Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 21, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • UKRAINE
    • Agreement Implementation / U.S. Support / EU Cooperation / Talking to Government and Opposition / Constitutional Package / Amnesty / Sanctions / Policy Tools / Visa Bans / Economic Issues
  • CHINA / TIBET
    • Dalai Lama Visit / Chinese Condemnation / U.S. Urges Resumption of Dialogue
    • U.S.-China Relationship
  • IRAN
    • Next Round of Talks in Vienna / Political Director Level
    • Framework in Place / Host of Issues / JPA
  • VENEZUELA
    • Expulsion of U.S. Diplomat / Reciprocal Actions / Options
  • UKRAINE
    • U.S. Support for Early Elections / Visa Bans / Accountability / Ongoing Protests / Condemnation of Violence / Need for Peaceful Protests
  • VENEZUELA
    • Expulsion of U.S. Diplomat
  • UKRAINE
    • Travel Warning / Authorized Departure
    • U.S. Diplomatic Effort / Offer of Assistance
  • SYRIA
    • UNSC Resolution Vote / Chinese and Russian Involvement
  • PAPUA NEW GUINEA/AUSTRALIA
    • Visa Bans
  • CHINA / TIBET
    • Dalai Lama Visit / U.S. Policy / Resumption of Dialogue
  • UKRAINE
    • U.S. Consulting with Government and Opposition /
  • CHINA / TIBET
    • Dalai Lama Visit / U.S. Policy / Reduce Tensions / Bilateral Relationship
    • Ambassador Max Baucus Swearing-In


TRANSCRIPT:

VIA TELECONFERENCE FROM JERUSALEM

3:00 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Thank you so much, and thank you all for what I hope will be our last phone briefing for a while. Hi from Jerusalem. We landed here today with Under Secretary Sherman to do a few days here. I know Jen is on her way back with the Secretary, who’s wrapping up his trip with, of course, meetings, as you all have seen, in Paris. So they should be back soon, and we are, I think, all looking forward to seeing folks back in the office on Monday when we all get home.

I don’t have anything else at the top. I’m having some computer problems here right now, so how we’re going to do this is Michael Tran, who many of you know from our press office, will be calling the questions, and then they’ll open your lines. So we’re going to make an effort to do this as smoothly as possible, so apologies if there are any technological kinks we have to work out.

But with that, again, this is like a normal daily press briefing, all on the record, and happy to take questions. So the moderator, let folks know how to ask them. So we’ll give folks just a few seconds to queue up. And Michael, do we have anyone in queue?

MODERATOR: Yes, Marie. We have Deb Riechmann from Associated Press.

MS. HARF: Great, thanks.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. The U.S. is saying that it’s working with the European allies to ensure the implementation of the agreement in the Ukraine. Can you tell us – what can you guys really do to ensure the implementation of this? Is it a matter of standing by and waiting, or how are you going to go about monitoring this?

MS. HARF: Yeah. No, and this – there have obviously been some very important developments in Ukraine, certainly over the past 24 hours. We do welcome the agreement that was signed today between President Yanukovych and the opposition leaders. And really, this is consistent with what we’ve been calling for for some time: a de-escalation of violence, constitutional change, formation of a coalition government, and indeed early elections.

So there’s – look, there’s a couple things we can do, right? We are coordinating very closely with our European counterparts who, of course, are playing a big role in this, but also talking to both the government and the opposition, and pushing both sides to implement this agreement. We are encouraged by passage of a constitutional package and as an amnesty, in parliament, to help move the process forward. So we will keep working with the different sides to push them to indeed do what’s in the best interest of the people of Ukraine.

Look, we’re always looking at what our policy is and how we can impact the situation, but we’ll keep talking to all the folks involved and see if we can move this in a better place.

QUESTION: What about the sanctions? Is that kind of on the backburner now, or are you guys moving forward in developing those in case you have to use them or --

MS. HARF: Yeah, well, our focus today is, as you said, working with our European partners and the government and the opposition to implement this agreement. But we’re not ruling out additional measures, including sanctions, especially should there be further violence or violation of the agreement. So we, as you know, have been looking for some time at what sanctions we could put in place. We’ve already put some visa bans in place.

So this is really a moment where Ukraine has the chance to come back from this terrible situation they’ve been in. They have two paths, really – one where we can get the agreement in place, we can end the violence, we can move forward toward the future the Ukrainian people deserve, or, if the alternative happens, we certainly have a lot of policy tools at the ready.

QUESTION: Is the United States telling the Ukraine what kind of sanctions are in – on the backburner if it doesn’t go through?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, I’m not going to go into specifics about what those sanctions might look like, and I’m not sure we’re going into those specifics with the Ukrainian Government. But suffice to say we’ve looked at our policy options. We know what those are. But today we really are focused on working with our partners to get this agreement implemented and moving past this horrific violence we’ve seen, which is, of course, what everyone wants here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Thanks, Deb. Michael, next question.

MODERATOR: Sure. Our next questioner is Anne Gearan from The Washington Post. Operator, can you open Anne’s line, please?

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. HARF: Hi, Anne.

QUESTION: Hi. So following on Deb’s question, I’m a little confused now about where things stand with sanctions. The visa bans you all – you did unilaterally are already in force, right?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. HARF: Now if the situation improves, those can be reversed, right?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So --

QUESTION: Right, so that’s my first question.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: What exactly would it take for you to lift those? And my second question is: Where does it stand in coordination with the EU? So the EU hasn’t – has decided to do it but hasn’t done it yet. And how – and what would happen at that point for the U.S.? Would you sort of automatically do whatever the EU does, or is there a separate set of consultations that happens at that point?

MS. HARF: Well, they’re – we’re in consultations, but, I mean, they’re just by definition separate processes, right? So on the visa bans, yes, they did – we did some a few weeks ago, and then, as we said a couple days ago, we did more that day as well. But the – look, if the situation improves, they can be dropped. They are reversible. I’m not going to outline specifically what that might look like. But we do think it’s important to hold people accountable who are responsible for the violence.

In terms of decisions, look, the EU makes their own decisions, we make our own decisions, but obviously we do this in close, close consultation with each other. I wouldn’t want to say that if they do something, it’ll automatically trigger ours, but we are absolutely linked up in how we’re talking and working on this issue. And that’s why what we’re focused on today is working with them to see if we can get this agreement implemented, and then if we can, make policy decisions about how we can best push both the government and the opposition to keep their word in terms of the agreement.

So I don’t want to venture a guess as to what that might look like. Quite frankly, a lot depends on what happens on the ground in the next 24, 48, et cetera hours.

QUESTION: Right. And one quick follow-up. All of these things are pretty near term, and obviously, things are changing very quickly on the ground there. But what can you say about a little bit longer vista here about what the United States, with or without the EU, might be willing to do to try to get out the underlying financial issues here? I mean, say things go your way and there’s an acceptable power-sharing arrangement here and the violence stops and the early elections are on track and parliament behaves itself and all of that stuff, right? They’re still going to be way deep in debt and looking for some money from somebody. Who is thinking and how is that thinking being done about where that money would come from?

MS. HARF: Right, and – so a couple of points on that. This isn’t just an economic question, right? I mean, we’ve talked a lot about Ukraine’s democracy and moving forward with the democratic practices that are really important, we think, for the people of Ukraine. So part of that is the economic situation, but part of it is the democratic institutions – as you said, the parliament, the president, everybody working together to resolve these issues through dialogue, having early elections, getting back on a much better and nonviolent path.

In terms of the economic issues, we’ve talked a little bit about this. Obviously, that’s part of what started all of this, right, which was their discussions with the EU over how to work more closely with the EU, in part on the economic situation. So I know our folks are taking a look at ways to work with the Ukrainian Government to help it improve its economic situation. I don’t have specifics on that to announce or to outline for you, but it’s certainly something we’ve been looking at for a while. It’s one of the reasons we thought the relationship with the EU was so important for the Ukrainian Government to pursue.

So we’ll keep working with our experts on this to see how we can help, but at this point, nothing specific to say about that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. HARF: Yep.

MR. TRAN: Our next caller, Marie, is Taurean Barnwell from NHK. Operator, can you open Taurean’s line, please?

QUESTION: Hi, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hi.

QUESTION: I have a couple questions on the Dalai Lama visit.

MS. HARF: Yes, just give me one second. Let me put – you should – you guys, if you could only see, that large book I normally have is, like, spread out on a desk here. It’s very funny. Let me pull that.

QUESTION: I can imagine.

MS. HARF: One second here.

QUESTION: Just let me know when you’re ready.

MS. HARF: Yes, sorry about that, guys. Just give me one second. I’m really sorry about this. Go ahead and ask your question while I pull it up.

QUESTION: Yeah. So President Obama hosted the Dalai Lama this morning for a meeting – at the condemnation of the Chinese foreign ministry – they issued a very strong statement condemning this visit. What is the State Department’s reaction to this condemnation and how would they respond to that?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points, for a sort of readout of – you’ve seen the White House readout of that meeting, so I would point you in that direction in terms of sort of what the meeting entailed.

A couple points on that in general: I mean, you know there’s no change in U.S. policy on this, right? But we’ve continued to urge the Chinese Government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or with his representatives without preconditions, because we think that would be important to reduce tensions. So we, again, remain engaged on this issue, and on specifics for the White House, I’d refer you there.

QUESTION: And I understand that Ambassador Cui canceled a trip to Boston this morning so that he could issue his protest formally at the State Department.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t heard that. That’s interesting. I’ll check with our folks and see if we have a response to that. I’m sorry. I just hadn’t heard that.

QUESTION: Well, are there any concerns that this may affect U.S.-China relations at all?

MS. HARF: This is an issue that is a constant in the relationship, but quite frankly, our relationship with China is a very broad bilateral relationship where we’re focused on a number of issues. I mean, I was just in Vienna with our delegation working on the Iran negotiations, for example. And we’re standing side by side the Chinese working very closely together on the same page in terms of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

You just saw the Secretary’s visit to China, talked about a whole range of issues – North Korea at the top of that list, certainly, but others as well. So obviously, we’re focused on the host of issues we have to work with the Chinese on today.

QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Yep.

MODERATOR: Marie, our next caller is Michael Wilner from The Jerusalem Post. Operator, can you open Michael’s line please?

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. How are you?

MS. HARF: I’m in Jerusalem. It’s fitting that you’re asking a question.

QUESTION: Oh. Very nice. How is it?

MS. HARF: It’s lovely. It’s warm.

QUESTION: Yeah. I bet.

MS. HARF: It is lovely, though. What’s your question? What’s on your mind?

QUESTION: Just a couple on Iran and how the talks went.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First a logistical question: Can you confirm that the future P5+1 leadership meetings will now take place in Vienna, that that has shifted from Geneva?

MS. HARF: Yes, yes. They – the next one is – begins March 17th at the political director level, and they will be in Vienna for the foreseeable future for this – for these negotiations. Our experts – I should note, because I think this is very important – our experts will be meeting basically either – continuously, but our experts will be meeting before that political director meeting, but are basically going to be in constant contact throughout this process. Because I think some people have said, “Well, you’re only meeting for three days a month; how can you get a comprehensive agreement done?” Well, our experts, the EU, the P5+1, and Iran’s experts are going to be in constant contact and dialogue hashing out a lot of the very substantive and detailed issues – in person sometimes, but over the phone and in other ways as well, basically continuously throughout this process.

QUESTION: Sorry, Marie, the connection’s not as great as I would hope.

MS. HARF: Oh, no. Can you hear me?

QUESTION: My second – yeah, I can hear you now.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The second question is just on this framework. My understanding is that all of the issues that need to be addressed were identified, but need to be addressed according to whom? So I know that the U.S. prioritized the closure of Fordow, the dismantling of large parts of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Did Iran’s diplomatic corps agree to discuss that – all of that dismantling?

MS. HARF: Well, I know – can everyone hear me okay? Can you hear me okay?

QUESTION: I can now, yes.

MS. HARF: Okay, okay. Look, I know this will be frustrating, but over the next five months as we negotiate, we aren’t going to get into specifics on any issues that we discuss. What we said is that there is a framework in place that’s identified the host of issues we’ll be talking about. I’d refer you, quite frankly, to the Joint Plan of Action, which covers the wide range – in one way or another, right – of issues. But we’re just not going to get into confirming anything about specific issues, when they’re discussed, how they’re discussed, if they’re discussed, because we really do think that in this sensitive and detailed and complicated negotiation, we can’t do that publicly and we need to do that privately, even discussing the issues. But suffice to say, all of our concerns must be met in order to get a comprehensive agreement, and probably aren’t going to go into a lot more detail beyond that for the five months.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thanks, Marie.

MS. HARF: Yep. Thanks, Michael.

MODERATOR: Marie, our next caller is Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. Operator, please open Lesley’s line, and Lesley, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. I was wondering – just a follow-up on the Dalai Lama: Did the Secretary speak to the Chinese about this visit when he was in Beijing? Because we know that he raised specific human rights issues in Tibet with the Chinese when he was there.

MS. HARF: He did raise specific human rights issues. I do not – I honestly don’t know whether he raised the visit or the Dalai Lama specifically, so let me speak with the team that was with him and see.

QUESTION: And then just on another issue regarding Venezuela: You said recently about the – that the U.S. is contemplating reciprocal actions. Do you know what those – if – what those actions are? Has anything been implemented?

MS. HARF: We have not made any decisions yet on what action to take. As I said a couple days ago, we have a host of options we can take. I anticipate we probably will soon, but we’re still looking at options.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, Lesley.

MODERATOR: Hi, operator. If we can have you just repeat the instructions for questions one more time before we go to the next caller, please.

OPERATOR: Certainly, thank you very much. As a reminder, to queue up, you may press * followed by 1. Once again, * followed by 1 for any questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next caller, Marie, is Dmitry Kirsanov from ITAR-TASS.

MS. HARF: Hi, Dmitry.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. I have couple of points on Ukraine, if I may.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: First of all, does the United States Government insist that President Yanukovych steps down right now, as some of the opposition forces want?

MS. HARF: Okay, let’s take it – let me start with that, and then we’ll go to your other questions. What we’ve said is we support early elections, and President Yanukovych himself, I think, said that he supported that as well, possibly moving them up to December. I think they had been scheduled for March. So that’s what we support. We support him working with the opposition, constitutional change, as I said, and of course an end to the violence. But in terms of elections, that’s what we support.

QUESTION: Yeah. My second point is: Have you enforced sanctions against any of those radical forces bearing responsibility for using extreme acts of violence against the law enforcement officers in the Ukraine, hurling – things like hurling Molotov cocktails and using firearms?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that the visa bans we’ve put in place, which at this point is all that we’ve done, were all government officials responsible for violence. I can triple-check on that, Dmitry, just to make sure. But as I said, we are – think it’s important to have accountability for anyone who perpetrates violence. We’re looking at further options, including sanctions. But today, we’re really focused on getting this agreement implemented.

QUESTION: Yeah, but so far it’s only – has been – it’s only been government officials who’s been sanctioned, right?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding. Let me double – let me triple-check on that, but I – that is my understanding.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you consider events – do you consider events of last several days in Kyiv, those rather graphic and – I assume you might have seen the front page of today’s Post – of The Washington Post – events in Kyiv, a peaceful protest?

MS. HARF: Well, I think a few points. Obviously, what we’ve seen over the past few days is horrific violence, and one of the things we think is important to do is get to the bottom of who’s accountable for it. And we condemn violence on all sides. We condemn it by government security forces, and we condemn it by protesters.

What we have repeatedly said is that the government should allow peaceful protesters; we believe peaceful protest is an important part of a democracy, certainly, and it’s important for the government to listen to those folks. So again, we’ve seen huge peaceful protests throughout many weeks in Ukraine, but what’s happened over the past few days – look, we know that there have been many deaths. We’re looking right now at who’s responsible for them. But again, what we’re focused on today is, thankfully, ending this violence and getting the agreement implemented.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Thank you, Dmitry.

MODERATOR: Marie, our next caller is Rosalind Jordan from Al-Jazeera English. Operator, please open her line.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hey, Roz.

QUESTION: Hey. If I could switch gears and then I’ll come back to Ukraine.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government made any decision about what to do about Venezuelan diplomats in light of the earlier expulsion this week?

MS. HARF: We have not. I think that’s what Lesley just asked. We have not made a decision yet.

QUESTION: Okay. And then coming back to Ukraine, given the new Travel Warning that was released, what is the U.S. level of concern about American safety? And have contingency plans been launched to perhaps evacuate people if this truce and this deal between the government and the opposition falls apart?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We issued a Travel Warning because, as we said, the Under Secretary for Management at the State Department issued and authorized departure for family members of our folks in Ukraine, which triggers an automatic Travel Warning, which happened yesterday.

So just a few points: Our Embassy is open. All services are still occurring. The last Travel Alert we put out was February 18th, so again this Travel Warning was triggered by an authorized departure that was, by definition, authorized. But look, we are very clear in our Travel Warning that people should monitor the situation. They should be careful. They should avoid certain places. And look, we always – contingency is a strong word, but I don’t want to get ahead of where anything is, nobody wants to overreact here, obviously. We think it’s important to have a diplomatic presence in Ukraine. If we have to take further steps we certainly have ways to do that, and will. But at this point, I haven’t heard talk of that, quite frankly, and what we hope is that the situation will actually de-escalate so we don’t have to take further steps and our folks can stay there.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MODERATOR: Marie, up next we have Elise Labott from CNN. Operator, can you please open Elise’s line? And Elise, then go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m sorry if you got into this at the very top, but, I mean, so what’s next? When you say you’re going to work with the Ukrainians, like, what’s going to happen? Are you going to kind of send someone like Toria Nuland out, or what is the kind of hands-on U.S. engagement that you expect at this kind of difficult time?

MS. HARF: Yeah, well, I think at a few levels, quite frankly. I mean, obviously the Vice President has been very involved in this, the Secretary throughout sort of the situation in Ukraine has talked to folks. But certainly Toria Nuland – Assistant Secretary Nuland, our ambassador in Kyiv have been all day, every day engaged on this issue quite closely, talking to both the government and the opposition, encouraging them to stand by the agreement, to implement it, and offer our assistance in any way we can.

Obviously, we’re talking to the EU as well because they have a role to play, and other European countries just – I mean, some of the facilitators for this agreement were a couple of our European partners. So obviously there is a role we can all play here in helping Ukraine going forward. I don’t have any other specifics, but that’s just, I think, a couple of ways we can stay engaged on this.

Hello?

QUESTION: Thank you. No, thank you.

MS. HARF: Sorry. I’m never sure if the phone cuts out and my briefing’s just suddenly over.

MODERATOR: Up next, Marie, we have Matthew Russell Lee from Inner City Press. Operator, can you please open Matthew’s line? And Matthew, go ahead.

QUESTION: There you go. Thanks a lot. I wanted to ask something on Syria, and then something else you may have something on. It sounds – this humanitarian resolution at the UN is set for voting on tomorrow morning.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And it looks like the draft or the final draft put into blue or to be voted on has dropped – it dropped a reference that it had in it to Hezbollah and to the Quds Force. And it made – obviously, made changes to try to garner these votes. Well, do you have anything to say about – do you think that these changes are weak in the draft, and do you have a sense it’s going to be 15-nothing, or what do you think?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. You are correct. We do expect the Security Council resolution to be voted on tomorrow. And it’s my understanding that this is basically the original draft that we supported that was drafted by some of our colleagues on the Security Council – Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan. We didn’t merge the two drafts, right? We negotiated to maintain key provisions of the original resolution that we think are essential to saving lives on the ground.

I don’t want to prejudge the outcome. I think one thing I’ve learned is not to make those kinds of predictions. But what I would say is that if China and Russia and everyone else is as concerned as we’ve all said about the humanitarian crisis, then they should support this resolution. So we will see if we can get a vote that goes the right way here – not for our sake, quite frankly, but for the sake of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Great. No, thanks a lot. And then something totally different is there’s this – there were these riots – Australia doesn’t let people that are seeking asylum land, and has been sending them to Papua New Guinea, and there was a riot and an Iranian asylum seeker was killed. And a lot of people have commented on it, but I wonder, is the U.S., either about this one incident or generally about Australia’s policy of not allowing asylum seekers to land and then sort of outsourcing to Papua New Guinea – and I thought I saw that Ambassador Russel was over there, but I wondered if you had anything on this.

MS. HARF: I did have something on this on Wednesday. Let me see if I have something here. Just give me one second. Again, I’m kind of putting a book together in a very strange way. Yes, I did see this. This – okay, here, I do have something. So we are aware of reports at the Manus Island Immigration Detention Center in Papua New Guinea. This is what you’re referring to, right?

QUESTION: Yes, it is.

MS. HARF: We hope that the Papua New Guinea authorities will undertake a full investigation of the incident. I think for probably more details on that, the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have more of the details, and I’d refer you there. And we think these are matters best addressed by the governments of these countries. But in general, we do encourage all countries to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to find durable solutions for refugees and asylum seekers and to uphold their obligations under a couple conventions – the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

QUESTION: Okay. No, that’s great. And if you don’t mind, just one more quick to see if there’s – in DRC, there was a crackdown on this opposition leader Vital Kamerhe in Bukavu. There was, like, shooting at his supporters. So I don’t – I’m thinking of Russ Feingold and maybe just – I don’t know if that’s in your book, your spread out book over there, if you --

MS. HARF: My sort of bobbled together book here in Jerusalem. It’s not. I’m sorry. I haven’t seen that, but let me see if I can get you something on that.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Thank you so much.

MODERATOR: Great, Marie. It looks like we have just a few more here. Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: Hi, how are you?

MS. HARF: Good.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, let me ask one question about Dalai Lama. As you know, Chinese Government strongly criticized this meeting. They demanded the cancelation of meetings and not to interfere in the international – internal affairs. Could you tell me U.S. position toward this Chinese claim? Does the United States Government thinks a meeting with Dalai Lama is interference in Chinese internal affairs?

MS. HARF: Well, I commented on this a little earlier.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’m probably not going to go much further. A couple points. Obviously, the Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, an internationally revered religious and cultural leader. We meet with him in this capacity, and that there’s no change in U.S. policy, but that we do continue to urge the Chinese Government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representative without preconditions as a means to reduce tensions. So that hasn’t changed in any way, and I think I don’t have much more beyond that.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. One question. In terms of today’s meeting, did the United States and Chinese Government consulted on this issue before, in advance?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. Let me see if I can get the answer to that.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Sorry about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Marie, second to last one, David Kashi from the International Business Times. Operator, can you open David’s line? And David, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Marie. I just have a quick question in regards to the communications that I guess Hagel was having trouble reaching the defense minister in Ukraine. Is there any word on whether or not he’s been able to establish communications with him, or have you had – has the State Department have – had trouble communicating with him?

MS. HARF: Well, I did used to work for Secretary Hagel and speak on the record on his behalf, but I don’t do that anymore. So I, quite frankly, don’t know the answer, so I would refer you to his folks over at the Department of Defense to speak to that issue because I, quite frankly, just don’t know the answer.

We have been consulting with the government and the opposition at a number of levels. I don’t have more specifics for that than you. But I think broadly speaking, we know this is a difficult time in Ukraine and we just want to play at any level any role we can to help them move forward here. But I’m sorry, I don’t know about Secretary Hagel.

QUESTION: Sure. And just if you could comment on this – I’m not sure if you’re able to – but the recent – I guess a Greek daily just reported that an investigation by the IHS and Greece’s financial crime squad of arms shipments to – that came from supposed Israeli arms dealers sending spare parts of Phantoms to Iran. Does the State Department have a comment on that, or could verify those --

MS. HARF: I can take – I’m sorry, I just haven’t seen those reports, so let me take the question and see if we can get you an answer.

QUESTION: I’d appreciate that. Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Yep, thanks.

MODERATOR: Marie, our last question comes from Weiran Zhang from China News Service. Operator, can you please open that line?

QUESTION: Hi, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MS. HARF: I can, yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Considering – my question is on President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. So considering the U.S.-China are now building a new model of major power relations, why the U.S. still choose to host this meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama which will surely damage the bilateral relations between the two countries?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points on this that I sort of made earlier, but I’ll be happy to make them again. For the White House, for the specific meeting with President Obama, I’d refer you to the White House. But broadly speaking, look, the Dalai Lama is an internationally revered figure. He’s a religious leader and a cultural leader, and that is the capacity in which we meet with him. As I said, there’s no change in U.S. policy. The United States considers Tibet a part of the People’s Republic of China. But we believe it’s important and urge the Chinese Government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representative to reduce tensions.

But what I said earlier is true that we have a broad bilateral relationship with China. We work together on a host of issues. Again, Secretary Kerry was just there. We were just with our Chinese counterparts in Vienna working on the Iran negotiations. So it’s a huge, broad, quite comprehensive bilateral relationship that’s an incredibly important one that we work together on North Korea, other issues as well. And so I think those things are both true, and that’s what we’ll continue working on moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Just a follow-up. This afternoon, Vice President Biden will ceremonially swear-in Max Baucus as the U.S. Ambassador to China at the State Department.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And just you know this morning President Obama met Dalai Lama at the White House. So what’s the reason for you to arrange these two events on the same day? Does these two events have any connection or the U.S. try to connect them together? So is this on purpose or just a coincidence? What kind of --

MS. HARF: I honestly don’t think they have any connection. I think it was just a coincidence. I really do.

QUESTION: Just coincidence?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Yes, to my knowledge, it was just Senator, now-Ambassador-soon, Baucus’s swearing-in today was just completely a scheduling and timing issue. I think it had nothing at all to do with the other meeting.

QUESTION: Okay. So there’s news reports said that the meeting between President Obama and Dalai Lama is a lose-lose deal, not a win-win meeting. So how do you comment this, and considering the meeting’s damage to the bilateral relationship, what will the U.S. --

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, I’m not going to characterize the meeting the President had. I’d refer you to the White House to do any characterization of that. But again, what I said broadly about our relationship with China remains true, that there’s a lot of issues we work together very closely on. We don’t always see eye-to-eye. When we can cooperate, we do. When we disagree, we are clear with each other, which is the mark of a partnership that you can talk honestly and openly when you do disagree. So we have a broad relationship and certainly expect that to continue going forward.

QUESTION: So that (inaudible). You are very positive about the prospect of the China-U.S. relationship in the long run, right?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. Look, there’s a lot of places we work together. I want to be clear that when we disagree – and you’ve seen us disagree over time on some issues – we will make that very clear. We don’t agree on everything. But again, we work together very closely on a number of issues – North Korea, Iran, a whole host of issues. There’ll be a vote at the Security Council tomorrow on Syria humanitarian efforts; we hope the Chinese will support this resolution. So we’ll keep working together on all these issues, where we agree and where we don’t, to make progress going forward.

QUESTION: Thank you. The last question: There are media reports said that President Obama will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Nuclear Security Summit next month. And considering this kind of damage the relationship between the two countries, do you think it’s possible for the two leaders meet – to meet or not?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple of points. I don’t think the White House has announced the President’s schedule for the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague yet.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m deferring a lot to them today, but I’m sure they will when they have it set. And you saw the President meet with Xi Jinping in Sunnylands not that long ago and really talked about the kind of relationship we could have. I know they have a good working relationship, as does Secretary Kerry with his counterparts and others. So I’m sure they’ll announce when they have things to announce about his schedule. But suffice to say I think we’re all committed to working very closely together on these issues.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS. HARF: Thank you. And thank you, everyone, again. I think those are all the questions in the queue. Thank you to everyone for your patience and flexibility as we’ve done these briefings this week. Again, we will be happy to be back on Monday briefing live and in person. And with that, I think the call will be concluded. Everybody, have a great weekend and we’ll see you next week.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:36 p.m.)

DPB # 32

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - February 21, 2014]