State Department Briefing by Marie Harf, October 4, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWPSF)–October 4, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Government Shutdown / Secretary Kerry’s Travel / Global Impact / Opposite Message from Congress / Furloughs Numbers / Budget and Financial Limitations
    • Clashes with Pro-Muslim Brotherhood Supporters / Troubled by Reports / Monitoring Situation
    • Muslim Brotherhood
    • U.S. Assistance / Engagement
    • Assad Regime and Legitimacy / Opposition / Election
    • Discussions with Russians on Geneva 2 / Political Transition / Geneva 1 Communique
    • Ambassador Ford Travel
    • Discussions with Iran
    • Secretary Kerry at Wreath Laying Ceremony
    • Meetings
    • U.S. Military Assistance to Various Countries
    • No Timeline / Process
    • Chargé / U.S.-Venezuela Relationship



1:25 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Happy Friday, everyone. Good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a statement at the top that I’ll be reading, and then I’m happy to open it up for questions.

So as I think folks probably saw this morning, that due to the government shutdown, President Obama’s travel to Indonesia and to Brunei has been canceled. While the Secretary will ably represent the United States at all of the stops on this trip, this completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and to advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.

I think, as the White House said, the President looks forward to continuing his work with our allies and partners in the Asia Pacific, and of course, the Secretary, as I said, will ably be representing the United States in these different fora.

I just want to point out a few global headlines that, again, my folks have pointed out to me that reflect how this really negatively impacts our standing abroad. I think that they’re indicative of this, and then we’ll open it up to your questions after that.

Mexico’s La Jornada press writes, quote, “By putting at risk the already precarious stability of the financial markets, American political groups are playing with fire.” Taiwan’s United Daily News declares, “The U.S., once a model of democracy, is now caught in a quagmire.” The New Indian Express asserts, quote, “A situation in which the U.S. is unable to honor its financial commitments is something the world shudders to think about.” And finally, Spain’s El Pais worries that, quote, “Politics of hate are pushing us to the brink of economic collapse.”

So I’d reiterate what I said yesterday, that for a Congress that talks a lot about American exceptionalism, they’re sending the exact opposite message all around the world right now.

Go ahead, Deb.

QUESTION: What effects though – what new updates do you have on the effects of the —

MS. HARF: No new updates. Like I said, every day we’re continuing to look at the numbers. We haven’t had to undertake massive furloughs like we’ve seen, unfortunately, elsewhere. But no new updates on our posture today.

QUESTION: And we don’t have any numbers yet on furloughs?

MS. HARF: No numbers.

QUESTION: Why don’t we have any numbers on furloughs?

MS. HARF: We just don’t have any to provide at this point. We’ve said it’s a very small number in these offices. If we have numbers to share, we will.

QUESTION: Well, it’s small, like what – like under 10 or 50 or —

MS. HARF: I know you ask the same question every day, and we just don’t have numbers for you at this point.

QUESTION: Why not?

QUESTION: My question is: Why.


MS. HARF: Why?

QUESTION: Why are you unwilling to provide the numbers?

MS. HARF: Right. Well, we – I just don’t have those numbers in front of me. I know our folks are looking at them now.

QUESTION: How long does it take? It’s been going on for days.

QUESTION: But I didn’t ask you whether you had them in front of you. I asked why, and Deb asked why.

MS. HARF: Well, I said that’s why I can’t provide them, because they’re not in front of me.

QUESTION: Why? No, but that’s – look, tautologies like this don’t help anybody. There’s got to be a reason why you’re unwilling to provide the numbers. What is it?

MS. HARF: The answer – I’ve said it’s a very small number. I can endeavor to get a specific number for you on it.

QUESTION: But – yeah. We’ve been asking now for days. So when —

MS. HARF: Okay. I will keep endeavoring to get you one.

QUESTION: Well, what do you think the problem is?

MS. HARF: I don’t know that there’s a problem. I just don’t have the number in front of me, and I will see if we can get one.

QUESTION: Would you say that the numbers are increasing with every passing day, from Tuesday until today?

MS. HARF: The numbers of what?

QUESTION: The numbers of people —

MS. HARF: Of furloughs?

QUESTION: — being furloughed. Yes.

MS. HARF: No. So —

QUESTION: So the number is static. Whatever was furloughed —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — were furloughed on Tuesday —

MS. HARF: That small number – yes. That’s correct.

QUESTION: Yeah. It has not increased, not likely to increase?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, Said. That’s my understanding. Again, at some point, we will no longer have funds to operate, and at that point we will undertake —

QUESTION: — all be furloughed.

MS. HARF: We will undertake – unfortunately have to undertake much bigger furloughs than we’ve had to at this point.

QUESTION: So the small number of furloughs, though, are they in with the OIG —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and the Boundary Waters Commission —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — or whatever it is?

MS. HARF: And some of the offices I spoke about the other day.


MS. HARF: Yeah. The people – the offices that are funded on one-year funding.

QUESTION: Okay. So those were examples, or those were the list?

MS. HARF: I – those were examples; I don’t know if it’s the totality —


MS. HARF: — of the list. I think that’s one thing people are doing right now is – this is a very large department going through and making sure we have completely accurate numbers about who’s in what offices, who’s under one-year funding.

Now if there’s someone who’s an employee of an office that’s one-year funded but they’re detailed somewhere else, are they furloughed – this isn’t super simple to calculate. So I’ll see what I can do on numbers.

QUESTION: Okay. But the furloughs are in those – in those – in these programs?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yes. The people that are operating under one-year funding, those offices are closed, and that’s my understanding where the furloughs reside.

QUESTION: And again, on the embassies abroad and the consulates and the passports —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and all that just remains, correct?

MS. HARF: It remains. It continues. Yes.

QUESTION: And if you have to furlough anybody in the embassies out abroad, then does that affect the passports? Or it doesn’t affect them at all, ever?

MS. HARF: So I don’t want to get ahead of where we are here. It’s my understanding that if we have to undertake further furloughs, we will still be able to provide visa and passport services because they’re fee-funded services.

QUESTION: And as we were talking about yesterday, those people who do those jobs are fee-funded?

MS. HARF: That’s my understanding. I can check on the specifics, but obviously, I think we focused a lot on furloughs because that’s a hugely important part of this, but the reason I started yesterday talking about some of the programs, the reason I started today talking about some of the negative press we’ve been getting around the world is because it’s about more than just furloughs. It’s about our ability to go out and represent our values and interests, and that’s much harder right now because we don’t have any FY 2014 money.

QUESTION: Can I ask —

QUESTION: How much of a heads-up will these people get?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yep.


MS. HARF: Go ahead. What?

QUESTION: How much heads-up will the people who work in this building get? They just get told, “Don’t show up for work tomorrow,” or – how much leave time?

MS. HARF: It’s a good question, and I don’t know the answer to it. Obviously, if we get to that point – and we don’t want to have to get to that point – we would encourage Congress to not let us get to that point, but we would take every step to make sure that people are given notice and all the process that we’ve gone through in other agencies as well. But again, I hope we don’t have to get to that point.

QUESTION: You said that in a short period of time you might have to start making some tougher decisions and increasing the number of furloughs. Do you have a – are we talking about two or three days, or two or three weeks, or —

MS. HARF: I don’t have a specific timeframe for you. One thing we’ve done is we’ve scaled back a lot of our programs, travel, a lot of other things that we do that costs money prior to furloughing, of course. So we’ve been doing that throughout this week.

So a lot of travel that had been scheduled, events, other things that cost money, have been scaled back. So —

QUESTION: Can you give us an example of something that’s been scaled back?

MS. HARF: Well, a lot of travel that’s not the Secretary or some of our other senior —

QUESTION: Such as?

MS. HARF: I can try and get you some examples.

QUESTION: I mean, it would be useful —

MS. HARF: Yeah – no —

QUESTION: — which conferences you haven’t been able to go to as a result of this.

MS. HARF: Completely. I agree. And I think there are actually some fairly illustrative ones of key foreign policy priorities that we haven’t been able to do. So I will endeavor to get you a list after the briefing. I know there’s – quite frankly, a lot of our travel has been curtailed that really hurts our ability to advance some of these priorities.

But going forward, every single day, our number crunchers are looking at what we have and what we can do with it, and what we can’t do with it, and every single day, that conversation gets harder. But I don’t have a timeline because the budgets are complicated and people obviously are looking at it every day.

QUESTION: Sure, and I appreciate that, but at the same time, as – in answer to Margaret’s question, you were saying that you were going to try to give people a heads-up.

MS. HARF: Of course.

QUESTION: You must have somewhere – or your budget crunchers must have somewhere – a kind of – a tipping point, at which point you’re then going to have to start bringing in more sharper and deeper cuts within the Department.

MS. HARF: I’m sure that they have a bunch of different scenarios they’re looking at right now. Again, I don’t have a timeline for you on that. I don’t think it’s – obviously, nothing’s happened at this point this week, but if we have any more clarity to provide on that, I can attempt to pry that from them as well.

QUESTION: Can we go to (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Hold on. We’ll go to Egypt. Is it shutdown?

QUESTION: Before the – no, on the furlough.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, because there seems to be such a great deal of confusion among foreign government. They don’t understand this business of shut – the government shutting down. Did you issue —

MS. HARF: I think the American people also don’t understand this business of shutting down, but that’s a different question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m saying – yeah, exactly – did you issue, like, a standard statement to foreign governments saying that this is what is happening and that’s what’s expected?

MS. HARF: I don’t know —

QUESTION: Or you don’t see a need for that?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if we’ve issued a standard statement. Of course our ambassadors and our diplomats on the ground are having tough conversations with our partners around the world. If there are things we’ve committed to do that we then can no longer do – conferences we’re supposed to participate in, multilateral engagements we’re supposed to participate in – clearly, those are tough conversations. And our folks around the world are having those with partner governments right now.

I don’t know if there’s one message we sent to all of them, but I think the overall general message we’re sending through our diplomats is that we’re committed to the relationships, we’re committed to the work we have to do together, we will do everything in our power to continue this work, but that right now, we have some budgetary and financial limitations, and so we will do everything we can to try to move these relationships forward, but quite frankly, it’s really tough right now.

QUESTION: Yes, please, about the shutdown.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Maybe I will try to phrase it in a way that you may find an answer for, but what I am asking about is about the number, because as it was published today in New York Times, a detailed story about how many people are not working at the State – at the White House.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And a few days ago, there was something, a hint about the number – numbers means numerical value, not many or little – number.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: All these things were mentioned, whether it’s the Pentagon or in White House. So what is your philosophy or justification of not saying numbers, although you are concerned about the image of United States abroad?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think this is a philosophical discussion about a number.

QUESTION: I’m not saying thing – I mean, I’m trying to – I’m not – philosophical discussion. I’m asking —

MS. HARF: Yeah, right.

QUESTION: — we are asking —

MS. HARF: You asked what my philosophy was behind it, and I don’t think that there’s —

QUESTION: If you have a philosophy or justification or —

MS. HARF: — a big philosophy behind it.

QUESTION: — anything.

MS. HARF: No, it’s a good question, and I know this is – we’ve all been kind of obsessed with the number here, and I will attempt to get a specific one for you. I think for us, it’s that this is about more than a number of furloughs in an office. This is about how it affects our mission all around the world and what we’re doing on the ground. Obviously, every agency has the ability to put out numbers about who’s furloughed and who’s not. So we’ll keep having this discussion, and if I can get a number that I can share, I will do so.


QUESTION: I mean, it is because if you give us a number, then it undercuts the argument that it is preventing you from doing all this abroad, or —

MS. HARF: No, not at all.


MS. HARF: I just don’t have a number in front of me.


MS. HARF: Look, what I’ve said – we have not hidden the fact that we have not had to do massive furloughs. I’ve also been very clear that the people we have are in a very small number of offices, so nobody’s hiding that fact. And I think the point I’ve tried to make repeatedly is that it’s more – it’s about more than that number. It’s about what we can and can’t do overseas. So it’s not that anyone’s trying to hide anything. It’s that I just – I don’t have a number for you. I’m happy to keep looking to get it for you.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — the Secretary’s schedule that you mentioned —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — is he actually going to chair the TPP meeting in Brunei or just leave it to the U.S. representative, Froman, or —

MS. HARF: I think we’re going to be putting out an updated schedule at some point for what the Secretary will be participating in now that the President’s not going. The Secretary will be assuming the President’s duties at these two locations that the President was supposed to go to. I don’t have anything specific on each meeting – I want to make sure I’m exactly clear about who’s doing what – but we’ll get that around as soon as we can.

QUESTION: Thank you.


MS. HARF: Egypt.

QUESTION: Five – according to our reporting, five people have been killed in clashes between pro-Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Egyptian security forces, and one of our reports states that an army – an Egyptian military vehicle, an army vehicle, fired live rounds in the direction of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo after they had been pushed back from Tahrir Square. Do you have any comment on the violence? Do you have any assessment – and on the deaths – and do you have any assessment of whether the Egyptian security forces have been using excessive force in these incidents?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, we’re obviously closely monitoring the situation and are troubled by the reports, some of which you mentioned, of small clashes in Cairo. As we always do, we condemn all acts of violence as well as incitement to violence. We’ve also said the Egyptian Government has a responsibility to protect all Egyptians and create an atmosphere that supports a process of political transition that is peaceful, inclusive, and has maximum participation from the Egyptian people.

In terms of these specific situations, I think we’re still looking at exactly the facts and what happened. We may have more comment on it over the weekend or next week, but again, we’re closely monitoring it, and as we determine the facts, we’ll probably have additional response.

QUESTION: And is it generally your view – not tied to these specific protests and the responses that there have been – is it generally your view that the Egyptian authorities who have held power since Morsy was toppled have behaved in an inclusive manner?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear that there’s a long way to go in this process, and when there have been specific examples of politically motivated arrests or excessive force, the Secretary has talked about it; the President has talked about it. So I think we’ve been very clear that that’s the goal and that there’s a lot of steps that need to be taken until we get to that goal.

But we’ve also noted when they’ve taken steps that have – that we think have been good and have been moving in the right direction, but quite frankly, there’s a lot of work to be done on both sides to promote a kind of inclusive process.

QUESTION: And what should the protestors or what should the other side be doing to try to promote an inclusive process?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s a couple things we’ve talked about. One is protestors also have a responsibility to protest peacefully, to not incite violence, to not undertake violence of their own. Also, even though it’s hard, even though it’s very tough after what we’ve been through over these last few months, they have a responsibility to be a part of the process. That’s the best thing for the Egyptian people. This isn’t about what we want or what the government wants or what – it’s that there’s a process and the best thing for the Egyptian people is to have all groups being a part of it. So I think those are probably the two biggest.

QUESTION: And how do they – how is it possible for the Brotherhood to be a part of the process when the majority of their leaders, including Morsy, are either imprisoned or being held incommunicado?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve called from the beginning for an end to politically motivated and arbitrary arrests. So I think that position still stands. It’s difficult. Nobody’s naive about how difficult it is. But there are ways to be involved in the process, steps that can be taken by the Muslim Brotherhood and by all parties in Egypt to be a part of that process. But again, there – the interim government has a preponderance of power in the situation. We’ve always said that. And they really have a responsibility to set the tone, set the conditions for an inclusive process. They can’t make it harder for everyone; that’s certainly not conducive to it.

Said? Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted – just to follow up, not to belabor the issue —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but I know your position on the release of former President Morsy and that you still call for his release. But don’t you think that pressuring the Egyptians at the present time to release the leadership and to release Morsy can really stem this violence before it goes out of hand once more?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to venture to guess what could affect the situation on the ground one way or the other. Look, the regime – the ruling interim government has responsibilities. Regardless of what the U.S. does, they still have those responsibilities. So we’ve called on the government to respect all rights of peaceful protestors and called on protestors to do so peacefully. So those rights exist independent of what the U.S. does or doesn’t call for.

QUESTION: But I mean, do you blame, let’s say, the Muslim Brotherhood for perceiving that you commitment to the release of all these prisoners is no more than lip service since the President did not even talk about it during his address at the UNGA, or you have not called again for the release of Morsy for probably weeks now?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. The first is that we’ve been consistent in saying that we don’t support one group or one party, but that a few things have to happen: The interim government has to allow people to express their views; they have to end politically motivated and arbitrary protests; and that the protestors and the opposition needs to be a part of this process. So I think we’ve been incredibly clear about what our position is, but let’s also be equally as clear about where the responsibility lies. We can’t force the Egyptians to do anything; this is their country, this is their future. It’s in their interest to take these steps not because it would be good for the U.S., but because it would be good for their own people. And that’s where the responsibility lies today.

QUESTION: Do you (inaudible)?

QUESTION: Do you think —

MS. HARF: Of course we do. Of course we do.

QUESTION: And are you thinking about —

MS. HARF: But ultimately, responsibility lies with them.

QUESTION: Yes, but I’m not – I’m interested less in them than in your ability to try to influence events. Has the President, for example, made a decision about what to do about the – about any of the assistance that was withheld for FY 2013?

MS. HARF: No additional update beyond what we’ve already talked about in this room on assistance. Obviously, I know we’re all waiting to have that discussion when it finally happens, but no additional decisions on that. I think our general guiding philosophy, regardless of what – if something’s kept, if something’s not, if something’s stopped – is that we do think that it’s important to continue our engagement with the Egyptian Government because we do have interests there, we have national security interests there that we want to keep promoting. The best way to do that is remain engaged. The question right now is what that engagement will look like going forward. The President is looking over his options as we speak, and I’m sure at some point we’ll all be able to have a discussion about what the decisions look like.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding the – your engagement, by any way this shutdown or the limitedness of your activities affect this engagement or not regarding Egypt?

MS. HARF: Well, the conversations certainly continue. Our diplomatic discussions with all groups and parties in Egypt continues. We’ve talked a lot about funding for 2014 in three different buckets. I mentioned one example yesterday on the Sinai. So I don’t have more specifics for you than that, but our discussions certainly do continue. Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, and another related to the – you mentioned that the speech and Secretary Kerry meeting with Minister Fahmy in New York, which was last – I mean, the Sunday before last.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: After that, there – was there any meeting happened or any contact done with the Egyptian ministry or minister or any —

MS. HARF: In New York or in general?

QUESTION: In New York or in general.

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer. You’ve mentioned the meeting they had at UNGA, but I can check if there was a – there’s always contact, continual contact in Cairo on the ground, but I can check about from here.

QUESTION: Yes, and my – maybe the last one is that today the Embassy of U.S. in Egypt released or issued a warning for Americans because of what may happen on Sunday. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen this new warning. Obviously, we’ve had some travel warnings in place for Egypt for a while, a considerable amount of time. And our Embassy from time to time will put out notices about upcoming events. I haven’t seen this one specifically, but I’ll take a look at it, and if there’s anything additional to add, I’m happy to get back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: What else? Wow. Oh, Said. Yeah.

QUESTION: No, go ahead.


QUESTION: Syria. Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said in an interview with 60 Minutes that one thing that could be helpful to this process, political transition in Syria, is if Assad didn’t stand for election in the upcoming election. And overnight, Assad said publicly that he’s going to decide in the next four to five months if he’s going to do that, if he’s going to stand for election, as we all wait for him to decide. Are those comments themselves something that this building would consider helpful, in any way responsive to the idea put forward?

MS. HARF: No, I think it’s just – when you look at the comments, and I saw those comments that he made, it’s really unfathomable to think that the leader of a regime that has slaughtered over 100,000 of its own people, gassed to death over 1,400 on August 21st, would even contemplate running in an election to lead the country. The Syrian people have been clear about what they want, and we have been clear that we will support them. And if he really were to follow the wishes of the Syrian people, he would go. And the Secretary was very clear that that would be a step in the right direction.

QUESTION: How are you gauging the sentiment and the wishes of the Syrian people?

MS. HARF: Well, I think this – we’ve gauged that in a lot of ways, quite frankly. But if you just look at the opposition, the number of people that have joined the opposition across the country to fight and organize against the Assad regime – look, it’s been clear that he’s lost legitimacy and must go and that the trend is moving in that direction. This is a process that will take time. We’ve said that from the beginning. But I think the notion of a brutal dictator who’s killed so many of his own people claiming to have any opportunity to run for additional elected office is really actually quite offensive.

QUESTION: But you know there are other institutions such as churches and monasteries and organizations for minorities and so on that actually say otherwise. They say that they do support the regime; they feel that it has acted on their behalf all these years, that it does provide them with protection. So he does, actually, represent a certain segment of Syrian society.

MS. HARF: I don’t think that you can in any way, that anyone could in in any way say that the Assad regime has acted on behalf of his people.


MS. HARF: Period.

QUESTION: But they do beg to differ with you, these —

MS. HARF: I think our position on Assad’s legitimacy and his lack of it is pretty clear.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you another question, that some reports say that in the upcoming meeting, let’s say, in mid-November and so on, the idea of actually coalescing between the moderate fighting elements and the regime to fight against al-Nusrah and al-Qaida types, would that be something that you would consider to be positive?

MS. HARF: I’m not even going to venture a guess on that hypothetical scenario. We’ve been clear that the SOC and the SMC are the legitimate opposition that we work with that we recognize, and we’ve been clear that al-Nusrah is not. And what that might look like going forward I’m not even going to speculate on, but I think that the SMC and the SOC have been very clear about their opposition to the regime and what their goal here is at the end of this process.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to follow up on Margaret’s question —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: While waiting three or four months and so on, I mean, this stalling tactic could – are you concerned that the regime might spring something new, let’s say, in the process once you have this thing underway?

MS. HARF: On what process?

QUESTION: In the transitional process, saying that I want to run or I want —

MS. HARF: Well – yeah.

QUESTION: — someone else to represent the Baath Party to run. Or do you consider the whole Baath Party that the regime represents to be not welcome to run?

MS. HARF: No, we’ve never said that. What I will say is that the election and what might or might not happen in it isn’t – doesn’t determine what happens at Geneva 2, right? It’s not – they’re not related. Certainly, the Secretary was saying that this would be a positive step if he didn’t run, but the Geneva 2 process is separate from the Syrian election, right? And we believe that the path forward here politically is for a Geneva 2 process based on the Geneva 1 communique to lead to a political transition separate and apart from any supposedly scheduled election that Assad may or may not decide he wants to run in.

QUESTION: Since you brought up Geneva 2 —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s been some reporting that the Russians are disappointed that the President isn’t going to be in the East for possible discussions with Mr. Putin on the sidelines. Do you have any sense of whether Secretary Kerry would either meet with President Putin or with Foreign Minister Lavrov to discuss the way forward on Geneva 2?

MS. HARF: It’s a great question. I think it’s a very real possibility. I know the schedule is being worked out right now and everybody’s reworking his schedule now that the President won’t be there. I absolutely think it could happen and is likely to happen. If we have an update that – for you on that, we’ll let you know. But I would predict that we will very soon be able to say that something like that will be happening.

The Secretary has been clear that he and Foreign Minister Lavrov talk a lot, are going to keep talking a lot about this issue. I think it would probably make sense. So —

QUESTION: Would it be just a meeting with Lavrov or is it possible that he would act in the President’s stead and meet with President Putin as well?

MS. HARF: I’m just not sure at this point. We’re still working out details of possible meetings, and when we have something to announce we’ll let you know.

Scott, yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next. Go ahead, Said.


MS. HARF: We’re still on Syria? Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I just wanted to see – to ask you if there are ongoing meetings now at the level of, let’s say, the deputies or anything between the Russians and the Americans.

MS. HARF: I don’t know what the latest is on that. I’m happy to check. Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, it is about Syria.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean —

MS. HARF: Yeah, hold on.

QUESTION: — it’s a simple question.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Regarding Geneva 2, what you want to achieve through Geneva 2?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been very —

QUESTION: I’m talking about 4th of October, today —

MS. HARF: — clear. Well, we don’t have a date for Geneva 2 yet.


MS. HARF: Right. So we’ve been very clear that Geneva 2 is a conference designed to work towards a political transition in Syria based on the Geneva 1 communique that outlines a transitional government with the mutual consent of both sides – that would be the regime and the opposition – and that brings together the different parties that have interests and influence in Syria to move them on a political path forward. I’m not going to further detail specifically what that might look like. That’s the purpose of having the conference, right? So I think that’s obviously our goal, and we want to set it up at a time and a place and with the right participants that we can increase the chances that we’ll succeed.

QUESTION: So can we say that it’s trying to create a process of finding a solution or transitional period for —

MS. HARF: A political transition. Yes, it’s focused on the political transition and setting up the process by which that would be undertaken.



MS. HARF: And then I’m coming to you, Scott.

QUESTION: The Syrian Opposition Coalition issued a statement, said they will not go to Geneva with Iran there unless Iran withdraw its political advisors and Hezbollah from the fighting in Syria. Will you raise – will you agree with them or —

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that participation is still being worked out for the conference. We’ve also said that all participants who are invited to attend will need to accept and endorse the Geneva 1 communique. So that’s certainly been on the table. I don’t have any specific response to you on those comments, but we’ve – that’s something we’ve called for for a long time separate and apart from any Geneva 2 process. So clearly it’s something we would support.

QUESTION: Any update on Ambassador Ford? Is he in town?

MS. HARF: I have – I don’t know where Ambassador Ford is right now. I know he had some travel. Let me see. He was scheduled to go on travel to Istanbul and Ankara – I believe he was supposed to leave today but I am not sure exactly what his current location is – to have discussions with opposition leaders on Geneva 2 with both the SOC and the SMC. If I have a travel update, I’ll let you know. But he’s scheduled, I think, to be on the road today.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Scott, yes.

QUESTION: These recent talks with Iran have clearly focused on the nuclear program, but to what extent have they included the issue of Syria and Iran’s support for Bashar al-Assad?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that the discussions have focused solely – almost entirely if not solely, because I haven’t been in all of them, the Secretary had a private one-on-one, as we know, with Foreign Minister Zarif. But it’s my understanding that these talks have focused on the Iranian nuclear issue, not on the Syria issue. But I can double-check, and if there’s anything additional to add, I’m happy to do so.


QUESTION: You are – are you still not decided about Iran participation in Geneva 2?

MS. HARF: The participation list is still being worked. Yes, that’s correct.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: A question about Japan?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s reports that Secretary Kerry and also Defense Secretary Hagel participated in a joint wreath laying ceremony at Japan’s main cemetery.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And they wanted to know what was the timing of this move and also what’s the significance. Is it a signal, either to the Abe government or some other?

MS. HARF: That is true. That event, I think, has already happened because they’re in at Bali at this point. It did happen while they were in Tokyo. I can get some more details for you on it from the traveling party about the significance and the timing. I don’t have those details in front of me, but I know that that event did in fact happen.

QUESTION: But it is the first time, apparently, since World War II that we have done something like this, even though the Japanese side has done things at Arlington National Cemetery.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Isn’t there some reading that you could give us about why they did it now?

MS. HARF: I just don’t have that in front of me. I think the traveling party’s been handling those questions, so I will get the answer from them, and I’m happy to either answer it on Monday at the briefing or send it to you in an email as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: But I’m sure they have the details.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes. Thank you for the question.

Yes, Said?

QUESTION: The Palestinian-Israeli negotiation?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything you could share with us about the meeting held today with Ambassador Indyk? He apparently organized a meeting —

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details for you on that.

QUESTION: — between the Israelis and Palestinians. There is nothing?

MS. HARF: No details for you on that.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think you said you would see if it was possible, since the Secretary last week said that there had been seven rounds so far and that it was now time to – that the parties had agreed to increase the pace and – to intensify the pace and increase the U.S. participation. Are you able to tell us whether there have been more talks and whether —

MS. HARF: Whether the pace has intensified? I don’t have any clarity into that. I’m happy to – I’ll check in with Ambassador Indyk and our folks to see if that’s in fact the case. I believe it is, just knowing when these things are taking place and knowing how often they are taking place, but I’ll check if there’s anything else I can —

QUESTION: And then one other thing, if I may. Yesterday, we’d asked if you could let us know if there was any U.S. military assistance to – I think it was Burma —

MS. HARF: Burma, yes.

QUESTION: — Syria, Central African Republic, and I’m blanking on the fourth.

MS. HARF: Sudan.


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: That was cut off as a result of the Child Soldiers Protection Act.

MS. HARF: So this is the additional information I have today, and I may still need to get you some more, but we maintain comprehensive sanctions against the Governments of Sudan and Syria in the area of security assistance funding, so the answer there is no.


MS. HARF: Let me see. What other countries were you asking about?

QUESTION: There were two others, I think, that didn’t receive full waivers. One was the Central African Republic —

MS. HARF: Burma.

QUESTION: — and Burma.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And you are asking if they do receive? I don’t have updates on that. I apologize for that, Arshad. But I will see if I can get it from our folks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I had a quick about Keystone.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a story that whizzed across my consciousness yesterday that the Canadian – the company that runs Keystone is saying that they don’t expect any response now until the end of the year on whether they will be granted a license to go ahead or not with the work. Is that your understanding? Could you tell us what the timing is?

MS. HARF: Still no timeline. We’ve always said there’s no timeline. I don’t want to guess why they would have said that, but we have said there’s no timeline on when this process will be wrapping up.

QUESTION: So you don’t think it will be by the end of the year, then?

MS. HARF: I don’t – there’s just no timeline that we’ve laid out. Could be sooner, could be longer. Just don’t have one.

QUESTION: And what exactly is the hold-up? Because the review’s in and —

MS. HARF: There’s no holdup. There’s no hold up. There’s just a lot of parts of this process that need to happen. Obviously, we get a large number of public comments – those have been posted. So we’re working through the process right now, but it’s just a process that takes time.


QUESTION: A quick one on Venezuela.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on your diplomatic dispute with Caracas? And the question has been asked yesterday, that did you send a new charge d’affaires to Caracas, and are you still working on any rapprochment with Venezuela?

MS. HARF: Well, we – thank you for asking that question. We didn’t send a new charge. Philip Laidlaw, as the Deputy Chief of Mission, became the new Charge d’Affaires once his predecessor departed Venezuela, so I think we were right when we were talking about this yesterday, that he just replaced the former Charge.

And we’ll continue to believe that a functioning relationship with Venezuela is the in the interest of both countries – focusing on counterterrorism, counternarcotics, commerce – some of these issues we’ve talked about for a long time. That’s what we’re focused on right now.

QUESTION: Did you take an action here to sort of respond to the action of asking the charge d’affaires to leave from Caracas?

MS. HARF: We did. They asked three of our folks – they PNG’d three of our folks, and we responded and did the same with three of their folks in Washington as well.

QUESTION: Including the charge d’affaires?

MS. HARF: Including their charge, correct.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)