Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
July 24, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:16 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top. Excuse me.
First, a short-term and a long-term travel update. The Secretary is in Cairo, as you know. Tonight he's expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Don't have more details on his meetings there, but in terms of calls he's made today, he's spoken with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu several times, the Egyptian foreign minister, the German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, EU High Rep Ashton, the Qatari foreign minister twice, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the French and the UK foreign ministers and foreign secretaries as well, Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. He also spoke with the foreign minister of Norway and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. These were on a range of issues – Ukraine, Gaza – but I wanted to update folks on the calls he's made.
Now a longer-term travel update, which seems long-term to us at this moment. Secretary Kerry will travel to New Delhi for the fifth U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which he will co-chair with the Indian minister of external affairs on July 31st. Secretary Kerry will be accompanied by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker who will lead discussions to strengthen economic ties between the U.S. and India, as well as other members of the interagency, including the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and NASA. This visit will mark the first U.S. cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since the new Indian Government was elected. It underscores the enormous strategic importance of the U.S.-India relationship and our hopes for the future of the relationship. As the Obama Administration engages with the Modi government, the U.S. and India will hold discussions on the full range of bilateral and regional issues, including counterterrorism efforts, regional security initiatives, people-to-people ties, and other crucial facets of our strategic partnership. We will announce additional details about Secretary Kerry's meetings and the composition of the U.S. delegation as they become available and as we get closer.
And finally, we have a group in the back that I wanted to welcome. It's a group of, I think, interns from USAID. Welcome to the briefing. Thanks for being here. I hope it's – I don't know, informative and interesting for you all, but we're happy to have you here as interns and welcome to the briefing.
So with that, Matt, kick us off.
QUESTION: So – all right, first, I think it's Pritzker, with a K.
MS. HARF: A Z and a K, both.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I worked with her closely during the campaign.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay. Let's start with the Middle East. You've seen the reports of the attack by whoever on this UNRWA school. I realize I think Jen had spoken to this in Cairo, but --
MS. HARF: She has.
QUESTION: -- would you like to --
MS. HARF: I'm happy to reiterate what she said.
MS. HARF: We are deeply saddened and concerned about the tragic incident at the UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, school, and about the rising civilian death toll in Gaza. We convey our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured in this incident, as well as the UN staff. We again urge all parties to redouble their efforts to protect civilians. Of course, this also underscores the need to end the violence, to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, which the Secretary is obviously working around the clock on right now currently in Cairo.
UN facilities in Gaza are sheltering more than a 140,000 Palestinians, including many innocent children – must remain safe and neutral sanctuaries for fleeing civilians, and call on all parties to protect these facilities from the conflict. We have condemned those responsible for hiding weapons in UN facilities in Gaza, obviously urge all parties to respect civilian life.
QUESTION: Israel has made the argument that it – that a civilian facility is a legitimate target under the rules of war if it is being used as a storage point or a place where weapons are kept or a place to launch attacks. They have said in this case that they warned the people who were there, and the UN, that this – what's your understanding of the – or maybe you could look into it if you don't know off-hand – if in fact a warning is given like this and people are either – either don't obey a warning or they're prevented from obeying a warning, is it still a legitimate target to go after?
MS. HARF: I'm happy to check with our legal folks, Matt. I don't want to make a legal judgment from the podium. As we've said, everyone should take care to protect civilian casualties in this conflict, period, but let me see if I can get you some sort of legal answer on that.
QUESTION: All right. Do you still believe that the Israelis are taking – are making efforts to prevent civilian casualties?
MS. HARF: We do. But again, as I said, I think over the past several days we think they could take additional steps to protect civilian casualties. That remains the case.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: I want to --
MS. HARF: Oh, wait. Hold on.
QUESTION: Yeah, I want to go to --
MS. HARF: Let me do – and then, Said, you're next.
QUESTION: I just want to go back. Were you – yesterday, the United States was the lone no vote in the Human Rights Commission. Were you able to find out what exactly about the resolution it was that you found to be unfair?
MS. HARF: Well, I said what exactly it was. I didn't have specific language from the resolution, but I said that it was the one-sided and biased nature of it, given what the resolution was looking at. I don't have specific language --
QUESTION: But --
MS. HARF: -- from it to point out for you, but it was only looking at Israel, of course, which we believe is a one-sided resolution and inquiry, and we do not support those.
QUESTION: Even though it also – even though it would also condemn Hamas?
MS. HARF: We do not support it for that reason, Matt.
QUESTION: But presumably you would have if it had –
MS. HARF: I don't want to get into a hypothetical. We did not support this, and we've seen other one-sided and biased resolutions coming out of here in the past, which we have also spoken out against.
QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing from me is we're going to go back to this FAA and Travel Warning and Senator Cruz –
MS. HARF: I could have guessed that.
QUESTION: -- and his hold on – what happened? It does not appear that there – that the area around Ben Gurion Airport is any more safe than it was two days ago now. You have said – flat-out rejected that the – that your Travel Warning and the FAA ban, it was politically motivated in the first place, and I presume that you will make the argument that the rescinding of the ban is not political either. However, there was quite a –
MS. HARF: I won't just make the argument. I will state that as fact, because it was not.
QUESTION: Okay. But there was quite a chorus of criticism yesterday when the ban was extended.
MS. HARF: In certain places.
QUESTION: Right, but I mean it wasn't just Senator Cruz. It was AIPAC as well. It was – and it was others in the pro-Israel community.
MS. HARF: I wouldn't call that a chorus. I'd call that some voices, but go on.
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. AIPAC is a pretty big organization. And whether or not –
MS. HARF: I'm familiar with them.
QUESTION: It may – it's arguable about whether Senator Cruz is an expert in aviation safety, but he is –
MS. HARF: I think that's arguable.
QUESTION: But he is –
MS. HARF: I doubt he is.
QUESTION: But he is a U.S. senator.
MS. HARF: He is. That is true.
QUESTION: What – I mean, what –
MS. HARF: Let me just give you a little back story here.
QUESTION: What is it –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. What's new?
QUESTION: What is it about the decision to rescind it that is not political in nature?
MS. HARF: Well, nothing about it is political in nature. The FAA made this decision after careful consultation with other counterparts in the U.S. Government after assessing the security situation, and there are, in part, two new things there, and they had this in their statement, but let me highlight them. The first is that there was significant new information about the threat, new information/intelligence about the threat, which they took into account, which led to the rescinding of this notice, and also measures – new measures the Government of Israel put in place to mitigate potential risks to civilian aircraft and aviation. So these were two new steps that weren't in place 48 hours ago when this first was put into place, these restrictions were. Those steps have been taken, so the FAA felt the restrictions could be lifted.
QUESTION: But is there anything that you or the FAA might be able to point to specifically that would ease the concerns of the traveling public? Yesterday you said that if you were a passenger on a plane flying into Ben Gurion, you would be nervous about landing there.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So why should you as a passenger flying into Ben Gurion today –
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- rather than yesterday or the day before, be any less concerned or any less nervous?
MS. HARF: As I just said, the Israeli Government has taken further mitigation steps to mitigate the threat, and we have new information and intelligence indicating that it is now – we believe the judgment that it is safe for American airlines to fly into Ben Gurion.
QUESTION: But this is another – these are more – this is more intelligence, stuff that we're not ever going to find out about. I mean why should I be convinced as a traveler that it's now safe when it –
MS. HARF: Well, I think you should trust in the FAA that they – look, you can't on the one hand argue they've too overzealous in warning people about safety, and then suddenly they're not anymore. Both things can't be true. Look, the FAA takes very seriously its responsibility to warn and put restrictions in place when there are security issues. That's what they did here. When they believed they were sufficiently mitigated and that new information had emerged, that's when they removed them.
QUESTION: You may be right that both of those things can't be true, but if they're not – if they're both not true, then it leaves open that the –
MS. HARF: I would say neither were true actually.
QUESTION: Well, if neither are true, then it leaves open that the – the argument that it could have been – either one or both could have been political in nature. Do you not see that?
MS. HARF: I am categorically standing up here and saying – I don't know how much stronger I can be. Neither the decision to put the Notice to Airmen in place by the FAA or the decision to rescind it last night had anything to do with politics.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any plan now that it's safe to fly into Ben Gurion to ease –
MS. HARF: To update our Travel Warning?
QUESTION: -- its Travel Warning?
MS. HARF: I can check. Not that I've heard of. We constantly are reviewing our security information and make decisions as that arises.
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: My last one: Senator Cruz has not yet said that he's going to lift the holds or – if he goes –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If he insists on getting answers to his questions and won't lift these holds until he does, what exactly – from your point – from the State Department's point of view, what is the damage of that?
MS. HARF: Well, look, first I would suggest he actually contact the agency that put this in place, which is the FAA and not the State Department. So it's a little confusing to me why he would choose to put holds on nominees at an agency that didn't have anything to do with the decision for the FAA to do this, A. B, as I said last night, there's no place for these kinds of purely political stunts, and confirming people for critical national security positions – you've heard the Secretary speak over the last few weeks about the fact that we have a number of ambassadorial nominees who are being held up by the Senate for a variety of reasons. We've seen some start to move forward, but it shouldn't take a crisis, and it shouldn't take prodding from the Secretary like we've had to see, for the Senate to uphold its obligation here.
MS. HARF: Period. So obviously, we would strongly disagree if Senator Cruz were to continue with his hold.
QUESTION: Okay. And you just said in your – in that answer that the State Department had nothing to do with the FAA decision. Is that --
MS. HARF: It's purely an FAA --
QUESTION: So there was no consultation, or you're just saying there was – that you didn't have any input into it?
MS. HARF: Correct, it's a decision made by the FAA. Obviously, they talk to us and we said we talked to the Israeli Government about it. We're more of a facilitator role, quite frankly, in linking up the FAA with the proper aviation authorities and security officials in Israel. That's really the role we play. But again, it's just sort of odd to me that there would be holds put on nominees at a wholly separate organization from where this decision was made.
QUESTION: Marie, on the bombing of the girls' school in Beit Hanoun --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Chris Gunness, the head of UNRWA in Gaza, said that he called the Israelis and gave them exactly the coordinates and told them that there is a lot of people, but then they went ahead and bombed it with artillery, which really can tear things to pieces and shreds. And so you will not condemn this act by the Israelis?
MS. HARF: I think I was just very clear, Said, about how saddened and concerned and how --
QUESTION: I understand that you're sad.
MS. HARF: -- about this tragic incident. I don't think I could be more concerned than I just expressed. We are still looking into all the facts. Let's not jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But clearly, we're concerned by what happened here.
QUESTION: If it is proven that the Israelis have attacked this school knowing full well that there is all civilians, no rockets whatsoever, will you then condemn the Israeli action?
MS. HARF: I don't have any predictions to make about what we'll see in the coming days.
QUESTION: Okay. And just to go on a little bit, but this can go on for a number of days from now. There are schools, there are hospitals, there are places, and so on. Are you issuing a very strong statement to the Israelis warning them or telling them in no uncertain terms that these targets are not to be struck or hit?
MS. HARF: Said, I think what we're saying is they need to do more to protect civilian casualties. I would also call on Hamas to stop hiding rockets in schools and stop hiding rockets in hospitals. They are putting the Palestinian people in danger. So I would call on them to move their rockets out of these civilian areas.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: But you are aware that civilian – or the casualties in Gaza have now gone beyond – there's 750 killed, maybe close to 4,000 injured and so on. So they are not basically doing what you call on them to do, so will --
MS. HARF: Well, I will keep calling on them to do more.
QUESTION: But what if they don't listen to you? Are you willing to take any kind of action if they keep turning a deaf ear to what you are calling on them to do?
MS. HARF: Well, what we're focused on, Said, is getting a ceasefire here because we want to see the casualties on both sides stop. That's why the Secretary is focused so much on getting an end to the violence here, because we want all of these people to no longer be in harm's way.
QUESTION: On the ceasefire, there has been talk, or an idea thrown around, that perhaps the model for 2006 during the war between Israel and Hezbollah, which is Resolution 1701, could work as a basis for a ceasefire, in this case with Gaza, which would result in the same thing – that Hezbollah moved out their – the Lebanese army took over that area and so on. And in this case it would allow the Palestinian Authority to exert its authority over Gaza. Would this something be --
MS. HARF: You ask the same question a different way every day. As I said, we've talked about --
QUESTION: No, I've said – no, it's a different resolution. I mean, I asked you --
MS. HARF: I understand that, but --
QUESTION: -- about 1860 yesterday, but --
MS. HARF: Right, but I said we've talked about the 2012 ceasefire --
MS. HARF: -- as sort of a model for what we're working on, but I'm not going to get into the details of what might be acceptable under the current ceasefire we're negotiating.
QUESTION: Okay. But this formula can bring about a longer and more sustainable ceasefire, and it would give your moderate allies among the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, some sort of a say-so in Gaza, wouldn't it?
MS. HARF: Again, I'm not going to do assessments or analysis on any ideas. The Secretary is on the ground talking about what a ceasefire might look like with different parties and different partners, and I think I'll leave the conversations in that room.
QUESTION: Sorry, I have a follow-up just really quick to what Said asked. Just to be clear, when you say you're calling on Hamas to stop housing rockets in schools and hospitals, two questions with that. One, do you know for sure – just as Said asked yesterday – that rockets were being hidden or --
MS. HARF: In this specific --
QUESTION: -- fired from this specific --
MS. HARF: I don't. Let me check and see if I can get that level of detail.
QUESTION: And my second question would be just to understand – the United States policy is that you hold Israel and Hamas, which has been classified as a terrorist organization, to the same standard?
MS. HARF: That's not at all what I was saying. I'm not sure where you got that. But what we've said is Hamas is a terrorist organization --
MS. HARF: -- and that they should stop firing rockets into Israel; that we are working on a ceasefire to see if we can get some resolution to this here, at least temporarily. But look, we've talked with – Israel has a right to defend itself. Nothing Hamas do – does here can be in any way justified, period. Israel has a right to defend itself when its citizens are living under the threat of rockets, but we have at the same time said they need to do more to protect civilian casualties.
QUESTION: And what kinds of things have you suggested that they do?
MS. HARF: I don't have more specifics to share with you, but we have that conversation with them.
QUESTION: Wait, Marie, you said --
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: Marie, you said earlier --
MS. HARF: Wait, let's all – one at a time.
QUESTION: You said, I believe on Monday, that the hope was to try to get some sort of ceasefire in place before the end of Ramadan. Is that still --
MS. HARF: Well, I said as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Yeah, but is that still looking realistic?
MS. HARF: This is very complicated. It is a tough issue. We're on the ground working through these issues, but it is very complicated. I don't have predictions to make for how long this will take, but I think all you have to do is look at what's happening on the ground to see that this needs to happen as soon as possible.
QUESTION: What about the ongoing discussion about dealing with these tunnels? Is that something that should be folded into the terms of the actual ceasefire, or should that be a phase-two if a simple agreement to stop firing at each other is what is in the scope of the first deal?
MS. HARF: Well, I'm not going to outline what might be acceptable as part of a ceasefire in any way. They're having those discussions privately, and I think I'll, as I said, leave them there.
QUESTION: Well, I'm asking only because Israel has said repeatedly that it doesn't see any point in stopping its operation until it knows that these tunnels can't be used to launch attacks on its people.
MS. HARF: I understand why you're asking, but again, I don't want to get into the specific details we're discussing internally and privately with the parties right now to see if we can get to a ceasefire.
QUESTION: Just to follow up quickly?
QUESTION: Just a couple of things to follow up.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Number one: On the ceasefire, my understanding that you have been saying for a while that you wanted to go to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We said that publicly, but that's a basis for what we're discussing.
QUESTION: Right. But in the ceasefire, basically they've been asking for Israel to lift the siege on Gaza. So – and this is exactly what Hamas and Khaled Mashaal have said yesterday in the press conference, that no stopping of a ceasefire unless there is a lifting of the siege on Gaza. So these two things go parallel. So is this – I mean, your understanding that is basically this is – the U.S. supports this position.
MS. HARF: Well, no I didn't say that. I said in general that's what we're – that's the basis for what we're looking at, but I'm not going to get into any specifics about what that might look like. We're talking about that on the ground, but I'm just not going to entertain --
MS. HARF: -- any different ideas or comments on them.
QUESTION: But do you think this is the point – the sticking point, that this is why they are not reaching a ceasefire so far?
MS. HARF: Again, I'm not – I don't think I'm going to comment on those private --
QUESTION: The details?
MS. HARF: -- diplomatic discussions.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, quickly.
QUESTION: On something else, on the school in – the UNRWA school. Can you share with us what kind of evidence you have that Hamas has systematically been using civilians as human shields, and whether they've been using hospitals and schools, as the Israelis been saying, systematically to fire rockets? Or was it one isolated incident that the UN reported last week?
MS. HARF: Certainly not one isolated incident. I think we've seen over the years that Hamas has used --
QUESTION: Well, not the years, but in this particular war, I'm asking.
MS. HARF: Well – okay. But that continues, that we've seen them use hospitals and schools. I could not confirm that this school itself was used to house rockets or fighters. I'm happy to check on those specifics. I don't want to make it look like I'm confirming that, because I'm not, but we have seen this as a Hamas tactic for many years, but also in this conflict. So I will check and see on this specific school.
QUESTION: So you believe that they have systematically used the schools and hospitals? It's not just isolated incidents?
MS. HARF: That is my understanding. Let me see if there's a little more detail I can put behind that.
QUESTION: Okay. And just to go back to the original incidents that started the whole conflict, you said before that you have some evidence that Hamas were behind the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. Do you stand by this now? Do you have more evidence that actually Hamas were involved in that?
MS. HARF: Let me check on where that investigation is. Let me – the Israelis, obviously, are leading it. The Palestinian Authority's been working with the Israelis on the investigation. I don't have an update, so let me check with our team on the ground and see if there is one.
QUESTION: Okay, I appreciate it.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.
QUESTION: May I just follow up on this particular incident.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yes.
QUESTION: This latest round that began before the kidnapping – the kidnapping occurred on the 12th of June, and in fact the Israelis bombed Gaza on the 9th of June. So when you say Israel has a right to defend itself, it was – in this latest run – I don't want to talk about the siege and that the siege is an act of war – but even in this latest round, it was begun by the Israelis. Are you aware of that?
MS. HARF: I'm not placing blame here, Said. You can feel free to do that, but I'm not going to.
QUESTION: Just quick follow-up now.
MS. HARF: Yes, uh-huh.
QUESTION: As far as this conflict, it's going on for a long time and innocent people have been killed. And if Hamas is a terrorist organization, do you also consider they're a part of the government? And if so, then what is the solution for once and forever to have a lasting peace and stability in the region? Because whole world is so – attention is there once every few months or few years.
MS. HARF: Well, that's – there's a couple different questions in there. In terms of what we're looking at right now, look, we know what the reality is in terms of Gaza and who is in control of Gaza. That being said, we consider Hamas a terrorist organization and do not talk to them, do not have contact with them. So as we negotiate a ceasefire, we obviously talk to the Egyptians and the Israelis and the PA and the Qataris and the Emiratis, other people are talking to Hamas about how we could possibly get a ceasefire in place.
But it is, going back to Said's question, the responsibility of Hamas to stop firing rockets. They are the ones responsible here for the breakdown in security that we've seen. If this terrorist organization were not lobbing rockets into Israel, we wouldn't see what we're seeing today. So I think that's where the blame lies here. I think that we'll keep working with the parties to see if we can get a ceasefire.
QUESTION: So what role the UN is playing to stop terrorizing the people?
MS. HARF: I'm sorry, the UN or the U.S.?
MS. HARF: So Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been also doing some shuttle diplomacy in the region. He's expected to meet with the Secretary, I think, tonight in Cairo, because they can play a role. Look, anyone who can play a constructive role in mediation here and helping to get a ceasefire in place obviously would be a good thing, and the UN would be a key partner in that if they can. So we're having the conversations with him.
QUESTION: What --
QUESTION: My question is finally, really, once we had in Pakistan – let's say al-Qaida or Usama bin Ladin and all those things, and whole world, including U.S., went after them. So now why they can't do the same thing against Hamas if they're a terrorist organization and if they are the problems in the region?
MS. HARF: Well, look, Israel has made very clear they are going to go after the terrorist organization threatening them. We have put Hamas repeatedly on terrorist lists, which freezes assets, which goes after support for Hamas in the United States however we can. So we've certainly done what we can to help combat this terrorist threat as well.
QUESTION: Do you have any evidence, as was suggested earlier in the week by the Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, that Islamic jihad might be another factor in this ongoing conflict between Hamas and the Israelis?
MS. HARF: Let me check and see what our folks say on that. Obviously, there are a number of different groups operating in Gaza. I'm happy to check on the specifics there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) just going back to what I asked before, I really – we really would like to get more details about what steps in particular you've asked. For example, if you're working with the Israelis on making sure that if they're targeting a civilian area, that it is someplace specifically that has – that rockets have come from; if there's any kind of technology that you are working with them to be able to have more specific targets to limit civilian casualties.
MS. HARF: I don't think we're probably going to provide more – specifics about those discussions. I'm happy to check and see if we can. I don't think we will probably, but I'll check.
QUESTION: Marie, you've said that the U.S. is working with the UN to determine new options after UNRWA had handed over the first batch of rockets to local authorities there. You said it was not a good outcome. Now a second batch have disappeared. What are those options now?
MS. HARF: We're still talking to them about it. I don't have anything new to announce for you, but we're talking about ways – if the UN agencies do find rockets, how they could be secured and possibly removed. Those discussions are ongoing. It is a complicated operating environment, though, and there aren't a ton of good options or easy options, but we're trying to determine some.
QUESTION: Have you filed a complaint about this? Are you in conversation – have you received an explanation from the UN about this?
MS. HARF: I don't know exactly where we would file a complaint. We've talked to the UN about it, and I think UNRWA is trying to do the best they can here. It is just, obviously – well, all you have to do is look at the fact that one of their schools was hit today to know they're operating in a very different – difficult, excuse me, environment here.
QUESTION: And they lost some staffers, I believe.
MS. HARF: I can check on the --
QUESTION: Listen, I just – back to the --
MS. HARF: I believe they did.
QUESTION: -- end game here.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is it the end game here to have Gaza demilitarized, or to have Hamas disarmed?
MS. HARF: You sort of asked this yesterday.
QUESTION: I know. I know, but I just want to --
MS. HARF: And I don't have a different answer. Obviously, we're focused right now --
QUESTION: I know.
MS. HARF: -- on a ceasefire. What long-term things might look like, that's a broader discussion. Obviously, we need to stop the rocket fire.
MS. HARF: How we do that and what that looks like, I don't have more to add today.
QUESTION: But an immediate – or a ceasefire as soon as possible doesn't necessarily have to have disarmament and demilitarization in it, correct? I mean, you just want it to stop.
MS. HARF: We just want it to stop.
QUESTION: So I'm correct in thinking that while disarmament, demilitarization may be a goal down the road, what you --
MS. HARF: And it may be a goal now. I just don't have more specifics to outline for you.
QUESTION: Can I ask, you said – you mentioned that the Secretary called Foreign Minister Davutoglu today.
MS. HARF: He did, three times today.
QUESTION: Three times? Can I ask, given the fact that he and the prime minister of Turkey have made comments that you – about Israel that you regard as offensive and out of – way out of line, why? Why is the Secretary talking to Davutoglu?
MS. HARF: Because the Turks have a role they can play. We've said those comments made it harder for them to play a role, but they do have a role to play and they have a relationship with Hamas. I mean, they can have conversations that we can't. So obviously, the Turkish foreign minister is a key player in the region and has some leverage he can bring to bear on the situation. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive.
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. I mean, if the foreign minister of a country comes out and accuses another country of genocide, I'm not sure why, if you condemn his comments publicly as offensive and making it harder, you would still regard them as --
MS. HARF: And the Secretary has raised them privately as well.
QUESTION: Do you know, does he bring them up or do other people bring them up on a daily – every time they talk, or is it just kind of a --
MS. HARF: I don't believe every time, but the Secretary did raise it in his phone call with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, I believe, yesterday. He has raised it recently.
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
QUESTION: Did he tell them to stop it?
MS. HARF: I don't have more specifics for you on what he said to him.
QUESTION: And then more broadly, is there a concern, given your vote yesterday at the Human Rights Commission, and the whole brouhaha over the flight ban and then the rescinding of the flight ban, is there any concern in the Administration that you're trying to be friends with all sides, and as a result of that, all sides seem to be more opposed to you, more – I mean, nobody is happy; neither side is happy with the United States right now. The Israelis, some in Israel --
MS. HARF: I don't think that I would say that just because some people have made public comments about the flight restrictions. The Secretary's been working very closely with the Israelis. He was there meeting with them yesterday. He's spoken today to the prime minister. They want us there playing a key role here. So I would take great issue with your statement that every – they're not happy with us. I think the Secretary has been working very closely with them to get a ceasefire here.
QUESTION: You saw the photograph of the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, did you not?
MS. HARF: I actually didn't see the photograph.
QUESTION: Oh, you didn't? Oh, well, someone should show it to you. It does not look like Prime Minister Netanyahu is a very happy man in that picture.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I would caution you from thinking that's because of anything the Secretary's doing or not doing. I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is in a very complicated situation right now where he's trying to defend his country from rockets, from terrorists, and I think there's just a lot going on with what he's dealing with right now.
QUESTION: So it doesn't concern the Administration at all that in trying to play a middle – trying to hold to the middle ground, both – you're alienating both sides?
MS. HARF: Not at all, Matt. Look, we are playing a key role here in trying to get to a ceasefire. The parties are engaged with us, all of them, and we are going to continue playing that --
QUESTION: Except for Hamas?
MS. HARF: Except for Hamas, yes. Every time I will say except for Hamas. I am not changing our position.
Yes, on this still?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Is Qatar playing a constructive role in the Israeli-Hamas conflict right now?
MS. HARF: They certainly are a key player here. The Secretary, as I said, talked twice today with the Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, and they do have a key role to play and they have been playing one. We want all of the regional partners to come together and help get a ceasefire here, so those conversations will continue, yes.
QUESTION: Israeli President Shimon Peres, during his appearance with Secretary-General Ban yesterday, stated that Qatar, by virtue of its support for Hamas, is, quote, "the world's largest funder of terror." Is that true?
MS. HARF: Well, I didn't see President Peres's comments. I would note that the Secretary actually went and visited him a few days ago when he was there because it's his last week in office and they're longtime friends. But look, what we're focused on now is other countries in the region who can push Hamas to accept a ceasefire. Qatar's obviously one of them. It's important to get to a ceasefire, so we will continue working with them.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the relationship between Hamas and Qatar, then?
MS. HARF: I don't think I have more analysis on that to do for you. I am happy to let the Qataris speak to that.
On this still?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, please.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Still that point seems – looks to me a little vague. You said you got to focus first on stopping the rocket, maintain or establish ceasefire, and then we go to the main issue. But establishing ceasefire based on what?
MS. HARF: Well, we talked a little bit about based on the 2012 ceasefire and what that looked like, but I'm not going to get more specifically into the details of what the ceasefire we're trying to negotiate looks like right now.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us anything about the Secretary's schedule for tomorrow? Is he going to the Gulf?
MS. HARF: For tomorrow, I don't have any schedule updates for tomorrow.
QUESTION: Still on the topic. Marie, as you're aware, the UN statistics is that 70 percent of the dead in Gaza are civilians, but Israel has also been using a policy called target assassinations for a while. So basically, they target a Hamas leader; in the process, they kill 25 members of his family or people that happen to be there, including an incident yesterday. Does the U.S. condone Israel's policy of target assassination?
MS. HARF: Well, look, what we've said – and I'm going to keep repeating the same lines and I know that you're going to get sick of hearing them – but that Israel does need to do more to protect civilian – to protect from civilian casualties, to protect civilians – Palestinian civilians. They do have a right to defend themselves. Both of those things are true and remain true.
QUESTION: But you don't have any specifics on what the "more" is.
MS. HARF: Right, and I don't think we're going to. We'll have that discussion privately with the Israelis.
Yes. Anything else on this? Okay.
MS. HARF: Ukraine and then we'll go to India.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary find out personally from Mr. Yatsenyuk that he was resigning today?
MS. HARF: I'm not sure if that's how he found out. Let me see. I can find out the time of the call. I'm not sure if it – he found out from him or after – he called after he resigned. But the Secretary did speak with him today.
We obviously want to recognize Prime Minister Yatsenyuk's service to his country during the last several very difficult months, look forward to working with the new prime minister once they are chosen by the Rada and confirmed by the president. And folks, remember President Poroshenko had campaigned on a promise to hold new parliamentary elections as soon as possible. So under Ukrainian law, at some point, it would have been necessary for the governing coalition to disband in order to call new elections, so that's the process we're in right now.
Anything else on Ukraine?
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked you about journalists who have --
MS. HARF: You've got to be quicker. They're going to move on if you're not quick.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked you about journalists who had been gone missing.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I think we know of two, one who CNN has been talking about today and the other who works for Russian television. Do you have anything to say about --
MS. HARF: I have a little bit. So on the person who had been working with CNN, we strongly condemn the kidnapping of Ukrainian journalist Anton Skiba by Russian-backed separatists. We demand his immediate release, along with the other hostage I believe they hold. In terms of – I think it's a British Russia Today journalist --
MS. HARF: -- we do understand that the Ukrainian Government is looking into the alleged disappearance of an RT journalist. The Ukrainian Government has denied having him. We are, of course, concerned for the safety of all journalists, and all sides – all of them – must permit the media to perform its very important function. So if we get more information from the Ukrainians or if we hear more about the Russia Today person, we will update folks.
QUESTION: Can I ask – I mean, you strongly condemn the one. Is that because you know for some – for – that he --
MS. HARF: We – mm-hmm, we've been able to --
QUESTION: -- know for sure that he – how is that? Because you've heard from the Ukrainians?
MS. HARF: No, no, no, no.
MS. HARF: From a variety – I mean, I think the CNN folks with him on the ground saw it happen.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. HARF: But --
QUESTION: I'm just curious.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: So, okay. Then today, the OSCE – you know where I'm going?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: The Russians --
MS. HARF: Sometimes I do. I don't right now.
QUESTION: Well, there was a decision at the OSCE. They were going to put – they wanted to put monitors inside just over the border into Russia. The Russians refused.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if you have a --
MS. HARF: I haven't seen that, the OSCE decision.
MS. HARF: I do have a couple of new pieces of information about arms continuing to flow across the border since the shoot-down.
MS. HARF: We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful, multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions. This is just some pieces of info I've been able to get from our intelligence friends for you. I can't tell you what the information is based on. I know that's disappointing to you, Matt. But was able to get --
QUESTION: Well, I don't --
MS. HARF: -- just some of the data points we've seen about the continuing arms flow across the border.
QUESTION: Right. It's not me who you need to convince. It's the rest of the world. I don't understand, if you – coming --
MS. HARF: The rest of the world who has seen these separatists shoot down a dozen planes, who has now seen a separatist leader come out and say they had this missile, and appear to at least take credit for something similar to this. So I think there's a preponderance of evidence. We went through it yesterday; I'm happy to continue going through it.
QUESTION: No, no, no, no. No, I don't think we need to go through all of what --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- you guys presented as in lieu of evidence. But I do --
MS. HARF: That's a --
QUESTION: I would like to know what you're basing this new evidence that the Russians intend to send any heavier equipment.
MS. HARF: It's based – uh-huh. It's based on some intelligence information. I can't get into the sources and methods behind it, but I was able to be able to tell you that.
QUESTION: Is there a YouTube video or something that you can point us to --
MS. HARF: Do you have any other questions?
QUESTION: -- that would show? I'm just wondering if you – what it is. I mean --
MS. HARF: I just said I wasn't going to give you the underlying source for it.
QUESTION: Marie, did you --
QUESTION: But that --
QUESTION: So look, it's not – the question is --
MS. HARF: So if you prefer – if you prefer I don't give you more information and just say nothing if I can't give you the source --
QUESTION: I'd prefer --
MS. HARF: No, I'm actually asking you a question here. If I can't give you the source and method, would you prefer I not give you the information?
QUESTION: Marie, I think that it would be best for all concerned here --
MS. HARF: Are there any other questions?
QUESTION: -- if when you make an allegation like that, you're able to back it up with something more than just "because I say so."
MS. HARF: Okay. That's not what I said. It's based on intelligence, it's not because I said so.
QUESTION: Well, it's not me that's making these allegations. I mean, you guys get up at the UN Security Council and make these allegations. The Secretary gets on the Sunday shows to make these allegations. And then when you present your evidence to back up those allegations, it has appeared to, at least for some, fall short of definitive proof. Do you --
MS. HARF: I would strongly disagree with that.
QUESTION: Do you – so, okay, so you're saying that they're moving in new and heavier weaponry.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you say what kind?
MS. HARF: I said multiple rocket launchers.
QUESTION: Multiple rocket launchers of the Buk kind or of the same ones?
MS. HARF: I can check and see on specifics.
QUESTION: And I can't remember now on the rest --
MS. HARF: They're firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions.
QUESTION: Do you believe that rockets, missiles, artillery, whatever fired from Russian territory took down these two Ukrainian planes, or do you not even have confirmation yet that that happened?
MS. HARF: We're still looking into exactly what brought down those planes.
QUESTION: But about --
QUESTION: So you're sure that they did?
MS. HARF: I said we're still looking into it.
QUESTION: Are you sure – I know. You're sure that the planes went down?
MS. HARF: Oh, that's my understanding. Yeah.
MS. HARF: I haven't heard otherwise.
QUESTION: But you don't know. I mean, the Ukrainians have said, the Ukrainians have claimed that they were shot down from – by – whatever, from Russian territory.
MS. HARF: There are some conflicting reports about the location of the --
QUESTION: And you haven't yet made a --
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: -- determination. But you are --
MS. HARF: Because we don't make determinations until we have facts, and then we present them to you as much as we can.
QUESTION: But – yes, but you are not – you are sure that the Russians are firing artillery?
MS. HARF: We have information, yes --
QUESTION: So --
MS. HARF: -- that shows that. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don't have information that they shot down the --
MS. HARF: We don't have definitive information about how those Ukrainian jets were brought down.
QUESTION: Okay. And last one on Ukraine for me: Do you have any comment about these attempts by the Ukrainian Government to close the – to ban the Communist Party?
MS. HARF: Yeah. So a couple of points on that. Let me see what I have here. The Communist Party has not been banned in Ukraine.
QUESTION: I know, it hasn't, not yet. But --
MS. HARF: Right. I'm getting there.
MS. HARF: The Rada's decision yesterday – I think there's been a little confusion – led to the Communist Party's delisting as a faction after a third of their MPs left the party. So under the banner of the Communist Party, people have been elected; they left the party, but they – the ones that did remain in the party continue to maintain their seats and their party affiliation. It's my understanding this is draft legislation. We believe, of course, that all peaceful voices should be able to be heard. We've made that clear to the Ukrainians and we'll see where this goes from here.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don't have any concern about a move to potentially outlaw one political party?
MS. HARF: I said it's draft legislation. We believe that all peaceful voices should be able to be heard, and we'll take a look at the legislation as it advances.
QUESTION: All right. And do you – you don't have any objection in principle to the Communist Party being able to be a party in Ukraine, do you?
MS. HARF: We do not. We do not.
QUESTION: You do not. Okay.
QUESTION: The Pentagon did say, when it came to the two Su-25 fighter jets in Ukraine, that they were, in fact, shot down. Does this give the U.S. more impetus to look at even more sanctions against Russia --
MS. HARF: Well, we're --
QUESTION: -- based on your suggestion that without Russian help, the separatists couldn't have done it themselves?
MS. HARF: It's not a suggestion; that is a fact. But setting that aside, we've imposed more sanctions since the downing of MH17. We are continuing to look at additional sanctions and to impose additional costs on Russia. That process is ongoing.
Anything else on Ukraine?
QUESTION: Is there still an option – short of military action, which has been ruled out from --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- are there other options besides sanctions that you might do?
MS. HARF: Besides economic pressure?
QUESTION: Right. I mean, there are international meetings that are upcoming that Russia has been invited to.
MS. HARF: That is true.
QUESTION: Is anyone looking at the --
MS. HARF: I think we're looking at a wide range of options. I mean, the – suspending them from the G8 wasn't truly an economic – that was also a political or diplomatic option. So we're looking at a range of options.
QUESTION: So – but you –
QUESTION: But that was including political events that – putting pressure on, say, the International –
MS. HARF: I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: -- Olympic Committee, putting –
MS. HARF: I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: -- it – or on FIFA?
MS. HARF: I'm happy to check – I haven't heard that. I'm happy to check and see if there are additional options we can outline for you, but we're focused very much on the economic piece certainly and on some of the diplomatic pieces as well.
QUESTION: Question. If the investigation does yield that it is in fact the separatists, what kind of accountability would be in store? I mean what would something like that look like outside of just –
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- broader sanctions initially?
MS. HARF: We're looking at a variety of options right now. I think we need the investigation to get full access here so we can determine exactly who might have pushed the button here on this missile that was fired from a separatist-controlled territory. We're looking into that right now. I don't have any details about what accountability might look like.
MS. HARF: India.
QUESTION: India and Pakistan. Thank you. Madam, recently there have been fighting on the border between India and Pakistan, but now the two governments have agreed to meet at the foreign secretary level. Sujatha Singh and Ahmad Chaudhry will be meeting in Islamabad next month. But foreign minister of India many times, Sushma Swaraj has said that there cannot be peace or talks between the two countries unless Pakistan stops terrorizing – or terrorist against India. So what I'm asking you: Have you – you have this knowledge of meeting next month –
MS. HARF: I wasn't aware of the meeting next month. We've obviously repeatedly said that we believe India and Pakistan should work together to improve their relationship and we would welcome steps towards that end. It's really up for them to work on together. I don't have details on that meeting, though.
QUESTION: Is Secretary going to call anybody –
MS. HARF: I don't have any calls to preview for you. As I said, he will be going to India at the end of the month.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Based on this statement (inaudible) was in D.C. here? I believe he is still.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: So what went with this in changing the venue from here to there?
MS. HARF: Let me check. I don't have details on that.
MS. HARF: India? Iraq.
QUESTION: Iraq. Yeah. Today, the parliament elected –
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Fuad Masum, a man of solid political credentials. But he's also a communist. So do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: That he's a communist?
MS. HARF: We congratulate the Iraqi people on the election of a new president. This is a crucial step in the formation of a new government. Obviously, we've said this needs to happen as soon as possible. The next slip is a prime minister designate must be named within 15 days. They will then have 30 days to form a government with parliamentary approval.
QUESTION: Okay. And the general feeling in Iraq that Maliki's fortunes are receding, is that your assessment? Do you have anyone in mind that you might like to support, like (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: As we've always said, we do not support any one person or any one party. We have been very clear about that from the beginning of this process.
QUESTION: But you would like to see Maliki or the Maliki era end?
MS. HARF: I don't think I said that, Said.
MS. HARF: I said we don't support any one person. And we've also said – and you've heard Brett McGurk speak about this a little bit yesterday – that we have had concerns with some of the ways the Maliki government has governed and how they have not always governed inclusively. But we are not endorsing any party or any person, period, to be the next prime minister of Iraq.
QUESTION: And lastly, the Maliki government announced that they are receiving Russian equipment or Russian military equipment. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven't seen this specific announcement, but – the last few times I've been asked about this. If it's done through the proper channels –
MS. HARF: I haven't seen that, but the last few times I've talked about this, look, there's a way that Iraq can get weapons from other countries. There's a proper channel to do this. And if it's through that channel, then I don't think we have a big problem with it. We know there's a big threat there that they need a lot of help to fight.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you – was there a specific incident that predicated removing all the – suspending the Peace Corps operation?
MS. HARF: Well, this happened actually on June 30th. So I was a little surprised that questions were just coming up. The decision was made on June 30th after monitoring the security environment writ large on any one incident in Kenya to suspend the Peace Corps program there. Volunteers are still continuing to leave, but this was made a while ago based on the overall security picture. Obviously, as you know, our embassy there remains open and well-staffed for normal operations.
QUESTION: And did you let the Kenyan Government know before the decision was made to suspend –
MS. HARF: I can check. I'm sure – we have a lot of discussions with them. Let me check on that.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Well, can we stay – just – I want to go just to –
MS. HARF: Yeah, then I'll go here.
QUESTION: -- Sudan, just north.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So Meriam Ibrahim is out. She's in Italy now. You put out the statement thanking the Italians.
MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Is this just a way stop for her in Rome? Or is she – you said that you understand she has the appropriate travel documents --
MS. HARF: To enter the United States.
QUESTION: And do you – would you expect her to arrive and make sure --
MS. HARF: She and her family will make the determination on their travel to the United States. It's really up to the family.
MS. HARF: I don't want to --
QUESTION: And can you--
MS. HARF: -- guess what they'll do. But they do have the documents necessary to enter.
QUESTION: Can you be – can you be more – can you elaborate more on what the role of the Italians and perhaps the Vatican was in doing this and how that worked into what the embassy was doing?
MS. HARF: I have some details, and I can maybe see if I can get more, but the Government of Italy worked with the Government of Sudan and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum to arrange for her departure. We had obviously been working on the travel documents for some time, and had hoped to resolve this as quickly as possible. So they've really been working with all of us on this. Aware of reports that she met with the Pope. I don't have any details for you on that. But beyond that, I'll see if there's any more to share.
QUESTION: I'm just curious if the Vatican had anything to do with the --
MS. HARF: I don't know the answer.
QUESTION: -- her getting out.
MS. HARF: I don't – I haven't heard that, but I'm happy to check.
QUESTION: Marie, you just mentioned that Secretary Kerry is going to India at the end of July.
MS. HARF: He is.
QUESTION: Do you have any travel plan to announce regarding his participant – participating ASEAN foreign ministers meeting or the regional forum in early August?
MS. HARF: I don't have any more travel to announce today, but as you know, last year we participated. I think we will again this year. I just don't have specifics to announce.
QUESTION: Right. Whether or not he is going or not, I believe or assume that senior officials from this building --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: What does the U.S. want to try to get out of this meeting this time? Is there a particular agenda?
MS. HARF: Well, I can check and see if there are specifics that are on the agenda. As we always talk about on these kinds of regional fora, we talk about regional security issues, about rules of the road, about helping to ease tensions and work together to resolve disputes peacefully. This is a constant topic of conversation in these different meetings we have. But let me check and see if there are specifics we have on the agenda for this round. There very well – there probably are, I just don't know.
QUESTION: Right. I understand the tensions in the South China Sea have toned down quite a bit these days --
MS. HARF: Well, I would actually – I would take a little – I mean, we've seen China actually increasingly take steps that have led to tension and we believe are destabilizing and trying to change the status quo. So we've actually said – a little different from here. We are encouraging parties though to work together on these issues and to try to resolve them without any additional escalation.
QUESTION: I'm glad you said that, which leads to my next question. If – I understand it's the U.S. position to look for a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. If in any case any of the parties – any of the claimants are dragging their feet on the binding code of conduct, what alternative crisis management mechanism can the United States pursue?
MS. HARF: Well, we have talked about a code of conduct and we think that's important. We've also talked about different ideas that other countries have put forward. For example, the Japanese have put forward an idea about a hotline between Japan and China to try and deal with these issues directly when they arise to prevent tensions from escalating. So there are a number of different ideas we talk about with our partners in the region. Again, all in trying to get to the same goal here.
QUESTION: I do realize that from the – earlier this month, China and U.S. has just six (inaudible) for Strategic and Economic Dialogue --
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- and then which – very impressively 116 outcomes are achieved under the strategic track. One of them, item number 4, is a mechanism building, which says that both sides will try to set a rules of behavior for air and maritime encounters. Is that something to do with the South China Sea or the East China Sea?
MS. HARF: It's in part – on the maritime side, obviously we talked about a number of the different issues. In terms of the aviation, we talked about the ADIZ that China declared – was it last year? I don't even remember. Earlier this year?
MS. HARF: What we talked about quite a bit in this room, so there are all these issues that we talk about with them and we want to put rules of the road in place, we think that's important for all of the countries in the region, and it's an issue we constantly talk about the Chinese with.
QUESTION: Yes, quickly, follow. Many U.S. companies operating in China, including fast food companies, are blaming Chinese authorities harassment. Have you heard of these complaints or what --
MS. HARF: I haven't. I'm happy to check for you.
QUESTION: You mentioned, Marie, that the Secretary among his calls had called the Norwegian prime minister.
MS. HARF: Foreign minister.
QUESTION: Foreign minister. Did that – I know the Norway is the head of the Ad-hoc Liaison Council for the – that does Palestinian aid work. Was that part of the call?
MS. HARF: I don't have a readout of that call.
QUESTION: Okay. Because --
MS. HARF: Let me see if I can get you one.
QUESTION: -- there is other news out of Norway today. They announced that they had an imminent terror threat.
MS. HARF: Yes. I saw that. I --
QUESTION: So it would be interesting to know, one, if the Secretary mentioned --
MS. HARF: Let me – yeah.
QUESTION: -- talked about that with the foreign minister, but also, two, if you have anything to say about this.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me get a readout of that call. I just don't have it. We – the U.S. Embassy in Oslo released a security message today to notify U.S. citizens that the Norwegian Government announced foreign fighters returning from Syria may be planning an attack in Norway over the coming days. The Norwegian police are not aware of where, when, or in what method this attack could take place. However, as we've seen, public gatherings, government facilities, businesses, and public transportation tend to be the targets of choice for these terrorists. The Embassy recommends the U.S. citizen community in Norway remain extra alert during this period, err on the side of caution, and alert the police if they see anything concerning.
QUESTION: About two weeks ago, maybe, you guys designated a Norwegian citizen as being – as a specially-designated global terrorist.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you know at all if he – if this person is involved in --
MS. HARF: I don't. I can check. I don't know.
QUESTION: Okay. I've got one more. Do you have any update on the attempt to fix the consular database?
MS. HARF: Yes, I do. So it is operating at limited capacity. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational again soon. The Bureau of Consular Affairs has been experiencing technical problems with our passport and visa system. The issue is worldwide, not specific to any particular country. We do not believe there was any malicious action or anything untoward here. This was a technical issue, and again, we are working to correct it and should be fully operational again soon. We're operating at a little bit of limited capacity right now, though, so we're trying not to overload the system.
QUESTION: And this --
MS. HARF: So don't everybody go apply for a visa right now.
QUESTION: It's – excuse me. So it's okay to apply for a visa right now – or no, sorry.
MS. HARF: Well, I said "don't everyone go apply for" – we're trying to – we don't want to overload the system as it's coming back online. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, oh, right. And how long has this been an issue?
MS. HARF: I believe it's been a few days. Let me see.
The database did crash shortly after maintenance was performed, which was one of the – the reason we do not believe there was a malicious action. We don't know the root cause yet. I don't know. I think it's been a few days. Let me check.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any idea when things will be back up again? I know you said soon.
MS. HARF: Well, it is back up.
QUESTION: I know --
MS. HARF: It's back up and running.
QUESTION: -- but normal.
MS. HARF: Fully operational?
QUESTION: And when you can clear --
MS. HARF: Soon.
QUESTION: Do you know what the backlog --
MS. HARF: There is a backlog.
QUESTION: -- has been created because of this?
MS. HARF: There is a backlog. We're working through it.
QUESTION: Right. So do you have --
MS. HARF: It's going to take a little while, so we ask people to be patient.
QUESTION: Fair enough. I – do you have --
MS. HARF: We don't.
QUESTION: -- even a rough estimate of when the backlog will be cleared and will be back to normal?
MS. HARF: We don't. I don't have one.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Poland?
QUESTION: Yes. Well – and it does involve the U.S. – European Court on Human Rights said that Poland was directly involved in the rendition of two men now at Guantanamo, Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole, and said that Poland was guilty of violating the men's human rights. The Polish response is, well, we disagree with the verdict, but we're also asking the U.S. for money to help investigate these allegations and pay our legal bills. Do you have any comment?
MS. HARF: I do not.
QUESTION: Also Europe-related. I know that this is a state issue, but it's one that the State Department gets dragged into quite often, but there was an execution in Arizona last night that has caused or provoked a bunch of – quite a bit of concern, not just here but abroad. The European Union has just put out a statement expressing concern about the circumstances of this execution and repeating its longstanding – Europe's longstanding opposition to use of the death penalty. I don't expect that you have any reaction to it yet, but I'm wondering if you could ask if there is one --
MS. HARF: I will ask.
QUESTION: -- and also if you know – I mean, if you've gotten the statement; if it was conveyed to you any way other than a press release or a statement from Brussels.
MS. HARF: I'll check. I haven't seen the statement. I will check.
QUESTION: So this is about the terror watch list. Intercept today released an unclassified copy of the guidelines the government is using to blacklist people, put them on no-fly lists, et cetera. Among the rules revealed, it allows a single official to essentially use very, very little suspicion to put someone on the list. I mean, do you stand by that process, and are you concerned that --
MS. HARF: It's not a State Department process.
QUESTION: -- unwarranted citizens are arbitrarily put – being put on no-fly lists?
MS. HARF: Again, it's not a State Department process. I would refer you to my colleagues throughout the rest of the federal government who work on this. I know they can speak to that, but I think we have in place a number of processes to make sure that we take a look at people coming into the country. But I can't speak to the specifics there because, again, it's not our deal.
Anything else? One last in the – yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Mine will be brief.
QUESTION: Syria. So the Observatory for Human Rights just released a report this week that says around 1,700 casualties this week alone, and the Islamic State also has posted videos of a massacre where they killed an estimated 215 soldiers and civilians. Are you satisfied with the pace of aid going to the Syrian moderate rebels right now?
MS. HARF: Well, we've continued to increase our assistance, even recently, to the moderate opposition, and we will continue doing so. We know they are fighting very big challenges on several fronts, both from the regime and from ISIS and Nusra and the terrorists that we've seen there. So it's a huge challenge. We're continuing to increase our assistance.
QUESTION: Two very brief things.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: One: One of my colleagues has just spoken to Senator Cruz, who says that he is – even though the flight ban has been rescinded, he is not lifting his holds and will not lift his holds until all of his questions are answered. Because --
MS. HARF: For an agency that didn't actually put the flight restrictions in place?
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. HARF: It's just perplexing.
QUESTION: I understand you are not happy and you don't think that that will --
MS. HARF: It's not about emotion or not being happy.
MS. HARF: It's just a fact.
QUESTION: I understand your reaction. I'm not going to ask you to repeat it again. But because he's asking for these questions to be answered, can you offer some kind of a commitment that the questions will be answered beyond you just saying, no, there's absolutely no truth to this conspiracy theory?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I think I would point him to the FAA who made the decision.
MS. HARF: They have the answers, I'm guessing, to the questions he has. The State Department didn't make the decision. I mean, it's just a fact. I don't know what else to say.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, there's a second part to it too, which is the Travel Warning that you have released --
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: -- at least as it relates to the State Department --
MS. HARF: We're happy to answer any questions about why we put travel warnings in place, yes.
MS. HARF: But on the aviation piece, it wasn't our decision.
QUESTION: Right, but – well, but you said that there was consultation – if not State Department input into what the FAA decision was --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- there at least was consultation. You all knew what the – one hand knew what the other hand was doing?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So I think --
MS. HARF: Yes, in part because we serve as facilitators between the FAA and the Israeli officials, who don't always have those relationships.
MS. HARF: But again, if he has questions about FAA action, he should point them to the FAA, just like if he had questions about State Department actions, he should point them here and not, for example, to the FAA.
QUESTION: Well – but I think what his questions are, and I know that you dismissed them out of hand and said they were ridiculous and offensive, but they – but his questions relate to whether this was – these decisions were made as part of a foreign policy – as part of your foreign policy agenda as part of --
MS. HARF: Again, the FAA can answer why they make decisions. The FAA made this decision.
QUESTION: But that's – I don't think that's his question, though.
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: His question is whether there was State Department involvement or whether the State Department encouraged the FAA to make such a decision in order to put --
MS. HARF: For political reasons?
QUESTION: -- pressure on the Israeli Government to agree to a ceasefire.
MS. HARF: And I have said no.
QUESTION: No, I know.
MS. HARF: The FAA has said no.
MS. HARF: The FAA has publicly said the only consideration they take into account is security and safety of American citizens, I think a goal Senator Cruz should, in theory, share, and should not play politics with this anymore.
QUESTION: Okay. So Senator Cruz should just accept your explanation?
MS. HARF: No. He can ask questions, but it – the notion that he would put a hold on State Department nominees when he really has questions for the FAA just doesn't really make sense.
QUESTION: Okay. Well --
MS. HARF: I think to most people, that wouldn't make any sense.
QUESTION: On that point, Marie, do you believe that the FAA ban for those 48-hour period, did it really exert any kind of political pressure on Israel?
MS. HARF: Well, that wasn't the goal of it, Said.
QUESTION: I understand. In your assessment --
MS. HARF: I have no idea whether or not it did, but that wasn't the goal of it. The goal was purely security and safety of American citizens, pilots, people on these planes, period – a goal, again, I think we all can share. And I would say that the nominees we have up in the Senate are for some very critical positions. They need to move forward. If everybody is concerned about our foreign policy, we need people in those positions.
QUESTION: I have one last one, unrelated, back to Iraq. I don't know if you saw this. It came out a little bit before the briefing, but about – in Mosul, apparently ISIS has blown up a very sacred shrine --
MS. HARF: I didn't see that. Let me check.
QUESTION: No? Okay.
MS. HARF: I didn't see it.
QUESTION: The shrine of prophet (inaudible).
MS. HARF: Okay. I'll check. Thanks, guys.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)
DPB # 129
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