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Harf: No Meeting Between Israel and Palestine Was Cancelled, Cannot Confirm If Meeting Took Place

Matt Lee: 'I find it entertaining that you're unable to give a straight answer to whether a meeting took place'

• August 26, 2013 5:31 pm

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Deputy State Department Press Secretary Marie Harf said contrary to earlier reports no meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials was cancelled Monday in the State Department press conference.

However, Harf said she cannot confirm if any meeting actually took place, eliciting confusion from the AP's Matthew Lee and CNN's Elise Labott:

MATTHEW LEE: Yeah. Al right. So tell us what is going on or what happened or did not happen in Jericho today.

MARIE HARF: Ah. OK.

MATTHEW LEE: (Inaudible.)

MARIE HARF: Yes. So I can assure you that no meetings have been cancelled. I know there was some confusion about this.

MATTHEW LEE: Let me just stop you right there.

MARIE HARF: Yes.

MATTHEW LEE: That is not the question. My question is —

MARIE HARF: I was going to get there.

MATTHEW LEE: Oh, you were? OK. Go ahead.

MARIE HARF: But it's OK. Do you want to ask it again?

MATTHEW LEE: Go ahead. No, no. Finish.

MARIE HARF: OK. As we've said repeatedly, we're not going to read out or announce every meeting that happens in the Middle East peace process as they're ongoing. I can assure you, contrary to some reports, that no meetings have been cancelled. We've been clear that the two parties are engaged in serious and sustained negotiations..

MATTHEW LEE: All right. There was a meeting scheduled to take place today between the Israelis, Palestinians and possibly with an American — with Americans present at some or all in Jericho. Did that meeting go ahead?

MARIE HARF: As I said before, we're not going to make announcements about every single meeting, but I can assure you that there have been no cancellations of meetings.

MATTHEW LEE: Does that mean that this meeting happened?

MARIE HARF: I'm going to repeat the same line back to you, Matt.

MATTHEW LEE: I don't —

MARIE HARF: I've — we've repeatedly said we're not going to confirm every meeting that takes place. I've said that from the beginning. I know it's frustrating for everyone that we're not going to, but that's where we're going to be on this.

MATTHEW LEE: No, it's not frustrating. I find it entertaining that you're unable to give a straight answer to whether a meeting took place.

MARIE HARF: I just gave you a straight answer.

MATTHEW LEE: No, you didn't.

MARIE HARF: I'm not going to confirm whether or not it took place, as we've said from the beginning.

MATTHEW LEE: But no meeting has been cancelled?

MARIE HARF: Correct.

MATTHEW LEE: So that means that that all scheduled meetings were going — will go ahead — have gone ahead. OK?

MARIE HARF: Correct.

MATTHEW LEE: And the meeting — there was a meeting scheduled for today in Jericho.

MARIE HARF: Yes, I'm not going to confirm every specific meeting that we have as part of this process.

MATTHEW LEE: But you just said that — it's either yes — it has to be one or the other because you said no meetings are being canceled but you can't say that it took place today?

MARIE HARF: Correct, yes.

ELISE LABOTT: So that —

MARIE HARF: We are not going to confirm from this podium every single meeting or whether meetings happened. When there are misconceptions out there about whether something's taken place or whether something's been canceled, we will endeavor to clear those up as necessary.

ELISE LABOTT: You're not clearing it up. You're making it even more confusing.

MARIE HARF: Well, I'm sorry you feel that way. Again, we are not going to announce or confirm every meeting. We're just not.

MATTHEW LEE: So you will deny the cancelation.

MAIRE HARF: That any meetings were canceled, correct.

ELISE LABOTT: Right.

REPORTER: Were they postponed?

ELISE LABOTT: Was it rescheduled?

MARIE HARF: No, not postponed or canceled.

MATTHEW LEE: Look, I can appreciate the sensitivity of this and why you're beating around the bush, but please don't try and say that you're making it clear when you're making it unclear. You're —

MARIE HARF: I don't understand what's not clear about saying I'm not going to confirm every meeting. You can ask, and I'm not going to confirm.

ELISE LABOTT: But you just said that no meetings have been canceled but you can't say that it took place?

MARIE HARF: Right, yes.

ELISE LABOTT: So that means — what does that mean?

MARIE HARF: It means that I'm not going to confirm when meetings took place. There were —

ELISE LABOTT: Whatever.

MARIE HARF: It means — it means —

MARIE HARF: No, Elise —

ELISE LABOTT: It means nothing.

MARIE HARF: Look, when there are press reports out there that a meeting's been canceled, I'm going to say, generally speaking, no meetings have been canceled. I'm not going to stand here —

ELISE LABOTT: (Inaudible) — that it took place?

MARIE HARF: I'm not going to stand here and tell you a meeting took place and when and where and who was involved. And that's going to be the case for the rest of this nine months, people, so get ready for it. And you can keep asking the questions, and you're going to keep getting the same response.

ELISE LABOTT: So we should get accustomed to more confusing non-denials — (inaudible)?

MARIE HARF: You should get accustomed to us not announcing when meetings are taking place, necessarily, in the ongoing Israeli- Palestinian peace process, yes.

ELISE LABOTT: But if you're going — if you're going to clear up misconceptions, then just clear it up. Don't say you're going to clear it up and then not clear it up.

MARIE HARF: OK. I'll take your advice on board going forward.