confident are you that the parameters of a good deal are still being met?

MS. HARF: Okay. Let me take all of those, and if I forget, I’m sure you’ll follow up. First, on the stockpile question, I’ve talked about this a little bit today already in a couple interviews, but the bottom line is we don’t have agreement on the Iranians – with the Iranians on the stockpile issue. This is still one of the outstanding issues. And the point for us – what’s important to us is that we can get agreement about the path for them to basically get rid of a large part of their stockpile so that the remaining stockpile, when put together with the number of centrifuges, the type of centrifuges, all of the different parts of the equation, gets us to a year breakout time.

So there were a couple things sort of blatantly wrong with that story this morning. First, there had been no agreement up until this point about what the disposition of that stockpile would be. The story said that there was sort of a last-minute – in the last 24 hours – change away from what had already been agreed to. That’s just not true. There hadn’t been an agreement yet. For months, we’ve been talking with Iran about the different ways they can get rid of that stockpile. One is, obviously, dilution in country, as they’ve been doing under the JPOA. One is shipping it overseas. There are others.

But this notion that in the last 24 hours that somehow there’s been a shift in this issue, sort of a hardening of positions, just isn’t true. It’s not accurate with what’s happening inside the negotiating room. This is a remaining issue that we have to resolve but hasn’t, quite honestly, been one of the toughest ones. And so this story was just off on a number of fronts there.

So this is one we have to resolve but we haven’t yet. There’s a number of different ways we can do so. You don’t have to ship it out of the country to get to a year breakout time. You can have some other dispositions for it that get us where we need to be in terms of our bottom line.

QUESTION: Okay. And then --

MS. HARF: What else? We talked about --

QUESTION: -- I think the PMDs and Fordow were kind of two of the other stories that had come up recently.

MS. HARF: So on Fordow, we obviously don’t comment on sort of reports about specifics things that are being discussed inside the room except for very generally. But what we’ve always said about Fordow is it needs to be – it cannot be used to help enrich uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon. You have to cut off that uranium pathway, that it will have to be converted into something that can’t. So what that looks like we still don’t know.


MS. HARF: But that sort of what we’ve always said. Obviously, that’s still a topic of negotiation.

On PMD, that’s obviously a big area of concern for us as well. We’re working through that issue. I don’t have much else to say about that publicly at this point. Did you have other questions that I --

QUESTION: Yeah. I have just a couple more. I’m not going to do the extended back and forth just because the format’s difficult, I think, for everyone, and thank you that you’re doing this.

Just – is there any talk about a possibility of extension at this point or is midnight tomorrow, I assume Swiss time, the time it has to be agreed?

MS. HARF: Did everyone know that the Swiss actually had – fell back this week, as well? So we have now lost – leaped forward, excuse me – so we’ve lost two hours of time. I just want everyone to know that – here in Switzerland. We had to do it in the U.S. and here. But we’ve said that March 31st is a deadline; it has to mean something and the decisions don’t get easier after March 31st. And so that’s what we’re focused on right now. If we can’t get to an understanding by tomorrow night, we have to look at the path forward and where we are. We’ll make decisions then. I really don’t want to guess about – I mean, honestly, so much can change in the next 36 hours. I don’t want to guess.

But I would remind people that the JPOA, the conditions of it were extended – at the last extension time until the end of June. So on April 1st it’s not like something happens, right, because it’s already been extended until the end of June in terms of the JPOA and it’s still being enforced. I just want to make that technical point, but obviously we will have to look at where we are and see what it looks like and make decisions.

QUESTION: Okay. And then last one: Do you have any comment on the trips – well, the trip already by the Senate majority leader and the upcoming one by the Speaker of the House to Israel? The timing is a bit curious, perhaps. And are you concerned at all about them speaking against your efforts in a foreign country at the time you may or may not be agreeing to a framework nuclear agreement?

MS. HARF: Well, quite honestly, Brad, we’ve been so busy here at these talks, I haven’t been able to pay too much attention to the details of their congressional delegations and what actually is happening with them. But I would say, obviously, in general we support the concept of congressional delegations. It’s important for members of Congress to get out and see the world and talk to our international partners as well. I think in general the U.S. is strongest overseas when we leave politics at the water’s edge and we speak with one voice, even though we disagree on policy sometimes. But quite honestly, I just – I really haven’t been paying too much attention to it.

Look, we’ve said if we can get an agreement, it’s one we know we can defend publicly. I don’t think it’s any secret what some members of Congress or others feel about these negotiations. That’s certainly nothing new. But what we’re focused on here is the talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Matt Lee, your esteemed colleague, and then we’ll move away from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: I have a very – my question is very, very short: When are we going home?

MS. HARF: (Inaudible) heard that before, Matt.

QUESTION: That’s it. That’s my only question.

MS. HARF: What did you say? I didn’t hear your question.

QUESTION: When are we going home? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I would love to know that answer as much as you would, Matt. We’re going to be here, I think, through tomorrow to see if we can get this done tomorrow, but beyond that, I am being completely honest here: We do not know. I would love (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. That’s all I have.

MS. HARF: Great question, Matt. Let’s go to Jo Biddle with AFP.

QUESTION: Hang on a second, I’ve got – where’s the – hello? Can you hear me, or am I on speaker? Can you hear me?

MS. HARF: We can hear you. Speak up a little, Jo.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks, Marie. I had a couple of questions, quite brief ones. Were you surprised that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov left this afternoon, less than 24 hours after he came? Does that hamper what you’re trying to do going forward?

MS. HARF: Let’s start there. I don’t think so, honestly. The ministers have come as their schedules allowed, and I think his spokesperson said that he can come back tomorrow. So we are pushing forward to see if we can get this done. He was very helpful when he was here. His experts are still here as well, and their political director, Sergei Ryabkov, and they’ve been a key part of this and certainly bring a lot of expertise. So I don’t think people should read too much into that, but he has said he can come back tomorrow, so --

QUESTION: And I had another question. In your calculations as you think about this going forward, is it better for you to stay here and keep negotiating beyond the deadline if you think you can get something in the next couple of days, or is it better for you – the American delegation – to walk away on the 31st of March, bearing in mind, obviously, the political tensions with the Republicans?

MS. HARF: It’s a great question, Jo, and I wish I could answer it. I really think that we just don’t know where we’re going to be at this time tomorrow, quite honestly, and so we will really have to see tactically and strategically what makes the most sense going forward. I think we will know a lot more at this time tomorrow, probably.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Arshad from Reuters. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. There have been a couple of somewhat optimistic public comments lately, one from Foreign Minister Lavrov, who used the word “optimism.” “The main thing that causes optimism is the determination of all ministers to achieve results within the current session,” he said. And --

MS. HARF: I think he also said, “I’m not paid to be optimistic,” as well.

QUESTION: Yes, right, which makes it interesting that he used the word at all.

MS. HARF: It’s because that’s what the reporter said at the spray.

QUESTION: Can I finish? And the Chinese also had a somewhat upbeat assessment about gaps being narrowed. Do you share those assessments, that the gaps are getting smaller and that there’s any reason for optimism here?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that Foreign Minister Lavrov said he was optimistic, and certainly Secretary Kerry did not either. I think we are working hard. There are some big issues that we are not there yet. So I think it’s always fair to say we narrow gaps on some issues, but if we can’t get those last ones done, we can’t get there.


MS. HARF: Let’s go to Joy Lin of Fox News.

QUESTION: Hi there. Thanks for taking our question. There’s speculation Iran is maintaining nuclear facilities outside its borders in North Korea or some other location. Can you at least rule out that possibility?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, you’re asking if Iran has nuclear facilities in North Korea?

QUESTION: Outside its borders, whether – outside its borders. Let’s start there.

MS. HARF: Whether another country would let Iran build a nuclear facility on its soil? That seems like a --

QUESTION: That’s the speculation.

MS. HARF: -- bizarre proposition that I haven’t heard anyone mention.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Seems sort of bizarre. I’m happy to look into it if you have more specifics, but that seems fairly unlikely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Okay, Mike Lavers of the Washington Blade, go ahead

QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for your – for organizing this, and congratulations again on your new appointment. I wanted to ask a question about Jamaica, if I could. Last week there were LGBT rights advocates who heckled the Jamaican prime minister in New York over what they perceive is your lack of response to LGBT rights abuses on the island. This was a report that a gay teenager was stoned to death. I’m curious if the Secretary is (a) planning to travel to Jamaica with the President on April 9th to attend the Caribbean Community meeting; and then (b), if he is, is he planning on discussing the LGBT rights with the prime minister while in Jamaica?

MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s a great question, Mike, and thanks for it. At this point, the Secretary is not planning to go with the President. Our schedule is obviously very in flux, as I know you know, and we will be going to Summit of the Americas, which I think is right after the President’s trip. So at this point, no scheduled travel. I can check with our team though and see if (inaudible) in any way or if we have concerns, obviously, which I imagine we may. So let me see more broadly if there’s more specifics we can get you. But in terms of the Secretary, at this point, no plans to travel.

Our next question is from Pam Dockins of Voice of America.

QUESTION: Marie, hi. Thank you so much. I have two questions. First of all, a question about the 31st deadline. There have been some reports that the 31st is really more of a hard deadline for the United States and not so much for the other P5+1 negotiators and Iran; the U.S. is focused on it because of possible congressional reaction. Would you agree with that assessment? And then secondly, do the other negotiators there perhaps not feel as strongly as the U.S. does about reaching some sort of agreement by tomorrow evening?

And then secondly, if I could get your reaction to the creation of this joint Arab military force. This came out of the Arab League meeting, of course, over the weekend, and these are U.S. allies. And in particular, could this perhaps cause strain between the U.S. and Iran at a time when you’re trying to negotiate this nuclear agreement?

MS. HARF: Yes. So taking the first question first – and let me know if I miss anything – the 31st we have said is a deadline. And when we announced the second extension last November with – alongside our P5+1 partners and Iran in that joint statement, all of us said that the goal was to reach a political understanding by the end of March and use the last four – or excuse me, three months to finish the annexes and all the technical work. So all of our partners signed up to the notion that the goal was to have an earlier deadline as really an action-forcing mechanism. We’ve all seen through the way negotiations often play out, many decisions get made towards the end as there is some pressure. And so I think all of us felt like that was a good premise upon which to base the schedule for the negotiations after the last extension.

I think it’s no secret that Congress, our Congress certainly, is interested in acting, and we have obviously said we’re very opposed to that action. That puts sort of an additional pressure on our side. But I do think in general, we and our P5+1 partners agree that the decisions for Iran don’t get easier the more you wait – we’ve all said that, and that now is really the time to make these decisions. We’ve been negotiating since September of 2013 when the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Zarif at UNGA, and it’s sort of time to see whether they can make these decisions. And that’s what we’re focused on, obviously, today. But that being said, we aren’t going to rush to accept a bad deal. And so if we can’t get a good deal, we won’t take one, pure and simple. I think we’ve all been clear about that.

On the joint force, obviously we’ve seen the announcement, are aware of the proposal. I understand the details are still being sort of developed for how this might work. I think the precise structure and operational mandate of the new force will be worked out in the coming months, is my understanding. I think we’ll probably wait to see what shape that takes.

We, as the U.S., obviously have significant security cooperation and support to our partners in the region, so we’re obviously involved separately from this new force with our partners there. And in terms of the talks here, we have been very clear that we need to keep regional issues separate from the nuclear issue and this really has to be focused on the nuclear issue. That issue is a difficult enough one on its own; that’s why we’re focused on that here. And what’s happening in the rest of the region hasn’t impacted those talks.

Okay, Molly O’Toole from Defense One.

QUESTION: Hi. You touched on this briefly, but if I could just kind of follow up. So two parts here. There has been some reporting, particularly with The Wall Street Journal article this morning, that the Administration is expressing some openness to a mechanism by which Congress could weigh in on a deal if an outline is reached. Has there been any shift in that position? I know, obviously, there was the statement that the Kirk-Menendez legislation would be vetoed, but has there been any kind of shift in conversations in recent days with Congress about allowing them to weigh in in some way?

MS. HARF: A couple points. The White House has said the President would veto either the Corker bill or the Kirk-Menendez bill if either are brought to his desk, so that position has in no way changed. We are very clear that Congress should not take action while we’re negotiating. It makes the lives of our negotiators – sorry – it makes the lives our negotiators more difficult, it makes the talks more difficult. And that’s, obviously, I don’t think what Congress wants to do, but that’s what it could have – the results that could come from that kind of action.

QUESTION: So it’s not as if outside of those pieces of legislation another path has emerged over the last few days?

MS. HARF: (Inaudible.) Yeah, so outside of that, obviously – well, first, we have talked to Congress about this issue and consulted with them more than I think any other issue since I’ve been at the State Department, certainly. And if we can get to a comprehensive agreement, then yes, Congress will have a role to play. For starters, they will have a role to play in eventually lifting the sanctions that they put in place that helped get Iran to the table.


MS. HARF: They are the only ones that can lift – ultimately lift, terminate U.S. – the U.S. sanctions that they put in place. And beyond that, we’ll keep talking to them, we’ll keep consulting with them. And I would say that’s a pretty high-class problem if we can get to an agreement.

QUESTION: Right. And --

MS. HARF: So Congress has played a key role in our Iran policy and certainly will continue to.

QUESTION: Sorry, and if I can just follow up with one more – I know I already took a lot of time – regarding – I know you’ve been very adamant that the other issues that are going on in the region, whether it’s Iranian militia’s role in Tikrit or Iran’s role in Yemen, aren’t impacting the talks. But is there any degree to which that is adding pressure to this timeline, given that that could – that that kind of geopolitical pressure in the region could complicate things further if this deadline isn’t reached?

MS. HARF: I really don’t think so. I don’t think it impacts the timeline. I think the fact that Iran, quite candidly, is taking some destabilizing action or supporting people that are in other parts of the region, and the fact that the region is facing a number of challenges right now is one of the main reasons why we actually want to diplomatically prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that if you can imagine Iran armed with one how much more power they could project in the region and how problematic that would be. So I don’t think it impacts the deadline at all, but I do think that, if anything, it underscores how important it is to resolve this issue and to do so diplomatically.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Justin Fishel from ABC News.

QUESTION: Marie – that’s right. How are you? Anyways, so Marie, what are the consequences of missing the 31st deadline? Aside from threats from Congress, what will happen when – if you miss the deadline, which you appear to be bracing everyone for? You said the JPOA extends through June, so we can expect talks will continue, or what?

MS. HARF: No. Look, I have said adamantly that we have no idea what will happen if we can’t get this done by the 31st. Obviously, we always are planning for contingencies and we will have to have some more policy conversations inside our Administration, look at where we are with Iran, look at where the talks are, and make decisions about what will happen next.


MS. HARF: I was simply making the logistical point that unlike the two previous extensions, the JPOA does not automatically expire after the extension because we extended it all the way through June. That’s more of a technical point. It deals with things like sanctions waivers and things like that. Everyone will still be bound by it on April 1st. But in terms of a policy decision, we will have to take a very hard look at where we are and we will have to decide what happens next. And I don’t want to predict what that outcome will be, because I can’t.

QUESTION: For those – okay. For those of us not there, how would you describe the mood of the negotiators? I mean, there seemed to be quite a bit of optimism going into the end of last week. How are these foreign ministers and other high-level negotiators in the room behaving? I mean, do they – is the mood optimistic, or how would you describe it?

MS. HARF: I think the mood is serious. I think that the seriousness of what we’re doing, of the fact that we need to see more decisions from Iran, the fact that the other options we have aren’t great and just aren’t as good from a durability perspective, and those are all, I think, weighing on people. I think people are realistic about the challenges in front of this. I think we still see a path to get a political understanding. I want to be very clear about that. There’s still a path to do this. And there’s – I would probably say 50/50 – I don’t know, I never like putting percentages out there – but there’s a chance we will get it done.

QUESTION: You said 50/50. Are you okay with that? I mean --

MS. HARF: So I think we’re very sober in these conversations, but very committed to seeing if we can find a way to get there. And whether that’s the experts working through different technical pieces that can possibly get everyone to yes, that’s part of it. Whether it’s the political directors or different members of the P5+1 trying to figure out ways to get Iran to yes here while maintaining our bottom line, that’s all happening. So I think it well describe this sort of around-the-clock work – very intense, very focused, very serious. But we don’t yet know the outcome.

QUESTION: Forgive me if Molly asked this question: Did the Iranians bring up the alleged drone strike in Tikrit that they claim killed two --

MS. HARF: She did not ask that question.


MS. HARF: To my knowledge, they did not. I have not heard that they did. I would be surprised if they did, but I have not heard that they did.


MS. HARF: And I know DOD has spoken to that, I think, saying that we can say with certainty that the claims of strikes on March 23rd are untrue because the coalition forces did not initiate airstrikes near Tikrit until two days later. So I know they’ve spoken to it, but just to get that on the record.

QUESTION: If you had to break down in layman’s terms just a few lines, the big sticking points so far, your biggest hurdles, without getting into the painful details, what would you say they are? And that’s my last question, thank you.

MS. HARF: It’s hard to say, because everything is so interconnected. And we can have one or two areas where we just can’t come to agreement and we won’t get an agreement. I think I’ll probably leave it at that. I’m probably not going to get more specific.

QUESTION: Yeah, that wasn’t very specific at all. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Well, (inaudible) should in no way come as a surprise to you, Justin.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Marie.

MS. HARF: Said, you’re next.

QUESTION: It’s good to hear your voice. We want you to come home as soon as possible. And on that point --

MS. HARF: So do I, Said. So do I.

QUESTION: And so (inaudible) Matt, so come what may, you guys will come back on the 5th of April?

MS. HARF: No, I didn’t say that. I have – we have no idea what our travel schedule is.


MS. HARF: I would love to be able to promise that, but unfortunately I can’t.

QUESTION: Okay. And my second question is: Do you think or do you believe that the Iranians are sort of trying to squeeze the last drops, so to speak, at the eleventh hour and maybe at the eleventh hour they are going to agree to whatever needs to be agreed to?

MS. HARF: Look, I don’t want to --

QUESTION: Well, I’m saying that --

MS. HARF: -- (inaudible) negotiating strategy is.

QUESTION: Are they sort of maneuvering to get the – all they want, so to speak, and then agree to whatever everybody else agrees to by the – right before the talks end?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – I do think, Said, that the end of negotiations are often the toughest part, because it’s obviously the toughest issues. If they were easier, they would have probably been addressed earlier in the negotiations. I think that – look, the point of this is to see if we can get to a framework that gives all of us our bottom lines that we need. So we need to get to a year breakout and we need to cut off their four pathways. I don’t know what Iran’s bottom lines are; they can speak to that. But if there is an equation that gets us there, that’s what we’re trying to find. And we don’t know if we will yet. And everyone here is – there’s many conversations going on at all different levels; there’s side conversations, there’s meetings, there’s a lot going on here to try and see if we can get there.

QUESTION: And my last question is – somebody said that the last feet up the summit are the most difficult. What are these points? I mean, since you have been negotiating since 2013, as you said, what are the ones that are really major hurdles, so to speak, just to follow up on Justin’s point?

MS. HARF: Yeah. And I – it’s a valiant effort at following up. Look, we’re not – I’m not going to get into specific details about the sticking points. I think in general, we need to make sure that the combination of nuclear-related activities they are allowed to do under their program assures us that their four pathways are cut off and that they are pushed out to a year breakout time, from about two to three months right now. So what combination that is of centrifuges, stockpile; what type of centrifuges; what sort of all of the different components put together gets you to a year breakout. What kinds of research and development they’re allowed to do – that’s a key part of it as well; that’s a tough issue. And then on the Iranian side, obviously, the pace and timing of sanctions relief – not just U.S., but UN and EU as well. So look, these are all interrelated, and it’s really like moving puzzle pieces around, and we have to see if we can find that right combination, and we’re going to try.

QUESTION: And really finally – and really finally, Marie – now, you said that you encourage congressional leaders to go up and see the world. So you’re all fine – I mean, you’re okay with Mr. Boehner going there at this time and perhaps issuing a statement that may be contrary to your diplomatic efforts?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe in the principle that members of Congress --


MS. HARF: -- should travel overseas and meet with other foreign leaders. That’s something we believe in, obviously. As I said, I haven’t been able to pay too much attention to what’s going on in terms of those co-dels, those congressional delegations, but I think that what we’re focused on here really isn’t the politics of any of this; it’s the technical aspects and the science behind it and seeing if we can get to an agreement.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome. We’ll just do a few more.

Let’s go to Taurean Barnwell from NHK.

QUESTION: Oh hi, Marie. Thank you for doing this in Switzerland at this late hour for us. There’s a lot of talk about deadlines, and there is another deadline coming up tomorrow that I wanted to ask you about, and that’s China’s deadline to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. And I just wanted to know if you could provide us any information about if the U.S. has any plans to be a part of this bank, or if there’s any current consultations going on between the U.S. and China about the AIIB.

MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think our views on the AIIB going forward are going to be informed by its commitments on the standards for governance and environmental and social safeguards that it will adopt and implement. So right now, we’re focusing on meeting our commitments to the existing multilateral development bank. But I think, like the rest of the world probably, the U.S. has a stake in seeing the AIIB complement and work effectively alongside the existing multilateral financial institutions.

So this is something, obviously, we’ll be watching. We welcome new multilateral institutions that strengthen the international financial architecture when they have high standards – the high standards, I think, that the whole world has really built together. So we’ll be watching here and we’ll see. I don’t have anything else to predict, though, for you.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Okay. We’ll do a couple more. Barbara Slavin from Al-Monitor.

QUESTION: Hi, this is a pleasure. I wanted to just ask about --

MS. HARF: It’s fun to do it when you don’t have to be on TV, I can tell you.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask a little bit about the form of an agreement or a framework if one is reached, and in particular on the issue of something like stockpiles. Would it be necessary to actually specify how those stockpiles would be reduced, or is it sufficient for your purposes to simply say that the stockpiles will be reduced through one manner or another to a certain number of kilograms?

MS. HARF: Yeah, it’s a great question, and again, as so many things go with these talks, we really don’t know yet. Obviously, we want to – if we can get to an agreement, we will need to be clear publicly as much as we can about what that looks like. I don’t know what the form of that will take. Obviously, I think the more details that are able to be shared publicly, the better. I think that’s, in general, how we as the negotiating team feel. So we will see. But obviously, I think that we will have to show that we have had agreement or understanding on the major elements that cut off the four pathways and get to a year breakout. So I would imagine you would (inaudible).

QUESTION: And – yeah. And is it fair to say you’re still looking at a – sort of a two-pager, two-three pager?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think we ever – anyone ever confirmed that’s what we were looking at. I think we’re still trying to figure out how we will convey this publicly, to be frank, and we’re talking to our partners and to Iran about that right now. Obviously, we’ll have to share everything with Congress – be very open in closed settings with Congress – but I do think there is a sense here among our team, certainly, and in our conversations with others, that we want to be able to spell out specifically as much as possible publicly as we can.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Okay. I’m going to do one more. Felicia Schwartz of The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to see, since the talks are nearing the eleventh hour or are in them, if there’s any readouts of calls between the Secretary and partners in the Gulf or Israel to brief them.

MS. HARF: Let me see. Let me look at my call list here. The Secretary spoke on Saturday with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. I don’t have a complete readout of that call. I imagine it was about Yemen, and the Iran talks as well, I’m guessing. We can see if there’s more to share.


MS. HARF: I don’t have any other calls to read out in terms of partners in the region. He did speak with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week a couple times as well on – they talk frequently on a range of issues, but I am confident this was one issue that was discussed.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. HARF: And we’ll do one last one, and then really, that’s the last question. From the other Matt Lee of Inner City Press, go ahead.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks a lot, Marie. I really appreciate it. I wanted to ask, actually, about Yemen. There’s this report of an IDP camp in northern Yemen called Haradh that was hit, and MSF said that several dozen people were killed by an airstrike. And I wanted – last week, Jeff Rathke said that the U.S. couldn’t corroborate casualties. But does the U.S. have anything to say about the way in which the campaign is being waged and safeguards that should be in place? And do you – is there any – do you see the situation moving closer toward resuming dialogue between Houthis and Hadi, or further away?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly the goal, right, to get on a path back to political dialogue. So even through the military action that we’re supporting, that is the goal. I think it’s a challenge at the moment given the Houthis’ actions, quite frankly, but we’re trying.

I just saw the report before I got on the phone about the IDP camp, so let me look into that and see if there’s more we can share. I just don’t know the facts on it. But in every conflict, we’ve always been clear that all sides should avoid civilian casualties. That’s certainly – I mean, it’s important for us. We’ve called on all sides in conflicts, including here, to take feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians, so that’s obviously important to us. But let me check on the specifics and see if we can anything back to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks a lot.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys. It looks like those are our questions. We will stay in touch about tomorrow’s briefing. Depending on what happens here, obviously, I’m happy to do a briefing over the phone, but we’ll just keep in touch given we have really no idea what the next 24 hours are going to look like. So appreciate everyone’s patience and for hopping on the phone today, and with that, the daily briefing is over.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:56 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 27, 2015

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 16:16

Jeff Rathke
Acting Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 27, 2015

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1:02 p.m. EDT

MR. RATHKE: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. I have a few things for you at the top, so if you’ll bear with me.

First of all, Secretary Kerry is in Lausanne today, where he continues to meet along with Energy Secretary Moniz, EU Political Director Helga Schmid, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Dr. Salehi.

Second item: We welcome the decision of the prime minister of Israel to release withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. This is an important step that will benefit the Palestinian people and help stabilize the situation in the West Bank. We hope that both sides will be able to build on this and work together to lower tensions and find a constructive path forward.

Nigeria: On the eve of the historic elections in Nigeria, the United States reiterates its support for credible electoral processes in Nigeria and renews its calls for all candidates, their supporters, and Nigerian citizens to reject election-related violence and refrain from activities that undermine the democratic process. In the latest example of our support, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield has traveled to Nigeria to lead our official diplomatic observation mission. We commend President Jonathan and General Buhari for their renewed pledge against violence and welcome their signing of a second peace accord ahead of the election.

The next item: Foreign fighter legislation. We applaud our European partners who are improving or introducing new laws to go after foreign fighters, including most recently Montenegro’s criminal code amendments on March 18th, Kosovo’s law signed on March 25th, and Spain’s new reforms passed on March 26th. Also Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Macedonia, Portugal, and Serbia – all in one breath – have also signed or implemented new foreign fighter legislation, and it is now illegal throughout the western Balkans, for example, to travel to fight in a foreign conflict or to recruit, organize, and finance the participation of citizens in foreign military formations. These efforts are an important contribution to our broader strategy to mitigate the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, as discussed in February at the ministerial here in Washington.

An internal update: On Wednesday of this week, Secretary Kerry sent a letter to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick requesting that he undertake a review of our efforts to date on improving records management, including the archiving of emails, as well as responding to FOIA and congressional inquiries. Secretary Kerry also asked that the IG make recommendations on how to improve our systems. The Secretary is committed to preserving a complete record of American foreign policy. Doing so is required, but it is also good government.

And in the letter, Secretary Kerry wrote that we must, “adapt our systems and policies to keep pace with changes in technology and the way our personnel work.” He also noted that we are “focused on improving the way we search for and produce documents in response to requests, whether through the Freedom of Information Act, inquiries from Congress, or access to historians and researchers. We’ll be sharing this letter with you later this afternoon. This is an important step in improving how we communicate at the department and in ensuring that we are preserving records, and we are committed to following through on this process.

And then finally, if I might, we have some guests here today. We are pleased to have with us in the briefing room today several Afghan Government spokesmen, including a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. They are in Washington for follow-on meetings after this week’s successful visit of the Afghan president and CEO to the United States.

And lastly, we welcome as well three guests from the University of Kansas Law School who are here for the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition: Alice Craig, Gretchen Rix, and Emily Barclay. So welcome. My apologies if I jumped the gun. I may have been – come out a little earlier than --

QUESTION: We didn’t get the warning, but that’s not your fault.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, so apologies for that. Anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just on the--

MR. RATHKE: By the way, I spoke about these – I don’t know if you heard the first two. One was about Israel tax revenues just in case you --

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll check the transcript. We’ll come back to that. Just on the last thing you raised before you welcomed the guests, the letter --


QUESTION: -- the letter that was sent to the IG, that didn’t mention former Secretary Clinton particularly. So I mean, explain – will the IG – has the IG been instructed to actually look at how she handled records and archiving instructions?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as I said, we’ll be releasing the full text of the letter later. We expect that the inspector general will take whatever actions they deem appropriate. This is focused, again, on our systems and policies that are in place and reviewing those in light of changing technology and improving our archiving.

QUESTION: But he’s not --

MR. RATHKE: It’s not --

QUESTION: He’s not instructed --

MR. RATHKE: It’s not specific.

QUESTION: He’s not instructed to look at her particular case of records and management?

MR. RATHKE: Again, this is about the department’s processes. It’s not specific to that.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any plans to ask an inspector general to look at that?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to announce about that.


MR. RATHKE: Again, we’ll share the letter on this. You can see in more detail.

QUESTION: Any update on when those emails are going to be released?

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. I don’t have an update on timing. The process is, as we’ve discussed, we have two tranches, if you will. The first are the documents, the emails that were released to the select committee, and so we're working through those. Those will be made public first on a publicly available website and then the 55,000 pages will be the second tranche, but I don’t have an update on that.

QUESTION: Jeff, when was that letter sent by the Secretary to the IG?

MR. RATHKE: That letter was on Wednesday.

QUESTION: Wednesday. Thanks.


QUESTION: Can we change the subject back to Israel?

MR. RATHKE: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Obviously – I wasn’t here, so you obviously welcomed that move.


QUESTION: Did Netanyahu actually call and advise the U.S. about that move or was it just made? And then how were you informed on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, look, we’ve been in touch with all the parties. We’ve also been clear from this podium as well as elsewhere in urging the key stakeholders to take steps along these lines. So we’ve been discussing this with the Israelis and the Palestinians, but I’m not going to characterize those conversations further.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. view this as a kind of a way of rebuilding bridges between the two?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we certainly hope that both sides will be able to build on this and work together to lower tensions and find a constructive path forward. That’s certainly our hope, and we think it’s an important step that this will benefit the Palestinian people, it will help stabilize the situation in the West Bank, and therefore we welcome the decision that the prime minister made.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that this transfer will now continue in perpetuity, or this is a one-off transfer to ease the crisis?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as for the particulars of the arrangement and the modalities, we’d refer you to the parties concerned. It was the Prime Minister’s decision. We’d let them speak for the specifics.

QUESTION: You, of course, want it to be in perpetuity, correct?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve said that having a functioning Palestinian authority in place is important. I’m not going to get into the particulars of this detail; but yes, of course, we consider the functioning of the Palestinian Authority to be important for stability in the West Bank.

QUESTION: Do you know how much was transferred?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have the amount. Again, we refer to the Israelis and Palestinians about the specifics.

QUESTION: So just coming back, you’re not prepared to say who informed you if you were informed by – directly or if this is something you’ve seen from news reports?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve been engaging with the Israelis and Palestinians over the last few weeks on this issue. I think I’d leave it at that.

QUESTION: So are you responding to press reports, or do you know this happened?

MR. RATHKE: No, we certainly know it has happened and that’s why we’re welcoming the decision.

QUESTION: But how do you – and how do you know it was –

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve been – as I said, we’ve been in touch with the Israelis and Palestinians.

QUESTION: But it just happened today.

MR. RATHKE: That’s right, and we’ve been in touch with them about it.



QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.


MR. RATHKE: Is this the same topic, Michel? Yeah?

QUESTION: Yeah. So can you --


QUESTION: (Inaudible) been in touch with them today, who made that communication?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a – the specifics of exactly who communicated the decision to whom, but we’ve been talking to the Israelis and the Palestinians regularly about this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but – all right, fine. I mean, we’re not interested in your regular – like we’ve known that you’ve talked to Israel and Palestine in the last years and decades. They just made an announcement. We want to know how you know about this. So if you had discussions today, that’s interesting, not that you have –

MR. RATHKE: Right. And I think I’ve said –

QUESTION: -- diplomacy with these –

MR. RATHKE: -- we have had discussions with them today. Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, it took a long time. Go on.

MR. RATHKE: Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. French foreign minister has announced today from New York that France plans to start discussion with partners in the coming weeks on a United Nations Security Council resolution to lay out the parameters for ending the Middle East conflict. And he hoped that partners who were reluctant will not be reluctant anymore, referring to the United States. How will the U.S. deal with any plan regarding the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians and the Security Council? Will you be cooperating with friends and with others?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re aware of the comments by Foreign Minister Fabius, but I’m not going to speculate about a hypothetical resolution or get ahead of decisions about what we might do at the Security Council.

QUESTION: But in principle, have you changed your stance toward any move at the Security Council?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I think we’ve spoken quite a lot about that in here and elsewhere in recent days. I don’t have anything new to add, and nor to speculate about a possible resolution that might be introduced.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion with the French foreign minister or with France in general about such a resolution?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we continue to talk to key stakeholders, including France, to find a way forward that advances our interest and the interests of others in a two-state solution. But I won’t go beyond that.

QUESTION: And what about specifically on any resolution? Are you in discussion with --

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’m not going to speculate about a possible resolution.


MR. RATHKE: Just a moment. Same?

QUESTION: No. Can we go to Yemen --


QUESTION: -- before we go to Turkey? What can you tell us about the level of U.S. assistance at this point in the Saudi-led intervention? I know in the statement it talked about doing thing – has that actually begun, the things you spoke about yesterday?

MR. RATHKE: That has begun. For the details on that, my colleagues from the Defense Department will have more detail to offer. But yes, we are supporting the operations that Saudi Arabia is carrying out. I can – I think some of you may have seen or heard that Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, met today with Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson as part of our regular diplomatic discussions. They discussed, of course, Yemen and other political and security-related issues. I think some of you may have been out there or seen as the ambassador came in.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. supporting a ground invasion by the Arab countries?

MR. RATHKE: Well, there’s been some speculation in some reports about that. I’m not going to speculate about what the Saudi-led coalition might do --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: -- but we’ve said that we don’t want this to be an open-ended military campaign. The Saudis have said the same, I believe, and so we keep it – we’re going to keep in close contact with Saudi Arabia and our GCC partners on those military actions.

QUESTION: I’ll repeat my question since I didn’t ask you to speculate on anything: Is the U.S. supporting a ground invasion of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I’m not going to comment on what their plans might be. We remain in close contact with the Saudis and our Gulf Cooperation Council partners. But I’m not going to comment on that.

QUESTION: I’m not asking – I’m asking on what the U.S. is doing.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. No, I understand. I understand your question.

QUESTION: Are you supporting that?

MR. RATHKE: And I’ve said I’m not going to comment on what their plans might be. I’ve said that we don’t want this to be an open-ended military campaign.

QUESTION: Are you supporting them in – regardless of what they plan to do?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve – again, we’ve supported the steps that they have taken thus far, and our – we see this as an opportunity. The basis for our support is our support for the political process in Yemen. We see a return to the GCC initiative process, of course, with President Hadi as the legitimate president of Yemen, but also with Houthi participation as the goal. And so we see that as the outcome that we’re striving for.

QUESTION: Are you --

MR. RATHKE: Same, on Yemen? Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you in contact with the Houthis?

MR. RATHKE: I think I spoke to this yesterday. I don’t have any direct contacts to read out. In the past we’ve had ways of communicating, but I don’t have any direct contacts to read out.

QUESTION: One more. The Yemenis are complaining that the strikes are targeting the harbors and civilian infrastructures. Do you have anything on this?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve always been clear that in every conflict, all sides should avoid civilian casualties. I don’t – I’m not able to corroborate those reports that you’ve mentioned, but clearly, we think it’s important to act in a targeted way in any kind of military conflict.

Jamie, did you have a question?

QUESTION: Yeah, just – I think it was (inaudible) Egyptian media was reporting that President Hadi has arrived in Egypt for the Arab League summit. I just wanted to see if you have any update on U.S. understanding of where he’s been over these last 24, 48 hours and whether there are any conversations you’re able to read out which happened in the last --

MR. RATHKE: I haven’t seen those reports about his arriving in Egypt, so I don’t – I’m not – be able to confirm that. He was in Riyadh, as we understand, so – but again, I haven’t seen that particular report.

QUESTION: Jeff, can I (inaudible) for a moment?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Just a moment. Yeah, go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on Michel’s question. You say you don’t have any direct contacts to read out between this Department and the Houthis. That’s not the same as not having any direct contact. Could you tell us whether you guys are in direct contact? I’m not asking you to read anything out.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Right, no, I understand. But I think also we talked about this yesterday. We haven’t had any direct contact with the Houthis or with President Saleh. We’ve consistently called on them to return to peaceful dialogue and to return Yemen to a peaceful political transition. I think we spoke at some length yesterday about President Saleh as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did U.S. request – did any Gulf countries requested for U.S. to make any military support for Yemen operation?

MR. RATHKE: Do you mean beyond what we’ve already announced? I’m not --

QUESTION: Yeah, any request for military support, U.S. military support in --

MR. RATHKE: Well, we put out a statement on this a couple of days ago which covers the areas that we’re – in which we’re supporting. We’re providing support of a logistical nature --

QUESTION: Only logistical?

MR. RATHKE: -- intelligence support, and so forth. Intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, as well as advisory and logistical support.

QUESTION: No, I’m just asking – a military operation. Did you receive any request from any Gulf countries for military support, not logistic?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, our support is of the nature that I just outlined, so I don’t have any further --

QUESTION: So no request you guys are --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to speak to our diplomatic communications with them.

Pam, go ahead.

QUESTION: Has there been any direct contact with President Hadi within the past 24 hours, and if so, can you provide an update on his status and his intentions?

MR. RATHKE: Well, as for his status and intentions, would refer you to him. We have not been in touch with him today. So the last contact we had with him I believe was two days ago. That would have been – yeah, it was Wednesday that we were last in contact with him.

QUESTION: But when you talk about logistical support, what do you mean specifically?

MR. RATHKE: I’d refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon to give more detail about what logistical support precisely.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: May I? Thank you. So in Iraq, the U.S. is fighting alongside Iran against ISIS. In Yemen, the U.S. is helping the Saudis bomb pro-Iran forces. Now former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine said, “Yes, it is messy, it is contradictory. That’s foreign policy.” Would you agree with that description?

MR. RATHKE: No, no. I think it’s quite clear that in Yemen we’re acting in support of the Saudi authorities with their coalition partners and they are responding to a request from President Hadi, who is the legitimate president of Yemen. So they, of course, are responding to a situation in which the military advance of the Houthis has caused – has been destabilizing and has also led to a situation where there is instability and the threat of chaos in Yemen, and that has – that is also a threat for the wider region. So it’s in response to that that they’ve taken action. I think we – you weren’t here yesterday, but we talked quite a bit about our support in Iraq to the Iraqi central government and their operations to retake Tikrit. So there’s no contradiction between those at all.

Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Sure, thanks a lot. I have one on Yemen, one on Middle East process. On Yemen, has the U.S. had any contact with Jamal Benomar, the special advisor who’s supposed to be mediating? And how do you think that the – what’s the process from bombing to getting the Houthis back to the table? Is anyone actually reaching out to them?

And just on Middle East peace, I wanted to ask you: What is the status of Tony Blair as the Quartet representative? Does the U.S. think that he should continue in that role? Where do things stand with that?

MR. RATHKE: Right. I think the question of Tony Blair – I think we spoke to that last week, so I’d refer you back to that.


MR. RATHKE: On – I can check and see if we have any contact with Benomar. I don’t have any information in front of me. It’s possible we’ve been in contact; I’d just have to check.

QUESTION: But if you’re calling for these – for talks to resume, what’s the process? Is he still the sort of center point for that, or is there some other process? What should – what’s the next step?

MR. RATHKE: Well, there are a variety of ways through which the Houthis and other groups in Yemen can convey their and express their readiness to return to a political process.

QUESTION: A couple more on Yemen.


QUESTION: Do you have any more to read out from Secretary Kerry’s conversation with the Iranian foreign minister about Yemen yesterday?

MR. RATHKE: No, I don’t have any additional detail to share. He – the Secretary raised it at – in one of their meetings yesterday. They had a couple of meetings. So the Secretary raised our concern but the discussion, of course, focused on the nuclear issue.

QUESTION: He raised our concern. What would our concern be in Yemen?

MR. RATHKE: Well, he raised Yemen. I think we’ve talked about what our concerns in Yemen are.

QUESTION: With this – okay. (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’m not trying to add anything to what I said yesterday. The Secretary raised Yemen in one of the conversations.

QUESTION: I got that. Can you just explain why there is no U.S. direct contact with the Houthis? Given that you’re saying the Houthis would have a place at the table in any mediation effort, why would you not speak to them then?

MR. RATHKE: Well, it’s a UN-led mediation effort, so that’s I think the principal reason.


MR. RATHKE: So we’re --

QUESTION: That doesn’t preclude you from having a conversation or talking about things with people if the UN’s involved, does it?

MR. RATHKE: No, it doesn’t preclude it, but it also – but my point is that this is a UN-led dialogue process, so the dialogue process would be conducted through the UN special representative and their staff. I don’t – we don’t have any direct contact at this point with the Houthis.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m asking you why you don’t have any contact with them. I mean, there’s UN-led processes all over the world and you speak to people involved in those processes. Why the decision not to make any direct contact with the Houthis?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve had ways of communicating with them in the past when necessary, but we haven’t changed that and we haven’t had any direct --

QUESTION: You’re not answering the – you don’t want – it’s a secret reason why not? I mean, do you have a reason why not?

MR. RATHKE: No, I don’t have any further information to share about that.

QUESTION: And you just said that you’ve had ways to directly contact them in the past. Can you – do you know when the last time this direct --

MR. RATHKE: I didn’t say “directly.” I said – what I meant is we’ve had ways of communicating indirectly in the past.

QUESTION: Communicate indirectly, okay. And you won’t – you can’t say why?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to outline our --

QUESTION: There’s no principle at stake here or anything U.S. foreign policy?

MR. RATHKE: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to say about that. I don’t have a --

QUESTION: On Yemen --


QUESTION: -- too – from your talks with the Saudis, when do you think this military operation will achieve its goals?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the Saudis are in the lead. You can ask them. But they’ve said themselves, as I think I referred to, that they want to see this end quickly. But --

QUESTION: But how and what are the goals?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: If you are supporting them now in this military operation, what goals do you want them to achieve?

MR. RATHKE: I think I spoke to our goals a couple of minutes ago, and that is that the basis for the United States is the political process and a return to that political process. So that’s what we want to see is a return to the GCC initiative, which would include President Hadi as the legitimate president but in which the Houthis also would play a role.

QUESTION: That means the military operations will be there till the Houthis come back to the table?

MR. RATHKE: Well, this is a Saudi-led coalition, so about those details of when – how they see the operation proceeding, I’d refer you to the Saudis.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Staying with Secretary Kerry in Lausanne, I wanted to ask – I’ve heard about Foreign Minister Lavrov flying over on Sunday. I was hoping you could preview the bilateral meeting that supposedly is taking place between Kerry and Lavrov the very same day and tell us what the Secretary is planning to speak about with his Russian counterpart.

MR. RATHKE: Well, the talks in Lausanne are focused on the Iran nuclear issue. I don’t have meetings to announce. The ministers who will be coming to Lausanne will be announcing their schedules as they make those plans, so I’ll let them speak for themselves. And certainly, there will be a variety of bilateral and multilateral meetings that will happen as these talks proceed, but I don’t have a schedule announcement to make about that.

QUESTION: And if I may stay with Russia for a second longer, there is another issue I wanted to ask you about. There is a peacekeeping – UN peacekeeping conference taking place in New York these days, yesterday and tomorrow. Chief of the Russian ground forces, Lieutenant General Oleg Salyukov, was planning to take part in that and speak at that conference. He wasn’t granted visa on time – at least, that’s what the Russians are saying. The Russian mission to the UN is accusing you of violating your obligations under the ‘47 – 1947 agreement on basement of the UN headquarters in New York. I was hoping to hear your response to that.

MR. RATHKE: I wasn’t familiar with those reports or that allegation. We’re happy to look into that and come back to you --

QUESTION: I really appreciate it.

MR. RATHKE: -- but I don’t have anything on that.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just returning to Yemen for a second – you’re calling for a return to peaceful dialogue; obviously that’s the end state that the U.S. is stating right now. But at the same time, doesn’t it seem that by supporting a Saudi bombing campaign that this is really counter to that direction that you’re trying to go to? Does that not make an already desperate, impoverished population more hostile to U.S. interests?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, the situation in Yemen – the – what we’ve seen is the rapid advance of the Houthis into southern Yemen, a military takeover in Aden which forced President Hadi to flee. And so, in that situation, Saudi Arabia has explained the reasons for their decision to take military action in response to President Hadi’s request. And so we certainly – the way we see the situation, the Houthis have had many opportunities. They signed the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement along with a security annex which called for them to withdraw from government institutions, to remove checkpoints and armed groups from the capital, to return seized military equipment. And that’s just one example of the stages where the Houthis have decided to continue an armed campaign and seize control of additional territory rather than abiding by the efforts that were made to try to keep the situation under control.

QUESTION: But how does the U.S. see itself returning diplomatically if it’s currently supporting a campaign to target inside Yemen? How does it see that it’s building a receptive situation for it to return?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I think this is similar to the question that was asked earlier. We want to see a return to the dialogue process. The UN is in the lead, but --

QUESTION: But if you want to, it seems like the U.S. actions currently are counter to that desired goal.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I would say that the Houthis’ actions have been, which came before the Saudi military actions, are the reason that we’ve got this unstable and chaotic situation in Yemen.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. understand perhaps maybe some of the reasons that the Houthis may feel unreasonable – perhaps the ongoing drone campaign inside Yemen, the ongoing shortage of electricity, food, water? I mean, what does the U.S. say to that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, there has been a GCC initiative and a UN-led process to address political issues in Yemen. The United States has supported it, the international community has supported it, the UN Security Council has supported it. So the way to address any concerns the Houthis may have is through that UN-led process, and it’s that which they have spurned and they have taken continued military action, which has brought us to this point.

Yes, Lesley.

QUESTION: Going to back to Michel’s question on – that the U.S. and the Saudis don’t want this to be an open-ended conflict, is it the U.S. view that the situation needs to be stabilized in Yemen before there can be this political process – meaning military stabilized, before the political process can kick in too? I mean, how do you bring the Houthis to the negotiating table?

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, again, there is the GCC initiative and the UN-led process which we need to return to. I think at this point it’s difficult to outline precisely exactly when that will happen, but that is our goal.

QUESTION: And do you have any further readout on the discussion between the Saudi ambassador and Patterson today?

MR. RATHKE: No, and the focus of the discuss was Yemen and our views on Yemen. I think we’ve been talking about, but I don’t have more specifics from the meeting.



QUESTION: -- that you’re talking about a GCC initiative, and this military intervention has been enshrined as a GCC intervention – Saudi-led.

MR. RATHKE: Well, Saudi-led; I would say the participation --

QUESTION: Saudi-led, but five of the six GCC countries signed on to it and it’s got the imprimatur of a GCC operation now. So how do you reconcile a GCC military operation to support GCC talks. I mean, the Houthis don’t have much at stake in that, do they?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: They’re at war with all these countries that are running the initiative that you’ve talking about.

MR. RATHKE: Well, it’s a GCC initiative, but there is a UN-led process. So it is Benomar who is the special representative who is in charge of the process. The initiative came about as a result of GCC proposals, but the process itself is a UN-led process.


QUESTION: But you shouldn’t have a bigger say in this operation since you are supporting this military operation?

MR. RATHKE: Saudi Arabia is in the lead and they’ve assembled --

QUESTION: But you are supporting.

MR. RATHKE: -- the coalition and we are providing support, some particular support to them. But it’s a Saudi-led operation.



MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Actually, could I just follow up on Michel and --


QUESTION: Of course, of course.

QUESTION: Apologies. But so you’re just telling Saudi Arabia that you don’t want it to be open-ended? There’s no drawing of lines or deadlines? There’s no --

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to characterize publicly the diplomatic discussions we’ve been having with Saudi Arabia about that.

QUESTION: I know. But it does sound like you’re basically giving them a green light to go on for as long as they’d like.

MR. RATHKE: Well, no --

QUESTION: And as Brad point’s out --

MR. RATHKE: -- I wouldn’t take it that way. I’ve said that we --

QUESTION: How should we interpret that? You – telling them that you don’t want it to be open-ended is very different from saying, “This can’t go on very long. This can’t go on for more than a week. This can’t go on if you start destroying civilian infrastructure,” which we already see happening.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s coming across as rather --

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve stressed the importance of avoiding civilian casualties, as we would in any military operation. We’re also saying we don’t want this to be an open-ended operation. I – we’ve been – I’m not going to characterize publicly further our diplomatic discussions with the Saudis about it.

QUESTION: Are you asking Saudi to make diplomatic outreaches, even in the course of this campaign? Or I mean, are you pushing them to do more than just not be open-ended?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’ll see if we have more to say from that, but --

QUESTION: You – has there ever been, in recent times, a military campaign that was open-ended? Has anybody gone in and said this war will go on forever potentially? No – I mean, the Saudis, by the very definition of this campaign, they want to restore the legitimate government. When they’ve restored it, it’s done. So I mean, I don’t understand that counsel.

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, isn’t that obvious that there are no open-ended conflicts, are there?

QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to mean much.

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, it’s – the Saudis are in the lead in this operation. I’d refer you to them for questions about their plans.

QUESTION: But are you suggesting that they are considering this an open-ended conflict?

MR. RATHKE: No. I haven’t said that.


MR. RATHKE: We – they’ve said they don’t want it to be open-ended. We agree with that.


MR. RATHKE: I’m not putting a time – a specific timeline on it.


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: But that’s like your sole counsel? That what you’re already saying you don’t want to do, don’t do, essentially?

MR. RATHKE: Well, no. It’s – again, we’ve spoken about the civilian casualties, we’ve spoken about the goal that the United States has in Yemen, and I don’t have anything further to add.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkish president yesterday talking about the Yemen – he was also talking about the Iranian influence in the region, and he was saying that basically Iran is replacing when the ISIS leaves. Does the U.S. Government also sees Iranian domination as a problem in the region?

MR. RATHKE: Are you speaking about Yemen or are you speaking more generally?

QUESTION: More generally right now, but it was basically – he was talking about Iranian influence in Yemen, and then talk about the regional term.

MR. RATHKE: Well, with – we’ve spoken quite a bit about the – our view of Iran’s role in the region. We have concerns in a number of areas about Iran’s role. We’ve also said that with respect to Yemen, we have concerns about Iranian support for the Houthis. So – but I’m not going to draw a sweeping conclusion of the sort that you posited.

Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: I got couple other questions. Yesterday, Director of the National Intelligence – on Wednesday, Mr. Clapper – at the House committee, he was saying that because of the different ways of approaching the Syrian crisis, there is a tension rising between Turkey and U.S. bilateral relations. Would you be able to comment on this? How this tension is arising at the moment?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I haven’t seen those comments, so I’m not going to – I’m not sure that’s what the Director of National Intelligence intended. We’ve been cooperating for months in the fight against ISIL with Turkey across all the lines of effort. That includes, on the one hand, trying to stop the flow of foreign fighters, includes on the financial side; also includes on the delegitimization of ISIL as well as on train and equip. So we have a productive relationship with Turkey in the fight against ISIL, and we expect it to continue.

QUESTION: There is a letter sent from Congressman Keating’s office to Secretary Kerry, also joined by Ed Royce, Mr. Engel, the ranking members of the House Foreign Relations Committee. It is about establishing a platform. Have you seen the letter, first of all? Do you – establishing a platform between Turkey and U.S. regards to human rights problems and rule of law in Turkey. Have you seen that letter?

MR. RATHKE: Well, yes, we’re aware of the letter, which I think is dated today --


QUESTION: -- from a – from several members of Congress.


MR. RATHKE: As we’ve – you’ve asked about other letters from Congress in recent days. And we’ve made clear, first, that we will, of course, be responding to the letter. But more generally, as we’ve said in the past, we remain concerned about freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly in Turkey and so we have raised those concerns in addition to questions about due process.

QUESTION: There is a specific resolution or – asking State Department establish this permanent platform between Turkey and U.S. Would you join or would you agree with this idea?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we just received the letter today.


MR. RATHKE: We’re going to look at it and we will, of course, be responding to it.

QUESTION: And my final question: Have you seen the security bill that passed the Turkish parliament just yesterday? It is criticized by human rights groups across the world that it is very damaging to Turkish democracy, and it gives these new powers to police. Do you have a comment? Have you seen that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’ve – we’re aware of the Turkish security legislation. We’ve – as we’ve said, we believe curbs on freedom of assembly weaken rather than strengthen democratic societies. And we share the concerns raised by civil society actors and others about Turkey’s security legislation, that it would reduce space for diverse points of view. And we will continue to discuss with Turkish Government officials the importance of taking steps to safeguard due process as well as renew confidence that legal changes will not erode fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: So that --


QUESTION: -- legislation just passed, and that was the comment of yours before the legislation passed, I think. Now that it’s passed, and how do you see from yesterday to today the change in the democratic standards in Turkey?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to comment in that way. What I’ve said is our point of view on the situation in Turkey and on this legislation, and we will continue to discuss with Turkish officials the importance of safeguarding due process.

Brad, did you have a question? Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, just staying in Europe --


QUESTION: -- have you had any conversations, the United States and Italy, regarding the looming decision in the Amanda Knox trial?

MR. RATHKE: Not that I’m aware of. There is an Italian legal process underway, so that’s where the situation resides.

QUESTION: Would any – has there been any discussion regarding extradition if that were demanded by the Italians?

MR. RATHKE: No, we haven’t had any discussions of that kind.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Nigeria elections.


QUESTION: It’s tomorrow. We know that the assistant secretary’s – Thomas-Greenfield’s going to or left for Nigeria.

MR. RATHKE: Right.

QUESTION: There’s been a lot of warnings for calm, including from President Obama. What is your – what is her role going to be in the election? Is she going to be prepared to make a judgment if it was free, fair, and that everything remains calm?

There’s also discussions that she’s going to meet some high-level officials. Do we know who those are?

MR. RATHKE: Right. So I think you may have missed this bit at the start, so I’ll just mention it --

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.

MR. RATHKE: No, no, no, I didn’t get into all those details, so I’ll come to that.

QUESTION: Oh, good. All right.

MR. RATHKE: Let me just say we certainly commend President Jonathan and General Buhari for their renewed pledges against violence. They also signed a peace accord ahead of the election, which we also welcome. You’re familiar with President Obama’s message from earlier in the week, of course.

Now with respect to Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, her visit is a show of our direct support for a credible and peaceful electoral process in Nigeria. We’ve been calling on all candidates to reject violence and refrain from activities. This is also something that we’ve done in the past. Previous assistant secretaries – her predecessor in particular, Johnnie Carson, led an official observation delegation to Nigeria in 2011. And in this case, the assistant secretary has been accredited as an official election observer by the Government of Nigeria.

Now it’s not the United States alone that is observing the elections. Also the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS, and the Commonwealth, as well as some other international observation teams are there. I don’t have more detail about where specifically she will be, but they’re there to observe. And so we’ll let the elections proceed, and they, along with the other international presence, will be observing.

QUESTION: And is her discussions with officials going to include Goodluck Jonathan, or --


QUESTION: Is it going to be with election officials? It wasn’t clear.

MR. RATHKE: Well – right, I understand the question. We will check and see if we have more on her schedule. I’m not aware of meetings with senior politicians, but we’ll check and come back to you if there are any.


MR. RATHKE: Same topic?

QUESTION: No, Syria.


QUESTION: Different topic.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Pam, I don’t think you’ve had one yet, so why don’t we go there and come back forward? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Cuba. There’re reports that next week there’s going to be a human rights dialogue meeting between the U.S. and Cuba led by Under Secretary Malinowski. Can you provide details on that? And also, are there going to be any public events related to this?

MR. RATHKE: Right. So there will be a planning meeting with the Cuban Government next week – that’ll be on March 31st – taking place here in Washington. And the purpose of that meeting is to discuss the structure and the methodology of future human rights talks. On the United States side, the leader will be Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski, and we’ll wait to see the outcome of those talks. I’m not aware of a media component to them. We can check and let you know if there’s any --

QUESTION: Is it (inaudible) or is it --

MR. RATHKE: March 31st.

QUESTION: Just – okay.

MR. RATHKE: March 31st. Again, these are – this is a planning meeting to discuss the structure of future human rights talks.

QUESTION: What does that – I mean – sorry, I didn’t get a PhD in literary – what does “methodology of talks” mean? Can you break that down into something I understand, at least?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I – the way this – the way I would take it is this is a meeting to discuss how we’re going to structure what we’re going to talk about in our human rights dialogue. So it is getting the human rights dialogue underway.

QUESTION: So what does “structure” mean? Like what the --

MR. RATHKE: I imagine that would be the composition of delegations and topics to discuss.

QUESTION: Who’s going to be there and what they’re going to talk about?

MR. RATHKE: I would imagine. I’m happy to see if there’s something additional.


QUESTION: And so --

MR. RATHKE: But this is – the human rights dialogue has been one of the areas that we’ve agreed with Cuba that we will be discussing, so this is getting that process moving. We had the discussions about information technology and communications, which happened this week. So this is another element in moving forward our dialogue with Cuba.

QUESTION: I was going to say, how does this fit into restoring of diplomatic ties? Is it somehow tied to that? Can you really have that discussion before there’s even a deal?

MR. RATHKE: Well, yes, we can.

QUESTION: A deal, yeah.

MR. RATHKE: And so this is all part of the same policy. But the question of reestablishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies is moving in parallel with these other dialogues. So we’ve had the dialogue on internet and communications. We have the human rights dialogue. But we’ve also had one – we’ve had migration talks. So these are all components in our policy as we move forward, but they don’t depend on the conclusion of the talks on reestablishing relations or reopening embassies.

QUESTION: And is the meeting here at State?

MR. RATHKE: It’s in Washington. I’ll have to check and see if it’s at State. I don’t know that detail.

QUESTION: What is the – is there any update on removing Cuba from the terrorism list?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any update on the deadline. Again, we’re – there’s a six-month process that the President announced. We’re working on that. I don’t have a new deadline.

Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you clarify something on that? The plan, at least as you announced it a bit earlier, was to have the embassies reopen before the next Summit of the Americas.

MR. RATHKE: No, that’s – that was not the plan. But go ahead. What’s your question?

QUESTION: Okay, my question was – and I would appreciate if you can clarify that --

QUESTION: Your stated it on the record.

QUESTION: Does that mean – is restoring bilateral diplomatic relations means only that – reopening the embassies? Or does that entail anything more than that?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: It’s pretty technical. I apologize.

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think Assistant Secretary Jacobson has talked about the details, but we’re going to reestablish diplomatic relations. This is – this goes hand in hand with reopening embassies. Of course, reestablishing diplomatic relations is more than simply having an embassy; it is an ability for us to engage with the Cuban people and we’ve been talking with Cuba about reaching an understanding that allows that to go forward.


MR. RATHKE: Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Sorry, I just have one more on that.


QUESTION: Is there a new date for the fully-fledged negotiations?

MR. RATHKE: No, we don’t have a new date to announce today.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. In an interview with CBS, President Assad said that he would be open to a dialogue with the United States but that it must be based on mutual respect. Are you ready or are you open to a such dialogue with President Assad?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think we should be clear. As the President has said, as Secretary Kerry has said, Assad has lost his legitimacy. I think the brutality of his regime toward the Syrian people, which has aided and abetted the rise of violent extremists such as ISIL, is clear. And we’ve said for a long time that Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands cannot be part of a political solution. President Assad could stop the conflict in Syria right now by demonstrating a willingness for his regime to engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition that would lead to a genuine political solution, consistent with the Geneva communique. He has the ability to stop the torture, the systematic murder, sexual violence, detainment, barrel bombings, airstrikes, and chlorine attacks. He could stop rejecting the calls of his people for reform and freedom and dignity. So I think that it’s quite clear what needs to happen for progress in Syria.

QUESTION: How can we translate that, that you’re not open for such dialogue or you are open?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we’ve said that we need to get back to the negotiations consistent with the Geneva communique. But I think it’s important to respond to the suggestion from President Assad that somehow he’s not responsible for the situation when, in fact, the situation in Syria stems precisely from his actions and his choices.

QUESTION: Assad can --

QUESTION: But it’s getting confusing on this because he was answering a question regarding Secretary Kerry’s comment on the dialogue with the Syrian regime and President Assad. And that’s why he said that he’s open to a dialogue with the United States.

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well --

QUESTION: Are you ready for a dialogue with him or not?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, as we talked about last week, there is a need to return to a diplomatic solution consistent with the Geneva communique principles. Of course, there would be a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be part of that process, but we’ve seen no indication of any readiness on the part of the regime to engage consistent with those principles.

QUESTION: He’s insisting on mutual respect. Do you respect President Assad?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, I think our views on President Assad are pretty clear. And there is a path that he could take forward consistent with the Geneva communique principles, and that’s what’s needed. And I don’t think there was anything in that interview that indicated acceptance of the Geneva communique principles.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) statement in that comment? Sorry. And maybe it’s just old boilerplate, but is – do you really believe that Assad can stop this conflict right now? I mean, if he were to, whatever, disband his army or whatever, how would that solve the Islamic State?

MR. RATHKE: Well --

QUESTION: The conflict’s moved beyond just him at this point. Is that not true?

MR. RATHKE: Well, certainly the conflict has become worse because of Assad, but it is in President Assad’s hands to move forward if he wants to, and there’s no indication that he desires a meaningful dialogue with the opposition that would lead to a genuine political solution.

QUESTION: That’s true, but do you believe it’s in his capacity to end the conflict right now with everyone, including the Islamic State?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think his role is the essential part of the rise of the Islamic State, and as well as the repression of the Syrian population.

Yes, Nicole.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if he says I’m no longer going to launch any military operations, how would that uproot the Islamic State from the areas that it controls at this point?

MR. RATHKE: Well, look, that’s --

QUESTION: I mean, you said he has the power to end this conflict right now, and that’s why I ask.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm, right. The conflict stopping – that is, there’s military violence and then there is ending the conflict. I’m not suggesting that within 24 hours upon his word everything would be fine in Syria, but his role is fundamental to the situation that has arisen in Syria. And so therefore he has the ability to make decisions that would return to a political dialogue process. Would that resolve – would that erase the difficulties in Syria overnight? Of course not. But it would be – it is essential for moving forward.


QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about Tikrit --


QUESTION: -- and whether you have any comment in general, especially about the militias putting down their arms, but also if you have any contacts between the Department and Iraqi officials to read out about what’s going on there.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Your first question, you were – can you be more specific? You said about militias? What particular --

QUESTION: I apologize for not being here yesterday.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. No, but --

QUESTION: I don’t know if you commented on some militias who have stopped fighting basically to protest U.S. involvement, U.S. --

MR. RATHKE: Okay, all right. So maybe take the second one first. The United States is taking action in support of the Iraqi central government in their operations to retake Tikrit. And so we are destroying ISIL strongholds through precision strikes – again, taking every step to protect innocent Iraqis and minimize damage to infrastructure. And we are coordinating with the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces through our joint operations center.

I don’t have new meetings to read out from our announcement of our actions in support of the Iraqi operations. But we remain in close contact with President Hadi and the command of the Iraqi Security Forces and we will continue to do so because --



MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Abadi. Hadi, the --

MR. RATHKE: Oh, I’m sorry. President – we’ve talked so much about Yemen today. Yes, sorry. Prime Minister Abadi and the leadership of the Iraqi Security Forces. We consider it important that this be in support of Iraqi Security Forces and forces acting under Iraqi command and control.

QUESTION: And Tikrit --

MR. RATHKE: Now with respect to the other question. Now, there have been reports of some militias expressing unhappiness that the Iraqi Government and the United States are cooperating. We talked a little bit yesterday about the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces, which the Iraqi Government has organized – into which the Iraqi Government has organized volunteers. These volunteers, both Shia and Sunni, who have been called on to help protect Iraq’s sovereignty – I think it’s important to distinguish between those forces broadly, which are composed mainly of Iraqi nationalists who have volunteered, and some elements within those forces such as Khattab Hizballah, and Asaib al-Haq, which are more problematic because they don’t answer to an Iraqi chain of command. So those – some forces have been expressing their concerns. We’ve said all along that Iraqi forces, as the prime minister and as Ayatollah Sistani have called for, that they should work under a unified Iraqi command.

QUESTION: Pardon me. On Syria, on Syria --

QUESTION: Well, keeping the --

MR. RATHKE: Wait just a moment. We’re talking – we’ll – one more about Tikrit and then we’ll come back.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you already spoke about this, but do you think that reportedly Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani’s presence in Tikrit and in that operation is helpful or hurtful for the Tikrit issue?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any update on him in particular. We are coordinating with the Iraqi central government and with the Iraqi Security Forces. That’s whom we’re working with.

QUESTION: So you couldn’t confirm that he is in Tikrit, around Tikrit? There are many pictures are coming out of --

MR. RATHKE: I’m not – I’m not commenting on his whereabouts. I’m not in a position to comment on his whereabouts.

QUESTION: You said – you said Assad can stop the conflict right now. Those were your words.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Really? With ISIS and all, can he?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I think you may have heard my discussion with Brad about the same topic.

QUESTION: But the way you explained it was different from what you said. And the word “right now” means right now, right? Or what else does it mean?

MR. RATHKE: I think we’ve talked about this in quite a bit of detail.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: But let’s – one more question. Even if he leaves office, do you think the conflict is going to stop in Syria?

MR. RATHKE: Look, what I’ve said is that there needs to be a political dialogue process consistent with the Geneva principles. That’s what the international community supports and that’s precisely what President Assad has refused to engage in.


QUESTION: Did the conflict in Libya stop when --

MR. RATHKE: I’m sorry, we’re going to move on. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure. It’s something a little different. I wanted to ask you about in Maldives the former defense minister has just been sentenced to 11 years. And I know the State Department has expressed some concern about former President Nasheed’s trial. There’s also a situation in which migrant workers there are being told if they demonstrate about their rights they’ll be deported. So I’m wondering, is the State Department monitoring this? Do you have any comment on developments in the Maldives?

MR. RATHKE: Certainly, we are. I don’t have a comment in front of me. We’re happy to look into that and come back to you. Jamie.

QUESTION: Just circling back to Turkey real quickly, there were Turkish media reports that Turkish and American officials had come to some sort of agreement to allow armed drones to be based at Incirlik to be used against the Islamic State. Do you have anything on those reports?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to comment on any operational issues from here.

QUESTION: Can I have one more Turkey?

MR. RATHKE: Just a moment. No, just a moment. Your colleague here hasn’t had a question today.

QUESTION: On Somalia?


QUESTION: Do you have any response to reports of an al-Shabaab attack on a hotel in Mogadishu?

MR. RATHKE: Right. We’re aware of reports of an attack today carried out by al-Shabaab on a hotel. We strongly condemn this terrorist attack. We extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of those who may be affected. We continue to support the Somali people and their government. I don’t have further updates beyond that.

QUESTION: Just yesterday, Turkish foreign minister said that there’s a delay on the U.S. side about the train and equip program. Do you have an update on that?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the timing of the – it’s a DOD program, so any questions about the timing of that program I would refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon. But my understanding of the foreign minister’s comments, he referred to it as minor and said that everything is fine politically and technically from Turkey’s perspective. So I think for the details on that I’d refer you over to the Pentagon.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, a quick one on Japan. Do you have a readout of the meeting between Deputy Secretary Blinken and Japanese LDP Vice President Komura from this morning?

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Yes, I do. Deputy Secretary Blinken met with the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura on March 27th. They discussed the full range of bilateral, regional, and global issues that reflect the strong partnership that we have between the United States and Japan. So that was the meeting that happened this morning with the Deputy Secretary.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: I have a question on China.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah, go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: There was a nongovernmental organization’s headquarters --

MR. RATHKE: Oh, right.

QUESTION: -- I think it’s Yinren or – I don’t – excuse the pronunciation.

MR. RATHKE: Right. We are concerned about reports that Chinese authorities have raided the offices of the Beijing Yirenping Center. The Yirenping Center is a human rights NGO that fights discrimination against people with HIV, hepatitis, and physical disabilities. They are an important civil society organization in China that gives a voice to marginalized groups, and we remain concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in China, including the numerous arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances of human rights activists and others who peacefully question official policies and actions.

QUESTION: I think one of the things that members of this organization wanted to do was stick stickers on buses as part of an anti-sexual harassment campaign.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that something you would think – you would see as particularly subversive or criminal in nature?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t know the details of how they carried out their campaigns, but again, we see them as an important organization that plays an important role.

QUESTION: I have one last one –

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- on – and this you might not know. Did the Secretary get in touch with Senator Harry Reid since his announcement that he’ll be retiring in a couple years, being that they worked closely together for so many years?

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. I understand – yeah, I understand the question. I think that announcement was – came out just this morning, so I’ll check and see if –


MR. RATHKE: -- they’ve been in touch and we’ll come back to you.


MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 26, 2015

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 17:23

Jeff Rathke
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 26, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


12:56 p.m. EDT

MR. RATHKE:  So I just have one thing to mention at the start.  As you all know, Secretary Kerry is traveling in Lausanne, Switzerland.  He is accompanied by the U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz; also Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman; NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf States Rob Malley; Chief of Staff Jon Finer; and Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson.  Secretary Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif one-on-one, as well as with Secretary Moniz and Dr. Saleh on the Iranian side; and from the EU side, Helga Schmid is there representing them.  So that’s my only update at the start. 

Brad, I’ll turn it over to you.

QUESTION:  Can we start with Yemen?

MR. RATHKE:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Can you explain what’s changed in the last 24 hours for U.S. policy?  I think yesterday you were still talking about the dialogue efforts and mediation approaches, and now the U.S. is supporting what by all accounts is an active military intervention by Saudi Arabia and others.

MR. RATHKE:  Sure.  Well, let me just, for those who haven’t seen it, you’ve – there was an announcement last night by the Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Jubeir – announcement from Saudi Arabia that Saudi Arabia and GCC states and others undertook military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government, and they’re taking this action at the request of Yemini President Hadi. 

Now, I’ll come to your question in one second, but one additional bit of information that is probably of interest – Secretary Kerry spoke by conference call this morning with the GCC foreign ministers about the situation in Yemen.  He commended the work of the coalition taking military action against the Houthis, and noted the United States support for those coalition efforts, including intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Houthi targets.  The ministers all expressed their support for political negotiations as the best way to resolve the crisis, but they also noted that it is the Houthis who have instead waged a military campaign.  And they all agreed to stay in close contact going forward.

So that’s a somewhat roundabout way of coming to you question, but I think, Brad, the – we still believe that there is no purely military solution to the situation in Yemen.  And we, along with the GCC ministers whom the Secretary spoke to today, support political negotiations as the best way to resolve the crisis.  However, we also understand the Saudis’ concerns, especially given the Houthis’ failure to engage meaningfully in the political dialogue process.  And so in that regard, we understand and we support the action that they’ve taken.

QUESTION:  So what changed that led you to announce last night that you were supporting this military campaign?  Was it the rapid advance of the Houthis that led you to reassess?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, this was – this is a Saudi-led and Saudi-organized coalition.  So as far as the reasoning behind the particular timing on their side, we would refer you to them and to their partners.  But we’ve certainly been in discussions with our Saudi partners over recent days.  We’re well aware of their concerns.  And so when they reached the point that they decided to take this action, in our consultations with them, we decided to be supportive in the ways that we’ve outlined – through some logistical and intelligence support and so forth.

QUESTION:  So essentially you were waiting for them to make the move, and then you would support it?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, this is a decision that they’ve taken and the Saudis are in the lead.

QUESTION:  That’s fine.

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then you said there is no purely military solution, but I guess now you believe there are at least military tactics that could lead to a non-military solution?  I mean, obviously you wouldn’t be supporting this if you thought it wouldn’t help get to the solution you want, right?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, our goal is political negotiations, as we’ve – as we and the international community and the UN Security Council have been supporting and trying to promote for quite some time.

QUESTION:  You feel this military action will lead you closer to these political negotiations?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, we would refer you back to the statement that the Saudis have made.  They have their own concerns about security --

QUESTION:  I’m not asking --

MR. RATHKE:  -- on their border, as well as the situation inside Yemen.

QUESTION:  That’s fine.

MR. RATHKE:  So we’re hopeful that it will lead to that.

QUESTION:  That’s not a question for the Saudis.  You have a stated goal in Yemen, and now you have a policy that you’re supporting a military intervention.  Do you feel this military intervention will achieve your stated goal, and if – or at least help toward that?  And if you don’t, that’s – raises questions.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, we understand the Saudis’ concerns.  We understand the threat that they perceive on their border to which they are responding.  So – and we’re supportive of their efforts to address that.  Our ultimate goal remains a political negotiation process.

QUESTION:  And just one last time:  So you can’t say that you think this will help in any way to achieve your ultimate goal?

MR. RATHKE:  Well --

QUESTION:  Which would beg the question:  Why are you then supporting it?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to – I can’t predict what the response is going to be --

QUESTION:  I’m not asking you to predict.  I’m just --

MR. RATHKE:  -- to the Saudis’ actions.  But yes, we see this as consistent with our goal.  We wish that there were a political negotiation – a meaningful political negotiation process happening now, but the Houthis have not engaged in one.

QUESTION:  Jeff, isn’t the fact that you are supporting this military action – that you are really taking sides in this fight?  I mean, you no longer, at least on practical – just to follow on Brad’s question --

MR. RATHKE:  Right.

QUESTION:  -- you’re not following that the best solution is a political solution.  In fact, you are taking sides, or your allies are taking sides, in basically a sectarian civil war.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, no.  We’ve said all along that President Hadi remains the legitimate authority in Yemen and so don’t see that as having changed.

QUESTION:  Now, do you believe that Saudi Arabia borders were threatened?  Do you believe that the Houthis were actually on their way to the Saudi border and therefore this is a defensive action and not an offensive action?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I think the Saudis have spoken to the concerns they’ve had about threatening activity by the Houthis, and we understand those concerns.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but the statement coming out of Washington is very strong in support of the Saudi and the Gulf – the GCC and Jordan – countries.  I mean, we can see almost an entrenchment of Sunni countries waging a war against what are perceived to be a Shia militia in Yemen.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m sorry, what’s your question?

QUESTION:  My question is that you are taking sides in this civil war that is basically between Sunnis and Shias.

MR. RATHKE:  Again, we – there has been a – there have been efforts at dialogue for a long time.  We support President Hadi, who – indeed, who came into office as a result of a dialogue process that was supported by the international community.  And the Houthis have been trying to seize power by force, and it’s that and the threats the Saudis have perceived that they have – has led them to respond.

Justin, your question.

QUESTION:  Sorry, didn’t mean to step on you there.

MR. RATHKE:  No, that’s okay.

QUESTION:  Is he in Riyadh today?



MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have an update on his whereabouts.  We understand he’s outside the country, but I don’t have any specifics to offer about his precise whereabouts.

QUESTION:  Has anyone spoken to him since yesterday?

MR. RATHKE:  We don’t have any new contact to readout.  Of course, we remain in contact broadly, but not – we don’t have any contact to read out with Hadi.

QUESTION:  Yesterday Jen said that she would seek a fuller readout of that conversation, including – I think one of the questions were who spoke with him, what did they speak about.  Do you have anything on that?

MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have that detail.  I apologize.


MR. RATHKE:  We’ll get that.

QUESTION:  Is this an issue about his safety, or is it that you just don’t know?  What’s the deal?  Like, why can’t we say he’s – it’s being reported that he’s in Riyadh.  What’s the problem with just sort of revealing that?

MR. RATHKE:  Mm-hmm.  Well, again, we’re aware there are reports out there.  We don’t – we’re not able to confirm those reports, so I’m not going to give information that I’m not certain of.


QUESTION:  And then just to go back to Said’s question, this notion that the Saudi borders were in danger or the Saudis were concerned about destabilizing activity on its border – I mean, it seemed to me the Houthis have been in the north of Yemen for hundreds of years, and they are moving south now.  So how does that necessarily threaten the border on the north with – I mean, the Houthis have always been on their border, and their action has been to push southward.

MR. RATHKE:  Well --

QUESTION:  So if you look at a map, it’s hard to understand that.  Maybe you can explain.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, there have been reports as well about Houthi military activity in the region of the border.  I’m not in a position to confirm that, but simply to highlight that while, yes, the Houthis have been in the north, I think it’s relevant that there are also reports of military activity near the border with Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION:  That’s inside Yemen.

MR. RATHKE:  Mm-hmm.  Yes.

QUESTION:  So what – how does that necessarily compel a Saudi Arabian military response?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, as to the tactical considerations on the ground, again, refer you to the Saudis for more detail.  But the reports of Houthi military activity near the border with Saudi Arabia – there have also been reports of possible rocket fire into Saudi Arabia.  I’m not in a position to confirm those, but those are certainly relevant factors that I think our Saudi partners have been responding to.

QUESTION:  They’re only relevant if they’re true, and if you’re not confirming them, what – I mean, then they might not be true.  If – obviously, if they’re untrue it’s not relevant, correct?

MR. RATHKE:  Right.  Yes, naturally.

QUESTION:  All right.

MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have the detail to --


MR. RATHKE:  -- affirm on behalf of the U.S. Government each of those reports.

Yes, go ahead, Jamie.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up, the justification of the U.S. support for this operation in Yemen:  We’re not in open conflict with the Houthis, and there’s coups or governments are deposed from time to time around the world.  I’m just curious about this specific situation in Yemen, the reason that we are supporting this mission.  What is it about this situation in Yemen that is driving the United States to support the actions of the Saudis and --

MR. RATHKE:  Well, we have a close partnership with the Saudis, with other countries in the GCC, and clearly this is a situation that they view with concern.  It’s also a situation that the United States views with concern.  Clearly, as all of you know, I think, there are extremist groups that have designs on attacking the West.  I think this is something that Josh Earnest spoke to this morning.  And there is certainly the possibility that groups could try to take advantage of chaos in order to advance their goals.  So this is also something that has relevance for us in addition to for our partners.


QUESTION:  Forgive me if this was already asked, but – or mentioned at the briefing yesterday from the ambassador, but was this decision made in consultation with the U.S. ahead of time?  Or was this – I mean, you weren’t first learning about this yesterday, right?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’ve been in discussions with the Saudis.  They’ve made clear their concerns.  The decision to take military action was a Saudi decision.

QUESTION:  And have there been cross-border attacks by – to Brad’s question, have there been cross-border by the Houthis in Saudi Arabia from Yemen?

MR. RATHKE:  Again, I’m not in a position to confirm that.  I’m simply saying that there have been reports of that.

Elliot, go ahead.

QUESTION:  You have seen reports that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are planning to launch a ground invasion into Yemen.  Is that a step that you would support?

MR. RATHKE:  I’m not familiar with those reports, so I don’t have a direct comment on them.  Again, I think the goal of restoring the legitimate authorities in Yemen is what the Saudis and their partners have outlined.  We’re providing logistical and intelligence support to the actions they’ve taken.  I’m not going to speculate about further future actions.

QUESTION:  Is it fair to say that you’re not drawing a line as to what actions you wouldn’t support in order to achieve that goal?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, this is a situation that, as far as the action, has begun only over the last less than 24 hours.  So we remain in contact with our GCC partners, and that was a key element of the Secretary’s conversation with his counterparts, is that we remain in close contact.  So I’m not going to read out every detail of those diplomatic discussions.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  You’re aware that there’s a task force on its way now, I mean, steaming towards Aden as we speak, with probably 5,000 troops, Egyptian and other troops going into Yemen.  Would you support that effort, just to follow up on (inaudible)?

MR. RATHKE:  Again, I’m not in a position to confirm those reports, so I appreciate the observation from your part but I don’t have a response to it.

QUESTION:  Okay.  There is also reports that the Houthis were able to take – to capture some documents and intelligence material and so on, left behind by the Americans.  Can you share anything with us on that?

MR. RATHKE:  No, I don’t have any comment on any intelligence-related matters from this podium.

Same topic, Lalit?



QUESTION:  There are reports that Saudis have requested several other Islamic countries, including Pakistan, to join them in the effort against Yemen.  Do you support their move?  Also other countries --

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’ll let the countries – I’ll let those countries speak for themselves.  We’re certainly aware of the coalition that the Saudis have put together, and I think our support for the Saudis and the coalition has been clear ever since the statement last night.

QUESTION:  Would you support other countries joining the coalition?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, yes, we – again, the Saudis have organized the coalition, so we let them and the coalition members speak to their participation.  But of course, we’re supporting the overall effort.


QUESTION:  The timeline of the statement --

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  -- that was issued by the White House, it says that they “will undertake” – I mean, that’s what the statement said, as if it came before the military action was taken.

MR. RATHKE:  No, it didn’t.  It came – well, it came --

QUESTION:  It says “will undertake.”

MR. RATHKE:  It came after the announcement by Saudi authorities.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) before.

MR. RATHKE:  So I don’t think there’s any question about the chronology.

Any questions on this?  Yeah, same topic? 

QUESTION:  A couple more on Yemen.

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION:  Did this come up in – on the sidelines of the Iran talks today?

MR. RATHKE:  So the Secretary had, as I mentioned at the start – Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz met with their Iranian counterparts.  And then following that meeting, the Secretary met one on one with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.  Secretary Kerry did briefly raise Yemen with his Iranian counterpart, but let me stress this was not and is not the focus of the talks.  The focus remains squarely on our and the international community’s concern over the Iran’s nuclear program.

QUESTION:  Fair enough.  Can you give us just a sense of – the gist of the Secretary’s brief intervention on Yemen – oral intervention on Yemen, if you will?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to get into details about it.  He raised it briefly, but I’m not going to characterize it further.  That was – his conversation with the GCC ministers happened this morning before the Iran meetings got underway, so he was fresh from that conversation as well.  But I’m not going to read out further.

QUESTION:  And then can you describe any other U.S. efforts, direct or indirect, to convince Iran not to make this a broader proxy war here in Yemen, to not ramp up its assistance to its Shia brethren in response to the Saudi intervention?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I would say, first of all, for starters, I’ve been in touch with our team on the ground in Lausanne, and the situation in Yemen is not having an impact on the talks.  So – and naturally, for quite some time we’ve been stressing the importance of a political resolution, a dialogue process in Yemen, and so forth.  So our views on that have not changed and they’re well known.  We continue to make those points, but I don’t have any – I don’t have a diplomatic sort of game plan to read out right now about that.

QUESTION:  I’m just asking if you – if anyone has spoken to the Iranians on this matter to kind of caution them against making the situation more volatile either in – directly or indirectly.  And you mentioned Kerry brought it up but you wouldn’t read it out.  Maybe --

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Some – maybe you’ve spoken to the Omanis who’ve spoken to the Iranians, maybe you’ve spoken to some – I don’t know.

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.  I can check if there are other conversations to read out.

QUESTION:  Are you doing anything to make sure this doesn’t become a terrible, terrible war that lots of people die in or --

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I think it’s fair to say we are in contact with all of our partners in the region to explain our view and to stress the importance of a political resolution to the situation in Yemen.  I’ll see if there’s any more detail we’re able to provide, but yes, certainly that’s our goal.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE:  Same topic?


MR. RATHKE:  Anything on this --


QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE:  Hang on just a moment.  Pam, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Jeff, I have several questions, and if you’ll indulge me, I’ll just give them all to you at one time.  You said at the top that the U.S. still considers Hadi the legitimate authority, but is the U.S. considering measures that would enhance diplomatic communications with Houthi leaders?  In that the U.S. is concerned about al-Qaida in Yemen, is it looking at ways to reach out more and collaborate more with the Houthis in case Hadi is not able to return?

MR. RATHKE:  Is – oh, I thought there were more. 

QUESTION:  There are more.  That --

MR. RATHKE:  Oh, okay.  (Laughter.)  All right.  That pause came earlier than I expected.  So, yeah.  On the question of contacts, we have not had direct contacts with the Houthis.  However, I think we’ve spoken to in the past that we have ways to make our views known, and we have consistently called, in a variety of fora, for the Houthis to refrain from violence, to join a peaceful dialogue with all of the parties in Yemen.  Again, the goal ultimately is to return Yemen to a peaceful political transition that’s in line with the GCC initiative and the NDC outcomes.  But I don’t have more specifics to provide about these channels.

QUESTION:  Does the U.S. support for the Saudi-led initiative against the Houthis drag the United States in sort of a sectarian conflict in the region?

MR. RATHKE:  I think this is very similar to Said’s question, so I’d refer you back to my answer to that.  No, we don’t see it that way.

QUESTION:  What kind of message, then, do you think the U.S. support for this effort sends to Shiites in the region?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I think there is – we were pretty clear in the statement last night from the White House, as was the White House spokesman this morning, that we have been in close contact with our partners in the region and with Yemen, and we urge the Houthis to halt destabilizing military actions.  We have spoken out in favor of a political dialogue process.  We’re not taking sides against Shia – a Shia faction against a Sunni faction.  We’re trying to promote a dialogue process in which the views of all Yemenis can be taken into account, and it’s the Houthis who have refused to engage in that dialogue.


QUESTION:  And one final question.


QUESTION:  At a Washington forum today, some analysts said that the U.S. focus on al-Qaida in Yemen has been at the detriment of development projects in the country, which they say is the core of the country’s current problems.  Does State believe that Yemen’s current unrest, at its core, is an economic-social development issue?  And if so, has the U.S. not been focused on this issue as much as it should be?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, our partnership with Yemen is broad.  It covers political-security but also development cooperation.  We’re happy to get additional details to you about the scope and the figures involved, but --

QUESTION:  It was broad.  I don’t think it’s broad at the current --

MR. RATHKE:  Well, we don’t have – we don’t have U.S. personnel in the country right now, naturally.  So – but we would – I’m not going to get into an analysis of all those details from this podium. 

Yes, go ahead, (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Earlier this week, the United Nations said Yemen was at the edge of the civil – a civil war.  And in the statement by the National Security Council, the spokeswoman says the Houthis have created widespread chaos and instability.  So do you believe that the airstrikes are aimed at restoring calm and stability in Yemen?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, we’re supportive of the actions by the Saudis and their coalition partners, and that’s – testimony to that is the fact that we’ve got a joint planning cell which is providing assistance and support.  So our goal remains --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)

MR. RATHKE:  Our goal remains the same; however, recognize the Saudis’ concerns and support the actions they’ve taken. 

Yeah, go ahead, Justin.

QUESTION:  Jeff, do you have an announcement about the third American killed in the Germanwings airliner crash?

MR. RATHKE:  Okay.  Yeah, I can give you a bit of an update on that. 

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.  We remain in touch with French and German and Spanish officials.  There were two names that we provided yesterday.  We also mentioned that there was a third American citizen who was a victim in the crash.  So we are able to confirm the death of U.S. citizen Robert Oliver, who was also on the plane.

QUESTION:  Is that Robert Oliver Calvo?  I’ve seen it written with his third name.

MR. RATHKE:  According to my information, Robert Oliver is the name I have.  I can’t speak to whether there might be additional permutations of it in use.  But yes, we are able to confirm that.


MR. RATHKE:  Same topic?

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE:  Wait, wait, just – wait just a minute.  Same topic? 

QUESTION:  It was reported that Robert Oliver was living in Spain.  Can you tell us any more details about his residency or his citizenship?

MR. RATHKE:  No, I’m not going to comment on any of the – on any kind of personal details.

QUESTION:  Was he born in Barcelona, as reports have indicated?

MR. RATHKE:  Also not going to get into those kinds of – those kinds of details.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  What about the mother and the daughter?  She’s living in Virginia.  So how (inaudible)?

MR. RATHKE:  I’m sorry?

QUESTION:  Do you have anything on information that the mother and daughter, she’s living in Virginia?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, we’re not going to comment on the personal details of the three American citizens who died in the crash.  I would also highlight, as Jen did yesterday, that we are continuing to review our records to determine whether any other U.S. citizens might have been on board the flight.  Matching up data and being sure about that is something that’s, of course, important to us.


QUESTION:  I have a different topic, if that’s all right.

MR. RATHKE:  Okay.  Anything else on the airplane?

QUESTION:  One more on Yemen?

MR. RATHKE:  Okay, we can come back to that in a second.  But anything else on the plane?  No.  Okay, we’ll go to Elliot and we’ll come back to you.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  I’ve been asked to ask a few questions about this report out of Japan which is based on U.S. archival documents that show Korean forces in Vietnam during the war operated a number of brothels for their troops.  I was wondering if you’ve seen this report. 

MR. RATHKE:  I’m familiar – I am aware that there is such a report.  I can’t say that I’ve studied it or read it in its entirety.  But what’s your question?

QUESTION:  I guess – well, first, I was wondering if you can confirm the validity of the documents that the report is based on.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not in a position to confirm the documents.  I have not reviewed the documents.  I don’t know whether they – where they stem from or they – do they purport to be State Department documents?

QUESTION:  They are letters that were written from U.S. Forces Command during the Vietnam War and they were from the National Archives.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, then I think it would not be this building that’s in a position to speak to those documents.

QUESTION:  Okay.  In terms of the issue that the report talks about, do you see it as an instance of human trafficking?  Do you see a need to investigate it at all?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’re aware of the article.  We don’t have any specific comment on the article.  I think our policy on the trafficking of women for sexual purposes remains well-known, and so I don’t have anything to add to that.

QUESTION:  Given that this is an issue that President Park has focused on, including mentioning it prominently in her UNGA address last year, would you like to see an address by the Korean – would you like to see it addressed by the Korean Government?

MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have anything further to add on this at this time.  You wanted to go back to Yemen?

QUESTION:  I did, if I could.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press.  I wanted to know what the U.S. thinks of the role of former President Saleh, and do you think that he has any role to play in the negotiations that are trying to be had?  And also, you said repeatedly that the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and it’s said that Sudan is one of the partners and that they’ve offered three air force planes.  And I wanted to know, would the U.S. support Sudanese participation in bombing Yemen?


MR. RATHKE:  So I’ll take the second one first.  We are aware that the Government of Sudan has announced that it is taking part in the actions organized by the Saudis.  We’re not in a position to confirm the details of or the nature of their participation.  Again, this is a Saudi-organized and Saudi-led coalition, so I don’t have more to say on that aspect.

You asked about former President Saleh.  And so we have long made clear our concerns about the obstructive role that former President Saleh plays in Yemen.  He has consistently sought to undermine Yemen’s political transition.  This is widely recognized by the international community, which, in fact, sanctioned former President Saleh under UN Security Council Resolution 2140 just a few months ago.  That was in November 2014.  And the reason was for his obstruction of the political transition and undermining the government.

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned former President Saleh on November 10th, 2014 for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, and stability of Yemen.  So our position on him and his role, I think, is quite clear. 


QUESTION:  To Yemen.


MR. RATHKE:  Yes.  Yes, go ahead.


QUESTION:  So the LA Times report that Houthis have obtained U.S. intelligence and informants –


MR. RATHKE:  I think I’ve already spoken to that, so –


QUESTION:  Yeah.  But are you still confident – is the U.S. still confident in our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations?

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.  I think Josh Earnest spoke to this just this morning, as did Jen Psaki here yesterday.  We continue to have the capacity and the reach to make strikes inside Yemen, and so we are in a position to do what we think is necessary to keep Americans safe.




QUESTION:  Could I – one quick question on Yemen.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.


QUESTION:  Who controls Yemen?  I mean, from your view now, who is in control in Yemen?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, it’s a very fluid situation, Said, as you’re well aware.


QUESTION:  Well, actually, not very – given their water shortage, I think that’s probably not the best term.


MR. RATHKE:  Okay.  We’ll score one for you on that topic.




MR. RATHKE:  Yes, yes.




MR. RATHKE:  Move to Iraq.  Go ahead.


QUESTION:  Thank you.  On the airstrikes in Tikrit, first of all, why did these airstrikes come so late?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, the decision by the United States to conduct airstrikes was a decision we reached after consultation with the Iraqi authorities and in response to an Iraqi request.  These strikes are designed to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision.  And we are trying to minimize damage and enable Iraqi forces, under Iraqi command, to continue their operations – offensive operations against ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit.  And so that’s – and we’ve gone through a careful process of coordinating those strikes through our Joint Operation Center in Baghdad with Iraqi authorities.


QUESTION:  Are you saying that you haven’t carried out airstrikes for three weeks because the Iraqis didn’t want it themselves so far?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to get into our exchanges –


QUESTION:  But you said (inaudible) just came now.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, no.  I said that we have gone through a careful process of determining targets and determining the capabilities that we could bring to bear and we’ve acted in response to an Iraqi sovereign government request.


QUESTION:  And one more quick question.  There are a lot of concerns that with having so many Shia militias around Tikrit, and as the U.S. officials, including General John Allen have said it, most of the Iraqi forces are also Shias.  So aren’t you worried that your airstrikes could be seen as taking sides with those Shia militias who are mostly backed by Iran?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, no, because again, the – Prime Minister Abadi as well as other authorities in Iraq have been quite clear about their efforts to generate cross-sect and inter-ethnic agreement on the way forward, and they’re acting on that basis and we’re acting in support of the Iraqi authorities.




MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, I think Jamie had a question.  We’ll come back.


QUESTION:  I just had a follow-up on that.


MR. RATHKE:  Same topic?


QUESTION:  Same topic, yeah.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.


QUESTION:  In his testimony this morning, General Austin up on the Hill said that Shia militia are no longer engaged in Tikrit, they’ve pulled back, that sort of thing.  Is that part of the condition for airstrikes to continue, for U.S. support to continue, that Shiite militias and their supporters need to stay back, pull back from the Tikrit area?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I think General Austin has spoken to some of the tactical considerations on the ground, and I think I’d let his remarks in that regard speak for themselves.  We’ve, of course, been concerned about – again, about protecting innocent Iraqis, minimizing damage to infrastructure, and enabling Iraqi forces to continue the offensive effectively as we’ve discussed with them possible U.S. support, including the airstrikes that we’ve just carried out.

Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION:  On the same lines, there are reports that Shiite militias are pulling out of the fight for Tikrit in protest of the U.S. bombings.  I was wondering if you have a concern that U.S. military action could drive a wedge between the Shiite militias and the government forces.  That’s my question.

MR. RATHKE:  Mm-hmm.  Well, we’ve said all along that our goal is to assist the Iraqi Security Forces to degrade and defeat ISIL, and so we’re working with the Iraqi Security Forces to that end.  If that’s not the goal of some others in the fight, then that would be a great concern.  But again, we go back to the statements from some Popular Mobilization Forces, which are Sunni as well as Shia, that they have said that they will continue to fight alongside the Iraqi Security Forces in Tikrit.

QUESTION:  What was that?  Popular --

MR. RATHKE:  The Popular Mobilization Forces.

QUESTION:  Does that mean militia in simple English?

MR. RATHKE:  I don’t know if that captures all of them, but certainly some of them.

QUESTION:  That’s the --

QUESTION:  That’s the Iranian-supported militia.

MR. RATHKE:  So again, we think it’s important to distinguish, though, between the Popular Mobilization Forces, many of which are Iraqi nationalist groups that have volunteered to participate in the defense of Iraq, and other Iranian-backed militia groups.  And I think perhaps that – those statements today are some indication of where those groups view --

QUESTION:  Is that a U.S. term or an Iraqi one?

MR. RATHKE:  No, no, that’s an Iraqi term.

QUESTION:  That’s an Iraqi term?

MR. RATHKE:  To the best of my knowledge.

QUESTION:  Can you --

MR. RATHKE:  I can check on that.

QUESTION:  Yeah, it’s an Iraqi term.

MR. RATHKE:  It’s an Iraqi term, yeah.


QUESTION:  Jeff, can I --

QUESTION:  So I mean, sorry, just to follow up.

MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Insofar as the groups that are peeling off from the fight are not those mobilization, those forces, you don’t see it as an issue?  Is that what you’re saying?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I’m not in a position to speak to or to confirm particular statements or particular decisions by any of those groups.  I’m simply pointing out that there are many groups of the popular – in the Popular Mobilization Forces --

QUESTION:  There are reports --

MR. RATHKE:  -- who have spoken to their willingness to continue participation.


QUESTION:  Perhaps you heard that Qasem Suleimani, the Iranian commander, is no longer in the area, in the vicinity of Tikrit.  Can you confirm that?

MR. RATHKE:  No, I’m not going to speak to his whereabouts.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up on General Austin’s statement about the popular committees on (inaudible) pulling back, and the timing of the bombing – the participation of U.S. bombardment in Tikrit:  Could it have taken this much time to negotiate perhaps a pullback by the Shiite militias for the United States to intervene?

MR. RATHKE:  I’m not going to get into details of that sort.

QUESTION:  I mean, that’s on the question of why not – why is it too late or why now.

MR. RATHKE:  No, I think we’ve been involved in discussions with the Iraqi central authorities about the operation in Tikrit --

QUESTION:  Has there been any change in --

MR. RATHKE:  -- and these discussions take time to work through, especially when you’re talking about carrying out military operations.

QUESTION:  Has there been any change in the status on the ground since the intervention of U.S. bombardment?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, it’s only been a few hours so I’m not going to offer a battlefield analysis from here.

QUESTION:  On South Korea?

MR. RATHKE:  Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  South Korea made the decision to joint AIIB.  Why the United States has not decision to make – join AIIB yet?

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I think we’ve talked quite a lot about that from this podium in the last week or 10 days.  We agree in the United States that there is a pressing need to enhance infrastructure investment around the world, and we would welcome new multilateral institutions that strengthen the international financial architecture and that incorporate the high standards that the international community has collectively built.  And therefore, we encourage the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to follow those high standards, but the United States has not decided to join the bank.  We have concerns about those standards and transparency, as we’ve outlined in great detail from here over the last week or two.

QUESTION:  So you considering to join in the future with AIIB?

MR. RATHKE:  No, we’re not considering joining any new institution at the moment.  But we, of course, see – have a stake and we stress the importance of the AIIB meeting the current international high standards.


QUESTION:  What’s your reaction to Korea’s decision?  Are you disappointed that an ally, Korea, has decided to join this bank?  Or --

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to react or comment on their decision.  I’d say in general, we’ve seen a number of countries make decisions to join the bank.  That is their decision.  We certainly hope that, as we stress the importance of international standards and transparency, that they will also be voices for those same values.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  The countries that have joined the bank are also countries that espouse the same standards of transparency that you were concerned about.  So I mean, I think there’s a question as to whether that’s the only reason that the U.S. is refusing to join the bank.  I mean, UK, France – these are countries with very high standards for these kinds of things, and I think it’s a valid question as to why the U.S. is not joining only based on those reasons.

MR. RATHKE:  Well, I think, again, that’s – those are the reasons for our position.  We’ll let other countries make their own decisions and explain the reasoning behind those decisions.

Brad, did you have –


QUESTION:  I don’t have anything on this.


MR. RATHKE:  No?  You have anything else?


QUESTION:  I have another Asia question, though.


MR. RATHKE:  Okay, happy to take another Asia question.


QUESTION:  Do you have any reaction to kind of comments by the Thai leader suggesting the possibility of executing journalists?


MR. RATHKE:  Is that a recent comment?


QUESTION:  It is recent.


MR. RATHKE:  I had not seen that.




MR. RATHKE:  Although we’ve certainly been following developments in Thailand and naturally, as we’ve spoken about, in regard to many situations the importance of freedom of speech and the right of journalists to do their jobs.

Oh, I’m sorry.  I –


QUESTION:  You have something.


MR. RATHKE:  I do have a little bit more on this.  So we are, of course, troubled by reports that General Prayut spoke of executing journalists who do not report the quote-unquote “truth,” and we sincerely hope that this threat was not a serious one.  We have repeatedly called for lifting restrictions on freedom of expression in Thailand, and in our view, statements like these, even if not serious, contribute to an atmosphere where those freedoms could be suppressed.


QUESTION:  Will the U.S. be seeking clarification with him, or do you expect him over the course of whenever to clarify what he meant by that statement?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I don’t have any diplomatic contact to read out about it, but naturally this is something we take seriously and have concerns about.  So we will certainly be discussing it further.


QUESTION:  Completely separately.


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  I’m just wondering, on Cuba, there’s been some suggestion that a date for the Human Rights Dialogue has been established, maybe March 31st in Washington?  Can you confirm that?


MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have a date to confirm for that.  I think some of you may be aware, but I’ll mention it just so you’re aware of another track of the dialogue, that our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications Daniel Sepulveda visited Havana and is finishing up his visit today – March 24th through 26th – and there focused on telecommunications issues and the meetings took place in a positive atmosphere focused on developing telecommunications and internet connections between our two countries.  We believe that expanding internet access to support the free flow of information is a critical focus, of course, of our policy.


QUESTION:  So no date?


MR. RATHKE:  But I don’t have a date to announce for the human rights dialogue, which I can see if there’s anything more to share.


QUESTION:  Thank you.


QUESTION:  Just a follow-up on Cuba.  I visited –


MR. RATHKE:  Just – yeah.  Same topic?  Go ahead.


QUESTION:  I’m sorry?


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.  Same topic?  Yeah.


QUESTION:  Yes, Cuba.  My apologies.  Does it appear that the talks could still result in the opening of the embassies by the Summit of the Americas?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to put a date on it.  Again, we’ve always said we want this to move as quickly as possible.  We remain in contact with Cuban authorities, but I don’t have any dates for a new round of talks to announce, so I don’t have any comment on that specific date.


QUESTION:  Also on Cuba.


MR. RATHKE:  Also on Cuba?




MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  Okay.  The – Cuba has complained that its diplomats accredited to the UN in New York are not allowed to go more than 25 miles outside of the city or from Columbus Circle.  And I wanted to know whether this restriction is one of the things that’s being negotiated.  Is it considered being lifted?  Is it – where does it stand, and how do – and what’s the U.S. – given that generally people accredited to the UN can travel freely, how does the UN – how does the U.S. justify it?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’ve said from the very start of our rounds of talks with the Cuban Government that one of the topics we want to discuss is the ability of American diplomats in Cuba to move around freely and, of course, the Cubans have a similar concern.  I’m not going to get into the state of those discussions, but that’s clearly a topic that we’ve been talking about over the last few rounds.


QUESTION:  It’s more than a topic.  You’ve made it a condition, I think, for reestablishment of embassies, correct?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, we’ve – it is a key concern for the United States.  I’m not going to get into the –


QUESTION:  And anything you would agree would in theory be – you wouldn’t expect to get that privilege and restrict it to the Cubans in return, would you?  I mean, it’s reciprocal.


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I won’t get into our sort of negotiating position, but we recognize –


QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)


MR. RATHKE:  -- we recognize, of course, that it’s a similar interest on the Cuban side.


QUESTION:  And you want –


MR. RATHKE:  But these are reciprocal arrangements in place, so –


QUESTION:  And you want to end them, correct?


MR. RATHKE:  Oh, yeah.  We – certainly we want our diplomats to be able to move around, of course.


QUESTION:  And you would like to extend that to them as well, correct?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, that’s what we’re negotiating about.


QUESTION:  You’re in talks?


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.


QUESTION:  That’s what I was going to ask about.


MR. RATHKE:  Go ahead.


QUESTION:  Could you update us on what’s going on in their statements that much progress has been made?  Could you update us on this?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I’m not going to give an update minute-by-minute, but of course, our team is on the ground.  We’ve – Secretary Kerry has had his first meetings today.  The focus of these meetings, as we’ve said, is closing the gaps that remain and coming to a framework understanding by the end of this month as part of the nuclear negotiations.  I’m not going to give a readout of the meetings that have happened today, however. 


QUESTION:  What are the gaps?  What are these gaps?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I think –


QUESTION:  Are the on centrifuges or –


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I appreciate the comment, the opportunity to negotiate in public, but we’re not going to do that.  We’ve said all along that closing down the four pathways to a nuclear weapon is the focus of our efforts, and that’s what we remain engaged on with our international partners.


Yeah, Justin.  Go ahead.


QUESTION:  There are reports today that the Fordow facility, which is obviously one of the big sticking points here, would be allowed to keep some centrifuges running.  And as you know, this is the deep-buried facility.  Would it be – would it not be a major concession on the U.S. side to allow Iran to keep any of those centrifuges running at Fordow?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, look, I think there probably will be a lot of reports over the next week that claim to address any – some specifics about what’s going on in the negotiating room.  We’ve been clear all along that we’re not going to negotiate in public and we’re also not going to comment on specific reports about specific details that purportedly are coming up in the talks.  Our bottom lines remain the same, that we want to come to a framework that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and that’s what we’re working towards.


QUESTION:  There’s rumors that Sunday the 29th could be deal day, if there’s a day to put on it.  Is that true?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’re working toward a deal.  I’m not going to put a specific date on it.  Clearly, our goal was to achieve it by the end of this month, but I’m not going to refine that –


QUESTION:  Are you optimistic?


MR. RATHKE:  -- any further.


QUESTION:  Can you use the word “optimistic” to describe –


MR. RATHKE:  No, I’m not going to apply a label of that sort to it.  We’ve – Secretary Kerry has just gotten on the ground late last night.  He’s had his first meetings today, but I’m not going to characterize that in a greater degree.


QUESTION:  The Iranians are saying that they want the sanctions lifted or no deal.  Anything on that?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, that’s certainly their point of view, but we’re not going to negotiate this in public.  So the timing of sanctions relief is certainly one of a number of issues, but we’re working those through with our P5+1 partners in the negotiating room with Iran.


QUESTION:  Do you think that what’s happening in Yemen is somehow impacting the negotiation?  I think Brad asked –


MR. RATHKE:  I think I spoke to that.  No, we haven’t seen any indication of that. 


QUESTION:  That’s a completely separate –


MR. RATHKE:  I’ve been in touch with our team on the ground in Switzerland, and I – our sense is that it hasn’t had an impact. 


Same topic?


QUESTION:  Different topic.


MR. RATHKE:  Okay.  Anything else on the Iran talks?


QUESTION:  I’m just wondering how this would not have an impact on those talks.  Is this kind of a contradiction of U.S. policy?  Because on the one hand you have this effort to work with Iran to reach a negotiated limitation to the nuclear program, but at the same time you have U.S. policy then supporting Saudi Arabia and actions against the Houthi rebels that are supported by Iran.  It seems like almost a contradiction of U.S. policy. 


MR. RATHKE:  No, there’s no contradiction and we have made clear throughout the process of the nuclear negotiations with Iran that we have serious concerns about Iranian behavior in a number of areas – talk about terrorism, talk about human rights, talk about the fate of American citizens who are inside Iran in detention.  And so – but the focus of the nuclear negotiations is on the nuclear issue.  So that’s what we’re focused on achieving in these talks.


QUESTION:  I have just one more follow-up question –


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.


QUESTION:  -- with regard to Yemen.  You said that you were in very close consultation – the United States has been in close consultation in recent days with Saudi Arabia.  But the U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin is testifying on Capitol Hill in the Senate Armed Services Committee that, in fact, the U.S. found out about these strikes from Saudi Arabia the day of, just before.  So what does that say about those discussions that were taking place?  I mean, is there a deteriorating relationship here?  That seemed to be something that John McCain intimated.  Is this signifying a lack of trust in that relationship?


MR. RATHKE:  No.  As I said, we’ve been in discussions with the Saudis for a number of days about their concerns about the situation in Yemen.  So that’s –


QUESTION:  But didn’t you know when this was going to take place?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I haven’t seen the transcript of what General Austin said, so I don’t want to speak directly to that.  But certainly, our – from this building we’ve been talking with the Saudis for a number of days and they’ve been quite clear about their concerns.


QUESTION:  So the State Department was aware of when this was going to occur?


MR. RATHKE:  I’m not going to get into the details of those diplomatic discussions, but –


QUESTION:  Were you surprised by it?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, we’ve been aware of the Saudis’ concerns.  We’ve been talking to them about those concerns, but I’m not going to get into further details of those discussions.


QUESTION:  That suggests they did tell you about it, and Austin is saying that they didn’t hear about it, which suggests a little bit of mixed messaging there.  Yeah?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I haven’t – I think he was testifying this morning.  I haven’t seen a transcript of exactly what he said.


QUESTION:  Can I just ask when were these –


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  You cited before these reports about rockets going into Saudi Arabia.  Were those recently, or were those several days ago?


MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have a specific timeframe on them.  We can look and see what more we can say.


QUESTION:  Well, if it hasn’t been for several days, if you don’t even know when they happened, when they allegedly – I don’t quite understand why you raised them, firstly, if you can’t confirm them, and then you don’t even know when they happened.


MR. RATHKE:  Well, it was in response to your question about –


QUESTION:  No, I never asked about rocket attacks and –


MR. RATHKE:  Well, you asked about activity near the border and the question of north –


QUESTION:  And you cited something you don’t know about and you can’t confirm.


MR. RATHKE:  No, I simply – well, I simply said that there have been reports of this.  As to the specific timing of the reports, I don’t have that in front of me.  We’re happy to look into that and come back to you with more detail on that.


QUESTION:  But you – so when you cited these reports, these – are these cited reports somehow part of the justification for supporting the Saudi military intervention?


MR. RATHKE:  I didn’t mean to portray it as somehow a crucial and decisive matter.  I’m simply – but you asked a question about what the security situation was and whether it was actually in the vicinity of Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen.  And it was in response to that that I alluded to that.


QUESTION:  Very quickly, a follow-up on Yemen?


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah.


QUESTION:  Since now it’s been confirmed that President Hadi is in Saudi Arabia and he’s on his way to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and so on, are we likely to expect some sort of a meeting or a phone call between him and American officials?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’ve been in contact with him as recently as yesterday and throughout the crisis, so I’m sure we will remain in contact with him.  But I don’t have any specific plans for a phone call or a meeting to read out at this point.


QUESTION:  Are you talking about Hadi?


MR. RATHKE:  Yes, that’s right.


QUESTION:  So you’re in contact with him, but you don’t know where he is?


MR. RATHKE:  I said we’ve been in contact with him as recently as yesterday.


QUESTION:  But we didn’t know where he – couldn’t say where he was.  Yeah?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, no, it was subsequent to our conversation with him yesterday that he left his presidential palace.


QUESTION:  Do you still believe that he left voluntarily, as expressed yesterday?


MR. RATHKE:  I’m not going to get into an adverb –


QUESTION:  An adverb?  Okay, that’s a new – that’s a new restriction. 


MR. RATHKE:  It’s – I don’t have anything to add to yesterday’s –


QUESTION:  There’s a new adverb policy now?


MR. RATHKE:  No, I haven’t said that, but I don’t have anything to add to yesterday’s discussion on that.


Yes, go ahead.


QUESTION:  Yeah.  What is in place to prevent the Taliban Five from going back to Afghanistan after the one-year deal is over?


MR. RATHKE:  So you’re referring to the five detainees who were released from Guantanamo and transferred to Qatar.  We remain in continuous communication with the Qatari authorities.  We’re not going to comment on the specifics of those – of those conversations.  However, we’ve – we are confident that by working closely with our Qatari partners, we are in a strong position to mitigate substantially any potential threat or risk those individuals might pose.


QUESTION:  Because members of Congress say there’s nothing in place.  Are you saying that discussions are underway to make sure that they don’t go back after –


MR. RATHKE:  Well, we’ve been in constant communication with the Qatari authorities since the transfer.  And again, the standard for us in making decisions about transfer of individual detainees is our ability to continue to mitigate the threat that they might pose.  I don’t have further details to announce publicly about how we do that in the case of Qatar or in the case of any other place where people are transferred.


QUESTION:  And on a separate topic on Tikrit, the State Department has no concerns at all that U.S. will become Iran’s air force in Iraq?  I mean, basically, hasn’t the U.S. become a functional ally of Iran since we’re providing air support?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, no.  That’s the short answer.  We are acting in Tikrit at the response of Iraqi Government request.  We are – we are focused on supporting the Iraqi Central Government.  We’re working with them.  We’re working through our established Joint Operations Center, and this is a step we’ve taken after careful consideration and careful planning with the Iraqi partners.


QUESTION:  I have a –


QUESTION:  Switching to –


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  I have a different topic.

QUESTION:  A follow-up on yesterday’s – I had a couple questions about a Mexican who was trying to enter the United States to go to the Mayo Clinic for a double transplant.  I think Jen said at the time that the team was looking into it or something to that effect.  Do you have anything you can add to yesterday’s no-comment on him not being allowed into the country?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, this may not please you, but we have a – not just a principle, but in the law, visa records are confidential.  So our ability to comment on individual visa cases is extremely constrained.  So we make visa decisions on a case-by-case basis, and we certainly take every step to facilitate travel by international visitors.  But we also have our responsibilities under the law, but I’m not going to get into that particular case.


QUESTION:  The young kid and his family say that he was instructed – he’s been denied twice now – he was instructed to apply for a tourist visa, not a humanitarian parole, and that this is what he was instructed by the consulate.  I’m not asking you to talk about the decision –


MR. RATHKE:  Right.


QUESTION:  -- but isn’t it the responsibility of the consular official to guide an applicant toward the correct application?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, as a general matter, individuals seeking to come to the United States for medical treatment fall under the category of – we call it B-2 or a visitor visa.  Now that permits a traveler to engage in a variety of visitor activities, including medical treatment.  And it is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate qualification for that type of visa.  Applicant – but --

QUESTION:  That’s the general tourism visa?


MR. RATHKE:  Right, but to come to the other part of your question, if applicants are ineligible to receive a visitor visa under U.S. immigration law, they may apply for humanitarian parole, which is the thing you alluded to, from the Department of Homeland Security.  That’s a matter for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at DHS.  They deal with questions of humanitarian parole.


QUESTION:  In a case like this, without getting into the reason why you denied him the right to come for the surgery, isn’t it the – shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the consular official to explain to that individual, “Hey, if your life might end, you might want to apply for this humanitarian parole”?  Shouldn’t he be guided or made aware of this separate track?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, that’s – it’s hard for me to comment about that without getting into the case.


QUESTION:  Just as a general rule, shouldn’t he be made aware of, like, the various pathways to get the medical treatment he’s seeking?


MR. RATHKE:  Well –


QUESTION:  Or is it – should it be a secret?


MR. RATHKE:  It’s not a secret.  I’m not going to speak to the particulars of that case, but it’s certainly –


QUESTION:  Well, he’s a 20-year-old from a Mexican town.  He might not know the intricacies of the B-2 visa versus other codes and letters, whereas a consular official would, in theory, right?  Shouldn’t he provide that information?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, again, I don’t know what the –


QUESTION:  I’m not asking you to say what he –


MR. RATHKE:  -- I’m not able to speak to what the conversations were in that case.




MR. RATHKE:  You’re sort of suggesting that it didn’t happen.


QUESTION:  Well, maybe it did happen.


MR. RATHKE:  It’s hard for me to comment on that, and I don’t know that.  And even if I did, I would be getting into the particulars of the case.


QUESTION:  Should that happen as a matter of course?  That’s what I’m asking.  Should you provide information to an applicant on what ways he can apply to enter the country, especially if he’s been – well, just that one.  Or is it – no?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, we have lots of ways of making information available about traveling to the United States.  I haven’t reviewed our websites to find –


QUESTION:  It’s not the job of a consular official to say, “Hey, this didn’t work for you, but maybe you can try this way”?


MR. RATHKE:  Again, I don’t have anything further to comment on that.

Go ahead.


QUESTION:  Yeah, changing topics, the – Speaker Boehner announced that Prime Minister Abe will address a joint meeting of Congress on April 26th.  I was wondering if State has any reaction.


MR. RATHKE:  Well, earlier this week, of course, the White House announced that Prime Minister Abe is coming for an official visit, and so that will be a – certainly a celebration of the strong partnership that the United States and Japan have developed since the end of the Second World War, and to underscore the common values and principles that have made this relationship so enduring. 


I don’t have a particular comment on the decision with respect to addressing a joint session of Congress, but we certainly see this as an important visit by the prime minister, and I would refer you to the White House for any further comments about Prime Minister Abe’s program while he’s here.


QUESTION:  Okay.  As you may know, there have been groups mobilizing against Prime Minister Abe’s visit, and especially the address to Congress, citing concerns of statements made by him and other Japanese officials on Japan’s wartime past.  Are you sympathetic to those views?  Is there anything that you would like to see Prime Minister Abe address in his speech?


MR. RATHKE:  Well, I think we’ll let Prime Minister Abe speak for himself.  We’ve certainly welcomed his comments, most recently his February 12th policy speech to the Japanese Diet, in which he included a very positive message about history issues and Japan’s contributions since the war to peace.  We certainly support strong and constructive relations between countries in the region.  We talk about that a lot in this room.  And we continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a way that promotes healing and reconciliation.

We got time for just a couple more. 


QUESTION:  Can I have one more –


MR. RATHKE:  Yeah, go ahead.


QUESTION:  -- on Japan?  Do you know if the White House was consulted on this joint address to Congress?


MR. RATHKE:  I’d refer you to the White House.  I don’t have information on that.


QUESTION:  You don’t?  Was the State Department consulted?


MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have – that would normally be something, I think, between the

Congress and the White House.  I’d refer you to them –




MR. RATHKE:  -- for those particulars. 


Yes, go ahead.


QUESTION:  (Inaudible), anything – two things, and I apologize if you’ve answered either of them.  One is, earlier this week, the U.S. ambassador to Libya sort of very publicly disengaged with Twitter, saying she’d received threats after having tweeted that there were eight Tawerghans killed there.  So I wanted to know, were they real – I mean, has any security change been made, and do you have any – is there anything that you want to say about the – what’s the policy of the State Department in terms of its diplomats using social media to communicate?

And just separately, have you – has the State Department decided whether to replace Russ Feingold’s – to name a new special envoy on the Great Lakes, and if so, by when?

MR. RATHKE:  I don’t have any personnel announcements to make.  With respect to the use of Twitter, of course it’s something that many U.S. officials use to communicate, but I don’t have the details of that particular situation, so I’m not going to comment more specifically on that.


QUESTION:  And on Feingold?

MR. RATHKE:  No, I don’t have any personnel announcements to make.


(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 25, 2015

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 17:24

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 25, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:44 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.


MS. PSAKI: A full house. Lucas is back. Exciting. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.

As you know and we’ve said in a couple of statements before, we are deeply saddened by the news that Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in southern France on its way from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany yesterday. At this time, we can confirm the deaths of U.S. citizens Yvonne Selke and Emily Selke. We are in contact with family members and we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 150 people onboard. We can also confirm that a third U.S. citizen was onboard the flight. We are in touch with the family but are not releasing the name at this time out of respect for the family. And if I may, given we often provide public service information here, Lufthansa and Germanwings have established a telephone hotline. The worldwide number is 407-362-0632. It’s available to all the families of the passengers involved for care and assistance. If you believe a U.S. citizen family member was on the flight, we encourage you to call the Department of State at 888-407-4747 from within the United States or 202-501-4444.

On Yemen, we strongly condemn the recent offensive military actions undertaken in Yemen that have targeted President Hadi. The actions of the Houthis and former President Saleh have caused widespread instability and chaos that threatens the well-being of all Yemenis. The international community has spoken clearly through UN Security Council resolutions and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that the only legitimate transition can be accomplished through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the political parties based on the GCC initiative and national dialogue outcomes. The future of Yemen should be determined by the Yemeni people from all communities. It is the people of Yemen who will feel the effects if all the parties do not immediately cease military actions and return to Yemen’s political transition.

And then if I may, since this is my last briefing with all of you, which I am pretty sad about, I just wanted to say I had a moment yesterday – or at the end of the briefing, I had an opportunity to thank all of you and just say a little bit about the public service that all of you play in reporting not just to the American people but what’s so great about the State Department is to people around the world. But I also wanted to say a few things, if you don’t mind, about some of my colleagues here, just because they are as committed to this in a different way that all of you are.

And first, obviously working for the Secretary has been this amazing adventure and amazing experience for me. And I had worked for him when he ran for president about 10 years ago, but it’s really rare to work for someone who has the combination of the energy and enthusiasm and commitment to his job as a public servant but also as the nation’s chief diplomat as he does. And I think we all know that about him; he’s tireless and it’s hard to keep up with him. I think those of us who work for him, but those of us who have traveled with him know as well.

But he’s also somebody – and I see this every day and through the months and actually now years I’ve worked for him – who has a vision about where the United States and where our role in the world can go moving forward over the long term. And it’s not just about what happens day to day but about how we can invest in important relationships around the world, whether that’s with the Western Hemisphere or whether that’s with many countries in Asia. And I have been just so proud to be here for a number of things that he has led on, and that’s the CW deal, the effort to form a unity government in Afghanistan, which obviously we’ve seen the benefits over the last couple of days, the Middle East peace effort, climate change – which I think he has played a significant role putting on the map, and certainly, building the anti-ISIL coalition, which was a sleepless couple of days for many of us who were on the trip early this year.

So I just wanted to say a few words about him but also about many of the people who are in this department. And you all know them very well, but I think most of the American people and perhaps people around the world don’t see what diplomats do every day and kind of what the role is that they play. And the Foreign Service – which I’m not a part of, as many of you know, but I’ve learned a great deal about over the last two years – is a group of people who dedicate their lives to really being the glue that holds international diplomacy together. And they spend rotations of two years or three years in different places; it’s amazing the number of languages they speak and their dedication to representing the United States around the world. And I have been so blown away and just really impressed by this group of people. And it’s not every day that you get to – although it has been every day for me for the last two years – call up people like Bill Burns or Toria Nuland or Anne Patterson, Robert Ford. I mean, some of these people are no longer here, but who have had inspiring careers and are – and you can call them about Ukraine or Syria – it’s kind of a unique briefing that you’re able to get. And that combined with some of the people that I’ve been able to work with who are political appointees – Dan – the Dan Feldmans of the world, the Frank Lowensteins, the Martin Indyks – it’s really been a huge honor.

And then last thing I would say is that I’ve had this incredible team of people here that I am just so grateful for. And all of you know Marie Harf and Jeff Rathke because they’ve been up here briefing, and they’ve been incredible and you will remain in excellent hands with them. But I also – there are a number of people that you all don’t know and – or you may know a little bit – but the PAOs who work in the bureaus every day who put together guidance, who get calls from us at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., or from you guys. And the people from – so they’re obviously from the bureaus. And just the team of great people just in my small little office. So I know this is lengthy, but I just felt I would take the opportunity since I have the forum for a moment, and I know we have a lot to cover, so we can now move on to the business of the world.

QUESTION: Before – congratulations again on your move and --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: -- thank you for the long hours and great commitment you’ve shown to your job and your patience and indulgence at times with us, as well as your professionalism and how you’ve handled yourself --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Brad.

QUESTION: -- in all aspects.

MS. PSAKI: Very kind of you to say.

QUESTION: Thank you. I just wanted to start with Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You touched on it briefly. What – who is the U.S. speaking to? For a long time we heard about you were in touch with Hadi. Now you may be – I don’t know – but you let us know. And for a while we heard about how you still had communications at – whether it was special forces level or however, but now that seems to no longer exist. So who are you in touch with? How are you actually engaging the process on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, specifically on President Hadi, we were in touch with him earlier today. We – he is no longer at his residence, which you’ve seen in reporting, but we can certainly confirm. I’m not in a position to confirm any additional details from here about his location. We have been in touch with him over the last several days. And as all of you know, Ambassador Tueller has seen him in person and has traveled from Jeddah to go see him.

In terms of our counterterrorism cooperation, as my colleagues at, I believe, DOD said yesterday, there’s no question our preference would be to have a presence on the ground. And that’s certainly – that’s why we have diplomatic – diplomats in embassies around the world, is to have that on-the-ground coordination. But we maintain means of working with, monitoring, going after some of the threats that face us, and that’s ongoing. And even if you look on the diplomatic side, though Ambassador Tueller and his close team are not based in Yemen, they have been able to continue to communicate with President Hadi and communicate with others and, obviously, with the UN about the political process moving forward.

QUESTION: This call this morning – who made that telephone call with him? And I assume this is while he was still at the residence?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if there are more details I can get into for you, Brad. I’m happy to check on that.

QUESTION: This is the punishment of your last day – you can’t take follow-up questions. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that there was a State Department briefing long before me and there will continue to be. I just don’t want to get ahead of providing details I don’t have at this point.

QUESTION: And so you have no information about where he is, or you’re just choosing at this point not to share that for security reasons?

MS. PSAKI: There have been a range of reports. I don’t have more details – I don’t have more details to share, I would say, even if we had more level of specificity.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Did the U.S. consider withdrawing him at some point? There were reports that he was going to get on board a U.S. military aircraft, and that ultimately – that was not – that didn’t happen, and now that he’s on a boat somewhere.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been reports; that’s one of them. I don’t have confirmation of that report. We’ve obviously been in close touch with him, as have many GCC countries. So I just don’t have more details from here about his plans or what actions we’re prepared to take.

QUESTION: Jen, does the U.S. believe that he’s still in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have more details on his whereabouts at this point.

QUESTION: And what time did the official speak to him? Was it in the morning?

MS. PSAKI: It was in the morning.

QUESTION: And was there any other thing that’s – anything else that was said?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I think, obviously, we’ve been touching base on a regular basis. I don’t have any more to read out of the discussion, but we’ve been in regular contact.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Houthis have actually – how close they are to Aden? Can you give any update on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an on-the-ground update. Obviously, as you have seen in reporting but I can certainly confirm that they have seized the Al Anad airbase located between Sana’a and Aden. We’ve seen an incredibly volatile but also fluid situation on the ground, which is why we just don’t have kind of confirmation of the specifics of their movements.

QUESTION: So just one more question. They got the airbase. Are any U.S. planes on that airbase?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD. I don’t have more specifics on what may or may not still be there.

QUESTION: Jen? First of all, thank you for indulging us all this time. We appreciate it.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Said.

QUESTION: And second, the Saudis are saying that they are going to propose some sort of an Arab force that will go into Yemen during this Arab summit that begins, I guess, on Saturday. So do you have any information on that? Are you coordinating with them? Have they shared any kind of plans with them? Would you support such an effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have details on that at this point in time. I don’t think that those reports are that new. They may be refreshed. We’ve worked closely with Saudi Arabia and our partners in GCC countries to promote a peaceful political transition and share their concerns about the aggressive actions of the Houthis. Saudis have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemen to their security, given their proximity. And we understand that they’re taking appropriate precautions to ensure the security of their border.

Obviously, you’re talking about an upcoming meeting. We don’t have more details on any proposal that may or may not be proposed.

QUESTION: Who’s sharing in the meeting? Who’s going to the meeting on the American side? There is normally an American diplomat or an American high-level official and so on that goes to this Arab summit. Do we know who it is? Could there be the – could it be the ambassador to Yemen, for instance, in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Not always, Said. But I can see if there’s a specific plan at this point in time.

QUESTION: Jen, on this, do you support any military intervention from Saudi Arabia or Arab states in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’re talking about a hypothetical at this point in time. Obviously, as I mentioned, we believe that the Saudis have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemeni – in Yemen on their security, and given their proximity. But I don’t have any predictions for you on what they may or may not do. I would point you to the – their government for that.

QUESTION: And they’re doing a press conference at 4 p.m. today, so --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But they haven’t given you a heads-up about what’s --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. We certainly wouldn’t get ahead of a government of our – one of our partners.

QUESTION: So how does the State Department assess this? The army in Iraq falls apart, then Mosul; the army in Yemen, after all this training and so on, falls apart; all these agreements that in many ways were under the auspices of the Americans and so on. How do you interpret that?

MS. PSAKI: Are under the auspices of --

QUESTION: Well, not – I mean, you helped a great deal. I mean, you supported the Government of Iraq; you supported the Government in Yemen, and to have a centralized authority of sort. And there are apparently no centralized authorities, and they fall apart at the first challenge. Why do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, you’re making a sweeping statement here, Said, which is not applicable to all those countries you mention. There’s no question that --

QUESTION: I only mentioned two --

MS. PSAKI: Well, okay.

QUESTION: -- Iraq and Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not applicable to both countries you mentioned. I would say the Government of Iraq is continuing to move forward on not just important reforms, but on steps to – on inclusivity steps, on steps to bring in unregulated militia. That – I wouldn’t put them – I would definitely not put them in anywhere near the same category.

QUESTION: After a period of moving backwards.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, that’s right. But we’re talking about right now. On Yemen, I think we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that we view the situation on the ground as volatile, as challenging, as one that’s incredibly fluid. And the Houthis’ actions have consistently undermined Yemen’s transition. Recent actions are but the latest in a series of violent actions perpetrated by the Houthis since they overran Sana’a, took over government institutions, and attempted to govern by unilateral decree. Clearly, there is an effort that’s being led by the UN to try to get all parties to the table to pursue a political process and a process that can help bring parties together. We certainly support that. We moved our personnel out, as all of you know. So we’re certainly not naive about the challenges, but we’re continuing to work with a range of partners about how to address things moving forward.

QUESTION: Has there been, at any point, any deliberations about U.S. action, military or otherwise, to halt the Houthis? I mean, this is all happening in a place that’s heavily watched. As you said, you’re not naive; you know what’s going on. Yet nothing’s really happened to stop them. I mean, has there been any discussion to nip it in the bud?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, Brad. I think, obviously, I’m not going to get into deliberations and certainly any action anywhere would be something the Department of Defense would speak to.

QUESTION: Jen, how is State characterizing Hadi’s departure? Are you saying he fled, he left voluntarily? And then secondly, earlier he had a plan to attend the Arab summit in Egypt. You mentioned there was a phone call this morning. Was there any indication on if ultimately he still plans to make his way to that summit?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on his plans and whether or not he’ll attend the summit. In terms of the call this morning, I just don’t have more to read out from it and the specifics of the discussion. I just wanted to make clear that we had been in touch as recently as this morning. In terms of his departure, I think it’s pretty clear he left voluntarily. I don’t think I need to put a new characterization on it.

QUESTION: He left --

QUESTION: I’ve got a follow with Yemen.

QUESTION: Sorry, he left voluntarily?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, obviously he left given the circumstances --

QUESTION: I mean, just --

MS. PSAKI: -- but I don’t think I need to – I think we all know what happened here.

QUESTION: He’s leaving because the city is about to fall, right? I mean, that’s hardly a voluntary departure.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, but I will let all of you characterize what that means. I don’t think I need to characterize whether it means fled or departed voluntarily or what it means.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, but I wanted to ask --

QUESTION: Just real quick, first, on behalf of the Fox News Channel I wanted to say thank you for all your hard work.

MS. PSAKI: This is a statement I thought I would never hear. (Laughter.) But thank you, Lucas.

QUESTION: I speak on behalf of my colleagues and our viewers. We thank you and we will miss you.

MS. PSAKI: It has been a pleasure working with you and your colleagues, all kidding aside. You’re always professional and I always enjoy having you in the briefing room.

QUESTION: Thank you. Is Yemen still a model for counterterrorism operations for the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, Lucas, I think we still have a number of successes to point to in terms of our efforts to push back on al-Qaida and our successes in doing that in coordination with authorities. We’re continuing to work to push back on counterterrorism threats that we face. Now, we’ve never said – or I don’t believe we’ve said – that – or held up Yemen as a country where a political transition has been an easy road. But we have had success working on counterterrorism operations and we expect and hope that will continue.

QUESTION: The President in September mentioned Yemen as a successful counterterrorism operation.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, and we stand by that.

More on Yemen?

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up very quickly --

QUESTION: Just following up: At the moment, are you successfully combating terror in Yemen? Because it looks by all account that al-Qaida is expanding territory under its control and operations; ISIS is now getting a foothold in the country. So what is the measure of that success right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Brad, I’m not in a position to kind of evaluate on the counterterrorism front publicly, but my point I’m making here is that we have means of monitoring, we have means of continuing to coordinate. We’re continuing to push back on a range of efforts. You can’t possibly know – nor can anyone – what the range of threats are. Obviously, it’s a difficult situation, it’s a volatile situation on the ground for a range of reasons.

QUESTION: What is the measure of counterterrorism success, then? Is it not to have less of a threat than before? Are you willing to say at this point Yemen is less of a terrorism threat than it was, I don’t know, a few years ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s the question we’re posing here.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, yeah. I mean, if it’s a model of counterterrorism success, it must be something that it’s been successful at.

MS. PSAKI: Which is something the President said in September, and the fact is that we continue to have means of pushing back on al-Qaida in Yemen. We’re continuing those efforts. We typically can’t outline those efforts publicly.

QUESTION: But continuing efforts doesn’t quantify a success.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, a success has to do something.

MS. PSAKI: -- understood, Brad.

QUESTION: What is the --

MS. PSAKI: But typically, we can’t outline our counterterrorism efforts publicly.

QUESTION: Well, you’ll understand, given that criteria, that people will look at that with a raised eyebrow at the least, given that you can’t explain why you think it’s a success.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I was saying that. I have explained that it’s a success and it has been a success for many years because of our efforts to push back and counter al-Qaida in Yemen. That’s something we’ve been doing for some time now. Now, there’s no question the situation on the ground has changed over the last several months as it relates to the volatility, as it relates to what our staffing is on the ground. These are all things we’ve talked about publicly. But we continue to have means of monitoring what the threats are and pushing back on those threats. We don’t give day-to-day evaluations of that.

QUESTION: Staying on the same --

QUESTION: Jen, would you – the base --

QUESTION: Staying on the same --

MS. PSAKI: On Yemen? Go ahead. Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. The base that has fallen into Houthi hands is purported to be the launching for all the drone attacks and so on. Can you speak to whether some drones may have fallen into hands of the Houthis?


Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s on the same lines, but Yemen has been projected as the center point from where the operations were being carried out against al-Qaida. Now where are these operations will be? Are they moved to another country? Have they moved to offshore ships? Where are those – center of those operations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I’ve mentioned, again, there are means of – there are many ways that we can continue to monitor and work on counterterrorism efforts and pushing – including pushing back on al-Qaida and threats posed from Yemen. It’s not the only place we do counterterrorism operations from. We do them from around the world, but I’m not going to outline that from here.

QUESTION: For the al-Qaida in northern Africa, this was one of the central points. So it means that either that point doesn’t exist and we are --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say – are you listening to what I’m saying or I’ve answered in response to this question?

QUESTION: Yes. I always listen to you.

MS. PSAKI: We have continued to have a range of means of not only monitoring the threat on the ground but continuing to work on counterterrorism operations in Yemen. I can’t outline those publicly from here, but that is ongoing. Is it more challenging because we don’t have a diplomatic presence on the ground? Of course it is, but we continue to have means to do that. There are also other places around the world where we certainly have counterterrorism operations from. Yemen is not the only place.

QUESTION: And thank you for a great time we had and your patience with us.

MS. PSAKI: My pleasure.

QUESTION: On Ukraine?


MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s finish Yemen, and then we can go to Ukraine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you still consider Hadi is the president of Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: That is what the constitution considers, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then for the new reality, which was – you talk about some contact with Saudi Arabia and GCC countries. I mean, are you talking about – which countries are you in touch with it? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Which countries are we in touch with?


MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re in touch with Saudi Arabia. We’re in touch with a range of countries. We’ve had several meetings with the GCC and GCC countries over the past couple of months where Yemen has been a topic of discussion.

QUESTION: During this, like, the last few weeks, because it was coming – a new reality is coming out, are you in touch with Houthis or – by any chance?

MS. PSAKI: We are in touch with all parties, but I don’t have anything more to read out for you on that front.

Yemen, or --

QUESTION: Jen, when you said he left voluntarily, are you saying he left the residence voluntarily or the country?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more on his location. I can confirm he left the residence.

QUESTION: Voluntarily?

MS. PSAKI: Yes – (laughter) – however you want to characterize it.

QUESTION: What does that mean, left – I mean, every time he leaves his home you would confirm that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I guess the question is what did Pam mean by the question. I mean, I don’t have more specifics to characterize it.

QUESTION: But you said that unprompted earlier, so --

MS. PSAKI: No, I said it in response to her question.

QUESTION: You first said it when I asked the first question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It wasn’t about his whereabouts per se. You mentioned that he had left the residence but you couldn’t confirm any further details.

MS. PSAKI: Typically, it means someone wasn’t forcibly carried out of their home, which we know wasn’t the case, so --

QUESTION: So you’re confirming the president has left his home.

MS. PSAKI: If that’s of interest to all of you, given you’ve asked the question.

QUESTION: Well, you – no, you offered that, but I mean, what is the significance of you reading out that a president is no longer in his home?

MS. PSAKI: It was a question of interest to the media, so I was being responsive to that, Brad.

QUESTION: That he wasn’t kidnapped is what you’re saying.

QUESTION: So, I mean, probably he’s not going to return?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to read out for you in terms of his plans.

QUESTION: Not going to --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and any more on Yemen before we continue?

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

QUESTION: Can we talk on – about the Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can we go to Ukraine? I promised we’d go to Ukraine next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Last days there were reports about some sort of tensions between president of Ukraine and government – governor of Dnipropetrovsk region, and there were also reports that U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt met with – once or twice with Dnipropetrovsk region governor, Igor Kolomoisky, and finally he resigned – I mean, Ukrainian official resigned yesterday in the evening. Do you have any additional details?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have additional details. Our view is this is an internal matter for Ukraine. Governors in Ukraine are appointed by the president. Removing a governor from power is well within the authority of President Poroshenko, and obviously, as we’ve seen from reporting, that’s the case here.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there were some armed people who were blocking offices of state oil company and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen conflicting reports about armed men entering certain businesses partially owned by Mr. Kolomoisky. Mr. Kolomoisky and the Ukrainian Government have stated these individuals were private security guards for him. I don’t have any additional confirmation or details for you.

QUESTION: And since this is your last briefing and you know you had some controversial popularity in Russia – (laughter) – so I just wonder, do you have any final say or final adios to Russian people or Russian audience? (Laughter.) Maybe “I’ll be back” or – I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m still working in the federal government, so I will still be around.

QUESTION: Yeah, but we will not see you every day on --

MS. PSAKI: That is true. Well, one, I would say that I have – it’s been an honor to speak on behalf of the United States positions and views as it relates to Ukraine and the illegal intervention of Russia and Russian-backed separatists, which I – we will continue to do from the podium and from many sources here in the government.

The second thing I would say is people shouldn’t believe all of the propaganda out there. The United States, myself, as silly as that sounds, there is no desire – we want to see Russia thrive, we want to see the people thrive, we want to see the economy prosper, and suggestions otherwise are simply propaganda.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. And just thank you. Can I just --

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Ukraine? Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Russia?

QUESTION: Can I just thank you for --

QUESTION: Yeah. What’s your most memorable moment with respect to Russia as you (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) My most memorable moment? I will say that one of them is – was working on the deal on chemical weapons, and that was something that came together over the course of a week or 10 days, if even shorter. We came back to the United States, we went back quickly after about 36 hours. It was something we worked closely with the teams on, and clearly, now 100 percent of declared chemical weapons are out of Syria. So that was certainly a successful outcome from our collaboration together, and hopefully we’ll have successful outcome from work on the nuclear talks.

QUESTION: All right. It was time when you got a present with this pink ushanka, right – pink hat?

MS. PSAKI: I have my pink hat at home. It’s coming with me to the White House. Should we go to a new topic? Go ahead.


QUESTION: Can we go back to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In reference to the previous question, the governor who was fired was fired as a result of a probe into corruption, and this of course is coming at a time when the United States and European Union is looking at pumping more money into Ukraine to help stabilize the government. Do these types of scandals – how do they impact the U.S. in terms of its view of the government? And does it make the U.S. a little bit more hesitant to provide this type of funding when this corruption is still underway?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are certainly aware, as you referenced, of a dispute involving new laws designed to bring further reform and transparency to businesses in Ukraine. Certainly, efforts to bring more transparency and reform that the government are putting into place is a positive step. We support the government’s continuing efforts to ensure that the rule of law is applied in all sectors, including the operation of partly or fully state-owned companies. There can be no return to the laws that existed – the prior laws that existed in this regard under former President Yanukovych. And so what we’re seeing here is efforts to put reforms in place that can crack down on issues like corruption and put greater transparency in place, and we see that as a positive thing.

QUESTION: Do these types of corruption probes have an impact as far as the U.S. is concerned on efforts to stabilize the country and U.S. efforts to be a part of that in terms of the separatist movement?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t see it that way, Pam. Obviously, there are internal matters that Ukraine, just as any government, is working through. But our commitment remains to supporting a sovereign Ukraine, one where not only are they working to push back on the intervention of Russia and Russian-backed separatists, but also putting in place economic reforms and reforms that will help their country prosper over the long term.


MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine or --

QUESTION: A follow-up on --

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. President Poroshenko stated after this conflict and that armed people blocked offices of state oil company, that no governor should have a private puppet army. Would you support – as you know, in Ukraine there are many groups, armed groups that work – they aren’t complete controlled by Kyiv, they are privately financed. Will you support disarming these private groups?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think – I don’t have more information – we don’t have more information from here on some of these individuals. We’ve certainly seen a range of reports. They’ve been identified as private security guards. There are a range of laws. And again, I can’t confirm that. It’s just what they’ve been identified by as the local parties. Beyond that, obviously, the Government of Ukraine takes their own steps, which we certainly support, to maintain and work to make sure kind of all military are part of the official effort.

QUESTION: So you would support this particular statement on – that no government – no governor should have a private puppet army?

MS. PSAKI: Look, I think there are internal matters for Ukraine to work through in their laws. I don’t have any particular comment on that.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- real quick?


MS. PSAKI: Go – Justin’s been very restless up here, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, not restless.

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay, go ahead. Why don’t you go, and then we’ll go to Said?


MS. PSAKI: Eager.

QUESTION: Let’s just say I don’t have the same patience that you have displayed all these years, and you’ve been doing a great job at that, as we’ve gone over. So today, Ashraf Ghani was in front of Congress talking about, among other things, ISIS and saying that Afghanistan is now on the front line. He said Daesh “is already sending advance guards to southern and western Afghanistan to push our vulnerabilities.”

I just – I guess what I’m seeing is that this doesn’t exactly match what we’ve heard in the past from Kerry and others about sort of aspirational goals there. What is the status, in your assessment, of ISIS in Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well – and Secretary Kerry, or Secretary Carter – maybe both of them – spoke to this on Monday a little bit. And we’re aware, of course, that some members of the Taliban have rebranded themselves as ISIL, and we’re certainly monitoring closely to see whether they will have – that will have a meaningful impact on the ground – is it operational, is it propaganda? But the ISIL presence in Afghanistan is still fairly nascent, and we – and if its fighters, whether ISIL or otherwise, threaten U.S. and coalition forces, our forces have the ability to address that threat. But right now, it’s something that we are watching closely. We certainly communicate closely with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah and many other officials in the Afghan Government about this presence, how concerned they are, and what needs to be done.

QUESTION: Do you think he’s hyping this at all?

MS. PSAKI: Look, I wouldn’t – obviously, he’s the president of his country and he watches what happens closely. But what our evaluation is – and I think it’s true just in terms of how long this has been around – is that this is fairly new, and we need to watch and see what it means and what the intentions are and whether there’s an operational connection or not.

QUESTION: Is the decision to keep the troops there or slow the pace of the withdrawal related to the ISIS threat?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it in that way. I mean, the President spoke about this yesterday. And what he spoke about is certainly that – and simply because, Justin, it’s nascent, it’s new, and obviously, this is a discussion that’s been ongoing for some time and one that President Ghani and others have been requesting for some time, for months now, as you know, because you’ve been covering this closely.

But the flexibility allows us to support Afghanistan through the upcoming fighting season, to provide core-level advisory support through 2015, and to continue to target remnants of al-Qaida. And our effort here is to certainly maintain the gains but also to prevent an al-Qaida resurgence while thwarting external plotting against U.S. targets. Obviously, we will continue to watch and work with the Afghan Government on what the nascent threat from ISIL presents.

QUESTION: Are there more ISIS or more al-Qaida in Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think al-Qaida has been around for, as you know, some time now, in Afghanistan.


MS. PSAKI: This is --

QUESTION: But their numbers have always been, like, what, less than 100 or something lately. They haven’t been – it’s more of a Taliban issue there.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. Taliban, absolutely. In terms of the ISIL threat, I don’t have an assessment of that --

QUESTION: You don’t. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- we don’t, as the U.S. Government, have for you.

QUESTION: You mentioned a lot that it’s nascent at this point. Wouldn’t that mean it’s the best time to try to actually eliminate the threat before it’s bigger?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we are, unfortunately, in other places where some have claimed connection to or allegiance to, we are evaluating what it means and what the intentions are and whether there is actually the direct connection.

QUESTION: If a group of fighters declare allegiance to the Islamic State, don’t you have the authorities then to do what you need to do to eliminate that threat?

MS. PSAKI: It’s more than just pledging allegiance, Brad, and there --


MS. PSAKI: There are – we – obviously, if they threaten U.S. troops, if there are threats posed, that’s something different. But obviously, we look to more than just a propaganda connection.

QUESTION: At Camp David, Secretary Kerry mentioned some recruiting that’s been taking place from the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Can you expand on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think he answered that in response to a question about offers that had been put out there about financial incentives, which clearly is something that we’re watching and we’re concerned about.

QUESTION: Just one would assume that in order to recruit you need a recruiter. And are these recruiters – is this online? Is this in person?

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t have an assessment of that, Lucas. It’s something we’ll continue to watch and, obviously, will continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan on.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the President during his press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said – talked about the importance of having a process, a framework, that will lead, ultimately, to a two-state solution. I know that the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met with Mr. Lowenstein also, the day before. Is there any kind of a process that is in the offing? Is there a restart of the negotiations from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think right now, Said, the Israeli Government – Prime Minister Netanyahu is forming a government. Obviously, that can take some time. I don’t have any prediction of that. And clearly it’s going to be up to the parties to determine what the path is moving forward. So I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of any plans. Obviously, our belief remains that an agreement and a two-state solution is the best way to have security and lasting peace in the region.

QUESTION: But the Israeli Government – every two years they go in to forming governments, and that process is really lengthy and so on. So your strategy or your policy is not really based on the formation of Israeli government, is it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it – you need to have the parties negotiating, and obviously, it’s natural that the focus in Israel right now is on the formation of a government. Clearly, we’ll see what actions are taken. And beyond that, I don’t have an assessment of what’s --

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze 1,500 housing units in the settlements? Do you think this came as a result of, perhaps, a stronger American position on the issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the specifics, Said. I haven’t had a chance to talk to our team about that specific report.

QUESTION: And finally, I’m going to borrow from my colleague here and ask you: What do you have to say to the Palestinian people? I mean, you’ve dealt with this issue --

MS. PSAKI: Oh goodness. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So, I mean, that’s a --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, you know --


QUESTION: In like 30 seconds or less. It’s okay. So yeah, go ahead. Take your (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Wow, okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) involved in this process for so long.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No, he gave me the idea right there, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I think I would say, Said, since you gave me the opportunity, that the United States continues to support the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that we believe that having two states living side by side is the best way to have a peaceful environment in the region, and that I know that Secretary Kerry, himself, personally remains committed to seeing what is possible on this front.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yesterday – just following up – yesterday when the President spoke, he mentioned that the – very similarly the U.S. supports a two-state solution. But then he said something along the lines of president – Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks otherwise. What did he mean by that? What is your understanding of the prime minister’s position in terms of support or nonsupport for a two-state solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s up to – we’ve seen a variety of comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I think what the President or any official in the United States Government has been getting at is that clearly we saw his statements prior to the election; we’ve seen his statements after. We have to see if there is actually a path to make the hard choices toward negotiations, and we don’t know the answer to that yet. So we’ll be looking for actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment.

QUESTION: I’m not going to re-litigate what you guys – what’s the last few days of briefings have been over, so essentially just to understand, you’re not saying that you – and the President wasn’t saying that he doesn’t think the prime minister supports a two-state solution. He was merely saying you don’t know if he supports it. He has to prove that, essentially.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.


QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this before change topics? No? Okay. Israel? No, no. Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Could we go to Elliot? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. There’s a report in Chinese state media that China has sent a list of I think over a hundred high-profile targets for charges on corruption that they want sent back to China. I was wondering if there’s anything you can tell us about this, where the list was sent, whether it was received, what kind of consideration you’re giving it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can say, broadly, Elliot, that the U.S. and China regularly engage on law enforcement matters and mutual concerns such as repatriation and anticorruption through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation. The Chinese – at the most recent meeting, the Chinese delegation agreed that they would supply us more evidence regarding their priority fugitive cases so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of these fugitives. And we continue to encourage China to provide strong evidence and intelligence to ensure that our law enforcement agencies can properly investigate and prosecute cases related to the alleged corruption. So they have provided lists in the past, and certainly that’s something that is ongoing. Obviously, there are certain requirements, and we have a discussion through our – through often legal channels, but also state channels on what information is needed and what steps can be taken.

QUESTION: Do those requirements include things like guarantee of – that they would get a fair trial --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with due process when they get back? Because that’s something you’ve expressed concern about in the past with --

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. As a general matter – well, let me go through a couple of details on this --


MS. PSAKI: -- if that’s okay. In considering whether to commence negotiations for an extradition treaty, which is what this would require, the United States takes a number of factors into consideration. We must be satisfied that an individual extradited from the United States to another country would receive a fair trial and not be subject to torture or other forms of mistreatment in that country. We also would not consider an extradition treaty unless the other country commits to extradite its own nationals.

As a general matter, we can return fugitives to other countries even when there is no extradition treaty or when none exists, including through immigration proceedings, but there’s a number of steps that need to be taken. And obviously, we don’t, as you know, speak to the plans or preview what internal discussions are happening.

QUESTION: Would it be the DOJ that sort of takes the lead on that process of deciding that or is it the State Department (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, yeah, the DOJ is – as I understand it, has the lead. We certainly work with the Department of Justice as well, though.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, a follow-up. So you were saying that in the past, the United States received such list from China.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, what is – when was that in? Because yesterday, I guess Chinese officials said that they just handed a priority list that contains 150 fugitives. Is this the same thing?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into the specifics of past lists or, obviously, speak on behalf of China and what they have or haven’t done in the past. But what – the point I was trying to make to Elliot is that they have presented lists in the past. This isn’t new. And obviously, there are certain requirements that I’ve outlined that would be required in order to proceed with certain extradition processes or other steps.

QUESTION: Under ACT-NET, how does the State Department facilitate a request from foreign countries to extradite fugitive?

MS. PSAKI: How do we facilitate a request? I’m not sure what you mean by that exactly.

QUESTION: I mean, I suppose this is a jurisdiction under DOJ. When – for example, does the Chinese Government need to clear any diplomatic channel with the State Department and then proceed with other federal agencies? How does that work?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would start with the certain requirements that I just mentioned in response to Elliot’s question. And obviously, the Department of Justice is best positioned to answer specific questions about how it works.

QUESTION: Last October in Washington, U.S.-China has a bilateral legal advisor consultation. Was this even being raised or discussed?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, there have been discussions for some time about individuals that they would like to see returned. That shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone. I don’t have any specifics to confirm from a meeting last year.

QUESTION: Do you know if there will be a next legal advisor consultation before the next round of S&ED?

MS. PSAKI: At this point in time, I don’t think we have anything to report on future plans for meetings.

QUESTION: New topic --

QUESTION: I guess, following suit with my co-workers --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- do you have any most memorable moments with China?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, goodness. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll do this one – last one, because you’re a frequent guest in the briefing room, but I know there’s a lot to cover today. Let’s see. I have been to China now, I think, two or three times. And I would say one of the most memorable visits – actually, this wasn’t in China, but was when we hosted the Chinese delegation in Boston. And it was really a great – it was very small and personal and we had a great time doing a tour there when they were here as well. And so I remember that because often, you take – having an opportunity to get to know officials and take everybody from our side and other sides sort of out of the typical boardroom meetings provides an opportunity to learn more about them, and so that’s one of my most memorable times.

All right. New topic? Go ahead.

QUESTION: New topic. Can we go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, to Switzerland --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- before Iran.

MS. PSAKI: It’s the same thing – (laughter) – as for this week.

QUESTION: Before leaving this morning, the Secretary sent a pretty strong warning to critics to an agreement saying basically that there was no alternative to an agreement. Is the United States worried – to follow up on the question asked yesterday by Lesley, is the United States worried about a possible coalition or axis between the Congress, Israel, the Saudis, and the French to try to sink the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think for those of you who didn’t pay as close attention as Nicolas this morning, the Secretary addressed the Chief of Mission Conference. He talked a little bit about his trip to Iran. And what he said is that as – if what happens if, as our critics propose, we just walk away from a plan and that the rest of the world were to deem reasonable, and that could happen, well, the talks would collapse, Iran would have the ability to go back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want, if they want, if that’s what they choose.

And what he was referencing there was the fact that what we’re trying to achieve here is a long-term, comprehensive deal that will prevent that from happening. And nobody wants to go back to the status quo that existed before the Joint Plan of Action, where Iran was continuing to take steps forward towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. He was not referring to disagreements or tensions between parties. In fact, we’ve remained united with the P5+1; we will be united. Certainly, any deal will be judged on the content and there will be a vigorous debate about it both here and around the world. But he was talking about what would happen if there’s not an agreement.

QUESTION: What is this vigorous debate? You’ve mentioned it before, but if there’s no vote and there’s no check to the Executive Branch’s authority to seal this agreement, vigorous debate is wonderful but it doesn’t – it doesn’t ratify or anything; it’s meaningless.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as historically has been the case, Brad, with any international agreement similar to this, what we’re referring to is certainly that there’ll be public discussion, there’ll be many members of Congress who have views on what a final deal is --


MS. PSAKI: -- and we’ll have a discussion about that. And obviously, Congress will be in a position when we – if we were to get to the point of putting in place legislation that would roll back sanctions where they would need to take that vote.

QUESTION: That could be in 15 years potentially. So I mean, the vigorous debate seems to me a straw man argument because you’re saying while everyone will get a chance to talk about it and maybe everyone doesn’t like it, but they don’t get to do anything about it anyway. So I just don’t think that it’s very honest, in a sense, to kind of cite that as a lever of – on this agreement.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean by citing it as a lever.

QUESTION: I don’t know, you’re saying, well, a lot of people may have opinions but there’ll be a vigorous debate later. But that doesn’t – they don’t get to control whether the agreement happens.

MS. PSAKI: There’s been a vigorous debate to date about it. What I mean is that certainly, as soon as we have a – even as it relates to a framework understanding, if we reach one, we’ll be making as much information public as possible as part of a framework understanding. So what I mean is I don’t mean a legislative vote. We’ve gone through that, and I think we all know when there would be a vote and when there wouldn’t be. I’m referring to a discussion about what a framework looks like, what a deal looks like, what the content is. And certainly, there will be countries who have feelings about that, as there will be members of Congress.

QUESTION: But they wouldn’t have a chance to open up that agreement no matter – once this agreement is reached between the P5+1, it’s an agreement; and Congress can’t open it, the Israelis can’t open it, the Saudis can’t open it, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’re talking about here – I know this isn’t your exact question, but just for accuracy’s sake – we’re talking about working to achieve a framework understanding. Obviously, you know our timeline for that – by the 31st, which is next week – and then there would be a period of time of several months where there would be components of the annexes and technical details that would be worked through towards an agreement. Right?


MS. PSAKI: So just for the purposes --

QUESTION: So we can call it now a framework understanding rather than a political agreement? What would be the format of what will be announced by Tuesday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if we get to a framework, we expect, as I mentioned, to take the remaining time to work through the annexes. As to what a framework understanding would look like if we reach one – that’s still being discussed – obviously, our objective would be to share as much information publicly as we can.

QUESTION: So you would say the vigorous debate – sorry, I may have misinterpreted you. The vigorous debate would be in this period between a political framework understanding --

MS. PSAKI: That will certainly be a period --

QUESTION: -- and the final agreement?

MS. PSAKI: -- certainly be a period of time for it. Sure.

QUESTION: So that would give people who may have reservations a chance to raise them publicly or with you to have those views hopefully incorporated into a final accord?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say though, Brad, that that’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing. And so that, we expect, will continue.

QUESTION: Except that it’s – the details aren’t public yet, so --

MS. PSAKI: As more details become public, sure, there’ll be more of an opportunity to speak to the details, of course.

QUESTION: But doesn’t that put an obligation on you to kind of make as much public as possible, to give groups that don’t have --

MS. PSAKI: Which is our priority.


MS. PSAKI: Which is our preference.

QUESTION: So – but if you don’t, that would kind of be unfair to groups that may not have high-level security clearances and are able to somehow weigh in on it. I mean, the public would want to weigh in and so --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Brad, that it’s hard to – and I understand why you’re asking the question. It’s just hard because we’re not at the point where we have a framework, so I can’t tell you how much of it is public and how much wouldn’t be, right?


MS. PSAKI: There are components to date that have been classified. That certainly, I would expect, would continue to be the case. We will do briefings with Congress on those classified components, but we would like to make as many details public as we can.

QUESTION: Right. It’s just that for some people, when they try to understand it, the message they’re hearing is, “You shouldn’t judge a deal until there is a deal.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But once there is a deal, it’s too late for you to do anything about it, because no one can change the deal once there is a deal. So they – people say, “Well, what good is that, then? I would like to know what’s in it before it’s done so that -- ”

MS. PSAKI: Although to be fair though, Brad, I think there have been several components that have been public in terms of what our principles and our objectives are here and what we’re trying to achieve. And that has obviously been information that we have built over the course of time. And as more information becomes public, we will continue – we won’t start; we will continue a public discussion about it.

QUESTION: Are you requiring that this deal be put in writing?

MS. PSAKI: I think, again, if information – I can’t tell you at this point in time and perhaps over the coming days, we will be able to – what the format will look like, Lucas. But certainly, we’d like to make as many details public as we can. I don’t know what format that will take at this point in time.

QUESTION: Could you explain to us what is the difference in diplomatic terms between a framework agreement and an agreement in this particular case?

MS. PSAKI: A framework understanding and an agreement?

QUESTION: A framework understanding versus an agreement.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Meaning what --

MS. PSAKI: -- an agreement would include all of the components like annexes and specific technical details. A framework, which is what we’re talking about, would outline the path forward to reaching that. So there’s – it’s a step in the process.

QUESTION: So if there is, let’s say, a framework agreement, we --

MS. PSAKI: A framework understanding.

QUESTION: A framework understanding, okay. So there would be like a statement saying that we have the understanding that we will do such and such that --

MS. PSAKI: It would outline the major elements of a final deal, and then we’d use the remaining time through the end of June to finish the technical annexes.

QUESTION: And my last question on this: How would the lifting the sanctions play into this? Would this begin right away after the statement of understanding or framework agreement, or how is it going to play out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about an – when we’re talking about an agreement, there are annexes that have lots of technical details.


MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of what’s being negotiated, Said. But obviously, as we’ve talked about, there are several components of this – and as Brad actually referenced – that would be over the course of the long term.


QUESTION: How should we be characterizing this if eventually there is a framework understanding? Is this harder to get than the – you would say than the agreement itself once the understanding is reached? I mean, is this the true hurdle? Is this the biggest hurdle there is? Or I mean, once you have this, is there some general acceptance that you will – that the agreement will be inevitable, in other words?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: Or could there be a serious drop-off between the framework understanding and the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are technical details and technical annexes that would need to be worked through, and those are not without challenge, right, Justin?


MS. PSAKI: But obviously, having an outline for the major elements of a final deal would certainly be overcoming a significant hurdle.

QUESTION: You’ve said several times – or you and others from this department – that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.


QUESTION: Is that good for the framework as well as the final agreement? As in, if you have something outstanding on March 31st, there cannot be a framework because nothing would be agreed, in theory?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – it’s a good question, Brad. I think it’s hard because they’re still negotiating what a framework understanding will look like. But obviously, having every major element – the major elements outlined would assume that you do touch on all of the major elements. But I think that’s something we’ll have to just keep talking about.

QUESTION: So you could have agreement on a section even if there’s space that hasn’t been closed necessarily? I mean, if everything is agreed, you have a deal, essentially, except for the technical parts. But you’re saying maybe not. I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have to see where we land in a week. Stay tuned. News happening before your eyes.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just – this is just going off your public comments, right?

MS. PSAKI: I understand, Brad, but I think we have to just let the negotiators negotiate over the next five or six days.

QUESTION: There’s just – we’re just trying to temper our expectations, because I think there’s going to be quite a urge within observers to say, if something is reached next week, that this is like – we’ve got something really big here. But I just want you to put this in perspective.

MS. PSAKI: I think it would be safe to say we have something really big here, or however you want to characterize that on ABC. But again, we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: I’m looking for your guidance.

MS. PSAKI: We are not there yet. Obviously, depending on what the details are and what is made public, I’m sure everybody will evaluate it from there.

QUESTION: I’ll ask it a different way. You’ve said many times nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Does the inverse apply? If something is agreed, does that imply that everything is agreed?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Brad – (laughter) – my head hurts a little bit.

QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Does any else’s head hurt? I understand what you’re asking. Obviously, we are all familiar with what the components would need to be and what it would need to address, but let’s let them negotiate. I don’t want to get ahead of what we may or may not land on in a week.


MS. PSAKI: Iran or --

QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: This issue please?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Because you are repeating the words “framework of understanding,” what’s the difference between framework of understanding and memorandum of understanding? (Laughter.) What’s the difference?

MS. PSAKI: We’re referring to this – what we mean by a “framework understanding” is we mean it’s an outline for the major elements of a final deal. So if you want to talk about what we’re working towards over the next week, that’s what it is. Different deals have different components. That’s what we’re working towards in this case.

QUESTION: Also Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the Secretary talked about what might happen if the U.S. walks away from a deal that the rest of the world considers reasonable. But I just want to be clear, the U.S. will walk away from a deal that doesn’t guarantee a year breakout time, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is something we’ve been talking about for some time now.

QUESTION: No matter what the rest of the world thinks if that’s reasonable or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think the rest of the world is in a similar place as us and has spoken to that as well.

QUESTION: And does that one-year breakout time accord to what the U.S. considers would qualify for one year, or is it a corporate discussion amongst the partners of what a one-year breakout time would entail?

MS. PSAKI: A corporate discussion? It’s – there’s agreement among P5+1 partners on what that means.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Iraq. Before I ask my question, since everybody made it an emotional departure --

MS. PSAKI: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: -- thank you for your cooperation, and it’s been a short time being here but it was good. So I gather kind of a response from the people when I put on Facebook yesterday, I said Jen is leaving, some of them, they said, can you ask her this question – that sometimes we see that she’s not feeling comfortable with the questions related to the Kurdish issue or Kurdish region, so – but that will – I will leave it to you. But the question is --

MS. PSAKI: What question do you think I haven’t felt comfortable with?

QUESTION: No, that’s what – their impression. I mean, that’s not mine. That’s what I get from them.

QUESTION: The unspoken masses.

QUESTION: But I – (laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: An unspoken person on Facebook. Maybe they don’t like the answer that I’ve given, and that may be a different --

QUESTION: Maybe that’s the case.

MS. PSAKI: That may be the case. That may be the case in other places as well.

QUESTION: If you have anything for – yeah, if you have anything for them.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: But the question is going to be about the Tikrit operations.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: We heard different, like, responses from Pentagon and then yesterday, I think, from the Iraqi President Masum, he said that the U.S. will help Iraqi Government in the operations – Iraqi army, of course – around Tikrit. What is the latest update on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the latest – and I can confirm – is that the Government of Iraq has formally requested, as I think many of you have seen, ISR support for their operations in Tikrit, and the U.S. is now providing ISR support. On airstrikes, as you know, the coalition has continued to provide air support in the fight against ISIL with multiple airstrikes on ISIL targets in various locations. I would note multiple airstrikes in the last several days, but I’m not going to speak more specifically to tactical or strategic operational decisions or actions beyond that.

QUESTION: There are airstrike support for the Iraqi army in Tikrit. That’s what you are --

MS. PSAKI: I’m referring to around Iraq. I can confirm the ISR support. I’m not going to predict additional action.

QUESTION: But I think that so far it hasn’t been done, any, like, effort – airstrikes around Tikrit, so --

MS. PSAKI: Well again, I’m not going to predict, and I think the Department of Defense would be the appropriate agency to speak to that.

QUESTION: Okay. One more on Iraq. It’s going to be on the Kurdish oil problem with Baghdad. So what is the position of the United States? We heard that several times, but if there is any change on that – on the Kurdish oil dispute with Baghdad. Are you against any oil sale of – by the Kurdish Government in United States and elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve had the same position for years now. Nothing has changed about that. Obviously, both sides have conveyed that they are continuing to work on this deal. There have been some payments made, as we’ve seen reported from last year. The budget just passed, as you know. But our position remains the same.

QUESTION: Which is the same – you mean as what? Like, as like you are not supporting the independent oil sale?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: I have a couple of boutique issues, if you will.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: One – and I sent some queries around, so maybe you have that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Hopefully I have information you’re looking for.

QUESTION: One, we had a long investigation regarding slave labor in Thai seafood industry, including products that make their way into the U.S. market.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I saw that report.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this? Is this something, one, you’re pressing the Thais to improve labor standards; two, working with industry to ensure cleanliness, let’s say, in the supply chain?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the Secretary and the State Department are deeply concerned about human trafficking in the seafood sector and aquaculture operations globally. It has become increasingly clear that workers in the fishing industry, many of whom are migrants, are exploited at multiple points along the supply chain from harvesting to processing. And I think your story, or the AP story, referenced some of this. The Trafficking in Persons Report from 2014, as well as previous reports, have long identified the problem of forced labor in the fishing industry around the world. And a significant – as it relates to Thailand, a significant portion – proportion of trafficking victims are found in the seafood industry. So for several years, the international community, including the United States, has expressed concern publicly – also directly, of course – over the forced labor of foreign migrants in the Thai fishing and on-land seafood industries. And we continue to call on the Thai Government to take significantly greater steps to protect foreign migrants in the fishing and shrimp industries and to punish those who are enslaving workers.

QUESTION: Yeah, is this something that might come up in the trans-Pacific trade talks that are ongoing, the standards for labor rights within the seafood sector?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that level of specificity, Brad.

QUESTION: And then has there been any talk, given not just this report but ongoing concerns by others and human rights reports about the role of forced or indentured servitude in the Thai industry, about lowering the Thai’s rating in terms of protection of labor rights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Brad, as you know, we don’t make predictions like that. We do note concerns where we have them, and certainly the issue of fishing practices – excuse me – in Thailand has been noted in previous reports.

QUESTION: Okay. And then --


QUESTION: Jen, can we go to --

QUESTION: And then I just have one more if I could get it out of the way.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are – there’s a – reports in Mexico about a 20-year-old youth – youth – man who had hoped to go to the Mayo Clinic for a double transport but was denied an American visa. Can you explain – is there any effort to help him out now, now that his visa’s been rejected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t as a policy speak to visa applications and adjudications. I know you posed – you’ve posed this question earlier today. Our team is looking into it, so we’ll see if there’s more information we can provide.

QUESTION: So is there – he would have the opportunity to apply for something like humanitarian parole, or is that something you guys can refer yourselves?

MS. PSAKI: We’re looking into the specifics of the reported case.

QUESTION: And I mean, this is obviously not general practice to deny people the right to emergency health interventions. I mean, is there a possibility that somebody simply screwed up, without getting into the details?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, you guys make mistakes sometimes too, right?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But Brad, I think, one, in these particular reports, as you know, cases are adjudicated case by case. There are a range of factors that go into making determinations.


MS. PSAKI: So I don’t know the details of this particular case. And our team is looking into it. But I don’t have more, really, I can speculate on at this point in time, but we’ll get back to you with more we can offer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ethiopia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, Jen, I would like to congratulate you on your new promotion.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: And thank you so very much for being patient. And I asked you yesterday --


QUESTION: Did you get the information regarding the recent argument between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt over – on sharing water from the Nile River?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. We congratulate Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the signing of the agreement on declaration of principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. This is an important step forward. We look forward to working with the countries to reinforce this spirit of cooperation and ensure the sustainable development of the Nile for the benefit of all countries.

QUESTION: And also I have one more question. According to the recent report from the United Nations Human Rights Council, they came out a report on Eritrea. The report --

MS. PSAKI: On Eritrea?

QUESTION: Yes. I don’t know if you get that information. The report say that most Eritrean have no hope for their future, and the report say that there is an (inaudible) in Eritrea. And what’s your comment regarding this human rights report? And also, what is the current relationship, the United States relationship with Eritrea and its foreign policy with the Eritrean Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we do our own annual report, human rights reports. And I think that is due to come out relatively soon, so I’d point you to that and what comments are made in there. Beyond that I can check with our team and see if we have any particular comment on the human rights report.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Syria?


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In October we heard Marie Harf – she’s talking about the – my colleague, (inaudible), he asked here about the PYD. And she said the PYD is not PKK to United States and it’s not a terrorist organization. Is that still the case?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. If it’s the case, the leader of this organization, of this political party, applied for the visa, and he got refused. And the category of the refusal, which they shared with some media organizations, is 214(b), which is tourist admissibility, which is no waiver also will be requested. Is that related to PYD or to his past?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t speak to visa adjudication publicly as a matter of policy, so there’s nothing I can offer for you on this case.

QUESTION: Is there anything like why his visa was refused?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we don’t speak to visa adjudication for any individual as a matter of policy.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: On South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. You may already know about this or may not. It is reported today that two Russian nuclear bomber fly close to the Jeju Island in South Korean territory. Can you comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I have actually not seen those reports, so I don’t have any comment on them. I certainly don’t have confirmation of them. We can check into it for you.

QUESTION: Can you take?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.


QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. With the Afghan president’s visit here, can you elaborate on the role that India, Pakistan are going to play in this new equation? Like, the Afghans are asking for the U.S. troops to stay back. And it’s changing equations, so has there been anything discussed about the role that India and Pakistan will play?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, certainly, as countries in the region, they have a stake in a successful outcome and the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan. And we have said before, but it’s worth repeating, that we certainly support efforts of President Ghani and others to incorporate neighboring countries into their efforts, whether that’s reconciliation with Pakistan or their needs moving forward. So I don’t have any readout of the meetings from yesterday. I would point you to the White House for that.

QUESTION: Thank you. And I just want to ask you a separate question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I know you have been working as spokesperson for State Department. Just to know, how many language you speak? (Laughter.) How many? Curious.

MS. PSAKI: Do not tell my high school and college professors, but I do not speak other languages at this point in time. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on Qatar.


QUESTION: The Taliban Five --


QUESTION: -- I know in the past you said the – all five former Gitmo suspects have not left the peninsula.

MS. PSAKI: Qatar, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Have not left Qatar. But is there any evidence you have that they are re-engaging with their Taliban colleagues?

MS. PSAKI: I think we spoke about a report several weeks ago, Lucas, and I’d point you to that. And I believe what we said at the time was that because we have means of tracking and staying in close with the Government of Qatar, it shows that the process is certainly working. But I don’t have any particular update on it from there beyond that.

QUESTION: Do you know, how would you – would the State Department define re-engagement?

MS. PSAKI: How would we define re-engagement? I think we’ve talked about this extensively. I don’t have a new definition for you today.

QUESTION: Well, if they were to be emailing or on Facebook or anything like that or the like?

MS. PSAKI: We look at a range of details, Lucas, but obviously, going back on the battlefield, that’s – there are a range of criteria we look at, and I’m sure we can get you specifics of the criteria.

QUESTION: And last one, just because this might be my last question to you --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- from the podium: Before you check out and go to the White House, will you be turning in all of your classified materials or BlackBerry or anything like that? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I knew you’d ask this. Of course I will be signing all the forms and turning in all of the materials that I am required to turn in, I can assure you.

QUESTION: Would that --

QUESTION: Will that include personal emails? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Would that include this form, the 109 – 109 – separation statement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m staying within the federal government, so I don’t know what the policy is. And if I am somebody who’s required to sign it, I will happily sign it.

QUESTION: It says it’s required for State Department employees.

QUESTION: For records-keeping, will you be transmitting all personal emails to the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: I have done that through the process, Brad, even when some of you have accidentally emailed me on my personal email. I won’t call out names. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: One more. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more on China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: First of all, thank you so much for last two years. Appreciate it.

MS. PSAKI: My pleasure. It’s been great working with all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you. And one thing on China: As you know, the Chinese Government invited the foreign leader to 70th anniversary ceremony on this --

MS. PSAKI: Invited who?

QUESTION: Seventieth anniversary.

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry or who?

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. Chinese Government invited foreign leader to the 70th anniversary ceremony.

MS. PSAKI: Foreign leaders, foreign leaders, okay.

QUESTION: Foreign leaders, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, okay.

QUESTION: The ceremony and the military parade which is held in this September. That’s – some U.S. official is going to visit or attend this ceremony or military parade?

MS. PSAKI: I know you’ve asked this question before. We don’t have anything to preview at this point in time on attendance at this particular function.

QUESTION: And as Chinese Government also invited Park Geun-hye, the South Korea president, and maybe Japanese prime minister, do you think these foreign leader, like your ally, will visit and attend the military parade? It’s a good idea?

MS. PSAKI: We will let, of course, other countries make their own decisions about what events they may or may not attend. We certainly support increased cooperation and dialogue between countries in the region.

All right. Thanks, everyone. (Applause.) All right.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - March 24, 2015

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 15:55

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 24, 2015

Share Index for Today's Briefing


1:21 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.



MS. PSAKI: How is everyone today?


MS. PSAKI: Lovely. All right.


MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything at the top. I just wanted to make sure you all had seen the statement we put out expressing our condolences and expressing that we are saddened by the news that Germanwings flight 9525 crashed in southern France on its way from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 100 – or approximately 150 people on board. We are currently reviewing whether any U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. We stand ready to offer assistance and support to the governments of France, Germany, and Spain as they investigate this tragedy.

QUESTION: Okay. Before we move on to other things, just is there – do you – is there any indication that there might have been American citizens on board the plane?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this tragic crash just happened this morning, so we’re reviewing the manifest. And I can’t confirm or rule out American citizens at this point. As soon as we have more information, we’ll make it available.

QUESTION: Is there some reason to suspect that there might have been?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it just takes some time to do this, as you know. So I just don’t want to get ahead of what we do as a typical process.

QUESTION: And then secondly, has there been any requests for help?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe at this time. I’m certainly happy to check.

One thing before we continue. My brother-in-law, David Mecher, is in the back with his girlfriend Hannah, so I just wanted to welcome them to the briefing. Hello. Welcome guys.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well done. Got the family obligations over with.

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m excited they’re here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sure you are. So let’s go to this Wall Street Journal story.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Administration is upset, to say the least, with the Israelis for spying on the talks and then going to Congress and telling them what they’ve learned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to comment on intelligence matters, whether that’s ours or any other country’s. I can say that we continue – and we will continue – our close military intelligence and security cooperation with Israel. That has not changed.

And without giving any merit to the claims in the story, I do want to be clear that it’s absurd – an absurd notion that Congress would have to rely on any foreign government to gain insight into the nuclear negotiations with Iran. We have briefed Congress on the nuclear talks as much, or perhaps more than, any other issue. Since October of 2013, we have conducted more than 230 meetings, hearings, and calls with Senate and House members and their staffs on Iran; more than 60 of these engagements have taken place in the last four weeks. And we even offered to brief the Hill this week. So point being they receive quite a bit of information directly from the United States and senior United States officials.

QUESTION: Well, your point that it’s an absurd notion I think is exactly the point that your critics are making. Why should Congress feel that it has – that it’s not being briefed fully?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure --

QUESTION: You don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no. Matt, I think, one --

QUESTION: Well, you – hold on. You have said that – you, yourself, in fact, have said that the U.S. is not providing Israel with the complete details of this.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: You have also said that you are – the Administration is not providing, at least to other than certain, very select members of Congress, the full details of the negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: And there have been full details provided in classified settings on several occasions.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously there’s not a deal yet, though.

QUESTION: You’re saying that Congress knows everything about what’s going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Congress has been briefed extensively, thoroughly, and frequently. So my point is that it’s absurd that they would need information from a foreign country.

QUESTION: Well, I think – but that’s the whole point of what the critics are saying, that the situation is absurd, because they do need – or feel the need, at least – to get information from a foreign country because they don’t think that they’re getting it all from the Administration.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just would disagree with that notion, Matt, that that is the point.

QUESTION: Well, okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think there are many members of Congress who have received – and again, we’ve done extensive briefings with many of the details, most of the details, all of the details that we have to offer.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But all the details that you have to offer does not mean, necessarily mean, all the details, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s not an agreement at this point.

QUESTION: Right. Well, the fact that you – it – can you speak to whether the Administration is upset that it suspects – at least suspects – Israel of doing this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to those reports or the intelligence activities of any question – country.

QUESTION: Well, given the fact that you have said that you are not giving them the full story, that you’re withholding some details, why would you be surprised or shocked that the – that Israel, which has a vested interest in the outcome of these talks, would go to find information elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we’ve spoken in the past to our concern in the past has been about leaks of certain sensitive information. And obviously we’ve taken steps to ensure that the negotiations remain private. But we still have ongoing conversations that are continuing with Israel and a range of countries. Under Secretary Sherman has met over the past month with Israeli National Security Advisor Cohen and Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz. Secretary Kerry continues his conversation. Those discussions are ongoing.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I don’t understand why people are claiming to be surprised or outraged or shocked that if you’re not – that Israel or other interested parties are trying to find out the full details, because you’re not giving them the full details.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I don’t get why you’re – why there’s this outrage.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think now we’re talking about a range of things beyond the story, which is absolutely fine. But I think, one --

QUESTION: No, I – no. I don’t think we are, but go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. One, I think there will be a discussion, briefings. There will be a public debate if there’s a deal on – with Iran, and certainly we look forward to having that.

QUESTION: Well, so you’re saying that the story is wrong. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not speaking to the intelligence activities of any country, whether it’s the United States, Israel, or any other country.

QUESTION: We know. But that’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking if you’re upset, if the Administration is upset, outraged.

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more comment on it, Matt.

QUESTION: I don’t understand what the – I mean, it seems to me that if this is not the position of the Administration, what is outlined in the story, then someone from the Administration – and I pretty sure that the author of the story, who’s a very good reporter --

MS. PSAKI: He is.

QUESTION: -- called and sought some kind of official, on-the-record reaction, and I didn’t see any in the story. So that suggests that it is correct.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, one, we can’t – I can’t speak to just, as I never can, anonymous sources in any story. I can’t speak to who they are, what level they are, what they’re speaking to.

QUESTION: Well, but then what is the – I don’t understand what the Administration is hoping to accomplish here by this anonymous whining about something that it shouldn’t be surprised is happening because you’re not giving Israel or anybody else, most people for that matter, the full details.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak to the reasoning or the motivation of an anonymous source. I think in the past we’ve expressed steps we take in order to ensure that the talks remain private. We’ve continued that.

QUESTION: Right. But – well, but I mean this is – this kind of anonymous carping seems to – I mean, is the Administration interested in improving the tense relations with the Israeli Government? Because if it is, this doesn’t seem to be a very good way of going about it.

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, if I had the anonymous source, I’d be happy to have them up here with me.

QUESTION: Well, someone --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on the anonymous source quoted in the story.

QUESTION: Yeah. But someone is – someone in the Administration is saying – it’s the fact that whoever the – well, soon you will be the White House communications director. Perhaps you can get people --

MS. PSAKI: Unless I have a magic wand, I still may not know who anonymous sources are.

QUESTION: -- into line. It just seems to be – to the point – to use a phrase, it seems kind of JV, no, for the – especially if you’re going to – if this – whoever these official or this official or officials are come out and say these kinds of things, and you’re not – and if you disagree with them, you’re not prepared to say that. Just --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m conveying from here is that our focus is on continuing to do the tough work of negotiating with the Iranians, our P5+1 partners. That’s what our focus is on. We’ve had regular briefings and consultations with the Israelis – that will continue, same with Congress.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you – did this – did the Administration, did this building at all suspect that Israel or someone like that was spying on these discussions from what was revealed through Israeli intelligence or though intelligence? There must have been suspicions that something was going on.

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why all of you are asking. I’m just not going to speak to reports about intelligence matters from the podium.

QUESTION: But I think the question is did you suspect it, not – you don’t have to talk about the intelligence, but do you suspect – the report makes an allegation that Israel was spying on these negotiations. From your podium, on the record, could you tell us whether the Administration suspects Israel to have done that or not?

MS. PSAKI: From here on the record, I’m not going to comment on the intelligence matters of another country or the United States. That hasn’t changed from five minutes ago.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? I’d like another follow-up, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You said you were briefing – well, let’s go back on this one. Are there concerns, as Secretary Kerry heads into another round, that the opposition and criticism from the French, the Israelis, the Saudis, could in any way scupper this deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, separate question. I think now we’re – which is fine. Our view, and just – it’s been shown through the negotiations – that the P5+1 are united in our goal, our approach, our resolve, and our determination to ensure that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. As you know, there have been ongoing consultations, meetings, discussions with a range of parties. As part of that close coordination, Energy Secretary Moniz will be discussing some of the technical aspects of any potential deal via a secure videoconference today with European counterparts and the P5+1.

As you all may know, the President had the opportunity to speak with President Hollande on Friday. And President Hollande was in complete agreement with the President on the type of understanding we are seeking. Obviously, we’re all looking towards the same goal. We all want to have a strong deal, a good deal. That’s what we’re all working toward. And the P5+1 has been united, and we anticipate they will be moving forward.

QUESTION: Did the President, during that discussion with President Hollande, actually raise the issue of France’s criticism of – public posturing and criticism of this --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak more to that call. The White House did a readout. You can certainly ask them if they’d like to discuss it further.

QUESTION: And then just a last question. On – has Secretary Kerry spoken to Netanyahu about the article from today in The Wall Street Journal?

MS. PSAKI: He’s spoken with him over the last couple of days, but it’s really about the fact that they’re going through a process and a transition now. We work with Israel on a range of issues, including security issues, and that’s been the focus of their discussion.

QUESTION: So they didn’t talk about the Iran – they didn’t discuss the --

MS. PSAKI: That’s all I have to read out from his discussions.

QUESTION: But independent of the circumstance under which the spying allegedly took place, is it, I mean, cause for outrage that an ally would really spy on the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I appreciate your effort, but I just have nothing more to add to this line of questioning.

QUESTION: Do you find it underhanded? Do you find that the effort in this particular case was actually conducted to somehow sabotage efforts that you are conducting in these negotiations to --

MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, as I mentioned --

QUESTION: -- or set it back?

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned, we have ongoing consultations and briefings that we provide to the Israelis. I’m not going to speak to reports of the intelligence matters of another country or of the United States.

QUESTION: Do you think that these spy allegations somehow compromise the discussions that are ongoing?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your effort and your enthusiasm here, Said, but I have nothing more to add.

QUESTION: Have the Iranians --

Do you have another topic to discuss?

QUESTION: Have the Iranians discussed this with you?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing more to add for you, Said.

QUESTION: But isn’t it self-evident that if the U.S. had made a decision several weeks, a couple of months back not to share some of the details of the negotiations with the Israelis, that there was a suspicion among members of this Administration that somebody somewhere was acting like a sieve, somebody somewhere was getting information to people who were not entitled to have that information for whatever reason?

MS. PSAKI: Ros, as just broadly speaking, there’s a range of information we provide in briefings, whether it’s to Congress or other governments. That doesn’t mean that all of that is for public consumption. So I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion you’ve jumped to. I have nothing further on the report.

QUESTION: But it does raise questions though, Jen, about whether or not people felt in this Administration that they were able to participate in this multinational negotiation with the Iranian Government in a way that would be most productive, if only everyone felt that they could discuss very sensitive information without fear of it landing on the front page of this newspaper or that. Isn’t there this ongoing sense that someone was trying to compromise the ability of these governments – not just the U.S. Government – to actually carry out this negotiation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ros, every time sensitive information about sensitive negotiations is leaked, that puts things potentially at risk. I can’t speak to the source or the reason that that has occurred in any of the instances.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Elliot and then – does that work? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just the Israelis for their part have completely denied the report and they’ve said that it’s clearly intended to undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship. I was wondering if you have – if you think that that’s a reasonable assessment or if you have anything to say about it.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to speak to comment on their claims or their public comments. I think, obviously, there are areas where we have had disagreements as it relates to how we can prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But again, Israel is an important partner, a strategic and security partner, and we’ve continued our consultations. And I think that speaks to our commitment to the relationship.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t seem to you like this is an attempt to further deepen the gap between the U.S. and Israel on the part of --

MS. PSAKI: The story in The Wall Street Journal?

QUESTION: Yeah. Or the leak, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think the motivation of news organizations is that, but --

QUESTION: Not the story itself, but the statements by the senior official who is quoted in the story.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I have nothing more to add on the statements of an anonymous official.

QUESTION: Jen, is the Administration interested in easing the tensions with the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt --

QUESTION: We all know they’re there. You can’t pretend they’re not there. Are – is the Administration interested in – it certainly appears from his recent comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to back off on the things that you – on some of the things that you said that are – that you found to be problematic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Stories like this and comments like from this whoever-it-was official don’t seem to suggest that – as well as the fact that you’re not willing to give the prime minister of Israel the benefit of the doubt when he says – when he tries to – when he apologizes for comments that you found offensive and says that he is, in fact, still in favor of a two-state solution.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, what people are looking for is more than just words. Obviously, we’ll be looking for actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution. We’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Okay. And then this has been raised before by other people, but I’ll ask it again now in this same context: When the Supreme Leader of Iran is continuing – in the middle of these negotiations is continuing to make statements like “death to America,” how is that not problematic for you? How is that not something – why are you just willing to let that – let it slide, basically, and you are holding the prime minister of Israel to comments that he made and has since changed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we’d hardly put the Supreme Leader and the leadership of Israel in the same category. Israel is a strategic partner, a security partner --

QUESTION: Well, the Iranians can be trusted and the Israelis can’t?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Is that what you mean?

MS. PSAKI: No. I’m actually trying to convey that our relationship with Israel is abiding; it’s strong; it’s a security relationship; it’s one that we’re committed to. Do we have disagreements on some issues, like how we should proceed with preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Yes. Have we – can we – do we believe that it isn’t possible to just forget what the prime minister says when it’s conflicting with past precedent and past policy for some time? Yes. But obviously, we’re continuing our discussions. The Secretary has been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We remain committed to our relationship. Remember, we’re not evaluating our relationship with Israel. We’re evaluating how to proceed as it relates to pursuing a two-state solution.

QUESTION: All right. And all of that is well and good, but the Supreme Leader of Iran represents a regime that took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held hundreds of American hostages for a long time, is what you say is a leading state sponsor of terrorism, has --

MS. PSAKI: And remains, and will be even if there’s a deal.

QUESTION: Right. And yet you’re willing to take – you’re willing to let his words slide, but not that of a country with which you say you have this great security relationship.

MS. PSAKI: No, I would disagree with that. I would say, one, as a reminder, even if there is a deal with Iran, it doesn’t mean we let slide or forget, whether it’s the comments, the – or more importantly the actions, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, the fact that they’re holding American citizens – they remain – they continue to hold American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter in their jails. I mean, these are all issues that we remain very concerned about. Those concerns are not going to be soothed by a deal.

But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not only in our interests, it’s in the interests of the international community, and that’s why we’re pursuing it. It’s not about trust. Our relationship with Israel is one that’s strong, abiding, and --

QUESTION: So is it correct that you’re not concerned at all that someone or some people’s personal animosity – what appears to be personal animosity – towards the Israeli prime minister is hurting the relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, anonymous quotes are – there’s a long history of anonymous quotes. It wasn’t as if the President or the Secretary of State spoke on the record and made those comments. There’s a difference.

QUESTION: Well, the language is more problematic in some cases. But there’s also a long record of anonymous quotes being – of assertions made by officials speaking anonymously being denied or being repudiated in some way, and the fact that you can’t or aren’t doing that now on the record – and I guess the President will have a chance to address this question himself later – suggests that there is truth to the story.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact is that our actions – typically, we don’t speak to anonymous quotes. If we did, we’d spend all of our time speaking to anonymous quotes. But our actions speak to what our position is, which is that our consultations are continuing. We’re continuing to keep Israel updated, just as we are Congress. And obviously, as a policy, we have not confirmed the intelligence activities of the United States or other countries.

QUESTION: Can we stay on --

QUESTION: But – yeah, just a minute.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One last effort on the spying allegation.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you believe or do you suspect that Israeli officials were staying at this gorgeous hotel in Lausanne last week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comment on that, Nicolas.


QUESTION: When was the last time that you actually updated Israel? Since the – have you updated them since the negotiations – since the Secretary came back or during the negotiations last week?

MS. PSAKI: We typically do after every round, Jo, and typically, Under Secretary Sherman does that. I can certainly see if they’ve had a chance to do that post the last round.

QUESTION: So – but she didn’t travel to Israel like she has in the past this time.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, and – but she often does via videoconference or secure conference call, so that’s typically how we’ve done it. Otherwise it would be a lot of travel for Under Secretary Sherman.

QUESTION: So these reports don’t make you hesitate as to whether to continue to update? You just said, “We’re going to continue to update the Israelis.”

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And these reports don’t give you really any cause for pause?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can we stay on the statements made by the Israeli prime minister, but regarding the two-state solution? Now I --

QUESTION: Well, I want to clarify one more on Iran, and that is that an Iranian official said today or very recently that snap inspections are no, they will not accept any snap inspections. Is it still the position of the Administration that, in order for there to be an agreement, that there has to be snap --

MS. PSAKI: Transparency, access, verification.

QUESTION: Does that mean snap inspections?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I don’t want to put new terms on it before an agreement has been made, Matt. I think, clearly, in the JPOA, which is, I think, a good roadmap for us, given it’s based on that --

QUESTION: Don’t use the word roadmap. That is – you’re dooming yourself to failure.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, fair enough. The JPOA is a good basis for us.

QUESTION: There you go.

MS. PSAKI: There is increased access, increased transparency, the ability to see what’s happening. And clearly, our efforts are to increase that. So that’s one of the premises of the discussions.

QUESTION: Does that mean snap inspections?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to put new terminology on it, Matt, while they’re still negotiating.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know – so it’s something that’s still being negotiated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re negotiating every component of how this will work.

QUESTION: But isn’t – I was under the impression that having these inspections, intrusive inspections that can be conducted very quickly --


QUESTION: -- so they can’t hide anything is a --

MS. PSAKI: And conducting inspections very quickly, yes. That’s part of what we would like to see. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, is it not – well, that’s what I mean by snap inspection. So I don’t want to – it’s not a new term; it’s been used all over the place.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But that was – that used to be a hard and fast position.

MS. PSAKI: It remains; that hasn’t changed.


MS. PSAKI: But there are still negotiations going on.

QUESTION: So if there are no snap inspections, there is no deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, this is a component of what’s being negotiated. Obviously, transparency and verification is an important component of that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) readout of the meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Amano this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I have a few things I can offer on that. So as you know, they met this morning during General Amano’s visit to Washington. He met with Secretary Kerry as well as other officials. I believe he also had a meeting or has a meeting with Department of Energy Secretary Moniz. He’s also scheduled to have meetings at the National Security Council.

In his meetings, they discussed issues of mutual interest, including safeguards issues, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that’s upcoming, nuclear safety, peaceful issues – peaceful uses, and Iran. And clearly, we have ongoing discussions with them as well. So this was just an opportunity to meet in person, since he was in Washington.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can we go to the statement made by the Israeli prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Now – about the two-state solution and the renunciation of that two-state solution. Yesterday, the White House chief of staff said that the 50-year-old occupation must end. Now, I ask you if you consider the West Bank to be occupied territory last week. So is that now a word that can be used --

MS. PSAKI: I think as I said last week, we’ve had a position on this for quite a long time. It’s not new; it’s been a longstanding positi