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State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, November 4, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 4, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Direct Final Status Negotiations / U.S. Plays Facilitation Role / Nine Month Timeframe
    • Hakimullah Mehsud
    • Prime Minister Sharif’s Visit to Washington / Ongoing Dialogue
    • GLOC Routes / Substantive Discussions / Relations with Pakistan
    • Nonlethal Assistance / Working with Congress
    • Humanitarian Aid
    • Secretary Kerry’s Meeting with King Abdullah / Relationship with Saudi Arabia
    • Geneva 2 / Geneva 1 Communique / Participants / Negotiated Political Transition
    • Upcoming Meeting in Geneva
    • Arab League Statement
    • Territorial Dispute
  • IRAN
    • Protests in Iran
    • P5+1 Negotiations / Diplomatic Solution / International Obligations
    • Sanctions Strategy / Negotiating Strategy / Consultations with Congress
    • Bilateral Discussions
  • MALI
    • Security Situation
    • Morsi Trial
    • Secretary Kerry’s Visit / Interim Government / Political Roadmap
    • Due Process / Free and Fair Trials / Political Detentions
    • Meeting between German and U.S. Intelligence Officials
    • Bilateral Relationship with Russia
    • Snowden / Felony Charges / Intelligence Programs
    • Reviewing Reports of Suicide Car Attack at Tiananmen Square / Monitoring Situation
    • Counterterrorism / National Security
    • Discussions with President Karzai and Prime Minister Sharif



1:36 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. Happy Monday. I have nothing at the top.

Lara, go ahead and get us started.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sure you saw the reports out of Jerusalem. Haaretz and Army Radio are reporting that the U.S. is planning to present an agreement early next year, or a plan for an agreement, for a permanent status between Israel and the Palestinians. Can you first say if this is accurate, and if so, can you elaborate to any degree?

Also, the reports make it sound like the U.S. is moving from a role of being a facilitator or observer now to an arbitrator or a participant in this process. Is that an accurate description?

MS. HARF: It’s not, and thank you for the question. I think what we’ve always said is that these are direct talks between the two sides and that we are playing a facilitation role when it’s appropriate. That means we’re in some meetings; we’re not in some meetings. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the process and reports about what the U.S. may do in the future.

I would say a few points. First, most of these are not true. The notion that somehow there’s – that it’s not – that we’re not focused right now. Excuse me. It’s Monday, everyone. Sorry. The notion that we’re not focused on the direct negotiations right now – all topics are on the table in these negotiations, and indeed, the goal is an agreement negotiated directly between the two sides that addresses all of the final status issues that they’re discussing right now.

So I know there are a lot of rumors out there about what is or isn’t happening. The two parties are still engaged in the process. We’ve said they’re – they both committed to a nine-month process. We have a little more time to go here until next year – I think it’s the end of March that would be the end of the nine months.

QUESTION: But is there something coming January, as these reports have indicated, some kind of plan or paperwork or framework or something written on bubble gum paper? I don’t know.

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) No. Again, I appreciate the question. What we’re focused on right now – who knows what will happen in a few months as a result of these direct negotiations, right? So that’s a hypothetical that I’m not going to answer in a yes or no way. What I will say is what we’re engaged in as a facilitator are the direct negotiations between the two sides. Hopefully, yes, at the end of this process something will come from this, from the two sides engaged in these negotiations. We continue to play a facilitation role.

Again, Ambassador Indyk is in certain meetings, is not in certain meetings, as appropriate. But I think these are all just wild speculation and rumor that is just not borne out by the facts that – going on on the ground right now.

QUESTION: So if I may follow up.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So would you say that actually the talks are making the progress that they should have?

MS. HARF: I think I would say that the talks are making progress. The two sides are engaged in negotiations. They’ve committed to a nine-month timeframe. Obviously, we’re not going to outline the specific outcomes that are coming out of each of these rounds of talks, but they remain committed to the process. We’ve seen each side take positive steps towards that end.

QUESTION: Okay. So as this timeframe runs out, I mean, like three months have passed, how do you measure progress? I mean, I know there’s a blackout and so on. How are we to know that there’s actually some progress on the ground and these guys will end up at the end of the nine months with something that is tangible, something that they can point to as a success?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly the goal. And I think you’ve heard the Secretary speak to it a little bit, that while we won’t read out discussion – substantive discussions that are happening between the two parties, the fact that they continue to happen and move forward and that we do see some signs of progress is a good thing. Obviously, we have the same – we all have the same goal at the end of this process to have an agreement to all of the issues they’re discussing right now. And we’re certainly tracking towards that goal.

QUESTION: So the Secretary’s upcoming meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah and so on, are they a sign of – are they a good thing or is there a problem? Is he going there because there are problems, or is he going there because things are really moving in the right direction?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the Secretary likes to be personally engaged in this issue. We’ve all, I think, been on trips with him where he has been. It’s certainly not a sign that there’s problems. He – when he has the opportunity to get on the ground and talk to the parties directly himself, he thinks that’s important to do. Obviously, our team there is engaged as well.

QUESTION: Do you believe that this pouting by the Palestinian team, from time to time, that they say we want to resign, we don’t want to go on with these negotiations, there is a problem – does it hurt the process? Are you disappointed that they do this from time to time?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to, Said, with your colorful characterization of it.

QUESTION: I’m referring to —

MS. HARF: But I think what we’re —

QUESTION: Let me explain what I mean by that.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Because from time to time, we hear the chief negotiator come out and say these talks are not going anywhere and I’m going to submit my resignation. I mean, this has become like a bad soap opera.

MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’re focused on and encouraged by is the fact that both sides remain at the table. And that’s what we’re focused on; that’s certainly where our efforts lie, to work with the two parties to, at the end of the nine months, have something tangible, as you said.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The Palestinians are saying that there’s no progress in the negotiations and there won’t be any progress without the American intervention. Why you’re not planning to intervene to help both sides to make progress?

MS. HARF: Well, we are playing a facilitation role, as appropriate, as both sides see it appropriately. Ambassador Indyk, again, as I said, is in meetings where it’s appropriate and isn’t when the talks just need to be between the two sides. I think one indication of the seriousness of these talks is that the folks actually participating in them, as Said said, aren’t talking about the substance publically, that they’re back at the table, that this isn’t going to play out in the press – in fact, we don’t want it to – to give it the best chance of success.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on one last point.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now the Palestinians keep insisting that the Israelis have not moved at all from the point where they need or insist upon Palestinian agreement, and in fact, regional agreement that they maintain their troops along the Jordan Valley. Is that an issue that you raise with them, not necessarily in the negotiations, but let’s say at the level of the prime minister?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to go into any of the substantive discussions about any of these issues. They’re all on the table and they’ve being discussed between the two parties, with us in a facilitating role, as appropriate.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally on the aid to the Palestinians, do you have anything to update us on the aid to the Palestinians?

MS. HARF: I don’t. I can check with our team and see if there’s anything new. Nothing that I’m aware of.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Hakimullah Mehsud, are you in a position to confirm his death now?

MS. HARF: Thank you for the question, just give me one second. So I can’t – I’m not going to confirm those reports one way or the other about Hakimullah Mehsud. I would say that he is a direct threat to U.S. national security interests. I would underscore that point. We can talk about a couple of different attacks that he and the group that he leads were involved in; obviously, the Times Square bombing, the attack at Khost that killed seven Americans. That’s – he himself is wanted in conjunction with that attack. And of course, he and TTP in general have extensive links to al-Qaida. So clearly, he is a direct threat to U.S. national security, but I can’t confirm those reports one way or the other.

QUESTION: You were saying he is a direct threat.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you mean he’s still alive?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to confirm the reports one way or the other. If I said “was,” you would all jump on me and say I was confirming it. So I’m not going to confirm the reports, but he himself has been – let’s put it that way – a direct threat to U.S. national security interests. I just can’t confirm those reports.

QUESTION: And what were the news reports coming from Pakistani Government officials that they’re reconsidering reviewing its relationship with the U.S., number one? And secondly, there are also news reports of them trying to close down the GLOCs one more time.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, I think as evidenced just recently by Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to Washington, which was incredibly broad – he met with officials at the White House, the State Department, Commerce, Treasury, USTR, sort of the whole breadth of issues – that we have a strong, ongoing dialogue with Pakistan regarding all aspects of our bilateral relationship. I think it was a very good visit in that regard. Obviously, we’ll continue these discussions as issues arise.

In terms of the GLOCs, we have seen statements of an opposition party about potential impact on GLOC routes. We continue to have substantive discussions, again including during Prime Minister Sharif’s recent official visit, on a broad range of issues, including the GLOC routes – obviously, they’re important to the U.S., NATO, and Pakistan – as you probably saw during the joint statement that was released after his visit.

QUESTION: So now there is no disruption in GLOCs?

MS. HARF: That’s correct. They are fully open and supplies are moving.

QUESTION: But what you said about the trip, the rhetoric which is coming out from inside Pakistan from the officials, opposition leaders, and ruling party is totally different from what you have said here. They’re saying totally different things, like we are reviewing our relationship with U.S., drone is an attack on their sovereignty. How do you respond to those —

MS. HARF: Well, again, Prime Minister Sharif was just here as the representative of the Pakistan Government. We had a very wide-ranging and productive set of conversations with him. This came in the context of improving relations with Pakistan, if you look at the arc of the last several years. We have a strong and long-term commitment to Pakistan and its people, and we believe the relationship is an important one. That’s why, as President Obama said, I think, during Prime Minister Sharif’s visit, that our hope is that despite what inevitably will be some tensions and occasional misunderstandings between our two countries, the fundamental goodwill shared between our people and our governments will certainly continue.

QUESTION: After this particular drone strike, have you heard anything from Pakistanis directly, any protests from them?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics about any communications to read out or update you on today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks. Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. HARF: Still on Pakistan or —


MS. HARF: Okay, yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Saudi Arabia but also Syria and the assistance that the U.S. is providing to the opposition.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Saudis – obviously, the Secretary has been there.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: And the Saudis have been upping their aid to the opposition. Can you give us an update on where the U.S. stands in terms of both lethal, nonlethal, that type of assistance?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, as I think we’ve repeatedly said, we can’t outline the specifics on all of our aid to the Syrian opposition. In terms of nonlethal assistance, I know Jen talked about this a little last week. The latest is that we’re working with Congress on new nonlethal assistance that fulfills the $250 million commitment the Secretary made in April. I believe that was at a London 11 meeting. So that’s what we’re working through with Congress right now. There are a bunch of examples of what this assistance goes to, including – I think Jen talked about some of this last week – training, communications support, local councils, support to the SMC, last week we talked about the trucks, MREs, and other logistical support as well. So that’s what we’re looking at fulfilling right now.

QUESTION: So why would you say the Saudis feel that this is not enough and that they have to provide more?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve encouraged lots of folks around the world to provide more assistance, certainly, to the opposition, also humanitarian assistance as well. I’ll leave it up to the Saudis to speak for why they make decisions about their foreign policy. As you noted, the Secretary was just there, had, I think, over a two-hour meeting with King Abdullah, just finished up a press avail where we talked about the strength of our relationship with the Saudis and our discussions on a number of issues. But I won’t – I will leave it to them to explain, I think.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to close the loop on Geneva 2 —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — if this ever, ever comes about, what – where are we with the opposition?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are they ready to come? Will they come? It looks as if they’re never going to participate.

MS. HARF: Well, our target remains November. We do believe that it’s urgent to set a date to convene the conference, obviously based on implementing the Geneva 1 communique. As you know, this week we will be meeting in Geneva in a delegation led by Under Secretary Sherman with the Russians and with Joint Special Representative Brahimi to continue working towards convening a Geneva 2 conference. Ambassador Ford will be there as well. So we’re obviously committed to this and we’ll continue to work closely with the SOC leadership ahead of their upcoming general assembly meeting to help them coalesce and to get them in a better place to, in fact, come to Geneva. But let’s be clear: It’s very complicated and very tough.

QUESTION: But just to be realistic, I mean, we have heard something very similar to this for a year at least. So realistically —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — are they at all ready to come to the table?

MS. HARF: I think they’ve made – you talked about over the last year we’ve heard this. I think they’ve made important steps in the last year. But we’re not naive about the fact that it is very complicated, and what we don’t want to happen is to announce a date and send out invitations and all of the different parties that need to be represented there aren’t ready.

So while setting the date urgently is important, it’s more important to get the right people there to give it the best chance of success. And we’ll keep working with the opposition, who, I would remind everyone, are trying to come together politically while they’re fighting a number of different fronts, whether it’s terrorist or whether it’s the regime right now inside Syria. So we’ll keep working with them and helping them. I think we’ll know a little more, probably, after we meet in the next few days in Geneva.

QUESTION: So what’s the rationale in saying November?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s our target because we think it’s important to do it as soon as possible. I did note that the SOC has a general assembly meeting that they’re putting together to decide on participation for Geneva. That obviously has to happen first.


QUESTION: But when is that going to happen? Because Secretary Kerry in London said that it was going to happen within a week. That timeframe has passed.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And now we’re hearing more and more opposition – or from the opposition that they don’t want to come until Assad has said what day he is going to step down. So I mean, the can keeps just getting kicked down the court.

MS. HARF: Right. And I don’t think they’ve announced a date for it yet. They’ve indicated they want it to happen soon and that they’re moving towards it. Obviously, this process takes longer than any of us would like, given how dire the situation is, but we do believe that we need to do it in the right way. And if there are good reasons to delay a little bit to get the right people there and to set the right conditions, obviously, that’s something we’ll consider at that time.

In terms of the precondition that you asked about, we agree with Joint Special Representative Brahimi that there should be no preconditions on Geneva 2. There’s no difference in our objective here that Assad needs to go. So we will keep working with the opposition to talk to them about getting them to the table to implement the Geneva communique, which, in fact, would not allow for a scenario in which Assad was to stay.

QUESTION: Have you all done a whip count, for lack of a better term, of what would – the outcome of the general assembly vote, whether or not – how the breakdown would go, whether the opposition will go to Geneva 2 and —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — whether or not there’s a date?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. It’s – not that I’ve heard of, but I can check with Ambassador Ford and our team and see if we have a sense for that. I just don’t know the answer.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On to the supporters in Geneva —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I’ll come to you next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. I’m just —

MS. HARF: I’ll just go around the room. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: On the statement made by the Saudis on Geneva, do you feel now that the Saudis are actually saying we want to go to Geneva, which is probably, I think, the first time they’ve said that so publicly? Would that – is that a good thing that they could coax, perhaps, the different opposition groups that they finance and they arm and so on to attend Geneva?

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve encouraged anyone who has a relationship with the opposition to try and help get them to a good place where they can attend Geneva with the best chance of success. I’d note the Arab League statement – today, I believe – supporting the Geneva 2 process, urging all Syrian opposition factions to cooperate with efforts towards convening the Geneva 2 conference and to form a negotiating team. Obviously, the Arab League encompasses many of the folks, including the Saudis, that you’re referring to.

QUESTION: On Assad’s eligibility, or lack thereof —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — to participate, if – could you make a statement like perhaps he should not run past – or on – in 2014? Is that – could you put a timetable on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’ve made it clear that the notion that he could run for another term is just a ludicrous one, given what he’s done to his own people in his own country. But setting that aside, what we’re operating under is the Geneva communique framework that lays out a transitional government formed by mutual consent of all parties. Clearly, the opposition would not allow Assad to be a part of that. So that’s the framework we’re moving into Geneva 2 with.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Because the opposition keeps insisting that Assad should sort of agree to stepping down before even going to Geneva, what if he says okay, I’ll be there through the next – the balance of my term?

MS. HARF: Again, we don’t think there should be preconditions for going to Geneva, but we – let’s be clear we have the same goal here, that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must not be able to continue leading his country. We believe the best way to get there is through a negotiated political transition through the Geneva process, based on the Geneva communique, which, again, to keep relying on the mutual consent clause doesn’t leave wiggle room for Assad to be a part of this transitional government that any opposition representative would agree to.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the SOC President Ahmed Jarba has told the Arab League foreign ministers yesterday that the opposition coalition would not attend Geneva 2 if Iran was there and if there is no clear timeframe for Assad to leave. Do you consider these two points as preconditions?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly – well, we’ve been clear about whether Iran should be allowed to attend or not. We’ve said that anybody who could be considered to be part of this needs to accept the Geneva communique. I don’t think we’ve heard that from the Iranians at this point. So setting that aside, we don’t believe there should be any preconditions.

I noted the Arab League statement that came out of this meeting that encouraged the coalition and the opposition to attend Geneva 2. And that’s exactly why we’re relying so heavily on the Geneva communique, because it outlines very clearly what will happen with a political transition. We believe that’s the basis we all need to be starting from, and we need to get everyone at the table in Geneva to move forward with that process.

QUESTION: Marie, could you explain to us (inaudible) if the Geneva 2 conference takes place, you have the Syrian opposition on one side, and then you have the government on the other side. What about the role of the rest, like the Saudis, your role, the Europeans, and so on? What do they do in this case? I mean, they just look and watch, or do they participate, they facilitate? What do they do?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question, and I don’t have any details about what that might look like at this point. Obviously, we’re focused on getting the right representatives to the table. Those logistics and that setup, I, quite frankly, just don’t know the answer to. But as we get closer to Geneva, certainly that’s something that will be discussed. I’m sure it’s something that will be discussed over the next few days when we meet with the Russians and the UN again in Geneva.

Let’s see how many times I can say Geneva today.

Yes, in the back, and then I’ll go around.

QUESTION: We haven’t even got to Iran yet.

MS. HARF: I know. It’s going to be a long day. Anything else on Syria? Yes? No?

QUESTION: Now can we move to Iran?

MS. HARF: Yeah, let me go up to her and then we’ll come up to you to do Iran.

QUESTION: Okay, change subject a little.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Recently, The Wall Street Journal has run a piece about the Diaoyu Islands dispute, and it suggested that the Diaoyu Islands belonged to Japan and saying the more explicit the Obama Administration is that the Senkakus are Japanese, the likelier Beijing is to back down. So will the U.S. Government take the suggestion?

And I know that you have repeated your position on this issue over and over again, but I wonder if it’s still the same. If it hasn’t been changed, would you please confirm?

MS. HARF: Our position has not changed. I’m happy to confirm it for you again. Do you want to go to Iran?

QUESTION: And there was —


QUESTION: — one more.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Sorry. And you know The Wall Street —

MS. HARF: And then we’ll go to Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You know The Wall Street Journal is such a powerful and influential media outlet, and this article has already drawn attention, much attention.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So how will this affect the diplomatic efforts? And do you think it’s responsible for a media – for the media to put those kind of opinions and urge the Obama Administration to take those kind of actions?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we believe in freedom of the press, and you all in this room and in our press corps can certainly write what they would like, but again, our position on this hasn’t changed. And I will, I think, leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Do you want to go to Iran?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: How did you receive the last – the fresh comments of President Rouhani, who said that he’s not very optimistic for the outcome of the Geneva P5+1 talks on Thursday?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve all been clear that this is tough, and that there’s a deep history of mistrust here. I think you saw that today with some of the protests we saw in Iran. But we’ve also said that we are engaged in serious and substantive negotiations. Last time when we were in Geneva for the P5+1, we had, again, serious and substantive discussions. We’re going back this week to hope – and hope we can continue that progress.

And our goal – we are – our goal hasn’t changed, right? We are squarely focused on stopping the advance of Iran’s nuclear program, gaining more transparency into their nuclear activities, and negotiating a long-term comprehensive solution to this issue. So, obviously it’s not easy, but we have an opportunity here and an obligation to see where this diplomatic path might lead, because it’s all of our preference that this be resolved diplomatically.


MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State called on Congress to postpone any kind of new sanctions and so on on Iran.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How should the Iranians perceive this or interpret it?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t know if I’ll say how they should interpret it, but I’ll – let’s just talk a little bit about this. This – we’re only asking for a pause of a short period of time here, and what we want is for our sanctions to be lined up with our negotiating strategy. So we have an obligation right now to test this cautiously encouraging tone that we hear out of the new Iranian Government. Our negotiating team believes it’s the best way, to take a short pause to give that diplomacy a chance to play out a little bit, because indeed it’s all of our – and Congress’s preference that this be resolved diplomatically. There’s numerous statements from members of Congress who have spoken to this issue.

So we’ll keep working with Congress. They’ve been an incredibly important partner. We wouldn’t be at the table today where we are if it hadn’t been for the incredibly tough sanctions that certainly the international community, but also Congress, imposed on Iran. So we’ll keep having the discussion with them, but we very firmly believe that we – our sanctions strategy needs to be linked up and in sync with our negotiating strategy, that the U.S. needs to speak with one voice when we’re sitting down at the table here to try and negotiate, which is going to be a tough diplomatic process.

QUESTION: Now, be – this being a gesture of goodwill, should the – sort of the Iranians reciprocate or respond in kind?

MS. HARF: Well, let me be clear here, Said, about what you’re saying. We’re not – when we ask for a short pause on additional sanctions, we are not at this point rolling back any existing sanctions. Any talk of that is, quite frankly, premature. What we are asking for is a pause in additional sanctions. To even have that second step in the conversation is certainly premature. And let’s be clear that Iran will have to take credible, verifiable steps before we discuss any limited sanctions relief. But let’s also be clear here that nobody is talking about touching the core architecture of the Iranian sanctions regime at all at this moment, and I think that’s a point that there’s been some misperception out there, and I want to be exactly clear on that.

QUESTION: So the Secretary’s statement is not intended to give incentive to the Iranians, is it?

MS. HARF: Well, our statements, broadly speaking, are that, look, if – sanctions were never intended to be an end in and of themselves, right? They were intended to be a means to an end, to increase the chances that we could get a diplomatic solution to this problem. So I think what the Secretary was saying, what we’ve all said, is that if we engage in a diplomatic process where we see Iran take credible, verifiable – excuse me – steps to stop or roll back their program and move towards a comprehensive solution, we can start talking about some limited, reversible, targeted relief for their economy, which, quite frankly, they need quite a lot. As we know, President Rouhani was elected on a platform of getting economic relief.

So this is a negotiation. Nothing’s been agreed to yet. Again, we’re going to go to Geneva this week and continue our discussions with the P5+1 and Iran and, hopefully, make more progress, because it’s in all of our interests – all of our partners in the Gulf, Israel, everyone’s interests – to resolve this problem diplomatically.

QUESTION: Marie, how long is this short pause?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to put a specific timeline on it. We’ve said we are going to Geneva again this week to see how much more progress we can make. We’ll continue the consultations with Congress over the coming weeks after Geneva. Secretary Kerry, as many of you know, was up briefing on the Hill this week. Under Secretary Sherman has as well.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because Foreign Minister Zarif has talked about the possibility of this process going out for at least another year, and I just wonder if the U.S. would support kind of a long step-by-step procedure this round.

MS. HARF: Well, what we’re talking about right now is a short pause to see where this diplomatic opportunity can lead. I think some of you have heard Under Secretary Sherman talk about the fact that we need a first step in the process while we negotiate a final comprehensive agreement that addresses all of our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. So what we’re talking about right now is a pause for a short time while we get through this next round and have discussions after it. And then we’ll talk more longer term about what our strategy should be then, but that’s just getting ahead of the process a little bit.

QUESTION: You don’t think like a year would be in the same vein as running out the clock like Israel has raised fears of?

MS. HARF: Well, we believe that we – that time is not on our side here. That’s why we want to move rapidly to, in fact, negotiate a comprehensive agreement. How that’s all being done is what’s being talked about right now with the P5+1 and Iran. But certainly, we and Israel share the same goal here, and the President’s been clear: that we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

And let’s also be clear that the Iranian Government has talked very openly about needing economic relief quickly. So they are committed, I think, to – and I won’t pretend to speak for them, but it seems that they’re committed to moving forward with this process, and see where this diplomacy goes fairly quickly.


MS. HARF: Iran?

QUESTION: Iran, yeah.

MS. HARF: Iran, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. It seems like there’s chatter within Iran about establishing what they’re calling a U.S.-Iranian inter-parliamentary team, group, delegation, whatever. Is that something that the U.S. Administration would be willing to test, maybe parallel with what’s going on with the Geneva talks, with the P5+1 track?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to look into it. We’ve said, broadly speaking, that we’re open to bilateral discussions. Clearly, we’ve now seen that we’ve passed the bilateral Rubicon with our presidents speaking and the Foreign Minister and Secretary Kerry meeting. So I just haven’t seen those reports, but we do believe that it’s important to talk bilaterally, which you’ve seen borne out over the last few weeks.

Iran? Jim. Hello.

QUESTION: Hello. Some of the ideas for sanctions relief that have been floated – things like access to the gold markets, some aviation cooperation, this sort of thing – have received an underwhelming response, it is said, from the Iranians. I know that you’re not going to go into detail about the negotiations, but I wonder if you could at least characterize how far apart the two sides are on what would be acceptable sanctions relief. And if the sides are as far apart as it seems at this point, where does that leave the prospects for negotiations?

MS. HARF: Well, you’re right. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the negotiations, so thank you for teeing that up. But look, these are complicated negotiations. Nobody is naive about that. The fact that we’ve been engaged at the table with them for a number of years now, and are still where we are is indicative of that. But we do think we have an opportunity now, when we are cautiously testing this new tone, when we are having for the first time very serious and very substantive discussions, to see if we can narrow those gaps. That’s the purpose of these discussions, and we’ll see if we can do more narrowing over the next few days.

QUESTION: Do you think the Iranians have an unrealistic expectation of, one, what the Administration’s willing to offer, but even what it can offer in light of the pressure you’re getting from Congress?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to speak for the Iranian expectations. I think – I’m just not going to comment on those. We’ve been very clear that in order for us to move forward with some steps, the Iranians need to take actions first to come in line with their international obligations. The onus really is on them. So we’ll continue these discussions this week and see where things go.

Iran still? Yes.


MS. HARF: See, you trick me when – you usually keep your hand raised when I say Iran.


MS. HARF: Yes, we can go to Mali and then we’ll go to other topics as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: As you know, two French journalists were kidnapped last Friday and executed immediately after. Are you concerned that the security situation in northern Mali might slip out of control?

MS. HARF: Well, thank you for the question. The United States certainly expresses our deep condolences to the families of the two journalists killed in Mali. We condemn acts of violence committed against journalists and support the freedom of the press around the world. We’ve been concerned about the security situation in Mali for some time. We’ve talked about it a little bit in here. Obviously, we work with the French quite closely in terms of the security situation there. I don’t have an update on our assessment of it, but it’s clearly something that we remain concerned about. This just underscores how dangerous it can be. And we’ll keep working with our partners on this to make progress.


QUESTION: Switching over to Egypt —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — do you have anything on the two-month adjournment today of former President Morsy’s trial?

MS. HARF: Let me see what I have on that. As you know, the Secretary just finished a visit to Egypt. I know he spoke about this a little bit. I don’t have any comment on it. I understand that it was adjourned until January 8th, I believe, and don’t have any additional comment on it.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if the Secretary discussed the nature of the trial with the Egyptian – with the Egyptian interlocutors?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics about his diplomatic discussions. I will say that our position on this has been quite clear for a long time, and I’m just not going to get into specifics.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the Secretary of State, by saying what he said, was actually looking at the new interim government, and basically saying they did the right thing, and in fact giving, like, a green light to the military to do what they have done?

MS. HARF: That’s certainly not what he was saying, Said, and that’s never been our position. I think what the Secretary was focused on in his recent visit was talking about where the U.S.-Egyptian partnership goes from here, that a lot has happened over the last six months – we’ve talked about it ad nauseam in this room – because it’s important.

But what he was focused on is working with the interim government to help move them back on an inclusive path to democracy and economic stability, encouraging the government to help address the aspirations of its people, and make progress – demonstrable progress – on the political roadmap.

So that’s what he was focused on. He had wide-ranging discussions. And that’s what we’ll keep working with the Egyptians on.

QUESTION: The list of charges levied against Morsy is almost a carbon copy of the list of charges that was levied against Hosni Mubarak. I mean, it is almost identical. Do you believe that they both are identical in what they have done to be subject to the same kind of trial and the same kind of charges?

MS. HARF: Well, I hesitate to compare any two subjects or two situations and call them identical, so I’m not going to do so here. What – Secretary Kerry’s been clear and I think he spoke to this in his press avail, was the need to ensure that Egyptians are afforded due process with fair and transparent trails, and that civilians should be tried in a civilian court.

We’ve consistently called for an end to politicized arrests and detentions, and we’ll certainly continue to do so.

QUESTION: Regarding such a volatile issue that could thrust Egypt in another violent episode and so on, why can’t the United States, for the sake of Egypt and the sake of your relationship with Egypt in the future, say, look – I mean, perhaps this trial should not take place, perhaps there should be some sort of a mechanism where Morsy is pardoned and so on. Why not?

MS. HARF: Well, again, Said, we’ve made our position on this clear for months now, and I’m not going to detail diplomatic discussions that are happening at a number of different levels with the Egyptian Government. I would say that the Secretary had good meetings and what he’s focused on now is where the relationship goes from here. Certainly in the weeks – has it been weeks? – since we announced our new policy on assistance, we – this has been a very important topic for the Secretary to be engaged in, and he thought that this was a good time to visit Cairo, talk directly to the leaders of the interim government about how we can move forward on a path – and help them on their path towards democracy.

QUESTION: A new topic?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. So in the past, the State Department’s been very proactive in raising concerns when foreign countries have used terrorism legislation against journalists. And there was one such case over the weekend when the UK authorities revealed that when they stopped the partner of the journalist Glenn Greenwald, they did so because they believed he was behaving within the definition of terrorism. Would the State Department agree with that assessment?

MS. HARF: I’d refer you for any of those questions to the UK Government. I’m not going to speak for them.

QUESTION: If I could just pursue this for one second, because —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it would be more than just an academic point if American journalists, U.S. citizens, travel to the UK working on this NSA story and are either detained, arrested, or possibly charged. That could plausibly happen. If the State Department at this point raised concerns in the same ways it has done with other countries – Morocco, Turkey, Burundi – about this kind of practice, then it would diminish the likelihood that U.S. citizens would be treated in the same way.

MS. HARF: Well, again, I’d refer you to the UK Government. This is their matter to discuss. And I would also reiterate what I said to Said – every situation is different. I would caution from making too many – drawing too many links or comparisons between any specific situation. But again, I’m just not going to have any comment on this. I’d refer you to my colleagues in London.


QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Burma. The Indian Army chief was recently in Burma. And they – India has announced stepping up its military aid to the Burmese military. Given that the U.S. has – still has reservations on the Burmese military and its human rights —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — how do you see the Indian move?

MS. HARF: I haven’t actually seen those reports. I’m happy to take the question and get back to you.


QUESTION: New subject.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s talks in Germany that the U.S. Government and the German Government might be working on a no-spy agreement. Even this year it might be signed. What can you tell us about that?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything specific for you on that. There was a meeting – let me just – I don’t have anything specific for you on those reports. I believe there was a meeting in town today – or this week, excuse me. The German and U.S. intelligence officials are meeting to continue the dialogue that President Obama and Chancellor Merkel directed our two governments to further intensify and strengthen in the wake of this discussion publicly. But I don’t have anything specific for you on that.

QUESTION: There is another question I have —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — concerning your relationship with Germany.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a bipartisan group of Senators planning to travel to Germany to talk about the NSA story, and —

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. Okay.

QUESTION: That’s what we hear. Can you confirm that?

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen that. I’ll check on it. I just haven’t – I haven’t heard about those reports. We’ve said we’re committed to diplomatically talking about this issue with our German allies and friends. That, of course, will continue. I don’t know anything about a congressional delegation. I’ll check on it.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about a possible visit of Susan Rice to Germany to talk about the NSA’s (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t heard of that. I’d refer you to my colleagues at the White House to speak to Ambassador Rice’s potential travel.


QUESTION: On Yemen. The —

QUESTION: On Snowden. Just —

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: — reasonably related.

MS. HARF: It’s okay. Snowden’s related.

QUESTION: But with regards to Russia, you’re aware of Mr. Snowden’s manifesto published at – you have a almost daily trickle of either manifestos like this, public statements, meetings, but also documents released. And you know how him and his cooperators do this on purpose, right? They kind of string it out over time. The – as this is happening in Russia – and he’s clearly using Russia as a platform for this – have any messages gone between Washington and Moscow to keep President Putin, in effect, to his promise, right, that he was allowed to stay in the country as long as he was not damaging the U.S., which he clearly is? And some of these revelations have been described as such by Administration officials. Any more pressure, any more messages going, saying, “Hey, wait a second. This has gone too far. What are you going to do about it? How is he there,” et cetera?

MS. HARF: Yeah, no. It’s a good question. Not anything new that I know of. I’m happy to check with our folks and see if there is. I haven’t heard of anything. We have said since the beginning that we don’t want this to damage, broadly speaking, our bilateral relationship. I mentioned last week how even after all of this, we were able to work together on getting a negotiated Syria CW resolution and moving forward on that process. So I’ll check if there’s anything new diplomatically on that side. Just not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Can we assume that there are regular contacts about this through the Ambassador in Moscow, for instance? Or the —

MS. HARF: I’ll check. I’ll check.

QUESTION: Okay. That’ll be helpful. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.


QUESTION: One follow-up question —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — on Mr. Snowden.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There – as you probably have followed, there is a discussion in Germany, a public discussion of granting him asylum. What would that – in case that would be done, that step would be taken, what would that mean for the United States? What would your point of view be concerning that?

MS. HARF: Well, our position on Mr. Snowden hasn’t changed. He needs to return to the United States where he can face the charges that he is charged with – very serious charges – and that he should do so. Again, what we’ve said from the beginning is there are legal ways to express dissent – even with classified programs like he’s allegedly talking about; there are a number of them – and that he – we’ve said from the beginning that if he was – felt the need to address these programs, he did it – should’ve done so legally, and did not, and at this point, needs to return to the United States to face a court of law where he will be afforded due process and all of the protections under our justice system.

QUESTION: Would the fact that – sorry —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: One last question, Said. Sorry.

Would the – would it mean if Germany was to give him asylum, however likely that is, would that mean that the relationships between those two – I mean, America and Germany – would deteriorate because of that?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to address that hypothetical. Again, our position on Snowden hasn’t changed. He needs to return to the U.S. as soon as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) any other details – you said – you mentioned between Germans and the U.S.?

MS. HARF: I don’t have other details about that. If I get any, I’m happy to share. And it’s intelligence officials, so I would maybe point you to my colleagues in the intelligence community to get more specifics on that.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yemen. Do you have any reaction to the clashes on Saada province in Yemen between Sunnis and Shia?

MS. HARF: I don’t. Let me take that and see if I can get you a response.

QUESTION: And one on U.S.-Hezbollah relations: A Kuwaiti newspaper has reported today that there are talks between the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and Hezbollah. Can you —

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: — confirm this report?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to look. I haven’t seen those reports, but that would be news to me.

QUESTION: One on China?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We’re just hopping around the world today.

QUESTION: Okay. One, alleged car suicide attack in Tiananmen Square in Beijing?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Chinese Government has concluded that it has been found backed by the international terrorist organization, and calling the international society to confront it together. U.S. shares this conclusion and willing to do so?

MS. HARF: Well, we are continuing to closely review reports about this incident. We do understand that the Chinese authorities have investigated it, I think arrested five people, and have declared it an act of terrorism. We’re going to continue to monitor the situation and look into exactly what happened before we make a broader statement.

QUESTION: But if the Chinese are true, I think it’s very important to react quickly and confront it together, but —

MS. HARF: We’re continuing to closely review reports to determine exactly what happened, and if I have further comment as we do, I’m happy to share in the coming days.

Yes, Allie.

QUESTION: Back to Mehsud from an Afghanistan perspective, if we could.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Karzai also criticized the attack, saying that it could damage relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So generally speaking, does actions like this – you mentioned before that he presents a national security – a threat to the United States, but how do you balance our concerns with those of our allies that were still involved in and their concerns with how it affects relations with their neighbors?

MS. HARF: Well, the first point, again, that I would underscore is that he was, is – I don’t know what term you want me to use – has been a threat to the United States directly to U.S. national security, has American blood on his hands, and was continuing, is continuing – I don’t know what word you want me to use here – but to plot and plan attacks on Americans.

That’s our highest priority, is protecting our national security and our people. We will continue the discussions with President Karzai, with Prime Minister Sharif, with folks that have equities here and have raised concerns or issues. Those discussions are ongoing, broadly speaking, on a number of counterterrorism issues. That will certainly continue, but again, we have an obligation to protect our people and our citizens, and that’s certainly the case here.

QUESTION: But was that drone a U.S. drone fighter that hit him?

MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to confirm these reports one way or the other about that issue.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

Source: state.gov


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