Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – June 4, 2015

2:07 p.m. EDT

MS HARF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Matt.

QUESTION: Yes? Happy Thursday.

MS HARF: Nothing at the top.

QUESTION: Nothing? You have no update on the Secretary?

MS HARF: I can give you one.

QUESTION: Sure, please.

MS HARF: Secretary Kerry was up again today; he was walking on crutches on the floor of his hospital. Doctors say they are happy with the continued progress in his recovery. He plans to take the next several days to recuperate and then assess when he will return to Washington. State Department Chief of Staff Jon Finer was in Boston and gave him a briefing today on an array of Department priorities and issues right now, including Yemen, Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and climate change. They had a pretty lengthy discussion today. In addition, the Secretary spoke by phone with Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. She’s in Vienna, and she gave him a full update on the status of the Iran nuclear talks.

QUESTION: Okay. Walking on crutches – does that mean he has got a cast on? And is there anything more —

MS HARF: I don’t have more details to share.

QUESTION: And then the subjects that Finer raised with him, you said Yemen, Cuba, Syria, Iraq, climate change.

MS HARF: Ukraine. And Ukraine.

QUESTION: And Ukraine. Okay. And then he spoke with Wendy Sherman.

MS HARF: Wendy, mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: Is there anything new on Cuba that —

MS HARF: No, just sort of the ongoing discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I take it that – from he’ll decide in the next couple of days that that means Monday’s speech is still in the air? Or —

MS HARF: I think we’ll make decisions about when he’ll return to Washington, and the schedule is still in the air (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to go to something else, but —

MS HARF: Go to something else. I think this is probably all I can say on this anyways, so —

QUESTION: I just want to try and close the loop on yesterday and the day before and the Iran and this —

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — and this report that you guys object to so much. A little bit earlier at the White House, your colleague there was asked about this situation, and he said – one of the things that he said was the only reason that you guys are aware of this increase in the first place is because of the greater transparency with the JPOA.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So yesterday, here, you were asked by Elise and by me, I think, too – but you – if it was true that you didn’t know why this was happening, the increase, and you said that’s not true —

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — and you – but then when the question was how do you know —

MS HARF: How.

QUESTION: — you said you would take the question. And I’m wondering if you got an answer.

MS HARF: Well, so I think there are two separate questions. And what Josh was referring to, I think, is the – how we know is that we have the access and the IAEA has the access. So that’s the how we know what’s happening. But from a technical perspective, we have – we talk to the Iranians about this all the time. That access gives us insight into how they’re doing things in their program. I think we’re probably going to let the Iranians from a technical perspective explain what they’re doing, but suffice to say we’ve had conversations with them, we have eyes on what’s happening, and from a technical point of view, we know why this is happening and we have said that they need to get down to 7,650 by June 30th or else we’ll have an issue.

QUESTION: But you can’t say why yourself?

MS HARF: Why what?

QUESTION: Why it’s going up.

MS HARF: Well, our experts have – as we’ve said, they understand what technically is happening here and why it’s going up, given they are allowed to enrich – to continue enriching to this very small amount. That’s not – there’s not a big secret to how they are able to enrich to a less than 5 percent amount, or up to 5 percent amount.

QUESTION: So the why is simply “they can”?

MS HARF: Well, and there are technical reasons that make them able to still continue doing so under the JPOA.

QUESTION: Is it not a question of a shutdown and oxidation?

MS HARF: Well, I know people have raised that. There’s ways they then take that stockpile and reduce it —

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: — to 7,650.

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: So that’s a separate question. That’s not why it’s going up, it’s how they’re going to get it back down.

QUESTION: Okay. So how are they going to get it back down?

MS HARF: I’ll let the Iranians speak to that. They’ve done it in the previous two instances, and from a technical perspective I think that’s something they’re best able to address.

QUESTION: And they’ve done it how in the previous two instances?

MS HARF: Let me check on that. Let me check on those details with our team.

QUESTION: Could you update us on what’s going on now as far as perhaps meetings and technical meetings and —

MS HARF: Yes. So Under Secretary Sherman is in Vienna. She arrived yesterday morning. Yesterday there were talks with our P5+1 and EU political director counterparts. Today the Iranians joined those discussions. There’s also a host of experts there as well, and there will be additional experts going out – going forward. So this is really open-ended. This is the start of sort of the final push towards the end of June 30th.

QUESTION: So if the issue of enrichment is somewhat resolved and the issue of centrifuges has been also resolved, what are they discussing now? What are the things – what are the sticklers?

MS HARF: Well, there’s a number of issues, and in Lausanne the parameters we released exactly addressed a number of those issues – number of centrifuges; Arak; some of those specifics. But there are a) outstanding issues on the details surrounding some of those, right, so timing for when they have to do certain nuclear-related steps and what sanctions relief they’ll get in response. So those are issues right now that are still being discussed. There are outstanding issues when it comes to access that are still being discussed. They agreed to a premise on this, but the specific details – those are still being discussed.

QUESTION: So conceivably there are some outstanding issues that can hinder the outcome of the deal.

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: You’re not just running out the clock, are you?

MS HARF: No, absolutely. There are outstanding issues – look, making those parameters into a very detailed both political agreement document, for lack of a better term, and detailed annexes – translating that into those takes a lot of expert work and a lot of political decisions, I would say. So that’s the work that’s going on right now.

What else on Iran? Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Yemen?

QUESTION: Burma.

MS HARF: Yemen? Okay, let’s go to Yemen.

QUESTION: There was a meeting of the Security Council, and they have decided to hold Geneva talks on the 14th of June. Are you aware of that or do you support that?

MS HARF: Well, I think —

QUESTION: There’s —

MS HARF: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead. No, I’m sorry (inaudible). I’ll follow up.

MS HARF: Okay. The UN can, I think, best speak to the timing of these talks. I’m not sure they’ve officially announced them yet, and they will be in Geneva, so they can speak to the timing. We have said for a long time that we support the resumption of these UN-led political dialogue process and these talks and urge all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations. So we do support them.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, would you support another call for another ceasefire – a humanitarian one?

MS HARF: Well, we certainly believe that steps should be taken to allow humanitarian aid in. When there was a humanitarian ceasefire, humanitarian aid was able to get in. So we believe, regardless of how that happens, it needs to happen given the really serious situation on the ground.

QUESTION: Are you urging the Saudis and their coalition partners to spare civilian areas? Because a lot of these victims apparently, according to reports by Amnesty, by other international organizations – the targets have been civilians.

MS HARF: We certainly encourage all – and urge strongly all parties here to take steps to avoid civilian casualties, absolutely. That’s something that’s very important to us.

QUESTION: I have a small question on Burma.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Like thousands of Muslims have been killing by Buddhist and army people. So what’s going on in Burma, actually – they are killing lots of innocent kids, girls, womans. It’s like when you see Facebook, it’s like horrible things going on in Burma.

MS HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Do you have any update on that? Is the –

MS HARF: — I don’t have much of an update. As we’ve said, particularly when it comes to this migrant issue that we’ve talked a lot about in this room, that Burma has made progress in the human rights situation in its country. But we are particularly concerned about the ongoing situation in Rakhine state, particularly with the Rohingya and those Burmese having all the rights and being afforded all the rights of everyone else, and as you’ve seen, the Burmese Government taking steps to address the conditions that lead people to become migrants and risk their lives to leave the country because of this. So that’s an ongoing conversation we have with the Burmese. We are concerned about it, particularly, as I said, when it comes to the Rohingya.

QUESTION: When ISIL kills people like they’re cutting their heads off, there’s so many news in U.S. media. But now lots of people, they’re cutting their heads – I’m sorry.

MS HARF: It’s okay.

QUESTION: So many things going on. Please, if you guys focus on that, we really appreciate that.

MS HARF: We’re certainly focused on the situation there. I can’t sort of confirm – excuse me – those —

QUESTION: You can see those in Facebook. It’s too much —

MS HARF: — reports that you’re referencing, but we’re certainly concerned about the situation.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on this —

MS HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the foreign minister of Myanmar said – today essentially denied persecution of the Rohingya in his country and said that such alleged persecution – that these reports were (a) not true and (b) were not what was causing the migration. Do you, given the human rights reports – and we don’t have this year’s, but we certainly have past years – do you concur with his assessment that there is not persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar?

MS HARF: Well, I didn’t see his specific assessment, but as I just said and as the human rights report, as you mentioned, has said, the Rohingya have been certainly not afforded the rights they should. We continue to be concerned about the situation and the way they are treated there and the conditions that lead them to become migrants. So it’s something we are increasingly concerned about, particularly on the migration side, but we’ve been concerned about for a long time.

QUESTION: So if it’s not persecution that they suffer, how would you describe the treatment?

MS HARF: Well, I’m happy to go back and look at our previous human rights report and pull that exact language for you.

QUESTION: But you would stick with those descriptions?

MS HARF: I would, yes. I would, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you.

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to return to Yemen, we were hoping for some reaction to an Al-Jazeera investigation that was released today. An ex-al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operative told us that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh worked closely with AQAP. Not only that, his nephew, who was second in command of the national security bureau, supplied the explosives that were used in the 2008 attack on the U.S. embassy. Were you aware of that? Was that a line that you’ve been following as well?

MS HARF: I haven’t seen the piece. I’m happy to take a look at it and talk to our team and see if we can get a response.

QUESTION: Do you know off hand, though, whether Colonel Ammar Muhammad Abdullah Saleh, the nephew of Ali Abdullah Saleh, has received any U.S. or State Department support in the past?

MS HARF: I do not. I’m happy to check for you.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Back to Ukraine, President Poroshenko seems to have stepped up his concern about the Russian involvement in his country. He said to parliament today that there were 9,000 Russian service members in Ukraine in – and they were threatening what he called a full-scale invasion. First, does the U.S. share his concern about this stepped up aggression?

MS HARF: Well, as I said yesterday, and I would say again today, we are concerned about ongoing attacks by the Russian-separatist forces on the Ukrainian Government side of the ceasefire line. That – I spoke to that quite a bit yesterday, and we certainly share his concern about that – those ongoing attacks.

QUESTION: What about the figure of 9,000?

MS HARF: As we’ve also said, it’s hard to put an exact number given the Russian Government actively tries to camouflage who they’re sending in and the weapons that they’re sending in. But we know there are – there’s a large number of Russians there fighting with the separatists.

QUESTION: Is there going to be anyone from this building at the meeting in Germany tomorrow that Ash Carter is leading?

MS HARF: From the State Department? I’m not sure about that. Let me check. I just have a little bit on that. There may be, though. So Secretary Carter will conclude his trip with a stop in Germany, as you mentioned. Yes, he will meet with senior U.S. military commanders and U.S. diplomats – so State Department representatives – from several European countries to discuss our posture in Europe with a focus on Russia. It’s really modeled after the meeting he had in Kuwait where we – which was reported on in the past, but he will discuss the impact of Russian aggression in Ukraine on European security, and really is an opportunity for him to hear firsthand from, certainly from our perspective, the diplomats in the field, and also military commanders about the situation.

QUESTION: Wait, what – the meeting in Kuwait was not about Russian —

MS HARF: No, but he was – brought together people from the region. I believe that was about ISIL, if I remember correctly —

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: — to talk to the diplomats and military commanders and people serving in the region about that threat. So it’s a similar sort of gathering, according to his team.

QUESTION: So – right. But that doesn’t presuppose you’re going to start to form a coalition to start —

MS HARF: No.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Pam’s questions?

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: What about Poroshenko’s specific statement that he expects a full-scale invasion?

MS HARF: Well, we certainly – look, I’m not going to make predictions here, and he can certainly feel free to do so. What we have said is we are concerned about increasing attacks on the Ukrainian side of the ceasefire line, and that certainly Russia should not take any additional steps.

QUESTION: Well, even – I’m not asking you to make a prediction, but do you have reason to believe that there are preparations for a full-scale invasion?

MS HARF: Well, I just said I’m not going to make a prediction. We’ve seen the Russian —

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to predict is there going to be a full-scale invasion. I’m asking you if you see evidence of —

MS HARF: That there may be?

QUESTION: — preparations.

QUESTION: Well, they – I mean, the truth is, Arshad, they have heavy weapons on the border, on the Ukrainian side of the border. I mean, they have heavy weapons, troops, command and control amassed on both sides of the border, so I’m not sure what additional evidence we would be looking for, but we’re certainly concerned about what they already have there.

QUESTION: I guess what I was wondering is that – I mean, you’ve said for months now that they have troops, heavy equipment, et cetera, on the wrong side of the border.

MS HARF: Right. Is there anything different now I guess is what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Exactly. Has it increased in scale to such a degree —

MS HARF: I’m happy to check with our team and get you an answer on that.

Yes. What else on this?

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday you said the rebels are responsible for the vast majority of violations of the peace deal. You said you would check how you came to that conclusion. What’s —

MS HARF: And I did for you, because I said I would.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes. And I actually read some of these OSCE daily and weekly reports that you were quoting from. I wanted to get familiar with them.

QUESTION: Some of these or all of these —

MS HARF: Well, I didn’t read all —

QUESTION: — in two months, in two months.

MS HARF: February – it started on February 15th, was the Minsk implementation, so there’s more than two months of daily reports. But I read some of them just to get familiar with what they look like and what’s in them. And I think just a couple of points here. First, our assessment is, based on OSCE reporting and other sources of information, including the location, the kind of weaponry, and other evidence, that the majority of ceasefire violations, as we’ve said, have been committed by the combined Russian separatist forces.

One thing that struck me about the OSCE reports is that they – their tabulations and analyses by definition do not ascribe blame for who commits these acts. They merely point out where they take place. So I – well, let me finish and then you can follow up. So I’ve looked at some of them and they say, for example, the special monitoring mission noticed this happening in Luhansk. They don’t say who did this. So it’s the analysis that we do with this in addition to location, kind of weaponry, and other sources of information that leads to our judgment that a majority of these were committed by Russian separatist forces. Again, they don’t ascribe blame.

QUESTION: Do you have a number? Do you have a number of violations that you saw in those reports, let’s say, in two months?

MS HARF: Well, there are – the reports, to be fair, don’t always have tabulations in that way. Sometimes they talk about specific incidents in a particular city, but again, they don’t describe blame.

QUESTION: Then how do you come to that conclusion?

MS HARF: Well, as I said —

QUESTION: Do you have a quote from the OSCE spokesperson who says that one of the sides is responsible for the vast majority of violations? Do —

MS HARF: The OSCE does not assign blame for violations. They just note where violations take place and what they look like.

QUESTION: So it is your analysis but without a number. You are saying the overwhelming number of violations, but you don’t have a number. Do you have —

MS HARF: So how we do the – well, how we do this analysis is we take a look at the OSCE reports and we go through them and note where they take place, what kinds of weapons are used, who’s operating in that area, who has the ability to use those weapons. We match that up with other information we have that’s out there in the public domain – certainly other information we have as well – to make a determination, an analytic determination about who was responsible for these different kinds of violations.

QUESTION: So it is your analytical determination. So we’ve looked at —

MS HARF: Based on a body of evidence.

QUESTION: — at the daily reports of the OSCE for the last two months —

MS HARF: And I did – I did this morning as well.

QUESTION: Well, we counted the violations and – ceasefire violations and weapons withdrawal violations, and the numbers are about the same.

MS HARF: But — well, the OSCE —

QUESTION: I cited them yesterday and I can do that now.

MS HARF: But are those your —

QUESTION: But okay, for example —

MS HARF: Wait, are those your numbers? Because they’re not – OSCE numbers don’t assign blame.

QUESTION: I understand. So you are analyzing the reports; also, we can do that too.

MS HARF: And you’re analyzing them.

QUESTION: We can see those daily reports. So one of – an example of a report: May 1st, just outside government-controlled Nikolaev, 41 kilometers south of Donetsk, the SMM – the monitoring mission —

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — saw three what it assessed to be outgoing tank rounds fired from a location approximately two kilometers to the north. An incoming round followed, impacting approximately 200 meters north of the SMM’s position. So that is an example. And it looks like one side fires and the other responds. You see that in many of the reports. Wouldn’t that make for equal – an equal number of violations on both sides?

MS HARF: Well, in that very limited example you’re noting from May 1st, but we’re taking a look at the entire breadth of reporting from February 15th, when the Minsk – when Minsk took effect, to now, which is much more than two months. And so if you look overall at every single daily report —

QUESTION: What about two months – in the last two months? What —

MS HARF: Well, why are you – I’m just curious why you’re picking two months. Because our assessment is overall since Minsk, which was February 15th – overall since February 15th, a majority of violations has been by the —

QUESTION: Do you have a number?

MS HARF: I’m happy to see if there’s a number to share, but again, it’s —

QUESTION: But you said yesterday that you would see what that share of violations is.

MS HARF: And I think I’ve gotten quite a bit of information for you today on how we do this. I’ve looked at the reports you were citing to make sure I was familiar with them and noted, I think, particularly that, again, the OSCE does not assign blame. They tabulate what has happened, as you mentioned. So we – our team goes through – has gone through every daily report, and it began implementation on February 15th – that’s much more than two months – and our overall assessment, based on that, is that a majority of these have been committed by the Russian separatist forces.

QUESTION: So one of the latest statements from the OSCE spokesperson is visited many heavy weapons – that the mission visited many heavy weapon sites on both sides and have reported missing weaponry. So they mentioned both sides, something that you never do.

MS HARF: That’s not true. I have repeatedly said that we call on both sides here to uphold the Minsk agreement they both agreed to.

QUESTION: Call on them, but what they’re actually doing, you never criticized the side that you are supporting.

MS HARF: As I said yesterday, a majority of these are committed by Russian separatist forces. So by definition that means a minority are committed by the other side. I also said that yesterday as well.

QUESTION: Marie, one thing that is different today, when you have been asked about this in the past you and also Jeff, which seems to have changed today, is that prior to today you had said “the vast majority,” “the overwhelming majority.” And today you’re saying just the majority.

MS HARF: There’s – I —

QUESTION: Is that intended to be —

MS HARF: No, there’s not.

QUESTION: You haven’t gone back —

MS HARF: I’m not trying to change from yesterday.

QUESTION: So you still think – it is still the U.S. Government’s assessment that the vast or overwhelming majority of violations are coming from the separatist side?

MS HARF: That’s certainly my understanding, and I would also point out —

QUESTION: But that’s not what you – but that’s not what you said.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, I just want to make sure that —

MS HARF: Thank you for being – no, I appreciate that. But I also think, Matt, it’s important to remember the big picture here and the context of what is happening. Between the September Minsk agreement and the February implementation plan, combined Russian-separatist forces seized hundreds of square kilometers of Ukrainian territory in direct contravention to the agreement they had just signed. The OSCE cannot get access to separatist-controlled areas to verify the ceasefire, and I have this map up here; I’m happy to give anyone afterwards that shows the area the Russian-separatist combined forces are preventing the OSCE from even getting to. So I think it’s important, again, to step back and take a look at the bigger context here.

QUESTION: Okay. But I just – I —

QUESTION: But it’s not only – just one —

QUESTION: My question, though, is just on the —

MS HARF: Let’s let Matt ask his question.

QUESTION: Well, I just want to – but the removal of —

MS HARF: I’m not —

QUESTION: — the word “vast” or “significant” or “substantial” from in front of the word “majority” does it —

MS HARF: I’m happy to say substantial, significant, vast – whatever word you would like.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in providing access. So in the last two months, it’s not just the rebels that are —

MS HARF: Why are you choosing two months? I’m curious.

QUESTION: Because I read – we read the daily reports from these —

MS HARF: Well, there are some from before two months, though.

QUESTION: Just as an example to give you numbers.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: So 18 violations by the Ukrainian forces, and 27 by the rebels.

MS HARF: Well, that’s not what the reports say, though. The reports do not assign blame. So you’re assigning blame based on their numbers; the reports do not assign blame, to be very clear.

QUESTION: But – but —

MS HARF: I’ve read the reports as well.

QUESTION: You’re – aren’t you doing the same thing?

MS HARF: Based on a whole of analysis.

QUESTION: You’re analyzing their daily reports, right?

MS HARF: But so – just be very clear, that’s your analysis.

QUESTION: We are analyzing them too.

MS HARF: Right, right.

QUESTION: They’re in public domain.

MS HARF: Right, but —

QUESTION: Everyone can do that.

MS HARF: But wait, let me finish. To be clear, that’s your analysis of what the OSCE is reporting. The OSCE does not say X number of violations by either side. The OSCE does not say those in those reports. And if you want to see this map, this red part —

QUESTION: But when you’re saying the overwhelming number —

MS HARF: Wait, no, let me finish. This red part right here is the area that the Russian-separatist forces won’t let OSCE monitors in. How —

QUESTION: Do you have the area where the Ukrainian forces do not let them in?

MS HARF: Yes. It’s this very tiny yellow tip right there. And I’m happy to give this to you after the briefing, if you’d like.

QUESTION: Where is that? Where does it come from?

MS HARF: It comes from the British Government. I’m happy to give it to you after the briefing.

QUESTION: But not from the OSCE, right?

MS HARF: Go ahead.

QUESTION: It doesn’t come from the OSCE, does it?

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS HARF: We can move on, yes.

QUESTION: On Ukraine? I have one more.

MS HARF: Oh, sure. Yes.

QUESTION: The head of the Poroshenko bloc earlier today called for a food blockade on Donbass region. He said, until the terrorists give up prisoners, we’re going to continue firing, and we’re not going to give them food. Any – he asked the Ukraine citizens that they’re obligated to move to Ukraine free territory. Do you agree with these proposals? What is your reaction?

MS HARF: I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen those. I’m happy to check with our team for you.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Okay. Quick one on Russia?

MS HARF: Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday there was a report the Pentagon is seeking to ease sanctions on RD-180s rockets. They need the rockets. What is the State Department position on this?

MS HARF: I’m – I haven’t heard of that. I’m happy to point you to the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Just one short question about your statement on the —

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — shelling of Marinka. Right, you had a – you made a statement yesterday about that.

MS HARF: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: Did you have a statement? Did you have anything to say about the shelling of the city of Donetsk the day before on June 2nd?

MS HARF: I’m —

QUESTION: There was heavy shelling on June 2nd.

MS HARF: Okay. I’m happy to check into that question with our team on the ground.

QUESTION: Why do you focus only on the violations by the rebels?

MS HARF: I don’t think that that’s the case. I pointed out a number of aggressive violations into Ukrainian Government territory across the ceasefire line just in the past 24 hours. I’m happy to look into any report you give me and to make a comment on it based on the facts on the ground and what we actually see there. I’m happy to.

QUESTION: But you choose to focus on one thing and not the other.

MS HARF: I’m glad that that’s your opinion, but again, we call it like we see it, and this is how we see what’s happening in eastern Ukraine.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on an Egyptian court ruling that Mubarak should face a second and final retrial over the —

MS HARF: That Mubarak should?

QUESTION: — Mubarak, correct – over the —

MS HARF: Is that – did that just happen in the last few hours?

QUESTION: It happened today. It was —

MS HARF: Let me check with our folks on that.

QUESTION: Fine.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So back during the heady days of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – (laughter) – the Secretary made some comments in Munich that were not well received by Israel and its supporters about what might happen if the peace talks failed. One of the things that he said might happen would be the growth of the so-called BDS movement. Now, there is —

MS HARF: Which we, of course, don’t support.

QUESTION: — a serious kerfuffle going on between Israel and France over Orange Telecom and its relationship with —

MS HARF: I saw that.

QUESTION: I realize that the U.S. is not a direct party to this, but I just wanted to make sure or to find out if the U.S. position on the wisdom or the ethics of such divestment or – of BDS is the same. Is it?

MS HARF: It is the same.

QUESTION: So that means that you oppose it.

MS HARF: Correct. Now, let – I haven’t —

QUESTION: Does —

MS HARF: — talked to anyone about this specific – I saw the news reports. I haven’t talked to anyone about this specifically, but our position in general on the issue has not changed.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you are still advising or urging European governments or governments anywhere against – or telling them that you think that it’s a bad idea to do this?

MS HARF: I think we make our position clear. I don’t have —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: — any specifics, again, on this case to share with you.

QUESTION: Because during the Israeli election campaign, there was a lot of talk and a lot of friction between here and Israel, and a lot of discussion within the Administration about looking into perhaps new – looking into revising how you approached the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and that you – tactics and strategies might change.

MS HARF: Right. That hasn’t – that issue, though, has not changed, the —

QUESTION: So – okay, so —

MS HARF: — boycott issue.

QUESTION: So the – okay, so —

MS HARF: Our position on the boycott issue has not changed.

QUESTION: So that is not part of the – first of all, I mean, is that review going on?

MS HARF: It wasn’t sort of an official review. I know we talked about this at the time, but we were looking at what the next steps were going to look like. We needed Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a government. We need to see sort of what steps each of the sides are willing to take before, I think, we determine what the best path forward is.

QUESTION: So in other words, it’s still possible that you – that the Administration might change its mind about whether or not this is —

MS HARF: On boycotts?

QUESTION: Right.

MS HARF: I —

QUESTION: Or no? That’s off the table?

MS HARF: I would seriously doubt that.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if, in this case, because there – the French Government does have a stake in this company, if there has been any contact between —

MS HARF: I do not know.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MS HARF: I can check. I can, yes.

QUESTION: And do you have any comment on this specific incident? Because Prime Minister Netanyahu is – well, let’s say he’s not pleased, to put it mildly.

MS HARF: I don’t – again, I haven’t talked to our team about this specific incident, so let me check with them after the briefing.

Yes, Nicolas.

QUESTION: So to follow up on Matt’s question, so this is your position in general, even if Orange and – the French Government has not reacted, I think, but even if Orange said that its decision has nothing to do with politics and it’s because they didn’t want to have their brand in Israel when they – where they don’t have a network?

MS HARF: Well, that’s why I don’t want to comment on the specific case because I just haven’t talked to our team about it and I’m not familiar with all the specifics. In general, though, our issue – our position on boycotts hasn’t changed, but let me talk to them about – I understand there’s some complexity to this issue.

QUESTION: But – and when you say that, it is also, though, the position of the Administration that private companies can do business, or foreign governments can do business or recognize —

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — countries or – what – it’s up to them.

MS HARF: Right, as long as – right. I mean —

QUESTION: So that – so —

MS HARF: — as long as something’s not prohibited for a reason, but yes.

QUESTION: Right. But with that in mind, can you find out – I mean, because then – if that’s the case, I don’t understand why you would be urging foreign governments not to do this.

MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure that we are.

QUESTION: Right, okay. So that’s —

MS HARF: So that’s what – I will check on all of this, I promise.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Iraq, actually, could you give us a sense of the significance of the pledge of allegiance from various Sunni tribes in Anbar province to ISIL?

MS HARF: Well, I appreciate the question, certainly. I think that, quite frankly, I’m not sure exactly what sheikhs or leaders you’re referring to specifically. We’ve said since the beginning of this crisis that the situation in Anbar is complex. Many top Sunni leaders are supporting the government in their efforts against ISIL; some don’t. So it’s pretty complex, and I wouldn’t want to categorize everyone, certainly, in one way.

I think we’ve said the U.S. is supporting the plan that was announced by the Iraqi council of ministers to accelerate the training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities. They announced that on May 19th. This also calls for expanding recruitment into the Iraqi army coming from Anbar. And we’re also encouraged by the announcement on May 27th by the Iraqis of the induction of 800 additional tribal fighters into the PMF, the Popular Mobilization Force.

So again, the prime minister has been clear that this plan has to be centered around leaders in Anbar, and Anbari fighters being part of the solution here. I don’t know exactly who you’re referring to, but the situation in Anbar is, of course, a complex one, and there may be some people who support ISIL, but there are many who don’t.

QUESTION: The al-Jumailis, I guess, is the main —

MS HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The al-Jumailis, I think, are the main tribe in the —

MS HARF: Look, I’m happy to check on them specifically.

QUESTION: It is striking, though, how similar – how what’s happening currently does chime in with the prediction we now know that the Defense Intelligence Agency made in 2012 that a Salafist principality might grow up in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and that – in fact, that was the policy. That’s what – the goal of the GCC countries, your allies in the region. Would you accept that that’s what’s happened?

MS HARF: Well, I think you’re making a number of sort of sweeping generalizations.

QUESTION: That was the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012.

MS HARF: Well, I haven’t read the whole DIA report. I’m happy to go back and pull that and take a look at it. There was a lot of assessment done at the time about the possible futures – directions that Iraq could take, certainly. So I’m happy to go back and look at those, but —

QUESTION: You don’t think it’s the goal of the GCC to have some sort of Salafist area there to be a sort of bulwark against Iran?

MS HARF: I think the fact that GCC and regional countries are taking direct military action against ISIL in the region now, I think, should make it pretty clear how they feel about ISIL.

Yes.

QUESTION: Marie, two quick questions on different topics. There’s a bipartisan letter today from Representatives Chaffetz and Vela from Texas citing concerns about security around compounds in Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Guadalajara, Mexico, saying that security there has deteriorated to an alarming extent. Chaffetz says he wants to know from Secretary Kerry why are the consulates in those towns still open. Are you all concerned about security around those consulates and —

MS HARF: I —

QUESTION: — and is there any —

MS HARF: Yeah —

QUESTION: — plan in place to assess that?

MS HARF: — I haven’t heard of the letter. I’m sure we’ll respond as we always do. I’m not sure we’ve received it yet. We may have, but I’m happy to get something for you.

QUESTION: And then beyond that, North Korea. Officials there with their space agency have told AP Television that they plan to launch a second observation satellite, that they don’t basically care what the rest of the world has to say about it, and that it’s America and its imperial allies who are trying to persecute them. What’s your reaction to the potential launch of a second satellite?

MS HARF: We have seen those reports that the North Korean space agency officials say they’re developing a more advanced earth observation satellite. To be clear, any satellite launch that uses ballistic missile technology would be a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions that require North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, re-establish a moratorium on missile launches, et cetera, et cetera – it goes on and covers quite a few things. Any rocket capable of placing an object in orbit is directly relevant to the development of long-range ballistic missiles, as many ballistic missile and space launch vehicle technologies are virtually identical and interchangeable. So we’ll be watching this. It could very likely contravene UN Security Council resolutions. But again, I think they just said they’re working to make one.

QUESTION: Working toward. Do you guys have any indication from your aspect that you’re seeing more activity?

MS HARF: I don’t have much more on that.

QUESTION: Wait, on this —

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — can you get a satellite into orbit without using a ballistic missile or a technology that might be banned?

MS HARF: What our experts tell me is that the ballistic missile and space launch vehicle technologies are virtually identical and interchangeable.

QUESTION: So no satellites —

MS HARF: Can you without it? I don’t know if there’s a way you could.

QUESTION: No – so North Korea is not allowed to have satellites?

MS HARF: North Korea has to live up to its obligations regarding ballistic missile technology.

QUESTION: How about if North Korea had someone else fire their satellite into —

MS HARF: I can check with our lawyers and see if that would be in violation.

QUESTION: I want to know if —

MS HARF: But regardless, it would be an escalatory move. It would be one that contributes to tensions and that we would urge them not to do.

QUESTION: A satellite?

MS HARF: Well, if they had another country do certain things for them. It depends on what that was, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I – I realize you’re not being —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Sorry, Arshad.

MS HARF: Let’s – yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, I just want to know – I mean, is it the rocket or the missile that’s the concern, or is it both the rocket and the missile and the satellite?

MS HARF: It’s the technology that underpins it that is almost identical to ballistic missile technology.

QUESTION: Yeah. But if they found a way that they could use a giant slingshot to get a satellite into orbit, would you be opposed to it, then?

MS HARF: I don’t think slingshots are —

QUESTION: Well, you know what I mean.

MS HARF: — are a part of UN Security Council —

QUESTION: If they found some other way to get a satellite into orbit or had someone else do it for them, would you still be opposed? That’s what —

MS HARF: I’m happy to check with our —

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HARF: — experts on that. I understand the question. I do.

QUESTION: Why would it be intrinsically escalatory if someone else were to launch something for them?

MS HARF: Well, I think that what the international community needs to do is put more pressure on North Korea to get them back in line with their international obligations, not assist them to advance technologically, even if it’s not ballistic missile technology; that we need the world to put pressure on them, not to do the opposite.

QUESTION: But it would mean that they would be flouting your wishes but not necessarily that they would – it would be escalatory.

MS HARF: Well, not – well, not necessarily that it would be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, I would say.

Yes.

QUESTION: Different country?

MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Turkey’s President Erdogan accused New York Times, CNN, and BBC of trying to weaken and divide Turkey – this was couple of days ago – and then yesterday followed up in a way, saying journalists, Armenians, and homosexuals are trying – are representatives of sedition. Do you have any comment about a allied country’s leader speaking about American media outlets?

MS HARF: When it – right, when it comes to journalists, certainly, the U.S. supports freedom of expression, and we remain concerned about government interference in freedom of expression in Turkey. We’ve said that for a long time and we remain concerned. An independent and unfettered media is an essential element of any democratic and open society, and as, I think, Turkey’s friend and as their NATO ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold democratic values, including due process, judicial independence, and freedom of expression, including access to media and information.

QUESTION: Do you think his statement is related to forthcoming parliamentary elections?

MS HARF: I’m just not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: So you would denounce or decry or criticize or whatever the negative word is for him criticizing homosexuals, Armenians and journalists.

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What about gay Armenian journalists? (Laughter.)

MS HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, you called again Turkey an ally, but according to —

MS HARF: Turkey is an ally – a NATO ally, in fact.

QUESTION: So according to Kadir Has University, which is in Turkey, 35 percent of Turkish society sees United States as a threat to Turkey, that America is among four big threats to Turks. According this – according to the statistics, on the top it’s Israel, United States is a second, Syria up third, Armenia ranks fourth. Do you follow this growing anti-Americanism in Turkish society and Turkish politics? Are you concerned about this?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure I would take one poll – and I’m going back to my previous life here – I’m not sure I would take one poll and extrapolate out to show that it somehow indicates a larger trend. One poll is one poll, and I haven’t seen it; I don’t know the methodology. And again, we are a NATO ally and very close partner of Turkey, so I’m not sure I would use —

QUESTION: Well, the president is saying those things about CNN and New York Times. This is not poll, president.

MS HARF: Well, I understand that. But again, as we’ve said, Turks need to have unfettered access to media. That’s something we feel very strongly about and we’ll continue speaking up about.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have three question about Okinawa. Yesterday I asked about Department of State released a media note about a meeting with the Okinawa Governor Onaga. I have never hear that state government did put out a media release when Okinawa governor visited here. Why? And also governor —

MS HARF: I’m not sure that’s true. I know that the governor of Okinawa has had similar meetings in the past with similar officials at the State Department.

QUESTION: Also have released a media note (inaudible) times?

MS HARF: I’m happy to go check our archives to see if we released a media note then.

QUESTION: Okay. And also, Governor Onaga is tells U.S. Government to stop the construction of new airbase in Henoko. And also he will use his authority to (inaudible) Henoko relocation plan. How do you think about that, and you’re disappointed that he using to the – his authority?

MS HARF: Well, as we said yesterday in the media note and as I said as well, during the media – or during the meeting – excuse me – Director Young, which was one of the American officials, and one of our Deputy Assistant Secretaries, Abercrombie, underscored that the governments of the U.S. and Japan share a commitment to the construction of the Futenma replacement facility. So this is something that was discussed and I really just don’t have more to add than we already released yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one more question. Does the U.S. Government continue to engage in the constructive dialogue with Okinawa governor?

MS HARF: Continue our engagement?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS HARF: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Continue to the meeting to and continue to dialogue —

MS HARF: I mean, I’m sure our engagement will continue as it has.

QUESTION: Okay, and he want to come here again and also autumn, other this year, so —

MS HARF: I don’t have anything specific to announce.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HARF: Anything else?

QUESTION: Also on Okinawa.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The mayor of Nago, where – which will host the FRF – he characterized the memo that you released – speaking especially to the fact that it’s not a new facility or a new base, but an existing base – he called that a fallacy. Do you have a response to that?

MS HARF: I don’t. Again, we put out our information yesterday and certainly stand by that.

QUESTION: Do you have any details of Ambassador Max Baucus’s trip to Tibet?

MS HARF: I do. Just give me one sec. U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus visited the Tibet Autonomous Region May 26th through 30th with his wife and officials from Embassy Beijing and Consulate General Chengdu. During his visit, Ambassador Baucus visited Namsto Lake, the centuries-old Potala Palace, and at each site Ambassador Baucus learned more about Tibet’s culture and traditions and as well as the practices associated with Tibetan Buddhism. He had meetings with government officials. He highlighted the tremendous potential he saw in the Tibet Autonomous Region, stressing the many advantages that could be realized by cooperation in clean energy development, environmentally-sustainable growth and wetlands protection, among other areas. In other meetings, he also urged Tibet Autonomous Region officials to engage with U.S. officials to promote trade and investment cooperation.

QUESTION: Did he have unfettered access while he was there? In particular, was he able to get inside of some of the centers where political prisoners are kept, some of the re-education centers?

MS HARF: Well, he met with a cross-section of Tibetans, including government officials, provincial leaders, entrepreneurs, and students, and he looks forward to visiting again. I just don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: Marie, there was a time when the U.S. – when the Government – the U.S. Government was trying to – was negotiating with the Chinese to open a consulate —

MS HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — in Lhasa. Is that still – can you check to see if that’s still something that you —

MS HARF: I believe that’s still our goal. Let me check with our team.

QUESTION: Do you know if that came up during his visit?

MS HARF: I don’t. Let me check with him.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a quick one on Pakistan and India.

MS HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The secretary of foreign affairs from Pakistan is in Washington, and he said – he accused this morning India of being responsible for the suspension of the dialogue. So one, do you have a position of who is —

MS HARF: Of which – of which dialogue?

QUESTION: The dialogue between the two countries. They were supposed to meet – the two secretaries were supposed to meet —

MS HARF: Not a U.S. dialogue.

QUESTION: No, no, no, the India-Pakistan dialogues.

MS HARF: Got it.

QUESTION: Do you have a position on who is to blame for that?

MS HARF: We don’t. And I hadn’t seen those comments, but we have always said we welcome sides – steps that each side could take to have more dialogue, certainly, but I don’t have much more analysis to do than that.

QUESTION: And the U.S. – is the U.S. acting behind the scene to convince the two countries to resume (inaudible)?

MS HARF: I just haven’t heard much on this and don’t have many more details to share.

Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

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