Daily Press Briefing: April 16, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Secretary's Travel to Geneva
    • South Korea Ferry Tragedy
    • Multilateral Meeting on Ukraine Tomorrow / Russia / U.S. Priorities
    • Secretary's Bilateral Meetings Tomorrow
    • Energy Conversations
    • Ukrainian Requests for Assistance / No Military Solution
    • Russia / Misinformation
    • U.S.-Russia Relationship
    • Russia's Role in Destabilization SYRIA
    • Chemical Weapon Elimination / Neutralization Process
    • Parties Working to Extend Negotiations / U.S. Role as Facilitator
  • IRAN
    • Denial of Visa for Iranian Nominee to the UN
    • Resignation of Prince Bandar
    • Concerns about AQAP
    • Security Situation
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 16, 2014


12:43 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Wow. Big turnout today.

QUESTION: Nothing personal.

MS. HARF: This is going to go 90 minutes, isn’t it? I have my tea because I’m losing my voice. So we can’t go 90 minutes. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the briefing. Everyone – each of you gets 20 minutes to yourself. (Laughter.)

I know. Matt’s like, “That’s less than I normally have.”

QUESTION: No, no, no.

MS. HARF: That’s not okay. Okay, a few things at the top, and then we’ll go into questions.

A travel update: Today Secretary Kerry is en route to Geneva, Switzerland. Tomorrow he will participate in a multilateral meeting among the United States, Ukraine, Russia, and the European Union to discuss the ongoing situation in and around Ukraine. He will also tomorrow meet with Joint Special Representative Brahimi to discuss Syria. There were some questions about why Special Envoy Rubinstein’s on the plane with the Secretary, because he obviously does work on Ukraine, so that is why – they will have a meeting tomorrow in Geneva as well.

And the second item at the top: We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives on board the South Korean ferry, the Sewol. The United States is ready to provide any assistance needed. To that end, the U.S. 7th Fleet is ready to assist with the search-and-rescue efforts. The USS Bonhomme Richard has moved to the area to assist the Government of South Korea with the search-and-rescue operations. I don’t have more updates for you than that, but we are ready to help in any way we can. Obviously, it’s a terrible, terrible tragedy there.


QUESTION: Is it the Bonhomme Richard? Or the Bonhomme Richard?

MS. HARF: Oh, maybe. It might be Richard. Excuse me. I can check.

QUESTION: I don’t know. I don’t really --

MS. HARF: Get us started today.

QUESTION: I don’t have anything specific, but I do have somewhat of a general question --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: -- about tomorrow’s meeting.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: In the short term on Ukraine, is it – am I characterizing what the Administration wants correctly? You basically want the Russians to drop their annexation of Crimea, but you also want them to stop messing around in east and south Ukraine. Is there anything else the Administration wants to see the Russians do in the immediate term?

MS. HARF: Yep. So a couple points on that, and then I’ll make a few, I guess, overall points about our goals for tomorrow, and then we can talk a little about Ukraine.

So we want the Russian Government, as you said, to pull its forces back from the border and from the Crimean region of Ukraine. We want it to halt the destabilizing actions you referred to and violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and we want the Russians to call for armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine to stand down and disarm. So those are a couple things we want the Russians to do.

Tomorrow will be the first opportunity for Russia, Ukraine, the EU, and the United States to sit down at a table together and discuss a range of issues, including, and probably most importantly, de-escalation, demobilization, the ongoing process of constitutional reform, and of course, the lead-up to the May 25th elections. I’d note that this is – this is not the whole game; this is one part of it, and talk doesn’t replace actions when it comes to what’s happening on the ground, and that we will continue to prepare, as we’ve said, additional sanctions and other steps, if we can’t get some de-escalation here.

QUESTION: Okay. But what are the biggest priorities for immediate action that you would like to see? Recognizing, even though I know you never will, at least publicly, that there’s not a lot you can do about Crimea, is it mainly the destabilization and the provocations in the south and east that you would like to see an immediate halt to?

MS. HARF: We definitely want to see an immediate halt to that provocation. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay, so then --

MS. HARF: That’s certainly one thing. There’s not – I don’t know if I can provide a rank in order, if we have that, of what we want them to do --


MS. HARF: -- but that’s certainly at the top of the list. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So but then in terms of immediate – I mean, do you regard the use of what you have called the – or what the Secretary has called the use of energy as a tool – is that something that is more of a medium-term, less of a short-term thing for you to want them to stop? It doesn’t seem to be having – it doesn’t seem to be something that is an immediate, like a right-now issue that has to be resolved. Is that more of a medium-term thing?

MS. HARF: Well, I think sort of yes in – I think what you’re getting at here is obviously this is – we don’t want them – the Russians to use energy as a weapon.


MS. HARF: We have been very clear about what they should and should not be doing when it comes to energy for Ukraine and Europe and other folks as well. But clearly, the presence of armed groups that the Russians are supporting in eastern Ukraine is an incredibly pressing priority. And energy is a – we want them to not do any of this stuff, right?


MS. HARF: But in terms of pressing priorities, they need – and what they can do to de-escalate, that involves what I said: the armed separatist groups, getting them to disarm, pulling back from eastern Ukraine, pulling back from Crimea. But the energy conversation is one we’re going to keep having over many, many weeks here.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one: Is there anything that the Ukrainian Government, as you’ve just talked about what the Russian – what you would like the Russians to do in the short and immediate term, is there anything that you’re wanting the Ukrainian Government to commit to or to do in that same immediate timeframe? Or are they already doing what you think they should be doing?

MS. HARF: Well, we – they’re already doing what we think they should be doing. And just a couple logistical points, too, for tomorrow – or planning points, I guess. While he’s in Geneva, he will also meet with EU High Representative Ashton, have a bilateral with the Ukrainian foreign minister, and likely also have a bilateral with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I know there were some questions about that.

But just to be clear, in the bilaterals that aren’t with the Ukrainians, these are conversations about the discussions they’re having, but it’s not anyone making decisions about Ukraine when the Ukrainians aren’t in the room. As we’ve said, this is for the people of Ukraine to decide themselves, but he will have these separate conversations.

Yes. Ukraine?

QUESTION: No, it’s –

MS. HARF: No? Do we --

QUESTION: -- on the Secretary’s travel.

MS. HARF: Okay, let’s finish Ukraine. Yep.

QUESTION: You are talking about de-escalation. I mean, but you are generally – the focus was on the movement or mobilization of the forces. But escalation – the main escalation, as Matt was mentioning, is the issue of the energy and this, like, tightening or trying to suffocate, like maybe it’s a big word, to Ukrainian economy and everyday life. So in anything is going to be taken in that regard, or it’s just like wait and see if tomorrow?

MS. HARF: No, it’s not wait and see. I mean, we’ve been having the energy conversations for some time now. They were – they happened – some conversations on that issue happened just last week or the week before when folks were in Brussels. We’ve said very clearly that Russia should not use this as a weapon and that, actually, Russia has a lot to lose if they try to do so. We’re also going to talk about ways we and the Europeans can work with Ukraine in terms of meeting their energy needs, and that conversation will absolutely continue.

I didn’t mean to imply that it wasn’t a top priority. It is. It’s incredibly important to us. It’s something we’re working on every day. But in terms of the de-escalation, that’s part of the whole puzzle of what we need to see Russia do here.

QUESTION: There is another issue related to tomorrow’s meeting, it seems like.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I hope it’s not – I mean, assume it’s a wait-and-see status, which is first a status of the – of (inaudible) – put more sanctions or widening the scope of the sanctions.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Second thing, which is the possibility or the necessity, let’s say, of arming Ukraine, or this is not on the table at all?

MS. HARF: Right. Well, we’ve said that we’re not considering lethal assistance to Ukraine at this time. Again, as Jen said, I can’t predict what we will or won’t rule out at some point in the hypothetical future. But right now, we’re not considering lethal assistance.


MS. HARF: We are looking at nonlethal assistance. We’ve given some. We’re looking at what more we could do on that.

Do you have a follow-up on that?

QUESTION: Yes, in fact, about --

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m trying to figure out or understand what is the wisdom of the explanation of not arming the – because two or three weeks ago already it was one of the main issues was discussed in the NATO meetings and in European, EU and U.S. meetings that how the size and the efficiency of the armed forces in Ukraine are actually shrinking. So do you think that is not a wise decision to make it now?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is – and the President has said – there is no military solution here. We don’t want to see more escalation. What we want is de-escalation.


MS. HARF: At the same time, we’re constantly reviewing Ukrainian requests for assistance and determining what’s most appropriate to provide. And we’ve said throughout that the Ukrainian Government and military has shown incredible restraint in the face of incredible hostility. But we’ve also said – you’ve heard Jen say this – that they have a responsibility to maintain order and protect their people. So we’ll keep looking at the requests. Again, we’re not considering lethal assistance at this point.

In terms of your question on sanctions, we have additional sanctions prepared. We’ve talked about them a lot in here. As we said, don’t expect any before tomorrow’s meeting. But if there are not steps taken by Russia to de-escalate, we will take additional steps, including additional sanctions.

QUESTION: Talking about de-escalation as a, like, target or an aim, how do you justify or how do you explain to me – it’s not justify, it’s not the right word. How do you explain to me de-escalation of this all, let’s say, I will not say rhetoric, but a lot of words coming out of this podium and other podiums regarding Russia and the fiction of Russia and the fact of America and all these things? You don’t think that those type of talks escalate the situation or escalate atmospherics?

MS. HARF: Not at all. I think what we’re doing is responding to misinformation and falsehoods that the Russian Government is putting forward about its actions. We have a responsibility to not let propaganda that’s false stand. I have a responsibility, as do my colleagues, to stand up here and tell the truth about what’s happening. We can’t let the Russian view of what’s happening be the final word on this because it doesn’t happen to be what’s actually happening on the ground. So we think that’s something that’s important to do.

And what we’ve said is we want to de-escalate the situation on the ground. We’re not focused on words. We’re focused on what actions the Russian Government is or is not willing to take here to see what the situation will look like going forward.

Still on Ukraine? Anything else on Ukraine? Elliot.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Go ahead, Elliot, and then Matt.

QUESTION: Great. So the way Jen said it yesterday kind of made it sound like if the meetings don’t go well tomorrow, then we can expect additional sanctions. Is that the case?

MS. HARF: Well, I wouldn’t put it all on this meeting, right? This isn’t sort of the whole ball game. This isn’t the end all/be all. Russia needs to take steps to de-escalate in order to prevent additional sanctions from being levied on them. Now, we hope, obviously, coming out of this kind of diplomatic meeting, we can see some of those steps. But I wouldn’t say we have the clock ready the second they’re wheels-up to do that. But this is an important diplomatic step. It’s not everything.

As I said, but I think before you came in, we’re going to have a bilateral with – likely with Foreign Minister Lavrov, with the Ukrainians, and with the EU. So we’re going to have these conversations. But I wouldn’t look at this as the end all, be all necessarily.

QUESTION: Sure. Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then I apologize, I did come in a little late, so if you already answered this --

MS. HARF: It’s okay. I know, you’re all the way in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.

MS. HARF: No one wants to sit up front today.

QUESTION: But I did want to ask about the – this Donald Cook incident in the Black Sea.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. launched a protest against the Russians?

MS. HARF: So it is my understanding that the Department of Defense actually will be taking the lead on diplomatic response to this.


MS. HARF: I’m not sure if it’s actually happened yet. It’s my understanding it will be.

QUESTION: Is that how it generally goes? Does the – does DOD --

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding. Obviously, we have different diplomatic mechanisms to communicate with countries, and it’s my understanding that’s how this message is being sent. I’m not sure there’s anything typical about anything that’s happening here.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) yesterday the Pentagon said that the State Department was taking up the issue --

MS. HARF: Yeah, I know --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) take up the issues with the Russians.

MS. HARF: I’ve talked to my colleagues at the Department of Defense, and we’re all trying to figure out how we’re responding, and the latest I have from them is that the Department of Defense will be responding, obviously in close coordination with us, but I think we were trying to figure out the mechanism through which to do that.

QUESTION: But will Secretary be taking up the issue when he meets Lavrov?

MS. HARF: I’m not sure. I don’t have anything to preview specifically about his conversation. We’ll see if it comes up.

QUESTION: And how best do you describe your relationship with Russia right now?

QUESTION: Stellar.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) I think it’s complicated. I think that there are still places we work together. We were in Vienna a week and a half ago for the P5+1 EU talks on Iran, and it was business as usual. But that’s because it’s something the Russians care about – preventing a nuclear-armed Iran – and it’s something we care about. On Syria CW, we’ve reached I think now 65 or 70 percent of the stuff being taken out of Syria. We’re working with the Russians on that. But I don’t think anyone would be surprised that the events of the last weeks and months have really been hard for the relationship, and that’s why we’ve made very clear that this action can’t stand and that we will continue to take steps against Russia if they continue this activity. But it’s a complicated relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS. HARF: Not stellar, as Matt said.

QUESTION: Well, I was being sarcastic.

MS. HARF: I know.

QUESTION: You mentioned in a response to someone earlier that you can’t let the Russian view be the last word, and that’s why --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is – so it’s the Administration’s position that the Russian view is not an interpretation of facts on the ground, but a just blatant distortion and lie?

MS. HARF: I was talking about the propaganda.

QUESTION: Well, I --

MS. HARF: I’m not necessarily talking about the view they put forward in diplomatic settings.

QUESTION: Right. But what they’re saying, what they’re putting out on social media or whatever and press releases and that kind of thing, you don’t view as their interpretation of facts on the ground; rather, you view it as a distortion --

MS. HARF: Propaganda, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and a lie?

MS. HARF: Well, it may be their view, but it also is a distortion.

QUESTION: But it’s incorrect?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: It is just not factual?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to say every single word they’ve said about everything --


MS. HARF: -- but in general, the narrative they are propagating about what’s happening there is not in line with what we think is the reality there, correct.

QUESTION: Well, what you think is the reality or what actually is the reality? Because their – this is what I’m trying to get at.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Your position is that what the U.S. Government is saying about the situation on the ground in Ukraine is factual --

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- without any distortion, and what the – and what --

QUESTION: In part because that’s based on what the Ukrainians themselves are saying about what’s happening in their country.

QUESTION: Okay. Right. And what the Russians are saying about the situation on the ground you think is --

MS. HARF: Is a distortion of reality.

QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted to make sure.

QUESTION: Let me ask you specifically --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- on something we’ve been hearing not just once now, but Russia is saying that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Is that something you view as a distortion?

MS. HARF: Yes. And I would say, in response to that, that any destabilization that’s going on inside Ukraine right now is a direct result of Russian action there. So it’s ironic to me that they seem concerned about the stability of Ukraine when they’re the ones trying to destabilize massive parts of it.

QUESTION: Right, but if you take – if you accept – if we are to accept your line that what you say is correct and everything the Russians are saying is false, or most --

MS. HARF: I didn’t say everything, I said the narrative.

QUESTION: Well, but when they say that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, even if they’re responsible for it being on the brink of civil war, it’s not --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t say they’re on the brink of civil war.

QUESTION: Even with --

MS. HARF: I said destabilization.

QUESTION: Even with the --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: So even with all the Russian destabilization and provocation, you do not believe – the Administration does not see Ukraine as on the brink of civil war?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard anyone use that term.

QUESTION: Well, but if you look at what a civil war is, it’s like one sector of the population fighting another or often the government in itself.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And are you saying that all the people who are fighting against the Ukrainian Government are not Ukrainian, but Russian?

MS. HARF: No, I didn’t say that. Uh-uh. I said Russia is fomenting instability in parts of the Ukraine.

QUESTION: But they could – I mean, certainly you can foment – someone can foment a civil war that isn’t necessarily one of the parties.

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t heard that term used. I’m happy to check with our folks. I know there’s a definition of it. I just haven’t heard that term used.

Ukraine, anything else? Samir, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Will Special Envoy to Syria Mr. Rubenstein travel to the --

MS. HARF: Excuse me, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: -- bless you – travel to the Middle East from – after his meetings in Geneva?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that he has onward travel. I’m happy to check on his schedule.


MS. HARF: I just haven’t heard that he has onward travel. I think he may. He’s been doing a lot of traveling, so let me check.

QUESTION: So – excuse me.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, what’s the purpose of his being with – to meet Lavrov?

MS. HARF: No. The Secretary tomorrow, as I said, will be meeting with Special Envoy Rubinstein with Special Joint Representative Brahimi in Geneva --

QUESTION: Oh, okay, in --

MS. HARF: -- to talk about the diplomatic process on Syria. So he’s joining that meeting.

QUESTION: And you mentioned --

MS. HARF: To my knowledge, he’s not joining Ukraine meetings.

QUESTION: Okay. In mentioning the – still about the relation and it’s complicated with Russia --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you mentioned their role in Syria and chemical weapon. What is the latest about that?

MS. HARF: On chemical weapons?


MS. HARF: So I think we’re either at 65 or maybe even up to 70 percent of the chemical weapons have now been shipped out of the country.

QUESTION: So within one week, which was the last week when Secretary Kerry was talking about 54, now becomes 70?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yep. I know there’s been some movement on the ground. Obviously, the OPCW will be the one announcing as they have reached milestones, but it’s my understanding there’s been some activity on the ground.

QUESTION: And were you able to confirm reports about the use of chemical weapons --

MS. HARF: No, we still --

QUESTION: -- last weekend?

MS. HARF: We still can’t corroborate them. We’re obviously looking into it, but we can’t corroborate those claims.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Regarding these chemical weapons, I mean --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- I know that you are not the side of deciding or explaining to us everything related to this. What’s your understanding? Because it was before – I mean, it is – like, now it’s 70 percent and the plan was announced even by – approved – not approved, it was announced by this podium that it’s – by the end of June, everything will be finished.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I assume so.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And what is the United States role in this issue in particular? It’s like, related to the shipment of the – or destroying the weapon?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me see if I have that in here. I know there are a number of different countries – and I may, let me just check on this – I may not, though – a number of different countries that are contributing to the CW destruction effort.


MS. HARF: As we’ve talked about, we do have some assets in the region that are helping, so let me see. Actually, once the chemicals are brought – and I think this is still accurate – to the port of Latakia, they are loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships. After they’re removed from Syria, the chemicals will be transported to the Italian – an Italian port where they will then be transloaded onto a U.S. vessel, the MV Cape Ray, which we’ve talked publicly about. They’ll be neutralized at sea, which we will do on that ship, so that’s our role in it. Obviously, also talking to the Russians about pushing the regime to make progress. We have a diplomatic role as well.

QUESTION: So just a question. I don't know if you have the answer. It’s a little bit technical usually, but asked in these cases when --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- these type of weapons are – what you call it – destroyed or --

MS. HARF: Neutralized, destroyed, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Neutralized, whatever.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there a place it’s going to be dumped or not?

MS. HARF: Let me see. There are a couple different priority levels of chemicals that they have in Syria. I think the neutralization byproduct from the MV Cape Ray will be transported, I think, for disposal facilities in the United Kingdom, Germany, and some commercial facilities in the U.S. and Finland. So obviously, once we’ve gone through the neutralization process.

QUESTION: So it’s going to be distributed at this place?

MS. HARF: A number of different – this is actually a great example of a number of different countries pitching in and helping out to get this done, because we think we’re still on track, if people hold their commitments, to doing this by the end of June.


MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Middle East?

MS. HARF: Middle East?

QUESTION: Yeah. There seem to be some conflicting reports in the region today about Ambassador Indyk --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and what he is doing or not doing. Can you give us the rundown on that?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So the parties themselves have been meeting regularly to try to achieve an agreement to extend the negotiations. The bottom line is both parties tell us they want negotiations to continue and are searching for a path to do that. The U.S. is continuing to play the role of facilitator and to support the two sides as they try to reach an agreement.

To that end, Ambassador Indyk and his team are traveling to the region today after consultations with Secretary Kerry to resume their role as facilitators. As we’ve said throughout, we won’t be giving daily readouts of their efforts, of meetings, of specifics, but they are headed back there today.

QUESTION: Okay. And then with the eye toward getting an extension, do --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And really, again --

QUESTION: So have we now dropped the – I don’t – “pretenses” is a loaded term but --

MS. HARF: It’s never stopped you before.

QUESTION: It’s – well, right. But it’s now impossible, is it not, for there to be a deal by the end of April?

MS. HARF: We’re focused on extending the negotiations.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: And one thing that I want to stress here is that the parties have been meeting regularly and that we are serving as facilitators. But as we’ve said now for several weeks, it’s really up to the parties to make the decisions now.

QUESTION: But there’s two kinds of deals, right? There’s the – well, I mean, we’re not – I don’t think anyone’s even talking about a peace deal in the true sense of the word, but we’re talking about a framework agreement, and then we’re talking about – there was some kind of interim deal that would be an agreement between the two parties to extend, so --

MS. HARF: We’re talking about an agreement to extend the negotiations.

QUESTION: So that would have each – that would have things that each side would have to do in order for you to agree. It’s not just like we both, say, agree. So there – so you are still working on some kind of --

MS. HARF: Well, the two parties are working together.

QUESTION: Maybe the word “deal” is too big, but --

MS. HARF: Agreement, an agreement to extend the negotiations. What that looks like, I don’t have any details for you on. They’ve been working on it together. We’ll be going back and serving as facilitators.


QUESTION: I’m trying to understand – I mean, so today Ambassador Indyk and whoever are going back to – just to be sure that they are continuing?

MS. HARF: To serve as facilitators.

QUESTION: And then is there any envisioning of any kind of framework or any kind of mechanism by which it can be continued beyond April 29th?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s what we’re – right now we’re – the two parties are meeting to try to achieve an agreement to extend the negotiations, so speaking exactly to that.

QUESTION: Well, the other day, Monday, I asked Jen about two people who had been detained by the Israelis. I recognize that it’s not – with Passover and everything , it’s not easy to get things, information out of Israel, but I’m just wondering if there are any updates on these two. One is an American citizen.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I don’t have any updates on them, Matt. I’m sorry about that. Let me see if our team does.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you --

MS. HARF: I am sorry about that. Let me see what I can do.

QUESTION: No, no. Well, I believe that you’re sorry about that.

MS. HARF: I know.

QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure. Do you know if anyone was looking into it --

MS. HARF: I think they were, yes.

QUESTION: -- after Monday?

MS. HARF: We always look into questions when you ask them.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.

MS. HARF: What else on Middle East peace? Anything?

QUESTION: So the framework is a hopeless case now?

MS. HARF: I’m not saying that. (Laughter.) Are you filling in for Said today? That was a very Said-like question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) is sitting there.

MS. HARF: What we’re focused on is facilitating between the two parties to see if they can make the tough decisions to extend the negotiations.

QUESTION: I’ve got an Iran --

QUESTION: Towards the --

MS. HARF: Oh, wait. We have – I think we have another Middle East peace --

QUESTION: Towards the framework agreement, though.

MS. HARF: Just to extend them.

QUESTION: So now you just want to extend them and talk in perpetuity for nothing? I mean, presumably, if you --

MS. HARF: No, that’s not what I’m saying, Elise.

QUESTION: So – but presumably, if you are looking to extend the negotiations, it’s with the --

MS. HARF: With a goal in mind.

QUESTION: What – well --

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- what is the goal?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into details about that. What we’re focused on, what the goal is right now, is what I outlined.

QUESTION: So you can’t even say that you still have a goal of a framework agreement?

MS. HARF: We still have a goal of a lasting peace agreement that addresses all issues between the two parties. That’s our goal. That’s always been our goal. How we get there, we’re focused right now on the next step, which is seeing if we can get an agreement on extending the negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, but then it seems as if you’ve dropped the idea of a framework agreement.

MS. HARF: I’m just saying what we’re focused on now in these next set of meetings.


QUESTION: From the meeting today, is it your understanding that that’s been pushed back or is that still happening? Are they waiting for Ambassador Indyk?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of the press reports. We’re not going to confirm individual meetings or when or why or – I know it’s frustrating.

QUESTION: When he’ll be back to the --

MS. HARF: Ambassador Indyk? He’s returning with his team today.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iran for a second?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: This is – has to do with this UN host committee meeting.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What is – if it hasn’t happened already, can you outline what it is that you expect to come out of this meeting? I mean, this committee appears to be one of the – and this is saying a lot for the UN – one of the more useless committees at the UN. It appears to have produced its last report about five years ago and nothing since then. And it seems to be mainly preoccupied with listening to the complaints of foreign missions about parking tickets that they have accrued over the years on the streets of New York. Can you tell us what you – what the U.S. expects to come out of this meeting?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions to make about what might come out of the meeting.

QUESTION: Well, no --

MS. HARF: They can speak about their process and how it will move forward. As I said, we take – as Jen has said, as I’ve said as well, we take our host country obligations very seriously. That’s why cases like this are so rare. We’re happy to have a conversation about why we won’t be granting this visa with the UN, as we have already. We’ve also had them with the Iranians. And I don’t want to speak for their process.

QUESTION: No, no, I understand that, but I mean, when – this meeting is going to happen, and you’re a member of this committee --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and presumably you’re going to go in, and I just want to know if you’re going to say anything to this committee that is different than what you have said publicly about this situation.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details on what we’ll say. I assume, as we’ve said publicly, that we will make the case for why we won’t be granting this visa. As Jen said yesterday, it’s not appropriate for Iran to nominate someone to be their permanent representative, to live in the United States, who was involved with such searing events in U.S. history.

QUESTION: Syrian events?

MS. HARF: Searing.

QUESTION: Oh, searing.

MS. HARF: Searing.

QUESTION: Well, is it not appropriate for them to nominate him, or is it not appropriate for him to serve in the United States?

MS. HARF: It’s not appropriate for us to grant him a visa, so we won’t be granting a visa.

QUESTION: But do you think that – do you have any reason to believe that they did this as a provocative gesture, or you thought that they thought enough time had passed? I mean --

MS. HARF: I don’t – I honestly don’t know what their motivations were, and I don’t want to guess at them. What we’ve said is we want to move past it.


MS. HARF: And we’ve made our position clear, and we won’t be granting the visa, and hope that the Iranians can move past it as well.

QUESTION: Can you outline for – why is it that you are able to speak about not granting this visa if all visa records are confidential? Is it because the application – an application was never received? I don’t think that’s the case. What’s the legal --

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not – I can’t speak about our – I’m not speaking actually about our legal underpinnings for why we’re not doing that. There are some things we can’t talk about because of visa confidentiality.

QUESTION: But you can – well, you’re saying you’re not going to grant a visa, which means that --

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: So how is that permissible under the --

QUESTION: They’ve talked about not granting --

MS. HARF: There are different circumstances under which we can talk about whether or not we will grant a visa.

QUESTION: Okay. And the reason that you’re able to do it in this case is?

MS. HARF: Because we’ve made a decision that it’s important. He has made his application public, so once people talk publicly about their own applications, we can then talk about them as well.


QUESTION: All the time?

QUESTION: Thank you for putting that on the record --

QUESTION: Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: -- because the next time it comes up, you’re going to – it’s going to be interesting --

MS. HARF: Well, hopefully, I won’t be here, and someone else can deal with the precedent I just set. (Laughter.) No, but in general, there are few exceptions to when we can, the biggest of which is when somebody has already made a visa – when they’ve already publicly talked about their case or their application. Obviously, we think confidentiality is important.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, yes.

MS. HARF: Wait. I think there are a few more.

QUESTION: Yeah, me. This committee --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- when it is formed, I mean, the main purpose it seems that to, beside discussing, is challenging this, your decision, right? Or you don’t know what they are meet --

MS. HARF: I’ll let them speak about their purview and what they are going to discuss.

Anything else? Samir, yes.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the resignation of Prince Bandar bin Sultan before – as head of intelligence?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I don’t. We obviously work with Prince Bandar quite closely. I’m sure we’ll work with whoever replaces him. I know his deputy, I think, is replacing him for now. Don’t have more analysis than that.


QUESTION: Marie, have you and the Administration and the intel community seen this new al-Qaida video?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment generally on that? And then also there has been some talk, I guess, by experts that this is potentially a missed opportunity for the United States.

MS. HARF: To do what?

QUESTION: To conduct a drone strike.

MS. HARF: A couple points on the video. Look, the first is that it’s in no way breaking news that AQAP is a significant threat to the United States, the people of Yemen, to other people in the region and around the world. I mean, since 2009, we’ve seen them try to attack the homeland with several attempts, and they’ve clearly carried out a number of attacks inside Yemen. We work very closely with the Government of Yemen to arrest operatives, to put pressure on AQAP.

A couple other – I think this video actually was fairly unusual in some ways for AQAP. It highlights the leader, a Mr. Wahishi, who – I think there are a couple of interesting points, one of which is that in addition to being the head of AQAP, he’s the number two now of al-Qaida core, which speaks to some of the points we’ve talked about with al-Qaida core, that they’re increasingly decentralized. As we’ve had success in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they’ve really looked to their affiliates, which is why we’ve been increasingly concerned about their affiliates. So I think that speaks to some of the things we’ve talked about about al-Qaida in general.

QUESTION: What about – what is this – the fact that there were, like, 100 operatives out in plain sight pretty much, what does that video tell you about how much stronger and emboldened AQAP is right now?

MS. HARF: I don’t think we can make generalizations about their strength based on one video, quite frankly. We know they’ve been gaining in strength. We have been increasingly concerned about them, as I said, since 2009. That’s why we’ve worked increasingly to counter the threat from AQAP in a variety of different ways.

So I don’t think this increases our concern, because quite frankly, our concern was already incredibly high. If folks remember as recently as I think August of last year, we actually temporarily suspended operations in our Embassy in Sana’a based, again, on a credible threat stemming from AQAP. So it’s something we have taken very seriously for a very long time.

QUESTION: And how much of a specific concern is their well-known effort to build bombs that could make it past airport security?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s been a concern for a long time, if we look at some of the printer cartridge bombs, we look at the underwear bomber, if we look at others. They – we know they have tried – some of the attacks they’ve tried to undertake inside Saudi Arabia, they have tried to build explosives that can get around security. We’ve been concerned about that for many years now, are taking steps by working with the Yemenis, other countries around the world, to counter that threat. But we know they’re interested in doing it; that’s why we take it so seriously.

QUESTION: Yes, but in this same region --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- but in Libya, I mean, yesterday you released a statement related to the ambassador, Jordanian ambassador.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And in general, in the last few days, a lot of unrest, or let’s say uncertainty, is going on in Libya. How do you read this situation in Libya, especially a lot – there’s an embassy there, there is other things going on with Libya.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that we will work closely with the government as it builds its own capacity to improve security in its country. We know there are challenges there. We know that they have tried very hard and made progress since the historic events that took place there to improve the security situation. We’re helping them. But the goal, obviously, is for them to be able to build their capacity, which is what they’re doing. It doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about it still.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks, guys. My voice held out until the end. And I spilled tea up here.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:16 p.m.)