Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 13, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • New Settlement Activity / U.S. Position / Negotiated Final Status Agreement / Engaged with both Sides / Ambassador Indyk / Secretary Kerry's Involvement
  • INDIA/PAKISTAN
    • Violence along Line of Control / U.S. Concern / Encourage further Dialogue
    • Kashmir / Counterterrorism
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Political Candidates from other Countries in the U.S. / No Department Regulations
  • BANGLADESH
    • Detention of Adilur Rahman Khans by Police
  • SYRIA
    • Rejection of Extremism Assad Regime / Political Process / Concern of Instability
  • SYRIA/IRAQ
    • Counterterrorism Cooperation
  • RUSSIA
    • Human Rights / Olympics
  • SYRIA
    • Humanitarian Assistance
  • EGYPT
    • Call for Peaceful Demonstrations / Interim Government / Democratic Process
    • Security Situation in the Sinai
    • Attacks on Religious Institutions
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Embassy/Consulate Reopening Update
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Kenneth Bae / U.S. Concern
  • BAHRAIN
    • Demonstration Plans
  • LIBYA
    • Securing Missing Weapons / U.S. Assistance
  • GERMANY
    • Cooperation on Counterterrorism and Intelligence


TRANSCRIPT:

This video is available on YouTube with closed captions.

1:27 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing, everyone. I do not have anything at the top.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Happy to answer your questions.

QUESTION: So, unfortunately, we have to go back to the Middle East because this morning the Israelis announced that they were going to construct 900 or so new homes in East Jerusalem. I’m wondering what your response to that is, particularly given the Secretary’s comments yesterday about the illegitimacy of continued settlements. Is it – maybe you’d better make your position a little bit more clear to the Israelis.

MS. HARF: Well, I’m glad that you referenced the Secretary’s comments. He did speak about this yesterday and he did a few things. He made clear what our position is on continued settlement activity. He also underscored – and I think this is really the important point – that there’s a reason we want both sides at the table, because that’s the best place and the best forum and the best way to address sticky issues, to address these kinds of topics, and that’s why we’re so engaged in this process. But our position, broadly speaking, on settlements has not changed.

QUESTION: I understand that, but this is not technically a settlement.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: This is in East Jerusalem.

MS. HARF: If it’s in East Jerusalem, correct.

QUESTION: So what’s your reaction to this?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have a reaction to that specific announcement. I’ll take a closer look at it and get you a specific reaction to that if I have one. Again, the Secretary spoke a little bit about this yesterday, but I’m happy to get you anything.

QUESTION: You are aware of it, though.

MS. HARF: I am. Yes. I just don’t have a reaction to that particular announcement.

QUESTION: Since the peace talks began here back on the 30th, the Israelis – this is just the latest move in this direction – on August 4th they expanded subsidies to West Bank settlements; on August 8th they announced another thousand new apartments in the West Bank; on August 11th the Housing Minister announced what you talked about yesterday, 1,187 West Bank apartments and 800 East Jerusalem, and then today 900 new apartments in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians meanwhile don’t seem to have done anything except kind of sucked it up on this, and I’m just wondering if you view – is this evidence of Israel’s good faith – what you talked about yesterday when you said both sides were at the table in good faith?

MS. HARF: Well, we still believe that, Matt, that both sides are at the negotiating table in good faith here, because they believe in the importance of the peace process. They believe that the most important way to eventually settle these issues is through a negotiated final status agreement.

So Ambassador Indyk is still in the region. As you know, we’re going to have another round of talks, I believe, tomorrow. And all of these issues are going to be discussed throughout this process; it’s exactly why we’re there. But we do believe that both parties are at the negotiating table, the negotiating teams are there talking to us and talking to each other in good faith.

QUESTION: Do you believe – does it bother you that the Israelis are doing exactly the opposite of what you would like them to do?

MS. HARF: Well, those are your words. Those aren’t mine.

QUESTION: Well, what is it when you tell them not to do something and they do it?

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: Is that not – that’s either ignoring --

MS. HARF: Again, those are your words. Those aren’t mine. I said we have serious concerns --

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. HARF: -- with the recent – I said this yesterday that we had --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- serious concerns with the announcements that we were talking about yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re not necessarily – you have serious concerns but you’re not opposed to them?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to – and again, we can play the word game again today, but I’m not going to further describe our --

QUESTION: No, it’s not a word game because --

MS. HARF: -- position on this announcement. Let me finish for a second, Matt. I’m not going to further describe our position on this other than --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to --

MS. HARF: -- to say we have serious concerns.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: But it’s not a word game. These things have actual consequences --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- on the ground.

MS. HARF: Which is why our team is there negotiating with both sides exactly because they have incredibly serious consequences. You’re right.

QUESTION: So does it bother you at all that the Israelis do not seem to be listening to you?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to discuss whether or not something bothers us. I’m going to say that we have serious concerns with the recent announcement. We’ve made those concerns known. When there are actions taken by either side that we think are positive, as we talked about yesterday with prisoners, I will also make that note.

QUESTION: Okay. But you didn’t – you just said specifically you don’t have a reaction to today’s announcement.

MS. HARF: I don’t have a specific a reaction to today’s announcement, no.

QUESTION: So does that mean it might be okay with you?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have a reaction for you to this latest announcement. We’ve encouraged both sides, broadly speaking, to refrain from taking steps that could undermine trust. We’ve said that from the beginning. And we’ve also been clear that these are complicated issues and there will be bumps in the road. Again, if it were easy it would have been done a long time ago. But that’s exactly why we think it’s important to have a high-level representative of our government on the ground in discussions with both sides as we move forward with this process.

QUESTION: How much progress has your high-level representative been able to make in the last few days in persuading the Israelis not to do provocative actions, as you term it?

MS. HARF: Well, again, our Ambassador Indyk is there talking to both sides. We’re setting the stage for the direct meetings that will happen tomorrow. I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in terms of what will happen in those meetings. But clearly, it’s an importance process; we’re heavily engaged in it. I don’t have a further readout for you from his meetings.

QUESTION: Would you say that he has not made any progress?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to give him a grade. I think Ambassador Indyk is well-respected by both sides – that’s one of the reasons he was chosen for this post – and is engaging with both sides on the host of thorny issues that make up discussions about Middle East peace.

QUESTION: Marie --

QUESTION: Yesterday – may I just follow up? Yeah.

MS. HARF: One more Said, then I’ll go right to you.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you drew some sort of a symmetry between the release of the prisoners and the settlements in a sort of odd way, one canceling the other --

MS. HARF: I in no way drew that symmetry yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. All right, well, then I take it back. But let’s say that the Israelis are releasing today 26 prisoners. They are supposed to release 104 in this lot of prisoners. So do you – and in exchange they apparently announced the building of like 1,400 housing units and so on. So do you expect that with every sort of tranche of prisoners released to increase that, so by the time they release the 104 they will have, perhaps, 6,000 settlement units?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s a lot of hypotheticals wrapped up in your question, but I would say a few points. The first being that I can’t speak for the Government of Israel, and you just said that they did one to offset the other and you’d have to ask them whether they did. I’m not making that case from here, and I’m certainly not drawing a symmetry between the two.

QUESTION: I know, but --

MS. HARF: The second point I would make is that I’m not going to venture to guess how this process will play out going forward or what each side will do, how it will play out in any of the ways that you hypothetically suggested. I think that’s why we’re so engaged with both sides to try to obviously reduce the number of speed bumps in the process, but understanding that there will be some. And that’s why we’re there to keep them at the table and keep them moving forward with the process.

QUESTION: But if I recall correctly, Marie, you described the release of the prisoners as being positive --

MS. HARF: I did.

QUESTION: -- while not describing the settlements as being negative. So I’m saying --

MS. HARF: I did. I know there was a lot of discussions about words I used yesterday. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah. So the point being, would it be really in the – and the total sum of this would be totally negative if, let’s say, in exchange for the release of 104 prisoners the Israelis went ahead and built maybe 7,000 units?

MS. HARF: I think that you’re trying to put two things together and put them on a weight balancing them against each other, which is not in any way what I’m doing and what we’re doing. So I’m not going to comment on that hypothetical other than to say when either side does something we have concerns with, we’ll say so.

QUESTION: And finally --

MS. HARF: When either side does something positive, we will also say so.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, would you explain to me – the Secretary of State said that all settlements were illegitimate. What is the difference between illegitimate and illegal, in your parlance, in your explanation?

MS. HARF: Well, our – the Secretary – our position is clear and has not changed that we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. That is our policy. I can say it every day but it has in no way changed.

Yes, Lesley.

QUESTION: So I just want to make sure the talks are going ahead tomorrow, correct?

MS. HARF: Yes, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: What does the Secretary mean that some of these settlements are to be expected?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words. I know all of you have seen them. I think he was making the point that there are going to be parts of this process that are bumps in the road, ups and downs, that we have seen how this has played out in the past. And what we’re focused on is moving forward with the future and the process and how we will deal with these bumps in the road. And he also said – and I think this was the key point of what he said, and I do have it right in front of me – that because of these issues, this is exactly the reason both sides need to be at the table to hash them out directly with each other and eventually to get to an agreement so we can move past them and get to a place where we have two states living side by side.

QUESTION: Did anyone ask him – I did ask it yesterday, and again, has the U.S. told Israel to stop?

MS. HARF: I am not going to further outline what our diplomatic communications are with the Israeli Government on this issue other than to say yesterday that we had serious concerns with the latest announcement and made that known to the government.

QUESTION: The Secretary said he was trying to get in touch with the Prime Minister. Did he make that phone call, and what did he tell the Prime Minister?

MS. HARF: I believe he did. Let me double-check with the traveling party on that. I was just on the phone with them before I came down here, but I want to get the latest information. I believe it happened, but let me just double-check on that and we can get it for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Are you going to come back and tell us that you’re not able to say because it’s part of diplomatic discussions because --

MS. HARF: I don’t know what I’m going to come back to you and say. If I can read it out for you, I will. I know he said that he wanted to talk to him. I just want to make sure it actually happened, and we’re happy to give you a readout if that’s possible.

QUESTION: And then looking at the larger stance of the Obama Administration in dealing with Israel on this issue, at first there was a very hard line going back to almost the moment when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, very critical of the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, whether or not it was inside Jerusalem. And now there seems to be this softer take. Is the U.S. essentially throwing up its hands and assuming that Israel is going to build settlements even though doing so may impede the ability of establishing a fully contiguous independent Palestinian state?

MS. HARF: I would in no way, I think, characterize it like that. I’m not going to do a history lesson about where we’ve been for the last five years, but I would say a few things. I think the President was clear when he and Secretary Kerry visited Israel earlier this year in the speech he gave about the importance of peace, the possibility of peace, and what that will look like and what that will entail.

So I would in no way characterize it as throwing up our hands. We continue to have conversations with the Israeli Government about all of these issues. I think the main message – and I’ll say it again – that the President and the Secretary and everyone has made is that we need to get to a peace process that gets us to a final status agreement, because we can keep talking about this issue day in and year in and decade in, but the bottom line remains that we are in a place where we want to be on the ground, where we have two states living side by side in peace and security. And that’s what we will continue to press with the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: But look, there was this nine-month-long moratorium that Netanyahu put in going into 2010. He allowed that moratorium to expire not three weeks after the start of renewed peace talks here at the State Department. The Palestinians threw up their hands and said if this is continuing, we’re not going to be at the table. That same risk exists right now. Is the Obama Administration going to continue essentially spinning its wheels on this matter if it does not convince Israel to refrain from expanding these settlements?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is I would caution anyone from comparing this round of peace talks to the last round. I know it’s easy to make historical comparisons and say, well, this happened then and this is what the other side did in response, but I would caution anyone from jumping to those conclusions.

I think what we’ve seen, what the Secretary has seen and what Ambassador Indyk has seen on the ground is that we are where we are today and that we are at a time period where we need – every single day that we don’t have a final status agreement is a day further away from where we want to be. So both sides are at the table operating in good faith. There’s a lot of history about why this hasn’t worked in the past, but we are focused on the fact that both sides sit down at the table and say this is important, it’s imperative, it’s the right time, our leaders are committed to it, and so we are going to continue working with you on this to get to a better place.

QUESTION: But when we talk about settlements, we’re not talking about something in the abstract. We’re talking about people bringing their families in, establishing roots, establishing communities. Those are very difficult to dismantle with each passing day, as you noted.

MS. HARF: All of the issues involved with Middle East peace are difficult.

QUESTION: But when you have this and when you have talk of train lines being brought through to connect one settlement with another and not allowing people who live in between to board them, it does raise the difficulty and makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to say to their side you have to be patient, we’re trying to make this work, so that we can get what we have been fighting for for 30 years. Is the U.S. throwing up its hands on settlements before this process even gets started?

MS. HARF: No. In no way are we throwing up our hands on settlements. I think (a) all the issues involved with a potential final status agreement are difficult, clearly, including this one. I think – so that’s the first point that I would make. And (b) what we’re focused on right now is having these discussions about all of these issues with both parties, and I’m not going to do a play-by-play of the political situation on the ground or of each of these individual issues as we discuss them every day. It’s a big process. It will take time and there are a lot of them.

QUESTION: And it will have an impact on the process.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And so you --

MS. HARF: Nobody’s naive about that.

QUESTION: So you can’t just dismiss this out of hand, though.

MS. HARF: I’m not dismissing it. I’m not dismissing it. I said that we have serious concerns with the announcement, that we have expressed that to the Government of Israel. But there’s a very different thing between saying we have serious concerns and that these are difficult issues and throwing up our hands, in the term that you used. So I think that clearly we think this is important, and we’ll continue working with both sides on it going forward.

QUESTION: Marie just –

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it – finally – this is my final point. Is it incumbent on – then on the U.S. to be as open, as transparent, as clear as possible in explaining this, not so much to us here in this room but to the people who are living in Israel and in the occupied territories about what it is actually doing to try to move to the day where there is a treaty signed?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that the Secretary’s been clear that peace is imperative for both of the peoples on the ground that we’re talking about. You’re right. And that’s why he’s traveled to the region. That’s why we’re so engaged in the process. I think that we have said we want the details, this kind of nitty-gritty details about these discussions to remain private because that ultimately gives them the best chance of succeeding, which is, again, what’s in the best interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. So I think that’s the broader point I would make that there’s a reason we keep many of the discussions private, and we’ll continue to do so going forward because it’s in the best – it’s the best way that we can give the peace process a chance to actually succeed.

QUESTION: Marie, just to --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Again, obviously, there’s a lot of public debate about this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But is the State Department getting any indication that this issue, this settlement issue, is keeping either side from the table? You said the talks are going forward.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that this could disrupt the talks?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I wouldn’t want to get into the private diplomatic discussions we’re having with both sides about any of the issues that are being raised or the potential of certain announcements or certain things to affect the talks one way or the other. Again, these are sticky issues. They’re thorny issues.

Clearly, that’s why Ambassador Indyk is there when something arises to work with both sides to make sure we are coming back to the table. And the process keeps moving forward because we – of course, we know that there’s nothing inevitable about this process coming to a successful conclusion. It’s going to take a lot of hard work in addition to the hard work we’ve already seen on both sides. So we’re playing a facilitating role, when issues arise, to help work through them between the two parties, to make sure the process is moving forward, and that’s what we’ll keep doing.

QUESTION: But you do believe that tomorrow, they will be there at the table?

MS. HARF: That is my understanding, absolutely.

QUESTION: Do you believe that tomorrow Israel might also announce new settlement activities, or do you believe that this round is over?

MS. HARF: I would not want to venture to guess. I would refer you to the Government of Israel to ask about their future plans.

QUESTION: Could you just explain what the – specifically what the serious concerns are?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to further detail that, no.

QUESTION: Is it – well --

MS. HARF: I’ve said we have serious concerns. I’m not going to --

QUESTION: But is it --

MS. HARF: -- further explain what those concerns are. We’re making those concerns --

QUESTION: Really?

MS. HARF: -- known privately to the Israelis, yes --

QUESTION: And you don’t want to --

MS. HARF: -- which is the appropriate forum in which to do so.

QUESTION: So in the past, the United States Government has said that things like this prejudge the outcome of negotiations. You’ve also said that it hurts the atmosphere for negotiations. Those aren’t your concerns?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to outline what our concerns are from here. We’re making them known to the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: All right. In response – are you making them known to the Palestinians as well?

MS. HARF: It’s fair to say that Ambassador Indyk is talking about these issues with both sides.

QUESTION: Right, but the Palestinians understand that – what your concerns are so they know where you’re coming from as the honest broker?

MS. HARF: I am sure Ambassador Indyk has made that clear to --

QUESTION: All right. On Said’s question about illegitimate and what it means, I want to leave apart the definition because there’s only two definitions of it. One is being born outside of wedlock and the other is illegal. So assuming that you don’t mean that it’s born outside of wedlock, you mean it’s illegal. But I don’t want to focus on that. I want to focus on the continued part of this; continued settlement activity is illegitimate. What about prior settlement activity?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that also illegitimate?

MS. HARF: Well, clearly, this is one of the big issues that’s being discussed right now by both sides. I’m not going to make a broad sweeping generalization from here about prior settlement activity. Again, that’s something that’s being discussed between both sides. We’re all aware of the issues involved there, but I’m not going to further outline what those discussions look like today between the two parties.

QUESTION: Do you know when the cutoff is between legitimate and illegitimate? Or is it only continued, i.e. settlement activity in the future that is illegitimate, and once it’s built --

MS. HARF: If there’s a date cutoff --

QUESTION: -- it’s not illegitimate? Do you see what I’m --

MS. HARF: No, I understand your question.

QUESTION: The problem with it is --

MS. HARF: Yes, I understand your question.

QUESTION: -- is that nothing is actually illegitimate. It’s always pushed into the future. So I want to know when it is that you think the illegitimacy of settlements began.

MS. HARF: Okay. I can – I will take that question.

QUESTION: Did it begin at – in ‘67 or is there some stuff that is okay and that should be off the table in terms of swaps, stuff that Israel should have claimed to before the negotiations come to an end?

MS. HARF: Well, I would make two points. One is I will endeavor to get you a more fulsome description of what that means. I understand the question and I think it’s an important one. The other is that obviously, we know this is a very delicate issue. It’s one that’s being discussed right now, and I wouldn’t want to get ahead of discussions on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But I will endeavor to get you a more fulsome status.

QUESTION: And I just want to make sure that my question is clear. I want to know if the U.S. regards any existing settlement --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or housing construction in the West Bank --

MS. HARF: I understand, yes.

QUESTION: -- I mean, in East Jerusalem --

MS. HARF: I understand.

QUESTION: -- to be illegitimate or if it’s --

MS. HARF: I understand, yes.

QUESTION: -- all in the future. Okay. Now in terms of the prisoners --

MS. HARF: I will take the question. I just don’t want to misspeak on this or on anything, but --

QUESTION: In terms of the prisoner release --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this hasn’t actually happened yet. It’s not supposed to happen until tonight. But you do think it’s a good thing?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Even though it’s a hypothetical --

MS. HARF: Same place I was yesterday.

QUESTION: -- because it hasn’t happened yet?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s something that they’ve approved, that’s in the pipeline.

QUESTION: Yeah, but that hasn’t happened yet.

MS. HARF: I don’t know where we are in the process, but yes, it’s something that’s been approved by the Israeli cabinet.

QUESTION: So you’re prepared to go ahead and say it’s a hypothetical thing, it’s --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a hypothetical because it’s a step that’s been --

QUESTION: It is a hypothetical because it hasn’t happened yet.

MS. HARF: It’s been approved by the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: It hasn’t happened yet, though.

MS. HARF: Okay. But it’s a step that’s been approved.

QUESTION: Okay. I just want you to remember this conversation because we’re going to have it over --

MS. HARF: I remember all of our conversations, Matt.

QUESTION: We’re going to have it over a different issue maybe even later in this briefing, not --

MS. HARF: Understood.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It’s not a hypothetical policy decision.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: It’s a policy decision that’s been made --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- and is being implemented as we speak.

QUESTION: All right. That’s fine. Do you have any thoughts or position on whether these people who are going to be released --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in this hypothetical release are political prisoners, or are they terrorists?

MS. HARF: I do not have a position on that.

QUESTION: Do you object to the Palestinians referring to them as political prisoners?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a position on that. I am happy to look into it and if I have something to share, I can.

QUESTION: Can you?

MS. HARF: I can, yes.

QUESTION: Can you find – because --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this is a big bone of contention.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – I mean, most of these people have been convicted of murder, of killing people, and the Israelis are very clear on the fact that they think that these people are terrorists, even though they’re releasing them. The Palestinians say that they are political prisoners, and I – and they have instructed their ambassadors, all their representatives around the world, to refer to them as freedom fighters, political prisoners. And I want to know, if you don’t have a position --

MS. HARF: On what we call them?

QUESTION: -- on what they – on what –

MS. HARF: Okay. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If there isn’t anything that you call them, do you object to the Palestinians referring to them as freedom fighters?

MS. HARF: The answer is I don’t know, and I will endeavor to get an answer for you on that as well. I think I would make the point that this was clearly a difficult step for the Israeli Government to take, but that it did show that they are putting some trust in the Palestinian Authority, investing in the PA’s success, and that we do think it’s a positive step. But in terms of terminology, I will look into that --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: -- and see what I can do.

QUESTION: But at the same time --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- does it show trust in the Palestinian Authority by continuing to approve housing to be built on land that they claim? Do you – are you not concerned that Israel is trying to redraw or lay down markers for – prior to the negotiations by approving these new blocs?

MS. HARF: Again --

QUESTION: And that gets back to what your serious concerns are.

MS. HARF: Exactly.

QUESTION: Having serious concerns --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- without saying what the concerns are meaningless, and apparently --

MS. HARF: It’s not meaningless when you make those concerns known to the Government of Israel.

QUESTION: Well, and the response --

MS. HARF: That’s --

QUESTION: -- from the Government of Israel has been, after you’ve expressed your serious concerns, is to announce more of them. That’s not a particularly effective policy for --

MS. HARF: Okay. Is there a question?

QUESTION: Well, how much leverage do you think you have with the Israelis given their actions, simply in the last two weeks?

MS. HARF: Well, clearly, we have an incredibly close relationship with the Israeli Government. We work together on a host of issues. You are all aware of that bilateral relationship. And I think we would underscore that Prime Minister Netanyahu is working very closely with the Secretary, and the negotiating team on the Israeli side is working very closely with our team out there to work on these issues going forward. And that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, just – and this is not even a substantive question. I just want to – are you going to put out as a taken question, or can you put out as a taken question, your reaction to the East Jerusalem announcement today?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’ll endeavor to do that.

QUESTION: Marie, for the issue with the word “illegitimate” and – I’ve also had a lot of queries about it --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- overnight was – is that – what does that mean? And we know that from Hillary Clinton’s time on with – that been – that the State Department has been using it. The question is whether – does the State Department then recognize these latest settlements’ approval? And if not – and I think that goes on Matt’s question.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I think it’s wrapped up in the same question.

QUESTION: So it would be great to get some kind of --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- whether if you don’t recognize it, well, then --

MS. HARF: Well, what do you mean by “recognize?”

QUESTION: Meaning would it – I mean, if they are illegitimate, it means probably that you don’t recognize them, and that in future discussions, these are not at all going to be taken into account.

MS. HARF: Understood. Yes, I will add that into Matt’s question, and we’ll endeavor to get you some more details about this.

QUESTION: And then the Palestinian senior authority told – just told AFP that it’s – that these are unprecedented – the settlement expansion is unprecedented, and it threatens to make the talks fail even before they’ve started. That’s why we’re asking whether there’s – whether you can confirm that those talks are going to take place.

MS. HARF: It is my understanding – again, I’m happy to check in with our team on the ground again – but we and the Secretary – again, I would reiterate what he said, that this is exactly the reason why the talks are so important.

QUESTION: Do you believe (inaudible) that the United States is using its influence and good relations and good offices and leverage with Israel wisely on the issue of the settlements?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s take a step back here from the issue of the settlements. I think it’s important to remember that for the first time in a number of years, the two parties are back at the table talking directly because of a huge investment from this Administration, starting with the President’s trip and then with Secretary Kerry being tasked with getting these talks restarted. So I think that shows (a) that we do have a role to play and do have an ability to bring both sides back to the table.

So let’s take a step back and look at that broader context in which the fact that the Secretary has made, I think, six trips to the region now, personally invested multi-hour meetings, which many of us were sitting around waiting during for the outcome of them, but that they – we’ve invested so much of this Administration’s and the Secretary’s personal time to have both sides back at the table, I think that does show that we have a role to play, a significant role to play, and that we do have an ability to bring both sides back to the table.

Yes.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. HARF: New subject? Anything – something on this or a new subject?

QUESTION: New subject.

MS. HARF: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam. Any update from yesterday’s cross-border terrorism from Pakistan into India? And second, this week on Sunday, Pakistan celebrated so-called minority national week, but according to an article in the Foreign Policy magazine and U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, it’s not what Pakistan is saying when minorities in Pakistan are under attack, especially Hindus and Christians. Any comments on that?

MS. HARF: Well, the second question I’ll have to take. I’m not aware of that data or the reports, so let me look into that and get back to you on that. Again, as we said – so I’ll look into that.

On your first question, as we said yesterday, we’re aware of these reports, obviously are concerned about any violence along the Line of Control. We understand that the governments of India and Pakistan are in contact over these issues. We will continue to encourage further dialogue. Also, our ambassadors in both India and Pakistan have raised these recent incidents with their respective host governments and conveyed our hope that India and Pakistan will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve their bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: And one more: As far as these minority issue in Pakistan is concerned, this week most of the demonstrations will be taking place around the globe at the Pakistani embassies and consulate, including in New York and in Washington, and Christians and Hindus and among other minorities will be gathering, and they’re calling the State Department and the Obama Administration to take this very seriously, because minorities are reducing in Pakistan.

MS. HARF: Well, again, I haven’t seen reports about the specific events. Let me look into that and get back to you. I would broadly say that around the world, we push for a respect for all human rights, including minority rights. We make that point repeatedly, but in terms of this specific event, let me look into it, and I’ll get you some more on that.

QUESTION: And one more quickly as far as Kashmir issue is concerned. This was the first time that Pakistan-held Kashmir – people from the Pakistan-held Kashmir – they were demonstrating at the Pakistan Embassy for the first time in 65 years, because they said that they’ve been trusting the Pakistani Government and also they are advocates speaking on their behalf, but they were all wrong.

What they’re asking is: The real picture in the Pakistan-held Kashmir is not what Pakistan has been giving to the world, and they are suffering and they’re – so-called Azad Kashmir is not free Kashmir, and they’re also asking the State Department – the time has come for the State Department – for them to speak for their rights inside Pakistan also.

MS. HARF: Was there a question?

QUESTION: The question is that: Are you doing anything for – because so far they are – everybody been talking only one-sided of Kashmir and India, but nobody was talking about Kashmir and Pakistan, and that’s what they are standing now for their rights inside Pakistan Kashmir.

MS. HARF: Well, I would reiterate, first, that our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine with each other. So I don’t – I would disagree with the notion that we’re just talking about one and not the other, but again, our policy on this has not changed.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam. Thank you.

QUESTION: Two important points on this. One, it’s like a different – the UN Secretary General is in Islamabad these days.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And today, he said that the U.S. drone program should function under international laws. So I would like to have your comments on that. And also the Pakistani Prime Minister today once again offered India to engage in talks to defuse the situation, so your comments on that as well, please.

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the Secretary General’s comments. I would make a few points. And so I can’t comment on those specifically, but in terms of that issue and our counterterrorism programs, I would refer you to the comments the President made about it in his May speech at NDU, which were the most, I think, we’ve ever talked publicly about our counterterrorism operations in this part of the world and the rules and the guidelines that govern that use.

QUESTION: And --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And on the other thing, the Prime Minister’s offer of the talks –

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: -- in India? And the Pakistani Prime Minister once again offering India to engage in talks over Kashmir and other issues?

MS. HARF: Again, we have reiterated, and I said that our ambassadors in both India and Pakistan have reached out to their respective governments to convey our hope that they will continue to take steps to build trust and to work together. We of course would encourage any dialogue between the two countries going forward.

QUESTION: Can you say that you are a little bit more concerned about the situation there now than you were before?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I would characterize it that way. We’re always concerned when there are reports of violence along the Line of Control. That will remain the case, but I won’t – I wouldn’t want to compare it to another historical time about our level of concern.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Staying on India --

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on what your concerns are?

MS. HARF: When there’s reports of violence?

QUESTION: Violence on –

MS. HARF: I think that they should be fairly self-explanatory, that violence is not a good thing, and we’re concerned when it occurs.

Yes.

QUESTION: Well, why? Because they’re two nuclear-armed countries, rivals that have almost gone to war – well, they have gone to war several times –

MS. HARF: Well, I think –

QUESTION: -- including over Kashmir?

MS. HARF: We express concern about violence –

QUESTION: Yes?

MS. HARF: -- in many places around the world. Of course we know the history here, and that’s why we encourage both sides to take steps for dialogue because – exactly because of some of the history and because we know it’s clearly a very heated issue, and that’s why we’ve been encouraged by steps both governments have taken to work together recently and hope that they will continue to do so.

QUESTION: So history is important here, but –

MS. HARF: History is important everywhere. I’m just not –

QUESTION: Oh, okay. So it’s –

MS. HARF: -- always going to do a history lesson from the podium. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So – but when it comes to the Israelis and the Palestinians, the history is – you don’t want to talk about the --

MS. HARF: That’s not what I’m saying. Actually, and I would say the same thing here. I would caution against comparing this current time and what we’re seeing along the Line of Control to any other historical situation. I know it’s easy to make historical analogies; some are better than others, and they’re not always apt. And I would say the same thing about the peace process.

QUESTION: But the fact that both countries have nuclear weapons, does it make more alarming the situation there?

MS. HARF: I think it probably goes without saying that because of their capabilities that we would be concerned by any increased tension. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening now, just hypothetically speaking if that were to happen. It’s exactly the reason why we are encouraging dialogue.

QUESTION: But since U.S. is grossly engaged with both Pakistan and India –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- especially in the context of Afghanistan conflict, don’t you think that Washington should be more proactive in encouraging these two sides (inaudible) nuclear powers to continue their dialogue?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, our ambassadors on the ground are engaged, and I just read a little bit out about what they’re talking about with their respective governments, so I think that’s important. But at the end of the day, this is an issue that we believe – again, the pace and the scope and the character of their dialogue on Kashmir is really for those two countries to determine together. We’ll engage when we think it’s appropriate, as our ambassadors are doing.

QUESTION: But the – we were talking about history has shown that the two countries have been engaging in some confidence-building measures and some progress has been made on economic and trade issues.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the underlying cause of tension between the two nations, the Kashmir dispute, it remains there, and which is UN-recognized, one of the oldest issues. Should the U.S. go and appoint an envoy, make these two countries – encourage them to resolve this outstanding dispute?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we can encourage them to have dialogue and to resolve the dispute. I agree, but we don’t have to do that necessarily with an envoy. I think our ambassadors are very engaged on the ground on this. What that engagement looks like going forward, I don’t have a prediction to make for you other than to say, of course, we will continue to encourage both sides to move forward with this dialogue.

QUESTION: Staying on India?

MS. HARF: Wait, do – hold on.

QUESTION: Staying on India?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I think we have some more India – India from yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah, the – from yesterday.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: The first one is on the – Anna Hazare --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- whose name was mentioned from the podium since 2011. And if you go back on 16th of August, Victoria’s statement generated quite a bit of heat between the two countries. So today he’s – this month he’s coming to the U.S.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He’s meeting with governors, members of Congress, and he’s even ringing the bell on NASDAQ, the closing bell. Is he – is the U.S. State Department offering to meet any – because he’s anti-corruption moment leader?

MS. HARF: He has no meetings scheduled with State Department officials during his visit.

QUESTION: But he’s meeting some of the people on the Hill, so that is --

MS. HARF: Again, I can only speak for the State Department. I can’t speak for my colleagues in a different branch of government. He has no meetings scheduled here.

QUESTION: And the second one was on the use of American turf by the --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- Indian and other political parties.

MS. HARF: So I did get some more information on this. Of course, you are all well aware of freedom of speech and expression in the United States. There are no specific State Department regulations about political candidates from other countries traveling to or campaigning in the United States for foreign elective positions. Again, you’re all aware of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech and expression, and we have no specific regulations here about this issue.

QUESTION: But does it mean that political parties and leaders from other countries – I am asking this because this also happened with the Pakistanis. Every time we have an election there, the leaders from Pakistan come and they collect money, and they campaign with the Pakistan community here and everything. So does it mean it is perfectly legal to do so?

MS. HARF: Well, we have no regulations here at the State Department that talk about political candidates from other countries. I wouldn’t want to speak to anything broader than that. I guess I would refer you to the Department of Justice for specifics of domestic laws that might apply to foreign political candidates. I’m not aware of any. Again, this is a fairly in-the-weeds issue. But I – there are no regulations here, certainly, that govern this.

QUESTION: New topic?

QUESTION: So you mean to say that – and the Department of Justice may have some regulation and over --

MS. HARF: Not that I’m aware of, but again, I can’t speak for domestic laws. But we have no regulations here at the State Department, which I can speak for, about political candidates from other countries traveling. Again, we have freedom of expression, freedom of speech, which would seem to cover a lot of what you’re talking about.

QUESTION: So the U.S. territory can be used for political propaganda?

MS. HARF: Again, we have no regulations here about political candidates from other countries coming here and campaigning. I think you see that – there’s just nothing, no regulations on the book that would govern that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. A question on Bangladesh: Public opinion polls in Bangladesh clearly shows that free and fair parliament election in Bangladesh is possible only under a neutral nonparty election-time government that is acceptable to all, and one that will ensure a fair and participatory election. Such a system will ensure a level playing field for all. What is the U.S. Government position on this, on the issue of – because situations are really heating up in Bangladesh as we speak, and with the late – the arrest of a human right activist of Odhikar --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- things are getting really tense over there. So on my first question, Bangladesh is having a nonparty election-time government. That is the issue that the U.S. would be commenting on. And what is the position on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I would say that we are deeply concerned by Adilur Rahman Khan’s detention by the police on Friday, I believe. You mentioned he is the secretary of Odhikar, a well-known and widely respected Bangladeshi human rights organization. We would make the point that we make frequently: That in a democracy, it’s essential that the government create an environment in which organizations like this one can freely operate. We also urge Bangladeshi authorities to effect Adil’s immediate release from detention while the government pursues any legal issues it may have against him through appropriate standards of due process.

QUESTION: And what about this nonparty election-time government? Has the United States made up their mind in helping the process so to avoid any violence leading up to that election?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics on that for you. I’m happy to look into it and if I can share --

QUESTION: If you could kindly – if you could kindly take this question --

MS. HARF: I will, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: A quick point on (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as now elections coming soon with those factory fires and also Walmart and other U.S. businesses were involved, anything update that – what U.S. companies and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Department are doing to help the Bangladesh?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on that. I’m happy to check in with our folks who work on this, and if there is one, I can certainly give it to you.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: New topic.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know there’s been some discussions at the podium in the past about al-Qaida in Iraq’s ability to set up bases in Syria. Is their ability to do so – al-Qaida in Iraq’s ability to create bases in Syria – due to U.S. inaction and creating a vacuum for them to operate freely in Syria, and other foreign fighters?

MS. HARF: Absolutely not. We’ve been clear that we’re – we have deep concern about the continued flow into Syria foreign fighters. We do think the situation has gotten worse, especially as violent extremists who are seeking to join al-Qaida affiliates inside Syria. But I would put the onus squarely on the Assad regime who has perpetrated with the support of Iranian and Hezbollah forces, helping to drive some young Syrians and foreign fighters into joining extremist groups.

So I think we would put the onus on the Assad regime. They’re the ones responsible for the brutality. We clearly have – we have made it clear that we oppose extremism in all its forms. That’s why we’ve been so strong about al-Nusrah. Clearly, we’ll continue to make that point going forward.

QUESTION: Is the United States encouraging more foreign fighters to go into Syria?

MS. HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: To fight Assad?

MS. HARF: That’s a ridiculous notion, that we would be encouraging extremists of any kind to do anything. We’ve been clear that the opposition needs to reject extremism. That’s why we vet who we give aid to. That’s why we’re clear that we’re working through the SMC and the SOC as the umbrella organizations that all – that we’re encouraging all assistance to be funneled through. It’s exactly the opposite. We’ve made it clear that the opposition, in order to be credible and to continue to get our assistance, needs to reject extremism.

QUESTION: Related to this question, yesterday outgoing CIA Deputy Michael Morell warned that Syria – if the regime falls, it is likely to become run by al-Qaida, becomes a terrorist haven, and pose the most – the ultimate threat, basically, to American national security. Do you concur?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen Mr. Morell’s specific comments. We would make a few points in response to that: First, that the Assad regime has lost all legitimacy with its people. It can no longer, going forward, be seen in the eyes of people as the legitimate head of the government. We’ve also been clear that it’s important that the opposition continue to coalesce, continue to organize. That’s why election of leaders was so important, because going forward, there needs to be a political process where we can get to something resembling a stable, inclusive, inclusive Syrian government that is not the Assad regime.

So clearly, we’re concerned about the instability in Syria. That’s no secret. But this is exactly why we think a Geneva 2 process and conference is key to getting a political resolution that gives us the best chance of having a stable Syria going forward.

QUESTION: So you disagree with the notion that Mr. Morell is proposing, that the collapse of the Assad regime will also usher in an era of Syria turning into a terrorist haven.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen his comments, so I don’t want to speak to them directly. I think we’ve seen under the Assad regime currently, and the situation that they’ve created on the ground, that they’ve given al-Qaida and other extremists more room to maneuver. That’s exactly why we need to get to a place where the Assad regime is no longer in power.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t some argue that your – the U.S., the Obama Administration is giving al-Qaida more time to maneuver since you really haven’t done anything to stop the influx of extremists?

MS. HARF: Well, I certainly wouldn’t make that argument. I think we will continue working with other governments in the region to cooperate on counterterrorism. We’ve talked about this a little bit when it comes to Iraq or Lebanon, but we’ve also worked with the opposition to continue strengthening them. And so I think we would argue that every day we do more, we keep working with the opposition to strengthening them, and working with all parties and sides to get them to the table in Geneva.

QUESTION: But what specifically has the U.S. done to prevent more extremists coming from Iraq into Syria? Are you working with the Iraqi Government?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: How so?

MS. HARF: We’ve been clear that we have close counterterrorism cooperation with the Iraqi Government both to fight – to help them fight extremists within their own country, as we’ve seen recently and tragically, but also on the issue of foreign fighters. I’m not going to detail, and generally we don’t detail specific counterterrorism cooperation, but needless to say, we do work very closely with the Iraqis, yes.

Jill.

QUESTION: The Sochi Olympics.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any – there have been a lot of statements recently by Russian officials which are contradictory in terms of whether that new law about homosexual propaganda will be enforced. Do you have any clarity? Are you talking with them about that to figure out what is happening (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, I’ve seen some of those contradictory comments as well. I’d make the point that we’ve made repeatedly, that we call on Russia to uphold its international commitments regarding freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression, now and in the future, including at the Olympics. I don’t have any specific diplomatic communications to read out for you on that, but I think we’ve made our position clear. I think many of you saw the President’s comments on this he made very strongly last week in an interview about this issue specifically pertaining to the Olympics. So we will continue making that clear at a very high level and working with them going forward to get some more clarity on exactly how this is going to play out.

QUESTION: So you will be talking with them to try to figure out what they have in mind?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s safe to say that we will be seeking more clarity, yes. Absolutely.

QUESTION: But the President has been clear that the U.S. is not likely to boycott the Olympics.

MS. HARF: That’s right.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Sorry, just a quick one on --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the reports that Sudan has been funneling weapons through Turkey and Qatar, which are allies of ours, to – I mean, to Syrian rebels?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d stress a few points here: First, that we continue to stress the importance of all countries channeling assistance – other than humanitarian assistance, but including humanitarian assistance as well – through the SOC and the SMC. As you know, this was agreed to by the London 11 partners in our Istanbul meeting in May. Obviously, different countries choose how to do things differently, and I’d refer you to those governments for more details.

QUESTION: But Sudan is – correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t it under sanctions? It’s under an arms embargo and sanctions, so you have no comment about them?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have any additional details for you on that specific report.

QUESTION: Can you also look at the question of whether this would affect any U.S. assistance to – getting to the Syrian opposition, given that Sudan is still on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I’m just not sure if I can confirm that report one way or the other. I’ve seen the reports, but I will add it to the list of issues.

QUESTION: I’m not interested in you confirming the report.

MS. HARF: I know, I was --

QUESTION: I’m interested in whether or not, if it is --

MS. HARF: Hypothetically.

QUESTION: -- hypothetically, is there a problem, or does it pose a problem for the U.S. --

MS. HARF: If eventually that’s found to be the case.

QUESTION: -- because of their designation.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the Iraqi – yesterday you said you would have more details on the Iraqi foreign minister’s visit.

MS. HARF: I think we’ll have some more – the visit is – or excuse me, Thursday. I think we’ll have some more tomorrow. I don’t today.

Yes.

QUESTION: Egypt.

QUESTION: A question about Syria, which is: There were some reports saying in that the Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Brahimi team has to leave Egypt and go to somewhere else. It’s not – they are – they cannot conduct the same role from Egypt or Cairo. Do you have anything about that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on that for you at this time. Again, our position on Egypt hasn’t changed. I don’t have any updates for you today.

Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. So another thing, which, related to Egypt: There are some few steps were taken today regarding the governors and other things. But definitely the tensions are getting worse, especially – I mean, it’s like the – what we can call peaceful demonstrations are not anymore – are just starting to get different things, and there is this tendency to continue till the end. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. HARF: Well, clearly we’re watching the situation on the ground very closely, and we have – we’ll continue saying what we’ve said all along, that we encourage the interim government to allow peaceful protests – that’s a key part of moving forward with the democratic process – and, of course, would be concerned by new reports of violence. I know the situation is unfolding as we speak now, but we’ll be monitoring it closely.

QUESTION: So avoiding politics or policies or what, history of all these issues, or words, I’m talking about trying to figure out in the last few days the – Sinai is back on the --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- scene, and big issues are there. Do you have any observation, any understanding, any contacts relating to this issue in the Sinai?

MS. HARF: Well, we do remain concerned about the security situation in the Sinai – I know we’ve talked about that a little bit – and continue to raise these concerns with the Egyptian Government. That discussion’s ongoing. We believe that the Egyptian Government recognizes these potential threats as well, and we urge them to redouble their efforts to address these threats, because as we all know, securing the Sinai is vital to peace in the region.

QUESTION: So another thing which is on the scene, a local issue, but it was ignored for a while, which is like a lot of in the last few weeks at least, or the last week in particular, there are a lot of attacks on the churches in Egypt. I’m not sure if you are following it or the political process is more important than doing these issues.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve obviously seen these reports and would express our deep concern about them. Clearly, any reports of violence we’re concerned about, and when it involves a religious institutions, are concerned about that as well. So we will continue speaking out against this and continue talking to all parties and all sides about renouncing this violence, about moving forward with a democratic process, and that dialogue is ongoing as we speak.

QUESTION: So yesterday I ask a question after the briefing regarding the MB, Muslim Brother member being in town.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Is there any meeting planned, to have it? Or he already had it, or not?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything additional for you on that. Again, we remain in contact with the various groups and parties, but I don’t have anything specifically for you on that.

QUESTION: No, but this person in particular is in town, and he’s saying that he’s going to meet people from the Administration. And my question is very clear: Is he going to meet somebody from the State Department or not?

MS. HARF: I will double-check on that and get back to you.

Yes.

QUESTION: The interim President, Mr. Mansour, apparently has appointed 17 of 25, 27 governors, and of those 17, 14 are said to be generals, and the other three are said to be from the police force. How is that helpful in terms of political reconciliation?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to give a grade to every step that the interim government takes, and I’m also not going to, from here, say what the outcome of these decisions should look like. I’m not going to say what the breakdown should be in governors or in the cabinet. It’s not for us to prescribe that. What we’ve said is important is that the process is inclusive, not – we don’t get to determine or we don’t have a position on what the outcome should look like.

QUESTION: How is it inclusive then to just handpick people as opposed to allowing candidates to run for positions?

MS. HARF: Well, again, I’m not going to give a grade to every step that the interim government takes. We’re going to continue making the point with him and all the other members of the interim government that they need to be inclusive as they move forward and take steps to reduce political polarization.

QUESTION: Should the –

QUESTION: Well, do you believe this is inclusive?

QUESTION: Shouldn’t the interim government – go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I just – I think the question is: Do you believe that these appointments demonstrate or represent inclusivity?

MS. HARF: Well, again, I would make two points. We’ve been clear that the process has to be inclusive. It’s not for us to say what the outcome at the end of the day should look like.

QUESTION: Yes, but if the inclusive –

MS. HARF: And I don’t have – I don’t have information about all of these people in front of me. I just don’t know. I take your word of what you’re saying, but I don’t have specific details about everybody that’s been appointed other than to say that we want the process to be inclusive.

QUESTION: Meaning – not meaning – and by “inclusive” you mean more than just inclusive of the police and the military?

MS. HARF: We mean inclusive of all parties and all groups.

QUESTION: All Egyptians.

MS. HARF: The process, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other –

MS. HARF: Again, that doesn’t speak to what the eventual – you could have an inclusive process, hypothetically speaking, that ends up with one candidate or one party winning. But the process needs to be inclusive.

QUESTION: Yeah. Understood, but –

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- but if everyone that’s appointed is inclusive only of the military and the police, then that’s not inclusive, correct?

MS. HARF: Well, again, (a), I –

QUESTION: The inclusiveness has to be more than just military and police, right?

MS. HARF: (A), I don’t know the process by which these people were selected, and I’m not going to give –

QUESTION: Well, let me give you a hint. It wasn’t an election.

MS. HARF: Thank you for clarifying that, Matt. I don’t know the process by which Mr. Mansour picked these people, and I’m not going give a grade to every action the interim government takes except to say we’re going to keep pushing them to, as they make these decisions, consider an inclusive group of people for them, and moving forward with the process, get back to a place where elections are held. That’s clearly our goal.

QUESTION: Should this even be happening? I mean it’s one thing to have the non-coup coup take place, but then to have other government officials replaced in the middle of sides trying to be brought to the table to mediate some new political structure, should that next level of staffing change, as it were, be encouraged to take place, or doesn’t that just muddle the political situation in Egypt even more than it already is?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any more details again on this specific announcement. I’m happy to check with our folks and get back to you if I have anything additional to say on the specific governor appointments. But again, we have said that the time for dialogue is not over, that you need to keep working on this going forward. There will be ups and downs, but all sides need to refrain from taking steps that would increase political polarization. Again, I will look into the specific appointments of the governors, and if I have additional things to share on that, can get back to you.

QUESTION: Marie, on this point –

QUESTION: In light of that, so Mr. Mansour is also indicating that even though all sides are not yet at the table, that he and the rest of the interim government are going to look at revising the constitution. Is that advisable in the U.S.’s view?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not – every single announcement or step that the interim government says they’re taking, we’re not going to give a grade or say it’s good or it’s bad publicly. I don’t think that that is feasible, and I don’t think that’s necessarily advisable. We are making our thoughts known to the interim government and to the other parties about, in general, what kinds of steps would be helpful and what kinds wouldn’t be.

QUESTION: Do you think –

QUESTION: But we’re not talking about raising the speed limit from 35 to 40 miles an hour. We’re talking about the fundamental law of a country.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. And we’ve been clear –

QUESTION: Is it –

MS. HARF: -- that that process needs to be inclusive. Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is it advisable for the interim government to say, unilaterally, that it’s simply going to proceed even though other parts of Egyptian political culture are not at the table, and in fact, some of them are still out in squares protesting around the country?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear that on this issue as in others, that the process needs to be inclusive, and if it’s not that we will raise our concerns with the interim government and press them to make it so. I’m not going to put a timeline on when these different things should happen.

QUESTION: On this issue, Marie, should it raise a red flag, the appointing of governors, considering that it was when Morsy appointed these governors and they were all from the Muslim Brotherhood in fact what triggered the protests and so on way back then?

MS. HARF: Should this raise a red flag?

QUESTION: I mean shouldn’t it raise a red flag that they are from the military and – I mean, there is a similarity between what Mr. Mansour did and what Morsy did before his –

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have all the details about these governors. I will get some more information for you on that. But I would say that we made clear that we had some concerns with the way Mr. Morsy was governing, and when we have similar concerns with the way the interim government is acting, we will certainly make those clear to the interim government as well.

QUESTION: Sorry, you said just a while ago that you’re not going to put a timeline on when each of these things should be done. I thought that you guys endorsed the plan that was put forward by the interim authority for the drafting of a new constitution followed by a referendum, followed by a parliamentary election, followed by a presidential election all within the frame of about nine months, I think.

MS. HARF: Right. That’s a general timeline. I’m not going to say this step should happen right now or next week or next month.

QUESTION: But you do believe that’s the order in which things should go, correct?

MS. HARF: That has not changed, yes.

QUESTION: Marie –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I just have one else on Egypt. Is there – given the escalation in violence today, is there a renewed push among the mediators to try to get these sides together?

MS. HARF: I think it’s fair to say that our push has been fairly consistent and fairly strong and that all sides need to come together. Again, we’re watching the situation on the ground, but it’s been a push that we have consistently made to – on this issue and engaged very heavily on.

Egypt? No? Okay. Egypt?

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: I’ll get to you in one second. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: New topic as well. Just another update on the embassies. Lahore was supposed to open, I believe, tomorrow. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: I believe when we announced Lahore was closing, we said that there was no reopening date scheduled, and I don’t think – when we put out the statement saying that Sana’a and Lahore would remain closed, we said that there was no – we would continue evaluating the situation and make decisions going forward. I have no date for either Lahore or Sana’a to announce the reopenings at this time.

QUESTION: Hmm.

MS. HARF: I do have an update on our situation in Sana’a if you would –

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: -- if anyone would like it. So the Embassy is still closed. It’s only handling emergency cases. Ambassador Feierstein is back in Yemen, and he’s been engaging with Yemeni officials, including President Hadi today. We’re taking appropriate steps to plan for reopening Sana’a as soon as possible, but no exact date at this time. I know there’s been some discussion of this as well.

QUESTION: All right. I wonder if I could just check that, because I could have sworn that I read that Lahore was closed until the 14th. Is that –

MS. HARF: I do not believe that’s –

QUESTION: Isn’t that Saudi Arabia?

MS. HARF: No, Saudi Arabia was closed until the 14th for their traditional longer Eid holiday. No, what I believe – and let’s double-check on this, but I believe when we announced that 18 of the 19 were reopening, Sana’a and Lahore would remain closed, we would continue evaluating the situation, and make decisions about when they’ll reopen going forward. I don’t believe we ever announced the reopening date. I’ll double check on that, but I have no date for either to announce at this point.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Kenneth Bae?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Given that you confirmed that the State Department’s aware that his health is deteriorating --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are there any plans or is there a discussion about sending a high-level official to try and negotiate his release, as many of his supporters are calling for?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any information about any such plans at this time.

QUESTION: Are you aware of this interview that he apparently did?

MS. HARF: With?

QUESTION: Mr. Bae?

MS. HARF: With what media? I’m not.

QUESTION: I believe it was with a South Korean newspaper (inaudible) in which he was quoted --

MS. HARF: A new interview?

QUESTION: -- quoted in The New York Times, I think.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of a new interview. There may be one; I just haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: In the interview he asked the U.S. Government to send a high-level official to help him out. Are you willing to consider something like that?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any plans or anything to announce at this point.

QUESTION: I’m not asking if you have plans. I’m asking if this is something the Administration will consider.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to venture a guess as to whether --

QUESTION: Why don’t you --

MS. HARF: -- that’s something we would consider. Let --

QUESTION: Why don’t you just say you don’t know? Is that correct?

MS. HARF: I say things for a reason, Matt. I may or may not know.

QUESTION: Do you know?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to venture a guess about whether we are considering sending a high-level person to help with his release. We’ve been clear that the North Korean Government needs to grant him amnesty and release him immediately. We’ve also been in touch with his family. We’ve been in touch with the Embassy of Sweden, who’s the one meeting with him.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the suggestion or the request, other than the question that Dana asked and I just asked that you send someone?

MS. HARF: I mean, I know this is an issue that’s from time to time come up surrounding his case, yes. We’ve talked about it in here before.

QUESTION: I believe it may – and I might be wrong, but I believe, like, even Bill Richardson said that if this had been a Korean American woman, or just an American – not Korean American – that the question of a high-level official would probably be more of a – would be more of an issue. I mean, are these issues --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to comment on Governor Richardson’s statement there. I will say that clearly this is a situation we care very deeply about. That’s why we’ve made it clear that the North Korean Government needs to immediately grant him amnesty and release him. That’s why we’ve been in touch with the Embassy of Sweden, who’s the one who’s been able to meet with him in Pyongyang. So I think our position on this is very clear. Our concern about this is very clear. If I have anything to announce about the potential for high-level travel or any of these things that we’ve talked about here, I can – I will endeavor to do so --

QUESTION: All right. The question is --

MS. HARF: -- but nothing at this time.

QUESTION: The question is not any kind of an announcement. The question is just whether you would be open to the idea of sending someone over to – I don’t know – talk with the North Koreans to facilitate his release. That’s – it’s not a question about an announcement or anything. It is a question of whether you are willing to consider it.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’re willing to consider --

QUESTION: And if you don’t know, that’s fine.

MS. HARF: Oh.

QUESTION: You are willing to consider? Okay.

MS. HARF: I think we’re willing to consider a number of different options to secure his release. But again, it’s – the onus is on the North Korean Government to do so.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more on Bahrain.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Tomorrow, you’re aware that there are big plans – big demonstration plans. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’ve seen the press reports. I’m not going to speculate about what might or might not happen tomorrow. I don’t want to get ahead of where things are on the ground. Clearly, we’ll be watching it. As we said --

QUESTION: Right, like you’ll be watching the Israeli release of the Palestinian prisoners?

MS. HARF: As we’ve said numerous times, Matt, we support the right of individuals to peacefully assemble and the – of course, the right of freedom of expression, including in Bahrain, and our support for these principles has not changed, including in Bahrain.

QUESTION: All right. Are you concerned at all about the possibility of violence?

MS. HARF: We remain very concerned about continuing incidents of violence in Bahrain and, of course, the possibility for violence and would urge all parties to strongly condemn violence and contribute to fostering a climate of dialogue and reconciliation.

QUESTION: Okay. Were you – after yesterday’s briefing, in which you said that you had not been contacted about this woman who was deported from Bahrain, I’m wondering if you’ve learned anything subsequent to that, and also if you have any update on the situation of Americans detained currently in Bahrain.

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new on the question about the deportation yesterday from Bahrain and I don’t have any update on the other issue as well. I can see if there is one. I just don’t have one.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could you check to see when the last time these cases were raised with the Bahraini authorities?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And – that’s it.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Libya?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have a reaction about a story – a report that 400 U.S. missiles are presumed missing in – on their way through Turkey to Syria? Do you have a statement?

MS. HARF: Well, I would say a few things: First, that following the 2011 revolution, the ousted Qadhafi regime, as we know, left enormous stockpiles of unsecured conventional weapons in a security vacuum that threatened regional stability. We’re going to continue supporting the Libyans in their efforts to securing these weapons and stabilizing their country by providing technical assistance in the areas of border security and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

I’d also note that we have committed approximately $400 million[1] to assist the Government of Libya in securing and disabling stockpiles of at-risk conventional weapons and ammunition. I don’t have anything specific on that report for you, except to say that clearly there was a security vacuum where a lot of Qadhafi-era weapons were floating around, and that’s why we’re committed to working with the Libyan Government on this.

QUESTION: You said Qadhafi-era weapons. What about U.S.-made weapons?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that. I am happy to look into it, and if there’s anything else, I can get back to you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Wait, just one more.

MS. HARF: Oh, wait. False alarm.

QUESTION: Well, I thought I was done, but – actually, this is something that came up yesterday, but I got an answer offline. But I’m wondering if there’s anything more to it now, and that is that a senior official in the German Government, the chairman or the chief of staff of Merkel’s cabinet, said yesterday that the United States and Germany were going to start negotiations soon on a new intelligence agreement – sharing agreement, one that would replace the – or I don’t know if “replace” is exactly the right word, but would take the place of this 1968 agreement that was terminated at the beginning of the month.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you say if – do you know anything about this?

MS. HARF: Well, I would say that we’ve been consulting closely with the German Government to ensure that our close cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence remains as effective as possible. I’m not going to detail what our intelligence cooperation with Germany looks like specifically, other than to say that it’s very close and continuing, and we will continue to work with them on these issues going forward.

QUESTION: Okay. But I don’t – in fact, I’m not particularly interested in what the details of it is – I’m interested – are. I’m interested in knowing if you are going to negotiate a new agreement with the Germans on intelligence matters.

MS. HARF: I am not going to comment on that one way or the other, except to say that we’re going to continue working with the Germans on our intelligence cooperation, and I’m not going to detail for you whether that might include some new agreement or might not. I’m just not going to go into that level of detail.

QUESTION: Would that deal require congressional approval?

MS. HARF: I am not even going to get into that level of detail about any of this.

QUESTION: Well, I do hope you’ll change your mind, considering you want to be transparent, as the President said, and this would involve an actual agreement with another country. So --

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – I mean, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. We endeavor to be as transparent as possible, but clearly there are some details --

QUESTION: Do you?

MS. HARF: -- of intelligence-sharing agreements that we cannot discuss publicly.

QUESTION: I’m not asking for details of the agreement.

MS. HARF: You’re asking me for confirmation, one way the other, on a potential agreement, which I’m not going to detail for you.

QUESTION: No. I’m – you’re misunderstanding the question, then. I’m asking you if you’re – I’m not asking for the details of what’s being negotiated.

MS. HARF: You’re asking me to confirm something one way or the other, which I’m not going to do.

QUESTION: I’m asking if the German – if a guy comes out and says on the record, who happens to be the chief of staff of Merkel’s cabinet, that you guys are going to negotiate a treaty, that the Germans are negotiating a new agreement with the Americans, that is not – I’m just asking --

MS. HARF: No --

QUESTION: -- whether that is – whether that’s true or not. Now, if you are --

MS. HARF: Again, the German Government can speak for themselves. I’m not going to comment one way or the other on that report.

QUESTION: Okay. If the United States is going to enter into negotiations on a new agreement, intelligence sharing agreement with the Germans --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I would hope that you would be able to say whether that was true or not. I don’t think that that would be covered by any kind of a – I don’t see how such a thing could be classified. So are you saying that --

MS. HARF: I’ll take your position onboard.

QUESTION: Are you saying that there has been a decision to keep something like this secret, or are you just saying --

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that – you’re making a lot of assumptions about me not confirming or denying something, and I’m not going to entertain those assumptions --

QUESTION: Frankly, I’m not --

MS. HARF: -- or parse them one way or the other, Matt.

QUESTION: I’m not making any assumptions. I’m trying to find out what’s going on here.

MS. HARF: You just asked me if you should assume that because I won’t comment on it, then it’s classified. That’s a big assumption --

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: -- which I am not – that I am in no way saying that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I’m not – do you understand the --

MS. HARF: I do understand the question.

QUESTION: I’m not making the assumption. I am asking you if I should assume since you’re not answering the question.

MS. HARF: And I’m telling you not to make any assumptions.

QUESTION: All right. In the interest of transparency, could you please check and find out if such a thing would be secret or not if it were to be – if even negotiations on it were to be secret, because --

MS. HARF: I can check on that, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)

DPB # 137



[1] $40 million

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 13, 2013]