State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, Oct. 21, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 21, 2014.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

2:17 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily briefing. I am very, very sorry for the crazy time changes this week. It’s – I don’t like doing it either, but thank you for your patience and understanding. I have two items at the top, and then Lara, you will kick us off.

A travel update: Secretary Kerry has landed in Berlin, where tonight he will have a working dinner with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to discuss a range of regional and international issues. Tomorrow he will participate in an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And as you have seen, I am sure, from the statement I released just a few minutes ago, we can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to rejoin his family. We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him. While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them. And the U.S. Government will continue to work actively on both of their cases.

We thank the Government of Sweden for their tireless efforts. As you know, they are our protecting power in the DPRK. And we’ll provide additional details about his return home when we are able to do so. We won’t be able to provide a lot today, given he’s still en route back, but I will attempt to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So what more can you tell us about how this came about? What kind of tick-tock can you provide? Can you specify what Sweden did to facilitate this process? And also, is he going straight home to his family or is he going to a hospital? Is he going somewhere to be debriefed, or do you expect him to be in Dayton, your hometown, shortly?

MS. HARF: Close to my hometown. I’m from Columbus. Close.

QUESTION: Well, Ohio.

MS. HARF: Ohio. I know. It is some good news for the Buckeye State today. I don’t have a lot more details I can share at this point. I’ll tell you what I can. We’ll probably be able to provide additional details over the coming days.

As you know, we’ve been actively working for the release of all of the American citizens being detained in North Korea. We don’t always go into details about our efforts. We say it from this podium a lot that we are actively engaged in this, but we can’t talk about what that looks like. I think I can probably leave it at that for now.

He has been evaluated by a doctor and appears to be in good health. He has, however, been in detention in North Korea. We will continue to provide any necessary consular assistance to him. We obviously have been providing it to his family. We will continue to provide it to him in the coming days and weeks if he requires that.

I think we’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why they decided to do this, why now. But again, we are pleased that he was able to leave and urge the immediate release of the other two.

QUESTION: Is it fair to assume that the reason – one of the reasons why he was released and the other two have not been is that he has not been convicted of a crime at this point?

MS. HARF: I would let the DPRK speak to that.

QUESTION: Can you talk at all about how that might have played in some of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I am not going to, at all, get into our efforts here or outline those —

QUESTION: And then to clarify, there were no U.S. envoys on the ground here, right? This was mostly facilitated by the Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re not going to give more details in general. But as we said, I think in the statement, this was a Department of Defense plane at the request of the State Department flew to Pyongyang to meet Mr. Fowle, left Pyongyang with him. This, again, was a DOD plane at the request of us. They have those resources.

QUESTION: Okay. So if I’m reading between the line, then I’m understanding that North Korea kind of arbitrarily or for whatever reasons decided to release Mr. Fowle, and that this was not a product of negotiators, whether from the United States or other countries, being on the ground pressing for this.

MS. HARF: I’m not telling you to read between the lines or indicating that. What I am saying is we are actively working to have the Americans returned home who are detained in North Korea, and we’re not going to outline what that looks like.

QUESTION: Can you maybe tell us who made the first contact? Or was this done through – you thanked the Swedes, but was Japan involved as well?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details to share with you about this, probably to any of the questions. I’m sorry, guys. This is obviously happening very fast, and if we do have any more details to share we will try to.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that he’s in Guam at the moment and that he’s en route?

MS. HARF: I can confirm that that is where the plane flew from Pyongyang. I don’t know exactly if they’re still on the ground or if they’re on their way back. But we won’t have additional details to share about his return to the United States today.

QUESTION: Can you talk about this window —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) how unusual it is for a DOD plane to be involved? I know there have been other captives released.

MS. HARF: Sometimes people fly commercial. This is – this was – as I said in my statement, there was a time issue that – let me just go to it here. The Defense Department was able to provide transportation for Mr. Fowle in the timeframe specified by the DPRK. I think it was a timing issue.

QUESTION: So they didn’t specifically ask for a government plane? They just said he needs to leave by – in this time?

MS. HARF: As a condition of his release, as I said in the statement, the DPRK authorities asked the United States Government to transport him out of the country. And again, in this timeframe, the Department of Defense was able to offer a plane.

QUESTION: Can you talk more —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: One quick question. So from what we understand, Pyongyang reached out to the U.S. on this one?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to give more details about the discussions. In part – I would remind people that there are two Americans still detained in North Korea, and obviously we want to preserve our ability to work actively to get them home as well.

QUESTION: Has any message been sent from Pyongyang about those two?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the North Korean Government to speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Are they next? Is anyone else next?

MS. HARF: Obviously, we hope they both are next.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the time period, one, for actually getting Mr. Fowle off North Korean territory? How long a window was that? 24 hours? 48 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that, Roz. Let me take —

QUESTION: 72 hours?

MS. HARF: I don’t know. Let me take that question.

QUESTION: And how long were the discussions between the North Koreans, the Swedes – I’m assuming that they were acting as the interlocutors – and the U.S. on actually securing Mr. Fowle’s release?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to confirm any details about the discussions or the ways we try to get our American citizens home.

QUESTION: Did the North Koreans ask the U.S. to provide something in exchange for releasing Mr. Fowle without his having to set foot into a courtroom and possibly be punished?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to confirm or get into any more of the details of our efforts to get him or any American home.

QUESTION: When was —

QUESTION: Can you say whether these efforts accelerated after the three of them appeared on U.S. media last month?

MS. HARF: I think our efforts are always intense to try and get our Americans home.

QUESTION: Was there any change, though, in terms of the negotiations?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into any more discussions on that.

QUESTION: What was the time period that the North Koreans asked for? You were —

MS. HARF: I said to Roz I would check on that. What I referred to in my statement?

QUESTION: The one that – right, exactly.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. I can check on that. I don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Were you – was the United States Government surprised that the North Koreans had alerted them – you all – to say send a plane, he’s coming out?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that we think this is a positive step, but that does not change the fact that we remain concerned about Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. We work very hard in a variety of ways that we don’t publicly outline to get these Americans home.

QUESTION: You say you work very hard on ways to —

MS. HARF: We do.

QUESTION: — have American citizens released. Why can’t you say we have worked directly or indirectly with the North Koreans on this particular case?

MS. HARF: Because we’re not going to detail our efforts to get them home, in part because there are still —

QUESTION: But you are acknowledging that you are doing everything that you can —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — to have U.S. citizens released.

MS. HARF: But I am not going to get into the details about what that looks like, in part, Said, because there are still two Americans there that we feel need to be immediately released and returned home.

QUESTION: Did you have a reaction when Matthew Miller was sentenced to six years hard labor? Did you put out a statement?

MS. HARF: I think I have the statement. When I was asked about it at the briefing, I believe I said at the time that we have seen those reports and would urge the DPRK to immediately release him and return him home to his family.

QUESTION: Is it reasonable to assume that because the Pentagon was asked to remove Mr. Fowle from North Korean territory that he is going to stop first at a U.S. military installation in South Korea?

MS. HARF: I think – no, they went to Guam from Pyongyang, as I just said, where there is an American military installation, and then he will return home. I’m not going to detail the specifics of that travel, give him some time to get home and be reunited with his family.

QUESTION: And when was his family notified? And were they notified so quickly that they’re still here in the United States and weren’t able to travel to meet him part way, if not all the way?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into discussions about the discussions we have with the families. We have ongoing discussions with them. They were, of course, made aware of the fact that he would be coming home.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to get a sense of how sudden was this decision by North Korea to release him. I mean, ostensibly, if it looks as if something is in place, people are sometimes given the ability to move from where they start —

MS. HARF: You also, hypothetically, want to make sure that it’s real and you don’t want to get the hopes of families up in case it’s not. So obviously, when we talk about consular assistance in these kinds of cases, broadly speaking, you want to make sure that, before you actually notify a family that their loved one will be coming home, that that is, in fact, the case.

QUESTION: But in this case —

QUESTION: When did you actually do the notification? Because the lawyer said today that they had not received official notification that he was on his way home. So when did —

MS. HARF: Well, he wasn’t on his way home until today.

QUESTION: Right. And I’m saying —

MS. HARF: Right. So we —

QUESTION: — within the last hour —

MS. HARF: –in general —

QUESTION: — the lawyer put out a statement saying we’re hearing it in the media but we haven’t gotten official notification.

MS. HARF: In general – I’m not going to get into specifics about notification here for privacy considerations and personal considerations, obviously. But in general, we want to wait to make sure that, in fact, he – the loved one is returning home. We did that in this case and the proper notifications were made.

QUESTION: He had been in detention since, according to North Korean authorities, April 29th. And even though he was married to a woman who ostensibly needed his assistance to basically translate for her because she’s not a native U.S. citizen, he was over there by himself as a tourist and supposedly not proselytizing. Do you believe his story?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. And I would remind people that we have a very strict Travel Warning in place telling Americans not to travel to North Korea for a variety of reasons. But no, it’s not – I think today it’s not about whether or not we believe his story. We believe, as we did today, we did yesterday, that he should be immediately released, as he has been, that he should be returned home. I just don’t have more analysis on his time there to give you.

QUESTION: Is Pyongyang willing for the U.S. to send envoys to North Korea now for the other two people who are being detained?

MS. HARF: I will let them speak for that willingness. We’ve seen in the past that often happen, and we have said we are ready to send one if they invite them to return. But to my knowledge, their position hasn’t changed on that. But again, I’d refer you to them.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: ISIS.

QUESTION: No, no.

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: Okay. I probably don’t have much more to add, so let’s just do a few more.

QUESTION: Well, North Korea, but a different issue.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to comments made by North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador on a couple of fronts? One, he said that the U.S. has been masterminding international criticism of North Korea’s human rights record. Basically in a VOA interview, he accused the U.S. of a smear campaign and said if this continued that North Korea will review its policy towards America. He also stated that there is a new policy in North Korea and it will result in an expansion of nuclear weapons.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the specifics in that interview, but I’d say a few points. The first is on the human rights situation in North Korea. We call it how we see it, and we are deeply concerned – and remain deeply concerned – about the ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK. They are clearly documented by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry. This isn’t about the United States. This is about the world standing up and saying there’s a very serious human rights situation in North Korea.

So that’s how I would respond on the human rights side, but on the nuclear side, we and our parties in the Six-Party Talks have been very clear that our goal is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That is what we are working towards. That is what – if you talk about these talks in the past and what North Korea has said they were willing to do, we obviously believe that that needs to be the ultimate goal.

Said, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, can we —

QUESTION: Just very, very quickly, can you just clarify – you’ve said that you wanted to send an envoy and the North Koreans have refused. Have you offered to send anybody other than Robert King, or is it Robert King that you have said —

MS. HARF: Well, in the past, the invitation has been for him, and that offer stands on the table, if the invitation were to be re-extended. That’s what we’ve been focused on here.

QUESTION: But you haven’t put anybody else forward?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details about these discussions for you.

Said.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you – first of all, if you have an update on the situation in Kobani, can you share that with us?

MS. HARF: I don’t have much of an update. The situation, to my knowledge, hasn’t changed. Obviously, we did the resupply —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: — over the weekend, remains a serious fighting situation and contested area.

QUESTION: So is that like a one-day situation, or have we had airdrops since then on a continuous basis?

MS. HARF: We haven’t had airdrops since then, no.

QUESTION: So you haven’t?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: You have not?

MS. HARF: We have not.

QUESTION: Is that because the Turks expressed displeasure with that?

MS. HARF: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It’s because we – this was something we decided to do over the weekend, and as I said yesterday and as my Defense Department colleagues have said, we have the option to do this again if we feel it’s necessary. I don’t know if we will or not.

QUESTION: Today, President Erdogan said that Kobani was a strategic – of strategic importance for Turkey but not for the United States of America. Have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see his comments, but we have talked very closely to Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, about our overall shared goal – a strategy we share – of taking the fight to ISIL. Obviously, when we told the Turkish Government that we would be taking this resupply near Kobani, it was because we believe it’s a very important location, that ISIL has increasingly put weapons and fighters and money and resources into. So we obviously believe it’s important or we wouldn’t be dropping weapons to the people fighting on the ground.

QUESTION: But the Turkish Government is doing everything it can to show that they don’t – you don’t have their shared goals and – because —

MS. HARF: I would strongly disagree with that, Said. Turkey’s announcement that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani —

QUESTION: Have you seen any of that (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: — is an important contribution to coalition efforts to support forces there. That is a very significant step that they said they would take yesterday, and I think there’s a hesitancy to overlook those kind – or a tendency, excuse me, to overlook those kinds of announcements and just focus on what they’re not doing. But I think they’re doing some fairly significant things.

QUESTION: I know you addressed this, but the president of Turkey made it very clear that they have four goals: They want a no-fly zone; they want a safe haven; they want to topple the regime; and they want to target Syrian forces and Syrian air assets and so on, which at least for now, in conflict with your immediate goals.

MS. HARF: Well, Turkey is a strategic ally and a valuable part of this coalition, and they are taking a number of steps as part of it, including their announcement that they would facilitate this crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. So we’ll continue to talk to them about what this looks like on the ground.

QUESTION: And the last question from me on this issue: During the campaign in Libya, some 26,000 air raids were conducted in Libya. Do you feel that what is going on or what has taken place since August 8th until now – and again, I’m trying to – at least in Iraq on August 8th it began – until now, had —

QUESTION: Syria. No, I was —

QUESTION: — in Iraq August 8th, but then last month it was in Syria. Since then, have they been able to, let’s say, deplete or to decrease the assets of ISIS on the way to their defeat?

MS. HARF: On the way what? What was that last one?

QUESTION: To their total defeat, as the stated goal is?

MS. HARF: Well, certainly, we know the coalition airstrikes have been successful in hitting their targets. They’ve eliminated hundreds of ISIL terrorists, they’ve destroyed ISIL military equipment, and disrupted supply lines and communications. And the more we address ISIL directly, the more resources they have to put into the fight, and the less they’re able to focus on other parts of Iraq and Syria, particularly.

So we know we’ve had an impact, but we also know this is going to be a long fight, and this is not about any one day or one week or one month of action; this is a sustained campaign. We feel we’ve made progress, but this is going to be a long campaign with ups and downs and ebbs and flows.

QUESTION: On the issue of —

QUESTION: Can we go back to the air drops?

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the Pentagon said that it had tried to deliver 28 bundles of weapons from the Iraqi Kurds to the fighters in Kobani. Twenty-seven made it; the twenty-eighth went off course. They destroyed it so that it wouldn’t fall into people’s hands.

MS. HARF: And – yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now there’s YouTube video of ISIL fighters claiming that they, in fact, did recover that wayward bundle, and they have grenades and RPGs and other small weapons. Given that the Pentagon says no, we took that out because we did not want that to happen, how prepared is the U.S. and its allies to deal with the propaganda value of whatever it is ISIL will do to try to change what the coalition says are the facts?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points: The first is we’ve seen that video, and we can’t confirm that what is in it is actually accurate. There’s obviously a lot of false information, particularly propaganda on the internet, and this may fall into that category. We’re seeking more information at this point, though. So can’t confirm it; seeking more information.

We know that part of ISIL’s strategy here is to wage a propaganda campaign. And that’s why one of our lines of efforts has been delegitimizing ISIL’s propaganda. And so that is something other countries can do; it’s something religious leaders can do. But that’s why, if you look at our five lines of effort, that’s one of them, which I think is pretty extraordinary.

QUESTION: So on the issue of the Peshmerga crossing the borders, it seems time is of the essence when it comes to Kobani. Are you in any kind of discussions with the Turkish Government about timeframe for this to happen, for the operation?

MS. HARF: Those discussions are continuing.

QUESTION: And who’s – and how is it going to happen? Who’s going to facilitate the movement of the Kurdish forces?

MS. HARF: I’d refer you to the Turkish Government. They may have more details on that. I – the answer is I don’t know what the timeframe is. I know we’re in discussions with them about it broadly.

QUESTION: But did you express any time preference?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. But again, I’m not the one having the discussions, so let me see if there’s more to share with you on that.

Anything else on ISIS?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Peshmerga: That – just the Peshmerga from Iraq. It would not include, let’s say, Kurdish fighters that could conceivably come from Turkey, could it —

MS. HARF: It’s – I’ll let the —

QUESTION: — that might include the PKK?

MS. HARF: I’ll let the Turks speak for themselves, but it is my understanding that it will facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga.

QUESTION: Okay. So – and there are – even among the Peshmerga, there are some commanders that may be wanted by Turkey. Do they have immunity, to the best of your knowledge?

MS. HARF: From who?

QUESTION: From the Turks —

MS. HARF: Well, ask the Turks.

QUESTION: — that they would not arrest them as they cross?

MS. HARF: I would ask the Turks, Said.

QUESTION: But this is since a coalition effort.

MS. HARF: This is a coalition effort, but I would ask the Turks.

QUESTION: Would that be one of the conditions that you would say – tell the Turks, like —

MS. HARF: I don’t think we’re giving them conditions. This is an effort they’ve said they will undertake. They’ll have more details about it.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Any details on the deal with the Iraqi military to send 46,000 tanks?

MS. HARF: Yes, let me see what I have on that. Just give me one second.

On October 20th, the State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to Iraq for up to 46,000 rounds of M1A1 Abrams tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $600 million. This is part of our effort to expedite defense material to the Government of Iraq in support of the fight against ISIL. The proposed sale will contribute, obviously, to the foreign policy and national security of the U.S. by helping improve the security of Iraq, a strategic partner. Obviously, the sale is subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which the Department and the Government of Iraq will conclude final administrative and technical details.

QUESTION: And when do you expect to deliver these tanks?

MS. HARF: When?

QUESTION: When, yeah.

MS. HARF: Well, I just said that it’s subject to a 30-day congressional notification period, after which we will finalize the sale.

QUESTION: Do you have any —

QUESTION: Is it tanks or just equipment and ammo?

MS. HARF: It is tank ammunition and associated equipment, parts, and logistical support.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: And how many tanks do you expect?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not tanks.

QUESTION: It’s tank ammunition.

MS. HARF: It’s 46 – up to 46,000 rounds of ammunition and associated equipment and parts.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on —

MS. HARF: I don’t know how many tanks that goes into.

QUESTION: — on the visit and statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi? In Tehran, he met with Rouhani and met with (inaudible).

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, Iran and Iraq share a long border. They have had long relations. I think this is a routine visit by the prime minister of Iraq to Iran. I think he’ll be doing similar visits around the region to other neighbors as well. And we’ve urged Iran to send a message to the Iraqi Government that they need to govern inclusively; that’s key. We’ve obviously said that for months now.

QUESTION: But in the fight against ISIS, obviously Iran is willing and probably is taking place in the fight against ISIS, but you still consider that to be not a good thing.

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. I’ve said from this podium that every country has a role to play —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — that Iran, if they encourage the Government of Iraq to govern inclusively, if they – the Iraqi Security Forces, support them as the ones who should be taking this fight – not militias, not anyone else on the ground. That would be a way they could contribute.

QUESTION: So let me ask you straightforward: Do you object to having Al-Quds Brigade, which is an Iranian fighting force that is in Iraq, fighting ISIS?

MS. HARF: Well, what we’ve said is the people on the ground that need to fight ISIL are the Iraqi Security Forces, not militias.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Prime Minister Abadi has talked about regulating militias, understands the historical challenges with Shia militia groups. We believe it should be the government security forces fighting ISIL.

QUESTION: But the Peshmerga is fighting them.

MS. HARF: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, the Peshmerga is not – at least is not technically part of the Iraqi army.

MS. HARF: Right. But – you’re right. But the Kurdish Regional Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, who are working at an unprecedented level together, like we haven’t seen in the past.

QUESTION: What’s the status of the Sinjar?

MS. HARF: Sinjar? There has been some renewed fighting there, and we are deeply concerned about reports of their increasingly intense attacks against communities near and on Mount Sinjar, including against Yezidis who are there trying to protect their main civilian population. We’re continuing to assess the situation and assess what assistance we may be able to provide to those in need.

QUESTION: Did you get a response to or an answer to my question yesterday about whether the U.S. would send weapons or supplies to the ministry of interior?

MS. HARF: I – you – whether there was going to be a change.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: I did and there is no change. There is not going to be any change – has no plans to change our security relationship with the Government of Iraq. And I think there were a lot of questions yesterday about certain ministers and who was aligned with what groups. I think a couple other points in response to that, one, we worked with members of Badr Organization who were part of the government in the previous government, and we will continue to do so here. I think it’s significant that these ministers, including this one, was approved by a majority of the Sunnis as well. So this is really all of the different parts of Iraq coming together, and if they’re willing to put their support behind these new ministers, I think that’s a pretty significant sign.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: To Vietnam?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the prominent dissident bloggers in Vietnam, Nguyen Van Hai – also known as Dieu Cay – has been released and is on his way to the U.S.

MS. HARF: That is true.

QUESTION: Just wanted to know if you had a statement on that and what is the reason for his release, and why now, and is he going to be living here permanently?

MS. HARF: And welcome back, by the way.

QUESTION: Thanks.

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

QUESTION: Good to be back.

MS. HARF: We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release this prisoner of conscience. He decided to travel to the United States after his release from prison, will arrive on Tuesday October 21st – so today. He decided himself to travel to the U.S. We have consistently called for his release and the release of all other political prisoners in Vietnam.

QUESTION: Do you think there will be more releases soon?

MS. HARF: We hope there will be.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country —

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: — after he – can you confirm reports that he was forced to leave the country after he was released?

MS. HARF: I would check with the Vietnamese authorities on that. We know that he decided to come to the United States after his release.

QUESTION: Is he coming here for medical attention? Because there were reports that he was ill.

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

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, I have a question on Cyprus and Turkey. As you maybe know, Cyprus says it will block any progress in Turkey’s talk to join the European Union in response to the Turkish illegal gas search in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. My question is that – did the Government of Cyprus ask for your help to stop Turkey’s aggression in – against Cyprus?

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve —

QUESTION: If you cannot answer, can you take —

MS. HARF: I can’t tell if you had a follow-up.

QUESTION: Can you take the question to —

MS. HARF: Well, I can just say a little bit about Cyprus.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: As we’ve always said, the United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to strongly support the negotiation process conducted under UN good offices to reunify the island into a bizonal and bicommunal federation. That’s obviously been our policy for a long time.

QUESTION: The government spokesman said that what is happening actually Cyprus is another Turkey invasion against the island. What is your comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those comments, but we continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. And it’s important, I think, to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the attack in Quebec by a radicalized man who killed a police officer?

MS. HARF: I do.

QUESTION: And how concerned are you with the monitoring of extremists by the RCMP?

MS. HARF: Well, we condemn this attack and extend our sympathies to the family and friends of the Canadian Forces soldiers. We have been in touch with Canadian officials and understand they are investigating the incident. Obviously, we deplore acts of violence towards military and law enforcement officials particularly, and stand ready to assist our Canadian partners as they investigate this act. I don’t have more details on it than that. They’ll probably have the latest on the investigation.

QUESTION: But is it a concern as it hits so close to home?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see what the investigation shows.

QUESTION: And about the monitoring of the extremists by the Canadian police? Is there –

MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let them speak to their efforts here. But obviously, we know that one of the challenges is fighters who will go overseas to fight with some sort of extremist group, a terrorist group, return home to Europe, to the West, to Canada, to the United States. We know it’s a shared challenge, so it’s obviously something we’re very focused on.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Yep. And then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Libyan Government gave orders to the Libyan forces to advance toward Tripoli and liberate it, as the government statement said. Do you support the government in this decision?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. I can check on that. I hadn’t seen them.

QUESTION: But the —

MS. HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen —

QUESTION: Anyway, do you support any move that the Libyan Government takes towards the militia and the gaining or getting back the capital?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve called on the Libyans to engage constructively in the UN-led political dialogue to resolve the ongoing crisis, to abstain from confrontation. But I hadn’t seen those reports, so let me check into those.

Yes, let’s go to Pam.

QUESTION: The ceasefire talks between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that were due to start today, of course, did not start. We have the team of military advisors that is still in the region. Can you shed light on whether the U.S. advisors are going to play any – have played or will play any kind of role in these negotiations?

MS. HARF: They have not. They have not. I don’t have a prediction going forward, but they have not up until this point.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the calls that Kerry has made with regard to – in the last day or two – developments on Turkey? And what about North Korea?

MS. HARF: I can —

QUESTION: Not that he called Pyongyang, but —

MS. HARF: (Laughter.) I don’t think he did. (Laughter.) That would be breaking news that I could make. I do not have the call list from today. Let me check after the briefing.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports that the Ukraine army had launched cluster bombs in Donetsk and other places?

MS. HARF: We did. We’ve seen the report. We are not in a position to confirm the use of cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine. I’d note the Ukrainian authorities have denied use of such munitions, but have called again on all sides to take steps to protect civilian lives.

QUESTION: What’s the level of conversation between the U.S. and Ukraine regarding these allegations?

MS. HARF: Regarding these specifically?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know the specifics.

QUESTION: Do you have comment on the apparent agreement between Russia and the Ukraine on the gas supply for the winter?

MS. HARF: We saw some of that coming out of the meetings in Milan that happened a few days ago. We obviously support the European Commission in its efforts to broker a commercially competitive compromise on gas sales that includes market pricing and payment of arrears. We have urged Russia to continue engaging with Ukraine and the EU on this issue. We hope a deal can be completed at the EC-brokered talks that are taking place in Berlin today. I don’t have the latest readout from Berlin, but we’ll get it.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MS. HARF: You can.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comment on the resumption of indirect talks between Hamas and Israel regarding the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: We have seen those reports. I’d refer you to the parties to confirm their participation. Our teams in the region have continued to engage with the parties on the way forward in Gaza; of course, support efforts to reach a durable and sustainable long-term ceasefire.

QUESTION: Okay. So that would be my next question. Would the United States have any representative in these talks?

MS. HARF: I can check, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ebola?

QUESTION: Can I —

QUESTION: The Dominican —

MS. HARF: Did you have another on —

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to follow very quickly with a couple things.

MS. HARF: Okay. And then we’ll go to Ebola.

QUESTION: The Israeli authorities demolished three homes in Jerusalem today. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I’ll get one for you. I didn’t see that. Sorry.

Ebola.

QUESTION: The Dominican Republic has joined other countries in banning entry to foreigners who’ve visited Ebola-affected countries. We know what the Obama Administration’s feel is, but is this in any way swaying you? There’s also new polls out today in which Americans are saying that they feel that there needs to be this travel ban.

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are not considering implementing visa bans at this time, but the Department of Homeland Security did today announce additional efforts and protective measures to prevent the spread of Ebola to the United States. And I’d refer you to them for the details, but just to give you a few of the top lines here, these measures go into effect tomorrow. They are that passengers arriving in the United States whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will be required to fly into one of the five airports that have the enhanced screening and additional resources in place. So we’re already working with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption – we – that’s the Department of Homeland Security.

And also, passengers flying into one of these airports – and to remind people, this is JFK, Newark, Dulles, Atlanta, and Chicago – flying into these airports from flights originating in any of these three countries will be subject to secondary screening and added protocols, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted into the United States. These airports account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the U.S. from these countries, so —

QUESTION: Was the State Department consulted on this decision?

MS. HARF: Absolutely we were.

QUESTION: And did – and was this building supportive of it, given this building’s previous opposition to any sort of visa ban or visa restriction?

MS. HARF: Well, this is not a visa ban or a visa restriction. This is an additional procedure, a screening procedure that the Department of Homeland Security will do, so absolutely we were supportive of it.

Our position on visa bans hasn’t changed. You can’t control this epidemic through visas. And if you prevent people from traveling in legitimate ways, you’ll drive them underground, you’ll push them to illicit ways of traveling, which is even harder to track them and contain this. So our position on visa bans has not changed. The President said he’s not philosophically opposed to it, but our experts at this point have said it’s not the way to contain it. But we do support, certainly, the additional measures taken to protect us here in the United States.

QUESTION: My understanding is that these are flights that are coming directly from these West African countries.

MS. HARF: No. There are no direct, non-stop —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — commercial flights from any of these countries to any airport in the United States.

QUESTION: Right. So they would be flights from any of these countries that might route through London or Paris or Frankfurt or something.

MS. HARF: Route through other places.

QUESTION: Right, got it.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Marie, the forces – the U.S. forces, the military forces that were dispatched to sort of contain the – or to prevent the spread of the epidemic and so on – where are they, and what is their number? Could you update us on where they are now and what they are doing?

MS. HARF: I can – I don’t know if I have the latest on that. I’m happy to check with our team and my colleagues at the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: Yeah, so – yeah, which countries and their number and so on, and what is exactly that they’re doing.

MS. HARF: Let me see if – I don’t think I have – let me check with our DOD colleagues. I know I got asked this earlier this week, but for some reason it is not in my book. It’s amazing that there’s something that’s not in this book.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the dispatching of Cuban aid workers —

MS. HARF: The Secretary spoke about it publicly last Friday —

QUESTION: He did?

MS. HARF: — when he said every country has a role to play, and —

QUESTION: Well, it seems that they have already – they sent more. They sent like 51 —

MS. HARF: Well, he’s spoken about the fact that they have provided a large number of resources, particularly given how small the country is, especially compared to other countries who have many more resources that they could be providing.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out whether there are any legal restrictions on the U.S. working with Cuba in something such as this health crisis?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t able to get an answer for you all on that. Let me see if I can keep pushing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:51 p.m.)

Source: state.gov