Tagged: Echo

Speeches: U.S. Economic Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

(As delivered)

Thank you very much. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Chairman Hasegawa, thank you so much for your generous introduction and for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to be with all of the membership of the Keizai Doyukai. I understand you’ve been early and strong supporters of the TPP – something I look forward to talking about in a little while.

I also want to recognize my colleagues from the United States administration, especially from the Embassy – our deputy chief of mission and also Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. Ambassador Kennedy, as I think all of you know, is a public servant cut from the same cloth as her father. His legacy of friendship with Japan lives on through her.

I have to tell you also it’s a pleasure to be back in Tokyo. I first came here – I believe it was in 1980 with my family, and I wanted to come here on my first trip as Deputy Secretary of State – and not just to have a drink at the Okura’s Orchid Bar before it’s too late. I wanted to come here to Japan because our alliance is the cornerstone of President Obama’s Asia-Pacific policy.

In fact, when I was moving from the White House to the State Department just a few weeks ago, and I was sitting with President Obama to ask him what he wanted me to focus on, he said Asia. And Secretary Kerry, when I got over to the State Department, I asked him the same question, and he gave me the same answer, and it’s simply a reflection of the importance that both the President and the Secretary attach to the region and to the Alliance with Japan.

There is a reason that President Obama made the strategic decision to rebalance America’s engagement and resources toward the region, and it’s very simple: Nowhere in the world are economic and strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia-Pacific. As Prime Minister Abe said last year, “Asia is a synonym for growth and another name for achievement.”

And that’s because of what the Asia-Pacific has done over the past 70 years, and what it has done is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle that stretches from the base of Mount Fuji to the emerald waters of the Coral Sea – millions out of poverty, some of the fastest growing economies on the planet, home to more than one-third of the world’s population, a growing percentage of whom are middle-class, and of course many dictatorships having given way to democracies.

That’s why the President has made seven visits to the Asia-Pacific including three separate visits to Japan. It’s why Secretary Kerry has traveled to the region nine times in just two years. It’s why Vice President Biden and almost every member of the President’s cabinet have traveled here as well – most of them more than once.

So what exactly is the United States doing to support and share in the growth, in the achievement, and the stability, prosperity, and peace that we see spreading throughout the Asia-Pacific?

We have this policy that we call the rebalance, and it has several pillars, each of which contributes in substantial ways to facilitating and supporting this region’s growth and economic dynamism. To start with, we’re redoubling our commitment to the region’s security, which is essential to its economic future. Because the plain fact is that conflict and trade do not mix. So we’ve enhanced and we’re modernizing our alliances, especially with Japan. Over the past few years, our two nations began revising our bilateral Defense Guidelines for the first time in more than two decades. This is part of a larger, transparent discussion about our collective self-defense. This review – along with Japan’s decision to relax some restrictions on defense equipment exports – will help make sure that the Alliance evolves to reflect both the shifting security environment and the growing capabilities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

Elsewhere in the region, we strengthened our security alliances with South Korea, with the Philippines, with Australia, and we’ve reinforced partnerships with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and others. We’ve begun to conduct more joint training exercises – like the Keen Edge exercises we hold with Japan biannually. And we’ve sent more assets to the region, both diplomatic and military. And we’ve bolstered our trilateral cooperation with Japan and Australia, and with Japan and South Korea.

Strengthening our relationship with China is also part and parcel of the rebalance. We seek a relationship with China defined by practical and tangible cooperation on challenges that face both of our nations. The more we can work together, and be seen as working together, the more we can avoid the trap of inevitable rivalry.

I just came from Beijing where I met with a range of senior Chinese officials. And just in the last year – it’s been quite extraordinary – our cooperation has grown deeper and wider, from combating climate change, to facilitating travel between our people; from confidence-building measures between our militaries to working together to bring peace to South Sudan and to pursue a comprehensive agreement with Iran to ensure that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

This year, we intend to build on this momentum of last year through ongoing, day-to-day bilateral discussions, our Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the state visit of President Xi that he will make to Washington coming up in September.

But even as we deepen cooperation, we also deal forthrightly with our differences – and we will continue to do so. For example, we are firm in our stance on maritime security. Free commerce requires free waterways for ships to pass. It requires that the needs of business take precedence over squabbles over rocks and shoals.

We have made clear that the U.S. military would not abide by China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, including over the Senkaku Islands. And President Obama has clearly stated that the Senkaku Islands fall under Japan’s administration and under the mutual defense treaty with Japan and the United States. We don’t take a position on the various territorial claims of others, but we do take a strong position on how those claims are pursued. Any disagreement must be dealt with in accordance with international law, peacefully, with restraint, and avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo. We have urged China and ASEAN to reach a code of conduct that will reduce the potential for conflict in the years to come.

The true question at the heart of these conflicts is who controls access to Asia’s abundant energy resources. The region depends, as you know, on sustainable, affordable, and reliable access to diverse energy supplies – which in turn rely upon the safe and reliable transport of oil and gas in maritime channels. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global LNG passes through the South China Sea, making it one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Uncertainty fueled by competing South China Sea claims affects energy security; it affects trade and commerce; it creates a more unpredictable investment environment. If we can peacefully end ongoing conflicts over rocks and reefs, then the Asia-Pacific region will be better able to attract investment. Cooperation is needed to fully prove and develop the billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of LNG that are estimated to reside under the sea. Developing these resources will bring jobs; it will bring growth and a more secure energy future to the region.

So enhancing security is one pillar of the President’s rebalance. Supporting regional institutions is another.

We know that strong regional institutions are essential to helping to lower tariffs, encourage cooperation, maintain stability, and resolve disputes. So that’s why we’ve remained a very strong supporter of ASEAN and its mission to promote smart energy, trade, and investment. It’s why we’ve taken an active role in APEC, an organization working to promote trade and investment liberalization, cut global carbon emissions, and expand economic opportunities for women. And it’s why we’ve worked hard to elevate the East Asia Summit to the premier forum for dealing with political and security issues throughout region.

Today, though, it is my honor to have the attention of so many of Japan’s business leaders, and so I’d like to focus the balance of my time on the third pillar of our rebalance strategy, and that of course is the economic pillar.

U.S. businesses, workers, farmers, and consumers have been a dependable foundation for growth in the Asia-Pacific for decades. I see it everywhere I travel. Trade with the United States fills bank accounts, store shelves, and ocean freighters – from the Port of Yokohama, to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, to the markets of Kuala Lumpur. We remain the single largest source of foreign direct investment in the region – U.S. investment stock here reached $622 billion a couple of years ago in 2012. We are also the most important market for Asian goods, exchanging well over $1 trillion dollars in trade with the continent each year.

But we’re not the only driver of growth in the Asia – far from it. Japan is fueling billions of dollars in trade with Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong. Australia, which signed free-trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan last year, is importing from Singapore and Japan. And of course China is exporting to Malaysia and Vietnam. Overall, trade among APEC nations reached $1.4 trillion this year and is outpacing world trade growth by a 40 percent margin.

As we look forward and deeper into 2015, the single most important step we can take together for our economic relationships is completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The state-of-the-art Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – or as we call it, TPP – establishes high standards on labor, intellectual property, the environment, and it levels the playing field for businesses in all of our nations. It will unlock vast new markets. It will curb the role of state-owned enterprises as they compete with private companies. It will expand trade in a region that already represents one-third of all global exchange. And it will bring economic growth and jobs to all our shores. For example, economists predict it will add $100 billion to Japan’s GDP over the next decade.

Working together to create a rules-based regional trade architecture built on transparency and competition – this is an ambitious undertaking. But it is an achievable one. And it will change how we trade for decades to come.

This agreement is about more than the economic opportunities it unleashes, because the fact is, TPP is not just a technical trade agreement, it’s a strategic opportunity for the entire region.

The TPP serves both the United States and Japan’s strategic interests for three principal reasons:

First, it will cement the strong alliance framework and partnerships that ensure the Asia-Pacific’s security and prosperity. We’ve long had a security presence in the region, as I just discussed. The TPP is the vital next step. It will assure our allies and partners that our long-term commitment to the region reaches beyond security and into the economic realm. It will add another dimension to our strong and enduring presence in the Asia-Pacific.

Second, concluding the TPP, with over 40 percent of global GDP, will build a magnetic effect attracting non-members across the region to the benefits that it offers. It will spur them to make the necessary reforms like lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment. And in the end, it will lead them to enter the fold as liberal and open economies. Indeed, what we’re seeing is that a number of non-TPP countries like South Korea are expressing strong interest in joining. Even China is showing interest. We welcome new members – so long as they can meet the high standards that will be front-and-center in this agreement.

And there is a very important point there that I want to emphasize, and I want to be very clear with all of you about it. The TPP is not an attempt to isolate or contain China. Any nation that is willing to rise to the occasion and meet the high standards we have set for ourselves is welcome – China included. In fact, the world would be a better place if China made the changes and embraced the reforms that would make it an eligible candidate for TPP.

Finally, concluding the TPP is about defining the values that we want to see prevail in the Asia-Pacific – values like fair labor standards, environmental protection, and laws updating intellectual property rights. The standards enshrined within this agreement reflect our values and interests as nations committed to dynamic, just, and rules-based economic practices. The TPP offers economic stability in a turbulent world.

Ultimately, this agreement establishes a framework that enables countries throughout the region to grow together – in a way that will benefit us for generations to come. It will ensure that we focus not just on whether our economies grow, but how they grow.

So where does TPP stand today? We made lots of progress during the most recent negotiations in New York, and I was just discussing that with the chairman before we came out here. The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus. But the closer you get to the end of something as complicated and meaningful as TPP, you get to the toughest issues and the hardest choices. So we need all stakeholders in all sectors – including those of you in this room – to help make those choices and push TPP over the finish line. We need you to make the calls, convene the meetings, and remind officials of the economic and strategic benefits that this agreement will bring. With your help, we can complete this agreement and continue to bend the arc of the region in the direction of progress and prosperity.

There are enormous opportunities in the years ahead – that you know better than most anyone – to make headway on trade. And we have to seize them. But TPP alone is not a cure all. It’s not the only answer. Broad-based economic growth requires a thriving society. It requires that people have access to training and education. It requires the free flow of ideas and information. It requires the rule of law, the protection of intellectual property. And it requires that governments protect the universal human rights of their citizens.

This too is a pillar of our policy in the region, and it helps to uphold all the others. Promoting these values serves some very practical goals. When all people in society are unshackled – when they are free to think and act creatively and for themselves to question and criticize, to challenge conventional wisdom – that’s how you get innovation. That’s how you get entrepreneurship and the building blocks of a growing, self-sustaining economy.

These values empower citizens to demand a cleaner environment and safer products, to ask for high labor standards, to make their governments more accountable and less corrupt – all of which makes trade more free and fair and helps our companies compete.

That’s why in Burma we’ve been working to keep the government accountable to its people as Burma opens to the world. It’s why in Vietnam – 20 years after normalizing relations – we continue to work encourage reforms that will strengthen the rule of law and freedom of expression. And it’s why in Cambodia, we are supporting civil society and pluralistic politics while strengthening our relationship at the same time.

In the United States, entrepreneurship is almost written into our DNA. But we believe that businesses and governments alike can’t just invest in profits; we have to invest in all the tools that create prosperity, especially our human resources.

Think about this: If you asked people 50 or 100 years ago to define the wealth of a nation, they might talk about the size of its population, the expanse of its land mass, the strength of its military, the abundance of its natural resources. And all of those things still matter. And in the United States, we’re blessed with all of them. But in the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation lies in its human resources and in the ability of countries to maximize their potential, to let them be free and creative and innovative. That is the true wealth of a nation.

On top of the list, then, are the investments we have to make in our young people – the men and women who will be making our economic decisions in 10, 15 or 20 years down the road. And that’s something I know that all of you are well aware of. We are grateful for your efforts to expand student exchange programs between Japan and the United States.

And programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, or YSEALI, are also leading the way in these efforts. As we encourage students to come to the U.S. to learn about open markets and entrepreneurship, we send Americans to Asia as students, as Fulbright Scholars, as Peace Corps volunteers.

These programs empower young people to be the business leaders of the future. In Manila, I heard one YSAELI alumnus launched a program to help modernize the Philippines’ agricultural economy. In Cambodia, another graduate wrote a handbook to help students choose the right career path. And in Singapore, we brought graduates of our program together with American firms to help open markets, but also open minds.

I was in South Korea just a few days ago at the beginning of this trip. I met with college students and alumni from our International Visitor Leadership Program, and a few of them told me a little bit about their careers. Some of them were journalists. Some of them spoke passionately about their studies to become businesspeople, to become lawyers, to become engineers.

And then yesterday I sat with three remarkable young entrepreneurs on a train from Tientsin to Beijing, and they told me about the challenges and opportunities of launching start-up ventures in China.

Across the board, these young people are thinking big. They don’t just want an education; they want to be able to vote for their leaders. They don’t just want a big paycheck; they want to make sure everyone has the right to speak freely and that that right is respected at the same time.

I’ve had inspiring conversations with young people throughout the region, and every time I walk away with confidence that – if we can make the right choices today and take advantage of the economic opportunities that are staring us literally in the face – then the region’s future will be bright, and it will be in very good hands.

America’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific – economic and otherwise – is a testament to a simple fact: America too is a Pacific nation. Our commitment to this region has stood the test of time, the test of conflict, the test of Mother Nature. And one of the clearest indicators of this commitment is our long history of partnership and alliance with Japan, a partnership based not on a temporary alignment of interests, but on a permanent foundation of shared values, a partnership and alliance we look forward to reaffirming when Prime Minister Abe makes a state visit to the United States in April, a partnership that sets a powerful example for the rest of the world.

Seventy years after the end of a bloody war, our countries have never been closer. Your cities host the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet and 50,000 American troops – including the U.S. Marines on Okinawa. And across the Pacific, more than 1.3 million Japanese-Americans populate and energize cities from San Francisco to New York.

But these statistics tell only part of the story. Behind the numbers are businesses creating new technology, volunteers distributing emergency food aid in the Philippines after the typhoon, government agencies working hand-in-glove to combat climate change, battle violent extremism, and the scourge of Ebola.

The next chapter in this historic friendship will be about how we shape the Asia-Pacific economy for the 21st century and beyond. We have weathered the storms of war and conflict. We’ve transcended the differences that divided us. Now it’s up to us to take the next step and unite behind a shared economic vision.

I believe Japan, the United States, and the other economies in the Asia-Pacific region will continue to grow and prosper together. But it depends on wise leadership. And it depends on all of you, the business community, continuing to make and strengthen your connections with businesses and people across the Pacific. And it depends on our governments, seeing past short-term concerns to long-term opportunities.

Change is never easy, but we know what our shared future should look like. The task before us is to turn that vision into reality, to the benefit of this time and the benefit of generations to come. Thank you so very much.

QUESTION: Thank you for your inspiring speech. We have been very much encouraged by your confidence in TPP, especially I’ve been chairman of promoting TPP for the last four years, so I am really glad that this is going to be the time that we can probably celebrate by summertime. The next action, though, for us after TPP is the Japan-China-Korea trilateral, then going to the Rsep, so we really hope that the TPP will set the stage for the fundamental agreement going forward with China and East Asian countries. Having said all this, we, who just came back from Davos, a lot of discussion being talked about geo-political risk in East Asia, and the first thing you mentioned out of the three is also the regional security. So if you could mention a little bit about the geo-political risk in East Asia after you have visited Korea, China, and Japan – what will be the take-away after you visit, and also on a long-term basis, what we can do to keep peace over here.

QUESTION: I’d like to take the privilege of master of ceremonies and add one question related to the TPP. You said that TPP is nothing about isolating or excluding China, but on the other hand, how much do you think China is serious or ready to join TPP discussions?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you both and I want to thank you personally for your extraordinary leadership in working to advance TPP. It doesn’t happen without the kind of leadership that you, and indeed the members of this organization have made.

Let me start actually with the second question very quickly, because I just came from China. My sense is that there has been a real shift in China with regard to TPP from looking to reject and hoping in fact that it didn’t happen, to being quite curious and interested in it. And as I said a few minutes ago, we would welcome that. But like with any member, China would have to meet the high standards across the board that the TPP establishes. If that were to happen, it would be a very good thing for all of us, because those standards would continue to help China move in a positive and progressive direction. So ultimately, as with anything it’s going to be up to China more than anyone else. So we’ll see if it evolves in that direction, but once TPP gets done and you have 40 percent of the world’s GDP represented, I think that’s going to cause countries who are not in it to want to be in it. And then we have another agenda beyond TPP, and that of course is the so-called TTIP in Europe, and if you were to realize that and bring TPP and TTIP together, you would have about 75 percent of the world’s GDP represented, and again I think that will create a very powerful magnet for those countries not in either agreement to want to get in.

So geo-political risk: I’d actually start from the other way around. I see TPP as a fundamental way to lower geo-political risk, to create incentives for countries to trade together, to do business together, to work together, and to avoid conflict. That’s the power of it as a strategic proposition, not simply an economic one. But I also think that the work we’ve been doing in the region is designed precisely to lessen risk. Our presence in the region, our military presence in the region, has been a force for stability for decades. It’s allowed, I believe, some of the remarkable progress we’ve seen over the last 70 years. Similarly, the work we’re doing to try to build the institutions in the region – that too is a way to lower geo-political risk because it creates mechanisms and forums where countries can work through their differences and try and come to common solutions. That’s why we spend so much time on it.

And then the other element in this, of course, it the relationships between and among the different countries in the region, apart from the institutions, and there we’ve seen some positive developments in recent months. I think the progress that has been made in the relationship between Japan and China, including the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Xi at the end of last year, the commitment to work together on a number of issues – that’s encouraging. We’ve seen similarly a more positive relationship develop between South Korea and China. That’s also promising and important in terms of lowering risk. And as I said, our own relationship with China – we’re determined to build on the cooperation we’ve already established even as we address the differences. That too, I think, will lower geo-political risk.

So all of these things taken together, I think, can make a big difference. Now, there are clearly sources of significant instability. I believe the most significant source of instability in the region is North Korea and its reckless pursuit of a larger and larger nuclear program and the missiles to deliver those weapons around the world. And that’s why we’ve been trying to make common cause with Japan, with South Korea, with China, with Russia to convince North Korea that it needs to denuclearize. But I actually feel that the entire rebalance is starting to shift and lower geo-political risk, and that in turn is going to create an even more attractive place for investment and for trade.

QUESTION: My name is Hirano, MetLife Japan vice chairman. Can I ask one more TPP question? Or if it’s too much, I withdraw. OK. I heard lots of positive voices when I visited Washington last month, and I’m quite encouraged by your tone of speech – that’s quite encouraging. But we also know that there are many big impediments going forward. So my question is quite straightforward: What are the biggest remaining impediments for TPP to move forward? And to what extent can we be optimistic about the closing of negotiations? Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. Well, since negotiations are ongoing at this very moment, the last thing I want to do is get in the middle of them. I trust our negotiators very much. In fact, when I first began in government 22 years ago in the Clinton administration, for about six months I shared an office with Ambassador Froman, our trade negotiator, so I’ve known him for a long time, and I know his dedication and commitment to getting this done. Let me just say this: In anything this complicated and this meaningful, the last mile or the last kilometer is the toughest. The hardest things remain at the end. But what I’m confident of is that with regard to the United States and Japan, both countries, both teams, are working through the remaining issues with determination, and I think in a very pragmatic way, and I’m convinced that there is a determination in particular from Prime Minister Abe and from President Obama to see this to conclusion in the coming weeks and months. So I never want to minimize the challenges of that last mile or last kilometer, but given the determination and good will on both sides, I’m feeling confident that we’ll get there.

QUESTION: (via interpreter) … About the Senkaku Islands and also about visiting Yasukuni Shrine where war criminals are enshrined.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, with regard to the Senkakus, I think President Obama has been very clear. They are under Japanese administration and part of and covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty. It’s as clear and simple as that. The only thing I would say with regard to the second part of the question is, I think that in many areas in many countries it’s important to be sensitive to history and to the sensitivities created by history, but what strikes me when I think about the countries in this region, and for example Japan and South Korea, to cite just one example, whatever the sensitivities of history, so much more unites countries than divides them. And those common interests and those shared values today, in the year 2015, are what we should focus on, what our leaders should focus on, and they are the foundation for the future that we are trying to build together. Thank you.

QUESTION: At the Keizai Doyukai, I am the chairman of the project team for empowerment of “Japan Hands.” Japan Hands means friends of Japan and experts on Japan. In your speech you mentioned about youth exchange and investment in the youth, which means the next generation is quite important, and I totally agree. And you referred to the high school exchange, but I would like to know if, under the implementation of TPP, how we can encourage the next generation of professional level or high-level exchange between Japan and the United States. Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. To me, actually, nothing is more important than exchange – at every level. High school students, college students, professionals, science, technology, business – this is what knits our countries together more than anything else. This is the foundation that we are building the next generation of the relationship on. And I see this every day. As I mentioned, when I was in South Korea and then in China, I met with some of the people who had been involved in our exchange programs. And as an American, I have to tell you it’s profoundly powerful because young people will go to the United States on these programs and come back with a totally different picture of the United States, a totally different understanding than they had before. And usually it’s positive. And they share it with their families, with their friends. And this is how you build a relationship. And similarly, we have Americans coming to Japan, and they come home, and they’re able to explain Japan, to share it with their friends and with their families, and that builds the relationship. So I believe deeply in these programs, and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a choice because my wife is responsible for these programs at the State Department. She’s the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She runs the Fulbright program. She runs all of the exchange programs. So even if I didn’t believe it, she’d make me. But as it happens, I think nothing is more important. Ambassador Kennedy is very focused on strengthening, expanding, building these programs, and I have to tell you, maybe the No. 1 supporter and cheerleader for these programs is President Obama. He himself benefitted from exchange programs in his youth. He knows the power that they bring. I applaud you for all that you are doing and your support for these programs. Thank you.

QUESTION: I am Tabata, former board member of the International Monetary Fund representing the Japanese government. My question is the relation between the military rebalancing that you mentioned a couple of times and the security of East Asia. A couple of day ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to approve the use of ground forces for the war against terrorism and so on, which means that the former original part of the rebalancing of military forces left from the Middle East and to be concentrated on Asia and so forth. But actually, if military force will be used for the war against terrorism in the Middle East or the Islamic State, then some emptiness will happen in East Asia. But as you know, last year China’s military expenditures exceeded $100 billion U.S. dollars, which is 8 percent of the world’s military expenditures. So taking account of this situation, you mentioned about practical and precise situations are important for the security of East Asia. So my question is for instance to restore Subic Base in the Philippines – you were thinking about that – at the same time, how do you think about restoring and utilizing Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam? These are very practical strategies and so forth. I would like to ask your comment about this.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Let me be very clear, because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, and the President has been extremely clear about this – we will not be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq or to Syria or anyplace else in the region for that matter. The President, as you know – and if you look at the National Security Strategy that we just published last week – we’re focused on moving away from having tens of thousands of American troops in one place locked in for years or even more. What we’re trying to do is to build the capacity of others to deal with the challenges that they face, and so in Iraq, the small number of forces that we have there are trying to help the Iraqis, to train them, to advise them so that they can deal in the first instance with the problems posed and the challenges posed by ISIL. So we are not going to be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq. What the President asked for the other day was really a matter that’s very important – to demonstrate that the executive branch, the White House, and Congress are united in the way we’re going to deal with the threat posed by ISIL. And so he wanted to have Congress on record in this authorization supporting what we’re doing together to deal with this threat. And that’s what that’s about. It is not to authorize tens of thousands of ground forces in Iraq – that is not going to happen. What we’re looking at is a small number of trainers, some advisers, and indeed that’s what we have on the ground in Iraq now. So I just want to be very clear about that.

And then again, with regard to this region, I think what you’re seeing across the board is countries working together to develop their capacity. For example, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and others are working with countries from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia for example to develop their maritime capacity. This is very beneficial in doing exactly what we discussed in response to the first question, which is lowering strategic risk, lowering tensions, creating an environment of stability. So we have a very active program working with countries throughout the region in those areas, and I think we’re already seeing the benefits of that. But the rebalance itself is balanced, with a security component, with an economic component, with an institutional component, with a bilateral component, and increasingly as well with people-to-people exchanges that are another foundation of what we’re doing. So you have to look at the balance within the rebalance to see its strength.

Thank you.

East Asia and the Pacific: Supporting Humanitarian Aid Programs in the DPRK

It is a pleasure for me to be here today with this distinguished panel to discuss humanitarian assistance programs in North Korea. I want to thank the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS for hosting today’s event.

This is an important issue that deserves careful attention. The United States remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people. We seek to alleviate the humanitarian problems in North Korea and also to end the egregious human rights violations occurring in the country.

The United States Cares

The American people have repeatedly demonstrated that we are compassionate and that we care about the well-being of others. In the past the United States has been at the forefront of international humanitarian efforts aid to North Korea.

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in aid, both in the form of food and heavy fuel oil, making us one of the leading contributors of assistance to the DPRK. But both the United States and UN agencies have struggled with North Korean authorities over the lack of transparency and freedom to monitor the distribution of food and other humanitarian assistance.

In the fall of 2008, the U.S. resumed a food assistance program for the North Korean People, working with American NGOs and the UN’s World Food Programme. There were difficulties in monitoring aid distribution, and in early 2009, North Korea unilaterally terminated our assistance program. Just two months later, North Korea conducted its second nuclear weapons test.

Difficulties Engaging the DPRK

Because of the difficulty of satisfying our own requirements for monitoring aid to North Korea, as well as budgetary constraints and intense demand for American humanitarian aid in many other parts of the world – Syria, Sudan, Ebola-afflicted areas of Africa among others – it is very difficult for us to provide aid to the DPRK.

North Korea is an authoritarian government ruled by an isolated elite, with a state-controlled media and no freedom of speech or press, no freedom of religion, no transparency in governance, and no rule of law or mechanism for airing grievances. The country remains one of the most restrictive governments on earth. This makes it very difficult for the U.S. government to engage directly with North Korea, even when dealing with the issue of humanitarian aid.

The landmark 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights noted the deplorable use of food by the North Korean government as a means of controlling its population. According to the Commission, North Korea’s leaders are guilty of “knowingly causing prolonged starvation” and are responsible for the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of its own people.

Whenever we undertake an assistance program, regardless of the country in which we operate, by law we are required to monitor aid distribution to ensure that assistance reaches the most vulnerable populations. This is the key element that has made it difficult to continue our assistance to North Korea.

The DPRK has not requested humanitarian aid from the United States since 2011, and we do not have any plans to provide such assistance.

The U.S. Government Supports NGO Efforts

But the need for food, medical, technical, and educational aid is still urgent in North Korea. This is why people and NGOs like the ones that are here today are so important. They are able to engage with North Korea under different circumstances. Whereas North Korea has set up road blocks to government-to-government engagement, it has demonstrated a willingness to work directly with NGOs.

NGOs are able to do things the United States cannot do. This is why we admire and encourage their efforts to provide much needed aid to the people of North Korea. To the extent that we can be helpful, we seek to support NGO efforts.

The United States has long made clear to North Korea that we are open to improved relations if it is willing to take concrete actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments.

We remain gravely concerned about the ongoing systematic and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK and about the well-being of the North Korean people, who bear the brunt of their government’s decision to perpetuate its self-impoverishing policies.

These policies deny the people of the North human and civil rights and the quality of life which they could and should have. Addressing these human rights abuses in North Korea remains an essential component of U.S. policy.

We believe direct people-to-people contact, which occurs through the provision of humanitarian aid, such as that provided by private organizations, can have a positive long term impact on advancing change in the country. As such, we support efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea. And we call on North Korea to honor its international obligations and agreements and to allow the international humanitarian assistance groups and independent monitors unfettered access to all areas of the country to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its intended recipients.

I want to thank you for you for your efforts with North Korea, and we support your cause.

Ultimately, we will judge North Korea, not by its words, but by its actions—the concrete steps it takes to address the core concerns of the international community, from its nuclear program, to its human rights violations, and its effort for the well-being of the North Korean people.

Boko Haram Takes the Fight to Cameroon

The militant group has launched a series of attacks along the Cameroon border. “The coordinated assaults on five towns and villages showed a change in tactics by Nigerian Boko Haram fighters, who have focused on hit-and-run raids on individual settlements in the past, Information Minister Issa Tchiroma added. Boko Haram’s campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate has spread from its stronghold in northeast Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, raising fears for an already unstable region also threatened by Islamist militants in the Sahel. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xud2cD)

Displaced Muslims Precariously Trapped in Central African Republic Village…”About 500 Muslims, mainly ethnic Peuls, have been in the town of Yaloke in western C.A.R. since fleeing there nine months ago to escape hostile Christian and animist anti-balaka militia.In Yaloke, they have had some protection from French and United Nations peacekeepers, and have been receiving some food aid. But they are trapped in a small area and unable to move outside it for fear of attacks. Health conditions have deteriorated. VOA http://bit.ly/1xucTpw)

Best commentary of the 10 year Anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Nancy Lindborg, Assistant USAID Administrator and incoming president of the US Institute for Peace on the six lessons the international community should draw from the tragedy. (HuffPo http://huff.to/1xd6WLE)

Africa

Dozens of new Ebola cases have erupted in Liberia, near the border with Sierra Leone, Liberian health officials warned Monday, marking a setback amid recent improvements. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8J01)

The United Nations said on Monday it had begun delivering food aid to war-torn South Sudan via the Nile River from Sudan for the first time since it became independent in 2011, warning the country could face a “hunger catastrophe”. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rvtfeT)

The United States launched an airstrike against a senior Shabab militia leader in southwestern Somalia on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman disclosed. (Time

Sierra Leone started a fresh push against the virus in mid-December. It is concentrating its efforts in the north and west of the country. The government prohibited public gatherings at Christmas. The northern district of Port Loko marked the holiday by declaring a lockdown as health workers went door to door. Health ministry spokesman Sidie Y Tunis said that’s ongoing. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrF03N)

With a population that has already passed the 50 million mark and a sustained unemployment rate of more than 25%, attention is being focused on South Africa’s child grant incentives for single mothers which may be encouraging young women to bear children to get an income. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BfopTb)

Recent studies indicate Burundi is the hungriest place on earth. War, poverty and overpopulation have left up to two thirds of the residents with chronic food shortages, stunting people’s growth physically and also professionally, while rising demands for scarce resources pose serious problems for Burundi’s stability. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrEVNE)

Birth control is a divisive issue across much of Africa – it challenges culture, religion and patriarchy. In Dakar, bringing religious leaders into the discussion has been an important step to overcoming resistance in Senegal. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BfoqXr)

In some African countries, the social and economic forces collide on workplace issues like parental leave. While some countries are moving to extend leave, others are having a hard time enforcing the laws they already have. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wY0U1H)

Roche Holding AG said U.S. health regulators have approved its Ebola test for emergency use in response to the world’s worst outbreak of the disease in West Africa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rvtcjn)

MENA

Arab U.N. delegations on Monday endorsed a Palestinian proposal to forge a peace deal with Israel within a year and end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017, despite fierce Israeli and U.S. opposition. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1xu9Pqi)

Three Al-Jazeera journalists are marking one year since they were arrested in Egypt on charges of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood, as they look toward a court date Thursday to appeal their case. (VOA http://bit.ly/1wY0mJ9)

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned a series of airstrikes on targets in the city of Misrata amid an upsurge in fighting across the war-torn North African country, adding that any further escalation in hostilities could plunge the nation back into “all-out war.” (Ekklesia http://bit.ly/1xu9BQ7)

An Egyptian prosecutor referred 15 alleged members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood to a military court on Sunday on violence-related charges, the state news agency reported. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wwuYfH)

Asia

Thousands of Afghans are pouring into makeshift camps in the capital where they face a harsh winter as the Taliban return to areas once cleared by foreign forces, who this week are marking the end of their combat mission. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8KRI)

The suspected mastermind of the 2008 militant attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people has won an appeal against his detention in Pakistan. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xud9F4)

South Korea on Monday proposed restarting a dialogue with North Korea on issues of mutual concern, such as reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. This outreach to the North comes at a time of growing antagonism between Pyongyang and the West over issues of cyberattacks and human rights abuses. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xudcR6)

The grip on Internet freedom in China has tightened once again, with Google’s Gmail largely inaccessible for a fourth day. An internet transparency monitor reports the e-mail service is 84 percent blocked in the country after months of disruptions. (VOA http://bit.ly/1zrF0AU)

The Americas

A non-governmental group that tracks crime in Venezuela says the country’s homicide rate rose again in 2014. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8JNz)

A lawyer for Hipolito Mora says the Mexican vigilante leader and 26 of his followers face murder charges for a Dec. 16 confrontation with another group that killed 11. (AP http://yhoo.it/13F8It2)

The Census Bureau said the U.S. population grew a bit less than 1 percent over the last year and will hit 320,090,857 at New Year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1xudaJ3)

Opinion/Blogs

Crowdsourced Anticorruption Reporting, 2.0 (The Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1ED9DLZ)

Peter Piot: the veteran scientist who helped to raise the alarm over Ebola |(The Guardian http://bit.ly/13FOiAb)

Exploring Border Issues through Film (Development Diaries http://bit.ly/13FOlfk)

Broken Windows: Mending the Cracks (People, Spaces, Deliberation http://bit.ly/13FOqzM)

Data exchange helps humanitarians act fast and effectively (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1ED9Q1I)

Discussion

comments…

Robust Responses From the Asia-Pacific Region to Ebola

“In West Africa, this remains the worst Ebola epidemic in history by a long shot.

Every hot-spot is an ember that, if not contained, could become a new fire.

So we cannot let down our guard, even for a minute.

And we can’t just fight this epidemic; we have to extinguish it.”

                                     –       President Obama, December 2, 2014

All across the world, diplomats, scientists, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, logistics experts, soldiers, and countless other men and women are working to stop the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  The response in the Asia-Pacific region, where our partners have valuable experience and lessons to share from having addressed the challenges of infectious diseases such as SARS and H5N1, is no different.  In fact, over the past few months, the response from the Asia-Pacific region to one of the most brutal epidemics the world has seen has been robust and generous. So much so that I’d like to share some highlights.

In November, Japan announced that they would contribute an additional $100 million to the international Ebola response, on top of earlier commitments of $45 million and a range of in-kind donations such as emergency vehicles, medical equipment, and emergency relief goods, including tents and blankets.  Japanese medical experts have also participated in World Health Organization (WHO) missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  On December 9, Japan extended additional emergency grant aid of approximately $8.5 million to the WHO and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in connection with Japan’s donation of 700,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) and for infection prevention and control.

Later, in mid-December, the Republic of Korea deployed the first of three 10-person specialized medical teams to Sierra Leone to help with much needed prevention and treatment efforts.  They also pledged $5 million in assistance, in addition to the $5.6 million they contributed earlier this year. 

Australia has made important contributions, donating $36 million to the Ebola response, including funds to staff and run a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Sierra Leone and training to enhance regional preparedness in the event of an outbreak in the Asia-Pacific region.

China is a leading contributor to the global Ebola response in the Asia-Pacific, having donated more than $122 million so far in financial and in-kind assistance, including a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Liberia, a mobile laboratory in Sierra Leone, 60 ambulances, 100 motorcycles, tens of thousands of medical kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and more than 700 medical personnel including those who are training tens of thousands of African health care workers. 

One of Asia-Pacific’s smallest and newest countries, Timor-Leste, has also made significant contributions to the global effort to end this devastating outbreak, with financial contributions totaling $2 million, and a commitment to fund 25 doctors from Cuba and 15 doctors from Timor-Leste to work to fight the spread of the virus in Guinea Bissau.  

New Zealand has financially supported New Zealand Red Cross delegates in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and 24 clinical staff from New Zealand will work alongside Australian and Sierra Leonean medical personnel in an Australian-run ETU in Freetown.  New Zealand also contributed approximately $1.56 million to administer the unit.  Additional financial contributions from New Zealand to the WHO response in West Africa and the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund totaling $1.59 million will help ensure a coherent UN system response.

Thailand has sent $150,000 worth of rice to ensure food security in West Africa, and recently hosted an ASEAN +3 ministerial in Bangkok to address ways the region can work at a national, regional, and global level to respond to and prepare for Ebola outbreaks.

Malaysia, in turn, sent over 20 million gloves to West Africa to help protect the courageous healthcare workers fighting on the front lines of this response, and has just announced that it will make an in-kind donation worth approximately $864,000 to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia through the Malaysian Medical Relief Society.

Finally, Taiwan has made noteworthy contributions in the global fight against Ebola.  Working closely with the United States, Taiwan has donated 100,000 units of PPE to the three most heavily-affected countries in West Africa. In early December, Taiwan also contributed $1 million in financial assistance to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation to help meet the most urgent needs in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. On December 5, Taiwan announced its plans to establish a training center to help equip health care workers in the Asia Pacific region with the tools needed to contain an outbreak of Ebola or other dangerous infectious diseases within or beyond their borders.

Other partners in Asia-Pacific are contributing to the Ebola response by preventing the spread of the virus through preparedness efforts within their borders and their region.  Such efforts will contribute to preparedness for all infectious disease threats, which is a key tenet of the multinational Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) launched on February 13, 2014 to elevate global health security as a national leaders-level priority.  In one of the first two pilot projects under GHSA, in fact, the CDC worked with Vietnam to enhance their newly created Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hanoi.  Building EOCs and sharing surveillance information across borders will help protect the region from future outbreaks of Ebola, avian influenza, and other diseases.

As Ambassador Power said, although the international efforts made to date are significant and are beginning to have an impact, a larger and more sustainable global response is urgently needed to save even more lives and stop the ravaging spread of this outbreak.  Only with the support of a global coalition of countries, non-profits, international institutions and the private sector, along with indispensable help from individual citizens, will we be able to fulfill this goal and contain and end this epidemic. And we must continue to stand at West Africa’s side in the months and years to come, helping the region to recover from the devastating social, economic, and psychological impacts of the outbreak.

About the Author: Andy Weber serves as Deputy Coordinator for the Ebola Coordination Unit at the U.S. Department of State. Follow @andyweberNCB on Twitter.

For more information:

Checking for Radionuclides in Dairy Food Products

Experts from the IAEA and Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety train scientists on a rapid analytical method to be used for food monitoring in emergency situations at a training course held in Daejon from 3 to 7 November 2014. (Photo Credit: A. Pitois/iAEA)

Milk and milk products are principal pathways for radiation contamination in the event of a radiological emergency. With the support from the IAEA, a state-of-the-art method has been developed that could quickly and precisely check for the presence of radionuclides in dairy food products.

Twelve scientists, representing laboratories from Canada, France, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine, gathered for a week in Daejeon, Republic of Korea to gain hands-on experience in such methods. The venue was an ALMERA practical training course on the rapid determination of ‘radioactive strontium’ in milk and the methods and procedures involved in its assessment.

ALMERA stands for Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity and is an acronym for a worldwide network of analytical laboratories capable of providing reliable and timely determination of radionuclides in samples used for both routine and emergency environmental monitoring. The scientists attending the practical training course all worked in laboratories belonging to the ALMERA network.

Held in Daejeon, Republic of Korea from 3 to 7 November 2014, the ALMERA course provided the scientists with practical knowledge in the state-of-the-art method for quick and precise assessment of radionuclides in dairy food products in the event of a radiological emergency. It was organized by the IAEA Environment Laboratories, in cooperation with the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS).

Mr. David Osborn, Director of the IAEA Environment Laboratories, explained that the advanced nuclear analytical methods that laboratories use to acquire swift results on radionuclides content are of vital importance.

 “In case of a radiological emergency situation, radioactive strontium may be released to the environment and may present human health issues due to its potential incorporation into the calcium pool of the human body through the principal pathway: soil to plant to cow’s milk to humans,“ Mr. Osborn said. “Therefore, in emergency situations, the rapid analysis of radioactive strontium in milk is essential to protect humans from radiation exposure due to intake of contaminated milk.”

The training course included a half-day technical visit to selected KINS facilities, which provided an opportunity for the participants to learn about various nuclear applications. KINS is an IAEA collaborating centre for analytical method development and is the ALMERA regional coordinator for the Asia-Pacific region.

During the course, the participants practised the radioanalytical method in a radiochemical laboratory and were taught specific data analysis techniques for the calculation of the measurement results and their associated uncertainties. Experts from KINS and the IAEA guided the scientists on the key components of the analytical quality work that had to be implemented to reach a conclusive result.

This unique nuclear assessment tool was developed through the cooperative effort amongst ALMERA laboratories. To test the reliability of this innovative laboratory method, a large number of ALMERA laboratories participated to validate the procedure and ensure its reliability. This, in turn, contributed to its wider application and facilitated the harmonization of methods among environmental radioanalytical laboratories.

Since 2004, the IAEA has included within its ALMERA activities the development and validation of a set of procedures for the determination of radionuclides in environmental samples, both for routine and emergency environmental monitoring. These validated procedures cover the measurement of a large number of radionuclides from natural and anthropogenic origin in the different environmental compartments, including soil, water, air aerosols and unprocessed food products.

David Osborn further added that this practical training course, as well as the one hosted by the Argonne National Laboratory in the USA in March 2014, enabled ALMERA laboratories personnel to be trained directly in the laboratory, leading to additional capacity building for routine environmental monitoring and emergency response preparedness.

It is planned that this course will be repeated due to the high demand for such practical training course and to enhance laboratories good practices in the field of nuclear science and technology.

Background:

The ALMERA network currently consists of 149 laboratories in 84 Member States and is coordinated by the IAEA Environment Laboratories. The main network activities relate to the organization of proficiency tests and inter-laboratory comparison exercises, the development and validation of analytical procedures for the measurement of environmental radioactivity, and the organization of training courses and workshops. The goals of participation in the network activities are the demonstration of the technical competence of the ALMERA laboratories, the wider application of recommended validated methods and methodological harmonization leading to enhanced worldwide comparability of environmental radioactivity measurement results, and the development of analytical capabilities of the personnel.

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: August 13, 2014

1:19 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then happy to open it up for your questions.

First, a travel update. Secretary Kerry is now in Honolulu where he will give a speech at the East-West Center in Manila. It’s at 6:30 tonight, I believe. You can watch it on State.gov. He will meet with military leaders at U.S. Pacific Command Headquarters, and as I said, will deliver a speech this afternoon at the East-West Center on the U.S. vision for Asia Pacific engagement. I would encourage people to take a look at that.

On his stop yesterday in the Solomon Islands, the Secretary commemorated the World War II battles fought on Guadalcanal. He also met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Lilo and the governor general to discuss sustainable development, ocean preservation, and how the island’s residents are coping with the effects of climate change.

Last item at the top: We have seen multiple news reports that are just coming out of the plane crash in Brazil on which presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was on board. We are saddened at this tragedy, express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Our ambassador there is reaching out to senior Brazilian officials as we speak to formally convey our condolences as well.

Lara.

QUESTION: In Iraq, please. Today Prime Minister al-Maliki said he would not step down from his post until the Iraqi judiciary rules on whether or not his constitutional challenge to the process should go forward or not. I’m wondering if you all have any idea of how long this process might take as it speaks to some concerns people have raised about whether he will try to run out the clock on the 30 days he now – that designate al-Abadi has.

Also I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to my question yesterday as to what level of confidence does the U.S. have in the Iraqi judiciary system.

MS. HARF: A couple issues, and then we’ll – I’m sure you’ll have follow-ups. The comments made by the prime minister today were similar to ones he’s made in recent days, quite frankly. And as I said yesterday, with all political systems there will be differences with how certain processes unfold. We never expected this to be completely seamless, but the United States firmly rejects any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial processes.

And then look, I don’t want to get ahead of the constitutional process that’s underway. We just began the 30-day time clock for the Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi to form a new government. They are moving along with that process. So we will watch day by day as that plays out, but Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi is moving forward as part of this process, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the coming days.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe this court challenge that Maliki is posing is going to be slowing that 30-day clock in any way?

MS. HARF: Well, look, the prime minister-designate is the one who is in charge of what happens during the 30-day clock, and he’s working actively towards that. And again, we would reject any efforts by anyone to use the judicial processes to manipulate or coerce the outcomes here. But there is a separate process and it’s the constitutional one, and that’s moving forward.

QUESTION: How is it that the designate has control of the clock when Maliki is still the prime minister?

MS. HARF: Well, he has control of the clock. What I meant was the progress that can be made in the 30 days to form a new government is in the hands of the prime minister-designate, who has the support, as I said over the last few days. He was nominated by the Shiite bloc, including many members of Prime Minister Maliki’s own party.

So we’ve seen these kind of comments from the current prime minister before, but separate from those comments there is a process under the constitution that is moving forward. And we expect that to move forward and we will continue watching what happens in the coming days.

QUESTION: Do you have any expectations of how long this court appeal will last?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any guess on that.

QUESTION: May I just follow up on that? I mean, his words were very critical of the United States, today – Maliki’s speech. He basically said that you espouse democratic values but you go ahead and sabotage the democratic process. What do you have to say to that?

MS. HARF: Well, the Iraqis have their democratic process that’s underway right now, and that process has led to a new prime minister-designate being named by the current prime minister’s own bloc. So the process is playing out how it should. Again, we knew this would not be without complication. Nothing ever is – certainly not here in Iraqi politics. But their own democratically, constitutionally outlined process has been ongoing and that’s what’s happening right now.

QUESTION: I know that you warned against manipulating whatever legal process in the courts or whatever to sow divisions and so on in Iraq. Has anyone talked to the prime minister personally to say refrain from doing that because you’re driving the country further into the abyss?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had conversations with a range of leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, emphasizing, Said, that this is a key, critical time in Iraq on the security front, on the political front – they are very closely intertwined – and that nobody should do anything to prevent the progress that’s laid out under the constitution from taking place and from moving forward. Nobody should.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had those conversations.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, as we – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, they all welcome the prime minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi, but Maliki still has some support within the Shiites. He has some support within some, like, militant type of militias and so on. Are you concerned that he actually might resort to violence?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess on that hypothetical, Said. There’s a process in place and that process is moving forward. What’s key here is that the President asked the prime minister-designate to name a government. This was the designate that his own bloc, Prime Minister Maliki’s own bloc selected. So I think that should speak very clearly about the support that Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi has. And, again, the process is moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. And conversely, you deployed – or the United States deployed some 130 —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — advisors and so on to Erbil. Does that mean that the situation in Baghdad or around Baghdad is quiet enough where you don’t need this kind of advisory effort?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear about what these 130 advisors will and will not be doing. They are focused squarely on looking at the humanitarian situation on Mount Sinjar and developing options to potentially move people and relocate people safely from the mountain. As we know, dropping food and water is not a long-term solution for the tens of thousands of people on that mountain. So these U.S. military personnel that have just gone in are assessing the best way to bring these people to safety, whether that’s some sort of airlift, whether that’s a humanitarian corridor. They’re looking at the options, they’ll present them to the President, and then he’ll make decisions about how – the best way that we can help do that will be.

QUESTION: And I know yesterday that you denied that there was any kind of pressure on Maliki to leave August from early June or mid-June right after the fall of Mosul. So no one has talked to him at that time, “It’s time for you to leave?”

MS. HARF: What we’ve always said, Said, is that there is a constitutional process and that process needs to move forward. There are very clear rules under that process for how a new prime minister for a new government is designated. We have encouraged everyone to play by those rules, period. And that’s the message that we’ve been sending for a very long time.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: In your view that the federal court decision won’t have any impact on the formation on the new government?

MS. HARF: I don’t know, quite frankly, legally inside Iraq what the ramifications of that might be. That’s a hypothetical. I’m happy to check with our team. What I do know is there’s a constitutional process that has been followed here. It’s moving forward, and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you on one of the points you mentioned, saying it’s not a long-term solution to be dropping supplies to the Yezidis on the mountain.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Is there —

MS. HARF: Which seems fairly self-evident, I think.

QUESTION: Certainly, but I was going to ask: Is there a timeline for how long they actually have? I mean, is this something that needs to be done immediately? Can they wait out —

MS. HARF: As soon as possible. I mean, every day we go by – look, we’ve now made six humanitarian airdrops onto the mountain. Up until this point, we delivered 100,000 – over 100,000 halal meals and over 27,000 gallons of fresh drinking water over six nights of airdrops. But the need is quite urgent. So that’s why the President, as the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense, sent in these advisors, because we know it’s very urgent. As I said, he – they – he – they will be looking at options, providing recommendations to the President to see what we could do to help move these people to a safer place. And our team is looking at that right now.

QUESTION: Marie, on that, can you explain what the State Department’s role, even if it’s a support role, will be with those advisors who were sent in?

MS. HARF: Yep. Well, obviously, we’re all working together out of Erbil, out of our consulate there. And there are some USAID, particularly, experts in humanitarian work who have gone in previously but who are still there who will be working very closely with this team. Obviously, they’re experts in humanitarian issues and they’ll be working very closely with the rest of our team as well.

QUESTION: Are those the DART advisors?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, DART. And there are also some other folks, but mainly the DART advisors that went in over the weekend to Erbil.

QUESTION: But for those folks who have made it off the mountain by either extraction or wandered down —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — is State doing anything with those – I guess you could call them refugees, or certainly displaced people?

MS. HARF: We have a number of things we’re doing to try and help with the situation with internally-displaced people writ large in the area. Certainly USAID is focused on it; the UN is quite focused on it. There does remain quite a serious security challenge. So one of the reasons we have sent these advisors in to look at additional options is that we are heartened that some people have made it off the mountain, but we don’t believe that there’s a large-scale way for everyone to that would be safe and secure. Because we do need to have places for them to go where they won’t be under threat. So we are looking at that. We’re working – we are certainly working very closely with international organizations, with the Iraqis and the Kurds as well.

QUESTION: Just – Marie —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And for some of these – we’ve seen a lot of media reports, a lot of these are kids without their parents.

MS. HARF: Yes. It’s a horrific situation across the board. A lot of children. Again, every day that goes by it gets worse. That’s why we’ve every single day been providing food and water, but are urgently looking at what more we can do.

QUESTION: So is there anyone there on the ground now working specifically with the kids? I mean, within this DART team, within whatever State is doing?

MS. HARF: Let me check on that. I know – I’m sure there are. I know we’re helping on a wide range of – in a wide range of ways here. Let me check if there’s anything specifically for children, but it is a huge problem. You’re absolutely right.

Lucas.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: With regard to the rescue of the Yezidis, how do these new advisors that are being added to the mission not constitute boots on the ground?

MS. HARF: Well, the President has been very clear that we will not be sending troops back in in combat roles. That’s the key phrase. They’re assessing. They’re not there in combat roles. They are U.S. military personnel, but they are operating out of a consulate and they are an assessment team, essentially. So they’re not performing combat roles.

QUESTION: But these advisors are not troops, you’re saying?

MS. HARF: Well, what the President has said specifically is what he will not do is introduce troops in combat roles. Both of those key points are important there. There have obviously been U.S. military advisors in Iraq for some time now, for several months now since we first announced the tranches would be going to assess the situation. So there are U.S. military personnel there, but the President’s key point has always been they will not be serving in combat roles. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change.

QUESTION: But when you have these advisors on the ground, any kind of rescue effort to bring the rest of the Yezidis off the ground – it’s been reported that 20-, 30,000 still remain – don’t you need to have boots on the ground to assist in this rescue effort?

MS. HARF: Well, a rescue effort is very different from combat. We have, as you know, air power over the skies of Iraq right now that the military is engaged in, as the President has spoken about. Those obviously aren’t combat troops on the ground. So we’re engaging in offensive airstrikes. Now there have been 24 in total since we began: seven related to the Mt. Sinjar humanitarian crisis in areas around the mountain, 17 in defense of Erbil. So we have air power from the sky and teams on the ground of assessors. They are not serving – you know this very well. There are specific roles that are combat roles, and that’s not what they will be doing. Any humanitarian action would be a humanitarian action. It would be – not be troops on the ground engaged in combat.

QUESTION: Right. But if a rescue effort involving helicopters, close air support – doesn’t that need to be coordinated with somebody on the ground?

MS. HARF: Certainly, and that would be coordinated with our assessment team on the ground, but also very closely coordinated with the Iraqi forces. That’s a key point here. The Iraqi forces, particularly the Kurdish forces in the north, are very engaged in this fight. They obviously have their combat troops on the ground, for lack of a more technical term. So it was all very closely coordinated with them.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the role and help of the international community?

MS. HARF: We are. Just a few points on this: The Brits have announced a $13.4 million package of emergency humanitarian assistance. As part of that package, they’ve flown with us to deliver water containers filled with safe drinking water and lanterns that can be used to recharge mobile phones. France and Australia have also offered to help deliver humanitarian supplies. Canada has offered assistance with broader humanitarian operations for displaced Iraqis. They’ve announced a large sum of money as well. The Saudis, the – and New Zealand and Germans have also announced to help as well. So we’re talking to partners about what can be done here. We obviously have unique capabilities that we can bring to bear.

QUESTION: And the French Foreign Minister Fabius said today, “When people are dying, you must come back from vacation.” He was imploring Western leaders to come back off of vacation. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. HARF: I think you’ve seen President Obama and the Secretary and everybody, no matter where they are in the world, very deeply engaged on this issue, making decisions, getting updates, talking to their team. The miracle of modern technology is that you can do that securely from wherever you are. I can guarantee you we’ve had a number of conversations with my colleagues who are with the President and with his team, as have our folks here. So everybody is very, very, very deeply engaged on this issue.

QUESTION: And lastly, why didn’t you do more to help the Christians when they were being attacked earlier?

MS. HARF: Well, Lucas, look. We’ve done a number of things to help with the dire humanitarian situation in Iraq. And since Iraqi populations have started really over the past several months being threatened by ISIL, we have taken steps to increase the Iraqis’ capability to fight this threat. Whether it’s providing increased intelligence through surveillance and reconnaissance to help them go after targets, providing direct humanitarian assistance – we’ve done all of that.

Here, there was a limited and discrete and incredibly urgent humanitarian situation that we could bring assistance to. So when we saw a place where we could help, we did so. There are other ways you can help in other situations, but this, again, was a very discrete situation. The Iraqis had tried to do some of this and didn’t have all the capabilities.

QUESTION: Does Secretary Kerry support the expansion of airstrikes to hit targets? It was reported that ISIS has gotten hold of 30 M1 Abrams tanks.

MS. HARF: Well, the President outlined the two specific missions the airstrikes would be focused on last Thursday when he made this announcement. First, of course, was protecting the people on Mount Sinjar with the humanitarian aid, but also with the strikes around the mountain; and also protecting Erbil, which, of course, houses our people – many of them – but is also a key strategic city. So those are the two missions as of right now. The same principle would, of course, apply to Baghdad, because we have many people there.

But there’s a separate question here between how you defeat a terrorist group that is essentially acting like an army, right. ISIL’s a terrorist group that right now is taking territory and has heavy weaponry. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. But there’s a longer-term strategic issue of how you degrade the terrorist group’s abilities to take territory, to conduct attacks, and to do some of the things they want to do. Those are conversations that are happening together, and we’ll continue making decisions about how we can best do that going forward.

QUESTION: Marie, on this issue —

MS. HARF: Yeah, and then I’ll go to Arshad. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: No, that’s okay.

QUESTION: What are you relying on to defeat ISIL in the future? And they are gaining on the ground day by – day after day.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, when you look at how you traditionally degrade a terrorist group, what are the kinds of things you can do, right. You can take out their leadership; you can reduce their operational capability; you can cut off their financing sources. We’ve done this other places, and there are a number of ways you can do that.

So that’s, in some ways, a little bit of a separate issue because they’re acting very much like an army in that they’re taking over territory. So right now, we’re focused on pushing them back from this territory, helping the Kurds, the Iraqis regain this territory, and then longer-term, helping the Iraqis develop the capabilities to degrade the terrorist group – whether it’s increased surveillance and reconnaissance even more so they can target their leadership, whether it’s increased weapons that we’re getting to the Iraqis and the Kurds.

All of those things are a longer-term conversation because, as we’ve always said, there’s no long-term American military solution here in Iraq. We need to help them build their capacity so they can degrade the terrorist group in the long run. Right now, what we’re trying to do, quite frankly, is prevent them from taking any more territory and to protect our people as well.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Marie, just (inaudible). You said in response to Lucas’s question that a rescue effort is different from a combat effort.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Definitionally, I think?

QUESTION: Yeah – no, no, it makes sense.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Would – does the U.S. Government – would providing security on the ground to try to facilitate the evacuation of people from Mount Sinjar – is that or would that be a combat role? Or is that conceivable to you as not a combat role?

MS. HARF: Well, two points: (a), I don’t want to get into sort of hypotheticals about what kind of support we might give and what that might look like or what any option might look like, (a), and I wouldn’t be able to make a determination based on that hypothetical. But the President has been clear that we will not put troops on the ground engaged in combat roles, period.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking the question is that the American people are presumably interested in understanding under what circumstances there may be boots on the ground, and humanitarian experts argue that you have to have somebody who provides security on the ground when you’re trying to evacuate people, however you’re doing that – doing it by air so that the —

MS. HARF: Right, yep.

QUESTION: — choppers or whatever can land, doing it by land so that the lanes are – don’t come under attack. And so the reason I’m asking the question is that if providing security on the ground is not deemed to be a combat role, then conceivably, American soldiers could be put in, but be in danger or they could come under fire and so —

MS. HARF: Well, I understand the reason you’re asking the question.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: And to be clear, even our advisors are serving in a very dangerous place.

QUESTION: I get it.

MS. HARF: So just – even though they’re only in an assessing role, they are undertaking some very difficult work here. Again, there haven’t been decisions made about how to do this. We’ll have the assessment team provide recommendations to the President, and then when there is a path forward, we’ll talk about what the different pieces of that look like on the ground. I just really don’t want to get ahead of something where decisions haven’t been made, but again, President has been very clear – no troops in a combat role. That hasn’t changed, and we’ll figure out the best way to help get these people off the mountain.

QUESTION: But you wouldn’t – the nature of your answer, which is carefully, it seems to me, to preserve the President’s options since he hadn’t made any decisions yet —

MS. HARF: Like in general, the principle of mind is to preserve the President’s options from this podium.

QUESTION: Sure. So you would not rule out the possibility of American troops providing security on the ground?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to rule it in either, though. I really just don’t want to comment in any way on what this eventually might look like. There’s a team on the ground and we’ll see what they come back with. I’m just not going to rule things in or out.

QUESTION: And one other one: You mentioned the Kurdish forces that are on the ground. Is it conceivable to you that they could provide that kind of security?

MS. HARF: Certainly conceivable, yes.

QUESTION: A question about the international support: Prime Minister Cameron has indicated that Britain would be ready to help with the rescue effort. I just wondered, in terms of the others – France, Australia, Canada – have they mentioned they’d be willing to help with any of that, or is it just humanitarian supplies?

MS. HARF: We’re having those conversations with them right now and we’ll see what our assessment team comes back with and see what the path forward looks like, and we’ll continue having those conversations. Nothing specific to report out, though.

QUESTION: Madam, would you call all these new groups the new face of al-Qaida or supporters of Usama bin Ladin, or their followers?

MS. HARF: Well, what’s interesting about ISIS or IS, or whatever we want to call it this week, is that they’re, in some ways, even too brutal for al-Qaida, which is an extraordinary thought to think about. They’ve, in some – in many ways been rejected by al-Qaida because of how barbaric and truly nihilistic they’ve really been in attacking anyone who gets in their way – Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Christians, Yezidis, you name it. They have shown no bounds to their brutality.

But as we’ve said, there are terrorist groups that we watch very closely. This unfortunately has been a direct result of what we’ve seen in Syria and the situation there. We’ve watched it. It’s been a changing threat, but we continue to watch it and continue to figure out the best way to go after it. We also – we’ve talked a lot about whether this is a threat to the homeland or not. We’ll keep watching that. We always monitor for potential threats to the homeland, but we’re really focused right now on the threat they pose to our people and to the people of Iraq. That’s our immediate-term focus here.

QUESTION: When he said to you —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Just quick.

MS. HARF: Let me have – but he can have a follow-up.

QUESTION: One more quick question, thank you. Many experts are, Madam, saying that why don’t you also go after those who are supporting them financially and also arming them, including some names are coming like Saudi Arabia.

MS. HARF: Well, as we’ve said, we’re very concerned about their source of financing. Much of it comes from kidnappings, from thefts. Much of it comes from activities – criminal activities, for lack of a better term – that they undertake. We don’t have evidence that other governments are supporting them, but it is something that we know private citizens have supported. So we have constant conversations with our partners in the region, particularly in the Gulf, about private citizens that may be funding them and really cracking down on these financial networks, because a lot of this is that they’re able to get money. We also won’t hesitate to take further action on our own to disrupt financial networks, including through Treasury. I think they made some additional designations last week. We constantly see if there are ways we can help crack down, too.

QUESTION: Madam, most of the —

MS. HARF: One more. Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam, most of the financing comes in the name of charity.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that’s true with ISIL. I think most of their financing comes from criminal acts like ransoms, kidnappings, and theft. I’m not sure if that’s actually true here, and I think any notion that the people that are part of ISIL are doing anything that is any way based in religion is just offensive and completely untrue.

Yes.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on the issue of advisors.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What do you say to your critics from the Hill that are saying you are not doing enough, that this is actually just like window dressing, sending advisors; that you need a lot more and perhaps you need to pursue ISIL in Syria and other places?

MS. HARF: Well, I think that for the people on that mountain who have received food and water from the United States who have advisors in there right now seeing if we can get them off of that mountain, they wouldn’t call it window dressing, Said.

QUESTION: So is —

MS. HARF: And I also think we’ve taken 24 strikes over the past several days hitting ISIL targets. We – the President always takes into consideration a number of factors when making decisions about when and how to use military action. It’s an incredibly important decision. We don’t take it lightly. There are a range of factors that go into it. And as I said, we are looking long-term at how we fight ISIL.

QUESTION: Yeah, but their role – they went there before Sinjar, before the humanitarian situation exploded on Sinjar. So the role was really to —

MS. HARF: And we were working with the Iraqis to fight them then. We’re just doing it in a different way now. As the threat has changed, our assistance has changed.

QUESTION: Can I clarify something?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you all – is the government assessing right now – is it fair for – to me to assume that the assessment is on how the U.S. will address ISIL in the long term? Is that basically what you just said?

MS. HARF: Certainly. We’re – we’ve been looking at that for quite some time. That’s not new.

QUESTION: Not just in Iraq but also in Syria?

MS. HARF: Correct. And again, we’ve been looking at that for months and months, even before the latest offensives that started in June against Mosul. For a year or so now, we’ve been looking very closely at how you confront them in the long term.

QUESTION: And so in this year, have there been any conclusions or any recommendations?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve taken a number of steps, as you’ve seen. In Syria, it’s a different challenging operating environment so it’s a completely different picture there. We’ve worked with the moderate opposition to increase their ability to fight back against these groups. We’ve taken steps to cut off their funding. We’ve worked with other governments to do so. And we have worked particularly with the Iraqis to help them build their capacity to do this. Really, what’s going to have to happen here and what we’ve been focused on is how you get the necessary assistance, whether it’s monetary or with arms and weapons, with training, to these countries who are really in the crossfires here in terms of ISIL’s threat. So that’s a long-term issue we’re working on together.

QUESTION: Marie, on that, does the U.S. view the Syrian opposition, the FSA, as a partner in the fight against ISIS?

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So when you say there’s been moves to support the opposition, has there been any increase to that of late, since we recognize the border but obviously ISIS does not between Iraq and Syria?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, I think I don’t have much update beyond what the President announced during his West Point speech when we said we were submitting to Congress a request to train and equip through the Department of Defense the Syrian opposition. We need Congress to act on that. But we’ve continued to work with them in a variety of ways, not of all of which we outlined, but certainly, we are continuing to work there. The threat picture is just a little bit different in Syria, given the fact that you have not only ISIS in Syria, but you have al-Nusrah, you have the regime, you have the opposition, and everybody – there’s not as clearly delineated battle lines, for lack of a better term. There’s a lot of people all in densely populated areas operating many times in very close quarters here. So we are working on it, but it’s a very different threat picture.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: But as you’ve said, there’s been no progress with that statement the President made at West Point. Nothing’s happened on the Hill.

MS. HARF: We need Congress to act.

QUESTION: So without —

MS. HARF: Speaking of what Foreign Minister Fabius said about coming back from vacation. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So since they haven’t, is there thought to acting then in terms of what the President could do?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been acting. To be fair, we provide them with a wide range of assistance, not all of which you know we talk about publicly. But that’s continued and that will continue to increase.

QUESTION: Would you say that ISIS is as much of a threat to the United States as AQIM or AQAP?

MS. HARF: I would separate AQIM and AQAP. AQAP has demonstrated through attempted attacks their desire to attack the homeland, whether it was with the Christmas Day bomber, the other – the printer cartridge plot. They’ve very clearly shown their willingness to try to attack the homeland. So that’s why we’ve been quite focused on AQAP and worked with the Government of Yemen quite a bit. And this is sort of a country you can look at where we do have a very close counterterrorism relationship to fight a shared threat.

AQIM’s a little bit different. We haven’t seen the same – I mean, they’re obviously very dangerous; constantly vigilant. We haven’t seen the same level that we’ve seen from AQAP. AQAP’s really the affiliate that has been the most aggressive in terms of targeting the homeland.

But again, ISIL, as I said, has even been rejected by AQ. And we haven’t seen them in the same way focused on that. We’re constantly monitoring, constantly vigilant, and constantly on the lookout for any threats to the homeland. And it doesn’t mean this group isn’t horrific; it doesn’t mean they don’t threaten our people in Erbil. But again, they haven’t been as focused, necessarily, on external attacks and plotting and planning of those. Again, they’ve been mainly focused in Iraq on actually getting heavy weaponry and taking territory, which is very different than, I would say, AQIM.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: But with hundreds of Westerners holding passports as a part of this Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS – isn’t that the biggest threat to the homeland right now?

MS. HARF: It’s certainly a threat. And I – let me check on “hundreds.” I’m not sure if that’s the number. It very well may be. That’s —

QUESTION: The Attorney General said this is what it is.

MS. HARF: Well then, hey, if the Attorney General said it, it’s probably the number. But that is certainly a threat. A threat is some of these folks returning to Europe particularly or even to the homeland. We obviously have very strict border controls, security controls on who can come here. But that is a huge threat.

QUESTION: Also, would – Marie, going back to the rescue mission, would you say that Mount Sinjar is located in a combat zone?

MS. HARF: I don’t know technically what I would say. Clearly, there’s a lot of fighting going around it.

QUESTION: I mean, with ISIS surrounding —

MS. HARF: I know what you’re trying to get at here, but I will be clear again: The President has said there will be no troops engaged in combat roles, and you know what that means.

QUESTION: I do.

MS. HARF: I know. And that’s why I said it. But we want to be very clear that just because they’re not in combat roles, it doesn’t mean that they’re not operating in a very dangerous place.

QUESTION: Just most people watching this briefing say that Mount Sinjar is located —

MS. HARF: All three of them watching online, two of which are my parents. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, when people do watch highlights of this —

MS. HARF: They do. I – they do. They do.

QUESTION: — it’s going to be hard for people to think that Mount Sinjar, located near the Syrian-Iraq border – that this is not a combat zone and people dealing with the rescue mission aren’t engaged in some kind of combat, armed combat.

MS. HARF: Well, they won’t be, period. The President’s been clear about that. Again, it doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, but I think one of the reasons that we are so focused on making clear what we will and won’t do here is because the President has been very clear about what needs to be – what needs to happen going forward in Iraq, what we’ve done in this Administration in terms of bringing troops home, and being very clear with people about why this is not a repeat of that, why that’s not going to turn into that. And I think that’s very important for him and for us to be very clear about that, and that’s why we keep harping on it.

QUESTION: Marie, on —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the delivery of arms to the Kurds, especially that France and Britain have decided today to deliver military —

MS. HARF: No updates for you. Obviously, we believe they need to get weapons, everything as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. We’re working with the Iraqis and the Kurds on that, but no other update or details for you.

QUESTION: And what do you think about the Britain and France decisions?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more assessment of that. I know we’re focused on getting them the equipment they need.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. HARF: No, I don’t think yet.

QUESTION: No, it’s —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned total of 24 airstrikes —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — and six humanitarian drops, whatever.

MS. HARF: Six, yes. One each night since the President made the decision.

QUESTION: So you think it’s – the humanitarian crisis is getting better or it’s getting worse?

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: And —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the second question; related. The number of the – like, I mean, the people who are displaced are increasing or the same number or some —

MS. HARF: Well, those are two different questions. Let me take the first one.

We are heartened that some people have been able to leave the mountain, in part because we’ve taken military action around it. But we don’t believe that’s a long – a strategy for everyone to do so safely. So we know there’s still a very dire humanitarian situation on that mountain. That’s why we’re continuing to provide assistance and are looking at options for getting them off of it, quite frankly.

But second, I can get our numbers on internally displaced people. I would guess they’re the same or they’re still pretty high. I just don’t have the latest figures on that, so let me check on that.

QUESTION: So no more people are pushed to the mountain?

MS. HARF: No, correct. It’s my understanding that no more have been pushed to the mountain, but there still remain a number of people there.

QUESTION: Second question regarding the confronting with the ISIL or ISIS: How much Iraqi forces are playing a role, if any role?

MS. HARF: A huge role. The Iraqi forces and the Kurdish forces, as I’ve said a couple of times, are working very closely together to confront this in truly an unprecedented way we had never seen before. That’s something that we want to see continue. We think it’s a good thing for Iraq in general. And they are confronting them. On the ground you see them doing so. We’re helping them with some of these airstrikes around Erbil, but they need to have some more capabilities that we’re going to help them build.

QUESTION: So your understanding there is a coordination, or —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — kind of cooperation between them?

MS. HARF: Correct, yes. And between us as well.

QUESTION: And going back to the democratic process or the constitutional process you mentioned at the beginning of this briefing, what is your understanding of what is your – how do you explain it is linked to the security process which now going on in – at north of Iraq?

MS. HARF: Well, how it’s linked going forward —

QUESTION: Yes, I mean —

MS. HARF: Right. So in order for Iraq to be as strong as it can be to confront ISIL, we need a new government in place as quickly as possible. You need a prime minister – we have a president, we have a speaker – who can set the path for Iraq moving forward in terms of fighting this threat. They can make very clear they’re going to do this together. They can keep up the cooperation between all of the different regions. They can put additional resources to it. They can govern inclusively. They can help bring Iraq together to do this. And we’ll be with them. As the Secretary said, we’re looking at ways to do more once a government’s in place.

So it really is about the future of Iraq and getting past this political process, getting it in place, and really putting all of Iraq’s resources towards fighting this threat and, quite frankly, not towards a political process that should be over fairly soon.

QUESTION: So do you think that with a new government would be able – the new government would be able to confront the new reality that is now shaped by the presence of ISIL in Iraqi land?

MS. HARF: I think that the members of the new government, including the prime minister-designate, understand the incredibly dire security situation they are facing. I think they understand the urgency of it. I think they understand the need to do much, much more to work closely with us. And I think they know that Iraq’s future is at stake here, and they want to be a part of helping them have a better future. And I think that you really do see that among the Iraqi leaders our folks have been talking to. They understand how important this moment is and they understand how important it is to move quickly.

QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?

QUESTION: Actually, can we —

MS. HARF: And then we’ll go to Gaza, Said, as soon as we’re done with Iraq.

QUESTION: Sure. The issue of arms for the Kurdish fighters. There have been reports that Peshmerga have been talking about an alliance with the PKK to fight ISIS.

MS. HARF: Oh, I hadn’t seen that.

QUESTION: Obviously, the PKK is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group. Does that give any pause to the United States?

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen those reports. Let me check with our team.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: And if we have any announces, happy to do it then.

Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: Marie, one more.

MS. HARF: One more on Iraq.

QUESTION: Did anybody from the Administration talk to Prime Minister Maliki today after his statement?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer to that.

Yep.

QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Okay. Your counterpart at the White House said that the President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Do you have any more information on this?

MS. HARF: I would refer to my counterpart at the White House.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know that – whether the Secretary of State spoke with the Israeli prime minister on the issue of the ceasefire and —

MS. HARF: He spoke with him yesterday and on Monday. Not to my knowledge yet today.

QUESTION: Okay. So could you tell us: What is the American team doing in terms of extending the ceasefire?

MS. HARF: Well, Frank Lowenstein is on the ground.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: The team is working on this. Basically, there are three steps in this process. I’m just – I want to be a little more clear than I was yesterday, probably, about what we’re trying to get accomplished here. There’s a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in place now. That was step one. What we want is a more sustainable, longer-team ceasefire – that’s what we’re working on – the parties are working on with our advice in Cairo – or absent that, an extension of the current temporary one. And then, obviously, we would talk – and Elise isn’t here, but she asked about this yesterday – we talk about the details of reconstruction and what that might look like. We’re starting to have conversations with people, but obviously that would be further down the road.

So we’re focused right now on the fact that we’re almost at the end of the 72 hours. We hope they can get an agreement today and move to a sustainable ceasefire. If that is not possible, as I said, we hope they can get to an extension of the temporary ceasefire.

QUESTION: As far as a sustainable ceasefire is concerned, would it or should it address Palestinian grievances —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — such as lifting the siege, opening the crossing points, and so on?

MS. HARF: Every day you ask about specifics —

QUESTION: Of course.

MS. HARF: — that it should address and every day I tell you I’m not going to talk about what specifics it should address.

QUESTION: Well, let me ask you a very specific thing. The Israeli press reported that the United States is willing to rebuild the Gaza harbor. Are you willing to rebuild the Gaza harbor?

MS. HARF: Well, Said, we’ve begun to have discussions with the Israelis, with the PA, the Egyptians, the UN, the EU, the Norwegians, and the Arab League about what efforts might entail and are preparing the groundwork, obviously, to do some long-term rebuilding here. But this all hinges first on us getting a sustainable ceasefire agreed to by both of the parties. So the conversations have started, but no more details beyond that.

QUESTION: Marie, absent from your list was the disarmament of Hamas. Is that of concern of the U.S. Government?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t lay out a list about what is part of the talks. Obviously, we – I said what we want to see happen but didn’t see what that should look like.

QUESTION: I thought you said you wanted to see three things.

MS. HARF: Right, the temporary humanitarian ceasefire is in place. I didn’t say what the substance of those decisions and agreements should look like. Obviously, long term that’s something that needs to be addressed.

QUESTION: Would you like to see Hamas disarmed?

MS. HARF: Obviously, yes. That’s a long-term goal of ours, but I’m not going to get into whether or not that’s a part of the discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you confirm or if you have any information on the PA security personnel going into Gaza and perhaps being at the crossing points and so on?

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

QUESTION: Would you like to see them go in?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into —

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that bring Gaza under the —

MS. HARF: Said, you can try —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to outline what our positions are on any of these issues that may be a part of the talks in Cairo, and we’re not a direct party to the talks.

QUESTION: But it is your goal to see the Authority maintain authority over Gaza, correct? The Palestinian Authority?

MS. HARF: That is correct, but I’m not going to get into more details, Said. But to be fair, Hamas is the one who was responsible for the security of Gaza right now. And we’ve said that repeatedly.

QUESTION: But – although you will not talk with them, right?

MS. HARF: We will – we do not and will not talk with them.

Anything else on Gaza?

QUESTION: I just have one quick one.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: New York State Governor Andy Cuomo was in Israel today. He expressed, quote, “total solidarity” with the country during the Gaza war. Wondering if the State Department agrees with that or if these comments are helpful.

MS. HARF: I actually, quite frankly, haven’t seen them before I came in here. Look, we’ve said we are – stand very closely with Israel as they fight this threat. But it’s much more complicated than that, and I think much more complicated than those comments probably outline. What we’re focused on is getting – not what people say during visits, it’s on what we can get accomplished by helping the parties to get to a ceasefire here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Marie, I’m wondering if you’ve seen the tweets at the account that allegedly belongs to the Supreme Leader, saying over the last year he’s decided the officials hold talks with the U.S. on nuclear issues, but it didn’t work and they increased sanctions; it was a valuable experience to learn talks with the U.S. have absolutely no effect on reducing their hostilities and are useless. What do you make of that?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still engaged through the P5+1 with talks with Iran, had a bilateral meeting just last week – was it last week; all of the weeks are running together now – in Geneva. And we focused on exclusively on the nuclear issue. We see them as an opportunity to test Iran’s seriousness to reach an agreement. If Iran passes this test, it will – it won’t be through words. It won’t be. It will be through concrete actions, verifiable actions, some of which we’ve seen. And I would note that we have not imposed additional nuclear-related sanctions since the Joint Plan of Action. We’ve been very clear about that. I’ve stood up here from this podium and argued strenuously against any.

QUESTION: So are there further meetings planned, though? Because this is not a positive endorsement or assessment.

MS. HARF: Yep. Well, as we – as I said last week as well, we expect there will be a P5+1 plenary with Iran, with the EU before UNGA. I expect there will be one at UNGA as well, possibly probably with ministers at the ministerial level. We’re engaged with them, quite frankly, every day on this issue.

QUESTION: Do you regard these tweets attributed to the Supreme Leader as bona fide? I mean, do you know that they’re – do you believe that this is actually the Supreme Leader tweeting?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the tweets. I saw some other comments this morning that were very similar to this. I don’t know if I’m going to verify his Twitter account, but – (laughter) – I’d refer you to Twitter to verify that. How about that?

QUESTION: No, I just wanted to make sure that – anyway.

MS. HARF: We’ve seen comments like this before.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Around the same time, President Rouhani has been pushing back on some hardliners. I think some colorful language for him to tell hardliners to “go to hell.” And I’m just kind of wondering if – what kind of support the U.S. is offering to him. I mean, if he is going out on a limb and he and the Supreme Leader are at odds here, what that might spell.

MS. HARF: Well, I would be cautious – well, first of all, this isn’t about U.S. support to President Rouhani. That has nothing to do with any of this. I would be cautious in drawing broad analytic conclusions about the relationship between the Supreme Leader and President Rouhani from any one set of public comments. I probably don’t have much more to add than that.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Madam, as India and Pakistan celebrate their independence this week, India has warned Pakistan stop proxy war over the border because some incidents have been going on over the border between India and Pakistan in the recent days. And yesterday, Prime Minister Modi was in the area and he was talking about this, that time has come for peace and lasting peace between the two countries. If these wars – proxy wars against India continues, then there’s no chance to have any peace between the two countries. Any —

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen the comments; as we have in the past, continue to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan, welcome any and all positive steps the two sides can take to strengthen and deepen their dialogue and cooperation.

QUESTION: And are you – is the Secretary sending any messages on these two countries about this independence —

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary just had a very good visit in India, has had a number of conversations when he was there, and I don’t think – he sent the message I just sent from here.

QUESTION: And one more quickly on the Secretary’s visit to India. Was there any discussion about this India-Pakistan as far as the Kashmir issues or these ongoing issues and proxy – all these border issues going on?

MS. HARF: I would expect there probably was, but I don’t know the specifics. So I can check for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On the same subject —

MS. HARF: Yes, Lucas. Let’s go to Lucas, and then I’ll go around to the back.

QUESTION: On the same subject?

MS. HARF: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m on the same subject. You —

MS. HARF: Oh, he’s on the same subject, too.

QUESTION: Pakistan.

MS. HARF: We’ll just walk around the room. Okay.

QUESTION: Today’s the three-year anniversary of Warren Weinstein’s kidnapping in Pakistan. I was wondering if the United States Government had an update.

MS. HARF: I don’t have much of an update for you. We remain concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Weinstein, continue to monitor the situation closely, and we continue to work actively with Pakistani authorities to try to secure his release. We remain in regular contact with his family in the United States, are providing all possible consular assistance – of course, strongly condemn kidnappings of any kind, call for the immediate release of the victim, and the prosecution of those responsible.

QUESTION: His family is demanding that the United States Government do more at – what is the highest level of exchange of talks?

MS. HARF: That we’ve had with the family?

QUESTION: Not the family, but with the Government of Pakistan. Has it gone to the prime minister level, or —

MS. HARF: I don’t know. I can check on if that’s something we can share, but I just don’t know the answer.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just one more —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — quickly, just follow-up.

MS. HARF: And then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: As far as Pakistan’s government is concerned, they are really in trouble because Nawaz Sharif is calling for a national unity because of those – Imran Khan and other groups are going, protesting and demonstrating against because they’re saying that this election was illegal or against the constitution. Are you getting any feedback from the government? They are – if they have ask any kind of help, or —

MS. HARF: I don’t think – I think you’re referring – there’s some marches, I think, coming up. We don’t have any position on the planned marches – obviously, stand strongly in favor of a democratically-elected civilian government, but also the position of individual rights, including people to assemble peacefully.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you, Madam.

MS. HARF: Let’s go to the back. Yes.

QUESTION: Today, Pakistan has rejected the allegations by Indian Prime Minister Singh that they go against the spirit of recent moves towards resumption of the dialogue between the two countries. What is your position on that?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve seen these comments. We continue to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan, and we would welcome any and all positive steps that the two sides could take.

Yes.

QUESTION: Libya.

MS. HARF: Let’s go to Scott, and then we’ll go to Libya.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: We’ve heard more from the UN Security Council about possible sanctions against people in South Sudan who are violating the ceasefire accord. Might those – might that include the real powers here – Riek Machar and Salva Kiir?

MS. HARF: Well, as you know, the Security Council had just traveled to South Sudan, including Ambassador Power was there as well. They warned Machar that the politically and ethnically motivated violence really put South Sudan at a great risk of famine, joined other council members in expressing concern that Mr. Machar had failed to implement the previously agreed-upon commitments.

So obviously, we can’t comment on potential future action or who that may include, but – which would, of course, have to be agreed to by the whole Security Council. But we are considering sanctions options as appropriate to target those who are acting to impede the peaceful resolution of the conflict in South Sudan, including and in particular those responsible for human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan.

We are also considering what other steps we might take under our own executive order that the President signed on April 3rd that puts in place the architecture for further sanctions. We’ve already undertaken some but further ones as well. So we’re looking at both; we’re actively engaged in both.

QUESTION: When you say, “We are,” that’s the U.S. Government, correct?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION:

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: August 12, 2014

1:49 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top.

First, on Libya, we strongly condemn today’s assassination of Tripoli’s police chief, Colonel Mahmed Sweissi. We are deeply concerned – or Mohammed Sweissi, excuse me. We are deeply concerned by ongoing violence in Libya. Colonel Sweissi was widely seen as a committed public servant. His murder and the senseless acts of violence against other officials, activists, and citizens throughout Libya threatens to undermine the aspirations for which the Libyan people have sacrificed so much. As we’ve said many times, violence will not solve Libya’s problems. We urge dialogue and compromise to build a free, prosperous, and democratic Libya.

And then a travel update: On August 12th, Secretary Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel met with Australian Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial – or AUSMIN – consultations to discuss ways in which we can expand and deepen our alliance cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and globally. The highlight of this year’s meetings was the signing of the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement, which was announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott on June 12th in Washington. The new FPA provides the foundation for force posture initiatives in Australia. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security and advance America’s ongoing strategic rebalance in the Asia Pacific.

Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, Foreign Minister Bishop, and Defense Minister Johnston had robust discussions of global issues as well, including conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and the situation in eastern Ukraine, and of course, our joint efforts in Afghanistan.

Lara.

QUESTION: So I see the President spoke today with the Canadian prime minister on Iraq. It made me wonder what kind of regional dialogues the United States is having with other partners in the Mideast on how other states in the Mideast can assist militarily or with humanitarian aid to what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re having a number of conversations, and to be fair, those conversations have been ongoing. Obviously, one I’d note is the Brits, as you know, who have now also provided – began providing humanitarian aid. We’ve also talked to a number of partners about financial contributions and would note generous financial contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, the EU, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and others already in response. So obviously, we are talking to many of our partners on the humanitarian side and the financial side particularly about how we can all bring more resources to bear here.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering, aside from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, if there are other partners in the Mideast. Particularly, has anybody expressed any willingness to assist militarily with the Government of Iraq or even the Kurds, or what kind of – if not boots on the ground, personnel on the ground, people on the ground?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team here and see if those discussions have been happening. We’ve had discussions with Iraq’s neighbors over the past several weeks and months, I’d say, particularly on the refugee issue and on the foreign fighter issue as well. So these are conversations we’ve had for a while. I can check and see, Lara – and it’s a good question – if there are updates on the military or security assistance piece.

QUESTION: Thank you. Were you aware of the report in Der Spiegel today that apparently some Iranian planes have landed in the Kurdish region with arms and ammunition?

MS. HARF: I am and I’ve seen them, and we can’t confirm them one way or the other at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you get any update from my question yesterday on when was the last time somebody from the U.S. Government spoke with Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: I believe it was yesterday. We’re not going to outline all the details of who talks to who, but I believe we did have contact with him yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. And can you – you can’t give us any readout on what the —

MS. HARF: I —

QUESTION: — nature of the conversation was or —

MS. HARF: I don’t have more of a readout for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we follow up on one thing on Maliki, please?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I had asked if you had – if the U.S. Government had played any role whatsoever in the selection of Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi, and you very clearly said no. Have you seen today’s Daily Beast story which claims – which cites U.S. officials as saying that they had pushed for Maliki for days, weeks? And it suggests maybe – suggests that an effort to oust Maliki had been underway since June. Is there any truth to that report?

MS. HARF: There is not. As I have said multiple times from this podium, this is up for the Iraqis to decide. Of course, we’ve had conversations with them as they’ve gone through this process, but quite frankly, for a number of years, not just in this Iraqi election but in the last one, there were a number of rumors and conspiracy theories about the U.S. role. I would squarely put this report in that category. As I said yesterday, this was a decision for the Iraqis and solely for the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION: And are you getting the impression that you are getting more cooperation from your allies in the Gulf vis-a-vis Iraq now that an alternative to Prime Minister Maliki has been settled on?

MS. HARF: Well, cooperation in what way? Because certainly on the refugee and humanitarian side, they have, quite frankly, for a while been very concerned about the humanitarian situation and the possibility of refugees and foreign fighters as well. So I don’t think that’s a new concern. I do think that there are a number of partners in the region who want Iraq’s government to govern more inclusively. And so I certainly think that’s a part of it, but I don’t think the two are necessarily linked.

QUESTION: I ask because Secretary Kerry made clear that the U.S. Government could do a number of things with the new government and I therefore wonder if that sentiment is echoed among Iraq’s neighbors and any other close U.S. allies.

MS. HARF: Well, you’d have to ask them. I do think that broadly speaking, all of us are partners. We certainly know that the only way to fight ISIL going forward here is that it requires an inclusive Iraqi Government to be formed quickly. And as that happens, as the Secretary said, we certainly are looking at ways we can do even more to help.

QUESTION: And one more. Are you getting any greater cooperation from allies such as Kuwait, which the Treasury Department recently – I mean, they essentially said that the Kuwaiti Government needed to do more to try to crack down on financing of ISIL, and it identified, I think, three Kuwaiti citizens who were designated for having done so. Are you getting any more cooperation from them on that?

MS. HARF: I know it’s something we work with them and other governments on that there are private citizens in some of these countries who have been providing monetary support. We’re certainly very worried about it. And I think quite frankly, countries like Kuwait are increasingly realizing this is – could also be a threat to them. So it’s an ongoing conversation. I don’t have anything to update, but I’m happy to see if there is anything else to say.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Maliki very —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, and then we’ll go to you, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly. Given that you said that you’re not aware of any more U.S. Government contacts with him in the last —

MS. HARF: Since yesterday.

QUESTION: — since yesterday, is there a concern —

MS. HARF: There may have been, though.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: It’s constant communication on the ground in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern given his decision to move troops into the green zone over the weekend that he may try yet again to resist what the U.S. considers the orderly transition according to the Iraqi constitution?

MS. HARF: Well, I —

QUESTION: And how worried is the U.S. about this?

MS. HARF: I would note that today Prime Minister Maliki said in remarks that the security forces should not get involved in this matter and should focus on defending the country. Again, we’ll see what happens going forward, but there’s a process that’s been playing out. We never thought it would be without complication. We never thought it would be easy. These things often aren’t. But there is a process that has hit the benchmarks. It’s continued to move forward. And we’ll listen to what he said today and go from here.

QUESTION: And then very quickly, the status of those U.S. diplomats who had to be moved from Erbil temporarily, are they still —

MS. HARF: And some were moved in. As I said yesterday, we’re adjusting staffing, so if we move some people out, we might move other people in. We moved in a DART team over the weekend, a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the humanitarian situation. So a lot of it is really about readjusting is a more appropriate term.

QUESTION: But for the people who had been moved out, is —

MS. HARF: I don’t believe they’ve moved back yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Some of them are working out of Amman, where we have a contingent of people working on Iraq. Some are working out of Basra.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I believe some also may be working out of Baghdad. But we’re basically shuffling people around where we have a need and what makes the most sense security-wise.

QUESTION: And perhaps you answered this yesterday, but what is the practical impact not so much on U.S. citizens, but on Iraqis who might need to do business in Erbil with the consulate there?

MS. HARF: The consulate is open, functioning. We believe it’s important to do so. That’s part of the reason the President ordered the military action we’ve seen to protect Erbil.

Lara.

QUESTION: Can I ask just very quickly, are you aware of reports of a bomb that may have gone off in the last hour or so near Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi’s house?

MS. HARF: I am not. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I will check as soon as I get off of the podium.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: His house in Baghdad?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: Iran has endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate. How do you view this statement from Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, we encourage any country to encourage the Iraqis to form an inclusive government as soon as possible to govern inclusively. That’s been our position all along, and so, obviously, we would welcome any statements to that effect.

QUESTION: And have you been in discussion with the Iranians regarding the situation in Iraq?

MS. HARF: We have not. We have not.

QUESTION: And last week during the meeting between the U.S. delegation and the Iranians, have you discussed Iran?

MS. HARF: Have we discussed Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, sorry.

MS. HARF: To my knowledge it was not raised in the way that it had been raised previously on the sidelines of the P5+1 round. It may have been brought up in casual conversation, but it was not discussed in a substantive way.

QUESTION: And a follow-up question on Roz’s question, too, regarding al-Maliki. To what extent you are confident that he will leave power after the formation of the new government?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process in place, and that’s what will happen at the end of it. That’s what should happen at the end of it. Look, we’re not going to entertain hypotheticals at this point. The Iraqis have hit the benchmarks as part of this process. Again, we knew it wouldn’t be entirely smooth. We never thought it would be. But that’s what we’re working towards right now. So let’s hope that happens. We’ll continue to have conversations with all of the Iraqis about making sure that happens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the – on the Iran angle. You mentioned that you couldn’t comment on the Der Spiegel —

MS. HARF: I just couldn’t confirm it. I just don’t know if —

QUESTION: Couldn’t confirm it, the Der Spiegel report?

MS. HARF: We can’t confirm it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Sure. But the issue of Iranian arms – does the U.S. have a position on that?

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Should Iran have the right to small arms —

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a question of a right. There are some sanctionable – there are potential sanctions that could be involved with the export or import of Iran – arms in or out of Iran. There are specific sanctions in place. Without being able to confirm whether or not it’s happening and the specifics, I can’t say whether or not this would be, but there’s a likely chance it could be if this is true. We just have to look at it.

QUESTION: So, in general, the U.S. would be opposed to Iranian arms flowing into Iraq.

MS. HARF: In general, we believe we should —

QUESTION: Even if it’s for the same side.

MS. HARF: — continue to implement sanctions that are on the books.

QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Let’s stay on Iraq. If people – and then we’ll go to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can you just outline specific steps that Prime Minister-designate Abadi can take to be inclusive? We’re hearing the mantra “inclusive governing” often, but I was wondering if there are certain specific steps that could be outlined.

MS. HARF: Well, first of all in terms of specific steps, he now has 30 days under the constitution’s – it’s constitutionally mandated – to put a – to complete a process to put a new government in place. So as part of this process, that will be presenting a cabinet to the Iraqi parliament for approval that represents the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I’m not going to outline what that should look like. That’s for him and his government to decide. But there are things he can do that would demonstrate inclusiveness. Things you can say, things you can do, as part of this formation process. And then going forward, if he does form a government, which we expect and hope that he will, there are ways you can do that.

One of the things we’ve been quite heartened by is the really unprecedented way the Iraqi security forces have been working with the Kurdish forces for example, in a way we never saw them do before. So continuing some of that and encouraging some of that, from the top on down, is really important. So those are some.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the government has —

MS. HARF: Thirty days.

QUESTION: — so as you said, he has 30 days. But if he isn’t able to do that, then the Iraqis are back to square —

MS. HARF: Well, there’s —

QUESTION: I’m just worried — I’m just wondering if you’re concerned that Prime Minister al-Maliki will take this time to try and prevent him from starting a coalition and not kind of let the process play out.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re going to watch the process play out. It’s played out on – as it should so far. So while I understand people want to jump 28 days from now and guess about all the bad things that might happen, the process has played out. Let’s watch and see what Prime Minister Maliki says – and does, more importantly. We’re having conversations with him and all the other Iraqi leaders about how this can move forward, Elise.

QUESTION: Well, it’s not really 28 – it’s not really 28 days. It’s what happens during the next 28 days.

MS. HARF: Exactly.

QUESTION: You don’t have the luxury, really, of waiting 30 days and —

MS. HARF: It’s not about us not having the luxury. It’s about the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Well, the Iraqis.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Right. So I mean, starting from today —

MS. HARF: So, we’ll wait – we’ll see what happens, Elise. But let’s not assume the worst here.

QUESTION: Aren’t you kind of assuming the worst, that he’ll do that?

MS. HARF: No. I’m not. I don’t think we are, Elise. I think that today you saw Prime Minister Maliki say that security forces should not get involved in this matter. Again, we think that’s a good sign. But we will be watching and we will be in direct conversations if – as we have been with Prime Minister Maliki. And took, if we see signs that anything like that is happening, we would, obviously, be very concerned and immediately express those concerns.

But I think the other point, though, is it’s not about what the U.S. is or isn’t concerned about. The Iraqi people themselves, including the Shia bloc, has nominated someone else with a lot of support from Prime Minister Maliki’s own party. So this is about the Iraqi people standing up and saying this is the government we want.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MS. HARF: It’s not about what we want. It’s about what they want.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. HARF: And so the support for the new prime minister-designate, I think, has been fairly clear.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s not stopping Prime Minister Maliki from mounting legal challenges to – I don’t believe he’s dropped that legal challenge.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – look, there’s always going to be some differences that people have about how these things should play out. But we would reject any effort, legally or otherwise, to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process. I think I said this on Sunday night and repeating it today: There’s a constitutional process. It is happening, and that is what we support. And we will keep supporting that as the Iraqis go through this process.

QUESTION: But, I mean, you know that in 2010 he did launch a legal challenge. He mounted a legal challenge —

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

QUESTION: — and he was able to maintain another term.

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history. I think we need to watch what happens day by day here. We need to see what’s happening on the ground. We need to make clear our position, which is that we would reject any efforts to achieve outcomes through judicial – through coercion or manipulation of judicial processes. And we’ll keep working with them, but they have a process in place. It’s moving forward, and let’s see how that plays out.

QUESTION: Who is the main interlocutor right now with Prime Minister al-Maliki?

MS. HARF: Well, we engage with him and other Iraqi leaders at a number of levels. We’re not going to outline specifically, necessarily, all the time what that engagement looks like. But people on the ground in Baghdad certainly have had conversations with him, as have people in Washington.

QUESTION: Well, has Secretary Kerry or Vice President Biden or, specifically, someone at a senior level reached out to Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: There are senior people who have —

QUESTION: Who – can you —

MS. HARF: We’re not going to outline —

QUESTION: Why can’t you say —

MS. HARF: Because we —

QUESTION: I mean, you put out press releases of calls —

MS. HARF: I can tell you the Secretary hasn’t, and I can tell you – to my knowledge; let me check with the White House – I don’t believe the Vice President has, either. But people have been in contact with him.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the fact that someone at a very senior – I’m not saying that the ambassador’s not of a senior level, but does the fact that the Secretary or the Vice President or the President is not speaking to Prime Minister al-Maliki meant to send a signal that the Administration is done dealing with him?

MS. HARF: Well no, not that we’re done dealing with him and not that we’re not speaking with him. It’s just that we haven’t. He’s the prime minister still, legally, until a new government is officially formed. So we will continue talking to him and working with him, but what we’re focused on is the way forward and how we can help the Iraqis, as they form this new government, fight ISIL. That’s what we’re focused on every day.

Yeah.

QUESTION: How much confidence does the United States Government have in the independence of Iraq’s judiciary?

MS. HARF: Wow, that’s a big analytic question. I’m happy to check with our experts.

QUESTION: I’m all about big thoughts today.

MS. HARF: I know. I like it. I can check with our team.

QUESTION: What inducements is the U.S. Government prepared to offer Maliki as sort of a consolation prize in order to allow this process —

MS. HARF: This isn’t about us offering consolation prizes. This is about Iraq’s constitutional process playing out.

QUESTION: But it can be argued that the U.S. does have a security interest in seeing this new government be stood up and be stable.

MS. HARF: That is true, but it’s not about us offering anything. It’s about the Iraqis making decisions in the best interests of their people, including Prime Minister Maliki.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t – so saying to him if you allow this process to go through, if you drop your legal challenges, we can do X for you to address some of your issues, some of your concerns, something that would be in keeping with U.S. policy – that’s not on the table at all?

MS. HARF: That’s – this is – Roz, that’s not what this is about. This is about what’s in the best interests of the Iraqi people. And the conversations we have with Prime Minister Maliki and others are about everything they do being in service of that. So there is a new prime minister-designate who has been named by the Shia bloc, including by Prime Minister Maliki’s own party, with support from his party, period. And that’s reason enough to move forward with a new government.

QUESTION: May I follow up on that? Does the U.S. have – even if it’s just internally at this point – any kind of exit strategy for Prime Minister al-Maliki? I mean, if he stays in the country, he’s probably going to be targeted. He has many, many enemies on all sides. Is there any – clearly, he’s afraid for his own life and for his own security, and has shown that in many times over the last God knows how many years. Has the U.S. talked about where he could go, what he could do if he were to step down?

MS. HARF: Well, again, there’s a process in place here. So it’s not about him stepping down or not stepping down; it’s about a new prime minister being named, (a). But (b), I – look, I can check with our folks. I haven’t heard of those conversations.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, to what extent do you think the U.S. has gained influence in Iraq in the last few days?

MS. HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: Political influence.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve always had a strong political relationship with the Iraqis. At times we certainly differed on things, but we’ve been very engaged at a number of levels with all of Iraq’s political leaders. I think you have seen, particularly over the last, I’d say, weeks and months since the ISIL threat really quite rapidly grew and we increased our assistance in a number of ways, that the Iraqi leaders from across the board understand that we are an important partner, that we are assisting them in very unique ways and playing a unique role. And I think that’s something that you’ve seen play out just even over the past 72 or more hours now.

QUESTION: And last question for me: Do you have any update on the delivery of arms to the Kurds?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates from what we’ve talked about in the past few days.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. been able to come up with any strategy for getting the Yezidis and others trapped on Mount Sinjar to a safe place?

MS. HARF: We’re working on it.

QUESTION: I mean, I know that the military is constantly carrying out airstrikes. They’re basically doing a counterclockwise circle.

MS. HARF: Right. So they’re doing humanitarian drops, and I believe we did the fifth one just recently. And also —

QUESTION: Right. But there have also been —

MS. HARF: Strikes.

QUESTION: — (inaudible) strikes.

MS. HARF: Yep, over the last 24 hours, particularly around the area surrounding Mount Sinjar, to protect the people on the mountain. So we’ve been doing those in conjunction with each other. And we are looking at ways to see if there’s a humanitarian corridor that can be established, if there are safe locales for people to go to, because ultimately you can’t have tens of thousands of people trapped on a mountain even with the airdrops. So there needs to be a long-term humanitarian solution. We’re looking at that right now. It’s a really, really tough security challenge, also humanitarian challenge.

QUESTION: Does that imply that in order to make it possible to get people off the mountain and to safety that the U.S. necessarily would have to either increase its own military operations or would need to persuade the U.K., France, any other countries with a military —

MS. HARF: I wasn’t meaning to imply that.

QUESTION: — to actually be able to push back ISIS —

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: — and (inaudible) enough in order to get people off the mountain and get them to a place where they wouldn’t be attacked?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t meaning to imply that. I was saying just simply that we’re looking at how he could possibly do that. What that might look like, obviously, is a much more detailed issue. It wasn’t meaning to imply anything about how that might be done.

QUESTION: You saw the reports of the helicopter crash today, I’m sure.

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: And a parliamentarian was injured, the pilot was killed, a New York Times reporter aboard was injured —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — many other people, I’m sure, were injured if not shaken.

MS. HARF: I know it was someone we all know very well.

QUESTION: So I do wonder if the U.S. is considering doing some of these types of missions – in other words, sending helicopters in to help get some of the refugees off the mountain – in a way that the Iraqi air force at this point may not either be equipped to do —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — or have the manpower to do.

MS. HARF: I know we’re looking at a variety of options, the Defense Department is. I think one of the reasons you saw us several days ago first start taking humanitarian drops is because the Iraqis had tried to do this and had succeeded to some extent, but really couldn’t do it in the same way we could. So the Iraqis have certain capabilities. We have in some cases different capabilities that are helpful, so I know they’re looking at that, but I don’t know if any decisions have been made.

QUESTION: So it’s fair to say that the U.S. is looking at potentially sending in helicopters?

MS. HARF: No, we’re looking at options for getting people off of the mountain. I did not say we are actively looking at whether we would use helicopters or not. You can check with the Defense Department about that. I know, broadly speaking, we are looking at how it might be possible to get these people off the mountain, broadly speaking.

QUESTION: Well, how other – I mean, they’re not going to rope-line down. I mean, how other would you get them down other than some kind of airlift?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re looking at a variety – I don’t have anything specific to outline for you.

QUESTION: So are you – I mean, obviously – I mean, you don’t need to tell us that it would have to be some kind of airlift. So you’re discussing whether it’s you that does it or one of your partners does it, or are you —

MS. HARF: We’re just looking at how it could possibly be done.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: We don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: And where would people go?

QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned —

MS. HARF: Don’t – I don’t have – again, we’re looking at all of this. I don’t have any answers for you.

QUESTION: Would the ideal be to try to keep people inside Iraq?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any answers for you on this. We’re looking at how it could be done.

QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned that you were looking into the possibility of a humanitarian corridor. Doesn’t that imply that at least one way of getting people down off the mountain would be through some kind of a land corridor rather than air?

MS. HARF: I think it would seem to imply that, yes.

QUESTION: So land is a possibility?

MS. HARF: We’re looking at, quite frankly, at —

QUESTION: Everything.

MS. HARF: Everything, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It is so dire that we are looking at everything.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

QUESTION: No, I’m not ready yet. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I noticed that some of the strikes that have been happening over the last 24 to 36 hours included hitting some Humvees, some personnel carriers, clearly equipment that they – that ISIS has taken from U.S. forces. I would – at least I would assume that’s the case.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I – there are some report – it’s likely some of it probably is. Some of it may not be.

QUESTION: And do you happen to know how widespread that is?

MS. HARF: I can check, and I can see if the Defense Department knows more. I can check on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Or whether they would try to take that equipment back? I mean, these are multimillion dollar pieces of equipment.

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details than that. But I think our assumption is some of it probably is American.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion on the number of military advisers? I know that the President has said no more troops – or no troops with —

MS. HARF: In – no troops in combat positions – in combat roles.

QUESTION: Right. But is there an idea of the number of military advisers who have been dispatched? Is there an idea of changing that number?

MS. HARF: Again, check with the Defense Department. I’m happy to check with them. We’re always looking at what the needs are staffing-wise, personnel-wise. And we’re undergoing a bigger mission now than we had before, so we can probably keep having that conversation, but they may have the most up-to-date thinking.

QUESTION: But does it imply that the number has gone up slightly, if at least one FAST team has gone in and —

MS. HARF: A DART team.

QUESTION: DART team.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean —

MS. HARF: A DART team is from USAID. It’s not from the Defense Department.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else on Iraq today?

Afghanistan.

QUESTION: The two presidential candidates in Afghanistan today announced the formation of a joint commission for the unity government. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: Was that today?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that was today.

QUESTION: It was announced – setting up the commission, along with the members, were announced today.

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I will check on that. I hadn’t seen that. I know that progress has continued with the elections audit. The Secretary was obviously there recently, and we felt they made progress, that both candidates had agreed to work towards a goal of completing the audit and inaugurating a new president by the end of August. We are moving forward with the ballots being counted, so I can check on that specifically. But we are encouraging the process to keep moving, and the two candidates to keep working together on this.

QUESTION: And does —

QUESTION: What’s the impact on getting a BSA signed, because of the delays in counting the vote, auditing the vote?

MS. HARF: Well, they’ve both said they’ll sign it shortly after – if either – who’s inaugurated, so I think we’re expecting it will be signed as soon as we have a new president.

QUESTION: Has this made it clearer in any way for the U.S. Government to organize the drawdown of combat forces and to stand up whatever the residual force would be, as well as additional Foreign Service USAID personnel?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any updates from when the President made the announcement in May about what our post-2014 presence would look like. I don’t have any new updates on planning, either for the Defense Department or for us. I know we’re looking right now at that, and I can check and see if there’s anything new.

QUESTION: Because it would seem that, especially in light of the agreement which the Secretary helped broker, that it would be giving your people more certainty now about who’s going to be assigned, who’s going to be there for how long —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — what kinds of missions might need to be worked on.

MS. HARF: Both of these candidates have said for many months that they would sign the BSA, so that’s not new. I think that’s a separate question, quite frankly, and the staffing’s a separate question from the fact that we believe the political process needs to move forward and there’s an audit in place now, and it’s moving forward. So they’re not exactly related, but I can see if our folks have more.

QUESTION: But there wouldn’t be any sort of legal prohibition on planning to do X unless you had an agreement signed and —

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we have to have a BSA signed to do certain things, but both of these candidates have said they will. I’m not a lawyer, but, obviously, planning continues.

QUESTION: I have one more on Pakistan. Do you have anything on the Azadi March? Is it being planned by main opposition party, PTI, on August 14th?

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

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this is going to have any kind —

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on it. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we do a new topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we do – talk about Russia?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: So Russia sent an aid convoy this morning bound for Ukraine. Is that something that you’re supporting?

MS. HARF: Well, we understand that talks are underway for Russia to deliver the aid to the Ukrainian border where it would be transferred to the custody of the ICRC. Ukraine confirmed with us directly today its readiness to facilitate the arrival of the aid and arrange for its delivery to Luhansk so long as the shipment is received at a border crossing point controlled by the Ukrainian Government in Kharkiv, it passes appropriate customs clearances, that the ICRC takes custody and responsibility for the delivery in Ukraine, and that Russian-backed separatists allow safe access for the delivery of the aid.

We do support this proposal as I just outlined it and as the Ukrainian Government confirmed with us, and call for its swift implementation.

Russia has no right to move into Ukrainian unilaterally, whether under the guise of humanitarian convoys or any other pretext, without Kyiv’s permission.

So we have spoken to the Ukrainians today. They have a plan in place that they feel comfortable with; we feel comfortable with it as well. And now the Russians need to deliver, no pun intended.

QUESTION: Are you confident that this convoy has humanitarian supplies? Because there’s been this concern, as you’ve been saying, that this is a pretext for some kind of —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — invasion. But do you think that this, on face value, is what it is?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t know. And that’s – and we do have concerns. And that’s why, as we’ve said today, if it goes through all of these steps, then we would support this, if it goes through this Ukrainian Government-controlled border crossing, if it passes through customs clearance, if the ICRC takes custody and responsibility for it. So if it goes through, again, those things I just outlined and passes all of those, then sure. But nothing can be done under the guise of humanitarian assistance here that is anything other than what they claim it is.

QUESTION: Marie, the way I saw the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Let’s go here and then I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: The way I saw the Ukrainians talking about this themselves, they said that – and you may be alluding to this when you talk about the ICRC taking custody.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But they said that the humanitarian goods would be transferred at the border onto different vehicles. In other words, they don’t want Russian vehicles going in.

MS. HARF: I don’t have that detail here. That might – that makes sense. I just don’t have that in front of me. But it does have to be transferred to ICRC – has to be.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I mean, I guess what I’m trying to get at is whether you would oppose – as the Ukrainians say they oppose – Russian vehicles going onto their territory.

MS. HARF: I’ll check with the folks who talked to the Ukrainians today and see if that was part of the conversation. Again, we have outlined here with them what they considered appropriate, and we agreed. So I can check and see if that’s what they —

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Has the – can I just (inaudible)? Has the ICRC (a) agreed to this, and (b), what’s the readout you’ve gotten from the Russians on this proposal?

MS. HARF: Let me check on the ICRC piece. I’m guessing they have, but I don’t know specifically. I don’t have any readout of what the Russians have said they will or will not do. I just know what we are calling on them to do.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Are you in contact with the Russians about this?

MS. HARF: We have been. I don’t have any specifics to read out.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. Are you still concerned that this would be pretext for a military action?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re concerned that it could be. And that’s why we felt like there is a humanitarian situation in the east that needs addressing. So if this convoy goes through all those things I just laid out, we would be comfortable with it going forward. We don’t want it to be a pretext for anything else.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Do you think the Ukrainian Government bears any responsibility for the humanitarian —

MS. HARF: Not at all. This humanitarian situation did not exist before the Russians intervened in eastern Ukraine. It just did not exist. It is a direct result of Russia’s intervention.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Egypt. Human Rights Watch said today that Egypt’s security forces likely committed crimes against humanity when it crushed Islamist protests last year, comparing the bloodshed to China’s Tiananmen Square massacre and calling for a UN investigation into the role of President al-Sisi and his security chiefs. How do you view this report?

MS. HARF: We have seen the report. I believe it was just released this morning, and we’re currently reviewing it. Our initial reaction is that the report’s findings are very disturbing. At the time of the violence last year, which was around this time last year, President Obama strongly condemned the steps taken by the Egyptian Government and security forces, and deplored the violence against civilians. It was at this time that we decided to hold delivery of several weapon systems.

It’s troubling that one year later, no security forces have been held accountable in events that resulted in the deaths of approximately a thousand Egyptians. And as we’ve said many, many times, in order for Egypt to achieve long-term stability, security, economic prosperity, it must investigate these events in a fully transparent and credible manner, one that’s grounded in impartial application of the rule of law, and to hold people accountable.

QUESTION: Do you support a UN investigation into the role of President Sisi?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’re just reviewing the report and don’t have any additional recommendations to make at this time.

QUESTION: But the Egyptians have rejected the report today and criticizes its bias, and called the Human Rights Watch as unprofessional for relying on anonymous and unreliable accounts and twisting the truth.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that you needed any anonymous sources to see what happened in the streets of Egypt last August. We saw it; President Obama talked about it. Approximately a thousand Egyptians died because of it. So we’re reviewing the report. We’ve made our position on this very clear.

QUESTION: How full-throated should the investigation of those responsible be?

MS. HARF: We believe —

QUESTION: Should it rise all the way to now-President Sisi?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any more details about what the investigation should look like, other than we believe all of these situations that have occurred there should be fully investigated.

QUESTION: Was there any – in light of this initial read of the report, is there any misgiving or regret on the part of the U.S. Government for releasing some of the military aid that was held back a year ago?

MS. HARF: No. Look, we have made decisions about our policy towards Egypt based on what’s in our national security interests, as they have made some limited progress. Some – I would stress some and limited. But we have made decisions based on what’s in our security interests and how we can help, but we’ve also, as we’ve said, held some things back even today as well.

QUESTION: How do you view President Sisi’s visit to Russia, especially that he was invited to attend the African Leaders Summit in Washington and he didn’t – he didn’t come?

MS. HARF: Well, look, Egypt is free to have relationships with whoever it wants. We have a relationship with Egypt that’s based on unique capabilities we bring to bear, certainly in the security side, but also on the economic reform side as well. So we believe we have a strong and strategic relationship, and don’t have much more analysis beyond that.

QUESTION: Marie, the report is quite critical of the U.S. and EU for its decisions to continue providing aid to Egypt. Are you – is there any discussion of reevaluating U.S. aid to Egypt as a result of the findings of this report?

MS. HARF: Well, at the time the instances in the report happened, we did hold – we put all of our assistance on hold, we reviewed everything on the books. Everyone remembers we talked about that quite a bit in this room. We held the delivery of certain weapon systems and we reevaluated all of it. And there is still some things that have not been certified even today that – basically the clause that talks about their advance in democratization and their progress there. So this is an ongoing process, but we took very serious steps in response to what happened. I don’t think this report will change what we’ve done in any way, but we’re certainly very disturbed by what’s in it.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the wording – sorry – that the crackdown was premeditated, systematic, and indiscriminate?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still reviewing the report. But one of the reasons we said there need to be full investigations here is because we want to get all the facts. I can’t stand up here and tell you whether this was all premeditated. I can tell you that we saw civilians being killed in the streets of Egypt, which, as the President said at the time, meant that business as usual could not continue. I remember those words distinctly being said at this time last year.

QUESTION: The aid that’s – the U.S. aid to Egypt that’s still being withheld, is that being withheld by the Administration or by Congress?

MS. HARF: By the Administration. We have not yet certified the last certification we have to make in the – and this is not a technical term – I’m sorry – it’s one of the sub-parts of it on progress towards democratization.

QUESTION: Do you know how much that amounts to?

MS. HARF: I knew that was the next question, and I’m sorry, I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you take that?

MS. HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Well, can I – just one last question?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence that the Egyptians will hold those who have committed crimes – are you confident that they will hold those accountable? And to what extent are you having direct conversations with Egyptians on this incident?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s troubling that one year later no security forces have been held accountable. That is troubling to us, particularly when there were about a thousand Egyptians who died. So we need to see things be done a little bit differently and see some more progress made here, and we are having that conversation.

QUESTION: And to what extent might this report impact U.S.-Egyptian relations going forward?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve been looking at what happened last August and July since last August and July. This report is certainly an important part of that discussion, but we’ve made decisions based on this for many, many months now. I don’t think that this will change that, but it’s certainly a key effort to document what happened here and to call on the Egyptians to investigate it.

QUESTION: In light of the savageness – if that’s a word – of the killing —

MS. HARF: Savagery?

QUESTION: The savagery of the killing of these people – shot in the face, shot in the chest —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — deliberately shoot to kill, what is the U.S. Government’s message to the Egyptian people that some kind of justice can be had for their loved ones?

MS. HARF: Well, I think when you hear the President stand up and say what he said about this last year and what we’ve said since then, that we really need the Government of Egypt to hold people accountable here and we will continue pushing them to do so. We can’t do it for them, but the people who lost loved ones who were killed or injured deserve that. And if Egypt is going to have a fully prosperous, better future, they really need to take these kind of steps, or else they won’t.

QUESTION: A lot of these people who were in Rabaa Square were there because they felt that the democratic process that they had tried to establish had been subverted with the coup on July 3rd. What more can the U.S. do to support the Egyptian people’s aspirations for what they view as a fair democracy?

MS. HARF: Well, this is a conversation, Roz, we’ve had for many, many months now. And last July when we saw what happened with the military, we were very clear and then took steps to back it up with our displeasure. So we have certain levers we can bring to bear here. We have. We will continue to have the conversations. I don’t have more analysis on it to do for you than that.

QUESTION: Is the President prepared to enact more pressure on the Egyptian Government, especially if time passes and no one is brought in to question?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any policy steps to outline for you about what we might or might not do. I know, again, we’re looking at the report and we’ll evaluate going forward.

Scott.

QUESTION: Burma?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding the arrangements made for the Secretary’s lodging at the —

MS. HARF: Thank you for the question. I know there’s been some confusion —

QUESTION: — ASEAN Regional Forum?

MS. HARF: — including on Twitter, on this today. So let’s clear it up here.

So for the ministerial meeting, the foreign ministry assigned hotels to delegations there. The ministry assigned the Lake Garden Hotel to the U.S. delegation. The hotel itself is not sanctioned. The local owner is on an SDN list, but under U.S. law, the IEEPA – which is the law that governs how sanctions are implemented in Burma – includes an exemption for activities related to travel, including hotel accommodations. That’s for U.S. private citizens, U.S. businessmen or women, and U.S. Government officials. So if you are – basically how it was explained to me, you can stay at this hotel no matter who you are, you just can’t do business with it. So if you wanted to sell them towels, you could not do that but you could stay there.

QUESTION: But don’t you think the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

(Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There’s a difference in the law.

QUESTION: All right, okay. Well, even if it’s —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Oh, can we ask one question at a time —

QUESTION: Even if —

MS. HARF: — or is there going to be pure anarchy in here today?

QUESTION: It is going to be anarchy on this, on this important —

MS. HARF: Elise is leading in the coup here.

QUESTION: The inmates are running the asylum.

MS. HARF: Well, but when there are things being said that the hotel’s blacklisted, that’s just not the case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We need to be very clear when we talk about sanctions what is and isn’t sanctioned.

QUESTION: Fine.

MS. HARF: This hotel was assigned to our delegation. We complied with all laws. And we have pushed very strongly with the Burmese Government to take actions to reform, to reform in a number of ways that address the issues that underpin our sanctions.

QUESTION: No doubt.

MS. HARF: So we raised those, including during our meetings bilaterally in Burma.

QUESTION: No doubt. But —

MS. HARF: But – I know there’s a “but” coming, Elise.

QUESTION: Don’t you think though that just that the appearance and the perception of staying at this hotel sends a wrong message?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: I mean, yes, maybe you’re – maybe you’re complying to the letter of the U.S. law, but what about the spirit in which the sanctions were put and the U.S. values that they represent?

MS. HARF: Okay, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let’s take a step back.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s take a step back.

MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear how strongly we feel about the values that underpin our sanctions towards Burma. They were raised repeatedly with Burmese officials. The notion that we need to take steps to reform – because eventually, obviously, we want them to take steps so we can remove sanctions. And they have made some progress. This in no way changes how deeply we care about the things that made these sanctions enacted in the first place.

QUESTION: But if you’re —

MS. HARF: And I don’t think staying at a hotel that itself is not sanctioned in any way changes that.

QUESTION: But how do you —

MS. HARF: I really don’t.

QUESTION: You don’t think that (inaudible)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) people pay to stay isn’t going to benefit from it? What Lara said.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The owner of the hotel is going to benefit financially from —

MS. HARF: Well, there’s ways sanctions are put in place. And I know you all have opinions on what the sanctions should say, but the sanctions as written make very clear that Americans can stay there. And if we felt like that would be helpful to sanction as well, I would have guessed that we would have sanctioned that as well.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: But it’s not an interpretation of the law. This is just common sense. If you —

MS. HARF: No, it’s actually – and you don’t get – the funny thing about the way the law is written is there are things you can and can’t do. And everything we did is completely legal.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: If you’re willing to – sorry. If you’re willing to comply – just if you – saying this complies with the letter of the law, it certainly doesn’t comply with the spirit of the sanctions —

MS. HARF: It does actually, because sanctions are put in place on certain people for —

QUESTION: And you’re staying at a hotel that is owned by —

MS. HARF: — for doing certain things. If we had wanted to sanction the hotel, we could have done that too. And there’s a reason, I’m sure, that we didn’t.

QUESTION: But how does allowing this person to benefit –

MS. HARF: I think we might just have to agree to disagree on this.

QUESTION: — encourage further reforms?

MS. HARF: Because when the Secretary of State and President Obama sit in Burma with Burmese leaders directly to their face and say you need to do more to reform, I think that makes the case much more clearly than where the Secretary sleeps when he overnights there.

QUESTION: But when he stays at the hotel after that meeting, it kind of a sends a wink-wink —

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: — to the government that yeah, well —

MS. HARF: Not at all. Not at all.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, we can agree —

MS. HARF: We can agree to disagree on this, Elise. And I think we’ve probably exhausted this topic.

QUESTION: I’m not exhausted.

QUESTION: Do you agree that the owner is financially benefitting?

QUESTION: I mean, do you think that – I mean, do you think that – do you know if the State Department was aware of these sanctions against this hotel owner–

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: — at the time they were assigned the hotel?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t.

QUESTION: Do you think if they did not know that they would have asked for a hotel change?

MS. HARF: There’s like 15 hypotheticals there.

QUESTION: There’s just two.

QUESTION: Can we – let me ask —

MS. HARF: I honestly – I will – to calm the masses, I will check with our team. I’m not meaning to be flip about this. We worked very hard. We’re all being —

QUESTION: You’re doing a pretty good job of it. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: We’re all being a little flip about this. But let’s step back. Let me step back for a second and be serious. We worked very hard to put in place sanctions on Burma that we believed were a key part of helping get to a place where we are today where there has been quite amount of political and economic and commercial reform. We have much more to go. That was a huge topic of conversation the Secretary had when he was there.

So we’ve come a long way, as you know, with Burma in a broader context in the

Press Releases: Remarks With Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and Australian Minister of Defense David Johnston

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have welcomed to Sydney and to AUSMIN Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, and this is the second AUSMIN meeting that the four principals here have participated in. The United States alliance is the most important security relationship for Australia, and AUSMIN is an annual opportunity for us to take stock of this relationship. And today’s discussion was broad in its scope. We were frank in our exchanges, and there was a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavor. There’s a desire to share the burden of implementing our mutual vision and mutual goal of regional and global peace and prosperity, security and stability.

At a bilateral level, we signed the Force Posture Initiatives, the formal, legally binding document about a presence of U.S. Marines in the north of our country, and we focused particularly on the humanitarian disaster relief aspects of having the assistance of the U.S. in our region, which is, sadly, prone to natural disasters and other tragedies. Now at a regional level, we discussed the tensions in the South China Sea. Secretary Kerry and I have just returned from the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, where the South China Sea was discussed at length, and we went over some of those issues. But we also discussed the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and our mutual desire to see North Korea denuclearized in a verifiable way and returned to the Six Party Talks.

We discussed the regional architecture and the need for the East Asia Summit to be the premier regional forum. It has the right mandate, the right membership to discuss matters of regional strategic significance. We talked about the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is where the U.S. rebalance finds its economic expression and how important the TPP will be to opening up and liberalizing markets in our region. We discussed the emergence of China and other major powers in our region.

Globally, in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, we talked about the situation in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s intentions and the behavior of Russia in recent months and weeks involving the breach of sovereignty in Ukraine and elsewhere. We had a long discussion on the Middle East and the significant conflicts there, whether it be Syria, Iraq, or in Gaza, and we also talked about Afghanistan and our commitment to Afghanistan post-2014.

A considerable focus of our discussion was on counterterrorism and, more specifically, on the issue of foreign fighters. People going to fight in conflicts around the world, leaving their countries, going to Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere and becoming radicalized and taking part in extremist terrorist activities is, in fact, an international problem. It’s a concern for Australia, it’s a concern for the United States, but it’s a topic that’s raised increasingly in countries in our region and across Europe. It’s an international problem, but the barbaric ideology that these extremists embrace is, in fact, a threat to our way of life, a threat to our values, and we discussed ways that we can bring this issue to international attention. So a major focus on the issue of foreign fighters.

Overall, it was a most productive and most useful exchange from Australia’s point of view. We came up with a number of significant initiatives. The communiqué sets out the detail of it, but I want to thank both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel for making the trip down under. We are always delighted to see you in our part of the world. You’ve been in Asia and Southeast Asia on so many occasions, and we always want you to come to Australia and count us in on your discussions. The relationship has never been stronger, and we have appreciated your commitment and focus on the issues that are of mutual concern and of concern to Australia’s national interest.

I’ll ask the Minister for Defense to say a few words and then pass over to our American friends.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: Well, thank you, Julie. To Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, firstly, thank you for the magnanimous, generous, and gracious way that you’ve entered into our discussions. I must say I know I speak for Julie, it’s an absolute delight to be with you in your busy schedules to discuss matters that are regionally significant, but also in the wider area of world events, the problems we both are worried about, how best to confront them and how best Australia can help the United States in its very excellent leadership, particularly in this region.

Part of that is, of course, the rebalance, and we’re delighted to have 1,200 – approximately 1,200 U.S. Marines in Darwin. That, ladies and gentlemen, is going very seamlessly, very well, and it is a classic win-win situation. So today’s discussions have gone very cordially, very constructively, and very frankly as you would expect with partners and friends of long standing. So the rebalance has been, from our point of view, delivering the Marines into Darwin very, very successful so that our region has, of course, benefitted – and I reiterate this to the Secretaries – benefitted from the stability of the past 20, 30 years. That stability has been delivered by U.S. leadership and of course the booming middle class of Southeast and East Asia has been the end dividend of that stability.

And so today we’ve enjoyed discussing the challenges, what we perceive coming over the horizon in the future, matters such as counterterrorism, foreign fighters, which we both, as two countries have to deal with. Can I say that both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry bring enormous amount of wisdom and wit to our discussions. And I must say to you the discussions have been most enjoyable. We share interoperability across so many fronts. We have very large numbers of people embedded in the United States in the U.S. military. We’ve got 400 people still in Afghanistan working with the Americans and our other ISAF partners going forward. I want to end on that note by just saying thank you very much for the trust. When we are doing things together in the defense space, trust is a really important part of that, and trust leads to great friendship, and I think we have great friendship, and I thank you both for that.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Julie. Good afternoon to all of you. And let me just – let me begin by saying that I am really delighted to be here with Secretary Hagel at the Australia-United States Ministerial Meeting. This is my first AUSMIN, as we call it, in Australia, and I really want to thank Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for their unbelievably warm welcome over the course of these two days. We had a very productive dinner discussion last night just over the way from here, and today we both join together in thanking Governor-General Cosgrove for opening up his magnificent residence to us. It afforded a really superb venue to be able to sit here quietly and be able to really dig in in very personal ways to very complicated issues, and we thank them for this special venue and special friendship that goes with it.

Secretary Hagel and I both want to begin any comments that we make here today with an expression of our deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the 38 Australians who lost their lives in the Flight 17 – Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. We both want to affirm to Australia and to the world that we absolutely demand, as does Australia, justice for this unconscionable crime. And just as we stand together on so many issues from the Asia Pacific to the Middle East to Afghanistan and beyond, we will see this through together.

I’ve also had the very good fortune to work with our Australian friends for many years, 29 years in the United States Senate and a number of years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So when Secretary Hagel and I served in Vietnam – slightly different times, but we both served there – we also fought alongside, side by side, with our Australian brothers who are great soldiers and great friends. In fact, Australian men and American men and women – men and women on both sides – have fought side by side in every major conflict since World War I, and we’re proud of the friendship and the trust, as Minister Johnston was just saying, that has grown out of this longtime relationship.

I was very privileged to join Secretary Hagel and Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston last year at Arlington National Secretary where we honored this special bond between Australians and the United States, a bond that can only be forged through the sacrifice of war, which we both understand. So I thank Australia at this moment, particularly for stepping up yet again with their offer of humanitarian assistance in Iraq at this moment of crisis. The new Iraqi leadership has a very difficult challenge. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively, but also by taking steps to demonstrate their resolve, and we’re going to continue to stand with the Iraqi people during this time of transition.

And though we live in different hemispheres and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States could ask for no better friend and no closer ally than Australia. Australia is a vital partner in so many different endeavors. It is vital as we deepen the U.S. economic engagement throughout the Asia Pacific, as we engage in the rebalances of – both ministers have referred to it, which will bring the United States even more to the effort to help create a larger economic transformation in the region and to bring about a rule of law-based structure where everybody understands the rules and where it is a race to the top, not to the bottom. We also are working hard together to try to complete a critical component of that race to the top, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

We also discussed, as has been mentioned by both ministers, difficult regional and global security challenges. We didn’t need to struggle to find commonality in our understanding of the fact that we are living in one of the most complicated moments of transformation and transition all across this planet. Instant communications, massive numbers of mobile devices, massive amounts of information moving at lightning speed around the globe informing everybody about everything all of the time. And that has changed politics, and it has changed international relations. It raises expectations among people all over the world. And it challenges politics in terms of building consensus around decisions.

So we face a lot of these challenges together in today’s world, and that is why it is so important to have the kind of discussion that we had here today where we lay out every one of those challenges and try to figure out how do we do this better, how can we have greater impact, how do we bring more people to the table in order to affect change. It has enabled both of our countries to stand with the people of Ukraine, support long-term progress in Afghanistan, reduce tensions in the South China Sea, collaborate in the United Nations Security Council on everything from Iran to Syria to restricting trade in illicit small arms and weapons and even in our fellow human beings.

Today’s session allowed us to consult and coordinate in depth on these issues and on the challenges that we face in Iraq and Gaza, and we also agreed in conjunction with our discussion about the foreign fighters that Julie raised a moment ago that we are going to work together to assemble a compendium of the best practices in the world today regarding those foreign fighters, and we intend to join together in order to bring this to the United Nations meeting next month and put it on the agenda in a way that will elicit support from source countries as well as those countries of concern.

Earlier today, as you all know, we signed a Force Posture Agreement that will further strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Australian defense relationship, and we agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan. So you can see that we covered a range of very important issues in the Asia Pacific region, including our commitment to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And the United States – I want to make this clear – is absolutely prepared to improve relations with North Korea if North Korea will honor its international obligations. It’s that simple. But make no mistake we are also prepared to increase pressure, including through strong sanctions and further isolation if North Korea chooses the path of confrontation.

So I join Secretary Hagel in thanking Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for very productive discussions over the past day, and we all look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come in order to address these complex challenges.

SECRETARY HAGEL: John, thank you, and I, too, appreciate an opportunity to be with Secretary Kerry here for the AUSMIN meetings that we are concluding this afternoon. I want to add my thanks as well to our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and also to Governor-General Cosgrove for his hospitality here at Admiralty House. So thank you.

On a visit to the United States in 1960, the great Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, said that strength is admirable, but only for the responsibilities it accepts and discharges. America, Australia, and this historic alliance has always, always sought to live up to those responsibilities around the world. Today’s agenda for the U.S.-Australia alliance, you have heard, span issues ranging from the South China Sea to Iraq where Secretary Kerry and I expressed our appreciation for Australia’s offer to contribute to the humanitarian and relief operations and where America is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress towards political reform.

We also addressed the crisis in Ukraine as has been noted and Australia’s tragic loss of 38 citizens and residents aboard MH-17. And as I have said, as Secretary has – Secretary Kerry has expressed, our condolences to the people of Australia and especially the families of those who were lost in that tragedy. America will continue to work with Australia as we have said clearly and plainly to provide requested support and assistance.

Today we have reinforced the foundation of our alliances, defense, and security cooperation by, as Secretary Kerry noted, signing the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American Airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security and advance America’s ongoing strategic rebalance in the Asia Pacific. At today’s AUSMIN having just come from New Delhi and having consulted closely with our Japanese and Korean allies and ASEAN defense ministers, I see a new, committed resolve to work together, to work together to build a security system across this Indo-Pacific region, recognizing the independent sovereignty of nations, respecting that sovereignty, but also recognizing the common interests that we all have for a stable, peaceful, secure world.

The U.S. Australia alliance is spurring this progress and will remain a bedrock for a stable and secure order. Along with Secretary Kerry, let me again thank our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and Governor-General Cosgrove for hosting this year’s AUSMIN and what they continue to do as we continue to collaborate and work together on some of the great issues of our time. As Secretary Kerry has noted, we live in an immensely complicated world, but a world that is still full of hope and promise if we endeavor to bring resolute, strong leadership, leadership that is committed to these virtues and values and principles that we all share and living up to the highest responsibilities as Prime Minister Menzies once said. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. We’re now going to have four questions, and I think Laura, you’re going to kick off. Thank you.

QUESTION: Laura Jayes from Sky News. Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, thank you. Ministers, thank you. I wanted to first go to Russia, and our Australian Government has talked about greater sanctions on Russia, leaving that option open, uranium perhaps. Secretary Kerry, is that a path you would like to see Australia go down? There’s also the question of Vladimir Putin attending the G20 Summit. I wondered if you have a comment on that.

And also, as I guess a little bit out of that direct realm, China in all of this. We’ve seen the U.S. and EU impose quite strong sanctions against Russia in the last couple of months, but China has, I think, helped to dilute that in some ways, if you, Secretary Kerry, could address those questions, also, Minister Bishop as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. On the subject of sanctions with respect to Russia, we are very understanding of our friend, Australia’s deep, deep anger and its need for justice with respect to what has happened. This is an unconscionable crime on a huge international order that findings already, without the full investigation being done – and we are pressing for a full investigation, because nothing is complete until you have a full investigation. But there is no question – and we’ve said this publicly previously, but that this type of weapon and all the evidence of it was seen on our imagery. We saw the takeoff. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this airplane disappear from the radar screen. So there’s really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.

But we need to have the complete investigation, obviously, to legitimize whatever steps are going to be taken as we go down the road, and that’s why we’re all pressing so hard for that. The foreign minister of Australia traveled to New York, made an eloquent plea working with our ambassador and others there, Frans Timmermans of – the Dutch foreign minister spoke eloquently about what had happened. And the world can’t just sort of move by this and gloss by it. People need to remember this, because holding people accountable is essential not just to justice for what happened, but to deterrence and prevention in the future, and we don’t want to see these kinds of things ever repeated again.

So we’re open, but we haven’t made any decisions. I’m not sure Australia has either yet. We need to see what’s happening, but our hope and prayer – our hope is that in the next days and weeks we can find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary in the east to facilitate the thoroughness of the investigation, to begin to bring the separatists to the degree that they are Ukrainian into the political process, and for those who are not Ukrainian, they need to leave the country, and there needs to be a process worked out where the supplies stop coming in both in money and arms and support and people and Ukraine is allowed to begin to protect its sovereignty and define its future. Our hope is that that can happen through the diplomatic process, but we’ve all learned that we need to be cautious and strong at the same time in our responses and clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

With respect to the G20 Summit, et cetera, no decisions have been made at this point in time. I think a lot of the attitudes about the – about that issue from the various countries attending can, frankly, be determined and impacted to some degree in what happens in these next days and weeks.

And finally, with respect to China and what is going on, we have said again and again – and we just had a Strategic and Economic Dialogue in China, Secretary Jack Lew of the Treasury and I were there, with two days of discussions, and we made it very clear to China that we welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully, as a powerful economy, as a full participating, constructive member of the international community, and we want China to participate in constructive ways, whether it’s in the South China Sea or with respect to Japan and South Korea, with North Korea, with other issues that we face. We are not seeking conflict and confrontation, and our hope is that China will, likewise, take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it to be that cooperative partner.

And so there are always differences, shades – there are differences with respect to certain issues, and we’ve agreed to try to find those things where we can really cooperate. We’re cooperating in Afghanistan, we’re cooperating on nonproliferation with respect to Iran, we’re cooperating to get the chemical weapons out of Syria, we’re cooperating on counterterrorism, we’re cooperating on nuclear weaponry and on the reduction of nuclear arms. So there are plenty of big issues on which we cooperate with Russia even now every day, and our hope is that on those things where we’ve obviously had some disagreements with China or with Russia that we can both find a diplomatic path forward, because everybody in the world understands the world will be better off if great power nations are finding ways to cooperate, not to confront each other.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: If I could put this question of sanctions in context, MH-17 was a commercial airplane flying in commercial airspace carrying 298 civilians. Passenger numbers included 80 children, and this plane was shot down, we believe, by a surface-to-air missile just inside eastern Ukraine. The deaths of so many people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents was shocking, and the implications for international aviation are profound. So after completing our humanitarian mission of removing the remains and personal effects from the crash site, we are now focused on the investigation into how this came to be, how this plane was shot down, and who did it, because those culpable for creating the circumstances or for actually causing the downing of this plane must be held to account, and the grief of our citizens demands answers. They must be held to account, the perpetrators, and brought to justice.

All the while, when Australian and Dutch teams, unarmed police, humanitarian teams were seeking to get to the crash site, all the while, Russia was supplying more armed personnel, more heavy weaponry over the border into eastern Ukraine. They didn’t cease, and in fact increased their efforts. And instead of listening to international concerns about a ceasefire and the need for a humanitarian corridor for us to conclude our work, on the very day that Australia was holding a national day of mourning to grieve the loss of so many Australian lives, Russia chose to impose sanctions on Australia through an embargo on our agricultural exports.

We are rightly focused on the investigation, supporting the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, and Ukraine as part of an investigation team. But on the question of sanctions, we will consider the options available to us, but our focus at present is to bring closure to the families who are still grieving over this barbaric act of shooting down a plane that killed their loved ones.

As far as the G20 is concerned, as Secretary Kerry indicated, there’s been no decision. The G20 is an economic forum. There would have to be a consensus view as to whether or not steps should be taken in relation to President Putin’s presence here in Australia.

On China, I must say that China was extremely supportive of our resolution in the United Nations Security Council. As you’d be aware, it was a unanimous resolution. It was supported by all 15 members of the UN Security Council, and China has suffered a great loss through the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370. Australia has done what we can to help in that search effort, and I have committed to Foreign Minister Wang Yi last weekend that Australia will continue to help search for that missing plane. So China grieves with us over the loss of people aboard airplanes that have crashed or disappeared in such extraordinary circumstances.

On the question of China’s support beyond MH-17, Russia’s behavior in recent months has been to breach the sovereignty of Ukraine, a neighbor, and this is not behavior that China, one would think, would condone. It’s behavior that China has pointed out to others would be unacceptable if it were to occur in China’s sphere of the world. So we’ll continue to consult, discuss with China the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian tensions, the conflict, the need for ceasefire, the need for humanitarian assistance and hope that China sees it as we do, an unacceptable breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and urge Russia to stop the flow of weapons, stop the flow of armed personnel. Russia claims to be concerned about a humanitarian situation in Ukraine when the first thing it should do is stop sending weapons and armed personnel to the so-called separatists.

QUESTION: I’m (inaudible). I’m a reporter with Bloomberg News. Questions on Iraq first to Secretary Hagel: What kind of direct military assistance is the Pentagon prepared to offer the Kurds, and does it include sending heavy weapons to them?

And if I can ask Secretary Kerry: Can you talk a little bit more about what the United States is prepared to do once there is a new Iraqi Government? And both of you, do you share any concern that directly aiding and supporting the Kurds could potentially encourage them to break away from a united Iraq in the future?

And to the Australian officials, the U.S. has said it will assist and train Iraqi troops to combat ISIL. And have you been asked and are you prepared to send any of your troops to train the Iraqi forces? Thank you.

SECRETARY HAGEL: The United States Government is working with the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi security forces to get military equipment to the Peshmerga. That is Iraqi military equipment. We – our American forces through CENTCOM are helping get that equipment to Erbil. As to your question regarding a breakaway status of the Kurds into an independent Kurdistan, I think it’s important that – and we have taken this position and Secretary Kerry, who has been directly involved in this, may want to amplify on this point – but it’s important to note that America’s position is a unified Iraq.

You all know that the Council of Representatives announced today that it had selected a new prime minister, a new Shia prime minister. That then completes the new senior officers that the Counsel of Representatives have put forth, a new speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister. That’s good news. Now the next step has to move forward in getting that government ratified and in place, and we look forward to working with that new government.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well – sorry, go ahead. No, please.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: With respect to the Australian contribution to those people who are in the mountains around Erbil, we are going to be participate and deliver humanitarian relief in the nature of being able to drop supplies to them, and that is a (inaudible) capability we have long held probably since East Timor. And that’s the role that we’ll carry out, and we’ll fit into and be part of the planning of the United States and other partners who want to assist on that humanitarian basis, and that’s the way we’ll go forward. Sorry, John.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no. That’s important, and I appreciate it. Let me just begin by congratulating Dr. Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, which now offers him an opportunity to be able to form a government over the next 30 days. And we urge him to form a new cabinet as swiftly as possible, and the U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi Government, particularly in its fight against ISIL.

Now I’m not going to get into the details today before a new prime minister is there and a government is there and we’ve talked to them and we know what they think their needs are and how they define the road ahead, but I will tell you that without any question, we are prepared to consider additional political, economic, and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions. Those will be the guidelines.

We also would note that there are already a significant group of programs in place under the strategic framework agreement, and we, with a new government in place, would absolutely look to provide additional options, and we would consider those options for sure in an effort to strengthen an effort. Let me be very clear we have always wanted an inclusive, participatory government that represents the interests of Shia, Kurd, Sunni, minorities, all Iraqis. That’s the goal. And our hope is that when there is a new government, we will all of us in the international community be able to work with them in order to guarantee that outstanding issues that have just stood there absolutely frozen for years now, like the oil revenue law or the constitutional reform, all of these things need to be resolved, and that will really determine the road ahead.

Now with respect to the Kurds, we welcome increased coordination and support between the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish forces. That is taking place right now. It’s quite unique, and we think that’s a signal of a growing potential for cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. So as we’ve said last week, ISIL has secured certain heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms, and what is happening now is through the government in Baghdad, some of that assistance is being provided directly to the Kurds. I think that raises as many questions about the possibility of greater cooperation as it does with the possibility of further efforts for separation.

What I do know is from my own meetings with President Barzani recently, he is very committed to this transition in Baghdad, in Iraq, in the government. He is committed to trying to be a force for a strong federal government that works for all Iraqis, and that’s the only subject on the table at this point in time.

QUESTION: Secretaries, Ministers, Greg Jennett from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is to any or all of you, but perhaps starting with you, Secretary Kerry. Following on from that question on Iraq and noting that you don’t want to get into details, but that stabilizing security is an option that the U.S. is prepared to explore with the government there, what are the circumstances in which the U.S. could look to allies, including Australia, to support security with further military commitments, if you could outline at least the parameters in which you would start that conversation.

And also on homecoming jihadists from the Middle East, what is the shared approach? Practically, what sort of initiatives are we talking about? As this – things before prosecution, after incarceration, before interrogation, is there any example of the types of actions you’d like to see the world take jointly?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me let a couple of my colleagues – I’ll turn to Julie to address the issue on the foreign fighters, because we had a pretty robust discussion, and perhaps even Mr. Johnston and Hagel want to tackle that. So let me just answer the first part of the question, and they can answer the second.

The question is: How can we look towards this issue of stabilization and military assistance? And you said: Where would the discussion begin? Well, let me tell you in the simplest terms where the discussion begins. There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. That is the beginning of the discussion. This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq, and our hope is and the reason President Obama has been so clear about wanting to get the government formation before beginning to tackle ISIL in the most significant way excepting the kind of emergency circumstances that have arisen is because if you don’t have a government that is inclusive and that works, nothing else will work plain and simply.

So you have to have a government that can begin to be inclusive where the forces of Iraq are not a personal force defined by one particular sect and sworn to allegiance to one particular leader, but they truly represent Iraq, and Iraq’s future in a broad-based sense. And I think that everybody understands that is the direction that we have to go. Lots of countries who have an interest in stability in the region have already offered different kinds of assistance of one kind or another, but nobody, I think, is looking towards a return to the road that we’ve traveled. What we’re really looking for here is a way to support Iraq, support their forces with either training or equipment or assistance of one kind or another that can help them to stand on their own two feet and defend their nation. That’s the goal. That’s where the conversation begins, whoever is prime minister, and I think everybody is crystal clear about that.

We are convinced that with a unified effort by Iraqis, and particularly if there is a return to the kind of localized efforts that existed in the Sons of Anbar or the Iraqi Anbar Awakening, as it’s referred to, that there will be plenty of opportunity here for a pushback against ISIL forces which is why the restoration of a unified, inclusive government is so critical as a starting point. I think the President felt that that process was well enough along the way with the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and the clear movement of people towards a candidate for prime minister that he felt comfortable that the urgency of the situation, of protecting potential people moving towards Erbil or the extraordinary atrocities that were beginning to take place with respect to the Yazidis that it was critical to begin to move in that regard, and that’s why he made that decision, and I think it was a wise decision.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Australia has long joined the international community in calling for a more inclusive government in Iraq, and the political instability that we have seen that hasn’t addressed the concerns of the Sunnis, hasn’t addressed the concerns of minorities, is of course a matter of grave concern. So political stability is the key for Iraq encountering the influence and impact of these extremist groups, including ISIL. And that brings me to the issue of foreign fighters. The Australian media has, this week, published some truly shocking photographs I assume have been verified of an Australian family in the Middle East holding up a severed head, a seven year-old child is involved in this barbarous display of ideology, and they’re Australian citizens.

So when the government says that there is a real domestic security threat from the phenomenon of foreign fighters, we have evidence that there are a significant number of Australian citizens who are taking part in activities in Iraq and parts of Syria, extremist activities, terrorist activities. Our fear is that they will return home to Australia as hardened, homegrown terrorists and seek to continue their work here in Australia. And it’s not a concern just of this country. As I mentioned earlier, at the East Asia Summit, a number of countries raised this issue of foreign fighters leaving countries, going to fight in these conflicts and coming home with a set of skills and experience as terrorists. That truly poses one of the most significant threats that we’ve seen in a very long time.

Our discussion today focused on what we can do to counter this risk. Australia, as the Australian media would be well aware, has announced a series of legislative reforms that deal with matters including the burden of proof for people’s presence in prescribed areas like Mosul, and why Australian citizens would be defying the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice to not go to Mosul demands explanation. We are looking at issues involving passports and the cancellation and the ability to suspend passports so that we can investigate the activities of people within Australia and deal with them on their turn.

We know that one of the Australian citizens involved in these activities in the Middle East in Iraq had, in fact, been convicted of terrorist activities in Australia, had served time and then left Australia under a false identity. We also know that in coming weeks and months, a significant number of those convicted of terrorist activities in Indonesia will be released. Now the question is: Have they been de-radicalized in their time in prison? Clearly in the case of the Australian citizen, not. And we hold similar fears for those inmates leaving Indonesian jails. So the whole question of what we can do when these people are detained and what we can do if they’re prosecuted and found guilty and spend time in jail, they are matters that we have to look at. The whole question of reaching out to the communities in Australia and getting communities to assist us in fighting this extremist threat is important.

So as we were discussing these issues, Secretary Kerry said this is something we’ve got to bring to the attention of the international community. It’s a shared issue across Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Europe, in Pakistan, in Great Britain, Canada. There are a number of countries across the globe reporting instances of citizens becoming extremist fighters in the Middle East. And so this idea of having a forum, discussion at UNGA Leaders’ Week is something that I believe will be well supported because so many countries are facing this threat, and if we can exchange ideas and practices and suggestions as how we can deal with it, then I think we will have made a great step forward, and so we certainly will support the United States and work very hard to ensure that we collectively deal with this growing threat to the security of our nation.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I add one thing to that?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Sure.

SECRETARY KERRY: I apologize, but I just want to underscore this image, perhaps even an iconic photograph that Julie has just referred to is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed, this seven year-old child holding a severed head out with pride and with the support and encouragement of a parent with brothers there. That child should be in school, that child should be out learning about a future, that child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat. This is utterly disgraceful, and it underscores the degree to which ISIL is so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups, that al-Qaida shunted them aside. And that’s why they represent the threat that they represent. And it’s no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL.

So this threat is so real, an African – north African president of a country recently told me that 1,800 identified citizens of that country have gone to Syria to fight. Believe it or not, 1,100 of them they knew had already been killed because their bodies had been returned or they were tallied as killed. Well, that leaves 7 or 800 still out there that they fear are going to return to that country knowing how to fix an IED, knowing how to arm weapons, knowing how to explode a bomb, knowing how to build a suicide vest or something like that. And this ideology is without one redeeming quality of offering people a job or healthcare or an education or anything other than saying don’t live any other way but the way we tell you.

So this is serious business, and we understand that, and I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the fact, the degree to which this is unacceptable. And we have a responsibility to take this to the United Nations and to the world so that all countries involved take measures ahead of time to prevent the return of these fighters and the chaos and havoc that could come with that, and I just wanted to underscore that with the – with Minister Bishop, because we’re all joined together in this effort, and that’s why we’re going to take it to the United Nations in the fall and try to get best practices put together by which all countries can begin to act together in unison in order to react to it.

QUESTION: Leslie Wroughton from Reuters. Please excuse if I don’t stand up. I’ve got too much equipment going here. Turning back to Iraq, you said that the U.S. was prepared to consider security, political, and economic options as Iraq forms this new government. Can you get into more specifics about that? We’ve heard some vague statements on how you ought to prepare to support. Does this include further airstrikes to push back ISIS? Once the government comes in, how do you secure that stability?

And then number two, on Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said today there’s a high probability of a Russian intervention in Ukraine. What specific steps, again, are you taking through diplomatic channels to address this. You talked about your hopes in the next days and weeks to – that you could find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians. Are you talking about a new diplomatic effort here? And what are you talking about? Thanks.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me make it clear with respect to Ukraine, diplomatic efforts have never ceased. It’s not a question of a new one; it’s a question of ongoing diplomatic efforts. We have never stopped. The President has not stopped, the Vice President, myself have all been in touch with the top leadership of Ukraine, with leadership of Russia, and others. The President of the United States talked to President Putin a few days ago. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov just a couple days ago. I talked to President Poroshenko a few days ago. There are a lot of conversations taking place.

And even now as we stand here, there are efforts being made with our friends, with Germany, with the Ukrainians, with Russia, with others to try to see if there’s a way to work out a way forward on the humanitarian delivery with direct contact with the ICRC. There is direct contact with the Germans and others in this effort, and the hope is that through the meetings that will take place this week, there is a way to find a means that is acceptable to deliver humanitarian assistance without the guise of a military delivery in an effort to do so against the will and wishes of the country where it is being delivered and against the norms of the ICRC, the International Red Cross, and how it would react to that.

So that’s the effort that’s underway now. It’s been a consistent, continued diplomatic effort to try to find a way forward, but obviously the humanitarian assistance needs to get there, and there are a clear set of meetings scheduled, so there’s a timeframe within which we think we’re operating, which is why I mention that.

With respect to Iraq and the stability, I want – I think Chuck Hagel should speak specifically to any of the security components of that, but I’d just say on the economic and political front, the best thing for stability in Iraq is for an inclusive government to bring the disaffected parties to the table and work with them in order to make sure there is the kind of sharing of power and decision making that people feel confident the government represents all of their interests. And if that begins to happen, then there is a way for both investment, trade, economic, other realities to help sustain and build that kind of stability.

But if you don’t have the prerequisite, which President Obama identified at the outset, of an inclusive, working government, there’s no chance for any of that. That’s why we think the steps taken, the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and now a prime minister-designate who has an opportunity to be able to form a government are just essential prerequisites to this process of providing stability.

Do you want to talk to the security?

SECRETARY HAGEL: I’ll just mention a couple of things. One, as you know, it was the Iraqi Government that requested the U.S. Government’s assistance with humanitarian delivery on Mount Sinjar. And we complied with that request, agreed with that request for carrying out those missions. It was also the Iraqi Government’s request of the United States Government to assist them in transferring, transporting military equipment to Erbil to help the Peshmerga. As Secretary Kerry noted and as President Obama has said, as a new government begins, takes shape, we would consider further requests from that new government.

But I would just also reemphasize what Secretary Kerry has already noted, and President Obama has made this very clear, the future of Iraq will be determined by the people of Iraq. It will not be determined by a military solution. It will require a political solution, and I think Secretary Kerry’s comments about an inclusive participatory, a functioning government is critically important to the future of Iraq. So we would wait and see what future requests that this new government would ask of us, and we would consider those based on those requests.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Just on Ukraine, Australia welcomes the efforts of the United States to assist in preventative diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia. As I made, I hope, very clear to Vice Minister Morgulov in Naypyidaw over the weekend, yes, there is a humanitarian situation in Ukraine that is serious, and it’s likely to worsen. But if Russia were concerned about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the first step is to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into eastern Ukraine and the so-called separatists are very professional, very well armed with the most sophisticated of weaponry and equipment, so to cease that flow of personnel and weapons would be a start.

I also hope I made very clear that any intervention by Russia into Ukraine under the guise of a humanitarian crisis would be seen as the transparent artifice that it is, and Australia would condemn in the strongest possible terms any effort by Russia to enter Ukraine under the guise of carrying out some sort of humanitarian mission. Clearly that kind of support must come from donor countries, from the UN, from the International Red Cross, and that is our expectation.

I think that’s it, (inaudible). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. We will now depart, and I just want to place on record again our thanks to Secretaries Kerry and Hagel for taking part in this AUSMIN, and we look forward to seeing them next year.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

# # #

East Asia and the Pacific: U.S. Policy on North Korean Human Rights

As Prepared

Chairman Chabot, Congressman Bera, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today on U.S. human rights policy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). This is an issue on which we believe there is broad bipartisan agreement, and both Congress and the Administration are united in our effort to press North Korea to improve its truly deplorable human rights situation.

Today, the DPRK remains a totalitarian state, which seeks to dominate all aspects of its citizens’ lives, including denial of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement, as well as worker rights. Reports continue to portray a vast network of political prison camps where individuals are subject to forced labor under horrific conditions and the government commits human rights violations including extrajudicial killing, enslavement, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, and rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.

Mr. Chairman, this past year, we made significant progress in our effort to increase international pressure on the DPRK to improve its human rights record. The decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2013 to create a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to examine “grave, widespread, and systematic violations of human rights” in the DPRK was a landmark event. This resolution, which the United States co-sponsored, reflects the international community’s deepened concern about the deplorable human rights situation in the DPRK.

The independent Commission of Inquiry was chaired by Mr. Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, and included Mr. Marzuki Darusman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the DPRK and former Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia, and Ms. Sonia Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and a prominent human rights activist.

The Commission held a series of public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, where it heard from North Korean refugees sharing first-hand accounts of abuse and violence they suffered, and their horrific experiences leaving their homeland. The Commission also heard from leading international experts, who described deliberate denial of access to food, gender-based violence, and numerous other human rights violations in the prison camps. The full proceedings of these hearings have since been made available on the UN web site in video and in written transcript.

At the completion of its investigation, the Commission issued a final report on February 17 of this year that concluded that systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the DPRK, its institutions, and its officials. The report further concluded that in many cases, these human rights violations by the DPRK government and its officials may “meet the high threshold required for proof of crimes against humanity in international law.” The Commission’s comprehensive 400-page report is the most detailed and devastating exposé of DPRK human rights to date, and it laid bare a brutal reality that is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine.

The Commission formally presented its final report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March of this year. After hearing from the Commission, the UN Human Rights Council—by an overwhelming vote approved a strongly-worded resolution praising the report and calling for accountability for those responsible for human rights violations. This resolution made clear that the international community has identified the DPRK as one of the worst human rights violators in the world.

This resolution—among many other things—called for the creation of a field office, or a “field-based structure,” under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to preserve and document evidence of atrocities committed in the DPRK and to support the future work of the Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights issues.

At the request of the High Commissioner’s office, South Korea has agreed to host this field office. We welcomed the decision to host this office, which will play an important role in maintaining visibility and encouraging action on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Building on the momentum created by the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report, the United States joined Australia and France in convening the UN Security Council’s first-ever discussion of the human rights situation in North Korea. At this session on April 17, the Commission presented its report, and two North Korean refugees, Mr. Shin Dong Hyuk and Ms. Hyeonseo Lee spoke of their personal experiences in the DPRK before they escaped. Thirteen of the 15 members of the Security Council attended that discussion.

Council members expressed grave concern about the horrific human rights violations and crimes against humanity outlined in the Commission of Inquiry report and urged the DPRK to comply with the report’s recommendations and to engage with United Nations human rights agencies. Council members emphasized the importance of accountability for human rights violations, and many expressed support for Council consideration of the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation of referral of the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC). They expressed support for the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK and to establish a field-based office to strengthen monitoring and documentation of human rights abuses to ensure accountability.

In May, the United States participated in the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of North Korea. The UPR is a mechanism to assess each country’s human rights record, and puts all UN member-countries on the agenda of the Council for review. The UPR process provides the international community with another tool to discuss the situation in the DPRK, as well as provide recommendations to address it.

Most recently, on June 18, the Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights, Mr. Marzuki Darusman, gave his report on the human rights situation to the UN Human Rights Council.

As I participated in these UN sessions, two things struck me. First, it is clear that the DPRK is feeling growing international pressure. The mounting criticism of its human rights record has clearly struck a chord in Pyongyang, which responded by condemning the Commission’s report and issuing its own reports on human rights in the United States and the Republic of Korea.

Second, with a growing number of countries standing up for North Korean human rights, the DPRK has very few supporters left. At the UN Human Rights Council session in June, only a handful of countries were supportive of the DPRK—most protested the singling out of one country and did not comment on the substance of the human rights violations. The countries who defended the DPRK were among the world’s worst human rights violators—Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

China’s statement at the June session was especially noteworthy. China objected to country-specific reports in general, but mainly defended itself against the criticism in both the Commission’s and the Special Rapporteur’s report against its refoulement of refugees from the DPRK who were attempting to escape through Chinese territory. The Chinese did not defend the DPRK’s human rights record.

As I look back over what has taken place already this year to focus attention on the human rights record of North Korea, I am reminded of Commission of Inquiry Chair Michael Kirby’s statement when he presented the Commission’s report. With the body of evidence of the North Korean human rights situation, he said, no one can now say “We did not know.”

Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few words about another critical issue related to North Korean human rights: our efforts to increase North Koreans’ access to information. When the Commission of Inquiry presented its report to the UN Human Rights Council, it also released a 20-minute documentary, highlighting testimony of North Korean defectors. Because North Korea is one of the most closed societies on this planet—where internet access is reserved for a very tiny elite—ordinary North Koreans had no way to see the documentary, let alone any independent news about the abuses taking place inside their own country today.

While this information blockade makes it nearly impossible for North Koreans to read the Commission’s report or watch the video, we have recently seen modest indications that information from outside is becoming more available in North Korea.

It is still illegal to own a tunable radio that permits anything other than state-controlled information channels. However, the latest Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) study, a survey of 350 North Korean refugees and travelers who were interviewed outside of North Korea, found that:

• As many as 35 percent of them had listened to foreign radio broadcasts while inside North Korea.

• Foreign DVDs are now being seen by even larger numbers—approximately 85 percent of those interviewed had seen foreign (South Korean) DVDs in North Korea.

• Additionally, some two million cell phones now permit North Koreans to at least communicate with each other on a domestic network, according to open source reports.

Given the closed nature of North Korean society, international media are among the most effective means of sharing information about the outside world with residents of the country. Our government is a strong supporter of getting broadcasting of independent information about the outside world into North Korea. Thank you for continuing Congressional support for Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA). These efforts are important in breaking down the information barrier that the DPRK government has imposed on its own people.

Together with our partners in the international community, we must make clear to the DPRK that its egregious human rights violations prevent economic progress and weaken the regime. The United States has long made clear that we are open to improved relations with North Korea if it is willing to take concrete actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to emphasize here that one of the highest priorities for the United States is the welfare and safety of American citizens abroad. The United States remains deeply concerned about the three U.S. citizens currently held by the DPRK. We have repeatedly requested that the DPRK grant them amnesty and release them so they may return to their families, and we will continue to do everything we can to secure their release.

The world will not, and cannot, close its eyes to what is happening in North Korea. Ultimately, we will judge the North not by its words, but by its actions. It needs to refrain from actions that threaten the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and comply with its international obligations under UN Security Council resolutions to abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs, among other things.

We have consistently told the DPRK that while the United States remains open to meaningful engagement, North Korea must take concrete steps to address the core concerns of the international community, from the DPRK’s nuclear program to its human rights violations.

Just as importantly, North Korea will also have to address its egregious human rights record. North Korea’s choice is clear. Investment in its people, respect for human rights, and concrete steps toward denuclearization can lead to a path of peace, prosperity, and improved relations with the international community, including the United States. Absent these measures, North Korea will only continue to face greater and greater isolation—as well as pressure from the international community.

Press Releases: Remarks on the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you, operator. I’m Jeff Rathke, director of the Press Office here at the State Department. And today we’re doing a call with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who is Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons. So today’s call will be on the record, but it will be embargoed until the end of Secretary Kerry’s rollout event.

So Ambassador CdeBaca has been in this position for a number of years; he doesn’t really need any introduction to most of you. So I will just turn it over to him and ask him to give us introduction to this year’s report, and then we’ll take some questions afterwards. So please, Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thanks, Jeff. Hello, everybody, and welcome. As Jeff said, Secretary Kerry will be unveiling the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. This, of course, is a congressionally mandated report that has us look at the governments around the world and what they are doing to combat trafficking in persons – modern slavery – through the lens of what we call the 3P paradigm of prevention, protection, and prosecution. And in fact, I think as you see the embargoed copy of the report that I think many of you have, you’ll notice that each of the narratives of what’s happening in the countries actually are laid out in that fashion so that you can kind of see exactly how it is that we are analyzing the countries, and frankly, what the evidence is for the eventual ranking.

The rankings – the – it’s a four-tiered ranking system, and so – because it was made by us in the United States by our Congress, it has three tiers for its four-tier ranking. Let me explain what that means. We have Tier One, which is a country that’s actually meeting the minimum standards of fighting human trafficking. And those minimum standards are set out in our trafficking law of 2000, but really track the international standards and best practices that we see around the world. A Tier Two country is one that is not meeting those goals but is striving to do so and has results that you can point to to show that it’s doing a decent job, but could definitely improve.

A Tier Two Watch List – and this is how we get four tiers out of a one, two, and three. The Tier Two Watch List is kind of like a C minus or something like that in the American grading system. It’s warning the countries that are on the Watch List that they are in danger of falling to Tier Three. And one of the biggest categories for that is if what the country is doing is simply in the form of promises of future action. Again, we look for results. And if we can’t show the results on the ground, the actual outcomes, et cetera, then that does not bode well when we’re doing the analysis. And then finally Tier Three, which is a country that is not responding sufficiently to its trafficking problem, isn’t taking those affirmative steps forward, and we’re not – excuse me – seeing the progress that we need to see, especially in light of their particular trafficking problem.

So that’s a quick tour through the tier rankings, and I think that a lot of folks are very interested in that, much like horserace coverage of elections. But I want to talk a few of the top lines as well, as far as what are we seeing in the global fight against modern slavery this year. Very quick review of what we’re talking about when we talk about human trafficking, the definition – this is a umbrella term that the United States Government considers to cover all of the activities involved in reducing someone to or holding them in a condition of compelled service. So there’s nothing in there about moving them across international borders. There’s nothing in there that limits it simply to women or girls. There’s nothing in there that limits it to only in other countries. And there’s nothing in there that limits it only to prostitution or the sex industry as opposed to other forms of trafficking.

So each year for every one of these countries, we’re looking at what are they doing for all of the populations that are victimized by trafficking: How are they helping them? Are they prosecuting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice? And are they working to prevent? And when I say “they,” I mean all of the governments that we look at.

And one of those governments is the United States. The United States has been included in the trafficking report since 2010. The State Department began to rank ourselves in that report for two reasons. First of all, I think that there was a sense during the Obama Administration that it was simply a matter of fairness to all of the other countries; if we’re going to hold them to these minimum standards, that we needed to hold ourselves to them as well. But then also the notion of as a diagnostic tool. If these 11 minimum standards that you’re supposed to look at to see whether you’re doing a decent job on fighting trafficking – if those are truly to be a good diagnostic, then we owed it to ourselves to apply that diagnostic and to see where we could be doing better as the United States.

As far as that’s concerned, I want to just make the point that I think many of you may have already heard me or the Secretary say, which is that no country is doing a perfect job on the fight against human trafficking, and that includes the United States. We are all in this together, because we’re seeing people around the world – whether it’s in agriculture or whether it’s in mining, whether it’s in manufacturing, whether it’s in the sex industry, whether it’s as domestic servants – that when you have unscrupulous and cruel bosses and vulnerable people, you have a recipe for human trafficking. And that’s as true here even in the Washington, D.C. area and the suburbs, as it is in countries around the world.

So I’d certainly, although I think that we’ll probably be looking at some of the other countries, I’d certainly recommend to you all the U.S. narrative as well so you can see what the U.S. Government is doing but also what’s happening out in our communities across the United States, whether it’s to Native American girls, whether it’s to vulnerable men and women because of a disability or a drug addiction, or whether it’s to the young men and women, boys, and girls, who fall prey to the blandishments of pimps who offer a better life and opportunity.

Let me take it a little bit more international though. This year, we see of the 188 countries that are on the report, we see some movement up and down. There’s, I think, some real progress stars, I guess, for lack of a better word, some countries out there that have – that we’ve seen some real progress on. For instance, both Chile and Switzerland are moving up to Tier One on the report this year. Switzerland because they took aggressive steps to close some legal loopholes that actually inadvertently made it legal for people to have children in prostitution. Chad has really stepped up on victim identification and demobilization of child soldiers. We’ve seen the first convictions in the Bahamas and Aruba – small countries, small island countries that, frankly, five years ago would’ve said that they didn’t have any human trafficking. But they’ve realized that it’s something that they have to look for. And once they’ve looked for it, they’ve found it and been able to free some of its victims.

We’ve seen the first government-run shelter being opened by the Government of Jordan. The – a new law recently passed in Haiti – the first time now in 215 or so years in which it is now a crime to enslave someone in Haiti, a law much-awaited in South Africa that we hope will be a good tool in that which is very much the destination country for the southern tier countries in Africa. And even a country that has historically not been a leader on human rights issues, Sudan, the enactment of a modern human trafficking law that’s really the culmination of that government’s coming out and wanting to be able to have those modern tools so that they can help their own citizens and others who might be enslaved and exploited.

There are also downgrades, and I think that that’s something that we see every year – countries that are perhaps taking the foot off the gas pedal a little bit or aren’t doing the kind of work that we would see under the law. And I think one of the things that’s, of course, since the 2008 reauthorization that is of particular note under the U.S. law is what we call the auto-downgrade provisions of the law. This came into effect fully last year for the first time. The law in 2008 basically said that countries cannot be on that Tier Two Watch List that I described a minute ago for too many years in a row, because there was a concern, frankly, on the part of Congress that strategic countries and other countries were being given a bit of a pass and not being taken down to Tier Three but holding steady on Tier Two Watch Lists almost, it seemed to Congress I think, interminably.

And so they put a time limitation on that and – by which time a government has to either improve or will be dropped down to Tier Three on the report. There were seven such countries this year that were in that situation no longer eligible for a waiver in the U.S. national interest. And those were Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, the Maldives, Thailand, and Venezuela. And what we’ve seen is the two – excuse me, three – of those Tier Two Watch Lists auto-downgrade countries were no longer eligible, and we concluded that there hadn’t been the type of sufficient progress to justify an upgrade. And those were Thailand, Malaysia, and Venezuela. And so each of those countries has now been placed on Tier Three in the report.

In the other countries – Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, and the Maldives – in each of those countries we see fresh activity. We see new commitments to doing work. We see this notion of cases being done in the first place or victims being helped in new ways. And it’s certainly something that is welcome. And frankly, these are countries who may not have, if it weren’t for the pressure of the auto-downgrade and the good work of our men and women out at our embassies in those countries and others to work with them, might not have been able to make that journey.

I want to say two things about sectoral issues that we’ve been identifying that may be news to some. I think that many people may be aware of some of the abuses that we’ve been recognizing in the last few years in the fishing industry. And in fact we’ve seen the fishing sector now – 51 of the narratives in the TIP report this year are identifying abuses in the fishing industry. And that’s both men that are enslaved out on the boats out at sea and folks in the seafood packing huts and things like that.

But we’ve also seen forced labor in mining noted in the narratives of 46 countries and zero prosecutions or convictions around the world. So we’re very much looking for countries to step up on the mining sector, and that’s everything from things that we might call conflict minerals in Africa or conflict diamonds in North Africa, Northwest Africa, or what we see with the gold mining sector, for instance, in Peru and other places.

And sadly, just as we’ve seen in the fishing industry or the logging industry, there are follow-on effects of a subsidiary sex trafficking that happens – basically men who are enslaved in these camps, held in debt bondage through the old company store scheme, they then bring the women in to serve them as well. So whether it’s in Guyana, Peru, or other places like that, you end up seeing sex trafficking related to the mining sector. And we want to commend Senegal for being the only country in the world this last year who actually achieved a conviction of folks for holding girls in sex trafficking in that mining sector.

Lastly, just want to also point out that there is the child soldiers and Child Soldier Prevention Act list, which is part of the trafficking report each year. And this year one of the countries on that was removed, and that is Chad, as I mentioned earlier, who’s, I think, coming at this with a real energy now. And we hope that we’ll continue to see that on their part.

So I think perhaps we should turn it over and do some questions. Jeff, I’ll leave it back to you.

MR. RATHKE: Thanks very much, Ambassador. Operator, could you please inform everyone or remind them how to register – intend to ask a question?

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in a queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press *1 at this time. And a moment here for the first question.

MR. RATHKE: All right. That’s great. We’re ready to go to the first question then, so could you please call the first question, operator?

OPERATOR: Our first question comes from the line of Dana Hughes at ABC News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. I have a question about what role you see governance or the breakdown of governance in these rankings. For example, Thailand’s been downgraded and they had a coup. Chad is really increasing its governance. Do you see a direct correlation?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, it’s interesting, because the Thailand narrative and the Thailand ranking is based on everything that happened from April 1st, 2013 through March 31st, 2014. And so the coup that you mentioned didn’t happen within that time period. Obviously, there was some fraying around the edges within the Royal Thai Government, and yet the committed folks within the government who were trying to work on this within their own agencies, the – some folks at the Royal Thai Police and folks in the ministry of health and social development – they continued to go out and try to fight trafficking because it was something that they had that personal commitment to.

What we see that’s, I think, perhaps somewhat relevant to that in the Thailand situation that’s very much part of the – kind of permeates the narrative is the anchor on those good efforts of those good people that public corruption and complicity on the part of government officials then places around those who would try to do better. So I think that that kind of corruption and its effect on governance directly undercuts the good work of the folks who are trying to get everything right.

It’s interesting because I think that what we see is this is a rule of law problem. It’s a human rights problem as well. But there are a number of countries in which the government functions at a very high level that human trafficking victims simply aren’t on the radar. And I think that that’s reflected kind of throughout the report that rule of law only is going to work for trafficking victims if governments affirmatively try to bring it to bear on the plight of these vulnerable communities.

So while some of those kind of looking at instability and looking at general governance issues, there often seems to be some correlation. I think that we’ve also seen a lot of human trafficking in cases that are – in countries that are viewed as being governed well and that do well on indices, whether it’s Freedom House or otherwise.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thanks. Could we move on to the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Okay, our next question comes from the line of Jo Biddle at AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, good afternoon. Thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that there’s a possibility that downgrades can be accompanied by sanctions if the President so decides. And last year we saw Russia and China both downgraded into Tier Three. Were there any sanctions that were accompanied with that, and do you anticipate that with these new downgrades of Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela that there could be sanctions forthcoming if they do not get their act together?

And I had a follow-up – a different question as well, but perhaps I’ll just ask that one first.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Of course. The sanctions determination is something that we’ll be turning to at this point. There are not just those three countries that are on Tier Three. In fact, there are 23 countries on Tier Three this year. But I think that what we look at each year is, first of all, we have to see what is it that the sanctions analysis has to look at. And first stop is to actually look at what foreign assistance we have because that’s really what we’re talking about. The sanctions here is whether or not the United States will continue to provide foreign assistance. So the first thing that we always have to look at is what is being provided to those particular governments and then also to look to see to what degree we’re providing aid that goes directly to helping fix the thing that we’re trying to solve. So you certainly wouldn’t want to halt the – any assistance that’s going specifically to increasing the capacity of our partners in those governments to fight human trafficking or to help its victims.

So those are some of the things that we’ll take into account as we work with the White House and as we give our recommendations to the President. At the end of the day, this is his decision. And last year, the three auto-downgrade countries that you mentioned – China, Russia, and Uzbekistan – the President decided that it was in the U.S. national interest and would promote the purposes of the trafficking law to waive sanctions against them as well as several other countries. And those are countries that we, again, are very much wanting to and feel we can engage with in order to move forward.

Last year, full sanctions were applied against Cuba, Iran, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and partial sanctions were applied against the DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much. And I wondered if I could ask about – I had another question. I wondered if I could ask about the situation in the United States. You give the United States a Tier One ranking, but I believe there have been some issues with money, funds running out for shelters for survivors, and there’s also an issue of, particularly in the sex trafficking, with children being treated as criminals rather than being treated as victims and ending up in front of courts or in cells instead of in – or in police cells rather than in shelters. I did note in the report that you say that there’s much more to be done still in the United States. What are you recommending specifically for the United States in terms of improving your own balance sheet?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Yeah. I mean, I think that to the notion of the funding issues, clearly a lot of social service providers, not just in the trafficking arena but others as well, that were depending upon per capita type of reimbursements from the United States Government, didn’t necessarily get those as quickly as they could have last year. We had a number of things, including the near – the government shutdown and the sequester and other things like that.

Our funding stream that HHS – the Department of Health and Human Services – does is actually – it is a per capita reimbursement. It’s not a kind of one-time grant at the beginning of the year that then the nongovernmental can draw down on. And one of the reasons for that is that there are thousands and thousands of service providers across the United States who may encounter a trafficking victim, and it may be that that’s not their fulltime job, so they wouldn’t be writing a grant specifically for that.

My understanding is that those reimbursements were able to continue and that folks have been backfilled for any monies that they spent on behalf of the trafficking victims. But I think it does show that there’s a need for better thought to be put in.

And that was one of the reasons why, on the plus side of the column this year, we announced in January at the White House the first-ever victim services strategy for the United States, which was brought together by the President’s interagency task force to actually look at this action plan. And we’re very proud of the fact that that was brought in with close consultation with survivors of trafficking, so that we could hear what it was that they had been through, what they saw as the shortcomings.

One of the things, frankly, that we’re having to deal with is a bunch of legacy systems. The child protective services systems in all of the states, each grew up independently and they grew up at a time before the Trafficking Victims Protection Act started looking at child prostitutes, for instance, as victims rather than as criminals. So going back to each state now and trying to get it so that they can make it very clear that these are not delinquent children but dependent children under each of the state laws and making sure that the child protective services understands that these are not criminals but victims is unpacking a multi-billion dollar effort across 57 states and territories as well as at the federal level.

So I think that, in looking at that and looking at the problems of the foster care system, et cetera, we’ve started to see not only the Administration but Congress focusing on that. But at the end of the day, all of the money that’s been appropriated for human trafficking work and all of the legislative fixes to some of those programs are just a drop in the bucket compared to the enormous child protective services structures that we need to turn around to recognize the trafficking victims in their midst.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question please.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from the line of Luis Alonso at AP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. Many thanks for doing this. I have two questions as well, if I may. The first one is I couldn’t find a regional summary of the report, so I would like to ask if you could please give – provide us with a comment on the Western Hemisphere, how – what the general trend, how many countries were downgraded – how many countries were downgraded, is it improvement or not compared to last year?

And my second question is, given – related to the unaccompanied minors that are coming through the south border from Central America, is – we all know that the United States has put all those kids into removal proceedings right now. If a big number of them end up being deported and go – sent back to their countries where there is extraordinary violence and many presence of human trafficking, do you foresee that the United States could drop the Tier One position because of this element of the unaccompanied minor who comes into America? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, let me answer that backwards with the second question first. I think that one of the things that we’re doing is that we are working with the governments in the region to try to improve not only the situation so that families don’t feel that they have to get their children out of harm’s way, whether it’s with gangs or otherwise, but also so that those children can be reunited with their families back home.

The law in question, of the unaccompanied alien minors, is looking to protect them, and which is one of the reasons why the Department of Health and Human Services is involved, unlike with adults who would be interdicted at the border. And in fact, one of the things that is done as part of the unaccounted – unaccompanied alien minor screening is to see whether or not those children were victims of trafficking in that situation. And as with all folks who come before the immigration judges and go through the system, we hope that that kind of screening would be able to help us find the people who need the particular services that trafficking victims so desperately need, and to be able to get them those services.

As far as the hemisphere as a whole, I think that is some movement up, there is some movement down within the hemisphere. Perhaps the most notable downgrade in the hemisphere is not the Venezuelan story from Tier Two Watch List down to Tier Three, but rather the downgrade of Colombia, a country that’s been on Tier One for many consecutive years. I think that what it stands for is the notion that Tier One is not a reprieve, it’s a responsibility, and the responsibility to continue to investigate cases, to continue to seek out good victim care interventions, and to look at all forms of trafficking. The Colombians were focused so much on international sex trafficking of Colombians and transnational cases that cases of Colombians at home and others, whether it was in the mining sector, whether it was in the sex or domestic servants, simply weren’t registering. And as a result, we now see them on Tier Two.

So the movement on the one hand of Chile up to Tier One because of the new law that they passed a few years ago and their very aggressive stance in enforcing that new law unfortunately then is kind of paired with the Colombian situation, where a bit of stagnation cannot keep a country on the highest level.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of (inaudible) at US News and World. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about Thailand’s downgrade, specifically the government’s shortcomings, considering all the media reports this last year or so discussing their human trafficking problem and why the government has failed to really address it.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, as I said earlier – and I want to make it very clear that we know and we have worked with some very good actors in the Thai Government who are kind of on the front lines who are trying very hard to make a difference over there. But the widespread official complicity in human trafficking that continues to hinder their performance against sex trafficking and forced labor, the government as a whole did not demonstrate serious efforts to address that. It made few efforts to address forced labor and debt bondage among the most vulnerable communities – the foreign migrant workers, including in the fishing industry.

And even though we saw this notion of some better data collection and some – an uptick in investigations by the royal Thai police, those didn’t necessarily translate over into completed convictions. You’ll see in the report, for instance, a situation where some Burmese members of a conspiracy were arrested and ended up being sentenced to 30 years in prison for their role in trafficking men in the fish industry, and yet the Thai co-conspirator, who held 14 men in confinement as part of the slavery scheme, he ended up only getting three months as an alien smuggling conviction.

And so we’re looking at each of the cases that we know about. We’re looking at the situations on the ground to see – is this something that the bosses in the brothels and the bosses in the fishing packing sheds and things can simply brush off as business as usual? Is it something that they can bribe their way out of? Or is it something that has real teeth going forward? And we look forward to working with the Thais in the coming year to not only provide that real teeth, but hopefully achieve some real results.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: All right. Our next question comes from Josh Stilts at Intrafish Media. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks again for hosting this. You said earlier that there were some 53 countries that have shown instances of slave labor or human trafficking in the fishing and seafood industries. Beyond Thailand, what other instances are you guys seeing?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think it’s actually 51. Sorry if —

QUESTION: Fifty-one, sure.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: — I misspoke. Well, we’ve seen, as far as a country that’s acting, the Indonesians have actually arrested some folks and there’s prosecutions going there. But there are some very nontraditional places. There – I don’t think a lot of people think of South Africa necessarily in this context, and yet the South Africans suddenly found themselves with a boatload of fishermen with – who had been basically shanghaied from Cambodia. We’ve seen in the Caribbean, in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, situations where this has been discovered on the boats; Costa Rica on the west coast, finding Chinese fishermen in these dire straits; African men and African children on boats in the gulf off of the Green Coast and everything kind of ranging down from Liberia all the way down to Nigeria.

And I think that that’s one of the things that the more we look at this, the more we find this in surprising places. There were reports this last year by Stella Maris, the apostolate of the sea, which is the Vatican’s kind of specialized unit of – I call them the sea priests, who go out on the boats to try to mission to the fishermen. And at a conference that the Pope hosted in – earlier this year with those priests, suddenly there were reports coming out from the fishery in Scotland of abuses up there.

So I think it’s something that we’re hearing about. We’re hearing about it on inland fisheries such as Lake Victoria and Lake Volta, but we’re also hearing about it in the Baltics and in, as I said, places as unusual as Scotland or South Africa.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Maya Rhodan from the TIME magazine. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks again for the call. I have a question about the LGBT community and how – can you just speak to how instances of trafficking that involve LGBT people were factored into any of the rankings or if there are any countries where this is a particular issue or if there’s still more digging around that needs to be done on that?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I’m very glad you raised that. It is something that we’re seeing more of. I think that it’s something that, because it’s been so taboo for a lot of countries to even admit that these communities are part of the social fabric, much less worthy of protection, that in some ways we’re just kind of opening the bidding on this issue. I think a lot of folks are aware of and know of issues of survival sex of the homeless kids who are in many ways trying to put together their own families and their own communities. But I think a lot of folks, whether it’s in the public health arenas or even in the LGBT activist communities, have tended to look at that and not see the pimps and the controllers that sometimes are behind that.

And we’re seeing in a number of countries around the world – I remember last year, when I was in Kenya, for instance, the interplay, the horrible interplay between on the one hand the effects of terrorism in the northeast and even in Somalia, with families trying to get their kids out of that area so that their sons don’t have to be fighters for Shabaab, and then they end up in sex trafficking down on the coast in the tourist zones. And I think it’s one of those things where, because of attitudes against the LGBT community, a lot of folks that were even working or willing to talk about other forms of trafficking were having a very hard time even wanting to admit that those young boys might have been in human trafficking situations.

And this happens in the United States. There was a case, I think it was last year, in the Atlanta area where a man was convicted for human trafficking of a teenaged American kid who, frankly, he lured in because of that kid’s loneliness and seeking to have some meaning as he struggled with his own sexuality.

So it’s something that we’re going to be looking at a lot more carefully. It’s like the fishing issues a few years ago, where we had just started to hear it, and then now that we’re looking for it, we’re seeing it in a lot of different places. I think that we’re going to be seeing more coverage of this in the coming years. And we’ve started having conversations with some of the key players in the United States, like the Human Rights Campaign and others, so that we can bring to bear the folks who are working in the affected communities.

MR. RATHKE: All right. I see – I think we have three questions remaining, so we will go through those, and then we will wrap up from here. So, operator, could you call the next question?

OPERATOR: All right. The next question comes from Jeanine Stewart at Undercurrent News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for having this, first of all. So first off, I’m wondering two things. How much has human – has the human trafficking problem grown in the fishing industry in 2013 over 2012? I’m just curious, is this a growing problem or is this just something that we’ve become more aware of with Thailand in the spotlight over it? And also, how much certainty is there in the investigation? Can you reveal anything about how they were conducted or how sure the State Department is that Thailand’s officials were complicit in some of the human trafficking that occurred? Because I – since I know that the Thai Government has said that’s not true. So how do we weed through the “he said, she said” on that one?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think that what we’ve seen in – as far as complicity in Thailand is whether – it’s not just in fishing but in a number of different sectors, the very reputable researchers, whether it’s your Human Rights Watches, whether it’s Transparency and some of the other indices looking at corruption as an issue. But specifically, there’s I think been some very good reporting even by the media as opposed to by academic researchers or others as to the involvement of Thai officials. And that’s something that’s reflected in the narrative.

One of the things that’s also reflected in the narrative is then how the parts of the Royal Thai Government have responded to that type of reporting by journalists being charged with criminal defamation —

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: — journalists and the folks who are willing to reprint articles even being charged. So that notion of not only is there, we think, good and solid reporting by a number of different actors, whether it’s, again, activists, academics, or journalists, but also the work that’s being done increasingly now by the food industry itself. And we very much encourage the seafood industry to start looking at these supply chain issues. We know that they can trace their product from the store shelf all the way back to the particular boat. We’ve seen the bar codes on the tubs, the plastic tubs of shrimp in the packing shed that are required that if there’s a health outbreak, they can take it all the way back to the particular shed, take it all the way back to the particular boat.

So since we know that the shrimp and the fish is traceable in those instances, we think also that what the particular captains and what the labor brokers that are working with them are doing needs to be something that comes under the microscope for the companies and their consumers as well.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, our penultimate question please, operator.

OPERATOR: All right. Our next question comes from Dmitri Zlodorev from ITAR-TASS. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Dmitri Zlodorev. I am from ITAR-TASS news wire service of Russia. You placed Russia to the third group, and how you would characterize the U.S.-Russian cooperation in this area? And am I right that right now you are not plan to impose sanctions against Russia? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you, Dmitri. We can’t speak to sanctions at this point in time. It’s something that the White House will be looking at for all of the countries on Tier Three, and so I can’t speculate as to what would happen on that. I think we had talked about that a little bit earlier as far as last year was concerned.

But your question as far as what kind of cooperation between the United States and Russia on this, we’ve had a – I think a good dialogue over the years on human trafficking with our Russian counterparts. And we’re looking forward to what we hope will be some efforts in the coming year. We know that the government submitted an anti-trafficking action plan to the National Security Council and at this point has not heard back. We think that that certainly would be a very good step, to have a public and transparent anti-trafficking action plan. And it would be a sign of political will on the part of the Russian Federation.

One thing that I would like to say as far as U.S.-Russian cooperation is that we have been able to continue to work together over the last year to announce a trafficking shelter in St. Petersburg with space contributed by the municipality – so Russian government funding – and support from the United States Embassy in Moscow. Now that shelter is only going to be able to hold and serve eight trafficking victims, and the scope of trafficking in Russia that’s pointed out in the report, with the migrant foreign workers and others, is many, many more than that. But we do feel that it’s a good step and that we hope that working together, the Russian Government and the United States Government and the Red Cross partners will be able to provide a better life to the women who are able to avail themselves of that shelter.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Teresa Busa from EFE. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about the specific case of Venezuela. I wonder if you could comment on that: how bad the situation is and what are the most worrying trends, and how is the U.S.-Venezuela cooperation in this area?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Indeed. Well, thank you for your question. I think that we were – a few years ago, as you know, Venezuela was brought up off of Tier Three in recognition of a number of cases that they were investigating and what looked like a commitment to working jointly between the police and the health service. And unfortunately, this last year we just haven’t really been able to see those same type of efforts. There’s a little bit of awareness raising and tourism training, but unlike most of the countries in the world, there’s not an interagency coordinating council that’s been brought together around the issue. There’s not an action plan or even a draft action plan. There’s no formal mechanism to identify the victims, and there’s no shelters that are designated for trafficking victims. In many ways, it seems that all of the victim care in Venezuela is being done by the nongovernmental organizations or by the international organizations.

And so we call on Venezuela to step up and to be involved in the victim care. And there’s so little public data on law enforcement that it does not appear that there were any reported convictions in 2013, as opposed to in 2012, where at least we were able to identify one person convicted of sex trafficking.

So as with all of these countries, we very much want to continue to be able to work together on this. This is a shared problem. It affects Venezuela, it affects the United States, and it affects the Western Hemisphere. And so we’ll be looking for ways in which we can continue to try to engage with the Venezuelans.

MR. RATHKE: Operator, we would have time for one final question, if there are any in the queue.

OPERATOR: All right. We did have one final question from Matthew Russell Lee at Inner City Press. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure. Thanks a lot, and thanks for taking the question. I was looking at Myanmar – Burma – and also at Sri Lanka. And in both cases, it seems to say – the report seems to say that that government is either, in the case of Burma, directly involved in trafficking in coercion; or in the case of Sri Lanka, suspected of complicity in it. So in those two cases, I wondered as the U.S. sort of re-engages with Myanmar or Burma, how does this issue get raised and how is it going to be resolved? And the same in the case of Sri Lanka where there’s this human rights inquiry. Is this – what can be done in terms of actual government complicity in trafficking?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, it’s interesting. Let me start with Burma. We – this is one of the first things that we re-engaged on. I was in Burma within I think about three weeks or a month after Secretary Clinton took her first historic trip there, and when I met with Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the things that was very interesting to me was that she recommended to me that I needed to talk to her jailor. And I asked her, “What do you mean?” And she said, “The guy from the secret police who was assigned to me to be my warden all of these years would bring me articles on human trafficking off of the Internet, and we would talk into the night about how we would work together to help end human trafficking and slavery for our people if things ever changed.” A lot of people forget that she spent her Nobel Prize money while she was in prison. She sent it World Vision, an NGO, to provide food and shelter for about 200 Burmese trafficking victims in Thailand. The first place that she went after she was able to travel was to the shrimp-packing sheds in Thailand where so many Burmese are affected by this crime.

So it was interesting to see not only her, but then eventually what came true is the new head of the anti-trafficking unit – the central body against trafficking in persons for the Burmese Government in the new era – is the very person who she recommended to me that we should work with. He’s written a book on trafficking; he’s gone to other parts of the region. I think there’s a real desire on the part of the Burmese Government to engage and to bring on some of these modern approaches.

And to that end, they even passed a law abolishing the 1907 Villages and Towns Act, which is what gave them the legal ability to enslave their own people. So the notion of giving that up as part of the process of opening up to the outside world. I think that, as with every country, there’s a long way to go, and we’ll continue to work with them. We have an established and formal dialogue with them that was agreed to by both presidents during President Obama’s visit a year and a half ago, and it’s something that I’ve been to Burma for that dialogue and will be, I think, going again in the fall for the second round of that. So we’re – in that situation, I think that we’ve got a formal way to work with them.

Sri Lanka on the other hand, I think that that’s a bit of a work in progress. We don’t see – first of all, we’re not digging out of the years of exclusion from the international community that we had seen with the Burmese Government, but we’ve got this notion of three years in a row the trafficking statute that they have, which is a pretty good one – it prohibits all forms of trafficking, which not every SAARC country, not every country in the region has laws that prevent forced labor as well as sex trafficking – and yet three years in a row without any convictions, no services really for male trafficking victims, sex trafficking victims punished, and the folks who come home from overseas, no real way to screen for or help them the way that other source countries like the Indonesians and the Filipinos have.

So I think that there’s a long way to go, but they have this inter-ministerial structure that they have now adopted, and I think that for us both here in Washington and at the Embassy in Colombo it provides us some interlocutors who we hope that we’ll be able to work with going forward.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on Burma. Do you see this issue of the Rohingyas, is it – does it make them susceptible to trafficking, this kind of stateless status? And how – do you have more – do you see this – do you see it through the light of trafficking, or is it a separate issue?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think that we see with any displaced and vulnerable communities that are suffering from social exclusion, and I think that the plight of the Rohingyas has pretty been – has been pretty well documented. That is the type of population in which we often see in this type of situation.

Now, I mean, obviously, we remain concerned about all of the humanitarian issues that are around the Rohingya and other vulnerable ethnic and religious communities. We actually shed some – a little bit of light on this both in the Burma narrative but also, frankly, in the Thai narrative as we’re looking at the exploitation and even alleged sale of Rohingya refugees once they get to their destinations as they’re moving for all these different reasons.

QUESTION: Thanks a lot.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thank you very much, participants. That’s the end of our question period. Want to thank Ambassador CdeBaca once again and thank you for your questions. A reminder this call is on the record but it is embargoed until the end of the Secretary – Secretary Kerry’s rollout event. Thanks once again, and we’re signing off here.

Top of the Morning: No Texting in CAR

Seriously. “Mobile phone users in the Central African Republic who try to send text messages are getting the response: “SMS not allowed”. “The use of any SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended from Monday June 2, 2014, until further notice,” the ministry said in a letter to mobile phone operators in the conflict-torn country. It said the decision was made by Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke. Since last week there has been a resurge of violence in the capital Bangui, as well as a call for a general strike relayed by SMS in the past few days.. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1nOJUb6)

Conflict Minerals Legislation Taking Effect…For the first time, nearly 1,300 UScompanies have filed reports on whether the products they manufacture or sell are made with minerals that have bankrolled conflict in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. (IPS http://bit.ly/1pRlQRX)

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Africa

UNICEF officials in South Sudan said that men in uniform are occupying at least 30 schools in five different states, interrupting the education of tens of thousands of children whose lives have already been disrupted by six months of conflict. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGPrz)

Health officials are warning that a cholera outbreak in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, which has left 23 people dead and forced more than 670 others to seek treatment, could be getting worse. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1pRj0fV)

South Sudan can only avoid famine if a shaky ceasefire holds and people displaced by more than five months of fighting are able to return home in the next few weeks to plant crops before the rains, a senior U.N. official said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nOIFJ3)

Senior United Nations officials are in the DR Congo to draw attention to the fact that continued insecurity and a decrease in financial resources is causing millions of people to go hungry. (UN News Centre http://bit.ly/1pRm8s7)

As security forces in Kenya continue to round up and detain thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, most of them Somali, an agreement between the UNHCR and the Kenyan and Somali governments on the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees is coming under strain. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1pRiSwE)

While the number of patients appeared to be in decline, new cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The virus has already affected more than 300 people in West Africa. (MSF http://bit.ly/1pRp1ZK)

MENA

Separate groups of gunmen in Libya shot dead a Swiss national working for the International Committee of the Red Cross, fired a grenade at the prime minister’s office and tried to kill a renegade general on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nOMmOP)

Saudi Arabia announced a jump of nearly 50 percent in deaths from the MERS virus after re-examining old data that also showed the number of infections since 2012 was a fifth higher than previously reported. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGxRD

The International Organization for Migration reports tens of thousands of migrants have been rescued while making the perilous sea crossing from Libya to Italy this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRjmCZ)

Asia

The coup in Thailand is causing problems for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from neighboring Cambodia and Burma. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOGIfP)

Indonesia’s health ministry and child protection advocates are calling for chemical castration for convicted pedophiles. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nOH0mR)

Japan has temporarily halted its official development assistance to Vietnam as Hanoi continues its probe into bribery allegations on a railway project. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRjMcx)

The World Food Program says it distributed more than 2,500 tons of food in North Korea last month, the largest amount so far this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pRk0k3)

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay called on China to reveal the truth about the army’s violent suppression of mass pro-democracy protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nOJEsF)

The Americas

Mexico increased the minimum prison sentences for kidnapping to 40 years after a dramatic surge in the crime in recent years. (BBC http://bbc.in/1nOFXmI)

Although Venezuela has 520 long rivers, taps often run dry, many poor neighbourhoods depend on tanker trucks, water rationing remains a reality, and in some areas water quality is very poor. (IPS http://bit.ly/StJMzt)

Opinion/Blogs

Making Democracy Soup in Africa: how one bad ingredient can spoil the lot (African Arguments http://bit.ly/1hajpdf)

Is Brazil’s social/economic miracle running out of steam just as the World Cup arrives? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1kLQjvE)

Will US take global environmental lead by cutting coal emissions? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1nOI764)

Why Malawi took so long to declare an election winner (ODI http://bit.ly/1ocLu4p)

The importance of Live Below The Poverty Line (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1jSiicY)

Lessons for Australia from DFID’s underperforming private sector development efforts (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1ocLQYQ)

The New Chinese-Backed Infrastructure Bank: Will it Tame the Corruption Dragon? (The Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1jSjsW2)

Research/Reports

Aiding institutional reform in developing countries: lessons from the Philippines on what works, what doesn’t and why (ODI http://bit.ly/1pRj9Qk)

What non-food items best meet needs of women and girls in emergency situations? (GSDRC http://bit.ly/1pRlLxG)

Italy announced plans to give citizenship to children born of refugees who have been granted asylum, as the government faced growing anti-immigrant sentiment over an influx of migrant arrivals by sea. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pRoFm9)

The UK government’s $629 million Newton Fund aims to ‘end the need for aid’ in 15 countries by fostering ties between researchers in developing countries and the UK that will boost their economic development. (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1nOQ0Z6)

75% of Australians think poverty reduction most important for aid: Lowy Poll (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1jSjfC5)

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