Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 5, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Embassy Closures / Travel Alert / Potential Threats
  • IRAQ
    • Prison Breaks / U.S. Remains Concerned About Terrorist Activity
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Embassy Security / Post-By-Post Analysis / Emergency Contact Information
  • AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN
    • Al-Qaida
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Historical Data on Embassy Closures
  • YEMEN
    • Counterterrorism
    • Meetings with Yemen's President
  • EGYPT
    • Deputy Secretary Burns' Meetings
    • U.S. Call for Egyptians to be Part of an Inclusive Process
    • U.S. Continues Engagement with All Parties
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Ambassador Ford
  • EGYPT
    • Deputy Secretary Burns / Calling for All Groups to be a Part of the Process
  • TURKEY
    • Verdict of Turkish Court
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Settlements / U.S. Position Unchanged
  • JAPAN
    • U.S. has Strong Bilateral Relationship with Government of Japan
  • RUSSIA
    • Meeting
  • SYRIA
    • Situation on the Ground
  • ZIMBABWE
    • Sanctions / Election
  • IRAN
    • White House Statement / President Rouhani


TRANSCRIPT:

1:32 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Daily Press Briefing. I see we have a full house today. I have nothing at the top; let’s go ahead.

Deb.

QUESTION: You guys have embassies in 19 different places around the Middle East and in Africa. Everybody talks about that this is something that’s been done because of a specific threat. It doesn’t sound very specific if we’re – if we’ve got such a wide swath of embassies being shut down for nearly a week or more than week. Can you give us any indication about the specificity of this threat? And also, why did you add the four in Africa?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, generally speaking, we are going to keep evaluating information as it comes in, keep analyzing the various intelligence that we’re getting in in regards to this stream, so that’s why you saw yesterday we announced that some would be reopening and some would be – additional embassies and consulates would be closing today. So we’re just going to keep doing the process of analyzing the information and making adjustments where we need to. But overall, what we are doing is taking precautionary steps out of an abundance of caution to protect our people and our facilities and visitors to those facilities overseas.

QUESTION: So is the information that you’re getting becoming more specific and that’s why you’re able to close – reopen Kabul, for example, and then close the ones in Africa?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it one way or the other as specific or nonspecific. What I will say is that we continue to refine our assessment of the threat. We continue, as you can imagine, to get new information and as we do so we’ll evaluate our security needs going forward.

QUESTION: Is this an indication, do you think, that the people who are making the threats are changing their game plan?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to venture a guess on that one way or the other. Again, I will say that we will keep evaluating what our security needs are on the ground and make decisions on that basis.

QUESTION: Jen, what was the – what is the U.S. doing to find the people who are behind this? Have you – and who’s – and have you figured out really who’s behind it?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics about what actions we might be taking. I will say that we said this weekend when we put out the Travel Alert that this threat emanates from the Arabian Peninsula. Clearly, AQAP is the most active terrorist organization there and has been the most operationally active affiliate of al-Qaida core, but beyond that I’m not going to get into the details of the intelligence about who might be behind this threat.

QUESTION: Do you know who – this is coming back to what Deb was saying a little bit more. Do you have any more specific information on the target?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into specific intelligence about targets from here. I will say that we – of course, our priority remains overseas the protection of our people and our facilities and visitors to those facilities. So we’ll keep evaluating the situation and make security determinations going forward.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: This looks like it could be open-ended. I mean, every day you will be evaluating, you might keep them open – sorry, you might keep them closed. Is it open-ended? Is there a – is a deadline or, let’s say, is the time to be closed being extended?

MS. HARF: Well, yesterday when we announced who would be closed today, we said it will be through Saturday – I believe that’s the 10th. So the 19 that we announced yesterday, posts around the world, will be closed for the week.

I would also remind people that many of these posts would be closed for much of the week anyways because of the Eid holiday, so we’re just extending those closures for the week. I don’t want to speculate about additional closures going forward. We’ll keep evaluating the situation on the ground and the security picture and make decisions then.

QUESTION: But they could just kind – they could – if you take the terrorists, they could deliberately have some chatter, “Oh, we’re going to do this,” and keep you spinning for a long time closing down embassies all over the world.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’re going to keep evaluating the information we get in and make security decisions going forward. Our preference, I should say here, is for embassies and consulates to be open. Clearly, we operate around the world in places like this because we have a mission there. But we have to balance the mission need versus the security situation on the ground, and we’ll continue making those decisions going forward.

QUESTION: When you say that --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the threat is kind of mostly emanating from the Arabian Peninsula and AQAP, are you kind of narrowing down the closures to the area that AQAP operates in, as opposed to countries where other al-Qaida affiliates are --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to make a broad generalization about why certain posts are closed and others aren’t. We did a very deliberative post by post process, looking at each of these posts to determine the security situation and whether or not they should be opened. But I’m not going to comment further on why certain posts were selected and others weren’t.

QUESTION: Is some of the analysis for the posts and the closures have to do with how exposed certain posts would be in terms of security?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to get into the decisions about security or how that would play into these, other than to say that we did a post by post analysis and these are the posts that we will have closed for the rest of the week.

QUESTION: I mean, just to go off of Deb’s point, the four posts in Africa, as you say, a lot of these posts would have been closed for the Eid holiday anyway. None of those four countries are primarily Muslim, and none of them are geographically close to the area of AQAP or where the other closures are. In fact, there – the two are in East Africa and the two are islands in Southeast Africa.

MS. HARF: Correct. Again, I’m not going to get into analysis of why each of these posts is closed, other than to say that we went very deliberatively post by post and made an assessment based on a variety of information about whether or not they should be open for the week.

QUESTION: You say that you continue to get new information. Is this a large amount of information? Is it dramatically different from the information you get --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it one way or the other. As you would expect, we continue to get information, and we’ll factor that into our security assessments going forward.

QUESTION: So when you say post by post --

QUESTION: Are the movements of those assigned to these embassies restricted for the week? Are they allowed to go out at all? Do they have to go out with security? Have any relatives or non-essential staff been evacuated?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. But I don’t want to speak broadly. This is a number of posts, as you know, and I know each of them have different operating procedures under regular operating circumstances for security. I can look into some information if there additional security measures and get back to you on that. But I have nothing to announce at this point.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: On the question regarding – on open-ended there was a question raised --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- whether this was open-ended and so on. Now how will you decide? Will you decide also on post by post or clusters of posts or what is likely to happen?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re going to keep evaluating the situation, assessing the intelligence that we’re getting, and make decisions going forward. I think we’ve made our decision for this week that these 19 posts will remain closed. I don’t want to venture to guess what a future decision would look like, but we’ll keep evaluating as we get new information.

Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) again, what this looks like, kind of big picture. Some argue that it makes the United States looks weak. What do you say to that? Because after all, in a way, you could say that the terrorists are kind of pulling the strings, pushing you to close down, which is precisely what they want, no presence of the United States in some of these areas.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d say a few things. First, we’ve made very clear that we’re going to continue pursuing terrorists who want to attack the United States, where they plan, operate. And I think you’ve seen during this Administration that we’ve done exactly that.

The second point I would make is that, clearly, our preference is to keep embassies and consulates open. We have a mission on the ground in these places, and that’s our preference. But we have to measure that preference to have our embassies open against security. And as we all know, one of our top priorities is protecting people on the ground. So going forward, we will continue to make decisions about when embassies will be open or not. As you know, this doesn’t happen that often, that we close a large number of embassies. So again, our preference is not to have to do so, but security is our top priority.

QUESTION: I have a --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: General Dempsey, in an interview to ABC yesterday, said that not only the U.S., other Western countries are also threatened to be attacked by these terrorists. So are you sharing this information with other countries – other Western countries, and --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll continue to cooperate very closely with our allies and partners on this issue, as we do. We have very close counterterrorism cooperation with countries in the region, Middle East and North Africa, but also throughout the world, and we’ll continue to share information – excuse me – as necessary.

QUESTION: So threat is also the U.S. and the European countries also?

MS. HARF: I can’t speak to the broader threat. Our Travel Alert, I think, made clear that we’re concerned about a threat to U.S. interests and facilities and citizens, but I don’t want to go further than that.

Yes, Deb.

QUESTION: Can you give us – I have a couple quick more on this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know how many – how big the embassy staff is that is affected by this?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Could you get that?

MS. HARF: I can try to, yes. We don’t always provide specific numbers, for security reasons, but I’ll try and get you --

QUESTION: The broad number.

MS. HARF: -- a broad answer, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. And how are the embassy staffs handling this? And has anyone asked to leave specifically? And are you evacuating anyone?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have anything to announce at this point. We’re going to continue evaluating the security situation on the ground. I think one point I should stress here is that State Department officials who go out to these places do so because they think it’s important. They know that it’s a demanding and dangerous thing to do and they are committed to the mission there going forward. Whether or not they’re closed for one day or one week, I think that they’re committed to the work they do in these countries and will continue to be going forward.

QUESTION: So then are these people handling it pretty well, then, you think, or --

MS. HARF: I mean, I haven’t spoken to every person on the ground affected by this.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Clearly, this is something we’re concerned about. But again, these folks that we have up there serve in these places that they know are dangerous, they know they’re demanding posts, and they do so very patriotically and very bravely, and will weather, I think, this few days of closure and continue to do the work going forward.

QUESTION: Can you say whether private entities, private businesses, in these areas are also being urged to take heightened security precautions?

MS. HARF: I don’t know specifically if we’ve reached out to private businesses. I do know that, again, we put out a Travel Alert which goes to all U.S. citizens that may be traveling abroad. That would, of course, include businesspeople that are doing business in these countries to take extra precautions. We also are in touch with American citizens that have registered with our embassies and consulates on the ground to let them know that there’ll be closures and that they should take extra precautions, but I don’t know of any specific outreach to the business community.

QUESTION: Was this the major topic between General Dempsey and Secretary Kerry during their meeting today? And did they discuss military options should there be an attack somewhere?

MS. HARF: Well, they’re still having lunch as we speak right now, so I don’t have a readout of that for you yet. They’re actually upstairs having lunch. I can endeavor to get you more of a readout. Obviously, there’s a host of issues that the two both work on, including Syria, other regional security issues, Egypt. But I’m sure this is a topic of discussion.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up regarding U.S. allies in Europe? It was actually France, Germany, Holland, and the U.K. all made embassy closures over the weekend.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you be a little bit more specific about the extent to which those closures were in any way coordinated with the United States, and elaborate on the leadership role that the United States played in getting our allies to close embassies?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details for you on their decision-making about closing their own facilities. I’d refer you to those governments for that. But obviously, these are some of our closest partners and allies in the world. We will continue working with them on this and other issues, but I don’t have specifics in terms of these embassies.

QUESTION: It was not coordinated with the U.S.?

MS. HARF: I just don’t have specifics on that one way or the other.

QUESTION: So you don’t know whether it was coordinated with the United States?

MS. HARF: I can attempt to get more information for you on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll be --

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: -- waiting for it. Thank you.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that this information was not shared with the Europeans, that they did it on their own in, so to speak, intelligence --

MS. HARF: That’s not what I was saying.

QUESTION: -- independent?

MS. HARF: That’s not what I was saying.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I said we will continue cooperating closely with our allies and partners on this and other issues. We will share threat information as it’s necessary, and on this specific threat we will as well. I just don’t know about the specific embassy closure decision-making that he was asking about.

QUESTION: But to the best of your judgment, was it prompted by intelligence that you shared with them, their closures?

MS. HARF: Again, you would have to ask those governments about that. I think it’s probably a fair assumption to say that we’re concerned about terrorist threats emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. That’s where their closures have been, but I wouldn’t want to venture a guess as to their decision-making processes.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yes. I’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: There has been a series, as we know, of prison breaks throughout that region. Are you in any – can you make any comment on whether this might’ve had a connection to this?

MS. HARF: Well, these prison breaks are obviously a concern for the international community writ large. I think that’s – was what you saw in the Interpol notice that went out over the weekend. But that is separate and apart, I think, from our concern about this specific threat. But again, prison breaks are a concern, very concerning to us, and we’ll continue to monitor that as well.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) there’s no connection? You used the words “specific threat” again.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: So my question, again, is this is such a broad swath of --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- diplomatic posts that have been closed. How specific could it be?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to further characterize it or outline the specificity and the intelligence that folks are looking at internally. Again, we’re looking at all of the information coming in. And we took steps out of an abundance of caution to close – you’re right – a wide swath of embassies and consulates for the rest of the week.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: How much is this abundance of caution to do with the post-Benghazi environment where you’re already more vigilant about – and security around embassies and consulates?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve always been very vigilant about security – excuse me – around embassies and consulates. In the past, there have been other occasions where we’ve closed a large number. Not that many, but there have been a handful. So going forward, clearly, post-Benghazi, we’ve made it clear from the Secretary on down that security is an utmost concern to us, but it always has been and will continue to be going forward.

QUESTION: And then when the embassies and so on open, what happens then? Do you stay on heightened alert or do you scale back? What happens then?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of where the process is. We’ll continue evaluating throughout this week the information as we get it in and make a decision about security posture going forward then.

QUESTION: Well, I mean --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- also you had talked about that as a result of the revealing of the NSA program – not you, but many people in senior levels of the Administration have voiced publicly concern that terrorists may be changing their tactics as a result of the revelations of the NSA programs.

So does it concern you that perhaps that these are decoys in any way, that they could be trying to trip you up, that these chatter or everything that you say that you’ve heard could actually not be the real plan? And that – does that factor into your concern about the depth and broadness of the threat?

MS. HARF: Well, I think, broadly speaking, without speaking to the specific stream of reporting, without getting into the intelligence on this threat, our folks that look at these things and analyze them always take a very hard look at them to make sure that they’re credible, or are they credible, to look at them to see if they’re just exactly what you said, possibly something to throw us off. But again, in terms of this threat, I’m not going to get into the specific analysis around the intelligence on this.

QUESTION: Right. But you said – but you voiced concern that terrorists might have changed their tactics --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as a result of these programs, so do you think then they would, like, hop on a phone call or send an email? Like, doesn’t that seem a bit obvious?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to confirm one way or the other what kind of intelligence we’re looking at here, so I’d say that point first, but I’d also say that other people have spoken to the fact that any leak of classified information that could harm our ongoing counterterrorism efforts is very concerning, because I think what this latest threat highlights is that there are still threats out there, and that we need appropriate tools to be able to track people that are trying to do us harm, and to hopefully prevent these attacks before they happen.

QUESTION: This may seem kind of cynical, but --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- couldn’t it be argued that suddenly we’re hearing about this potential threat to U.S. interests and U.S. persons and property at a time when there’s a lot of debate and a lot of criticism of this program as well as other NSA types of surveillance?

MS. HARF: I can assure you that that in no way at all, period, 100 percent affects how we evaluate threat information coming in, specifically in terms of this threat.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: There’s been prison breaks – there were many, but the most prominent were two in Iraq, at Taji and Abu Ghraib.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that – the Iraqis have not been able to round up except maybe a handful since the break. Are you satisfied with their conduct, the conduct of the security forces in Iraq?

MS. HARF: Well, we have encouraged – I know there have been a number of prison breaks in different places. Clearly, they’re concerning to us, and that’s why I think you saw the Interpol notice go out this weekend. Clearly, we call – we’ve called on the Government of Iraq to continue to try to find people that have escaped. Again, it’s a tough process to do so. And we remain concerned by the fact, yes.

QUESTION: So – but the prison breaks in Iraq in particular, they were conducted in a very sophisticated military operation, and it shows that they have really reconstituted their presence in Iraq. Aren’t you concerned that after so many years of training and spending so much money on the Iraqis that they have failed to do at least that?

MS. HARF: Well, we do remain very concerned about the terrorist activity that we see in Iraq today. I think I’ve made clear that it’s important to remember that both the majority of the Iraqi people have rejected this violence and that it really is being perpetrated by terrorists in Iraq, and also that the government and the political leadership has taken steps in the last few months to come together to fight this threat together. They’ve been talking about it and meeting about it in a way that we hadn’t seen previously. So we’re going to continue working with Iraq to help them fight this threat that they’re facing.

QUESTION: How are the U.S. Government’s working with Interpol or the Iraqis or the Pakistanis or the Libyans, wherever these prison breaks occurred, to assist in tracking these escapees? I assume in Iraq a lot of these prisoners were people we put behind bars because they killed Americans.

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on who’s working with them on that in each of the cases. I’m happy to look into it and get you some more information. I just don’t have that in front of me.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, the message to U.S. citizens for Saudi Arabia says that the Embassy and consulates will be closed through the 14th. Why is that?

MS. HARF: My understanding, the message we put out yesterday, said through Saturday, August 10th. I can double-check on Saudi Arabia specifically. I haven’t seen that. I know that the guidance we put out yesterday said through the 10th, but I’ll check on that and get back to you.

QUESTION: If indeed there is the risk of these closures being extended indefinitely because of the intelligence, what happens to the people who live in those countries who were trying to get visas to come to the U.S. for any number of reasons? We’ve already seen people emailing the Embassy in Cairo saying, “I applied, all I needed to do was turn in my passport, now I’m just waiting.”

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: But what’s being done to service the people who are trying to come to the U.S. for whatever reason?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of this week here. And I think – I will reiterate a point that I’ve made a few times that our preference is to have our embassies and consulates open for exactly that reason. They serve a very important purpose and mission on the ground. So I don’t want people to think that there’s – that we’re leaning towards indefinite closure of these facilities. We’re focused on this week. That’s why we made a decision yesterday to close them through this week when indeed many of them would be closed already because of Eid. But I think that everyone’s preference in this building, from the Secretary on down, is for our embassies and consulates to reopen as soon as possible, as soon as is safe to do so, so we can continue providing exactly that kind of support to U.S. citizens and others looking to come to the U.S.

QUESTION: But in case of emergencies, for example --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there’s a death, is there a way to --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- help someone in that situation?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. So, each of our posts has an emergency contact information for U.S. citizens in the country. One of the things that we do is encourage U.S. citizens when they visit a country to register with the State Department. We have a program where you can register so we know you’re there. So in that event, we know – in the event of an emergency, or if there’s – we need to get in touch with people, we have a way to do so. But we have information posted online for all U.S. citizens, that if you’re in a country where the consulate or embassy is closed, this is how you can get in touch in case of an emergency.

QUESTION: But let’s say I’m an Egyptian or I’m a Libyan and I need to get to the U.S. because something has happened, or maybe --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- there is a business deal that I need to get here to complete in person. What’s being done to help them?

MS. HARF: Again, there’s emergency contact information on – for all of these posts that are closed. So we would encourage people to contact the post if they have an emergency or need to get in touch with someone urgently. Again, many of these posts, I will reiterate, would be closed for much of the week anyways. So in terms of disruption of actual work, there is certainly some, but it wouldn’t have been the whole week that they would’ve been open.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: In terms of the color-coding, if there is such a thing, I mean, is, let’s say, the Embassy in Cairo more vulnerable than the Embassy in Riyadh because of the volatility of the situation in Egypt?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to compare the security situation of each of these posts. Clearly, we did a post-by-post analysis of what needed to be opened and closed, and this is where we came down. But I’m not going to compare the security situation in one versus the other.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: No, no. Yeah, same issue.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Because of such a large kind of threat is not coming from AfPak regions, which has been in the past, do you think that because the actions taken by the U.S. in the last few years, al-Qaida leaders in AfPak or the border regions no longer pose a threat to the region?

MS. HARF: Well, I think – a couple points on that. First, we’ve been clear that we have made a great deal of success against al-Qaida core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that we have taken a number of steps to really decimate that group’s leadership, including, of course, most importantly, Usama bin Ladin. But at the same time, we’ve all made clear, from the President on down that we remain very concerned about the affiliates, al-Qaida affiliates throughout the world. And in that – first on that list is always AQAP, which is why we are going to maintain vigilance against – I can never say that word, excuse me – vigilance against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula when we think they are plotting or planning attacks against the U.S. And we’ve seen them, in fact, plan external operations.

So as we’ve talked about the decimation of al-Qaida core, we’ve also at the same time always talked about how we need to keep up the pressure on al-Qaida in places like Yemen, Somalia, other parts of the Middle East, Iraq, as Said mentioned.

QUESTION: So, AfPak isn’t no longer poses the kind of threat it used to 10 years ago?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear that there’s still a threat there. That’s why we’re going to keep up the pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But we’ve also been clear that much of their leadership has been decimated, has been taken off the battlefield, and that we are going to both keep up the pressure there but also maintain our focus on al-Qaida affiliates wherever they operate throughout the world. So the threat’s not gone, certainly, but it is a shadow of what it once was, particularly before 9/11, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Enough to stop drone attacks?

MS. HARF: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Enough to stop drone attacks?

MS. HARF: Well, I talked at length about this subject on Thursday for about ten minutes. I think – and I’m happy to do it again. I think we’ve been clear that we will maintain capabilities that help us fight the terrorists that are trying to attack the United States. Clearly, we’d like to all live in a world where those weren’t necessary, but none of us – but we all live in the real world, and none of us are naive about the threat that still exists out there, clearly, as demonstrated by this last situation.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: I just had one quick question.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: You mentioned at the top that this is kind of a – something that hasn’t happened in the past. Do you have any historical information --

MS. HARF: I --

QUESTION: -- on embassy closings?

MS. HARF: I do. Let me pull that up. Also, I would remind people that individual embassies, as they get threat reporting, do have the ability to individually close. I’m sure you’re all aware of when that may have happened in Kabul or Baghdad. We do do individual embassy closings not infrequently.

I have four examples of when large-scale embassy closings have happened. I believe the last was in September – September 11th of 2002, when we closed four embassies after receiving specific and credible threats. We also issued a Worldwide Caution. On September 12th, obviously 2001, we closed a number of embassies overseas as a security measure. In June of 1999, we closed embassies in six African countries, because of security concerns, for three days. And in December of 1998, we closed 38 embassies in Africa for two days to protect employees against possible terrorist attacks.

QUESTION: When was this, sorry?

MS. HARF: December 1998.

QUESTION: ’98?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In 2002, which embassies? Can you name them?

MS. HARF: Malaysia --

QUESTION: 38 embassies in Africa (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: -- Indonesia, the Philippines, and Cambodia.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So again, there is not – there is somewhat of a precedent for doing this in response to threats.

QUESTION: What about after the Benghazi? Did you not close a bunch of embassies?

MS. HARF: I don’t have that in front of me. I can double-check on what we did in response to that as well.

QUESTION: I think that there were a number. I can’t remember though.

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: And then just one more quick thing.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is it possible that after this particular extension has ended, that the number of embassies that are being closed, or temporarily closed, could be larger than mentioned, or is that a scenario that’s even possible, or is it more apt to be that we’re narrowing down and some will be reopened?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to even venture a guess as to that hypothetical. Again, we’ll keep evaluating the situation going forward in response to new information. But again, our preference, wherever possible, is for embassies to be open.

Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Can I squeeze one more in?

MS. HARF: Yes, you can.

QUESTION: The day that Secretary Kerry made his remarks about drones to Pakistani Television, there was a report that five drone strikes had taken place in Yemen leading in the – during the week leading up his comments. But do you see any kind of – I mean, don’t know often drone strikes take place in Yemen, but that seems like a large number. Is there any connection with that and the recent sort of threat intelligence that led to these --

MS. HARF: Yeah, I’m not going to comment on reports of that kind of activity in Yemen or elsewhere, other than to say broadly speaking we’ve been clear that we’re going to keep going after terrorists wherever they try to plan or plot attacks against the United States. But can’t comment any further on that specific report that’s been out there in the press.

QUESTION: How do you even know when it’s okay to open these?

MS. HARF: Again, we have professionals, intelligence and security professionals, who look at the information and look at the situation on the ground and make these determinations in a very deliberative process. So we’ll be closed through the week, but again, hope to open as many embassies as possible as soon as possible, quite frankly.

QUESTION: Would it be possible to assume that the Secretary may be discussing with General Dempsey the need to bring in additional Marines to secure those facilities once they reopen?

MS. HARF: I would not want to venture a guess as to whether that specific topic came up at lunch, which is ongoing. If there’s a further readout of their conversation, I’m happy to provide it. Again, I am sure they’re discussing the topic in general but wouldn’t want to guess about specifics.

QUESTION: Egypt also?

QUESTION: One more – sorry.

MS. HARF: That’s okay.

QUESTION: On Yemen, the Yemeni President was here last week just ahead of when you announced this threat. Was that discussed in those meetings?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a specific readout of those meetings, other than what we’ve already said. But I will underscore that our counterterrorism cooperation with the Yemeni Government is very close, it’s a very cooperative one, and we will continue working with them on counterterrorism going forward.

Anything else on the threat?

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. HARF: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Egypt. Can you confirm the reports that said that Deputy Secretary Burns, accompanied by EU envoy and Qatari and U.A.E. foreign ministers, have met with Khairat al-Shater today?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: In prison?

MS. HARF: I can. So late yesterday evening, Deputy Secretary Burns, along with the foreign ministers of the U.A.E. and Qatar and the EU Special Representative Bernadino Leon, visited detained Deputy Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood al-Shater. This visit was conducted in the context of ongoing diplomatic efforts to prevent further violence, calm tensions, and facilitate an inclusive dialogue among Egyptians that can help the transition to a democratically elected civilian government. I would also underscore that this meeting was done with the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities.

QUESTION: Is there any specific plan that they are discussing with the parties there?

MS. HARF: Beyond what I just said, this was a diplomatic exchange. Given that the situation is evolving and fluid, I’m not going to get into more substance than that. Again, the Deputy Secretary is making the same points that we’ve made repeatedly that we all are encouraging the Egyptians to be part of an inclusive process that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, and I’m sure those points will be made in the variety of other meetings he has on the ground as well.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is it possible that he will be seeing Morsy, or will Morsy not see him?

MS. HARF: As of right now, there are no plans for him to meet with Mohamed Morsy.

QUESTION: Do you know how --

QUESTION: Has Morsy said he won’t meet with him?

QUESTION: -- brief that meeting was?

MS. HARF: Hold on one second. I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Has Morsy said he won’t meet with him?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any further details. I’m not going to get into specifics of our schedule making, but at this point no plans to meet with Morsy.

QUESTION: Do you know how long that meeting --

QUESTION: Is it his brief to try to see Morsy for himself and not just take the word of Lady Ashton?

MS. HARF: His brief really is to meet with a wide range of Egyptians. He’s had a number of other meetings I’m happy to list for you as well. So his brief really is to go there and talk to the Egyptians about how we can assist them in this process of calming tensions and moving forward with an inclusive process.

QUESTION: Can you tell me how long that meeting was with al-Shater because --

MS. HARF: I do not have that in front of me, but I can try to find out.

QUESTION: -- we understand it was a brief meeting and he said to them they should not be talking to him, that they should be talking to Morsy.

MS. HARF: Again, I have the information I have here. I can attempt to get some more information about that meeting. But he – I think what the comments you reference there – is making the point that the U.S. is willing to assist the Egyptians in helping them get back to an inclusive, democratic process. And this is why the Deputy Secretary is there for a number of days of meetings.

QUESTION: The military has said that this is a – there’s a limited time that they’re going to give for these discussions, and I gather that would mean then clearing the square and so on. How far do you feel that these discussions have gone? Have they gone far enough to feel that you’re on a good track?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s clearly much more work to do. We have the goal of helping the Egyptians get back to a democratically elected, inclusive government. Clearly, we’re not there. But we would encourage any steps that build trust between the different sides, that move towards a more inclusive process. And that’s what Deputy Secretary Burns is discussing in the wide range of meetings that he’s having there and will continue to have throughout the week.

QUESTION: In this meeting with the Deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood, did he send the message that it’s time to call off the protests and bring the people back off the streets? Because that was clearly the message of Cathy Ashton when she met with him.

MS. HARF: Again, the message he’s sending is the message that we’ve been saying all along, that there is an incentive for the Muslim Brotherhood to be a part of an inclusive process, that it’s best for the people of Egypt, it’s best for the process and for the Muslim Brotherhood to be a part of it going forward. I don’t have further details on their discussion, other than to say he’s continuing to make the point with them and everyone else about the necessity of an inclusive process.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you comment on Egyptian reports pertaining to a grand bargain whereby the Muslim Brotherhoods that are in prison and have been in prison over the last few weeks are released, including former President Morsy and in fact as one step towards what they call the roadmap and having inclusive elections and so on?

MS. HARF: Well, broadly speaking, we’ve called repeatedly for an end to politically motivated and arbitrary arrests, so we’ve been clear. Our position on that has not changed. It’s up for the Egyptians themselves to decide the best path forward in terms of how to get back to an inclusive process, but we would certainly support any step that builds trust, that helps get them back on that path to inclusivity.

QUESTION: Should we take what you just said as confirming that there may be a plan in the making for – to do just that?

MS. HARF: I don’t think you should take it that way at all. I was speaking broadly. I don’t have a specific comment on reports that you’re referencing there, other than to say that, again, broadly speaking, we’ve called for this from the beginning.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Regarding the meetings of the Deputy Secretary Burns, what are they – I mean, who are these people that he met, not just to make a comparison with what Egyptians are saying and Americans are saying?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yep, I’m happy to read the list. So earlier on his trip he met with – together with EU Special Represent Leon – with Interim President Mansour, Interim Vice President ElBaradei, Interim Foreign Minister Fahmy, Interim Defense Minister al-Sisi. He also met with the Qatari Foreign Minister al-Atiyah and the U.A.E. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Gargash as well as members of the Coalition for Legitimacy. He also met separately with Interim Prime Minister El-Beblawi and Interim Deputy Prime Minister Eddin. And I think that is all on my list of meetings. He’s still there so there may be some more to read out later.

QUESTION: Yes. And as much as we know and reported that today both Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham are going to be there, is there a kind of cooperation or consultation together? Or is everybody going to be a different track?

MS. HARF: Well, Deputy Secretary Burns will also be meeting with them when he’s there. He clearly has a lot of meetings. And as we’ve been saying, we support any effort to reduce political polarization. And again, the Deputy Secretary will be meeting with the senators on the ground when they’re there.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Can I --

MS. HARF: Just one second. Yes.

QUESTION: Please. The – is there any timeframe of how long is the Deputy Secretary is going to be there, or it’s just an open as long as – Eid is coming too, so he may stay and join the --

MS. HARF: Right. Well, we don’t have any return travel to announce at this point. He remains there, and I will let you know when we can announce travel.

QUESTION: So another thing, which is it was noticed that it’s different from – somehow different from last trip he made to Egypt, which is we – as long as we know, I know, there is no any planned press conference or statement is going to be come outing of this trip. Is it right what I’m saying? Or if I’m wrong, please correct me.

MS. HARF: We don’t have any press availabilities to announce at this point. I know he did one last time. I will let you know if that changes.

QUESTION: Why can’t he not meet with the Arab League? I mean, why was there --

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Why the Arab League was not involved? I mean, since the Arab League have been with you every step of the way, why did they – or Secretary Burns did not meet with the Arab League representatives? He met with the Qataris, he met with others, and so on, but not with the Arab League --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, he’s --

QUESTION: -- whose headquarter is in Cairo.

MS. HARF: He’s still on the ground, so there may be more meetings to announce tomorrow. Again, this is – he’s met with a broad spectrum of Egyptian leaders and people that are involved in this process. And again, if there are more meetings to announce, I will do so.

Yes.

QUESTION: What is the political calculation behind meeting or not meeting with President Morsy? Is there a concern in this building about legitimizing someone who was rumored to not be particularly favored by the U.S. Government? Or is there the larger question of ensuring his safety and well-being so that there isn’t some attendant spill-on violence if something were to happen to him?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t – yes, I wouldn’t want to get more into the specifics about decision making on how we put together our schedules here. Again, we – we’re happy that he had the meeting with the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood that I just mentioned, but again, I’m not going to get into specifics about how we make decisions on the schedule.

Yes.

QUESTION: Does the United States consider that President Morsy should have or could have a political role in the democratic Egypt you are calling for?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s up to the Egyptian people to decide what their government will look like when they return to a democratically elected civilian government. It’s not for the United States to endorse a party or a candidate. We’ve been very clear from the beginning. The only thing we’ve said is that it needs to be an inclusive process. And beyond that, it’s up for the Egyptians to decide what it looks like.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think that Morsy should be given the opportunity?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to make those decisions from this podium for the Egyptian people. It’s up to the Egyptian people to decide what their government going forward will look like. We have said that all parties need to play a role in this process.

QUESTION: But, I mean, by excluding a meeting with President Morsy, aren’t you kind of saying that he’s not somebody that you think should be part of the process?

MS. HARF: Deputy Secretary Burns is meeting with a wide range of people --

QUESTION: But not the deposed president of --

MS. HARF: He met with a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an important meeting. But again, he’s making the same point to all of them, that the future of the Egyptian Government needs to be decided by the Egyptian people. We’re not taking a side, we’re not picking a party. And he’s making that point to everybody.

QUESTION: Well, a large swath of Egyptians, for right or wrong, are still in the streets calling for the return of President Morsy. So doesn’t that mean that a lot of people in Egypt think that he should be part of the process?

MS. HARF: Again, it’s up to them to decide what their process looks like going forward. We’ve said that it needs to be inclusive. Beyond that, it’s not up to us to decide or to tell them what it should look like. It’s up to them to decide what it should look like.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t it make sense to --

QUESTION: But when the deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood is saying the Americans should be talking to Morsy, and yet he’s – and yet, we’re not.

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve said --

QUESTION: Why aren’t we?

MS. HARF: -- we’re going to keep talking to all parties and all groups. I don’t have more details for you on how we’re making decisions about who we’re meeting with, but we’re making the same points publicly that we are privately, that we want the process going forward to include all groups, and that would, of course, include the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: Well, but the meeting --

QUESTION: Could you just say specifically whether you’re opposed to a meeting with President Morsy or not?

MS. HARF: At this point, there are no plans for Deputy Secretary Burns --

QUESTION: I didn’t ask – I understand there are no plans.

MS. HARF: Let me finish. Elise, let me finish. At this point, there are no plans for him to. I’m not going to make a broad statement about whether or not we’re willing to meet with one person. We’ve said we’re willing to work and talk to all parties and all groups to be part of this process.

QUESTION: But if the Muslim Brotherhood sees them – sees this person as their leader of the party right now, why won’t you meet with him?

MS. HARF: Again, Deputy Secretary Burns has no plans to meet with him. I’m not making a broad statement about whether at some point in the future there might be a meeting. I’m not going to make a broad generalization like that.

QUESTION: Let me try it another way. If the U.S. is, indeed, not taking sides --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- wouldn’t it enhance the U.S. credibility, particularly with the millions of people who are in the streets protesting, that they are trying to act as an honest broker in resolving this political crisis?

MS. HARF: And we believe we absolutely are acting as an honest broker. The Deputy Secretary met with a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood. After his last trip, everyone said we only had a phone call, he didn’t have a meeting, and now we’re saying he had a meeting, and now you’re saying well, that’s not enough. So we believe --

QUESTION: Well, because you’re talking about --

MS. HARF: Well, let me finish.

QUESTION: -- the deposing of an elected leader.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: And clearly the conflict is between this deposed leader and those in the interim government, who are now ostensibly in charge and threatening to remove people by force from --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize what the conflict is on the ground. I think it’s clear that there’s a lot of political polarization.

QUESTION: But then how can the U.S. say that it’s not taking sides, that it wants to act as an honest broker in order to resolve this crisis, if it won’t meet with the central figure in this conflict?

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood during this trip. The Deputy Secretary did. I think that’s important. We’ve met with a broad swath of leaders from other parties and from the interim government as well. So we are going to continue our engagement with all of the parties that are part of this process going forward. I wouldn’t read too much into what one meeting is or isn’t happening. Again, he’s still there. More meetings, I’m sure, will happen throughout the week.

QUESTION: But there is the symbolic value of someone as high ranking as Deputy Secretary Burns meeting with Morsy, if for no other reason than to report to his millions of supporters that I have seen him, the U.S. Government has had a chance to evaluate his situation, and we can report X or Y or Z.

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to get into the decision-making that went into developing the Deputy Secretary’s schedule. We think it’s important that he’s had meetings with high-level interim government officials, that he’s met with representatives of different parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. So this is an ongoing dialogue with these leaders in Egypt, and I wouldn’t want to draw any broad generalizations based on one meeting and whether or not it occurred.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the nomination of this – the status of the nomination of Ambassador Ford…

MS. HARF: Yes. Was there a question?

QUESTION: Yes. Could you comment? Could you comment on the --

MS. HARF: I have no personnel announcements to make at this point on who the next ambassador to Egypt will be. Again – I’ve said this, I think, before – Ambassador Ford is a career, long-serving diplomat who’s served in very demanding and dangerous posts, is very well respected by his State Department colleagues, also his foreign counterparts, but no announcements to make on that. And any announcement on that will eventually come from the White House.

QUESTION: So is it likely that we see Ambassador Ford shift his focus and attention from Syria to Egypt anytime soon?

MS. HARF: Again, no personnel decisions to make. Ambassador Ford is fully engaged on issues involving Syria.

QUESTION: What can you say about The New York Times --

QUESTION: Marie, (inaudible), isn’t it fair at this point --

MS. HARF: Just one second.

QUESTION: -- to say that the plans for now are not – that Deputy Secretary Burns has no plans to meet with Morsy?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But could that change? You’re not saying that that’s – that’s it? That – he’s still on the ground.

MS. HARF: He’s still on the ground.

QUESTION: Is that possible that he could change?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to get into a hypothetical about whether or not that might change. I’m actually not trying to dance around it. He just has no plans at this point to meet with him. But you’re right, he is still on the ground. And if we have additional meetings to announce, we will do so.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, you mentioned the word out there – expression “honest broker” in the issue of involvement in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If anybody wants to explain to the Egyptians what does this means, how – what is the role of United States in Egyptian affairs?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s what we’ve said all along, that we have a long historical partnership with the Egyptian people and the Egyptian Government and that we are going to work with them and assist them in any way we can to help them get back to an inclusive democratic process that elects a civilian government and is, in fact, sustainable going forward.

So Deputy Secretary Burns is discussing exactly those issues right now, how we can best assist in that process. But one of the things I think that’s been very important for us is to consistently say throughout this process that we do not support one party, one group, we don’t determine what the Egyptian Government should look like going forward. That is in no way our role.

QUESTION: Yes, please. And yesterday, it was published, an interview with General Sisi, and one of the things that he raised, the issue that through the interviewer or Washington Post that you have an influence on Muslim Brotherhood so you can convince them to change their attitude. What’s your comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen the interview. I think it would be sort of the same comments we’ve been making for a while, that we are calling publicly and privately for all groups to be a part of this process. And that’s why we want to maintain these relationships. That’s why people like Deputy Secretary Burns but also our diplomats on the ground are engaged in this issue every day, talking to the different parties and groups and leaders and trying to push them all to get back to a place where they’re a part of a process, because ultimately, that’s what’s in the best interests of the Egyptian people.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Most of – I’m not sure if it’s not a comment, if it’s an analysis or let’s say evaluation of U.S. role in Egypt in particular, that a lot of people even in congressmen on the Hill, they are mentioning the – that the – our leverage or our influence are shrinking. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree with the notion that we don’t have influence or leverage. We have a long historic partnership with the Egyptians. Part of that, obviously, is our aid and assistance, but it goes beyond that. So these are longstanding relationships that our folks have with different Egyptian leaders. I think you’ve seen that from the amount of interaction that’s been going on between U.S. leaders and Egyptian leaders, and we’ll continue working with them going forward.

But I would strongly disagree with the notion that we’ve lost all leverage in Egypt. Clearly, we have a close partnership and we’ll continue to work together.

QUESTION: Can we change topic?

MS. HARF: Anything else on Egypt? Okay.

Yes, Deb.

QUESTION: Okay. This is something on a little less contentious issue. Do you guys have any comment on this trial that’s going on for the people who were accused of overthrowing the Turkish President – Prime Minister, I’m sorry?

MS. HARF: Yes. So we’re following the media reports of the verdicts and the severity of the sentences in this case which are being handed down by the special court in Istanbul. Many Turkish citizens have expressed serious concerns regarding the length and lack of transparency of the trial process and the manner in which these verdicts and sentences were reached. I understand that Turkish law allows these verdicts to be appealed, so we won’t comment on any eventual outcome from an appeal, but we’ll continue watching the process.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Palestinian-Israeli talks?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As they get set to restart again the talks next week, the Israeli cabinet announced yesterday the expansion of a number of settlements, in fact, expanding the list to include maybe 91 settlements and so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: We’ve seen the media reports on the cabinet’s decision. I would obviously refer you to the cabinet for additional comment. Our position on Israeli settlements has not changed.

QUESTION: So have you made anything in particular – on this particular case, did you make your displeasure known to the Israelis that this really does not help the process?

MS. HARF: I have no details of any conversations on that subject to read out for you.

QUESTION: Do you believe that this particular announcement yesterday hurts the process?

MS. HARF: I think the Secretary has been clear that both sides have agreed to come to the table and negotiate directly in good faith and that we’re going to continue doing so going forward. I know very soon we’ll have another set of direct talks somewhere in the region, and again, both sides are coming to the table in good faith.

QUESTION: Okay. No, but --

QUESTION: Do you think that – I mean, the Secretary said a few months ago – he kind of said, like, some of these settlements were kind of already in train, and there’s nothing that the – something to the effect that there’s nothing to the – that the Israeli Government can really do about it. So do you see that some of these settlements like the ones that were just announced – is this outside of the writ of the government now, and the municipal government of Jerusalem, and that that shouldn’t really be taken as an affront to the climate of talks?

MS. HARF: Well, again, our position on settlements has not changed. For the details about this cabinet decision, I would refer you to the decision itself for the specifics, and also to them to explain it. The Secretary has been clear that we are engaged in this direct negotiation process because both sides have come to the table willingly to talk about how to move forward.

QUESTION: Do you believe the announcement yesterday compromises the good faith that you’re talking about?

MS. HARF: Said, I – this – I’m reiterating what the Secretary said all along, that both sides --

QUESTION: I understand, but does the Secretary feel that this may be, like, something that is – I mean the --

MS. HARF: Nothing has changed in how the Secretary views the fact that both parties are coming to the table in good faith, that they understand that there’s incentive for both to do so, and that they will continue these talks very soon in the region.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on U.S. military helicopter crashing in Okinawa?

MS. HARF: On that, I would have to refer you to U.S. forces in Japan for any details on that.

QUESTION: And follow-up: Are you concerned that this incident will create more opposition to new Osprey deployment in Okinawa?

MS. HARF: Again, for any details, I’d point you to the U.S. forces in Japan. But again, as we’ve said repeatedly, our relationship with the Government of Japan is a very close one and we will continue to work together on a variety of issues, but I don’t have anything further for you on that.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Russia?

QUESTION: One more on that.

MS. HARF: Oh. Okay.

QUESTION: This is kind of a diplomatic issue, though, is it not? I mean, the Foreign Minister of Japan did call Ambassador Roos to ask for an explanation and for further – and it’s also going to potentially affect the ongoing negotiations over relocating Futenma Air Base and such. But do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: Again, for any of those – again, the facts, I think, are still coming out about what happened. For specifics, I would refer you to U.S. forces in Japan. We have a strong bilateral relationship with the Government of Japan that will continue. But I don’t have further details for how this might affect anything going forward.

QUESTION: Is the 2+2 scheduled for the end of this week still happening?

MS. HARF: We have nothing to announce at this point in terms of schedule. We’re continuing to evaluate that and we’ll let you know when we have something to announce.

QUESTION: Visas issued to those members of the Russian party who would need to come to take part?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I can find out.

QUESTION: On Syria --

QUESTION: Marie, on that same subject, are you getting any reaction from the Russians that showed that they are interested in talking about the subjects that you are interested in talking about?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to read out any private diplomatic conversations. Clearly, setting aside whether or not a specific meeting happens on a specific day, we think these are important topics to discuss with them – obviously, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, a host of security issues we deal with with the Russians. So we’ll continue those discussions. I just don’t have anything to announce about a specific meeting.

QUESTION: Any update on Snowden? Are you all in touch with the Russians on --

MS. HARF: No update on Snowden.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with the Russians on this? Are you talking to them about how, maybe, they could move forward on this?

MS. HARF: We will continue our conversations through appropriate channels with the Russians, but I have no update for you on Mr. Snowden.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: How do you view the advance on the ground by the opposition in Latakia?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve noted reports that clashes are continuing for the second consecutive day in the coastal province of Latakia, where rebels have reportedly seized control of four villages. We also note reports over the weekend that rebels captured an ammunition depot north of Damascus. Obviously, the situation remains very fluid on the ground, but we seriously doubt the regime’s ability to reassert control over the entirety of Syrian territory, and will continue working with the opposition to help them strengthen on the ground.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Zimbabwe?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, you did raise concerns about the elections. Today, Botswana, Zimbabwe’s neighbor, said that – has called for an independent audit of the election. How do you think Zimbabwe should be going forward with this? And at what stage do you consider that the sanctions should be increased or cut back or curtailed, depending on where the election comes out?

MS. HARF: Well, as we said over the weekend, if you saw the Secretary’s statement, that we do not believe the results announced represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people in light of the substantive electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers. I have some information about how we think voter rolls had irregularities in them that were not credible. Preliminary reports from the AU, SADC, and domestic observer missions also noted a number of serious concerns. So we’ve been clear that any easing of sanctions will only occur if – in the context of credible, transparent, peaceful elections.

So I don’t want to get ahead of the process here, but I think the Secretary made clear that we do not believe these were a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.

QUESTION: And has he expressed that to Harare?

MS. HARF: I do not have any additional information or readouts of communications on this for you. We expressed it publicly.

QUESTION: Just a housekeeping thing --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because I believe before you said you weren’t sure whether Mugabe had written back to Secretary Kerry’s letter to him, did you – do you know if that – if he did or not, if the State Department received a letter back?

MS. HARF: I do not know. Let me check on that and see what I can find out.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is Hassan Rouhani doing and saying the right things?

MS. HARF: Just one second. I’m sure you saw the White House statement. We congratulate the Iranian people for making their voices heard during the election. We note that President Rouhani recognized that his election represented a call by the Iranian people for change, and we hope that the new Iranian Government will heed the will of the voters by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people. We do believe that his inauguration presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. And, as we’ve said all along, should the new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations, we are ready to talk to them when they are ready to do so.

QUESTION: And specifically his call for the international community to speak through the language of respect instead of the language of sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear that sanctions are a key part of the pressure that we’re putting on the Iranian regime. And the fact remains that the Iranian regime is in violation of its international obligations including Security Council resolutions. So as long as they remain in violation, the sanctions will remain in place. But that being said, when they are ready to engage substantively and seriously with the U.S. Government, we are also ready to do so.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government --

QUESTION: So you believe that Rouhani is someone that you could do – that the U.S. can do business with?

MS. HARF: Again, we think his inauguration presents an opportunity. We know that the government is just coming together. He’s appointing who will be part of his team. But when the Iranian Government is ready to engage substantively with the United States, we are also ready to do so.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government said over the weekend it does not trust Rouhani because of statements which they say indicate, again, an existential threat to Israel’s existence. Is the U.S. taking that concern under consideration when it looks at how it might want to engage with Rouhani?

MS. HARF: Well, clearly, we take the whole range of security concerns, the security problems Iran has presented for the region into account when we look at how we’re going to deal with the Iranian Government going forward. This is precisely one of the reasons why we believe it’s so important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon because of the threat they could pose to Israel, to the region, and indeed to us as well. So again, we think this presents an opportunity for him to act quickly to resolve this nuclear issue, and we’re waiting to talk to them when they are ready to engage substantively.

QUESTION: What’s the first step that you would want to see Rouhani take on the nuclear issue?

MS. HARF: Well, we – I wouldn’t want to lay out one step specifically. But as you know, we have a proposal on the table. We’ve had it on the table for some time and we’re waiting for a substantive response from the Iranian side on how to move forward. And we’ve been clear that that’s what needs to happen next.

QUESTION: He’s putting together a cabinet that --

QUESTION: You mean the P-5+1 proposal?

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: He’s putting together a cabinet that is perceived to be technocratic and professional and very practical and so on, including Zarif, who was at the UN and you probably know him quite well. So do you think that is a step forward in this atmosphere of working with Mr. Rouhani?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’ve seen that he’s appointed a cabinet. We understand, I think, that they still must be confirmed by the Majlis, so we’re getting a little ahead of the process here. But regardless of who’s in the new cabinet, we would reiterate our hope that the Iranian Government take this opportunity to engage substantively with the United States and the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program.

QUESTION: Are we done?

MS. HARF: Are we done?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Have a great day, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)

DPB # 132

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 5, 2013]