Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
January 13, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
SECRETARY'S TRAVEL / PAKISTAN
UKRAINE / RUSSIA
IRAQ / SYRIA / TERRORISM
FRANCE / TERRORISM
EUROPE / ANTI-SEMITISM / ISRAEL
NORTH KOREA / RUSSIA
RUSSIA / POLAND
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC / UGANDA / REGION
NIGERIA / CAMEROON / REGION
IRAQ / REGION
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:15 p.m. EST
MS. HARF: Good afternoon and welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a much shorter set of items at the top today for everyone.
QUESTION: Is that because of Ohio State or because of --
MS. HARF: No. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: But what a great game. Did you see the President congratulated the Buckeyes?
QUESTION: I knew that would be mentioned.
MS. HARF: Yes, and also the quarterback from Oregon – from Hawaii.
So a trip update: The Secretary is on travel, began his day in Islamabad, Pakistan. He gave remarks at the U.S.-Pakistani Strategic Dialogue with Pakistani Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Aziz, and the two did a joint press availability. He then participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and met with the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel. He is currently en route to Geneva, Switzerland, where he will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.
And finally, on Ukraine, we condemn continued attacks by separatists as they attempt to control additional territory in violation of the Minsk agreements. Today's vicious and repeated attacks on the Donetsk Airport and the shelling of a bus that killed 10 people and wounded 13 are just the latest egregious violations of the commitments made by the Russia-backed separatists. We again call on Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which include ceasing its substantial military support to the separatists, restoring Ukrainian sovereignty over the international border between Ukraine and Russia, releasing all hostages, and working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
And I think that's it. Brad.
QUESTION: Well, why don't we stay on Ukraine since --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- you raised it already. You mentioned that these are violations by the Russian-backed separatists.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: And then you called on Russia to adhere to the Minsk agreement.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you see these acts of violence as directed by Russia or have Russian acquiescence, or are you merely just reiterating that in light of the violence?
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, nothing's changed. These are separatists that are clearly backed by Russia. We've talked about arms going to them, actually Russian soldiers fighting with them. So clearly, there are commitments that Russia made under the Minsk agreements that it's not living up to, that the separatists and Russia, who has great control over them, also could be – could actually implement if they wanted to.
QUESTION: Do you see this latest spate of violence as somehow another attempt to destabilize Ukraine – a new attempt, if you will, at trying to cause problems on the eastern frontier?
MS. HARF: Well, it's certainly been an ongoing attempt, I would say, by Russia and the separatists it backs to destabilize Ukraine. Certainly, we are, though, concerned, as I noted at the top, about this increased separatist violence. We've seen an increase in violence over the past week. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has recorded over 150 ceasefire violations, so clearly, we're concerned about the uptick there.
QUESTION: And given the violence that you mentioned, the bus attack and Donetsk Airport --
MS. HARF: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- does this make the Administration reassess in any way its opposition, up to now, to provide defensive military equipment to the Ukrainians?
MS. HARF: Well, our position on that hasn't changed. We obviously have an ongoing conversation with the Ukrainians about how we can help, but nothing new on that front. On the monetary side, though, today the Treasury Department did announce just – I want to draw people's attention to it – a loan guarantee of one billion dollars to the Government of Ukraine in the first half of 2015. If Ukraine continues making concrete progress on the economic reform side – I know that's not what you asked about – but on the economic reform agenda, we would be willing, working with Congress, to provide an additional one billion. So we think there are ways to assist Ukraine that doesn't include lethal assistance. Obviously, we continue talking to them, though.
QUESTION: So I'm just wondering – so you said there was the one billion, and then you're talking to Congress about giving an additional one billion.
MS. HARF: In late 2015, so if they – if Ukraine continues making concrete progress – excuse me, I was up a little late last night – progress on its economic reform agenda, we will consider giving them another one billion in the later half of 2015. We obviously work with Congress on that. They have to do things like continue to overhaul the energy sector, repair their financial system, tackle corruption, things like that, that if they keep making progress on, we will provide an additional loan guarantee.
QUESTION: And I would assume that additional money also would be contingent on a deal with the IMF?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. I know that on – what I have here is that our additional loan guarantee would be contingent on them meeting these conditions, but I can check on the IMF piece of that.
QUESTION: And then has there been direct contact or, say, between the – Secretary Kerry and Lavrov to express your anger at the continuing violence?
MS. HARF: Not – the Secretary has not spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov in the past few days. I know other officials have been in touch with the Russians. I don't have specifics for you, though.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned the Russians, there were calls from Russia recently to restart counterterrorism working group or counterterrorism talks. Is that being – are you positive to that?
MS. HARF: I can – let me check with our team. We've talked to the Russians, including the Secretary with Foreign Minister Lavrov, about counterterrorism, just in their normal bilateral discussions. Certainly, the Russians are very focused on it, as are we. But in terms of that specific dialogue, let me check.
QUESTION: I think it was canceled because at some point, it was found not to be very useful in the broader context of --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- the kind of breakdown in relations. I mean, have relations repaired enough that this would be something fruitful for both sides?
MS. HARF: I'll check on this specific dialogue. I do know that counterterrorism is one of those areas – we always say there are areas we can work with the Russians on, despite our disagreements on other things. So let me check on that.
QUESTION: Staying on terrorism, today the head of the European Union Police said that about 5,000 European Union citizens have gone or participated in terror activities in Syria and gone to the jihadi groups. Does that give you pause, perhaps – all this aid that was going almost unchecked to the Syrian rebels, quote/unquote, is backfiring now? I mean, is there – are you doing anything to sort of stop that unchecked flow of volunteers, arms, money into Syria?
MS. HARF: Well, let's pull out a couple of pieces of what you asked there. The people we give assistance to in the Syrian opposition we vet.
MS. HARF: Obviously, we know there's always a risk that something could fall into a bad actor's hands, but we do vet who we give it to. In terms of foreign fighters, we absolutely know there is a very significant problem going in and out of Syria and Iraq. We've worked with countries in the region, including Turkey and others, to really help them crack down on those borders. I mean, we have updated – or the newest foreign figure fighters in terms of foreign fighters and U.S. people that may have gone to fight with ISIL or in Syria in general, and we know there's a huge challenge here, certainly.
QUESTION: Not – and I know you dealt with this issue. Sorry for missing so many days. I wasn't so --
MS. HARF: It's okay. I haven't briefed since right around Christmas, so you know --
QUESTION: Anyway, so – but today the police sources in Paris say that the weapons came from outside the country, so – and the money came from outside the country. And at the same time, there is a terrorist group, who was well known, posted all over, was able to travel, go through Turkey, and go on to Syria. I mean, what is your allies, like Turkey and other countries – what are they doing and really to stop this kind of criminal activity?
MS. HARF: Well, they know it's a huge challenge. And I would remind people we now have a UN Security Council resolution in place, calling on all member-states to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, really helping to break up some of these networks, whether they start elsewhere and try to move to Syria. It's a huge problem, though, and these borders are very large; they're often very porous. And so we're working with Turkey and others to identify foreign fighters and try and cut off that flow, but is really – it is very difficult to do.
QUESTION: Marie --
QUESTION: So you feel – just one last one.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Do you feel that Turkey is actually doing what it should be doing in terms of controlling its borders?
MS. HARF: They certainly know what a huge challenge this is. And believe me, Turkey's affected by this more than almost any other country, given their geographic proximity. So they know this is a threat and a problem, and they're working very closely with us to try and really close down those borders.
QUESTION: Given – just going back to Said's question, yes, there's a Security Council resolution, and I think that was September 2014. Does that make you think that mistakes were made in not pushing harder on this from, say, the middle of 2011 through 2012, 2013, 2014?
MS. HARF: Well, this – our efforts didn't start with the Security Council resolution. I just was pointing to that as a sort of milestone. We have interagency teams – folks like DHS and DOJ, Treasury, FBI – who have been working with countries, particularly in Western Europe but elsewhere too, for many, many months now to try and put better practices in place. It is a tough challenge, though. But we've been focused on it certainly for a long time.
QUESTION: Well, what's holding it up? What's the problem? Is it lack of will? It seems like you're saying it's not, but then what's there – what's the --
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, you know just geographically the huge – these are pretty big borders and a lot of them are fairly porous. And I think the countries that are surrounding Syria and Iraq know that they had to do better. I'm not saying everything has been perfect. Certainly, I don't think they would either. But it's just a sheer manpower challenge. It's just a tough challenge. It doesn't mean we're not going to – and also, trying to identify people coming from Western Europe – I mean, you don't just talk about the countries around it, right? We're working with Western European countries to identify people who may travel to Syria or to Iraq or identify them coming back.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up. Seeing that these video tapes, for instance, these horrific video tapes that we have seen of the beheadings and so on – and a lot of these citizens, they come from England, they come from France, other places, and so on.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think that perhaps these people, the inclination of their governments to aid the Syrian rebels gave them sort of a greenlight to go ahead and join, perhaps, and that --
MS. HARF: I don't think there's anything that could ever greenlight doing the things we've seen these people do – nothing that justifies it, nothing that greenlights it. I mean look, the longer-term challenge, which I think is what your question is getting at --
MS. HARF: What makes someone who grows up in one of these Western European countries so radicalized that they want to turn to this kind of violence? That's a longer-term question, right? That's a generational question. It's one that's very important, but it's one there are no easy answers to.
QUESTION: Could it be the drumbeat of aiding the Syrian rebel or the Syrian revolution effort, let's say?
MS. HARF: I'm not sure how --
QUESTION: By these countries --
MS. HARF: I'm not sure how helping people in Syria who just want to help determine their own future – have a better future would possibly give justification to anything like that.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on this man in Bulgaria who's been arrested?
MS. HARF: I don't. I know the French, obviously, are – have the lead on the investigation. If there's any details to share on that, I'm happy to. I don't have anything. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
QUESTION: Stay on Turkey, to stay on the investigation?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yeah.
QUESTION: So I know that the French have the lead on the investigation.
MS. HARF: They do.
QUESTION: But is it correct that Mr. Coulibaly, one of the gunmen, was for a while on the U.S. watch list?
MS. HARF: Well, we don't confirm publicly who's on those kinds of lists. As I said yesterday, we have had information on these individuals, including on their travel activities, that we have been sharing with our French counterparts. I don't want to get into the business of selectively confirming one thing or another that's been out there, certainly. But we're working very closely with them. There is often a lot of information out there about people, but in terms of precise timing and warnings, that's a very different thing.
QUESTION: Well, why not make that public if he's dead?
QUESTION: He's dead. Why not – yeah, he's dead.
MS. HARF: We don't generally make public individuals who are on watch lists, just as a general matter.
QUESTION: After the fact, I mean. Could you acknowledge after the fact?
MS. HARF: As a general matter, we just don't do that.
MS. HARF: And I'd refer you to my law enforcement colleagues.
QUESTION: Well, given that all three of the men in these attacks were French citizens, given that it doesn't seem that there's any evidence that they were ever on U.S. soil, why would U.S. intelligence be tracking their behavior?
MS. HARF: Well, I don't – I think it's – without confirming that we were or were not tracking these individuals, we don't just track people who might step foot on U.S. soil. We obviously are concerned about threats, people who may be plotting or planning attacks to our allies or to the U.S. who've never come here – again, without confirming anything.
QUESTION: Can --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just on that --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: More broadly, in the context of the recent attacks in Paris, so is it true – I asked the question yesterday – that the U.S. asked the French to better protect the Jews and that you raised your concern about the rise of anti-Semitism? It's what appeared in Israeli and U.S. reports.
MS. HARF: Right. I think we're a little perplexed about some of those reports. I mean, we – separate and apart from this specific attack, we've, broadly speaking, expressed our concern about anti-Semitic incidents in Europe. We have a special envoy who monitors and combats anti-Semitism here at the State Department, who meets regularly with foreign counterparts, including in Europe. But no one could sort of – knew what they were referring to something specific right before the attack. It's an ongoing conversation.
QUESTION: Well, I wrote one of those reports on that and asked about it.
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, no one was familiar with what you wrote about, so – (laughter) --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. HARF: Enlighten the room, Mr. Wilner. I'm not casting doubt on it. I just – no one was exactly sure.
QUESTION: Well, I had a conversation --
MS. HARF: You know I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm not saying it's wrong.
QUESTION: I'm happy to answer it.
MS. HARF: Yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Ira Forman --
QUESTION: -- is the envoy --
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: -- that you're speaking about, and I had a --
MS. HARF: Who I've worked with for a long time.
QUESTION: -- conversation with him in November.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He was at the Berlin conference at which Ambassador Power said had record low attendance, which is a question I wanted to ask you about. But one thing in the conversation we were discussing was how in his words these sites, these Jewish sites, desperately need security. This was back in in November --
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and – which everyone in the Jewish community you ask – says there was a sense of foreboding of an attack like this.
MS. HARF: Well, we've seen anti-Semitic attacks --
MS. HARF: -- in parts of Europe over the past few months.
QUESTION: Right. Not all have been fatal, but there have been dozens.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: So what I'm asking you is: Now that France has increased security significantly with the army, in addition to law enforcement, would you like to see Germany do the same? Would you like to see other countries in which anti-Semitism is – has spiked, would you like to see that sort of --
MS. HARF: Let me check with our team. Obviously, that's an individual --
MS. HARF: -- decision for each country to make, how best to protect those kinds of sites. I'm happy to check with our team. What I was saying we weren't familiar with was a specific warning, like in the days before, the weekend before, that we gave to them about anti-Semitism on the rise, which I think was your question. But of course, we've had an ongoing dialogue – Ira's been at the head of it – particularly in Western Europe as we've seen these anti-Semitic incidents rise, certainly. I can check on the security piece.
QUESTION: But it's not just the rise in incidents against Jewish businesses, Jewish schools, Jewish communities. There's along with it a growing political acceptance of anti-Semitism in the national politic. You see it in the UK; you see it in France. You see it notably in Germany. Does the U.S. believe that its allies are doing enough to try to deal with this kind of extremist thought on the right?
MS. HARF: Well, I'm not sure what you're talking about in terms of acceptance. If you talk to President Hollande or Prime Minister Cameron or any of the leaders of those countries, I think they would absolutely reject the premise of the question. And certainly have --
QUESTION: Well, let me counter it with --
MS. HARF: Well, certainly have --
QUESTION: Well, let me counter it with the fact that --
MS. HARF: Okay, I won't answer your question. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, that for example the UK has parliamentary elections coming up in May, and a right-wing party, UKIP, is going to be taking part in those debates.
MS. HARF: That's how democracy works, Roz. And the beauty of democracy is that we all believe in it, that the right ideas eventually will prevail, and that the voices that speak out against anti-Semitism or – obviously, I'm not commenting on internal elections – but the voices that stand up and speak up against anti-Semitism or politicians that might espouse those views will eventually win out.
QUESTION: But there is a legitimization of this kind of thought that basically gives support to a bias that one person or another might have.
MS. HARF: Well, I don't think --
QUESTION: And so it is – it's not just a one-off problem what we saw happening outside Paris on Friday. There – this seems to be a growing, endemic problem in the country – so much so that the Israeli prime minister was saying to Jews in France: Come to Israel, you will be safe; we don't know that you can be safe in the country of your birth. That's a very, very sad comment on the body politic.
MS. HARF: Well, let's just take a step back for a second. First, I think that in a democracy you don't get in the business of banning political parties, even if you find some of their views despicable. That's not how this works. So you can speak up against them, and look, there's clearly a challenge of anti-Semitism, particularly in parts of Western Europe. We've spoken up about these incidents. I don't want to say there's not or to indicate that we don't think there is. But you hear voices standing up against it, and you hear national political leaders standing up against it whenever one of these happens.
So look, that's unfortunately in a democracy sometimes you get people who say awful things that you vehemently disagree with.
QUESTION: You also hear to a certain extent in some corners, explanation that this anti-Semitism is rooted in Israeli policies or anger towards Israeli activity in the West Bank and the like, and Gaza. You had Erdogan just yesterday say that it was hypocritical of Netanyahu, who heads a terror state, which you may want to comment on, to --
MS. HARF: Pretty vehemently disagree; I'll just jump in right there.
QUESTION: -- to attend the Paris rally. You had Jimmy Carter, a former president, say today that one of the explanations for the kosher supermarket attack was Israeli policy. I'm not sure if you want to comment on that. And then you have the prime minister of France coming out and saying that in France he sees a trend of anti-Zionism being anti-Semitism. I don't know if you want to comment --
MS. HARF: Well, I would say a few things. Generally speaking, there is never any excuse for anti-Semitism, period. Never in any form, not when people make anti-Semitic remarks. You can disagree with certain policies that a country promotes and not take that so far as to go in into anti-Semitism. Absolutely, we reject anti-Semitism in all forms, no matter who says it and no matter where it shows itself – so period, right. And there's no justification for any violence, again, no matter how vehemently you disagree with someone's politics or what someone's printed in a cartoon – none at all. So that, I think, answers all of those statements you just --
QUESTION: I'll just --
MS. HARF: Let's all just do – let's just do one at a time.
QUESTION: No, no, no. We're not doing Turkey. Come on.
QUESTION: The one point --
MS. HARF: Maybe we just do one at a time.
QUESTION: The question becomes where you draw the line, where you end up defining anti-Semitism.
MS. HARF: Right, of course.
QUESTION: And France has done – has had an interesting debate in the past several days about that line, and the prime minister did draw this line saying that a radical opposition to the existence of the Jewish state is anti-Semitic.
MS. HARF: Well, I am probably not prepared today to give you what a definition of anti-Semitism is. I'm happy to condemn statements we think are anti-Semitic or incidents that we think have an anti-Semitic possible motivation to them. But I also – I just don't think that's helpful dialogue. There – but you're right. There is an interesting discussion and debate about this, not just in France but in the United States and Germany and other places as well. But there's never any justification for violence, certainly, no matter what the motivation is.
QUESTION: Since Charlie Hebdo has come out with its latest cover --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- do you have a response to that, since you just said no cartoon should promote – inspire violence --
MS. HARF: Right – I mean, what we've said since the beginning, that we all – in France, in the United States, and in many places around the world – support the freedom of journalists, of artists, of creative people to freely speak their mind. Even if you may vehemently disagree with what they're saying or if you don't, that's the beauty of the countries we live in and what is so important to be protected in the wake of these kinds of incidents.
QUESTION: So in previous statements by the Administration and the past administration, there have been condemnations with that, criticizing depictions of Muhammad --
MS. HARF: I don't think – I think "condemnation" might be a little strong.
QUESTION: I think the term from the State Department in 2006 was "we condemn," so --
MS. HARF: Not in this Administration, though. This Administration --
MS. HARF: No, I'm just – yeah. Okay.
MS. HARF: It's okay.
QUESTION: So what is your position on the depiction of Muhammad as it stands last evening --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- in Charlie Hebdo?
MS. HARF: Right. I think – a couple things, Brad, that are important. Regardless of what anyone's personal opinion is – and I know there are very heated personal opinions about this – we absolutely support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish things like this. Again, that's what happens in a democracy, period.
QUESTION: Do you – in previous statements, you've also made – not you personally, but this Administration and previous administrations – with that freedom comes a responsibility, that you should exercise this right responsibly and take into account the sensitivities of others. Do you still call on Charlie Hebdo and similar publishers to do that?
MS. HARF: I think we would call broadly on news organizations to take into account the factors they think are important. They – there are a variety of factors, I'm sure, that go into decisions to publish, whether it's journalistic freedom, whether it's sensitivity, religious sensitivity, which I understand, and I understand how important it is to many people. That never justifies violence or hatred, but there's a variety of factors that go into any publication's decision to do this, and we absolutely support the right of these organizations to publish freely, period.
QUESTION: You don't see these – the depiction of Muhammad in itself, or these in particular, as anti-Muslim, do you?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly understand that people, particularly Muslims, have very strong personal feelings about these kinds of depictions. Nothing justifies violence, nothing justifies hatred, and nothing should stand in the way of freedom of expression.
QUESTION: But there's --
QUESTION: Just very quickly, a follow-up on --
MS. HARF: Okay, let's just do one at a time. Said.
QUESTION: I mean, would that be termed as a part of hate speech? I mean, we may – in this country, we certainly have no laws against hate speech in America. But I think in France and other places --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- they do have certain legislation. So would that be a sort of crossing the line? I mean, some of these cartoons – I'm not saying good, bad, or indifferent. I'm saying, in your view as – we live in this country where there are no laws against hate speech.
MS. HARF: I think as a general premise, Said, that you've heard the Secretary and the President speak about the importance of not legislating or prohibiting freedom of expression --
MS. HARF: -- as a general premise.
QUESTION: Yeah, we agree. Now, let me just follow up on Michael's line of questioning. Also there were some in Israel that actually were saying that the European Union taking Hamas off the terror list or even France recognizing the state of Palestine in the UN Security Council, also sort of created an atmosphere or aided in creating the atmosphere for such attacks. Do you agree with that premise?
MS. HARF: I don't think there's any justification for violence at all.
QUESTION: Right, right. But you don't – you feel that maybe lifting or taking Hamas off the terror list sort of helped create or promote such an atmosphere?
MS. HARF: I just don't have more analysis of it to do for you.
QUESTION: Marie, just on Erdogan's statement, you said you vehemently disagree with what Erdogan said about Netanyahu, but he said a lot of things. Which one do you disagree with?
MS. HARF: Well, I was just referring to the one thing Michael asked about.
QUESTION: The terrorist state – he describing Israel as a terrorist state. You just disagree with that?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Do you disagree with --
MS. HARF: I didn't actually see all the comments, and I don't want to get into the business of commenting on how you all --
QUESTION: I have seen them.
MS. HARF: -- I'd like to see them myself, and not just how you all portray them to me. So I'm happy to take a look at them and see if we have more comments.
QUESTION: For example, the – basically, the basis of what he was trying to say – he basically said that it was wrong for Prime Minister Netanyahu to go to Paris to attend that demonstration because his state had killed, I don't know, hundreds of Palestinians. So do you also disagree with him or disagree with him that Prime Minister Netanyahu should not have been there?
MS. HARF: I'm happy to look at his actual comments and get you more of a response if we have one.
QUESTION: Would you comment --
QUESTION: Well, what do you --
QUESTION: -- on a foreign leader visiting a foreign country?
MS. HARF: In general, Said?
QUESTION: I mean, this is --
QUESTION: What about the terror state? Do you describe that as anti-Semitic?
MS. HARF: I don't think it's probably helpful for me to get into sort of an intellectual debate about the definition of anti-Semitism. I disagreed with those words. I'm not going to put a label on them.
Let's move on. Elliot, yes.
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question about a foreign leader visiting another foreign country.
MS. HARF: Great, bring it on. I'm ready. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Kim Jong-un apparently, according to South Korean media, has accepted an invitation from the Russians to attend a 70th anniversary of WWII celebration in May in Moscow.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: That invitation had been made public, I think, by the Russians earlier.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you have any response to it.
MS. HARF: I actually haven't seen that. I know there are a lot of these historical commemorations coming up around the 70th anniversary. I hadn't heard about that one specifically, so let me check.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have – I know it's still quite a bit – quite a ways away, but do you have any indication as to what – whether the U.S. will send someone and at what level?
MS. HARF: I don't. Let me check.
QUESTION: Follow-up with North Korea?
QUESTION: Related to this question, today the Russians said --
MS. HARF: And then I'll go to you, Lesley, next.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the Russian president said that he will not attend the 70th commemoration of Auschwitz and – because they did not receive a diplomatic official invitation from Poland. And it's kind of odd because it was the Soviets that really liberated Auschwitz and they lost --
MS. HARF: I am aware of that. I actually – it's my understanding that it was the foundation, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation that issued the invitations, not the Polish Government. So I'd check with them on invitations.
QUESTION: The Russians are claiming that the Polish – they don't want to get a backlash of some sort if they invited Putin. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I don't think it was the Polish Government that issued the invitations.
Let's go to Lesley.
QUESTION: Okay. On Pakistan.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Human rights groups are today raising the issue of Pakistan's hanging of seven men during John Kerry's visit there. According to them, it's that a lot of these executions are going on are related to the Peshawar attacks, but that a lot of these prisoners are not even part of that attack. In total, they talk about 17 people, prisoners, to date that have been hanged, none of whom have any connection to the Peshawar attacks. Have you raised this? And apparently, a lot of these human rights groups have written to John Kerry about it.
MS. HARF: I wasn't familiar with all of that detail, so let me check.
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) --
MS. HARF: You can. I'm sorry, I'm just – I don't have all the detail there. Yes.
QUESTION: Related question on Pakistan setting up military courts for trial of these terrorists. Last week, you had said that you have asked – sought some more information from the Pakistan Government. Have they responded to you and --
MS. HARF: Let me see if – we may have gotten more during the trip.
QUESTION: And have they addressed your concerns on those issues?
MS. HARF: Let me check with the traveling team. They just departed Pakistan, so let me see if I can get you all some more.
QUESTION: Without going into numbers and details --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- was the issue of these death sentences and the actual hangings raised?
MS. HARF: I don't know. Let me check.
MS. HARF: Yes? Uh-huh. And then your – Roz, next.
QUESTION: Thank you. Starting with India. Secretary was in India, of course, and if he --
MS. HARF: He was.
QUESTION: -- carried any baggage from the President about his visit to India to be the special guest on the Republic of India. And if he did, if he left some of those baggage in India, making the way for the President's visit.
MS. HARF: Well, I'm happy to check with our team and see if there are more details to share.
QUESTION: And then he had an unannounced visit to Pakistan, according --
MS. HARF: He did. And he just left a few hours ago.
QUESTION: And – all right. One, if those funds, which Pakistani spokesman quoted the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan that $533 million were, or will be, released to the Pakistan. But so far, I understand other day he – I was told that those funds have not been released or Congress had not been asked. But since Secretary was in Pakistan, if those funds were – they talk about those funds?
MS. HARF: Let me check. I have a lot of questions to talk to the traveling team about, given they just left Pakistan. The Secretary did announce a $250 million today, separate from what you're talking about, that would go towards assisting internally displaced persons in the FATA affected by counterterrorism operations. So that's going to NGOs.
QUESTION: And talking about counterterrorism, one – another person was named, according to the press statement – Mullah and LET from Pakistan.
MS. HARF: That we designated.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And what I'm asking is: Number of terrorists are still in Pakistan wanted by the U.S. and there's a bounty of $10 million and also wanted by India. If those talks were – took place or not between when Secretary was there.
MS. HARF: Well, certainly one of the biggest topics of conversation the Secretary had when he was in Pakistan was about counterterrorism. That was a huge part of the dialogue. It wasn't the only part – economics, other things were as well. The Secretary was clear and we all have been clear that Pakistan has to target all militant groups that target U.S. coalition and Afghan forces and target people in Pakistan and elsewhere. So that was part of the conversation, certainly, but not much more to share than that.
QUESTION: And Madam, finally, Sri Lanka. Quick one on Sri Lanka.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS. HARF: Wait, let's all --
QUESTION: -- follow up on Pakistan?
MS. HARF: Okay, yes. So no --
QUESTION: This 250 million has been announced for internally displaced people.
MS. HARF: Correct. The Secretary announced that today.
QUESTION: Yes. And U.S. has provided them aid for this purpose earlier also. Do you know what's the total amount so far for FTPs – IDPs in the FATA region?
MS. HARF: I do not. I will take it and ask.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Sri Lanka.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I just wanted to find out, since Mullah Fazlullah was made commander of TTP --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- back in – at the end of 2013, what took so long to sanction him?
MS. HARF: Well, there's a process in terms of putting people on the terrorist designations list as specially designated terrorists under certain executive orders. There's just a process that's in place. It doesn't mean we weren't concerned about him before. Obviously, people were, but this is the outcome of the process.
QUESTION: And how realistic is it that he has any property, any bank accounts, any business dealings here in the United States? What light can you shed, or is that just a pro-forma ban on – or freeze on any potential assets?
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, we do – this is something that goes along with being designated for every terrorist we designate. We don't get into specific assets they may or may not have. Some have more than others, but we don't get into specifics.
QUESTION: Is there any indication that TTP and other groups in Pakistan might be getting any financial support from U.S. persons?
MS. HARF: Well, clearly if there is any indication we would want to cut it off. That's why we designate these people and these groups. But I don't have more details.
QUESTION: Can we move to (inaudible)?
QUESTION: I have one --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I have one follow-up on Mullah Fazlullah.
MS. HARF: Okay. Let's finish.
QUESTION: Pakistan has been saying that Mullah Fazlullah is hiding somewhere in Afghanistan. And Pakistan has been asking Afghanistan to cooperate and help in finding out, handing over to Pakistan. Was this an issue discussed when Secretary was there talking with the Pakistani leadership?
MS. HARF: I'll check if this – if he specifically was raised.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: One more on Sri Lanka, right, and then I'm moving on.
QUESTION: Thank you, madam.
MS. HARF: I know. I promised. I keep my promises. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. As far as these recent elections in Sri Lanka, it was --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- a surprise for the millions of people in Sri Lanka, because since the --
MS. HARF: That's the beauty of elections.
QUESTION: -- current president was criticized, including by the UN and global community as far as human rights and violations against the minorities, especially Sinhalese. My question is here, one, if U.S. is sending anybody higher for the inauguration; and second, what changes do you think it will bring as far as investment – U.S. investment – in Sri Lanka is concerned under the new president, who is more for the opening of the global market and also for the minority rights and a president for all Sri Lankans?
MS. HARF: Well, first, as you probably know, the Secretary spoke with the Sri Lankan president on Sunday after the election, and I don't have much more than that. Let me check with our folks and see if we can get you an answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Brad, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on the status of Dominic Ongwen --
MS. HARF: I do.
QUESTION: -- what you will do with him, when you will --
MS. HARF: Yes, I do.
QUESTION: -- do what you do with him, and how you are going to do it?
MS. HARF: Well, as we said, the taking of Dominic Ongwen into custody earlier this week was a major step forward toward securing the future of the LRA-affected areas of Central and Eastern Africa. Obviously, the removal of one of the LRA's senior leaders from the battlefield is a fairly visible symbol of our successful partnership with the African Union's Regional Counter-LRA Task Force – that's the AURTF.
All parties have agreed that Ongwen should face justice for his alleged crimes, and we commend the governments of the Central African Republic and Uganda for their collaboration and cooperation in this process. We can confirm that, per an agreement between the AU and the governments of CAR and Uganda, Ongwen will be transferred to the custody of the AURTF. The decision to transfer to the AURTF was made after careful consultation with all relevant states and institutions. The United States understands that the governments of CAR and Uganda have consulted and are in agreement that Ongwen will then be transferred to the ICC to face justice for his alleged crimes.
QUESTION: Can --
QUESTION: So they're not going to be – he's not going to be transferred to the CAR?
MS. HARF: He's going to be transferred to the AURTF. There's an agreement between the AU and the governments of CAR and Uganda. He'll be transferred to the custody of the Ugandan People's Defense Force contingent of the AURTF, but it's under the AU umbrella, and then to the ICC. And soon, so --
QUESTION: How promptly? Oh, soon. Thank you.
MS. HARF: I don't have more specifics than that, but I've been told soon.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: Now what about the $5 million reward which the Seleka rebels say they should receive because they captured Ongwen and then turned him over to U.S. forces? Are they qualified to receive this reward, and if so, how long would it take to make this possible? What are the legal barriers to their not getting the money?
MS. HARF: Well, we're aware of reports that several individuals who've identified themselves as part of a Seleka group may have been involved in this sequence of events. DOD will have further details. Obviously, they are the ones who took custody. We – the United States considers awards based on various factors. U.S. officials, including federal, state, or local, or foreign government officials who furnish information in the performance of their official duties are not eligible for awards, for example. That's just part of the legal issue. For reasons of security and of confidentiality, we do not publicly disclose whether war crimes rewards program payments have or have not been made.
QUESTION: Can we stay on the ICC?
MS. HARF: We can.
QUESTION: Can I – yeah --
MS. HARF: Oh wait – yeah.
QUESTION: Since we were admonished yesterday for paying paltry attention to the massacres and Boko Haram --
MS. HARF: I know. Twitter --
QUESTION: -- which I will say is --
MS. HARF: -- found my comments interesting.
QUESTION: -- we could say is reflective of this Administration's balance in attention, but that's another issue.
MS. HARF: Took you 24 hours to come up with that one.
QUESTION: Did you learn more from the ground yesterday on the atrocities, the level of the violence, the death toll, et cetera?
MS. HARF: So we're still trying to get more confirmation of the death toll. I would say, though – I talked to some of our team yesterday – that there has been a sharp escalation in the number of reported casualties. I think the numbers tend to be from about 2009 to 2013 there were a little over 1,000 casualties. I mean, we've obviously all seen the reported numbers just this week – which we can't confirm exactly, but it clearly shows there's been a sharp escalation. I think Lesley asked yesterday – we do think that the election is probably a factor. As I said, we believe the election should still go forward, even in the face of this pretty horrific violence.
We haven't seen Boko Haram focus beyond the region, but I think what we've seen even just over the past 24 hours in Cameroon is that Boko Haram is clearly a regional threat.
QUESTION: Without getting into numbers, and I mean --
MS. HARF: Yeah, they're just hard to confirm.
QUESTION: That's fine.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, but you are convinced a massacre of serious proportion has occurred here?
MS. HARF: I don't have information to indicate otherwise.
QUESTION: And then you mentioned yesterday the breakdown in the training operation.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What else are you guys doing with the Nigerians right now?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Because, I mean, obviously this is horrific violence and the scale's incredible.
MS. HARF: It is, and Boko Haram has taken operational control over an increasing amount of territory as well, so it's not just these attacks that we've seen, but they're more able to do them because they have more territory they're able to control.
QUESTION: Doesn't this raise questions --
QUESTION: So, what – wait, wait.
MS. HARF: Well, I want to ask – answer his question.
MS. HARF: So we have a bilateral security cooperation relationship separate and apart from that piece I talked about being postponed or called off yesterday. But we also support regional efforts to combat Boko Haram with our regional partners, including the Lake Chad Basin's multinational task force. We work with the Nigerians, we work with others in the region, we maintain high-level diplomatic contact with Nigeria. I was referencing some of this yesterday. Secretary Kerry most recently spoke with President Jonathan on the phone on December 30th. They also had a long conversation a couple weeks before that on the 6th. So we're engaged sort of at a broad range of levels to help them fight this. But it is a very serious problem for Nigeria, and we're helping them build their capacity, but there's still a pretty serious challenge ahead.
QUESTION: Is it time to step it up given that – the incredible attention you are giving to foreign fighters, and perhaps rightly so, but here we're talking about death untold times greater.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: Is it time to now engage in a more serious and sustained military effort?
MS. HARF: Well, it's – we certainly view our efforts as serious. I think the question is how best to help the Nigerians build their capacity and how to work with them, and I know that's an ongoing challenge, certainly, given the threat from Boko Haram. I'll see if there's any more our folks have on anything additional.
QUESTION: They – I mean, but the Nigerians have been dealing with this threat for several years unsuccessfully.
QUESTION: The capacity building is a long-term – I mean --
MS. HARF: I agree.
QUESTION: If these reports are as – are true, and these massacres were as grave as they seem, don't they need immediate, heightened assistance and not long-term – along with the long-term capacity building?
MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks, Brad. I know some of what we are providing is immediate, but let me --
QUESTION: Can I have – yeah, just to follow up on that --
MS. HARF: Yeah, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you said the election is a factor – isn't a factor because they're trying to get a stronger hold of the region? Or is it that the government has decided that it's not going to focus on this region where, anyway, it has lost control?
MS. HARF: It's because Boko Haram has tended to, particularly around something like an election, used political issues or sensitivities to try and enflame tensions, that they – we've seen that as one of their tactics, and that's why it's so important to move forward with the election, because we believe it's important.
QUESTION: But then you wouldn't have a free and fair election in an area like this.
MS. HARF: Well, I don't want to prejudge. We've seen successful elections go forward in places that have pretty significant levels of violence still, some places – other places around the world. So we believe the election should go forward. We know there are security challenges, clearly.
QUESTION: So how do you ensure that people in this region can vote?
QUESTION: Can vote.
MS. HARF: I can check with our folks and see if there's more to share on that. We do know it's a challenge, though.
QUESTION: Do you think the Nigerians are doing all they can to really fight the Boko Haram?
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: Because they are being accused of being lax in their --
MS. HARF: Well, I think that clearly, given what we're seeing from the atrocities, more – everyone who can do more needs to do more to fight Boko Haram. Let's put it that way.
QUESTION: So why do you think the Nigerian Government is saying that the numbers are a lot less, they're like a fraction --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- of what, let's say, Amnesty says?
MS. HARF: To be fair, we can't confirm those – we can't confirm the Amnesty numbers. We just can't confirm those, period. But if the reports are even close to true or partially true, it's still a pretty significant escalation from what we've seen over the past years.
QUESTION: So you think the Nigerian Government's trying to sort of play down the enormity of this thing?
MS. HARF: I think the Nigerian Government understands the severity of this threat.
QUESTION: Can I go to Kurdistan? Two questions.
MS. HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you. John Allen was in Kurdistan yesterday.
MS. HARF: He was.
QUESTION: Can you – do you have any update, anything about that?
MS. HARF: No. I said a little bit about it yesterday. Let me see. So yesterday, I said he and Ambassador McGurk had met with the IKR President Masoud Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government Prime Minister Barzani to discuss the progress by their forces and the ISF forces in the fight against ISIL. They praised the recent success of these operations which have been supported by coalition airstrikes. They are in Baghdad today. General Allen, I believe, will hold a press availability tomorrow in Baghdad, where he'll talk more about his meetings as well.
QUESTION: General Allen's visit comes a day after foreign – sorry, defense minister of Germany was there.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And she promised to step up the military assistance to the Peshmerga. Of course, that's in the wake of the attacks in Paris. And she says she will send 100 more trainers to the region. I'm just asking whether the United States is also considering to step up assistance to the Peshmerga because --
MS. HARF: Well, we've continued to step up assistance to the Peshmerga. I would say that just one example of that, the Pentagon announced earlier this month that the training of Iraqi Security Forces has begun at al-Asad and Taji, and that work on two additional training sites continues. This mission overall is designed to train 12 total brigades, three of which will be drawn from Iraq's Kurdish area. So we are giving assistance, weapons, help across the board.
QUESTION: But what, like when I talk to the Kurdish officials what they need, that's what they say. For example, heavier weapons such as Apache helicopters, things like anti-tank missiles that the United States has been reluctant to provide or the United States has kept saying that we can only do that through Baghdad, and Baghdad is delaying the transfer of those weapons.
MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree with that notion. Since – as of December 11th, the coalition had provided more than 3 million pounds of equipment through more than 55 airlift missions to bolster Kurdish defense capabilities. We've been doing this since late summer. Obviously, we coordinate via the central Government of Iraq, but we have sent a great amount of assistance to the Kurdish fighters as well.
QUESTION: Marie, Senator John McCain told Bloomberg last – by the weekend that a lot of these weapons is finding its way into the hands of Shiite militias backed by Iran. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: I can certainly check with my Defense Department colleagues. I know that Prime Minister Abadi has spoken very publicly about regulating militias and understands the issues posed by the unregulated militias. And I – my understanding is the equipment is getting to the security forces we're supporting, but let me check with DOD.
QUESTION: So – okay. On the issue of equip and train and so on --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- are you fine if some of these weapons are basically given by the Iraqi Security Forces to, let's say, Shiite militias? Would that be something that is acceptable to you?
MS. HARF: I think we want the assistance and the weapons we give to go to the people we give them to.
QUESTION: I had another question about Turkey, but I didn't get a chance to ask.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: While Erdogan has been making all these inflammatory remarks about America, Israel, like he has been making them, I don't know, since the Davos in 2007.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And also practically, Turkey is now hosting Hamas's office. I wonder whether beyond words what else has the United States done in response to what Turkey has been doing.
MS. HARF: Well, I would remind you that Turkey is a NATO ally who we work very closely with. They also have offered to host one of the training sites for the Syrian opposition. So I would encourage you to look at the whole picture when it comes to Turkey.
When it comes to Hamas, we have raised our concerns on that issue with Turkish officials, and we'll continue to. Our --
QUESTION: But you haven't done anything practically?
MS. HARF: Well, I would say raising – raising our concerns with Turkish officials --
QUESTION: Like Hamas is --
MS. HARF: -- is doing something.
QUESTION: But Hamas is designated --
MS. HARF: What would you recommend we do?
QUESTION: I can recommend, for example, a lot of things. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Okay, I'm happy for you to give me a list of your policy recommendations.
QUESTION: Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the United States.
MS. HARF: I am aware of that designation.
QUESTION: And Turkey is hosting a terrorist group that you --
MS. HARF: And we have raised that with the Turks.
QUESTION: Why don't you, for example, remove the PKK, which has never attacked a U.S. target?
MS. HARF: I don't have any more for you on those issues.
QUESTION: A couple more Middle East.
MS. HARF: Let's – yeah, let's --
QUESTION: That's a good recommendation, isn't it?
MS. HARF: I will take your recommendation back. Thank you.
QUESTION: Just can you --
MS. HARF: Brad.
QUESTION: In Saudi Arabia, the lawyer for the man who is being flogged, apparently on a regular basis starting now, he has gotten five more years to his sentence.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on that?
MS. HARF: I hadn't seen that. Let me check on that.
QUESTION: Okay. And I think you took a question yesterday regarding the flogging, whether U.S. officials had witnessed it or had --
MS. HARF: Oh, I didn't get an answer to that. We have raised it privately and also, clearly, publicly.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just on Libya – I apologize – there was a question yesterday about – I think it was my question about a reported kidnapping of Christians.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment --
MS. HARF: We – I don't – we still haven't been able to confirm that, I don't think. Let me check. Yes.
QUESTION: Just to Iran?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: A State Department official yesterday said that sanctions have not stopped the advance of Iran's nuclear program; negotiations have done that.
MS. HARF: True.
QUESTION: True, but a little simplistic maybe, because certainly negotiations – perhaps you disagree --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- negotiations came to fruition after years of --
MS. HARF: Also true.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So is that line not an argument for simply the continuation of talks in perpetuity or --
MS. HARF: It's not.
MS. HARF: And I agree with you. Sanctions are one of, if not the biggest, reason we are at the negotiating table with Iran, because of the pressure we put on them, and that we have been able to move forward with diplomacy. I think what that official was referring to is the fact that sanctions alone do not stop Iran's nuclear program. It was through negotiations that we got to the Joint Plan of Action that we put in place that have halted the advance of its program.
QUESTION: Did accepting Iran's right to some sort of peaceful nuclear program, if verifiable, also help bring about negotiations and an agreement?
MS. HARF: Well, that was – the issue of whether Iran would have a domestic enrichment program was part of the negotiation, certainly.
QUESTION: But when you first started talking publicly about accepting that notion --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in 2011, 2012, did that have anything to do with the diplomatic breakthrough that's happened? Or was it all sanctions?
MS. HARF: Well, I think – I'm sorry, I guess I don't understand exactly what you're asking. Certainly all of --
QUESTION: Well, I'll explain what --
MS. HARF: Sorry. Yeah. I'm --
QUESTION: The proponents of sanctions would have you believe that their pressure was the only thing that produced Iranian flexibility and talks that led to the JPOA --
MS. HARF: Understood.
QUESTION: -- while there are others who seem to suggest that the Administration also showed flexibility.
MS. HARF: Right. So what I would say to that is the sanctions clearly put pressure on Iran, but that was part of a dual-track policy – one part pressure, one part saying we are open to a diplomatic conversation, if you are willing to have one that's serious and that could get us to an agreement where you will not be able to get a nuclear weapon. So certainly, sanctions helped get us to the table. But once you're at the table, there was a lot of work that went into getting the Joint Plan of Action – it was, by no means, preordained – that this Administration went through to get to that Joint Plan of Action. Certainly, a huge part of that was saying Iran can have a limited domestic enrichment program, as long as we are confident it's peaceful, absolutely.
QUESTION: I want to ask you, though, what's happening on the Hill --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- because Ambassador Power said that it would – a bill right now, a new sanctions bill, would dramatically – maybe you read the quote – she said it would disrupt the negotiations.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: What's being discussed on the Hill is a trigger sanctions bill that would not – intentionally framed around the JPOA language.
MS. HARF: Well, we could – might disagree on that.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Well, I'd love to hear that as well.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
QUESTION: But they argue that it intentionally recognizes the JPOA language and avoids implementation of new sanctions during the life of the JPOA and the life of these negotiations. And only after negotiations either fail or expire or there's a violation – only after that point are new sanctions implemented, and therefore --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- it's not a violation of the JPOA. Is your position and is Ambassador Power – is what she was expressing that a bill is a violation of the JPOA or a violation of the spirit of the JPOA?
MS. HARF: A sanctions bill, trigger or not, that is passed and signed into law by the President – which we have said we will not do – but in your hypothetical, right, even if there's a trigger, to the Iranians, to the rest of the world, and in our minds would be a violation of the JPOA; that even with a trigger, if there's a bill that's signed into law and it is U.S. law, in our mind that is a violation of the Joint Plan of Action, which as we've said could encourage Iran to violate it, could encourage Iran to start moving its nuclear program back forward, and that we believe we have to give this diplomatic process, as Ambassador Power said, time to see if we can get to an agreement. And if we can't, we can put sanction – additional sanctions on in 24 hours. I'm sure you know that from your talks with folks on the Hill. So that we are clear – just to be clear on where we are on that, though.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: And madam --
MS. HARF: Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: I've been wanting to ask about the ICC.
MS. HARF: Okay. Go on.
QUESTION: Yesterday, President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he told him that they disagree that – with the Palestinian effort at the ICC, of course.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: But he also said that they are not eligible for that. But --
MS. HARF: They're not what? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: They're not eligible. The Palestinians are not --
MS. HARF: Eligible, yes. Sorry.
QUESTION: Eligible, excuse me. Not eligible, okay.
MS. HARF: Not eligible, yes.
QUESTION: Not – that's what I said. Okay. I'm not being legible, I guess. All right, so – he say that they are not. So --
MS. HARF: And that's our position.
QUESTION: And that's your position. But the United Nations seems to disagree. They say that they do have a right to --
MS. HARF: Well, the view of the United States is the Palestinians have not yet established a state.
MS. HARF: So neither the steps they have taken, nor the actions the UN Secretariat has taken that we've talked about a lot in this room, warrant the conclusion the Palestinians have established a state or have the legal competencies necessary to fulfill the requirements of the Rome statute. That is our legal position here.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But they can, actually, through the avenue of the (inaudible) Geneva Convention they can actually pursue that.
MS. HARF: Well, we do not believe that they have taken the steps necessary.
QUESTION: Because conquering a country cannot change the demographics and the geography of the conquered territory --
MS. HARF: Our position is what it is.
QUESTION: -- and that would be a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
MS. HARF: I don't have anything more for you, Said.
Let's go to the back if someone who --
QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea. North Korea deputy ambassador to UN, Mr. Jang, will hold a news conference today in regard to cyber hacking to Sony Pictures and that he's – he announced – said that North Korea has not accepted U.S. sanctions against North Korea. Any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, I didn't see those comments, but I don't think – the way sanctions work isn't that countries have to accept them. I don't – I think that's just sort of --
QUESTION: It's like (inaudible) membership.
MS. HARF: That's not how they work. We've been clear that we – the investigation the FBI worked with others on – we've been clear that we believe North Korea is responsible, and that's why we put additional sanctions in place.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You may.
QUESTION: I heard that – I'm sorry I don't have the information in front of me, so if it's a little off, sorry, but I heard that Kim, Sung is traveling to Asia. And do you know anything – details about that, when, where?
MS. HARF: So – yes. He was actually up testifying on the Hill today. We don't have more details about travel yet. When we do, we will make them known.
QUESTION: I have one on Afghanistan.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Afghan president and CEO announced the formation of the new cabinet.
MS. HARF: Yes, they did.
QUESTION: It has been – it's after more than 100 days after they came back – came to power. Is it an issue of concern to you they have been so slow in the cabinet formation itself?
MS. HARF: Well, let – I think you're still focusing on the negative, even after some good news.
MS. HARF: We, of course, welcome the nomination of the cabinet of ministers by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The U.S. looks forward to continued close cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan.
As Jen said last week, government formation takes time to do it. And he was very clear that he wanted certain things out of his cabinet, and now he has nominated one.
QUESTION: But 100 days for government formation? (Inaudible.)
MS. HARF: You're too glass-half-empty on me today.
QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: We're moving forward with an Afghan Government here.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Earlier today Senator Graham spoke on the Hill and offered new concerns about the release of Guantanamo detainees following the attack in Paris, saying that this proved a recidivism in extremists and the difficulty in monitoring. Do you have any new concerns about the release of Guantanamo --
MS. HARF: Well, as we have repeatedly said, under this Administration when we came into office we put in place more stringent regulations for Guantanamo transfers to third countries. Under those regulations, the recidivism rate has actually dropped quite significantly. I used to have all the numbers in here, and I still may or I may not, and I can email it to folks. But I have all the numbers that – we've released them publicly, and the recidivism rate has dropped quite significantly under this Administration. We take this process very seriously and very carefully – it's not just the State Department, but others as well, of course – and believe it's important for America's security and our standing in the world to close Guantanamo.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to assume that the Administration would oppose the legislation which he, Senator Ayotte, and Senator McCain are cosponsoring, which would ban this Department from working on transfers of detainees still at Guantanamo?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven't seen the legislation myself, but from how you described it, certainly we – that's not something we think is going to help us close Guantanamo. I think some of these folks have actually spoken out in the past previously about the importance of closing it, which I think may be a little change in tune today. So I know it's something that we work closely with Congress on, but we believe we need to be able to work with other countries, as we have, to transfer detainees who are cleared for transfer by a panel that has to clear them based in part on security. So that's what we're focused on, and we're focused on getting it closed.
Anything else? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
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