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Daily Press Briefing: May 5, 2014

Daily Press Briefing: May 5, 2014

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 5, 2014

TRANSCRIPT:
1:25 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily press briefing. Happy Monday. I have a few items at the top, and then I am happy to open it up for all of your questions.

First, the United States is pleased to welcome the delegation of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces which arrived yesterday in Washington D.C. and is visiting here through May 14th. Led by President Ahmad Jarba, this is the coalition’s first official visit to the United States since being established in 2012. Secretary Kerry, as well as other U.S. officials of the Departments of State and Treasury and the National Security Council, look forward to meeting with the delegation.

The United States recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in December 2012. The coalition has built an inclusive and moderate institution that has demonstrated its commitment to serving the interests and needs of the Syrian people, rejected extremism, and worked to advance a negotiated political transition in Syria. It has given a voice to Syrians whose opinions have been suppressed by the regime for decades. It established an interim government which focuses on enhancing the capabilities of local governance structures inside Syria, increasing humanitarian assistance, and restoring essential services.

As part of our steadfast commitment to empower the moderate Syrian opposition and to bolster its efforts to assist those in need inside Syria, the United States is announcing additional measures this week to support the coalition, local communities inside Syria, and members of the moderate armed opposition.

First, we are strengthening our ties with the Syrian opposition. We are happy to announce that the coalition’s representative offices in the United States are now foreign missions under the Foreign Missions Act.

Second, we are working with the United States Congress to provide more than $27 million in new nonlethal assistance, bringing the total nonlethal support we have committed and are providing for the Syrian opposition to nearly 287 million.

Third, we are stepping up deliveries of nonlethal assistance to commanders in the Free Syrian Army to enhance their logistical capabilities.

As we take these steps and continue our dialogue this week with the SOC, we will look at what more we can do and also what our international partners can do to support the moderate opposition, ease the humanitarian suffering from this conflict, and work towards a political solution to resolve the Syrian crisis.

The final update at the top is a travel wrap-up. Secretary Kerry is en route back to Washington, D.C., after wrapping up a weeklong trip to the African continent. Over the weekend in Kinshasa, Secretary Kerry met with President Joseph Kabila to discuss how the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s democratization and stability can best be advanced by ensuring that the country’s next elections are credible, timely, and held in line with the current constitution.

Additionally, the Secretary traveled to Luanda, Angola where he met with senior government officials, including the Angolan president and foreign minister, discussed bilateral policy and trade issues.

Matt.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Kick us off on this Monday.

QUESTION: Okay, I will. I want to get back to Syria, but I want to ask you about some unfinished business from last week as well as some new stuff today about Benghazi.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: One, on the subpoena that Congressman Issa has sent to Secretary Kerry: On Friday, when we were talking, he had not yet – wasn’t yet aware of it or you weren’t sure if he was aware of it or not. Is he now, and if he is, what does he think of it?

MS. HARF: He is aware. He has been made aware. As I noted, he is in a – just finishing up a trip to the African continent. He is aware. He – as we’ve said repeatedly, we were all surprised, quite frankly, that instead of working with us and reaching out to us and offering first an invitation to testify, that Chairman Issa jumped immediately to subpoenaing the Secretary. A couple more points: He does still plan to be in Mexico on the 21st. We’ve had that travel planned, as I said on Friday.

And I would – again, we talked a little bit about this on Friday, but I’m just going to read a little bit of quote for you from House Republican leader John Boehner. This is a quote from 2007 about a previous attempt to subpoena a Secretary of State. This was a subpoena to get information about prewar intelligence in Iraq. You’ll remember, I think, 4,500 Americans died in Iraq. This is the quote from John Boehner. Let me just read a little bit for you.

Quote, “This partisan show trial is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. By subpoenaing the Secretary of State, Democrats have revealed how beholden they are to leftwing activist groups while stealing the Secretary’s time away from critical diplomatic missions.” It goes on. But Chairman Issa also opposed that subpoena for Secretary Rice. So what we would say is you don’t get to have different rules for different administrations. And as Lindsey Graham this weekend said on a Sunday show, we shouldn’t play politics with Benghazi. Clearly, I think what we’re seeing now can be called nothing but that.

QUESTION: Well, getting back to that in a second --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The Secretary still plans to be in Mexico on the 21st, which is the day of the hearing?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does this mean – and I believe before you said that even though you clearly don’t like this, that you were willing to work with Congress to set a – I mean, is he – is the Secretary willing to appear at all --

MS. HARF: Well, we’re --

QUESTION: -- whether it’s under subpoena or not?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. We’re taking a look at the request, and we’ll talk to the committee about what that might look like.

QUESTION: So if they change the date, I mean --

MS. HARF: I don’t want to get ahead of what those discussions might look like. We are committed to working with the committee to find a resolution to this that is acceptable to both sides. We were surprised when they didn’t reach out to us before issuing a subpoena for exactly that reason. And as I’ve noted here, there have been a number of Republicans who themselves, under the previous administration, said a Secretary of State should not be subpoenaed.

QUESTION: Okay. But --

MS. HARF: So let’s all play by the same rules here.

QUESTION: Okay. But just – I mean, he is within his right, though, to make – well, whatever he said about an attempt to subpoena Secretary Rice back in 2007 aside, other than that --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, he is not out of bounds in issuing a subpoena, is he?

MS. HARF: Well, traditionally, how the process has worked is that first you issue an invitation to testify.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And you work with the official to determine when might work for someone to appear. So that part of the process was just skipped over by Chairman Issa.

QUESTION: All right. Well, okay. In terms of the date, do you have reason to believe that they issued the subpoena for a date that they knew the Secretary was going --

MS. HARF: I don’t think they knew he was going to be because they didn’t reach out to us first.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: And what I would say – and the reason I bring up Speaker Boehner’s comments here is that – why is it not okay for Secretary Rice to testify about Iraq, about going to war, about how we take America to war? Why is it not okay to issue a subpoena for her where 4,500 Americans died; and somehow, now, surprisingly when it’s Democrats, it’s okay to issue one for the Secretary, who, by the way, wasn’t even Secretary of State then?

QUESTION: Well, okay. But I mean, it’s still – I mean, it’s within his – within Chairman Issa’s jurisdiction to --

MS. HARF: Many things are within someone’s jurisdiction. It doesn’t make it right.

QUESTION: You just don’t like the way it was done; is that correct?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a number of things I don’t like about it.

QUESTION: Clearly.

MS. HARF: One is the process. Yes, a huge one is the process. Yes.

QUESTION: One of the reasons that he issued the subpoena is because he says that the State Department has not been complying with requests or demands, however you want to describe it, to produce documents in a timely fashion. Do you not think that --

MS. HARF: We strongly disagree with that.

QUESTION: You totally disagree with it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We talked a little bit on Friday about how you said that process is still evolving and that more documents will be coming. Can you – do you have any update on how that --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- how that is going? Do you know how many documents there are, even a rough general --

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, we’ve produced tens of thousands of documents.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And again --

QUESTION: Are there – is it fair to say there are tens of thousands more?

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: And my – also my understanding, the reason we do this as a rolling production is because if you waited until they were all done and cleared for release, they wouldn’t have seen any yet. So we actually did this so Congress would see documents more quickly.

QUESTION: Okay. So let me just --

MS. HARF: Because there are so many.

QUESTION: One final point of the subpoena --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and then I just want to ask about the select committee. But one point – if the hearing goes ahead – and I realize that that’s a hypothetical question – if it goes ahead on May 21st, we can be certain --

MS. HARF: We’re going to be in Mexico.

QUESTION: -- that the Secretary will not be there?

MS. HARF: We’re going to be in Mexico.

QUESTION: So he will decline this – not – the forced invitation to attend on the 21st?

MS. HARF: We’re going to be in Mexico --

QUESTION: All right. Now --

MS. HARF: -- on the 21st doing, as House leader Boehner said, “critical diplomatic missions.” So why would we take the Secretary away from that --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- to answer this subpoena?

QUESTION: And now just on the select committee --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- as you will have seen Speaker Boehner, who you just talked about, has appointed Congressman Gowdy to lead the special – to run the select committee. On Friday again you said, as you did on Thursday I think too, say that you do not believe that this is a – you think this is essentially a waste of taxpayers’ money and a waste of Congress’ time because there had been so many investigations into this before.

MS. HARF: I would use --

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. HARF: -- Speaker Boehner’s own words, “a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.” He’s used that in 2007 about looking more into Iraq. I would probably use that to refer to this as well.

QUESTION: Well, didn’t that apply – that applied to Secretary Rice’s subpoena, right?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But I’m going to use it to apply here.

QUESTION: To the select committee --

MS. HARF: I’m going to use his words for --

QUESTION: So in other words, your --

MS. HARF: -- to describe his own effort.

QUESTION: Your position on the select committee has not changed from last week when you were --

MS. HARF: That it’s not necessary.

QUESTION: It is not necessary.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But do you not understand or do you not see – maybe – clearly you don’t – not that you don’t understand. Do you see how members of – some members of Congress think that the production of this document last week, this infamous email now, is suggestive that you are not – that this building and the Administration as a whole has not been forthcoming and is slow-walking or even attempting to hide --

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: You don’t see how anyone can see that?

MS. HARF: I don’t, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I think the facts just don’t bear out that conclusion.

QUESTION: All right. I’ll – I’m done with that.

MS. HARF: Benghazi?

QUESTION: One quick one on Mexico. When the Secretary is in Mexico, will he bring up the issue of the former Marine who is now being held hostage – or excuse me, held in captivity after

making a wrong turn off the exit?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions for you in terms of what we’ll talk about in Mexico. Unfortunately, in this case, can’t talk about any of the details because of privacy.

QUESTION: But is Secretary Kerry aware of the case of Andrew Tahmooressi?

MS. HARF: I can’t, unfortunately, get into any details on that. Obviously, if there’s something that needs to rise to the attention of the Secretary it will.

QUESTION: Okay. And going back to Benghazi, why were the – this recent rollout of Benghazi emails – why were the ones given to the oversight committee different from what was just released by Judicial Watch?

MS. HARF: Well, they – are you referring to the emails specifically?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: Well, here. I have the email with me as it was produced to HOGR. Right here you can see, say it’s produced to HOGR – exactly the same as it was released to Judicial Watch. Nothing was redacted from it when it was produced to the Hill. I think actually there’s been some inaccurate reporting – unfortunately, some on your network – about whether it was redacted when it was sent to the Hill. So I just wanted to bring show and tell with me today.

QUESTION: Okay. And are there any plans to release more emails? I know you discussed it earlier. But --

MS. HARF: Yeah. We’ve been doing a rolling production of documents. And I do underscore the reason we’ve done it this way is so Congress gets access to things more quickly, right. Because if we waited until they were all done then they wouldn’t have any documents yet.

So as we have continued in this process, we will continue to and we’ll continue working with Congress on this.

QUESTION: Why – what’s the notion behind this rolling release? Some would call that slow-walking.

MS. HARF: Well, it’s in fact the opposite, right. Think about it this way: We have a bunch of documents that we are – related to Benghazi in some way, which this email really isn’t, as we’ve talked about – but it mentioned it. So a bunch of documents – huge amounts of them – in order to more quickly get them to the Hill – instead of waiting to send them all until they’re all – because you have to go through them for sensitivities, for security sensitivities, names of people working with us we wouldn’t want out there – you have to go through them to make sure that they’re sanitized, right, for security issues. Obviously, we provide as much as we can; as you see, that email was unredacted when it went.

And so in order to get documents as quickly as possible, you do a bunch of them at a time. You finish them and then you send them, so they can start going through them. Otherwise, you wait until the end and they don’t have anything in the interim. So I thought Congress would actually appreciate our attempts to get them things more quickly. I don’t feel that sense coming back from them.

QUESTION: On the subject of classification, some of these emails recently – there’s been some retroactive classification. Can you comment on that?

MS. HARF: I don't know which one’s you’re referring to, specifically.

QUESTION: This – the email in question from the Ben Rhodes email. There’s --

MS. HARF: There’s nothing classified about it.

QUESTION: Well, there’s some --

MS. HARF: This is how it went to the Hill, in a totally unclassified manner. Nothing redacted in it. So I don’t know what you’re looking at, but that’s not my understanding about the Ben Rhodes email.

I mean, there are a bunch of documents; I can’t speak to every single one of them. I focused on this one because you all are so focused on it. There are – we go through them to make sure, again, security equities if people have been – there’s names of people on the ground in Libya, for example, who were working with the United States. Things like that, we don’t want those names out there, but we obviously attempt to provide as much information unredacted as possible to the committee.

QUESTION: Okay. Because some of these emails that I’m looking at, the classification has been changed. These were unclassified emails that have since been retroactively classified.

MS. HARF: Okay, I’m happy to take a look at those specifically. I’m not aware of what you have in front of you, but I’m happy to look.

QUESTION: Similar to what happened during the Usama bin Laden emails – I think that you should remember.

MS. HARF: I think actually we declassified a bunch of them.

QUESTION: But you changed it.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The classifications were changed.

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a declassification process that we go through in order to provide as much information as possible to the American people. And with the Usama bin Laden emails, if we’re referring to the same ones, those were actually declassified. They went through the declassification process that the DNI runs so we could share more with the American people. They’re just different circumstances.

QUESTION: And that was, I think, after meeting with the director of the movie Zero Dark Thirty?

MS. HARF: You’re talking about a movie?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Okay, which emails about that? Actually, I think the emails – are you referring to my emails? Yes, Lucas. Those emails were never classified. Those were just released under a FOIA request. That’s very different. Those were all unclassified emails that were never declassified. I thought you were referring to some of the documents associated with the actual operation.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. HARF: Those were declassified. The emails that you referred to with the movie were just produced under FOIA. They were never classified. The classification never changed.

QUESTION: Can I go to Syria?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: No. Hold on. I have just one more on this. On the select committee, you make the case that you have been cooperating with Congress ever since --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- since they got involved, exercising their oversight authority, and that you don’t think the select committee is needed. But will the Department – and if you can speak more broadly to the Administration as a whole, but will this Department specifically – will you be cooperating with it? Or do you think that since you don’t believe that it’s necessary, do you think that it’s not necessary that you’ve already given them all that --

MS. HARF: Well --

QUESTION: -- or will have given them all that you – what’s --

MS. HARF: We obviously endeavor to cooperate as much as possible given that this hasn’t even, I think, been voted on or stood up yet. We’ll look and see what it look like and figure out how we’re going to cooperate. But we have endeavored and will continue to be cooperative.

QUESTION: But --

MS. HARF: I just don’t know what that will look like.

QUESTION: But you don’t intend to be uncooperative, because you think that it’s not --

MS. HARF: It’s never our intention to be uncooperative.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Marie, on the announcement of the foreign mission status for the Syrian Opposition Coalition offices, what protection would it give them now that they didn’t have before? What does this enhanced status actually mean in practicality for them?

MS. HARF: Yeah, it does a couple of things. So this is not, obviously, tantamount to recognition of the SOC as the Government of Syria. It’s a reflection of our partnership with the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and will do a few things. It will allow us to formally facilitate banking and security services for the coalition offices in the United States. That’s one. It will also facilitate their outreach to the Syrian diaspora in an increased way in the United States as well. So those are three things off the bat that I think they’ll get from it.

QUESTION: But it will not give the personnel working in it diplomatic immunity, I believe?

MS. HARF: Let me check on immunity. I don’t believe that’s the case, but let me double-check on the immunity question.

QUESTION: And as far as access to the Syrian regime building that was shuttered back in March --

MS. HARF: They will not be – they will not have that building.

QUESTION: They will not have the building. Thank you.

QUESTION: Is that – do you know, speaking of that, did they ever make a request for a protecting power to look over that, do you know? Or if you don’t know --

MS. HARF: I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- can you look into that to see if it’s whether --

MS. HARF: Who would they ask?

QUESTION: The Syrian – I don’t know, maybe the Russians.

MS. HARF: Maybe the Russians. I don’t know. I’ll check. I don’t know. I don’t think they have, but let me check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry. They have offices in Washington and in New York.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So it applies to both of those offices?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, that is correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. HARF: And if they were to open them anywhere else as well.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: So – and can I ask about this Foreign Missions Act?

MS. HARF: Always, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Just try to figure out what, in addition to what they have, they will have more now in United States?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, legalization of their status or --

MS. HARF: I think I just mentioned a few things. We’ve already recognized them as the legitimate opposition. This doesn’t – no, this doesn’t recognize them as the Government of Syria. There’s a diplomatic process in place for that. But it allows us to formally facilitate banking and security services --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- for their coalition offices, which is actually a key part of operating as a diplomatic entity in the United States.

QUESTION: Do they have more presence than Washington, D.C. or other places?

MS. HARF: They have one in New York as well.

QUESTION: So the other thing – I mean, you said clearly, I assume, that there is no related to their status now with the embassy status, which was --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- closed a few days – a few weeks ago through --

MS. HARF: In April, uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yeah. There is no relation?

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: So what is the significance of – political significance --

MS. HARF: In March – excuse me, in March. I was wrong.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: What is the political or, let’s say, a diplomatic significance that you will achieve by giving them this status?

MS. HARF: Well, I think it just shows how committed we are to working with the SOC, and it takes another step to formalize their relationship with us and to say that we believe they are the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Obviously, it doesn’t confer on them status as the Government of Syria, but it takes just another step to say these are the people who are showing they’re committed to a diplomatic solution, they are the moderate opposition, they’ve been at the table negotiating with the regime. It just is another step to formalize that.

QUESTION: So I mean, can we expect that other things will come out at the end of the week after their meetings or their trips?

MS. HARF: I think there might be some more steps that we announce throughout the week after our meetings. I just don’t have anything to preview for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Syria?

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you have any update regarding the previous chemical --

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: -- weapon attacks?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any update on it.

QUESTION: What is the process? What are you trying to do right now on those allegations?

MS. HARF: Well, the OPCW announced – let me just pull this up. The OPCW announced that they were going to be undertaking a fact-finding mission to establish the facts around this alleged use of chlorine in Syria, obviously think this is a good step. We will consult with them. I don’t think we have a schedule laid out for how this fact-finding mission will go about, but we want to get all the facts, and we’ll make determinations and then go from there.

QUESTION: Did you also try to reach out to one of the British newspapers? Telegraph, according to their findings, they already established through some samples they received. Did you --

MS. HARF: Has the OPCW team?

QUESTION: No, the – one of Turkish – British newspapers.

MS. HARF: Right. Well, the OPCW is the one doing the fact-finding mission, given that they’re the ones running the CW destruction effort. So I don’t know if they have. I don’t know if our folks have. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Another question regarding Syria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, the Special Representative Brahimi announced his intention, or at least say that he is not trying to be – again, to doing the same thing.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And there were some names which were mentioned. Do you have any position regarding the next step, or just like, leave it to --

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we work very closely with Mr. Brahimi on the Syria issue. I don’t have any predictions for you about where the process will go from here. In order to convene a third diplomatic round, we need the Syrian regime to agree to several steps, which they have not agreed to. So we’ll keep working with Mr. Brahimi or whoever happens to be in that role to move the process forward.

Jo.

QUESTION: Is there any reason --

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Any particular reason why you’re taking these steps now, the office and also the extra money?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, President Jarba just arrived in town and will be having a whole host of meetings this week. And this is his first official visit, the first official SOC visit to Washington. So I think we probably timed it with that.

QUESTION: Sorry, what I meant was the whole general – the meetings and everything.

MS. HARF: Oh, what – oh, all of them. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was just a scheduling issue or if there now is a specific reason. I don’t think there was.

QUESTION: Sorry. This is the first official visit of the SOC?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Hasn’t – haven’t other leaders --

MS. HARF: The first official visit --

QUESTION: -- been here before since they were recognized in, God, where was that, Istanbul? Where were we when --

MS. HARF: But this is the coalition’s first official visit to the United States since 2012. You can visit here and it not be an official visit.

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. HARF: This is their first official visit.

QUESTION: -- wasn’t the previous – no? The previous leader didn’t ever come?

MS. HARF: This is the first official visit.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Given that you work, to use your words, in lockstep with your European allies, do you expect a similar recognition to be coming from any of the other European capitals?

MS. HARF: I don’t know what their regulations are for foreign missions in their countries. I don’t – the answer is I just don’t know.

QUESTION: This isn’t something that you’ve coordinated then, necessarily, with Europe?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure. I’m not – on this, I don’t think so but --

QUESTION: Okay. And I just wondered if you had any announcements about any upcoming talks, Friends of Syria talks, anything like that?

MS. HARF: I know that we’re going to be having conversations with our partners, especially with the London 11 coming up. I don’t have any specifics to announce for you, but we will be having discussions with them soon.

QUESTION: Just on the --

QUESTION: Same issue?

MS. HARF: Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. I just want – sorry. I just wanted to clarify a little bit more on the status of the mission. Was there – so before this, before this recognition today, what was the – was there some kind of prior step under the law that --

MS. HARF: Well, not under – not to my knowledge, under the law. We had taken the political step in December 2012 of recognizing the SOC as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. To my understanding, that was not a legal step. That was a political declaration of our support. This is now a legal step.

QUESTION: So as far as the missions in D.C. and New York were concerned, they had no standing according – with the U.S. Government whatsoever before this?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t say “no standing,” but they didn’t fall under the --

QUESTION: No official --

MS. HARF: -- Foreign Missions Act. That’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And then you said that this would allow them to conduct more outreach to the Syrian diaspora community --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- in the U.S. as well as more broadly. Is that as a result of the increased capacity that you anticipate, increased financial wherewithal, and things of that nature?

MS. HARF: I think partly and also partly the increased status as well. I think both.

QUESTION: Okay. And then your status of the Assad, like, how you consider the Assad regime – are they still the Government of Syria in your view, or what is their – what is your view of how they --

MS. HARF: Well, again, this does not confer government status upon the SOC. The regime is still in power, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: But to be clear, we see no place for President Assad in a future Syria, period. What we’ve said is the two sides need to work together on laying out a transitional governing body. That’s a very difficult process, but that’s what needs to happen from here.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Regarding the mission in New York, are they allowed to be in touch with the UN mission or not?

MS. HARF: I would assume so. I assume they are in touch with the – I can – I’m happy to check with our UN folks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Back to Benghazi for a second --

MS. HARF: Let’s finish Syria and then we’ll go back to Benghazi, Lucas.

Syria?

Going back to Benghazi now. Yes.

QUESTION: I understand we might be looking at some different emails. There’s hundreds, thousands of them out there --

MS. HARF: Tens of thousands --

QUESTION: -- tens of thousands out there. The batch that I’m looking at from Wednesday September, 12th from Susan Rice – the original email is classified as unclassified, yet the classification was changed on April 16, 2014. And I know you’re not looking at this specific email right now so far --

MS. HARF: Sorry, or I don’t have the details about it.

QUESTION: What – why would an email go from unclassified to two years later retroactively called classified?

MS. HARF: I’m not familiar with that specific email. I’m happy to check with you.

QUESTION: Is that a practice that occurs regularly?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process that’s put in place across the Executive Branch that when you’re doing both FOIA requests but also documents that go to Congress – as I said, there are a variety of reasons we look at them and either redact or don’t redact things. I’m happy to look at those in that context. I am just not familiar with that one.

QUESTION: I want to go back on this just for one second. The quote that you read was from Speaker Boehner, right, about Secretary Rice?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know, did – I mean, it’s not Speaker Boehner who subpoenaed the Secretary.

MS. HARF: Well, Speaker Boehner was commenting on the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform, so exactly --

QUESTION: Which would have been Congressman Waxman at the time.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. And Chairman Issa at the time in 2007 also opposed the subpoena for Secretary Rice. Now, he’s the chairman who himself has issued the subpoena.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: He made a similar statement saying we should not subpoena the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Right. Well, as you know, often where you stand depends on where you sit, and I just want to make sure you don’t deny that Chairman Issa has the --

MS. HARF: The right?

QUESTION: -- the right or the prerogative if he wants to.

MS. HARF: I don’t deny that at all. What I am saying is that when people say this isn’t political, this isn’t partisan, why did Chairman Issa oppose a subpoena in 2007 for a Secretary of State to talk about Iraq, which we would all agree if we care about how Americans are sent into dangerous places like they do today, they should have cared enough back then? Speaker Boehner I would say the same thing about. So I’m just asking for a little bit of consistency here, and where there isn’t any, I would like an explanation why.

As I’ve said, my suspicion is that it’s political. I can’t seem to find any other explanation for it.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you recall – I realize you weren’t in this position, but back in 2007 when it was Chairman Waxman, a lot of Republicans at the time said that what he was trying to do was political. Would you agree with that as well?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: I know you don’t want to get into history, but I mean --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into – again, into why he made the decisions he made at the time. What I – and you’re exactly right. The quote I said – I just read said he was playing politics. My point is that --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- you can’t accuse a chairman of playing politics when 4,500 Americans died in a war you want to subpoena someone to talk about, and then say, “But we’re not playing politics when we want to subpoena you now to talk about the death of four Americans.” That just does not pass any sort of logical test at all, period.

Uh-huh. Wait do you – Benghazi?

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: Okay. Then I’m – yeah, and then I’ll go to --

QUESTION: Just one more on Syria and the foreign missions. I – just to follow up on the question about the United Nations, do you consider this like a pretext to possibly helping this – the SOC get recognition at the United Nations?

MS. HARF: I don’t – I’ll check with our UN folks. I just don’t have any details on that.

Yes. Wait, actually let me – welcome back.

QUESTION: Hi.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: How are you?

MS. HARF: Good to have you back in the room.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question about Nigeria --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- and the kidnapped schoolgirls.

MS. HARF: And then Wilner, I’m going to you.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, Secretary Clinton – I mean Secretary Kerry said that – it’s all the Benghazi talk, I think. (Laughter.) Secretary Kerry said that the United States was doing everything possible to help the Nigerian Government, and that also the United States is pushing the Nigerian Government. Can you detail exactly what the U.S. has done and what conversations Kerry has had?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Well obviously, I’m not going to go into specifics of what our assistance looks like. We – broadly speaking, our counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria focuses on intelligence and information-sharing – it’s a huge part of it – and also improving their own forensics and investigative capacities. Obviously, these are all things that will be helpful as they try to find these girls, who, as we have many indications, many of them have likely been moved out of the country to neighboring countries at this point.

So we will continue working them. I’m not going to outline specifics for you about what our talks look like. I would note one quick update on travel. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall is on her way to the continent now, I believe, and will travel to Nigeria in the coming days to meet with senior government officials and other key stakeholders to discuss various issues, including this despicable incident. Obviously, our ambassador on the ground has been in touch as well.

QUESTION: Has there been any conversation about the reports today that the Nigerian First Lady had protest leaders arrested?

MS. HARF: We’ve seen the reports. I think we’re still trying to get a little more information. Obviously, would strongly urge the Nigerian Government to expend all efforts to find the girls, to hold the perpetrators accountable also while respecting the rights of people to freely speak and assemble. If I have more details on them, I’m happy to share --

QUESTION: So Goodluck Jonathan’s assertion that he’s spoken to President Obama a few times about this is --

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the White House for that. I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: One quick follow-up on Nigeria.

MS. HARF: What?

QUESTION: One quick follow-up on Nigeria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The Country Reports on Terrorism released last week mentioned that kidnapping is becoming a much more prevalent tool of terrorist groups to raise funds or for other purposes. Can you speak broadly to the efforts of the State Department to combat kidnappings such as the one that occurred in Nigeria?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a little different depending on where we’re talking about, but one of the things we’ve been doing is working with governments to build their own capacity to fight these groups, right. So where groups like Boko Haram use kidnapping for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to perpetrate violence, to get some ransom money, we’ve been working so – the ideal situation is where their – the countries can fight this battle on their own.

Obviously, when we talk about terrorist financing writ large, we’ve been working very hard with partner countries in the financial sector and others to make sure terrorists can’t move funds around once they get a hold of them. That’s something we’ve been very focused on as well.

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MS. HARF: Nigeria. Let’s – uh-huh.

QUESTION: On Nigeria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Specifically, you mentioned that U.S. counterterrorism assistance has focused on intelligence and info-sharing. Is that broadly, or in this specific case?

MS. HARF: That’s broadly. I’m not going to specify what we’re doing in this case in and of itself, but that’s broadly speaking what it’s focused on. Obviously, we’ve worked with them in a variety of other areas – criminal justice and things like that.

QUESTION: So when you say the indications are that the girls have likely been moved out of the country, is that based on your own assessment or is that based on what you’re being told by the Nigerian authorities?

MS. HARF: I believe that’s based on our own assessment. And it’s been widely reported publically.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Sewall’s – when is she going to be there?

MS. HARF: I’m going to get the exact dates from you. I don’t have that in front of me. I believe she’ll actually be in Nigeria early next week, but I’m getting a full travel schedule for you.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – and just – I guess recognizing that you don’t want to talk specifically about what – can you – what does her – what can her – well not her bureau. Whatever it is. What would --

MS. HARF: Her fiefdom.

QUESTION: Yes. What kind of things can it provide, just generally? What could it give to the Nigerians to help --

MS. HARF: Well, she obviously focuses on democratization, civil society, human rights, civil security, other issues as well.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: So obviously, that plays a part in their overall fight against Boko Haram. And as a senior State Department official --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- I think there may be some other folks traveling with her as well --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: -- possibly from other places, so once we have a full delegation list, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: From other agencies?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. But in terms of what she can – I mean, is there anything that her fiefdom, as you call it, can bring to this specific incident?

MS. HARF: To the – to actually finding the --

QUESTION: To help, yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware, but obviously, it’s a senior official and under secretary who is discussing the range of ways we can work with them.

Nigeria, anything else?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Catherine.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Why can’t you give us specific details on what assistance you either are providing or are offering?

MS. HARF: Because we’re going to keep working with the Nigerians privately on that. Obviously, they have come out very publicly and said that they’re making every effort to find these girls. I just don’t think we’re going to outline how we’re helping them. What we’re focused on is making sure they can find them and bring them home to their families.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate any military assets being provided?

MS. HARF: The United States?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I do not.

QUESTION: And since you can’t get into the specifics --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: And then I’ll go back to you. Yeah, go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: -- can you characterize the conversations? Are they welcoming assistance? Are they saying we have this under control, things like that?

MS. HARF: Well, I think they’ve been very clear they don’t. The situation itself is not under control. I don’t have much more of a readout for you. They obviously know this is an issue of grave concern, no more so than to them. So we’re standing by to help in ways that we think are appropriate and that we can.

Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be hard --

MS. HARF: Wait, hold on.

QUESTION: The Boko Haram said that – today that – admitted to kidnapping the girls and threatening to sell them.

MS. HARF: The video?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Your reaction to that video?

MS. HARF: Well, it does – our folks are looking at it. Obviously, there are a lot of experts in the U.S. Government who look at these kind of things. Boko Haram frequently does put out these kind of propaganda videos. There’s nothing really new about their capacity to do that. The video does appear legitimate. And beyond that, our folks are looking at it, and if there’s anything else I have to say – I mean, look, to be fair, it underscores the horrific nature of what they’ve done and why we need to find these girls and bring them home. Beyond that, I don’t have much more analysis.

Nigeria? Nigeria?

QUESTION: Nigeria.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that the indication is that the girls have been moved outside the country.

MS. HARF: Some of them, yeah.

QUESTION: Are you working with any of the other governments or to broaden this effort to try and locate these girls?

MS. HARF: Well, we’d obviously encourage the Government of Nigeria to work with their neighbors to see if there’s ways they can work together.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) locate these girls without the use of the U.S. military?

MS. HARF: I think there are a variety of ways to locate people. One of the things we’ve been working on with the Nigerian Government is building their own capacity to do some of this, so --

QUESTION: What about in terms of law enforcement and FBI?

MS. HARF: I mean, I don’t want to speak for the U.S. military. I just said to my knowledge, there’s not.

QUESTION: What about in terms of --

MS. HARF: I don’t want to predict about what we might do if we can’t find them.

QUESTION: But, I mean, is this an interagency effort? Is the FBI working on this? Is --

MS. HARF: I don't know if the FBI is. I’m happy to check with them. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Sorry, so going back to my original question, then, when Secretary Kerry said that the United States is really pushing the Nigerians, there’s no other specifics about that, like in what way?

MS. HARF: No. Well, he said we would continue to provide counterterrorism assistance, we’d continue working with them. I don’t have more specifics beyond what he said.

QUESTION: Not even whether other agencies are involved or --

MS. HARF: I don’t have more specifics beyond what he said.

Nigeria? Nigeria? Wilner, I promised you’re next.

QUESTION: Just on Iran.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on the technical talks going on --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- in New York?

MS. HARF: They start tomorrow, I believe.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Tomorrow, the 6th and 7th, at the technical level, as part of our ongoing discussions on the sidelines of the NPT meeting that’s taking place in New York. And then next week, we will go for the fourth round of comprehensive talks in Vienna at the political director level with Cathy Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif, and all of us.

QUESTION: Two follow-ups on that: One, do you find any dissonance in the fact that Iran is participating in the NPT conference? And two, are the technical experts a part of the drafting of the deal, just as a process question?

MS. HARF: So – dissonance. How I would answer that question is clearly, we have huge concerns with their nuclear program or else we wouldn’t be so heavily engaged in this negotiation. So I think I’ll probably leave it at that. As we go forward drafting – which, as we’ve said, we will start at the next round of political director talks – obviously, the political directors will be involved in it, but we’re going to need a lot of expert opinion or fact. And how we move forward from here will absolutely be involved in the details of drafting.

Much of this is very technical. How we ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, that their program is for purely peaceful purposes, that involves a lot of – a high degree of technicality that will have to be informed very specifically by the work of our experts, the EU experts, the P5+1, and of course, Iran.

QUESTION: And when Zarif says that you’re at 50 to 60 percent agreement, would you say he’s accurate there?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’ll say what other U.S. officials have said, that I’m not going to put a percentage on it. We haven’t even started drafting yet. We have had meetings of great substance where we have made progress, but a few points I think I would make: First is it doesn’t matter until we get to 100, because as we said in the JPOA, nothing is agreed until everything’s agreed, so we could get to 95 percent and still not have an agreement. So really, what we’re focused on is getting to 100 percent, and these next three months will be difficult at times. This is a very tough negotiation with very complicated issues. And I don’t want anyone to think a deal is imminent. We have made progress, but we have a lot more work to do.

QUESTION: Just last one on this --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: If you have – you won’t put a percentage on it, but just for --

MS. HARF: All I care about is 100.

QUESTION: Right. So let’s say you are at this point or in late June at 90 percent. Do you draft 90 percent of said agreement and then save the hard parts for July or --

MS. HARF: I think they’re all hard parts. There’s not a lot of easy parts.

I think one way to think about it, and other folks have used this as well, is it’s sort of like a Rubik’s Cube, right? Like you – if your ultimate goal is to get resolution of the issue, right, to make it look perfect, then all the different parts play into that. So how you ensure Iran can never get a nuclear weapon and they can only use their program for peaceful purposes, when you talk about each of the individual issues, they all play into eventually getting to that place. So what each of those pieces looks like could be a little different, right, and that’s part of what the negotiation is about it: Well, does this – what do centrifuges look like, what does this look like, what does enrichment look like. And there’s not one answer; there’s a couple, which actually is helpful, right? So that all plays into how we eventually get to this final process. So there’s some give and take among the issues, but where there’s absolutely no give and take is what our final goal is.

QUESTION: Right. But you definitely – clearly, you feel comfortable enough to start drafting the deal.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. We’ve talked about all the issues in the first three rounds; we’ve seen where – we can already see some areas of agreement or at least where there’s a path forward and been very clear about where there will be tougher negotiations ahead. But we do feel like we can start drafting and do feel like we can get this done by July 20th. We don’t know if we will, if we’ll all be able to, but we think we can.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. HARF: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: On Iran.

MS. HARF: On Iran. And then Elise, you can --

QUESTION: Do you have any information about the report that there’s going to be a direct flight between Iran and U.S. soon?

MS. HARF: Is there a new report? I haven’t seen a report on this in months.

QUESTION: Iranian official said that a few days ago.

MS. HARF: I can check. I haven’t seen that.

Elise.

QUESTION: This is on North Korea. So Dennis Rodman gave this interview to this --

MS. HARF: It’s been a while since we talked about Dennis Rodman.

QUESTION: Yeah. He gave this interview to this magazine, I think it’s called DuJour or something. So he was – and he was asked if he ever gave – ever asked the U.S. Government for support in organizing his trip. And he said that six months ago, he reached out to the U.S. Government and said you should please help me. I wish you would take advantage of the situation that I have instead of ridiculing me, and he said that they never got back to him so he let it go.

MS. HARF: To my knowledge, that is not true. I will triple- and quadruple-check. To my knowledge – we’ve certainly never had any contact with him. I’ll check and see if he reached out, but to my knowledge we’ve had no contact with him.

QUESTION: But I mean, what was – just to go back a little bit. Like, what was the problem with him and his trip? Was it that you don’t think of him as a credible person to be sending a positive message to North Korea?

MS. HARF: I would stop after the word person probably – that I don’t think he’s a credible person. Look, he’s not a representative of the United States Government. We have mechanisms in place to talk to the North Koreans.

QUESTION: I understand. But there are other private individuals that go to North Korea, whether it’s Jimmy Carter --

MS. HARF: Please do not put Dennis Rodman in the same category as Jimmy Carter.

QUESTION: I’m not – okay. Well, then you’re talking about this person.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I’m not --

QUESTION: Dennis Rodman wasn’t good enough.

QUESTION: He’s a former --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- former president, Dennis Rodman. I’m not talking about – I’m – you’re making it – you’re making a distinction between the type of individual.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: There are plenty of private individuals that go to North Korea and you give them briefings and you talk to them and you say, “Listen, you’re going as a private individual, but if you’re going it would be helpful if you would send a positive message to North Korea,” and there is some kind of communication. And all I’m asking is: Did you kind of write him off because you think he’s a bit of a buffoon and not someone that you wanted to be associated with?

MS. HARF: Yes, but I don’t know if that means he reached out and we didn’t get back to him.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: So let me check on that.

Yes. Hi

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Brunei real quick.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary had any conversations with the sultan or Bruneian officials about the new law that took effect that imposes stoning upon folks convicted of homosexuality or with other – the Asian partners about that?

MS. HARF: Well, let me check on the Secretary’s conversations.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure if he has. But let me be clear that we have very serious concerns regarding certain provisions of what you just mentioned, which came into effect, I think, on May 1st. We’re watching how the law will be implemented, but the specific concerns are that it may criminalize several freedoms of religion, including apostasy, and also that freedom of expression and freedom of religion, which obviously are fundamental human rights, could be increasingly threatened under this. Also, some concerns over the punishments, as you noted, prescribed in the code, which would include stoning. So let me see what the conversations have been if the Secretary is, himself, engaged.

QUESTION: And as a follow-up to that, there’s been calls to boycott Bruneian-owned hotels. Can you – do you have a sense of whether State Department officials stay at any of those facilities when they travel?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer. I’m happy to get some details for you on that.

QUESTION: That would be great. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Move to Israel?

QUESTION: Marie, real quick, on that, can I just ask you – this is a definitional question.

MS. HARF: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: Is --

MS. HARF: I love your definitional questions.

QUESTION: No, it has nothing to do with fulsome --

MS. HARF: Did you bring your dictionary today?

QUESTION: It has to do with – I’m just wondering: Is apostasy actually listed and is a religious freedom in --

MS. HARF: That’s how it’s listed in my guidance.

QUESTION: It is? Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I didn’t just make it up.

QUESTION: Okay. No, I wasn’t – I just wanted to make sure.

MS. HARF: Yes, it is. It is.

QUESTION: I want to go to Israel, please.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you’d seen – you probably have – the reports in – on Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth, first off, in which anonymous U.S. officials gave a long interview blaming Israel for the failure of peace talks. That was followed up this weekend by a report in Haaretz that Ambassador Indyk is thinking of resigning and going back to his job with the Brookings Institute and announcing a possible trip by Ambassador Rice – Susan Rice – to Israel in the coming days after the Iran talks. Could you talk to any of that? First off, is it the U.S. Administration’s belief that it was the fault of Israel that these talks failed?

MS. HARF: Well, as the Secretary said I think as recently as last week, negotiations were suspended as a result of a combination of unhelpful actions on both sides. On the Palestinian side, the appeal to 15 different treaties while we’re actively working to secure a prisoner release, as well as the announcement of the Fatah/Hamas reconciliation agreement at the moment we were working for a formula to extend the negotiations, really combined to make it possible to extend the negotiations.

And on the Israeli side, large --

QUESTION: You mean impossible.

MS. HARF: Impossible.

On the Israeli side, large-scale settlement announcements, a failure to release the fourth tranche of prisoners on time, and then the announcement of 700 settlement tenders at a very sensitive moment, really combined to undermine the efforts to extend the negotiations. So I would very much take notion with the fact that this was just one side. Both sides did things here that were very unhelpful.

QUESTION: The official also said that the Israeli side did not budge an inch – more than an inch on the talks. Is that – is it a true reflection of what happened behind the scenes?

MS. HARF: Well, look, I’m not going to get into the behind the scenes. I know that won’t surprise you. What we’ve said is at the end of this – right before we went into this pause, both sides did things that were incredibly unhelpful.

On – wait, let me – on Ambassador Indyk quickly. He’s returned to the United States for consultations with the Secretary and the White House. As we assess the next steps in the U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace – premature, quite frankly, to speculate on what those steps will be or what will happen.

QUESTION: So is it correct to say that you’re dismantling the team on the ground?

MS. HARF: That is incorrect. That what you said, correct or incorrect?

QUESTION: No, it’s incorrect then.

MS. HARF: It’s incorrect. He’s returned for consultations but there’s no dismantling --

QUESTION: No, this article – there’s an article that said that you were dismantling the team on the ground.

MS. HARF: Well, Ambassador Indyk has always gone back and forth between the United States and Israel, as has Frank Lowenstein, as have others. So we’re going to see where this goes from here and figure out what makes sense in terms of staffing.

QUESTION: Marie, the picture that you painted just now in describing what both sides did that were unhelpful, I mean, that’s a pretty grim painting.

MS. HARF: Yes, that’s why this -- negotiations have been suspended.

QUESTION: Right. So last week, I asked – I mean, how can you make the case that the nine-month – the nine months of negotiations made the situation better? Is it not, in fact, the case that the situation between the atmosphere and the situation on the ground between the two sides is not – isn’t it the case that it’s worse now than it was nine months ago?

MS. HARF: No, and I would actually disagree with that notion that it’s worse. I think – a few things. I think by and large Israeli and Palestinian people want to see a peace process try to make this work, right? They support peace. They support a process even though it’s difficult, right? And so where we were nine months ago when there was no process, when it appeared there was no hope for this to move forward, I don’t think is a better place than we are today, where we’ve seen nine months where, yes, the last few weeks have been very tough. But for nine months we negotiated in good faith. Each side took some steps that, while small and while in the end haven’t led us where we need to be yet, matter. So I would take notion – or take exception with the notion that things are worse now --

QUESTION: Okay, but, well --

MS. HARF: -- for trying.

QUESTION: So before they began there was no hope and there was no process. Now there’s no hope and no process, plus you also have the Palestinians going to the UN. You have the unity government with Fatah and Hamas, which all of which you think is bad, you have large-scale – new large-scale Israeli settlement announcements, you have them not releasing the prisoners, and you have the – look, I’m just repeating what you said – and then you have the tenders – the settlement of the seven hundred --

MS. HARF: So we shouldn’t have tried this for the last nine months.

QUESTION: No, no. I’m not – I’m just --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: -- no, I’m not suggesting that it was – that – I’m just asking you how you can say, given the list of what you’ve just put out, how the last nine months didn’t – how the situation is better now than it’s --

MS. HARF: I’m not saying it’s better.

QUESTION: Right. So how can you say --

MS. HARF: I’m saying it’s not worse.

QUESTION: Well, but it --

MS. HARF: I’m saying it’s different.

QUESTION: -- seems like in addition to no hope --

MS. HARF: I’m saying it’s different.

QUESTION: But it – but there’s no hope and no process now.

MS. HARF: Actually, I think there are a lot of people – Israelis and Palestinians – who looked at the last nine months and said, “Wow. We can sit down at a table for nine months.” Look, this isn’t the first challenging time --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: This is a challenging time. This is not the first challenging time these two parties have had. This is not the first time we’ve seen negotiations take a pause.

QUESTION: Yeah. Right.

MS. HARF: So what the point of what you’re asking is, look, we will not be happy until they’re, as we have said repeatedly, two states living side by side in peace and security. How we get there will be challenging. There will be ups; there will be downs. And it’s not linear. That’s just not how this works.

QUESTION: Right, but last week I – last week I specifically asked, and I don’t remember --

MS. HARF: It was Jen.

QUESTION: -- sorry if it was Jen – right – how you could say what tangible improvements to – on the ground that the nine months have brought us. And now in response to this --

MS. HARF: I don’t think you’re looking at it the right way.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: You don’t look for improvements on the ground on a diplomatic process that’s not over yet.

QUESTION: Well, it’s not – but it is over.

MS. HARF: Well, that hasn’t reached our goal is what I’m saying.

QUESTION: Well, but yeah, but then you – (laughter) – and then you’d – I mean, if you can’t --

MS. HARF: Wait. So the choice you have is doing nothing?

QUESTION: -- show any incremental progress – no, no, I’m not making that argument.

MS. HARF: Well, right. But these are our choices though, right? Even if we enter into a – we enter into a negotiation and we say, on balance, even if we get to the end of the nine months and there’s – there’s been some tangible evidence of working together, there have been prisoner releases, there’s been other things, we don’t have an agreement, it was worth it to do it.

QUESTION: Well, but – yeah, but --

MS. HARF: Those are your options, right?

QUESTION: So your argument is that it’s worth it to have tried and – even though the situation now is worse than it was than before --

MS. HARF: I am disagreeing with the notion that it’s worse.

QUESTION: But I – but everything that you --

MS. HARF: I said it’s different. I think the notion 10 months ago, where we weren’t even at the table, where they weren’t talking, is worse than seeing that leaders, even though difficult, can come to the table.

QUESTION: Right. But they’re not at the table now. There’s been --

MS. HARF: Right. They were for nine months, Matt.

QUESTION: And there’s no hope and no – I’ll drop it, but I just – I don’t understand how you can make that argument logically that it got better.

QUESTION: I mean, this goes back --

MS. HARF: I didn’t say it got better.

QUESTION: Well, that it didn’t get worse.

MS. HARF: It got different.

QUESTION: It got – well, different is worse, right? No?

MS. HARF: Uh. No.

QUESTION: But this goes to Matt’s question, really. I mean --

MS. HARF: No, different is different. Get your dictionary out.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary thinking of releasing a document or maybe some parts of the plan that he said he thought was on the table? He said at one point he thought there was a deal on the table. If he releases some of that to the public, that would then go to Matt’s point that we could actually see maybe there was some fruit to the labor and there’s something possibly to build on for the future.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I mean, look, I’m not downplaying your question, Matt. I don’t have any information on whether or not we’ll do that at some point. I know people are asking.

What we’ve said – but you speak to a good point here, which addresses Matt’s point, that even if these negotiations eventually don’t work in the nine months, you have put the issues on the table, you’ve talked about them, maybe you’ve seen something where whenever we start this process again it will help us make progress faster or make better progress or go further. That’s how these negotiations work, right?

So yes, having done it for nine months, we think getting the parties to the table, putting all the issues on the table, working through very specific language about some things, eventually will be helpful to a process where we can get a final agreement.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be helpful to the Israeli public, the Palestinian people, who are the most – who are the biggest losers in this failure --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- and the American public as well, who’ve been paying the tax dollars for it, to actually release something --

MS. HARF: Again, we’ll talk about where this goes from here. I don’t have any information on whether we’re going to. We’ll try and talk about it going forward.

QUESTION: Okay. And can you just answer whether the information that was in the Haaretz report about Susan Rice traveling to Israel is actually correct?

MS. HARF: I think we have some senior officials that will be going soon. I don’t have any travel announcements to make for you, but watch this space in the coming days and we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Can I ask a tangential question? It has to do with Israel.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: But if someone else – yes? All right. This has to do with these reports about the U.S. sponsorship of the Abu Dhabi book fair. Can you speak to that, given that there’s been some concern expressed that some of the books that were featured Arabic translations, like Mein Kampf and The International Jew and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are inappropriate and that the U.S. Government shouldn’t be involved in. Can you address that concern?

MS. HARF: Well, we obviously condemn in the strongest terms the anti-Semitic ideas promulgated by certain booksellers at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The United States is listed as one of many, quote, “cultural partners” of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair. In this case, like many other countries, the United States simply hosted a booth at the fair staffed by U.S. Embassy personnel. Again, we support freedom of expression broadly speaking. That’s why we participate in these kind of events, but absolutely condemn that kind of –

QUESTION: Do you know if they were aware that these books were being prominently displayed and sold?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure about that. And two more points on this: We welcome reports the organizers of the book fair removed both anti-Semitic and Jihadi texts from display, and that these hateful materials represented only a miniscule percentage of the literature on display, which, again, is not acceptable, but just for some more background.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I mean, I understand the --

MS. HARF: Were we aware before we got there?

QUESTION: Well, yeah. I mean, did --

MS. HARF: I doubt it.

QUESTION: Did anyone make it – I mean, I’m not necessarily sure that it’s – one should expect you or whoever was there to go to every single booth and look at it. I understand the freedom – the free speech issue that you’re citing. And I don’t think – the concern isn’t that you guys were at something that – or you should only go to book fairs or be present where they’re selling --

MS. HARF: Right. Was it a concern?

QUESTION: -- selling, I don’t know, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Little Prince. But you do recognize there was a concern? Did you know that when – did you --

MS. HARF: When we signed on as a cultural partner, did we know?

QUESTION: Right. I mean no, no, no. Let me ask – did you approach the – when you became aware of this – and I understand the fair ended today. But when you became aware – why was it that they were removed, these anti-Semitic and Jihadi – was it because of the complaint from the U.S., or do you not know?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I’ll check.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know – in the future, are people going to be looking into this kind of thing before – or during?

MS. HARF: I’m sure we always make every effort not to be a part of events where there is gross anti-Semitic literature.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, I just don’t think we were aware. Let me see the details.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Just back on Team Indyk quickly as a follow-up.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Does he have to – is he remaining fulltime at the State Department?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Or can he join the – okay, so --

MS. HARF: Oh, well, as of right now, yeah, he’s a fulltime State Department employee.

QUESTION: Okay. So he can’t also do the Brookings Institution?

MS. HARF: Again, he remains in his position.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We’ll see what happens going forward with this process.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. HARF: Yes, and then I’m going to you, and then I’m going around.

QUESTION: Last Thursday there was a Freedom House report released. Is there any way, first of all, can you tell us how do you view Freedom House reports in general?

MS. HARF: In general? Let me see, I have something on that. Obviously, you saw me last week stand up here and talk a lot about freedom of the press during our Free the Press Week.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: The Freedom House 2014 report concluded that media freedom hit a decade-long low last year. We’ve talked about this a lot in this room, whether it’s in Russia, whether it’s in Venezuela, whether it’s in Turkey with YouTube and Twitter. So we’ve talked about this a lot in this room. Obviously, we believe it’s an important issue.

QUESTION: So do you find it credible and something that you referenced to it --

MS. HARF: The Freedom House report?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: Well, it – I mean, I don’t how I would describe it, other than obviously it’s an issue we take very seriously and agree with some of the recommendations in it, or some of the analysis. I just haven’t seen the whole thing.

QUESTION: So to Turkey --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the Turkish media is this year for the first time after about 15 or 20 years now unfree, defined as unfree from partly free. As the ally of Turkey, how do you view the situation in media freedom in Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, I’ve spoken up here quite a bit about, like I just said, Twitter and YouTube and freedom of expression space in Turkey. We have conveyed our concerns about media freedoms to Turkish authorities and will continue to urge the government to open social media sites and to do better across the board.

QUESTION: So after this report released there has been a big discussion in Turkey going on, but also the Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu came out over the weekend and stated that this report is “little more than an operation aimed at changing the perception towards Turkey.” This is quote-unquote. Do you think there’s an operation in Turkey – in the U.S. and Washington?

MS. HARF: Absolutely not at all. Not at all, period. And what I think would change the way people look at Turkey is if they unblocked YouTube, if they didn’t block Twitter. I think that’s what drives people other places to say, “Hey, maybe freedom of expression isn’t that great in Turkey right now.”

QUESTION: So just to follow up: When the Turkish foreign minister comes out in Turkey and says such a thing, that there is an intentional operation against Turkey’s image, and you are saying that this is very much a impartial report --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- how do you think Turkish people – what to believe, whether --

MS. HARF: I don’t think I speak for the Turkish people writ large up here.

QUESTION: And the final question --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Also, Foreign Minister Davutoglu asked Turkish journalists to reject these report findings. Do you have any comment to that?

MS. HARF: I don’t. Michael.

QUESTION: There was a report actually in our paper that the Jewish community in Odesa, in Ukraine – I know I never ask about Ukraine, but --

MS. HARF: Making news here today.

QUESTION: -- there you go – is looking to – are considering an evacuation.

MS. HARF: Oh, okay. Let me check on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I mean, I had seen the report, but I don’t have any confirmation or specifics on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: On Ukraine (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then – yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: As the number of casualties in the east of Ukraine is rising, does the U.S. still support Kyiv’s action against the east?

MS. HARF: Support what? I’m sorry, you cut out at the end.

QUESTION: Kyiv’s action against the east.

MS. HARF: Kyiv’s actions of the – which actions are you referring to?

QUESTION: The anti-terrorist operation against the protestors in the east.

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is that – we have clearly said the Ukrainian Government has showed great restraint in the face of overwhelming challenges, but that they also have a responsibility to maintain law and order for their own people – I think that’s probably as much as I want to say on that – and that the onus really is on the Russian Government to pull back, to pull their folks out of eastern Ukraine, and to take de-escalatory steps as we move towards the elections which need to happen on the 25th.

QUESTION: But what Kyiv is doing now, does it qualify as restraint?

MS. HARF: Well, absolutely, Kyiv has shown enormous restraint. And if you’re referring to what happened on Friday in Odesa, obviously, I put out a statement about that on Friday. But any loss of life is horrible, and we understand that there will be an investigation. The prime minister has actually taken punitive action against some of the police folks who led the police forces in Odesa after this horrific incident.

So – but again, that started because pro-Russian forces and separatists started basically mob action attacking protestors. So going forward we think that restraint is important, but so is keeping law and order.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t matter how many people die; those people brought it upon themselves, it’s their fault. Is it what you are saying?

MS. HARF: No, I’m not saying that at all. In no way am I saying that. I’m saying that the fact pattern of what happens here matters. What I also said is that I – we applauded Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s steps that he took (a) to start an independent and thorough, credible investigation; and also to fire, I think, the police chief there that didn’t take steps to protect these innocent civilians regardless of who they supported. But the fact pattern of how this started and who started the escalation, who started the mob violence matters if we’re talking about how to prevent it in the future.

QUESTION: Marie, can I just ask you on that specifically? The foreign ministry in Russia, in Moscow has come out today and said that there are towns in eastern Ukraine which have been encircled by Ukrainian troops, and they – which are apparently facing a humanitarian disaster due to shortages of medicine and food. And they’re also listing what they call a massive – mass-scale rights violations by what they say are ultra-nationalists in Ukraine. Could you comment on those reports, please?

MS. HARF: Well, I think this is just the latest in the Russian version of events not matching up with what we see on the ground. The Ukrainian Government has taken enormous steps to protect their people, to provide what they need to their people. We provided a bunch of assistance as well to the Ukrainian Government to provide for their people during this very trying time.

It’s the Russian forces and the pro-Russian forces who crossed a border into another country who’ve been attempting to undermine that country’s sovereignty. They’re the ones who are committing these kinds of violations we’ve seen. Look, any report of violations – even under the former President Yanukovych, we saw many – we take them all seriously. But what we’ve seen is the Ukrainians repeatedly standing up for their own people and the Russians really doing the opposite.

QUESTION: So you dispute that there’s humanitarian shortages, aid shortages in these towns and --

MS. HARF: I can check and see if there are. I just am not sure that the fact pattern laid out there about the reason is accurate. I’m happy to check, though.

Ukraine?

QUESTION: One more, one more. Yes. When you say “pro-Russian” – yes, these people are pro-Russian, they feel strong ties with Russia. But how do you connect --

MS. HARF: Supported, sent by the Russian Government.

QUESTION: -- them with Moscow? Yes, but how do you connect them? What’s --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. A lot of them have weapons that are only available to Russian security forces. Many of them, when you interview them on camera, say they’re there because the Russian security forces have sent them. It’s just like what President Putin said when he first --

QUESTION: What interviews are you referring to?

MS. HARF: -- denied that there were forces in Crimea, and then three weeks later he said, “Just kidding,” there were.

QUESTION: But there is a base there, that – the troops had been there for a long time.

MS. HARF: No, beyond the base – beyond the base, the other folks as well that attempted and then annexed Crimea. So again, there are all of these pro-Russian separatists who the Russian Government has an enormous amount of control over, and should press them to de-escalate. They should press them to come out of the buildings. They should press them to pull back. And they should, by the way, pull their troops back from the border as well. There’s not a lot of credence when they say these aren’t their folks when everything they’ve done shows otherwise.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine, yeah.

QUESTION: Yes. Mrs. Nuland called the civil authorities last week and talk about Ukraine and the sanctions. According to some sources, Mrs. Nuland asked the civil authority to freeze the account of some Russian and Ukrainian citizens. Can you give us a readout of this --

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of that. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m going to you.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, yes.

QUESTION: No worries. Traveling this weekend, the Secretary raised the specter of sanctions for either side if they do not engage. Is that a threat to bring both sides to the table, are actively looking --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been saying for a long time that the reason we put the executive order in place is to have an infrastructure to impose sanctions very quickly, sanctions on both sides if we want to. And that’s to really do two things: The first is to hold accountable people on both sides for what we’ve seen happen since I think December 12th or 15th. The second is to deter future bad behavior, so it’s a little of both. You mentioned the Secretary spoke with both – leaders on both sides, both in person with the President and also over the phone with folks as well. What we need to see here is concrete action to live up to the cessation of hostilities and we haven’t seen it yet.

QUESTION: He also mentioned that there might be serious implications and possible consequences if the sides don’t come to the table.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. HARF: That’s (inaudible) sanctions, absolutely. We have in place an executive order that gives us everything we need to impose sanctions like that, and we will if we don’t see progress.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: The other Arshad is back.

MS. HARF: I know, look at that.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. Firstly, that – sadly, to report to you that my editor of the paper is still in jail awaiting trial on treason, and which may end up in death penalty. So this is the current situation, press situation in Bangladesh where the press freedom has been gagged. The independent judiciary is now also under tremendous – come under tremendous controversy because of the fact of the government of the day’s incursion or interference into their judicial – so that leads to my other area of grim and gloom, is that extrajudicial killings, abduction under the name of a democracy is now being almost taken as a pass, as a 007 pass, which – order to kill. The RAB has been ordered to kill on sight anybody opposing the government of the day.

So this is Bangladesh, again, in a way – we have fought a liberation war in 1975, democratic – people are democratic-loving, having --

MS. HARF: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: So having – this is the question: And how would – what is the position of the State Department on this situation leading to the press as well as the extrajudicial killing?

MS. HARF: Yeah, no, and thank you for the question. It’s good to see you back in the room. Obviously, as I said a couple times today, we support freedom of expression, freedom of the media everywhere, including in Bangladesh, and it’s an issue we talk about all the time with the government, also with the opposition and also with civil society leaders, because everybody has responsibilities here. And where we see freedom of the press in jeopardy, we obviously speak out against it. So we’ve been very clear about our views on freedom of the press, also about violence anywhere. I know we talked about it a lot around the elections, but very clear about our concerns about violence, and we’ll continue raising these issues with the government.

QUESTION: As a follow-up to that, what would be the situation as you surmise in Bangladesh at this point (inaudible)? There was a (inaudible) for a fresh election which may ease the tension between the major opposition and the government of the day.

MS. HARF: Well, we want the tensions to ease. That’s the whole point here, right?

QUESTION: So has that been in place as a – been a dialogue, been – on your tables between the --

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks. I’m not sure, quite frankly, what the details are.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Venezuela?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: This morning, the Human Rights Watch issued a report detailing instances of torture, security forces using armbands.

MS. HARF: Where are you asking about? I’m sorry. I missed the country.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

MS. HARF: Venezuela, thank you. Sorry. I missed the beginning. Yep, go ahead.

QUESTION: In specific instances of torture, the collusion between the executive and the judicial to silence the opposition. Your reaction to that, and are there instances of torture in Venezuela?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t read the whole report yet. I’ve been very clear up here, as have all of us, that criminalizing dissent is not an acceptable behavior for a government to do. And we’ve seen that quite a bit in Venezuela. We’ve seen the pictures and the reports coming out about what’s happening to some protestors. There’s no place for any of that violence. I’ll take a look at the report and see if we have a more robust response for you.

Yes, in the back. You’ve been waiting very patiently.

QUESTION: Yes. About the South China Sea territory dispute.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: On May 2nd, the China oil company CNOOC, they announced that they were – deploy an oil rig machine in the South China Sea. That’s located right in the Vietnam EEZ.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So could you comment on that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to check with our folks and get you a specific response.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jen, I have a quick question about Syria.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The remaining precursor chemicals. I understand there’s still an 8 percent?

MS. HARF: I think that’s right about where we are, uh-huh.

QUESTION: No update on --

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no update.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: That it? Thank you.

MS. HARF: That’s it.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)

ENDS

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