Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
June 5, 2014
Index for's Briefing
Update on Secretary's Travel / Secretary's Meeting with Lavrov
Egypt / President-elect Al-Sisi / U.S. Delegation to Presidential Inauguration
Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program Visitors
Sergeant Bergdahl / Concerns about Health and Physical Security
Prisoner Exchange / Agreement with Qatari Government / Assurances / Mitigated Risk / Commitment to Close Guantanamo
Violence / U.S. Working Closely with Afghan Government / Importance of Good Relationships with Neighbors
U.S. Looks Forward to Welcoming Prime Minister Modi
Anti-Homosexuality Act / UN General Assembly President Selection Process
New Government / Transition / Need for Economic Reform
U.S. Delegation to Presidential Inauguration
Assistance / Ongoing Discussions
Way Forward / Need for Dialogue
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Palestinians / Interim Government
Alleged Human Rights Violations / No Credible Evidence
South China Sea / Tribunal Request / Gavin Reef
Meriam Ibrahim Case
Concern about Violence
Fighting the Threat of Boko Haram
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Suspension of Peace Talks
Mohamed Soltan Case
U.S. Delegation to Presidential Inauguration
Afghanistan / Special Immigrant Visas
Andrew Tahmooressi Case
1:44 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: It's a full house. I have several things at the top.
First, a travel update: The Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning for an hour and 20 minutes. It was a productive conversation. Secretary Kerry encouraged the Russians to take seriously and to engage seriously with Ukraine with the support of Europe and the U.S. and to work directly towards de-escalation. As a reminder, Secretary Kerry and the President met with President-elect Poroshenko yesterday. Secretary Kerry reiterated U.S. support for the people of Ukraine. Secretary has – is following in many respects the President's schedule, and then, as we know, will be going on to Saint-Briac for an event later in the week.
Second, as we've said, the United States looks forward to working with President-elect al-Sisi in Egypt and his government to advance our strategic partnership and many shared interests. The U.S. delegation to the Egyptian presidential inauguration will be headed by the State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon on behalf of President Obama. Counselor Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary David Thorne will be part of this delegation that also will include the Department of Treasury to Cairo, again, for the inauguration.
And finally, we have some visitors in the back. We'd like to welcome a group from the Leaders for Democracy Fellowship Program who are with us. Welcome. This program is part of the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative and it brings young civic and democratic reform leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to the U.S. for three months to study, work, and meet other activists inside and outside the region. We're very happy to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
And Lara, finally, before you kick us off, my mother just informed me she really likes "preadout," so --
MS. HARF: -- apparently in Granville, Ohio, it's catching on.
QUESTION: I hope that my editors at the Associated Press take note.
MS. HARF: I think hopefully – the style guide is coming next, I promise.
MS. HARF: So kick us off with all of that.
QUESTION: Great, thanks. I'd like to start with Sergeant Bergdahl.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As we understand it, the Administration has told members of Congress that Sergeant Bergdahl would have been killed by the Taliban had the details of the negotiations made public before the handoff happened. Is that your recollection of the situation as – or not your recollection, but your understanding of the situation as well?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. A couple points on that. As you know, there was the classified briefing last night. I'm not going to be able to go into all the details of what we told Congress. But in terms of concerns about his physical security, just a few points: Of course, partly because of the video, there were concerns about his health, but separate from that is physical security, right. But in terms of health, we've made our concerns very well known that there were a number of reasons in that video to believe that his health was declining.
But further, in terms of physical security, we – once we had in place the agreement with the – through the Qataris about how this could proceed, there were real concerns that if this were made public first, his physical security could be in danger more by either the Taliban walking away or about an individual Taliban member who perhaps was guarding him – again, I'm speaking generally, not in reference to any specific piece of information – but someone guarding him that possibly wouldn't agree and could take harmful action against him. So as we needed to move quickly, all of these factors played into that.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense – when we're talking about the conditions under which he was held, do you have any sense of how many people were guarding him?
MS. HARF: I can – I don't have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Okay. Any kind of details on --
MS. HARF: We know that the conditions weren't great, obviously. For five years, he was held by the Taliban. We know that the conditions, obviously, were not particularly good. I'm happy if there's – to see if there's more detail to share.
QUESTION: It's been noted that he came out kind of squinting and shying away from the light, raising questions of whether he was kept underground or in some kind of very dark area for a while.
MS. HARF: I don't have more details. I'm happy to see if there are more to share.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the original question? Because the way it was phrased talked about "would have been killed." My understanding of what the Administration's representations have been to Congress is not that he would have been killed, but he could have been killed.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that your understanding?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to get into all of the specifics about --
QUESTION: No, no. No, no. Yeah --
MS. HARF: -- exactly what we told Congress or what we knew about his physical security. Obviously, some of that is based on information we can't share.
MS. HARF: So I think I just laid out the reasons we were concerned about it and the possibility that harm could come to him, particularly if, once we concluded the agreement, it was made public.
QUESTION: No, no, I get it. I just --
MS. HARF: So – and I'm not just going to go into any more details about what we did or didn't tell Congress.
QUESTION: No, that's fine. But the point I'm trying to get across is that what you – your concern was about a possibility that he might come to harm, not a certainty, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, I don't think we can ever be certain of anything, but I think we were gravely enough concerned by information we had, both from the video about his health and other information about his physical security, that we needed to move very quickly.
QUESTION: Yes, got it.
QUESTION: Do you think it's accurate to say that there was a threat against his physical security?
MS. HARF: I think it is absolutely accurate to say that. I think there was – there's – I mean, you're being held by – captive by the Taliban; I think that should go without saying. But there were reasons, particularly recently, where we were increasingly concerned and we believed time was of the essence.
QUESTION: Marie, just to follow up on the proof of life video. If you were so concerned about Bergdahl's health, why did you wait six months to rescue him?
MS. HARF: Well obviously, as folks know – and we talked about this a little bit yesterday – there have been talks about how we could possibly get him home for years now. So we've been concerned for some time; we've been in talks for some time. Nobody was waiting for anything. These are complicated negotiations.
To Arshad's question yesterday – he asked if we'd ever directly talked about the Taliban with this – we had. Those talks ended in early 2012. These were part of the broader talks, but we had talked directly about this with the Taliban. So no one was waiting. We knew time was of the essence. Again, recently – we believe new information came to light that meant it was even more of the essence, and we were able to move forward.
QUESTION: But the impetus of the deal – and many would argue it's a bad deal – is because his health was deteriorating; you had to act. What took so long?
MS. HARF: I first take notion with the issue that – or take issue with the notion that many would argue it was a bad deal. I haven't seen a lot of polling on it. I think many people would argue that it was important to get him home.
Second, there were health concerns, but there were also the concerns about physical security, as we've said. And look, this is the one American POW we had in Afghanistan. This – as General Dempsey said, our best and probably last opportunity for a variety of reasons to get him home, and I think I'll defer to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on that assessment.
QUESTION: But the fact that it took six months, when you say "last opportunity" --
MS. HARF: What do you mean by six months?
QUESTION: Well, the proof of life video was released in December.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And we've had several proofs of life for him throughout his time in captivity, and we've been negotiating through that time.
QUESTION: Has there been videos released since December?
MS. HARF: Since – proof of life videos? No, not to my knowledge. Maybe I'm missing something here.
QUESTION: So that's the question. His health was in such grave danger in December when the video was released and government officials saw it. What took so long?
MS. HARF: Well, first – two points, Lucas. The first is when it was released we were negotiating. We were trying to get him home. So it's not like we were sitting here doing nothing and the video came out and we thought, "Oh, we should try to get Sergeant Bergdahl home." That's absolutely not the case.
Secondly, health was a part of this, right, but the other concern recently was about his physical security. So as I think other folks have said, you can't make definitive health judgments based on a video. It appeared that it was much worse. That's why we believed it was important to move forward with this.
We wanted to make sure we got the assurances from the Qataris, and I have a little more on that: that we demanded a complete travel ban; we demanded certain security measures be put in place to substantially mitigate the threat that these individuals may pose to the U.S. and our interests. Those demands were met prior to doing this. Those demands were important to us. We wanted to make sure we negotiated for them.
This isn't to say – I think Elise asked yesterday about house arrest. Not under house arrest. It's possible someone will see them on the streets of Qatar. But those types of activities don't threaten our national security interests, and that's the standard here about substantially mitigating the threat that they will pose. We're confident in the Qataris that the restrictions agreed upon, and these individuals will be restricted from activities that pose a threat to our national security.
QUESTION: But yesterday you also said, quote, "I think people have confusion about – that eventually what was going to happen anyway."
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: So if these Guantanamo --
MS. HARF: Well, let me finish his, and then we'll – yes, please.
QUESTION: If these detainees or prisoners of war, whatever you want to call them, were going to be released anyway, why was this such a great deal?
MS. HARF: Because we got the one American POW in Afghanistan home. And my point yesterday – and this is a broader conversation I think at some point we will all be having about Guantanamo Bay and how we eventually close it – is that the notion that these were the worst of the worst – and look, these were not good guys. I am in no way defending these men. But being mid- to high-level officials in a regime that's grotesque and horrific also doesn't mean they themselves directly pose a threat to the United States.
So I think when we were talking yesterday about eventually Guantanamo Bay will have to be closed, we've said that's important. Even former President Bush said that was important. It was opened under his tenure. And we have identified the worst of the – I mean, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the worst of the worst. These people that we've identified, about 30, will be tried, will be prosecuted. So we need to be very clear when we talk about this. And if you look at the recidivism rate under this Administration with the protocols we've put in place – with the standards we've put in place, it's dropped dramatically from where it was in the previous administration. So I think we need to be very clear when we talk about this issue and the threat from here on out, Lucas.
QUESTION: Last one. Earlier the President said that this was a – Sergeant Bergdahl's release was a controversy whipped up in Washington. Do you – does the State Department believe that?
MS. HARF: Well, I do think it's illustrative that the President and the Secretary overseas, working on Ukraine, working on Syria and other issues, and that people overseas haven't really been focused on that. People in the rest of the world are focused on other issues and they're focused on the future of Afghanistan. I think that there has been a lot of noise in Washington, much of it political, about this.
Look, this is a tough choice. This is an important issue. We should have debates about it. Nobody is saying that. The President wasn't saying that. But I think it's frustrating at times to see – look, none of this – none of this was new. There have been press reports publicly about the notion of a swap for Sergeant Bergdahl particularly with these guys for years. The questions about how he disappeared have been out there for years. And in that time period, many of the people now criticizing this said it was – said it could be a good idea. They said that they would pursue it.
So it just calls into question some of the criticism and the political nature of it. I'm not saying all of it is. I'm not saying it's not right to have discussions about it.
QUESTION: Do you think Sergeant Bergdahl's platoon mates from OP Mest, do you think they're part of the controversy?
MS. HARF: I think – look, I think that the people who served with Sergeant Bergdahl, everyone who served in Afghanistan, has volunteered to go to a really tough place and wear the uniform of their country. Obviously we won't know the full story about what happened to him without his side of it. We've been looking at this and we will look at this. The Army has committed to undertaking, based on all of the information – including his platoon mates, including his – to determine what happened. And if there was misconduct, he'll be punished.
QUESTION: Because according to this controversy and these press reports you're talking about, since June 2009 part of that narrative was Sergeant Bergdahl was left behind and his soldiers had to live with that for the last many years.
MS. HARF: What do you mean?
QUESTION: Since June 2009, you said there's other press reports out there that said Sergeant Bergdahl was captured while on a patrol, and a lot of people assume that the Army had left him behind.
MS. HARF: I don't think anyone – look, I think what I was referring to is there have been – this has been a very publicly discussed case, both what may or may not have happened when he went into captivity by the Taliban and the potential for a prisoner swap with some Guantanamo detainees. So I think what I was referring to is that now, even though all of this has been out in the public domain, now suddenly some people are trying to use this to score political points. Not everyone. It is a fair topic to debate. But I think that's probably what you heard the President refer to. There are people overseas that some of us – some of them look at some of the things that are being said on Twitter right now, including about people like me, and are shocked by it. That's not real discussion and debate at all.
QUESTION: But if the Guantanamo detainees were going to be let out anyway, then we got something for nothing?
MS. HARF: No. Flip it, Lucas. If they were eventually likely going to be released, if we could get the one American POW we had back for something that was going to happen eventually, without firing a shot, without putting another American serviceman in harm's way to get him back through some sort of riskier operation, I think many people, including many members of Congress, have spoken up throughout the years that they think that would be a deal they would take.
QUESTION: Are the suspects in Qatar at the moment going through any kind of reintegration process?
MS. HARF: I don't have more details on that. Again, I had a little more additional details about the restrictions. We're confident in the assurances the Qatari Government has given us.
QUESTION: Sergeant Bergdahl is having his reacclimation process. I was just curious if they were going through one as well.
MS. HARF: I don't want to equate them, Lucas. Thanks.
QUESTION: Marie, can I --
MS. HARF: Wait. Arshad had a question, and then Jo.
QUESTION: It goes back to the – did the Taliban threaten to kill Sergeant Bergdahl if the deal leaked?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to get into that kind of level of detail about what we may or may not know.
QUESTION: Do you believe that – to your knowledge, do you believe that to be correct?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to comment in any way on that.
QUESTION: Can I go – can I ask you about the buckets of people and the five Taliban who were in this bucket which was eligible for review?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering: Is it not correct that also within this bucket there are people that the Administration doesn't know what to do with because some of the evidence against them cannot be submitted into the courts because it's too tainted because of the procedures under which it was taken?
MS. HARF: I don't have all the details on that middle group of people. But what I do know – and I think some folks – some of – former, actually, prosecutors at Guantanamo and others have been out there talking about the process who know more about it than I do. But where we were able to get enough evidence to charge people there, we have said we're going to, and that's the first bucket of about 30 people. And it's been how many years now – 13, 12 – since many of these guys have been there? We've had a lot of time to build cases. So for that middle group, as I said yesterday, it's unlikely that they will be added to the group that's going to be prosecuted.
QUESTION: But is that not because they're not considered the worst of the worst? I believe there are some people who are considered very dangerous within that group.
MS. HARF: And that is accurate to say.
QUESTION: It's more that you can't get the evidence to prosecute them?
MS. HARF: Well, right. I'm not saying – I'm not speaking for that group broadly. I was speaking for those five when I would say these five aren't the worst of the worst.
QUESTION: You stand by that: They're not the worst of the worst?
MS. HARF: It doesn't mean they're good guys. I am in no way – it's not my job to get up here and defend them. I think – and look, they were mid- to high-level officials in an incredibly repressive, violent regime, and it's because – that's why they were brought to Guantanamo, not because of their ties to al-Qaida – some of them may have had some – but because of their role in the Taliban very early on in the war.
QUESTION: So it's not your --
MS. HARF: But that doesn't mean they directly threaten the United States national security. We feel like we've sufficiently mitigated that.
QUESTION: So it's not your contention then that they were among this group of hardened --
QUESTION: The Camp 7 guys.
QUESTION: -- yeah, terrorists that could not be released, could not be approved for their release, but couldn't be prosecuted?
MS. HARF: I'll see if there's more details for you on that. Again, these guys – we believe for these five what's important now is that we believe we have sufficiently mitigated the risk, through our agreement with the Qatari Government that they will not be able to threaten the U.S. national security in the future.
QUESTION: For one year.
QUESTION: Can I just get back to the proof of life video that --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- you mentioned earlier that was shown to the senators last night? Have you seen it yourself?
MS. HARF: I have not, no.
QUESTION: Is it anybody's intention to release it generally to the public to see it?
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: I wanted to ask just because there were some reports I was listening to on the radio this morning that said that it showed Sergeant Bergdahl looking dazed and that had the – presumably, if – when the President saw it, there would have been no doubt in his mind that this was a guy who was under severe – who was severely ill. Is that the --
MS. HARF: Well – in terms of the proof of life video?
MS. HARF: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: The proof of life video.
MS. HARF: In general, what we can say about the video is that how he appeared in the video did raise very serious concerns with us about his health.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how he appeared? What was his condition? We haven't --
MS. HARF: I can see if there's more – I haven't seen it, so I'm happy to see if there's more detail I can share. I can say that – like I said yesterday, none of us can imagine what would happen to us after four and a half years in Taliban captivity. I think you saw it from the video yesterday of him boarding the helo. So --
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: -- I'll see if there's more detail I can share.
QUESTION: Marie, if his health was such a great concern, what took so long to act?
MS. HARF: You're asking the same question over and over again, Lucas. We've been negotiating for his release for years now, and we needed to make sure we had the assurances. We've been in active negotiations through the Qataris on this, particularly on this last round. And as soon as we were able to get in place the agreement for the transfer to Qatar, as soon as we were able to operationalize it, right – so first we made the agreement with Qatar, and then we had to operationalize it. As soon as we could get him on that helo, we did. Believe me, the United States military acts as quickly as it can.
QUESTION: Can you go back to something you said a minute ago? I believe you said that there had been direct negotiations or talks with Taliban about Sergeant Bergdahl.
MS. HARF: Including about Sergeant Bergdahl. We've had them on – broadly speaking, as we know, on the reconciliation issue. Those ended in early 2012.
QUESTION: Do you know how long they went on?
MS. HARF: I can check and see when they started.
QUESTION: Do you know why they broke down?
MS. HARF: We talked about it a little bit at the time. If you remember, the opening of the office came much later. But we talked about it a little bit at the time. I'm happy to go check the historical record.
MS. HARF: I obviously was not here.
QUESTION: Thanks. And maybe if they had been receptive to it at that time.
MS. HARF: Well, we do – I mean, look, we have had talks ongoing with them, and we have had – I don't want to use the word "opportunities," but we were talking with them because we believed there was a way we could maybe move forward and get him home. For a variety of reasons they broke down in the past several times, and thankfully we were able to get him home this time. I will see if there's more historical detail. A lot of this is before our time here.
QUESTION: One more question on Guantanamo?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I'm trying to understand the status of the detainees currently held at Guantanamo. So you said the Administration has plans to put 30 of the entire population --
MS. HARF: It's about 30. I don't have the exact number.
QUESTION: -- on trial. So I'm assuming --
MS. HARF: Prosecution.
QUESTION: -- yeah – the rest should be released, right?
MS. HARF: So 78 of the rest are – have already been approved through the review process for transfer.
MS. HARF: And there are a handful remaining that we're still determining what to do.
MS. HARF: We've been very clear that we will transfer those we can. Part of that involves finding third countries almost always – sometimes the home country, but third countries to send them to.
QUESTION: So it's mainly finding a country? It's not making a decision to release them?
MS. HARF: Well, on the 78 that have already been a decision made, that is – the challenge there is finding countries, either their home countries – some cases they don't want to go back or the home country doesn't want them, so we look for third countries. We've talked about that a lot in here. For the prosecution side, that's obviously a prosecution process which is a little difficult but we'll move forward with as we can. And then there are still decisions to be made about that bucket in the middle, which is not – which is a smaller number.
QUESTION: How is that decision being made?
MS. HARF: Well, it's --
QUESTION: I mean, what's the process?
MS. HARF: It's an interagency process that takes into account a variety of factors. If we have enough evidence to charge people, you've seen we will do so. If we don't and we believe people can be slated for transfer, then there's a whole process in terms of threat mitigation that we go through through the periodic review board, interagency process, and we'll go through that with all of them.
QUESTION: And how were you able to determine that these five Taliban leaders do not pose any threat, but you're still going through the cases of the rest of those people?
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it takes a while to go through these. Obviously, we have a commitment to close Guantanamo Bay, and so obviously that's a process we're going through right now.
So the entire interagency national security team – including of course the Secretary of Defense, because Guantanamo Bay falls under the Defense Department – undertook the threat assessment, did a risk assessment of how we could best mitigate it, what assurances we could get from the Government of Qatar; that while these are not good guys and are, in many cases, pretty bad guys, they could not – we've sufficiently – substantially, I think, is the word I'm supposed to use – mitigated the risk that they will return to the fight against American national security interests.
Look, the future of Afghanistan is up to the Afghan people and the next Afghan Government to decide. What – we've said that eventually there needs to be a political settlement there, a solution that involves Afghans talking to Afghans, reconciliation, what they will do with the Taliban going forward. That needs to be decided between them.
QUESTION: Do you think this swap deal will encourage Taliban to try to capture more American soldiers? Because it seems it was successful in releasing some of the detainees.
MS. HARF: I think I'm – I am getting a lot of the same questions for the past two days, and I'm happy to keep answering them. Look, I think the United States military has been crystal clear that they will take action against the Taliban when it threatens our interests. I don't think the Taliban is in any way confused about the power of the United States military to go after them or the willingness of them to do so.
QUESTION: One more on Gitmo.
QUESTION: Can we talk --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Last one --
MS. HARF: Guys. Wait. Shh. Let's do, like, three more on this, and then I'm going to move on. So Lucas gets one more, you get one more, and then we're going to move on.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Do detainees at Guantanamo Bay, when they leave, have to sign any kind of pledge not to reenter the battlefield, take up arms against the United States or our allies?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to go into more details about the specifics of the agreement with the Government of Qatar. Again, suffice to say we are confident that the details --
QUESTION: I just meant in general.
MS. HARF: I'm – in general, I'm not going to go in to specifics about what they have to do when they get out.
QUESTION: But wouldn't it make sense (inaudible) – can you say that they did not sign a pledge?
MS. HARF: I'm not commenting on a pledge one way or the other, Lucas. What I'm saying is that the processes we put in place and the mitigation that we put in place to ensure they can't return to the battlefield, we are confident in. Our recidivism rate has dropped substantially since the previous administration because of these processes, so we're confident in that going forward.
QUESTION: The first question regarding the buckets that you used to – for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners or whatever we can call them – you mentioned 78 and then 30. But this doesn't add up to 146 or 149.
MS. HARF: Yeah, 149. So there's that middle group that we have not made a determination one way or the other about what will happen to them. As I said, it's unlikely that most of them, if any, will be put into the category of prosecution, but we're still looking at their cases.
QUESTION: So the rest are – we don't know what's happened --
MS. HARF: We're not – yeah. We don't know yet.
QUESTION: The question regarding the terms of with Qatar, it is – those terms are valid for one year or more?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So as we've talked about in here, it's one year, certainly. And again, the – we are confident they will enforce the restrictions. We are confident that we will be able to have that in place.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) And my last question is what Lara asked yesterday. Did they – did Taliban pick those five people? Or how it was then this swap?
MS. HARF: I didn't get any clarity on that. I'm happy to check on that.
QUESTION: One question?
MS. HARF: Let's go to Pakistan because it's close, and we're going to work around --
MS. HARF: Save it 'til the end. Okay.
QUESTION: In the last few days, there have been increased number of attacks on Pakistani military posts along the Afghan borders. The TTP whose leader Mullah Fazlullah is hiding in Kunar province of Afghanistan, he claimed responsibility for attacks on two Pakistani officers who were killed yesterday in Rawalpindi, and also a series of attacks on check posts. What is the U.S. doing to help Afghanistan check TTP from carrying out attacks on Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven't seen those specific reports, and I'm sorry about that. I'll check on them when I leave here. But obviously one thing in terms of the Afghan side, we're working very closely with the Afghan Government on the continued threat. And one of the reasons you heard the President announce that he made the decision he did about troop numbers is so we have sufficient time to continue training the Afghan security forces so they can take on more of this fight themselves, and also to continue conducting counterterrorism operations in general.
QUESTION: Are you hopeful that the new Afghan Government will take steps and improve coordination with Pakistan to stop TTP from using its territory against Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Well, we've certainly said that Afghanistan should have good relationships with all of its neighbors, and that this is a shared fight, certainly, on the counterterrorism side that they're going through together and hope they will continue working together.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that it might lead to instability in view of election taking place in Afghanistan?
MS. HARF: I don't have any comment, I guess, on how it would be related to the election. We're looking forward to working with the new government of Afghanistan as soon as it's formed, and we'll have these conversations with them then.
QUESTION: Staying --
MS. HARF: Yeah. Let's go to India.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan.
MS. HARF: Okay. One more on Afghanistan and then we'll go to India.
QUESTION: Yeah, in the last several days the Government of Afghanistan and even their parliament have said that there has been increased shelling from across the border from Pakistan, and they have been asking the U.S. help in this. Have you heard from them?
MS. HARF: I can check on that specifically. The Defense Department probably is the place that's heard from them. Of course, as I just said in response to that question, it's something we're continuing to be concerned about and work with them on. I can check if there's been specific conversations.
QUESTION: And also on Herat, the incident of the Indian consulate, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that Lashkar e-Tayyiba was involved in that attack. Could you have any information --
MS. HARF: I don't have anything on that. I'm happy to check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes, India.
QUESTION: Media reports in New Delhi are saying that Prime Minister Modi is coming to the U.S. in September. Can you confirm that?
MS. HARF: Well, as we said at the time – as President Obama and Secretary Kerry both said, we look forward to welcoming the prime minister to Washington; nothing to announce on timing at this point.
QUESTION: And since that, a little time has passed. The government is in action. How the State Department is looking forward to welcome him, or what kind of negotiations will take place?
MS. HARF: About him coming here?
MS. HARF: I don't have any more details. We said we look forward to welcoming him.
QUESTION: And Secretary Biswal is going to be in India tonight, and so – and do you have any update? Is she going to meet the prime minister or the external affairs minister?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We're still putting together her schedule of meetings, and when it's finalized we'll share it with folks.
QUESTION: Are there some hiccups? Because tonight six – she's going to be there, so --
MS. HARF: Schedules get – as you all know, get put together at the last minute. We just don't have a finalized one yet. I'll be happy to share it when we do.
QUESTION: Can I ask one really quick one?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Short one.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: As I think you know, it is widely expected that the foreign minister of Uganda is going to be elected president of the UN General Assembly.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And he has been a defender of the anti-gay laws that the U.S. Government and others have criticized. Do you have any views or anything to say about his possible election as GA president?
MS. HARF: Yes – no. And thank you for the question. I know this is – particularly up at the UN – getting quite a bit of attention. Well, you all know how very deeply disappointed we were with the Government of Uganda over its enactment of its anti-homosexuality act. I think that was in February. And just in terms of process, the selection of the president of the General Assembly is – follows a system of regional rotation – this was the African region's turn – and members of the regional groups are the ones who select the leaders. So in terms of being part of the selection process, we, of course, weren't. And look, we'll – no matter who's president of the General Assembly, we will continue standing up, defending LGBT rights at the UN, and broadly speaking, regardless of who holds that position.
QUESTION: But you don't have anything to say about the appropriateness of somebody who has defended policies that the U.S. Government regards as wrongheaded?
MS. HARF: I don't think I probably have further comment on it now. As I said, there's a routine selection process, and I'll see if there's more that our colleagues have to share from New York, Arshad.
QUESTION: Can I go to Israel?
MS. HARF: Let's go to Egypt, and then we'll go to Israel. We're just going to take a tour around the world.
QUESTION: Okay. I just have two questions on Egypt. Now, you are welcoming the new elected president --
MS. HARF: I said we look forward to working with.
QUESTION: Which is good. Does that mean – is it fair to say that you are satisfied with the implementation of the roadmap after the constitution and the presidential election and the coming parliamental election? Are you satisfied that Egypt is taking the steps towards democracy?
MS. HARF: Well, I don't think I'd use the word "satisfied." I think there's more work to do. And we do look forward to working with the new government. We believe Egypt needs to continue its transition towards a stable, inclusive, and civilian-led democracy. We've seen that with the elections, but that's only part of it. Democracy is about more than just a ballot box. It's about how you govern, it's about how inclusive you are, so we're going to be looking for all of those things going forward in terms how this new government behaves.
QUESTION: Okay. The second question: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for an international conference to aid the Egyptian economy. Are you willing to participate in such conference? Are you willing to help the Egyptian economy in various ways?
MS. HARF: Ways? Yeah, no, it's a good question. And we've long said that Egypt really needs reform in terms of its economy, particularly to reduce its dependence on foreign assistance, which obviously has been a large part of what Egypt's relied on, including, of course, from the United States. We don't believe that foreign assistance alone can provide the kind of economic stability and the economic opportunities that really will help move Egypt's economy forward in the most – advantageous to Egypt's people. So we've been working closely with Egypt and other partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia, to support the transition. We'll continue working on it. I don't have a specific response to whether we would participate in some sort of conference, but we do believe that it's important for Egypt to increasingly economically reform, and we'll work with it and other partners on that.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Egypt again?
MS. HARF: Yeah, okay. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have something?
MS. HARF: No, no, no. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So regarding the delegations going to attend the ceremony, it's Counselor Shannon and David Thorne. Both of them were involved before in discussions with --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- the Egyptian Government and Gulf countries to put a package. Is this going to be part of their visit too, or --
MS. HARF: Well, it does build on their last visit to Egypt, which was in Cairo in April. And you're right that both of them have been very involved in working with the Egyptians on the transition and also with countries in the region. I believe they may be traveling some other places as well. So they've been very involved. That's why we believed it was important for them to attend the inauguration.
QUESTION: They are representing --
MS. HARF: President Obama. They are representing President Obama and the entire United States Government.
QUESTION: And the other question is related to the possibilities – I know it's – Congress is not in session, but probably they are having talks. I asked this question yesterday regarding the aid or the different aids.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Anything to update about that?
MS. HARF: We – you asked about the Apaches yesterday, correct?
QUESTION: Apache, yes. I got the answer.
MS. HARF: Okay, good.
QUESTION: They're still in the storage.
MS. HARF: They're still in the storage, but they will be going. They're just still in storage.
QUESTION: I mean, but no. I mean, it's not going. There are talks going on --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- to send them.
MS. HARF: Exactly, exactly.
QUESTION: That's a big difference.
MS. HARF: Thank you for being more precise than I was. (Laughter.) There – it's been a long week.
There's no timeline for when we have to make additional decisions about the assistance we haven't yet certified for Egypt. As I've said, those discussions continue. We will make those decisions based on the behavior of the Egyptian Government going forward.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, the other bits of the military assistance that were frozen in October – the Abraham tank parts, the Harpoon missiles – those remain frozen still?
MS. HARF: That is my understanding.
QUESTION: There's no decision yet on whether to release --
MS. HARF: Let me double-check with my colleagues, but that's my understanding.
MS. HARF: I'm actually going to go back to Scott here.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Any thoughts on the order of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to stand trial now on charges of instigating violence during the anti-government protests?
MS. HARF: Well, what we've said on Venezuela hasn't changed; our position hasn't changed that we believe dialogue is the way forward here. It's not politicized arrests, not trying to criminalize dissent, and that all of the parties here – the two sides – really need to figure out a way to talk going forward. We haven't seen the government engage in a meaningful way on that yet. And this – these steps are certainly not helpful and quite detrimental to the process.
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: I'm going to go to the back, actually. Wilner, and then I'm going to go you next. I don't know – I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Great, thanks. Just obviously on Middle East peace, your ambassador --
MS. HARF: Why is that obvious? You ask about other things. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, sometimes I ask on Ukraine once in a while.
MS. HARF: Or Iran.
QUESTION: Or Iran, yeah. That's fair.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Your ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, gave a radio interview pushing back against Israeli criticism of your decision to work with the Palestinian unity government. He said that Israel has come to the same practical conclusion that it's best to work with the unity government. He said that Israel transferred aid the very same day that the unity government was announced, or rather when it was --
MS. HARF: Formed.
QUESTION: -- formed. Do you agree that the criticism is hypocritical?
MS. HARF: I agree with whatever Ambassador Shapiro said, as I pretty much always do. But no – I mean, what you just read to me – I wouldn't use the "hypocritical" comment. I'm not sure he did. But what you read to me from his interview I would agree with. And we've been very clear that we will judge this new technocratic government by its actions – that again, their primary goal is to set up elections, and that we will continue – excuse me – looking at this very closely going forward.
QUESTION: One more. Do you have anything to say on the – any response to the settlement announcement?
MS. HARF: I do. We are deeply disappointed that – with's settlement announcements, as we have consistently said these actions are unhelpful and counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. Our position is longstanding and unchanged. As you know, we continue to view settlements as illegitimate and urge both parties to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension and undercut the efforts to find a path forward to a two-state solution. It is very difficult to understand how these settlements contribute to peace.
MS. HARF: Yep. Jo.
QUESTION: On the – still on this.
MS. HARF: And then I'll – and then I'm coming back to you. Go ahead. Yep.
QUESTION: Still on the settlements. Your counterparts in the EU have actually gone a step further and called on Israel to reverse this decision. Would you support that?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to use those words. I think I'll stick with: We're deeply disappointed; again, difficult to understand how these contribute to peace, and would urge both sides to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension.
QUESTION: And Hanan Ashrawi, who's a member of the PLO, as I'm sure you're aware, has said that the Palestinians are actually going to seek UN intervention on this. Is that a move that you would support?
MS. HARF: I haven't seen those reports. I don't have anything else, I think, probably to comment on than what I just said.
QUESTION: Because saying that you're deeply disappointed, it's a fair enough reaction, but it's what you say after every single announcement of settlements.
MS. HARF: We are nothing if not consistent.
QUESTION: How can you move forward beyond just words and actions and actually try and encourage the Israelis not to do this?
MS. HARF: We have the conversation privately with the Israeli Government on this issue all the time and do believe that neither side should take these kind of unhelpful steps. So if there's more to share, I'm happy to. I just don't have anything further on this issue.
I'm going back --
QUESTION: A question on settlements still.
MS. HARF: Yes, and then I'm going to --
QUESTION: You just said that the State Department had been consistent on the issue of settlements.
MS. HARF: Longstanding and unchanged.
QUESTION: Yeah. And – but it seems it's not actually fruitful in any way because settlements keep on coming. Is it time to change course on this consistency and policy that seems to be unsuccessful so far?
MS. HARF: Well, we stand up very clearly and say what we believe, and we're not going to stop saying what we believe. We say it privately to the Israelis as well. So on this issue, again, we will continue working with them. We will continue engaging on the topic and pushing it with them publicly and privately.
QUESTION: My question is: Can you --
MS. HARF: Are we changing our policy?
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Not changing your policy. But can you show me, like – just give me one example where these talks and this consistency actually helped in any way over the issue of the settlements?
MS. HARF: Well, broadly speaking, we know we have a lot more work to do. Obviously we know where the talks are at the moment; they're suspended, they're not happening. So this is part of a larger conversation, quite frankly, about how we move the peace process forward, if that's possible now, and what each side can do to move that forward. So it's part of a much broader conversation that we're having with both sides.
QUESTION: But you don't have, like, specific case where your engagement with the Israelis, where – was --
MS. HARF: I just don't have anything further for you on this topic.
I'm going to the gentleman next to Michael, who I don't know, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Would the United States support calls for an investigation of alleged use of military aviation for bombings on the Ukrainian cities? We talked about it in the previous days you talked that you don't have information on that. I'm referring to such alleged bombings in Luhansk which had led to civilian casualties and alleged use of bomb plot units and the military seizure of Slovyansk and other alleged crimes.
MS. HARF: You're talking about by the Ukrainian Government?
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MS. HARF: Is that what you're asking about? By the Ukrainian Government?
MS. HARF: So I think – and I – look, I've gotten a lot of questions on this over the past few days, and yesterday I did a little bit of – we have no credible evidence to back up any reports about human rights violations by the Ukrainian Government. I also think that it's really unacceptable to try to draw moral equivalence here between a country defending itself and its people and its buildings and its land and its territory from armed separatists backed by another government who are trying to sow chaos. There is just not an equivalence here, and to try to equate them I think is just fundamentally misreading the situation.
Yes, up here.
QUESTION: I have a couple on Southeast Asia, going back to the Philippines and China.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I asked about this yesterday, but I wanted to follow up on my question about U.S. engagement on this issue. Are you communicating your concerns to the Chinese about their reluctance to participate in the UN tribunal?
MS. HARF: We've certainly discussed a range of issues related to this with the Chinese. I won't get into specifics. We do think that this specific tribunal request is a good opportunity for China to clarify the legal basis for I think what we would call the ambiguous nature of its maritime claims in the South China Sea and to align those claims with international law. So we hope they will avail themselves of this opportunity.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up, also on Vietnam. So the Philippine defense ministry announced their discovery of Chinese efforts to reclaim two reefs located in the South China Sea with a possible intent of militarization of these reefs. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: You're referring to the Gavin Reef, that area?
QUESTION: That's correct. And --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Well, we're obviously aware of the reports, believe that all parties to the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea should fully and effectively implement it, especially with regard to exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate our – or escalate disputes, obviously, to work towards an early conclusion of a code of conduct.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we stay on China for a second?
MS. HARF: Yes. Actually, we'll stay on China.
QUESTION: Yeah, just --
MS. HARF: I try and stay – it makes the briefing a little more civilized.
QUESTION: Yeah, I'll keep it brief. So the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched – has said some pretty strong things about your statement on the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen and said they lodged an official protest. I was wondering if you could confirm that that took place.
MS. HARF: I can't confirm an official protest. I saw some of the press reports. I think, look, we've made our position very clear. We've made it very clear since Tiananmen Square and aren't going to change it.
QUESTION: So no direct calls or --
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: -- summoning of the ambassador or --
MS. HARF: I can check. Not that I'm aware of, but let me double-check.
QUESTION: Okay. I want to ask about Meriam Ibrahim.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Christian Solidarity Worldwide provided me with copies of a marriage certificate for Daniel Wani and Meriam Ibrahim and a birth certificate for Martin Wani that it got from Daniel Wani, and that I understand are the same documents Mr. Wani gave to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. Earlier I emailed your office copies of these documents and said I was --
MS. HARF: We received your email.
QUESTION: -- and I was going to ask you about them.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: When Daniel Wani was trying to register his son Martin as a U.S. citizen with the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, he provided the Embassy with the certificate of his marriage to Meriam Ibrahim. This certificate was issued by the Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum. It indicates that Daniel and Meriam were married on December 19, 2011 at a Catholic facility in Khartoum. Their certificate was signed by a priest who presided over the marriage. It bears the stamp of the Catholic institution where the marriage took place.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any reason to question the authenticity of this marriage certificate that Daniel Wani provided to the State Department?
MS. HARF: Okay, so a few points on that. The first is, obviously, I'm not going to comment on the particular scenario. But broadly speaking – because I think what you're getting at is a citizenship question, if I'm correct.
QUESTION: No, no, I'm asking you about the marriage certificate.
MS. HARF: We don't --
QUESTION: You still have a Privacy Act waiver, correct?
MS. HARF: I understand that.
MS. HARF: We don't adjudicate marriage certificates.
QUESTION: Did he provide you with the certificate?
MS. HARF: I'm not aware if he provided us with a certificate or not.
QUESTION: You do not know whether that's the case?
MS. HARF: I can check. I have no reason to doubt that he did, but I can check.
QUESTION: So did the State Department try to verify that he was married in the Catholic Church in Khartoum and that that marriage was certified by the Archdiocese of Khartoum?
MS. HARF: Are you trying to get at the broader question of citizenship?
QUESTION: No. I'm trying to find out whether the State Department ever tried to verify with the Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum --
MS. HARF: Whether they were married?
QUESTION: -- his marriage which took place in that archdiocese.
MS. HARF: I can check. I don't know why – if there's a reason we would need to, but I'm not sure why the --
QUESTION: Because he gave it to you in an attempt to identify Martin as his son --
MS. HARF: To prove citizenship. That's what you're actually getting at.
QUESTION: No, no. Let me ask you about the birth certificate.
MS. HARF: I'm just trying to get to the crux of your question.
QUESTION: I'm trying to ask you about whether or not the State Department examined that document and whether it authenticated that document with a State --
MS. HARF: If there was a reason to, for a --
MS. HARF: -- if there was --
QUESTION: Because Meriam Ibrahim is his wife.
MS. HARF: Take it down a notch.
QUESTION: She's in prison because she is a Christian.
MS. HARF: Yes, and we have been – very clearly raised our concerns about the case.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about the birth certificate.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: You have the birth certificate that I sent you, correct?
MS. HARF: You emailed it. I don't have it in front of me.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: You emailed it to my office.
QUESTION: My understanding is this is the same birth certificate that Mr. Wani gave to you. It is a birth certificate for Martin Wani. It says he was born on November 25th, 2012, which is 11 months after Martin and Ibrahim were married. It says Martin's father is Daniel Bicensio Wani, who is a Christian. It says Martin's mother is Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag. It says that the date of issue for the birth certificate was January 2013, and it includes the name and signature of the Sudanese Government official that issued it.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did the State Department attempt to authenticate that birth certificate with the Government of Sudan?
MS. HARF: So what I am telling you is I'm not going – I am not going to adjudicate citizenship claims from the podium. And if this is referring to a potential citizenship question, we will, of course – let me finish before you interrupt me, please, I saw you were ready to pounce – that there are certain requirements that must be met under United States law, which I think we can all agree is important, for parents to transmit U.S. citizenships to their children. These are very clearly outlined online. We will look at any relevant information that could play into that. But it's very clearly outlined online the requirements that must be met so that this --
QUESTION: I've actually – I've read the law.
MS. HARF: If this was part of it?
QUESTION: The law does not require a DNA test, correct?
MS. HARF: I am not going to adjudicate a citizenship case.
QUESTION: It requires a preponderance of evidence.
MS. HARF: I am not going to --
QUESTION: Did Mr. Wani provide you --
MS. HARF: Can you let me finish before you interrupt me, please? That's how we do it in this briefing room, even with Matt. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I know. He's not here this week.
QUESTION: Did Mr. – this case has been quite much in the news recently. It would seem to me that you would get the facts straight. Did Mr. Wani provide you with that birth certificate for his son showing that he was born November 25th, 2012 in Sudan, and that the mother was Meriam Ibrahim? Did he provide you with that birth certificate?
MS. HARF: I am not going to comment on the specifics of any adjudication that's happening in this case. I am just not going to comment on what's happening on the ground.
QUESTION: And is it a fact that the State Department, having that birth certificate, did not need a DNA test, but it chose instead to demand one as a matter of discretion? Is that true or false?
MS. HARF: There are certain – as I just said, I am not going to adjudicate the details of this citizenship. What I have said is there are certain requirements that must be met for parents to transmit U.S. citizenship to their children. This can only be done after a consular officer abroad examines the evidence in the application to transmit citizenship. Obviously, there must be a biological relationship. U.S. regulation authorizes the Department to request whatever additional information it may need to establish the U.S. citizenship of a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents.
QUESTION: Authorizes, but doesn't require.
MS. HARF: Again, I --
QUESTION: Is it not a fact that the State Department was not required to demand a DNA test, especially after it had the birth certificate?
MS. HARF: I think I just made very clear that our consular officers have a responsibility to look at any information they deem necessary to determine U.S. citizenship, which I think we would all argue is important.
QUESTION: So as of this moment, the State Department is not denying the authenticity of the documents that Mr. Wani provided to the State Department?
MS. HARF: I am not commenting on the authenticity one way or the other.
QUESTION: You won't deny it?
MS. HARF: I am not commenting on it --
QUESTION: Has – and you won't say whether the State Department has even attempted --
MS. HARF: -- one way or the other.
QUESTION: -- to authenticate those documents.
MS. HARF: I am not going to get into the specifics of the investigation that's going on on the ground.
QUESTION: And he signed a Privacy Act waiver so you may, but you're choosing not to.
MS. HARF: Someone signing a Privacy Act waiver does not necessarily mean that we discuss all the details of their case. If you were overseas and we were adjudicating something that was private to you, I think that people recognize, quite frankly, that there are some details we don't discuss.
QUESTION: Do you think Mr. Wani would be upset if he recognized his son as a U.S. citizen and accepted that birth certificate?
MS. HARF: We're not going to get into the details of the adjudication process. And I think I've exhausted this topic.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up.
MS. HARF: Yeah, and then Jo.
QUESTION: Do you consider Meriam's children in jail with her to be U.S. citizens?
MS. HARF: As I just said, I'm not going to adjudicate citizenship claims from the podium.
QUESTION: Do you in any way challenge the validity of his Catholic marriage to Meriam Ibrahim?
MS. HARF: I just said I am not going to --
QUESTION: Does the State Department recognize his Catholic --
MS. HARF: Did you forget – I'm not going to answer any more questions if you interrupt me.
QUESTION: Do you in any way challenge the validity of his Catholic marriage?
MS. HARF: We're moving on. Samir.
QUESTION: I have --
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of --
QUESTION: I have one question on this --
MS. HARF: Okay, Jo.
QUESTION: -- which is about the little girl who was born a couple of weeks ago to Meriam.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: How is she going to get her birth certificate?
MS. HARF: Again, I – we're looking at the case. We're concerned about it. We have not been more clear that we're concerned about it, and it's very complicated. I am not going to get into the process of how we're adjudicating it on the ground.
QUESTION: And just – when was the last time that consular officials managed to see Mr. Wani? You said last week that he'd seen them on Thursday, I believe.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you – has he been in contact or have they been in contact with --
MS. HARF: Most recently on June 2nd, with Mr. Wani.
QUESTION: Just one final --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Is the State Department making any efforts at least to free the children from jail?
MS. HARF: Again, we've said very clearly that we are in contact with her lawyers, particularly. She has full legal representation. We continue to call on the Government of Sudan to do a number of things, including respecting the right of freedom of religion.
QUESTION: Would this be something that a potential nominee or the ambassador-at-large for international freedom could help with?
MS. HARF: Of course they could help with it, but there are a number of people working on this very hard every single day.
QUESTION: Is there any update on the nomination --
MS. HARF: No update on that.
QUESTION: Two questions. I have two questions. Do you have a readout about the Secretary's meeting with the Aga Khan in Paris?
MS. HARF: Not yet. We will have one for you, but we don't have it yet.
QUESTION: Okay. My second question is: Secretary Kerry in his press conference in Beirut yesterday, he said on Syria it's not up to us to decide when or how President Assad goes. It's up to people in other countries, and specifically it's up to the Syrians. Is this a new message he --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- intended to send to Assad?
MS. HARF: No, no, no. Not – no new messages here. What we said is it's up to the Syrians to decide their future, which is why elections like we saw this week are a complete sham and disgraceful because they haven't had the opportunity to do so when many people weren't able to vote, when people were being killed while they were attempting to vote.
So nothing's changed at all on this. We've obviously called on actors in the region like Iran, like Hezbollah who have influence over the regime, to try to press them to make some progress here. That's also part of what he was referring to as well.
QUESTION: He didn't repeat that Assad must go.
MS. HARF: Assad must go. I'll repeat it right now. Nothing's changed. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On Libya.
MS. HARF: Did you have a second? Or no, I got your two.
QUESTION: Marie, a question on Libya.
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The – I was wondering if you have any comments on the attempt on General Hiftar's life. And the second question: He made a TV appearance where he said that he had a mandate from the Libyan people to rid the country of militias. So are there comments on --
MS. HARF: So we're --
QUESTION: -- the attempt, and the second question is: Do you agree that he has a mandate to fight militias?
MS. HARF: Well, we're still seeking some more information on the reports of the attempted assassination. Obviously, we've been clear that we're concerned by the conflict and the violence that we've seen. I don't think I probably have a further comment on the second except to say our position is the same, that we believe Libyans need to address their challenges through constructive and democratic means. It's not for us to choose the future of Libya.
QUESTION: Yeah, but what is the status, from your point of view – what does General Hiftar represent? What is his status?
MS. HARF: I don't think I have more political analysis to do on him.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with him? Any American official --
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. Not in some time.
Let's go to some people who haven't had one yet, and then I'm going to go – we're going to go around and then I'll come up to Jo. And then I'll – I'll get to all of you. I wore flats.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are reports that Boko Haram has slaughtered hundreds of civilians in northeast Nigeria --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and that the military was aware of these plans but didn't intervene.
MS. HARF: Oh. I hadn't seen that.
QUESTION: How confident are you of the Nigerian military's ability to take on Boko Haram?
MS. HARF: I hadn't seen that second part, so I can't confirm that, obviously. We've worked with the Government of Nigeria, who is in the lead – particularly with the girls – on this issue and fighting this threat together, and would encourage them in this instance – in all instances to fully investigate and identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. We've worked with them to try and increase their capabilities. We've also been clear when there have been some issues with the military and some of their actions.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on the search for the girls?
MS. HARF: No update. No new updates. The Nigerians are in the lead still; we are assisting.
QUESTION: The fact that they didn't intervene, does that not raise some concerns here or elsewhere in the government, in the Administration, about the aid the U.S. is giving Nigeria?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. We know it's a tough fight and there are some serious capability challenges here, but I'm happy to check and see if there are more concerns.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, 200 people were slaughtered and they didn't do anything about it.
MS. HARF: I understand. I'll check.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Conflicting reports this week that some Nigerian generals were court-martialed for their alleged complicity with Boko Haram. That's something the government says didn't happen. Does the United States have a view on what has happened to those generals?
MS. HARF: I think we're still seeking some more information, and let me see if I have an update from our team.
QUESTION: All right. I don't know if you got my email on the subject that I'm about to ask, but --
MS. HARF: Uh-oh. (Laughter.) I love these.
QUESTION: Okay, good. It's a U.S.-Iran question. There was a report out that a group of U.S. bishops had traveled to Iran in March to engage the Iranian clerics in Qom, which is Iran's Vatican City --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- regarding the nuclear program. Were you – was this – and they say that the State Department was advised of this trip.
MS. HARF: I recall hearing something along those lines. Let me get the details for you about bishops. Let me get the details for you.
Yes. I'm going to go here and then here.
QUESTION: Yeah. I have a couple questions about Egypt and one about Palestine.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: So would you blame, like, Abbas if he went – like now, after like the Israeli announcement that they're going to build 1,500 or whatever, like, settlements – would you blame him if goes, like, to the international organizations and just to admit Palestine in them? I mean, you say that you are disappointed --
MS. HARF: Deeply.
QUESTION: -- by the Israelis, but with Abbas – when he made, like, the reconciliation with Hamas, you said if the Hamas is going to participate, we're going to – we're not going to work with them, right?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you're conflating a bunch of things here. At the end – at the suspension of the peace talks that we had several – more than that – weeks ago now, we very clearly put the onus on both sides for having taken steps that led to the suspension of the talks, including the Palestinian side. So – and I just said we urge both parties to refrain from unhelpful actions that increase tension. This is in response to a specific Israeli action.
QUESTION: I know, but like – you're always, like, disappointed, but not to do actions.
MS. HARF: I'm constantly disappointed.
QUESTION: But then when Hamas, like, enter to the equation, you go ahead and you say, like, no, we're not going to work with any government that Hamas is part of it. But you don't say the same – you don't give the same strong, like, language towards the Israelis when they say, oh, we're going to ahead and build, like 15 --
MS. HARF: I think we are very clear in expressing our concern with steps both sides take. I think throughout this process both sides have said we're tougher on the other one or tougher on them. We're tough on both when we have to be.
QUESTION: Okay. The other one about Egypt: The language in Obama's speech – Obama's, like, statement about – the President's statement about Egypt wasn't very enthusiastic about his winning. There was like no – not like the Ukrainian. There was, like, no more – like, congratulations or welcome.
MS. HARF: Very different elections, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. And I understand that, but would you consider the election that took place in Egypt like a democracy? Because he already banned the Muslim Brotherhood from participating in the election. So I don't know if you consider that a democracy.
MS. HARF: Well, we think – well – and then you can get another one, I promise.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: We think that there is still a path to go here for Egypt on its democratic transition. We have been very clear about our concerns about the crackdown on freedom of expression, on the press. We've talked in here about journalists who are still in jail. We've talked in here about the hundreds and hundreds of people sentenced to death for things that look sheerly political. So we have been very clear with our concerns about the democratic transition here, and Egypt has a long way to go. But there's an opportunity now to turn the page here.
QUESTION: The other question is about an American citizen journalist who – not journalist – well, an American citizen who has been shot and kept in custody in Egypt for as long – well, more than hundred days. And he has been like – no, he's been in a hunger strike on hundred – more than hundred days. And the United States, like, obviously aren't doing anything – isn't doing, like, anything about him.
MS. HARF: Do you have the name? I just want to make sure --
QUESTION: Mohamed Soltan.
MS. HARF: Yeah, we're talking about the same person.
MS. HARF: We have been providing consular services to Mr. Soltan, including monitoring his health, pressing Egyptian authorities to ensure he has access to appropriate care, and maintaining regular access. We arranged for him to be seen by an outside physician to assess his condition, are closely monitoring his case. We're in contact with his family and with his legal team to inform them about recent developments, and obviously continue to raise this case with Egyptian officials at the highest levels.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: You are very welcome. And we last met with him, I believe, on May 5th, and attended his hearing on May 11th.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up with Egypt again?
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: Thank you. On the statement of the White House on June 24th, 2014, after the election – the presidential election, which President Mohamed Morsy won in that election --
MS. HARF: June – you said 2014.
QUESTION: Sorry, 2012. Sorry.
MS. HARF: It's okay. I knew what you were talking about.
QUESTION: I'm quoting here. That's the statement that came out of the White House: The United States congratulates Dr. Mohamed Morsy on his victory in Egypt presidential election. And we congratulate the Egyptian people for this milestone in their transaction to democracy. Here – do you consider this 2012 election more democratic than 2014 election?
MS. HARF: It's a good question. I'm not going to do a comparison about levels of democracy. I think each election's different and each period in time is different, and we write statements based on what we see happening on the ground. And as we said here, there's still a lot of work to do in terms of Egypt's democratic transition.
QUESTION: But my colleague does raise an interesting point.
MS. HARF: Yes. That sometimes we use different words for things.
QUESTION: Well, but that's a warmer statement for President Morsy --
MS. HARF: You can draw whatever conclusions --
QUESTION: -- than the statement that was issued this week for President Sisi.
MS. HARF: I think you can draw whatever conclusions you'd like from the difference in the statements. We also very clearly spoke out when President Morsy governed in a way that we believed was not democratic, as you saw over many months, and then of course after the events of last July 4th.
QUESTION: So was it perhaps premature to welcome or congratulate President Morsy on his win?
MS. HARF: No, I think that each statement is made at a time in history and facts on the ground change, and that's just what it is.
QUESTION: I have just one – I have a question on the delegation that will attend the inauguration of elect-President Sisi. Does it in any way reflect – the level of the delegation – does it in any way reflect your concerns over the situation in Egypt?
MS. HARF: No, I mean, Ambassador Shannon is a very senior State Department official – senior advisor to the Secretary. It's who we're sending.
QUESTION: But it's not the Secretary.
MS. HARF: He's not. You're right. He is not the Secretary. Factual statement.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Secretary to visit Egypt in the coming --
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no.
MS. HARF: Let's do two more and then we're bringing us home.
QUESTION: A small question. Yesterday, Secretary wrote an op-ed in FT, I think, on asking – urging the Congress to increase the visa for the Afghans?
MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you know how many visas you need? Do you have a number for that?
MS. HARF: So we know how many we have now, but we know that it won't be enough if we continue – actually, because we've been quite successful at processing visas. We've made a great deal of improvements for folks from Afghanistan. I know there's different bills in Congress and there's some potential numbers there. I'd refer you to whoever's introducing those bills. I know Senator Shaheen on the Senate side and some folks on the House side. But the bottom line is we want more, and we --
QUESTION: What do you need? Do you have a --
MS. HARF: I can look and see if there's a number. I think we've probably like as many as we can get. But we do need some more. So I can see if there's some numbers.
Lucas, you're --
QUESTION: On Mexico?
MS. HARF: You're bringing us home. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Senator Rubio has written a letter to Secretary Kerry asking him to take a more, quote, expeditious action, calling on the Mexican legal authorities to get Sergeant Tahmooressi out of jail. Is there any update from the State Department?
MS. HARF: I don't have any update. I can check and see. I'm sure we will receive the letter if we have not already. And we will respond.
QUESTION: Can you update us on Secretary Kerry's latest actions to try to get him out of jail?
MS. HARF: We've remained in touch with the Mexican officials on this. I don't have any updates for you.
QUESTION: And – but do you – is the State Department taking an expeditious route to getting him out of jail?
MS. HARF: We are working very hard to discuss with the Mexican authorities the path forward here.
QUESTION: And one more on Sergeant Bergdahl. White House aides --
MS. HARF: Seriously, one more.
QUESTION: White House aides have said they didn't realize that the soldiers that came out to talk about Sergeant Bergdahl, calling him a deserter, the aides said they didn't realize he'd be swift-boated. I was curious, why all the pushback?
MS. HARF: Wow, that's a pretty loaded term, particularly at this Department. Why all the pushback? On what?
QUESTION: From White House aides on these soldiers that are --
MS. HARF: I'm not going to comment on anonymous White House aides who may or may not even be people that work at the White House. Look, I think we've said very clearly on the record that we need to get all the facts about what happened. The Army has said they will. I'm sure that includes what folks who were out there with him have to say and also what he has to say. And we want to get the facts here. And if there was misconduct, it will be dealt with.
QUESTION: Any ETA when he might be flying home?
MS. HARF: I don't. Obviously his health is the biggest concern right now. He hasn't even been debriefed yet, is my understanding, and it's sort of --
QUESTION: Because I heard reports it could be as early as this weekend. But if he hasn't been debriefed, that would suggest not.
MS. HARF: I can check. I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Last one.
QUESTION: Yes, sorry. Just a related question: On the released Taliban prisoners --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- are there any restrictions on their communications?
MS. HARF: I can double-check. We obviously aren't going to go into all of the specific restrictions that they have, but I'll check and see if there's more to share.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:46 p.m.)
DPB # 99
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