Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 1, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • RUSSIA
    • U.S.-Russia Relationship
    • Snowden / Continuing Discussions with Russian Government
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Embassy Closures
  • ZIMBABWE
    • Election
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement
  • CHINA
    • U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue
  • PAKISTAN
    • Secretary Kerry Comments / Counterterrorism
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / Legislation
    • President-Elect Rohani
  • COLOMBIA
    • FARC
  • MEPP
    • Timeframe / Parties Committed to Process / Next Round
  • SYRIA
    • UN Chemical Weapons Team
  • EGYPT
    • Situation on the Ground / Right of Peaceful Protests
  • ZIMBABWE
    • Election Updates
  • IRAQ
    • Rise in Violence
  • SNOWDEN
    • Needs to be Returned to U.S.
  • PAKISTAN
    • Secretary Kerry Meetings in Pakistan


TRANSCRIPT:

1:18 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Welcome to the daily briefing. I have nothing at the top, so why don’t we go ahead and get started.

QUESTION: Can we start with U.S. relations with Russia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I’ve obviously seen what the White House has said about your extreme disappointment with this and also that the U.S. Government is reevaluating the utility of a summit. Is it fair to conclude that your reevaluation of the utility of a summit with President Putin is directly in response to this one event, or is it part of a wider set of issues including that arms control talks don’t appear to be going very far with the Russians?

MS. HARF: I would say that it is directly related to this very disappointing event, yes.

QUESTION: And are you considering any additional steps to manifest your unhappiness with this unfortunate step including, for example, canceling the so-called 2+2 meeting that I think is supposed to happen later this month?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have an announcement for you yet on the 2+2. Obviously, as the White House said, this is not a positive development. And we are also reevaluating the utility of that as well.

QUESTION: And had you ever set a date for that? Because I saw the Secretary said back in Brunei in July that it would be during the month of July. Interfax, I think, has said August the 8th. Was there ever a date in mind?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Arshad. I’d have to check into whether we actually set a date or not.

QUESTION: And one other thing. Why – I mean, I understand that you’re reevaluating the utility. That doesn’t mean you’re going to cancel it. Might there not be some utility in talking to your Russian defense and foreign minister counterparts to see if there’s some way to try to work out the Snowden case?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we continue to work, to talk to the Russian Government about this today, and we will in the future as well. In terms of whether that would be part of any such summit, we’re still reevaluating that right now.

QUESTION: And last one for me on this. U.S. officials are always saying that they have a very broad agenda with the Russians, that you work with them when you can and you disagree when you can’t on, for example, on things like human rights. Why reevaluate the – given the breadth of your interests with Russia, given such issues as Iran, North Korea, arms control, why would you be so piqued by one incident such as this that you would consider throwing away a summit meeting that has long been planned?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. First, no decision has been made. We have nothing new to announce at this point about the 2+2 summit, so I don’t want to get ahead of where that process is.

You’re right, we do have a broad agenda that we talk to the Russian Government about. There are issues where we work together, as you know, Afghanistan, Iran sanctions, and elsewhere. But there are times when we very strongly disagree. I think that today’s action, as my colleagues at the White House said, is extremely disappointing. And so in light of the fact that they have taken such action, it behooves us to evaluate where the relationship is, whether the summit makes sense. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of any decision on that at this point.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Marie, can we get into some more of the nitty-gritty?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When this came out, when the news broke, was the State Department surprised? Because after all, you’ve been talking with the Russians for quite a long time now about this subject. Was it a surprise that he was given temporary asylum?

MS. HARF: We were not informed in advance of this move. We are currently reaching out to the Russian Government for formal confirmation and to discuss the issue further.

QUESTION: And what is Secretary Kerry doing today concerning this? I know he has a busy schedule in Pakistan.

MS. HARF: He does. He has a schedule in Pakistan. If I have any updates on his involvement I will be sure to let you know. I’ll check in with the traveling party again. Ambassador McFaul and our Embassy there have discussed our views with the Russian Government, including today. But I will update you if there are additional contacts to read out.

QUESTION: And there are some very strong comments coming from the Hill. I think probably the strongest is Senator McCain, who’s saying relook at the entire relationship – I mean, missile defense, Georgia, you name it. Do you think he is right? Is this time at this point where it’s being interpreted as Putin really poking his eye – sorry – poking his finger in the eye of the United States? Is it really time now to relook at the relationship?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we and President Putin himself have been clear that we don’t want this issue to broadly negatively affect our bilateral relationship, because as you said, there are places where we work together including in Afghanistan, with Iran sanctions, with reductions in our nuclear arms arsenals. So we’ve both been very clear that this is an example of something that we want to treat separately, that we don’t want it to adversely affect the whole relationship. That being said, this was an extremely disappointing step. I don’t want to get ahead of any discussions about where we’re going to go from here other than to say again that we continue to press with the Russian Government that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will face a free and fair trial.

QUESTION: So in other words, you’re going to just kind of put this on the backburner in a way as separate?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say on the backburner at all. Clearly, we are coming out very strongly today in saying this is an issue of importance to us and that we’re very disappointed. I wouldn’t – so I wouldn’t characterize it in that way, but I would put it into the context of the fact that we’ve all said throughout this process that we don’t want it to affect the relationship. That’s why – in part why today’s news is so disappointing.

QUESTION: But why won’t it affect – I mean, how can you possibly divorce this?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously no issue is discussed in a vacuum, clearly. But it’s not about divorcing it. It’s about saying, as Arshad said, there are areas where we work together. We’ll continue to do so because it’s in our interest to do so. There are areas where we disagree, as we’ve talked about, not just Snowden but others. And again, we’re evaluating our summit, the 2+2. We’re looking at that right now. So clearly this could have an impact, but the relationship is a broad one where we have many national security interests as well.

QUESTION: The issue of the Sochi Olympics which has come up, not only in the context of Snowden but in the context of the issues on LGBT rights, has there been any decision or – obviously probably not a decision at this point, but is there any further view on Sochi whether a boycott would be useful?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything further for you on that. I just – I haven’t heard about any of those discussions that are ongoing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) talking about seeking further confirmation of the decision on Snowden.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that going on through the Embassy, through McFaul or people here are involved?

MS. HARF: Well, Ambassador McFaul is certainly in touch. A number of our other folks are as well. We’ve said throughout the process that we’re also working through the appropriate law enforcement channels. So I know lots of people are involved in this and on the phone right now, and we’re looking for a little more clarity. But I think one point I would underscore, and that everyone’s underscoring with the Russians, that this move by the Russian Government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombings. So we will continue to make that point with the Russian Government at all points in this process.

QUESTION: The Boston Marathon bombing was not particularly long ago.

MS. HARF: That was just one example of our longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation.

More on Snowden?

QUESTION: Just – I mean, do you – I mean, you’re mentioning about the cooperation’s been there in the past.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, do you think in the course of this, was it made clear to the Russians the repercussions this would have for the relationship by making a decision like this? Was it explicitly said that this would be the case?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into details of our diplomatic conversations with the Russians. We’ve, again, been making privately the same points we’ve been making publicly, that Mr. Snowden is wanted on very serious charges and that he needs to be returned to the United States to face those charges.

QUESTION: Russia --

QUESTION: Could you ask you a question – oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a clarification. On that 2+2, are the subjects, these kind of broader issues like missile defense, nuclear arms reduction, crisis in Syria, can you at least – even if it doesn’t happen or it does, is that what they are talking about?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a preview of what that would entail. It’s my understanding it would be a broader agenda. And again, setting aside a specific summit, we are clearly going to keep talking with the Russians about all of these issues. So we’re not going to stop engaging with them on Syria, on the way forward, on missile defense, on any of these issues because one meeting does or does not happen. So I wouldn’t read that into whether or not this meeting happens.

QUESTION: Can I just ask also on Mr. Snowden himself --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it’s been said in Russia that he’s no longer in the airport. Has the U.S. had any contact or made any attempt to have any contact or to find out his whereabouts?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any knowledge of any of that. Again, it’s a moving situation on the ground, and not to my knowledge has anyone tried to reach out to him.

QUESTION: And there’s the idea that he could get a new passport, that the United States would be happy to provide him a passport.

MS. HARF: We would be happy to provide him the necessary travel documents to return to the United States to face trial, absolutely.

QUESTION: Do you think that – do you have any reason to think that the verdict against Bradley Manning this week had any impact on the Russians’ decision to grant temporary asylum?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to venture a guess as to why the Russian Government did this, to make any links between any two cases. I think I said from the podium here yesterday that we don’t make links between cases, so I would not want to even venture a guess as to what their motivation was.

QUESTION: But they haven’t, in Ambassador McFaul or other officials’ contacts with them since this was announced, they haven’t conveyed that to you?

MS. HARF: Not that I’ve heard of, but again, I don’t have a full readout of every conversation that’s going on. We are treating this as an individual case, again, making the same points that we’ve been making for months now.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There are some, I guess you could call them, rumors that I was hoping you could address that some U.S. embassies may be closing or closed?

MS. HARF: Yes, just one second. So the Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th. The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.

QUESTION: Which embassies and --

MS. HARF: I don’t have a full list of that in front of me. I can endeavor to get that.

QUESTION: Well, do you have a partial list?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a list in front of me.

QUESTION: So, well, do you know who they – which ones they are.

MS. HARF: I want to – I believe I do, Arshad, but I want to make sure I have a complete list about which ones fall under this.

QUESTION: Do you have a geographic region?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t, no.

QUESTION: And did you say how many?

MS. HARF: I said certain. I didn’t say how many. Again, this is something that is just happening. I can endeavor to get some more details for you, and if I can share them, we’ll provide that.

QUESTION: And is the --

QUESTION: And is that a potential terrorist attack?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into any more detail about specific threat information or security considerations, obviously. I would also point you to the Worldwide Caution that we put out in February of 2013 which speaks to potential terrorist threats in different places around the world to speak to some of the steps we recommend people taking and some things they take into consideration when situations like this arise.

QUESTION: What’s happening on August 4th?

QUESTION: Under the no double – under the – yeah, well, two things. One, is it threats and security? Is it correct to, from your last statement, to understand that it is indeed threats and/or security considerations that have led you to make this decision?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to use a specific term except to say security considerations have led us to take this precautionary step, as we do from time to time, as you all know.

QUESTION: And – yeah, but under the no double standard rule, are you not obliged to tell the American public of steps – specific steps that you’re taking to protect your own officials at embassies?

MS. HARF: Yes, and if that applies in this case, those steps will, of course, be taken.

QUESTION: Why wouldn’t it apply in this case?

MS. HARF: I don’t have that detail in front of me. I know that was a discussion as I came down here about whether it would. But I am assuming it does. Again, and I’ll get you updates as I get them. But if it does, we would, of course, take the necessary steps.

QUESTION: Just because, presumably, if a U.S. citizen needs to go to an embassy and you’re not willing to disclose that the embassy is closed, and then they show up and the embassy blows up --

MS. HARF: Right, and of course, we would --

QUESTION: -- that doesn’t seem very fair.

MS. HARF: Well, of course, we will – are working to disclose all of the embassies to the people that either would be coming there or that have meetings there. That process will be ongoing throughout the rest of today. As you know, Sunday in many places is not a workday to begin with. In some places, of course, it is. So as I get more information, I’m happy to pass it along.

QUESTION: So this is specifically Sunday, August 4th --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- or is there a potential for extension or --

MS. HARF: It’s specifically August 4th. It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well. Of course, depending on our analysis, individual U.S. embassies and consulates will announce whether or not they are open and whether they are implementing restrictions or other measures.

QUESTION: And is there any significance – we know around 9/11, embassies undergo review beforehand and there are steps put in place. Is there any significance attached to August 4th?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any further details on specific threat information or anything of that nature. I would caution people, as I think we always do, from making any assumptions or drawing conclusions before there are more facts available.

QUESTION: And is there – you said that this happens from time to time.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m paraphrasing your words, but you said that this is something that has happened before. When was the last time that something like this happened?

MS. HARF: I can get specific information for you. I don’t have it in front of me. As different embassies or consulates around the world receive different information, I know we adjust our security posture accordingly. I can get some more specifics for you on when in the past this has happened as well. I just don’t have that in front of me.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to a different topic?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: There was an election there. We talked about it briefly yesterday, of course.

MS. HARF: We did.

QUESTION: But there’s been some concern from the opposition, in particular Morgan Tsvangirai, saying that there are irregularities in the course of this. Does the U.S. have an assessment of how it’s gone?

MS. HARF: Well, I would reiterate that the people of Zimbabwe deserve the right to elect their leaders through peaceful, transparent, credible elections in an atmosphere that’s free from violence and intimidation and fear of retribution. Now the critical test is whether voting tabulation is conducted in a credible and transparent manner, and whether the outcome truly reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

I would say that we commend the people of Zimbabwe for voting peacefully yesterday. We spoke about this a little bit yesterday, about the situation on the ground. But a peaceful and orderly election day does not by itself guarantee a free and fair outcome. So I know that it’s still being tabulated. I don’t want to get ahead of the process when the results haven’t been finalized, but we – as we go forward, I’m sure we’ll be watching the situation closely and can update as necessary.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a report today in USA Today that the United States and Afghanistan are nearing completion of the status of forces agreement, and that would include a limited U.S. counterterrorism presence and some military advisors. Can you comment on that?

MS. HARF: I can. Well, as we’ve said before, President Obama and President Karzai have committed to concluding a bilateral security agreement as soon as possible, reaffirming that such an agreement is in both countries’ interests. Significant progress had been made in the negotiations before they were suspended, and we’re confident that we can conclude an agreement soon after they resume. As we’ve talked about, informal discussions have been ongoing on the BSA as they’ve been suspended, but that decision rests with the Afghans.

In the meantime, we will continue to talk to our Afghan partners on an ongoing basis about the range of issues related to the relationship. And speaking to some of the specifics, the President’s been clear from the beginning that any – that there would be two limited missions for any post-2014 presence. And again, that decision hasn’t been made yet, but they would be, as you said, counterterrorism and to continue to train and equip Afghan forces. So that hasn’t changed. No decision has been made on a presence, but some progress has been made on the BSA.

QUESTION: And is there any update? According to the piece also, President Karzai was asking for some guarantees of some funds for an extended period of time.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to read out specific diplomatic conversations or discussions about what the BSA might look like. Obviously, we’ve made clear that we have a continued partnership with the Afghan Government and people post-2014. That hasn’t changed. But in terms of specifics, I have nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. HARF: Anything else on Afghanistan? Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue?

MS. HARF: I do. One second. Yesterday, we concluded the formal portion of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in Kunming, China. Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Uzra Zeya and Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of International Organizations and Conferences Director-General Li Junhua led respective interagency delegations to the dialogue. The two sides held in-depth and frank discussions on the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other human rights issues, including specific cases of concern. The Human Rights Dialogue is an opportunity to reinforce the messages, including on specific cases that we consistently deliver at the highest levels on these issues.

QUESTION: When you say “reinforce the messages,” can we interpret that as that cases were raised in which the U.S. either asked for progress or asked for the release of --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specific cases that were discussed, other than to say that specific cases were discussed. But we’ve made clear from this podium and elsewhere when we have concerns about specific cases and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Did you sense any progress? Did you sense that the Chinese side committed to anything?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a further readout on that. Clearly, we believe that this is a continuous conversation. It’s important to continue having it, because obviously human rights is a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy. I don’t have any additional readout for you other than this.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to a country that borders on both Afghanistan and China?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Okay. Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Had a feeling that’s where we were going.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ve seen the transcript of the interview that Secretary Kerry gave to Pakistan Television. In it, he made a number of comments about the U.S. program of drone strikes that I don’t think had previously been made public. First, he said that, quote, “I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it.” He asked – he was asked if there was a timeline. He said, “I think the President has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.” To start with, when do you think this program may end?

MS. HARF: Well, we – let me say a few points about that, because I saw those comments as well. President Obama, I think, said in his speech at NDU in May of this year that we’ve made significant progress against core al-Qaida by using these exact counterterrorism tools, but that as we make that progress the need to use these tools will, of course, be reduced. Today, the Secretary reinforced the changes that we expect to take place in the program over time, but there is no exact timeline to provide. Obviously, a lot of this is driven by the situation on the ground.

The goal here is, of course, that as we have success against al-Qaida – which we’ve talked about a lot the success we’ve had in this region of the world against core al-Qaida – that the tool will obviously – we need to use this tactic less going forward, and that’s what the Secretary was referencing.

QUESTION: But he says “end,” not reduced, not use it less. He says “end.”

MS. HARF: Well, clearly the goal of counterterrorism operations, broadly speaking, is to get to a place where we don’t have to use them because the threat goes away. Now, we’re all realistic about the fact that there is a threat that remains and that we have to keep up our vigilance – excuse me – the fight in this and other places around the world. So this was in no way indicating a change in policy. It’s really been reinforcing things I think we’ve said for months on this.

QUESTION: Well, he says he hopes it’ll be very, very soon. Is there any reason to think that it will be very, very soon? Are you talking about ending it very, very soon?

MS. HARF: I have no exact timeline to provide. Again, the Secretary was making the point that we have made, as we’ve talked about, significant progress against core al-Qaida in this region, and that we will continue to do so – that they are a shadow of what they once were, and I think he was reinforcing that point. But again, no timeline to provide right now.

QUESTION: And what makes you think that this threat can conceivably be eliminated very, very soon? One of the counterarguments to the use of drones is that, particularly in those occasions where they kill people who are not believed to pose a lethal threat to the United – an imminent lethal threat to the United States, is that they simply embitter more people toward the United States. So what makes you think that at some point – perhaps very, very soon – this threat will have been eliminated?

MS. HARF: Well, I think those are two a little bit separate issues, and I’ll take both of them, and stop me if I’m missing the point here. But first, I think the President was clear in his speech at NDU that the U.S. Government takes every effort, of course, to avoid civilian casualties, that he laid out the process by which we make decisions on these kind of tactics. So I’m not going to parse that again. But I think he made that point very clear. He also made the point that he, as the President, and we, as the Administration, have a responsibility to take actions to protect the United States and our people when there are legitimate threats. So I’d start by saying that.

But we’ve also said – and I think this is what was really a lot of the President’s speech in May – that we need to look forward to a place where we have had success there, where we can start to draw down our operations, and where, indeed, we won’t be at war in Afghanistan anymore. So it was a really forward-looking look at where we’re going here. Obviously, we’ve weakened al-Qaida a great deal, but we always remain vigilant, and that’s one of the reasons that after 2014, we’re going to be very focused on counterterrorism in the region.

QUESTION: What I don’t understand is what makes you and what makes the Secretary think that it will be – that you will eventually have eliminated most of the threat.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that it’s just a fact that we have eliminated a great deal of the threat coming from core al-Qaida. Obviously, it’s not gone. So we have seen success, and that’s been clear across the board. So I think that’s what he was speaking to when he said that. Nobody is naive about the threat, certainly, which is why we remain very focused on it there and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Well, if nobody is naive, why is he talking about ending this tool, whose – which you regard as so highly effective.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that – I think we’re putting two things together that don’t go together. I think the Secretary was making the point that, look, the goal – you have to undertake counterterrorism operations when there’s a threat. Obviously, in a perfect world, we would all like to get to a place where there is no threat. Now, nobody’s naive about the fact that one still exists, and that we’re going to keep up the pressure. So I think he was expressing the notion that we’ve all expressed, the core – the goal of – one of the main reasons we went into Afghanistan was the disruption, the dismantlement, and the defeat of al-Qaida. We’ve made a lot of progress, but that’s always been the goal, the defeat of al-Qaida there.

QUESTION: Even if you are going to use this particular tactic less, why would he speak about ending the program and thereby depriving yourself of a tool that the U.S. Government believes has been so helpful?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think anybody’s talking about depriving the U.S. Government of a tool. I think there’s a difference between reducing the threat so much that you can use the tool less, or even possibly in a certain part of the world, hypothetically speaking, not have to use it anymore. Again, we’re not there in this region. There’s a difference between that and saying we’re going to deprive ourselves of a tool. Clearly, the President and the Secretary both believe that we need to use the tools that we have to defend the United States and our interests. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, in other words.

QUESTION: But if you’re going to end the use of the tactic in this particular part of the world, are you – and he says, in fact, we’re working with your government with respect to that – this is in specific response to a question about the timeline for ending the program – if you’re talking to them about ending it in that part of the world, then you are – are you not depriving yourself of it, or you might end it and start it up again if you felt necessary?

MS. HARF: Again, we’re going to continue talking about the broad range of counterterrorism issues with the Pakistani Government going forward. I would make very clear that even as we use a – one tactic less or more in a different place, or we move around from where we’re focused on certain things, in no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool that would help us fight a threat if it arises. So I think that’s a point I’d like to make very clear.

QUESTION: Okay. So just so we’re clear, even if you were to hypothetically at some point very, very soon or a very, very long time from now end this – the use of this program in Pakistan, you would fully reserve the right to start it up again if you deemed that necessary?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to in any way touch that hypothetical --

QUESTION: But that – that’s what you just said, though.

MS. HARF: No, I said we would not --

QUESTION: You said, “We would never deprive ourselves of a tool -- ”

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- which means you are retaining the ability to use that tool.

MS. HARF: I would not want to further expand on what it means when I say, “We would not deprive ourselves of a tool.” There’s a very different thing between saying we would keep tools that we think help us achieve our goals, and saying we reserve a certain right to do a certain thing in a certain place. I’m – those are two different things. I’m not going to commit to the specific hypothetical that you have raised.

QUESTION: To a different topic, if you’re finished with that?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On – well, continuing with the bordering countries with Iran?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: We talked yesterday about the legislation on the Hill --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that’s since passed the House. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the sanctions – the new sanctions will only complicate the nuclear diplomacy. Israel and Netanyahu was pleased with this. Does the United States – at this point, does the Administration have this position on where this takes us, the imposition of new sanctions by the House, and where this leads in terms of diplomacy with Rouhani taking over in a few days?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple of the same points I made yesterday. We’re aware of the legislation. We do have some concerns over the specific contents of the legislation and look forward to working with the Congress as this legislation moves to the Senate. I’m not going to go into more detail about what those concerns might be, but I think, broadly speaking, the Administration is clearly committed to enforcing a comprehensive set of sanctions against the Iranian Government. There can be no doubt in Iran, certainly, or among any of us that the Administration is committed to that. We will continue working with Congress to determine the best way to implement potential further sanctions.

But again, I would make the same points about President-elect Rouhani, that he’s being inaugurated this weekend, that we hope he and his new team will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program. And we’ll see what happens. Again, his inauguration is this weekend.

QUESTION: When you say that you have some concerns with the legislation, what aspects of those? Is that the aspect of giving the President less authority, or the aspect of trying to --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into specifics about what those concerns might be. I think we’ve made clear for a long time that any sanctions on Iran need to be implemented in a responsible way. We’ve made that clear repeatedly. I’m not going to take a position one way or another on this specific sanctions bill, but again --

QUESTION: You did. You said that you have concerns about it.

MS. HARF: I said we have some concerns --

QUESTION: Right. That’s a position.

MS. HARF: -- but I’m not saying we’re – we’ll, there’s an official position the U.S. Government can take on pending legislation.

QUESTION: Right. But no --

MS. HARF: And that’s not what I’m doing now.

QUESTION: No. We know that, but --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- you – but OMB does statements of Administration policy --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- on those, but you just said you have concerns about it, which means --

MS. HARF: We have some concerns. I’m not going to say --

QUESTION: -- you have a position.

MS. HARF: -- people should support it or not support it.

QUESTION: But you have a position. You have concerns about it.

MS. HARF: We have concerns.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: But I’m not saying “Vote for it” or “Don’t vote for it” to Congress. We’re going to keep working with Congress to address some of the concerns, as we do, by the way, whenever Congress is debating legislation that would impact foreign policy. So we will continue doing that.

QUESTION: And you can’t say whether the concerns relate to the aggregate 1 million per barrel – 1 million barrels per day reduction that it seeks to obtain in Iran’s crude oil exports?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to speak to any specifics about those concerns further.

QUESTION: I mean, is it an issue of the way it’s – of the implementation, rather than the sanctions themselves?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to further detail what those concerns are. Obviously, we’ll keep working with Congress to address them.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Briefly, Colombia, the FARC?

MS. HARF: Yes. I don’t have an update for you, anything new for you today. I will keep checking, and if there is, I am happy to pass it along.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Mideast peace process?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There was a report that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said to some reporters that she believes the nine-month timeframe for the negotiations is only a marginal issue, and after one month, if they see that the talks aren’t headed anywhere, they won’t pursue them. Do you have a response to that?

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve said that both sides are here – were here, excuse me – and will be talking in the future in good faith. They are committed to working together under this timeline that we’ve laid out. I’m not going to address every rumor that’s out there about something one side or the other said about anything substantive. We’ve been clear, the Secretary was clear that that’s not helpful to the process. So we made clear that we’re going to talk for nine months. The next round will happen in the next few weeks in the region, and when I have more details to announce about that, I will.

QUESTION: This isn’t a rumor; this is a statement that the head negotiator for the Israeli side made.

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the statement, but again, the Secretary made clear that Minister Livni and Dr. Erekat were here talking in good faith, they were committed to the process. Clearly I’m not going to parse what she said that I haven’t even seen further than that.

QUESTION: As far as you understand it, the – I mean, my understanding was that the nine-month timeframe is a commitment by both sides to engage in good faith negotiations for at least that amount of time.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It’s a timeframe, it’s not a deadline. That’s what we’ve said all along.

QUESTION: Not a deadline --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but at least that amount of time. But – is that correct?

MS. HARF: I think the Secretary made clear that we’re going to talk for nine months, and what we’re focused on now is the next round, which again will be in the next few weeks in the region.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky says that the team, this chemical weapons team, is preparing, assembling, reassembling in The Hague, and is going to be ready to go. Can you give any details on that? Is that the same group that was not allowed in before? And what has changed?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if this is the same group. I can check into that and get back to you. We know that the UN – I refer you to the UN team for more details about their investigation. As we’ve said repeatedly, all parties in Syria should facilitate their efforts to complete its mission. We believe that free and unfettered access is a key part, a vital part of this investigation. But that said, we won’t really know how much evidence the Syrian regime will offer until they really get on the ground and we see what kind of access we have. So we can keep talking about this going forward, but I think we’re at the beginning of the process rather than further down the road.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The – you mentioned yesterday about the rights of freedom of assembly.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In light of the decision by the cabinet to order the crackdown of the sit-in of pro-Morsy supporters, has there been any communication on the part of the United States with Egypt to convey these concerns? Or is there anything else you have to say about what’s happening?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates on communications, but I would say that it’s essential that the security forces in the interim government respect the right of peaceful protest, including the ongoing sit-in demonstrations. I think we’ve made that point repeatedly and clearly since the beginning, and we’ll continue to do so. Again, I don’t have any update on specific communications for you, but I think we’ve made that message loud and clear.

QUESTION: Do you think the message is getting through? I mean, yesterday as well the Senate agreed to continue aid and that’s the position of the Administration, of course. Do you think the message is actually being heard to respect --

MS. HARF: Well, I mean, clearly we are concerned when there are reports that demonstrators aren’t allowed to peacefully demonstrate. We’ve made that clear as well. So what we’re focused on now is making our position known, working with the Egyptian Government to help get them back to a democratic process. Clearly, the situation on the ground is complicated and at times is concerning. And I think the Secretary’s statement over the weekend actually speaks very clearly and forcefully to some of our concerns.

QUESTION: One more on Zimbabwe?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Since – will you be honoring the tradition of not briefing on Fridays in August?

MS. HARF: Yes, we will. So this is the last briefing of the week. Everyone can leave town early.

QUESTION: Can you make sure that if you have a more expansive statement --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- on the elections in Zimbabwe --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that you circulate it to everybody tomorrow or over the weekend?

MS. HARF: Yes. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And I believe we will. I think that’s the plan, but yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There’s a report that there was over a thousand deaths in July, which sets a record for the last few years, and I was wondering if the State Department had a comment on that.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we are deeply concerned by the nature of these attacks that we’ve seen and by the levels of violence in Iraq. The targeting of innocent people in an effort to sow instability and division is obviously outrageous and reprehensible.

I would make a point that we believe that the rise in violence is driven by terrorists who are not representative of Iraqi society writ large. The vast majority of Iraqi people continue to reject this violence and call for political dialogue to resolve tensions. And I would underscore that we are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence and that they have continued to explore ways to address the ongoing political and security issues.

QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more quick one on Snowden.

MS. HARF: On Snowden?

QUESTION: Yeah. And given that this is a temporary asylum he’s been granted in Russia, are you continuing to stay in touch with other countries that he might be headed to after this point?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t have any new outreach to update you on. I think we’ve made clear throughout this process – and our position on that has not changed – that any third country where he might attempt to transit through or eventually resettle to needs to instead send him back to the United States where he should face trial.

QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been more communication, or has there been any communication with Mr. Snowden’s father? He’s been quite public in his remarks, saying he’s relieved that Russia has provided him with asylum. Has there been any communication with him, as far as you know?

MS. HARF: From the State Department? Not to my knowledge, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Oh wait, do we have one more?

QUESTION: One on Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Sorry, we have one more. And then the weekend can start, everyone.

QUESTION: Yes, so do you have any update from closed door meeting between Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? Nawaz Sharif, when he was in opposition, he was quite critical of U.S. drone strikes. So did he raise that issue with Secretary Kerry in the meeting?

MS. HARF: I don’t – let me see if I have a readout from that meeting. I’m not sure I have a readout. I don’t have a readout from that meeting, yet. Again, I’m getting them from the traveling party as soon as they have them. But as soon as we get one, we can provide it to you.

But the Secretary, I think, has made clear that one of the main reasons he was going to Pakistan right now was to meet with Mr. Sharif, that we’re looking forward to working with the newly elected civilian government on a host of issues, regional security, energy. I know today he visited a power plant in Pakistan. So if we have a further readout from that specific meeting, we can get it around.

QUESTION: And what about Imran Khan whose party has government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan, the troubled province in Pakistan? He refused to meet Secretary Kerry in the U.S. Embassy Islamabad. They met somewhere else.

MS. HARF: It is my understanding that they met somewhere else. I believe there are some photos online of that meeting. I don’t have a further readout for you than that.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 1, 2013]