Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 30, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism
    • Free the Press Campaign
    • Russian Federation Council's Approval of Law Restricting Internet Freedom
    • Travel Update for Secretary Kerry
  • 2013 COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM
    • Methodology / Evolving Threat
    • Cuba Remains on State Sponsors of Terrorism list
    • Cooperation with China on Counterterrorism
    • Foreign Fighters / Syria / Terrorist Financing
    • Foreign Terrorist Organization Designations
    • State Sponsor of Terror List
  • CUBA
    • Call for Release of Alan Gross
  • TURKEY
    • Legitimate Democratic Protests
  • IRAN / CHINA
    • Reward for Information on Li Fangwei
    • Cooperation with China on Counter-Proliferation Issues
  • DPRK
    • Urge North Korea to Refrain from Actions that Raise Tensions
  • LEBANON
    • Lebanese Elections
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA
    • No De-Escalation from Russia
  • DEPARTMENT
    • International Media Operations


TRANSCRIPT:

12:46 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the second half of today’s daily press briefing. I have a couple of items at the top, and then I’m happy to take all of your questions.

The first – do we have a – Free the Press, yes. As part of our Free the Press campaign, today we have two cases, one from Venezuela and one from Egypt. The first is NTN24, which is a 24-hour news cable network based in Colombia that was one of the only sources of live coverage in Venezuela when protests erupted in early February. CONATEL, Venezuela’s telecommunications regulator, ordered NTN24 off the air on February 12th, depriving the Venezuelan people of independent, accurate reporting on the nationwide protests that have included arbitrary detentions and excessive use of violence by security forces. As of today, NTN24 remains off the air and is available only through the internet. We call on the Government of Venezuela to cease repression of NTN24 and to protect and respect the freedom of expression and other universal human rights.

The second for the Free the Press campaign is from Egypt. Samah Ibrahim is a young journalist who was sentenced by a court on April 29th to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds on charges including disturbing the peace and demonstrating without a permit. Ibrahim was arrested in January with nine other people in the course of doing her job, covering a pro-Morsy demonstration in Cairo against the constitutional reform. Ibrahim is one of 17 journalists currently imprisoned in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. We urge the interim government to fulfil its commitment to respect freedom of the press. All journalists, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation, or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs. And we continue to urge the government to drop charges and release journalists who have been detained.

One other item at the – two other quick items at the top. If we can change the screens back to what they normally are – but related to the Free the Press campaign, the United States is deeply troubled by the Russian Federation Council’s approval of laws that will impose sweeping new restrictions on the internet and blogging if signed by President Putin. These restrictions can only be seen for what they are: an attempt to limit freedom of expression and the ability to network and assemble, not only for journalists, but for all Russians. Unfortunately, these are just the latest attempts by the Russian Government to exert control over the rapidly shrinking space for independent voices and civil society in Russia both online and offline. Taken as a whole, these developments effectively stifle alternative views and further restrict the space for independent discourse and civic activism in Russia.

And the final is a trip update. Secretary Kerry is en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he will be arriving shortly if he hasn’t already. Addis is the first stop on a weeklong trip to Africa to encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security, engage with civil society and young African leaders who will shape their continent’s future; also promote trade, investment, and development partnerships. The President’s trip will – excuse me, the Secretary’s trip will also highlight U.S. investments in PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. In Addis Ababa, Secretary Kerry will co-convene the fourth session of the U.S.-AU High-Level Dialogue and discuss a wide range of issues on which we partner with the AU. He will also meet bilaterally with the Ethiopian prime minister and the foreign minister as well.

A lot there at the top. Matt.

QUESTION: Yes. So recognizing that you’ve lost the terror expert people, but I just wanted to --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- you – there was something more that they wanted to say about (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So on your question – I think this is an important one to dig into in terms of the numbers. Just a few points on that. The first is, as you rightly pointed out, this is the second year we’ve used this new methodology, which we’re still refining, so numbers are important but we’re still refining methodology. But more importantly, yes, the number of attacks has gone up; but it’s a feature of the evolving threat they talked about, that these attacks are smaller, against localized targets, mostly domestic, and that the numbers against Americans certainly have been very low for a long time and have continued to go down.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So you’re seeing this because of the evolving threat. There aren’t big, massive scale attacks anymore. There are more smaller, localized ones. So in some way it’s an evolution of the threat. It doesn’t – the number doesn’t tell the whole story.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, understandably, but it still --

MS. HARF: I wanted to put a little more context in there.

QUESTION: It went up from 6,000 to 9,000, which is --

MS. HARF: But each of those attacks – the attacks that went up to 9,000 were much smaller, often, than the 6,000.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know if I would call the attack on the mall in Nairobi a small attack.

MS. HARF: Well, that’s one out of 9,000.

QUESTION: There were dozens people killed as well.

QUESTION: Well, there’s plenty – I mean, there’s plenty of --

MS. HARF: But just a lot of the individual – it actually matters when you look at the numbers to say the number has gone up, but a lot of the attacks were much smaller than the numbers we have seen in the past.

QUESTION: Right, but the numbers went up, and so did the number of – anyway, I don’t --

MS. HARF: It’s just some important context, I think.

QUESTION: Fair enough. Fair enough.

QUESTION: I still had another one on the report, if that’s okay.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Cuba --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- which was retained as a designated state sponsor of terrorism again this year. The report cites that it’s providing – long provided a safe haven for --

MS. HARF: Me and my terrorism book.

QUESTION: Sorry. ETA --

MS. HARF: I know all the answers are not in here. (Laughter.) But go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: ETA and the FARC as well. But also – but given the fact that these two groups, the threat from them is diminishing, I mean, there are peace talks going on with the FARC at the moment. Whether they’re successful I don’t know, but – but it also states in the report there was no indication that the Cuban Government provided weapons or paramilitary training to any terrorist group.

So my question is: How much longer are you going to keep Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question that I know comes up a lot. The State Department has no current plans to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. As you may or may not know, there’s not a routine process by which you re-evaluate the state sponsors like there are, for example, with our terrorist designations for terrorist groups. So you can’t get into the process any more behind the scenes, but at this point, again, no plans to remove them.

QUESTION: But it would seem if they’re not supporting terrorist groups with weapons or training, and they’re retained because of the haven that they reportedly give to ETA and FARC, it doesn’t really make much sense they’re still on the list.

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have any more details in terms of the reasoning that goes into that. Again, there’s no regular process for re-evaluating this. If there’s a policy reason to do so based on the conditions on the ground, I know folks will. But at this point, no plans to remove them from the list.

QUESTION: Well, don’t you also want to explain again how this report is not the vehicle for changing the state sponsors designation?

MS. HARF: Correct. And that’s sort of what I was getting to, that this is a report about what happened in 2013, the state sponsors of terrorism are listed in it, but it’s not as if every year we look at those and re-evaluate them in some way based on the report. They’re just listed in there.

QUESTION: And that you can remove a country or add a country --

MS. HARF: Any time.

QUESTION: -- at any time during the year.

MS. HARF: At any time, as we did, if people remember, in 2008 with North Korea.

Yes.

QUESTION: And how did that go? (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the report, a few weeks ago the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. highlighted in a speech the fact that cooperation on counterterrorism is a component of the new model of relations. But of course, the report notes that they’ve been fairly reluctant to engage with the U.S. directly on investigations. So how do you see U.S.-China cooperation on counterterrorism moving forward, and what – to what extent do you expect progress on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think you heard the ambassador speak to it a little bit when she said of course we want more information and it’s helpful to us as we determine what happens in any given situation for there to be more information given to us from the government. This is one of those areas where we hope to cooperate more, as you said. So I think we’ll see what can be done to better improve cooperation in this area. And it notes that in the report as well.

QUESTION: Yes, please, regarding the same report, it was mentioned many times by the ambassador the word, the term “foreign fighters.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if – how do you define it? I mean, it’s like in the case of Syria and almost everywhere now there are foreign fighters when you say it’s not the nationals or that land that they are fighting, but always they are coming from other places.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. They have come from other places to fight there.

QUESTION: And then in the last few years already we know that there are people who are going from United States or Canada or European countries.

MS. HARF: Those are also foreign fighters we’re concerned about, yes.

QUESTION: So how is – it’s not a definition more than the tracking of these things, how it is – it is done and how it is done and --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a difficult thing to do. For Americans, as you know, we don’t track American citizen travel overseas, right, unless people sign up. I don’t think most foreign fighters, if they’re going from the U.S., probably sign up on state.gov. But we don’t track American citizens, so there are a variety of mechanisms by which we can track foreign fighters anywhere, whether they’re from the U.S., Europe, other countries. It’s in some ways an art, not a science. But we try to get the best numbers that we can.

We know in places like Syria, for example, that there’s a huge foreign fighter problem.

And there is some sort of buzzing sound in this room. Does anyone know what that is?

QUESTION: It’s annoying, whatever it is.

MS. HARF: Is that – can we – someone’s buzzing.

QUESTION: From the back of the room.

MS. HARF: Okay.

But in terms of foreign fighters in general, we know thousands in Syria. We know it’s a huge problem. That’s why we’re working with countries that border Syria to help try to stem the flow.

I know, it is quite annoying, isn’t it? No? There we go.

QUESTION: The financial flows – I know that it was usually done through – over years probably when you are following the counterterrorism efforts, it was done through benevolent or political or social or – social organizations. It was done in case of Somalia, in case of other affiliated --

MS. HARF: In terms of financing for terrorist activities?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How you are tracing it? I mean, how you can --

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a number of different ways we can trace it, and you heard the ambassador speak about one way terrorist groups are actually trying to get financing is through things like kidnapping and ransom, particularly in certain parts of the world. So there are a variety of mechanisms through which we can track terrorist financing. One thing we’ve done quite a bit of work on is working with other countries that terrorists sometimes use their banking systems or use their infrastructures to finance their activities through to help crack down on this. A lot of this is about building partnerships and capacity of countries to do this.

QUESTION: Are there any financial flows from either, say, European countries or United States going on to these terrorist groups?

MS. HARF: I think we probably look for financial links from anywhere. As you know, when a country – or when a – excuse me, when an organization is designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department, one of the things that does is prohibits people in the United States from financing these groups. So obviously, it’s something we take very seriously.

Anything else on the report?

QUESTION: Yes, I have a question on the report.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I have a question on Greece. As you know, Marie, we see a comeback of terrorism in Greece, and I just wanted to know if you have any comment on this.

MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with that part of the report. I can look at it and I can talk to the ambassador and see if I can get you something tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay. And also if you take --

MS. HARF: I will take that for you.

QUESTION: And also, if the Americans take part on the war against terrorism in Greece, if you can answer it.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to get some more information on Greece.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. HARF: Anything else on the report?

Samir.

QUESTION: Does the law prohibit the U.S. Government from talking with terrorist organizations?

MS. HARF: Does the report?

QUESTION: The law.

MS. HARF: The law. We do not talk to – what we have said, for example, in Syria – terrorist organizations, right. If they’re designated, we don’t support them, we don’t talk to them in a place like Syria and other places as well. Our foreign terrorist organization designation outlines a whole host of things that we can’t do once someone’s designated.

QUESTION: But you can talk to states who support terrorism?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re in negotiations with Iran right now.

QUESTION: On the report, regarding Turkey, you talk about Turkey as a transit region for foreign fighters to go into Syria for the last year. Do you think there has been any progress regarding the Turkish Government in terms of combating with this --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly working very closely with the Turkish Government and other governments to combat the flow into Syria. It’s a huge challenge that they themselves recognize is a huge challenge, and it’s a tough problem, so we’ll keep working to build their capacity, border security, law enforcement, a lot of the things the ambassador spoke about to help the Turks and others prevent this flow.

QUESTION: And one other point that Treasury – about couple months ago – early February – issued a statement regarding the sanctions. And in that, Treasury talk about al-Qaida operatives in Iran that helping foreign fighters, al-Qaida fighters, to go into Syria. Do you have any update on that issue?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything additional from that release.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: Just one more going back to the idea of Cuba and the whole angle of not taking them off. I mean, I understand getting on the list clearly is about terrorist activity and safe haven for terrorism and state-sponsored support.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But it does seem that getting off the list is more of a political determination that has very little to do with terrorism than actually any lingering terrorist activity – any state-organized support for terrorism.

MS. HARF: Well, just so – as you said, as a matter of law, in order for a country to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary must determine the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, made after careful review of all available evidence. Obviously, there’s a process that goes into place when you put a country on this list.

In terms of Cuba, I don’t know if you heard what – my answer to Jo, that there are no plans at this point to remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terror List, and there is no regularized process for reviewing them. In other words, it’s not mandated by law that we review who’s on that list. If there’s a reason to, we will. We obviously don’t get into that process.

QUESTION: But why – why are there no plans and why is there no process for taking a country off a list? I mean, shouldn’t they only be on the list if they’re actively – or within the, I think it’s within six months or a year, something – have actively supported.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So what are – what is the reason that Cuba’s still on the list?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional information for you about why Cuba’s still on the list. We know why they were put on. That was obviously a public discussion at the time.

QUESTION: But do you still see them as a state sponsor of terrorism?

MS. HARF: We have no plans to take them off of the list.

QUESTION: But I – I’m sorry. I just need to press you on why.

MS. HARF: I’ll keep saying the same thing if you keep asking.

QUESTION: No, I understand.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: But – I understand. Why is there no process for getting – it seems that --

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process. There’s just not one built in the law wherein, unlike the foreign terrorist organization designations, we are required to review it every five years.

QUESTION: So those --

MS. HARF: It’s just not a regular – it doesn’t mean they don’t get reviewed. It means there’s not a time limit --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- under which you do that.

QUESTION: So would you agree then that a review of a country’s status on the list is, given the fact that you don’t have a legal requirement, is more based on your political --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: No. So a country, even if they’ve not committed terrorism – and I’m not singling out Cuba, I’m saying any country that could be in the future or is on the list – there’s just – why don’t you have it – why don’t you periodically review to see if they still should be on?

MS. HARF: Well, we constantly look at who’s on and who’s not, and we monitor all these countries. But I just don’t have any updates for you on Cuba.

QUESTION: Well, can you take the question as to what the criteria is for triggering a review of whether a country is not and whether that’s a political determination?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to see if there’s something we can share. I just, quite frankly, Elise, don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that answer.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, given the fact that, for instance, you’ve been pressing for a long time now for the release of Alan Gross, how does it help bilateral ties, which are not that great anyway, to keep them on this designation when perhaps there’s no need for them to be there?

MS. HARF: I think Alan Gross is completely separate from anything in this report. He should be released immediately on humanitarian grounds – has nothing to do with this report, or their inclusion on the State Sponsor of Terror List.

QUESTION: But it does have to do with bilateral relations.

MS. HARF: We have – the conversations we have with Cuba, whether they’re on migration or postal service or Alan Gross or anything, is just separate from this designation.

QUESTION: Yes, please, Marie.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I have a question regarding – the ambassador mentioned when – that there is a project with UAE – and called Hedayah and, quote, to fight against the number of the recruits that joining the terrorists.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, she did.

QUESTION: And she mentioned the term, innovative means to prevent and to join terrorists. What are the innovative means?

MS. HARF: I can see if I can get some more information about the program. I don’t have all those details in front of me.

QUESTION: Marie, can you check – someone has just pointed out to me, or someone has pointed out and I have noticed, that apparently the statistics for the deaths of Americans do not include the people who died in the Boston Marathon bombings.

MS. HARF: The five –

QUESTION: Three.

MS. HARF: The three people who died.

QUESTION: Can you check, because I know that the attack --

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: -- is at least mentioned in the report.

MS. HARF: It is. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And it is included in the number --

MS. HARF: In terms of the lone wolf situation.

QUESTION: Yes. But it is also included in the incidents, right?

MS. HARF: I’ll check on the statistics, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So – I just want to --

MS. HARF: But it is included in the report.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. So if it is included in the report, I just want to make sure, is it correct that they are – that those victims are not included in the totals for --

MS. HARF: I can check on the statistics for those three.

QUESTION: Thanks. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Anything else? I’m going to hand this binder off and go to the other binder.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Okay. Matt, do you have anything else you want to start with or anyone else?

QUESTION: I do have a couple things.

MS. HARF: Okay. Let’s start.

QUESTION: Unfortunately, it’s about Cuba. (Laughter.) But it has nothing to do with the state sponsor designation. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So we understand that USAID and the State Department have completed their review of the Cuba Twitter --

MS. HARF: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Oh, you’re not aware of that?

MS. HARF: I’m not, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Apparently the findings were sent to the Hill yesterday.

MS. HARF: Okay. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so you don’t --

MS. HARF: I have no reason to doubt that that’s not true.

QUESTION: -- have them. Do you have anything new on that?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I’m sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let me see. Let me check in with USAID.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: They’ve obviously leading on this. And if there’s any update on that, we can send it around after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. And I – so okay. Thank you. But I also have an additional --

MS. HARF: Sorry about that.

QUESTION: -- no, that’s all right – additional question, which is apparently part of the program was to identify Cuban cell phone users as either pro-revolution, i.e., pro-Castro --

MS. HARF: Which program are you referring to specifically?

QUESTION: The --

MS. HARF: ZunZuneo.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Either pro-revolution, apolitical or anti-revolutionary, which I presume would mean pro-U.S.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Which would seem to belie the – or belie is the wrong word – which would seem to suggest that, in fact, it was political in nature, not --

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of that allegation.

QUESTION: So that’s just – yeah, that’s something new.

MS. HARF: So let’s write these all down, and I’ll take them all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I wasn’t aware of that allegation.

QUESTION: All right. Great. So anyway, if you could take them, that would be great.

MS. HARF: So I don’t know if it’s true or not. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On Turkey.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I know that you were asked – or Jen Psaki was asked about prime minister’s – Turkish prime minister interview with Charlie Rose. I just want to again repeat, is there any way you can share? The prime minister said that he expects from U.S., as his strategic partner, to either expel Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, or extradite him back to Turkey. What is your response to this?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m going to say probably exactly what Jen said. As a matter of longstanding policy, the Department of State does not comment on pending or potential extradition requests.

QUESTION: Don’t you think prime minister has a point when he says that as a strategic partner that he returned tons of people in the past and U.S. should do the same?

MS. HARF: I’m just not – you can ask the question any way you want. I’m not going to comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay. One more question. In that interview, which was widely publicized in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan talks about these groups within U.S. that were behind the protests and upheavals in Egypt, Ukraine, and Istanbul. Do you know anything about these groups?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear that this is not about the United States in any of those places you just said. And we’re not behind any of the legitimate, democratic protests we’ve seen in any of those countries. So let’s be very clear that this is not about what the U.S. is doing, because we’re not doing anything. This is an internal Turkish matter. That’s where they need to focus.

QUESTION: But the prime minister says that there is a scenario. It’s the same scenario as being conducted in Ukraine, in Egypt, in Istanbul, in Turkey.

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe that people all over the world should be able to legitimately express their points of view. What I’m saying is the United States has nothing to do with that. We say that they should be able to do, but this isn’t about us. This is about what’s happening in each of those countries.

QUESTION: What do you think about the notion that there are groups either in U.S. or in the West that trigger this kind of upheaval in these --

MS. HARF: I think it’s ridiculous and not borne out by the facts on the ground.


What else? Yes.

QUESTION: I have a question on Iran. You put the statement yesterday regarding the Chinese businessman.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And last night the Chinese foreign ministry said they oppose the U.S. citing domestic law to unilaterally impose sanctions on Chinese company and individual. What’s your response to that?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said in a number of press releases from here, from the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department, and others, we enforce the laws on the books. We are very clear about the activities that this individual has undertaken and their threat to international stability and security. And that’s why we were very clear from the State Department that we would offer a reward for information about his whereabouts that could bring him to justice and also that we would impose measures against people who are breaking, certainly, our laws and violating our sanctions we have in place.

QUESTION: But if he’s in China, what’s the need to put this --

MS. HARF: Well, he’s – as the release said, he’s a fugitive right now, so I’m not going to speculate on where he might be.

QUESTION: But do you share the same concern that the Chinese said this – says this may jeopardize the bilateral cooperation on counter-proliferation?

MS. HARF: Not at all. Not at all. We believe it’s important to cooperate with the Chinese on counter-proliferation issues, whether it’s North Korea where we work very closely together in terms of denuclearizing the peninsula, whether it’s on the P5+1 talks with Iran where we sit at the table with China on the same page working to see if we can get a resolution to that issue. So clearly, we’re working together on counter-proliferation very, very closely.

QUESTION: But they said already that this will harm the cooperation on this issue.

MS. HARF: Well, again, we haven’t seen evidence of that. We hope that it won’t.

What else? Yes.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Again, I’d like to know if you have any more information about Matthew Todd Miller or Kenneth Bae.

MS. HARF: No update on that for you.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about North Korea as well.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There were more reports of some more maneuvers or maneuvering, rather, going on and around the possibility of a launch. Is there --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re monitoring the situation very closely, obviously, and as we always do, continue to urge North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that raise tensions. I don’t have anything specific for you in terms of what may or may not happen, no guesses about what they might do. But we’re watching very closely.

Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the attempts in Lebanon to elect a new president?

MS. HARF: I do. We do understand that there was not a quorum reached in the process to elect a president. Under Lebanese law, as you probably know, parliament has until May 25th to elect a president. We hope that the election goes forward in accordance with the Lebanese constitution on time and free from foreign interference, and just aren’t going to get ahead of a process. I think we have a little more time where we can maybe get resolution here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes, Elliot. Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah. It’s good to be back. The Chinese ministry of defense announced yesterday, I think, that they were going – they were planning to do a joint military exercise in the East China Sea with Russia next month.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to that?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that announcement. Let me talk to our folks --

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. HARF: -- see if they have anything.

Matt.

QUESTION: Are you aware of this case of an American teenager Abdullah Jafar Abdullah who is on trial – going on trial in Bahrain?

MS. HARF: I am not aware of this.

QUESTION: Could you --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- ask about it and see if you have any --

MS. HARF: On trial for what?

QUESTION: On trial for political charges. I don’t know exactly what they are.

MS. HARF: Okay. I’ll check. I wasn’t aware of that case.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just curious if you have any concerns about that – not just the charges, but the fact that he’s 17.

MS. HARF: Let me check. Anything else?

QUESTION: Is there anything new to report on Ukraine and Russian de-escalation or non-de-escalation?

MS. HARF: Certainly not de-escalation, no. Not much new today. We’ve seen more bad behavior from the Russians, not taking any steps to de-escalate, still causing problems, the OSCE monitors still being held, as are a number of other hostages.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Nothing’s changed.

QUESTION: And did you – yesterday I asked about this legislation that was introduced today by Representative Royce and --

MS. HARF: Is this the BBG legislation?

QUESTION: Yes, BBG legislation.

MS. HARF: Let’s see what I have. I actually haven’t seen the legislation yet, and I’m not sure our folks here have, but I have something very brief on this. Obviously, our international media operations are an important part of what we do, and their mission remains a critical element for achieving our objectives here.

And more than that, we need the ability to communicate and engage with nations and communities around the world. We will keep working with Congress on this. Again, I don’t think we’ve seen the bill, or at least I haven’t, and also would refer you to the White House for the overall policy on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We’re – we’ll take a look, and if we have more to share in the coming weeks, we can.

QUESTION: Well, can you say off-hand whether you would support a move to force the Voice of America and other operations that come under BBG authority to promote the U.S. Government line in their newscasts?

MS. HARF: I – again, I don’t want to comment in any way on the legislation, given that I haven’t seen it or the details in it. I know there have been some reports about what’s in it. Let me talk to our folks and see if we can say more tomorrow.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I understand. But you can’t – you don’t want to – you’re not comfortable making a blanket statement of saying no, we do not support --

MS. HARF: I would like to take a look at the legislation first.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Anything else?

QUESTION: Nope.

MS. HARF: Thanks for sticking with us on a bit of a different day.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:13 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - April 30, 2014]