Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 22, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel / Montreux / Geneva II / Geneva Communique / Bilateral Meetings
  • ISRAEL
    • Terrorist Threats / State Department Facilities
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Ambassador Indyk / Framework for Negotiations
    • Position on Settlements
  • UKRAINE
    • Maidan and Other Protestors / Refrain from Violence / Use of Sanctions
  • SYRIA
    • Security Situation / Terrorists / ISIS
    • Further Discussions in Geneva
    • Iranian Involvement / Geneva I Communique / United Nations
  • EGYPT
    • Membership into the African Union
  • JAPAN/SOUTH KOREA
    • Sea of Japan / U.S Board of Geographic Names
  • CHINA
    • Deputy Secretary Burns Travel / Meetings
  • RUSSIA
    • Edward Snowden
    • Olympic Games in Sochi / Security
  • GREECE
    • Convicted Terrorist at Large
  • AZERBAIJAN
    • Refrain from Violence
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Peace Process / Consultations with Europeans
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Mr. Tamayo Denial of Clemency / Texas / Consular Access
  • CHINA
    • Human Right Activist Xu Zhiyong Trial / Call for Release
  • SYRIA
    • Support for Opposition
  • UKRAINE
    • Maidan and Other Protestors / Revocation of Visas / Support of Opposition in Peaceful Protest
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • IGAD Meetings / Cessation of Hostilities


TRANSCRIPT:

2:18 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the press briefing, the in-person press briefing, the first one of the week. And thank you for your patience yesterday with the snow day.

I have a couple updates on the Secretary’s travel at the top, and then I’m happy to open it up for questions.

Today, as you know, Secretary Kerry is in Montreux, Switzerland where he is attending the Geneva II conference on Syria. In his remarks today at the conference, which some of you may have seen, he reiterated the conference’s objective of building for a transitional government formed by mutual consent. Secretary Kerry stressed the importance of the Geneva communique, which has the support of the international community, as a roadmap for a peaceful transition.

He also highlighted how the scourge of thousands of extremists have further increased the suffering of the Syrian people, and that the Assad regime is a magnet for terrorism. The Secretary concluded that the international community has an obligation to find a way forward. He urged all parties to forge a resolution that can provide peace to the region and peace to the people of Syria.

As you know, he’s had some bilateral meetings on the sidelines, some discussions. I know the road team has been updating folks as well.

So with that, Lara, start us off.

QUESTION: All right. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot on Montreux and Syria today, but I’d like to start in Tel Aviv --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- where there are reports that Israel says it has stopped an al-Qaida plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, as well other targets. And the Israelis say that they have arrested three Palestinians. They say that they are on orders from Ayman Zawahiri, and they say that they were going on to Syria. So can you confirm these reports? How believable are they? And do you think that this will affect the peace process there at all?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple of points. Obviously, we’ve been in contact with the Israeli Government regarding these threats. We’re closely following the situation. As you mentioned, the U.S. Embassy was not just the target, but other targets, I believe, were mentioned as well in the threat. Obviously, we employ a wide range of security measures to safeguard U.S. citizens and our employees who work around the world, certainly here.

I’d refer you to the Government of Israel for more of the specifics that you mentioned. I don’t have independent corroboration of some of those specifics. Our folks are working on that right now. But because this was Israeli information, I’d point you to them for the corroboration. But obviously we’re looking into it as well. I don't have reason to be believe it’s not true; I just don’t have independent verification.

QUESTION: Are there being steps taken by the State Department to, I don’t know, evacuate or put further security measures on the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv?

MS. HARF: On the first part of that question, no. We obviously don’t discuss all of our security measures. We already have fairly high security at our facilities there. If we need to take additional measures, I’m sure people will. I’m not aware of any, but again, that doesn’t mean those conversations aren’t happening.

And I didn’t address one of your first questions – apologies, I’ll go back to it – in terms of the peace process. Obviously, we don’t think this will in any way impact the peace process negotiations. Obviously, the Secretary has made clear countering the potential threat of terrorism is part of what, obviously, is high on General Allen’s agenda as he’s engaged in these discussions, but we don’t think that this threat would affect those discussions going forward.

QUESTION: On this point --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, the Israelis are saying, this man from East Jerusalem, Iyad Abu-Sara, basically confessed to a series of things. He was going to attack a bus, then apparently changed plans, and so on. Did they share any of their evidence with you? Is there anything other than his confession?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve obviously been in touch with them on this. I’m not going to, probably, going into too more details about what those discussions looked like. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there’s more we can share. But we talk to the Israelis all the time about counterterrorism issues, about threats. We share information all the time on those threats. I just don’t have the specifics here.

QUESTION: What about the two others from the West Bank? Are you in cooperation with the Palestinian security forces on this issue?

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks, Said. I just don’t have all the details of this quite yet.

QUESTION: Marie, just one more. Specifically, one of the most concerning aspects of this is the alleged connection to al-Qaida.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything on that?

MS. HARF: I can’t. Again, our folks are working on our own to corroborate the information. I’d refer you to the Israelis for the facts that they’ve laid out here in terms of that connection. I just don’t have anything independent on that to share.

QUESTION: So what’s the level of concern? Is this more than usual, shall we call it?

MS. HARF: I think our folks are still looking at it. Obviously, we’re always concerned about terrorist threats to our facilities around the world, but certainly Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and elsewhere. But I just don’t have a good sense for that. I’ll keep checking with our folks. I know they’re looking at the information and just starting to go through it right now.

QUESTION: Is all the material basically oral and confessional and so on? Or were they – do they have, like, physical --

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Israelis speak for what evidence they have.

QUESTION: Okay. Could we stay with the Palestinians and the Israelis?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you update us on the talks that took place here on Tuesday between Ambassador Indyk and Minister Livni and Molho?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, I don’t have a big update. As we said, Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Indyk met with the Justice Minister and, of course, chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and Itzik Molho that evening in Washington to continue to discuss the framework for negotiations. Meetings have continued. I don’t have a further readout of them. As you know, we don’t generally provide readouts of them.

QUESTION: Okay. Also you are expecting that the negotiator Saeb Erekat is coming to town next week?

MS. HARF: Early next week, we expect the Palestinian negotiating team will travel to Washington. I don’t have more specifics on that.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the acceleration in settlement activities? The Israelis announced 281 in new housing units for the second time in one week.

MS. HARF: I don’t have a specific response on that announcement. I’m happy to check with our folks. I think our position on settlements is very clear and well known. Nothing further for that on you, Said.

QUESTION: And just one more on the issue of the negotiations, the timetable, the nine-month timetable. Now, Saeb Erekat is issuing confusing statements. On the one hand, he says we’re flexible; but on the other, he says not one day extra. Could you update us on your talks with them? Are they flexible on the issue of extending these talks beyond the nine-month limit?

MS. HARF: Well, I believe President Abbas has also spoken to this as well. What we’ve said is we’re operating on a nine-month timeframe. If, at the end of that, there’s a reason to extend it, I think the Palestinians themselves have said they’re open to that. But we’re focused right now on getting the framework in place and then seeing how long the process would take after that. We’re still operating, though, on the nine-month timetable.

Yeah. Anything else?

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Where do we begin?

MS. HARF: You’ve got the statement we put out.

QUESTION: Yes, we did. I noted that you criticized the government as well as some of these informal groups and some of the ultranationalist types. What exactly is going on? Because previously, I don’t think that you had really specifically named them.

MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question. I trust here that a large majority of the protestors here, and certainly the Maidan protestors, are peaceful. And we’ve said repeatedly that – called them that, peaceful protestors, and said that the government should not use violence against them.

There are these small – I mean, I have a little bit on that. Obviously, you saw our – saw – excuse me – our statement. But we do as well condemn the violent actions by some extreme right-wing demonstrators. There are these very small parties, a very small part of the demonstrations, and so that’s why we’re calling on all sides to refrain from violence. But again, I trust that a majority of these protestors are nonviolent.

QUESTION: And what kind of additional steps you could take, you could take to response to the violence in Ukraine? I mean, you mentioned in your statement that you could – you would consider additional steps. What could --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Including possibly sanctions. I don’t have more details on what those sanctions might look like. But we will continue to consider additional steps, as I said, including sanctions, in response to the use of violence. We urge – continue to urge President Yanukovych and his government to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians, including the right to peaceful protest. And if we have to take additional steps, we will.

QUESTION: Can we go --

MS. HARF: Anything else on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Geneva II?

MS. HARF: Geneva II.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, you said something and the Secretary in his statement, he said that the Assad regime continues to be a magnet for terrorism. Could you explain what that means?

MS. HARF: I just said and I reiterated at the top --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve repeatedly said that the security situation in Syria has led to the rise of terrorists there. We’ve said that he’s created a security climate in which terrorists have been allowed to operate freely. We’ve seen them increasingly spread throughout the region, in Lebanon and Iraq, because of the security situation in Syria. So that’s certainly what he was referring to.

QUESTION: So that is not meant to suggest that the Syrian regime is (inaudible) terrorism and training terrorists and so on, is he?

MS. HARF: I can check. I know there have been some of those suggestions out there. I’ll check and see what the latest is on that. But it is our strong belief that what we’ve seen – and not just our belief, but from the evidence – that terrorists have been allowed to flourish and operate in Syria because of the climate the Assad regime has created there, also has allowed them to operate more freely in the region and which we’ve seen the horrible impact of in a number of countries.

QUESTION: Okay. There are also reports that you and your allies in the GCC are aiding and in fact arming and training members of the ISIS. Could you confirm or deny that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been very clear that the ISIS is a terrorist group. The United States has. I can only speak for the United States.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So that hasn’t changed. Our position on that has not changed in any way.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t support the ISIS in any way, shape, or form?

MS. HARF: We – they are considered a terrorist group, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. Because they are perceived as a tool to fight the al-Qaida elements – Jabhat al-Nusrah.

MS. HARF: Well, we also consider Jabhat al-Nusrah to be a terrorist group. We don’t support terrorist groups, period.

QUESTION: Marie, there’s been some reports linking Assad to some of those terrorist groups in Syria. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: I think that’s a little bit what Said just asked about. I’ll check with our folks and see what the linkages are. Obviously, as I said, the climate that Assad has created has led to the rise of terrorist groups in Syria. I can check and see if there are more details on that.

QUESTION: So what’s next? I mean, now that after a day of so many speeches and so on, and inflammatory rhetoric on both sides and so on, what is next for the Secretary of State?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn't equate the rhetoric on the two sides in any way, actually.

QUESTION: You don’t equate the rhetoric?

MS. HARF: No, I think that the --

QUESTION: Okay. By the opposition and the regime?

MS. HARF: No, the rhetoric we saw from the regime was offensive, not based on any sort of reality, just ludicrous on the face of it, right? That certainly in no way is equitable with anything that anyone else said at this conference.

QUESTION: Okay, so what are the Secretary’s plans, let’s say, for tomorrow or the day after, because --

MS. HARF: The Secretary’s going to Davos.

QUESTION: -- apparently the talks will begin on the 24th?

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary is going to Davos, as we’ve talked about. He’ll be giving a speech on the Middle East.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: The team will remain on the ground, go back to Geneva now that the watch conference is over to continue to help in any way with the discussions between the two sides, which I would note that it is actually significant, setting aside the rhetoric, that for the first time since this conflict began the two sides are sitting down at the table together. We don’t expect this will be easy, or it will all be resolved today or tomorrow. But this is an important step even though it’s a difficult one for everyone, quite frankly, to take.

So Ambassador Ford and team will go back to Geneva and they’ll continue the discussions. I don’t have a timeline for how long those will take. And I think part of, quite frankly, what the discussions are at Geneva II is determining what comes next – what the discussions will look like, how the negotiations will go – and I think those are all discussions that are ongoing right now. Nothing to announce, but that’s certainly one of the things that needs to be decided.

Yes, Lara. And then I’ll go to you next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, so you saw, I’m sure, President Rouhani’s statements today saying that he doesn’t have a lot of hope for success coming out of this process at Montreux or Geneva. And I know that Under Secretary Wendy Sherman is also going back to Geneva. She’s been a large part of not only this process, but the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Do you anticipate or is there any fear in this Department or the Administration that the dust up over the disinvite for Iran will impact – for the Geneva conference – will impact the negotiations? Is there any kind of residual impact?

MS. HARF: No. No, no. Not any that I’ve heard. And we have been very clear and the Iranians, I think, have been clear, certainly in our discussions, that these are separate issues – that the nuclear negotiations are one set of negotiations and – excuse me – this discussion about what, if Iran should go to Geneva II or what role they can play in Syria, are completely separate.

QUESTION: Has that been affirmed disinvite went out? I mean, in other words, was that kind of an understanding from a week ago, several days ago, before the invite, the disinvite?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if there’ve, quite frankly, been specific discussions about that since the invite fiasco, I would say. But we’ve been very clear throughout this process, and we’ve been very clear about Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the nuclear negotiations, right? When we’ve been asked about it publicly, we said so. So we’ve clearly had incredible disagreements over Syria throughout the entire nuclear negotiating process. That really is separate. I think both we and the Iranians probably have a desire to keep them separate.

And I would also note that the U.S. and Under Secretary Sherman play very different roles in the two negotiations. In the nuclear negotiations, we are a negotiating party. We, the EU, led by Lady Ashton, the P5+1, and the Iranians are all at the table as negotiating partners. In this, it’s really the two parties led by the UN. We are there and the Russians are there to facilitate and help in any way we can, but we don’t have an active role in the same way. So I think that’s an, I think, maybe an important thing to remember.

QUESTION: To follow on your words on the fiasco. Why was this fiasco was allowed to happen in the first place?

MS. HARF: What do you mean?

QUESTION: I mean, did you not have clear communication with the United Nations?

MS. HARF: No, we absolutely had clear communications with the United Nations, and as I said yesterday, I don’t think there’s a lot of benefit – let me just say a few things here. You’re just waiting to follow up, I can tell.

QUESTION: No, no, I’m not. Yeah.

MS. HARF: And I said a little bit of this yesterday, that a tick-tock is probably not a useful thing to do right now, but we made privately very clear in the Secretary’s conversations and Ambassador Power’s conversations to the UN, we never budged privately from our position that Iran needed to commit to the Geneva I communique, period. It was an absolute prerequisite. When they did it matters less than that they should do it. So they didn’t do that, and we are where we are today. What we’re focused on is moving forward with the process.

QUESTION: But that’s a major breakdown in communication. I mean, you have the office of the Secretary General, who is always very methodical, you have his deputy, Jeffrey Feltman and so on, that --

MS. HARF: We made very clear our position. I’d refer you to them to talk about why they went ahead and issued the invitation. I think they’ve actually spoken about this publicly, that they – and let me just see what I have on this here – that the Secretary General did rely on assurances from Iran that at the end of the day, Iran did not deliver on. So again, Iran had --

QUESTION: Reneged. Right.

MS. HARF: -- indicated they would endorse Geneva I. The Secretary General, as he said, I think, publicly, relied on those assurances in issuing the invitation. When those assurances weren’t backed up, the invitation was rescinded.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. HARF: But no, I wouldn’t say there was a breakdown in communication at all --

QUESTION: So --

MS. HARF: -- between us and the UN.

QUESTION: -- in that sense, what you’re saying that Iran reneged on its own commitment.

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary General has said that he was relying on assurances. I don’t know what those conversations were. Those were between the UN and Iran. I wasn’t in them. Our folks weren’t in them. But again, the point here, taking this up a level, is that we and the UN were in constant communication. We were clear about our position. They understood it. At the end of the day, an invitation was issued on the basis of accepting Geneva I. When the Iranians failed to do that before, concurrently, or after the invitation was given, it was rescinded.

QUESTION: Do you believe that there is a better understanding now or a clearer understanding of the principles of Geneva I among all the participants?

MS. HARF: I don’t think there was an unclear one before.

QUESTION: So you think that you see eye-to-eye with the Russians, let’s say, on what Geneva I means?

MS. HARF: I also didn’t say that. I think one of the conversations, certainly, that’s happening right now is what exactly Geneva I means in practice and how we would go about implementing it. That’s obviously the goal of the conference, right? But we certainly agree, and the Russians have spoken about this, about the principles that Geneva I entails. We and the international community all agree on those.

Syria still?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’ll go to Elliot, and then back to you.

QUESTION: Thanks. So, to follow up on an earlier question, you say that it was a fiasco, but I was wondering if --

MS. HARF: That’s going to be the headline, isn’t it? I should have chosen a different word.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) But, I mean, leaving aside the fact that the U.S. and the UN had very clear communications, does the fact that Iran apparently went back on the word that they gave to the Secretary General raise concerns in your mind about Iran’s sincerity and credibility as a negotiator?

MS. HARF: Well, I – again, as I said, the U.S. wasn’t in those discussions. I wasn’t, the U.S. officials weren’t in those discussions. Who knows what was said in those discussions. Obviously, the Secretary General and the UN thought something, and the Iranians thought something, and who knows how this all came to pass and how we got to a place where they didn’t accept the communique? I’m not placing blame, and by using the word “fiasco,” I didn’t mean to place blame on anyone, quite frankly, because to be clear, we all want Iran to accept the Geneva I communique. If they had, and they could be at the table – they are clearly part of the situation in Syria. So if they had accepted it, that would both show the Assad regime that one of its main backers accepted the communique, but also would get somebody who does have a significant amount of influence at the table.

So we wanted them to endorse the Geneva I communique, as did everyone else. So again, at this point, the bottom line is that they didn’t. I don’t know where the breakdown took place, but this isn’t about trust. Negotiations are never about trust on any of these issues. They’re about concrete, tangible, and verifiable steps. That’s certainly the case across the board on all of our negotiations.

QUESTION: But negotiations are about being able to back up words with actions --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- and the kinds of actions you take after you say something --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- does mean something, so, again, is this – that a matter of concern?

MS. HARF: And that’s how we judge people, is by their actions – countries, people, leaders, by their actions. And in this case, we didn’t get the actions that we needed for them to be a participant.

Chris. Yeah.

QUESTION: Just about 30 minutes ago or so when the Secretary in Montreux giving his press availability, I believe he was asked about what could come of the conference and what would come after it, and he spoke about a parallel track for achieving some of these goals and for pressuring the Assad regime. Can you tell us a little bit about what --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- parallel tracks exist?

MS. HARF: Well, none, (a). I’ll say that. But what I – and I just referred to that, I think, where I said one of the discussions that’s going to have to happen is how we move forward from here, what that negotiation looks like. Is it another conference like this? Is it the UN holding individual – it’s the sort of – there’s a wide variety of things and ways and modalities that can play out in terms of how we move forward with the negotiation. So that’s what he was referring to, that going forward we need to make decisions about where we go from here. We’ve been talking about Geneva II and that process for a long time, but really, logistically, how those negotiations continue after everyone leaves Geneva.

QUESTION: You guys have alluded to maybe having Iran participate in this whole discussion in a less-than-full capacity if they took steps towards becoming a more positive actor in Syria.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is – should we count possible discussions with Iran among the (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, we still would call on them to take those kind of steps that I’ve outlined in the past about what they could do to show that they wanted to be a positive influence in Syria. But because we don’t know how this will work next and what it will look like logistically, I just don’t want to venture to guess about what they would have to do to be a part of any discussion.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is Iran invitation by now history, or you’re – you can reconsider under certain circumstances?

MS. HARF: Well, the conference just happened today, so I don’t think we can go back and rewind time and get them invited to a conference that in a few hours will be over at the ministerial level.

QUESTION: Even if they admit or --

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know practically --

QUESTION: -- admit to Geneva I?

MS. HARF: Well, we have no indications they’re going to, and the Geneva II conference, which that was a prerequisite for at the ministerial level, at least, ends in just a few short hours. So I think at this point, it’s a moot point.

QUESTION: One more question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said you don’t know how long it would take starting tomorrow, after tomorrow.

MS. HARF: Right, so they go back to Geneva.

QUESTION: Is it an open-ended, given the --

MS. HARF: I don’t think so. I think they’ll probably meet for a few days. I just don’t have a firm deadline on when they’re going to end.

(Cell phone rings.) Anything else on Syria? Do you want me to answer the phone?

QUESTION: Oh, I’m so sorry. (Laughter.) That never happened.

MS. HARF: Haven’t you seen at the – where was it – I think my colleague at the White House, when it happened a few times, took someone’s phone.

QUESTION: Can I go to Egypt?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Okay. There is --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to take your phone, Said.

QUESTION: You’re about to issue an invitation to 47 African countries here on August 5 and 6 and you are not inviting Egypt.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And today, your counterpart in the Egyptian foreign ministry, Mr. Badr Abdelatty, said that this is short-sighted and ill-advised.

MS. HARF: Well, Egypt was not invited because their membership in the African Union has been suspended. I know this is a White House invitation, so I’d point you to them for more information, and of course, to the African Union about how membership works when it’s suspended. And if I have more to say about that, I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: Okay. So the only reason is because its membership in the African Union was suspended?

MS. HARF: Correct, yep, that’s the reason.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go to East Asia?

QUESTION: East Asia.

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

QUESTION: Okay. I have two questions. One on – regarding the Virginian state assembly bill that – about the name of Sea of Japan --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: -- which R.O.K. is against, and then just I want to make sure about your position.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: So what does U.S. Government officially call the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula?

MS. HARF: So the U.S. Government uses names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a well-named board. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan. We do understand that the Republic of Korea uses a different term. We encourage Japan and Korea to work together to reach a mutually agreed way forward on this issue, and per U.S. policy, we use only one name to refer to these kind of features for, I think, clarity purposes more than anything. This is longstanding U.S. policy that we apply across the globe.

QUESTION: Okay. One more.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I think Deputy Secretary Burns now is in China and then he met a lot of Chinese officials. Do you have any readout about that?

MS. HARF: Let me see. I do have a little one. Thank you for the question. He is in Beijing from January 21st to 23rd to discuss a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. He met with Chinese Vice President Li today, State Councilor Yang, Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang, Executive Vice Foreign Minister – sorry, these are long titles – and the PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Wang.

Deputy Secretary Burns will lead a bilateral interim strategic security dialogue in Beijing on January 23rd. The two sides will exchange views on a wide range of strategic security issues. Our Assistant Secretary for the East Asia Pacific, Danny Russel, is also traveling, is in China having meetings as well. And these regular consultations, all of them, reflect our respective commitment to foster a cooperative relationship in the region.

QUESTION: Did they discuss about Chinese ADIZ?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details on what those discussions entailed. I’m happy to check with the Deputy Secretary and his team and see if we have more we can share.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Catherine, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I move to Edward Snowden?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Does --

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region --

MS. HARF: Yeah, we’ll stay in the region, and then we’ll go to Edward Snowden.

QUESTION: So it’s being reported that – excuse me – Ambassador Kennedy is going to be traveling to the island of Okinawa. Can you comment as to the timing of that?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t aware of that. I’m happy to check with her and her folks. I just wasn’t aware. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Sorry.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government believe Edward Snowden acted alone or with help from a foreign government, in particular Russia?

MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. I’m happy to check with our folks. I don’t have any information to indicate that, but I would like to check with our team on that one.

QUESTION: And can you update us – I assume that the goal is still to bring him back to the United States --

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- on your efforts to do that?

MS. HARF: I mean, our position hasn’t changed. He needs to come back here to face the charges he faces. We’ve made that position very clear. I don’t have anything new to update you on in terms of our efforts to get him returned here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Speaking about Russia --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- can we talk about the Games in Sochi?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You talk about that yesterday, but does the U.S. have full confidence in the security the Russians will be providing for the Games?

MS. HARF: Well, we know that the Russians are committed to doing everything they can in terms of security. We’ve said – and they obviously have the lead on this. We’ve said we stand ready to help in any way we can. We play a liaison role here. As we know, these kind of major international events are often potential targets or are discussed in terms of chatter out there, in terms of bad actors who want to do bad things. But again, we’re working with them in any way we can to help.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And there are some reports that the Russians requested some equipment from the United States that could aid them in fighting terrorism.

MS. HARF: I can check on that.

QUESTION: In this case, would the U.S. have to send them, like, personnel to operate this equipment?

MS. HARF: I can check on that, Said. I’m not familiar with the specifics. We obviously have Diplomatic Security agents who will be there assisting the Russian Government. In terms of what the equipment is and what they might be doing --

QUESTION: And you understand the Russians would be receptive to such a thing?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Would the United States be willing to offer sensitive eavesdropping equipment that maybe we wouldn’t want the Russians to learn about?

MS. HARF: I don’t know what specifics, honestly, we’d be willing to offer in terms of cooperation. I think they probably have their own robust intelligence-gathering tools at their disposal. But again, I don’t have any more on specifics.

Yes.

QUESTION: I have a question on Greece and terrorism.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Convicted terrorist Mr. Xiros, as you maybe know, reappeared with a video --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and threatened everybody in Greece – politicians, judges, journalists. Do you have any comment?

MS. HARF: We do. Well, we’re obviously deeply concerned that this convicted terrorist remains at large and is now allegedly issuing renewed calls for violence. We remain very closely engaged with the Greek officials concerning this case. We continue to call on the government to do everything they can to locate him and return him to prison. You saw Secretary Kerry last week, before his meeting with the Greek foreign minister, mentioning the fact that we do work together on countering terrorism. And we’ll continue to be in close contact with Greek – excuse me – authorities on trying to find him and bring him back to prison.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on that, please?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do – have you offered to provide any help to the Greek authorities in order to locate Xiros?

MS. HARF: I can check with our folks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Marie, there was a violation of ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh two days ago. Azerbaijani groups crossed the border and an Armenian soldier was killed. Do you follow? Do you have any statements from this building about that?

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of the specific incident. I’m happy to check with our folks and get you a comment.

QUESTION: I would like briefly to follow up. The Armenian lobby groups here in Washington and the analysts made statements that every time Azerbaijan threatens to launch an attack – or launches an attack, apparently, like couple of days ago – the State Department merely makes very general statements limited to calling both parties to remain calm instead of criticizing the act of violation and the party which violated the ceasefire – this case in Azerbaijan. If you could also comment on this.

MS. HARF: You’re registering a complaint on our statements’ lack of specificity?

QUESTION: Yep. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Well, duly noted. We make statements in situations like this. Obviously, every situation is different. But we do call on parties to try to refrain from violence and to work through issues through peaceful means. Again, I’m happy to check on the specifics on this. I just am not aware of the facts. But thank you for the question.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Said.

QUESTION: Yes. Could I go back just quickly to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Always.

QUESTION: Today, the European ambassador issued a statement --

MS. HARF: Whose ambassador? I’m sorry?

QUESTION: European --

MS. HARF: European.

QUESTION: -- ambassadors to Tel Aviv --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- issued a statement calling on both Israelis and Palestinians to give the strong sacrifices that you need to – if the Kerry initiative is to have a chance. Do you have any comment on that? Are you aware of the statement?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t – I’m not. It doesn’t mean our team’s not. I’ll check with them, obviously. We – our consultation, we talk to the Europeans quite a bit about our peace process efforts, and if they want to come out and say that people should support them and work with us, then I think we’re probably happy for them to do so. But I haven’t seen the statement, so I don’t want to comment on it specifically.

Yes. And then I’ll go back to you.

QUESTION: I know you spoke yesterday about Mr. – is it Tamayo?

MS. HARF: Yes. Tamayo.

QUESTION: Tamayo. Do you have any updates? I know you spoke about this yesterday --

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: -- but he’s supposed to be executed tonight.

MS. HARF: Tonight. I do. Sorry, let me get back here.

I did speak about this yesterday. It is my understanding that he was denied clemency, and I think is scheduled to be executed later today. I don’t have any updates from our end except to say that we’ve been in communication with the Texas state government throughout this process. We obviously take our international obligations very seriously to provide consular notification and access, and we will continue to work to uphold these obligations.

Again, as the Secretary said in his letter that he sent in September, as a former prosecutor, he takes these kinds of cases incredibly seriously. Mr. Tamayo is convicted of killing a police officer. It’s not that we don’t take that seriously, it’s that we take seriously our obligations to uphold consular access for folks incarcerated here because we go all over the world and ask other countries to do the same thing and apply those same obligations when our folks are incarcerated overseas.

So this is about process, it’s about upholding our obligations, and I think we’ll probably have more to say if – as we get to the end of the day here.

QUESTION: Towards the end of the day, you think you’ll have something to say?

MS. HARF: Yeah, if this goes ahead, as it looks like it will, I am sure we will have something to say.

QUESTION: You mean after the execution?

Okay. Has there been – I don’t know what the protocol is, but has there been any interaction between the State Department and the Supreme Court to see if they would issue a stay, or --

MS. HARF: I don’t – not that I’m aware of. I can check with our legal folks. Not that I’m aware of. I think we’ve been just working with the Texas folks, but let me check on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. HARF: So I can see, I guess.

Yeah. I promised here, then we’re going to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we move on to China?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And do you know the activist for human rights, his name is Xu Zhiyong?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: His first trial case on hold in – Wednesday. And the (inaudible) and his supporter was excluded by the Chinese Government. So how do you react to his trial?

MS. HARF: Right. We are concerned that he’s been prosecuted as retribution, I think, for his public campaign to expose corruption, and for the peaceful expression of his views. This is the latest in a pattern, quite frankly, of arrest and detentions of public interest lawyers, internet activist journalists, religious leaders, and others who are challenging official policies and actions in China. We obviously call on Chinese authorities to release him and other political prisoners immediately, to cease any restrictions on their freedom of movement, and guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they’re entitled under China’s international human rights commitments. I think we’ll continue to monitor the case, but suffice to say, I think we’ve made our position clear.

QUESTION: Thank you. Sorry, there’s a follow-up.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Chris. Oh, wait, just a follow-up?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Apparently, at this trial there were some foreign diplomats who went there to support him in the report.

MS. HARF: Oh. Okay.

QUESTION: Would you know if there was an American diplomat?

MS. HARF: I can check. I’m not aware, but let me check on that for you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Chris.

QUESTION: On the trial, has there been any contact between the State Department and the governor that we should be aware of besides that letter?

MS. HARF: Any new contact between the State Department and the governor.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Let me --

QUESTION: In your – or anything since then.

MS. HARF: I don’t believe between Secretary Kerry and the governor.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: As I said on January 14th, some of our – and the Justice Department officials met with the Texas office of the attorney general. I can check and see if there’s been any with governor specifically. Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: One more, if I can go back to Syria real quick.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Part of the Secretary’s remarks referred to augmented support for the opposition. Can you tell us anything more about that role? Should we expect more military support?

MS. HARF: Well, nothing new to announce, but obviously, we’re very committed to continuing to support the opposition and increased – our funding of the opposition to keep working with them. I don’t have anything specific to announce, though.

What else? In the back, yes.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m from Estonian Public Broadcasting. I’m --

MS. HARF: Thank you for coming.

QUESTION: I would like to go back to Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I was hoping there was a bit more to talk about Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The statement you put out was talking about how the United States has already revoked visas of several people responsible --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- for violence.

MS. HARF: Several officials, Ukrainian officials.

QUESTION: Several Ukrainian officials.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there is no opposition --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- protestors, nothing like this?

MS. HARF: Ukrainian officials.

QUESTION: So can you elaborate who are these people and what do they do?

MS. HARF: Well, we obviously – we do have broad authority to revoke visas. As we said, these were several officials implicated in violence against peaceful protestors. For privacy reasons, I can’t go into who they were. Obviously, we don’t always talk about specifics on visas, but if information comes to light indicating that a visa holder may be inadmissible to the U.S. or otherwise ineligible, we do have a fairly broad authority to revoke those visas.

QUESTION: Just to follow up with the same, these protests are going on right now again, and they’re going to be escalating, I’m afraid, again. And there is as you put out in your statement, there are opposition groups that are provoking this just as the – most of these people are peaceful.

MS. HARF: Right. A large majority. These are very, very small right-wing extremist groups that are responsible for some of the violence, yes.

QUESTION: Is there somebody that – in the opposition, that would – that the State Department or you would say that is – the opposition that you would be talking to or endorsing or supporting against somebody, or is it just mostly about ceasing violence?

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of – we support the opposition in their efforts to peacefully protest because we think peaceful protest is a key part of any democracy or any government aiming to be a democracy, certainly. We’ve urged the Government of Ukraine to take steps to represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including – and this is an important point, I think – repealing antidemocratic legislation and beginning a political – or a national dialogue, excuse me, with a political opposition.

So obviously, we don’t endorse a person or a party – not in that way I think that maybe your question was getting at – but we support the notion that people should be allowed to peacefully protest, and we condemn violence no matter who perpetrates it, whether it’s – in some cases there have been – obviously, we saw the police shooting and killing two protesters, but also these small extremist groups that have – okay, that podium just broke. So, just pointing that to everyone, this is a dangerous job, people.

But I would note – actually that was very funny – that the current protests began when the Ukrainian president went back on his commitments in terms of European integration, and I think that’s important to remember. But again, we condemn violence in any form by anybody.

I think that might be a sign that the briefing needs to end. (Laughter.) Any other questions, guys?

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: South Sudan?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Did you have an update on the U.S. diplomatic efforts to try to resolve the crisis? Because apparently, the fighting continues to rage and the talks in Ethiopia are completely deadlocked.

MS. HARF: Yeah, and when – you asked about this yesterday, so I did get a little more information. There were meetings – IGAD meetings on South Sudan planned for this week. This was the summit, I think, you asked about yesterday. They have been postponed, but we would note that IGAD’s heads of state will meet next week on the margins of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia to discuss next steps and keep up the pressure on the parties to resolve the conflict.

Not a huge update on the diplomatic front. We continue to call on rebel leader Machar and President Kiir to sign immediately the cessation of hostilities agreement, which has been tabled by IGAD, because fighting on the ground needs to stop. We need the talks to progress. We need both sides to refrain from offensive military operations. And that’s sort of, I think, the latest on that as well.

Anything else? Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:56 p.m.)

DPB # 14

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - January 22, 2014]