"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I have two things I want to ask about here. One, an official familiar with the talks and who is quoting things that Tzipi Livni is alleged to have said during the talks said that Livni told the Palestinians that they were scrapping any plans to make the fourth prisoner release – although, given that they didn’t do it on time, that seems water under the bridge – but it sounds like they are not now --
MS. HARF: Well, we haven’t actually been informed. I’ve seen those reports.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay.
MS. HARF: We haven’t been informed of any such decision like that.
MS. HARF: We know, obviously, there’s been a delay. That’s, I think, self-evident.
QUESTION: But as far as you are concerned, it is still possible that the Israelis will release them?
MS. HARF: We have not been informed of any decision like the one you referenced – a total --
MS. HARF: -- that they will not do so.
QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, Livni is quoted as having said that both sides should review the talks – in other words, whether it’s worth continuing them. Is it your understanding that that’s where both sides now are, that they’re not at all sure that they want to continue talking?
MS. HARF: Well, both sides have indicated to our negotiating team that they are still at the table and are continuing to talk.
QUESTION: So you expect them to meet again?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any predictions to make for you, but certainly we think the process is still happening and ongoing. I will note – and let me see if I have this in here – last night Ambassador Indyk met with Ms. Livni and Dr. Erekat together. The meeting took place. At that meeting, again, neither side, throughout this process recently, has indicated they want to walk away from the talks. They both indicated they want to find a path forward.
QUESTION: And can I – last one on this, please?
QUESTION: Thank you. The Secretary described in his news conference in Algiers – said that some progress was made.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The report in Maan, the Palestinian news agency, described it as a nine-hour inconclusive and contentious meeting. And the report that quotes Minister Livni also has a rather negative tone in terms of talking about not releasing the fourth round of prisoners and reviewing whether they should actually talk at all. Where was – given the three different ways this has been described --
MS. HARF: At least.
QUESTION: -- two of them rather negative, where was the progress?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re not obviously going to get into specifics about what progress may have been made substantively during these talks. I think the fact that the talks continue, that they’re intense, even if they’re contentious – we know these are contentious issues – that they continue, that they’re in depth, and that they are actually lasting so long, that both parties are still there talking, I think is a sign that we have continued to move the ball forward.
I mean, the question really is, as you heard the Secretary say today, it’s their decision to make now.
QUESTION: So they’re talking today? There is, as far as you know, there’s – I mean, you said they’re continuing but --
MS. HARF: Well, they continued till late last night. I can see if there have been meetings today. I don’t know. But the meeting with Ambassador Indyk was last night.
QUESTION: Marie, just --
MS. HARF: Yes. Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you. I didn’t go anywhere.
MS. HARF: I know, but you haven’t been here for a while. (Laughter.) I miss you. I know you didn’t go anywhere, unfortunately.
QUESTION: That’s right.
MS. HARF: But you haven’t been here for a while, so welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. Just to clarify, Livni’s spokesperson, your counterpart, actually said publicly just a few minutes ago that new conditions were established and Israel cannot release the fourth batch of prisoners. So that’s on record now. Since it’s your counterpart, do you care to --
MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, I haven’t seen those specific comments. Again, the last time I talked to the team on the ground, which was admittedly before I came out here, was that we hadn’t been informed of any such decision yet. So I can check in with them again when I’m off the podium and see what the latest is.
MS. HARF: As you know, it’s moving very fluidly and sometimes things change when I’m out here.
QUESTION: Right. The – now, the Foreign Ops bill of this year cuts off economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if its leadership obtains “membership in UN agencies.” It also restricts aid if they try to pursue action against Israel at the ICC. Do you encourage folks on the Hill to restrain (inaudible) actions or --
MS. HARF: Do we have a position on the bill? I don’t know if we have a position on the bill, and I don’t know what our conversations have looked like with the Hill on that, so let me take that question and see if I can get you an answer.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you envision a way for the talks to continue if the prisoners are not released?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to get into predictions or hypotheticals here. We think there is a path forward. We have said that very clearly. What that looks like, the two parties have to decide.
QUESTION: With regard to the 15 conventions that the Palestinians have signed, is it your understanding that not – that in signing those, they have not met the thresholds of – that would require the United States to cut off assistance to any agency – UN agencies associated with those protocols?
MS. HARF: I think that’s been a little bit of a complicated question that our folks are looking at.
MS. HARF: I don’t have an answer for you yet on that.
QUESTION: Can – okay.
MS. HARF: Yep, I will take it.
QUESTION: Can you keep on top of that? Yeah.
MS. HARF: Yeah, I will. And I have been – I know there was some confusion about this, and the Secretary referenced it but let me check on that for you.
QUESTION: Yes. Just --
MS. HARF: Oh, wait. Go – wait. We’ll go to Michael.
QUESTION: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just two more.
QUESTION: The April 29th deadline for talks, do you consider that a hard deadline still?
MS. HARF: Well, that has never – that’s always been how long they decided to negotiate for, right? We know this will take time. We’re not actually focused right now on April 29th. We’re focused on what we need to do right now, but more importantly what the two parties need to do right now, and that they have to, right now, make tough choices. We’ll have to make more tough choices the closer we get to April 29th and beyond. But again, right now nobody’s looking at a calendar and worrying. What we’re doing is trying to make some progress in the place we are right now after we’ve seen, as we talked about yesterday, some unhelpful actions, and see if we can get some more helpful ones out there.
QUESTION: And the last one is there’s a code red alert in the south in the past hour in Israel from rocket fire from Gaza.
MS. HARF: Oh, I hadn’t seen that.
QUESTION: Are you aware? Okay.
MS. HARF: I – sorry. I’ve been immersed in getting ready to come out here. I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen that. I’ll check on it, though. Obviously we know it’s a huge security concern. Let me check on it.
QUESTION: Do you still – you don’t want to blame any of the parties?
MS. HARF: Well, we --
QUESTION: Because the White House said today that the decision by Israel not to release the prisoners complicates the issues.
MS. HARF: Well, I said that both sides took unhelpful steps. The Israelis certainly did, as did the Palestinians, so I don’t think the White House was just blaming one side. I think they were responding to a question about the prisoner release. But we are not putting the blame on any one side here. Both sides have done some unhelpful things and we think both sides need to make some tough choices.
QUESTION: But the Palestinians took their actions in reaction to the – not releasing of the prisoners.
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t think this kind of tit-for-tat is helpful to the process or will move it forward at all.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Yet it seems that both sides, according to what was said yesterday, both sides are looking for – they said that they need some kind of reviewing of what’s happening, which means some kind of stepping back and – do you agree with that stage?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think “stepping back” is the right term. I do think they are at a very critical point where they – both sides need to take a really hard look in the mirror and they need to determine what choices they’re willing to make going forward. I think this is a point for reflection. I think this is a time to really think very hard about how important this process is for both of their peoples and figure out if there is a way to get this moving forward.
QUESTION: So yesterday, you mentioned that Ambassador Indyk met Livni and – right?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, last night.
QUESTION: Last night --
QUESTION: -- and Erekat. And simply, you said that both sides agreed to continue?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. And they agreed there was still a path forward.
QUESTION: So what’s next?
MS. HARF: The devil’s in the details, right?
QUESTION: What’s next, from your point of view?
MS. HARF: Let me check and see if there are more meetings we have on the schedule. Obviously, Ambassador Indyk and the team remains on the ground, is in constant contact individually or, I guess, bilaterally – that’s the right word – with both sides, not together. Let me see if there are more meetings.
QUESTION: So when you said that both sides has to – they need to make tough choices, can you remind us what are the tough choices for each side?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to outline all of them for you. I think we know what a lot of those are. We know how contentious these issues are. They have to, as I said, take a look in the mirror. We understand their own limits and their own dynamics. They know what those are, we know what those are. Making peace is really hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something we aren’t committed to 100 percent, and certainly want the parties to be able to try and make some tough choices in pursuit of that, really, at this point.
QUESTION: Marie, today in Algiers, Secretary Kerry mentioned that he’d be speaking to both Netanyahu and Abbas --
QUESTION: -- sometime this afternoon. I don’t know where that falls in the time change.
MS. HARF: He has spoken to both of them.
QUESTION: Do you have a --
MS. HARF: I don’t –
QUESTION: -- readout of those at all by chance?
MS. HARF: -- and probably won’t.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I tend not --
QUESTION: But it’s worth a shot.
MS. HARF: It is worth a shot. He has spoken to both today on the phone.
QUESTION: Were there – to your knowledge, were there any Israeli-Palestinian meetings just with the two sides and not with Ambassador Indyk, or was the meeting just the one meeting with all three sides present?
MS. HARF: I do not know. I will check.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Sorry. I’ll check.