Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–August 7, 2014.
1:50 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. A full house today. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have three items at the top if you’ll bear with me, and then I will turn it over to Deb to open us up for questions.
First, a trip update: As announced earlier, Secretary Kerry is currently in Kabul, Afghanistan to meet with Afghan leaders, including presidential candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani and President Hamid Karzai as well, in addition to the head of the UN mission there. Secretary Kerry’s meetings will focus on the current elections process following up on a trip he had there fairly recently, including encouraging both candidates to help accelerate the audit process that they are both participating in to make progress on the details of the political framework that they agreed to, as I mentioned, during his last visit there. The Secretary will urge both candidates to continue working together to ensure national unity and continued progress in Afghanistan.
Second item, on Iran: I want to give everyone a brief update on the upcoming schedule for the EU/P5+1 talks with Iran on its nuclear program. As you saw in the Media Note we released last night, today, Deputy Secretary Burns, Under Secretary Sherman, and Jake Sullivan are in Geneva meeting bilaterally with an Iranian delegation which is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as part of the nuclear talks. Our team in Geneva also includes Rob Malley, who is the NSC senior director for Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf States; Jim Timbie, who is one of the USG’s top nuclear experts and a senior advisor here at the State Department; and Paul Irwin, who is the NSC’s director for nonproliferation.
As you know, we meet with the Iranians bilaterally during the P5+1 rounds in Vienna, as all of the delegations do, as well as separately from those rounds as we did in Geneva in June, if people remember. These bilateral consultations take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations led by EU High Representative Cathy Ashton.
I know there have been some questions about the role that Deputy Secretary Burns and Jake Sullivan will play going forward, as they are both leaving their current positions in the not-too-distant future. Given their history working on this issue, particularly with the Iranians, I can confirm today that they will both remain involved in the Iran negotiations as special government employees after their departures from their respective positions.
QUESTION: Sorry, it was both Burns and Sullivan?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. In terms of schedule, we expect to hold an EU/P5+1 round of talks in September in advance of the ministerial meetings at UNGA at a location that’s still being determined. We will also likely hold an EU/P5+1 meeting on the sidelines of UNGA as we did last year, if people remember, possibly with ministers participating in some way. The specific details of these meetings remains to be worked out. In the meantime, we will have bilateral consultations, as we are doing today, and experts meetings to continue working through the very complicated and technical issues that are a part of these negotiations.
These few weeks right now will also, of course, be a useful time for delegations to have serious conversations in their capitals, including, importantly, in Iran about the path forward and how we can make progress towards concluding a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.
QUESTION: Can we get —
MS. HARF: Sorry, that was a long one. I have one more at the top.
QUESTION: Can we get one clarification on that?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Just so – when you talked about the EU/P5+1 meeting in September, that would not include Iran? It’s just the P5+1 and the EU?
MS. HARF: No, no, no. That would include Iran, a normal plenary round like we have.
QUESTION: And at what level? Is that political directors?
MS. HARF: I just said the details remain to be worked out.
QUESTION: And then —
MS. HARF: They traditionally have been – these are more than one clarification.
QUESTION: Got it, and then the one on the sidelines again —
MS. HARF: It’s the last one and then I’m going to do my last topper.
QUESTION: The one on the sidelines of UNGA would also be with Iran?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: As last year’s was as well.
So just a quick wrap-up of the Africa Leaders Summit: I’m sure you saw the President’s press conference last night. As he said, the summit reflected the reality that even as Africa continues to face great challenges, we’re also seeing the emergence of a new, more prosperous Africa that’s being led by Africans. And important progress was made on a number of fronts. Just a few of them I want to highlight today, and then I will open it up for questions. I know I get the floor for the beginning here and can talk for a little bit.
I want to highlight commitments for $33 billion in new trade and investment; major new commitments to the Power Africa initiative to triple our goal and aim to bring electricity to 60 million African homes and businesses; new investments in people through programs focusing on health, entrepreneurship, and young Africans, among other things; an additional 4 billion in investments for Africa’s development, including for support to maternal and child health and the delivery of vaccines and drugs; new investments in African peacekeeping and security initiatives to meet common threats from terrorism to human trafficking; and finally, opportunities to address good governance, including stepping up efforts to fight corruption and develop a new partnership to combat illicit finance.
So I know there was a lot of activity here over the past few days and I just wanted to highlight a few things we got done. Deb, it’s good to see you.
QUESTION: How are you?
MS. HARF: Good. Get us started.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d like to start with Iraq.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: ISIL seized this dam up in Mosul and I was wondering if you all could put that in perspective in terms of developments there. Also, what can you tell us about the Administration’s thoughts about how to help these trapped Iraqi civilians, these religious minorities that are kind of in trouble? There’s some discussion right now about humanitarian aid and whether or not that might include airstrikes or – what can you tell us about that?
MS. HARF: Well, I’ll start with the dam and then let’s go to the broader question. Obviously, the situation on the ground remains fluid, but the latest information is that ISIL has advanced on Mosul Dam and taken control of it. We are extremely concerned by this development. The dam is a vital part of Iraq’s infrastructure, as it controls water levels on the Tigris River. It is also a key source of water and electricity generation for the Iraqi people. So we’re closely coordinating with the Iraqis – with Iraqi officials in both Baghdad and Erbil to counter this development. But also writ large, I’d just say a few points. I know there’s a lot of interest out there on this today, a lot of questions and information floating around.
We are actively considering what we could do in support of Iraqi efforts – what more we could do – and particularly to provide additional support for the Yezidis, also the Christian communities we’ve talked about. Look, this is a huge humanitarian crisis. You have thousands and thousands of people at risk of death from starvation. We’re reviewing what more we can do. Obviously, we’ve talked a lot about this over the past few weeks. We’re working politically with the Iraqis on the government formation process. We’ve seen some progress, and hopefully we’ll see more. But we are right now actively considering what else we can do given the extremely grave humanitarian situation that we see on the ground. You’ve heard my colleague at the White House who I think just talked about this as well, so we’re looking at options.
QUESTION: What about aid? What about helping the Kurdish fighters? The —
MS. HARF: The Peshmerga?
MS. HARF: In what way?
QUESTION: Any kind of assistance whatsoever. Are you considering that?
MS. HARF: Well, we have – a couple things. We’ve obviously worked with them in a number of ways. I would note for people that we opened a joint operation center in Erbil, also one in Baghdad. But the one in Erbil works directly with the Kurds to share information to help them with this threat.
Look, we’re reviewing to see what more we can do, but we’re in constant consultation with both the Government of Iraq, also with the Kurdish Regional Government, about their requests for assistance and what more we could do. But we’ve been very actively engaged, especially through our foreign military financing and foreign military sales in terms of getting military assistance to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: You mentioned it’s a humanitarian crisis. How soon might we know what kind of decision you all are going to make?
MS. HARF: Well, look, we know this is a very urgent one. I think the President does and the Secretary does. So I would expect to see – I don’t have anything to preview, but I think we all understand the urgency and would expect to see some decisions about what we might do coming soon, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.
QUESTION: Like today, or —
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to preview for you, Deb.
QUESTION: In the next several hours, maybe?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to preview for you, Deb.
MS. HARF: You can keep pushing.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Peshmerga assistance question?
MS. HARF: Sure, and then I’m going to you.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Iranian Government had said – I mean Iraqi Government had said that after a lot of back and forth about whether the U.S. was doing any drone strikes on its behalf, that, no, it was in charge of doing any strikes on ISIL targets. Is the U.S. in the process of providing materiel to the Iraqi Air Force so that it can continue providing cover and carrying out missions in tandem with the Peshmerga?
MS. HARF: Well, Roz, that is not new news or breaking news that we have been working with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government to figure out how to best confront ISIL. We’ve done that in part through foreign military sales and through foreign military financing. Obviously, we know this is an incredibly serious threat, and the Peshmerga have played a critical role in addressing this threat. We have noted also that there’s been good cooperation between the Kurds and the central Iraqi Government on this.
So right now what we’re focused on – we put these joint operation centers in place. Right away, we increased ISR coverage so we had more eyes on the ground in terms of what was happening in Iraq. We got DOD assessment teams out there to see how more we could help. So all of those pieces are part of a puzzle that right now we’re looking at how we could do more, particularly given this incredibly grave humanitarian situation that’s —
QUESTION: Well, but —
MS. HARF: — that we see on the ground.
QUESTION: But given that ISIL has taken control of the dam in Mosul, that has an impact on a large percentage of Iraq’s population.
MS. HARF: It does.
QUESTION: Where’s the urgency in dealing with that problem?
MS. HARF: Well, I can guarantee you that there are a number of people working around the clock on this issue, including today. And again, we understand the urgency and we’re looking for more ways to help. And if we – if and when we have more details about how we’ll be doing so, I’m sure we can have that conversation then.
Yep, Margaret. And then I’m going to you.
QUESTION: A few questions. Marie, on the question of the Yezidis, do we have any estimate of the – a number of people in peril?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I’m trying to get some information from our folks on that. We know it’s – there – I’ve seen reports of 15,000.
MS. HARF: I’ve seen a number of reports. I’m trying to get a little more clarity from our folks, and let me see if I can do that after the briefing. We do know it’s not just the Yezidis, though. It’s also these Christian communities. I mean, ISIL has come out and said they have a desire to kill people because of their sect or their ethnicity or their religion, and that they’ve been doing so. And so what we’ve seen on the ground is just really horrific, and that’s why right now, immediately, we are trying to find more ways to help.
QUESTION: And is – policy-wise, is stopping ethnic cleansing or is fear of potential ethnic cleansing a core national security interest of this Administration?
MS. HARF: I think you’ve seen throughout this Administration that when we have the ability to prevent humanitarian crises, or when we have the ability to help once there is a humanitarian crisis, ease the suffering of people through whatever means possible, right – we have a number of tools at our disposal – that has been a core principle for what guides our action. It’s certainly not the only one.
QUESTION: And another question for you: Given these meetings in Geneva – that have to do with Iran and the nuclear talks, I know – but in the past, there has been a precedent with Bill Burns bringing up —
MS. HARF: Just once.
QUESTION: Just once.
MS. HARF: I wouldn’t call once a precedent.
QUESTION: Well, it’s happened once before.
MS. HARF: Just once, yes.
QUESTION: Will it happen again? Will Iraq come up in these conversations?
MS. HARF: To my knowledge, it’s – it will not. Obviously, I think probably the people talk about things in the news, but in the way we talked about two rounds ago, I guess, when we said it had been raised on the sidelines – to my knowledge, that’s not planned for this round, which I think may now actually be over. People are headed back tomorrow.
Yes. Oh wait, I’m going here next.
QUESTION: So about Kurdistan. The region – this is the gravest crisis they’re facing, and recently it was reported by The Washington Post that ISIL has just now controlled even a town that’s like less than 30 kilometers away from Erbil. I was just talk to friends and people in Erbil. They were really panicking. People are leaving Erbil. So people are asking Kurdistan whether America is going to really act to protect its – Kurdistan has been one of the most pro-American allies in the region. Honestly, there are thousands of posts I read on social media. Everybody is saying is really America going to help us, or is it going to save us? Because Kurdistan just – I heard the Kurdish leader talking on Amanpour’s show, saying that the reason we are defeated because we are having outdated Russian weapons and ISIL has advanced American weapons. Is there anything more than statements —
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think ISIL has advanced American weapons. But setting that aside, I can guarantee you that we are – we are already assisting the Kurdish people and the Iraqi people – all of them – in their fight against ISIL.
QUESTION: Like in what ways?
MS. HARF: And we will continue to do more of that. We’ve already ramped up our military-to-military assistance; we’ve already worked through the central government. But part of that also has been working with the Kurds, particularly through this joint operation center in Erbil that we stood up. We’ve had assessment teams on the ground. We’re providing humanitarian assistance.
But as I said, I can’t underscore enough for you how seriously and closely and urgently we are looking at what more we can do, and that we understand that this is an incredibly dire situation, and that we are in a place where we’re looking at what we can do to help. I don’t have any announcements to make for you or timing to guess about, but I do know that we are looking very, very seriously at what else we can do, because we do understand how serious it is.
QUESTION: And about the Yezidis, more than like 60, 70 people have starved to death or have died from thirst in that, like, dry mountain.
MS. HARF: And the Iraqis —
MS. HARF: — have tried to do some air drops —
QUESTION: But there has been nothing – has been – it’s been three days.
MS. HARF: Well, they’ve been trying. It’s a very difficult operating environment. So again, we have a situation there where there is an incredibly dire humanitarian situation and we’re looking at what more we can do to help in a very urgent way.
QUESTION: Are you – I mean, if I go on the whitehouse.gov, I can pull up a lot of statements in which the United States has said that it’s committed to the security and stability of Kurdistan and Iraq as well. Is – are you repeating that? Are you committed to the security of Kurdistan region?
MS. HARF: Absolutely. We’re committed to the security of the Kurdistan region; we’re committed to the security of all of Iraq. That’s why we are so deeply engaged to – that’s why again today, I guarantee you there are many, many meetings going on in this building and elsewhere about what more we can do. We’re looking at it in a very serious way.
QUESTION: How prominent is the discussion of providing material – military materiel as opposed to providing U.S. troop assistance?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to outline any specific options or to take on or off the table any specific option. I think you’ve heard the President in the past speak about the fact that anything we do – first of all, anything we do has to be accompanied by political moves in Iraq; we’ve seen some moves toward government formation, but we need to see a prime minister named as soon as possible – that there’s no American military solution here.
Obviously, also talked about the principle of no combat troops on the ground. He’s outlined those in a variety of ways throughout the past few weeks. So those are sort of, I think, part of how decisions are made. But obviously, no decisions to talk about yet.
QUESTION: Call me stupid, but why does it matter whether there’s a new PM or whether Maliki is still in power?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that a new government needs – because there’s been an election, first of all, and there needs to be a new government in place. And so we have a COR speaker, we have a president, and the next step in that process is a prime minister. We have said one needs to be appointed as soon as possible and to govern in an inclusive way. So there are consequences to elections, and we want to see them carried out here.
QUESTION: But ISIL could continue its advance. It could turn on the Yezidis; it could turn on the Christian minority.
MS. HARF: It already has.
QUESTION: It – yeah. Well, it could step it up.
MS. HARF: That’s true.
QUESTION: And it could actually attack the government in Mosul and in Erbil. So —
MS. HARF: — that will work with the Kurdish Regional Government as we – as the Baghdad – as folks in Baghdad have done for many years now to increase their coordination and cooperation as they fight this threat together. But that’s a key part of it is getting a strong, inclusive government in place.
QUESTION: But trying to work out the logistics of installing a new government in the central – in Baghdad seems to be more of a priority, if you’re stating this correctly, than it is with dealing with the security issue in the northern part of the country.
MS. HARF: Not at all. I’m not at all – look, we can do more than one thing at a time. We believe they go hand in hand. That’s why even while there hasn’t been a new government in place, we have continued to up our assistance to the Iraqis throughout these past few weeks. We’ve provided – we’ve put more ISR coverage in place. We’ve provided these assessment teams. We did X, Y, and Z all while there was still government formation happening. So this has been an ongoing process, but they need to step up to the plate and uphold their end of the process as well.
QUESTION: Is there any plan to send heavy arms to the Peshmerga?
MS. HARF: I don’t have – I don’t want to take any options on or off the table. We’re looking at what more ways we could help on that.
QUESTION: Marie, on the government formation question, I think the PM selection is supposed to happen like 15 days after the president, so we’re right in that window.
MS. HARF: We’re right in the window.
QUESTION: So —
MS. HARF: And I know the COR met today and I think didn’t name someone, so they need to do so as soon as possible.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. assessment of this? I mean, is Brett McGurk still here? Is he in Baghdad? Is he —
MS. HARF: He is here in Washington. Ambassador Beecroft is in Baghdad. We’ve had folks, I mean, constantly on the phone with people. Nobody knows this issue better than Brett McGurk. And so we’ve had a number of senior people very, very engaged on it. And we – look, we think they’re going to get there. We just want to underscore the urgency with which we think they should do so.
QUESTION: So does this though – broadly speaking, does what’s happening on the ground with ISIL complicate the government formation process, or does it in some ways perhaps expedite it by creating leverage here, with the U.S. saying we can’t help you until you follow through?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think it’s leverage. I think it should create – particularly among the Iraqis – a sense of urgency that political squabbles are what they are, but we need to get a government in place that can deal with this in a united way. So I think that was more the word I would use is urgency.
Any – what else on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yes, please, for Iraq?
MS. HARF: Iraq?
QUESTION: Is —
MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: Is there any consideration on refugee policy, how this would affect our refugee policy?
MS. HARF: What was – a discussion?
QUESTION: The refugee policy – could there be any changes on that?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly looking – I mean, obviously, no changes to outline, but there’s certainly been a huge number of internally displaced people already. We know this is a huge humanitarian crisis. There’s a very large refugee crisis in the region writ large, as we know, mainly from Syria but from other issues as well. So obviously, that’s one of the reasons we want to see what else we can do to help here.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Without making any announcement, do you – how do you see the – I mean, the situation there? Because as we can say from the reports of this – a lot of information floating there that there is new realities are shaped over Iraq, which is like the spread of ISIL all over the place. And okay, they are not coming to Baghdad but they are a lot of places. So what do you see? How do you see the situation? Is this – okay, you mentioned, for example, that it’s a humanitarian crisis. But from your understanding, from your assessment for the team that they are there of all these things you are doing, do you see that there is a confrontation to stop this ISIL spread?
MS. HARF: Right. It’s not just a humanitarian crisis. I mean, that’s certainly a key piece of particularly what we’ve seen over the last 48 hours, certainly. But there’s a huge security challenge – if you talk about the Mosul dam, if you talk about other places. ISIL is a threat not just because they kill innocent civilians because of their religion, but because they’re a huge security threat to the stability of certain parts of Iraq. And that’s why throughout this conflict you have seen us continue to ramp up our support and continue to look very urgently at other things we could do to help fight this threat, because at the end of the day we can help the Iraqis, but the Iraqis also have to stand up, they have to pull themselves together, with our help, because this is a threat that certainly they but no one else in the region wants to see grow any more.
QUESTION: I’m trying to understand – okay, I understand that you are understanding the threat. But the reality is changing. I mean, this is the thing that all reports are saying that borders are changing, people are displaced, churches are burned, whatever, houses are occupied. All these things are real or not real?
MS. HARF: No, they’re real. But look, that’s not the reality we want to see. So where there are people displaced, we want to help the Iraqis so they can do things, so people can return to their homes. Now, this is a really tough fight. This is an incredibly tough challenge, in part because of the sheer brutality of ISIL that we’ve seen over the past several months. So we don’t want this to be the reality. That’s why we’re so engaged here and why we’re looking to do more.
QUESTION: Are military escorts being considered?
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to put any option on the table or take any off.
QUESTION: So that means they are, then, and perhaps —
MS. HARF: That’s not at all what I said. You can misread my words, but what I said is I’m not going to put any options on the table or take any off in any way, shape, or form. Again, we’re looking at a range of options, and if and when we make decisions I’m sure we’ll talk more about them.
QUESTION: If everything’s being included, that would include that —
MS. HARF: I didn’t say everything’s being included. I said I am not publicly going to put any on the table or take any off. There’s a difference.
QUESTION: Do you also agree that if you – if the United States doesn’t take action fast, there could – the situation would be really much worse?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve – let’s be clear, we’ve already taken some action here to help stem —
QUESTION: I mean military action against ISIL. If you don’t take military action, the situation could be much worse, like Syria.
MS. HARF: Look, I’m not going to get into any hypotheticals here. We’re considering a range of options; I’m not going to detail them here. But we are committed to seeing what we can do to help in the situation here, and I just probably don’t have much more for you all than that on this. I know there are lots of questions, but —
QUESTION: Can I ask you another question?
MS. HARF: You can.
QUESTION: As long as you are working another group that we cannot talk to them, are you considering any time to talk to ISIL?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. I mean, I can check, but not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Or through other party?
MS. HARF: Well, certainly we talk to regional partners about the threat from ISIL, because it’s not just a threat the Iraqis face; it’s a threat that others face as well.
Anything else on Iraq? Yes. Okay, moving on.
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the report that a Korean American was held by the Chinese authority near a border city between China and DPRK? Is —
MS. HARF: I – go ahead.
MS. HARF: No, no, no. Continue. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. He’s running a Christian NGO and he has been interrogated by the Chinese authority. I just wonder if you have any more substance or details on this particular case.
MS. HARF: We are aware of those reports, but unfortunately, because of privacy considerations, I can’t comment any further.
QUESTION: Can you confirm?
MS. HARF: I can’t comment any further in any way.
QUESTION: Just —
QUESTION: Does the United States seek consular access to this particular U.S. citizen?
MS. HARF: Well, I can’t comment in any way on any specific cases. Obviously, we care very deeply about the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens all over the world and would provide consular access when needed in general.
QUESTION: Gao Zhisheng, the human rights lawyer, has been released.
MS. HARF: Yes, and we welcome that news.
QUESTION: What’s your assessment of his situation right now?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have much more of an assessment here. We’ve welcomed the news that he was released today upon completion of his sentence, also continue to urge China to release all prisoners of conscience – there are still a number that are in prison and uphold their commitments to respect and protect the human rights of all of their people. We also urge Chinese authorities to allow him to leave China to be reunited with his family in the United States if he so chooses.
QUESTION: Do you know if there have been communications with the Chinese side about his case, specifically in the past couple of days?
MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer to that.
QUESTION: On China. Chinese —
MS. HARF: Let’s stay on China, and then I’ll go to Elise.
QUESTION: Yeah. Chinese authority is planning to build five lighthouse on five islands in the disputed waters in the South China Sea. Do you – what is your take on that? Do you think it’s defiant?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said for a very long time that we believe territorial disputes should be managed and resolved peacefully, diplomatically, and in accordance with international law. For this reason, we support efforts that lower tensions and expand space for peaceful and diplomatic resolutions of disputes. Look, ideally claimant states, when there are disagreements, would decide among themselves what type of specific activities are considered provocative or out-of-bonds, offer to put a voluntary freeze on any such actions if other claimants would commit to do so likewise. I know this is going to be a topic of conversation in general at the upcoming ASEAN summit, the code of conduct particularly. But no more specific comment than that.
QUESTION: Another China-related.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: The – after the U.S.-Africa summit, meanwhile we heard that the Chinese Government is actually inviting the United States to work with China to engage or to work together on a project. It’s a hydroelectric dam project in Democratic Republic of Congo. What’s your take on that?
MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to check. I hadn’t seen that. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Elise.
QUESTION: Can we talk about Gaza for a minute?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s your understanding —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — of the attempts to extend a ceasefire and what the U.S. —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — team is doing? And on a related note, there are some reports that the Israelis are asking the U.S. delegation on the ground for help in ensuring that Israel is not referred to the International Criminal Court on war crimes.
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t heard that last part. But on the first part, the ceasefire is still in place. It’s expiring soon, so Acting Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein arrived in Cairo yesterday, August 6th, as part of our efforts to assist in the negotiations regarding the situation in Gaza. His role in this process is to monitor progress and advise in areas where the U.S. can be helpful and achieve – in achieving a lasting ceasefire and forging a sustainable long-term solution for Gaza. He will not be involved in direct mediation between the delegations. Obviously, Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization. We don’t have direct contact with Hamas officials.
Secretary Kerry also continues to be engaged with – at the leader level with the key stakeholders, so this is part of a process. Obviously, what we need to see if a longer term ceasefire put in place, and if Frank can help and our team there can help, if Secretary Kerry can help by making phone calls we are absolutely there to do so.
QUESTION: I have a related kind of follow-on question. There are some reports about this UNRWA school that has like this summer camp where Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews and to – they call it “Camp Jihad,” that they’re kind of taught about jihad. And since U.S. taxpayer dollars do go to UNRWA, I’m wondering if you’ve been notified of this or if you’ve investigated —
MS. HARF: I’ve seen those reports, and our folks are looking into it. They didn’t have any clarity for me when I came out here, but I’ll follow up with them. Because I – obviously, look, we – any anti-Semitic language, any language like that really just has no place in the discourse about this or any other issues. So let me check on the specifics. I had no confirmation of that before I came out.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on your earlier point about Frank. You said that he’s not directly involved —
MS. HARF: In direct – he’s not involved in direct mediation between the delegations. In other words, he’s not talking directly to Hamas.
QUESTION: Certainly, he’s not talking directly to Hamas. Is he dealing with the Israelis and the Egyptians?
MS. HARF: Certainly.
QUESTION: Is he in talks?
MS. HARF: I mean, he’s not in every meeting, but he’s there on the ground talking to them.
QUESTION: Yes, please —
QUESTION: And what’s the United States understanding of the 48-hour extension of the ceasefire that the Israelis have agreed to but —
MS. HARF: Well, it’s my understanding that obviously the ceasefire’s still in place and will be expiring —
MS. HARF: — soon, and that there’s no extension that’s yet been put in place. That’s my understanding. Again, things are changing minute by minute. Probably changed since I came out here.
Yes. I’m going to go here and then back to you.
QUESTION: The family of Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old boy who was beaten – an American Palestinian, detained in Israel, was here meeting with senior officials on Friday they tell me. And they raised a case – two cases of two other American teenage boys who are in detention – Mohamed Abu Nie and Muhammad Abu Khdeir – same name, different person of the teen that was killed. Do you have any details about what —
MS. HARF: I have a little bit of information. Yeah. And I can’t confirm the part about them being here on Friday. I’m happy to check. I just don’t have that in front of me. I can confirm that Mohamed Abu Nie – I think that’s how you say that – or Nie – is a U.S. citizen, was arrested on July 3rd during protests in the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem. He is currently being held in a youth section of a prison there. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is providing consular assistance. A consular officer visited him on July 31st and attended his hearing on July 22nd.
The embassy’s also in frequent contact of Mohamed’s family and his lawyer. We are calling for a speedy resolution to this case. This 15-year-old has now been held for five weeks in Israeli custody and are gravely concerned over the prolonged detention of this U.S. citizen child. He does have a lawyer working on his behalf as well.
In terms of the other name, we’ve – look, we’ve encouraged family members of any U.S. citizens who are being detained to immediately contact the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem. I can’t confirm, and our folks could not confirm that there was another U.S. citizen by that name being held. So we’ll check, but we just couldn’t confirm that.
QUESTION: Just a housekeeping issue. Why is the embassy in Tel Aviv working on this guy’s case and not the consulate general in Jerusalem?
MS. HARF: Which one? The first one? Why is the embassy in Tel Aviv providing consular assistance?
QUESTION: And not the consul general.
MS. HARF: It may be – the answer is: I don’t know. It may be where he’s being held in the prison. It may be because we’re working with the Israelis. I’m just not sure.
QUESTION: Now you’ve been talking to the Israelis about this for several weeks. I mean, why are they not releasing him?
MS. HARF: Well, look, our role here is to ensure that he is afforded due process under local laws and the protections required by international law, and do want a speedy resolution to this case. We are concerned – I think I said, “gravely” – about the fact that he is still in custody.
QUESTION: But what are the – the fact that he’s a minor, how does that affect what the US Government can do on his behalf? Are there added levers that can be used?
MS. HARF: I don’t know if legally it impacts anything. Obviously, we are always concerned if a U.S. citizen is in custody, particularly the prolonged detention of a child, I think we would say. I don’t know if that’s legal, but that’s just sort of a policy.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: And can you say how frequently people have been able to see him, given his age? Are they able to assess the conditions in which he’s being held?
MS. HARF: I can find out if – the frequency. We are concerned about allegations that he has been mistreated while in custody. We take all these allegations seriously and have raised our concerns with the appropriate authorities.
QUESTION: Can I just broaden this out a little bit? You are giving the Israelis – and you’ve said from this podium – an extraordinary amount of assistance, military aid, you’re taking it on the chin for them at the United Nations. I mean, you’re doing a lot for the Israelis across the board all the time, but specifically in this conflict. And are you frustrated that you’re not getting a quick redress to this one 15-year-old kid who’s been in an Israeli jail and, as you said, about – under concerning circumstances?
MS. HARF: Well, certainly, I think – and also to your first point, though, Elise, we’ve also stood at this podium and made very clear when we’ve had issues with the things Israel has done during this. So let’s – we’ve done both.
QUESTION: Yeah, I understand.
MS. HARF: But we’ve done both. But on this, yes, I said we are gravely concerned that there hasn’t been a speedy resolution and we want there to be, so we’ll continue raising it and continue pushing. We believe there needs to be due process here under local laws, obviously, but we do think there should be a quick resolution.
QUESTION: Well, do you think there needs to be some kind of more reciprocal relationship that would – obviously, like, Israel has a lot of security needs that you need to address and that it’s a very longstanding policy of the U.S. to help. But do you find that when you have issues about your own security or issues about your own citizens, that they’re addressed in the same manner?
MS. HARF: Well, we can do more than one thing at once, and those things aren’t mutually exclusive. We will continue our security relationship because we believe it’s important, but we’ve also – we’re very clear when there are things like this that arise that we have very deep concerns about. We can do both at the same time, and we are.
QUESTION: I didn’t say you can’t do both at the same time, but do you feel that Israel is doing both at the same time?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly pushing them to.
What else? Deb.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the talks on Iran. Do you have any specific readout that you can give us about the meeting that Wendy Sherman and Burns and company had with the Iranian officials today?
MS. HARF: It was, I would say, a constructive discussion – you’ve heard me use that word before; another step in the process here. We’re not going to, I think, get into details of that. As I said, we are now in the extension phase of the Joint Plan of Action, and there will be a host of different kinds of meetings throughout this process, whether it’s bilaterals that all the countries have with Iran – not just us – experts meetings to work through the very technical issues, and plenary sessions. And part of this will be around the General Assembly, as it was last year, and we’re just going to keep having meetings and try to make progress.
QUESTION: Marie, I’m sorry. I might have missed this, but did you just say that there was consular access and when it was given with Mohamed —
MS. HARF: Are we back on – with who?
QUESTION: Mohamed Abu Nie.
MS. HARF: Yes, I did. I said that. Hold on. Let’s go back here. We – yes, a consular official visited him on July 31st and attended his hearing on July 22nd. The embassy also is in frequent contact with his family and his lawyer.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Regarding the team and you mentioned with Deputy Secretary Burns, that – his status going to be a special government employee, is —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. It’s a technical term. It is. It’s a technical term.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: For him and for other person?
MS. HARF: For Jake Sullivan.
MS. HARF: Yep. I know there’s been a lot of questions given their role in the talks.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is this —
MS. HARF: If – once they leave their current positions, they will still work on this.
QUESTION: This title is to be specific for these —
MS. HARF: For these negotiations.
QUESTION: Not for other things?
MS. HARF: Correct, correct. Deputy Secretary Burns and the Vice President’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan —
QUESTION: So wouldn’t —
MS. HARF: — have been very involved in the Iran negotiations, and since we have an extension and each of them will be leaving their current positions – Jake actually fairly soon – they will remain just in that capacity as part of the Iran talks.
QUESTION: I’ve got just one more.
MS. HARF: Let’s go to Ali, please. Roz, let’s go to Ali.
QUESTION: On Russia?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the sanctions that Putin’s announcing on food products, I believe, in the United States and other countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia?
MS. HARF: Well, I think it’s – I mean, look, the bottom line here is President Putin is denying his own people food, and I’m not sure how he’s going to sell that at home. But not only is he running their economy into the ground and their growth is now predicted at zero, but he’s also denying them basic things like food. And sadly, look, it’s going to be the Russian people who will suffer as a result of his actions, and we’ve always said that this is – it’s the Russian people who are hurting more than anyone here after the Ukrainian people, I would say.
And so he has a choice to make. Either he can take actions that hurt his own people or he can use the diplomatic offer that we’ve always said exists and de-escalate and try to move forward in a different direction here.
QUESTION: Do you have any estimation or expect any losses for American exports of chicken? Because Russia is, I mean, second-largest market for U.S. chicken.
MS. HARF: We are studying the decision and what impact it would have on U.S. business. Look, these measures (a) would no doubt adversely affect the Russian economy. One way we think that will happen is they will push up Russia’s already-high inflation rate and also erode the purchasing power of Russian citizens. So if this is intended to hurt us, I think it’s pretty clear that it will actually hurt the Russians. Look, we’re looking at it right now.
QUESTION: This – do you think this can be disputed in WTO?
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that. I’m happy to check with our team. There’s a really easy way it could get resolved, though, and that’s Russia de-escalating here.
QUESTION: Yes, please. Regarding this issue, there is a report in British press about the deal – gas deal or oil deal between Russia and Iran.
MS. HARF: Yes, I —
QUESTION: Do you have any comment about that?
MS. HARF: I do. And I think those reports have been out for a long time, and quite frankly, many of them are erroneous.
QUESTION: Guardian, I think, was —
MS. HARF: There’s a new one out, yeah. We’ve seen the reports of this, that there was some MOU signed between Russia and Iran agreeing to further talks in September on a variety of economic and trade issues. Look, there’s been a lot of rumors out there about this deal. It’s still unclear whether this oil-for-goods deal has progressed in any substantial way. If it were to move forward, this would obviously raise serious concerns and could be potentially sanctionable.
QUESTION: Being in Geneva and other places with Iran, did you raise this issue any time?
MS. HARF: We’ve certainly raised it, I believe with the Russians and also with the Iranians, I believe. But I can double-check on that.
Yes. Roz, did you have another one?
QUESTION: Yeah, just a final one on Gaza. How worried is the U.S. that if the ceasefire is not extended that we will see fighting again, given that Hamas’s military wing is threatening to start firing whatever it has left in its arsenal?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we are very concerned that without an additional ceasefire, there will be more bloodshed on both sides. I think we are.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I apologize if I missed it when I was coming and going, but were you asked about reports of a U.S. citizen possibly being detained near the North Korean border?
MS. HARF: I was. And I said I’m aware of the reports and don’t have any further comment due to privacy.
QUESTION: Briefly, I saw that Secretary Kerry made a statement on Cambodia, on the Khmer Rouge trials.
MS. HARF: He did, yes.
QUESTION: Just to pursue that, he was talking about continued support for the tribunal. Do you have any ideas of what the U.S. support is now and how that would change or not change?
MS. HARF: I don’t, but it’s a good question. Let me ask.
Anything else, guys? Deb.
QUESTION: I have a real minor one here about —
MS. HARF: I always hesitate when people say that.
QUESTION: Well, it might not be minor to Argentina, but —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Argentina is challenging some U.S. court decisions at the World Court.
MS. HARF: Okay, I haven’t seen that.
QUESTION: And we need to know if the U.S. thinks the World Court has jurisdiction over this issue.
MS. HARF: Okay, let me check.
MS. HARF: Yes, Margaret.
QUESTION: In Geneva, will Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns or anyone on the U.S. delegation raise the issue of the jailed Washington Post reporter?
MS. HARF: We always raise the American citizens who are detained in Iran, and we did this time as well, yes.
MS. HARF: That’s it. I want to point out – I forgot to mentioned at the beginning, guys, I’m sorry. We have some interns from DRL, right – shake your head if I’m right – in the back of the briefing. So I should have done it at the top, but thank you for coming. My first job here was as an intern at the State Department, so, look, you could be up here someday. (Laughter.) But thanks for coming and putting up with all of us. So – I usually do that at the top.
Anything else, guys? Great, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:29 p.m.)