1:48 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Hello everyone.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MS. HARF: Thank you. It’s good to be back in the United —
MS. HARF: — it is. I missed all of you, even though I saw some of you in Vienna.
Apologies for the delay. There’s a lot going on, obviously. Welcome to the daily briefing. Just a quick update at the top: The Secretary is en route to Cairo right now, where you know he will be meeting with our partners to discuss the situation in Gaza, to talk about a cease-fire, to talk about a host of issues. So he’s en route, will land later this afternoon.
With that —
QUESTION: Right. Well —
MS. HARF: Kick us off.
QUESTION: — I’m sure we will get back to Gaza and the Secretary’s activity, but since he hasn’t arrived yet, I’m expecting that you won’t have a whole massive amount more to say than what we already know. So let’s start with Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m wondering, first, if you have any reaction to the Malaysian prime minister’s announcement that they have gotten a deal with the rebels to turn over the black boxes and to – and the train has apparently – with the bodies has apparently left. Is this a positive sign in your —
MS. HARF: Well, if true – obviously, we think that there should be a full investigation, full access to the site. We can’t confirm independently these reports, but if true would be a step in the right direction. I would say this in no way legitimizes this person who has claimed leadership over this area, but we need access and his people control the area, so obviously this would be a step in the right direction. But we can’t at this point independently confirm either of the things you asked about.
QUESTION: Okay. And then you are perhaps familiar with the briefing that the Russian defense ministry gave this morning in which they laid out satellite images or radar tracking images talking about a Ukrainian fighter plane that was apparently near this – the Malaysian airlines plane. They also asked questions, a series of questions to you – meaning the U.S. Government – to produce the documentation, the evidence that Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Power talked about but didn’t offer any forensic evidence, or at least intel evidence. How do you respond to that?
MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. You saw the Secretary yesterday speak very clearly about our assessment that this was an SA-11 fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory; that we know – we saw in social media afterwards, we saw videos, we saw photos of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft that then they then – they then – they then – excuse me – took down once it became clear that it may have been a passenger airline.
There is a preponderance of evidence at this point both sort of out there in the public domain and also from our information that points to the fact that there was a SA-11 launched from separatist-controlled territory. We assess, of course, that the Russian-backed separatists have this system, and one of the main reasons we have called for a full investigation is so we can get all the facts out there.
So what I encourage the Russians to do at this point is to push the separatists that are backed by their government to allow access, to allow investigators who are in Ukraine waiting to go into that area right now, and that’s what I would call on Russia to do at this point.
QUESTION: Right. But what they’re saying is that you should – they’ve put their – what they have out on the table, or at least they say they have done that.
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen any of that. Again, we’ve made an assessment based on a broad range of information. We know this was fired from Russian-controlled territory. It is our assessment, very strong assessment this was an SA-11 that we know the Russian-backed separatists have. We, again, continue to gather more information and call —
MS. HARF: — on Russia to push the separatists to allow for a full investigation.
QUESTION: How is it exactly that you know that it was fired from Russian – I mean, from separatist-held territory?
MS. HARF: Well, we have a great deal of information that the Secretary laid out yesterday, and I can go back through some of it today. But we do know first that Russian-backed separatists were in possession of an SA-11 system as early as Monday, July 14th. This is from intercepts of separatist communications posted on YouTube by the Ukrainian Government.
QUESTION: Well, is there anything – okay, is there anything other – because there’s other —
MS. HARF: I can keep going if – or you want to jump in.
QUESTION: Well, is there stuff that’s other than social media that you’re talking —
MS. HARF: Yes, absolutely. There is.
QUESTION: Okay. So what is it that’s other than social media?
MS. HARF: At this point, Matt, we’ve said what our assessment is, very strong assessment publicly. If there’s more information that that’s based on that we can share, we’re happy to do so. We’ll continue looking at that. But look, this is what we know as of right now. Based on open information which is basically common sense, right – we know where it was fired from, we know who has this weapon – backed up —
QUESTION: Well, I don’t —
MS. HARF: — backed up —
QUESTION: — I mean, it’s disputed, though.
MS. HARF: — backed up by a host of information that we have gathered about who did this, where it came from, and what the weapon system was. So one of – we’re just telling you what we know now.
QUESTION: Right, right. But —
MS. HARF: One of the reasons we’ve called on Russia to push the separatists it backs into an investigation is so we can get all the facts. Instead of holding press briefings and making statements, maybe the Russian Government should call on the separatists they support to allow an actual investigation.
QUESTION: Right. But that’s what you’ve done. You’ve held press – well, Security Council meetings and going —
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t have leverage with the separatists. I would say the Russians do and they’re not using it. So let’s have them use it.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But I mean, I think we’re talking at cross-purposes here. I’m asking you —
MS. HARF: It wouldn’t be the first time.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) No, that’s true. What I’m asking – I mean, there are social – all you’re willing to present publicly that backs up your version of the story, which may well be the correct version of the story, but all you have —
MS. HARF: “May well be.”
QUESTION: Well, it may well be. But I don’t know because I haven’t seen your evidence that shows that the missile was launched from rebel-held territory. But you’re saying – so the only thing you’re willing to put out publicly is the social media accounts, I mean the social media stuff.
MS. HARF: That’s part of it.
QUESTION: Right. But there are social media accounts that says – that disputes that or that claims to present a different version. So are you saying —
MS. HARF: What would that version be, Matt?
QUESTION: Well, I don’t – there are many, many theories.
MS. HARF: Any —
QUESTION: But you’re saying that all of those accounts —
MS. HARF: Most of which are completely illogical, I would point out.
QUESTION: Well, but all of the accounts that do not support your version of events are wrong —
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: — and all of the ones that do support it are right? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. HARF: Look, we make assessments based on a variety of intelligence and a variety of information, some of which we can talk about publicly and some of which we can’t.
QUESTION: Well, is the – are you —
MS. HARF: And we also – and look, if you just take a step back, right, we need there to be an investigation so we can get all the facts, period. But on top of that, we have public information, which is, of course, the easiest for us to talk about —
MS. HARF: — of the separatists bragging about having the system, bragging about the attack that took place, and then walking back from it when it became known that it was a passenger jet. I would ask people who don’t believe our assessment to say, “Okay, what other possible explanation could be – could there be for that?” They defy logic, right?
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know if it defies logic or not, but —
MS. HARF: So when you start from a place of you have separatists out on – again, this is the easiest piece of information for us to talk about – online bragging about it, start there and then work from there and work from all of the evidence we have that we are confident we know where it was fired from, we’re confident we know what it was, and it points in a certain direction. Again, we would encourage Russia to support an investigation if they don’t believe the facts.
QUESTION: Right. It points in a certain direction, but I’m not sure it would stand up to an international —
MS. HARF: I strongly disagree. I absolutely believe that it would.
QUESTION: — investigation. Well, are you willing, if not at this moment in time now but soon, to put forward the intel that you say backs the claims that were made on social media? And in particular, it seems to me that the Secretary was very definitive, as you were just now, at saying that you know for sure 100 percent —
MS. HARF: I didn’t say 100 percent. Nothing is 100 percent in any world, Matt. But go ahead. It is our assessment, very strong assessment.
QUESTION: Okay, very strong assessment that the rocket – that the missile was fired from the rebel-held territory.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I mean, you can’t – there is no social media that I’m aware of that would lead to —
MS. HARF: Well, at the time that MH17 flight dropped out of contact, we detected a surface-to-air —
MS. HARF: — missile launch from a separatist-controlled area in southeastern Ukraine.
MS. HARF: Which we believe was an SA-11. What you want is the intelligence that underlies that?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I mean, they – the Russians have challenged – I’m not – I’m just saying the Russians have said —
MS. HARF: I’m just trying to clarify the question.
QUESTION: — have said we’ve shown – we’ve put out our radar images which show this Ukrainian plane near at least – well, they have. I mean —
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: Why don’t you put out your —
MS. HARF: Well, unfortunately, I don’t have original declassification authority, Matt. But —
QUESTION: Okay. Is —
MS. HARF: Wait, let me finish. But look, we have endeavored to make public as much information as possible. Obviously, if you’re dealing with an intelligence assessment in part, we are sometimes limited in what information we can share. That’s why I think you saw the Secretary speak much more forward-leaning about why we believe this and how we believe it.
MS. HARF: Sometimes you can’t get into all the specifics. We endeavor to put as many out as possible. We’re continuing to see if we can do more.
MS. HARF: I will say that.
QUESTION: So okay —
MS. HARF: Yes, we are —
QUESTION: So there is a possibility —
MS. HARF: I can’t promise you anything, but we’re continuing to see.
QUESTION: There is —
MS. HARF: And I would also say that the Russian Government has a long history during this conflict of misinformation and propaganda that they’ve put out, so I would take anything they say about this with a very large grain of salt.
QUESTION: Well, okay. But I mean, the problem – are you committing now to at least doing – that the intel community is doing its best to declassify stuff that they can put out and at least end the conflicting claims put forward by both the U.S. —
MS. HARF: Well, I would say that the Administration in general is attempting to put out as much information as we can about what underlies our assessment. I would also say that these aren’t competing narratives from two equally credible sources here. The Russian Government has repeatedly put out misinformation and propaganda throughout this conflict in Ukraine, so I would caution you from saying that this is just two equally credible sources.
QUESTION: Well, all right.
MS. HARF: Although you’re happy to report it that way.
QUESTION: No, I just —
MS. HARF: But I would take issue with it.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, again, you might be right, but I don’t see how you can say that everything we say is right and everything the Russians say is a lie.
MS. HARF: That’s not what I said.
QUESTION: That’s exactly what you just said right now.
MS. HARF: That’s not what I said. I said I would say that we are not two credible – equally credible parties when it comes to what we say publicly about the conflict in Ukraine.
QUESTION: And your argument would be that the U.S. is more credible than the Russians are, right? Is that what you’re —
MS. HARF: I’m not even dignifying that question with a response.
QUESTION: Well, I mean —
QUESTION: Marie, did you see the —
QUESTION: But you’re leaving that impression, Marie.
MS. HARF: That we’re more credible? Yes. We don’t put out mass amounts of propaganda. We don’t put out misinformation about what’s happening there repeatedly over the course of this conflict, which I’ve spoken about from this podium day after day. Absolutely.
QUESTION: But can you tell us —
QUESTION: The problem with that is is that all of 2002 and the beginning of 2003 was propaganda and misleading information that was put out by the United States.
MS. HARF: Okay, Matt. I’m sure that’s a tempting historical analogy to make, but it in no way impacts at all how we are doing this assessment or what we’re doing.
MS. HARF: And maybe someday you’ll finally stop using that as a straw man all the time.
QUESTION: It’s a —
QUESTION: Well Marie, one of the big things is showing evidence.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I – agreed. Agreed.
QUESTION: I mean, in court or anywhere, and I think that’s what Matt’s saying, is show the evidence, independent evidence of what you got in intel. I mean, the Russians —
MS. HARF: So we —
QUESTION: — said today that they did not deliver any SA – you’ve seen it – bulk missile system. I mean, is there evidence that you have seen – not what the Ukrainians or anything online has shown, but it’s something that the U.S. has got evidence that they – that the Russians supplied this to them?
MS. HARF: This specific system.
MS. HARF: So a few points. And again, I agree that evidence is important and we are attempting to put out there as much as possible. I do think that’s why you saw the Secretary and me today going much further in why we say we believe – why we believe what we say. And I know it’s frustrating. Believe me, we try to get as much out there as possible. And for some reason, sometimes we can’t.
Look, I think it still remains to be seen, right, how the pro-Russian separatists got whatever – the SA-11, the specific one – I’m not assigning culpability there. But we know that there have been legions of young men crossing the Russian border with very sophisticated weaponry. This would not happen without at least the acquiescence or the support of the Russian Government.
These are complicated systems, right, that it takes training on. We know that the Russian Government’s been training the pro-Russian separatists. We know, period, that what’s happening in eastern Ukraine would not be happening without the support of the Russian Government. So we need a full investigation to determine exactly where the SA-11 came from, but we know that the pro-Russian separatists have many of the weapons they have, have the training they have, and have the support they have because of the Russian Government.
QUESTION: They could have stolen it from the Ukrainian —
QUESTION: Does the U.S. – does the – did the U.S. actually have – independently noticed that a Ukrainian warplane was the in the vicinity of the Malaysia —
MS. HARF: I don’t know if I can confirm those reports. I’m happy – I don’t even know if that’s true. I’m happy to check on it.
QUESTION: Could they have stolen it from the Ukrainian military? I mean, the Ukrainian military has the same system, correct?
MS. HARF: Again, as I just said, I think we – we’re still – part of the reason we want to do an investigation is to determine the origins of the SA-11 system that we believe was used here. But regardless, it was fired from pro-Russian separatist area. We know that these pro-Russian separatists have shot down planes throughout this conflict – other planes, Ukrainian military planes – they’ve bragged about it online – with a – using a variety of systems. So this fits into a certain pattern we’ve seen here, but I would underscore this is why we need an investigation that’s not impeded, where there’s full access – you heard the President speak about it this morning, and that’s the best way to get all of the facts, is for there to be an investigation.
QUESTION: Is the fact that the Malaysian Government – if it’s true, they cut that deal with the separatists – does that in any way sort of elevate the separatists into a sort of legitimate status, and what —
MS. HARF: Well, as I just made clear, it does not give them any legitimacy —
QUESTION: I understand. I —
MS. HARF: — but they control the area and we want – our biggest concern at this moment is for the loved ones of those lost on that plane to be able to have their loved ones return home with dignity. It’s insulting that the separatists are not allowing them to do so.
QUESTION: And the other part of that question: Do you think that the Malaysian Government in a way did not coordinate with you and the other international parties by doing that on their own so to speak?
MS. HARF: Said, I don’t have any analysis of that to do. As I said, this doesn’t in any way confer legitimacy on the so-called leader there. But it is the truth that his fighters do control the territory, and our biggest concern right now is getting the remains of those lost on the plane, and allowing access for an investigation.
QUESTION: Marie, I wanted to follow-up on various aspects of this, and begging the indulgence of my colleagues for the various strands I want to pursue with you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Okay.
QUESTION: But first just to follow up on this notion of the disclosure potentially of some of our intelligence information or product by way of satisfying the world’s questions about this affair. Perhaps the more apt analogy than 2002-2003 is Adlai Stevenson at the UN where we had a very serious charge that the Soviet Union at that time had installed missiles on Cuba, and we shared our photographic reconnaissance by way of making that point.
Is that the kind of thing you say the Administration’s considering doing here to satisfy the world’s questions about this?
MS. HARF: I would actually compare it to a more recent event, which is when we talked about the chemical weapons use in Syria. That’s something I lived through, so I know more acutely than Adlai Stevenson’s activities at the UN. But on that, there were a lot of questions, and we attempted to, as the days went on, make more information available until we got to a point where we basically put out an intelligence assessment, not – we didn’t put out every piece of information, but we were able to get as much out there. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. Obviously, it’s always a balance.
QUESTION: Some sort of white paper, as we saw in the Syrian conflict?
MS. HARF: I have no idea what that would look like, but we’re trying to put as much information out as possible.
QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because Secretary Kerry himself seemed to me to be rather forward-leaning in his discussion publicly of intelligence product —
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — in a way that was inconsistent with the repeated statements we get from podiums like this that we cannot discuss sources and methods. So, for example, he stated, “We ourselves tracked the imagery of the launch of this surface-to-air missile. We have the trajectory recorded. We have the intercepts of their conversations. We know this from voice identification. We have a video.”
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: It seems to me that, having displayed so much of that information across the country on various channels yesterday, the Administration should be quite prepared to back that up.
MS. HARF: It’s in no way inconsistent, James. I think the balance we always try to strike is when we can put as much information out publicly without threat to sources and methods. Many times we can’t. That’s not just something we say because it’s fun to say. Having worked in the intelligence community, it is a fact. But in cases like this, in cases like Syria’s chemical weapons, we endeavor to put as much out as possible when we can do so. And that’s why I was making the point that he was quite forward-leaning yesterday, because we believe it’s important.
QUESTION: A couple of very quick other things —
QUESTION: Can I just have one very briefly, because I want —
QUESTION: There’s no such thing with you, Matt. Come on.
QUESTION: Yeah, no, there – this time there is.
So is that —
MS. HARF: I agree with your colleague, by the way.
QUESTION: Is all – really? Ganging up, huh? (Laughter.)
I just want to make sure – so you’re saying that the information that the Secretary – that James just went through – the imagery, all that kind – that this is stuff that you’re going to provide to the investigators?
MS. HARF: I did not say that, Matt.
MS. HARF: I said that we endeavor to make as much public as we can.
QUESTION: But whether or not it’s made public, you will give them to the investigation team, right?
MS. HARF: Well, the Dutch is leading the investigation. We’re obviously a part of it, as are other countries as well. I don’t have anything to preview for what we’ll provide to them, but we’ve said we’ll cooperate as much as we can.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry stated during his round of interviews yesterday, in particular with Fox News, “It’s been seriously compromised,” speaking of the investigation. The Secretary’s a former prosecutor.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As a former prosecutor, it seems to me he should know that when he says a given investigation has been “seriously compromised,” that the faith that the world may have in the final product of this investigation is also going to be seriously compromised.
MS. HARF: Well, James, I would take it a step further, and I would say at this point, because of the lack of access, we are very concerned. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a future for this investigation; that if investigators are allowed in today, tomorrow, in the coming days with full, unfettered access, they can do an investigation. Look, there’s a lot of technical expertise out there in terms of investigating plane crashes. And he was very clear, though, that we are outraged about the lack of access here. Not just us, but every country around the world, particularly those who lost people in this plane crash. So look, we are very committed to this investigation. We are providing some FBI and NTSB officials to help with it and are willing to help in any way we can.
QUESTION: Two more things, and then I will yield to my colleagues. When he was asked by NBC News about our dealings with the Russian Federation, Secretary Kerry said – and specific to President Putin, “It’s a question of whether or not you’re going to get the cooperation necessary.” And he adds, “We’re trying for the last time to see if that will be forthcoming at this moment or not.” What did the Secretary mean by “the last time”? “We’re trying for the last time.” Is that an indication that if the kind of cooperation the U.S. wants to see from Russia is not forthcoming at this moment, that we will cease our engagement with the Russians in some way?
MS. HARF: Well, I think you heard the President speak this morning very clearly, that responsibility – direct responsibility – for cooperation with the investigation by the pro-Russian separatists lies with President Putin. He was very clear about that. We have also said, James, that if they do not de-escalate here, that if they don’t take steps – you heard the President again say this morning – there will be further consequences.
We have also said, at the same time, that there are times we work with the Russians. I was just in Vienna for a few weeks where we sat on the same side of the table with the Russians, on the same page on the Iran nuclear issue.
QUESTION: But what is, “We’re trying for the last time to see”? What is that —
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have anything more to parse of his words, James. What he was conveying is that this —
QUESTION: To ask the meaning of the words is not parsing them. He said —
MS. HARF: I’m telling you the meaning of what he said —
QUESTION: — “We’re trying for the last time.”
MS. HARF: I am telling you how the Secretary views our relationship with Russia.
MS. HARF: Okay? He views it – again, in this – when we’re talking about Ukraine, you heard the Secretary or you heard the President very clearly say they have a direct responsibility to push their backed separatists to work with the investigation; that if they do not, if they do not de-escalate, there will be further consequences. I don’t think the Secretary was meaning to convey anything beyond what we have said for months and months publicly.
QUESTION: Last thing. To your point, when he was asked by ABC News if these – this set of events is going to make the Europeans likelier to back stiffer sanctions on the Russian Federation, the Secretary’s reply was “We hope Europe will be.” So that produces the question of whether or not the horrific nature of this set of events hasn’t catalyzed a single one of our European partners to tell us that, in fact, they are ready for stiffer sanctions.
MS. HARF: Well, we’re in discussions with them all the time. As you know, there’s a Foreign Affairs Council meeting, I believe tomorrow, of the European Union. And look, we think and hope that this should be a wakeup call for the Europeans, particularly in terms of imposing additional costs on Russia. We certainly hope it will be. We’ve been clear that we will continue to take additional steps.
QUESTION: And lastly, Reuters reported today, and I’m quoting now: “The expected handover of the bodies and the black boxes, and reports by international investigators of improved access to the wreckage” weakened a new case for broader sanctions against Russia laid out by Western leaders. Would you say that that’s false?
MS. HARF: I didn’t see that quote, but I think what is clear here is you have a situation where there is a crash site in an area controlled by separatists back by Russia. And Russia needs to use its leverage over these separatists to provide access.
QUESTION: Does this newfound set of steps that looks like cooperation – does that weaken the case for stiffer sanctions?
MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that any of those steps are actually happening. I’ve seen the reports, but I think we need to see many more actions on the ground.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) talked repeatedly about responsibility, that Russia has ultimate responsibility. If indeed it is proved that the separatists did shoot down MH17, how are they to be held accountable? Is there supposed to be a trial? Does their leader go on trial? Do the people who fired the missile go on trial? If the ultimate responsibility lies with Moscow, how is that government held accountable? What’s – what is the U.S. and the international community looking for here specifically?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything specific to preview for you. I think – I don’t want to get ahead of the facts, and what we’re focused on right now is getting all of the facts.
QUESTION: Would this be a criminal case?
MS. HARF: Again, I don’t want to get into specifics here. I know we’re looking into a variety of options in conjunction with our partners, but nothing specific to outline today.
QUESTION: Is – are families being told that they should perhaps back away from any sort of civil litigation until they figure out exactly why this plane fell out of the sky and who was behind it?
MS. HARF: I don’t have details on what the communications with the families are like. I just don’t have those details.
QUESTION: Is there a role for the Security Council (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: Well, today at 3:00 p.m. the Security Council will be meeting to consider a resolution – let me just pull up this information – expanding on its call on Friday for a full, thorough, and independent international investigation in accordance with the international civil aviation guidelines, for appropriate accountability, and for full and unrestricted access to the crash site. This is a resolution we fully support. Obviously, we think these tenets included in it are very important. That’s happening at three today.
QUESTION: Is —
QUESTION: Are you pretty sure that it will pass, that no one will veto it?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to make a prediction, Matt, on what might happen at three. I think we’ll all be watching it. Of course, we hope that everybody supports it, but we will wait and see.
QUESTION: What would you say – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but since you’re so strongly in favor of it, if there was a veto, what do you think that would show?
MS. HARF: Well, I think what we’ve said – well, first, it depends on who vetoes it.
QUESTION: I think you know who I might be referring to.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t ever want to presume to understand what you’re asking – (laughter). No, but being – look —
QUESTION: Then how can you possibly answer any of my questions if you don’t know what I’m asking?
MS. HARF: What we’ve said is – look, what we’ve said is Russia has said words publicly about supporting this investigation, and we need to see actions now to back up those words.
QUESTION: Right. Well —
MS. HARF: And obviously that would not be an action that would be supportive of the investigation.
QUESTION: Fair enough. The German foreign minister, the Secretary’s friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said earlier this – today that anyone who is trying to obstruct the investigation into this crash either has something to hide or has no heart or both. Is that something that you would agree with?
MS. HARF: I would certainly agree with those sentiments, yes.
QUESTION: Okay, so in other words —
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — if someone does veto it, they’re either heartless or they’re hiding something or both?
MS. HARF: Well, we – I would have to see what the reasons behind that veto were, but in general, yes. Look, this is – you heard the President speak this morning, I think, about this in a way that made clear that these are people who want their loved ones back. I mean, this is disgusting and insulting that they would cut off access to a crash site like this, and we need to see that stopped.
QUESTION: I just had a quick follow-up. A short time ago, Ukraine President Poroshenko called for both the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic to be added to the international terror list. Would the State Department support that, and is there any plans for the State Department itself to add these two entities to terror watch lists?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that. Obviously, we don’t talk about the processes of how we determine whether or not someone would be on it. I haven’t just seen those reports. I’m happy to check with our team.
QUESTION: But would you support their addition to the watch lists?
MS. HARF: Again, we don’t talk about our deliberations about whether or not groups or people are added to these kinds of terror lists. We’ve been very clear, regardless of what we call it that what they’re doing in these areas is completely unacceptable and against international law.
QUESTION: Would you be against their inclusion on an international watch list?
MS. HARF: I know you’re trying to ask it five different ways, and I’m not going to answer in any of those ways, that we don’t talk about those kind of deliberations.
QUESTION: And just —
QUESTION: While you were away, however, Marie, they were added – both – to the sanctions list.
MS. HARF: Thank you for keeping me up to speed, Matt.
QUESTION: And just one quick one.
MS. HARF: This is a group effort today.
QUESTION: How much evidence do you need to blame Russia for this action?
MS. HARF: Well look, we want to be very clear about the facts before you make statements, which is why I think when you see the Secretary go out and be as clear as he was yesterday, that should be a signal to people. So we’re still trying to get the facts here. And it’s true that it’s not possible for the separatists to function the way they are without support from Russia, without the training, without the sophisticated weaponry. So we need to get all the facts about this specific incident, but we know that the pro-Russian separatists could not function the way they’re functioning without the support from Russia.
QUESTION: So you are blaming Russia.
MS. HARF: I certainly am blaming the Russians for the pro-Russian separatists’ behavior in general, but we need to get all the facts about this specific incident. We don’t – I don’t want to go out there and put culpability on anyone until we have all of those facts. That’s why, if Russia has nothing to hide, they should push their separatists to allow access.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
MS. HARF: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: I want to ask about Putin.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Today I believe that Assistant Secretary Burns is meeting on the Australian.
MS. HARF: I believe they had a phone call. I can check if there was meetings as well.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Is there —
MS. HARF: I can check. I know the schedule’s been a little in flux with the Secretary’s travel.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there any kind of effort to maybe push Russia or bar Russia from participating in the G20?
MS. HARF: I don’t know. I can check. I haven’t heard of any, but let me check.
Yes. On this still?
QUESTION: Yes. There’s been reports of a new offensive in Ukraine in the Donetsk region this morning. Are you concerned that this new fighting is going to undermine efforts to get access for the international observers to the site?
MS. HARF: No. The president of Ukraine has called for a 40-kilometer cease-fire, which he has committed to around the crash site. The fighting is outside of that 40 kilometers. It’s actually about double, 70 to 80 kilometers away, so we are not concerned about that.
Anything else on this? Yes.
QUESTION: I was wondering if there is a point when the crash site becomes too tainted in order for investigators to become useless, essentially.
MS. HARF: I mean, look, every day that goes by that we don’t have access it becomes more challenging, but we do believe there is a credible – a full investigation that can still be done. That’s why we need access immediately for the investigators, the team that’s led by the Dutch. And look, I think we can always get information. We want every piece of information we can get. That’s why we need the investigators there.
QUESTION: Is there any information in terms of the bodies that have been moved that is coming into the State Department?
MS. HARF: So we’re seeing reports that they’ve started to be moved. Obviously, it’s very important to us – I can’t confirm those independently – that the bodies be repatriated to their families, as you heard the President speak about this morning, as soon as possible. The way this has been handled up until this point by the separatists has just been horrific. And again, that needs to change (inaudible).
QUESTION: And finally, in terms of the black boxes —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — have you heard any information about where they might be, who might have control of them, and who might ultimately become in possession of them?
MS. HARF: Yeah, let me see. I think I have something about that. Let me see if I have it right here.
I don’t think we have full fidelity at this point. Yes, we have seen the various reports, but do not have a definitive answer on if they’ve been found or where they are. We have called on both the separatists and on Russia to turn over any investigative information, of course, including the black boxes, to the investigators.
QUESTION: Okay. About Gaza —
MS. HARF: Oh, about Gaza. Okay. Anything else on Ukraine?
Okay, let’s go to Gaza.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does he mean, like, the 67 people who’s been killed – civilian killed in Shujai’iya, I mean, when he say that? I mean, I don’t understand because Hamas, like, still like firing rockets and civilians still, like, fallen.
MS. HARF: So as the President said this morning, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas, and as a result of Israel’s operations they have done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. He also said that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, and then followed that up by saying this is why it’s so important right now to – for the Secretary to be going, for the international community to work to bring about an immediate cease-fire on the ground.
QUESTION: I understand. I watched the whole, like, speech. But the thing is, like, what are the significant damages? I don’t see them. I mean, I see, like, civilians keep falling down in Palestine, however —
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll let the Israeli Government speak to its operations. But they’ve spoken about particularly rocket and tunnel attacks coming from Hamas in Gaza, and I know they’ve been quite focused on those kind of attacks and thwarting them. But I’ll let them speak to their own military operations.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about the Secretary’s travel. Can we talk first about —
MS. HARF: I’ll go to you in a second, Said.
QUESTION: — one, the Secretary and the President have both said let’s try to get back to the terms of the 2012 —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — cease-fire. If my research is accurate, neither Israel nor Hamas was actually at the table for that final round of talks. Those talks were conducted between Secretary of State Clinton and the former president Mohamed Morsy. Why would going back to this with neither of the two sides at the table actually be a viable process?
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary and the President both have been clear that they have spoken about the November 2012 cease-fire because, look, overall our preference here is a cease-fire as soon as possible. That’s what the Secretary is going to Cairo to talk about with the Egyptians, with Ban Ki-moon and with others. So at this point, we do believe that there’s not another viable plan out there, that this is not a negotiation about rewarding a terrorist organization. Obviously, our position on Hamas hasn’t changed. But this is an important point to talk to the Egyptians, who do play a role here and have played an important role in past cease-fires, as you’ve noted, to see if we can get to a cease-fire here. I would also emphasize that this is hard and that I think the Secretary will be there on the ground talking to the Egyptians, but that I think we need to be realistic about how hard this is. We’d like to see progress as soon as possible, but this is a very difficult challenge.
QUESTION: Is it hard because unlike the Morsy government, the Sisi government has no relationship with Hamas and thus ostensibly has no leverage?
MS. HARF: It’s hard because when you’re trying to broker a cease-fire, as you heard the President say today, tensions are obviously very high, things are quite tense on the ground, that this is just a difficult thing to do for a variety of reasons. But the Secretary thought it was the right time to go and try and see if we can make some progress.
QUESTION: Because two years —
MS. HARF: Okay, let’s do one at a time, everyone.
QUESTION: Because two years ago, Hamas —
MS. HARF: We’ll get to all of you. Yeah.
QUESTION: — said that it was willing to go along with the cease-fire, and in fact, called it a victory for its side because it felt that Morsy was representing its interests at the bargaining table. What is the U.S. prepared to do? To whom is the U.S. prepared to talk? Is it going to talk with leaders in Qatar? Is it going to talk to leaders in the UAE? Is it going to talk to Iran? Who has the leverage that might be able to persuade Hamas to sign on to some sort of cease-fire?
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary will be meeting with the Egyptians, Egyptian President al-Sisi, the foreign minister, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as well as other senior officials. He’s also been on the phone with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu a number of times over the past few days, and including other regional partners as well. So while we understand Qatar’s role, the Secretary has spoken to the Qataris as well, we have said all along that we support the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire, and that is the effort the Secretary is going over there to build on to see if we can make some progress on. But obviously, we encourage anyone who has influence with Hamas to use that influence to push them to accept the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, no matter who that is.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. –
QUESTION: Has the U.S. specifically —
MS. HARF: Let’s finish Roz.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. specifically made that request of the Qataris, of the leaders in Dubai, of the Iranians, of others who may have influence that we’re not aware of?
MS. HARF: Well, to my knowledge, we haven’t spoken to the Iranians about this. As you know, we just concluded several weeks of nuclear negotiations where that was focused exclusively on the nuclear issue, not on other regional issues, as has been the tradition. I’m very publicly saying that anyone, including Iran, should use their influence over Hamas to get them to accept the cease-fire. I’m happy to check on the specific conversations with the Qataris and with the UAE in terms of what those look like, but we’ve been very clear that anyone who has influence should use it.
QUESTION: What about – what realistically – what is the U.S. prepared to bring to the table that hasn’t already been brought up? Two years ago in the cease-fire, one of the ideas was in terms of loosening border controls, was allowing the EU and the Palestinian Authority work together to control those border crossings so that Palestinians in Gaza could get in and out, so that supplies could come in. Is that the immediate goal, trying to get something that never really was consummated two years ago?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to detail before – or preview before the Secretary is even on the ground what our private discussions will look like as we attempt to help with this brokering a cease-fire here that really needs to go into place as soon as possible. So I’m not going to preview that for you. I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the coming days.
QUESTION: But what is to induce either side to sign onto it if there isn’t at least a target that wasn’t even achieved two years ago on the table?
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not saying we’re not having those discussions privately. I’m just not going to outline what those negotiations will look like over the coming days.
QUESTION: Marie, do you still believe the Egyptians actually do have some influence in this situation —
MS. HARF: Well, clearly —
QUESTION: — given their own internal politics as well and that you’re talking about a government that’s come out of a military leadership, and it’s not the same government as the Morsy government was two years ago.
MS. HARF: That’s true. We’ve been clear that we support the Egyptian proposal today, that we believe this is the best path —
QUESTION: Yeah, but do they have any influence? I mean, it was rejected by Hamas.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think we would support something if we don’t think it had a chance of succeeding. So look, we do believe that they have an important role to play, have played an important role. We’ve seen the Secretary have a number of conversations with all of the parties, except for Hamas, of course – I’m not changing our position on Hamas – about the way forward here. So I think that we believe that there’s a path forward here; it’s going to be difficult, but that this can lead us to a cease-fire as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And is he planning to talk with the main protagonists in this, which are, of course, the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary has spoken a number of times over the phone over the past few days with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and those discussions will continue.
QUESTION: But he’s a great believer in face-to-face diplomacy, so —
MS. HARF: He absolutely is. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of additional travel —
QUESTION: And did you —
MS. HARF: — for the Secretary, but he certainly picks up the phone all the time and has spoken to them regularly over these past few days.
QUESTION: And so today Palestinian President Abbas is in Doha meeting with the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and they’ve ended their talks, calling for an end to what they say is Israeli aggression and lifting of the blockade, but also saying that they’ve agreed that all Palestinian factions should work towards a cease-fire. Given the comments just by Secretary Kerry yesterday, which he basically put the blame on Hamas for refusing cease-fire efforts, do you believe that this meeting today could be helpful as everybody works towards trying to get a cease-fire?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the details of that meeting yet, but any meeting that eventually works to get towards a cease-fire here would of course be helpful, because we need all the parties to buy into a cease-fire for it to work, obviously. And the Secretary was very clear that responsibility here does lie with Hamas, and we need all of the parties to come together and really – we need to get back to a cease-fire as soon as possible, and he’ll see if he can make some progress on the ground.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) responsible for the bombing of the al-Aqsa hospital today?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports; I’m happy to look. I just haven’t seen them.
QUESTION: I have a couple. Just in – to nail down. You say that the Secretary feels that Egypt has an important role. I mean, what is their important role at this point? I mean, as we’ve been discussing, it’s not the kind of political influence that they have with Hamas. Is it more about their border – their – the fact that they border with Hamas and what they can do to help shore up the cease-fire, kind of physically and materiel – material-wise?
MS. HARF: Well, they certainly play a key role in the Arab world in general. I mean, I know we’ve talked about that a lot in this room regardless of who the leader of Egypt is, quite frankly. It partly is the border. It partly is the fact that they still have a peace treaty with Israel, right. And so they are someone who can talk to the parties and who can try to help us get back to a place of a cease-fire. And they’re certainly one part of this, but obviously, we can’t do the work for them; neither can the Egyptians. We need the parties on the ground to actually accept and adhere to a cease-fire.
QUESTION: Where is the Secretary meeting with Ban Ki-moon? In Cairo?
MS. HARF: In Cairo.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Because you know that he’s in Doha right now.
MS. HARF: They are meeting in Cairo.
QUESTION: And then, also I have one other question: What – have there been any American – Palestinian-Americans that you know of that have been killed in Gaza?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: But you did see, I think we put out a statement last night —
MS. HARF: — about the two dual – or the two American citizens who —
QUESTION: Do you have any more details about who they are and what they were doing?
MS. HARF: I just have a little bit, I think; not much more than last night. We can confirm that two IDF soldiers killed in Gaza were U.S. citizens, Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Department of State have been in touch with both families; obviously extend our deepest condolences to the families on their loss. We don’t have much more information than that at this point, except for – we’ve seen press reports, and I think we can try – we’re trying to confirm this – they were part of the Golani Brigade; two of 13 IDF soldiers killed on July 20th. We’re trying to confirm this right now. We’ve just seen some press reports on this.
QUESTION: Does that give you cause to discourage Americans from joining foreign forces?
MS. HARF: Well, in general, U.S. nationals can serve in military forces. It’s different in every country, obviously. We don’t have a number for how many serve in the IDF, but we know many do, and I don’t think have much more of a position than that.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me go back to the Secretary’s trip. Is he taking anything with him other than the Egyptian proposal or the two – 12 proposal that he says we want to go back to? For instance, is he taking with him the possibility of going back into Resolution 1860 that was adopted on January 9, 2009, which speaks of lifting the siege, speaks of opening the crossings and so on?
MS. HARF: As I just said to Roz’s question, I’m not going to outline what the Secretary’s private conversations will look like before he’s even arrived. I’m sure we’ll talk about them more in the coming days.
QUESTION: Would he be open to these suggestions?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to speculate in any way, Said.
QUESTION: Can I ask —
QUESTION: No, I – go ahead. I have some more.
QUESTION: No, you’re going to get the same answer over and over and over. (Laughter). On the IDF – those American soldiers. Is this something that is specific to Israel and the IDF?
MS. HARF: What? Is what specific?
QUESTION: Well, that it being – that it is okay or that there’s no problem legally for an American citizen —
MS. HARF: No, military service in foreign countries usually does not cause loss of nationality or problems since an intention to relinquish nationality normally is lacking, obviously – many times dual citizens or they just have a desire to serve. So usually it’s not – U.S. citizens can lose their citizenship if they perform certain acts working for certain countries or with the intent to relinquish their nationality. But with the IDF, certainly, and with other countries, I can see if I have more details. This is something that happens fairly frequently.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just thinking – how about Iran? If an Iranian American joined the IRGC —
MS. HARF: That would be quite different, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. So there is a – there —
MS. HARF: Absolutely there’s a difference. It depends on —
MS. HARF: I can guarantee you we would respond very differently.
QUESTION: Or a Chinese American and the – I mean, where does – is —
MS. HARF: Where is there a line?
QUESTION: Yeah, where – or is there one?
MS. HARF: I can see if there are more details on that.
MS. HARF: I actually think there are —
MS. HARF: — rules written up about this. Certainly, service with the IDF is something that many Americans do proudly and we have no issues.
QUESTION: I understand that. I just want to know about other ones.
MS. HARF: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: On Thursday, UNRWA reported that it had found 20 missiles – or rockets, sorry, in one of its schools. I asked about this on Friday; I got the answer in a kind of a TQ way, which —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — you can please repeat now if you’d like to, but it was a commendation. Do you want to do that? I have a question that follows onto the – what you —
MS. HARF: Okay. Why don’t you go ahead and follow on?
QUESTION: Well, my – over the weekend there were reports that UNRWA basically gave these rockets back to Hamas after finding them.
MS. HARF: Hmm. I can check on that. I had not seen those reports.
QUESTION: Well, in the response that I got on Friday – maybe you – it’s short. Do you want to read it?
MS. HARF: I don’t have it in front of me, so I’m not going to read it.
QUESTION: Oh. Okay. Well, you commended UNRWA for doing what – the right thing, what you said was the right thing in handing over these rockets to the local authorities. Now, in Israel, people are saying, “Well, the local authorities in Gaza are Hamas.”
MS. HARF: Understood the question.
MS. HARF: I understand. I just don’t know the answer. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: All right. So —
MS. HARF: Let me check. I will follow up on that and I will attempt to get you an answer right after the briefing.
QUESTION: All right. Last one: You said that there’s – the Egyptian plan is the only plan out there. The Israelis say —
MS. HARF: It’s the viable one.
QUESTION: Well, the only viable plan out there. The Israelis say that this plan needs to be – this proposal needs to be strengthened.
MS. HARF: Well, clearly part of what —
QUESTION: And I —
MS. HARF: — we’ll be discussing is what it eventually looks like, how we can get all the parties to agree to a cease-fire.
MS. HARF: I’m not saying exactly the format it’s in right now. Obviously, we believe it’s an important —
QUESTION: So your —
MS. HARF: — format, and we’ll talk with the parties about how to put it into place.
QUESTION: So are you open to changes? I’m not suggesting what those changes might be. Are you – it’s not necessarily that what has been written down on paper right now is written in stone? You are open to some modifications?
MS. HARF: We – what we’re focused on is the Egyptian proposal, how we can get – how we and our partners can get the different parties to adhere to a cease-fire. What that will eventually look like in its final format I really don’t want to get ahead of.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: The Secretary hasn’t even landed yet.
QUESTION: Last one.
MS. HARF: And then I’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: On Friday we talked about – Jen was asked about comments made by the Turkish prime minister —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — which were – she described as offensive.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if —
MS. HARF: I would agree.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if Prime Minister Erdogan, from the Administration’s point of view, is just no longer a viable interlocutor as it relates to Israel or as it relates to larger things.
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe that comments like these undercut Turkey’s ability to effectively influence the situation. I completely agree with what Jen said about how offensive and awful these comments were, and that they quite frankly hurt Turkey’s international standing. We will continue working with Turkey on a number of issues, but comments like these really have no place in this discussion.
QUESTION: But when you say that you’re – in response to Roz you say that you’re looking for everyone who has some influence with Hamas, and I think that —
MS. HARF: Well, they should certainly use it. You can use your influence —
QUESTION: Okay. So they haven’t —
MS. HARF: — with Hamas without saying horribly offensive things.
QUESTION: I just want to – fair enough.
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — saying that the Turks had forfeited their —
MS. HARF: No, not at all.
QUESTION: — good position.
MS. HARF: Not at all. But —
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MS. HARF: You can, yes.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Erdogan actually gave interview just yesterday responding to your Administration. He said that if America is still saying that Israel is using – it has right to self-defense, then it should be critical of itself; it’s America who is offensive.
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any response to that. His comments were offensive in their own right, period, full stop. There’s no excuse for them.
QUESTION: I have —
MS. HARF: There’s no justification for them at all.
QUESTION: I have one more question. Prime minister again ask your Administration and it is that – what is it to you, America, what you got to do with Hitler when some Americans say – this is quote, still – some Americans say, why Mr. Prime Minister make such comparison with Hitler? What is it to you?
MS. HARF: Why do we care when foreign leaders make horribly anti-Israeli comments and offensive comments?
MS. HARF: I think it matters to everyone. I think that there’s no place in international dialogue for those kinds of comments, period. And that we stand up and are very clear in saying that when people do say those kind of things – and again, it only hurts Turkey’s standing in the world, only hurt’s their ability to influence events when they say things like that.
Yes, James. I’m going to James, I’m going to James. I promised him – I’m going to James.
QUESTION: Go ahead, Said. By all means.
QUESTION: I just wanted very quickly —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday the Secretary of State said that Israel was under siege. What did he mean by that? Because unless he has some geography mixed, it is Gaza that is under siege, right?
MS. HARF: Said, Israeli citizens, as we’ve talked about for weeks, live under fear of rockets fired by Hamas. We’ve talked about when the Secretary and President were on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu the air raid sirens going off in the background, having to go into bunkers. No citizen in Israel should have to live under that kind of threat, and Israel does have a right to defend itself. You also heard the President speak today about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. So I think it’s very clear what we mean when we say that.
QUESTION: But look, I understand his empathy and sympathy to the Israeli prime minister who had to run to a bunker, but don’t you think that the Palestinians were also subject to a lot of air raids and so on?
MS. HARF: I think there is no excuse whatsoever —
QUESTION: There is no comparison?
MS. HARF: There is no excuse for what Hamas is doing, period.
QUESTION: Is there any excuse for what Israel is doing, bombing with their F-16s? You’re just, you’re just —
QUESTION: Hold on a second.
MS. HARF: Let’s do one at a time.
QUESTION: Hold on one second. You just talked about how the Russians are responsible for whatever weapons that the separatists are using. What about Israel that is using American weapons day in and day out – tanks, airplanes, F-16, bombs, and so on – to kill, basically, a lot of civilians?
MS. HARF: Said. Israel has the right to defend itself, period. They have the right to defend itself from rockets fired from Gaza, from things smuggled from tunnels into Israel, period. At the same time —
QUESTION: And should the Palestinians be given the same kind of courtesy to defend themselves?
MS. HARF: At the same time, the President – first of all, nothing that Hamas is doing has any justification at all, period. Even bringing it up in that context is offensive.
MS. HARF: But stepping back, the President —
QUESTION: Let me ask you something, you talked about how —
MS. HARF: Wait. Let me finish, Said. Said.
QUESTION: — offensive. Isn’t it offensive that a hundred civilians were killed in one night?
MS. HARF: I’m going to move on if you’re not going to let me answer.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
MS. HARF: No. James, go ahead. You don’t get any more questions if you don’t let me answer.
QUESTION: Along the lines of the issue of civilian casualties, various senior Obama Administration officials have made it clear, I think publicly and privately, that they would like to see Israel do more to curtail civilian casualties. Since we can presume that the United States presumes that the IDF generally is committed to curbing civilian casualties, what is it exactly that the United States thinks that Israel can presently do that it’s not presently doing in order to curtail civilian casualties?
MS. HARF: Well, we have repeatedly encouraged them to take steps to prevent civilian casualties, also to take steps to de-escalate and work together to achieve a cease-fire here. So look, we’re very clear that they need to take steps to prevent civilian casualties. You saw the president today express concern – serious concerns about the rising numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties.
QUESTION: But elaborate.
MS. HARF: He was very clear about that.
QUESTION: Elaborate what is it you expect Israel that could be doing that it’s not in order —
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more specifics for you on that, James. It’s a conversation we have with them and no more specifics behind that.
QUESTION: And last question, and this relates to the conversations that this Administration has with the Israelis. During the set of round robin interviews that Secretary Kerry conducted yesterday with the five major TV news organizations in this country, and while he was seated in front of a camera, and while he was still wearing a hot microphone, the Secretary elected at that particular moment to have a conversation on his cellphone with one of his aides, during which he could be overheard repeatedly and sarcastically making reference to the IDF operation saying, and I quote: “Hell of a pinpoint operation.”
I know that the State Department feels that it was improper for the contents of those conversations – or that conversation to be broadcast. But nonetheless, it would seem that the original sin might properly be ascribed to the Secretary insofar as he was sitting in front of a camera with a microphone on him when he elected to have this conversation with his aide on the cellphone.
The question is: Did the Secretary at any time in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu make the same point that he thinks it’s “a hell of a pinpoint operation they’re conducting”?
MS. HARF: Well, what the Secretary said during the private conversation he had yesterday was perfectly consistent with what we’ve said publicly and what he said on all five shows – that Israel has the right to defend itself, including against recent tunnel attacks, but he has encouraged them to not only take steps to prevent civilian casualties, but also to de-escalate the situation. So it’s perfectly consistent, I think, given everything going on in the world we’re not going to litigate whether taping and playing that private conversation was within acceptable protocol or consistent with it. Suffice to say the private comments were completely consistent with what he said publicly.
QUESTION: But I think that a reasonable observer would disagree that the comments are entirely consistent with a belief that Israel has the right to defend itself. In fact —
MS. HARF: And a second part: Encourage them to take steps to prevent civilian casualties. Both are important there.
MS. HARF: Don’t cherry pick. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah I was wondering if you have a reaction, it’s not just in this news room that there’s some anger about what’s happening with the Palestinians, but I wonder if you’d seen the rallies in France and in Germany where there’s been a lot of violence overnight – particularly in France – angered by what they see as the disproportionate use of force by the Israelis against the Palestinian people. Do you have any comments on that, on —
MS. HARF: Not on the rallies specifically. I’ve seen those reports. Again, the President made very clear this morning that he has serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties. I don’t think it gets any more clear than when the President says it. I just don’t have anything more to add to that, I don’t think.
QUESTION: But does America understand that, in some ways, its stand that Israel has this right to self-defense is actually against a current of popular opinion on the streets in Europe, that they sort of fill —
MS. HARF: I’m not sure if any of those citizens were living in a country that was under constant threat of rockets from another bordering area, if they would feel the same way. Look, Israeli citizens live under a threat from Hamas. This is Hamas’s responsibility and culpability here for the threat that the Israelis live under, and that is a threat that is unacceptable. And they do have a right to defend themselves. You heard the President speak about that as well today.
QUESTION: But on the other hand, you have a death toll on the Palestinian side which is now well over 500 —
MS. HARF: And he expressed serious concerns about that as well.
QUESTION: — and on the Israeli side you’ve got a death toll of sort of in the 30s. So I mean, it is – the numbers are different and the weaponry is different.
MS. HARF: I’m aware of the numbers, but again, I think the President spoke to this this morning and I don’t have much to add beyond that.
QUESTION: Do you know if in their conversation – in his conversations, either the Secretary or the President – and that when they have spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu and expressed this concern about the rising number of civilian casualties, particularly Palestinians in Gaza, if they have said that there will be any consequence if —
MS. HARF: If they who? We?
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is there any consequence contemplated if —
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details about our private conversations to read out for you, Matt, other than what we’ve already said.
QUESTION: So – okay. So in other words, you’re saying you don’t know.
MS. HARF: I’m saying I don’t have any more details to share with you about the conversations. I’m aware of the contents of the conversations.
QUESTION: When you say that you think that Israel could and should do more – I want to go back to James’s question. Have – can you say —
MS. HARF: Those were James’s words, not mine. I said they need to take every step possible to prevent civilian casualties.
QUESTION: But you believe that they have been doing that to date?
MS. HARF: We’ve certainly continued that conversation with them.
QUESTION: No, I know, but —
MS. HARF: I’m not going to make a broad-based judgment.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, what’s their response been? Has it been the same as what Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have said publicly?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I’ll speak for the Israeli Government. I think they can speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you encouraged? Do you believe that the Israelis are going to heed your admonition, your whatever – your advice?
MS. HARF: Look, we’ve been very clear what steps should be taken. The reason the Secretary is going to Cairo is to help broker a cease-fire that will ultimately end the bloodshed we’ve seen here on both sides. So clearly we’re committed to that. I don’t have more details about our private conversations for you.
QUESTION: Is the goal in this to try to stop the fighting —
MS. HARF: Then you’re next.
QUESTION: — before the end of Ramadan?
MS. HARF: It is to do it as soon as possible. Ideally, yes, of course.
QUESTION: Yes. You said that the Secretary is in Cairo to lead us to cease-fire. I mean, what do you expect – how long he will take? Because the last time in 2012, it was the urgency of Thanksgiving. That’s why people were, like, trying to wrap it fast.
MS. HARF: Well, I would caution people that these things do take time, that they are complicated, that this is a very difficult situation. So he’s going to land, I think, shortly, if he hasn’t already. That means I’ve been up here for a while if he just landed. And we’ll see, but I don’t want people to think this is something that just happens right away. But to be clear, we are very committed to seeing if we can make some progress as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And without speculation or anything that you are avoiding to answer, the whole cease-fire, it was – what was mentioned even by both side, including the prime minister of Israel, that it was not perfect or it was, like, temporary, which means that there is a political solution has to be done related to this fire, which was even done in 2012. It was not complete. You are – are you foreseeing or proposing anything more than just stop firing, rocketing, and bombing?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more details to preview for you about what our proposals or discussions will look like.
QUESTION: Okay. The – another question: Today, the Secretary is going to meet the UN secretary general.
MS. HARF: He is, in Cairo.
QUESTION: In Cairo. And generally, in any related issue between Israel and Palestinian, it was said that not the UN or any other formula can be accepted as a formal solution for those two, for the peace process. They have to sit together, not through an international organization.
MS. HARF: Well, this is separate than the peace process, obviously.
QUESTION: So what he is trying – what you are expecting from UN to do in this process?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have specifics to detail for you on what their role is. But obviously, the secretary general is a key international interlocutor. He’s on the ground there having conversations with a number of people. Obviously, this is completely separate from how we would view any role in a peace process.
QUESTION: So another thing, which is there are two questions still. One of them is the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu was stressing in his interviews yesterday the necessity and the urgency of demilitarizing Gaza. The U.S. agree with this concept as a concept, or you don’t have to say anything?
MS. HARF: Look, what we’re focused on right now is seeing if we can get a cease-fire, if we can stop the rockets coming into Israel, coming from Hamas, seeing if we can end the bloodshed on both sides. What that looks like, I’m just not going to preview at all.
QUESTION: I’m not trying to look what it’s coming, but —
MS. HARF: Well, I just don’t have more details for you.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, I will try to – another question, which is a little bit – all these are not issues to discuss, it just easier to answer. The – you are talking about partners.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, few days ago it was – I mean, like a week ago you were all talking about Turkey and Qatar.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And other partners, Egypt of course, the proposal, whatever is there. Nowadays, the last 24 hours or 48 hours, the issue of or the name of Turkey is not mentioned. Does changing in the – there is any change in dynamics of participation or proposing something?
MS. HARF: Well, just to read out a number of calls to catch you up on where the Secretary’s calls have been, today he has already spoken with the Qatari foreign minister. He spoke with him yesterday as well, also with the Emirati foreign minister, with President Abbas, with the Egyptian foreign minister, with the Israeli prime minister, with Secretary General Ban, with a whole host of interlocutors, also did speak with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu on Saturday as well. So as I just said, I was very clear about some comments that were made, but the Secretary remains engaged with all of our partners in the region about this issue.
QUESTION: So my last question is regarding the Egyptian proposal.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It was mentioned the last 24 hours that there is a possibility of making if not changes at least modifications, according to these terms used in the region.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ll see what the discussions look like over the coming days.
QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned a call to Davutoglu. Do you know what – can you be more —
MS. HARF: On Saturday.
MS. HARF: He also spoke with him on Friday.
QUESTION: More – yeah.
MS. HARF: And on Thursday. He’s had a lot of calls.
QUESTION: Okay. So post the Erdogan comments, has he registered your dismay or your concern about —
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check on those details.
QUESTION: Just it seems to me, Marie, that your last exchange with Matt created a bit of ambiguity about the U.S. position vis-a-vis the IDF and its mission that I’d like to give you an opportunity to address. Is it the view of the United States Government that the Israeli Defense Force is committed to limiting civilian casualties?
MS. HARF: They have certainly made that clear to us, said that to us both privately and they’ve said it publicly.
QUESTION: Has it been your observation that that is, in fact, its policy and its practice?
MS. HARF: They’ve certainly made clear that it’s their policy. Look, we’ve said that they have a right to defend themselves, James, and we’ve been very clear about that. We’ve the whole time called on them to do everything they can to limit civilian casualties as well.
QUESTION: You’re not being asked whether they have a right to defend themselves. You’re being —
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to make a sweeping generalization or assessment, James.
QUESTION: Or an endorsement, in other words?
MS. HARF: I’m just not – I don’t have anything more for you on this question. I think we’ve talked about it enough today.
QUESTION: You don’t – so you don’t have an opinion on whether – when Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, say that Israel’s army, its military, is the most moral in the world or most just, you don’t —
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that comment, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, he’s said it frequently.
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: But you won’t agree or disagree with that? Is that —
MS. HARF: I don’t think I’m going to make assessments of those comments.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. HARF: I tend – my money tends to be with the United States military on most things, but you know.
MS. HARF: Yeah. Yes, new topic. Yes.
MS. HARF: I do.
QUESTION: — monks and the priests from near Mosul and that region?
MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on this. I think I have something. Let me just check. Yes. And I believe that Jen – we put out a statement on this late on Friday. But we condemn in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by ISIL. We are particularly outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. These are abominable acts. We are very clear that they only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq, and they have absolutely no place in the future of Iraq. We could not be more clear.
QUESTION: Just because that is the statement that was released on Friday —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — that you just read, there is no change to it since then?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: The Kurdistan —
MS. HARF: All about consistency here.
QUESTION: The Kurdistan government is complaining that they can’t afford any more to host the displaced people. Is there any – anything the U.S. —
MS. HARF: I can check on that. I hadn’t seen that. Let me check for you, Samir.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. able to do anything to limit this ISIS campaign?
MS. HARF: The persecution of Christians?
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, to take over the churches and the —
MS. HARF: Well, in general, we’ve been very clear that we will help the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL writ large. This is one part of that fight, certainly. We are working with them now, but I don’t have anything specific on that for you.
QUESTION: But you have —
MS. HARF: We’ve also worked very closely with international organizations to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
QUESTION: But currently you’re not doing anything?
MS. HARF: I can check and see specifically. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings said that it’d be impossible to combat ISIS without a few more folks on the ground. Do you have a reaction to that?
MS. HARF: Well, the United – you mean United States folks?
MS. HARF: United States military assessment teams have provided a draft report. I know my colleagues at the Defense Department are looking at it to determine the best way to assist the Iraqi Government. We’re very committed to that. I would leave it to my colleagues there to talk in further detail about that.
QUESTION: And can I ask a question on an unrelated topic?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
MS. HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: There’s some reports that shortly – after the United – shortly after renting the consulate, members of Ansar al-Sharia moved in next door. And that report was given back to Washington and the State Department didn’t do anything about it. Do you have a —
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, Lucas, but it sounds pretty dubious to me. Let me check.
QUESTION: Okay. And just one more. American security personnel also reported back that they wanted to put bell-fed machine guns and sandbags on top of the consulate but were told it would be aesthetically unpleasing. Do you have a reaction to that?
MS. HARF: I also find that equally dubious, but I can check, of course.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Mosul for a second?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is there any update about the hostages, Turkish diplomats?
MS. HARF: I have no update on that.
QUESTION: So no update means that you are talking to Turkish authorities, but —
MS. HARF: So no update on that. I don’t have any information on that for you at the moment.
QUESTION: And on Iraq, I think they are now trying to elect new president.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any —
MS. HARF: So we did congratulate the Iraqis on the election of their parliamentary speaker and deputies. We know that the new speaker has scheduled the next session for this Wednesday to discuss nominees for the presidency. The next step is to nominate and vote on a president, and then of course a prime minister after that, which we’ve said should happen as soon as possible. Once a president is elected, they have up to 15 days to nominate a prime minister. So obviously, we think this should happen as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Do you have any candidate to endorse in —
MS. HARF: I have repeatedly said we do not support any one candidate or any one party. We need an inclusive government as soon as possible.
QUESTION: I have one more on Turkey.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Actually, two. According to Israeli press, during the phone conversation between the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry, Prime Minister Netanyahu complained about Turkish prime minister rhetoric over Gaza.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know the answer to that for you, and I probably wouldn’t discuss it even if I did, given we don’t discuss private conversations. But I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Do you still – this is my final question.
MS. HARF: Okay.
MS. HARF: You ask this once a week, and I think I always have the same answer for you. Turkey’s a NATO ally. They’re a close partner on a number of issues. We also make very clear when there are things we do not agree with.
QUESTION: So my question is —
MS. HARF: You said that with the last one.
QUESTION: But you didn’t answer. President Obama —
MS. HARF: I think I just answered it.
QUESTION: President Obama described this relationship as model partnership. My question is: Would you still describe the same partnership —
MS. HARF: Turkey is a very close NATO ally. We work together on a number of issues. When we have disagreements, we make those clear as well.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Bahrain.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: With the Bahrain – Bahrainis have filed a lawsuit to suspend the largest Shiite opposition, called Al-Wefaq.
MS. HARF: Is this Al-Wefaq? Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you have a comment on it?
MS. HARF: I saw this and I don’t. Let me see if I can get you something.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS. HARF: Yeah. What else?
QUESTION: Bahrain. I mean, can you update us what was done, the latest after the return of the assistant secretary?
MS. HARF: Let me check on the latest.
QUESTION: Because it’s like —
MS. HARF: I will check on that for you.
QUESTION: — for 48 hours we talk about it, and then as if it’s – it was solved. It was not solved.
MS. HARF: That happens with a lot of issues in this briefing room. Let me check and get the latest for you.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: When you talk about these churches in Mosul and all these thing, I mean it was – it – in it you are mentioning what was mentioned like 72 hours ago, or maybe more.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
QUESTION: How you are following at the State Department what’s going on in these areas, or these areas are out of concern now?
MS. HARF: No, they’re still very much in concern. We have a team on the ground in Iraq that works closely with the Iraqis to determine what’s happening on the ground to assist in any way we can. That team remains there fully engaged with the Iraqis, and really trying to get a ground truth about what’s happening and see how we can help.
QUESTION: So it’s now – it’s a humanitarian issue now?
MS. HARF: It’s partly a humanitarian issue. It’s also a security issue. When religious minorities, particularly Christians in Iraq, are being persecuted, it’s both.
QUESTION: I’ve got —
MS. HARF: One more from the back. Are you saving the best for last, Matt?
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones.
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Secretary Kerry has said in one of the interviews yesterday that North Korea has been more quiet since his visit to China last year. Do you think this is a correct assessment of the situation, when North Korea has fired a number of missiles, rockets, and —
MS. HARF: Well, I think the Secretary – and we all have been very clear in condemning North Korea’s aggressive actions when they occur. We’ve talked recently about ballistic missiles and how those were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. So I think the Secretary’s been very clear about our concern with North Korea’s activities.
QUESTION: But he said North Korea has been a lot more quiet than —
MS. HARF: Well, again he wasn’t trying to convey something different than we’ve conveyed in the past.
QUESTION: Just a quick one, Marie, on Anders Dale, the Norwegian that the State Department added to the Foreign Terrorist Watch List.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think he’s related to the travel – international travel warnings that we’re seeing today about —
MS. HARF: I don’t have the details. Let me see if I can get them, Lucas.
QUESTION: Two things slightly related. On Friday in The Washington Post a former State Department official who worked in DRL on internet freedom wrote a piece saying – warning Americans that surveillance of them – of U.S. citizens – is not just limited to the new NSA stuff but goes back to this executive order that was signed some years ago. I’m wondering if you have any comment on that.
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t read the piece. I’m happy to read it after the briefing, but I will say in general that this Administration, starting with the President, has made very clear what we do and what we don’t do when it comes to intelligence gathering and why we do it. And I think I would probably leave it at that. I’m happy to take a look at the article.
QUESTION: Well, this goes beyond just metadata. This goes into actual —
MS. HARF: Well, I said intelligence gathering, writ large, which is —
QUESTION: Oh, no. I understand. But so – please read the – and if you have anything to say about it I will be —
MS. HARF: I’ll come back to you tomorrow if I have anything to say.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I’m not.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, some people went into the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, which is across the street from the Embassy and projected onto the Embassy wall a picture of the President along with the words “NSA is in the house.” I’m wondering if you have any problem with this, given that it was on – it was projected, there was no damage, obviously, but there’s —
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen it, but I would certainly have a big problem with the sentiment.
QUESTION: Well, it makes for a quite compelling picture.
MS. HARF: Look, when we were in Vienna Secretary Kerry had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Steinmeier. They spoke to the press after it. Look, they said there’s a number of very important things happening in the world right now and they’re working very closely together on all of these issues, and when there are bilateral issues that need to be discussed they will, and we are working together in an open and transparent manner. We’ve committed to that, and I think that the Germans are working very closely with us on a number of issues.
QUESTION: No, but in terms of this specific incident you – other than the fact that you would disagree with the sentiment – is that correct?
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: Well, it said “NSA in the house” and it’s got —
MS. HARF: I can envision what – let me take a look at it. I’ll take that as one of my do-outs for tomorrow’s briefing.
QUESTION: Okay. But as far as you know, there wasn’t any – there’s no like broader – because I’m talking about like security of the Embassy, anything like that.
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: There’s nothing – okay.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with the incident.
MS. HARF: Yes, I know. No Iran. I’ve been up for an hour and a half – no Iran questions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is the Secretary planning to go up on the Hill anytime soon to talk about the extension?
MS. HARF: We are doing a number of Hill engagements, whether it’s at staff level, member level, us, the White House, Treasury. I don’t have any specifics on the Secretary given his travel. I know he’s had conversations and had some meetings over the past few weeks. I can attempt to get you some more details for tomorrow.
MS. HARF: But we are doing a number of engagements with the Hill to explain what the extension is, what it isn’t, why we think it’s important to continue these negotiations.
QUESTION: And I realize it’s only a couple of days since you guys came back – probably less than 24 hours, in your case.
MS. HARF: Yeah. (Laughter.) Less than 24 hours. Yep.
QUESTION: Is there any idea yet when the next meeting might be held?
MS. HARF: I don’t – we don’t have those details yet. Obviously, as soon as possible. Hopefully in the next few weeks. I think the meetings over the next few months will look – a combination of experts meetings, bilateral meetings, multilateral meetings – we’re still trying to figure out all those details.
QUESTION: Vienna will still be your port of choice?
MS. HARF: I think we’re still trying to determine all the details on where we’ll be and where all the meetings will happen. Vienna was a very good host for three weeks, but I’m happy to be home.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)
DPB # 126