Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 8, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • LIBYA
    • Abu Anas al-Libi / Amb. Jones Met with Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani
    • ICRC Involvement / Detained Lawfully
    • Department's Role in Counterterrorism
  • SYRIA
    • Security Vacuum / Outside Actors / Assad Regime
    • Chemical Weapons / OPCW / Destruction
    • Humanitarian Aid Delivery
  • IRAN
    • Nuclear Obligations / Diplomatic Solution / P5+1
  • EGYPT
    • Remain Concerned About Violence / Continue to Monitor / Protest Peacefully
    • Financial Assistance
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Government Shut Down / Missed Conferences and Negotiations
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • World Bank Report / Palestinian Economy
    • Hamas / Turkey
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Government Shut Down / Committed to Role in Pacific
    • Benefits to U.S. Citizens Overseas


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:22 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I don’t have anything at the top. Go ahead, Deb. Get us started.

QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador – has the U.S. Ambassador to Libya been summoned to answer some questions about the al-Libi raid?

MS. HARF: So I can confirm that on Monday, Ambassador Jones met with Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani. They discussed matters related to the detention of Abu Anas al-Libi as well as other issues. Ambassador Jones conveyed that al-Libi is being treated humanely, that we have been in touch with the ICRC. And as we’ve repeatedly said, we consult regularly with the Government of Libya on a range of security and counterterrorism issues, certainly continuing to do so. We value our relationship and strategic partnership with the government and people of Libya.

QUESTION: So did they have a heads up or not?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. About what? The meeting?

QUESTION: Yeah. The government. No. Did the government have a heads up on –

MS. HARF: Again, I am not going to get into more specifics about our diplomatic conversations. We have a close partnership with them on counterterrorism issues, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.

QUESTION: Do you stand by your position that you did not violate their sovereignty?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So is there a way to not violate their sovereignty by abducting one of their citizens without giving them a heads up?

MS. HARF: I am just not going to get into more details about discussions with them, about the operation, about any of those issues.

QUESTION: I just don’t see how you cannot violate somebody’s sovereignty by arresting and abducting one of their citizens unless you gave them a heads up.

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to go any further.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the ICRC involvement? Does that mean that you’re giving them access to Mr. Libi wherever he may be?

MS. HARF: We’ve been in touch with the ICRC. He’s still in United States custody, as we’ve talked about. I don’t have anything further than that. We’ll continue talking with the ICRC going forward.

QUESTION: So you haven’t given the ICRC access. Why have you been in touch with them?

MS. HARF: Again, we reiterated to the ICRC that we are treating him humanely. We’re going to continue to be in touch with them, but I don’t have anything to announce or updates about further involvement of the ICRC at this time.

QUESTION: And has he been giving an access to any legal advice, to a lawyer, or has he been read any kind of rights or charges?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details for you about the process that’s ongoing right now about sort of where he is and what he’s doing other than what we’ve already talked about, but nothing further.

QUESTION: Why should the ICRC take your word that he is being treated humanely if they are not given an opportunity to actually check on his conditions of containment?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that they weren’t going to be given that opportunity. I didn’t comment any further, I believe. We’re going to continue talking to them about his case.

QUESTION: Was the call partly about the possibility that they might be given access?

MS. HARF: What call? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: You said you contacted him.

MS. HARF: Oh, we – yes, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Was the contact about the possibility that they might be given access?

MS. HARF: We have – we’re going to keep discussing his case with them, including possible access, and I just don’t have any additional details for you at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. But just so we’re clear, you said we’re going to continue, including possible access.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was possible access part of the contact that you have had thus far?

MS. HARF: I can check on the specifics.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: More about the access. And the Libyans are saying that they specifically are asking. Can you confirm that they are asking –

MS. HARF: Asking?

QUESTION: -- for al-Libi to be returned to Libya? And also, have you discussed issues of access for the Libyans? Are they going to have consular access to him?

MS. HARF: These are all good questions. Again, I – Elise, just because you weren’t here at the very beginning and some other folks just walked in, on Monday, Ambassador Jones did meet with the Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani. They discussed his case as well as other issues. She assured them that he’s being treated humanely and that we’ve been in touch with the ICRC. I just don’t have further details for you on any of these issues, on any of those discussions, or what this is going to look like going forward. If we do, I’m happy to provide them as we can.

QUESTION: I understand. But if I --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I’m – I can’t remember exactly what, since the government has taken office, what parties and conventions they’re a party to. But I mean, isn’t it typical that a foreign national who’s arrested by the United States would have consular access – or detained?

MS. HARF: I can certainly check on that issue.

QUESTION: If you could check and see if they’ll have consular access to him.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I can certainly check on that issue.

QUESTION: Marie?

QUESTION: It also would help to know if he’s actually charged. I mean, I know he’s facing indictment.

MS. HARF: He’s facing indictment, correct.

QUESTION: But whether those have been read to him and whether he’s been given any of his rights, whether he’s had access to a lawyer.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I can check on all of this.

QUESTION: I mean, these are all questions that I think if an American citizen was held in similar circumstances you guys would be seeking to find out from that government who was holding him.

MS. HARF: Absolutely, and I am happy to take those questions. Also, I’m sure the Department of Justice is happy to talk about some of this as well. But I’ll see what I can do, and we can continue the conversation.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Libyan National Conference has asked the U.S. to return Abu Anas al-Libi to Libya. What can you answer that?

MS. HARF: I don’t, I think, have any further answer than what I’ve already said, that we’re going to continue talking to the Government of Libya. We value their partnership on counterterrorism. I’d also point you to the statements that the Prime Minister of Libya made today which focused on the relationship moving forward, so I think that’s what we’re focused on as well. And beyond that, no further comment on his whereabouts or what’s going to happen next.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister also asked that he be returned and tried in Libya. So seeing as we have a good relationship with that country, do you think that – is that the plan?

MS. HARF: I think we’ve made it clear that he’s in our custody, that there’s a process that will happen from here that I’m not going to provide more details about at this point, but as that process moves forward, I’m happy to do so as we have more details to share.

QUESTION: Marie, do you --

QUESTION: Do you have any plan to return him to Libya --

MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything further for you on what’s going to happen with him next or what those plans entail.

QUESTION: So you might return him?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that, Arshad. I just said I don’t have anything further for you. We are where we are today. Nothing new to announce and no further information to give about these diplomatic discussions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Could you comment on a report that says that you guys want to keep him as long as possible in the sea and then bring him to New York where you have to read him his rights and so on? Could you comment on that?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to – I know this is a frustrating day for everyone. I’m not going to go any further about what might happen next. We said he’s being detained lawfully. We said that we’ve talked to the ICRC about his case. We’ve said he’s being treated humanely. I just don’t have additional details for what’s happening next. We can continue the conversation throughout the rest of the week if I do.

QUESTION: Did you contact the ICRC, or did they contact you?

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

QUESTION: Because their report alleges that as long as you keep him there, then he’s a treasure trove of information that you can talk to him without the President’s Council, without having that – having to have – to read him his rights and so on, and that would actually give a great deal of information that you might need.

MS. HARF: Well, if I can get further details for you legally speaking – I don’t want to misspeak about anything certainly involving some of those issues that you mentioned, Said – I’m happy to look into it and get back to you. We have said, of course, that our preference, where possible, is to capture terrorists as opposed to taking lethal action because we do get a great deal of intelligence from them when we are able to capture them.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But on the specifics legally, I just – I don’t have the facts in front of me and I want to make sure that I am totally accurate in this when I give you more detail.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there any likely point of disembarkation for him, I mean, like New York or elsewhere?

MS. HARF: He is, as we know, under indictment in the Southern District of New York. I just don’t have further details for you on where he may end up next.

QUESTION: Since al-Libi’s detention, there’s been some chatter among terrorist groups. Has there been any initiative from the State Department – message, communiques – about strengthening security at the consulars and embassies?

MS. HARF: Well, without speaking to these specific reports, which I understand are uncorroborated reports out there in the ether, we, of course, always remain vigilant about potential threats to American citizens, about our diplomats working overseas. I think many of you know that our last Travel Warning for Libya was June 7th. That still remains in effect, warns U.S. citizens about traveling to Libya. And of course, the protection of our folks overseas is of great concern to us. We spend a lot of effort making sure they’re protected, and of course, we’ll evaluate any potential threats. And if we have to take any specific security action, we will.

QUESTION: On the subject of humane treatment, are there halal meals available for al-Libi aboard the vessel?

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

QUESTION: Can you – as I think you know, Amnesty International issued a report today about al-Libi, and they specifically call on the U.S. Government to immediately confirm his whereabouts and provide him access to legal counsel, medical care, and his family members. What is your response to their call for you to do those four things?

MS. HARF: Well, I think a couple points. First, we’ve said that he’s being treated humanely. I don’t – I haven’t actually seen that report so I don’t have a specific comment on it. If there --

QUESTION: Could you --

MS. HARF: If there are more details to share in terms of his location and his treatment and his situation, I’m happy to do so. I would also encourage you to check in with my colleagues in other places around town. We’ve talked a lot about Department of Defense’s role here. I think they can speak to some of these issues directly as well. But again, if there’s more to share about this, I’m happy to throughout the rest of the week.

Yes.

QUESTION: What does “being treated humanely” mean to you, though?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into a definition from here.

QUESTION: Well, but if you say he’s being treated humanely, that’s an adjective to describe a certain type of treatment. So what is --

MS. HARF: If I can further break down what that means, I am happy to do so.

Said.

QUESTION: Could I ask you on the list that came out after September 11, there were like 22 people and so on. I think a number of them have been eliminated, maybe 10 or 12. Do you have a – could you give us a breakdown of who still remains on the list?

MS. HARF: Which list are you referring to?

QUESTION: Well, there was a list like of the al-Qaida leaders at the time.

MS. HARF: In 2001?

QUESTION: I think so.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I think it came out right after that. There were something like maybe two dozen --

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said --

QUESTION: -- of the leadership --

MS. HARF: -- without getting into numbers is that al-Qaida core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who, of course, was responsible for 9/11, that almost all of their leadership has been taken off the battlefield. I mean, if you think about their leadership on September 11th, all of them are no longer able to threaten the U.S. except, of course, for Ayman al-Zawahiri. So as the core of al-Qaida has been decimated in this region, they have been replaced with younger, less capable, certainly less experienced operatives. So we’ve seen that happen, I think, over the last years since 2001, but certainly since 2009 as well when we really ramped up our counterterrorism operations there.

So look, we’ve been clear that the group that attacked us on 9/11 is a very different group today. But at the same time, as they’ve weakened there, they’ve spread other places, places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa. We’ve talked about this a lot in this room. I talked about it yesterday. So we’ve kept up the pressure in these other places as they’ve tried to disperse in other ways, in other places, and establish strongholds there as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Did you have – did you say or do you have any information about Abu Anas al-Libi being involved in the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens last year?

MS. HARF: In terms of Benghazi?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any information about that. Nothing on that for you.

QUESTION: But is he suspected to have been involved in that?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, Said, but I can check on this and get back to you about that.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Is --

MS. HARF: He’s under indictment specifically for being linked to al-Qaida, also for the ’98 bombings, but not to my knowledge on Benghazi.

QUESTION: So simply the indictment is for Nairobi and Dar es Salaam 1998, or it’s more than that?

MS. HARF: No, it’s bigger than that, and let me get that up right now so I have it in front of me. He is indicted in the Southern District of New York in connection with his alleged role in al-Qaida’s conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and to conduct attacks against U.S. interests worldwide, which included al-Qaida plots to attack U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as the two U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. So for all of that, not just for the embassy bombings.

QUESTION: When was that again?

MS. HARF: I don’t have the date here. He’s – I can get that for you. He’s also been designated as a specially designated global terrorist under Executive Order 13224. He’s listed as a subject on the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program. He’s also listed on the UN 1267/1989 al-Qaida sanctions list.

QUESTION: Does to “treat him humanely” mean that he is not being subjected to any forms of physical or mental duress?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not – I don’t have more detail for you on his situation right now. I think the President was very clear when he came into office that some of the tactics that had been used in the previous years in terms of talking to suspected terrorists weren’t going to be done anymore. He was very clear on I think his second or third day in office when he signed an executive order banning torture. So I don’t have more details for you about the current state of Mr. al-Libi, other than to say that I think this Administration has been very clear about what we do and do not do.

QUESTION: The problem is that if one – if no one answers questions about how a prisoner is being treated, and if respected international bodies such as the ICRC do not at least as yet have access to them, it’s very hard to know whether they are being treated humanely. And if you can’t say yes, humanely means that someone is not being subjected to physical or mental duress, then it leaves open the possibility that your definition of humane treatment includes subjecting people to duress.

MS. HARF: I understand the question. I will endeavor to get a definition for you about what “being treated humanely” means.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Because I understand it’s an important question --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: -- and the reason I brought up the principles that the President outlined when he came into office is because I think they underpin everything we’ve done since then when it comes to this topic. But it’s a fair question, and I’ll try to get you a definition.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On the issue of security --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and in terms of specific threats, are there – like the Embassy in Tripoli and others throughout North Africa, have you strengthened security since al-Libi was detained?

MS. HARF: Well, our security at our embassies, particularly in places like Tripoli, are always on an incredibly high footing, so I’m not going to get into specifics about what the security looks like. Obviously, we’ll take steps if we need to.

QUESTION: May I ask --

QUESTION: Marie, a follow-up – sorry, a follow-up on this question.

QUESTION: No, go on.

QUESTION: Libyan militant groups called for revenge attacks on strategic targets, including gas export pipelines, airplanes and ships, as well as for the kidnappings of Americans in Tripoli and in Libya. How do you take this threat?

MS. HARF: Well, I think this is what Lucas was asking about, that I think these are uncorroborated reports at this point, and so without speaking to them, because I don’t have anything – any information to corroborate them, we always, of course, remain vigilant against potential threats and take them seriously, and our folks are looking at them every single day to make sure we do everything we can to protect our people. But I would stress that these are, at this point, uncorroborated.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the question of legality?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I understand that under the U.S. Authorization to Use Military Force, you believe that he’s been lawfully detained.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But that’s a U.S. domestic law. Is it also your contention that internationally, under international law, he’s being lawfully detained?

MS. HARF: I can certainly take the question and see if there’s a legal guidance I can give on that.

QUESTION: Because it would suggest a U.S. domestic law applies within the boundaries of the United States.

MS. HARF: Well, but an authorization to use military force – and you were kind of getting at this yesterday – applies to our conduct overseas. So the Authorization to Use Military Force talks about things we can and can’t do legally under U.S. law overseas to protect U.S. interests.

QUESTION: But similarly, you couldn’t have – I mean, if France has a law or Britain has a law, and they wanted to do something within America, they wouldn’t be able to do it without your permission because that would be encroaching onto your sovereignty.

MS. HARF: And I think I answered the sovereignty question, and I’m happy to take the international law question and see if our legal experts have an answer for you.

QUESTION: It’s – I think that’s a good, quite reasonable question, because it’s one thing to say it’s legal under --

MS. HARF: He likes your question. That’s good. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- U.S. laws, but it’s totally another to take the position that it’s legal under international laws.

MS. HARF: And I’m happy to take the question and see if there’s legal opinion I can find.

Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. HARF: Are we done – hold on, are we done on this?

QUESTION: I just have one quick question.

MS. HARF: Yes, okay, uh-huh.

QUESTION: When was the Ambassador asked to go see the government? And was she able to share anything with them? Or is it also classified that they --

MS. HARF: Well, they met on Monday, and this meeting did take place at the request of the Libyans. I don’t know when it was requested, but they did meet on Monday. And she – yes, they had a good, productive discussion. Yes, I think these diplomatic discussions are very open and very frank. Obviously, we don’t read out all of the details of them for good diplomatic reasons, but I think that – obviously, they talked about al-Libi, but other issues as well.

QUESTION: Has the Libyan Government been cooperative in this particular case on al-Libi?

MS. HARF: How would you define cooperative?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are they understanding of --

MS. HARF: No, I – well, no, it’s a good question.

QUESTION: No, I mean, are they understanding of your position?

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve been in contact with them about it. I think you saw the Prime Minister’s comments today. And we’re going to continue working with them on counterterrorism and security issues going forward because they are a very valued partner in this shared fight. And obviously, one of our goals here is to work with them as our partner to help improve their capabilities as well. So that’s part of the longer-term goal here. We’ve talked about this some in the past, but --

QUESTION: Because there has been quite a lot – there’s been some anger publicly expressed by Tripoli about what happened over the weekend. But, I mean, I suppose the question is: Is this just a misunderstanding that they thought they were not told something that they should have been told? Or is it that they’re playing a publicity game and that they, in fact, helped you with what you – what was carried out, but then publicly can’t be seen to be doing that?

MS. HARF: I think what we’re focused on, and what I think they’re focused on, quite frankly at this point, is how we move forward and where we go from here. And that’s – I think you saw some of that in the statements today, and I think you’ll see more of that going forward.

QUESTION: Is it fair to describe the meeting – is it fair to say that Ambassador Jones was called in?

MS. HARF: It took place at the request of the Libyans.

QUESTION: So, yes?

MS. HARF: “Called in” has, I think, a negative connotation to it.

QUESTION: Right, which is why I’m asking you --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- if you would concur with that.

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t. I would say that it took place at their request, and she was happy to do so.

QUESTION: And then one other thing – and I’m sorry this wasn’t drawn to your attention; I thought it had been – but Amnesty International flatly states that the U.S. Government has violated fundamental human rights principles in this.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure what they’re basing that on, but --

QUESTION: Well, and as I say, I thought this was drawn to your attention.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t --

QUESTION: I will forward it to you directly.

MS. HARF: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: But I think one should give you every opportunity, even if it’s after the briefing in a taken question, to respond to that, because it’s not so often that a respected human rights organization accuses the U.S. Government of violating human rights principles.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. I’m happy to take a look at it, Arshad. I also would stress that – and I said this yesterday – I think I would caution people who don’t have all the information – I will attempt to get you more information, because that’s certainly helpful – from making sweeping generalizations about the situation. We’ve said he’s being treated humanely. I’ll see if I can get more of a definition for you, and we’ll continue the conversation. I’m certain of it.

QUESTION: But you say that he was taken and detained because he’s indicted in a U.S. court.

MS. HARF: That’s not – that wasn’t – that’s not the root of the – let’s step back for a second. The operation was undertaken under the AUMF, so under our 2001 law that allows us to go after terrorists who might – who have in the past or are attempting to harm the United States. It wasn’t undertaken for the purposes of law enforcement. He is indicted; you’re right. That will be a part of this going forward, but that’s not the reason it was undertaken.

QUESTION: So did you see him as an imminent threat to U.S. interests? And that’s why he was taken?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize him that way. He is a well-known senior al-Qaida figure in the past who has been associated with attacking the United States. Clearly, we believed he was a lawful target under the AUMF, and I think that’s all I have for you.

QUESTION: This guy has been living in the open in Libya, though, for several years. So why, all of a sudden, was it so important to take him?

MS. HARF: Well, I would maybe disagree a little bit with your characterization that he’s been living in the open. I’m not sure exactly what that’s based on. But look, timing of operations is driven by operational concerns, by the intelligence, by the situation on the ground, by all of these things, and this was the right time operationally to undertake it. And beyond that, I just don’t have any more details for you about the timing.

QUESTION: But you know it was his family that came out and said he’s been living a normal life.

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of those comments, and I’m just not going to fact-check all of them for you.

QUESTION: Just a point of clarification: Is the same law that applied here is applied when this – the other operation done in Somali?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, both under the AUMF, correct.

Moving on, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, a general question about the al-Qaida threat all around the world.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You listed Somalia, Yemen, and northern Africa. How about northern Syria? How the Administration is – how much the Administration is concerned about the existence of al-Qaida factions in northern Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said – and it’s a good question – we’ve said that we’re concerned about extremist elements there. We’ve talked a lot about al-Nusrah in this room, we’ve talked about ISIS, we’ve talked about others. I think – and this is an important point to make – I know we talked a little bit about extremism yesterday – but that the reason there are these terrorists in Syria today creating so many problems is because the Assad regime created an environment for them to flourish, to plan, to plot, and indeed to undertake attacks there. So I think yesterday we were talking about some of this, and I think that’s an important point to make. We’re certainly concerned about it. That’s why we’ve called on the opposition to reject this extremism, to coalesce around a moderate group and leadership, and that’s the conversation we’re going to continue with them going forward.

QUESTION: No, I’m – I asked this question to understand what is the exact position of the Administration when it comes to the --

MS. HARF: We said we’re --

QUESTION: -- fight against al-Qaida.

MS. HARF: Well, we said we’re concerned about it.

QUESTION: No, no. You are conducting Special Forces operations in Yemen, Northern Africa, or Somalia.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But in northern Syria, it’s out of question right now. It’s not on the table, I think, right?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. Every situation is different. The threat picture everywhere is different and the operational picture everywhere is different. So wherever al-Qaida plots and plans against the U.S., there are different considerations you take into place in terms of how you counter it.

So in Syria – when we talk about the extremists in Syria, we’re working with the opposition to encourage them to reject this extremism. We’re also working with our partners in the region to do so as well.

QUESTION: A quick question about --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on Turkey, too. The Turkish Prime Minister yesterday criticized Secretary Kerry’s remarks about destroying chemical – the destroying process of the chemical weapons of Syria. When Secretary Kerry said that we appreciate the Syrian complies, the Prime Minister said, “I don’t believe he said such a thing because if he made this kind of comment, he will contradict it by himself,” he said. So do you have any comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, we talked about this at length yesterday, I’m happy to talk about it more today, that the Assad regime has responsibilities under the UN Security Council resolution that in no way confers legitimacy on it. Our position on Assad has not changed that he has lost all legitimacy and he must go. So the fact that his regime has responsibilities to comply with this resolution does not confer political legitimacy on it. In fact, it’s the opposite. We have said repeatedly that the Assad regime must go. If and when there’s a transitional government in place, they will assume responsibility for implementation of the Security Council resolution. And that’s exactly what the Secretary was saying.

QUESTION: Well, what he said – but he said that the regime deserves credit. So he may not be conferring future legitimacy on their ability to govern Syria going forward, but he certainly conferred legitimacy on their duties right now in terms of that they are implementing the agreement.

MS. HARF: I would say that the UN set forward in their resolution, which 15 – the 15 members of the Security Council all raised their hands to vote yes for, conferred responsibility on the Assad regime.

QUESTION: And they’re meeting that responsibility.

MS. HARF: And we said this is a good step forward, but we have to keep seeing more progress being made.

QUESTION: But you know the Secretary also said, “Let me make this crystal clear. We are very pleased with the conduct,” basically, “of the Syrian Government so far.”

MS. HARF: Again, I said --

QUESTION: So you agree.

MS. HARF: -- this is a step forward.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to disagree with the Secretary.

QUESTION: But you would use the same --

MS. HARF: What he was saying is what we’ve always said.

QUESTION: You would use the same words, that you are very pleased?

MS. HARF: What I am saying, Said, is the Secretary was making very clear that under the UN Security Council resolution and the OPCW resolution, the Syrian regime, who is in control of these weapons, has responsibilities.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: And we expect them – we do – we expect them to live up to them. When they do, we’ll say so. If they don’t, we’ll say so.

QUESTION: So you don’t expect them not to meet their obligation that on the 27th of this month, do you?

MS. HARF: We very much hope that they will. That’s – when the initial declaration under the CWC is due to the OPCW – and we certainly call on them to meet this obligation. They’ve signed up for the Chemical Weapons Convention and need to meet all of the requirements that that entails.

QUESTION: Let me go back to a point that you just made a little while ago --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about the – you’re saying that the Assad regime allowed al-Qaida to flourish and be nurtured and so on.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you explain that? How did they do that?

MS. HARF: This – the security situation in Syria today that is a direct result of the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on its people, the civil war that the Assad regime has been waging against the legitimate, moderate opposition, has created a climate and a security atmosphere where groups like al-Qaida can flourish – al-Qaida-affiliated groups can flourish. So we’ve said repeatedly that the security vacuum in Syria hasn’t just let extremists flourish in Syria, but around the region. We’ve talked a lot about Iraq in here, and it’s certainly been the case that Iraq has seen some of this terrorist violence because of the situation in Syria.

QUESTION: So – but that – shouldn’t that give the regime --

MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: -- a little more, in fact, vigorous and urgency to sort of fight these elements more brutally, so to speak?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, repeat your question. I didn’t understand it.

QUESTION: No I’m – shouldn’t this – I mean, you’re saying that they are growing, they are flourishing in these areas. Shouldn’t this give the regime incentive to fight them even more?

MS. HARF: No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think that the regime today has a lot of incentives – and it’s all of the people in Syria who are experiencing this brutal crackdown – to stop it, to move towards a Geneva 2 process where everybody comes to the table, and indeed, we can get passed what’s happening there and hopefully move towards a democratic political transition. I think that’s what’s in the best interest of the Syrian people and will help the security situation in the country moving forward.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the Turkish Prime Minister who said, “I do not recognize Assad as a politician anymore. He is a terrorist who kills with his state terrorism”?

MS. HARF: I think we have been perfectly clear that Assad has lost legitimacy. He’s a brutal dictator who’s killed over a hundred thousand of his people, and that he has to go, period.

QUESTION: Do you consider him a terrorist?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to use that term, but I think I can use every term in the book to describe how bad of a person he is, how destructive of a leader he is for his own people, and how he has no legitimacy to govern going forward.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since the beginning of 2013, Assad’s forces have laid a siege on Guta, the capital, or in the suburbs of the capital. The Syrian forces are stopping food and other goods from coming in.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And as winter approaches, activists are warning that the situation is about to get to even worse. How are you dealing with the situation there?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly agree with the concern. We’re deeply concerned that the regime has blocked humanitarian access which has resulted in severe shortages of food and relief supplies. And you’re right, winter’s coming up and it certainly doesn’t make it any easier. We’ve also heard reports of possible starvation-related deaths there. And so the United States along with the international humanitarian community will continue to work to get lifesaving relief supplies into these areas, but let’s be clear that it’s very hard, which is why we’ve called on the Syrian regime to allow humanitarian access in repeatedly. And in accordance with the Security Council’s recently-issued presidential statement, the U.S. calls on all sides in Syria to facilitate aid deliveries to people in need, including through the easing of bureaucratic hurdles, which often the regime relies on to prevent this kind of aid from getting in.

QUESTION: When you say that 120,000 – he killed 120,000 of his own people and so on, do you have a breakdown of how many – or how many Syrian soldiers were killed in this battle?

MS. HARF: I can try and find out. I don’t know those numbers.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but that 100,000 includes also elements that are fighting on behalf of the regime, correct?

MS. HARF: I can try and get a further breakdown for you, Said. I just don’t have that.

QUESTION: Regarding the humanitarian aid, the other day you mentioned that – or you said that it was not – it is not affected by the government shutdown or --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I did.

QUESTION: Is still --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- correct?

MS. HARF: That’s still the case.

QUESTION: And then you mentioned now there is bureaucratic, whatever, barriers to go through it – to go – still you are going through the Syrian Government, right?

MS. HARF: No, so thank you for the question. I’ve got some information on that; let me just pull it up right now.

So we do not work directly with the Syrian regime to get humanitarian access in. We work diplomatically with those who have influence over the regime to urge them to allow humanitarian access. You asked about this question, I think that’s an important point. Obviously, we know the Syrian authorities can do more to allow this kind of access, but I wanted to make that point directly.

QUESTION: And the other question related to other day where you were asked, and you mentioned about this immigrant or whatever or refugees program.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you still have an update – do you have any update about that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on that. Obviously, it’s something we remain very concerned about.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Marie? Sorry, one more on the suburbs and --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Huta region. Is the U.S. ready to consider humanitarian corridors to these places, to these regions?

MS. HARF: Well, we obviously undertake every effort possible to get humanitarian aid to these locations. All of that’s ongoing and those discussions are ongoing right now. I don’t have anything new to announce for you in terms of how we get that aid there, but suffice to say we take every effort to do so, and we’ll continue pushing on all parties to allow humanitarian access.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Syria. For the regime to get to these chemical weapons, sometimes they have to go through rebel-controlled areas.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And this – just yesterday this – this scenario occurred in Al-Safira, just outside Aleppo – regime forces broke the blockade that the rebels had put on Aleppo. And I was wondering, this creates a dilemma for the Administration, because you want to get the chemical weapons out, but this road has been opened up now to Aleppo, and my question is: Where do you stand? Is this – on the side of the rebels, or are you – or are you supporting the regime in their actions to get to these chemical weapons?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I would ever say we’re supporting the regime in any way, and we always stand by the rebels. I actually haven’t seen that exact report, so let me look at it and get back to you on that.

But I think it’s important to remember that the opposition that we recognize has pledged repeatedly to allow access to the teams that are inspecting the chemical weapons and ultimately will be destroying them. So the opposition’s been very clear that in their controlled areas – if there are any, right, or if they need to give access that they will do so. And the onus really is on the regime here to --

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: -- allow access to all the inspectors in the --

QUESTION: But two things here. First of all, some of the rebel-held areas, the rebels have specifically said that they will not provide access. So it’s unclear --

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. I’ve seen the --

QUESTION: It’s unclear whether the political opposition has control over all of the rebel-held areas.

MS. HARF: Well, the SMC and the Syrian Coalition have both pledged their support to giving access. Those are the opposition members --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- we recognize. But we’ve also said that we do assess that the Syrian regime has control over their entire chemical weapons stockpile.

QUESTION: Well, but not in areas that are rebel-held, though, right?

MS. HARF: I can take a look at those reports, Elise. I’m just not familiar with those, and we can talk about those.

QUESTION: Okay. One other thing. Your Travel Warning that you sent out yesterday said that any area of Syria is subject to use of chemical weapons at any time. And I’m wondering if maybe that – given that this agreement is going forward and the chemical weapons are on their way to hopefully being destroyed --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you still believe that the regime is prone to use chemical weapons at any time?

MS. HARF: No. I think what I said is we’ve seen a positive step forward in terms of this beginning of destruction of some of this program. We believe that the Syrian Government needs to live up to its responsibilities under the Security Council resolution, and we believe that the Russians are going to keep pushing on the Syrians to do so.

So right now we’re focused on the process that’s unfolding. We do think there’s been progress, and we will continue to update our travel warnings as necessary.

QUESTION: Yes, please. The Government sounded a warning --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What was the urgency or the necessity of --

MS. HARF: I can double-check. It’s my understanding – I think that it was a routine update, but let me just double-check and make sure I’m correct on that.

QUESTION: And second, I mean – because I don’t think that – I mean, are there Americans still going there --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- or are there Americans staying there?

MS. HARF: Well, we, I think, are very – first of all, American citizens aren’t required to register with the State Department when they travel anywhere. We encourage them to do so, so we know where they are in case something happens and we need to contact them through our programs online. But we’ve been very clear that Americans should not. And if they’re there, they should leave. So beyond that, I don’t have an estimate for you for how many Americans might be running around Syria. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: The other – the questions raised in this – is chemical weapons inspection system and the team was mentioned some number today in some newspapers. Is – are this – is this team have any – has any American component or members?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, it’s an OPCW and UN team, so I would refer you to the OPCW and the UN to speak to their delegation and who’s part of it.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about Russia?

MS. HARF: You can. Always.

QUESTION: Is the State Department advising Americans who are intending to go to the Olympic Games that they not bring laptops or smart phones because of concerns that any communications with those devices will be intercepted by Russian intelligence services?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer, Scott. I’m happy to take the question and get back to you if that’s the case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: And just so everyone knows – just one second before you go – I think the President will be speaking sort of shortly, so we’re going to – I always will spend hours up here talking to you, but just to keep that in mind in terms of timing.

Let’s go to Iran.

QUESTION: This is a short one.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: As you’re aware, the British Government has said that they are in talks with the Iranian Government about the possibility of restoring diplomatic – actually, I’m not sure if diplomatic relations were cut or if they just pulled out the embassy, which is I think what happened.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But it’s about the possibility of sending somebody back. Is this a good thing from your point of view?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’m not going to characterize their discussions in any way. I think what we’ve said – as you know, we don’t have diplomatic relations with the Government of Iran. What we’re focused on right now is the upcoming round of P5+1 talks, trying to work towards a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis. And we’ve said that as this proceeds, if there are confidence-building measures that the Iranians are able to undertake, that we also will be in discussions about further confidence-building measures. But I’m not going to characterize the British move.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any comment at all on the British move?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, please. In the last two days, there is escalating violence taking place in Egypt. If you have any update or want – something you want to say?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you. Obviously, we are deeply concerned about the violence we’ve seen in Egypt, including, I think, clashes in and around Cairo, attacks on security forces, and maybe including in the Sinai and other violence as well. We’ll continue monitoring the situation and moving forward, continue to call on all parties to both protest peacefully, but also to respect the rights of peaceful protests.

QUESTION: Yes, but just to make a differentiation, always they said the detail – the devil’s in details, you know – the day before yesterday was kind of clashes because it was demonstrations. Whether it was peaceful or not, that’s another issue.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But yesterday, definitely there were – three or four governmental buildings were attacked --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in Sinai and other places. Do you have anything to say, differentiate between those two days? Or is the same package?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s the same kind of violence. We condemn violence on all sides. You’re exactly right; there’s no place for people to be attacking government facilities, to attacking security forces in the Sinai – there’s just no place for this kind of violence in Egypt’s future, and it’s certainly – their transition shouldn’t be derailed by it, which is why we’ve called on all sides and all parties, even though it’s very difficult in the situation, to be a part of the process.

Said.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Egypt?

MS. HARF: Oh, yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Two things: One, we had reports on Friday of Egyptian military firing at protesters. Are you particularly concerned about that kind of violence? Because you talked about violence by attacks on soldiers and other violence, but you didn’t specify the other violence.

MS. HARF: We’re certainly concerned about that kind of violence. I mean, I think it goes without saying, but that kind of violence is indeed what prompted the President to come out and say that business can’t continue as usual.

QUESTION: Right. And then speaking of that, has a determination yet been made about whether to release any additional assistance, military or economic, to the Egyptian Government?

MS. HARF: This process is still ongoing, nothing to announce; no decisions at this point. But when we do, we will let you know.

QUESTION: Is it not harder for you to release U.S. taxpayer funds to a government where – according to our reports, I think there were 51 people died over the weekend, and certainly not all of those deaths, at least in our reporting, have been attributed to – solely to people attacking soldiers or other institutions of the state. It seems quite clear that the violence goes both ways --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and some of it is perpetrated by the state or its officers. Can you – how can you – can you give them more money when there’s this level of violence, including by the state?

MS. HARF: Well, again, I would stress that – no decisions have been made, and I have no announcements for you, but I think that questioning is exactly what the President spoke to and the Secretary spoke to, that when we’ve seen the level of violence that we’ve seen by the interim government since July 3rd, that that’s exactly why this massive policy review has been undertaken, because business can’t continue as usual. Now, broadly speaking, we’ve talked about the fact that some of our assistance doesn’t go to the government. It goes to NGOs or it goes to fund important programs that directly help the people of Egypt.

So, again, we haven’t – we don’t have any decisions to announce at this point, but broadly speaking, there’s a lot of different kinds of assistance Egypt gets. And what we’re doing right now is taking a look at all of that and determining what makes sense going forward in terms of how we can best support the Egyptian people and help move Egypt towards – back towards a democratic process. That policy decision is going to take into account all of these various things that are going on right now. But I would underscore that that violence is exactly why we’re at this place today where we are talking about what our relationship will look like going forward from a very, sort of, 30,000-foot perspective. Absolutely.

Oh, I’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: Last week you talked about certain things in the shutdown that if there was a prolonged shutdown --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- aid to Israel, Jordan, a lot of countries that are in an unstable region, some counterterrorism programs in Africa would be affected. At what point do you say this is a prolonged shutdown and now these types of things are going to be affected?

MS. HARF: Right. Well, it’s a good question. Some of the – you’d asked me yesterday about some of the things that we couldn’t attend because of this, so I’ll give you some now, and then I’ll talk about your question.

There’s just two I would mention that – the Ambassador to Algeria had to pull out of the North African Regional Workshop on Countering Violent Extremism, which I think the weekend’s events show is an important topic that’s a priority for the United States Government. Also, there was a climate workshop in Bonn that was scheduled for this week that we were not able to participate in. We’ve talked about the TTIP negotiations. USTR – which, of course, is not the State Department – but USTR announced last week that the ongoing shutdown prevented the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from proceeding with the second round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – they were scheduled to take place in Brussels. This is obviously a huge part of our economic agenda overseas, and very important. State was – State staff were part of the delegation; of course, could not attend as well.

So I think – in terms of what you asked about, Elise, when – for FY14 funding, when it comes due, we won’t be able to pay our bills.

QUESTION: So when --

MS. HARF: So I don’t have an update for – aid to Israel, it’s my understanding, usually happens, I think, in mid to late November. I can check on that. We’re not there yet, but as things come due, we’re not able to pay them. I can see if there’s been any specific shipments of aid that can’t – have not been able to go through. I don’t know of any.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: But I can check. I can check.

QUESTION: Excuse me, when you say those numbers and when it is paid for FY14, you mentioned the other day the peacekeeping forces in Sinai --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for example. I mean, peacekeeping force in the Sinai is – I assume they are not going to stay home because the money’s not coming, like some many people here think.

MS. HARF: I can see if I have an update for you on how that’s affected that force and let you know.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. Room for one question?

MS. HARF: Said. Yes.

QUESTION: Real quick on the West Bank. Today, the World Bank issued a report called “Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy,” saying that because of Israeli restriction, that Palestinians are not able to develop their economy in this particular area --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- where they will become, actually, much less dependent on donor money. Now, since you are the biggest donor, that would help you a great deal. So are you talking to the Israelis about this point?

MS. HARF: Well, I’ve – we’ve seen the World Bank’s report. As the report, I think, makes clear, it focuses on the economic potential of Area C; it doesn’t prejudge its status. And in the context of the resumption of direct negotiations, the Government of Israel has already taken steps to improve the Palestinian economy, and as the negotiations proceed, we will certainly work with both parties to see if additional steps can be taken.

I’d point out that the Secretary spoke to this issue at length in New York on the margins of the General Assembly. He outlined how the economic support we provide to the Palestinians through budget support and foreign direct investment and long-term growth through the Palestinian Economic Initiative is vital to the political negotiations, but it’s not a substitute. He’s spoken about this at length in the past, and obviously, more broadly, we remain committed to helping the Palestinian economy develop and grow and to support – to supporting Palestinian institution building.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, there are some press reports, I mean, Hamas will – is preparing to open an office in Turkey. Do you have any comment on that? Did you see the reports?

MS. HARF: Just one second. I think I might have something on that in here. Thank you for the question. This large book is getting in the way of things.

Our – well, I would say first that our position on Hamas has not changed. Of course, it’s a foreign terrorist organization that remains a destabilizing force in Gaza and the region. In terms of specific things that might happen in Turkey, I’d refer you to the Government of Turkey to answer those questions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Two quick questions.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: First, a couple world leaders, foreign, leaders weighed in on, kind of, domestic politics in the past couple days. Chinese Vice Finance Minister said that the government needs to raise – the U.S. Government needs to raise the debt limit, and Putin said today that he hopes this crisis with the shutdown ends quickly and that he would sympathize with the President for not coming to the meetings in Asia because of the crisis.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering, does the State Department view those kinds of – that kind of involvement in domestic issues as appropriate?

MS. HARF: I think I’m probably not going to comment on that question. I would agree with Mr. Putin that we hope it ends soon. I think that you can all write down that quote there. And we would agree that we hope it ends soon, and we’ve talked a lot about the President not being able to participate.

I think I’ll also take this opportunity to make a few points. There’s been a lot of speculation in the press about the fact that the President wasn’t able to go, that maybe this shows that we’re losing our influence in Asia, when I think – I’ve seen a lot of reports about this and people have asked me about it, and I, quite frankly, think that kind of analysis is pretty intellectually lazy.

I think it’s been clear over the past four years how committed this Administration is to our role in the Pacific. If you look at exports, if you look at a lot of different measures, we’ve been very active in that region, and I think you see Secretary Kerry there talking about how we will continue to be going forward. He’s had very productive meetings. I’m sure the team on the road is giving people a full readout of those.

QUESTION: But despite --

MS. HARF: You have a follow-up? We’ll come back – go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s unrelated --

MS. HARF: And then I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: -- so if you want to --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: But despite that, I mean, you have leaders in China and Russia kind of making very public comments about fears that the U.S. will default on its loans. There is just a general uneasiness in the world community about what’s going on here in the United States. And doesn’t that hurt the U.S. reputation overseas?

MS. HARF: I think I’ve certainly made that point from this podium, that we’re strongest abroad when we’re strong at home, and right now we’re not projecting that message. And that’s why we’ve called on Congress to come together with the Administration to end the government shutdown, period, absolutely.

QUESTION: Are you hearing a lot from, in your bureaus and in your discussions with interlocutors around the world, hearing a lot of questions or --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- comments of concern when you’re talking to people?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly heard a number of questions. I think a lot of people are, quite frankly, confused why the United States, the strongest country on earth that has – projects power everywhere and economic and diplomatic and political power, military power, is unable to keep its government running. And so that again is why we would call on Congress to come to the table with the Administration. I’m not going to judge what that would look like. That’s for my domestic political colleagues to talk about.

But you’re absolutely right that the message we’re projecting overseas right now is that we can’t keep our government up and running, when of course, we know that’s the furthest thing from the truth and should be ended very soon.

Yes. Second question.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It doesn’t fall under the State Department, but I’m just wondering --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- if you have a position on this particular issue that’s come up with military benefits for fallen soldiers who have died the shutdown went into effect, whether you guys have a position on that?

MS. HARF: Yeah, no, it’s a good question, and I think what you’re getting at is when U.S. citizens are overseas, some of them receive certain benefits through our Bureau of Consular Affairs at certain embassies, right? So these aren’t State Department benefits that are being given to U.S. citizens; these are benefits from other agencies.

But you’re right that during the shutdown, if these other agencies don’t have funding to provide the benefits, we can’t pass those along. So basically, if the State Department and Embassy X is – has been providing a benefit, like, to a veteran – the family of a veteran after they’re deceased, and that department can’t send the check to us, we can’t provide it, right?

So that’s kind of a convoluted way of saying if there’s no money in a different agency, we can’t pass along that money to someone. This is one area that’s been affected; I know there are others.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

DPB # 165

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 8, 2013]