Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 4, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel to Moldova / Travel Plans for Middle East Peace Process
    • Read-out of Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister
  • UKRAINE
    • Complicated Situation / Refrain from Violence
    • Encouraged All Parties to Start a Dialogue / European Integration
    • Travel by Assistant Secretary Nuland
  • EUROPEAN UNION
    • Moldova / Ukraine / Tariffs / New Markets / Exports
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement / Travel by Special Representative Dobbins
    • Future Elections
  • CHINA
    • Air Defense Identification Zone / U.S. Compliance
  • SYRIA
    • Continued Violence / Urge All Sides to Avoid Civilian Casualties
    • Need for Humanitarian Access
    • Religious Tolerance
  • LEBANON
    • Hezbollah / Sectarian Violence / Spillover from Syria
  • SYRIA
    • Discussions with Opposition / Extremist Groups / Ongoing
    • Geneva II / External Participation
  • MEXICO
    • Stolen Radioactive Material
    • Efforts to Counter Proliferation
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Research Poll on the Role of the U.S. Around the World
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Merrill Newman


TRANSCRIPT:

1:25 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Sorry for the delay. It’s the scarf again. Oh, no, it’s a different scarf.

QUESTION: It’s a different one. It’s a different one.

MS. HARF: Do you have one for every day of the week?

QUESTION: No. But you’ll see. You’ll see more.

MS. HARF: I can’t wait.

QUESTION: This is the second Bills scarf. It’s a throwback.

MS. HARF: I like it. I do have something short at the top, and then I will turn to Matt and his scarf in a second.

As you know, the Secretary is traveling to Moldova, will be the first Secretary of State to visit Moldova since Secretary Baker’s 1992 stop through all the former Soviet republics after their independence, demonstrating, during this stop, U.S. support for the important choice – excuse me – that Moldova made at Vilnius to initial – initiate – excuse me – its own association agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

I know some of you have gotten updates from the traveling party. They’re going to be visiting, among other things, a winery that highlights some of the exports that Moldova’s making to the EU and Europe and also to the United States. So I’m sure there are lots of questions about Moldovan wine that I’m happy to answer.

QUESTION: Do you know the answers to any of them?

MS. HARF: I know some of them.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: More than I’ve ever known before about Moldovan wine.

QUESTION: Are they actually still there?

MS. HARF: I don’t know where they are exactly at the moment.

QUESTION: Did they --

MS. HARF: They’re landing in – this evening in Israel. I don’t know where they are exactly at the moment.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. HARF: For meetings tomorrow with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything to start with, so I will pass.

QUESTION: On this –

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS. HARF: Okay, wait.

QUESTION: Can we go to Afghanistan?

QUESTION: No, no. Can we stay on this, please?

MS. HARF: Sure. On Moldova?

QUESTION: Yes. Before he left to Moldova, Secretary Kerry has met with Russian foreign minister – with the Russian foreign minister. Do you have any readout from his meeting?

MS. HARF: He did. I have a brief one. I think it’s in here. Let me check. They met for about 30 minutes, discussed a number of issues including Syria, preparations for Geneva II, which obviously we’ve talked about a lot in here. The humanitarian situation as well in Syria was discussed. Obviously, it’s a huge concern to all of us. Obviously, also talked about Iran since we were all last in Geneva signing the first-phase agreement with the P5+1.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the humanitarian situation in Syria, do you have any --

QUESTION: Just one more on this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: As we watch this unfold, there are some who are saying that the U.S. is kind of soft-pedaling its comments or its actions on Ukraine because of the concern by Russia. And if you look at what Lavrov said, basically: NATO keep your hands off Ukraine. He asked whether NATO is going to move in militarily or at least be in Ukraine, NATO said no. But is it a fair description to say that the U.S. is treading very carefully with Russia on this issue?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. First, I think we always tread carefully on important issues that are ongoing and sensitive and complicated. But also, Ukraine isn’t a zero-sum game. As we’ve talked about, it’s possible for Ukraine and ideal for Ukraine to have a good relationship with both Russia and the European Union and the United States, and we don’t think that there’s a zero-sum game outcome that needs to happen from this.

What we’ve said, we’ve been very clear, that there’s no place for violence in a modern European state. We’ve encouraged all parties in Ukraine – the government, the opposition, and civil society – to work together to start a dialogue, and indeed, to get them back on a path towards European integration. They’ve noted that this is only a pause in the process, so our hope is that they will get back on this path. They’ve already taken a number of reforms towards European integration, and we hope they’ll take more.

QUESTION: And in fact, there was a quote in the pool report that just came out that said a senior U.S. official, I think, or a State Department official said that the U.S. has been asked to work with the Ukrainian Government and opposition to get them back on the road to Europe. What does that mean exactly?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details for you on that. I’m happy to check with our team and our folks to see if there are more details about what that actually looks like. We’ve very publicly said we’ve encouraged parties to come back to the table, but if there’s a specific role that we would play, I just – I’m not aware of it. I’m happy to check and see what that actually means in practice.

QUESTION: Toria Nuland, while she’s in Ukraine at the OSCE meeting, is she going to meet with any other government officials?

MS. HARF: I can check and see who she’s meeting with. I don’t have a full – let me see if I have that here. She will meet with Ukrainian officials, parliamentary leaders, and civil society. Those meetings, I think, aren’t happening until tomorrow – is tomorrow, the 5th, I think, if I have my dates right. If I can get more specifics, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Sorry. When you say the Ukraine is not a zero-sum game --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for whom is it?

MS. HARF: For anyone.

QUESTION: For anyone? So not just --

MS. HARF: Just in general.

QUESTION: -- for the U.S. and Russia or the – the U.S. and the EU. What about the Ukrainians themselves? Is it --

MS. HARF: Explain further, Matt.

QUESTION: Is it – I’m just wondering, who are the players in this game that you say is not a zero-sum one?

MS. HARF: Well, I was speaking to Jill’s question about --

QUESTION: I understand this.

MS. HARF: -- whether we are and the Russians are sort of fighting over Ukraine or if there’s some sort of – if we’re treading more lightly because of Russia’s interest in Ukraine. So I was talking about sort of whether they can have good relationships with other countries. Within Ukraine, I’ve said – and we’ve said repeatedly – that the government, the opposition, civil society, everybody needs to come together to help get Ukraine back on a path towards European integration. And we’ve said that there’s no place for violence here. So --

QUESTION: So you – so it’s – for anyone who has any interest in Ukraine, it’s not a zero-sum game? Is that correct? It’s not just the U.S.

MS. HARF: It’s just not a zero-sum game for influence in Ukraine. I’m not sure if you’re getting to sort of something specific or just a general question.

QUESTION: No, you think – no, I’m just trying --

MS. HARF: Sorry.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure that I understand --

MS. HARF: Trying to get to the crux of your question.

QUESTION: -- that you’re talking about the United States and the EU versus Russia, if that’s the game you’re talking about here, a game for influence, or if you’re also including the Ukrainians themselves in that.

MS. HARF: I was talking about other countries and their relationships with Ukraine. There’s been a lot of sort of banter out there in the commentary world about whether this is a place where we and the Russians are fighting for influence and who’s up and who’s down. And it’s just what I was referring to is it’s not one or the other. It doesn’t have to be.

QUESTION: But you were disappointed by the Ukrainian decision, were you not?

MS. HARF: The pause, right. And we’ve said we obviously – I have noted that this is just a pause, it’s not an end in the process, and we hope the process gets back on path.

QUESTION: Can I ask, Marie, the reason I believe that the Secretary’s going to the Moldovan winery is because there’s been some problems with the winery exports from Moldova.

MS. HARF: Yes. I do have information on that.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, I was actually going to link that to Ukraine --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because the Ukrainian authorities have said that one of the reasons that they were leery of signing this agreement with the EU is because there was some kind of trade threats made against them by the Russians. And they’ve asked in return for some kind of help, financial help from – they didn’t specify from whom. But I’m wondering whether, in the same way that you’re supporting Moldovans with the wine exports – and you can tell us about how you’re going to do that --

MS. HARF: I know. I want them to bring back wine for all of us so we can sample.

QUESTION: Would the United States be prepared to help the Ukrainians with some kind of preferential or beneficial trade agreements?

MS. HARF: Well, you are right that I think it’s all of Moldova’s wine exports to Russia have been cut off since they made this decision. So among the things we’re working on with the EU is we support Moldova moving forward, is helping industries like this one – all joking aside – but find new markets. And the EU, I believe, has already reduced or dropped all of its tariffs on Moldovan wine. So obviously, we think this is important to do. While they’re on the ground, they’ll also be able to see some other exhibits of Moldovan exports that they sell in Europe and the U.S., including home furnishings and that kind of thing.

In terms of Ukraine specifically, I don’t want to sort of outline what this process might look like from here. Obviously, we’re working with the EU, working with Ukraine to figure out a way to get them back on the path to European integration. And what that actually looks like in practice I’m not going to sort of get ahead of that process, but obviously, we believe it’s important and believe, again, that it’s not a zero-sum game and that we can all have interests and do business with these countries, both us and Russia.

QUESTION: So is the United States proposing for Moldova a similar kind of reduction in tariffs or --

MS. HARF: For Ukraine, you mean?

QUESTION: No, for Moldova, and then I would ask for Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Are we doing this – are we --

QUESTION: I guess we’re doing it dual since the two are interrelated. I mean, it’s all part of the same subject.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: It’s about accession or agreements to associate with the EU.

MS. HARF: Exactly.

QUESTION: So if the EU has already – you said the EU is already dropping some of its tariffs --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for Moldovan wine. Is that what the United States is proposing --

MS. HARF: Let me check and see what our position is on that. I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then to go back to Ukraine --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you said you didn’t want to outline it – what you might be offering. But is that the sort of thing that’s on the table?

MS. HARF: Well, again, it’s a discussion between the EU and Ukraine. This is the discussion – primarily, obviously, this is an agreement between them, so we have a role to play and when we get asked about it and sort of putting our point of view forward. Let me find out if there’s any policy implications about – that might play into this discussion.

QUESTION: So I mean --

MS. HARF: On our side. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Yeah. The question is: How would the U.S. support the EU policy going forward?

MS. HARF: Let me take that question. I just don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Well, if you can also ask on that one is – I asked a question last week on – I mean, the big issue for Ukraine is giving them an economic confidence to move away from Ukraine that has held them in its iron grip.

MS. HARF: From Russia.

QUESTION: Sorry. From Russia. Oh, Ukraine. And so --

MS. HARF: It’s one of those days.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. And that’s – I’m also interested in what Toria Nuland would be taking to the Ukrainians as possibilities of that. One issue could be that they would support an IMF program through the institutions that would give investors the confidence to come back into there. So that would also be so we’re also interested in anything that you guys can say from that --

MS. HARF: Yeah, let me take those questions. Of course, Assistant Secretary Nuland will be there tomorrow, so let me see if I have a little preview or more of an outline of what those discussions might look like.

QUESTION: And perhaps, since the State Department is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on booze, it appears, you might be able to make up the Russian --

MS. HARF: All in my office, actually.

QUESTION: -- Russian shortfall by purchasing it for your embassies, no?

MS. HARF: Is there a question in there?

QUESTION: I’m asking --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did you consider buying Moldovan wine?

MS. HARF: Well, when we can, we choose to buy American, but I’m sure that the Secretary’s plane has some room for some wine to come back with him on it.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I would be shocked if some didn’t.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, I just wanted to make sure I understood the pause in the process. So you believe that President Yanukovich is simply stopped, but he hasn’t really made up his mind totally either way?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to venture to guess what’s in his mind, but it does appear to us that this – and I think he’s actually said – I don’t want to put words in his mouth – but this is a pause and they’re looking where to move forward from here. I certainly don’t think anyone said that this process is ended, that they’ve made a decision not to move forward in any way. So we hope they’ll get back on this path. That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What did the Secretary mean yesterday or what was behind it when he said that President Karzai is not the only person that can sign this and the defense ministers could also do that? Is that the – I mean, is that the idea now from the U.S. that it doesn’t have to be him, that indeed – I mean, is that what you’re pressing from behind?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a simple statement of fact. It wasn’t meant to indicate any policy decision or shift or change at all in any way. It was just a statement of fact that, technically, it’s possible for international agreements for an official other than a president to sign them. This is – we weren’t indicating this was our preference in any way. We’ve said very publicly that we’d like President Karzai to, as soon as possible, sign this agreement. So it was very much just a statement of fact.

QUESTION: And then Special Representative Dobbins is in Kabul --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is in Kabul today. Is he going there to pave the way for a possibility of signing?

MS. HARF: Well, he’s visiting Afghanistan as part of his regular schedule of regional consultations. His discussions are going to focus on a few issues, preparations for the 2014 elections, as well as consultations following Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Kabul. Obviously, the signing of the BSA will be a part of these conversations. We’ll keep encouraging them to sign it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Just to follow?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as U.S. presence is concerned now and also beyond next year --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the problems is there that Pakistan still keeps threatening U.S. closing doors for those aids and also for those trucks going through the territory to Afghanistan. And also, is U.S. looking under another alternatives in the future, because how you are giving billions of dollars aid to Pakistan but at the same time they keep threatening time to time, and that doesn’t, I think, is not good relations between the two countries or allies. Are you looking any other alternatives in the future that this does not happen or keeps going on – these threats?

MS. HARF: Alternative transportation routes?

QUESTION: Yeah, and other relations, because I think you need other countries in the future to be relied and the future, like what will be you think the future of India-U.S. relations as far as India’s presence in Afghanistan is concerned next year or beyond?

MS. HARF: Well, there are a lot of questions wrapped up in that. But first, I would note that we haven’t made any decision about our post-2014 footprint and what that will look like. We all know that policy discussion is ongoing.

Right now, as we know, we aren’t able to make shipments via Torkham, via one of the GLOCs, because we don’t think it’s safe for our drivers to perform their work. But we’ve always said – and we’ve seen this throughout the past few years – that we’ve built flexibility and redundancy into our overall system of air-sea-ground transports for exactly this reason, because sometimes there are things that happen and you can’t use a certain transport route for one reason or the other. But we favor shipping cargo via Pakistan because of the cost, and hopefully, don’t anticipate that there’ll be any long-term impact to our retrograde movements because of the current situation.

QUESTION: Another question. As far as elections are concerned in Afghanistan --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- one, is President Karzai with the U.S. now? Or what will be the future, because al-Qaidas are also now may be a party in the elections next year.

MS. HARF: Well, it’s up to the Afghans to decide who will represent them in their elections. That’s the point of having elections. It’s for the Afghans to decide that. The U.S. doesn’t take a position, doesn’t endorse a candidate, doesn’t endorse a party. And we believe that a peaceful and timely political transition through this kind of inclusive and credible electoral process is critical for Afghan stability and democratic development.

So we’ll keep – again, Ambassador Dobbins is there. One of the topics he’s primarily talking about are the 2014 elections preparations and helping the Afghans continue making progress.

QUESTION: My question is really as far as al-Qaida is concerned to participate in the elections in Afghanistan is that once U.S. and the international community, or calling them their threats to the global terrorism – they’re terrorists around the globe and they’re threats to the global security and regional security around the globe, and you called them – they are the most wanted terrorists on this earth, but now you are asking them or telling them or maybe favoring them to be the party in the elections.

MS. HARF: Well, the U.S. doesn’t favor any party or candidate, doesn’t ask anybody, any party or candidate, to run in elections. That’s just not true. We’ve been very clear that even after 2014, if we conclude a BSA with Afghanistan, we’re open to keeping a small residual force there to carry out two specific and narrow missions, one of which is counterterrorism to target the remnants of al-Qaida and its affiliates. We’ve been very clear that even as the war winds down, that’s a top national security priority for us.

Anything else on Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay. Yes.

QUESTION: It seems like Iran is pressuring Karzai not to sign the agreement, because the foreign ministry yesterday criticized the agreement as very negative, and that Karzai will be visiting Tehran next week. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d point you to Iran to explain what their statement meant. I would make a couple points: First, that the BSA was overwhelmingly approved by the Afghan people themselves through the Loya Jirga process, which is incredibly important, also has been – voiced support for the BSA from some of Afghanistan’s neighbors. So what we’re focused on right now is working with Afghanistan to get this signed in a timely manner, to give the Afghan people the assurances they need, to give us and our partners the assurances we need going into planning for a post-2014 Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Which of Afghanistan’s neighbors have said that this is a good thing?

MS. HARF: Let me double-check. I think Russia has, I think China may have as well. Let me just double-check on who the exact list is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let me just double-check, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. I think that the China – it’s about an inch – less than an inch on a map, the border that Afghanistan and China – but I’m just curious --

MS. HARF: Let me double-check.

QUESTION: -- because Iran shares a very long border with --

MS. HARF: I think India may have as well. I just want to double-check so I have my facts straight here.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: One more on Afghanistan too?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Karzai’s spokesman has said today that the president will not allow any minister to sign security pact with U.S. unless key demands are met. Do you have any reaction to that, and do you know about these demands?

MS. HARF: Well, again, the negotiations have concluded on the BSA, and what we – the Secretary was referring to about who signs it which is merely a technical statement. Just to be clear, there’s no scenario in which the BSA could be signed by anybody if President Karzai hadn’t approved of it, right? So this is not a discussion about whether President Karzai will or will not approve of it. This is a document that the negotiations have been concluded on, the Loya Jirga has approved it overwhelmingly, and again, we’re looking to President Karzai for the Afghans to sign it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: And have you received any demands from President Karzai after the approval?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. Again, Ambassador Dobbins is there right now, but not to my knowledge. The negotiations have concluded, the Loya Jirga met, and we’re looking forward to getting a signature as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Wait a second. I thought the statement from the White House about Ambassador Rice’s visit said that Karzai had, in fact, raised new things.

MS. HARF: I mean, I don’t know if we’re talking about demand – I’m not exactly sure what those, quote, “demands” about who signs it – that was a question about --

QUESTION: Or is --

MS. HARF: -- additional demands if someone else were to sign it, which, to my knowledge, that discussion hasn’t happened.

QUESTION: But it’s still the case that you think it’s done and that’s – no more changes?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding, again, that negotiations have concluded on this, the process is moving forward. I’ll double-check, Matt. I’ll check with Ambassador Dobbins and the team on the ground to see what the discussions are like there as well.

QUESTION: The spokesman has said that Karzai is demanding the United States encourage a nascent peace process with the Taliban and immediately end U.S. raids on Afghan homes. These are the two demands that President Karzai --

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to respond to comments I haven’t seen myself. I’m happy to take the question and check in with our team – again, Ambassador Dobbins is there on the ground – and see if there’s any update. It’s my understanding this is where we are in the process and hope to move forward – continue moving forward on it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about China and East China Sea?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yeah.

QUESTION: Vice President Biden met President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

MS. HARF: For a lengthy meeting today, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

MS. HARF: A couple hours.

QUESTION: Yeah, a couple of hours ago. And I know – and I checked the background briefing of the senior Administration official. But I’d like to know in more detail, what did Vice President Biden tell the President Xi Jinping, and what was the response of --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to specifically detail what their private diplomatic discussions looked like. As we’ve said, the Vice President is, among other issue – discussing a wide range of bilateral issues, but one of them, of course, is raising our concerns over the ADIZ, discussing the path forward and what that might look like. I’m not going to further detail those conversations for you right now. But again, they were discussing a broad range of issues, not just this one.

QUESTION: But did he pointed out a deep concern to China about ADIZ?

MS. HARF: That’s certainly my understanding, yes. I think he publicly said yesterday that he would do so; he would raise it with Chinese officials when he was there.

QUESTION: What about the need to rescind the procedure of ADIZ?

MS. HARF: Well, again, without detailing what the Vice President said in a private meeting, we’ve been very clear what our policy is – that we don’t recognize the newly announced ADIZ, that we have called on China not to implement it. We’ve made that clear very publicly and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Marie, what exactly do you mean by not implementing?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, a couple things, right. In practice, what that might mean, like I said yesterday – hold on, let me pull this up right here. We don’t believe they should implement the newly announced regulations that go along with the ADIZ, right. And whether that means having to file flight plans with the Chinese Government, which, as I said, deviates significantly from ICAO procedures, also the reference to use of, quote, “defensive emergency measures should aircraft fail to comply,” has been perceived by many as provocative. So we just don’t want them to implement what the – everything under this new ADIZ going forward.

QUESTION: Because the reason I ask is – I mean, I think there were some reports that Vice President Biden used the word “rescind”, and whether there’s any kind of meaningful distinction to --

MS. HARF: There’s no policy difference, no. The policy hasn’t changed from the beginning to now, that we don’t believe that the Chinese should implement the new ADIZ.

QUESTION: We shouldn’t understand your wording to mean --

MS. HARF: Something different?

QUESTION: -- that you would maybe allow the ADIZ to stand in a pro forma way as long as its procedures are in keeping with ICO[1] regulations and international norms.

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t try and parse it like that. As I’ve said, there’s no policy difference, and we don’t recognize it. So any further detail, I’m happy to again check with them and check with the folks who were there with him on his trip, but there’s just – we don’t recognize it. This is, we’ve said, is a highly provocative act that could lead to miscalculation and confrontation. As we know, that would all be a very bad thing, and they’re having discussions right now about this issue.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about appropriate procedures for establishing an air defense zone. I know that this issue was discussed yesterday, but you mentioned that China included a list of requirements which appear to be preconditions for entry into its air defense zone --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as one example for why you don’t – or why the U.S. doesn’t recognize the ADIZ. Can you elaborate further on other appropriate procedures for establishing an air defense zone?

MS. HARF: That we think that are appropriate or that we think were not done appropriately in this case?

QUESTION: Well, the proper way to establish such a zone, not just specifically to China, but --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- generally speaking for any source.

MS. HARF: Let me – I don’t know the answer for how you establish an ADIZ. I just don’t know technically how that works. I’m happy to check with our folks. What we’ve said is there were a couple of things that are problems here, right? It’s first the completely uncoordinated way the Chinese Government did this, that they unilaterally are trying to change the status quo, didn’t coordinate with people, and have, again, in a highly sensitive area done something that we think is very provocative.

But it’s also the fact that, as you said, this isn’t consistent with international norms respecting navigational freedoms, and this – so both sides of that coin are things that we think are important and why we don’t respect the new ADIZ. But I’m happy to see if there’s specifics about how you actually establish one.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Along those lines, I asked you yesterday what exactly was inconsistent in the --

MS. HARF: Well, one example is the requirement to file a flight plan with the Chinese Government, which deviates significantly from the ICAO procedures which outline these regulations for international flights, is my understanding.

QUESTION: Can you explain what that means? How do they deviate from the – are planes that fly over the United – through U.S. airspace required to file flight plans?

MS. HARF: I can check more into detail on that.

QUESTION: I’m just curious as to – because yesterday, you were saying that this is not consistent with --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the responsible major power that is supposed to be responsible and respecting international norms and rule of law, and I – so I am just curious: Are not all ADIZs declared unilaterally?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe so. Let me check again with our folks and see what the facts are, how you actually declare an ADIZ. My understanding is that one of the major reasons we don’t agree with this action is that in fact it was done unilaterally without prior consultation. And that’s one of the reasons that we think this is an incredibly provocative act. But let me check.

QUESTION: All right. And is there a --

MS. HARF: Particularly over disputed territory.

QUESTION: And is there an answer to the question of whether Air Force civilian – Air Force planes flying civilians will comply? I realize that the flight path --

MS. HARF: I thought you were going to come up here today and --

QUESTION: -- between Seoul and Beijing doesn’t exactly go across the East China Sea, but --

MS. HARF: Well, and you would probably be aware about the fact that, for security reasons, we never talk about senior officials’ flight plans, like the Vice President’s.

QUESTION: Oh, with other foreign countries?

MS. HARF: No, publicly.

QUESTION: So when you fly – so you don’t --

MS. HARF: No, no, publicly, to you all. We’re not going to tell you what the Vice President’s flight plan is.

QUESTION: Well, some of us actually sit on the plane and watch the map --

MS. HARF: I know that.

QUESTION: -- as the plane flies --

MS. HARF: I know that, but I --

QUESTION: -- so that – no, I’m not asking what the flight plan --

MS. HARF: That was the question yesterday.

QUESTION: No, no – was whether you would comply – whether his plane – his Air Force plane would comply with the rules, should they be – should it be required that they do.

MS. HARF: I just don’t have an answer for you on that hypothetical. I just don’t. We’ve said that we’re not changing our operating procedure for military aircraft.

QUESTION: Well, right, but – right.

MS. HARF: And I can check about civilian aircraft operated by the U.S. Government. I would bet that it’s the same. But let me double-check.

QUESTION: You would bet that it’s the same, but you will not --

MS. HARF: That we change our operating procedure, but let me just double-check.

QUESTION: So does that mean, then, that when a senior official is flying on one of these planes through another country’s airspace, you do not file a flight plan? Because I hope that’s not the case.

MS. HARF: I don’t – I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that that wasn’t the case. Let me double-check, Matt. I just don’t know the facts here. This is very complicated technical international aviation regulation issues that I --

QUESTION: Well, I’m not sure it’s that complicated. I mean, whether --

MS. HARF: Well, I think actually it is.

QUESTION: You file a flight plan or you don’t file a flight plan. It’s a yes or no question.

MS. HARF: Well, I think it depends by where you are flying over, actually. I think it depends. So let me double-check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Hold on. Are we still on this?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On this issue, I know you don’t want to go to the details of the meeting, but can you characterize the outcomes of the Vice President Biden with President Xi Jinping on the issue of ADIZ?

MS. HARF: I think I’ll let the White House speak to the outcomes of any meetings he’s having. I’m happy to let them speak for him.

QUESTION: And then do you think he made any progress?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m happy to refer you to them.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Marie, sorry, just one more thing on this. I think this has come up before, too, but on – there’s been a lot of talk about South Korea enlarging its ADIZ in response to this. How would the U.S. view that development? Are you encouraging them not to do that (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Let me check. Let me check with our folks. I’ve heard some of those rumors as well. Let me just check. I don’t know where we stand on that one.

Mm-hmm. Syria.

QUESTION: On Syria, the humanitarian situation.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Any update on the regime’s siege on the Muademiyeh and Dariyeh regions?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously – let me pull this up right here. Thank you for the question, because it’s a very important one. We remain very concerned about the humanitarian situation in both Dariyeh and – excuse me – Muademiyeh. I’m sorry. I have a cold. I still am not doing very well up here. We’ve reiterated our calls on the Syrian Government and all parties to facilitate humanitarian access. This is very important to us. We – it’s an issue that’s at the top of our agenda. There are very real and urgent needs on the ground. And I just – name a couple statistics here. According to the UN, 2.5 million Syrians who receive little or no assistance in difficult to reach and besieged areas. This is unacceptable. The regime and all parties must allow access. And we’ve been concerned about the double standard we are seeing for access. The regime lets people into its areas but not into other areas. So, obviously, it’s a topic of great concern to us.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do have any update on the 12 nuns’ whereabouts?

MS. HARF: Not much. We continue to seek additional information. I would say that if these nuns were taken for their safety, then they can and should be released. I’d make that point very strongly. If not, if they weren’t taken for their safety, then we vigorously condemn this abduction. This is the latest set of depredations against the Christian community in Syria. We’ve seen the regime bomb plenty of mosques. We’ve condemned that vigorously. But that in no way excuses if this is an attack on the Christian community, which we condemn in the strongest terms as well.

QUESTION: Did you talk to the opposition about them?

MS. HARF: About which?

QUESTION: About the nuns?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. We’re seeking additional information. If I have any more specifics on contacts, I’m happy to get that for you.

QUESTION: One more on Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi has said that a Geneva II conference will not be held in Geneva. The hotels are fully booked for that time, and maybe it would be held outside Geneva.

MS. HARF: I was waiting for someone to make that comment.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those comments. I’ll check into it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) try Geneva, New York, and that way you wouldn’t have to --

MS. HARF: I know everyone misses that hotel.

QUESTION: Can I stay in the region and ask if --

MS. HARF: Is anything else in Syria?

QUESTION: Well, it’s related.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And is there any reaction today to the news of the Hezbollah leader who was killed in Beirut?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me just pull that up. We’ve seen the media reports regarding the killing of a Hezbollah official. We look to all parties to cooperate with a full investigation into the reported incident, and I think that’s all we have on that right now.

QUESTION: What does this tell you in terms of the vulnerability – Lebanon’s vulnerability with the chaos that's going on next door in Syria?

MS. HARF: We’ve been very concerned by recurring instances of sectarian and political violence in Lebanon. And we’ve talked about the negative impact that Syria has had in Lebanon and Iraq and elsewhere in the region, and the spillover violence that we’ve tragically seen. That’s why we’ve called on all parties in Lebanon and the region to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, and of course we continue working with the Lebanese Government.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just to go back. You said you’ve seen the reports but the United States doesn’t have any independent confirmation of this. Is that right?

MS. HARF: What I have here is that we’ve seen the reports. I’ll check and see if we have independent confirmation. I don't have any reason to believe we don’t, but let me just double check.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Syria.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a report out today that the U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you comment on who those talks might be with?

QUESTION: Well, as we’ve talked about a lot in here, we engage with a broad cross section of Syrian people and political and military leaders in the opposition, including a variety of Islamist groups. We do not engage with terrorists, with groups we consider that are special – that are designated as terrorist organizations. We’ve talked about Al-Nusra in here quite a bit. As we’ve said, there’s no military solution here, and there’s a reality on the ground that there are a variety of groups that are part of the opposition and that we need to find ways to get all of these groups to accept the need for a political solution.

We work with General Idriss. Our assistance goes to the SMC and General Idriss. It doesn’t go to other groups, but we – there's a reality that we need to work with these groups to get them to be a part of the political process, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

QUESTION: What would you say to those who say that this might be an acknowledgement that al-Qaida is gaining the upper hand there?

MS. HARF: That what is an acknowledgement that al-Qaida is gaining --

QUESTION: These talks.

MS. HARF: I don’t think those two things are linked in any way intellectually.

QUESTION: Perhaps you could say – tell us when these talks began. My understanding is they’ve been going on for more than a year, and that this is --

MS. HARF: We’ve been engaging with a broad section for a long time. I can double check and see if there’s a specific date.

QUESTION: Right. But it is not because – this isn’t something new that you have decided to do because the militant – the al-Qaida-types are gaining strength, correct? It’s something that’s been going on for some --

MS. HARF: It’s been ongoing.

QUESTION: -- for a long time.

MS. HARF: Of course we are incredibly concerned about the terrorist threat in Syria, about extremist elements within the opposition. We’ve made that very clear. That’s why we talk to the opposition all the time about the fact that we don’t recognize terrorist groups that are part of the opposition, and in fact encourage them not to work with them as well. So this is obviously a great concern to us. We’ve talked to countries in the region about countering the terrorist threat, but it’s a reality that the opposition is made up of a number of groups and we have a responsibility to help, as we try to get a political solution, to get these groups to the table to, in fact, put that solution into practice. But we don’t engage with groups we consider terrorists.

QUESTION: But what I’m trying to get at, or what I’m trying to understand 100 percent is that the discussions that you are having with moderate Islamist groups, the non-terrorist Islamist groups --

MS. HARF: Yep. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is – those weren’t begun in response to the changes in the way – the situation on the battlefield. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Well, I mean, that’s a pretty broad statement. They – we engage with these groups --

QUESTION: Well, I think the question is – the question from my colleague before I think was: Are you doing this now – have you decided to do this now because of the way – because you fear that the radicals are gaining momentum on the battlefield, or was this something that has been going on for some time and is unrelated to conditions – to the battlefield?

MS. HARF: Well, you can’t say anything’s unrelated to conditions on the ground. That’s sort of a silly thing to say. What it’s in response to is the fact – is in response to a reality that the opposition is made up of a number of groups – some are Islamist groups – and that in order to get a political solution here because there is no military solution, we need to get these groups to the – to buy into the notion that there should be a military solution. And it’s really in response --

QUESTION: No, no, no.

MS. HARF: Or a political solution, excuse me, sorry. I’m tripping over my words today. It’s not a good day. But no – but we need to get these groups to buy into the notion that there needs to be a political solution, and the way to do that is to engage with them. It’s – that’s what it’s in response to, this notion that there is no military solution here. We’re working towards Geneva II and we need to get these groups on board with that political solution.

QUESTION: Can you talk to specifically which groups you’re talking to, or --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to get into specifics with every one of our meetings. We engage, again, with a broad section of folks, but we don’t engage with designated foreign terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: But will these groups – will some of these groups, then, be represented, do you feel, at the Geneva II talks?

MS. HARF: Well, they’re still, I know, working out what the delegations will look like, and it’s up to them to inform the UN of what their delegations will look like. And actually, the story that was brought up – I believe in The Wall Street Journal – is that some of those groups that were mentioned there actually fall under the SMC. So it’s not – this has been widely reported for a long time.

QUESTION: But you’d expect a delegation, once it’s done, to be composed of a broad section and not a narrow section, presumably.

MS. HARF: Certainly that’s our overall goal, but it’s up to the opposition to decide what the composition of its delegation looks like.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- former Ambassador to Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has said today, “We need to start talking to the Assad regime again about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern.” He said it will have to be done very quietly, but bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence. Are you talking to the Assad regime or to President Assad regarding counterterrorism? And what do you think about what Ambassador Crocker has said?

MS. HARF: Well, no, we’re not. I can answer that question very directly.

Obviously, the Administration and we are all very concerned about the terrorist threat in Syria. We discuss it with neighboring states. This is not a problem we can or should try to solve unilaterally. We’re all going to need to work together on this. In conversations we’ve had, we found agreement among the neighboring states and other allies in the region that there is a problem and that we need to all take steps to counter it.

But let’s also remember why these terrorists have been allowed to flourish in Syria. It’s because of the situation the regime has created. Their brutality in responding to what began as a peaceful protest in Syria has created the conditions for al-Qaida-affiliated groups to flourish, to wreak havoc, and to undertake violent actions in Syria. So it is because of the regime’s actions that they have been able to do so today. And again, we just – it’s – that’s not something that’s happening. Greatly, obviously, respect Ambassador Crocker, but this is just where we are today and believe that, again, the best way forward here is a political solution, which is what we’re working towards right now.

QUESTION: Did you mean that the Administration will not take Ambassador Crocker’s advice into consideration?

MS. HARF: Again, we consider a wide range of opinions. But it’s worth keeping in mind, again, the reason that these terrorists have been allowed to flourish. We’re not having conversations with the Syrian authorities about counterterrorism. It’s just – it’s an interesting idea, but we are where we are, and I think that’s probably all I have to say on that.

QUESTION: Are you having any conversations with the Syrian authorities?

MS. HARF: I can double-check and see what the last contact was.

QUESTION: Is it an interesting idea in, like, when you open a present and you say, “Oh, interesting?” Or is it genuinely an interesting idea?

MS. HARF: I think it’s an interesting idea, Matt. It’s just – our policy is what it is. We are very clear about the reasons for this terrorist violence, and it is something of very concern to us. And that’s why we talk about it with our partners and allies in the region who are going to – we’re all going to have to work together to confront this threat. We all understand it’s important and we’re going to keep talking about it together.

QUESTION: But the Syrian regime calls the opposition terrorists broadly.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s a veneer they hide behind to make excuses for their violent behavior, which I just don’t think has any basis in fact.

QUESTION: But is it a possibility for the Administration to talk to the regime or not?

MS. HARF: In general?

QUESTION: Yeah, regarding counterterrorism.

MS. HARF: Again, that’s not our policy, that’s not where we are on this. I’m happy to check what the latest contact was. What we’re tracking towards right now is a Geneva II conference where the regime will have a delegation, the opposition will have a delegation, the UN will have a delegation, and we’ll figure out how those discussions are going to be structured from there.

QUESTION: Will Iran --

QUESTION: Do you know who – I’m sorry, Samir. Do you know yet who will lead the Syrian delegation?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe they’ve notified the UN of who will do so yet. I think that’s the next step in the process.

QUESTION: Mexico?

QUESTION: The UN – Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran should be invited to the G-II. I mean, do you --

MS. HARF: I like G-II. I’m going to start using that.

No decisions have been made about external participation. We’ve been very clear that countries need to accept and endorse the Geneva I communique. That includes Iran. And again, no decisions have been made on that.

QUESTION: That means it might not be in Geneva. It could be in another city that begins with G.

MS. HARF: Do you have any suggestions?

QUESTION: Grenoble. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mexico?

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A truck was stolen with nuclear radioactive material. There’s a concern about a dirty bomb. Specifically, is the U.S. concerned about this? Is it cooperating with Mexican authorities on trying to locate this material?

MS. HARF: I saw those reports. I don’t have anything for you on that, but let me take it and I’ll check into it for you and see if I can get you an answer.

QUESTION: And then in general – specific – in general terms, is there a concern about not nuclear but radioactive material, the proliferation of that material for medical, industrial research uses around the world, and the fact that maybe it is not being guarded enough and it could be – fall into hands of terrorists for a dirty bomb?

MS. HARF: I think we’ve been clear about our concerns about a wide variety of proliferation issues, including that. It’s been one of our top priorities in this Administration to counter proliferation in any form or fashion, including possibly radioactive material falling into the hands of terrorists. So broadly speaking, of course we’re concerned about it. I don’t know anything about this incident. Let me look into it.

Anything else?

QUESTION: Marie, do you have a response to the Pew Research poll that was released yesterday which found that for the first time since the polls started, a majority of Americans say that the U.S. plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than ever before?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen that poll. I’m happy to take a look at the numbers and see if I have anything additional to say on it. I think we’ve been very clear that – in our policies all around the world that the U.S. plays a critical leadership role, and whether it’s economically, diplomatically, and a host of areas. And that’s why you see the Secretary traveling so much around the world to promote our interests and our values and talk about this all the time with different world leaders. So I would, I think, take issue with the notion, but I’m happy to look at the numbers and see if I have more analysis for you of it.

QUESTION: Are there --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- any updates on Mr. Newman?

MS. HARF: No, no updates on that.

QUESTION: So have you gone back and asked the CA people the questions that were posed at the last two briefings, and they have come back and said, no, we’re not going to say anything more?

MS. HARF: Remind of which those questions were.

QUESTION: Well, I was curious two days ago and still am curious right now if the Swedes had talked to Mr. Newman or if he had offered to the Swedes any explanation of this video, alleged confession, or if he talked about that with the Swedes.

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have more information on that.

QUESTION: Can you – is this a waste of time to ask the question? Because what I – I mean, if you’re asking CA and they’re coming back and saying, “We’re not going to talk about what the conversation was,” that’s one thing. But if you’re not getting that response, I’m going to keep asking.

MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s safe to assume that I’ve shared as much as I can on this and that I can keep asking the questions to see if there’s more nuggets of information we can get, but at this point, I’m sharing all the information I’m able to share.

QUESTION: I understand that. But have you gone to them and asked them for more information and they’ve come back and said no?

MS. HARF: I always ask everyone for more information so I can share. I’m sharing all that I can.

QUESTION: I understand that, Marie. But I just want to know if they have said we’ve said – if they’re saying to you we’ve said everything we’re going to say about this consular visit and we’re not going to give any more information and it’s a waste of time for us to keep asking. Because I don’t want to keep – I don’t want to waste people’s time --

MS. HARF: Really?

QUESTION: -- by asking --

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: Yeah. I don’t --

QUESTION: -- and I asked on Monday and --

MS. HARF: I promise, I ask the questions, they give me all the information I can share, and then I share it with you. So suffice it to say --

QUESTION: Well, can you find out specifically if they plan on ever answering this question?

MS. HARF: I will find out, honestly.

QUESTION: Because, I mean, the thing is that Mr. Newman actually signed or his family signed the waiver.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there is stuff to share with us.

MS. HARF: But just because there’s a – generally speaking, a privacy waiver signed doesn’t mean we can share every detail. For personal reasons, you can’t always share, for example, medical information or other personal information that we might have, even if they signed a policy waiver – a privacy waiver.

QUESTION: Well, one of the --

QUESTION: You share medical information all the time. Clearly, Alan Gross --

MS. HARF: There’s just a line that you have to balance.

QUESTION: -- you’re talking about him losing a hundred pounds --

MS. HARF: If you were somewhere overseas and you signed a privacy waiver, you wouldn’t want me standing up here telling every single personal detail that a consular visit discussion had had with you.

QUESTION: I know. But --

MS. HARF: So there’s a line and a balance we have to walk here.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that. But the --

MS. HARF: Or I can the next time you’re held somewhere overseas.

QUESTION: -- question is about – the question is about whether he talked about his confession, whether it was made under duress, whether it was written for him. That’s the kind of thing.

MS. HARF: Again, sometimes there are reasons we can’t answer --

QUESTION: It’s not --

MS. HARF: -- these questions.

QUESTION: I understand that. But it would be nice to know if that is why you can’t answer it. If they’ve come back and said no, we can’t answer that because it would violate some kind of whatever --

MS. HARF: What would the other reason be?

QUESTION: I don’t know, but you’re not giving us any answer at all.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, but --

MS. HARF: I’m saying --

QUESTION: So I don’t know whether it’s wasting your time --

MS. HARF: I am sharing as much information as I can --

QUESTION: -- or our time --

MS. HARF: -- under what our --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: -- what we think is appropriate to share. I will keep asking the question.

QUESTION: I’m going to continue to ask the question --

MS. HARF: Fine.

QUESTION: -- and I’ll raise it at length, like this, unless you can get me an answer to say that I’m wasting everyone’s time by asking.

MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get more information. But again, just because there’s a privacy waiver signed doesn’t mean I can give you every detail of his conversations with a protecting power in a consular visit. I just can’t. It’s not appropriate.

QUESTION: I mean, would it just – would it be just possible to even say how long their visit was in – where was it? What condition is he in?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I’m happy to check into all of those details and see if there’s more I can share. I promise, I’m trying to get as much information on this.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: But again, there are sensitivities when someone’s being held about what we can and can’t share. So I’ll see what I can do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep.

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

DPB # 198


[1] ICAO

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 4, 2013]