Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
July 25, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:26 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily briefing.
QUESTION: Happy Friday.
MS. HARF: Happy briefing. Matt is in his summer finest today. I like it.
I have a few items at the top, and then I will open it up to questions. First, I'd like to welcome a group we have in the back. It is a group of journalism students from the American University in Cairo. They're wrapping up internships in Washington this summer. So welcome; we're really happy to have you here. I once, many years ago, also did a summer internship in Washington, so I hope it's been enjoyable and I hope you find today interesting. Also, just feel free to ask questions if you want. I'm sure I'll get to all of you as well.
A couple of other items at the top. A travel update: The Secretary – speaking of Cairo – is in Cairo, continuing to work to see if we can get to a cease-fire. I expect he'll be making remarks later today. As you know, that can always change, but that's the plan as of right now. So that's the latest update I have from them. He has also made 13 phone calls as of today. He ended up making a total of 25 yesterday – very busy – talking mainly about his attempts to help broker a cease-fire in Gaza.
Two more items at the top. The first, I think you've seen that authorities in Mali have found the wreckage of Air Algeria flight AH5017 in the Gossi region of Mali. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the six Spanish crew members and at least 110 passengers from Algeria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mali, Nigeria, Romania, Switzerland, and Ukraine who lost their lives. On behalf of Secretary Kerry and the American people, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to all of those affected by this terrible tragedy. I – we didn't talk about this yesterday, but no U.S. citizens were onboard.
And final topper: On Monday, we will mark the opening of the Presidential Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders here in Washington, DC. The Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. The YALI summit will bring 500 of sub-Saharan Africa's most promising young leaders together with U.S. officials, eminent entrepreneurs, and civil society representatives for three days of workshops and events. Secretary Kerry will welcome the Young African Leaders to the summit on Monday morning. Later that day, President Obama will hold a town hall. First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver remarks – excuse me – at the summit on Wednesday, July 30th. Fellows will also hear from U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and many others. We are proud as a Department to have a role in supporting these extraordinary young people as they continue their role as catalysts for growth and development in their communities and countries.
QUESTION: Sorry, just logistically, is that – are all those things here?
MS. HARF: I do – no, they are not. The – it is taking place at the Omni Shorheham Hotel in Washington, DC.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Good. So we don't have to worry about --
MS. HARF: I don't --
QUESTION: -- the President showing up here and going through all the additional security.
MS. HARF: I know there's a lot of additional activity happening here --
MS. HARF: -- around the summit, but I don't have --
QUESTION: But not for this specifically, correct?
MS. HARF: That's my understanding.
QUESTION: Okay. Let's start with the Middle East, although there's a lot of Ukraine today too. You mentioned the 11 calls today and 25 --
MS. HARF: Thirteen calls today so far.
QUESTION: So 13 calls today, 25 calls yesterday, and that he's expected to make remarks soon. Word --
MS. HARF: They're today. I didn't say soon – today.
QUESTION: Oh. Well, I was going to ask you, because word from Cairo is that about half an hour, 45 minutes from now, or do you think that's optimistic?
MS. HARF: I don't – I think that's a little optimistic.
QUESTION: Okay. What --
MS. HARF: It's getting late there, but --
QUESTION: What is he going to say? Or is that still TBD because --
MS. HARF: I am not going to preview what he's going to say. I think if he – when and if we have announcements to make, I'll let him do that. He's continued to consult with the different parties about achieving a ceasefire and the path forward, and I don't have anything to preview from what he will say today.
QUESTION: Okay. But does that – is it correct, then, that the effort to get a ceasefire continues? They're not there yet; is that correct?
MS. HARF: As of this moment, the effort continues.
QUESTION: As of the moment that you left your office to come up here.
MS. HARF: But I am not going to outline what he will say later today.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comments on the situation on the ground as it is today?
MS. HARF: In terms of what specifically?
QUESTION: Well, in terms of whether you think that your calls for restraint from both sides, whether your calls for Hamas to stop firing rockets and for Israel to show restraint on the civilian casualty front have been met, or is the attempt to get a cease-fire an indication that you think that these are still objectives that need to be reached?
MS. HARF: Well, certainly we haven't achieved a cease-fire yet, and the hostilities continue on the ground. We've seen rockets being fired from Hamas. We've seen Israeli actions as well. So there are a range of ideas being discussed. They include ideas being put on the table from various interested parties. Those are still being discussed, and again, I think the Secretary will update everyone on where that stands.
QUESTION: Okay. So what he probably won't know about, though, is this continuing – or maybe he does know about it, but you're, I think, in a better position to answer questions regarding still about this FAA ban and --
MS. HARF: I'm not sure what questions there are that remain, but --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: -- it looks like you have a whole list.
QUESTION: No, no. This isn't my list.
MS. HARF: Whose list is it?
QUESTION: This is Senator Cruz's list. So let's run through.
MS. HARF: You're happy to do his bidding today.
QUESTION: No, it's just that --
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- he's asked these questions. I don't want to --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- think that I'm doing his bidding, but --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- he's asked these – these are the questions that he says --
MS. HARF: Let's run through them.
QUESTION: -- he wants answered to release his holds on all of your nominees.
MS. HARF: Our nominees in the Department that didn't actually put in place this travel warning and the flight notice?
QUESTION: Be that as it may --
MS. HARF: Well, I think that is a crucial point in this discussion.
QUESTION: Well, okay, yes, but the point is that this is how Senator Cruz has chosen to express his --
MS. HARF: No, I understand that.
QUESTION: -- unhappiness.
MS. HARF: I'm just saying it's illogical.
QUESTION: Thus it --
MS. HARF: But –
QUESTION: Well, it may be illogical, but it is a fact.
MS. HARF: Right. Okay. I'm allowed to comment on that fact, though.
QUESTION: So yes. Yes, you are.
MS. HARF: That is, I think, my job.
QUESTION: Yes, you are.
MS. HARF: Go ahead. Do Senator Cruz's questions.
QUESTION: One – question number one: Was this decision a political decision driven by the White House?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: For instance, who was this decision made by?
MS. HARF: The FAA.
QUESTION: A career official? A political appointee? Or someone else at the FAA, State Department, or White House?
MS. HARF: It was made by the FAA. I'm sure they can speak to who specifically at the FAA made the decision.
QUESTION: If the FAA's decision was based on airline safety, why was Israel singled out when flights would be permitted into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen? Although, I would point out before you answer that I'm not aware of any American airlines that fly to – direct – fly to Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen other than the Air Force.
MS. HARF: There's also a full list of notice to airmen online. I actually tweeted a link to it yesterday.
MS. HARF: I think he's actually put forward some incorrect information about where there are and aren't notices. There are some, for example, over parts of eastern Ukraine. He said there were none for Ukraine. There are, in fact, some. So there's a whole list online. Where they stand, the FAA makes those decisions based on when there is a potential threat to airliners landing at certain airports or flying over certain areas. There is a whole, very comprehensive list online.
QUESTION: Is there a ban --
MS. HARF: So Israel is not being singled out here.
QUESTION: Okay. But is there a ban on U.S. airlines flying into Afghanistan should a U.S. airline decide it wanted to fly?
MS. HARF: I'm happy to check on what the latest notice is that the FAA has put out on that.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: But I'm not aware, as you've said, of any --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: -- airlines who do.
QUESTION: Okay. Number three: What was the FAA's safety analysis that led to prohibiting flights to Israel while still permitting flights to Ukraine? Again, I'm not sure any airline – U.S. airline flies to Ukraine, but --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- where a commercial airline flight was just shot down there's a BUK missile --
MS. HARF: Right. And the area where it was shot down, there is a notice to airmen that the FAA has since put in place. So I would take issue with the second part of that question from Senator Cruz.
QUESTION: Number --
MS. HARF: And the first part, they can ask the FAA, but they've said that they take into account information about safety and that's it, and that's how they make their decisions.
QUESTION: Number four: What specific communications occurred --
MS. HARF: We're only on four? How many are there?
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. Sorry.
MS. HARF: It's okay.
QUESTION: And I apologize to everyone.
MS. HARF: It's okay.
QUESTION: But this has been a big issue, so --
MS. HARF: I understand.
QUESTION: What specific communications occurred between the FAA and the White House and between the FAA and the State Department?
MS. HARF: Well, I certainly can't speak to communications between the White House and the FAA given that I'm not part of either of those.
QUESTION: So State Department and FAA.
MS. HARF: As I said, we had a – from my perspective, right, which is a communications perspective, we had a heads-up that it was going to be announced. I can't speak to everyone in the building.
QUESTION: Okay. Why were any such communications necessary if this was purely about airline safety?
MS. HARF: Well, I think, as we've said, two points. First, it's important – we like to give other agencies heads-up when we're about to announce things that might impact them. So I tend to give my colleagues a heads-up when statements are about to go out.
MS. HARF: But we've also said that the State Department has, at times, served as facilitators between the FAA and other countries, not just Israel.
QUESTION: You mean liaison. Would that be --
MS. HARF: Well, to facilitate contact, because the FAA doesn't always have the same contacts we have overseas.
MS. HARF: And the FAA was working directly with the Israelis to determine the threat, and then one of the reasons they have said they rescinded it was because the Israelis have put in place mitigations. So --
QUESTION: All right. And then the last one --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and I think I know the – what your answer will be to this, because it tracks very closely to the question number one, which is: What – was this a safety issue, or was it using a federal regulatory agency to punish Israel to try to force them to comply with Secretary Kerry's demand that Israel stop their military effort to take out Hamas rocket capacity?
MS. HARF: How many parts of that can I fact-check? So first of all, nobody has demanded anything of Israel. We have said they have the right to defend themselves, period. Second, this was a decision made by the FAA solely based on security, not for any other reason than security and safety of American citizens, American pilots, people on American planes, period.
QUESTION: So --
MS. HARF: What were the other --
QUESTION: That's it.
MS. HARF: -- parts of that very loaded question?
QUESTION: Well, I mean – well, hold on. Was it – you've already answered was it a safety issue. It was --
MS. HARF: It was purely a safety issue.
QUESTION: Not using – and so – and you would say that it was not using a federal regulatory agency to pressure Israel or – correct?
MS. HARF: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: All right. There's been an official saying – quoted on various – or at least one news outlet saying that the situation between – in the – around the airport – Tel Aviv – Ben Gurion Airport between right now and 72 hours ago is exactly the same. Is that correct, and if that --
MS. HARF: That's not, and again, I will point to the FAA's statement. I know I've been talking about what they've said a lot, but they said that they received two things: new significant information, intelligence that talked about the threat; and second, that the Government of Israel took new steps and measures to mitigate the threat. So some of that's not always seen publicly, but they made that – their decision based on those two things.
QUESTION: Are you able to describe what those two items are --
MS. HARF: I don't have --
QUESTION: -- more specifically?
MS. HARF: I don't have more details about those. The FAA may. But again, I don't have --
QUESTION: So in other words, the situation is not the same as it was 72 hours ago --
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: -- because even though rockets continue to be fired, the Israelis have both taken new steps or new measures to --
MS. HARF: To mitigate the threat --
QUESTION: -- mitigate the risk, and --
MS. HARF: -- and we've received new information.
QUESTION: -- they have done a better job or they have explained themselves better?
MS. HARF: No, no, no. The first piece isn't about the Israelis. We have received significant new information. I'm not detailing --
QUESTION: Oh, not about the Israelis?
MS. HARF: Right, about the threat.
QUESTION: Not from – sorry, not from the Israelis. Okay.
MS. HARF: So --
QUESTION: Marie, I know you said that --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You're welcome.
QUESTION: -- the Secretary's going --
MS. HARF: I'm sure Senator Cruz will send me a thank you as well.
QUESTION: Oh yeah, you think that he's going to accept your explanation with this --
MS. HARF: I certainly hope that he does.
QUESTION: Do you think that what you have just said now in response to my asking his questions will be enough to – or should they be enough to get --
MS. HARF: I certainly hope that --
QUESTION: -- for him to lift those --
MS. HARF: -- this should be an end. But if the senator has additional questions, we're happy for him to ask them. We just don't think that should be coupled with a hold on nominees for critical national security positions.
QUESTION: Well, the senator is a difficult person to (inaudible), but let me go to the other part. You said that the Secretary of State is going to issue a statement later on today.
MS. HARF: I think he might – he's going to do a press avail. That's – will hopefully happen later today.
QUESTION: Okay, but a great deal of what his plan his, a "plan" for a seven day ceasefire – humanitarian ceasefire came out. Do you agree with it?
MS. HARF: That's – I would not confirm those reports, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MS. HARF: I would be very careful believing rumors in the press about what's being discussed. There's a number of different ideas and proposals being put on the table by a number of interested parties, not just the Secretary. And he'll talk in more detail about those later today.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, allegedly there are three ideas. One of them would allow the Israelis to remain in Gaza in the areas that they occupied these last few days, to continue to destroy tunnels and destroy sources of rockets and so on. Would that be one of the ideas that are considered?
MS. HARF: I am not going to detail in any way the ideas we're even talking about or considering. I think he'll speak to this later today.
QUESTION: Okay. And in your estimation, is – would this plan also include a role for the Palestinian Authority to give it some sort of relevance?
MS. HARF: Well, I think the Palestinian Authority will certainly play a role here. They've played a role throughout these discussions. But again, no specifics to outline for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Now if I could shift just to the West Bank a little bit because --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.
QUESTION: -- there is a lot of flare-ups in the West Bank.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Today, five Palestinians thus far have been killed in the West Bank for a demonstration. I mean, they were shot with live ammunition. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, we are deeply concerned about the increasing violence and protests in the West Bank and would offer our condolences for those killed in both Gaza and the West Bank. We're still determining all the details about what has happened here. I know there's a lot of rumors, but we need to be careful to determine the details and would continue to urge all parties here to exercise restraint. Look, it's clear that these are – it's clear that these are related to the ongoing situation and conflict in Gaza. Obviously, that's why the Secretary's there to try to get a ceasefire here. So we are working very hard to address that.
QUESTION: Right. I mean, it is an emotional time, but you still subscribe or you adhere to the – to your policy that people have the right to demonstrate peacefully, correct?
MS. HARF: Absolutely. We call on all parties to exercise restraint, as people are doing so.
QUESTION: And that includes the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, correct?
MS. HARF: That – we think that Palestinians should be able to express themselves peacefully?
QUESTION: Right, yeah.
MS. HARF: We think everyone should be able to express themselves peacefully.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you been in contact with the Palestinian Authority President Abbas on this issue, that things are so volatile and it could easily get out of control?
MS. HARF: About the protest?
MS. HARF: I don't have a readout of the Secretary's conversations. I'm happy to see if we have. I'm guessing that our Consul General Michael Ratney likely has, but I can check.
QUESTION: And my last question, on the hospitals – I know I asked you, and I asked Jen before and so on. It seems that all the reports concur and confirm that, basically, there were no militants, no rockets in these hospitals, yet they were targeted, and the school as well.
MS. HARF: Said, I think you need to be careful when you use the words like "all" and "confirm." I think what we've seen --
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MS. HARF: -- in general, in general – is Hamas has used civilian areas like hospitals and ambulances and schools to hide rockets. Across the board we've seen that at times, but across the board I can't confirm that every time that the Israelis have said there were rockets in a certain place, we can confirm that independently. So we've seen them use this tactic. Is that always the case in each of the individual instances here? I just can't confirm that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me rephrase what I – my question. There are many reports by ABC, NBC in particular that actually, they went around and they showed there were no rockets. But also, Chris Gunness, the spokesperson of UNRWA, tweeted many tweets saying that there are no rockets, none in the vicinity, no firing was going on and all these things before and after the attack.
MS. HARF: Well, you're talking about a specific incident, right. I said in --
QUESTION: I'm talking about the UNRWA school --
MS. HARF: Right, so --
QUESTION: -- at Beit Hanoun yesterday.
MS. HARF: -- ask about specific incidents. In general, we have seen Hamas use this tactic. I still cannot confirm whether there were rockets in the specific school that was hit. We've seen the Israelis speak to this. I think we're still trying to get some more facts about this specific school.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I said "my last question," but this will be my last.
MS. HARF: It's okay.
QUESTION: Are you getting any reports from Beit Hanoun that the Israelis are not allowing medics and medical groups, emergency groups to go in and retrieve bodies and the injured?
MS. HARF: Let me check on that. Let me check on that, Said.
QUESTION: Marie, sorry.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Just now, as we're – as you're talking, the reports are coming in from Israel that the cabinet has – the Israeli security cabinet has rejected the cease-fire offer. It's all three Israeli television networks plus others. I don't think there's --
MS. HARF: I love when news breaks when I'm up here.
QUESTION: I know that there's – I --
MS. HARF: I'm at a strategic disadvantage here.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But – and clearly the Secretary will speak to this whenever he's – whenever he goes out to speak. But in the meantime – and I don't expect you to have a fully formed answer yet – is this a – would a rejection of the cease-fire be a disappointment to the Secretary and to you by Israel, in terms of what you know about the proposal that was out there? I'm not asking you to get into details of it, but clearly you wanted both sides --
MS. HARF: I don't – I really don't want to comment on this in any way, given that I haven't seen the reports and I haven't talked to the team on the ground.
MS. HARF: I really don't want to comment on it.
QUESTION: Do you know – fair enough.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: UNRWA questions.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know if you have come to a – or if the better options for dealing with rockets found in schools has been arrived at?
MS. HARF: We've talked to them about some, and I think there are a few options we're still talking about.
QUESTION: I saw that there was a statement from --
MS. HARF: From UNRWA.
QUESTION: Yeah, talking about how they're going to try to get more people involved.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: To your – to the Administration's point, given what happened the first time that this happened this – or was it last week now? I don't remember. But --
MS. HARF: Days all run together.
QUESTION: I know. Are those kind of measures that they're talking about, are those okay with you guys? You think those are enough, those are appropriate?
MS. HARF: Yeah. I mean, I think – well, I think we have some potentially workable ways forward.
QUESTION: Are the – among them are the ones that were in that statement from --
MS. HARF: I can check on the specifics, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, just going back to questions that I had asked earlier about the Khdeir family, do you know if there's any update on them?
MS. HARF: Yes. I did check, and I didn't get a huge update here. Let me see what I got. I'm not sure if I actually got any update for you. I promise I did check, though. Let me see what I have.
We have raised it, as we said. Matt, I don't think I have an update for you.
MS. HARF: We did – and I know that they did not have a specific number. I do know that.
QUESTION: All right. And then in – okay. And then in terms of – I believe I raised this a – 10 days ago or so, about this 15-year-old Palestinian-American kid who's been held – been detained by the Israelis. Do you have any update on that?
MS. HARF: I don't. Let me check on that as well.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I move away to Iraq?
MS. HARF: Anything else on Gaza?
Okay, let's move to Iraq.
QUESTION: Okay. Reuters has reported that a tanker loaded with oil from the Kurdistan region of Iraq is near Texas and is apparently heading for a potential buyer there.
MS. HARF: Well, we are aware there's a tanker off the coast of Florida currently. But our policy here has not changed. Iraq's energy resources belong to all of the Iraqi people. The U.S. has made very clear that if there are cases involving legal disputes, the United States informs the parties of the dispute and recommends they make their own decisions with advice to counsel on how to proceed. So I'd obviously refer you directly to the parties in terms of any arbitration here. I know that's what the stories have focused on.
QUESTION: Are you actively warning the – say, the U.S. firms or other foreign governments to not buy Kurdish oil specifically?
MS. HARF: Well, we have been very clear that if there are legal issues that arise, if they undertake activities where there might be arbitration, that there could potentially be legal consequences. So we certainly warn people of that.
QUESTION: Do you keep doing that now too?
MS. HARF: We are repeatedly doing that, yes.
QUESTION: So why – I mean, if you think it's illegal or that --
MS. HARF: I didn't say it was illegal. I said there's a legal dispute process here, an arbitration mechanism. There will be a legal ruling on it. I'm not making that legal determination from here.
QUESTION: So you're not sure if it's – the sale of Kurdish oil independent from Baghdad is legal or illegal?
MS. HARF: Correct. So we know – we have said what our – the United States position is, is that the Iraqis – people own all of Iraq's energy resources and that the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government need to reach an agreement on how to manage these resources. There is separately a legal arbitration procedure that can take place if there are legal questions about oil in this – such as in this case, which is a separate question from what our policy is. And there will be a legal ruling made that's separate from us.
QUESTION: But if you don't – if you're not sure if it's legal or --
MS. HARF: It's not that we're not sure. It's that there's a separate process.
QUESTION: Yeah, there's – it's a separate process, but it seems to me that you are taking the side of Baghdad – or Baghdad, you are, like --
MS. HARF: Taking the side of all of Iraq, a federal Iraq.
QUESTION: Because you're saying if the federal government does not approve of it, then the – you are discouraging U.S. firms or other international buyers from --
MS. HARF: We said there could be potential legal disputes that arise from it.
QUESTION: But you're warning them, right?
MS. HARF: We are warning them that there could be potential legal disputes. These are commercial transaction. The U.S. Government is not involved in them. Our position, from a policy standpoint, is that Iraq's oil belongs to all Iraqis and that the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government need to work together on an accommodation and come to an agreement here. And so that's been our position for a very long time, and we do warn individual entities that there could be legal actions that come from some of these actions we've seen.
QUESTION: So you're saying your position regarding Kurdistan, as it's been reported by a couple of media outlets, has not been softened regarding Kurdistan's export --
MS. HARF: I'm not sure exactly what – in terms of our oil?
QUESTION: Yeah, oil.
MS. HARF: Our oil position has not changed.
QUESTION: At all?
MS. HARF: Correct.
MS. HARF: Yes, Said.
QUESTION: In fact, your position is that all oil contracts should be done through the central government, but let me ask you --
MS. HARF: Well, I meant the central government should come to an agreement --
QUESTION: Right, yeah.
MS. HARF: -- with the Kurdistan Government about how to --
QUESTION: Exactly --
MS. HARF: -- go forward, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Right. Yeah, I wanted to ask you if there's any progress on the forming of the new government. Do you have any updated --
MS. HARF: Well, they selected a president and --
MS. HARF: -- they have up to 15 day – excuse me, up to 15 days, I think, to name candidates for prime minister. And then after that, I think up to 30 to actually form a government. I can check on the dates. But they have now a speaker, they have a president, and then next up is a prime minister.
QUESTION: Should we read from the testimony that Mr. McGurk did on Capitol Hill that you are losing patience with Mr. Maliki, you'd like to see someone else take his place?
MS. HARF: You ask this question a different way every day. We don't support --
MS. HARF: -- and I'll give you the same answer, so let's – for consistency, let's do that again today. We don't support any one candidate, any one person to be prime minister. We've said it needs to be someone who is interested in governing inclusively. We've also said we've had issues in the past with how Prime Minister Maliki has governed. But again, it's not up for us to decide. It's up for the Iraqis to decide.
QUESTION: Right. But your confidence in Maliki's abilities to rule inclusively, as you said, is --
MS. HARF: Well, we've had issues in the past.
QUESTION: -- not ironclad.
MS. HARF: We've had issues in the past.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Marie, I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I asked you yesterday, if you remember.
MS. HARF: My briefing number two yesterday, yes, okay.
QUESTION: Yes, and you said – I asked you about the cases of Cyprus and Ukraine, and you said there are differences between the two.
MS. HARF: Completely different, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. But many people, they only think they see as a difference is that Russia is your enemy and Turkey is your friend.
MS. HARF: That's --
QUESTION: You are speaking against Russia; you don't say anything to Turkey.
MS. HARF: That's completely ridiculous. We're not seeing passenger planes shot down over Cyprus, okay? These are completely different. The UN has in place a Good Offices Mission that has an ongoing process under the auspices of that mission to work on the Cyprus issue. We've urged both parties to seize the opportunity to make real and substantial progress towards a settlement that unifies – reunifies the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and we've said we're willing to assist in any way the parties find useful. Again, these are completely different situations. There is an active conflict zone in Ukraine. Cyprus is wholly different for a number of reasons. The UN is leading this effort here and we can support that in any way we can.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: But Turkey has 40,000 troops in Cyprus right now – 40,000 troops. And I think the Russians, they have a few thousands only. This is --
MS. HARF: They're in no way comparable. I just reject the comparison.
QUESTION: Okay, but can I ask you something? Can I ask you another something?
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: Do you consider --
QUESTION: Hold on a second, hold on. Do you accept the premise of his question that Russia is your enemy?
MS. HARF: Well, no. I would also disagree with that part.
MS. HARF: I was going through all of the various parts I disagree with.
QUESTION: But do you consider what Cyprus --
MS. HARF: We disagree over Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you consider what Turkey did in 1974 against Cyprus invasion or something else?
MS. HARF: I'm not going to go down the historical path here with you. I said what the path forward looks like. And I would disagree with the notion that Russia is our enemy, thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something else?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The Vice President of the United States Mr. Biden spoke two, three weeks ago about the situation in Cyprus, and he said this, and I quote: There is nothing negotiable about two elements: one, no Turkish soldiers should have set foot on the island without being invited by the government; and second, there is only one government on the island. Do the State Department share this position on Cyprus?
MS. HARF: I didn't see the Vice President's comments there. I just made clear what our position is, and I'm not in the policy of disagreeing with the Vice President. So with that, what else?
MS. HARF: What?
QUESTION: That's it. Not to disagree with the Vice President.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I have a question about the Washington Post reporter and the other journalists detained in Iran. Has the Interests Section – the U.S. Interests Section with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran been able to make contact with them? Do you have anything new on that?
MS. HARF: So we are concerned about reports that three U.S. citizens have recently been detained in Iran, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, along with the non-U.S. citizen spouse of one of the three. So I just wanted to be clear there are three U.S. citizens involved here. We aren't able to comment further at this time due to privacy considerations. As you know, our highest priority is the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens abroad. In general, in any case involving the detention of a U.S. citizen in Iran, we would work with our protecting power, Switzerland, to request appropriate consular services. And again, I don't have further details to share at this time because of privacy.
QUESTION: But does that mean that they had visited and they have not – and the detainees had not signed a Privacy Act waiver, or does that mean that the Swiss have not yet been notified or they've been notified but they have not yet been able to go?
MS. HARF: I don't have further details about the case to share at this point because of privacy considerations.
QUESTION: Right, but you should be able to say at least whether the Swiss have been notified by the Iranians that these people have been detained.
MS. HARF: Well, the Iranians – you've seen reports that the Iranian officials have confirmed publicly some of the detentions.
QUESTION: Yeah, but that doesn't mean that they --
MS. HARF: I don't have further details, Matt, that I'm able to share.
QUESTION: -- formally gone to the Swiss.
QUESTION: Marie --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I think that again, the Privacy Act is being over-used. I don't see why you can't say if the Iranians have told the Swiss that these people have been detained.
MS. HARF: I think I'll let the Iranians speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary returning tonight to Washington?
MS. HARF: We don't have any travel updates. He'll be speaking from Cairo, and I don't know exactly when he'll be returning to Washington.
QUESTION: But if in fact the Israelis rejected, which they did, he would have no reason to stay, would he?
MS. HARF: Guys, I haven't even seen that announcement. It's happened since I've been up here. I have no predictions about the Secretary's travel. I have given up making those a long time ago.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Sorry. The UN says 250,000 Ukrainians have left their homes; most of them went to Russia. Do you see it as humanitarian crisis or just – not so long ago answering a similar question, you said they could be going to Russia to visit their grandmother. Do you see it as a humanitarian crisis as it is now?
MS. HARF: Well, I have – I can't confirm those numbers. I quite frankly haven't seen that from my UN reports, so I'm happy to fact-check that for you and see if we can confirm what we think the numbers are.
We know there's a humanitarian crisis here that's been – that's arisen that didn't occur there before because of what the Russian-backed separatists have done in the region. Obviously, when there's active fighting, when you have separatists like we've seen shooting down airplanes, attacking innocent people, there's going to be a humanitarian situation. So we've seen that occur. I can see if I have exact numbers for you. I just don't have them in front of me.
QUESTION: Are you saying that (inaudible) had no role in escalating the crisis? Around 300 civilians have died in the shellings.
MS. HARF: I mean, I think there's absolutely no equivalency here. Ukraine is a country with borders that Russia violated. It's not about not having a role. Russia --
QUESTION: Are you saying that, still, Kyiv had no role in escalating the crisis going – moving forward? It has --
MS. HARF: Kyiv has a --
QUESTION: It's just Russia. Are you just blaming Russia in the whole --
MS. HARF: Yes, it – yes, because Russia invaded a foreign country. The Ukrainians have a responsibility and a duty to protect their citizens and their territory, which is what they're doing. Russia should de-escalate, move back, and stop backing separatists who are taking down Ukrainian planes – fighter jets, as we've seen – and are attacking innocent civilians.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: Also --
QUESTION: -- your ambassador at NATO has said that there are now 15,000 Russian troops massed on the border. Are you in a position to repeat or elaborate on that?
MS. HARF: Yeah, we have seen troops massing at the border, as we've seen in the past. I have no reason to disagree with those numbers, yeah.
Yesterday, after the briefing in which you said that there was artillery fire coming from Russian territory into Ukraine, and also that the Russians intended to provide the separatists with heavier --
MS. HARF: Multiple rocket launchers.
QUESTION: Right, multiple – with heavier multiple rocket launchers. After the briefing, Ambassador Rice tweeted out very similar or exact – pretty much the same thing. And now this morning --
MS. HARF: I wasn't going rogue up here, I promise.
QUESTION: No, I don't – I'm not saying you were. And then this morning, or earlier today, I'm sure you know the Pentagon also said that there was evidence that these --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- new, heavier, more powerful systems were going in. I asked – had asked you yesterday if you could be more specific, at least about – if you couldn't get into the intelligence about it, if you could identify – say what these systems are.
So I'd like to repeat that question, but also ask you if you can be more – if you can elaborate on what it is that makes you believe that this is – that this allegation is actually factual and true.
MS. HARF: Well, we've seen indications that this is the case. We felt strongly enough to talk about it publicly. I can't underline the information that had led to that assessment. We don't have specifics about what those systems might look like to outline, but again, we're continuing to watch, continuing to gather information. And as we do, we'll attempt to share it.
QUESTION: At the Pentagon, the officials say that these are 200-caliber multiple rocket launcher systems. Is that --
MS. HARF: I don't have that detail in front of me. I don't have a reason to disagree with it; I just don't have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Okay. So two day --
MS. HARF: I'm happy to check if I can confirm that.
QUESTION: Okay. Two days ago, there was a report in a Ukrainian newspaper, which I have here, which talked about Tornados, which are what – are these 200-caliber multiple rocket launcher systems going into Ukraine from Russia. Is this what the intelligence is?
MS. HARF: That's certainly not what we could consider intelligence that underlies our assessments. I also don't have the 200-caliber detail in front of me. I'm happy to check and see on that specifically.
MS. HARF: Obviously, we make these assessments not based on any one piece of information, even classified information. It's on a range of information. That would certainly not underpin an intelligence assessment, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Well – okay, that's good to know. But you can't offer us what it is, aside from --
MS. HARF: We don't have more to – we don't --
QUESTION: I mean, do you know if this report played any role in --
MS. HARF: I – let me check on that specific piece.
QUESTION: I have it for you. I can give it to you.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I just got it, so --
MS. HARF: Okay. Let me check on that.
And again, I didn't --
QUESTION: But it's from – but it is from two days ago, and it says that – it says what you're saying, but it's not – clearly not an intelligence report, and because in the past you have cited social media and open-source reporting --
MS. HARF: As part of the assessment.
QUESTION: I understand that. I just want to make sure that this, or this kind of thing, is not the only thing that you're going on.
MS. HARF: Having been an intelligence analyst, believe me --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: -- intelligence assessments are based on much more than just that.
QUESTION: Good. Well --
MS. HARF: And before we go public with them, we make sure we have multiple sources to back things up.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I hope so. But the problem is is that you can't --
MS. HARF: But you don't trust us. It's not that I don't trust you; it's that the world doesn't --
QUESTION: It's not a question of – it's not a question of --
MS. HARF: I can almost ask the questions for you.
QUESTION: No, it's not a question of me – of trust. It's a question of whether you can back up your – what you're --
MS. HARF: We've put out – we continued to put out information, Matt. We will continue to do so.
QUESTION: I know.
MS. HARF: It is difficult, and we're happy to put out as much as we can. And we are trying to. And throughout this conflict, I think you've seen us display a very high level of credibility in terms of what we've said is happening on the ground. The Russians have been the exact opposite. So again, that doesn't – that's not the entire ballgame there, but we will attempt to put out more as we can.
QUESTION: Was there --
QUESTION: All right. And then – and just on the artillery that you've talked about, the – Russia claims that the Ukrainians are also firing artillery into Russia.
MS. HARF: Well, we obviously take seriously reports of alleged Ukrainian fire into Russia. We don't – have seen no indications of Ukraine firing back into Russia, so are unable to confirm these reports at this time. Again, the number of Russian troops across – along the border continues to steadily increase. We have seen that in the past few days, but have seen no indications that the Ukrainians have fired back.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MS. HARF: We will continue looking into it.
QUESTION: Do you know if you – if there are people there who can – that you – Americans whether – from whatever agency of government who are – can say with certainty that --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- there hasn't been any firing into Russia?
MS. HARF: We have a variety of ways that we can see what's going on on the ground – a variety of different kinds of intelligence, not just of the human variety but of a number of different varieties. I'm not going to say which, if any, of those we're getting information from. Not going to go into that in any way.
QUESTION: All right. But just to put a fine point on it, you are convinced that the Russians are shelling Ukrainian positions, and it's Russians who are – Russian soldiers who are doing it, not rebels. Or --
MS. HARF: From locations within Russia --
QUESTION: Okay. You don't know who is pushing the button to fire the --
MS. HARF: Right. From --
QUESTION: But it's from Russian territory.
MS. HARF: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: So you are convinced that artillery from Russian territory is hitting Ukrainian --
MS. HARF: Is going into – yes.
QUESTION: Going into Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Aiming at Ukrainian military outposts.
QUESTION: But you are not convinced – you can't confirm --
MS. HARF: We have seen no indications.
QUESTION: You've seen no indication that the opposite is true, that Ukrainians are sending --
MS. HARF: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Is it one incident or two incidents or is this happening --
MS. HARF: I don't have a number.
QUESTION: All right. I mean, how often – how many times did it happen?
MS. HARF: I don't have a number for you, Said. I'm happy to see if we can share that.
QUESTION: But isn't this like – almost like an act of war? Would something like this likely to be brought up at a Security Council forum or something?
MS. HARF: Well, I don't have anything to predict in terms of where we might discuss this further. But look, we've made very clear our concerns with it.
QUESTION: And then in terms of the sanctions that you – yesterday, I can't remember if this came up in the brief, but the Europeans did --
MS. HARF: I think it came up briefly.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about that?
MS. HARF: I don't.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more to say about what the U.S. might do now, particularly because you've made some pretty serious allegations about an escalation?
MS. HARF: I don't have anything to predict for you. We're looking at a variety of options.
QUESTION: All right. And to date, since this crisis began and since Crimea was annexed --
MS. HARF: Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?
QUESTION: Right. You have – the U.S. and Europe, to an extent, have imposed increasing sanctions on Russia. As a result of those or as not a result of those, have you seen any change in the Russian position?
MS. HARF: Well, we've certainly seen it have an impact on the Russian economy.
QUESTION: No, apart – I understand that.
MS. HARF: I was getting there.
QUESTION: Have you seen – these were steps taken to change President Putin and the Russian Government's calculus, correct?
MS. HARF: Well, I'd make two points. The first is we don't know and can't say for certain what he would have done if we hadn't done them, right, if he would've taken even more escalatory steps. We did see a number of troops amassing on the border months ago that then were gradually pulled back. So again, it's – you can't prove a negative, right? But we haven't --
QUESTION: Right. But you also can't prove that he wouldn't – that it wouldn't have escalated either.
MS. HARF: That's right.
QUESTION: So there are two sides to that coin.
MS. HARF: No, no, no. I'm not saying – I'm just saying we can't assume that he would have done – that he's done as much as he would have done regardless. But we haven't seen a de-escalation like we need to in eastern Ukraine or, of course, in Crimea, which we still believe is part of Ukraine. So clearly, it hasn't changed what President Putin has done in that regard, but we're going to keep working at it. And sanctions work best the longer they're in place. So --
QUESTION: But – okay. So the fact that Russia has not only not changed its approach according to you but also escalated its activity as you've been saying over the last couple days does not give you pause about whether sanctions are effective?
MS. HARF: No. Not at all. They've been incredibly effective against the economy, and again they're – President Putin has a choice here. He can increasingly become isolated from the international economic system if he wants to continue this escalation, or he can do the opposite.
QUESTION: All right. And then on the crash investigation, do you have anything --
MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that for you. Hold on one second.
We do support the efforts of the Dutch and the Australians who have offered their support to the Ukrainians to secure the site with a small police force. It's my understanding I think they'll be arriving in the coming days. Obviously, we think that more needs to be done. I think it's a contingent of around 40 Dutch police officers will arrive in the coming days. So obviously, that's a key concern right now is securing the site, and of course, returning the rest of the remains to their families.
QUESTION: So as far as you're concerned, at the moment that's still a work in progress. That has not been done. Okay, and then my last one --
MS. HARF: It's been – but we do – the separatists are still in control of the area. We're concerned about looting. So --
QUESTION: My last one on this. A bunch of German lawmakers had talked about maybe having the World Cup stripped from – Russia's supposed to host the next one. Does the U.S. – does the Administration have any position on whether --
MS. HARF: I do not know if we have a position on that. I'm happy to check.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you check? It's been – the idea has been rejected by FIFA, but I'm just --
MS. HARF: Yeah. I'm --
QUESTION: -- wondering if you have a position on this.
MS. HARF: I'm happy to check.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: What else? Let's move on.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) journalists. Yesterday – about Graham Phillips, British journalist – yesterday you were saying that Kyiv tells you that they don't have him, and now Ukrainian news agencies are saying that he was interrogated by the Ukrainian security service, and he was kicked out of the country for three years.
MS. HARF: We don't have any independent corroboration of that. We've seen those reports, but we cannot confirm that. We're still checking into it.
QUESTION: But do you believe everything that Kyiv tells you?
MS. HARF: No, we independently corroborate things, and I said I couldn't independently corroborate that.
QUESTION: Can we move onto the Algerian –
MS. HARF: You can, Said.
QUESTION: -- airliner. No one has asked about it. Do you have any information on what happened? I mean, could it have been shot out of the sky?
MS. HARF: Well, the cause of the crash has not yet been determined. Preliminary reports indicate that severe and dangerous weather in the region may have played a part. We have – our embassies in Algeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso are in close contact with authorities there, and we've offered to assist, but it looks at this point like it may have been weather.
QUESTION: Okay, so more than likely it's an accident.
MS. HARF: More than likely, yes.
QUESTION: Were there any Americans on the flight?
MS. HARF: No, there were none.
Anything else? Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you. Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman will be traveling to Korea next week for another round of talks to revise the 123 Agreement, and that the main sticking point in these negotiations has been the U.S. reluctance to allow South Korea to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel. And earlier this month, Dr. Henry Sokolski, who is a renowned nonproliferation expert, told a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that it is very unfair and even reckless for the United States to allow Japan to enrich and reprocess while banning South Korea from doing so. So my question is: Why do you treat these two important allies differently? And what is the difference between Korea and Japan in terms of proliferation risk? Thank you.
MS. HARF: Well, they're both very close allies, and I don't want to get ahead of the conversations that Mr. Countryman will be having on the ground. I'm happy to check with him and see what the latest status of the discussions are. I'm not sure I would fully agree with your characterization of what the sticking points are and how they remain. I just want to check that with him. And if we have more details we can share ahead of his trip or during his trip, we'll get back to you with them.
Yes. Anything else? Everyone, have a very nice weekend. We will see you next week.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
DPB # 130
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