Middle East Defined

As noted by Rashid Khalidi, the term “Middle East” has become a source of contention and is seen as an unsatisfactory term to describe the region we now know as the Middle East and North Africa. Khalidi is correct in being sceptical of the term “Middle East,” as its definition is unclear. The World Bank uses the term “Middle East and North Africa” which encompasses the nations of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, as well as Yemen. The United Nations Statistics Division, however, refers to the countries of North Africa separately from the countries of “West Asia,” which includes the Gulf countries, the Levant, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. While the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Central Intelligence Agency, the UN Refugee Agency, as well as Human Rights Watch all have slightly different definitions of what countries encompass the Middle East or the Middle East and North Africa, the larger questions are: Why do these organizations feel the need to define this region and what is the need to define this region?   

Hasan Salaam, an Egyptian-American lyricist made a simple and important observation in some of his lyrics stating, “No such thing as the Middle East… No matter where you stand there’s always something to the east of you.” The definition of the “Middle East” and the terms that are used to describe North Africa, the Gulf, and West Asia have changed throughout history depending on which nations are the current superpowers. It seems that the European and American bodies that set th term “Middle East” into place, wanted to create Europe and North America as the centre of the world, in which everything must be in relation to these regions, and that the terms “Middle East” and “the West” are all relative.

The “West” has consistently defined the “East” in their own terms, in order to better define themselves and in order to mark “their” territory. When the “West” occupied the “Middle East,” it occupied the languages and the minds of the people in that region because, now, in Arabic the region is referred to as al-Sharq al-Awsat, or the Middle East. The “West” defined the borders of the “Middle East,” the same borders that the “Middle Eastern” countries fight to defend despite the end of colonialism. They have let the “West” define who is seen as friend and who is seen as foe. By doing this, the “Middle East” continues to be the pawns of the “West” and still unknowingly caters to the “West’s” notions of how the “Middle East” should be defined.   

MEDIA NOTE: Global Counterterrorism Forum Co-Chairs’ Fact Sheet: About the GCTF

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 MEDIA NOTE

September 27, 2015

Global Counterterrorism Forum Co-Chairs’ Fact Sheet: 

About the GCTF

Below is the text of the Fact Sheet issued by the Co-Chairs (Turkey and the United States) of the Global Counterterrorism Forum on September 27, 2015.

Begin text:

The GCTF is an informal, multilateral counterterrorism (CT) platform focusing on identifying critical civilian CT needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and enhancing global cooperation. Launched at a ministerial meeting in New York on 22 September 2011, the Forum, with its 30 members (29 countries and the European Union), regularly convenes key CT policymakers and practitioners from nations around the world, as well as experts from the United Nations and other multilateral bodies. It has strengthened the international architecture for addressing 21st century terrorism and is promoting a strategic, long-term approach to dealing with the threat. The Forum identifies urgent needs, devises solutions, and mobilizes resources for addressing key CT challenges facing civilian institutions. With its primary focus on countering violent extremism (CVE) and strengthening criminal justice and other rule of law institutions that deal with terrorism, the GCTF aims to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions.

 

MEMBERS AND PARTNERS

The 30 members of the GCTF are: Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union (EU), France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States. Additionally, some 40 non-member states and dozens of non-member international, regional, sub-regional, and non-governmental organizations have participated in GCTF activities.

The United Nations is a close partner of the GCTF and a regular participant in its activities. The GCTF takes as a central part of its mission the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. More broadly, the GCTF’s work complements and reinforces existing multilateral CT efforts, including those of the UN and relevant regional organizations.     

 

STRUCTURE 

The GCTF consists of a strategic-level Coordinating Committee, co-chaired by Turkey and the United States; six thematic and regional expert-driven working groups; and a small administrative unit. The working groups are: (1) Criminal Justice Sector and the Rule of Law, co-chaired by Egypt and the United States; (2) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), co-chaired by the UAE and the UK; (3) Detention and Reintegration, co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia; (4) Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF), co-chaired by Morocco and the Netherlands; (5) Sahel Region Capacity-Building, co-chaired by Algeria and Canada; and (6) Horn of Africa Region Capacity-Building, co-chaired by the EU and Turkey. As determined during the May 2015 Coordinating Committee meeting, the United States will transition its co-chairmanship of the Forum to the Netherlands following the September 2015 Ministerial meeting. Turkey will transition its co-chairmanship of the Forum to Morocco following the ninth meeting of the Coordinating Committee in spring 2016.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • The mobilization of more than $300 million to support national and regional efforts to strengthen civilian institutions and counter violent extremism, including support for the implementation of the GCTF framework documents at both the regional and country levels.
  • The December 2012 launch of Hedayah in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hedayah is the first-ever international center of excellence for training, dialogue, research, and collaboration on CVE.
  • The June 2014 launch of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ) in Valletta, Malta. The IIJ is dedicated to providing criminal justice officials from across North, West, and East Africa and the Middle East with human rights-compliant training to address terrorism and related security challenges within a rule of law framework.
  • The September 2014 establishment of the Global Fund on Community Engagement and Resilience (GCERF) in Geneva, Switzerland. GCERF is the first-ever public-private global fund to support local, grass-roots efforts to counter violent extremism. GCERF is now fully operational in Geneva as a foundation under Swiss law.
  • The adoption of framework documents designed to serve as practical guides for rule of law-based CT and CVE capacity-building activities and implementing CT good practices at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels.[1] These framework documents address a variety of salient CT and CVE topics including:

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Effective, human rights-compliant CT practice in the criminal justice sector;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Preventing and denying the benefits of kidnapping for ransom by terrorists;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Multi-sectoral approaches to CVE;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Community engagement and community-oriented policing as tools for CVE;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Supporting victims in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Effective responses to the FTF phenomenon;

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]The role of the judiciary in adjudicating terrorism offenses; and

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Education and CVE.

 

ANNEX 1 – GCTF ACTIVITIES IN 2014-2015[2]

Coordinating Committee

Seventh Coordinating Committee Meeting, Doha, Qatar, 6-7 May 2015

Eighth Coordinating Committee Meeting and Sixth Ministerial Plenary, New York, United States, 26-27 September 2015

 

Countering Violent Extremism Working Group

Workshop on Advancing Women’s Roles in Countering Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism, Vienna, Austria, 21-22 October 2014 (jointly hosted with the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe)

Symposium on Strengthening International Cooperation to Prevent and Counter Terrorists’ Use of the Internet, Beijing, China, 17-18 November 2014

Global CVE Communications Exposition, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 9-11 December 2014 (jointly hosted with Hedayah)

Plenary Meeting of the CVE Working Group, London, United Kingdom, 2-3 June 2015

 

Criminal Justice Sector and the Rule of Law Working Group

Plenary Meeting of the CJ-ROL Working Group, Valletta, Malta, 13-14 April 2015

 

Detention and Reintegration Working Group

Workshop on Prison and Security Issues and Implementation of the GCTF Rome Memorandum Good Practices 1-6, Abuja, Nigeria, 12-13 November 2014

Workshop on Capacity Building and Training for the Appropriate Management of Violent Extremist Offenders, Medan, Indonesia, 8-9 April 2015

 

“Foreign Terrorist Fighters” (FTF) Initiative

Expert Workshop on Reintegrating Returning FTFs: Challenges and Lessons Learned, Rome, Italy, 11-12 December 2014

Inaugural Plenary Meeting of the FTF Working Group, Marrakech, Morocco, 15-16 December 2014

Workshop on Raising Community Awareness to the FTF Phenomenon, Washington, D.C., 23-24 February 2015

Conference on FTF, The Hague, the Netherlands, 8 June 2015

 

Sahel Capacity-Building Working Group

Plenary Meeting of the Sahel Working Group, Algiers, Algeria, 24-25 March 2015

Kidnapping for Ransom Experts Meeting, Algiers, Algeria, 26 March 2015

 

Horn of Africa Region Capacity-Building Working Group

Regional Exposition of Counterterrorism Efforts in the HOA Region, Kampala, Uganda, 17-18 March 2015

Plenary Meeting of the Horn of Africa Working Group, Kampala, Uganda, 19-20 March 2015

Workshop on Effective Intra- and Inter-agency Cooperation and Coordination as a Good Practice in Prevention, Investigation, and Prosecution of Terrorism Cases in the HOA Region, Bishoftu/Debrezeit, Ethiopia, 23-25 March 2015 (jointly hosted with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s Security Sector Program)

Horn of Africa (HOA)-focused Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Workshop, Brussels, Belgium, 11 June 2015

 

Other Meetings

Workshop on Air Traveler Security, Perth, Australia, 7-9 December 2014

Inaugural Conference of the Border Security Initiative (BSI), El Jadida, Morocco, 21-22 July 2015 (jointly hosted with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre)

BSI Study Tour and Experts Roundtable, Cairns, Australia, 25-26 August 2015 (jointly hosted with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre)

Meeting of the GCTF Working Group Co-Chairs on Preparing for the Next Wave: GCTF Cross-Working Group Initiatives to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalization to Violence, The Hague, the Netherlands, 3 September 2015

BSI Expert Seminar on Cross-Border Cooperation and Border Surveillance Methods, Vienna, Austria, 10-11 September 2015 (jointly organized with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre)

 

[1] For more information on GCTF framework documents, please visit the GCTF website at www.theGCTF.org.

[2] This represents those activities implemented and planned in CY 2014.  Please visit www.theGCTF.org for additional information about all GCTF activities since the official launch in September 2011.

PSFR Officer (LG – UAE) Job posted by: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Posted on: September 4, 2015

PSFR Officer (LG – UAE)

Job posted by: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Posted on: September 4, 2015

Job description

Grade: P3

Deadline for Applications: 17 September 2015 (Midnight Geneva time)

The Officer would be responsible for the implementation of the PSFR programme in UAE and for strategy and planning. The officer will also manage any Private Sector Fund Raising (PSFR) consultancy and any PSFR staff resources for UNHCR in UAE as well as managing small-scale fundraising activities in other Gulf States as and when required by PSFR. The position’s supervisor will be the Senior Global PSFR Officer (SEMEA) who is tasked with maintaining an organizational overview of all UNHCR offices with PSFR operations and all National Associations in the PSFR region (which currently includes Southern Europe, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Africa). The occupant will work closely with the Head of Liaison Office, Abu Dhabi as part of the external relations hub team and to a work plan agreed with the Head and the supervisor.

  • For UAE it is also intended to include other Gulf States who have small and limited fundraising programmes run through UNHCR (non PSFR), staff, consultancy and suppliers at this time.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Develop, implement and report on the annual plan including its associated income and other goals.
  • Act as a supportive and active contributor to the work of the External Relations Team;
  • Explore and develop sources of funds from Leadership Giving sources (corporate/foundations/wealthy individuals) to increase level of funding.
  • Prepare submissions to the Income Growth Fund to secure funding to increase the donor base of private sector donors in UAE;
  • Develop a strategy and then plan and conduct PSFR campaigns in UAE including in emergencies. This includes managing relations with partners, media, contractors and suppliers;
  • Implement an individual fund-raising programme and full donor communications cycle in line with the agreed regional strategy and annual plans for UNHCR in UAE with the aim of upgrading donors to maximize the income to UNHCR from private sector donors.
  • Manage a programme of monthly donors in UAE using best practices in UAE and in UNHCR international should the regional strategy approve it;
  • Maintain a predictable level of service and value for the donor to ensure a stable level of contributions;
  • Report to the Head of Liaison Office, Abu Dhabi and the Senior Regional PSFR Officer (SEMEA) on activities implemented in UAE, including lessons learned and recommendations for future opportunities and plans;
  • Develop with the Snr Global PSFR Officer a detailed Annual PSFR Plan in close consultation with the Head of Liaison Office, Abu Dhabi;
  • Develop a monthly work plan to be approved by both the supervisor and the Head of Liaison Office, Abu Dhabi.
  • Manage PSFR human resources: supervise all PSFR staff and consultants in line with UNHCR’s staff rules, regulations and policies
  • Manage PSFR financial resources: supervise and monitor PSFR expenditure/budget and income recording and reporting and manage the donor database
  • Develop and implement internet-based fund-raising activities in UAE.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • A university degree (BA) in business/marketing, social sciences or a related discipline plus 8 years’ previous relevant work experience (6 years with advanced university degree) with 5 years private sector fundraising experience in a not-for-profit organisation or an international organisation or a marketing/fundraising consultancy firm in UAE.
  • Proven experience in preparing and implementing PSFR plans and developing plans for annual income growth as well as in strategic planning.
  • Demonstrated ability to meet PSFR targets.
  • Proven experience in developing and delivering Leadership Giving programmes.
  • Proven expertise and up-to-date knowledge in all major existing and new PSFR techniques including direct marketing and direct response fundraising, monthly donor programmes including face-to-face, telemarketing, middle and major donors, legacies, corporate fundraising and new media fundraising.
  • Experience of managing the production of fundraising materials from creative and design to production, print and delivery.
  • Fluent in Arabic and English (verbal and written) essential.

How to apply http://www.idealist.org/view/job/8pHSCMN94sXd

To Apply and Read a Detailed Job Description, Please Visit: http://bit.ly/Careers_UNHCR

Location

Abu Dhabi, Abū Z̧aby, United Arab Emirates

Details

Stabilizing Iraqi Territories Remarks John Allen Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL

Stabilizing Iraqi Territories

Remarks

John Allen
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL

Prime Minister’s Guest House

Baghdad, Iraq

March 16, 2015

It is good to be back in Baghdad and to see so many familiar faces. I want to thank the Prime Minister and COMSEC for hosting us today. I also want to thank the Iraqi deputy ministers, Dr. Hamid, Dr. Turki, German Charge Milan Simandl and leaders who have come together to discuss a series of efforts that are vital to the peaceful and prosperous future of Iraq.

We also have a team today from the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the UN, and the EU to learn from you today. We will bring your message back to the other Coalition partners who will meet in Berlin on Wednesday.

When I was here last, Prime Minister Abadi and I spoke about the importance of planning for Stabilization Operations. I have come to Baghdad today with a team of experts because we agreed that Stabilization planning must begin in earnest. Today and tomorrow our team will learn and understand how the Coalition can best support the Iraqi plan for stabilizing territories your country will take back from Daesh.

As Daesh is defeated in population centers and the military forces must move on to other objectives, there will be an immediate need for policing and public security efforts to set the conditions for essential service delivery. Populations that have fled the fighting will need shelter, assistance, and security, until they can return home. In many cases facilities will have been destroyed or made insecure by IEDs. Providers will need to rapidly assess and respond with basic medical care, water, electricity and other municipal services. All first responders, whether civil or military, should be sensitized to the special needs of those who’ve suffered under Daesh, especially women and girls.

A successful stabilization effort begins with fair treatment during military operations. We applaud Iraqi leaders, including His Eminence Ayatollah Sistani, who publicly called for the protection of civilians and warned against acts of revenge, recrimination, or abuse against civilians or prisoners. It also means protecting the schools, hospitals, water treatment facilities and securing antiquities and, libraries. These measures begin the process of reunifying Iraq and building trust between liberated communities and the Government of Iraq.

It is also critical for military and civilian ministries to work together from the beginning. Military forces need to understand how civilian stabilization operations will follow military operations. As part of our team today, we have experts on the provision of health services, restoring water and electricity, on policing and civilian-military planning, and on addressing the specific needs of women, children and vulnerable populations. Over the next two days they will work with you to identify how to synchronize civilian and military plans, and identify how the Coalition can work with you.

As I see it, there are four components to the counter-offensive that must be synchronized.

First, is the clearing element when the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Forces remove Daesh from a town or city.

Second is the security and policing element that deals with crime and provides general security so life can return to normal. This will likely come from a combination of PMF units, local tribes, and police.

Third is restoring local governance which will be difficult because many officials are in exile, were killed, or cooperated with Daesh.

Fourth, is providing for essential services including short-term restoration of services such as health, water, electricity, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.

These four components will be applied differently to the circumstances found in each liberated area. It is important that you plan uniquely for each city and town, and prepare the necessary resources.

Several Coalition partners have expressed a specific interest in offering technical and planning support to assist Iraq by filling any gaps in implementing Iraqi-led stabilization efforts. We will look to the leadership of Dr. Hamid and Dr. Turki to identify where assistance is needed and to communicate the Iraqi stabilization plan to the Coalition partners.

After this visit to Baghdad I will go to Berlin, where Germany and the United Arab Emirates will launch the Coalition Stabilization Working Group. This Working Group will work with the Government of Iraq to organize Coalition support to stabilization operations and identify resources.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of these critical activities. The stabilization effort will be the most important signal of the intentions of this government towards any and all Iraqi’s who have been victims of Daesh and those who have been driven from their homes. Iraq’s future as a unified nation depends upon how the liberating force treats those living under Daesh rule.

Stabilization operations can be expensive and require dedicated resources. We applaud the inclusion in the budget of $2 billion for recovery funding and support of displaced Iraqis. It will be essential to move resources quickly to the liberated areas most in need. As you continue to clarify stabilization and recovery needs, we will work with the United Nations to further develop the concept of a trust fund and find appropriate support. The Coalition does not have the resources to resource all of Iraq’s needs. We will work together to assist and support Iraq as we are able.

The recovery of Iraqis from under Daesh’s control is now beginning in earnest. We are already seeing the results of your early work in Diyala, and hopefully soon in Tikrit. Today, we want to hear from you about what you have seen to date, what lessons we can learn from the last few months, and what you anticipate the requirements are to stabilize liberated areas.

I look forward to learning more about Iraq’s efforts to bring stability to liberated areas from today’s conversation and to identify future actions necessary to ensure success in the days and months to come.

And now I would like to hand it over to my German partner, Charge Milan Simandl, whose nation is energetically engaged in this important effort.

###

Secretary Kerry Addresses Inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/U.S. State Department Entrepreneurship Program

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 NOTICE TO THE PRESS

March 5, 2015

Secretary Kerry Addresses Inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/U.S. State Department Entrepreneurship Program

Secretary John Kerry will deliver opening remarks at a luncheon of the inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/U.S. State Department Entrepreneurship Program at noon on Monday, March 9, 2015 at the Department of State.

The luncheon will also feature remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan and Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

This recently launched public-private partnership, conducted in coordination with Harvard Kennedy School, provides 29 women entrepreneurs engaged in business, media, and nonprofit sectors from the Middle East and Northern Africa with a two-week program focused on entrepreneurship, leadership training, mentoring, and networking.

The program directly supports U.S. goals of advancing women’s efforts to become financially independent through entrepreneurship and utilizing their economic strength to improve communities. The women entrepreneurs are from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Secretary’s remarks will be open to press and streamed live at http://redirect.state.sbu/?url=www.state.gov.  Follow @StateDept and @ECAatState using the hashtags #EmpowerWomen and #10KWomen.

Pre-set time for video cameras: 11:00 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.

Final access time for journalists and still photographers: 11:30 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.

Media representatives may attend this briefing upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver’s license or passport).

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women is a global initiative to foster economic growth by providing women around the world with business and management education, mentoring, networking and access to capital.

For more information, please contact the Press Office at (202) 647-2492 or the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at ECA-Press@state.gov.

Official Transcript of Foreign Press Center Briefing with Marie Harf

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON

TOPIC: FOREIGN POLICY UPDATE

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014, 3:00 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Hello, everyone. It’s so good to be back here, I think for my fifth briefing they were saying, so looking forward to this one and, of course, to many more.

As you know, there’s a lot going on in the world. Secretary Kerry is currently in Cairo, working to see if we can make progress on getting a ceasefire with Gaza. I was in Vienna for the last few weeks working on the Iran negotiations on the nuclear program, lots going on there as well. Obviously, you’ve seen all of the news about Ukraine lately. I’ve spoken to it a number of times in the briefing over in the State Department, but I’m sure there are questions on that as well.

So with that, I think I’m going to go ahead and open it up to questions. I’m going to try and get to everyone, so go ahead. We’ll start here and I’ll work down the front and then move towards the back. And please say – I know most of you now, but please say your name and where you’re from as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Sonia Schott. I am today with RCA in Colombia. My question is on Latin America. There are some news that the Venezuelan general Hugo Carvajal has been arrested yesterday in Aruba under the request of the U.S. I was wondering if you have any comments on that.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to look into it. I’m sorry, the first question I don’t have an answer to, but I hadn’t seen that. It sounds a little dubious to me, but we can check afterwards and get you an answer.

QUESTION: I have a second one, just —

MS. HARF: Okay. Then ask a second. Hopefully I can answer this one.

QUESTION: Okay. The opposition leader in Venezuela is facing a trial and presently his wife was here denouncing a lack of transparency. I was wondering if you have any comments on that too. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve said throughout the crisis in Venezuela that this is a decision for the Venezuelan people to make. There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition. We cannot see arrest of – for political reasons. We have to see a process go forward that’s inclusive. We haven’t seen a lot of progress there, but this is certainly a key priority for us. It’s not about the United States, as much as sometimes the regime would like to point at us. It’s about what the Venezuelan people want and indeed deserve. So I don’t have any more updates for you than that, but obviously, we want to see an inclusive process going forward.

Yes. I’m just going to go across the front here.

QUESTION: Shi Larasteve (ph), Voice of America, Persian TV. Yesterday, a group of Republican lawmakers unveiled a legislation which forces – if passed, forces the Administration, President Obama, to seek approval from the Congress for any final deal with Iran. What is the Administration’s strategy against these maneuvers?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are aware there’s new proposed legislation regarding the Joint Plan of Action, any final comprehensive Joint Plan of Action we would get to. But I’d make a few key points here. The first is that Congress has played a key role throughout the years in our policy towards Iran, most importantly by imposing very serious and significant sanctions on Iran to put the economic pressure in place that indeed has, in part, led us to the diplomatic place we are today.

But there are not 535 commanders-in-chief; there’s just one. And our diplomatic negotiating team led by the President and the Secretary and our team on the ground – I was just there for three weeks – really needs the space to be able to negotiate with the Iranians and with our partners to get to a comprehensive agreement. We have been clear with Congress that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, to ensure their program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. But indeed, we need space to be able to get the right combination of pieces to eventually get there.

So we don’t support attempts by Congress to try to insert themselves into outlining what a final deal might look like; indeed, there are a number of different combinations that could get to our goals here, and we need the space to be able to get there. So we will continue to talk to Congress, to hear from them. We’d like to hear their ideas, but we don’t support this type of legislation.

Yes. I like your tie. It’s very festive.

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I do. I like it.

QUESTION: I like it too. (Laughter.) This is my special tie to get questions at briefings, (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There you go. It worked, clearly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: It worked.

QUESTION: My name’s Andrei Sitov. I’m with TASS, the Russian news agency. Thank you for doing the briefing. We do look forward to many more. Thanks for our friends at the FPC for hosting it.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: A couple of things. On Ukraine, first off – and I quote – you said about 20 seconds ago, “There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition.” The Ukrainian parliament has just taken steps, so the Ukrainian Government supports those steps to dissolve their Communist Party. Isn’t it stifling the opposition, the criticism, political voices?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. I think I do believe what you’re referring to is draft legislation that hasn’t been approved that would ban the Communist Party. The Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine today. We do believe that all peaceful voices should be heard anywhere. So obviously, that’s something we feel is important in Ukraine and elsewhere. We will continue looking at the draft legislation as it goes through the process, but again, as of today, the Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine.

QUESTION: But do you support a ban? Do you support a ban?

MS. HARF: As I said, we’re not taking a position on the legislation other than to say that all peaceful voices should be heard in Ukraine.

QUESTION: And secondly, and more importantly, obviously, with the tragic loss of the Malaysian airplane, the Russian defense ministry have released their own tracking data and have called on others, specifically on the United States, to release yours.

MS. HARF: To release what?

QUESTION: So – the tracking data from – I understand it’s from the satellites, from what they saw from the satellites on that particular day. And they claim that there was a U.S. satellite directly above that spot on that particular day – maybe a coincidence, maybe not. They – again, have you seen their data? What do you think about their information?

And secondly, can we expect you to release yours?

MS. HARF: Well, we have released up to this point our assessment about what happened and we’ve released as much information as we can at this point, that we’ve been able to declassify that underlies that assessment. So we are continuing to work through releasing more. But I’d just make a few points, and then if you have follow-ups, we can – you wore the tie today; we can keep talking. So that’s okay.

So first, we, based on a variety of information, assess, believe that this was an SA-11 fired from an area controlled by Russian separatists inside Ukraine. We have released a photo which has the trajectory of that missile based on classified information. We can’t get into how we know that. We have released that. We have also released additional information about why the two alternative theories put forward by the Russians are not plausible – the first being that it was a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter that shot down the aircraft.

Very briefly, the reasons we do not believe that this is plausible is because the only missiles it carries are short-range infrared guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with expected damage from a surface-to-air missile of the kind the separatists have indeed used and bragged about having, does not correspond to the kind of – what we would expect to see from an air-to-air missile such as the Su-25 has.

So we have put forward our assessment, based on a variety of information about why we believe that it indeed was an SA-11 fired from Russian-controlled separatist area. We believe an investigation needs to go forward to determine exactly who had their finger on the trigger. We still don’t know that, don’t know the intentions behind why they did this. So we think an investigation should continue, but we will continue to put out more information as we are able to do so.

QUESTION: And —

MS. HARF: Do you want the microphone? Should we wait?

QUESTION: — about their own data, have you seen the data released by the Russians?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of the information put out by the Russians. Again, we feel very strongly in our assessment of what happened.

Yes, I am just going to go across the front here. So – and then I will get to the rest of the room. I promise.

QUESTION: Sungchul Rhee with SBS Seoul Broadcasting System from Seoul, Korea. I have two questions on Russia.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: First is that this morning, Russian Government expressed concern over United States plan to introduce missile defense system in Korea – U.S. camps. It was the – it was called THAAD – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. What is your reaction to the – Russia’s statement here?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see that specific statement, but in terms of missile defense, we have very clearly said we are committed to missile defense but also to missile defense cooperation with Russia, which would enhance the security of both NATO and of Russia. I understand there are strong opinions here in Russia about missile defense, but we have been very clear that it is not aimed at them, that we are looking at a variety of other threats, and that we will continue talking to them and being transparent with them about why we’re doing what we’re doing.

I haven’t seen this —

QUESTION: You mean the North Korean threat?

MS. HARF: Well, we are looking at a variety of threats when we talk about NATO and now we’re often looking at Iran when we talk about other places, we do look at a threat from North Korea, but – a variety of threats we’re looking at, but they are not designed to deter anything from Russia. Indeed, we’ve said we will cooperate with Russia on missile defense.

QUESTION: My second question is: You are dealing with really a lot of global issues at the same time which really you’re juggling. And – but not a few critics are criticizing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, questioning on – if President Obama is adequately dealing with all the issues at the same time effectively. Even General Jim Jones, a former national security advisor to President Obama, appeared on TV this morning and he was citing a seismic shift in the relations between the United States and Russia. What is your reaction to those issues?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple questions there and let me try to address all of them. I think in terms of our relationship with Russia over the time we’ve been in office in this Administration, we have always said we will work together when we can. If you look at – I mean, again, going back to Vienna where I was for the Iran talks, we and the Russians are in lockstep on the exact same side about how we deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. We work very closely together on that issue. That doesn’t take away from the fact that much of what I have talked about this week at the briefings and that we deal with right now in the Administration is very serious concerns about Russian activity in Ukraine. And I’ve been very – I think we’ve all been very outspoken about that in our serious concerns there.

So it’s complicated. We work together when we can and we very strongly disagree when we do. And all of those things happen at the same time because the world is a big place, and we have places where we do have overlapping interests like when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. But very many places where we have very divergent interests as well, as you’ve seen with Ukraine.

But on the broader question of foreign policy, you’re right; the world is a complicated, dangerous place at times. We are dealing with very serious crises, whether you look at Gaza, whether you look at Ukraine, whether you look at the host of other issues we’re dealing with right now.

And what we’ve always said is that we will do a few things, right. We have, since the beginning of this Administration, rebuilt partnerships and alliances if you look all over the world. Because in these crises, you need friends and you need partners and you need allies. And so while you can never make the world a perfect place, you can help address these when you have people on your side helping you. So that’s one thing we’ve done in terms of these challenges.

And I think you’ve seen Secretary Kerry not hesitate to get on a plane and try and make progress here. We have been very actively engaged in diplomacy and diplomatic efforts on all of these crises. We believe that diplomacy in many of these instances is the best way to handle it. That’s why you see him flying all over the world, to try and make progress here, because we are deeply and personally present and engaged in trying to deal with these crises. But they’re difficult and the world is complicated, and there are no easy answers, and people who tell you there are either just not paying attention or aren’t telling you the truth – one of the two.

So I think we will keep working on all of them. We take each one individually. There’s a different way we deal with all of them, but we have a really great team who is working very hard to do so.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah, we can go back. Yes, yes.

MS. HARF: But you need a microphone, Andrei.

QUESTION: And just what is your biggest success story in terms of winning new friends? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, when we took office – I think you can look at when we took office in 2009, which feels like an eternity ago probably to all of us, a lot of our relationships had waned in Asia, in Europe, all around the world. There had been eight years of neglect, and in some cases outright disagreement. So we have worked very, very hard over the past, I think, now six years – is that how long it’s been? – to rebuild these alliances. If you look, again, at the P5+1 in Europe and how we’re working on Iran together, we built an international coalition on Iran – not just at the negotiating table through the P5+1, but with all of the countries that buy oil from Iran, with all of the countries who have put sanctions in place, whether it’s Japan, South Korea, the UAE, India, China, all of the countries we’ve brought together to put pressure on Iran. That was done with really painstaking diplomatic work, with people going all over the world and saying, “This is why you should join us,” even though it’s really tough for many of these countries economically.

So I think that’s just one way we’ve done it. But again, look, these are tough challenges that we face.

I’m actually going to go to New York for a question, if they can hear me.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. With regard to the recent development in the Gaza Strip and the bombardment of the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun and the increasing number of innocent civilian casualties, what does the Secretary Kerry have to say about the recent development, and would that be categorized as a war crime from the U.S. Department of State perspective and precedents? And with regard to Iraq, and excuse me, I’m going to bundle my questions together —

MS. HARF: Let me do Gaza first. You stay there and I’ll come back to you for Iraq, okay? So I don’t forget. So just stay there. On the UNRWA school, we are deeply saddened, very concerned about the tragic incident at the UN facility today. We’re still trying to determine the facts. But I think the reason the Secretary is on the ground in Cairo, has been shuttling back and forth trying to get a ceasefire here is because this – everything that we see happening needs to stop. We are increasingly concerned about civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. We’ve seen many, many rockets being fired from Hamas into Israel.

So the Secretary is very committed to seeing if he can get a ceasefire here. Obviously, it’s very complicated and it takes a lot of work on all sides to get that done. So we will continue working on it and we are very concerned by the rising civilian casualties. We think the Israelis need to do more to prevent them, and we’ll keep talking to them about it.

Now your second question on Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on Gaza before we move to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Sure, you can. Yes.

QUESTION: For Gaza, there is an apparent war crime committed today. How does the United States justify this to its people, to the international community, within the principles and manners that the United States try to be a mediator in this conflict?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still trying to get all the facts about what happened today, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions or put labels before we know all of the facts. What we do know is that Hamas has repeatedly kept rockets in civilian areas – in schools, in hospitals. But at the same time, we have told the Israelis and we have said publicly that they need to take more steps to protect civilian casualties, that they’re not doing enough. So we’ll get all the facts about this before we make a determination there.

But again, this just underscores why we believe a ceasefire is so critical to try to get in place. There are gaps between the two sides that remain. I don’t know if we’ll be able to, but we’re certainly working towards it for exactly this reason.

QUESTION: Moving along to Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is persecuting Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, people from the Shabak, just for their religious faith and affiliation. To add to the crisis, there is some reports speaking about that the ISIL government, or whatever we can call it, is now requiring all females to go through female genital mutilation surgeries. Would there be within the UN Charter – would the United States consider pushing into the Security Council, applying Chapter 7 for military action against the ISIL militias at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, just a few points in what you asked. We are aware there are conflicting reports about ISIL issuing a decree ordering female genital mutilation. We’re aware there are some conflicting reports here. We are gathering more information. We can’t confirm the details at this point. But that goes without saying that we clearly condemn strongly this abhorrent practice no matter where it is. We know it can lead to very serious health consequences. We know it’s affected approximately 130 million women and girls worldwide, which is an extraordinary number and which is really unacceptable.

So we’ll get more details on this. But more broadly speaking, we have seen ISIL or ISIS, whatever name we want to use, go to extraordinary lengths to kill civilians, to attack them, oftentimes just for their religion, which is – has absolutely no place at all in Syria or Iraq. That’s why we’ve tried to help the Iraqis fight ISIL certainly by providing support, by providing assistance. We are providing advice to them and also, of course, weapons. When it comes on the Syrian side, we have increased our support to the moderate opposition, including through asking Congress for some funding so we can equip and train them. So those efforts are all ongoing, and we’re trying to help both of those folks fight ISIL now. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of UN Security Council action, but clearly we believe we, acting in partnership with our friends in the region, can try and help them fight this threat because they have really – I mean, you see some of the Christian communities, some of the things they’re doing there. It’s just disgusting, and we need to help put it to an end.

Yes, let’s go to the back here in the white jacket. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this briefing, Ms. Harf. My name is Maria Garcia. I’m with Notimex, the Mexican news agency. The U.S. Bishop Conference sent a letter today to Secretary Kerry, and they ask to change the trade and economic policies in Central America and also address issues of drugs here and the trafficking of armaments. I wonder if the Secretary has any knowledge of the document or – and if you have any thoughts about that.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the letter yet. You said it was sent today? Yeah. I’m sorry. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not sure if the Secretary has yet. As you know, he’s traveling, and I’m sure it will get to him soon. Obviously – and I was actually with the Secretary during his last trip there to Mexico City – there are a whole range of issues we’re working on in the region, including the security issues and when it comes to drugs and trafficking and those issues. We’ve talked a lot about the unaccompanied minors and children issue that we’ve seen coming across the border in such huge numbers lately. So there’s a whole range of issues. Trade, you mentioned, is one of them as well. So we’ll take a look at the letter when we get it, and I’m sure we’ll have some thoughts on it then. But suffice it to say, I don’t have any specific thoughts, because I haven’t seen it yet. I’m sorry.

Yes, let’s go right here in the middle, and then I’ll go to you. Let’s do you first, and then you’re next.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Lauri Tankler with the Estonian Public Broadcasting. I got a couple questions on Ukraine —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — and Russia. So in your last briefing today, you already came out with the statement that you have evidence that Russia is shelling Ukraine from the —

MS. HARF: Firing artillery.

QUESTION: Yeah, firing from the Russian side of the border. What is that going to be – what does that mean in terms of that’s clearly an escalation? And what does that mean in the face of the threat of sectoral sanctions by the U.S.? Or what’s going to happen now?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question. You’ve seen us continue to impose increasingly tough sanctions throughout this conflict, including very recently. And we have more ready to go if we think it’s appropriate to do so. So we’ll talk with – we’re particularly talking with our EU and European partners about how we can all impose more costs on Russia here. We know they’ve already had an impact. I don’t have anything new to announce today in terms of what might come next, but we have more steps ready to go, and we are willing to use them if we see more escalation of this kind.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the European Union is under more and more criticism about not getting the decision done and pushing it forward to Tuesday and so on. Does the Administration still believe that it’s addressing the Russian question in lockstep with its European allies?

MS. HARF: Well, we do. We coordinate very closely on this, and we do think that the downing of MH17 should be a wakeup call for Europe. This happened in their backyard. There were many Europeans on this plane. This can’t go unpunished, so I think that’s a conversation we’re having. We do, at the same time, know that it is – Europe is much more economically intertwined with Russia than we are, for example, and we don’t want them to have to take steps that would adversely impact their economy while trying to impose costs on the Russians. So it is a balance, but we think there’s a way to strike it where they can impose more costs, and we’re encouraging them to do so.

QUESTION: But no criticism?

MS. HARF: I think I just encouraged them to do more, and I’ve said this should be a wakeup call, and we haven’t seen them do more yet, we saw them do a little bit coming out of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting this week. No criticism, but we will keep working with them. We know it’s hard, but we do think more costs need to be imposed.

Yes, I’m going to go to you, and then I’m going to go to New York next. So one more here, and then to New York.

QUESTION: Thank you. Inga Czerny for Polish Press Agency, PAP. Could you please tell us if it’s a good or bad thing that European Court of Justice in Strasbourg today found Poland guilty of helping the U.S. setting up the secret prison of CIA where people were tortured? And generally, how do you find the fact that Poland is being held accountable for this and in U.S. nobody was actually charged?

MS. HARF: Well, I saw those reports, and I think I, unfortunately, won’t be able to comment on them in any way. We obviously have a very close relationship with Poland today on a host of issues, but I just don’t have much more for you than that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) when can we expect the report – the Senate report of the interrogation program?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the Senate Select Committee on that. I think they probably have the best information on timing. I don’t know the timing, quite frankly.

Let’s go to New York for a question.

QUESTION: Paolo Mastrolilli of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Thank you very much for doing this. You say that there are still gaps to fill in the negotiation for a truce in Gaza. Could you please elaborate on that and what are the hopes to (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, I wish I could, but we’re having these conversations privately and diplomatically to see if we can bridge those and aren’t going to detail the specifics in public. But this is complicated, and there’s a lot of issues that we need to deal with to get to a ceasefire, a lot of different partners we’re working with. The Secretary today has spoken with the Turkish foreign minister, the Egyptian foreign minister, the Qatari foreign minister, the Israeli prime minister, the French, the Brits, the Jordanians, a whole host of people, not all just on this topic, but to try and get everybody who has some influence with Hamas or with Israel to try and get us to a place where we can all agree on a ceasefire. Obviously we don’t talk to Hamas because we consider them a terrorist organization, but there are some of our partners who do. So we are trying to bridge the gaps through any means we can, but it’s hard and I don’t want to downplay how difficult it is.

Thanks. Let’s go to you in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Daniel Pacheco with Caracol Television from Colombia. Two questions. General Carvajal from Venezuela who was appointed in the consulate in Aruba was captured today. There are some reports that he sought for extradition. I don’t know if you maybe have something on that.

MS. HARF: I got – that was the first question I got asked.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: No, no, no, no. It’s okay. And I will say the same thing – that I hadn’t seen those reports and I don’t know the facts here. It sounds a little dubious to me, but I don’t know. So I will check and I will get you an answer, I promise.

QUESTION: This one is broader, so I’m sure you can say something.

MS. HARF: Let’s hope so.

QUESTION: President Putin was touring Latin America just before the Malaysian Airlines accident, the tragedy. He was welcomed in Argentina, in Brazil. He even met with President Santos, a big ally of the United States. Was this a very successful tour? Does this – what is your comment on this in times when you are constantly talking about isolating Russia economically and politically?

MS. HARF: Well, we do talk about isolating Russia, but as I also said a few minutes ago, we work with Russia. The Iran talks where I just was recently, we are on the same side of this issue, we are working together on the same side of the negotiating table. So we don’t believe these things are mutually exclusive, and we think other countries can and should have strong relationships with Russia, and we work with them on many issues.

So I’ve seen some of the reports from his trip there. I know a number of folks were in the region for the BRICS summit. And look, we believe countries should have relationships with other countries; doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make very clear when they disagree with them, which, of course, we do in this case.

Yes. Coming up to you.

QUESTION: Michael Ignatiou from Mega TV, Greece. Marie, you and other officials of the American Government, you are asking the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine, and you are doing this every day. But at the same time, you never ask your friend and ally, Turkey, for example, to withdraw from Cyprus. As you know, Turkey has occupied Cyprus for 40 years. What is the difference or differences between the two cases? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, I think there are many differences that I’m happy to talk about. In terms of Cyprus, we fully support the ongoing process under the auspices of the UN Good Offices mission; have urged both parties to seize the opportunity to make real and substantial progress toward a settlement that reunifies the island as a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. We, as the United States, are willing to assist in any way we find useful.

I know that there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but there’s a process in place here to get a resolution here, and we fully support that process and can help in any way we can, but completely different situation.

Yes. I’m going to go to the gentleman in the middle back here with the blue shirt on. Yes, you.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. My name is Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper Die Presse. I have a short follow-up, and then a question on public diplomacy.

MS. HARF: I just spent a lot of time in Austria. (Laughter.) It was lovely.

QUESTION: It was pretty nice, and I think I saw the pictures from the Secretary.

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: The short follow-up on the European Court of Human Rights question on (inaudible): Can you just explain why the Administration wouldn’t comment on this court’s finding? I do recollect that you quite regularly comment on European legal findings by the European Court of Justice or the – so —

MS. HARF: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

QUESTION: So if you could explain that. And then the second question would be about the reform of Voice of America. What do you make of criticism that the – I think it’s called the United States International Communications Reform Act that is in Congress now would sort of impinge on the editorial independence and the journalistic freedom of reporters working for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and so forth by turning it into a public diplomacy tool as it is envisioned and planned in this legislation?

MS. HARF: Right, no. We support Voice of America remaining as it is, believe it’s a very important journalistic outlet. There may be some of you in the room from Voice of America or from other related outlets. And we, I don’t think, would support efforts to take away some of the independence like we’ve seen some people on the Hill want to do. So I don’t think that’s something we would support. We’ll keep talking to Congress about it, obviously.

On the first, we don’t always comment on those kinds of cases, particularly when they involve allegations about U.S. intelligence activities, so unfortunately I just don’t have more of a comment for you on that.

Yes, I’m going to go behind you to this woman whose hand is still up. Yes, in the black shirt.

QUESTION: Hi, Lisa Rizzolo from ARD German TV. And I know you were asked at your earlier briefing about the European Union putting out a statement about the execution in Arizona, and I just wanted to see if you’ve seen anything on that and if you have anything.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I literally ran over here right after the briefing and hadn’t seen it. I’ve seen some of the press reports about it. And if we can take a look and if there’s an additional comment to make, I’m happy to get it around to folks. Just running around a little bit today, sorry.

Let’s go right here on the left.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’m Chuanjun Wang from China’s Guangming Daily. As we know, last year in Sunnylands summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the new model of major-countries relationship with the U.S. During that time, President Obama and later high officials from the U.S. all give a positive reaction on that proposal, but recently, especially in the past three months, I noticed that during the meetings with the Chinese officials, the U.S. officials said and used the major – a new model of a major-power relationship with China, even in the SED, in the (inaudible). President Obama only used the new model of (inaudible), so I just wonder if the U.S. has changed the position on this new model and how U.S. and China should move forward regarding that.

MS. HARF: Right. Well, no, we haven’t. And you’re right, President Obama and President Xi made clear at Sunnylands last year that they are committed to building a historic bilateral relationship based on really two critical elements, and both are important. One, practical cooperation on areas where we do cooperate; and then two, constructive management of differences when they arise. And I think that is – both of those have been the hallmarks of our relationship going forward. At the S&ED, there were a number of very productive conversations that came out of those meetings. Again, cooperation where we can and constructive management of differences when we have them – those both underpin our relationship, and nothing on that has changed.

Yes. Let’s go in the middle here, and then I’ll come up front to you.

QUESTION: Michael Hernandez, Anadolu Agency. Today at the State Department, I believe you said that something like three times the Secretary has been in contact with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

MS. HARF: He has. Today he’s spoken to him three times.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s among the most or the most that you outlined during the earlier briefing. I was wondering, what is behind this close consultation between the Secretary and foreign minister? What’s motivating it?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it’s not – so just to be clear, he’s made – the count as I have on here, 15 or so phone calls today, many of them related to Gaza. So it’s part of his broader engagement on Gaza. He’s spoken to the Qatari foreign minister twice today as well. So it’s, at least with the Turks and others, related to how we can push the parties to a ceasefire in Gaza.

The other consultation, much of it has been on Ukraine and MH17.

Yes. I will go back here. Yes.

QUESTION: I’m Anwar Iqbal. I work for Pakistan Dawn newspaper. There is a Pakistani delegation here, and they met Deputy Secretary Burns and Dan Feldman and others – officials at State and White House. And there was an AP report suggesting that they are asking the United States to reconsider their withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, and they also had a discussion on the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. So would you please like to comment on those?

MS. HARF: I haven’t gotten a full readout from those meetings yet. I know they discussed a wide range of issues. I can check and see, but I haven’t gotten a readout from those meetings yet.

Would you have one up here? Yes.

QUESTION: This week, Iraqis’ ambassador to Washington criticized the Administration for lack of support – military support for his country, and claimed that this creates vacuum which they are going to – willing to give to anybody to fill it. And they said Iran has offered literally to replace the United States. So what is the position?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a few points. No other country, I think, can do what the United States does in terms of support. We have been very supportive of the Iraqi Government. We have done that with assistance, with weapons, with advice, with training. There are some systems we’re still trying to get delivered, which the main holdup has been slowness on the Iraqi Government’s side throughout the years. But I think now they understand the severity of the situation, and we’re trying to get things delivered as quickly as possible. And we stand ready to assist in a number of ways.

But at the end of the day, this is not a problem we can fix for the Iraqis. It is a problem that needs to be fixed by them. We saw today a president being named. Next step is the prime minister, so we can hopefully soon have a new government in place that can put forward a strategy to deal with this terrorist threat as we go forward. And we’ll help them as they do it, but we can’t do it for them. So I think we are looking forward to working with the new government and seeing what else we could possibly do to help.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t work with Iran on Iraq. We have spoken on one occasion to Iran about it on the sidelines of another meeting, many weeks ago now. But look, we’re not going to coordinate with Iran on Iraq. What we’ve said is any country in the region, including Iran, should use its influence over different parties in Iraq to pull them together, to promote an inclusive government that – and that it’s the Iraqi army and security forces that need to fight this threat. It’s not militias; it’s not anything outside of the government. And so we’re encouraging all parties, including Iran, to do so.

Yes, and then I’ll go – actually, I’ll go to you. And then I’ll come back up to you, Andrei. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: My name is Jae Sun Chang, Yonhap News Agency from South Korea. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui has said today that the United States should lower the bar for resuming the Six-Party Talks, and he also accused the United States of trying to achieve its target before the talks even resume. What’s your response?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see those specific comments, but we’ve worked very closely with the South Koreans and other partners on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We are very committed to it. We’ve said that the North Koreans need to take certain steps before we can get back to the table, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.

QUESTION: Many critics say the United States is basically ignoring this problem of North Korean nuclear program and – while this communist nation is strengthening its nuclear capabilities day by day and – do you see any urgency in the problem?

MS. HARF: We do, and we’re certainly not ignoring it. We see quite a bit of urgency. And I think that’s why, speaking to your previous question, we do think there should be a high bar here, that it is a very dangerous threat. We’ve seen increasingly provocative rhetoric coming out of North Korea, including with recent missile launches that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. So it’s an issue we have a whole team very focused on, are working with our partners and the rest of the Six-Party as well, to see if we can get back to the table here.

QUESTION: My last question is, South Korea and China earlier this week signed an agreement to establish a hotline between the defense ministry of the two countries. I think China is the second country to have – after the United States – to have a hotline with South Korea’s defense ministry. This is yet another sign of deepening relations between the two countries, and what is your response?

MS. HARF: Right. Well – and we think the concept of hotlines in general, particularly if you’re talking about territorial disputes in either the South China Sea or the East China Sea, tend to be a good idea. The Japanese have talked about doing this as well. So anything that can reduce tensions and try to get these disputes resolved peacefully we do think is a good thing. So those – that’s just one of those steps that we tend to, sort of across the board, like.

Yes, Andrei.

QUESTION: Marie, when we were talking about this incident with MH17, you said that you are for a full investigation —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — full and fair investigation and getting to know whose finger was on that button or whatever it was that launched the missile. So basically, it’s an open question yet for you?

MS. HARF: No, that’s not what I said. We know a couple – here’s what we know based on a very wide-ranging assessment, that it was – let me just – and then you can ask follow-up. We know where the missile was fired from; we know that it was an SA-11; we know the area is controlled by Russian separatists. We know that there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the vicinity that could’ve been fired. We know the trajectory, we know where it hit, and we know where it came down. We know that Russia has been supplying the separatists with weapons and training them on these weapons.

Now who – which one of them actually had their finger on the button, you’re right, we don’t know that. We don’t. But we know where the missile was fired from. We know who fired it, who controls that – generally speaking – and who controls that territory, who’s been funding and arming and training these folks.

QUESTION: My original question was about prejudging, because on one of the other questions you said that – on the question about the Europeans and the sanctions against Russia, you said, yeah, it cannot go unpunished. So you already know whom to punish?

MS. HARF: We know who —

QUESTION: Which is prejudging.

MS. HARF: Well, no. We know who’s been supporting these separatists for months. We know that these separatists would not be in eastern Ukraine, able to do this, without the direct backing of President Putin and the Russian Government. They wouldn’t even be there without the Russian Government’s support. They wouldn’t have weaponry without the Russian Government’s support. Forgetting about this specific incident, they wouldn’t – they today, again, have been bragging about more Ukrainian fighter jets they’ve brought down.

So we will do a full investigation into MH17, but these separatists would not be there —

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: — without the support of the Russian Government.

QUESTION: — I don’t think you are right about that. I could tell you in response that without the government – Ukrainian Government planes flying over Ukrainian cities and bombing Ukrainian peaceful civilians —

MS. HARF: That’s not —

QUESTION: — there would be no need for the civilians to defend themselves.

MS. HARF: That’s not what’s happening here.

QUESTION: And it is what’s happening.

MS. HARF: It’s not.

QUESTION: And everybody knows that’s what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we can agree to disagree —

QUESTION: But basically – yeah, I know.

MS. HARF: — on this.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. HARF: But we have a preponderance of evidence on our side here.

QUESTION: But the question that I wanted to ask about this was: Why is it that you are so adamant about not admitting even the possibility that the missile was launched mistakenly or deliberately by the Ukrainians? They had their own motives for that.

MS. HARF: They don’t, though. Let me just address that specific point. Russia did release a map with alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. We are confident that this information is incorrect. We have information that the nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of range from both the launch and the crash sites. So there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the range. So again, we can’t make up our own facts here. We can’t go on hunches. We have pictures of where this was launched from. We can see the trajectory. And so what we need now, as President Putin himself has said, is a full investigation. We need to see that backed up with actions, and we need to see some accountability.

QUESTION: This is your information, not information coming from Twitter or from the Ukrainians or whatever?

MS. HARF: No, this is our information. We have eyes on this area and we’ve seen some of this. Yeah.

Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Hello, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, in Japan. The President Putin originally has a plan to visit Japan. And as you know, Japan is preparing for a peace treaty with Russia, and we have a territory issue – and a northern territory issues. So I’m just wondering that – are you supporting these – the Japanese efforts for resolving the – these – the country, territory —

MS. HARF: Well, we want Japan to have good relations with its neighbors and with other countries in the region. I don’t have more of a comment than that on what you asked about specifically. I think probably up to the Japanese to speak about that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Again, we believe that Japan should have good relationships with its neighbors. Japan is one of our closest alliances in the world. We work together on a whole host of issues, one of our most important friends that we have, and so we’ll continue working together.

QUESTION: And the same time, on the – DPRK abduction issues, you know?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Probably it’s on July 6th that Secretary Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, and there is some report indicate United States is concerned about the lifting sanction or visiting. Prime Minister Abe is also – has also now – there is a possibility to visit North Korea. Do you – what is the position on that? Are you concerned about the visit to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of the abductions issue or whether the prime minister will go to North Korea, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner. I am aware of press reports indicating that Prime Minister Abe is actually not currently considering a visit to Pyongyang. I know there’s been some conflicting reporting out there, but I don’t think he is right now. I think the Japanese Government probably has the most up-to-date information on that.

Let’s do a few more. Yes, right here, and then I’ll go up to the lady in front of you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. I’m from China, with China News Service. Just now, you mentioned if it’s necessary, United States will have more steps to sanctions U.S. – the Russia if the tension escalated. So how do you define that? And yesterday, reports say the United States officials told CNN that the more troops moving to the border of the Ukraine. Is that one of them?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly – we would consider that escalation, yes. Look, there’s not one blanket definition here. We take a look at the steps across the board that we’ve seen. We make assessments on a day-by-day basis. People are very focused on this. We have more steps ready to go if we are – if we decide to take them. But it’s an ongoing process here. And there is a diplomatic path forward. We have consistently said that even as we increase pressure, there’s a different path that Russia can choose to take. And I think hopefully they will do so.

Let’s do a couple more. Yes, you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) mentioned the difficulties of the Europeans and you understand the difficulties of the Europeans in proceeding with sanctions against Russians given – Russia given the energy dependence. Can – and the IMF just warned today, actually, of the rising tensions, geopolitical tensions actually having an effect on oil prices. And I can tell you from experience the oil prices in Europe are much higher than what they are in the United States, especially in some countries like my own, which are also coming out of a very difficult crisis. Now, what can the U.S. do to assist Europe in its effort towards more energy security and diversification? Are you working with them on specific projects?

MS. HARF: We’re working together very closely. It’s a conversation we have all the time, because we know it’s difficult and we know that as more costs are imposed on Russia it will get harder for the Europeans across the board on this issue. So we work together to talk about energy flows, how we can help, energy independence, all of these issues, alternative energy, clean energy, basically how we can help relieve the pressure, if we can, by working together.

But it’s really a long-term issue. There are things we can do now, but it really is more of a discussion about what we do over the long term, so if there are crises like this we don’t have the same pressure and we can help Europe with its energy situation so we don’t have the same kind of considerations. But it is much more of a long-term issue, but we are working together at a number of levels now on that.

Yes. Let’s go – go ahead, here. Let’s do just a couple more. And we’ll go back here to folks who haven’t had a question yet next.

QUESTION: Hi. China has been proposing the Asian infrastructure development bank, and earlier this month I read news from China media who quoting – which quoting the South Korean media saying that U.S. high officials request South Korea not to support China on this issue. I just want get your comment on that. And also, what’s the U.S. position on the China’s Asian infrastructure development bank?

MS. HARF: I’m not actually familiar with that issue. So I’m happy to check with our folks and see if we have a position and what that is, and we can make sure we get it to you.

Let’s go to the back here for two of you who haven’t had questions yet.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Xavier Vila, Catalunya Radio in Barcelona. Are you aware of these – administration planning to send anyone, any observers to Scotland for the referendum in September and the Catalan one in November, or this is something that’s going to be controlled by the consulates and embassies in those areas? Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of us sending anyone. I can check, but I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: You’re not sending anyone?

MS. HARF: Yeah, not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep. Let’s go right behind you, and then I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: Yeah. This is Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News, Pakistan. A couple of days ago the former president Mr. Zardari was in town and had meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. So could you tell us something about that meeting, because there are too many speculations in Pakistan about that meeting. And secondly, U.S. expressing its concerns over the Haqqani Network, about their safe havens in North Waziristan (inaudible). Despite knowing that, the Pakistani military is – right now is in military operations going on there. So what type of concerns you have now about the Haqqani Network? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, on the first question, I think that the Vice President’s office is probably better able to speak about their meeting. I don’t have more details to share on that.

But look, we’ve long been very focused on the Haqqani Network, on their intent to cause instability in Afghanistan, to attack and kill U.S. citizens, which we’ve seen, and military service members particularly. And it’s been one of our top priorities to bring to bear sort of all of the elements of our power to help fight this threat, to degrade its capability to carry out attacks, to prevent it from raising money, and to prevent it from moving people around. So this remains one of our top priorities. We know it’s a challenge. We’re working to help particularly in Afghanistan fight this threat.

Anyone else? Let’s do just two more here. We’ll do right here, and then you can wrap us up.

QUESTION: My name is Inoue from Kyodo News Japan. Thank you for doing this.

MS. HARF: Good to see you.

QUESTION: I have a question about the SA-11. The SA-11 was apparently used by the separatists in Ukraine, that it – they are not state – they are non-state actor.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So do you think this incident would have any implication when you’re considering – when you’re trying to ratchet up the assistance to Syrian opposite? Because they have asked you to provide like surface-to-air missiles, like MANPADS. So do you think this incident may have any impact to your – on your decision.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve – sorry. Finish your question. Sorry. I jumped in there a little early. Look, when it comes to that issue, we have said for a very long time that we have concerns about providing those types of systems in Syria because of the risks. You just need to see the past few days to see that. And so our position on that hasn’t changed. Any assistance we’re providing to the opposition in Syria, it’s a judgment that you make. We want to make sure people are vetted properly, that you feel comfortable providing them with assistance, and that you calibrate that assistance so you don’t give them the types of assistance that could end up in the hands of some pretty bad people and that could do pretty bad things with them. So that’s why our position on that has remained consistent. We are – concerns about the risk of the system.

Last – we’ll do two more. Two more. In the back, and then you can wrap us up, up front.

QUESTION: Thank you. Short question on Ukraine. Do you still exclude delivering any military relief or assistance to Ukrainians to have them restore the sovereignty themselves?

MS. HARF: Right. So we’ve provided a great deal of assistance monetarily and with other kinds of support as well, material support to the Ukrainians. But they – look, there’s not a military solution here, right. We need to see de-escalation. Quite frankly, nothing we gave the Ukrainian military could put it on par with the Russian military, which is why there’s not a military solution here. The Ukrainians have a right to defend their people and their territory. We’ve seen them do that. We’ll continue supporting them, again with material and assistance and money. And we review all the requests that come in from them, because we do want to keep making decisions that will help them in the best way that we think is appropriate.

Last one. Yes. You have the honor of the last question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Voice of America, Persian TV. Last time when the truth was reached in Middle East conflict was during Morsy, friend of Hamas. How important is the role of Egypt now and how do you define the relationship between the United States and al-Sisi government?

MS. HARF: Well, Egypt is playing a crucial role. Obviously, the Secretary’s in Cairo. They have long played a role in these discussions. They have a peace treaty with Israel, for example. They also have a relationship with a Hamas. It’s different than it was under President Morsy, but they do have a relationship. But that’s why we’re also talking to countries like Qatar and Turkey and others who have other relationships they can use with Hamas to see if we can get to a ceasefire.

But our relationship with Egypt is much bigger than one administration there. It’s strategic. We have strategic interests, whether it’s security, particularly in the Sinai and on the Israeli border, whether it is economically helping Egypt undertake needed economic reforms to help their people, whether it’s pushing them on human rights and freedom of expression. When you have journalists in jail that have been subjected to these horrible sentences, we believe it’s important to have a relationship so we can raise concerns. It’s the best way to engage. So it’s a very broad, longstanding relationship, and the Secretary is there right now working very closely with them. They are committed to seeing if they can help with the ceasefire here, and we think there’s a critical role they have played and can play going forward.

MODERATOR: All right.

MS. HARF: With that?

MODERATOR: With that, thank you all for coming. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

MODERATOR: This briefing is now concluded.

MS. HARF: Thank you all so much. We will see you soon.

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