State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf Comments on Russian Sale of S-300 to Iran (Excerpts)

April 13, 2015

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


QUESTION: So I’m sure we’ll get back to the specifics of the Iran deal, but I just wanted to ask. The White House mentioned – also the Russians have said that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov --


QUESTION: -- had a conversation today.

MS HARF: They did.

QUESTION: Your colleague at the White House said that one of the things that came up was the decision to reverse or end the ban --

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: -- on the S-300 sale. Can you elaborate at all on what the Secretary – more on what the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov and let us – and tell us what else was discussed, if anything?

MS HARF: Well, we’ve certainly made our concerns with the sale of the S-300 system to Iran known for some time. This certainly isn’t new. The Secretary raised those concerns in a call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this, but we’ve worked very closely with the Russians on the P5+1 negotiations. We don’t think this will have an impact on unity in terms of inside the negotiating room. So they did discuss it, discussed the Iran negotiations in general as well, and I don’t have more of a readout for you than that.

QUESTION: Did – and we’ll get back to Iran in a second. Did they also discuss Ukraine at all?

MS HARF: I – let me check. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it the Administration’s position that the S-300s, the transfer of them to Iran would violate existing sanctions?

MS HARF: In terms of UN Security Council sanctions, it’s my understanding that it would not.

QUESTION: It would not.

MS HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So your concern is – or your objections are based on what?

MS HARF: Well, there’s a number of factors, obviously, here. And we think given Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region in places like Yemen or Syria or Lebanon that this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them. So in general, that’s what our concerns are based on.

QUESTION: Your understanding is --

MS HARF: And we have concerns about things separate and apart from whether they would be a violation of Security Council sanctions.

QUESTION: No, I know. But I just wanted to know if your objection was based in – based on – if your understanding of your objection was that it was a violation of sanctions.

MS HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not.


QUESTION: -- just to clarify, on the S-300?


QUESTION: You’re not having a – do you have a position yet? I mean, a --

MS HARF: I think I was very clear what our position is, that we have concerns.

QUESTION: Okay, because I think I came in a bit late.

MS HARF: I think – it’s okay.

QUESTION: You’re concerned, but you – you’re not saying whether they have violated or they are violating – they have lifted or they are lifting?

MS HARF: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: I mean, they already lifted, or are they --

MS HARF: Lifted what?

QUESTION: The ban on selling the Russian --

MS HARF: Well, there – well, the – as I said before you came in, Secretary Kerry --

QUESTION: Right, sorry.

MS HARF: -- spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning to express and expressed our objections to this going forward. We’ve had these objections for a long time. I also said it’s my understanding it’s not a violation of UN Security Council sanctions or resolutions.

QUESTION: On this. The Israeli Government, or at least one prominent member of the Israeli Government – I believe it’s Minister Steinitz – said that the Russian decision on this, on the S-300s, was a direct result of the Lausanne framework. Do you agree with that?

MS HARF: I’m not sure I follow the logic there. In what way?

QUESTION: His – I believe his suggestion is that this is a – that what happened in Lausanne and the arrival at the framework – at the parameters for the framework or however we’re – whatever we’re calling it – led the Russians to take – to make this decision.

MS HARF: Well, I don’t – I – look, I can’t speak to their decision-making, the Russians’ decision-making process, but I understand they have been talking about doing this for a long time.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that what happened in Lausanne or what’s happening in the negotiations more broadly --

MS HARF: I have heard no --

QUESTION: You don’t see this as having an impact?

MS HARF: I have heard no one indicate that whatsoever.