State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, December 12, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 12, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary Kerry’s Travel / Meetings in Ramallah and Jerusalem
    • Welcoming of Declarations Marking end of the Kampala Dialogue
    • Annenberg Foundation Purchase of Native American Items / Support for Native American Tribes
    • Decision to withhold Material Assistance
    • Geneva II / Participants
    • Whereabouts of General Idriss
    • Criteria for Participation in Geneva II / Iran’s Activities in Syria
    • U.S. Consideration of Options
    • IMF Loan
    • No Interim Deals
    • Framework for Final Status Agreement
  • ROK
    • No Change in U.S. Position on ADIZ
    • South Korean Position on ADIZ
    • Interactions between State Department Contractors and the Media
    • Licensing Issues for Security Companies in Libya
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / Sharing Information with Members of Congress
    • Clear throughout Process that New Sanctions would not be Helpful
    • Not Diplomatically Sensible to move forward with new Sanctions on Iran
    • Designations of Companies for Iran Sanctions Violations
    • Discussions with Iran Based on Nuclear Issues
    • UK Non-resident Charge’s Meetings
    • No change in U.S. position regarding BSA
    • Support for India’s Role in Afghanistan
    • Egyptian Govt’s Responsibility to Protect Universal Human rights
    • U.S. Assistance to Egypt / Factors for Determination
    • Scheduled Execution of Mexican Citizen in Texas
    • Compliance with Consular Access Notification
    • U.S.-Mexico Relationship / Vienna Convention Obligations
    • Following Situation Closely / Resolve differences Peacefully
    • Accountability for Violence
    • Communications Regarding Security Contractor / Media Engagement
    • Execution of Opposition Leader
    • Call on All Parties to Exercise Restraint, Express Views Peacefully
  • IRAN
    • Use of Arak Heavy Water Reactor / Joint Plan of Action
    • Draft Defense Guidelines
    • Longstanding Alliance with Japan
    • Delay of Senate Confirmation Hearings
    • Impact on U.S. Relationships, Capabilities
    • U.S.-Uganda Bilateral Partnership



2:51 p.m. EST

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Apologies for the delay. I have a few things at the top, then we’ll open it up. Hi.

First, as you know, Secretary Kerry is on travel to the Middle East. He spent last week discussing security issues and providing an update with General Allen on our detailed, lengthy, in-depth analysis on the issue of security for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. He’s currently in Ramallah. I believe his meeting with PA President Abbas just ended, if I have my timing right. General Allen was also planning – and I’ll see if I can get a full readout for tomorrow – of joining the meeting to provide a briefing on the security analysis. And tomorrow morning, Secretary Kerry will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Two more things at the top. Thank you for bearing with me. The second, the United States welcomes today’s declarations by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebel group, as well as the joint declaration by the Ugandan president on behalf of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Malawi president on behalf of the South African Development Community. These declarations mark the successful conclusion of the 12-month long Kampala Dialogue and represent a strong step forward for peace in eastern DRC.

U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold led U.S. engagement during the final rounds of the negotiation, alongside his counterparts from the AU, EU, and the UN. We commend the parties’ commitment to reaching a final political resolution to the M23 rebellion – excuse me – specifically, the Ugandan president and his defense minister, for their patient and successful mediation of the dialogue.

The United States urges the parties to promptly implement the contents of their declarations, starting with the immediate disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the M23 in the DRC, in Rwanda, and in Uganda. We also urge the DRC Government to ensure that all of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity are held accountable.

The end of the M23 represents an important step toward resolving the persistent insecurity in eastern DRC, but much more work remains to be done. Moving forward, the United States urges the Great Lakes region to seize the positive momentum to further the implementation of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework.

One more item at the top that I want to make sure to mention, and then we’ll open it up for questions.

We commend the Annenberg Foundation, I think with which many of you are familiar with, for helping to preserve Native American heritage by purchasing sacred Native American objects from a French auction house on December 9th with the intention of returning the objects to the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes. Representatives of these tribes had identified certain objects as sacred, tried unsuccessfully to delay the sale until they could examine the items and determine whether they could file a claim for their return. The Department of State and overseas missions will continue to support Native American tribes that request their assistance when culturally or religiously significant items are being offered for sale.

We urge all parties that trade in Native American artifacts to engage in a respectful dialogue with Native American representatives and to act in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention to prevent the illicit trade of cultural property.



MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you give us an update on the suspension of the aid in northern Syria? The rebel group says that they believe it was a really hasty decision that both the United States and the UK made, that it’s going to have an impact on the Syrian people. And they think that you guys are already thinking about reconsidering it.

MS. HARF: Well, let me make a few points clear. The first is that this is not indicative of any way of our support for the Syrian opposition or the Syrian people. That in no way has changed. This is a decision based solely on the security of the material assistance being provided. As Jen said yesterday, assistance continues through other neighboring countries to other parts of Syria. Obviously, we want to be able to restart this as soon as possible. Also, underscore this doesn’t affect humanitarian assistance, which obviously directly benefits the Syrian people as well. So this is not an indication in any way, shape, or form of our support for the Syrian opposition. That remain, and as soon as we can get this restarted, we would like to.

QUESTION: Are you considering restarting it right now? And what more detail do you have about what actually happened? You said yesterday that you guys were —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — working on assessing what happened.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’re still assessing the security issues surrounding the material assistance. This – again, this will continue when we can do so securely.

A couple – I know there have been a couple questions about exactly what happened. We’re still gathering the facts from our team on the ground. We’re not in a position yet to give a definitive account of what happened, but I’ll make a few points, because I think there’s been some confusion, that General Idris was in Turkey at the time the warehouse was seized. My understanding, our understanding, is that he’s currently in Turkey. I’d obviously refer you to the SMC for further details on his whereabouts. They can certainly speak for that. But I wanted to clear up some of the confusion surrounding that issue.

QUESTION: Anything – any other details on what happened?

MS. HARF: No other details at this point, beyond what Jen said yesterday. We’re still gathering the facts on the ground.

QUESTION: How soon do you think that it’s going to be restarted? I mean, are we talking weeks or months or —

MS. HARF: I don’t even want to venture a guess. I just don’t know. It all depends on the security situation.


QUESTION: Wait, just one —

QUESTION: Did they —

QUESTION: You want to stay on Syria?


QUESTION: Yeah. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask a question about the guest list for the Geneva II talks.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A number of diplomats from different counties have been telling our office in Beirut that Iran and Saudi Arabia and Germany and Italy are on the guest list and have been invited along with the five permanent members of the Security Council. Can you confirm this?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s my understanding – and I’ll double check again – that no decisions have been made about external participation in Geneva II. As you know, there’s a trilat coming up on the 20th, and I think that’s one of the issues that will be discussed there. But it’s my understanding that no decisions have been made and no invitations have been issued.



MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said your understanding is that General Idris is in Turkey —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — so I assume you’re referring to some of the reports that he’s in Qatar. Do you –

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that correct? And was he at any time there or is it your —

MS. HARF: I think he may have been in Doha for – again, I’d leave it to the SMC to outline his movements. That is my understanding, yes. But it’s our understanding that he’s currently in Turkey.

QUESTION: So he may have been in Doha at some point in the recent past?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And he was where – he was in Turkey at the time —

MS. HARF: In Turkey when the warehouse was seized.


QUESTION: So Doha before or after?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding in the middle, in between, after. But again, I would refer you to his folks to outline his movements. I can’t speak for him.

QUESTION: Have you talked to him? I mean, is that how you know that he’s in Turkey?

MS. HARF: I haven’t talked to him.

QUESTION: No, no. The U.S. Government. Has the U.S. Government talked to him?

MS. HARF: It – that is my understanding, yes, that we have talked to him.

QUESTION: So he’s never fleed, so to speak, that this fleeing thing is erroneous, right?

MS. HARF: It’s our understanding – again, we’ve spoken to him – that he was in Turkey at the time the warehouse was seized. Yes.



MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, he made a provocative statement that Iran will not stop its support to the regime in Syria because Syria is the frontline for Iran. Will you still accept the invitation of Iran to the G-II with such provocation statements?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’ve been clear that participants in Geneva II need to publicly endorse the Geneva I communique. That hasn’t changed, and I haven’t heard Iran do that yet. We’ve also been very clear about the destabilizing and problematic nature of Iran’s activities in Syria. We’ve been very clear about that, and that hasn’t changed. I haven’t seen those comments specifically, but I think we’ve made our position very clear that Iran needs to stop doing what it’s doing in Syria, and we’ll continue making that point.

Anything else on Syria? Okay. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Israeli-Palestinian for a second?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: I – forgive me, I didn’t quite hear it right. Did you say that General Allen did or did not participate?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that he was scheduled to. I just want to confirm that he actually did. But he was supposed to be in the —

QUESTION: In the Ramallah meetings?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Ukraine. Can you provide any greater clarity than Jen was able to yesterday about the kinds of sanctions that you have on the table?

MS. HARF: No. Again, that’s one tool in the toolbox that we are considering, but I don’t want to get farther down a path that we’re not – haven’t gone farther on. And I just don’t have any more details. But it’s certainly something that’s on the table.

QUESTION: Could I ask also on Ukraine —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and this has happened just as you were coming down, I think. The EU has said it’s going to help Ukraine to obtain an IMF loan, which I think they believe would sweeten the deal towards signing an Association Agreement with the European Union.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Where would the United stand – United States stand on that, given that the United States does have quite a lot of influence within the IMF?

MS. HARF: Specifically on whether the EU —

QUESTION: No. On whether they – the United States would support —

MS. HARF: The IMF providing this loan?

QUESTION: Yeah. Exactly.

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to check in with our folks and see where we would stand on that issue. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Can I jump back to Middle East peace quickly?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Of course.

QUESTION: Over the last weekend, President Obama said that he would tolerate a peace accord that “was initially restricted to the West Bank.” And I know Secretary Kerry has repeatedly said that all final status issues —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — are on the table. They want a final status peace agreement. Is an agreement that is initially restricted just to the West Bank a final status agreement?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear here. I think what everybody’s been referring to – and there have been a couple of comments people are picking up and saying might this be some sort of interim deal. That’s not the case. Let’s be very clear here. We’re not seeking an interim deal or any – and any framework being discussed right now does not represent an interim deal. Obviously, we’ve talked about what different pieces of the final status agreement might look like.

I think what the President and what Secretary Kerry were referring to is a framework for a final status agreement. This is all within the context of these negotiations and would serve as principles to guide the negotiations. Nobody is talking about an interim agreement. I know there have been a lot of comments. People have tried to look at it and see if that’s maybe what we were saying, and it’s just not.


MS. HARF: So what – we still have the same goal: at the end of this process, having a final status agreement that addresses all of the issues that are part of this negotiation.

QUESTION: With Gaza signed onto that?

MS. HARF: With all of the issues. I’m not going to further delineate what that means, but with – let’s just say with all of the issues.


MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: But it is conceivable too that it may simply only be possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority regarding the West Bank, which is what they control?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to sort of venture analysis about what’s possible and what’s not. Our goal is the same, and that’s what we’re working towards: at the end of this process, a final status agreement that addresses all of the issues.

QUESTION: Go to East Asia?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So South Korea – the South Korean Government announced that it was reversing its decision on not allowing airliners to file flight plans to fly through the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This means that Japan is now the only country that is still holding onto that policy. Should we take this as a sign that the Chinese ADIZ has become part of the status quo in the region?

MS. HARF: Well, our position hasn’t changed, that we don’t recognize it and don’t believe it should be implemented. So since we talked about this a lot last week, nothing’s changed on that front. Again, I haven’t seen this latest announcement that you mention. I’m happy to check into it and see what it indicates, if it indicates anything. And we’ve also spoken a little bit about the announcement of their own ADIZ. So I think we’re sort of – we’re in the same place we’ve been on that and don’t believe that the Chinese ADIZ should be implemented.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) indicates that the South Koreans are caving?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to see if that indicates a change of position on the side of the South Koreans, yes. I would also leave it up to them to say what their position is on the Chinese ADIZ.

QUESTION: But broadly speaking, the U.S. is still not happy with the way that the Chinese ADIZ is being implemented. Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Yeah. I mean, “not happy” is not a technical term, I think. But we have concerns about the way it was put in place and the destabilizing nature of its possible implementation, yes.


QUESTION: Did you have – did you get any answer to the question last week about what the advice is from the FAA about which control tower in which country they should be listening to, commercial aircraft?

MS. HARF: I haven’t. I can check in again with them, and again, would refer people to give them a call as well. I’ll check in with them again.

Mm-hmm. Lucas, hi.

QUESTION: Hi, how are you?

MS. HARF: It’s been a while.

QUESTION: Good to see you, Marie.

MS. HARF: You too.

QUESTION: Going back to Benghazi, something we haven’t seen for a while, so —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The recently released FOIA documents stated that a State Department contracting officer advised the Blue Mountain Group not to speak to the media. Why is that?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. Contracted entities of the State Department, as you may or may not know, are not spokespeople for the Department. It’s standard practice for Department contractors to refer media inquires – sorry – such as I think you’re referring to in this FOIA release, to the State Department. They don’t – contractors don’t speak for our work abroad. In this case, a Department official, I believe, concurred with the contractor’s suggestions not to comment. This is sort of standard practice, it’s my understanding, with contractors, who, again, don’t represent us to the media.

QUESTION: Victoria Nuland said at the time that – last October, after the attacks – that the ARB would look into the matter. And it did not. Do you have a reaction to that?

MS. HARF: Into what? Which matter are you referring to? Sorry.

QUESTION: This contracting officer telling the Blue Mountain Group not to respond to any media inquiries.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is the ARB was incredibly comprehensive, took a comprehensive look at what happened in the situation. We’ve talked about that a lot in here. Second, I have to – I don’t know which comments of Assistant Secretary Nuland you’re referring to. I’m happy to take a look at them and check back with our folks who are experts on what the ARB did and didn’t look at and see where that stands.

But again, I think you’re mischaracterizing a little bit what the email said and the role of contractors and what media does. And I’m sure you have it in front of you and you’re about to read it to me; you’re looking through your papers. But the notion that we concurred with their suggestion not to engage with the media, I think, is fairly standard practice when a contractor asks for media advice from the people who actually represent the State Department to the media.

QUESTION: But it was the contracting officer two weeks after the attacks —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that said do not speak to the media.

MS. HARF: Well, I believe, again, that it was a forwarded email from a reporter. The contracting – the contractor made a recommendation or asked for a recommendation, and we agreed with them, again, because we are the ones who represent what the State Department does overseas.

QUESTION: Also in the FOIA docs there was some language that suggested some licensing problems on behalf of Blue Mountain Group, Blue Mountain Libya, and its parent Blue Mountain UK.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s been documented that security was a problem, of course, leading up the September 11th attacks. On the day of September 11th, an email was written suggesting there were licensing problems. Did those licensing problems contribute to the security situation in Benghazi being so poor?

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points on that. And I’m not an expert on this, but the Blue Mountain Group was a partnership between Blue Mountain UK and Blue Mountain Libya. I think this is what you’re referring to. Blue Mountain UK directly managed the guards and the contract, while Blue Mountain Libya provided the security license to stand up guard services in country. This arrangement is not uncommon in countries like Libya, where it’s difficult for foreign security companies to acquire operating licenses.

I think this is a licensing issue. Again, clearly there were security problems on the ground. We’ve all been very clear about that. The ARB was very clear about that. I can check and see if this licensing issue contributed to that in any way. I just don’t know the answer. But I think one of the important things to remember about the ARB was the recommendations it made in terms of how we can improve our security overseas on a whole host of issues, right, in a comprehensive way. And that’s what we’re doing right now.

QUESTION: Was – did the State Department give any consideration to hiring Blackwater, Triple Canopy, or a U.S. contracting service?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I’m happy to check. I just don’t know.

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: Iran sanctions?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Great. In the Joint Plan of Action that was signed in —

MS. HARF: Geneva.

QUESTION: — or agreed upon in Geneva, the Administration, effectively, on behalf of the entire U.S. Government, agreed to this provision: “The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Before —

MS. HARF: And it is the Executive Branch, of course, that negotiates these things with other countries on behalf of the whole government, as you mentioned.

QUESTION: Right, which leads to – right, which leads to my question. Was Congress notified before that provision was included that they were about to commit to no new sanctions for the next six months?

MS. HARF: No new nuclear-related sanctions?


MS. HARF: As you know, we certainly briefed the Hill and members of Congress throughout the Geneva process in closed settings. We did it with leadership, we did it with key committees, we offered them to all members on a couple of occasions, I think. I can double-check on what those conversations look like and whether that was part of them. But we’ve been very clear throughout this process that this is not a question about whether or not we’re for or against sanctions. The Administration has put in place the most crippling sanctions in history on Iran. We’ve clearly been for sanctions. This is a question about timing and giving diplomacy the time and space to work. That has been our position throughout. We’ve certainly been clear with Congress on that throughout the entire Geneva process that you can’t, on the one hand, say you’re for diplomacy, but on the other hand do things that actively undermine it. Those two things aren’t compatible.

So I can check on what those conversations actually looked like, but safe to say throughout this entire process we’ve been clear with Congress about the fact that new sanctions would not be helpful even before we got the agreement finished in Geneva. We were clear – we’ve talked about this at the podium during that.

QUESTION: Right. And just to quickly follow up —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Kerry is going both to the House and to the Senate saying we will the first people —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — who will ask for new sanctions in six months if this doesn’t work out. What’s the difference between – the qualitative difference between that and the Senate saying we have sanctions at the ready if, in six months, there is no comprehensive agreement?

MS. HARF: We’re happy for them to say we have them at the ready and they could pass them in 24 hours in six months if they wanted to. What we don’t want them to do is pass them now, even with a trigger. That is taking action. There is no – nothing different between Secretary Kerry saying, “I’ll be the first one back up here asking you to ratchet up the pressure,” and the Senate saying, “In six months we will have a bill ready to go that we will then introduce and we can all vote on.” That’s – we’re on the same page there.

What we’ve said is that we should not do things particularly that make our partners around the world who implement sanctions with us think that we’re not – we didn’t come to them in good faith when we said sanctions were to get Iran to the table, they were to get us to work on a negotiated solution, and as the Secretary said yesterday, could actually have – or Tuesday, whatever day it was – could have the reverse impact. The goal of sanctions, according to some folks, is to ratchet up the pressure. Well, if we put in place new sanctions now and our partners around the world end up – are fraying the international sanctions regime, it would have the exact opposite impact of what new sanctions would be intended to do. So there is no – in six months, if we wanted them, Congress could do it in a heartbeat. We know that. The Iranians know that. Congress knows that. It’s definitely not a secret.

QUESTION: Could I have one follow-up on that one?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you specifically check on his question of whether members of Congress were briefed in advance of the agreement being reached that it would include a provision stating that the United States would not impose new nuclear-related sanctions?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: But the point I was making was that we very publicly —

QUESTION: No, no, I get it. I get that. I know that.

MS. HARF: — said we don’t want any while we negotiate.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I know that.

MS. HARF: But yes – yeah, yeah – I’m happy to check on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: So following on from that, can I ask if you have a reaction to the news today from Senator Tim Johnson that he’s decided to not move forward with new legislation out of the Banking Committee?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, it certainly – we agreed that it wouldn’t make sense now diplomatically to move forward with new sanctions. Under Secretary Sherman was up before the Banking Committee this morning talking about exactly this topic. So again, this isn’t about whether or not we like sanctions, whether we’re for or against sanctions. This is certainly what we think makes the most sense in our diplomatic strategy and gives us the best chance of success.

QUESTION: So his decision not to table the – sorry, that’s – you use “table” in a different way in American. So his decision not to put – to press forward with the legislation on sanctions is a positive step in your view then?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. And again, the senator makes decisions about what he thinks is in the best interest of our diplomacy and our diplomatic efforts. And all of us, including him, know that if we want new sanctions at some point if this doesn’t work, if we can’t get a final agreement, we can do it.

QUESTION: So may I ask then about the timing of this morning’s designations of overseas companies and Iranian entities which seem to have been flouting the sanctions?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wondered whether the timing was deliberately chosen to come just ahead of this meeting with the Banking Committee.

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. I think we’ve been talking about when to announce this for some time, and sometimes there’s just bureaucratic reasons these things get announced at certain times. I wouldn’t read anything into the timing. There’s a hearing every day on the Hill so —

QUESTION: Oh, come on.

QUESTION: But it wasn’t —

MS. HARF: I mean, Kerry was up there – Secretary Kerry was up there two days ago.

QUESTION: So it was not a direct signal to —


QUESTION: — lawmakers that the United States remains very engaged on sanctions?

MS. HARF: I honestly wouldn’t – honestly wouldn’t read anything into the timing.

QUESTION: I think you should have put it out about 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night.

MS. HARF: Well, that’s just bad press strategy in general. No, but I would say —

QUESTION: Or good when you’re trying to hide.

MS. HARF: Yeah, depending on what you’re trying to put out.

I would say in general that this does underscore the fact that we will continue to vigorously enforce sanctions on the book. These obviously aren’t new sanctions, but these are additional designations. And again, I wouldn’t read anything into the timing. There’s Hill meetings every day on this and it could come at any time.

QUESTION: But you’re just saying that that’s why. I mean, you’re underscoring the reason why they did it.

MS. HARF: Why would – well, it’s a – I mean, we do it because we are vigorously enforcing the sanctions.


QUESTION: When was the last time —

QUESTION: It’s a good time right now to say that, though.

MS. HARF: This is the first time we’ve designated additional individuals or entities since the Joint Plan of Action was agreed to in Geneva.

QUESTION: And is it the first time since —

QUESTION: Why do —

QUESTION: Sorry, Arshad. Is it the first time since we’ve had the new leadership in Iran?


MS. HARF: No, and I can —


QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: No, I like this. I’m just going to go have lunch. (Laughter.) We can get you a full list of all of those.


MS. HARF: But —

QUESTION: One thing. Why do you not regard the additional designations as the imposition of new sanctions? I understand that the designations are being imposed under previously existing executive orders and legislation —

MS. HARF: Previously existing sanctions.

QUESTION: Right. The thing, though, is that it seems to me to be conceivable that the Iranians, unless you’ve explained this to them —

MS. HARF: We did.

QUESTION: Did you?

MS. HARF: We did.

QUESTION: So they understood that you might do additional designations?

MS. HARF: Absolutely. And we told them today that we were going to do so —

QUESTION: Did you?

MS. HARF: — on the sidelines of the meeting in Vienna.

QUESTION: Did you really? Oh, that’s interesting.

MS. HARF: We did. This is the first time you look surprised at an answer I give.

QUESTION: Who conveyed that?

MS. HARF: I don’t know who specifically conveyed it.

QUESTION: But they knew in advance?

MS. HARF: I can check on what the timing was. This obviously came out super early this morning here. I don’t know what the timing was, but they’re ahead of us, so I’m guessing. But we – no, we’ve been —

QUESTION: Can you check that, actually? Because I’m constantly getting —

MS. HARF: I can check.


MS. HARF: I might have something in here. Hold on.

QUESTION: That would be great. Or if you could check afterwards —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — because normally you don’t let anybody know about the designations in advance —

MS. HARF: We may – it may not have been in advance. We have been clear with the Iranians that we would continue to designate entities and individuals —


MS. HARF: — and we did tell them on the sidelines of the meeting in Vienna —


MS. HARF: — that this was happening today. I can check on the timing. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to know that.

MS. HARF: But we may not have told them who the designations were going to be. We may have just told them there were more coming.

QUESTION: Right, but that could also spur a flight of money, so —

MS. HARF: Again, I can check on the timing.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. I’d like to know.

MS. HARF: I honestly don’t know, but I do know that we did tell them —

QUESTION: I would – thank you.

MS. HARF: — and then we have the discussion with them, and we’ve been very clear about that all along.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Okay.

QUESTION: Just to clarify on that point, during the actual negotiations for the Joint Plan of Action, did you give them a heads-up that there could be additional designations?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, absolutely. It’s my understanding. I mean, these were lengthy discussions. That’s certainly my understanding, yes.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen said yesterday that she will try to give us a readout about the consultations the Administration is having with the national security advisor for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Do you have anything on this?

MS. HARF: I don’t believe I have any at this point. I don’t know if his meetings have actually begun. I think they’re tomorrow. I can double-check. I know he’ll be meeting with a number of folks around town.

QUESTION: Well, he has been here for a week. The talks didn’t start?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if he’s had meetings with us yet. I can just double-check.

QUESTION: Oh, I see.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’ll just double-check.


QUESTION: To go back to Iran, you talked about designations and sanctions. Now jumping ahead, re-opening the U.S. Embassy in Iran —

MS. HARF: Jumping way ahead there.

QUESTION: Way ahead. I want to know how way ahead is it? Where is the Administration standing? Is it something that has been considered, even looked at? Will there be any preconditions? I know the Britains are re-opening their embassy in Tehran.

MS. HARF: That is – any discussion or consideration of that is very, very, very far away. These discussions are based on the nuclear issue. We’ve been very clear about that. We’ve also been very clear, as Secretary Kerry said yesterday, that this in no way changes our concerns with Iran’s behavior on a host of issues, whether it’s human rights, whether it’s Syria, whether it’s a whole – their support for terrorism. So again, the President said this weekend that, look, if we can make progress on the nuclear issue, that can maybe help move our relationship in a more constructive – I can get the exact phrasing, but to a different place based on mutual interests. But we’re very, very far away from that at this point.

QUESTION: When you say that making progress in the nuclear talks, I mean, at what stage do you think this issue may come up?

MS. HARF: I don’t even want to venture a guess. It’s just the talks are based on the nuclear issue; they’re not based on anything else. I think what the President was referring to was that if we could resolve the nuclear issue, I think is what he said, which, again, is also a little ways off, it could serve as a step forward in a new relationship. But we are nowhere near that. We have a lot of work to do. And that’s what we’re doing right now and are going to continue doing.

QUESTION: And the Britains re-opening their embassy in Tehran —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — is it something that you have been engaged in discussions with Brits on any security issues?

MS. HARF: Again, our – this is very, very far off in our book. Let me see. I think I have something maybe. Oh, yes. So I think we had taken a question about who the UK’s nonresident charge met with last week. He met with various officials here at the Department to discuss his role as the UK’s nonresident charge. I don’t have a further readout. But so we’re obviously in discussions, but this is not – this is very, very, very, very far off. We’re just focused on the nuclear issue right now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.


MS. HARF: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Okay. And then I’ll come up to Arshad. Yes.

QUESTION: Is there any update on the security agreement? And then there are headlines in the region saying that U.S. is asking India to pursue Karzai during his visit to sign this. So did you talk to the visiting Indian foreign minister? What is India’s response? Are they going to broker the deal or something? I don’t know.

MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. First, our position hasn’t changed on the BSA that there are a lot of very good reasons for the Afghan people, for us, for our coalition partners, that it needs to be signed as soon as possible. We need to do planning, and we’ve been very clear about this all along.

In terms of India’s role, as we’ve noted many times before, we support the role India has played in Afghanistan. It’s leveraged its economic strength to improve Afghanistan’s economy. It’s committed, I think, more than $2 billion in development assistance and billions more in private sector investment and projects that will help the Afghan people. So clearly, we think it’s important for Afghanistan to have important relationships and strong relationships in the region.

In terms of the meetings we had with our Indian counterparts, let me just see what I have on that.

QUESTION: I have the details about the meeting.

MS. HARF: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: What I wanted to know —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — that these headlines saying that U.S. is asking to India to pursue Karzai to sign the deal.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have details about that, whether or not that was part of our diplomatic exchange. I think we’ve said very publicly that President Karzai should sign it as soon as possible. We’ve made our position very clear. And if other countries in the region want to make the same position clear to President Karzai, we would, of course, welcome that. But we’ve been very clear about where we stand.

Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Egyptian police fired teargas and water cannon – excuse me – on protestors near the Egyptian defense ministry today.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Yes, and thank you for the question. These steps that you mentioned don’t match the government’s stated commitment to protecting Egyptian – the Egyptian people’s fundamental freedoms and universal human rights. The government has a responsibility to protect universal human rights and the fundamental freedoms, including the ability to nonviolently protest. This kind of action just doesn’t help move the process forward. We certainly share the concerns with civil society representatives inside Egypt and many in the international community that the demonstrations law – I think this is part of what we’ve talked about here – is restrictive and does not meet international standards. This is obviously something that’s very important to us.

QUESTION: And is it so important to you that it will factor into your determination on whether to resume the flow of some of the assistance that has been suspended?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. I think, quite honestly, it’s safe to say that all of these issues are going to factor into that decision. How the interim government acts, how it moves forward with the process, how it treats nonviolent protestors, absolutely, all of that will play into the decision, as it did in the decision to suspend some aid.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why – can you tell us why Secretary Kerry decided to intervene in this case, the scheduled execution case in Texas? And what is it going to mean for relations between the two countries?

MS. HARF: Yes, and this is a complicated one, so thank you for the question. This is the case of a Mexican citizen that is scheduled to be executed in Texas. And the Secretary, in September on the 16th, wrote a letter to the Governor of Texas, Governor Perry, that made a few points, and let me just do a couple of these. There’s been a lot of media attention on this so I’m – and I know we’re not all familiar with it, so let me make a few points.

The Secretary made a few things clear: that he doesn’t have any reason to doubt the facts of the conviction; and as a former prosecutor, of course – I’m reading from his letter – “has no sympathy for anyone who would murder police officers.” But there are important process issues here that we care very deeply about. There’s really two of them, and let me just go through that – that the U.S. compliance with obligations is – and here we’re talking about consular access for foreign citizens before trials – is critical to our ability to ensure consular access and protection for our own citizens. This is something the Secretary was very clear about, that how can we go around the world and ask other countries to give our folks consular access if they are in imprisoned if we don’t do the same thing here? There’s no dispute in this case that Mr. Tomayo was not afforded consular notification and access in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, something, that again, we care very deeply about.

So what the Secretary is asking in this letter is to delay his execution until he can be provided with review and reconsideration as to whether this lack of consular access, again, under the Vienna Convention, was – prejudiced the outcome of the case. This is required in an ICG – or J, excuse me, decision on this topic as well. So it’s kind of complicated. I know I just threw a lot out there, but it’s gotten a lot of attention and I wanted to make sure I went through some of that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: What about the relationship between the two countries?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I’m sorry?

QUESTION: What about the relationship between —

MS. HARF: That’s certainly part of it. So obviously, part of this is – and the Secretary spoke to this in his letter – that we very much value our relationship with Mexico, and again, we have certain obligations under the Vienna Convention to ensure consular access for other folks in our country. We can’t go around – again, can’t go around the world to countries like Mexico or elsewhere and ask for consular access if we do the same – if we don’t do the same thing.

The Secretary, again, in his letter – which I’m happy to make public, and I think some folks might already have it – “that compliance sends a strong message that the United States takes seriously its obligations under the VCCR.” And it’s important, I would say also, for people around the world to see the U.S. judicial process as fair. And I think we talk a lot all around the world about fair judicial processes, and so we have an obligation to uphold on our end those same processes.

QUESTION: Can I change the topic, please, to Thailand? Any comment on the Thai – the chief of the Thai armed forces’ unwillingness to meet with the head of the protestors?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if I have anything specifically on that. Let me see what I have on Thailand.

Obviously, we’re following the situation closely. We believe that all parties should work together to resolve differences in peaceful ways that strengthen their democracy and rule of law, and I said this a bunch of times in here, but obviously as longtime friends of Thailand, support the Thai nation, support the Thai people during this period.

QUESTION: Colombia?

QUESTION: And follow —

MS. HARF: Hold on.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think it was a smart decision to charge the former Prime Minister Abhisit for murder, given the political tensions in Thailand? And do you have – I asked the question a few days ago, but are you completely confident that the Thai military would not stage any coup d’etat in Thailand, given the fact that they did it many times in the past?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s really up to the Thai people and their own, again, legal processes to determine how to deal with the issue of accountability for past political violence – I think that’s what you’re referring to with this question. And we’ll – I’ll leave it up to them to make those decisions.

QUESTION: Back to Benghazi for a second?

MS. HARF: Back to Benghazi, Lucas. Yes.

QUESTION: Do you see a conflict that this same contracting officer, whose name was Jan Visintainer – do you see a conflict that the same officer who told Blue Mountain not to speak to the media is the same gentleman who chose not to intervene when there was a dispute among the security folks from the UK and Benghazi?

MS. HARF: I honestly just don’t know the facts of the situation you laid out to me. I’m happy to take it and see if I have anything else on this.

QUESTION: Thank you. Because on July 10th in an email, he called the performance of Blue Mountain and the security situation satisfactory. And so I’m wondering —

MS. HARF: Again, you’re cherry-picking things that I just don’t have in front of me, I’m not familiar with. So I’m happy to look into it. As I said, broadly speaking, this is not unusual for a relationship with a contracting company in terms of media requests. It’s just not an unusual setup.

QUESTION: Right, but just when he’s —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Real quick – just last one. When he sees an issue with license and the security situation and he chooses not to intervene in the dispute —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — yet then weeks later tells them not to speak to the media, do you see a conflict of interest in that?

MS. HARF: Again, I understand the question; I’m just not familiar with it. And I would also say that I don’t think any of us have shown – at least myself — for folks – an unwillingness to talk to the media about this issue over the last year and a half. So I would underscore that point.

QUESTION: But that – this came two weeks after the attack at the time.

MS. HARF: I understand, and we talked about it a lot at the time, too. So let me just check on that specific —

QUESTION: Just a small factual thing on that.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: It seemed to me that at one point you said that the State Department concurred with the recommendation of the company not to talk to the press.

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding of one of the emails he’s referring to.

QUESTION: And then – but at another point I thought you said something slightly different. So I just want to, for the factual record —

MS. HARF: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — just to establish whether you were concurring with what they suggested or whether —

MS. HARF: We asked them.

QUESTION: — they said, “Hey, should we talk to them?” and you said, “No.”

MS. HARF: I’m happy to look at the exact email exchange that was released under the Freedom…


MS. HARF: I’m just not as familiar with it. But – yes, in the back.

QUESTION: On Colombia.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Does the State Department support the statements by Mr. Kevin Whitaker at the Senate confirmation hearing yesterday in reference to peace process in Colombia and sanctions to mayor of Bogota Gustavo Petro?

MS. HARF: I am not familiar with the comments you’re referring to. I have no reason not to stand by comments, obviously, a nominee makes in a hearing. But let me just double – I don’t know what you’re referring to.


MS. HARF: I don’t know the comments you’re referring to. I’m happy to look at them and see if I have a comment further. I’m happy to take it as a question and see if I have a response. I honestly just don’t – I’m not familiar with it. I don’t want to comment on something I haven’t seen.

QUESTION: Bangladesh?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Anadolu Agency, by the way. Bangladesh executed an Islamist opposition leader, Abdul Kader Mullah, for war crimes he committed in 1971. And his party says that the death sentence was politically motivated, and there are some reports that the clashes taking place in the cities of that country. How do you see this death sentence, or would you comment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, we are aware that his execution took place on Thursday, and I think would underscore a few points – that now is a very sensitive moment in Bangladesh, and that we strongly urge all parties to exercise restraint, to refrain from violence – I think that’s a very key point – and express their views peacefully. We’ve long urged the authorities to assure that trials are free, transparent, and in accordance with international standards, but we’ve also urged all parties and their supporters to express their views peacefully, and again, to refrain from violence. That’s really what we want to see here going forward.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said at yesterday’s hearing that Iran can’t have heavy water reactor, and Arak is not acceptable from viewpoint of United States.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: So did he mean that Iran will have to abandon the Arak reactor under construction?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s tease that out a little bit. It’s a little more complicated than that. Arak cannot come online, cannot be used to advance Iran towards a nuclear weapon. That’s why in the Joint Plan of Action there’s a number of things about Arak that are in that plan, whether talks about no additional testing, it can’t fuel the reactor, it can’t – all that’s in the Joint Plan of Action.

Look, if they build a wall or a road, that’s not advancing their nuclear program. What we’ve said is that at the end of this, they cannot be left with anything that could advance them towards a nuclear weapon. And so in terms of Arak, which is a – as you said, a heavy water reactor, it could be used on the plutonium track. Is there a civilian, peaceful use for that? I’m not a nuclear expert, but I don’t think so, right? So that’s what we’ll be negotiating in the final agreement, is whether there has to be some destruction of facilities; if we actually have to raze some things to the ground, what that will look like at each of the facilities going forward. But again, if they build a road, that’s not advancing their nuclear weapons program, right? So these are conversations that are ongoing, but we are very clear that they cannot use Arak through the plutonium track to advance towards a nuclear weapon. That’s unacceptable.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Government of Japan yesterday unveiled its new defense guidelines, which bolsters the Japanese military presence in areas around the East China Sea and also cultivates a kind of patriotism or a love of country in educational institutions. But does the State Department have any comment?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s my understanding that they haven’t actually released it yet. They’re preparing to release it.

QUESTION: It’s a draft.

MS. HARF: Yeah. So —

QUESTION: But it was given an early peek to reporters.

MS. HARF: An early peek to reporters.


MS. HARF: We never do anything like that. (Laughter.) It’s – again, understand it’s in draft, look forward to its release. We, of course, remain committed to our deep and longstanding alliance with Japan, and welcome steps to increase our alliance capabilities. We consult regularly with the Japanese Government on our respective forces’ roles, on their missions, on their capabilities, to ensure that our alliance is always ready to carry out its mission and to maintain peace and security.

QUESTION: So no concern as of yet on what effect this might have on detentions in the region and the security situation?

MS. HARF: I’ll – again, I’ll take a look at it and talk to our team. But I – again, we look forward to its release, and if we have more comment, I’m happy to share.


QUESTION: Two Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on nominations were postponed today.

MS. HARF: At the eleventh hour.

QUESTION: My procedural knowledge of the Senate is not as strong as it should be, but it seems like the Republicans used a kind of arcane toolbox to not allow the hearings to go forward. Do you have a reaction to that?

MS. HARF: We do. Thank you for the question. It’s obviously a situation we’re following very closely. We were alarmed today to see another eleventh-hour delay. Some folks were actually already on the Hill. Some folks were on their way to the Hill. Families have flown in from all across the country for this – for these hearings. And so there was another delay in the process of confirming critical national security nominees. We believe it would be a real problem if this process drags on any longer because of Senate infighting. The Senate’s not going to be in session much longer. We currently have 57 nominees holding in the Senate, including some pretty important ones.

I’d also make a few points about the nomination hearings that were delayed today. A lot of members of Congress have expressed interest in our relationship with Saudi Arabia and concern about it. Well, our ambassador to Saudi Arabia was supposed to be in the nomination hearing today that got canceled at the eleventh hour. We’ve talked a lot in here over the past few weeks about ICAO when it comes to aviation and how we deal with that. Our ambassador to ICAO was supposed to be on the Hill today. We talk a lot in here about international organizations and the importance of standing up for our friends like Israel, for example, when we talk about international organizations. Well, our assistant secretary for International Organizations was supposed to be on the Hill today. You get where I’m going with this.

So we believe that the Senate should move as quickly as possible to get our folks up there, to get folks their hearings, to get people confirmed. And I would also say that at least one foreign ambassador for one of the countries’ ambassador’s nominee was in attendance today and was told to go home because they weren’t happening. So this doesn’t speak well to the functioning of our government, I think, to our partners overseas as well.

QUESTION: You don’t want to defend your nominees to be ambassador to Iceland, Gabon, or Hungary?

MS. HARF: New Zealand also. I have the whole list. Yes, all of our ambassadors are very important, and we wish they all had – the folks that were supposed to be up there today – had gone ahead with their hearings.

QUESTION: Do you —

MS. HARF: I was just giving a few examples.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Georgian parliament – I mean, it could be worse.

MS. HARF: We have high standards here, Lucas, for our government. Anything else, guys?

QUESTION: One more (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: After the ouster of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, there’s coming reports that high officials are getting – being purged or asking for asylum to flee because of their relationship with Uncle Jang. How are you following or monitoring the situation? And is it going to make influence to your commitment to the region?

MS. HARF: Well, our commitment to the region, broadly speaking, is very high, hasn’t changed, and will continue to be. You saw the Vice President there recently. Secretary Kerry’s going to the region soon. So clearly, that hasn’t changed and won’t change. I can check with our team and see if there’s any update on that issue. I just don’t have one.

One more? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. In – you mentioned in the beginning – you had some nice words that Secretary Kerry had to say about the president of Uganda. And I’m wondering: How important is Uganda to the U.S. security priorities in east – east and central Africa?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have in here. Well, as I think folks may know, the United States and Uganda enjoy a strong and broad bilateral partnership. We work to promote good governance, human rights, and the institutionalization of multi-party democracy for the people of Uganda. We also work with our Ugandan partners to strengthen regional stability. This is exactly what I was referring to at the top. When conducted in a manner that reflects both our values and our national security priorities, security cooperation can help strengthen our bilateral relations and increase the capability of partners to provide for their own security while respecting the human rights of their citizens. That certainly is part of our relationship with Uganda as well.

QUESTION: So what specifically is the State Department doing to improve human rights and political situation there?

MS. HARF: Well, we emphasize regularly directly with the Ugandan Government the need to strengthen its democratic institutions. We continue to urge the Ugandan Government to file proper judicial and law enforcement procedures, to support an active and vibrant civil society, and to not use law enforcement to suppress lawful assembly. We also work with our Ugandan partners to address health threats, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, and development issues like food security. So we work together on a broad range of issues.

QUESTION: Is the State Department concerned that a shift to democracy there, real democracy there, would threaten Uganda’s support for U.S. security priorities in the region there?

MS. HARF: I think we’ve been very clear, and I just said, that we want to help them institutionalize multi-party democracy. I was just very clear that we work to promote that there.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:38 p.m.)