Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 17, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Continued Travel through Southeast Asia
    • Continued Fighting in Juba, South Sudan / Fluid Situation / U.S. Assistance / Travel Warning
  • INDIA
    • Arrest of Indian Official in New York / U.S.-India Friendship / Security of Embassy / Safety of U.S. Diplomats in India / State Department Procedures / Communications with Indian Officials / Vienna Convention / Diplomatic Immunity
  • SYRIA
    • Islamic Front / Opposition / Ambassador Ford
    • Geneva II
    • Humanitarian Assistance
    • Under Secretary Sherman Travel
    • Condemnation of Barrel Bombs
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Diplomatic and Representational Issues
  • DPRK
    • Leaflets
    • Dennis Rodman's Travel
    • International Obligations
    • Human Rights Situation / UN Resolution
  • CHINA
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Chinese FM
  • DPRK
    • U.S. Goal of Denuclearization on Korean Peninsula
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Ongoing Negotiations
  • JAPAN
    • SOFA
  • BOLIVIA
    • Jacob Ostreicher
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
    • Small Liaison Team of U.S. Military Personnel / MISCA


TRANSCRIPT:

1:43 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a couple items at the top, then happy to open it up for questions.

Just a quick travel update. Today, Secretary Kerry continued his travel through Southeast Asia with a visit to Manila in the Philippines. In Manila, he met with the Filipino Foreign Minister del Rosario as well as the Filipino president. In his meeting, Secretary Kerry underlined his commitment to working with the Philippines on its most pressing security challenges. His meetings also focused on seeking ways to further expand – excuse me – on the already robust trade relationship, which last year amounted to $22 billion. Secretary Kerry also announced a new $40 million commitment for a new initiative to improve the Philippines maritime security and maritime domain awareness. Tomorrow, he will continue his visit to the Philippines and will travel outside of the capital to visit post-typhoon rebuilding efforts.

And one more statement at the top. Many of you may have seen our updated Travel Warning that’s gone out. We are deeply troubled by the fighting that continues today in Juba, in South Sudan. We encourage the country’s political leaders to refrain from any action that could further escalate an already tense situation, and urge them to calm their supporters. It is absolutely critical that political differences be resolved by peaceful and democratic means. We also call on the government to respect the rule of law, refrain from arbitrary arrests, and adhere to the principles laid out in their constitution.

Just as the United States stood with the people of South Sudan as their country was founded, we stand with them today and will continue to stand with them through this turmoil. The people of South Sudan have endured too many years of conflict and sacrificed far too much for their country to be plunged back into turmoil.

Again, we put out an updated Travel Warning with some information in it. I’m sure there may be some questions from folks about that as well. So Deb, do you want to go ahead and get us started?

QUESTION: Yeah. On South Sudan. Is there really a coup going on there, or do you have some doubts that maybe there’s something else?

MS. HARF: There have been a lot of conflicting reports. The situation is, of course, very fluid. We will continue to monitor it closely. And at this point, it’s still premature to say what sparked the violence. Until we have a better sense of the situation that’s unfolding, I’m not going to characterize it one way or the other. We’ll just keep looking at the facts and see if we have more to share at that time.

QUESTION: So it’s possible that it’s not really a coup?

MS. HARF: Again, the situation is fluid and still unfolding. We’ll take a look. I’m not going to characterize it in any way. We’ll take a look and see if we want to do so in the future.

QUESTION: A couple of practical things on this. Was – you say – in the Travel Warning, you say that you’ve ordered non-essential U.S. Government employees. That means more than just diplomats? In other words, it’s non-essential other U.S. Government employees?

MS. HARF: Well – and thank you for bringing this up – because of the ongoing – for folks who didn’t see the Travel Warning, because of the ongoing political and social unrest, on December 17th, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel from South Sudan. I can double-check. I think that might be standard language. I can just double-check and see what that means.

QUESTION: You also said that you were – that the Embassy in Juba was suspending normal operations until further notice. Other than not being able to provide regular consular services to any U.S. citizens who might choose to remain, what else is it not doing? Is it not processing visa applications, for example? And is it doing its normal work of gathering political and other information about the country?

MS. HARF: Right. So basically what that means is it’s closed for public services, so things the public would come to. It still will provide emergency services to American citizens. In the Travel Warning, it outlined how you can get in contact with someone. Obviously, it will only be emergency personnel left. I’ll see if I can get more of a detailed readout of what they’ll be doing. Obviously, part of it is security --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- for the facilities as well.

QUESTION: And – but presumably included in the things that the public would normally go to the Embassy for, that includes visa issuance for South Sudanese people who might wish to visit the United States. So that’s suspended?

MS. HARF: For – if that’s certainly a public service, then yes. Obviously, our folks there will still be monitoring the situation on the ground --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- providing that kind of analysis. But yeah, I’ll double-check and see if there’s more of a list.

QUESTION: And Marie, what --

QUESTION: Are you assigning responsibility or blame in this particular case? Do you blame the government?

MS. HARF: As I said, at this point, it’s too early to determine what sparked the violence. But what we would say going forward is that it’s on the onus of everyone to take a step back and move forward, because a peaceful resolution of political differences is the only thing that will move South Sudan’s new democracy forward. That’s certainly what we’re calling on all sides to do going forward.

QUESTION: Marie, what practical steps are you actually doing from Washington to try and help the South Sudanese? As you say, the United States was very much behind the founding of this new country --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- the world’s newest nation. And what practically are you doing to try and stop this violence and get the country back onto a semblance of an even keel?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. We were certainly very involved, as you said, in the founding. We’ve provided, I think, hundreds of million dollars of assistance, humanitarian, security assistance across the board. Ambassador Donald Booth, who’s the President’s special envoy, spoke with President Kiir this morning. The special envoy called for a peaceful resolution of the situation, for an end to the violence, underscored the importance of the rule of law, avoiding arbitrary arrests, and also talked about ways to get South Sudan back on track towards realizing the vision that their country set forth for itself in independence. So we’re engaging at a high level, clearly. And if we have anything additional in the coming days, we’re happy to detail it.

QUESTION: What sort of ways? Could you outline what ways specifically they could get back on track?

MS. HARF: Well, the onus is certainly on the parties themselves to take a step back here and avoid further violence. Certainly our biggest concern is about the security and safety of U.S. persons and U.S. employees, which is obviously what today’s ordered departure speaks to. But again, we’re talking to the government about their – helping with getting our folks out. We’re talking to them about moving forward to get on a path towards nonviolence on all sides. And if there are more specifics, I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: And more on this, more on South Sudan?

QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, when you say they are advised to leave, I mean, they are advised to leave or departure – I mean, or they are evacuated?

MS. HARF: Right. So let me just read from the Travel Warning. It warns U.S. citizens – and this is a little different than the last Travel Warning for South Sudan, which I believe was October 22nd. This warns U.S. citizens against all travel to South Sudan and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in South Sudan depart immediately. In terms of what we’re actually offering to do for U.S. citizens, we’re still looking at logistics for (a) our ordered departure, but we’re also reviewing all available options to assist U.S. citizens who may wish to depart South Sudan. We’ve called on the government to open points of entry. We’ve called on them – think it would be good if the airport opened, for example. So we’re looking at options, and if we can help, we will do so.

QUESTION: Is the government of al-Bashir involved in any way, of the north, in these struggles?

MS. HARF: Again, I --

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge.

MS. HARF: To the best of my – I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m happy to check with our team. Again, it looks like this is violence that’s really centered in and around the capital of Juba. It doesn’t look more widespread, and certainly we don’t want it to become more widespread. But I’m happy to take a look at what our assessment is.

QUESTION: But didn’t the government of Khartoum in the past try to interfere in the affairs of the South?

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen any indication of that, but let me double-check with our team, Said. And welcome back. I haven’t seen you in a few days. South Sudan, anything else?

QUESTION: India.

QUESTION: India.

MS. HARF: Okay. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on the steps announced by Indian Government today on the – withdrawing some of the consular facilities provided to Indian diplomats inside – U.S. diplomats in India and withdrawing the security parameters outside the embassy in opposition to the steps – arrest of Indian diplomats in New York?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on this. I think you probably saw the statement that I put out just before coming out here, that the U.S. and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated episode is not in any way indicative of the close and respectful ties that we share and will continue to share. We have conveyed at high levels to the Government of India our expectations that India will continue to fulfill all of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and Vienna Convention – on Consular Relations, excuse me.

Obviously, the safety and security of our diplomats and consular officers in the field is a top priority. We’ll continue to work with India to ensure that all of our diplomats and consular officers are being afforded full rights and protections. Also, of course, safety and security of our facilities as well is something we take very seriously, and we’ll keep working with the Indians on that.

QUESTION: Why wasn’t that in the statement?

MS. HARF: Because it was a short statement and I knew I’d get lots of questions on it in the briefing. I mean, there’s – I have a lot of information on this we can talk about in the briefing.

QUESTION: But specifically --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, this statement was in direct response to what obviously is India’s concern and problems with the way that their diplomats were treated. And the statement --

MS. HARF: Diplomat.

QUESTION: The diplomat is treated. And the statement was worded in a way that indicates that you don’t necessarily think that the law – that the New York law enforcement personnel handled this in the best way.

MS. HARF: I don’t think --

QUESTION: Considering that you said that Diplomatic Security acted according to procedures, and clearly, you’re making an effort to not let this affect the relationship with --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly don’t want it to affect the relationship, and it’s just a fact that Diplomatic Security only has part of this – part of the situation. We understand there are sensitive issues involved here. For example, the State Department isn’t the entity that conducts the intake procedure at the federal courthouse. That’s the U.S. Marshals. It’s just a fact that that’s not something I can speak to. They’d have to speak to their part of the process.

But again, we don’t want this to negatively impact our bilateral relationship, and we’ll keep talking it with – about it with them on the ground and here.

QUESTION: Just some simple things.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your comment about how you have conveyed to the Indian Government at the highest levels or --

MS. HARF: At high levels, I said.

QUESTION: -- at high levels --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that you expect them to uphold the Vienna Convention – is that a reference to the fact that Indian police today removed security barriers around the Embassy?

MS. HARF: Certainly part of it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Certainly part of it.

QUESTION: So did you see the Indian police removing those security barriers as a reflection of their unhappiness at the treatment of their diplomat in New York?

MS. HARF: I’d let them speak for what the reasoning was behind it, certainly.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you feel that it has impaired the security of the Embassy?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I’d go that far. Obviously, we don’t comment on our specific security posture. And we take security very seriously, and we will continue to have conversations with the Indian Government to make sure our facilities are properly secured. I don’t have anything additional than that. I have no indication at this point that it has, and certainly it shouldn’t, and we don’t want it to.

QUESTION: But very --

QUESTION: But you do rely on the host government to --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- provide security.

MS. HARF: And this is why we’ve been very clear that they need to keep providing security to the extent that they do, and that we’ll work with them going forward.

QUESTION: And who conveyed that message, and to whom?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. So a couple of folks have spoken on each side. Under Secretary Sherman spoke with the charge at the Indian Embassy on – I believe last week, late last week, Friday evening. Assistant Secretary spoke with officials at the ministry of external affairs several times, and Ambassador Powell has spoken on the ground with the ministry of external affairs several times on this issue as well.

QUESTION: Which Assistant Secretary? For Diplomatic Security or for --

MS. HARF: Oh, no, I’m sorry. Biswal for SCA.

QUESTION: Right, for South and Central --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, sorry, the last one you said was?

MS. HARF: Ambassador Powell on the ground is engaged on this as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And Ambassador – or Secretary Sherman speaking to the charge on Friday, that was, however, well before the removal of the security barriers, which occurred today. So she --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- even back then, she was reinforcing that she expected that the Indian Government --

MS. HARF: In general, talked to them about the – not about the security issue, obviously, but in general talked about the situation, the episode, and obviously, our relationship going forward.

QUESTION: But then who – the question was that – you said that you had conveyed at high levels your expectation that they will meet their obligations under the Vienna Convention. But apparently, that wasn’t Sherman talking about the security, so who --

MS. HARF: I can double-check on who sent what message, Arshad.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But again, this is a message we’re – I’m conveying it here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I could – I don’t have all the diplomatic conversations to read out, but it’s a message we are conveying, and these are the folks who’ve been in discussions.

QUESTION: And then --

QUESTION: Marie, have you actually asked for them to rescind these measures that they took today, particularly the ones about the security barriers?

MS. HARF: I can double-check and see if we have more details about the diplomatic conversations. We’ve been very clear that they need to uphold all of their obligations under the Vienna Convention, and in terms of security, we’ll keep working with them on that as well. Again, our focus here is on moving the bilateral relationship forward, that this one isolated episode not impact the bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: Do you feel that measures that were taken were actually proportionate to what happened to the deputy general consul in New York last week?

MS. HARF: Again, I am not going to get into specifics about what may or may not have been done. Thus far, all indications are that appropriate procedures were followed. But nonetheless – and my statement pointed to this this morning – we understand this is a very sensitive issue and we’re continuing to review exactly what transpired. And I would point out again that the State Department wasn’t the only entity involved here, so I would point folks to the U.S. Marshals, who obviously play a role in this as well.

QUESTION: But I think my question was more – are the measures, were the measures taken by the Indian – Indians’ government proportionate to what --

MS. HARF: Oh, I see. Measures by the Indian Government.

QUESTION: Indian Government, yes.

MS. HARF: Proportionate to what?

QUESTION: To the arrest in New York of a deputy consul general.

MS. HARF: Well, again, this limited episode with somebody who was charged with a crime is a separate and isolated incident. We believe that we need to move forward, they need to keep with – between our two countries with security, with diplomatic, all of the consular issues that I talked about with the Vienna Convention. I just don’t think that they necessarily should be tied together in that way. Obviously, we know this is a sensitive issue though, and that’s why we’re looking at what transpired and talking to the Indians about it directly.

QUESTION: So it was over the top. It was over the top then?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to use those words. I’m just saying that we have said privately to the Indians and publicly I’m now saying that they need to uphold their obligations going forward, and we’ll keep having the discussion.

QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on it, if you’re saying that they shouldn’t be linked and then you’re saying that they shouldn’t take actions against your diplomats in a response to one of their diplomats being arrested, even if it was handled possibly in an improper way?

MS. HARF: Well, again, at this point there are no indications that it was, as I said just a second ago. Let me go back to this --

QUESTION: Even if they have concerns with the way she was treated, it sounds like you’re saying, just to put a fine point on it, that the Indian Government should not take punitive measures against your diplomats in response to an incident that they feel one of their diplomats was (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Certainly, we have called on them to uphold all of their obligations under the Vienna Convention, everything that they are obligated to do and according our diplomats rights and all of the things that go under the Vienna Convention.

QUESTION: Because sometimes if there’s an incident with a diplomat of one country, for instance, if you ask a diplomat to leave a country or they’re PNG’d or something, the other state will take reciprocal measures. But your --

MS. HARF: This is a very different situation. This isn’t – this is an isolated episode, obviously, of somebody who has been charged with a crime. And again, isolated episode that doesn’t involve her daily duties, her responsibilities in New York, and I think I’d probably leave it at that.

QUESTION: Now could you talk – you talked a little bit about it, but you said you would get us some more answers on this diplomat’s – this deputy consul general’s diplomatic status. Could you expand on that a little bit?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think I said I’d get on theirs specifically. I said there are different kinds of immunity – diplomatic immunity, consular immunity, I think there are a couple of other kinds. I have asked our folks to sort of lay out very explicitly, hopefully to be released as a TQ, exactly what all of those mean. But generally speaking, right, diplomatic immunity applies sort of across the board – again, this is a very general and the lawyers are probably going to be mad at me – but consular immunity only applies to things done in the actual functions of one’s job. And this just isn’t for diplomats in the U.S., of course; it’s for our diplomats overseas as well.

QUESTION: Now, even if a diplomat doesn’t have diplomatic immunity or consular immunity --

QUESTION: What’s the difference, by the way, between diplomatic immunity and consular immunity. I don’t understand that.

MS. HARF: Well, diplomatic immunity applies to everything. Consular immunity only applies to official functions in – that one performs in the duty of their job.

QUESTION: So is this person – does this person enjoy diplomatic immunity?

MS. HARF: Consular immunity.

QUESTION: Only consular?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why don’t they enjoy diplomatic immunity, given that they are a diplomat?

MS. HARF: Well, she’s the consul general at a consulate.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I can double-check the exact specifics for who falls under what. I know it’s different everywhere. And again, this applies to our folks overseas as well.

QUESTION: So – but that would be good to get clear.

MS. HARF: I’m trying to get a little more clarity from our folks. It’s a little complicated --

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: -- but about who falls into what is different in every country, and so who falls into what category.

QUESTION: Okay, so her immunity as you understand it pertains solely to --

MS. HARF: Official functions.

QUESTION: -- her official functions.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. So she’s not immune if she is alleged to have committed a crime --

MS. HARF: Visa fraud, for example.

QUESTION: -- not in the course of her official functions.

QUESTION: But even if she doesn’t enjoy --

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Even if she doesn’t – she only enjoys this limited consular immunity in function to her job, do you believe that a diplomat of that nature should receive kind of special treatment or extra courtesies in terms of the way that they’re treated by law enforcement in the process of an arrest?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly afford people what they’re entitled to under the Vienna Convention. And again, I’ve asked our experts on this to pull a little bit more about what that means. I’m not sure it’s entirely clear about the definition of some of these words, whether it’s courtesies or others, so I’ve asked to get a little more information. But, in general, we obviously adhere to that. And again, in this case it doesn’t – there are no indications that anything but appropriate measures were followed. But we do know this is sensitive. We are looking into it for exactly that reason, to see exactly what transpired. Again, State Department only has part of it, so we can only speak for part of it. But we’re looking at what happened to see.

QUESTION: Is there any doubt that she was strip-searched?

QUESTION: Was she strip-searched? Was she strip searched? Just a simple yes or no.

MS. HARF: Well, again, I would remind you that I think those allegations have come up as part of the intake – that’s been an allegation that was possibly part of the intake procedure, which, of course, the State Department does not conduct. That’s the U.S. Marshals who do that. I would refer you – I can’t speak for them what may or may not have happened.

QUESTION: Do you know if she was strip searched?

MS. HARF: Again, I can’t speak for the U.S. Marshals.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speak for them. I’m asking if you know whether she was strip searched.

MS. HARF: I can’t speak --

QUESTION: You’re doing an investigation into this, right?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t use the term “investigation.” We’re looking at what transpired and what we --

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re looking into what happened. So we won’t use the word --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And if we have anything to announce about the details of that we will.

QUESTION: Given --

MS. HARF: I just don’t have anything additional to announce today, Arshad.

QUESTION: It’s not a question of announcing. It’s you’re looking into this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the allegations that clearly has the Indian Government most angered --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- is that she has said to have been strip searched. The question is whether you know – I mean, I can understand it would be embarrassing to admit it, but it’s also just a factual matter. And if --

MS. HARF: I don’t speak for other government agencies, actually. I speak for the State Department, and that allegation --

QUESTION: And the State Department is not aware of whether or not she was strip-searched? Because the State Department presumably wants to know whether or not she was strip-searched so that it can deal --

MS. HARF: Again, we’re looking --

QUESTION: Can I finish? So it can deal with the Indian Government.

MS. HARF: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Go right ahead. So you don’t want to know whether she was strip searched?

MS. HARF: That’s why we’re looking into what transpired right now.

QUESTION: So you don’t know?

MS. HARF: That’s why we’re looking to get – I don’t have all the facts. No. I wasn’t there.

QUESTION: Do you know that fact?

MS. HARF: I don’t know what – I do not know the facts about exactly what happened and I’m not going to stand up here and say what I’ve heard or what I haven’t heard or what allegations are out there.

QUESTION: But if you don’t know, I’m willing to accept that. That was my question.

MS. HARF: I’m not telling you I haven’t heard anything – I’ve heard about the allegations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So what the State Department is doing is looking into them. We are looking at what transpired. We – I can stand up here and speak for my government agency. Other folks can speak to allegations about what happened in their own custody. I can’t.

QUESTION: Are you looking into it because the Indians are upset about it and they have concerns about it? Or did what you hear about the way she was treated give you alarm and that you want to look into it? Is it because of the Indian sensitivity or you heard this and was like, hey, that may not be --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly know it’s a very sensitive issue in India, and we take that very seriously because we value the bilateral relationship so much, certainly. And that’s why we’re trying to gather more of the facts of --

QUESTION: Because the Indians are upset?

MS. HARF: For a host of issues, honestly, because we know it’s a sensitive issue in India. We value the relationship. There are a lot of rumors out there about what may or may not happen, and so we think it’s important to get all the facts.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can you clarify three points? First is you’ve been saying that all the procedures were followed. What is the official procedure for a violation like this? Because you said that she was handed over to the Marshals. So before that, that means the State Department came to know about it. So what is the procedure that was followed?

MS. HARF: Well, in accordance with – I think this might be what your question is getting at – the Department’s policy of advising foreign missions of allegations made involving a member of a mission or a family member, the State Department advised the Embassy of the Republic of India in writing in September of allegations of abuse made by an Indian national against the deputy consul general of India in New York. I’m sorry, I called her the consul general earlier. I mispronounced her title. So we notified them in writing in September. Obviously, we play a role in this, but the Department of Justice also obviously handles the legal aspect of it as well.

QUESTION: So you say that it was completely followed – the procedure?

MS. HARF: Again, there are no indications at this point that it wasn’t, but this is the reason we’re looking at all the facts because we do know this is an important issue. It’s a sensitive issue, and we want to make sure we have all the facts so we can focus on moving the relationship forward and not on this isolated episode.

QUESTION: And you have talked about the security issue of the U.S. diplomats. There are a host of other points, like for example, Indian Government has asked for an unconditional apology and they have asked for the – from the embassy and the consulate, U.S. embassy and consulate, details of the salaries of the domestic help. And they have asked for a stoppage of import clearance for U.S. embassy’s food and liquor. Airport passes for the U.S. consulates and embassies has been – have been withdrawn. They have been asked to return their IDs, which are very important, and there is a complete blanket refusal, a ban to meet any U.S. delegation – as you saw, the Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, and Ms. Kumar – all these people. And all ministers have been asked not to meet them. What is your take on all this?

MS. HARF: Yeah, so I can confirm that we have received several demarches from the Government of India, I think speaking to some of these issues. I’m not going to get into the substance of those private diplomatic conversation. This is what I was speaking to at the beginning, though – some of these diplomatic privileges that you’re talking about. We’ve conveyed, again, at high levels, to the Government of India our expectations that India --

QUESTION: What is the high level?

MS. HARF: -- will continue – again, I named some of the people that have --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- that have spoken. Under Secretary Sherman did. The ambassador did as well, as did the assistant secretary for the region. And so we’ll continue to convey our expectations that India will fulfill all of its obligations, certainly, going forward. This is an isolated episode. We’re looking into it, but our focus right now is how to move forward on all the issues we work together on.

Yeah, Elise.

QUESTION: Can you say whether the --

QUESTION: Just a last one?

MS. HARF: Wait, hold on. He has one more.

QUESTION: Just a last one?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You are in your – in what you are saying, it seems that you’re asking India. What are you offering India in return?

MS. HARF: I don’t understand exactly what you’re --

QUESTION: You are saying that you are asking them to look at their obligations and --

MS. HARF: Well, everybody has to fulfill their obligations. It’s not about getting something in return. It’s about – we fulfill our obligations. We expect every country to as well.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are confirming that you have fulfilled your obligation towards this diplomat?

MS. HARF: Again, we’re taking a look at what happened. I have no indications that we didn’t, but we want to take a look at it because we know it’s important and we want to address it directly with the Indian Government.

QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up --

QUESTION: Can you say --

MS. HARF: We’ll go to Elise and then I’ll come over there.

QUESTION: Can you say whether Diplomatic Security was the arresting power? I understand that the Marshals do the intake service.

MS. HARF: Yes, I can.

QUESTION: So DS was the actual --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- arresting power?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: In September, you notified Indian Government about it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. In writing.

QUESTION: But Indian Government says they have also notified the U.S. Government State Department about a case against the maid in a non-available warrant against the maid issued by Delhi high court and has asked the U.S. to deport her back to India. When was that notified --

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of that. I’m happy to check on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yep. On this still?

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: No, I’ve got one more. Sorry. It was mentioned by my colleague that one of the issues was the withdrawal of all ID cards issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. How is that going to affect the work that your diplomats do on the ground in India?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly don’t want any of the measures that he outlined to affect our work on the ground in India because it’s such an important relationship. We work together on so many important issues. And that’s why we’ll keep talking to the government about how to move forward.

QUESTION: What are they actually used for on a day-to-day basis?

MS. HARF: I can double-check. I can double-check.

QUESTION: Have they actually taken those measures that he described, or you don’t know?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure. I’ll double-check. I’ll double-check with --

QUESTION: Is it true that if the diplomat doesn’t have that ID the diplomat can be arrested by the local police or --

MS. HARF: I’ll check. I’ll check. I don’t know.

Yes. One more, yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Is Secretary Kerry aware about this issue, and what are his thoughts on this?

MS. HARF: On this specifically?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I haven’t spoken to him about it. As you know, he’s in the Philippines right now. I’m happy to check with our team. Obviously, he’s aware of what’s going on, but I’m happy to check if there’s additional thoughts that he has on it.

QUESTION: Or if he has issued any specific directions on --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check with our team that’s with him on the ground.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Said, and then I’ll come --

QUESTION: Just one?

MS. HARF: Last one on this. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just because you mentioned so much about the security of the diplomats and all that, has the White House been informed about it, and what is it they’re saying about it?

MS. HARF: Absolutely, we’re in constant contact with folks around town on this issue. I think my colleague --

QUESTION: No, I specific –

MS. HARF: -- Jay Carney, might have spoken to this in his briefing today. But what – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. This is what I wanted to double-check on that.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. I mean, certainly we have conversations with them about this issue. I don’t have any specifics to read out for you on that, but certainly we talk to them about stuff all the time.

Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes. I wanted to ask you very quickly if you have any news regarding discussions, talk, negotiations with the Islamic Front.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, as I said yesterday, I didn’t have anything to announce. And we – I said again we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with the Islamic Front, but nothing on the schedule, no meetings to announce. If we do at some point in the future, we’re open to it and we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: So should we expect, like, some sort of a meeting in the next few days?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any prediction on that. If we have something to announce, we will.

QUESTION: Would you consider that to be fundamental to forming any kind of delegation to Geneva II?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to use the term “fundamental.” We certainly believe that it’s important to talk to a wide range of parties to help the opposition coalesce further, again, in advance of Geneva II. But I wouldn’t use the term “fundamental” necessarily. And I would also note that the SOC and the SMC are both talking directly to the Islamic Front, which I think is a good sign as well.

QUESTION: So how are you conducting your negotiations or negotiations for arrangements with potential participants from the opposition? Do you conduct it separately or you conduct it altogether? How do you do it?

MS. HARF: It’s a little bit of --

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

MS. HARF: All of the above. All of the above, honestly. We --

QUESTION: Can you give us some sort of a guideline on how you do that?

MS. HARF: There’s not really a guideline. I mean, Ambassador Ford and our team who works with the opposition has a wide range of meetings. Ambassador Ford is in Turkey right now having meetings with some folks on the ground from the opposition. But sometimes we meet individually, sometimes we meet with a couple different groups. It really just depends.

QUESTION: Are you conducting any kind of talks with the internal opposition?

MS. HARF: Who specifically are you talking about?

QUESTION: Well, like there’s the internal opposition that is recognized --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Certainly, we have. It’s been ongoing. Let me double-check and see what the latest is, if there’s any update. But certainly, we have in the past, absolutely.

QUESTION: And who is Ambassador Ford meeting with in Turkey today, then?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I --

QUESTION: Is it today? Sorry. Or tomorrow.

MS. HARF: He’s there right now. Let me see if I have specifics on who he’s meeting with. I’m not sure that I do. Members of the Syrian opposition. I don’t have more specifics on here. That is, it’s not the Islamic Front.

QUESTION: And it’s not the – and have you been in touch with your European allies particularly about these possible talks with the Islamic Front?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. Not – I know we talk to them all the time on this issue. I can check if there’s something specific about the Islamic Front talks.

QUESTION: Because I think there’s a slight degree of wariness among some European capitals that the United States is now planning to talk to the Islamic Front, which groups – a lot of groups, which said in their covenant last week, I believe, that they wanted to replace the regime with an Islamic state even though they said that there would be – they wouldn’t – it would be moderate and they wouldn’t hurt anybody and things like that.

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’ve said that we talked to these groups with a couple goals in mind. But, one, of course, and probably the most important, with the goal of helping to coalesce the opposition and get people to move forward and buy into the Geneva II process. That doesn't prejudge an outcome other than a transitional government based on mutual consent as outlined in the Geneva communique. But that doesn’t – talking to them doesn’t mean endorsing everything they said, certainly, or endorsing their vision of what will come next.

QUESTION: On a larger issue, French Foreign Minister Fabius has spoken about his concern about the state of the opposition. He said that he’s very pessimistic about the prospects for success at Geneva II. He doesn't know if it could really – that they’re working on it, but he doesn't know if it could really take place. And it did seem today that Secretary Kerry, while he said that he thought that Geneva could take place he seemed to say, if it happens. And he seemed to be walking back a little bit the fervor with which you were talking about --

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn't read that into what the Secretary said. As you know, there’s a trilateral happening at the end of this week in Geneva with the UN and the Russians and the U.S. to plan for Geneva II. So we want to make progress there. I think we’ll be discussing a range of issues including external participation, who will be making up the delegations on the regime and the opposition side, and hopefully we’ll make some progress there and we can continue working towards.

QUESTION: How can – I mean, this meeting, this trilateral is between the U.S. --

MS. HARF: The UN, and Russia, who’ve --

QUESTION: -- the UN, and Russia. And you’re talking about who could make up a possible opposition delegation --

MS. HARF: Well, certainly that’s their decision.

QUESTION: Well, but they seem to be nowhere in terms of even who’s in the opposition per se, let alone who would be going to a Geneva conference. So --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a challenge, certainly, and we want them to represent a broad swath of the opposition. Those conversations are ongoing. We know that it’s a challenge. Nobody’s naive about that.

QUESTION: Well, don’t you think it’s – given the state of the opposition – that, I think, everybody from you to the French to everyone have acknowledged are in a fragile state to say the least. Don't you think although the desire is for a political transition, that it’s a little hasty to be holding this conference when the opposition certainly is in no shape to put forth a delegation?

MS. HARF: I think that’s the first time anyone’s used the term “hasty” for Geneva II. I usually get the opposite question: Why has it taken long? But I understand the question. And that’s why we’re working – I mean, that’s why Ambassador Ford’s there on the ground. That’s why he’s talking to these guys. We’re working with the SMC, with other groups in the opposition, to get a good delegation that’s broadly representative for Geneva II, and hopefully we’ll make some progress. But it’s up to the opposition to coalesce and to name their delegation, and hopefully they’ll do that at some point soon.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the death of this British doctor --

MS. HARF: I don't.

QUESTION: -- who died in Syrian custody? He’s been held for a long time and apparently just --

MS. HARF: I don't. I’m actually not aware of the case. I’m happy to take it and look into it.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sure you’ll have something.

QUESTION: I want to --

MS. HARF: Syria?

QUESTION: Does it matter if it --

QUESTION: Yeah. Syria too.

MS. HARF: Okay, wait Said. Let me go here and then I’m coming back to you.

Syria, too? Okay.

QUESTION: Does it matter that – does it matter to you that Geneva II now is going to become Montreux I?

MS. HARF: It doesn't. But I’m sure people that are going are happy for the change of scenery.

QUESTION: I like it the scenery at Montreux.

QUESTION: But it – I understand it’s actually going to go from Montreux to Geneva.

MS. HARF: To Geneva. That’s my understanding as well.

QUESTION: So does that actually complicate things?

MS. HARF: Honestly, not to – not that I’ve heard.

QUESTION: I mean, because usually --

MS. HARF: I think it’s just a logistical issue.

QUESTION: -- if you’re having negotiations, from the ones that I’ve been on the periphery with, if you have them in one place, then you’ve got everybody in the same area and you can keep it – negotiating forever as long as you want to. But having to go from Montreux and then a few days later going to the UN headquarters in Geneva, that would seem to me it might break the rhythm of the negotiations.

MS. HARF: I mean, when we were in Geneva for the P5+1 negotiations we did part at the UN and part at a different location in Geneva, so we moved around within Geneva. I honestly think it’s just a logistical issue. I haven’t heard that people think it will negatively affect the discussions, but I’m happy to check again.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MS. HARF: The watch conference.

QUESTION: Can I ask just a real quick question on the Islamic Front?

MS. HARF: Yeah. And then I’ll go around on Syria. Yeah.

QUESTION: I know you don’t have any announcements on any kind of talks and when they might happen or if they might happen, but has the U.S. or – who has made an outreach to them?

MS. HARF: In terms of what, specifically?

QUESTION: Talking.

MS. HARF: Talking? I think – I can double-check on who exactly – how we’ve conveyed that. I’ve certainly said it here. I’m happy to double-check. I just don't know.

QUESTION: But it was the U.S., not another country?

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t speak for other countries. We’ve made it clear on our end that --

QUESTION: No. It was the U.S., not the U.S. through another country is what I’m asking.

MS. HARF: I’ll double check. I honestly just don't know, Deb.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Said. Yeah. And then I’ll --

QUESTION: On the humanitarian issue --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- you said that you gave out like $1.3 billion worth of humanitarian aid --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to the Syrians, both inside and outside. But it seems that the Arab countries, or the Gulf countries, in particular the rich oil countries, are not giving out the commitment that they made. Are they shirking their responsibilities in your opinion?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly encouraging countries to provide humanitarian assistance. There’s a donor conference in Kuwait, right, I think, before Geneva II, if my timing is correct. We’re going to, again, get everyone back at the table and ask people to donate humanitarian assistance because it’s such a dire situation. So we’re going to keep talking to people and pressing them to do so.

QUESTION: Because, as you know, the Secretary General of the United Nations said some really staggering figures yesterday – talked about staggering figures in terms of aid needed and so on.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And on the other hand, a great deal of, let’s say, GCC countries’ aid, seem to be going towards weapons and not towards humanitarian aid.

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve certainly said that --

QUESTION: Now, those are UN information. They’re not from --

MS. HARF: People need to – we need to increase the humanitarian assistance. We’ve said that repeatedly. It’s part of the reason we’re getting everyone together in Kuwait in mid-January to encourage people to continue giving.

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Yes. And then – sorry.

QUESTION: Is Under Secretary Sherman going to the trilateral meeting?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Because last time you said --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that she’s not, she may not go --

MS. HARF: No, she is going.

QUESTION: She’s going?

MS. HARF: She’s leading the delegation. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: She just can’t get enough of Geneva.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: That was my question.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Oh, that was your question? Okay. Anything else on Syria?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll come up, Chris. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday I know you condemned the use of barrel bombs --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- by Syrian regime in Aleppo. And today there were other reports says that many people were killed again in the third day of the strike. Do you have any additional things you may add to yesterday’s comment?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional information. Obviously, I think I made a pretty strong statement about the regime’s use of barrel bombs yesterday. I’m happy to check on what the latest is on the ground.

QUESTION: Did you make any comment on the killing of Druze and Alawites and so on that – they were massacred by opposition groups?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly we strongly condemn any actions like that. We have repeatedly, certainly in the Christian community in Syria. I know we’ve talked about that a lot in here, certainly. I wasn’t asked about it, though.

Yeah, Syria? Okay, Syria? Anything else on Syria. Okay, go ahead, Chris, and then Elise. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is kind of an internal State Department question, but Tom Coburn’s Wastebook is out, and there were some State Department spending items in it.

MS. HARF: Okay. I haven’t seen that yet.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m wondering if you can get your response on that. In it, he lists $700,000 for gardening and landscaping services at the Brussels home of the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, $630,000 for Facebook fans, $5 million for --

MS. HARF: That’s how I get all my Facebook fans. Is that --

QUESTION: Me, too. For – $5 million for custom wineglasses and barware. So I guess I have two questions about these --

MS. HARF: I’ve addressed stemware extensively from this podium, if people remember.

QUESTION: Really?

MS. HARF: Yes. I did it in December, I think.

QUESTION: Was this spending wasteful?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the report, is the answer. I’m happy to take a look at it. We, as public stewards of people’s money, take very seriously what we spend money on. We spend it on things that support our mission overseas, obviously, representing the U.S. I’m happy to take a look at those specific things, and if I have any comment, come back tomorrow and I’m happy to talk about it.

QUESTION: Were they necessary? Was it necessary to spend that much money on wine glasses?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not familiar with the specifics of this. I think in terms of the stemware – I don’t know if it’s the same stemware I talked about last year --

QUESTION: What stemware did you talk about last year?

MS. HARF: I talked about Simon Pearce glassware, which is made in New England, in Vermont, and it’s lovely.

QUESTION: And is that what you use here at functions hosting dignitaries?

MS. HARF: Part of what we use, but what I talked about it is that we have a – all joking aside, we have a range of formal – not formal necessarily, but diplomatic settings – official diplomatic settings is the better term – where we represent the U.S. Government overseas. So one number in isolation may look high to someone, but we do this with a purpose. We want to put our best foot forward overseas on a range of diplomatic and representational issues. I’m happy to look at those specifics. I just haven’t seen the report. But we do take very seriously our obligation to wisely spend the public’s money, of course. And that in no way has changed. But I’m happy to look at it.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Can I talk about --

MS. HARF: Is it about stemware?

QUESTION: -- North Korea?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There are some reports that the North Koreans have dropped leaflets over a South Korean island warning of an attack on soldiers stationed there. I was wondering if you have been in touch with the South Koreans about this. Typically, North Korea does make good on a lot of these threats, so I’m assuming it would be kind of concerning.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure this is actually confirmed. I’d refer you to the South Korean Government for questions regarding the leaflet, and I’m happy to check with our folks to see if we have confirmation of it. As a general matter, our position hasn’t changed – that North Korea will not achieve anything by threats or provocations which we think only further isolate the DPRK and undermine international efforts for peace and stability in Northeast Asia. That in no way has changed. I’m happy to check with our team. I’m just not sure we can actually confirm those reports.

QUESTION: And then yesterday you were asked about Dennis Rodman’s trip.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you said that you would check on whether there’s been anybody from the State Department that’s been in touch with him regarding this upcoming trip.

MS. HARF: We haven’t been contacted by him about his trip to North Korea. I don’t think we have in the past, either. Obviously, we don’t vet private citizens’ trip, but we haven’t been – trips to North Korea.

QUESTION: Do you have an interest in talk – I understand that you haven’t talked to him, but do you have an interest in talking to him before he goes? That perhaps, like, if he were to meet with the leader as he did last time, that he could be speaking from the same playbook that any American that goes to North Korea that you urge to talk about?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – private citizens, we certainly don’t vet their travel or have contact with them before their --

QUESTION: I didn’t say that their travel, but for --

MS. HARF: -- or have contact with them, necessarily, before they go. There wouldn’t necessarily be a reason to, I don’t think. I’m happy to check again with our team, but to my knowledge, that’s not a discussion that’s underway.

QUESTION: A small thing: Can you just state for the record that Dennis Rodman is not a representative of the U.S. Government in his trip to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Dennis Rodman is not a representative of the U.S. Government in his trip to North Korea.

QUESTION: What kind of a procedure does someone like Dennis Rodman follow to go to North Korea? He does it on his own? Does he --

MS. HARF: I mean, on our end there’s not one. He has to – I’m assuming get some sort of visa from them, but on our end, he buys a plane ticket and goes. I – not anything that I would have to know about.

QUESTION: So do you talk to him when he comes back?

MS. HARF: We’ve always said we’re open to talking to people when they get back, but we haven’t with him is my understanding. He hasn’t reached out to us and we haven’t --

QUESTION: Is it because you – is it because he doesn’t want to talk to you, or you just have no interest in talking with the guy, you don’t consider him a valuable source of any type of information?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure what the reason is. I just know that we haven’t had contact with him about his trips.

QUESTION: Do you have an opinion on him going, or do you support him going there, or oppose his decision to do it?

MS. HARF: I mean, we have a Travel Warning in place for North Korea for U.S. citizens. So I think the Travel Warning probably speaks for itself, and I’ll let that be the comment on our opinion on whether anyone should travel to North Korea.

QUESTION: But in terms of the --

QUESTION: But beyond that, doesn’t it give some kind of worth to the North Korean Government which is just --

MS. HARF: To have Dennis Rodman visit?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, in the eyes of the North Koreans or maybe its neighbors. I mean, this guy just --

MS. HARF: Who knows how they see him?

QUESTION: The leader of North Korea just executed in a rather brutal fashion his uncle, and you’ve got this eccentric star going over to talk to him.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, surely that should – is – should raise alarms as unhelpful.

QUESTION: Is it unhelpful?

MS. HARF: Well, you know what – honestly, what raises alarms is exactly what you mentioned. I know it’s amusing or maybe interesting to talk about Dennis Rodman, but I actually think the focus really should be on the brutality of the North Korean regime he’s going to meet with. I mean, you’re exactly right. We just saw an execution, a horrific act of brutality, and that’s what we’re focused on. And we’re focused on working with our partners in the region to help get North Korea to a place where it will fulfil its commitments to denuclearize. We need to focus on what’s really important here when it comes to the North Korea – the horrible economic situation it has put its people under, not whether or not a former NBA star is going there to play basketball.

QUESTION: Isn’t his trip going to give some propaganda value to the North Korean Government, I guess (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to guess as to why they are hosting him there or what – I don’t think I would ever try to get in the head of the North Korean regime about why they do anything, quite frankly. Our position hasn’t changed. Policy-wise, what we’re focused on is working with our allies and partners in the region to get North Korea to live up to its international commitments.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about two things just on this? One is: Have you – are you aware of how the North Korean general who was executed was executed? You talked about how it was a horrific act of execution. I want to know if you know how he was --

MS. HARF: Of brutality. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Of brutality. Do you know how he was executed?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m happy to double-check.

QUESTION: Okay. Because I was wondering, because --

MS. HARF: Someone – I just don’t.

QUESTION: -- the U.S. Government executes people quite routinely in some states.

MS. HARF: I don’t think we pull them out of political meetings and execute them for political reasons.

QUESTION: No, no. No, no, no. That I would agree with. But I – that’s why I’m trying to figure out --

MS. HARF: Good. I’m glad you agree with that.

QUESTION: -- I – although one never knows. But what I wanted to understand is whether your reference was to how he was physically executed --

MS. HARF: Or the fact that he was?

QUESTION: -- or just the fact that he was executed.

MS. HARF: Well, certainly the fact that he was and that it was a political – I mean, certainly that. I’m happy to check if there are more details.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one other just small one on this: His – the executed man’s wife did not appear at the celebrations of Kim Jong-un. Any comment on that? Do you --

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding – I don’t – did she appear last year, either? I’m not sure she did last year, either. I’m happy to double-check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m not – I don’t have any additional comment.

QUESTION: Not a big deal. Okay. Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I follow up, just to go back on Jo’s point?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, this is – there is a larger point here, which is that the State Department has in the past sponsored cultural exchanges with very reclusive regimes. They’re not doing that in this case, but whether the State Department views this as a positive way to kind of approach this very reclusive regime in a different kind of way, or whether it sees it as conferring legitimacy by sending not only Dennis Rodman, but high-profile – other athletes as well, and there’s a documentary crew going along with them too. So this is like --

MS. HARF: Oh. Didn’t know that.

QUESTION: So this is like – this is quite a big production, so --

MS. HARF: I don’t think we see it as either, honestly. I don’t think we see it in either way you described it. It really is a visit of a private U.S. citizen, not a representative of the U.S. Government, to a regime where we have a Travel Warning in place where we tell people not to go there. I wouldn’t characterize it in either way. We’ll see what happens with his visit and I’m happy to, I am sure, talk more about it as it unfolds this week.

But what we’re focused on here isn’t the visit of a private citizen. It’s how we as a government can work with other folks in the region to help advance our policy goals. And I’m just not aware of any way Dennis Rodman fits into that, but I’m happy to check again with our team.

QUESTION: And then I wanted to follow up – sorry Said --

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: -- on something you said yesterday.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You said that the regime is at a moment in time when it sort of faces a choice of whether to go on with business as usual --

MS. HARF: Isolation, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- isolation, brutality, things of that nature, or come back in line with its international obligations. It’s something along those lines.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But I wonder if you could elaborate on that a little bit. What do you mean by this being – why is this moment in time --

MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question, and it’s not – I should clarify it’s not a unique moment in time, right. They --

QUESTION: It lasted about 10 (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Right. I was going to say it’s not a unique moment in time. But they have a – they do have a choice about what comes next – that we don’t write it off, we don’t say there’s no coming back from the brink here. We say we have serious concerns and need them to come back in line with their international obligations.

So a relatively new, young leader. Clearly, the North Korean people are facing an incredibly dire economic situation that its own regime has put it under, and it’s getting worse. And so I think that from our perspective – you’re right, for a long time. But right now, there is – they are at a moment where if – we need to see progress. They’ve committed on numerous occasions to denuclearize – we haven’t seen progress on that – and other issues as well. So I think that’s why we’re going to keep working with China, Russia, other folks in the region – Japan, South Korea – on how to make progress in this issue.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized about the – his concern on North Korean human right issues.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the United States estimation of North Korean human rights issues?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea, also the treatment of North Korean refugees. There’s a whole host of human rights issues that we remain concerned about. We’re going to keep working with other countries in the region and international organizations like UNHCR and the Human Rights Council to raise attention to the deplorable human rights conditions in the DPRK, and we were proud to co-sponsor earlier this year – yes, this year – along with Japan, the EU, and South Korea a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in the DPRK. I don’t have the latest on that. I’m happy to check. But clearly, it’s something we’re very concerned about.

QUESTION: I have another question. Do you have anything on telephone conversation between Secretary Kerry and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi?

MS. HARF: I do. I did a little bit on this yesterday, but I’m happy to revisit it. Secretary Kerry did speak with Chinese foreign – the foreign minister – excuse me, I’m tripping over my words here – on December 15th. The Secretary exchanged views on a wide range of key bilateral and regional issues, including the DPRK and the Middle East.

QUESTION: And what is the contents of conversations to --

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, we don’t read out the specific contents of diplomatic conversations, but suffice to say they discussed a wide range of issues, and they have a good working relationship and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the last one from me on North Korea.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry --

MS. HARF: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Unless there’s a follow-up, but I think this’ll be the last. Secretary Kerry mentioned that there’s – that they’re aware of a number of other executions and – when he was speaking with Martha Raddatz on Sunday.

MS. HARF: He did, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What – do you have anything more on that?

MS. HARF: Let me check and – with our team and see if I can provide details on that.

QUESTION: Because there were --

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Is he – yeah, is he talking about the ones that were last year or is he talking more recent ones?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our team about anything more recent. I’m just not aware of it.

QUESTION: Can we change --

QUESTION: One more on North Korea.

MS. HARF: One more.

QUESTION: Yesterday in the ceremony, specifically there was remarks from the leaders that – saying the United States is militaristically trying to squeeze North Korea to death, and they are prepared to fight back. Do you accept this perception?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said earlier, North Korea doesn’t issue anything with threats, with provocations, or, quite frankly, with continued nuclear development. The economic situation the North Korean people are in right now is a direct result of what their government has chosen to spend its money on – unneeded and unnecessary weapons and military systems that they don’t need that would be much better spent on food for their people. So if they want to talk about the deplorable conditions in their country, they need to take a look in the mirror, quite frankly.

We’ve been very clear what our goals are. It’s denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and stability in the region – something, again, that the North Koreans have committed to on numerous occasions. So we will continue working with our partners in the region to advance our goals which are based on what’s good for everyone in the region, and that’s stability and security.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. HARF: We can, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. Could you update us on what’s going with the peace process, or the negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis?

MS. HARF: Ongoing.

QUESTION: That’s all you can say, ongoing?

MS. HARF: Ongoing.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you --

MS. HARF: You’re surprised I’m not giving more detailed information about the ongoing negotiations?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Nothing new. Secretary was just there, as you know, meeting with the Israelis and the Palestinians. Nothing new from that front.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the Secretary of State pushing with his security plan, the security plan that includes --

MS. HARF: Well, he certainly --

QUESTION: -- the placement of Israeli troops along the Jordan Valley?

MS. HARF: Certainly one of the main topics of discussion in the recent rounds of meetings has been the security ideas that General Allen has been studying and putting on the table – been a huge topic of discussion. I’m not going to go into specifics about what those discussions or his proposals look like.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary of State had any kind of discussions with Abbas in the last 48 hours and so on? Because Abbas seems – is calling for a meeting of the Arab League.

MS. HARF: In the last 48 hours, I don’t believe that he has.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: He was there, obviously, meeting with him in person recently.

QUESTION: Right. That was last week. But –

MS. HARF: Earlier this week.

QUESTION: -- it seems that the president of the Palestinian Authority is calling for a meeting of the Arab League to follow up, apparently, on the Arab Peace Initiative.

MS. HARF: I’ll check on that.

QUESTION: Do you have --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I haven’t seen that. Did you – and you asked about travel.

QUESTION: When he’s planning to go back, yes.

MS. HARF: Nothing to announce on his travel plan at this point.

Yes.

QUESTION: Philippines. Secretary Kerry had a meeting with President Aquino --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the prime minister as well. And did the United States and Philippines discuss the reestablishing U.S. military presence in Philippines, especially in Subic Bay?

MS. HARF: I can double – I don’t have a fuller readout of their discussion. I’m happy to look into what they discussed.

QUESTION: And then according to yesterday’s – the senior State Department official statement, it said they’re finding way to facilitate easier and a greater access by U.S. military to Philippines. So what does it mean by this statement, that facilitate easier and a greater access by U.S. military?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that statement. I’m happy to take a look at it after the briefing and see if I can give you more of a readout on what’s that referring to. I just – I haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I try to read everything, but there are some things I miss.

Yes, back here.

QUESTION: Can I talk about Japan?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Okinawa prefecture Governor Nakaima met Prime Minister Abe.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And he requested that stop operations of Futenma Air Base within five years, and actually the Marines have said that they will continue to use 10 to 15 years. And he also requested that revision of SOFA agreement. So how did you take these requests from the governor, and did you discuss or will you discuss about this?

MS. HARF: Right. No, a couple points. And I think this is what you’re getting at. I – we’re aware of press reports, certainly, implying that U.S. and Japan are possibly discussing revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, of the SOFA. That’s not accurate. The U.S. has not agreed to and will not consider opening the SOFA to renegotiation.

We’re obviously always exploring ways in which to share concerns over issues, which – and those are best addressed through existing channels. I would point you to the 2+2 statement we put out – I forget the exact date. But we’re in the process of doing that right now in terms of a joint committee. So, obviously, the Department of Defense is probably the place that has much more detail about this, but suffice to say that’s where we stand on the SOFA.

QUESTION: On – how about Futenma closing, I mean, closing, stop operations of Futenma within five years?

MS. HARF: I’d check with the Department of Defense on those specifics. I’m happy to check with them too, and if I have anything to share I will do so. I just don’t know the answer.

Yes, Jo.

QUESTION: Can we go to the case of this businessman, American businessman, who seems to have escaped from Bolivia?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Jacob Ostreicher.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the circumstances of how he escaped and how he ended up being back in the United States?

MS. HARF: So he arrived in the United States Monday morning. For specific questions about his travel, I’d refer you to – excuse me – him. Take a sip of water. I think he’s probably the best person to speak. He’s a private citizen and the best person to speak to how he got back to the United States.

QUESTION: So there is a report in one --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- paper that there was some kind of operation to free him. Was the State Department involved in any kind of clandestine operation to smuggle him --

MS. HARF: What we’re known for at the State Department, clandestine operations.

QUESTION: -- to smuggle him out of Bolivia into the United States?

MS. HARF: I’ll double-check with our team. I’m not aware of any involvement. Obviously, we’ve been providing him consular access since his arrest in June 2011. We attended all of his court hearings. I’ll double-check with our team. But again, for details, I’d refer you to him. He’s a – can speak for himself.

QUESTION: Did you ever have an evaluation of the charges against him, whether they were fair or whether they were completely made up?

MS. HARF: I can double-check what our evaluation was at the time. I don’t have that in front of me. I can double-check.

Deb.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the U.S. Government did not have any role in helping him get out of there?

MS. HARF: I can double-check on his travel plans. Again, I think it’s up to him, probably, to explain how he got back to the United States and not up to us. But I’m happy to check. I just don’t – I actually just don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Because she just asked about the State Department specifically. I’m just asking the U.S. generally.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I understand the question.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. Again, I’d point you to him, and I’ll check and see if we have anything else to share.

QUESTION: I mean, they’re considering him a fugitive. Now they’re going to contact INTERPOL. So --

MS. HARF: Well, we haven’t received any inquiries from the Bolivian Government regarding his departure.

QUESTION: They have apparently asked for his extradition, though. Is that something you’d --

MS. HARF: We have not received any inquiries from the Bolivian Government regarding his departure from that country. I’m not going to speculate about hypothetical situations.

QUESTION: Do you have an extradition treaty with Bolivia?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding we do.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Oh, no. Sorry. I have one.

MS. HARF: Wait, wait. One more. Are you serious? (Laughter.) Go ahead, one more, one more, one more. Yesterday, it was a jokester over here.

QUESTION: No, no. I have a question.

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Everyone sit back down or leave. But Jo, what’s your last question?

QUESTION: Central African Republic.

MS. HARF: (Cough.) Yes. I’m sorry I’m coughing up here.

QUESTION: The French Foreign Minister Fabius today announced --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that there will be Belgium troops. Well, he didn’t announce Belgian troops, but he said there were going to be European troops on the ground joining them in the CAR. And Belgium has said that it’s, in fact, them, and they’re providing about 150 troops.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is this something that you would welcome?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Yes.

QUESTION: And are there any plans for any similar move by the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check with our team.

QUESTION: And Assistant Secretary Linda --

MS. HARF: Thomas-Greenfield.

QUESTION: -- yeah – just announced in her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she and Ambassador Power hope to travel there very soon. Do you have any details about that?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any travel to announce at this point. I know that she – they do hope to travel there soon. Just to clarify one thing, we do have a small liaison team of U.S. military personnel in Bangui. Their primary responsibility is to help plan and coordinate U.S. Air Force missions transporting African forces into Bangui, which I think is part of the MISCA troops, I believe.

QUESTION: Do you have numbers on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t. DOD might. And I don’t have any travel of hers to announce. Obviously, if we do, when we do, we’re happy to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)

DPB # 206

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 17, 2013]