Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 19, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Update on Evacuations
  • INDIA
    • Issue of Immunity / India's Deputy Consul General / Allegations / Vienna Convention / Secretary Kerry's Statement / U.S. Moving Forward
    • Under Secretary Sherman's Readout / Diplomatic Security / Specific Courtesies
    • Judicial and Legal Process / Diplomatic Immunity / U.S. - India Engaged in Extensive Conversations / Secretary Kerry's Call / U.S. Bilateral Relationship with India Important
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Dennis Rodman
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • President Karzai / BSA
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Nuclear Program / Congressional Legislation of New Sanctions
    • Secretary Kerry / Diplomatic Solution
  • EGYPT
    • President Morsi / New Demonstration Law
  • UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
    • Incarceration of U.S. Citizen / Consular Contact
    • Letter from Governor of Minnesota
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Facebook
  • RUSSIA
    • President Putin / LGBT Legislation / Snowden
  • EU
    • Accession Negotiations
  • COUNTERTERRORISM
    • Designation / Algeria
  • RUSSIA
    • U.S. Delegation / LGBT Legislation


TRANSCRIPT:

2:53 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few quick things at the top and then I will open it up for questions. Just one quick update on evacuations from South Sudan. Today, we safely and successfully evacuated a fourth group of U.S. citizens from South Sudan. A private charter flight departed Juba at 0844 Eastern carrying roughly 130 passengers, both private U.S. citizens and third-country nationals. In addition, a small number of U.S. citizens were able to fly out aboard a UK military aircraft.

And one other quick thing at the top. You’ve probably seen the Media Note that went out. But today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power led a delegation of U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield to Bangui, Central African Republic. They met with senior transitional government officials as well as UN, French, and other officials to assess and support recent efforts of African Union and French forces to protect civilians, stabilize the country, and restore humanitarian access.

With that, Deb.

QUESTION: I’d like to start with the Indian diplomat, of course, and I have two questions.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: One, there’s talk that she has been indeed transferred to the UN mission, okay? Have you all been notified of that?

MS. HARF: We have not yet received an official request through proper channels for re-accreditation. I’d refer you to the UN to see if they’ve received something.

QUESTION: Okay. They say they haven’t, but India says that --

MS. HARF: Okay. I can’t speak for the UN.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the --

MS. HARF: Or the Indians.

QUESTION: The Indians say that --

MS. HARF: We have not received it.

QUESTION: Okay. The question yesterday was if that happens, how does that affect her diplomatic status.

MS. HARF: So a couple points on that. I don’t want to get into hypotheticals or into her case in any way. Obviously, we haven’t received anything --

QUESTION: Generally speaking.

MS. HARF: It would depend on what kind of position a person’s being transferred to. But generally speaking, if there’s a change in immunity, right, because of a different diplomatic status, that immunity would start on the date it’s conferred, after the process. So there’s a process: it goes to the UN Secretariat, comes to the U.S. State Department, everybody has to say yes. There’s a process, a bureaucratic process. And then, if a different diplomatic status is conferred, it’s conferred at that date.

QUESTION: So we’re talking no retroactive --

MS. HARF: It is not retroactive.

QUESTION: Okay. Did the – why was it necessary to evacuate the family? Were they being threatened in some way? The husband and the kids, they got visas very, very fast. They left December 10th, which his only two days before the diplomat was arrested. So what was the deal? Why did they have to get these visas so that --

MS. HARF: Without going into specifics about some of those details, the U.S. Government has taken steps to reunite the alleged victim with her family. Obviously, I’m not going to go into specifics about that. We are aware of the existence of allegations that the family was intimidated in India. Obviously, I can’t confirm those. But in general, we take those kinds of allegations very seriously.

QUESTION: So that would be the reason why the visas --

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to talk specifically about these cases in any way other than just to say we’re aware of the allegations, and of course, take them seriously.

QUESTION: Did the housekeep claim – try to claim asylum on the basis of human trafficking?

MS. HARF: I can’t get into specifics about these specific cases in any way or discussions we had in terms of visa applications or anything like that. I just can’t get into those specifics. It’s an ongoing matter.

QUESTION: But can you confirm that whatever visa was issued to the servant or maid she brought, it was issued by the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, I believe. And also, I’m sure she must be aware of what kind of visa she’s getting or she’s going to the U.S., and so --

MS. HARF: Is there a question?

QUESTION: So what do you think – are you going to held somebody responsible at the embassy that who issued the visa they didn’t check the proper papers and all that?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t actually know where the visa application was submitted. I can double-check. Obviously, for diplomats or consular officers there’s a process. I’m happy to check if there are more details. Generally speaking, we can’t get into those types of specifics on any one specific case.

QUESTION: And as far as new position at the United Nations, whatever she had the position at the consul general in New York and whatever the incident took place, that will not affect – that will remain the same? New position will not change any --

MS. HARF: Well, we haven’t received an official request for re-accreditation. Obviously, if we do, we’ll look at it. So I don’t want to venture to guess hypothetically what a new position might look like because we haven’t received that yet.

QUESTION: Any request that she might leave New York for India?

MS. HARF: Look, what we’re focused on, broadly speaking, right now – I know that – I mean, not to my knowledge. But what we’re focused on right now is working to move the relationship forward. Under Secretary Sherman spoke this morning with Foreign Secretary Singh again. They had a good conversation. And also, there’s a process, right, in place right now through the judicial system, a legal process that we also would like to see play out. And we’ll continue having conversations with the Indian Government, certainly, as this process moves forward.

QUESTION: And U.S. Attorney Mr. Bharara defended whatever action he took or his office took against this diplomat, Indian diplomat. But Indian Government shot back and then they’re saying that our question is only that Vienna Convention was not followed, which every diplomat around the globe is protection under the Vienna Convention, whether it’s India, U.S., or anybody in the world. So where do we stand on this Vienna Convention?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly adhere to the Vienna Convention.

QUESTION: You think the U.S. Attorney made some kind of mistakes were made there, but now they are defending each other?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. Obviously, we adhere to the Vienna Convention, as we expect other countries to as well. I think the Secretary – the statement yesterday about the Secretary expressing regrets, especially that certain – I think this is one issue we’ve talked about a lot here – he certainly had regrets that certain courtesies were not extended in this case. I think it’s fair to say that that’s why we’re looking at what happened. We work very closely with our law enforcement colleagues. The gentleman that you mentioned that put out a statement last night also said some very positive things about working with the State Department and what we had done. So we obviously take law enforcement matters very seriously. We’ll continue working with the law enforcement community going forward on this. But I think the Secretary was very clear when I spoke yesterday about the regret that he was expressing in this case.

QUESTION: And thank you, final question on this issue.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were some demonstrations going on in Delhi at the U.S. Embassy. One, what do you think that if you have requested additional security measures from the Indian Government? And finally, how serious you think the State Department or U.S. Government think this issue is? Maybe it’s first of its kind in 60 years of U.S.-India diplomatic relations.

MS. HARF: Well, I think that’s an interesting question, but it’s certainly not indicative of our broad and deep and vital bilateral relationship. That’s what we’ve said from the beginning. This is an isolated episode. The Secretary certain regret – certainly expressed regret that things weren’t done differently at times, but what we’re focused on and why the Secretary and everyone else is so focused on this, is an incredibly important relationship. That has in no way changed.

If you look at how we’ve worked together during this Administration, certainly, which is what I’m familiar with, we have a broad and deep relationship. We work together on a host of issues, whether it’s economic issues, trade, Afghanistan, other issues, and that is only going to continue to increase. So that’s why what we’re focused on is not letting this episode impact our relationship, and indeed, moving forward with it.

QUESTION: And I just wanted to say Indian American communities very much shocked and surprised and watching and they – what they are saying is that they want to see to resolve this issue at the peaceful and not to hampering any relations of the community and the countries – both countries.

MS. HARF: And we would certainly agree that we don’t want it to as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. And – yes. Elise, I’ll go back to you next time.

QUESTION: On Under Secretary’s phone call --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to India’s foreign secretary, the readout which is coming out from Delhi is that Under Secretary distanced herself from the statement issued by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York yesterday. Is that your understanding? Is that --

MS. HARF: Well again, he can speak for himself, certainly. The State Department doesn’t speak --

QUESTION: Okay. Is the State Department this time --

MS. HARF: Right. And I’ll give you a little readout of what their call was. The readout I have from the Under Secretary is that both parties affirmed our intent to keep working through this complex issue. We certainly look forward to having further conversations. I don’t have more of a readout of their private conversation for you. Certainly, we work very closely with law enforcement. And I think our statements, my statements from here and others, speak for themselves, certainly, on this.

QUESTION: Does the State Department agrees with the statement issued by Preet Bharara yesterday?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go line by line and parse a statement that was made from the Southern District of New York. As I’ve said, we worked very closely with our law enforcement partners, and the statements that I’ve made, I think, from this podium certainly are – speak for themselves. And that’s what we’re focused on here.

Yes.

QUESTION: But do you want --

QUESTION: But there’s --

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Sorry. No, no. Do you have a follow-up?

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: It’s okay. Do you have another?

QUESTION: No, you go ahead.

QUESTION: But there’s just been this suggestion that because this is becoming an international incident that should there be pressure put on the U.S. courts to kind of drop the charges, let it go, and I think that – can you clear up like – does the State Department support this woman being prosecuted for the crimes that she was charged with?

MS. HARF: Well, again, that’s not for us to support or not support. That’s a decision for law enforcement and the judicial --

QUESTION: But you don’t think she should get off scot-free?

MS. HARF: Well, let me finish. Yeah, no. And certainly, what I was going to say – and for the judicial process to make – we certainly take these types of allegations very seriously though. It’s not a decision for us whether to prosecute or not, right? But we very clearly have said every year in diplomatic notes to every country that has diplomats here throughout the world that there are obligations they have for their staffs when they bring them to the United States. We make those obligations very clear and we take any allegations that they haven’t done so very seriously. So certainly, there’s no discussion like that going on. We just want the process to move forward.

QUESTION: So any suggestion that you would be putting pressure on the U.S. Attorney’s Office to drop the charges --

MS. HARF: Is not true.

QUESTION: Ma’am, can I follow-up?

MS. HARF: The State Department doesn’t --

QUESTION: Yeah --

MS. HARF: -- doesn’t put – doesn’t charge people or drop charges. That’s not what the State Department does.

QUESTION: It is signed by the State Department, right, this --

MS. HARF: The arrest warrant? No, it wasn’t. Let me pull that up. Hold on just one second.

QUESTION: No, the – yes, the 11 days indictment was signed by the State Department.

MS. HARF: Hold on one second and let me pull this up. I have something on here – this on here. Let me find it for you, because this is important. The State Department doesn’t charge people with crimes. Let me check though, hold on. I think I have this in here. Let me find it, just give me one second. And if I can’t find it, I will endeavor to find it by the end of the briefing.

It’s not for any State Department official to sign off on any arrests, right, even regarding a foreign diplomat. A federal judge issued the warrant for her arrest.

QUESTION: That’s fine. But the complaint was filed by the State Department – Mark Smith, Special Liaison to U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Based on this complaint, arrest warrant was issued, right? So Indian Government is saying to withdraw the complaint. My question is --

MS. HARF: Well, but there have now been charges filed against her that are not filed by the State Department. I’m not sure exactly what complaint you’re referring to. Certainly, we play a role in the process. I’m happy to look at it, but we don’t file charges against people.

QUESTION: This is the same complaint which has filed --

MS. HARF: The Southern District of New York does.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: That’s why last night they made the statement.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s why --

QUESTION: Can I follow – can I just follow up?

MS. HARF: Yeah. And I’m happy – I don’t know what’s exactly in front of you. I’m happy to look at it. We certainly played a role as the arresting authority. And also, when the allegation was brought to us, we helped investigate it as well from our side here working with law enforcement. So we certainly played a role. But in terms of who could drop charges, that’s not a State Department purview.

QUESTION: Because the complaint has been filed by the State Department. Only the State Department isn’t – can drop the charges, right?

MS. HARF: No, the State Department can’t drop charges that have been brought in this --

QUESTION: But you can withdraw the complaint.

QUESTION: Withdraw the complaint.

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t know the details of the complaint, and I don’t know if even withdrawing the complaint, which I’m not saying anybody is considering would, in fact, drop the charge. That’s not something that’s even being considered.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look at the complaint. But suffice to say, charges that are brought in federal court against somebody are brought by the Southern District of New York, regardless of a complaint. I’m happy to check into the legalese behind that.

QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on it, it sounds like what you’re saying is the incident in which I think everyone acknowledged that she was not extended – even the Secretary – was not extended certain courtesies during her processing should be separate and distinct and have no relation on the charges that were brought against this woman and what should happen to her going forward.

MS. HARF: Certainly, yes. I mean, the Secretary didn’t specify about exactly what he was talking to in terms of specific courtesies, but those are separate issues, right. We take these allegations very seriously. We’re not in any way walking back from those allegations or the charges. Again, this is really a law enforcement issue. But in terms of expressing regret for what happened and how we move the bilateral relationship forward, that is separate from the legal and judicial process that’s --

QUESTION: I’m not – what happened, meaning the way that she was treated during her arrest?

MS. HARF: During and after.

QUESTION: After?

MS. HARF: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes. I’m not trying to say what happened or not happened. Did the Indian side ask the American side to drop the charges or let this woman go back?

MS. HARF: There’s been a lot of private diplomatic conversations. I’m not going to outline all of that for you. What we’re all focused on is the process and where it goes from here.

QUESTION: Yeah, because the process – you are talking – we are talking about different two things. Somebody was charged. Whether it’s right or wrong, I’m not sure. And then the procedure, what happened, and the whole discussion was in the last three, four days mainly on the procedure and some doubt about the charges.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What I’m trying to figure out, because it seems that the Indian media or Indian people are talking about – I’m not trying to generalize it, but they are talking about the possibility or the necessity of dropping the charges, or at least let her go home.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about how this process may play out. What I’m saying is nobody is saying that these – nobody is walking away from the charges, right? But there’s a process – a judicial and a legal process that goes from here that is separate from the State Department, right? So I’m not going to prejudice how that process might play itself out or look into a crystal ball, because I can’t. There’s a number of different scenarios that could happen here.

QUESTION: Another question related to procedure. Are they talking through you to the federal whatever, the Marshal forces, or they are talking directly --

MS. HARF: Who is “they”? The Indian Government?

QUESTION: The Indian Government or Indian --

MS. HARF: We’re certainly talking to them. I don’t know. You’d have to check with the Department of Justice about what conversations they have.

QUESTION: They are not doing talks through you?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. We certainly have a direct relationship with them for a number of reasons, yes.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is it time now to go back to Vienna Convention and make it clear to the international community that they have to deal with these issues in the future, not in their own countries – based on their countries’ laws, but where they are based in a host country?

MS. HARF: In terms of going back and looking at the Vienna Convention?

QUESTION: Yeah, all these problems and issues. Do you think it’s time now? Because Vienna Convention – maybe it’s too old now for those diplomats to understand.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know of any move to renegotiate the Vienna Convention. I think it serves us pretty well. And we would say this is an isolated incident. Obviously, we’re looking at what happened.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Chris, and then I’ll go around.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify on immunity, the retroactivity of it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the Diplomatic and Consular Immunity handbook, it seems to suggest that immunity extends “whether the incident occurred prior to or during the period in which such immunity exists.” So that seems to be sort of discrepant. I mean, can you point us – what should we be looking at to see where this statute comes from (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m happy to check with our experts and point you to a statute. Very clearly --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- it does – it’s not retro – immunity is not retroactive. When you’re granted a different kind of immunity, it starts on the day that that has changed. And I’m happy to see if there’s a statute for you.

QUESTION: I guess --

MS. HARF: It’s easy, I think, to – I don’t even know what statute you’re looking at --

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: -- to cherry-pick one. But I’m not sure what applies to what.

QUESTION: Maybe a clarifying question here would be: If the immunity starts on the day that it’s conferred --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- does that apply to this incident that’s being played out in the Southern District of New York since she –

MS. HARF: Again, we haven’t received an application for re-accreditation. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about what that may or may not look like.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Josh. Hi.

QUESTION: Hi.

MS. HARF: Welcome to the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you. Glad to be here.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Earlier this year, two Filipino women were rescued escaping the grounds of the residence of the Saudi --

QUESTION: Can we stay on India?

QUESTION: This is part of it.

MS. HARF: Hey, hey, it’s the holidays. I’ll call the questions. It’s related. I’ll go back to you next on India.

QUESTION: Allow me to start again. Thank you. Two Filipino women were rescued escaping the residence of the Saudi diplomatic military attache’s residence in Northern Virginia. As far as I’m aware, no Saudi diplomats have been – there’s been no complaints, they’ve not been charged, none of them have been cavity-searched. How do you explain the discrepancy between the treatment of this Indian diplomat and those Saudi diplomats who allegedly committed even more egregious crimes against their own (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of all the details of that case. I’m happy to look into it, and if I can share something, I’m happy to. Each case is different, though. Obviously, we take any allegation very seriously, of the kind – the nature that you mention and the kind that are mentioned in this case as well, and we investigate them when they’re brought to our attention. I’m just not aware of the details of that case, and don’t want to make a comparison about why something was or wasn’t done.

Yes. Go back to India.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the Indian Embassy, on behalf of the Indian Government, issued a statement that they gave a account of the 23rd June the maidservant went missing, and 24th June they informed the Office of Foreign Mission. And then NYPD was not taking the complaint, and there was a problem there. And for that, they issue – they informed you about it. And then they shoot a letter on 25th of June to NYPD. And then after a meeting with NYPD, they registered a complaint. And on 23rd June to 8th of July, a lady called offering – asking and saying that she’s a lawyer on behalf of the maidservant, and she asked for a compensation. And this was also conveyed to the State Department, and they said that till date there was no reply from the State Department. And then on – in September, the metropolitan court from Delhi issued these arrest warrants and all that, which were also informed to the State Department.

And so what is – and then on – suddenly on – in September, the State Department’s letter asked them that – the Embassy to investigate, which was answered by the Ministry of External Affairs. So there’s a lot of the – this can go on and on with the list that they have provided.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to that?

MS. HARF: Well, yeah, I have --

QUESTION: Because you must have seen that.

MS. HARF: I’d make a couple points. It’s highly inaccurate to say that we ignored any Government of India communiques on this issue, period. We’re still compiling a precise sequence of all of our government-to-government communications on it – goes back months. Some of these communications are private diplomatic conversations or law enforcement sensitive. I’d point that out now.

I think it is accurate to say that our law enforcement authorities and the Government of India have some different interpretations of the issues and allegations at play throughout this entire scenario. But I would say that we have engaged in extensive conversations with the Government of India about this issue in Washington, in New York, in New Delhi, going back to the summer. We’ve also requested the Government of India to provide us with the results of its own inquiry into the allegations made by Dr. Khobragade’s domestic worker and to make her available to discuss them, I don’t think either of which was done.

So we’ve had a lot of conversations back and forth, we’re continuing to now, and I think it’s fair to say that we’re still looking into exactly what all of those conversations look like. But we definitely responded. I certainly – it’s inaccurate to say that we did not.

QUESTION: So at the end of your answer, the question comes: Who is lying, Indian Government or – from this? Because – and they have --

MS. HARF: I think lying is a pretty strong word.

QUESTION: They have specifically --

MS. HARF: It doesn’t really have any place here.

QUESTION: They have specifically said that there were no answers.

MS. HARF: As I said, we have repeatedly engaged with the Government of India on this issue. If we have more details to provide in terms of a tick-tock of all those conversations, we can. But some of these are private diplomatic conversations, details about which we don’t share publicly.

QUESTION: So you say that this was going on, the conversations, since June?

MS. HARF: Since the summer, yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. And that was not one way?

MS. HARF: I’m sorry? The summer?

QUESTION: Just a minute. Let me clarify. So it was not one-way conversation --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- not just they sending?

MS. HARF: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: You were replying to it?

MS. HARF: Absolutely, it was a two-way conversation.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Deb.

QUESTION: Just one question --

MS. HARF: Last one on India.

QUESTION: -- on this.

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: No? Oh, you have another one? Yeah.

QUESTION: Were you expecting that something like this will happen or – when you are talking all these months? I mean, because it seems that it was – either the message was not clear or the communication was not – I mean, what you call it, clear enough to clear the atmosphere.

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly – I mean, this is why we notify governments, including, as we did in September in this case, when there are allegations made against their diplomats or consular officers or other folks in their missions here in the U.S. We tell them their allegations. Again, we’ve expressed regret with some of the things that have happened here, and what we’re focused on is moving the relationship forward. And that’s what all of our folks here are certainly working on all the time.

Deb, on India?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Wait, wait, wait. Deb had another one on India, and then I’ll go back around. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know where the maid – the housekeeper is now?

MS. HARF: I don’t have information about her whereabouts that I can share.

QUESTION: You said she was reunited with her family, though.

MS. HARF: In the United States.

QUESTION: Oh --

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Okay. So they’re not back in Delhi, then? They’re probably here somewhere?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding. I’m happy to double-check.

QUESTION: Okay. Did the Diplomatic Security agents take any kind of DNA swab?

MS. HARF: I can double-check. I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if India has reconsidered any of the demarches that initially were put into place?

MS. HARF: I can double-check on what the status of those remains right now. I know there was one nonviolent protest outside one of our consulates, and the Indian security responded very quickly, very helpfully. We would thank them for doing so. That’s clearly a good sign, I think, but we’re just going to focus on how to move forward here.

QUESTION: The ID cards, the --

MS. HARF: I can double – I don't know if those were ever implemented. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay. And is it --

QUESTION: What consulate was that at?

MS. HARF: Let me see. Hold on. I have it in here. Kolkata, I think is how you say it. K-O-L-K-A-T-A. Someone correct me if I’m wrong on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Some of them --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Wait, hold on a sec – okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any more calls to report from Kerry?

MS. HARF: From the Secretary?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: On India?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: Okay. He hasn’t talked to the foreign minister, then?

MS. HARF: He has not.

QUESTION: Is he – everybody --

MS. HARF: No plans to.

QUESTION: No plans to?

MS. HARF: No. I mean, he always open to, but I think there was some misreporting out there today that he maybe was planning to, and that’s just not – not the case.

QUESTION: Well, I heard that he tried to call him yesterday, but that he couldn't get through or something.

MS. HARF: I don't know what the sort of tick-tock was. Obviously, he talked to the national security advisor. There may have been a logistical reason why he couldn't, but it’s not – I mean, there – he’s not – there’s not a call planned today or tomorrow to my knowledge at this point.

Yeah.

QUESTION: So where the talks or negotiations or meetings going on, at what level, to resolve this issue? And finally, anything on those demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy in Delhi?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly having diplomatic conversations for how to move the relationship forward. I would refer you to DOJ or the southern district of New York to speak to what conversations they’re having as part of the judicial process. I certainly can’t speak to those.

QUESTION: And the demonstrations at the --

MS. HARF: I don't have anything additional on those.

QUESTION: Are you asking any additional – have you asked any additional --

MS. HARF: I can check on that. We don't generally discuss security procedures, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: And at this time, finally, we are not looking any kind of Travel Warning?

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: And the --

MS. HARF: Hold on. Chris?

QUESTION: No, this is on a different topic.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And the – like, yesterday, the – after the Secretary Kerry’s phone call --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And then there – and then Secretary Sherman’s call to the foreign secretary, the previous one, not today.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yeah, yesterday.

QUESTION: There was a feeling that it – we are on towards – moving toward de-escalation of the whole situation.

MS. HARF: That’s certainly our goal.

QUESTION: And then – no, but then last night when the – yesterday, when the – from the attorney issued a detailed statement, and then the Indians retorted back. That has put it back into a kind of a – what is your – the State Department take? That’s why it’s very important to know what is the State Department’s take on that letter.

MS. HARF: Again, they can speak for their own statements. I don't think it was a letter. I think it was a statement. Maybe I’m wrong on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

MS. HARF: But I think Secretary Kerry wanted to make the call yesterday because he believes this is important. His words, I think, were very clear to the national security adviser. Mine, up here, conveying those words were clear. Under Secretary Sherman, as you mentioned, has spoken now repeatedly with Foreign Secretary Singh. And we’re conveying repeatedly the same message, both about our regret about what happened, but also how we move forward from here. That’s a consistent message we are conveying diplomatically through proper diplomatic channels to the Indian Government.

QUESTION: And you will not confirm that Sherman – Secretary Sherman distanced herself from this statement?

MS. HARF: I don't have any additional readout from their call for you.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Hold on.

QUESTION: The Indian Government today accused the U.S., saying that U.S. is undermining or not recognizing the Indian judicial system because Delhi’s high court and Delhi’s district court had issued warrant against the family members and even the maid – the missing maid. And it was sent to the U.S., the State Department, to find a place there and send her back to India. There was no recognition by the State Department or your judicial system about that.

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve been having conversations about any issues that the Indian Government has brought to us as part of this case going back many months. Those conversations are ongoing. I’m just not going to detail specifically what those are about.

Deb.

QUESTION: Is the State Department aware of any allegations that she was physically abused or that maybe she was living under poor conditions?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to --

QUESTION: Or even if that she --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure I could even share that if it was part of our investigation. I don't – to my knowledge, I just don't know the answer. Obviously you know what she was charged with, which was visa fraud. And I’m happy to check into what – if I can, share any more details about the investigation. I probably can't as it’s an ongoing legal matter.

QUESTION: One other thing was that she was not allowed to hold her own passport.

MS. HARF: I can check on that too. But again, I probably can't get into it either way, but I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Can you also provide us a timeline of communication with the Indian Government?

MS. HARF: Certainly, if we have more details on that to provide we’re happy to. Some of this we keep private for a good reason. But as we put together a full, comprehensive look at that, I’m happy to share as much as I can.

Josh?

QUESTION: The Indian media is reporting that the maid’s father-in-law works for the U.S. Embassy. Is that right?

MS. HARF: I do have something on that. I can confirm that he either was or is – I don't know the current status – employed in a personal capacity by a U.S. diplomat, not as a U.S. Government employee.

QUESTION: What does that mean?

MS. HARF: Someone can hire someone in a personal capacity to work for them, but he’s not a U.S. Government employee.

QUESTION: What was he hired to --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into further details about what he was hired to do. But you can think about things that would be official U.S. Government employee work, and what would be someone’s – would hire someone to do in a personal capacity. Those are different things, and I just can’t get into any more detail than that.

QUESTION: It’s current, or --

MS. HARF: I don’t know that. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I just don’t know if it – current or past.

QUESTION: A U.S. Government employee isn’t a State Department employee?

MS. HARF: A U.S. diplomat?

QUESTION: A U.S. diplomat working at the Embassy in New Delhi.

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: So where do we go from here on this? Is this over?

MS. HARF: Does it feel over?

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: No. But honestly and what I said, I think at the top, is really what we’re focused on here. And I want to convey really strongly from the Secretary, the ambassador, and everyone on down that this relationship with India is incredibly important. This incident is not something that should define that, certainly, or that should negatively impact that. What we’re focused on is having conversations at many levels about moving the relationship forward, moving past this episode, and letting the judicial and legal process move itself forward in whatever way it does, which is, of course, not housed here. So we’re focused on taking the temperature down, on focusing on the bilateral relationship, and moving together on all the issues we focus on all the time.

QUESTION: Is the State Department done with its own assessment of what happened?

MS. HARF: We’re still gathering all the facts, talking to the number of folks that were involved.

QUESTION: How long is that going to take?

MS. HARF: No estimate for you. There was a lot that happened here, and we’re trying to get all the facts.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we move on to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. Dennis Rodman has arrived in North Korea as part of his efforts to train the basketball team there. I wanted to know if the State Department had any particular reaction or statement regarding that.

MS. HARF: No. As I’ve said repeatedly, we have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman. He’s not there for the U.S. Government. Other than that, again, what I’ve said repeatedly at this podium is that what we should be focused on is not an ex-NBA player from however many years ago who decides to take a trip to North Korea; it’s on what the North Korea Government’s doing, on its brutality, on its continued violation of its international obligations. That’s what we’re focused on here, certainly, not what Dennis Rodman is or isn’t doing.

QUESTION: And presumably as someone who is pretty close to Kim Jong-un and how valuable that information might be, why doesn’t the State Department feel the need to maintain some sort of contact with Mr. Rodman?

MS. HARF: We’ve said we’re open to it, to talk to anyone when they get back, certainly. To my knowledge, we just haven’t had contact with him on this. I’m happy to check in with our folks to see if there’s any specific reason, but we’re certainly open to it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, hello.

QUESTION: Hey. How are you?

MS. HARF: Good.

QUESTION: I wanted to find out if you can confirm that Senator Max Baucus will be the next ambassador to China, or at least the nominee.

MS. HARF: Nothing to announce on the personnel front at this point. When we have something to announce, we’re happy to.

QUESTION: Can I ask a point of clarification on Josh’s question?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the father of the maid works or worked for a U.S. --

MS. HARF: I think father-in-law.

QUESTION: Father-in-law?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Is that U.S. Embassy in India? And do you know --

MS. HARF: That’s my – yes.

QUESTION: -- where in India it is?

MS. HARF: I believe in Delhi.

QUESTION: In Delhi. Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And that’s not the ambassador (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. I’m happy to check on more details. I just don’t have all the details in front of me.

QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on BSA?

MS. HARF: No. Nothing new.

QUESTION: Some of the senior officials, Afghan officials, are saying that President Karzai is now willing to sign if three of his conditions are met. He’s not willing to leave it to the next president-elect. Have you heard anything from him?

MS. HARF: Again, we’ve said repeatedly that he should sign it as soon as possible. We think it’s important to give his people some certainty about what comes next, certainly, and also so we can do some planning on our side and on the NATO side and others. But no updates for you, but that’s certainly been our position, and that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: But they are asking for three assurances from U.S. Is the U.S. willing to give those three assurances?

MS. HARF: Again, he’s, I think, talked about this publicly. I’m not going to further outline what our diplomatic discussions look like. We believe that he should sign it as soon as possible.

QUESTION: It means that the hurdle is from the U.S. side, U.S. is not willing to give the – all three assurances.

MS. HARF: The text is negotiated; it’s ready for his signature.

QUESTION: His office says it’s – his three conditions comes from the 31 points which came out from the Loya Jirga. It’s part of the Loya Jirga’s recommendations, and those three points coming from those.

MS. HARF: Again, the negotiations have been completed on the BSA and we believe that it should be signed as soon as possible.

QUESTION: So there’s no – this --

MS. HARF: I think I’ve probably exhausted --

QUESTION: -- the U.S. (inaudible) beyond those assurances.

MS. HARF: -- the number of times I can say that in response to questions about the BSA. Just nothing further for you.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Iran for a minute?

MS. HARF: Definitely.

QUESTION: So Menendez and Kirk have introduced a bill to institute sanctions if a broader deal isn’t reached. The State Department has urged against this kind of action. Is it the position of the State Department that if such a bill were to pass, the deal – interim deal would be off?

MS. HARF: Right. Let me make a few points on this – I think this is very important – state very clearly that we strongly oppose the action taken by these members of Congress. It directly contradicts the Administration’s work to resolve the concerns about the Iranian nuclear program peacefully. And on top of that, we believe it’s unnecessary. This legislation does not provide the President and the negotiating team with the flexibility to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran. And if Congress passes this bill, which is an if at this point, it would be proactively taking an action that would undermine American diplomacy and make a peaceful resolution to this issue less possible. I hear – we hear a lot from the Hill about how they want to resolve this peacefully. What we need to see – more than words, we need to see actions to back that up. We don’t believe this one does.

QUESTION: So you’ve gone to the Hill many times to tell them, don’t do this. Specifically, you’ve said even if it’s a conditioned sanction --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- it’s going to erode support for international sanctions. Given that you’ve told them so many times, please don’t do this, it’s going to hurt the chances of anything getting worked out, is this a bad sign for State’s relationship with the Hill?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. We’ve made very clear to members of the Senate and others why we believe this would hurt our negotiating strategy. It appears in this case with the introduction of this legislation that they’ve chosen to ignore the assessment of our negotiators and also our intelligence community, which has said that additional sanctions would make this harder. I can actually get the exact language if you give me a second to pull it up. The intelligence community’s December 10th, 2013 assessment states that, quote, “New sanctions would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.”

A couple points on the Hill, though. There is broad support in Congress for resolving this issue diplomatically. A number of prominent Democratic and Independent senators have publicly expressed their opposition to new sanctions legislation while negotiations are ongoing, among them, chairman of the Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, chairman of Armed Services Carl Levin, chairman of the Banking Committee Senator Johnson. There’s a host of others that have publicly come out and said we need to give our negotiators the best chance to succeed. So I would take notion with the issue that Congress is speaking with one voice on this. Certainly, there are many members of Congress who don’t believe we should impose new sanctions now.

QUESTION: Did you get a heads-up that this was coming?

MS. HARF: It’s certainly been in discussions for weeks. We’ve been asked about it in here for a while. And we’ve been working continually with members of Congress on this issue, certainly, not just briefings but discussing with them when they come to us and propose or talk about possible new legislation. We’ve certainly been in discussions with them on this for a long time and are going to continue to going forward.

QUESTION: So just the last thing. Did you do any contingency planning with Iran? Did you reach out to Iran and say this might be happening?

MS. HARF: I think the Iranians read our press and knew that this might be happening. I’m happy to check on specifics in terms of that issue. But I don’t think this was probably any secret to anyone.

QUESTION: Just one more thing on that. It’s my understanding that these sanctions would only go into effect if they reneged on the deal that they’re kind of agreed to already. And I believe Secretary Kerry has already said that he’d be – he’d welcome new sanctions if --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- in fact, the deal --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- was not adhered to.

MS. HARF: Secretary Kerry has --

QUESTION: So what’s the difference?

MS. HARF: There’s a big difference. We have said we should not pass new sanctions legislation of any kind while we are negotiating. Secretary Kerry has been very clear that if this falls apart, we will be the first ones back up at Congress asking them to pass new sanctions. And every single person who follows this issue knows Congress could pass new sanctions in 24 hours if they wanted to. You don’t need to put in a deferred trigger because you could do it at the end of six months overnight. It would be easy. And the Iranians know that. So we don’t believe that we should take this unnecessary risk of threatening the negotiations for something that could be done overnight if we need to get there eventually.

QUESTION: Okay. Will the State Department recommend that the President veto the bill if it comes to his desk?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into any of those discussions. I know lots of people have questions about that. We have said very clearly that we strongly oppose this legislation. I’m just not going to go any further than that.

QUESTION: Marie, just to play devil’s advocate on this, why wouldn’t this legislation just add more fuel to the fire and motivate Iran to (a) follow through on the agreement that was made in Geneva and (b) make a final agreement?

MS. HARF: Well, for a couple reasons. We do know that sanctions we’ve put in place, both through Congress and also with the international community, have gotten us to this point. They were always designed to change the calculus on the Iranian side to get them back to the table and work towards a diplomatic solution. But there’s a couple reasons why now isn’t the right time.

First, it would divide the international community. We went around the world saying we were putting sanctions in place not for the purpose of sanctions per se but to get us to a diplomatic solution. If we look like to our partners we weren’t telling the truth, we weren’t negotiating in good faith, this agreement we have signed onto with the P5+1, it says very clearly no new sanctions while we negotiate, how can we ask other people to stand by agreements we’re not ourselves willing to stand by?

Also, it could drive the Iranians to take a harder line. They have their own domestic political situation there; and if we are seen as being an intransigent party or not sincerely open to negotiations, it could urge their folks to take a harder line. And the worst-case scenario would be ending negotiations. So why take the risk with something that doesn’t even go into effect just to prove a point, which, if there’s even a small chance it could blow up, the best chance we have to resolve this diplomatically, why would you take that chance if you’re a member of Congress who’s repeatedly said you want to solve this diplomatically? It just defies logic.

Josh.

QUESTION: Is it possible that you – that the agreement that you made you weren’t – didn’t have the authority to make because you didn’t have an agreement from Congress?

MS. HARF: Well, the Executive Branch certainly makes international agreements. Congress plays a role, as we know, depending on what we’re talking about.

QUESTION: The question is: Did you promise something that you couldn’t deliver?

MS. HARF: Not at all. I mean, look, what we’ve repeatedly said to Congress, we’ve gone up there and said why this agreement, this first-step agreement, is a good thing. It addresses things Congress has long talked about. It halts the progress of the program, it rolls it back in key areas, and it gives us room to negotiate the diplomatic solution that members of Congress say they want. So clearly, we believe that they should give the negotiators and the intelligence community – everyone involved in this – listen to their advice – they’re the ones on the ground talking to the Iranians, they’re the ones talking to our P5+1 partners – and give them the space to do their jobs. And if it doesn’t work, we’re happy to let Congress do its job and pass new sanctions, as we know they can very quickly. And again, that’s why we’ve worked with Congress on sanctions for the last however many years, because they’ve gotten us to where we are today. So we don’t discount that; we just think now is not the time.

QUESTION: Egypt?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a legislation regarding the Egypt Assistance Foreign Act of 2013, which is like easing the controls that somehow recently was issued because of the – do you have anything to say about this?

MS. HARF: Let me check on the specifics of that legislation. I have my head focused elsewhere in Congress, clearly, today. Let me check on the specifics. I haven’t taken a look at it. And if we have more details, I’m happy to provide that.

QUESTION: Okay. The other --

MS. HARF: Or an assessment of it.

QUESTION: The other thing which is like yesterday was issued charges against President Morsy regarding different acts, whether it’s spying or conspiracy, whatever. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. HARF: We do. The new charges against Morsy and some of his former advisors raise real questions about political motivations in the judicial process. We’ve talked for a long time about our concerns about politically motivated arrests and detentions and charges, and we don’t believe that carrying out these actions would move Egypt’s future forward in any way. We’ll keep monitoring the situation and making that point very clear.

QUESTION: The term or the description of what the politically motivated charges – it is was used in the last two or three months. Do you think that anything – President Morsy or his colleagues, brothers, would be charged because of political motivated or you think there is no any charges can be attached to him?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do a legal analysis of all of the charges that have been brought, but suffice to say don’t believe that anyone should be subject to politically motivated charges. And these new charges certainly raise concerns about that in this case.

QUESTION: No, I’m just trying to figure out – because I’m not trying to argue with you. It’s a matter of – I know politically motivated charges are not accepted as a principle.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But this principle does it apply in this case or not?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to do a case-by-case analysis with that principle. I’m just not.

Yes.

QUESTION: Egypt? Do you have a reaction to the reports that the Egyptian police raided NGO offices yesterday?

MS. HARF: I do, yes.

QUESTION: Are you concerned by these things?

MS. HARF: We are. We’re deeply concerned about the current climate for freedom of expression and peaceful expression in Egypt. This includes disturbing reports of this overnight raid on a human rights organization in Egypt, during which Egyptian security forces arrested political activists on charges related to the new demonstrations law.

As we’ve talked about, this law has – there’s been legitimate controversy, I think, about this law over a broad spectrum of Egyptians. This comes on top of a number of other arrests of peaceful demonstrators and activists in Egypt. We do believe that it’s crucial for the Government of Egypt to create an open environment in which all Egyptians are able to express their views peacefully and in which civil society can play a meaningful role. That’s certainly always been our position, and we don’t think the climate right now has been particularly conducive to that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Just brief follow-up this question, another question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the recent weeks, we can see escalation of this type of violations or let’s say suppressing kind of voice of opposition and all these things. Do you change the level of the – your talk with the Egyptian officials regarding this, or are you still in touch with them or just like a statement coming from this podium or what?

MS. HARF: Just a statement from – no, I’m just kidding. (Laughter.) We’re in touch with them at a range of levels. We are deeply concerned about the recent climate. We constantly make our concerns known to them. When we have additional concerns, we raise them, certainly on the ground, and other where as appropriate.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Hold on, let me go to Lucas.

QUESTION: On the NSA?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There was a special advisory committee that made 46 recommendations to the White House on how to proceed with the NSA. And I was wondering, one of those recommendations was that the United States would not have its intelligence community spy on foreign leaders. And I was – give that to – the President would have to sign off on any kind of espionage on foreign leaders. Do you know or is the State Department aware of any kind of guarantees that other countries would be doing the same thing?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to take a look at it and see if we have anything on that for you.

QUESTION: And – same subject?

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Belarus.

QUESTION: Okay, well, does the State Department have a follow-up on its efforts to free the American prisoner in the UAE over the making of a satirical YouTube?

MS. HARF: A follow-up. Anything new?

QUESTION: On your efforts to free the gentleman.

MS. HARF: Let me see. Hold on. I don’t know if I have anything new on that. Not anything new, to my knowledge. Obviously, I’ve spoken about this a little bit. We’re providing consular services. We’ve been deeply concerned by his prolonged incarceration on charges related to freedom of speech, and we’re troubled with the limitations placed on free opinion and expression in the UAE writ large. So we’ll keep talking to them about it. I don’t have any update for you, I don’t think.

QUESTION: Okay. And what is the policy of the United States to condemn another country on the imprisonment of an American for making a satirical video when just a year ago the United States did something similar, imprisoned a gentleman – a filmmaker – for making a satirical video that was disproved to be the impetus of an attack in Benghazi?

MS. HARF: Well, first I think you’re trying to compare – I don’t even want to say apples and oranges; that’s too close in comparison for what I think you’re trying to compare. I don’t think there’s any relation. I think every case overseas, which is what the State Department deals with, is on a case-by-case basis. Certainly, in this situation we have been concerned about his prolonged incarceration. I don’t think that in any way relates to the other case that you brought up, which I don’t have any comment on from here.

QUESTION: Well, it relates that in both cases an amateur filmmaker made a satirical video and was imprisoned. So --

MS. HARF: I think you’re grossly exaggerating how they are related or even comparable. And I also think you are grossly generalizing about the videos in question.

QUESTION: Yes, please --

QUESTION: On that --

MS. HARF: Elise is running into the briefing room. This is like a moving briefing.

QUESTION: I had to go get --

MS. HARF: Did you just go to the party and come back?

QUESTION: No, I had to get through the rope line. I had to get through the rope line. Sorry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a question?

QUESTION: This is also about the UAE case. I mean, have you responded to the Governor of Minnesota’s letter?

MS. HARF: We have received the letter. We’re drafting a response right now.

QUESTION: So – and what do you expect December 23rd? I mean, are you expecting a verdict? Are you – do you expect a resolution to this case?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly have urged a fair – or a fair and expedient resolution to this case. I don’t have any preview of what might happen on the 23rd.

Yes.

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: Lots of movement today.

QUESTION: Do you have a chance to see the wastebook of the Senator Tom Coburn?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen parts of it.

QUESTION: Yeah, especially --

MS. HARF: Some light reading.

QUESTION: -- related to the State Department that it was mentioned that State Department spent $630,000 to buy fans or likes for on the Facebook.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I have something on that, I think, in here, maybe. Yes. Go ahead. Continue.

QUESTION: And that’s it.

MS. HARF: On the Facebook?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: All that stemware’s out at the party waiting for you guys. So, that’s what that went for. I’m kidding. That’s not real. Okay. Facebook likes.

QUESTION: That’s why I’m asking a soft question.

MS. HARF: No, no, no. This refers to online advertising. We don’t pay for Facebook likes. You pay for online advertising on Facebook. We believe it’s an effective way to promote public diplomacy programs to priority audiences. Of course, social media reaches people all over the world in ways we can’t out of an embassy or a consulate. And this is especially true when face-to-face interactions are limited by security concerns or geography. Certainly, we think this is a good way to get – to reach people all over the planet.

QUESTION: So this was part of PR program, the $630,000?

MS. HARF: It was through our IIP office. That’s not technically, I think, part of Public Affairs, but they do overseas public diplomacy and public outreach, as our bureaus do as well.

QUESTION: Belarus?

MS. HARF: Hold on. I’ll go to Catherine, and then I’ll go up here.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m going to ask you about – President Putin in Russia today gave quite a lengthy news conference, and two parts of it that I wanted to see if the State Department had a reaction to --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- excuse me, reaction to. In response to a question about clash of cultures between Russia and the West – and it’s hard not to read into LGBT rights and other human rights issues into this response – Mr. Putin said, “It’s not about criticizing somebody. It’s about protecting us from aggressive behavior on the part of some social groups which I believe do not just live in a way they like, but they try to aggressively impose their opinion on other people and other countries.” Do you have a reaction to that?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see those specific comments and I don’t know what Mr. Putin was referring to. I don’t even want to venture to guess what he was referring to. In terms of the LGBT issue, we’ve talked about, in Russia, the President’s made clear that he finds offensive the anti-LGBT legislation that we’ve seen in Russia, excuse me. And we believe very clearly that LGBT rights are human rights, that there’s no place for anti-LGBT legislation. We’ve made that point very clearly. I don't know if that’s what he was referring to, but if it was, that would certainly be our response.

QUESTION: And then also on Mr. Snowden, Mr. Putin said that the Russian Government hasn’t done anything except for grant him temporary asylum, and that he’s never met him.

MS. HARF: Then that would be something, right? That seems like something. (Laughter.) It might --

QUESTION: So I guess – what’s your response to that?

MS. HARF: I think that probably was just my response. (Laughter.) No, all joking aside, we talked about this at length when they granted him temporary asylum. We believe he needs to be returned to the United States to face the very serious charges that he’s facing. If he has all these courage of his convictions that he talks about, he should face them in a court of law, come back here and do so, like some of the people he has mentioned as people he looks up to.

Anything else? In the back.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Wait, wait. Hold on. In the very back. I haven’t come to you yet.

QUESTION: European council ministers have been discussing enlargement. They’ve made a number of decisions.

MS. HARF: In where? I’m sorry

QUESTION: European council ministers.

MS. HARF: European, yes.

QUESTION: European Union, yes. They decided to put Serbia forward, block Macedonia as usual, and also delay Albania for a while. Any views on this?

MS. HARF: Let me see. Well, we welcome the decision by the EU General Affairs Council to begin accession negotiations with Serbia in January 2014. The decision validates the Government of Serbia’s hard work in meeting the expectations of the EU member-states. We will continue to support Serbia’s efforts to enact the reforms necessary to continue its pursuit of EU integration. In general – you mentioned a couple other countries – in general, the U.S. remains committed to assisting those countries pursuing their Euro-Atlantic aspirations, including Macedonia and Albania. We look forward to the day when these countries fully integrate into European institutions, which in turn will deepen our relationship and partnership with them.

One more.

QUESTION: Just a quick one? Yesterday’s

MS. HARF: You’re playing Arshad today. Yes, one more. Last question, everyone.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday’s terrorist designations for the --

QUESTION: I have --

MS. HARF: Oh, you have one more too? I’m sorry. Okay. Two more, yes.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: And then we’re done, yes.

QUESTION: And for the al-Mulathamun Battalion – this is in Algeria – can you just talk about – that was a written statement. So if you can just comment on it, and to what extent does the designation itself help the U.S. interest in terms of countering these groups?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So I think that we put out a media note on this, which I think had a lot of information in it. In general, the consequence to these designation include a general prohibition against knowingly providing or attempting or conspiring to provide materiel support or resources to the groups that we designate as terrorists. Also, the freezing of all property and all interests in property that are in the U.S. or come within the U.S. or the control of U.S. persons.

So the designations have real impacts. It helps in our ability to cut off funding for these organizations, certainly, and support for them within the U.S., if there is any. I don’t – in this case, I’m not aware either way, but certainly it’s an important tool in fighting these groups.

QUESTION: And to what extent are they also a threat to the countries that they’re in? Were you consulted or did you consult with either the governments of Morocco or Algeria about these specific groups?

MS. HARF: Or Algeria? I’m happy to check. I don’t – we talk to both of these countries all the time about counterterrorism issues. I don't know if we consulted on the designation. But certainly, our goal with designating groups is because we think they’re dangerous. This group primarily operates in the Sahel, as you mentioned, and we think it’s important to do everything we can to not allow people to support them in any way we can.

Yes, last question, I promise.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just on human rights, two parts.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: First part is that I saw your statement on Belarus, but is the U.S. planning anything, further action, any sanctions, anything?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything new to announce on that. I’m happy to check with our team if there are.

QUESTION: Okay. The second is – the follow-up on that question: If you hear the – Putin’s press conference, he went in detail defending gay and – not – defending the anti-gay rights law. And so in Europe, they are wondering if your delegation which is going, are they free to protest on behalf of gay right activists? If they do and the Russians react – so this is – will be a very – developing into a controversial situation.

MS. HARF: Well, right. We’ve been very clear, the President’s been clear about – as I said, that he finds offensive this legislation, and that certainly there would be no place ever in Russia to retaliate against Americans there that happen to be LGBT or standing up for LGBT rights, and certainly not as part of something with the, I think, sort of worldwide message of the Olympic Games. I think that’s offensive. We don’t have any reason to think they will. I think they’ve actually spoken to this a little bit, the Russian Government. I’d refer you to them.

QUESTION: It’s – yeah, it’s ambiguous.

MS. HARF: Yeah. So I’d refer you to them. But we certainly believe that that kind of discrimination would have no place in general, certainly not as part of the Olympics.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:48 p.m.)

DPB # 208

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 19, 2013]