Daily Press Briefing
Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications
Daily Press Briefing
June 2, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN/IRAQ/SYRIA
BURMA/EAST ASIA REGION
1:44 p.m. EDT
MS HARF: Good afternoon. I have a few items at the top and then we'll get started, and thank you for your patience. I wanted to get an update from our team in Boston.
I can confirm that Secretary Kerry has just come out of surgery a little after, I think, about 1:30 p.m. There'll be more details on this coming from our team in Boston. I just got off the phone with them and I think they'll have more to say shortly, but I can confirm he's out of surgery. It went well. And for more questions, I think we'll have more answers later today. I'm sure there will be many more questions.
Also, moving on to China, many of you have heard about the incident in China involving a passenger boat that capsized on the Yangtze River June 1st in which more than 400 people may have perished. This is a terrible tragedy and we send our deepest condolences to China and to the families of the victims.
And then finally, we have some visitors in the back. We welcome today's press briefing a group of 13 Tibetan American students who are participating in the International Campaign for Tibet's Tibetan Youth Leadership Program. This program is geared towards motivating and training young Tibetan Americans to become effective leaders within their community by providing meaningful exposure to the U.S. political process and discourse around foreign policy in Washington, D.C. I think the selected participants are from Arizona, Illinois, Indiana – where I went to college – Massachusetts – the home of the Secretary – New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington colleges and universities. So welcome. We're very happy to have you and I hope you find it interesting.
So with that, no pressure, Brad. Make it interesting today.
QUESTION: So before we move on --
MS HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- can I just ask – well, I guess we'll get the medical word from Boston – do you have any understanding of how long this is going to keep the Secretary out until he can, one, return to work, and then, two, begin traveling again?
MS HARF: Well, you're right. The medical team will have more updates for you. As I think you all may have seen this morning before his surgery at about 4:30 a.m. Boston time, he telephoned in to the Counter-ISIL Coalition meeting in Paris to deliver remarks. He had regretted not being able to be there. He's also made calls to foreign ministers. So he's been working, even despite this injury. And we don't have any prediction yet in terms of travel and what the schedule might look like. I think we'll see what his doctors have to say, given he just came out of surgery.
QUESTION: And any indication yet about his rehab schedule?
MS HARF: Not yet. I think, again, they'll have more to say probably from Boston on that. But as I said yesterday, he's committed to an aggressive, ambitious, and responsible recovery and rehab schedule.
QUESTION: Did he know that the Iranian foreign minister is in the hospital too?
MS HARF: I'm not sure if he knew that.
QUESTION: It's empathy, huh?
MS HARF: (Laughter.) Well, we've had throughout these talks a number – you remember Under Secretary Sherman at one point had an injury as well. So we all understand the Secretary is resting in Boston, and we'll have more to say about his recovery soon.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you about – how long was the surgery? Do you know? Do you know?
MS HARF: I think they'll have more details coming out of Boston. It was several hours. But I think – again, they'll have more details from the team up in Boston.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Paris conference?
MS HARF: You can.
QUESTION: I think you'll be able to answer maybe more about that than this subject.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Blinken said that everyone would redouble efforts. What did he mean? What are you going to double – advisors, equipment? What is the actual redoubling going to --
MS HARF: Well, I'm not sure he was using "double" in a specific way. I think he was using it colloquially to mean that this group that met in Paris agreed on a couple of things. The first is that given the situation on the battlefield, we need to increase even more intelligence-sharing, getting them assistance as quickly as we can. We've been doing all of this for some time, but really underscoring the need to do as much as we can and more as quickly as possible.
I think it was also important to note that they fully expressed their support for Prime Minister Abadi and the plan that he laid out recently to take on ISIL when it comes to Anbar. He was there at the meeting. So these were all, I think, important things that came out of it, but nothing specific to announce at this point.
I would note – and the Secretary made mention of this as well – that there has been – and let me get the specifics on this – delivery that's already gone through, I think, of 1,000 AT4 anti-tank weapon systems. They were delivered on May 30th to the Government of Iraq. These are one of the kinds of weapons that are effective at fighting back against ISIL, particularly in Anbar, so this was delivered on May 30th. We'll see more deliveries like this happening.
QUESTION: That delivery was – that decision to send those was actually made before Ramadi fell, is that correct?
MS HARF: I believe that – I believe so, but it's just an example of how we're getting them things as quickly as we can, and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Now just on the redoubling – I mean, if he didn't actually talk about anything specifically more you're going to do, what does it mean, then?
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: I mean, you're talking about redoubling, but you're not actually going to do anything more?
MS HARF: Well, no, that's not what I'm saying. With our partners inside the room, I know they talked about ways we can share more intelligence, we can get assistance more quickly to the Iraqis, certainly how we can do more to support the Syrian opposition. These were all things discussed in the room, certainly. I don't have anything to announce publicly about more today.
QUESTION: But if I had asked a month ago if you're doing everything you can to help defeat ISIL in Iraq, you would have said the coalition is doing everything it can.
MS HARF: Yes. Well --
QUESTION: And now you're saying we're going to do more because we need to do more. I mean, I don't quite get it.
MS HARF: We also would have said that we're constantly looking at – and I believe I've said these exact words – constantly looking at ways to do more. And some of this is in response to the tactical needs on the battlefield. Strategically, yes, we believe our strategy is sound. But in the last month since you would have asked me that, we've seen Ramadi fall; we've seen ISIL start to use more vehicle-borne IEDs. So we're trying to take steps to get the Iraqis what they need to fight back against those, for example.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up --
MS HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- on this point. First of all, congratulations on the new position.
MS HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: We're going to miss you around here. So you --
MS HARF: Yes, won't be at the podium for too much longer.
QUESTION: And – yeah, okay, great. You mentioned Prime Minister Abadi.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: He – today he gave a scathing criticism of the coalition, saying that they're not doing enough. He was very critical of the Saudis. He's saying they're not stopping the flow of arms and volunteers and so on. So could you comment on that?
MS HARF: I'm not sure I would characterize it as scathing. I think that Prime Minister Abadi understands the threat better than anyone, probably, that Iraq is under. He's made clear on many occasions – not just today – that Iraq needs more help from the coalition to defeat it. One of the key priorities, I think, of this Paris ministerial was to review and consider how we could expand our collective efforts to defeat ISIL. So again, we talked inside the room today about what more we can do. We note the recent delivery of these anti-tank weapon systems, and there's going to be more of this happening.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But looking at what's going on around Iraq and Syria, and we see that, let's say, Turkey, another ally of yours and others and so on, they seem to be actually aiding groups that somehow morph into ISIS, whether it's people from Jabhat al-Nusrah or Jaysh al-Fatah and others and so on – that really, Turkey allows the flow of volunteers and so on, for instance. So there is not much going on in terms of the countries that surround Iraq in terms of aiding the fight against ISIS, is there?
MS HARF: I think you're making some pretty sweeping generalizations that certainly, we see from what's happening on the ground, aren't necessarily true. You're right that there's a problem with porous borders, particularly going into Syria. The Turks, as we've talked about many times, have tried to improve and have improved their ability to cut off that flow of foreign fighters. We're talking to them and have talked to them about more ways to do that, and they have had some success, but there is more work to do, to be sure. It's a tough challenge.
But I would say the countries that are bordering Iraq and Syria understand probably better than any other country how dangerous the situation is, and I think they all take ISIL incredibly seriously. And they've all stepped up and taken action to defeat ISIL.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Just to follow up on Bradley, doubling the effort – doubling the efforts. So in terms of bombing, which is really the main sort of coalition effort thus far --
MS HARF: It's one of five.
QUESTION: One of five, but it's the one that's the omnipresent or the most important.
MS HARF: It's the one that gets the most press attention, probably.
QUESTION: The – okay, the one that gets so much press and so on. So are we likely to see, let's say, double the raids and double the amount of airplanes that are bombing more area that is going to double the area that is going to be bombed and so on? Could --
MS HARF: Well, I think militarily, the coalition makes decisions on where to take military action and strikes based on tactically what makes the most sense. It's not a quantity thing; it's a quality thing. But if you want to get into quantities, I'm happy to give some to you. As of June 1st, the total strikes in Iraq and Syria is 4,310. In Iraq, that's about 2,638; in Syria about 1,672. Nine countries have taken airstrikes inside Iraq. Six have taken airstrikes inside Syria, including a number of the countries in the region. So the coalition is bringing quite a bit of firepower from the air to help support this effort to push ISIL out of Iraq and to take them on in Syria. But there are other pieces to this strategy, some of which are farther along than others and some of which are going to take a little more time.
QUESTION: So you dismiss the accusations that you are actually not bombing ISIS enough?
MS HARF: I mean, 4,310 airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria – I think the people on the receiving end of those probably feel like we're taking a lot of military action.
QUESTION: I don't want --
QUESTION: Marie, a different --
MS HARF: Yeah, on – still on this?
QUESTION: On the Paris summit, yeah.
MS HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: The Kurdish Government has once again put out an official statement criticizing Baghdad and the international community for not having invited one of its representatives to that summit. Do you have any --
MS HARF: Well, as head of the Government of Iraq, Prime Minister Abadi was the representative for the Iraqi Government at the conference, as is per usual. You know we have enormous respect for the Kurds. They've shown courage, certainly, in this fight they've taken to ISIL. In coordination with the Iraqi Government, the U.S. and the coalition has been very supportive of Iraqi Kurdish forces and we will continue to do so. General Allen, Ambassador McGurk have met directly with senior officials from the KRG on nearly every trip they've taken to Iraq, and will continue to do so.
QUESTION: But --
MS HARF: So the head of the Government of Iraq as one country represented them at this conference. But certainly, they are a key part of our strategy. We have supported them and we'll continue to do so.
QUESTION: So just you believe because the representative of the Iraqi Government was there --
MS HARF: The prime minister --
QUESTION: -- there is no need for a Kurdish representative to --
MS HARF: Well, the prime minister is the representative of a government, just as in our country the president would be. But that doesn't mean we're not supportive of the Kurds, doesn't mean we're not talking to them about strategy at every turn, because we absolutely are.
QUESTION: Does --
QUESTION: Wait --
QUESTION: One more question --
QUESTION: Wait --
QUESTION: -- on the number of weapons you've sent, you sent on May 31st. Is that --
MS HARF: On the 30th?
QUESTION: Yeah. Did you just said 184 --
MS HARF: 1,084 anti-tank --
MS HARF: That was on the 30th.
QUESTION: Does any share of those weapons go to the KRG?
MS HARF: I can check and see. I'm not sure of the ultimate destination for those.
QUESTION: Marie, also to do with the Islamic State, the U.S. Embassy in Syria was today tweeting lengthily on reports that Assad is not only avoiding ISIL lines but actively seeking to bolster their position. Is this something independently that you have verified?
MS HARF: Well, I spoke about this at the top of the briefing yesterday a bit. We had spoken about reports that we had from the opposition regarding exactly what you mentioned that I spoke about yesterday. We are looking into the credibility of those claims. We don't have independent evidence of them, but we've certainly received a number of these reports and thought it was worth drawing attention to it.
QUESTION: If true, that means --
QUESTION: So the Russian president also said about the situation in Syria, having seen those same reports, that the U.S.-led coalition really needs to look at trying to coordinate airstrikes with the Syrian military in order to prevent ISIL from trying to claim Aleppo, claim a nearby town that controls a major border crossing. And he also said in this interview to Bloomberg Television that he believes that the U.S. – and I'm paraphrasing here – are simply letting their ideological views color something that should be a tactical decision. What is the U.S.'s take to the foreign minister's comments?
MS HARF: Well, we're certainly not going to coordinate with a brutal dictator who's massacred so many of his own citizens. That's just an absurd proposition. That's certainly not going to happen. And look, there's nothing ideological about standing up and saying Bashar al-Assad has no place in the future of Syria. And we are not going to partner with a brutal dictator like that to defeat a terrorist organization. We're just not going to. That's not how we do things.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. talking actively then with the Russians about what influence they can bring to bear to try to deal with what the opposition says was a sneak attack on them by ISIL fighters in and around Aleppo in recent days?
MS HARF: Well, we have recently had productive conversations with the Russians at various levels on the urgency to get to a genuine and sustainable political transition. As you know, Secretary Kerry was in Sochi not too long ago for discussions with President Putin and with Foreign Minister Lavrov. So we, again, have long said that we need to get to a political transition that's in line with the Geneva communique, that there is no role in Syria's political future for Bashar al-Assad, and we will work with the Russians to see if they can pressure the regime to get back to the negotiating table in a serious way. They were able to help pressure to get them there previously. Obviously, those rounds did not end with what we needed to see.
QUESTION: Are you seeing an increased amount of concern on the Russians' part to try --
MS HARF: Well, I think I'll --
QUESTION: -- to try to resolve --
MS HARF: -- let the Russians speak for themselves.
QUESTION: You just said you're not going to coordinate with a brutal dictator. The United States doesn't coordinate with brutal dictators? Is that – that's not always been the policy; is that right?
MS HARF: I was answering a question about Syria. Do you have a specific question?
QUESTION: Well, you said it as a general principle.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So on this specific instance, you're deciding that it's not worth --
MS HARF: That we're not going to work with Bashar al-Assad.
QUESTION: Right. What makes Assad's crimes so heinous that it's not worth a de facto partnership if only to defeat ISIS?
MS HARF: He's used chemical weapons against his own people, which only a handful of people have done in modern world history. He has used barrel bombs against his own people. I mean, you've seen the photos coming out of places in Syria where he has brutalized his own people. I just – I can't imagine how anyone could suggest that we, just to --
QUESTION: Well, the United States worked with --
MS HARF: -- to defeat a terrorist organization --
QUESTION: -- works with --
MS HARF: -- we would work with Bashar al-Assad.
QUESTION: Well, just to defeat it? That's a major undertaking, as you've made clear.
MS HARF: Absolutely. And we don't need to work with Bashar al-Assad to do that.
QUESTION: But the United States worked with Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany. I mean, these types of marriages of convenience happen all the time throughout history.
MS HARF: I'm just not going to compare this to any other historical case.
QUESTION: Could I just quickly follow up? You keep saying that Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of any future for Syria. Now, on the other hand, he does represent a sizeable portion of the Syrian population, whether we like him or not.
MS HARF: What are you basing that on now, Said?
QUESTION: Oh, on all kinds of statistics, on all kinds of polls and so on. He represents --
MS HARF: You think those polls coming out of worn-torn Syria are --
QUESTION: Well, let me – I can go through a list --
MS HARF: Do you really the polls are accurate?
QUESTION: -- like the Christians, like the minority, like many Sunnis, and so on. I'm not saying good, bad, or indifferent. I'm saying that he does represent or there are people in Syria, a large minority in Syria, that feel that Bashar al-Assad represent them. So in any kind of political solution --
MS HARF: I don't – I don't agree – I don't agree that there's a large minority. I would love for you to show me some evidence, because I just don't – I just don't agree with that assessment.
QUESTION: Well, okay. In the event that he does – in the event that he does represent a large minority, would then he be qualified to sort of be part of any kind of political resolution?
MS HARF: No. No.
QUESTION: Marie, but – Andrei Sitov from TASS. Marie, but you did work with Bashar al-Assad over – on his chemical weapons.
MS HARF: What are you referring to specifically?
QUESTION: When they were renouncing their chemical weapons arsenal.
MS HARF: We did not – that's – there's a difference between coordinating military action against another actor --
MS HARF: -- and ensuring that the OPCW and the UN can get the Assad regime to turn over their declared chemical weapons. We and the Russians worked together to get a framework to get the OPCW and a unanimous Security Council resolution in place that the Assad regime would have to abide by. That's very different than coordinating with him on military action.
QUESTION: Okay, that's not what I wanted to ask. I actually have a question on Russia -- (laughter).
MS HARF: Now the real question.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Yes. Right, right.
MS HARF: I knew we were getting somewhere.
QUESTION: But I know – but the question I came over with was superseded by the news of the day. So I want to ask you about the news of the day first.
MS HARF: Is it about FIFA?
QUESTION: FIFA – yes.
MS HARF: Yes. See?
QUESTION: Of course. Have you pushed Blatter out? (Laughter.)
MS HARF: No, as we've said, the United States does not have a position on who the president of FIFA is.
QUESTION: And you did not have anything --
QUESTION: U.S. Soccer did, though.
MS HARF: The United States Government does not have a position --
MS HARF: -- on who the president of FIFA is.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. And you did not --
MS HARF: I also tend to pay a little more attention to American football, so --
QUESTION: And they did not --
MS HARF: -- I don't have much more insight into this.
QUESTION: It did not have any role whatsoever --
MS HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- in pushing for his resignation?
MS HARF: No, no. We do not have a position on who the president of FIFA is.
QUESTION: But it's clear that his resignation was an automatic outcome of the investigation --
MS HARF: Is that clear? Based on what? Your analysis?
QUESTION: I mean, because if there was no – this corruption, I don't think he will ever resign. That's --
MS HARF: I'm happy for you all to debate that.
QUESTION: Moving on.
QUESTION: But it's true. I mean --
QUESTION: Moving on.
QUESTION: I have a question.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: The other question was about Ukraine.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And the Russian makers of the Buk missiles came out in public today and said that by their announce – analysis, it was a Buk missile that shot down the Malaysian airplane. But they say that it was an older version of the missile that is no longer produced or used in Russia. On the other hand, they say the Ukrainians have a lot of those old missiles and probably still use them. What's your reaction?
MS HARF: Well, our assessment has been clear from the beginning that MH-17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, period. We are confident that no Ukrainian air defense systems were within range of the crash, and Ukrainian forces have not fired a single surface-to-air missile during the conflict.
So now the story's changing on the Russian side. First they said it wasn't a Buk missile. Now suddenly they're saying it is, but it wasn't them. So I just think the credibility is not 100 percent here on that.
QUESTION: They are not saying – in terms that it depends on who do you mean by "they." Just the company says. It's a company analysis.
Anyways, my last question – my last question is about Russia and the relations with Russia. You briefly touched upon it in response to other questions. The question is: When Secretary Kerry was in Sochi, he came out talking about an enormous opportunity quote/unquote to "move forward" with Ukraine and with other issues, basically cooperating with the Russians. Then a few days or a week later – I did not get a time – the Vice President came out and said, "No, we need to confront Russia." So what are we seeing here? Is this like a good cop/bad cop act or other mixed signals? What are we supposed to make of it?
MS HARF: Well, and I was with the Secretary in Sochi and I am aware of what he said. I think they're really the same sides of the same message here, if you look at what we've always said, that we've been clear that there are places we can work with Russia. I mean, if you look at the Iran talks, that's one. If you look at Syria, we are trying to work with Russia to see if we can get to a political transition. And we've always said we're able to work on those issues; but at the same time, we've imposed costs on Russia for its ongoing breach of international law by violating Ukraine's sovereignty, and that will continue. So I think when the Secretary was talking about the possibilities here, really what he was referring to was the fact that the Russians had publicly and privately that day said they were committed to the Minsk agreement and they were committed to implementing it, which they still haven't. So there's a chance here for a diplomatic offering, as we've always said, and we can do both at the same time. And I think that's what you heard from the Secretary, certainly, and the Vice President.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on the status of the so-called Taliban Five?
MS HARF: I don't, nothing new from yesterday. The Qataris maintain the same restrictive conditions on them while we work on discussions to finalizing what will eventually happen here.
QUESTION: Could I --
QUESTION: So have they given – hold on, hold on. Have they given any time limit for maintaining these restrictions, or they will just --
MS HARF: While the discussions are ongoing. That's what they've said.
QUESTION: So they've extended them indefinitely?
MS HARF: While the discussions are ongoing. That's what they've said.
QUESTION: So they've extended them indefinitely?
MS HARF: While the discussions are ongoing, yes. But obviously, we're trying to finish these discussions as quickly as possible. We'd like to have this worked out.
QUESTION: What is the hang-up?
MS HARF: I'm not going to get into the private discussions publicly.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. willing to offer Qatar any inducements to keep these men under house arrest?
MS HARF: I'm just not going to get into the discussions publicly.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yemen. You probably saw the report today from The Wall Street Journal on the U.S. meeting secretly with the Houthi.
MS HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you confirm this and say – and that was in Oman? Also, did that particularly lead to the release of the hostages, or was this – and did you have any advance – did you make any advances on a ceasefire?
MS HARF: Well, these meetings in general – including that one that's mentioned in that story – as I said yesterday, are part of our broad engagement with elements of the Yemeni political spectrum. We used that meeting to reinforce our view that there can only be a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, and that all parties, including the Houthi, should commit to participation in the UN-led political process. So Assistant Secretary Patterson traveled to Oman and Saudi Arabia to conduct meetings and consultations with a variety of regional parties on the crisis in Yemen, writ large. And they were really focused on getting the different political constituencies to attend the planned talks in Geneva – again, including the Houthis.
QUESTION: Marie, I asked you yesterday about this meeting, and you didn't confirm it. What happened with it between yesterday and today?
MS HARF: Sometimes I have additional information to share on different days. I took your question back and tried to get you an answer. I could say that.
QUESTION: Can we change topic to Rohingya in Myanmar?
QUESTION: No, can we just keep going on this one?
MS HARF: Yeah. We can.
QUESTION: Just – so how long was this – did this meeting go on for? Can you give us a date on --
MS HARF: They – just to be very clear, they had a number of different meetings, so I caution anyone from focusing too much on one.
QUESTION: Over what period of time?
MS HARF: I can get the exact dates for her travel; I just don't have that in front of me.
QUESTION: And what is the thrust of these meetings? What – are they, let's say, security oriented, or are they beyond --
MS HARF: No. As I just said, reinforcing our view, there can only be a political solution and --
MS HARF: -- trying to get the parties, including the Houthis, to commit to participating in this UN-led political process and encouraging them to attend the planned talks in Geneva.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion with Iran on – as you moved into these meetings, or during the meetings, or even with Secretary Kerry at the weekend?
MS HARF: Well, I – Assistant Secretary Patterson, I know, they did not meet with the Iranians. The Secretary, as you know, had six hours of meetings on the nuclear issue with Iran when we were in Geneva. I believe that Yemen came up briefly on the sidelines, but I do not believe the American citizens in Yemen were addressed.
QUESTION: So when the meetings in – these meetings with the Houthis or with Houthi representatives --
MS HARF: With – mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- those were just with them, or with Houthi representatives, members of the Yemeni Government, and a broader group together?
MS HARF: Well, they had a number of meetings with different political constituencies, Yemeni political constituencies. And Assistant Secretary Patterson, while in Riyadh, not only met with senior Saudi officials, including the foreign minister; she also met with President Hadi and Vice President Bahah.
QUESTION: Okay. I'm asking specifically about the meetings with Houthi representatives.
MS HARF: I know, but you asked about the Yemeni Government, too.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I'm asking --
MS HARF: So she had those meetings in Riyadh.
QUESTION: I'm asking – sorry; I'll make it much clearer: When she met with representatives of the Houthis, who else was there?
MS HARF: I --
QUESTION: Or was it – or were those one on one --
MS HARF: I don't have more details to share.
QUESTION: -- the United States and the Houthis?
MS HARF: I'm happy to check and see if there's more to share.
QUESTION: Because you're painting all these discussions as some sort of, like, broad international, broad interethnic, intertribal --
MS HARF: And they are.
QUESTION: -- forum.
MS HARF: They are.
QUESTION: But if she's meeting behind closed doors one on one, that's a different picture.
MS HARF: Not necessarily, if there are a series of those meetings back to back. The answer is I just don't know.
QUESTION: Well, if she met one on one, that's different than if she met one with 35 different people in front of her, and --
MS HARF: I understand. I don't have the details in front – I don't have the details, Brad. I'm happy to check and see if I can get more from her.
QUESTION: Marie, would you say that there was some sort of shuttle diplomacy, she would meet with the Houthis and go meet with representatives --
MS HARF: I would not say that this – at all.
QUESTION: Was this done with the support of the Saudis?
MS HARF: As I said, when she was in Riyadh, she met with senior Saudi officials. And I just don't have more to say on that.
QUESTION: Would she have carried a message or anything?
MS HARF: I don't have more details about these private meetings to share.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question on Snowden?
MS HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. He's being given an award – a prize in Norway and he might be allowed to go and to collect the prize. Would you sort of advise the Norwegian Government against receiving him?
MS HARF: Well, we would advise any government that there's only one place he should travel, and that's back here to the U.S. to face the charges he faces --
QUESTION: Okay. Would you --
MS HARF: -- very serious ones – and if he had the courage of his convictions that he claims, he would come face justice here in the U.S.
QUESTION: Would you ask the Norwegian Government to extradite him in the event that he goes there?
MS HARF: I just don't want to hypothesize on that.
QUESTION: Question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: This morning, I spoke with New York Congressman Gregory Meeks, and I asked him about the LGBT rights situation in Brunei and Malaysia as it relates to broader concerns about human rights with this particular trade agreement, and he told me, "There's enforceable standards" within the TPP to guarantee human rights. Do you have any specific details about what "enforceable standards" are?
MS HARF: I don't. I'm happy to check with our team --
MS HARF: -- and see if there's anything we can share. But as we've said, this issue with human rights in the TPP has come up quite a bit, certainly, in discussions, and one of the reasons we think these partnerships are important is so we can raise the standards of everyone else on human rights, writ large. But let me see if there's more we can share.
QUESTION: On a related note --
MS HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- when are we going to see the human rights report?
MS HARF: We don't have a date scheduled for that yet. As soon as we can.
QUESTION: Okay. Why is that?
MS HARF: Well, for a long time, Assistant Secretary Malinowski and the Secretary were traveling at different times, and that requires both of them to be here. And now, of course, we don't have a schedule for Secretary Kerry for the next few weeks finalized, so as soon as we possibly can.
QUESTION: So would the TPP raise the standard of human rights in the United States as well?
MS HARF: What are you referring to specifically, Brad?
QUESTION: You said --
MS HARF: I think our standard for human rights is pretty high.
QUESTION: -- it's better than everybody in the TPP and they would all come up to our level.
MS HARF: What it does is raise standards for workers, for human rights, on all the environmental standards. Do you --
QUESTION: Would that affect, for example, union laws in the United States in any way?
MS HARF: I'm happy to check with our trade experts and see if there's more to share.
QUESTION: With the fact that Secretary Kerry's going to be convalescing for a while, will that push the release further, even, in the future?
MS HARF: I think he would --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) several weeks?
MS HARF: -- disagree with your characterization of what his recovery will look like.
QUESTION: Okay, I'm sorry. Recovering, recovering – recover and – I used the (inaudible).
MS HARF: We just – we really just – we haven't taken anything off the schedule.
QUESTION: Because you said --
MS HARF: Someone asked about the AJC speech yesterday. We really just – until he's out of – he's been out of surgery now. We'll talk to his doctors and we'll set a plan for how things will proceed.
MS HARF: Obviously it's important to get it out.
QUESTION: Sorry for misusing words. (Laughter.)
MS HARF: No you're not. He's just – he's one of those patients that's very adamant about having an ambitious recovery, I promise you that.
QUESTION: Well, rather, Mexico and Cuba. The President has nominated the assistant secretary to be the new ambassador to Mexico. How will that affect her ability to carry out her current job, which includes the normalization talks with the Cuban officials?
MS HARF: Well, until she's confirmed for this position, she remains assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs and will continue in her role. And I think, if anything, this just shows the confidence that the President has in her, certainly, and that this Administration has in her.
QUESTION: So there's no point where she'll have to put aside her day-to-day work so that she can prepare for her confirmation hearings?
MS HARF: Not to my knowledge, no, there is not. I think Roberta Jacobson can do both at once.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to House appropriations – I don't think it's been fixed yet – but a plan that would withhold hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department budget as punishment for delays in handing over Benghazi documents?
MS HARF: Yes. We've seen that. We're obviously committed to openness and transparency in government, and when it comes to Benghazi documents, we've been incredibly forthcoming with Congress on this issue and we are working to get more out publicly as well, as we've always said. And I think it is sort of counterproductive to threaten to cut funding for the precise people you need working to provide you with more information. So I'm not sure if this is actually designed to get the outcome they want or sort of to make a more political statement, but we are working every day to face the challenges with the number of requests, certainly, from FOIA; the number of congressional oversight requests has dramatically increased. So we're putting more resources towards that effect, so I'm not sure why you would want to cut resources. It seems like that would be a counterproductive argument.
QUESTION: Well, I don't know if they would be earmarked for reduction from the FOIA office per se, but --
MS HARF: Check with them and see where they'd come from. I'm curious.
QUESTION: -- you would be upset, I imagine, with any reduction whatsoever to --
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: -- the mission of this agency.
MS HARF: Correct, and even if they're not to the FOIA office, there're a number of departments or bureaus in parts of this building – offices – that respond to congressional oversight requests and respond to FOIA. It's not just those offices. So I've heard rumors that they've proposed cuts, for example, to legislative affairs. That seems to me to be totally absurd. Why would you cut funding from people who are helping get you information?
QUESTION: Are you in discussions with House appropriators about expressing your views on such proposals?
MS HARF: I'm happy to check and see --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: -- privately what we've done. I think I just made our views pretty clear.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MS HARF: We can.
QUESTION: On Iran.
MS HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You probably saw the New York Times --
MS HARF: I did.
QUESTION: -- article today. And this is something that came out on Friday. Would you agree that the fact that the report that the IAEA is saying that the stockpiles have increased is – has complicated the negotiation? And was it brought up at the weekend?
MS HARF: Not at all. I will say our team read that story this morning and was, quite frankly, perplexed, because the main contentions of it are just totally inaccurate. First, the notion in the story that Western officials or U.S. officials involved were unaware of this issue or not understanding of what this entails is just absurd. Under the JPOA, Iran can fluctuate its numbers in terms of the stockpile. They can go up and down as long as at the end of a fixed date they are back down below a number. So in the first two instances, the JPOA and the extension, that's exactly what they've done. They've gone up, they've gone back down, and at the end of it they've been where they need to be. And we fully expect that will happen again.
I would also say the notion that they're somehow – Iran is doing something it's not supposed to be doing – again, it's just not accurate. They are permitted to go up and down under the JPOA as long as at the end of it, again, they're where they need to be.
And then finally, I would say – and you may have more on this, more questions – the notion that this is some obstacle is just patently absurd. They are permitted, again, to do what they're doing here, and they've always gotten where they need to be. We expect they will again here. And look, there are some real issues, serious ones we have to resolve in these talks, and this just isn't one of them. What matters is they've committed already – and we've said publicly – to reducing their stockpile whenever this is implemented to 300 kilograms. How they'll do that is a topic of negotiation, but quite frankly, it's not one of the toughest ones. So this is, I think – the notion that this is some big issue of concern in the negotiation is more, I think, of manufacturing a controversy than actual reality. Everyone who read that story this morning was totally perplexed by it.
MS HARF: On our team.
QUESTION: Well, was it at all brought up, given that the report was released Friday before --
MS HARF: It's --
QUESTION: Actually, I don't think the report was released.
MS HARF: But it wouldn't be brought up – well, I mean, we talk about all these issues, of course.
MS HARF: We talk about their stockpile --
QUESTION: So was it discussed at all?
MS HARF: I'm not sure if it was discussed with the Secretary. It may have been discussed at the expert level. But again, this is a very routine thing for Iran to do in these negotiations. They have fluctuated up and down, in the first JPOA, then in the extension, and it's absolutely normal and allowable for them to do this as long as they get back where they need to be. So the notion that this is some obstacle is just really at odds with what's happening inside the negotiating room.
QUESTION: But is there an understanding why these stockpiles are going up? Because --
MS HARF: There's normal fluctuations. They're allowed to produce more. Again, this is just a very small amount of enrichment. They aren't enriching above 5 percent. They're not installing new centrifuges. They're not making progress at Arak. They're providing the IAEA access. So in this one small piece, they're allowed to do certain things as long as they get their stockpile back to a certain place. They've always been in compliance. The IAEA has always confirmed that. So it was just sort of a bizarre thing to pick up on given every – this has happened routinely. They've always gotten where they needed to be. We anticipate they will here as well.
QUESTION: So if Iran did not break any of its commitments --
MS HARF: Not at all. Not at all.
MS HARF: And we've spoken – that's why it was a surprise. We've spoken about this publicly quite a few times, that for the specific stockpile they can fluctuate the size of it as long as they get back below a certain kg, which would be by June 30th. And again, we expect that they will do so. And the IAEA has repeatedly confirmed that they are in compliance with the JPOA.
The issue is how to get down to 300 kilograms early in implementation of a final deal. We're talking through the different ways they can do that right now. But the notion that the U.S. somehow doesn't know what's going on here or is surprised by this or it's somehow an obstacle is just absurd.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it does raise the question on how it's going to be done. Has that been --
MS HARF: The 300K?
MS HARF: It's getting down. It's a good question. There's difference ways they can do it, as we've talked about. They can ship it out to another country; they can dilute it, basically, to an unenriched – they can dilute it down. I don't want to get more technical than that, because I'm not an expert on this. They can sell it on the open market. There's a number of things they can do here, and that's one of the open topics of discussion. But I would say even there, that's not one of the – that's not one of the toughest open areas of discussion right now. We have much tougher areas, and this seems sort of like a bit of a manufactured controversy, if you ask me.
QUESTION: Could I follow up on an issue that was asked here yesterday very quickly?
MS HARF: Which one? Yes.
QUESTION: On the Palestinian --
MS HARF: Yes, you can.
QUESTION: -- efforts at the United Nations. Now, you said that you are coordinating with the French on future UN --
MS HARF: I said we talk to our partners, including the French.
QUESTION: Right. So would you support such a proposal by the French if – in the event that it does happen, sort of learning from, let's say, last December when the Palestinians went on their own and they failed in the process of the Security Council? Would you support such an effort this time around?
MS HARF: Well, we've made no decisions with respect to action at the UN, and we're not going to – I don't think I'm going to make a comment on a hypothetical.
QUESTION: Okay. Very quickly – so are you opposed in principle to the Palestinians demanding sort of a timetable to end the occupation?
MS HARF: I'm just not going to speculate.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: What else? Yes.
QUESTION: The Rohingya issue?
MS HARF: Oh, sure, go ahead. And then I'll go to you.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: You yesterday mentioned that 727 --
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- been migrated to a safe place, but there is news everywhere not – they're escorted to – them to Bangladesh. So do you have any update on that, where they're taking them to?
MS HARF: That's not – well, we welcome the decision – I'm not sure what you've heard is entirely accurate. We welcome the decision, I think over the last 24 hours, by the Burmese Government to provide assistance and to allow those 727 migrants aboard the vessel to disembark on June 3rd or June 4th, I believe in Burma. And we urge Burma to provide full protection and assistance to these migrants in coordination with the UNHCR and IOM.
The Burmese took a similar action on May 22nd for 208 migrants. We've called on all countries in the region to take proactive steps to ensure the safety and protection of these migrants. But for these, I think they're going to allow them to disembark in Burma.
MS HARF: Yeah.
MS HARF: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi, Marie, thank you. You just expressed condolence regarding --
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- the tragic sinking of the Chinese passengers boat. Is there any indication that any Americans tourists were on board?
MS HARF: We do not believe any U.S. citizens were on board the craft.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the other thing – do you have any update on the meeting between the U.S. officials with the Taiwanese opposition party, Tsai Ing-wen?
MS HARF: I don't have any updates from yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you look into that and provide a readout after the meeting --
MS HARF: If there's more to share, I'm happy to do so.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: On North Korea. North Korea announced yesterday that North Korea would not be – participate at the Six-Party table and any bilateral dialogue with the United States. Would you comment on that?
MS HARF: Well, our position on a return to Six-Party Talks has not changed. We remain open to dialogue. We want to get back to credible and authentic negotiations, but the onus is on North Korea and remains on North Korea to take meaningful actions towards denuclearization, refrain from provocations. Obviously, we've seen them do the opposite recently. So our position is clear, and the onus is really on them.
QUESTION: But the last time trilateral talk with the nuclear envoys meeting in Seoul, and they had agreed of pressure and sanctions to North Korea, but the China and Russia is disagree on this.
MS HARF: Is what? I'm sorry. A loud noise just --
QUESTION: Chinese – China and Russia did not agree with this.
MS HARF: Well, I'm not sure that's an accurate representation. We and our Six-Party partners are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Secretary's had conversations when we were in China recently with senior Chinese officials about the need to increase pressure on North Korea. He also had conversions with the Russians as well.
QUESTION: Yeah. If Chinese and Russia and both disagree with the sanctions and pressure to North Korea, what did happen (inaudible) Six-Party?
MS HARF: As I said, we and our partners are united in our belief that more needs to be done to pressure the North Koreans, and I just don't have more for you than that.
QUESTION: Marie, can we go back to Syria, please?
MS HARF: We can.
QUESTION: News reports have said that Russia has stopped providing the Syrian regime with arms and ammunitions. Can you --
MS HARF: Who says that they have?
QUESTION: News report – Russia has stopped providing the regime --
MS HARF: Okay. I'm happy to check. I can't confirm that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I just come back to the Iran – you're not disputing what the IAEA's saying on the 20 percent?
MS HARF: This – correct, that this stockpile has risen. I'm not disputing what they'd said. But also, IAEA reports are a snapshot in time and there's nothing inherently wrong with that happening under the JPOA, that they can fluctuate. And if you look at previous IAEA reports, they've said the same thing, that that stockpile has gone up and down throughout the JPOA and the extension. That's allowable as long as they, again, get back to that very specific number – 7,650 kilograms of up to 5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride – by the end date of each of these terms. They've done that every time. We expect them to do the same thing this time.
QUESTION: So it doesn't concern you?
MS HARF: It does not. It does not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: Thanks, guys.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)
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