Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 2, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Update to the Secretary's Travel
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Shutdown / Programs Impacted Immediately / Fee-Based Services
  • RUSSIA/GEORGIA
    • Russia Constructs Fences along Administrative Boundary Lines of Occupied Territories
  • RUSSIA
    • Greenpeace / U.S. Citizens Detained / One Charged with Piracy
  • SYRIA
    • Refugee Resettlement
  • VENEZUELA
    • Response to Venezuelan Government's declaration of three U.S. Embassy Caracas Officials as Personae Non Gratae
  • MALI
    • U.S. Support to Mali for Countering AQIM
  • NIGERIA
    • Boko Haram
  • MOROCCO
    • Detention of Journalist Ali Anouzla
  • IRAN
    • U.S.-Iran Engagement
    • Working Closely with Our Partners in Region / October P5+1 Meeting
    • Congress / Iran-related Legislation


TRANSCRIPT:

1:34 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to be back. We should have a quick travel update at the top, and then we’ll go to your questions.

I’m sure you saw we put out an updated travel release this morning, but I just wanted to note that the Secretary landed in Tokyo. So he’s there; he’ll be there from the 2nd through the 3rd. On October 4th, Secretary Kerry will continue on to Bali, as we announced a while ago, for meetings, and then he will travel to Brunei for the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit, which is on October 9th and 10th. And then he will travel to Malaysia on October 10th and 11th to meet with Malaysian officials to highlight our growing bilateral ties and attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. And then finally, he will visit the Philippines on October 11th and 12th for bilateral meetings with our ally to reaffirm the strong economic, people-to-people, and security links between our two countries.

So it’s a long trip. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other in this room here, and I’m looking forward to it. So let’s start with Deb.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the shutdown’s effects on the State Department?

QUESTION: Could I just ask a very quick one on travel?

MS. HARF: Yeah, of – yes. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Just one clarification --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because the President is not going to be going to Malaysia or the Philippines, does that have an impact on the Secretary’s visit, or what – whom he will be seeing or anything like that?

MS. HARF: Yes. Well, Secretary Kerry will be leading the delegation to both of those countries in place of the President, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: So he’ll take all the same meetings that the President would have?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, but I know the schedule’s still being worked.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So do you have any more update on the shutdown’s effects on the State Department, furloughs for example, or any kind of information you give us on these programs that are funded for one year and --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which ones might be affected?

MS. HARF: Yeah, absolutely. So no update on furloughs; we’re in the same place we’ve been on that for the last few days. I know Jen’s talked about it a lot.

In terms of programs that are impacted immediately and one-year funding, I have a couple of examples here. There – and again, as we’ve talked about, these offices do not have the available carryover funds to sustain operations and don’t have other sources of operating funds like fees, as we’ve talked about with passports and visas. Some of these offices include the Office of the Inspector General, the International Boundary and Water Commission. Certain Department of State accounts with only single-year direct appropriations also include contributions to international organizations – not all of them but some of them. There’s also an impact on our foreign military funding. I know we’ve talked a lot about FMF in here. In the absence of a continuing resolution, we have no FY14 Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education [and Training], or Peacekeeping Operations funds to obligate.

So for example – I’ll just give you one example – FY 2014 security assistance funding for Israel will be delayed until a continuing resolution or until full-year appropriation is passed. The State Department’s ability to provide military assistance to Israel and other allies in the timeframe that is expected and customary could be hindered depending on the length of the shutdown. So while there are no furloughs, it’s not just business as usual, and there are programs, certainly, that are affected and which all could be up and running again if Congress could get some business done.

QUESTION: On the contributions to the international organizations, do you have any examples of that?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I can look into it and see if I can get you some. I don’t have any examples specifically.

QUESTION: Is that a lot of money? Do you have any idea?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the number, no.

QUESTION: Marie, yesterday --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I’ve asked about the U.S. aids to the Syrian refugees and the Syrian opposition.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It is my understanding that that is not impacted by a government shutdown.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

Yes. Anything else on the shutdown?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: What about this International Visitor Program and educational cultural exchange? How it is handled in this shutdown, or, let’s say, whether it’s few days or few weeks?

MS. HARF: Are you talking about a specific program or just in general?

QUESTION: I mean in general, because it’s --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- a lot of Americans are traveling from here to other countries, in the same time other people from other countries coming to United States part of exchange programs, whether it’s educational, cultural --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or professional. Is this – are – these programs are going to be affected or be suspended?

MS. HARF: I can certainly look into that and see which of – I know we have a lot of programs around the world.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean --

MS. HARF: I can look into that and see in general what the impact is.

QUESTION: Or at least few examples, if you can --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yep, I can look into that and get you some examples. I think broadly speaking – again, this isn’t business as usual, right? And the longer it goes on, the less able we will be to promote American interests overseas, to carry out our vital missions. Obviously, we don’t want this to go on any longer than it needs to or than it already has. So I’ll look and see if I can get you some examples.

QUESTION: And there is another --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- related issue, which is when you mention the military assistance and all these things --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it’s like part of the – I assume it’s part of these programs or attached program or related program in the antiterrorism programs. Are these affected? Because it’s like – I know that it was Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan maybe, or Afghanistan are part of these efforts. Are these affected or not?

MS. HARF: Well, I laid out the three different kinds of funding that are affected – the FMF, the IMET, and the Peacekeeping Operation funding. Whatever falls into those three categories in each of those individual countries is affected, certainly until we have a continuing resolution or a full-year appropriation.

Mm-hmm. Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: I just wanted to see if you could give us a little bit more detail. A couple of days ago, Jen was saying the number crunchers were looking at what funds are available, what’s in, what’s out. Can you just give us an idea, do they kind of know in advance what’s out there, because obviously, you deal with budgets all the time, or is it they are sitting up on a floor up there looking at things as we’re speaking and saying, “No, we can’t afford that; we can’t afford this”? What – behind the scenes, what do they do?

MS. HARF: Right. Well, obviously, we have a picture of what our resources look like, right? So Jen has talked about this a lot in terms of the fact that we haven’t had to furlough yet, which is – for most of our employees, which is a good thing. But I think the longer this goes on, every day that the government is shut down, we have to take a look at the numbers and we have to take a hard look at competing priorities and our programs around the world. And every day that this goes on longer, there will be things we can’t do. There will be ways that we cannot go overseas and promote our interests.

I mean, the Secretary is in Asia right now, talking about our economic interests in the fastest-growing economic region in the world. That’s an incredibly important trip. But there’s a lot of parts of that that need to play out going forward, and we won’t be able to do all of these things we can to promote American leadership around the world if we’re operating under a government shutdown situation.

QUESTION: Well, do you – I mean, that’s true if it were to drag on kind of indefinitely and the government were to be shut down indefinitely, but you don’t --

MS. HARF: Every single day, we have to make more tough choices – every single day. And the longer it goes on, the tougher those choices are going to become, certainly. Again, we – you’ll see the Secretary out there doing the tough work of diplomacy, the necessary work of diplomacy, in the coming days on his trip. But there’s a lot that the Department does, and every day longer that we have a shutdown is a day we’re going to have to make tough choices about what we can and can’t do.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding these furloughs and people who are – federal employees that they are going to be affected by – which the number – I mean, it’s like, in the last two or three days, they are saying about 800,000 people.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have an – I mean, I know it’s a big number and it’s an unspecified number. Do you have, somehow, a round figure of how many people would be affected with the State Department or its --

MS. HARF: I don’t, and I can look into that and see if there’s more specific numbers I can get to you. As you all know, we’ve talked about for the last few days that we have a specific funding mechanism that has allowed us to continue without the massive furloughs that we’ve seen elsewhere, but I can look into if there are specific numbers going forward. Hopefully, we won’t get to that point.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Two quick questions. One, as you mentioned, Israel.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there any other major countries like Egypt or Pakistan? And the second one is on the visa issues.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are they being affected, like in Delhi? Is it going to shut down the visa --

MS. HARF: No. So we’re still processing visas. Those are fee-based services. So we’re still – we still have the funds through those fees to process things like visas around the world, and our embassies are still, of course, open around the world. But it is my understanding that in the absence of a continuing resolution, we have no FY14 FMF, Foreign Military Financing; International Military Education – IMET financing; or Peacekeeping Operation funds to obligate.

So I don’t have the full list of countries that we give money under those three buckets to, but everywhere that’s the case, we don’t have FY14 money to obligate at this point.

QUESTION: So there will be no – not one single soul will be affected in Delhi Embassy, you mean to say?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that our visa services, because they’re fee-based, are not affected there or anywhere else. And we’ve also said that we have funding to keep most of our folks still at work. But I don’t have a specific breakdown on each individual embassy.

QUESTION: So basically, as you’re preparing to hand over to Afghan – as you’re preparing to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2014, you don’t have money to fund the Afghan forces that will be taking over?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure where that funding comes from, to be honest with you. Obviously, I would recommend folks check in with DOD as well. I just don’t know where all that funding comes from.

QUESTION: Yes, but --

MS. HARF: But clearly, we think that there are a lot of important priorities that fall under these buckets, and that’s why we want to get the funding available as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Yes, but you mentioned in the last two or three days from this podium the word, the expression, “fee-based service.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you a little bit clarify to us what does it mean? Because I assume not – I mean, those fees are not paying the salaries of the people. I mean, may be paying for the service or the process itself, or it’s paying the people, even their monthly salaries?

MS. HARF: Well, these fees go to a host of things, right? These fees for visas and other things go to pay operational funding around the world. So obviously, that all falls in part under those obligations as well.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes, still on the shutdown?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Anything else on the shutdown?

QUESTION: I just have one last --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- a real small one. The Russian media picked up this thing about the Embassy in Ukraine, which apparently on its Facebook page said that they are not – that basically, they’re there, they’re open, visas, et cetera --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but there were some services they were not providing. Now, I know it’s hard and that you may not know exactly what’s going on in the Kyiv Embassy, but is it correct, since we were led to believe that at most embassies around the globe --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- things continue pretty much the way they are?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. I can check into that. I just – you’re right. I don’t know the details about our Embassy there. And I can check into the situation there and we can talk over the coming days. If other things start to be affected at embassies – I don’t know that they will – but again, each day we go longer, we’ll have to make difficult choices. So let me just check into it. I just don’t know the answer to it.

QUESTION: If you can just check --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- also India?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and I don’t want to get into a game of checking every embassy around the world, although I’m happy to do that. But yeah, I will check in general about what things could be affected and I can take a look at that message as well, yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: In terms of the Office of Inspector General and the Boundary and Water, and all that --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how were they affected?

MS. HARF: How were they – well, you asked about offices that were impacted immediately under one-year funding.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So offices that operate with this one-year funding that does not have available carryover funds, they’ve been notified that they have to cease operations.

QUESTION: So that doesn’t affect – that doesn’t mean there’s furloughs?

MS. HARF: I can check on that, on furloughs for you. In terms of these very small number of employees, there may, in fact, be. I think we’ve said for the last few days that we – most of our employees are not affected by furloughs at this point. There may be some in these offices. So I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: And I can check if there are numbers available. I just don’t know.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on U.S. and North Korea meeting in London – rather, the meeting between U.S. and North Korea in London? Do you have anything on --

MS. HARF: I don’t think I do. Let me check. I can take that question and get back to you. I don’t think I have any update on that. I don’t. I can take it and get back to you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Do --

MS. HARF: Yes, I will.

QUESTION: You have to look at --

MS. HARF: Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: Russian authorities have apparently erected some fences in Georgia between the areas of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and territory that’s still controlled by Tbilisi. Does the United States have a reaction to that?

MS. HARF: We do, and thank you for the question. We note with concern the continued and increasing activities by Russian security forces to erect fences and other physical barriers along the administrative boundary lines of the occupied territories in Georgia. This borderization is inconsistent with Russia’s international commitments and Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Borderization also damages trust between the sides, creates hardship for Georgian citizens on either side of the boundary line, and we would call on the Russian Federation to remove the barriers and to address issues related to the conflict in Georgia at the Geneva International Discussions.

QUESTION: Have you called on them to do that?

MS. HARF: Oh, I certainly just did. I don’t know what the discussions have been like officially, but I think our position on this is clear.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Jill.

QUESTION: Speaking of Russia --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm . . .

QUESTION: Greenpeace.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Russian state prosecutors apparently are now charging a number of the people who were involved in that activity against the oil platform.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you – is there any reaction? Was an American charged? And Greenpeace is saying it’s extreme disproportionate and also illegal. What do you have to say?

MS. HARF: We can confirm that U.S. citizen Dmitri Litvinov has been charged with piracy by a group. According to our information, the other detained U.S. citizen has not been charged. The U.S. Consulate in Saint Petersburg has met with both of the detained U.S. citizens who were among the crew of the Arctic Sunrise, and we understand that they have access to legal counsel.

We would, of course, refer you to the Russian Government and the crewmembers’ attorneys for information about the investigation and further information about the legal proceedings. Obviously, the protection of U.S. citizens overseas is among the highest priorities of the Department of State. The consulate will continue to provide all appropriate consular services to both U.S. citizen crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise and their families.

Again, I think this is a good example of work we do all around the world – very important work that needs to continue, and it can’t be threatened by a continued government shutdown.

QUESTION: But do you have any opinion on the legality of this?

MS. HARF: I don’t have that in front of me. I’m happy to check into that, and if we have anything to say on it, I’d get it back to you.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Marie, do you have anything – any details about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, I do. Do you have a specific question, or just in general, any more details?

QUESTION: In general, the numbers --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and will this process be affected by the shutdown, too?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have here. As I think many of you know, UNHCR has determined that resettlement should play a larger role in its humanitarian response to the situation in Syria, and intends to refer up to 2,000 Syrians to resettle in the countries by the end of 2013. The U.S. is prepared to respond. We’re encouraged that other resettlement countries have announced their intention to do the same. UNHCR works with 27 countries who accept refugees for permanent resettlement; a number of these have indicated they will accept Syrians as well. We have our own refugee adjudication process that we’ll go through, as we do all the time, but clearly, this is something we’re committed to.

QUESTION: And how the shutdown will affect this process?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any information about that here. I’m happy to look into it and get back to you. As I said, the shutdown does not affect humanitarian nor nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, so I’ll check on the other part and get back to you if I have anything on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How many U.S. is ready to host out of these refugees – of the Syrian refugees?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have numbers here. We have not committed to accept a specific number of the 2,000 Syrians that UNHCR intends to refer for permanent resettlement. In general, we don’t make numeric commitments of this kind, but clearly, we’re committed to assisting in this process. We just don’t have a specific number.

Yes. And then I’ll come back up to you. Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A UN expert report has asked India to stop work on a steel plant in the eastern state of Odisha on – because of human rights issues. Have you seen it? Do you have any comments on that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that report, but I’m happy to check with our folks and give you a comment later today or tomorrow if we have one.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: A new topic, Venezuela?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you confirm officially that the U.S. has expelled three Venezuelan diplomats, including the charge d’affaires? And don’t you feel any deterioration of your relationship with Caracas?

MS. HARF: Well, first, I can confirm that in response to the Venezuelan Government’s decision to declare three of our Embassy Caracas officials as personae non gratae, including our charge, that we informed the Venezuelan charge d’affaires on October 1st that in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on consular relations, we have declared him – so that’s the charge, the second secretary, and one of their consuls personae non gratae – we told them this last night, and they have been allowed 48 hours to leave the United States.

We’ve said for a long time, in terms of the broader relationship, that we want a functional and constructive relationship with Venezuela. We are certainly still committed to that, and we’ll continue working with the Venezuelans on this – on these issues that feed into our relationship.

QUESTION: Just to add to that, the company that is involved is POSCO, a Korean company.

MS. HARF: Okay, thank you. Yes, I will take that on.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: Question I asked yesterday about Mali.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you tell me, how does the United States square its interests in fighting al-Qaida and the Islamic Maghreb in Mali --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and its concerns about the Mali military that have led to your not resuming that military assistance?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question, Scott. And as you know, the defeat of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and affiliated violent extremist groups in Mali is a top priority for the United States. We have provided information and we’ve provided logistical support to French military operations there. We also, as you know, resumed the provision of bilateral development assistance to Mali following their peaceful democratic elections on September fourth.

But before we reengage with Malian security institutions, we plan to visit with key Malian leaders to discuss areas of future cooperation on security sector reform. In addition, one of the things we’ll discuss in this meeting is that the new government must take tangible steps to ensure civilian authority over the military as we go forward here.

So moving forward, obviously, we’re working towards an eventual resumption of assistance to the Malian military, but we have to have some meetings to work out some of the details. We’re committed to working with the Government of Mali to restore this assistance in coordination with other donors and in a way that supports their efforts to strengthen their institutions and their civilian control over the military. So it’s an ongoing process, but we’re certainly working towards that goal.

QUESTION: There have been some similar concerns about the Nigerian military and accountability in their efforts in northern Nigeria, but the United States is – continues to support the Nigerian efforts to combat Boko Haram, so how do these –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- two situations square with one another?

MS. HARF: Well, actually, I think it’s really comparing apples and oranges here, right? Because, as you know, the assistance was cut off to Mali as the result of a specific political situation in the country, that we ended assistance in response to a very specific situation.

Look, in Nigeria, obviously, we remain deeply committed to helping the Nigerian Government in its fight against Boko Haram. We remain very concerned about ongoing attacks in Nigeria being perpetrated by Boko Haram, and we will continue discussing with Nigerian authorities appropriate steps to counter this group. We will work with the government. Obviously, if we have issues with reports of things that they’re doing, we will raise those as well. So I think they’re very different situations, but clearly, we are committed to countering the extremist threat wherever it operates around the world.

QUESTION: Just one last thing, then.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has there been an evaluation of civilian control in Mali? Okay, they’ve had their new government now for almost a month. What is the initial assessment of that civilian government’s command and control over the Malian military?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if there’s been a specific evaluation. I know it’s – the discussion is ongoing. And I think what we’re looking to next is this meeting that we’re going to be having – I don’t have a timeline for you yet, but hopefully, as soon as possible – to talk through the next steps and to do exactly that: evaluate civilian control, talk through what will happen next, and talk through the path to resuming this kind of military assistance.

Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen took the question of Ali Anouzla, the editor of Lakome, a news outlet, that was arrested last week --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in Morocco. Do you have a reaction on his continued detention, as international groups have called for his release, and he’s been charged with inciting terrorism in the Kingdom of Morocco? Do you have an update on that, please?

MS. HARF: I do, yes. Thank you. We are concerned with the Government of Morocco’s decision to charge Mr. Anouzla. We support freedom of expression and of the press, as we say all the time, universal rights that are an indispensable part of any society. We urge the Moroccan authorities to treat his case in a fair and transparent manner – excuse me – in accordance with Moroccan law and Morocco’s international obligations, including due process. And I think as you know, we have an open and productive conversation with the Government of Morocco on human rights issues, including their progress that they’ve made on some of these issues as well.

QUESTION: Have you contacted them directly, either via the Embassy – have you contacted either Moroccan authorities or representatives of the news outlet?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to the second part of your question. I believe the answer to the first part is yes, but let me do a little digging on that and see if I can get you more details, to be clear.

QUESTION: And what about the general balance of these – not necessarily this case, but in general --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- when countries cite or even give an example of the U.S. having terrorism laws that allow them to arrest or detain individuals for a certain amount of days, and then you say it is for security. So where is – how do you conversate with other countries about the balance between --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- security and legitimate freedom of the press?

MS. HARF: No, well, I’m not going to make sort of a broad generalization about all of these issues in every country around the world. But what we’ve said – a couple things, I think I’d make general points – that countries have a responsibility and an obligation to take steps to protect their citizens. We know in a lot of places around the world – and this is all separate from this case; this is just generally speaking, of course – in a lot of places around the world there’s a real legitimate terrorist threat, and that we work with countries around the world to counter that threat. But at the same time, we consistently, everywhere, encourage governments to operate under due process, to uphold their own laws and their own international obligations, that people be given a fair trial, they be given a due process as these things play out. So, of course these are complicated issues, and we’ll continue to talk about both around the world wherever it’s applicable.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

Yes.

QUESTION: Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Rouhani said today that he had – that Iran had received five requests for a summit from the U.S. --

MS. HARF: Hmm.

QUESTION: -- since he was elected. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those specific comments. I think we’ve repeatedly – I’ve probably said it more than five times at this podium, but we’ve said in general that we are willing to meet one-on-one with the Iranians when they’re ready to do so. I don’t know about that specific comment that he made. We all know that the presidents spoke on Friday on the phone, and that Secretary Kerry, of course, met with Foreign Minister Zarif at the UN last week.

So we’ll continue the discussions going forward about the appropriate way to engage. But as we’ve said, we are at a point where we think there’s an opportunity for diplomacy, and we have an obligation to see where that opportunity might lead. And we’re hopeful that we can continue working to get a diplomatic resolution to this issue going forward.

QUESTION: It seems that --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the U.S.-Iran rapprochement lately is worrying certain countries in the Gulf area. Anything the U.S. is doing to address those worries?

MS. HARF: Well, without – you didn’t name any specific countries, but in general we work in the region with our allies and partners very closely. I think we are all on the same page here with our partners in the region, that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. We all have the same goal. That hasn’t changed. So we’ll continue working with our partners in the region to determine the best way to do that.

We’ve also been very clear that we all prefer a diplomatic resolution to this crisis because, while all options remain on the table, diplomacy is certainly the preferred one. So we’re going to, as I’ve said repeatedly – this is my new catch-phrase; I like it – walk through this diplomatic door and see what lies on the other side. And we have an obligation to do that. But at the same time, the time for diplomacy is not unlimited. Those are the kind of conversations we’re going to keep having with our partners on this, because again, we’re all committed to the same thing here. We all have the same end goal in mind.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. policy – I mean, would the U.S. hold from doing any positive steps towards Iran until everything is cleared with the P5+1 and the IAEA and Iran is in compliance with the international request?

MS. HARF: Well, the next step in this process here is on October 15th and 16th, when we have a P5+1 meeting in Geneva. Under Secretary Sherman will be there on our side. I think we said – talked about this at the UN last week. So the P5+1 will be meeting, will be talking about this new opportunity we have to work with the Iranian Government quickly to start to make some progress. But I think what we’ve said is that words are good, but they’re not enough, and we need to see action from the Iranian Government to substantively move towards living up to their international obligations. I’m not going to outline exactly what that could look like, but suffice to say I think the Iranians know what they need to do.

QUESTION: But is it U.S. policy not to hold any one-on-one talks before --

MS. HARF: Well, Secretary Kerry met one-on-one with the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. So I think that probably speaks for itself in answering your questions. They met one-on-one on the sidelines of the P5+1 at the UN. We’ve already done one.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yep, on Iran. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We asked the same question yesterday, but Congress is moving forward on the sanctions --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and we’d like to know, is this helpful? Will this strengthen the President’s hand in negotiating in this window? Or is this – would this be ill-timed at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, I think as we’ve always said, we’ll continue to consult with Congress on all Iran-related legislation. Look, Iran has an imperative to improve its economy. Every single economic indicator right now is negative for them, in large part, if not totally, because of the sanctions we’ve put in place. And if President Rouhani, quite frankly, is going to fulfill his commitments to improve the Iranian economy, he’s going to need to achieve sanctions relief. That can only be achieved through meaningful negotiation and agreement with the international community.

So look, as the President has said, we should be able to achieve a resolution with Iran that respects the rights of the Iranian people, that matches their words with their actions. Obviously, sanctions play into that, and we’ll keep working with Congress on the best way to do all of this going forward.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t mean you’re for or against --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to take a position --

QUESTION: -- putting new sanctions on now.

MS. HARF: -- a position on any new sanctions. Obviously, we’ll continue consulting with Congress. And indeed, we believe that one of the main reasons that we are at a place today where there is a diplomatic opening is because of the incredibly harsh sanctions we and the international community have put in place on Iran. So I know there’s a lot of discussion about what might come next. We’re focused on seeing what we can do diplomatically at the P5+1, and we’ll keep having these conversations going forward.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the past, the U.S. has considered that the Iranian nuclear issue, not a bilateral issue but an international issue.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And if it’s the case, why you are seeking for a bilateral or one-on-one meeting now?

MS. HARF: Well, those aren’t mutually exclusive. We have been very clear that the P5+1 is the way we will be – we’ve been working on the diplomatic part of the process in terms of the Iranian nuclear issue. One thing we’ve consistently said is it’s important that the P5+1 has remained united in its determination to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But clearly, we have an important role to play, and it’s hard to do diplomacy if you don’t have any option to meet one on one.

Clearly, there are a lot of issues that we deal with multilaterally that we also deal with in a bilateral way, so those just aren’t mutually exclusive. And if we need to make progress and move the ball down the court, the Iranians have steps they need to take, but we also need to be open to discussing this directly with them to make progress as quickly as, quite frankly, we need to in this situation.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. share the Israeli point of view laid out by Mr. Netanyahu that Iran should not have any nuclear capability?

MS. HARF: Well, I think the President was clear when he spoke at UNGA when he said – and I’m not going to go further than the President went – when he said that the – ultimately, they do have a right to a peaceful civilian nuclear program. And I’m just not going to go any further.

QUESTION: So as long as they’re good with the IAEA and they agree --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to parse the President’s words any further. I think our position is clear.

Anything else? Thanks, everyone. See you tomorrow.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 161

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 2, 2013]