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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 25, 2016

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 16:12

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 25, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:02 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the last briefing of the week.

Secretary Kerry met with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the foreign ministers of the GCC, Minister Ellwood from the UK, and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Jeddah to discuss a way forward to restart peace talks in Yemen with the goal of forming a unity government.

During his visit, Secretary Kerry announced nearly $189 million in additional humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis in Yemen, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for Yemen to more than $237 million in Fiscal Year 2016. This contribution will help meet urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in one of the Middle East’s poorest and most food-insecure countries, as well as Yemeni refugees in neighboring countries.

As you’ve seen in the remarks that we just released on the transcript, Secretary Kerry emphasized that the bloodshed has gone on for far too long and needs to stop. We need to return as quickly as possible to a ceasefire that can lead to a permanent end of this conflict.

Next, I’d like to welcome a group of 15 Afghan diplomats who are joining us today in today’s daily press brief. We do extend our deepest condolences to them and the family and friends of those who were injured in yesterday’s attack on the American University of Afghanistan. I think you’ve seen the Secretary’s statement, which he also just released. We are committed to continuing our work to help the people of Afghanistan build a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous future, which our visitors today represent.

This program – for the room – provides entry-level Afghan diplomats with diplomatic statecraft training in the United States and in China. Yesterday, Under Secretary Shannon welcomed and congratulated these special guests on being selected for the program, which highlights the continued U.S. commitment to build a more peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. We’d also like to thank and recognize the Chinese Government for its partnership in sponsoring this program. Welcome to the briefing.

And with that, Matt.

QUESTION: Really? The Chinese sponsored the program?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. It’s actually – it’s a partnership that we have had with the Chinese for quite some years working with the diplomatic corps of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, sounds interesting. Can we just start with a brief update on American citizens in three places --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: -- Afghanistan in the wake of the attack, Italy, and Burma after the quakes? Can you give us a brief update on any of them?

MS TRUDEAU: Sure. I would say first for Italy as well as Burma, we continue to account for all U.S. citizens in those areas. We do ask U.S. citizens who may have been impacted to check in with family and friends on social media. We are pleased to say in Afghanistan that we have accounted for all U.S. citizens who are at the university, and we have no reports of any U.S. citizens killed or seriously injured in that attack.

QUESTION: Okay. And have either the Italians or the Burmese taken you up on your offer of assistance?

MS TRUDEAU: I have nothing to read out on that. We have extended our help. We stand ready to support.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then I was going to move on unless someone --

QUESTION: Well, let’s do one more on the American citizens.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: I think you will by now have seen the report that American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is going to be summoned to return to Brazil to give testimony. This is different from an extradition request, but – and so I’m hoping you can actually perhaps comment on it, whether this has been raised to the State Department, whether there are any kind of diplomatic issues in the Brazilians seeking his return to offer testimony.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we’ve seen those reports as well. Due to privacy considerations, I don’t have information to offer. I would say, speaking broadly, we do encourage U.S. citizens, as always, to cooperate with law enforcement.

QUESTION: Okay --

QUESTION: Do privacy considerations apply even for public figures, people who are clearly in the public domain already?

MS TRUDEAU: Privacy considerations apply to every U.S. citizen.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Except me, because I’m standing up here right now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, Iran.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, Matt.

QUESTION: A couple. One, in the Secretary’s comments in Jeddah that you just referred to, he said the following – it’s just two sentences, I’ll read: “We were deeply troubled by the photographs which were shown to me early on by His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Nayef showing missiles that had come from Iran that were positioned on the Saudi border.” This is obviously the Saudi border with Yemen.

How early on were you guys shown that the Iranians were supplying the Houthis with missiles?

MS TRUDEAU: So I don’t have a specific date to read out on that. What I would say is what we’ve said many times from this, which the Secretary points out, is we’re certainly not blind to Iran’s activities – destabilizing, unhelpful activities in the region. In terms of a specific date, let me see if I can get that for you.

QUESTION: Okay. But isn’t it the case that the supplying of missiles or any kind of weaponry, that what you just – that in your own words, destabilize the situation – doesn’t that draw U.S. sanctions?

MS TRUDEAU: So it’s something that we continue to look at. Obviously, the Secretary has spoken of – spoken to this. We are aware of this. We continue to look into it.

QUESTION: Well, no, he didn’t speak to whether it’s sanctionable or not. Is it your understanding that --

MS TRUDEAU: No, but he did speak to our awareness.

QUESTION: Yeah. But --

MS TRUDEAU: I would say I’m not going to get ahead of what would trigger a sanction on that, but I would say that we are looking into it.

QUESTION: Yeah. But if it was early on --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I just don’t know the date on this, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean – okay, so this thing with the Houthis started, what, early last year.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And if you were shown photographs early on, presumably that means closer to when it started than now, and comments from U.S. officials between when it started and now have always been rather circumspect about the support that Iran was giving to the Houthis. This seems to indicate that you guys knew that the Iranians had supplied missiles to them early on, and I’m just wondering why a decision – or why there has been no – why there hasn’t – why there wasn’t then or still hasn’t been a decision on whether this violates U.S. sanctions or UN sanctions.

MS TRUDEAU: I would say we’re looking into it. As the Secretary noted, we’ve seen those photos and we’re very aware of Iran’s actions.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: On the incident or incidents with the U.S. ships and the Iranian navy. Do you know if the Secretary or anyone else, any other official, has raised this with your new – in your new channels of communication with the Iranians?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have any calls to read out today on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know or can you say whether there is going to be a diplomatic response to this, either directly or through the Swiss?

MS TRUDEAU: What – I would actually back up a step and actually say that we are aware the four Iranian vessels approached the USS Nitze as it was transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. We’ve also just now seen the reports of another incident that happened yesterday as well. The Department of Defense spoke to this some yesterday. We assess the actions were unsafe, they were unprofessional. We would note we don’t know what the intentions of the Iranian ships were, but that behavior is unacceptable, as our ships were in international waters.

We believe that these type of actions are of concern. They unnecessarily escalate tension. I would refer you to the Department of Defense as this is very much in their lane in terms of further engagement.

QUESTION: With the Iranians?

MS TRUDEAU: In terms of how they would raise these concerns.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But wouldn’t --

MS TRUDEAU: I just press – I just don’t --

QUESTION: Isn’t it up to this building to --

MS TRUDEAU: As I was saying, I just don’t have any calls or engagements to read out as of right now.

QUESTION: Well, but do you know if there are plans to? Or is this something that you’re just going to kind of let slide?

MS TRUDEAU: I just – I have nothing to announce.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: Arshad.

QUESTION: Is it – you said that the Department of Defense had spoken to this yesterday, but yesterday, if I’m not mistaken, were they not speaking to the prior incident?

MS TRUDEAU: I believe they were speaking to the Nitze incident, yes.

QUESTION: Yes. So to your knowledge, they have not yet spoken to --

MS TRUDEAU: Not to my knowledge. But I think we saw the same reports coming in. I know they’re aware of it, obviously.

QUESTION: And when you said that these actions, referring to the reports of the second incident plus the first one that DOD has confirmed --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are a concern and unnecessarily raise tensions, you’re – therefore, you’re applying it to both the Nitze incident but also to this other incident, even though you haven’t confirmed it?

MS TRUDEAU: So it’s – the Department of Defense would speak to that. It’s my understanding that both are being characterized as unsafe, correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Lalit.

QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on Afghanistan.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

MS TRUDEAU: President – Afghan President Ghani today issued a statement after his national security council meeting in Kabul. According to the statement, he says the attack on the American University in Kabul was organized and orchestrated from Pakistan. The statement also says he called General Sharif, the Pakistan army chief, and demanded that action be taken against those who were behind this. Do you know who were behind this? And what do you make of the statement?

MS TRUDEAU: So we can’t comment on the responsibility for the attack. As we have in the past, we encourage the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together, not only in the wake of this attack and to ensure that such attacks don’t happen again, but to increase their cooperation countering violent extremism writ large.

For your question, we have consistently raised our concerns to the highest level of the Government of Pakistan on the need to deny safe haven to extremists. We have pressed the Government of Pakistan to follow up on their expressed commitment, their stated commitment, to not discriminate among terror groups regardless of their agenda or affiliation.

QUESTION: So do you think Pakistan has taken – is not taking enough steps against these terrorist groups or --

MS TRUDEAU: I would, again – and we’ve spoken about it from this podium – call your attention to what General Sharif himself has said, saying that they would not discriminate. This attack against the best and brightest of Afghanistan is a sign that we can all do more.

Sir.

QUESTION: Hi. Disavow us, if you can, the idea that with the former secretary there was a pay-for-play arrangement with Laureate University.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we’ve actually spoken about this quite a bit, and there’s been media reports and fact checks from a number of independent media outlets. As we previously explained, the State Department is not aware of any grants provided directly to Laureate Education since 2009, though we are aware of some grants to educational institutions within or affiliated with the Laureate Education network.

I think it’s also important to emphasize in recent weeks Laureate Education has been conflated with an entirely separate organization, the International Youth Foundation, which is a nonprofit that funds international development initiatives. The International Youth Foundation, the separate organization, has received federal grants from USAID and State going back many years, both under Democratic and Republican administrations. Information about grants and contracts awarded by federal agencies is publicly available online.

QUESTION: And what about the idea though that the former secretary had – wanted them invited to a dinner here? There must have been something that she thought was key about what they were doing, in spite of some of the external criticism about the type of debt that they pile on students and so on.

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: What was the value that the former secretary saw?

MS TRUDEAU: So I can’t speak to the former secretary’s thoughts. I can’t speak to any specific invitation that was issued. But as we’ve said many times, the State Department regularly engages with a range of academics, NGOs, think tanks, business leaders, speakers, commentators on a range of issues. I’m just not familiar with this specific event that you’re speaking of.

QUESTION: But – so we don’t know, in your view, what the – what the value might have been to have them to that dinner because that’s from the former --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I just don’t know the dinner you’re speaking of.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Laurie.

QUESTION: Could you give us a readout of Secretary Kerry’s phone conversation with the Turkish foreign minister in which he informed him that the YPG was withdrawing east of the Euphrates River?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I can confirm that he did speak to the foreign minister. I cannot confirm that detail. It’s my understanding they spoke broadly on the U.S. commitment to Turkey’s security and spoke about the fight against Daesh and spoke about our bilateral relations.

QUESTION: Well, the YPG initially protested that it wouldn’t withdraw; then the U.S. military spokesman for Inherent Resolve said that the YPG was withdrawing. And then there’ve been reports that the YPG is asking the U.S. for guarantees. Would you know what – kind of what the situation is? Are they withdrawing, not withdrawing?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I’d point you, actually, to their own statement, which they did release. We support them moving forward on their commitment. Their statement was very clear. I would note that the SDF has proved to be a reliable partner and a highly effective and capable force, seen most recently, as we spoke about I think yesterday, in Manbij. It’s important to note that Kurdish forces are a critical component of the SDF. We’ll continue to support all components of the SDF – Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, all, as we look to pressure ISIL and ultimately liberate Raqqa.

QUESTION: Okay. And one final question.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you provide more details about the agreement between the coalition and the SDF that they’re now being asked to implement about withdrawing once they’ve defeated ISIS in a certain area? Did Turkey – there is an agreement --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I would – I would just point to you what the Kurdish commanders have said themselves --

QUESTION: I didn’t see that --

MS TRUDEAU: -- which – well, we spoke about this yesterday – that they’ve made the commitment, as these areas are liberated from Daesh, that it’ll be local leaders, local forces who will move in and stabilize.

QUESTION: And – did Turkey agree to that understanding?

MS TRUDEAU: I would – I would direct you to the Turks to speak to their commitments.

That was – sir, I’m happy to do this, you guys. (Laughter.) It’s last brief of the week, but --

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m Julian Borger from The Guardian. In the wake of the chemical weapons report yesterday, what does the U.S. want to get out of the UN Security Council meeting next Tuesday in terms of outcomes, in terms of enforcing the Chemical Weapons Convention?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, we would never preview our actions within the Security Council. What I would say is that the Administration will continue to pursue all appropriate legal and diplomatic options to hold accountable any individuals, entities, groups or governments responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

QUESTION: So on Syria --

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: -- just in terms – and on meetings.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: It looks like there might be or there has been some progress, at least on the Aleppo situation in terms of the 48-hour pause and getting humanitarian aid in with the Russians having agreed to this now. Are – is this something that you think is going to be finalized tomorrow in the meetings in Geneva? And whether it is or not, is – aren’t you looking for something more broad than just Aleppo?

MS TRUDEAU: We are. I would disconnect the conversations the UN is having about these 48-hour ceasefires from the talks tomorrow in Geneva, but you’re exactly right. We do support, however, the UN’s efforts to bring much-needed humanitarian aid to all parts of Aleppo city. It’s the UN, as we’ve said many times, who determines which areas need aid, how they get aid, how that access happens. Given the UN’s technical expertise and knowledge on the ground, it’s the UN and its partners, as I said, who need to determine who’s in need and how aid is delivered. It’s our understanding they’re still engaging with all partners and trying to determine the mechanics and the logistics on that. If the UN says they need 48 hours, of course we support the UN. But as you point out, our focus is on a nationwide, sustainable cessation of hostilities that will provide the access needed so the Syrian people can get the aid they so, so strongly deserve.

QUESTION: Okay. And so it’s the much broader proposal that is being – that will be– that is the top – the main topic of discussion tomorrow.

MS TRUDEAU: On Geneva we have a number of things, as we spoke about yesterday. We’re very focused, obviously, on the cessation of hostilities; yes, on wide humanitarian access, and yes, creating the grounds for a political transition.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS TRUDEAU: Did you have another question, Matt? I feel like I – if it did, I’m forgetting it, but – hi.

QUESTION: I’m forgetting it too, then.

MS TRUDEAU: But that’s okay. I’m sure it was pithy.

QUESTION: Pithy.

QUESTION: Hi, Elizabeth. I’m (inaudible) --

MS TRUDEAU: Nice seeing you.

QUESTION: -- from (inaudible) News. Nice to speak to you. So I think in South Sudan there’s some need in the region for some clarification on a statement that John Kerry made a couple of days ago in Nairobi. I just wanted to focus on the bit of the statement that he made that will help us. He said, relating to Riek Machar, the exiled vice – former vice president, “legally, under the agreement, there is allowance for the replacement in a transition of personnel, and that has been effective with the appointment of a new vice president.” So in the previous phase of the South Sudanese crisis, there was a lot of emphasis on having Riek Machar come back into that job. Has that emphasis shifted in the eyes of the State Department?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’d reiterate what the Secretary said. It’s up to the South Sudanese to decide on their political leaders in compliance with the peace agreement. The peace agreement contains procedures and requirements that govern transitions and changes within the transitional government. Specifically, the agreement provides the – and I quote – “the top leadership of the armed opposition,” end quote, has the power to nominate a new first vice president if that position is vacant.

I’d speak more broadly: We do expect the transitional government and all parties, including all leaders of the opposition in South Sudan, to take every step possible to avoid fighting and to reach a peaceful resolution of their differences. The way forward is not through violence or military action but through implementation of the agreement and through peaceful resolution of differences. We’ll continue to engage with all parties in South Sudan as we have been, including the government and opposition leaders, to support peace and the implementation of the agreement.

Sir.

QUESTION: If I can ask on another --

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, of course.

QUESTION: -- another topic. And I should’ve identified myself – Chad Pergram with Fox. Nice to meet you.

MS TRUDEAU: Nice meeting you.

QUESTION: On another subject here, has there been any communication with Capitol Hill, with Congress coming back to session in the next week and a half, about the Secretary going to appear before the House Oversight Committee or other committees to talk about the Iran deal, the so-called “ransom,” quote-unquote, and also the email situation with former Secretary Clinton?

MS TRUDEAU: So yeah, I don’t have any appearances to announce at this point, but certainly as a former senator the Secretary takes very seriously our responsibilities to Congress. I just don’t have anything to read out.

QUESTION: There was some suggestion from some sources I had spoken with this week that there had been an effort – of course, Congress hasn’t been there in seven weeks, but they had tried to get him in before. I know he’s had some travel and things, but they --

MS TRUDEAU: Some travel. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But there was some thought that there hadn’t been, at least from those sources, as much cooperation as they would like from --

MS TRUDEAU: I would dispute that. I think our colleagues, certainly here in the room and around the world, know that Secretary Kerry is very committed to engaging as appropriate and will continue to do that.

Arshad, you had more.

QUESTION: Yeah, on the Philippines.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: I think you may have had a chance to see these comments by Philippine President Duterte regarding Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, who has criticized the increase in extrajudicial killings of alleged drug traffickers or people involved in the drug trade. And President Duterte on Thursday essentially verbally attacked the senator, saying you are finished, handing out a diagram purportedly showing links between officials and politicians and big drug dealers with the senator at the top of that list of alleged webs or alleged connections. Do you have any concerns that Duterte is not taking seriously the concerns you’ve expressed about all these killings, and that in fact he’s attacking legislator – a legislator who is also raising doubts about these killings.

MS TRUDEAU: There’s a lot there.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: So I’d say a few things. As we’ve said both publicly and as we’ve engaged with our very good partners, the Philippines, we’ve spoken about these reports of extrajudicial killings. As we noted, I think just maybe earlier this week or last week, we’re very deeply concerned about these reports by – extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities of individuals who are suspected to have been in drug activity in the Philippines. We have also made our concerns known.

The United States believes in rule of law. We believe in due process; we believe in universal human rights. And we believe that these support long-term security, which is the goal not only for the United States, but also for the Philippines. We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with human rights obligations. In terms of the exact comments of the president, I’m going refer you back to the Government of the Philippines to better understand perhaps what President Duterte --

QUESTION: Look, but you have been very explicit about your concerns with this country –

MS TRUDEAU: We have.

QUESTION: -- which you describe as a very good partner. In fact, it’s a treaty ally. Just this week, you made clear those concerns yet again. And in the same week he, the president, is attacking a domestic legislator raising the same concerns. Are – do you think he’s taking your concerns seriously?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that we continue to engage with the government of the Philippines on our concerns privately, as well as from the podium, and raise those. I understand your question. It’s hard for me to characterize how seriously they take that. We continue to raise it. We think that our relationship, which has spanned 70 years, is a frank and open enough relationship that we can have those conversations.

QUESTION: Longer than that, if you consider U.S. colonial rule. (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, thank you. Well, yes. Thank you.

Lalit.

QUESTION: I had one quick one on Afghanistan--

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Has this special representative for Afghanistan/Pakistan reached out to his counterparts in Kabul after this attack?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have a call readout to do that. I would say that our Embassy in Kabul has been very close in touch with our colleagues in the Afghan Government. I just don’t have a readout from our special representative.

QUESTION: And when did he last travel to Afghanistan?

MS TRUDEAU: I actually don’t know, Lalit.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:28 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 24, 2016

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 18:51

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 24, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:59 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Good afternoon, everyone. I have a lot at the top, so just bear with me as I get through this.

I think we’re all closely following the reports of an attack on the American University of Afghanistan. We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. An attack on a university is an attack on the future of Afghanistan. Our embassy in Kabul, as well as our NATO counterparts at the Resolute Support Mission, are closely monitoring the situation, as we are. We understand the situation is ongoing. We do understand there are a small number of Resolute Support advisers who are assisting their Afghan counterparts as Afghan forces are responding as the situation develops. These advisers are not taking a combat role but advising Afghan counterparts.

We are in the process of accounting for all chief of mission personnel and working to locate and assist any U.S. citizens affected by these attacks. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul did issue a security message warning U.S. citizens of the attack and advising them to avoid the area until further notice. Our Travel Warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan because of the continued instability and threats by terror attacks against U.S. citizens. We don’t have any additional information at this time; however, we will continue to update you as we can.

On the two earthquakes that happened today: We express our deepest condolences to all those affected by the earthquake that struck central Italy. Today, Secretary Kerry spoke to the Italian foreign minister and made clear the American people stand with the Italians in this difficult time. He offered any U.S. assistance Italy may require and pledged to stay in close contact as search, rescue, and recovery efforts continue.

We’re also aware and have seen the reports of the earthquake that struck north-central Burma today. We offer our deepest condolences as well to the families who lost their loved ones. Again, we still are gathering information on the event and we’re staying in close contact with the Government of Burma and humanitarian partners in the country to monitor the situation. The United States stands ready to provide assistance.

QUESTION: Just on that --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: -- I mean both of those – are you aware, have they, either of the governments concerned, made any request for assistance?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage we have no request. We have offered in both.

Moving on to the DPRK. The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s latest submarine-launched ballistic missile launch. We call on the DPRK to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps towards fulfilling its commitments and international obligations. The U.S. commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats remains ironclad. We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.

This launch is the latest in an accelerating campaign of missile tests which violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches. Using ballistic missile technology imposed threats to civil aviation and maritime commerce in the region. These actions only serve to increase the international community’s resolve to counter the DPRK’s prohibited activities, including through implementing existing UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea’s continued development of its UN-proscribed nuclear and ballistic missile programs threatens the United States, our allies – Japan, and the Republic of Korea – and our partners in the region. We continue to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional allies and partners. We will raise our concerns at the UN and in other fora to bolster international resolve to hold the DPRK accountable for its provocative actions.

And finally, and thank you for your patience, travel notes. As you know, Secretary Kerry is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia today and tomorrow to discuss the situation in Yemen. As we have noted before, the United States remains deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Yemen and is committed to working with the Yemenis and the rest of the international community to restore peace and stability. We strongly support the UN special envoy’s efforts as he works tirelessly on all sides of this conflict. The United States, along with the international community, are ready to assist and will continue to engage until peace is restored in Yemen.

Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, from August 25th to August 27th, where his meetings will include Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin – Zayed bin Nahyan to discuss issues, including Syria and Libya.

And finally, Secretary Kerry will travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh, on August 29th to highlight the longstanding and broad U.S.-Bangladesh relationship. Secretary Kerry will meet with government officials to discuss our growing cooperation on global issues. He’ll focus on strengthening our longstanding bilateral partnership on democracy, development, security, and human rights.

On August 29th through 31st, Secretary Kerry will then travel to New Delhi, India, for meetings with senior Indian officials. On August 30th, the Secretary and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will co-chair the second U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker will be joined by the respective Indian co-hosts, the minister of external affairs and the minister of state and commerce – minister of state for commence and industry, along with members of the U.S. delegation and their Indian counterparts. I’d note the S&CD is the signature mechanism for advancing the United States and India’s shared priorities of generating sustainable economic growth, creating jobs, improving the business and investment climate, enhancing livelihoods, and sustaining the rule-based global order.

Thanks for your patience. And with that, Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, before we got onto other things, I just want to go back to the --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- attack in Kabul. When you said you didn’t have any – excuse me, when you said you didn’t have any other information, does that mean that you’re not aware of any Americans who were caught up in --

MS TRUDEAU: So we’re still – we’re still working to locate and assist any U.S. citizens impacted by the attacks.

QUESTION: Do you know roughly – do you know at all, like, how many --

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t. As you know, as we don’t require U.S. citizens to register overseas, on something like this, we would always encourage people to register with the STEP program, but no.

QUESTION: But as far as you know, there was no one from the embassy or no official Americans --

MS TRUDEAU: We’re still doing chief-of-mission accountability right now.

QUESTION: Oh, so --

MS TRUDEAU: Exactly.

QUESTION: Are there any reports of Americans being at the university, either officials or non-officials?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, we’re still working to account for all official as well as private Americans in Kabul.

QUESTION: Do you have a final number on that (inaudible) --

MS TRUDEAU: No, we would not have a number like that to share, Said.

QUESTION: Is – on Secretary’s meetings in Saudi Arabia, is he --

MS TRUDEAU: Are we done with Afghanistan? I’m sorry, Michel, I just want to close this one out because it is a big news story. Are we okay on that?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: A senior U.S. official has said that the Secretary will present proposals on ending Yemen’s conflict and resuming peace talks. Can you elaborate on that? What kind of proposals --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not going to get ahead of the meetings on this. As I said at the top, we remain committed to a peaceful, sustainable solution in Yemen. We strongly support the UN special envoy’s work. We’ll let those meetings happen, and if I have more of a readout I’ll certainly offer that, Michel.

QUESTION: And what’s behind the participation of UK foreign minister in these meetings tomorrow?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’m not going to confirm the participation on that. What I would say is what I said, which is the international community is very seized with this. We’re looking broadly at our international partners to move forward on a peace process in Yemen.

QUESTION: But last week --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Elizabeth, on the same topic, the United States withdrew its advisors that were helping and assisting the Arab coalition in bombing Yemen and so on. So is that a signal? Would you consider that to be a strong signal that the United States is going to push hard for a peaceful resolution in the very near future?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I think you have two questions on that. Of course the United States will always push hard on a peaceful resolution. Let’s be very clear on that. In terms of the advisors, this is a Department of Defense issue and I’m going to let them speak to their personnel movements.

QUESTION: Because there is a great deal of – there are many accusations, let’s put it this way, that you guys were looking the other way while the coalition that is led by Saudi Arabia was targeting hospitals and schools and so on.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I would – I would dispute that.

QUESTION: You would dispute it?

MS TRUDEAU: Certainly, not only have we spoken from this podium about our concerns, but we have engaged, as we’ve noted, both privately and publicly on that. Our commitment to a peaceful resolution in Yemen is very strong.

Do we have more on Yemen? Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey/Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Do we – are we okay to move to Turkey?

QUESTION: Syria and just --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: In Ankara, Joe Biden said Kurdish forces must move back across the Euphrates River. He says, “They cannot – will not – under any circumstances get American support if they do not keep that commitment,” end quote. I want to ask you about the geography of what Joe Biden meant there. And I’m looking at the map here and moving back across the Euphrates River would mean moving to the Kobani side. And the city of Manbij, which Kurdish fighters helped liberate from ISIL, is on the side of the river which Joe Biden wants the Kurdish fighters to leave. With that, I want to ask: Does the U.S. call on Kurdish fighters to leave Manbij as well?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So what I would say is is the Vice President’s remarks were very clear on that. What we have always said, as we gain ground and the operations on the ground gain ground against Daesh, is that we want local forces – local forces to continue for stabilization in that area. And we have made that very clear. We continue to work with our partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces as they complete these operations. The SDF is continuing to work on stabilizing areas that are reclaimed from ISIL so populations can safely return.

In terms of the Kurdish population, we do have commitments, as we’ve spoken to before, from Kurdish leadership that those forces who stabilize the area will mirror the local populations. We believe that that’s the best solution for a long-term, sustainable peace – the local population who stays and rebuilds that area and restores local control when that’s stabilized.

QUESTION: Kurdish forces are part of --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on. Can we finish, Laurie? Thank you.

QUESTION: They are part of the local forces there, but Joe Biden – Vice President Joe Biden calling on Kurdish fighters to move across the river – does that also include a call on Kurdish fighters to leave the city of Manbij, which is on the side of the – on the other side of the river?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’m not going to parse the Vice President’s words. What we would say is that we believe that local forces need to be in control of the areas that have been liberated by Daesh.

Laurie, you had a question?

QUESTION: What will happen if the YPG does not withdraw from west of the Euphrates River and move back east, as the Vice President said they had to do today? What do you expect might happen?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, you’re asking me a hypothetical. The Kurdish commanders have made commitments. We expect them to live up to those commitments.

QUESTION: But --

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Actually – it was --

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: It was actually a very specific question: Does the U.S. call on Kurdish fighters to leave the city of Manbij, which they helped liberate from ISIL recently?

MS TRUDEAU: So Kurdish commanders have made commitments that they will turn over areas to local populations as they have been so tremendously successful liberating those areas from Daesh. We expect them to live up to those commitments. I’m not going to get into this town or this village. The Vice President spoke to it today, and I’d leave his comments where they are.

Said.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you know this town and this village is exactly the problem, because you have your partners, the Kurds and the Turks, on opposite sides in many of these areas. So how do you know when to aid your partner and when to withhold whatever aid that you might give that partner?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I mean, this is a complex situation. I think you’re exactly right, and this is what we’re getting to. We continue to engage directly with the local forces on the ground as well as our partners, the Turks, as we work through this. The commitment, as we talked about with Laurie, that the local populations would be in control of those areas as they’re liberated from Daesh – the Kurdish commanders have made that commitment.

QUESTION: Now, as the Kurdish forces are poised to control the whole of Hasakah, which is the whole region of Hasakah – now, that may give incentive to Turkey, for instance, to basically realign itself with Assad. Are you concerned about that? Is this something – a scenario that is likely to happen?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, I don’t want to get into operational details. You guys know that there’s another department across the river that can speak very clearly to that. What I will say, though, is that we do remain engaged. We are having very active conversations with our partners. This is something I think everyone is seized with.

QUESTION: A broader question on the Turks.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we doing Turks?

QUESTION: No --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, hold on.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I have just a few more on that.

QUESTION: And I have something --

QUESTION: More broadly on policy --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, hold on. Are we doing Turkey/Syria or are we doing plain Turkey?

QUESTION: Turkey. Just Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, let’s clean this up, and then I’ll go back to you, okay? Laurie.

QUESTION: The Turkish prime minister said that the United States must reassess its view of the YPG. As far as you understand, does Vice President Biden’s statement that the YPG must withdraw east of the – to the east of the Euphrates – does it address the concern that the Turkish prime minister expressed?

MS TRUDEAU: Our view on the YPG hasn’t changed.

Okay.

QUESTION: The U.S. supports Turkey’s operations in Syria even though the Turkish president says he’s going to go after not only ISIL but also Kurdish fighters in Syria, the very Kurdish fighters whom the U.S. had supported. What would you say to those Kurds in Syria who believe they are being abandoned by the U.S.?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I would dispute views that they feel – that they’re being abandoned. We have been very clear on our support. These have been tremendous fighters against our common enemy, which is Daesh, on this. As I’ve said, we remain in close contact with both the Turks as well as local Kurdish commanders on this. It’s a complex issue. It’s a fast-moving issue. I’m not going to be able to speak to specific operational details on this, but we have said and we have long said that we view that these are very capable fighters and we all need to focus instead on this infighting on the common enemy, which is Daesh.

QUESTION: Just one last one.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course. One last one.

QUESTION: So I was reading the news today, and I read this: Captain Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razzak, spokesman for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki rebel group, tells the Associated Press that the fighters on Wednesday were combing Jarablus for pockets of IS militants, end quote. This is the same group the members of which beheaded an 11-year-old boy a month ago. And I want to ask: Does the U.S. support this group’s taking over Jarablus?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve spoken about this at length on that particular group, the allegations of the beheading, the support or non-support of the United States for that group. What we are committed to is taking the fight to Daesh. I’m not going to speak to that specific group or who’s involved on the ground. I just don’t have that level of operational details.

Last one, Laurie, and then Matt, I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: Let me rephrase my question more generally: Do you think that Vice President Biden’s visit to Turkey has resolved the dispute that used to exist between Ankara and Washington over the YPG?

MS TRUDEAU: I think that we remain in contact with our friends and allies, the Turks, on a range of issue. Certainly the Vice President’s visit is a huge nod to the importance that we view that Turkey has not only as an ally within NATO, our bilateral ties, but the importance of Turkey in the fight against Daesh.

QUESTION: Elizabeth --

MS TRUDEAU: Matt. I’m sorry, can I go to Matt, then, and then I’ll come back to you, Michel.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) go to Michel.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: How can you balance your support to Turkey in fighting ISIS and YPG in Syria and supporting YPG in fighting ISIS in Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: What we’ve said, which is what I said earlier, is we continue to engage in these conversations so we have a common understanding on who the real threat is, who the real enemy is, and that’s Daesh.

QUESTION: But they are fighting each others on the ground.

MS TRUDEAU: And we continue to have those conversations with them to refocus that.

Matt.

QUESTION: I would just like to know what the point of the Secretary’s meeting – upcoming meeting in Geneva with Foreign Minister Lavrov as they related to Syria – what the point of it is.

MS TRUDEAU: So as we’ve spoken earlier this week, we continue to have discussions at a technical level with the Russians on our pronged approach, which is re-establishment of a nationwide sustainable cessation of hostilities to bring in humanitarian aid – we’re very focused on that right now – to create the space for a political transition. As we have meetings – and I don’t want to get ahead of them too much – we’re very focused on how we can move that forward.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m not asking you to get ahead of the meeting. I’m just wondering what – is this – are you expecting there to be any kind of resolution to the issues that you have just mentioned or least on an approach to the issues that you’ve mentioned, or is this just going to be another kind of see-where-we-are kind of meeting?

MS TRUDEAU: I think we’re very pragmatic on this. I think that --

QUESTION: Well, that’s good, but what does that mean?

MS TRUDEAU: I think that we don’t want to – we want to be very measured in our expectations as we go forward into this meeting, but we believe the meeting’s worth having.

QUESTION: Are you --

QUESTION: Yeah, well, obviously you believe it’s worth having because you’re having it, but the question is whether it actually results in anything.

MS TRUDEAU: Well --

QUESTION: And I understand that you want to set expectations low because, frankly, that’s where they should be considering what’s happened at all the previous meetings. But when you talk about restoration of the nationwide cessation of hostilities, is there not a focus primarily on the situation around Aleppo?

MS TRUDEAU: Certainly, Aleppo is a huge priority. The access for humanitarian aid is a huge priority. We have a laundry list of issues.

QUESTION: And – okay. So can you be more specific about the laundry list?

MS TRUDEAU: That – what I would say is exactly what we’ve said. The three prongs – you mentioned Aleppo; absolutely a priority going in. I can’t get ahead of where we are in discussions.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to get ahead of it. But I mean, are you looking to get an agreement on the kind of stepped-up cooperation/coordination with the Russians in Syria that people have talked about for more than a month now?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I can’t get ahead of it. We are – we are --

QUESTION: So that’s not going to be discussed at all?

MS TRUDEAU: It – I would say that the path forward in Syria will absolutely be discussed. This, as well as Ukraine, will be part of the focus of these meetings – focused very specifically what I said as well as Aleppo. Let’s see where that goes.

QUESTION: Are you continuing to make headway, as Mark Toner said yesterday?

MS TRUDEAU: I think we continue to engage. I think that we have announced the meeting; we will have this meeting. We will go into it with – despite Matt not liking the word “pragmatic,” a very pragmatic mindset.

QUESTION: He said he liked it.

QUESTION: No, I --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: But none of this --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I’ll stand corrected on that. That was good.

QUESTION: But none of this addresses my question --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- which is yesterday you said you were making headway. Is that still the case today? Are you still making headway?

MS TRUDEAU: I think the fact that we’ve scheduled a meeting is a good sign, and we’ll see what happens at the meeting.

QUESTION: Yesterday you said, “We’re not quite there” – he said, “We’re not quite there yet.” That implies that you are on the brink of some kind of an agreement.

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize as the brink, but what I would say is we have a ways to go.

QUESTION: So you go from yesterday, “We’re not quite there yet,” to today, “We’ve got a ways to go.”

MS TRUDEAU: Well, it depends on how long your road is, Arshad. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, clearly your five --

QUESTION: The road is about five years old.

QUESTION: -- your five-and-a-half-year-old road --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, it is.

QUESTION: -- doesn’t seem close to the end.

MS TRUDEAU: And you know what? To be honest, Matt, we haven’t lost sight of that. This is where we think we’re going. We’re going to sit down. We’re going to have a very real conversation. We’re going into it with our eyes open.

QUESTION: Nobody’s disputing that you’re going to have a meeting, that you’re going to sit down, that your eyes will be open and not closed during the meeting. The question, though, is the signaling that you’re making about the meeting, which is very perplexing. Yesterday it’s, “We’re not quite there yet,” and today it’s, “We’ve got a ways to go.” Where are you? Are you close or not?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I – I would not characterize it as saying – I would say that we still have issues that need to be resolved. However, we are meeting. We are going to put Secretary Kerry and the foreign minister face to face to try and resolve some of the issues that remain. I don’t know where we’ll be after this. I hope to have a very good readout for you. Let’s see. But we’re committed to this and we’re committed to advancing it.

Go ahead, David.

QUESTION: Well, it’s a similar question. But first, very differently: Is holding the meeting a sign that your technical discussions are deadlocked and you need the big man in the room to fix it?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize it as that.

QUESTION: Or is it a sign that you’ve made – the technical discussions are complete and now they need to sign off on it?

MS TRUDEAU: I think you guys are reading – trying to read into this in a level that I can’t provide, which is we’re going to have the meeting. We believe it’s worth the Secretary’s time to have this meeting. He remains deeply committed to advancing this. That’s where we’re going to be.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah, but the statement coming out of Russia – and I’m sorry, on this topic – by – from Mr. Lavrov’s office is – shows that there is a huge gulf between your position and theirs. They are accusing you, basically, of ever since al-Nusrah changed its name to Fateh al-Sham, whatever, you have not been bombing it or you have not participated – the United States, that is, not you – I mean the United States has not participated in bombing the al-Nusrah group that has changed names. So if that tells us anything, it tells us that your positions are really farther apart than --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I’m not going to characterize what the Russian foreign ministry puts out on this. I’ll just reiterate that we think this is the right time and the right thing to do.

Steve.

QUESTION: Okay. She had a question first on --

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, I’m sorry, are we still on Syria?

QUESTION: -- Turkey. Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, let’s go to Turkey.

QUESTION: Turkey, Turkey.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you so much.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Turkey. This can be seen the most senior U.S. official visiting there since the coup in July. So why Vice President went there now? Do you think the relationship between U.S. and Turkey is getting more complicated and more misunderstanding as for – because not only relating to Russia-Turkey rapprochement, but also extradition of Gulen?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So when you’re asking specifically about the Vice President’s visit, I’m going to refer you to the White House. But I would actually push back against your characterization. We say almost every day from this podium how strong we view our relationship with Turkey to be. The Vice President’s visit there I think is a sign of that. In terms, though, of the messages he sent, his particular meetings there, it’s just not appropriate for me to speak to from here.

QUESTION: But some media says rapid Russia-Turkey rapprochement casts shadow on Western security order and Biden visits Turkey to improve ties. So to what kind of extent do you think Biden’s visit will reach America’s goal or rebuild the relationship?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I would dispute that there is a relationship that needs to be rebuilt. Our tie, our alliance through NATO with Turkey is very strong.

QUESTION: So you think it’s a kind of rebuilt relationship?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I just pushed back against that. No, the Vice President’s visit is a sign of how important we view Turkey as an ally and as a partner. On particulars, though, go to the White House.

QUESTION: A related question on --

MS TRUDEAU: Wait, are we staying on Turkey?

QUESTION: -- Turkey. Same.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: The Vice President now is quoted from a major news agency in Ankara saying that, “God willing, there will be enough data and evidence to meet the criteria that Turkey sees related to the extradition of Gulen.” Isn’t this extradition, as far as the United States Government is concerned, supposed to be an objective process? It sounds like the --

MS TRUDEAU: It is.

QUESTION: -- Vice President is taking sides here.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, well, I haven’t seen the Vice President’s remarks saying exactly that. Mark spoke to this a little yesterday. I would say our legal experts are working right now with their Turkish counterparts to evaluate the material, the evidence that needs to be supplied to meet the standards for extradition under our treaty. They’re meeting now. They will continue to do so.

As we’ve said, Turkey has provided materials relating to Mr. Gulen. We continue to analyze those materials. Under our laws, extradition requests must be assessed by an independent federal court along with the evidence backing it up. I spoke to this I think last time I briefed. It always takes time to work through an extradition request. However, there should be no doubt that we will continue to work through this working with our Turkish counterparts.

QUESTION: But just to follow up on the question --

MS TRUDEAU: Sure, James.

QUESTION: -- and perhaps in a way that doesn’t require you to speak for the White House: Does Secretary Kerry pray to God that the criteria will be met for Mr. Gulen to be extradited?

MS TRUDEAU: We will continue to follow the letter of the law as signed in the 1981 extradition treaty with Turkey. We will continue to work with our Turkish counterparts on that.

QUESTION: It’s still the case, as Mark said yesterday, that you have determined that what the Turks have submitted is – does constitute a formal --

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: -- extradition request, although not related to the coup? That is still the case, right?

MS TRUDEAU: Exactly, correct.

QUESTION: Is it not the case that once you have made such a determination, that the judicial branch – that the executive branch of government is supposed to take action to prevent the subject of an extradition request from leaving?

MS TRUDEAU: That can be part of – speaking generally, again, that can be part of an extradition request. It isn’t automatically part, is my understanding.

QUESTION: I understand. Well, yeah, but that’s what the Turks have asked.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I would not be able to speak to parts of that extradition request.

QUESTION: But forget about the extradition request. But under your rules, U.S. rules for dealing with extradition requests when they come in from a country that you have a treaty with, is it not normally the case that the person who is the subject of the extradition request is at a minimum confined or not --

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: -- or told that they can’t leave?

MS TRUDEAU: So I – it is my understanding that that can be part of an extradition request brought forward. I’m not aware that any determination on that has been – been made.

QUESTION: So it’s not standard operating procedure --

MS TRUDEAU: It’s my understanding it’s not standard. It could be.

QUESTION: It could be.

QUESTION: And what do you mean by part of that can be part of an extradition request brought forward?

MS TRUDEAU: So --

QUESTION: Do they – does the country seeking the extradition have to specifically request that?

MS TRUDEAU: It’s my understanding – and I will say I’m not a lawyer, much to my father’s chagrin – that it could be a part.

Okay.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MS TRUDEAU: Can we stay on Turkey?

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead. We’ll go to Ilhan, then we’ll go to you, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Thank you. Just two quick question, one of that, as we all know, there has been a very high anti-American environment in Turkey. Do you expect this rhetoric from Ankara to change after Vice President visit?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve spoken about this quite a lot. We’ve spoken about our concerns with anti-American rhetoric. Our position hasn’t changed. Turkey is a friend.

QUESTION: And second, final question: The other day, there was a schedule between the Dr. Henri Barkey and the Under Secretary Shannon. Earlier, Mr. Barkey has been accused of being involved in the coup. Do you have any comment on this now?

MS TRUDEAU: No. I would say the under secretary meets with a range of people. Dr. Barkey is an expert on Turkey. We appreciate the opportunity to learn as we can from academics and think tankers on that. I believe the Wilson Center spoke very clearly about the accusations against Dr. Barkey. Any accusation that any U.S. official had any role in this coup is absolutely false, and we’ve said that publicly.

QUESTION: Dr. Barkey is a former member of the State Department policy planning staff, is he not?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, and he’s also working for the Wilson Center right now.

QUESTION: So you believe he’s not involved as well?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

Tejinder.

QUESTION: You mentioned about the NATO, and the U.S. is not the only country in NATO. Major European Union countries are there, and there is --

MS TRUDEAU: And Canada.

QUESTION: And there is a brewing tension between Brussels and Ankara, as you know, on different – the Turkish president is asking for the billions in the aid for the – there are different subjects, but there is a big tension that’s going on. Have you – are you aware? Have you addressed that? Is the Vice President talking only on behalf of the U.S. when you’re mentioning NATO so many times? It’s a – it’s these countries which are other members of the NATO who are --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I would let individual countries speak to their bilateral ties with Turkey and what relationships or tensions may exist. That’s not for the United States to speak to.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from the Brussels. It’s not usually the individual countries that are talking and where the tensions are, it’s with the tensions with the EU. So are you in touch with the --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, as not members of the EU, I would let the EU speak for itself. Thanks, Tejinder.

James, nice to see you.

QUESTION: Likewise. To the subject of the payments to Iran.

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: You were quoted in the Associated Press today as having confirmed the manner of payment for the remaining 1.3 billion in interest and, in fact, the timing that those payments. What can you tell us?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I can confirm that the foreign claims payments made from the judgment fund on January 19th do represent the payment of approximately 1.3 billion in interest in connection with the Hague Tribunal settlement payment. For further details, I will have to refer you to the Treasury Department, but we did owe you that answer.

QUESTION: And this was broached in yesterday’s briefing to some extent, but there is an obvious difference, which I think even from the podium you would be willing to concede, between the manner of payment of the 400 million and the manner of payment for the remaining interest. What accounts for that difference?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, we do make a practice of not commenting publicly on transactions, including settlement payments, due to the confidential nature of those payments and to respect the privacy of our international partners. In terms of the payment mechanics – and I know it’s unsatisfying – I am going to have to refer you to Treasury to speak to those mechanics.

QUESTION: But you’ve already violated that rule in commenting, for example, about the leverage you sought to exert with the manner of the first payment and the timing of it. Did you not comment publicly on that as a department?

MS TRUDEAU: So we did talk about the juxtaposition of these payments coming in, our priority in getting our unlawfully detained Americans released, as well as the Hague settlement, so you’re correct.

QUESTION: The staggering of the payments such that each would be just under $100 million – that was kind of odd, was it not?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to that, James. I really can’t. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: But you’re not denying that that was the case?

MS TRUDEAU: I just don’t have enough knowledge that I can actually adequately answer your question.

QUESTION: Can I ask one follow-up on this?

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: You pointedly noted that it was approximately $1.3 billion in interest that was paid out.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just to go to Matt’s question from yesterday, what about the other 13 cents? And did they actually get that or not? (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: I think that is a question for Treasury.

QUESTION: That’s wonderful that you say that, but when we go to Treasury and ask, they say “no comment.” So referring us to an agency that is not inclined to provide any answers is kind of disingenuous, I think, for one. Secondly, what is this privacy that foreign governments enjoy?

MS TRUDEAU: So it’s actually confidentiality for international transactions.

QUESTION: But you put it up on a website.

QUESTION: You paid it, right? This is a payment from the United States --

MS TRUDEAU: You guys --

QUESTION: -- to the Iranians, right?

MS TRUDEAU: I actually can’t speak to that. I absolutely can’t verify that. I believe you’re referring to a document on Treasury’s website. I do understand your concern. I just can’t speak to it.

QUESTION: No, no, I – it’s not my concern; it’s my inability to understand how it is that governments have an expectation of privacy – which is the word you used, not confidentiality.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. Then I misspoke – its confidential nature.

QUESTION: Does the United States consider that this financial dispute, the 13 cents notwithstanding, is fully resolved?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Different subject.

QUESTION: So hold on a minute, just --

MS TRUDEAU: Or wait, hold on. Let’s --

QUESTION: When – and when you – when you’re speaking of the payments that are listed on the – on that website, you’re talking about the ones for 99,999,999, and that the thirteen of those, and the one for 10-point-roughly-4 million. Correct?

MS TRUDEAU: The 400 million was paid into the trust fund that was paid out because it was Iran’s money.

QUESTION: No, yeah, I know.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: I’m talking about the judgment – the – when you say --

MS TRUDEAU: The judgment fund.

QUESTION: You’re talking the judgment fund. Everything on the 19th that says “foreign claims” --

MS TRUDEAU: Was made from the judgment.

QUESTION: Right. And that was the interest for Iran. But that means that’s the 13 payments of the 99,999,999, and the one for the 10.39 – roughly 10.4. Right?

MS TRUDEAU: It’s going beyond my level of knowledge, Matt. I’m sorry, I just can’t answer that.

QUESTION: Well, you just said that --

MS TRUDEAU: So it’s my understanding that those --

QUESTION: -- every single payment --

MS TRUDEAU: -- foreign claim payments made on January 19th --

QUESTION: Every single one of them?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: -- were made from the judgment fund.

QUESTION: So after you get through the ones with all the 9s --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and you get to the other one, which was 10.4, and you add that on, it’s actually more than 1.3 billion.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. You’re asking me to go through payments that I am unable to do so.

QUESTION: Just a quick one on this.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: The – it’s a technical question. I want just – I can’t understand; I am so dumb. That you are saying about the confidential – you are respecting the confidentiality of the other nation. What --

MS TRUDEAU: Of international partners.

QUESTION: Yeah, but what about the people – that money has been paid from the U.S. taxpayers. And as a U.S. taxpayer, am I not supposed to know where the money is going, how it is going? Is that not worth giving it to the U.S. citizens?

MS TRUDEAU: I think you know, as the President spoke on January 18th, as the Secretary made clear, the resolution of the Hague settlement was in fact in the best interest of the U.S. taxpayer. In terms of the mechanics of this, what is made public, I can’t speak to from this podium.

James.

QUESTION: Okay. Somewhat related area. I have one on the Iran video edit, and then one on the Clinton emails, if we could. With respect to the editing of the video, this department has rather perversely from this podium sought to claim that there is no determination as to whether or not the videos that the State Department shoots and uploads to the State Department website are in fact federal records. I believe you are aware that the National Archives and Records Administration has now weighed in on this subject --

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in collaboration with the State Department Office of Inspector General, and that both of those entities have now concluded that these are indeed federal records, just as I have been laboring to demonstrate in this setting for some time. What have you to say about that determination?

MS TRUDEAU: We agree with NARA. Thanks for the question. The rules for how records need to be treated are set by record disposition schedules. Records can be permanent or temporary, which I think you understand NARA had pointed out. The transcript is addressed in a disposition schedule on a permanent record. There is no disposition schedule as of right now that covers how the daily press briefing videos need to be preserved. We are working with NARA right now to create a disposition schedule for them, at which point it will be clarified if the videos will be temporary or permanent. Kirby’s mentioned this last week that we would be consulting. NARA has come back and we agree with them.

QUESTION: NARA stated that it reached this conclusion after a query by the Office of the Inspector General, not a query by the Department of State.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did the Office of the Inspector General convey this finding of their own, with which NARA subsequently agreed, to the department at any point along the way?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t talk about timing; I will say that the Office of the Legal Adviser looked into it and we have – we agree with NARA. We’ll work with them and we will set this schedule.

QUESTION: Right, but OIG is separate from OLA.

MS TRUDEAU: Very much, absolutely, and I couldn’t speak for them.

QUESTION: Okay, but I’m just asking if your department was informed by OIG that they had reached this determination.

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t know. I don’t know who was informed by whom. Right now we’re very focused on setting the disposition schedule, and I would even back up. Assistant Secretary Kirby has made clear there weren’t rules on this. There wasn’t this disposition schedule. We’re going to fix this, we’re going to establish this, we’re going to set the rules, and also, frankly, he’s set now the overarching guidance for Public Affairs that this sort of edit will never happen again.

QUESTION: You can claim, perhaps plausibly, that there were no rules in place to prohibit a deliberate censorship of one of these State Department briefing videos, but federal statute was in place at the time that this occurred, the Federal Records Act being that statute. Now we have the opinion of both the inspector general in this building and the National Archives and Records Administration that indeed these videos are covered under the Federal Records Act, so you would agree that at the time that this censorship took place – or, shall we say more neutrally, the editing --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there was in place a federal statute that made it a crime to tamper with federal records and that these briefings were covered under that definition.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I wouldn’t be able to judge if this happened retroactively. What I will say is that what we know now is that we need to set a disposition schedule. We’re working on it, we’re going to put that in place. Okay.

QUESTION: Going forward, then, tampering with one of these briefing videos would in fact be a crime, correct?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I would say is – and I also don’t want to establish what a crime is. What I will say is that we will set a disposition schedule; we’ll see if it will be temporary or permanent. We will set in place guidelines that formalize this, but that’s also already been done in terms of our own policies now within Public Affairs. Assistant Secretary Kirby has been very clear and that guidance came down very early, as soon as this was brought to our attention.

QUESTION: So going forward, under the rules that Assistant Secretary Kirby has put in place, tampering with one of these briefing videos will be a violation of State Department procedures.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: And you have no view at all as to whether that would also constitute a crime?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, no.

QUESTION: Do you know why there was never any disposition schedule for --

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t.

QUESTION: -- this kind of thing? Was it just an oversight that people --

MS TRUDEAU: I think what I would say --

QUESTION: I mean, the video of the briefings, it post-dates my – I mean --

QUESTION: Pre-dates his (inaudible.)

QUESTION: -- pre-dates. Sorry. (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, Arshad.

QUESTION: No, it actually doesn’t pre-date me, because there was no video when I started covering this building. And certainly not one --

MS TRUDEAU: You’re aging yourself.

QUESTION: Are you sure?

QUESTION: Yeah, certainly not one that was going up online.

QUESTION: I thought it started under Carter. (Laughter.) George Gatton told us it started under President Carter.

QUESTION: Not – that didn’t – it didn’t go up on the website.

MS TRUDEAU: Let me know when you guys want me to chime in.

QUESTION: Anyway. (Laughter.) Anyway, so it was a relatively recent phenomenon --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, it is.

QUESTION: -- that these briefing videos have been put up online and even streamed live.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So I’m just curious as to – did this just not cross anybody’s mind?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to that --

QUESTION: And how could it not have? Because --

MS TRUDEAU: I think probably – and, again, focusing really on James’s question – we are going to fix this.

QUESTION: Well, I know --

MS TRUDEAU: We are going to do this, but the transcript --

QUESTION: -- but in the era of James Rosen --

MS TRUDEAU: In the era of James Rosen. Videos are important --

QUESTION: In which all of you are cursed to live. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: In the era of James Rosen, where video – and not just him, but of all his television colleagues --

MS TRUDEAU: Very much.

QUESTION: -- which – who rely on the video from the briefings, one would think that it would be a pretty big oversight to not set a rule or this disposition schedule.

MS TRUDEAU: I would say a couple things on this, is one – and when this came down, the first thing, I’ll be honest, when we heard from James about this, is we checked the transcript, because for us the transcript was the official record. As we said at the time and as we have belabored at this podium, the transcript was always intact. Whether or not our rules kept pace with the technology, living in the age of James Rosen, it appears like they didn’t. So now we’re focused on that. We’re going to put the rules in place. Kirby has put the policy in place, and we’re going to live up to it.

QUESTION: Soon you will graduate and it will be the era of James Rosen.

QUESTION: I think we’re living in the Matt Lee-Arshad Mohammed era myself.

Switching over to the Clinton emails --

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: -- presumably you are aware of reports of a particular email in which Huma Abedin appears to have acknowledged that she left classified papers – indeed what she described as burn stuff – in the pocket of a seat in a car, and then was reduced to asking another colleague to remove those papers from that location in Ms. Abedin’s absence from the car, and to store them in the trunk of that car. Did this conduct comport with State Department rules for the handling of classified information?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I’ve read the article that you’re referencing. I’ve also read the emails. I’m loath to get into talking about specific emails. But I will say this, is the premise of the article is incorrect. We were – the email specifically references materials in a burn bag, and the story alleges that burn bags, which I think you’re all familiar with – they’re brown bags with stripes on it – can only be used for the disposal of classified information. It’s not the case. I use burn bags in my office for unclassified information all the time.

QUESTION: For sandwiches.

MS TRUDEAU: No. As the regulations state, sensitive but unclassified – what you guys would year as SBU – or personally identifiable information, PII documents, are often burned. It’s not accurate to say that any document going into a burn bag is a document that’s classified.

QUESTION: That seems to be an extraneous point to the overall thrust of the article, which I wish you would address, which is whether or not the conduct revealed in these emails met the standards for the handling of classified information.

MS TRUDEAU: No, you’re assuming that the information in there is classified, and that’s not what the email exchange shows, James.

QUESTION: Do you happen to know whether there was classified information at stake in this episode?

MS TRUDEAU: I think you’re making a leap assuming there was.

QUESTION: I’m not. Now I’m not making any leaps. I’m asking you: Do you happen to know whether there was any classified information at stake in this episode?

MS TRUDEAU: I will say that the individuals who were involved in this are very aware of how to treat classified information. Burn bags are routinely used for SBU and PII information.

QUESTION: If the information contained in the back seat of this car was so innocuous, why was Ms. Abedin so urgently concerned with putting it in a trunk?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I would say probably – and again – you know what, I don’t want to get too – because now I’m answering hypotheticals, and I shouldn’t do that.

QUESTION: I didn’t. You’re not answering a – you’re answering questions about established sets of facts, not a hypothetical at all.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, but I’m not aware of the facts. I’m not aware of what went through this individual’s mind, but I will dispute the fact that burn bags are only for classified info, because it’s just not true.

QUESTION: Final question.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, was Diplomatic Security ever alerted to this episode?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information on that. I don’t.

QUESTION: Or was Diplomatic Security standing outside of the car in question, which was in a motorcade in Delhi?

MS TRUDEAU: It’s my understanding it was a motorcade, so yes, correct.

QUESTION: So – and the car in question was, in fact, the car that Secretary Clinton would ride in, correct?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not sure, but it was part of a motorcade.

QUESTION: So it was secure?

MS TRUDEAU: It was part of a motorcade.

QUESTION: It was part of the package?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: So in other words, it was protected by Diplomatic Security?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: In fact, it was an ambassador who was expected to be riding in that vehicle and from whom Ms. Abedin sought to shield that material. Am I correct about that?

MS TRUDEAU: I could absolutely not answer that. I have absolutely no information on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS TRUDEAU: Are we done with former Secretary Clinton’s emails?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS TRUDEAU: Yep. We – I would be more than happy to.

QUESTION: I have a couple – thank you, exactly. It’s a lot easier. Anyway, so let me ask you very quick questions. The Israelis stopped a Palestinian children group – it’s called Palestine Sings children chorus; it’s part of UNICEF – from going to an event that they were invited to. Do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. So I’ve seen those reports – from leaving Gaza. I’d refer you, of course, to the Israelis for more information. Generally speaking – and we’ve been clear on this – we’re very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We’ve spoken before about freedom of movement.

QUESTION: I understand, but don’t you have a position on the fact that these kids who have been sanctioned and aided and helped by UNICEF, they want to go and sing about peace and love and things of that nature? Are you not upset, are you not outraged, so to speak? Would you bring this up to the Israelis and say why are you halting these kids?

MS TRUDEAU: I mean, I’m not going to speak to this specific incidence, but what I would say, which we’ve said multiple times, Said, is that we remain in close contact with the Israelis on our concerns on a range of issues that do include freedom of movement.

QUESTION: Would you urge them to allow them to go through and participate --

MS TRUDEAU: Not knowing the specifics of that – I’ve seen the same reports you have – I just really can’t speak in any detail.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me also ask you on the advisory that you released yesterday.

MS TRUDEAU: The Travel Warning.

QUESTION: The Travel Warning --

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: -- because it was very strong in language. I know that it was replacing or it replaced the advisory that you issued --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. It was a routine update.

QUESTION: -- last December, but why the timing? Because it seems that you’re calling on Americans to leave Gaza. I think there a number of Palestinian --

MS TRUDEAU: This was a routine update. It very closely mirrors what we’ve said in previous Travel Warnings as well. For people who aren’t aware, we did do – issue a Travel Warning last night for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. This is part of our ongoing requirement to inform U.S. citizens for travel and people also who live there, and it was a routine update.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: Can we stick with Travel Warnings?

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any intention of updating your travel advice for France in the light of the bans on wearing a burkini or, in some cases, hijab on the beaches of the Cote d’Azur? Would Muslim Americans be well advised to avoid holidays in south of France?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so a few things on this. We understand these are local ordinances, so I would refer you to the French authorities on this. I also understand that the French highest court will actually address this issue, I believe tomorrow. U.S. citizens are advised to comply with local law regardless of what country they visit, but on this particular, very local ordinance, I would refer you to the French.

QUESTION: So it’s only if it becomes a nationwide – a federal --

QUESTION: Burkini ban?

QUESTION: -- a federal law that you’ll take --

MS TRUDEAU: No. We constantly look at --

QUESTION: Your travel (inaudible) towards specific areas.

MS TRUDEAU: We constantly look at the conditions for every country. We understand that this is, as I mentioned, going to be brought before the French court tomorrow on this. U.S. citizens are required to comply with local law; however, we’ve also been very clear where we believe on freedom of religion, freedom to express your religious views. On this, in terms of how the French see these very specific local ordinances, I would have them speak to --

QUESTION: No, no, I understand – I get it. It’s just that you have taken positions on national laws like in Turkey on the headscarves, in France on headscarves. Is that the bar for you to – if it’s just a local ordinance, then --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we understand – I think it’s three local communities --

QUESTION: Yeah, but if it’s --

MS TRUDEAU: -- and it’s being addressed now at a national level.

QUESTION: Right, but so --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: Is it 30?

QUESTION: But so if the supreme court or whoever it is is looking at it comes back and says, you know what, not only is it okay for these three – we’re – that the government is free to go ahead and make this nationwide, is that – does then it rise to the level of something that you would comment on?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, no. As I mentioned, we – as we have said multiple times from this podium, of course we believe in the ability of people to express their religious views as they see fit, and we believe that in this case as well.

QUESTION: Well, but they can’t do that if they go to a beach in one of these three towns.

MS TRUDEAU: So it is – it’s a tension, because U.S. citizens, we do advise them to obey local laws. So while we do support --

QUESTION: So if the local law says that you have to hop up and down on one foot instead of walking, then you – you think that that’s a reasonable thing to do?

MS TRUDEAU: And that’s – well, we would certainly inform U.S. citizens of that issue.

QUESTION: That is a hypothetical, by the way.

QUESTION: So there’s the --

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you, James.

QUESTION: So there’s the question then. Are you --

MS TRUDEAU: We know it is, and we continue to look --

QUESTION: Are you – are you going to update your --

MS TRUDEAU: And we continue – I can’t speak specifically to this. We understand that this is an ongoing discussion in France on this. But of course, as anywhere in the world, we will continue to look at local conditions, and we update our country-specific information accordingly.

QUESTION: Are you aware if any U.S. officials, either from the embassy or from the Office of Religious Freedom, have had conversations with their French counterparts to clarify this?

MS TRUDEAU: I am not. I am not, Dave.

QUESTION: Let me ask you this.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Would you issue an advisory to, let’s say, women who observe this kind of thing, who would like to have – that go to the beaches in France and so on from not going? Would you tell them not to --

MS TRUDEAU: I think this is what we were talking about too, so it’s --

QUESTION: I understand, but it’s (inaudible) --

MS TRUDEAU: We advise U.S. citizens, regardless of where they are in the world, to understand that they are subject to local laws. At the same time, we understand that this is an ongoing discussion in France. It’s going to the high court there. As conditions – and the third part of that, which is Matt’s question on our travel warnings, travel alerts, and country-specific information. As information changes, without speaking directly to this, we do adjust the information we provide to U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: John.

QUESTION: I had a couple more on Turkey that I wanted to just get in. Is that all right?

MS TRUDEAU: Let’s go back.

QUESTION: Just – President Biden, on his trip, said that --

MS TRUDEAU: Vice President Biden.

QUESTION: Vice President Biden, right – he advised or urged Kurds not to cross the Euphrates. Is that the official U.S. position?

MS TRUDEAU: So we actually spoke about this earlier, so I’d refer you to the transcript.

QUESTION: Okay. Just one more question.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you expect the Kurds to follow this after fighting for weeks to liberate Manbij?

MS TRUDEAU: We actually – we spent a good part of the early part of the briefing on this.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: So do we have more? Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the North Korean SLBM test, this has been categorized by various experts as the most successful to date. Does – is the U.S. going to be taking any actions differently from responding to the previous two of the same kinds of the tests?

MS TRUDEAU: So I wouldn’t speak to intelligence matters in terms of the success or the failure of this particular test. What I’d reiterate, which is what we said at the top of the briefing, is that we’ll continue to work at the UN as well as through other intentional fora as well as with our partners to address.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure. Are we doing – it’s okay. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: They’ve ceded.

QUESTION: All right, last one? Just I want to revisit the question that I’ve asked a couple times, and that is just to make sure because things keep kind of changing as new stuff comes out, but in light of recent reporting on the relation or the ties between Secretary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation, is it still the department’s contention or determination that there was no conflict of interest, that everything that was going on, was appropriate and above board and followed the rules?

MS TRUDEAU: The department’s actions under Secretary Clinton were taken to advance Administration policy as set by the President and in the interests of American foreign policy. The State Department is not aware of any policy decisions influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation.

QUESTION: Okay, not policy decisions. The latest reporting is about access and meetings. Is it also the case that you’ve determined or that you’re not aware of any preferential treatment given to donors?

MS TRUDEAU: No. As we’ve spoken to and you know, and I’m sorry to belabor this, is --

QUESTION: No, I asked the question.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah – is --

QUESTION: And I’m asking the question because more and more keeps coming out.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. As we’ve said previously, State Department officials are in range with a range of outside experts – individuals, organizations, nonprofits, foundations, academics. This is normal. This is part of how the State Department gathers information and informs our thoughts, pro and con, on any particular issue.

QUESTION: But one more on this because I think the word that was previously used was “impropriety,” and that you were not aware of any impropriety. Can you stick with that?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Well, when the calendars of the secretary of state reveal that more than half of the people outside the government, who were lucky enough to secure a face-to-face audience or telephone conversation with her, were in fact through one means or another donors to her family foundation, doesn’t that raise some legitimate questions about whether preferential treatment was in fact being given to those donors?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I would dispute the idea of preferential treatment. I think you’re referring to the AP article, and though Matt has shown himself as being perhaps the only person in the briefing room who can do complicated math – (laughter) – I won’t --

QUESTION: That’s not the same.

MS TRUDEAU: -- I won’t unpack the math numbers on that. I do know that AP said that they did not take into account Secretary Clinton’s meetings with foreign leaders and diplomats, as well as U.S. Government officials, to arrive at their calculations. As we’ve said before, the State Department meets with a range of people, and a wide range of people, outside individuals, and organizations contact the State Department. Meeting requests, recommendations, proposals come to the department through a range of channels.

We can go on, but I think I answered that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:57 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 18, 2016

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 19:26

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 18, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:18 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Hello, everybody. How are you today?

QUESTION: What’s up?

MR KIRBY: Why do the lights feel different right now?

QUESTION: You’ve been away too long.

MR KIRBY: Maybe that’s what it is.

QUESTION: Also, I’m here.

MR KIRBY: Well, now we can really begin. Good to see you, James.

QUESTION: Welcome back.

MR KIRBY: Thank you. Okay. I’ve got a few things at the top, so please bear with me, and then we’ll get right to your questions.

First on Turkey. The United States condemns today’s horrific bombings in Elazig and Bitlis. Our friend and ally, Turkey, has suffered several outrageous terror attacks this week, including today’s, the August 15th attack in Diyarbakir, and – that killed seven people, one of whom was a child, and yesterday’s attack in Van. We offer our condolences, obviously, to the families of all those victims and we wish a speedy recovery for those that are wounded in attacks. And it’s a grim reminder of still the threat from terrorism that the Turkish people continue to face.

On travel, I do want to announce that the Secretary will be traveling next week. He’ll travel first to Nairobi, Kenya on the 22nd of August to meet with President Kenyatta to discuss regional security issues and counterterrorism cooperation, as well as other bilateral issues. He’ll also meet with the Kenyan foreign minister and other regional foreign ministers to discuss key challenges in East Africa, including the prospects for resumption of a political process in South Sudan and support to Somalia’s political transition and ongoing fight against al-Shabaab. He’ll also have the opportunity while there to meet with participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative and the Mandela Washington Fellows programs.

The Secretary will then travel to Sokoto and Abuja, Nigeria from the 23rd to the 24th of August. There he will meet with President Buhari to discuss counterterrorism efforts, the Nigerian economy, the fight against corruption, and human rights issues. In Sokoto, the Secretary will deliver a speech on the importance of resilient communities and religious tolerance in countering violent extremism. And while he’s in Abuja, he’ll meet with a group of adolescent girls who are working to change community perceptions that devalue the role of girls in society. He’ll also have a chance to meet with northern governors and religious leaders.

Finally, from the 24th to the 25th of August, he’ll travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a series of meetings with senior Saudi leaders, his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen. His discussions there will focus primarily on the ongoing conflict in Yemen and the efforts to restore peace and stability there. Additionally, we expect that the leaders will discuss, obviously, the region’s most pressing challenges, including Syria and our global effort to counter Daesh and violent extremism.

Finally, I want to update you on the issue of the portions of video missing from a press briefing here on the 2nd of December 2013. Now, as you know, this is something we’ve talked about before. I promised you that I would update you when we had completed our review. We’ve done that, so if you’ll bear with me, I’ll give you what I have.

As you know, when this matter came to light, many of us, including Secretary Kerry, had concerns and questions as to how and why this had happened. And so, at the Secretary’s request, the Office of the Legal Adviser spent the last several months looking deeper into the issue. All told, they have spoken with more than 30 current and former employees at all levels of seniority and they’ve gone through emails and other documents to see what information might be available. They have now compiled their findings and a description of their process into a fact-finding review, which has been provided to the Secretary. We’re also sharing it today with Congress and the inspector general.

Here’s the bottom line: We are confident the video of that press briefing was deliberately edited. The white flash that many of you have noticed yourselves in that portion of the video is evidence enough of human involvement. Indeed, a technician came forward, recalled making the edit and inserting that flash. What we were not able to determine was why the edit was made in the first place. There’s no evidence to suggest it was made with the intent to conceal information from the public, and while the technician recalls receiving a phone call requesting the edit, there is no evidence to indicate who might have placed that call or why.

In fact, throughout this process we learned additional information that could call into question any suggestion of nefarious activity. In addition to the fact that the full video was always available on DVIDS and that the full transcript was always on our website, the video was edited in a choppy manner, which made it obvious that footage was missing. We also found that the video likely was shortened very early in the process, only minutes after the briefing concluded and well before the technician who recalled making the edit believes the request was made to make the edit, and in any event before the technician would have been involved in the video production process. It is possible the white flash was inserted because the video had lost footage due to technical or electrical problems that were affecting our control room servers around that time.

Finally, we have confirmed that even if the video was edited with intent to conceal, there was no policy in place at the time prohibiting such an edit. So upon learning that, I think you know, I immediately put a policy in place to preclude that from ever happening. We will also be consulting now with the National Archives and Record Administration about whether any changes to our disposition schedule should be made to address the press briefing videos. Disposition schedules are rules governing the record – official record keeping. The current disposition schedule notes that the written transcript is a permanent record.

Now, I understand that these results may not be completely satisfying to everyone. I think we will all – we would all have preferred to arrive at clear and convincing answers. But that’s not where the evidence or the memories of so many employees about an event, which happened more than two and a half years ago, have taken us. We have to accept the facts as we have found them, learn from them, and move on.

The Secretary is confident that the Office of the Legal Adviser took this task seriously, that they examined it thoroughly, and that we have, indeed, learned valuable lessons as a result. For my part, I want to thank them as well for their diligence and professionalism. We are and I think we will be going forward a better public affairs organization for having worked our way through this.

With that, I’ll take questions.

QUESTION: All right. Well, before we move on to Syria, let’s finish up this videotape episode, or at least dig into it a little bit more. Can you remind me just from that lengthy statement – you think it was not nefarious because it was done badly and because it was done quickly? Is that the essential argument?

MR KIRBY: I said that we weren’t – we aren’t sure whether it was done with intent to conceal or whether it was done as a result of a technical problem. The bottom line is, Brad, it was inconclusive. Some of the additional information that does lead us to think that a glitch is possible here is because of the choppy nature of the cut, which is when – look, when we do the daily briefings, we always cut the top and the bottom, right? So we have an ability to do editing on the – at the beginning and the end of a briefing. Obviously, we have to do that. And we have procedures in place to do that in a nice smooth, clear, very deliberate way, so that when we post the video of today’s briefing, it looks like a totally encompassed, very professional product. So we have the ability to do this in a very professional way.

This cut was not done that way. It was done in a choppy fashion that’s not consistent with the way we typically do that. I’m not saying that that means for sure it was the result of an electrical problem. I’m just saying that it certainly gives us pause, and we have to think about that.

The other aspect of this is the timing. So roughly 18 minutes after the briefing was concluded, the video that was uploaded was shortened – shorter than the actual briefing itself – which would convey that a cut of some kind was made very, very quickly after the briefing, sooner than when the technician remembers – much sooner, actually, than when the technician remembers getting a phone call asking for the cut to be made. So again, we may be dealing with a memory issue. Maybe that’s inconsistent. Or maybe there was – there could have been a technical problem that caused the video to automatically be shortened when it was first uploaded so quickly – 18 minutes after the briefing, which is pretty fast.

So it’s not impossible or inconceivable that there was an intent to conceal information – in other words, nefarious intent here. We’re not ruling that out. But we also cannot, based on the evidence that we have gained, rule out the possibility that there was some technical problem and then to make it known that a cut had been made, a white flash was inserted.

QUESTION: But there were no technical problems on the other videos that still exist.

MR KIRBY: Right, but they don’t --

QUESTION: If that were the case, don’t you think someone would come and admit that rather than nobody of the 30 witnesses you interview can actually remember what happened? It seems like such a ridiculous explanation it shocks me that you’re actually providing it here. But okay.

MR KIRBY: Okay, is that a question or you just want to berate me?

QUESTION: Well, no, I – John, I just think it’s – I think it’s really strange that you’re saying that. I think someone would remember if it were a technical glitch. And how could you say there was a technical glitch, there was a possibility of that, when there’s no other evidence of those glitches on the other videos that exist?

MR KIRBY: I’m saying I can’t rule it out, Justin. There’s also no evidence that anybody did this with a deliberate intent to conceal. We just don’t know. And you might --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR KIRBY: And I understand – look, as I said at the – as I said at the end of my lengthy statement, that I understand that the inconclusive nature of the findings is not going to be all that satisfying to you. It wasn’t all that satisfying to the rest of us. You don’t think that we would like to know exactly what happened? We just don’t. They interviewed more than 30 current and former employees. They looked at emails and records, and there simply wasn’t anything to make a specific conclusion here.

QUESTION: Let’s put our satisfaction aside for a second. Is this conclusion that you’ve reached, whatever it concludes or not – is that satisfying to the IG? Is the IG now done with his investigation?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ll let the IG speak for themselves. I’m not aware that the IG has taken this up as – to investigate.

QUESTION: Well, the review, sorry, that you’ve called it.

MR KIRBY: What I can tell you is – again, I cannot speak for the IG. As you know, they’re an independent entity. What I can tell you is that the Office of the Legal Adviser kept the IG informed as they were working through the process. And it’s our understanding that they’re comfortable with the work that was done.

QUESTION: And then lastly, the technician – is there any punishment to him – or I think it’s – she’s been referred to as “her” in the past – to her as a result of cutting the tape, not remembering who told her, not remembering any of the details regarding this?

MR KIRBY: No. There’s nothing to punish anyone for.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: As I said at the outset, there was no policy prohibiting this kind of an edit. There is now, but there wasn’t at the time. So there’s no wrongdoing here that can be punished.

James.

QUESTION: Can we stipulate in advance of my questions that in pursuing them, I can be absolved of any charges of solipsism or self-centeredness?

MR KIRBY: You’ll have to define solipsism for me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Believing that one’s self is the center of the universe. I just happen to be --

MR KIRBY: I would never think that of you.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.) I’m glad to have that on the record. First of all, so that we are clear, what you are telling us is that some unknown person called this technician to request that an edit that had in fact already been made by some unknown force be made again?

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is, James, we do not know. We have the technician who has recalled getting a phone call to make an edit to the video. And the technician stands by the recollections of that day.

QUESTION: But the edit had already been made.

MR KIRBY: But it’s unclear – well, it’s unclear. Again, 18 minutes after the briefing, we know that the video uploaded – the version that was uploaded to be used on YouTube and our website was shortened by the same amount of the cut. Now, it’s unclear how it got shortened. It’s unclear whether that was the result of an electrical malfunction or it was the result of a deliberate, physical, intentional edit.

QUESTION: But it is the edit we’ve all seen?

MR KIRBY: It is.

QUESTION: Okay. And so –

MR KIRBY: And what was inserted – that the technician did remember getting a phone call, did remember inserting a white flash to indicate that video footage had been missing. So we know – and the white flash is very clear evidence, as I said, of human involvement in the process. But we’re dealing with recollections and memories that are two and a half years ago. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday. So I mean, there is – you have to allow for some of that here, and that’s why it’s inconclusive. I’m not at all standing up here telling you that I’m confident that the – to phrase it your way, that there was a – that a call was made to make an edit that had already been done. I just don’t know that that’s what happened.

QUESTION: What is the time gap between the uploading in the video and the time when this technician recalls that call having come in?

MR KIRBY: Let me see if I can find that for you.

QUESTION: And does the video automatically upload to the website?

MR KIRBY: No, it doesn’t.

QUESTION: So it’s possible that someone could have done the edit before it was uploaded.

MR KIRBY: Hang on a second, Ros. I’m trying to answer one question at a time here.

Look, I – James, I just don’t have that level of detail. I think we had --

QUESTION: But you said it’s quite some time – weeks, months, a year. What do we think it was?

MR KIRBY: No, it’s usually – it can take up to a day to get the press briefings uploaded online. It just depends. And so I just don’t have that level of detail here.

QUESTION: In arriving at the conclusion that you’re unable to make a conclusion as to whether a nefarious intent was involved here, it seems that nobody has taken into that assessment the actual content of the briefing that was actually erased or wound up missing. And so I want to ask you point blank: Doesn’t the content of the missing eight minutes tell us something about the intent? It just happens to be, in fact, the one time in the history of this Administration where a spokesperson stood at that podium and made statements that many, many people across the ideological spectrum have interpreted as a concession that the State Department will from time to time lie to preserve the secrecy of secret negotiations. That coincidence doesn’t strike you as reflective of some intent here?

MR KIRBY: Again, James, two points. First of all, the results of the work that we did are inconclusive as to why there was an edit to that day’s press briefing. I wish I could tell you exactly why and what happened.

QUESTION: Did the content factor in?

MR KIRBY: But – hang on, please. But I don’t know. Certainly, there was, as we work through this – I mean, everybody’s mindful of the content of the Q&A that was missing from the video. I think we’re all cognizant of that Q&A. I can go back, certainly, and look, but it’s my understanding that the content, the issue about the content, had been discussed in previous briefings. It wasn’t the first time that that particular content had been discussed.

Number two, as I said, it was always available in its entirety on DVIDS and it was always available in the transcript, so if – again, if somebody was deliberately trying to excise out the Q&A regarding that content, it would have – it would be a pretty ham-fisted and sloppy approach to do it, because the transcript was never not complete and the DVIDS video was always complete, and there were – hang on a second – and there was media coverage that day regarding that exchange, right? And so --

QUESTION: I remember it well.

MR KIRBY: I’m sure you do. So it wasn’t as if the content inside that eight minutes or so was not available to the public immediately that afternoon.

QUESTION: Two final areas here, and I will yield. I appreciate your patience. Nothing in what you’ve said so far today suggests that the contents of this investigation or its conclusions would be classified. And so when you tell us that the report done by the Office of the Legal Adviser is going to be shared not only with the Secretary but with members of Congress, what is it that prevents you from sharing that full report with the public?

MR KIRBY: Nothing. And we have – we intend to make sure that you get access to it. We’re still working through logistics with that, but nothing precludes that.

QUESTION: We look forward to a timetable when you can make it public.

Lastly, did the Office of the Legal Adviser arrive in the course of this review at any conclusion as to whether this video itself constitutes a federal record?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, as I said at my opening statement, we’re working now with the National Archives and Records Administration to take a look at what I’ve called disposition schedules, the rules governing what is and what is not considered a public record. But at the time and as of today, the transcript is considered a permanent record, official record, of these daily briefings.

QUESTION: So the answer to my question is the Office of the Legal Adviser did not make any determination as to whether this video constitutes a federal record, yes or no?

MR KIRBY: No, and that wasn’t their --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: First of all, James, that wasn’t their task. Their task was to try to find out what happened. And (b) it’s not up to the Office of the Legal Adviser to determine what is or what isn’t a permanent, official record. That’s determined by NARA, and that’s why we’re consulting with them right now.

QUESTION: The videotape in question was shot with a State Department camera, correct?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: It was uploaded to the State Department website by a State Department technician, correct?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: The State Department website is maintained by State Department employees, correct?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: This video on the State Department website is in a separate place on the website from the transcript, correct?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: One has to push a different button to access the video from the button that one pushes to access the transcript, correct?

MR KIRBY: That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: I have no further questions.

QUESTION: Okay, I have one question just to make sure.

QUESTION: It’s like a court of law. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It sounds like a federal record to me, John. It would be very counter-intuitive – it would be very counter-intuitive to --

MR KIRBY: Let James – let James talk.

QUESTION: It seems very counter-intuitive to imagine that a videotape of a State Department briefing that is shot, uploaded, maintained by federal employees would not itself be a federal record --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- considered distinct and separate from the federal record that is the transcript, which is typed by separate employees and maintained on a separate place on the website.

MR KIRBY: So look, let me address that because it’s a fair point. A couple of things. There’s no requirement for us, no requirement, even today, to upload videos of this daily press briefing on my website, our website, or on YouTube, on our YouTube channel. We do that as a courtesy, but there’s no requirement to do that. And that’s one.

Number two, the entire video was also streamed into the DVIDS program, which is a different channel. I’m not a technician, but it’s different, a completely different channel, which is why DVIDS had it complete without any problems. And of course, the transcript is and we have considered the transcript as the official record of these daily briefings. And we consulted NARA at the outset of this process, and they concurred that in their view the transcript is an official record of these daily briefings. But they’re also willing to talk with us about going forward whether or not we need to take a look at those disposition schedules to see if that definition needs to be expanded to include video.

So, James, we actually asked ourselves the very same questions you’ve just interrogated me on, and we’re working – and I mean that in a --

QUESTION: But not with the same panache. (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: No, not with the same self-centeredness. (Laughter.) But honestly, we asked ourselves the same questions. In fact, we still are, James. And so we’re working with the National Archives on this and we’ll see where that goes.

QUESTION: So let me get this straight. If the DVIDS video was the same – shot by the same camera, it’s the same thing, and it had no problems, I’m having trouble understanding why you would assume and conclude that it’s so possible that your version would have some technical glitch that needed to be edited. I thought we got past the “it was a technical glitch” line. I’m really surprised to see that back in the narrative, because if their version is clean, why --

MR KIRBY: It’s a different – first of all, it’s a different system.

QUESTION: It would be highly unlikely, John, that there would just be some minor problem on your end. It seems implausible and not worth mentioning as a defense.

MR KIRBY: Justin, look, I’m not going to dispute the confusion that you’re having over this. I can tell you, as I said, we would have all preferred that there was some clear, convincing evidence of exactly what happened. But there isn’t. I can’t make it up. I can’t – I can’t just pull out of thin air an exact reason for what happened.

QUESTION: Well --

MR KIRBY: So because I can’t – but because I can’t and because the Office of the Legal Adviser couldn’t, based on interviews, based on looking at documentary evidence, we can’t rule out the fact that there were – and there were some server problems that we were having around that time. I can’t tell you with specificity that it was on that day and at that hour, but we were having some problems. And it’s not out of the realm of the possible that the white flash was inserted rather – for nefarious purposes, but more to indicate that there was some missing footage and we wanted to make that obvious.

QUESTION: All the – I mean, all the evidence – who would come to the technician 18 minutes after the briefing and say, “I noticed that there was a technical” – telling the technician there was a technical problem. It just doesn’t seem --

MR KIRBY: This technician is not – this technician does not work in the office that typically edits the daily briefings.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: Look, Justin, I can’t possibly --

QUESTION: But it was someone within Public Affairs, not in the technician’s office, who instructed --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the change be made. That’s what you guys have said. And the idea that that person would have noticed some --

MR KIRBY: We’ve said that that is what this individual recalled.

QUESTION: -- would have some knowledge of a technical glitch that the technician needed to be instructed on, all of it seems totally implausible. That’s not a question.

MR KIRBY: Okay.

QUESTION: I have --

MR KIRBY: But all I can say to you is I can’t answer the question you’re asking. We have tried to answer the question you’re asking, and we have spent many months now working on it. And it’s – the results are inconclusive in that regard. I can’t change that fact, and that is a fact.

QUESTION: I just have a clarification point, just real quick, real quick.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR KIRBY: Hang on just a second. Hang on, just --

QUESTION: Very small one.

QUESTION: One quick – yeah, mine’s a minor point too.

QUESTION: Just one – one thing just from another person other than the immediate group there. We’ve jumped around this issue and around it --

MR KIRBY: Are you separate from the media group here?

QUESTION: I’m different from the immediate group up there.

QUESTION: He said “immediate.”

MR KIRBY: Oh, the immediate group.

QUESTION: So this sounds like a very thorough internal probe, more than two dozen people interviewed. Did the probe identify who from Public Affairs made the call requesting the change? Yes or no.

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: Unable to do it?

MR KIRBY: Unable to do that.

QUESTION: Sorry, can you just remind me? I just need to clarify these things. The request to the technician was to do what? I recalled it was to cut the tape.

MR KIRBY: The technician recalls getting a phone call --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR KIRBY: -- from somebody in Public Affairs to edit the video. That is still the memory of the technician and that’s reflected in the review.

QUESTION: So why did the – so what did they edit if it was already – if this section of the tape was already missing, what did that technician actually do?

MR KIRBY: The technician remembers getting the phone call and inserting a white flash to mark the fact that the video had been shortened.

QUESTION: So it’s – so the request was to edit the video, and then the technician decided upon herself to insert a white flash as a transparency flasher or something?

MR KIRBY: The technician recalled inserting the white flash so that it was obvious that a cut had been made.

QUESTION: But the request wasn’t to insert a white flash. The request was to cut the video, wasn’t it?

MR KIRBY: Again – again – I’m not disputing that. That is what – that is what the technician remembers – getting a call --

QUESTION: So why did this very obedient and forgetful technician --

MR KIRBY: Hang on, hang on, hang on.

QUESTION: -- suddenly decide they were going to insert white flashes?

MR KIRBY: The technician remembers getting a call to edit the video, has recalled and come forward and said that that edit was made and that a white flash was inserted. I can’t – I’m not – I’m not at all, and we’re not disputing, the recollections. As I said at the outset, in working through this, additional information came to light which also forces us to consider the possibility that there might have been a technical problem here that truncated, shortened some of that video since so shortly after the briefing – 18 minutes, which is much faster than we typically get to compiling this and posting it in an – on a normal day – happened. So nobody’s challenging the account --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: -- but it’s because we have additional information that we’ve now uncovered that makes it inconclusive on our part.

QUESTION: I just have two more questions. One, did the technician indicate where she came up with the white flash idea? Was that just being really enterprising?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know. I’m not an expert on this. As I understand it --

QUESTION: Or was that the --

MR KIRBY: -- or I’ve been told that that is not an unusual --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: -- procedure for making a deliberate cut and to make it obvious.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: But I don’t – I’m not an expert.

QUESTION: Why didn’t – why did nobody in your entire apparatus think of using the good tape that was sent to the DVIDS and just using that?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have an answer for you on that. Again, it was always available on DVIDS. And I’m not – I wasn’t here at the time, so I don’t know how much visibility there was above the technician level on this and that technician’s supervisor. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: But if the white light was meant as some sort of effort at transparency, one, you would have said something, probably indicated somewhere when you posted it, “missing tape,” no? Not let people hopefully see a white light and divine what that means.

MR KIRBY: I can’t go back --

QUESTION: Secondly, wouldn’t you just use the good tape and just put it in?

MR KIRBY: Brad, I can’t go back two and a half years here and --

QUESTION: Well --

MR KIRBY: -- and try to get in the heads of people that --

QUESTION: -- you’ve raised this like spectral theory that maybe everybody did everything perfectly and we just misinterpreted it.

MR KIRBY: No I did not. And I never called it a spectral theory, okay?

QUESTION: I did.

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is I can’t go back two and a half years and try to re-litigate the decision making. The technician remembers getting a call, making a cut, inserting a white flash, talking to the supervisor about it. Conversations that happened above that level I simply can’t speak to because I don’t know. And it would be great if we could go back and rewrite the whole history on this, but we can’t do that. All I can do is learn from this and move on. And now we have a policy in place that no such edits can happen without my express permission and approval before it happens. And as I said, there was no policy at the time against this kind of thing, so there’s no wrongdoing.

QUESTION: John --

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

QUESTION: No, I just have --

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Can we move to Syria?

QUESTION: I have one more. I have one more.

MR KIRBY: Are we all – are we done on the video?

QUESTION: No, I have one more just to wrap this up, because you just said that edits cannot be made without your express knowledge and consent. What is the workflow now for recording these videos of these briefings and other events, and uploading them to the website? What is the basic workflow?

MR KIRBY: The workflow hasn’t changed. The workflow – it’s the same procedure that’s been used in the past. And again, I’m not an expert on the way our technicians – who are very professional, very competent – do their jobs. I didn’t change anything about that process except to insert a rule that there will be no editing of briefing, press briefing videos, without my express consent and approval beforehand. But I did not change the process.

QUESTION: That’s understood. But I will say as someone with 24 years in news, television news, there’s always another pair of eyes looking at what someone does in terms of work. And so I’m asking, one, once you record a video, now that everything is digital, it’s pretty easy to upload things pretty quickly. You don’t need 24 hours. Number two, if you are uploading something, there’s going to be someone in the process – a media manager, a producer, an editor – who’s going to verify that the work was done and that the work didn’t have any technical glitches. Who is checking up on the work of the technician, or is the technician simply working and ticks off a box, I’ve done this task, and moves on?

MR KIRBY: There is a process that supervisory personnel are involved in. I don’t have the exact flowchart for you here today. But I’m comfortable that the process works, and it works every day. It’s going to work today. It worked yesterday, and it worked the days before that. I’m not worried about that. I think everybody understands our obligations and our responsibilities.

I can’t speak for the specifics in this digital environment. Again, I’m not a technician; I’m not an expert at this. But I’m comfortable that our staff is competent and trained, have the resources available to do this in a professional way, and that they’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Just a few last ones. Thank you very much, John. Do you stand by the statements you made when you first started briefing on this particular subject that this entire episode reflects a failing to meet your usual standards for transparency?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I do. I mean, again, we don’t know exactly what happened here, but obviously, we would never condone an intent to conceal, if that’s, in fact, what happened. Now again, I can’t say that that happened. But if it did, then yes, obviously, that would not meet our standards. And frankly, and if I might add, it didn’t meet the standards of my predecessors either. Jen Psaki, Marie Harf, Victoria Nuland – none of them would ever abide by any kind of intent to conceal information from a daily briefing.

QUESTION: The reason I ask is because when you started briefing on this subject in May, you told us that this wasn’t a glitch, that it was an intentional and deliberate erasure. Now, following the investigation by the Office of Legal Adviser, you seem to be retracting that and saying we honestly can’t say one way or the other. And so if your previous comments were to the effect that this represented a failing of transparency, I wonder if you would like an opportunity to retract those as well.

MR KIRBY: I said at the time that it was a deliberate intent to edit and I said it again today. I mean, obviously there’s human involvement here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: So we know that there was a deliberate edit to the video. What I can’t say, based on the work now that they’ve done, is why that occurred.

QUESTION: Well --

MR KIRBY: But James, if it was – and we may never know, right? – but if it was an intent to conceal information from the public, that’s clearly inappropriate.

QUESTION: You mentioned that more than 30 employees were interviewed as part of this process. Were those interviews recorded or transcribed?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know.

QUESTION: You stated that those 30 employees ranged the gamut of seniority. Does that – are we to interpret that remark as an indication that the Secretary himself was interviewed?

MR KIRBY: The Secretary was not interviewed for this.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, did any of the people who were interviewed have counsel with them while they were interviewed?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know. I’d have to consult the Office of Legal Adviser for that. I don’t know.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, did anyone refuse to take part in the investigation or be --

MR KIRBY: I know of no refusals.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: In fact, the Office of the Legal Adviser made very clear that they were very grateful and appreciative of the support that they got from people that work in Public Affairs today and people that have worked in Public Affairs in the past.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: Judicial Watch is suing --

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

QUESTION: -- for the investigation papers here. Are you aware of that? Do you have any comment?

MR KIRBY: I’ve seen the press reports on that. I don’t have a comment on that.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: I think Carol had a question.

QUESTION: Actually, I’d like to just ask one more question about the tape.

QUESTION: And then we go to --

QUESTION: John, how confident are you that the 30-plus people who answered these questions were truthful? Did you – at least to the best of their knowledge and the best of their memory. Did you ask any of them to take lie detector tests?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, I didn’t conduct these interviews, Carol. I wanted this – from the outset, I wanted an independent look at this, and that’s why in the preliminary review I asked the Office of the Legal Adviser to take this on, and that’s why the Secretary followed up and asked them to dig deeper into it, so that it was outside my bureau and outside of my purview. I got you. Hang on just a second. I’ll come to you. So I didn’t get involved in that.

As I said to my answer to James, the Legal Adviser’s Office felt very, very comfortable and confident that they had gotten all the support that they needed and cooperation that they needed. And I know of no instance in which they thought or felt in any way that anyone they spoke to was being less than completely candid and honest with them.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria now?

QUESTION: Syria.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MR KIRBY: Let’s go to Afghanistan here, and then I’ll – promise I’ll go to Syria.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Any comment about independence day in Afghanistan? And do you think that the Afghanistan has their own independence when we get our independence from the Taliban?

MR KIRBY: Are you asking do I --

QUESTION: Independence day – any statement issued from the State Department?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, obviously Afghanistan is a sovereign country and we congratulate them on the anniversary of independence. But more critically, I just – our message to the Afghan people and to the Afghan Government is that their future matters to the United States and that, as we have long said, we intend to be a partner, we intend to be a friend on many levels – not just from a security sector, but from diplomatic, economic, and a political level of effort – and that’s not going to change.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

QUESTION: Can --

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on Afghanistan. People of Afghanistan, the last 93 years, they have gone ups and downs from one regime to another. Now in the last 30 years, they were freed by the U.S. from the Soviet occupation, and now they are under the occupation of Taliban and al-Qaida. And what they’re asking is if and when are they going to be free from these terrorists.

QUESTION: That’s my second question.

MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) I mean, Goyal, I can’t possibly put a date certain on the elimination of the terrorist threat in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan, as we talked about at the opening, isn’t – I mentioned Turkey – isn’t the only country that continues to face a very real threat from terrorism, and we know that groups like Daesh are trying to expand their influence there. And we know that not every member of the Taliban has and is willing to embrace the political process moving forward. That’s why it’s important that the United States continue to make clear our intention and our support of a strong, sovereign, secure, stable Afghanistan.

As a matter of fact, the Secretary spoke with both President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah just this morning about the importance of continuing to move forward with the political and economic reforms that they’re trying to enact, and that all those reforms – and we understand that they are hard to come by – will be key to trying to get to that kind of future in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: You think Pakistan is playing a positive role in this process in Afghanistan?

MR KIRBY: We’ve talked about this before. Look, Pakistan is and must be a key partner in the effort, because they share a long border with Afghanistan and they share common threats and common challenges. And there have been times when Pakistan and Afghanistan didn’t see eye to eye on every issue, and there have been times when they have found ways to work together. And we continue to stress the importance of a strong bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria, please? Can we go to Syria?

MR KIRBY: Okay, Said. Okay, Said, I got you.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR KIRBY: I got you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: Syria – we’re going to go to Syria. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I follow up --

QUESTION: I have a very quick --

MR KIRBY: I’ll come back to you later, Lalit. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. On Syria. Today marks the fifth anniversary since the President of the United States, Barack Obama, said that Assad must step aside. I wonder if you have any comment on that. Was it an ill-advised policy at the time? Is it an ill-advised policy today? Are you – did you find yourself sort of restricted or pigeonholed into this goal, so to speak?

MR KIRBY: The short answer to all those questions is no. And the implication that because the President said it five years ago and five years here we are still dealing with Bashar al-Assad, that it was wrong to espouse that view, that it was incorrect to try to move Syria to a better place – a place that doesn’t have Bashar al-Assad at the head of the government – is somehow wrongheaded is – that’s just not – that’s not the case.

And I’m glad you brought that up, because I also want to point out something else the President said that day, okay, because I got it in front of me and I kind of figured I might get asked this. He said, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Those were his exact words. Then he went on and said this: “The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be a foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people, along with others in the international community.”

And everything that we’ve done since then has supported that overarching goal, including the work that Secretary Kerry has so energetically pursued not just with Russia but with all the members of the ISSG to move Syria to a better place through a political process. So what the President said five years ago – you have to take that in totality and in all its context, and it still applies today.

QUESTION: I understand, but – I mean, looking at what’s going on in Syria today, the Syrian people’s will, so to speak, has really been reduced, and everybody else is playing a role in this thing. There are regional governments; there are people that are supporting all these opposition groups; others that are supporting the regime and so on. And it seems – this whole process – the Syrian people’s will, so to speak, has been really marginalized.

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to dispute the fact that the Syrian people do not have an adequate voice in their future right now. How many of you seen the video today – the photos of that little boy? Now, he’s about five years old.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: So my – by my figuring, that little boy has never known a day of his life where there hasn’t been war, death, destruction, poverty in his own country, and you can’t – you don’t have to be a dad – but I am – and you can’t but help and look at that and see that that’s the real face of what’s going on in Syria, and that we all have to pull together to try to reach a better outcome. And this notion that you – that so many people are involved now and it’s very complicated, we agree. It’s one of the reasons why the Secretary is so frustrated by what’s going on on the ground in Syria, and that’s why he continues to urge Russia to work with him on a set of proposals that we agreed to in Moscow and that our teams are still trying to work out to try to get the cessation of hostilities to be more enforceable across the wide expanse of Syria in an enduring way so that we don’t have to look at any more images like the one of that young boy today out of Aleppo.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: My last question on this, on this issue. Your counterpart, Maria Zakharova, today said that you are getting at a critical point – your Russian counterpart. They hold a weekly press conference. She said that you’re getting very close to arriving at something regarding Aleppo and regarding a ceasefire. Can you share with us anything in that --

MR KIRBY: I would agree with her to the extent that we continue to have meaningful conversations about trying to reach agreement on the technicalities of these proposals. I’m not going to be predictive here in terms of outcome or when that outcome might be arrived at, but those discussions are ongoing. And they’re, again, proposals that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry both agreed to some weeks ago in Moscow. We are still committed to having those discussion and those negotiations and to trying to get those proposals agreed to.

QUESTION: Just on the five-year mark issue – then I’ll defer to the broader questions about Syria – presidents in historical terms are judged in large measure on whether they were seen to be shaping events or were, in fact, continually responding to them. And here we had the commander-in-chief, the leader of the free world, saying that this tin-pot dictator across the world must go. He didn’t say just that he should step aside. He said Assad’s days are numbered, Assad must go. And five years later, he’s still there. Doesn’t that indicate an inability on the part of this president to shape events to his own satisfaction?

MR KIRBY: No, James, I don’t think that at all. So first of all, I mean, I’m no historian, but you’re right; presidents are often measured by what proactively they’re able to accomplish, but they’re also measured by what they respond to and how they react. And the world keeps turning, and our enemies get votes, and things happen that require a measure of responsiveness. And the President has acted assertively here, and it was – we were able to get the great – the great majority of the stockpile of chemical material out of Syria through negotiations, not through force.

There’s no doubt that by making a concerted decision to act inside Syria militarily we have put much more pressure on a group like Daesh there and supported those forces on the ground that could be competent against them. And the President has supported and endorsed a diplomatic approach that – the one that Secretary Kerry is pursuing to try to bring about a political solution from the outset. And I read a comment briefly – a comment from what he said five years ago. From the very beginning he’s been talking about a diplomatic political solution here, that there’s not going to be a military solution to the civil war in Syria. So he has been consistent on that, and we have been consisted and concerted in trying to pursue that outcome.

QUESTION: Kirby, when the President said that five years ago, I think the death toll was maybe 2,000, 3,000. It’s now maybe 500,000. So how do you argue that that’s assertive action when he lays out an ideal kind of situation where the Syrian president will leave and five years later that hasn’t happened, but what has happened is hundreds of times more deaths than when he said that?

MR KIRBY: Yeah. No, look, everybody is cognizant of the death and destruction there, Brad, and nobody is happy --

QUESTION: Is that not failure, though, utter failure?

MR KIRBY: It is – it is a failure of Bashar al-Assad. It is Bashar al-Assad who’s been killing his own people – hang on a second --

QUESTION: It’s a success of Assad. He wanted to kill those people. It’s a failure of the people who wanted to stop him.

MR KIRBY: It is a failure of whatever notion of leadership Bashar al-Assad once thought he had, any legitimacy to govern that he thought he had. He lost that. And now I’m not – and nobody – and you shouldn’t take away from anything I’m saying that we’re just – that we’re blithely standing by, ignorant of and uncaring of the suffering of the Syrian people. The United States still leads the way in terms of humanitarian assistance and support for those Syrians that are fleeing the country. We’re getting close now to the President’s goal of bringing in 10,000 here into the United States. We’re leading the efforts. It was the United States who put together – Secretary Kerry put together the International Syria Support Group and who led the way to get a UN Security Council resolution in place to enact, to put in place a cessation of hostilities. Not every actor in this has acted with the same overarching positive goals for what we want Syria to become.

QUESTION: All right. Well, be that as it may, let me just ask you about the news of the day then. The 48-hour pause that’s been suggested --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- by the Russian military – do you support that? And are you confident --

MR KIRBY: We would support any diminution in the violence. We would support any efforts that would prevent more people from suffering, such as that little boy.

QUESTION: Are you in – sorry --

MR KIRBY: That said – that said, Brad – and I’ve said this before – we really believe it’s important to get beyond temporary, ephemeral, and localized ceasefires. Now, we’re not going to turn up our nose at a genuine effort to stop the bombing, even if it is just for 48 hours. But that’s not the long-term answer, and that’s not what we’re trying to pursue here. That’s why, again, it’s important for Russia to work with us, our teams to work together, to try to come to agreement on the technicalities of these proposals – which, if, as the Secretary said, fully implemented in good faith, could allow the cessation of hostilities to be expanded across the country.

QUESTION: Do you have any assurances from Russia that if this pause were to come into effect, that that would even mean the humanitarian convoys getting into Aleppo and other besieged areas? I’m sure you saw that the special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, kind of walked out of the meeting today.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, no. I think that’s a measure of his frustration too and where we’re going here with these – with the fact the humanitarian assistance is not getting where it needed to be. It has always been a staple of our discussions with the Russians, and quite frankly, with anybody else involved in the effort on Syria, that humanitarian assistance and access has got to be provided. So it is part of – it is absolutely part and parcel of the discussions that we’re having with the Russians right now.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any assurance yet that this new window that’s being talked about would include that?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen anything specific about this window with respect to humanitarian access. But Brad, more importantly, that’s got to be – that’s a baseline need. That’s not – now look, if that comes as a part of the 48-hour ceasefire, again, we’re not going to turn up our nose at that. That’s a good thing. But it’s got to be and always has been in our view a foundational element. You have to have it across the board every day, and that hasn’t been the case. The regime has been throwing up obstacles, preventing convoys from reaching, or stealing medicine out of them routinely.

QUESTION: And then lastly, your planning note on the trip had it kind of abruptly ending in Saudi. Is there any chance the Secretary then flies on to Geneva to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov --

MR KIRBY: I don’t --

QUESTION: -- and talks about Syria thereafter?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have --

QUESTION: Or will it be a direct flight home?

MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) I do not have anything additional on the Secretary’s schedule to speak to today.

QUESTION: Syria?

MR KIRBY: Syria?

QUESTION: Also on Syria.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Everybody’s on Syria? You’re on Turkey. We’re going to stay on Syria. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Rio.

MR KIRBY: You were on Syria?

QUESTION: No, North Korea.

MR KIRBY: Oh, North Korea. No, I’m not getting to that right now.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. So today the U.S.-backed YPG rebels in Syria were bombed by the Assad regime. It was reported by Reuters and other news agencies as well. Do you have any reaction to this?

MR KIRBY: I’ve seen those reports. I can’t confirm them. I’m not in a position to do that right now. I think you know that’s difficult for me to do on the same day as – when operations occur. But obviously, we’re taking it seriously and we’re looking at it.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, there were videos of the attacks on the rebels by multiple news outlets. You can confirm later. But if actually --

MR KIRBY: Thank you.

QUESTION: -- they came under attack, would the United States do anything? Because these are the rebels that you’ve trained, you’ve provided – you’ve sent U.S. soldiers to train and advise and assist them. Would you do anything about it?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into a hypothetical situation on an attack I can’t confirm right now. You’re right; we do provide some measure of support to some opposition groups inside Syria, and that support continues today. But I’m not going to hypothesize about military outcomes one way or the other. I’d refer you to my colleagues at the Defense Department. Obviously, if it’s true, it’s a clear violation of the cessation of hostilities, and it’s one that we’re going to continue to try to work on. I just don’t have a better answer for you than that today.

QUESTION: Also on Syria.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So you mentioned a couple times now this – these images that have gone viral of this young boy. Do you know whether the Secretary has had a chance to review that video and what his, sort of, thoughts were on this?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know. I’ve not spoken to the Secretary about the video, so I can’t confirm for you that he’s actually seen it. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. And then sort of beyond any talks of a particular agreement with Russia for a 48-hour ceasefire, why is there not being given more consideration to providing some sort of direct U.S. Government humanitarian assistance to the people in Aleppo and sort of stepping up what the U.S. Government is doing on a humanitarian level to assist people there, just given the level of crisis that we’re now at?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, we’re the largest donor for humanitarian assistance for people in need in Syria. This is – the delivery has been, and we believe important to continue to be, led by the UN. And we support the humanitarian process, assistance in Syria through the UN, but it is the UN that has in the past taken the lead on that, and we think that that’s appropriate.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s appropriate for any further agreements with Russia to be preconditioned on them stopping strikes in and around Aleppo?

MR KIRBY: Again, we’re in a set of serious discussions right now with Russian counterparts about Aleppo specifically, but also about trying to get these proposals in place for a nationwide cessation of hostilities that can actually be enforced. And that means that the regime isn’t killing innocent civilians and isn’t going after opposition groups, and frankly, it also means that the opposition groups are not going to be overtly attacking the regime.

So we know we have responsibilities in that regard, as do other nations who have influence over those opposition groups. And we also know that Russia has an obligation here, that they have influence over Assad, that when they have chosen to use it in the past has worked, and when they don’t choose to use that influence, obviously we see scenes such as what we’re seeing out of Aleppo.

So if you’re asking me is there a precondition to the – to stopping the violence, absolutely there is. And that has to be, first and foremost, the regime stopping the killing and maiming of innocent civilians.

QUESTION: And then last one, a little bit different. There’s some reports out there that another American citizen was killed near Manbij fighting with the YPG. Do you have anything on that?

MR KIRBY: I’ve seen reports of it, but I don’t have any information on that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Iran?

QUESTION: Now, you began by condemning today’s PKK terrorism in Turkey, and the PKK attacks now seem to be escalating and becoming more bloody. But at the same time, the Turkish Government is using a heavy hand against peaceful Kurdish political activity, including the indictment last week of Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the HDP, the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament. What is your view of this? Do you think that Ankara might be making a serious mistake in denying Turkish Kurds a democratic alternative to the PKK?

MR KIRBY: Well, as I said, we did condemn the violence there in Turkey, and I have seen the reports about Mr. Demirtas, and we are following that issue, that very specific issue. As we said before, we’re concerned by the aggressive use of judicial inquiries to curb free speech and political discourse in Turkey. And we support – have and always will support – freedom of expression there, and we’re going to continue to oppose any action to encroach on the right to free speech.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: I have a quote here. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, quote, “It seems to us that NATO members behave in an evasive fashion on issues such as the exchange of technology and joint investments. Turkey intends to develop its own defense industry and strengthen its defense system. In this sense, if Russia were to treat with – this with interest, we are ready to consider the possibility of cooperation in this sector,” end quote. Is there – is that a fair criticism of NATO, and do you think it is a good idea for the NATO ally to cooperate with Russia in the defense sector?

MR KIRBY: Well, there’s a lot there. First of all, I haven’t seen those comments, but let’s put that aside for a minute. Turkey remains a NATO ally and an important partner in the fight against Daesh, and we expect both those relationships, those multilateral relationships, to continue. I can’t speak for NATO, but the United States, as a member of NATO, has every expectation that Turkey’s membership in the alliance will continue and continue to be important to alliance operations around the world.

As for a change or modifications to the bilateral relationship between Turkey and Russia, that’s between them. And there’s certainly no prohibition against that. There’s no reason for anybody to be concerned. We’re certainly not concerned that – if Turkey and Russia are going to work out a new or different bilateral relationship, based on security and defense issues. That’s for them to decide.

We still value Turkey’s membership in the alliance. We still value Turkey’s membership and contributions as part of the coalition against Daesh. And as I said, we’re going to continue to look for ways to see that deepen and strengthen.

QUESTION: Cavusoglu also described Turkey as being treated as, quote/unquote, a second – by the U.S. and NATO as quote/unquote, “a second-class country.” We hear U.S. officials say Turkey is a strong ally, and there seems to be a disconnect between what U.S. officials say and what the Turkish leadership expresses. Why the disconnect?

MR KIRBY: Well, I can’t explain – first of all, again, I haven’t seen those comments, so I’m not going to speak to the veracity of them. If there are views inside Turkey that there’s some disconnect, they can speak to that. What I can tell you from our perspective is what I said before – they’re a valued ally and a partner and a friend, and we want to continue to see Turkey succeed. We want to see Turkey’s contributions in the international community on many levels – not just the security sector, but on many levels – continue. And so we’re going to work to that end.

QUESTION: Over the past many months, Turkey has accused the U.S. of all kinds of things, including supporting terrorists, including siding with coup plotters. Do you think this is business as usual, or has something changed?

MR KIRBY: What business as usual?

QUESTION: Turkey making all these accusations. And does this sound like business as usual? Because it sounds like you’re trying to say that everything is normal, but --

MR KIRBY: I didn’t everything is normal. I said they remain a key ally, partner, and friend, and that hasn’t changed. I mean, that’s just a fact.

QUESTION: What has changed?

MR KIRBY: That’s – well, what’s changed is Turkey’s under a little bit of stress right now, having faced a failed coup attempt. And we’ve already addressed our concerns about some of the rhetoric coming out from some Turkish leaders about the role of the West or the role of the United States, and we’ve obviously flatly rejected any insinuation or allegation that the United States had anything to do with that. Again, Turkey’s a friend and an ally, and we’re going to continue to look for ways to make that partnership continue to grow. But we’re not doing it with a blind eye here. We understand that there are – there’s a lot of stressors in Turkey right now. We want – because we want Turkey to succeed, we’re not afraid – when we see things that concern us about judicial processes and about freedom of the press, we’re not afraid to state privately and publicly our concerns, because Turkey’s future matters so much to us.

QUESTION: Iran?

QUESTION: More on Turkey?

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: One more on Turkey.

QUESTION: One more on Turkey. What is your reaction to Gulen’s latest comments, likening – sorry – Erdogan’s latest comments likening Gulenists, or followers of Gulen, to those of Daesh?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, as I’ve made a practice of doing in the past, I’m not going to respond to every single issue raised publicly out of Turkey. I hadn’t seen the comments by the foreign minister. And while I’ve seen those comments, I’m not going to respond to every sentence that’s uttered out of Turkish leaders.

What we think would be most helpful is that we move beyond issues of rhetoric and try to look for ways to keep the cooperation and the relationship strong with Turkey. We have already and repeatedly condemned the coup attempt. We understand Turkey has an obligation to look after its own security. What we’ve said then and what we continue to say now is that we want Turkey to do that in a way that is in keeping with international law and their own obligations and fair judicial processes. So again, I’m not going to respond to every statement.

QUESTION: It’s a pretty strong accusation to say the United States is harboring someone like a Daesh leader.

MR KIRBY: I think you know our position on their concerns over Mr. Gulen. I think you also know well and we’ve made clear our position about what happened in the failed coup and the responsibility for it. I don’t have anything more to add to that.

QUESTION: In fairness to Suzanne, you’re not being asked to comment on every statement out of Turkish leaders, just the ones we ask you about. But in any case --

MR KIRBY: They’re the ones I’m not going to respond to. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Iran, one assumes that you’re familiar with the latest Wall Street Journal report concerning the payment of the 400 million to Iran. Is there anything in The Wall Street Journal story that you dispute on factual grounds?

MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) Look, rather than getting up here, as much as I’m sure you’d love for me to pick apart every media story --

QUESTION: It’s a very simple question. Is there anything you say is untrue in that story?

MR KIRBY: What I would like to do is respond to it this way, okay, because I’ve seen the article. So let me just – let me address this whole issue of timing this way. We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24-hour period – and oh, by the way, you can go back and look at your own work that was done back then, and you’ll see that we were completely above board about this. Even the President himself talked about the timing. We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24-hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement of an outstanding Hague Tribunal claim which saved American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars.

As we said at the time, we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously. It’s already publicly known that we returned to Iran its $400 million in that same time period as part of The Hague settlement agreement. With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.

QUESTION: So there was – hold on.

QUESTION: Just to return to my question, is there anything in The Wall Street Journal story that you dispute on factual grounds?

MR KIRBY: You’d have to – look, I don’t have the article in front of me so I’m not going to go through line by line.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to do that.

MR KIRBY: I know you --

QUESTION: I’m just saying you read the thing. If there’s something leapt out at you that you said, “Well, that’s untrue,” you would be in a position to tell us, wouldn’t you?

MR KIRBY: James, I think I’ve characterized the central finding of the story, which was that – that the payment of the 400 million was not done until after the prisoners were released. I’m not disputing that.

QUESTION: Why weren’t you able to tell us that 10 days ago when I myself asked the question, “Can you at least assure us that those prisoners were in the process of being released before that money touched down?”

MR KIRBY: As I said at the time, we weren’t in a position then and had no intention of getting into a tick-tock for every moment that happened in that 24-hour period. That’s what I answered your question at the time. I think it was me. And we answered your question at the time. That was – it was not – never our intention to have to do that. But you’re asking me about a press story that’s already been written about it that has more detail about it, so I’m providing some context with respect to that.

QUESTION: But you’re --

QUESTION: But you are – you are changing a little bit, because first you said that this was two separate diplomatic tracks. That’s what the White House said. That’s what the State Department said. Now you’re saying that it was used as leverage, which would --

QUESTION: Connect the two.

QUESTION: -- connect the two. Thank you, James. Connect them.

MR KIRBY: They were still – they were independent efforts.

QUESTION: But you were using one for leverage in --

MR KIRBY: They came together --

QUESTION: -- as a part of the other.

MR KIRBY: Well, they came together near simultaneously. And I think it would make sense, perfect sense, that when we’re in this moment that you --

QUESTION: It would. It does make sense.

MR KIRBY: If your top priority is to get your Americans out and you’re already having some issues about locating some of them, that you want to make sure that that release gets done before you complete that transaction.

QUESTION: So they’re connected.

MR KIRBY: No, they’re – they’re connected in the sense that they came together at the same time and we obviously were making a priority getting the Americans out. And frankly, I think if we had done it – if we had done it any differently, then I think you and I and James and I would be having a much different conversation up here, wouldn’t we?

QUESTION: The payment was contingent on their release --

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is --

QUESTION: Right?

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is that because we had concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release, given unnecessary delays already regarding some persons in Iran as well as some mutual mistrust, we, of course, naturally, and should be held to task if we didn’t, sought to retain maximum leverage until after the Americans were released. That was our top priority.

QUESTION: How – can you connect the dots for me? How does the withholding of the cash give you the kind of leverage you were seeking?

MR KIRBY: We felt that it would be imprudent not to consider that some leverage in trying to make sure that our Americans got out.

QUESTION: So if it has leverage on the release of the Americans, then there’s a direct connection between these two events, you’re now telling us, right?

MR KIRBY: I’m saying the events came together simultaneously. But obviously, when you’re inside that 24-hour period and you already now have concerns about the endgame in terms of getting your Americans out, it would have been foolish, imprudent, irresponsible, for us not to try to maintain maximum leverage. So if you’re asking me was there a connection in that regard at the endgame, I’m not going to deny that.

QUESTION: Was there a sense --

QUESTION: So wait, hold on. So getting away from the word “leverage,” which is – in basic English, you’re saying that you wouldn’t give them the 400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?

MR KIRBY: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Rio?

QUESTION: Is it because the U.S. knew that the Iranians wanted that money at any cost?

MR KIRBY: I’m not – I can’t get inside the Iranian brain here. First of all, remember, it’s their – it was their $400 million --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: -- that had been awarded to them by The Hague tribunal.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: So let’s make that clear.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: And because we already had concerns about the endgame in terms of getting our people out, we didn’t want to take any chances. And so we believed that as much leverage as could be had, we wanted to have. We wanted to keep as much leverage as possible. We believed that holding up that delivery was prudent, and we have released Americans now, I think, to – we can’t – we’ll never know for sure, but at least we got those – we got those people home.

QUESTION: How much time did it take?

MR KIRBY: And there’s no apologies for that whatsoever.

QUESTION: Yeah. And wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that a ransom is paid and then you get the people back, and not the reverse, which is what happened in this case?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, we don’t pay ransom, Ros.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: This isn’t – this wasn’t a case of ransom. And again, I need to remind you all, while maybe the – a little bit of the tick-tock here that’s dripping out you might find new and salacious. There’s really nothing new here in the story about how we got those Americans out and how we leveraged opportunities here that were coming together at the same time. You can go back and look at the President’s comments and the Secretary’s comments when all of this happened. There were opportunities here that we took advantage of and, as a result, we were able to get American citizens back home.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m not disputing that – your characterization that this wasn’t ransom. It’s just that my traditional understanding of ransom was someone is holding someone hostage, says, “Give me money, I’ll give you the person.” The money is handed over, the person is then returned. The opposite happened in this case --

MR KIRBY: This was --

QUESTION: -- which is the U.S. citizens were allowed to leave Iran, and then the money from the separate settlement was then transferred.

MR KIRBY: And then their $400 million were --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: -- was provided to them.

QUESTION: So --

MR KIRBY: I don’t know how --

QUESTION: That doesn’t sound like a quid pro quo at all, John.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s – that was my point. Beyond saying there’s no ransom, you’ve said several times – a lot of people from different podiums in this government have said there was no quid pro quo. What you just described is by definition a quid pro quo, is it not?

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: How is it not? You said they would not get the money until they were released – quid, quo.

MR KIRBY: Thank you for the Latin expert. (Laughter.) The Latin lesson, the Latin lesson.

QUESTION: I mean, what is that – what am I missing in the quid pro quo that you have just outlined?

MR KIRBY: Brad, they were going to get this money anyway because The Hague tribunal decided that they were going to get their money back. And --

QUESTION: No, they hadn’t decided that.

MR KIRBY: There was a negotiation inside The Hague tribunal that they were going to recover the $400 million principal and then some interest that we negotiated, which saved the taxpayers a lot of money. That process was moving forward and it was moving forward on an independent track.

Separately and distinctly, we were also in talks with them about getting our Americans back. That was also done by a different team and moving forward. These two tracks came together in a very finite period of time. And it would have been – given the fact that Iran hadn’t proved completely trustworthy in the past, it would have been imprudent and irresponsible for us to not – since we knew this payment was coming and coming soon, to not hold it up until we made sure we had our Americans out.

QUESTION: Which is why everyone called it a quid pro quo at the beginning, and you disputed that. So I don’t quite understand how that changes anything. You’re saying it would have been imprudent not to link the payment – the delivery of the money – to the release of the prisoners, but you’re saying the delivery of the money wasn’t a quid pro quo related to the release of the prisoners because there’s a backstory.

MR KIRBY: Because The Hague Tribunal had decided, the negotiation had been settled – that process was moving forward and would have moved forward regardless. But because it all happened in a short period of time, yes, we took advantage of that to make sure we had the maximum leverage possible to get our people out and to get them out safely.

QUESTION: So it was a quid pro quo.

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: You took advantage of it and you made it a quid pro quo.

MR KIRBY: We took advantage of leverage that we thought we could have to make sure that they got out safely and efficiently.

QUESTION: So you were holding the Iranians’ money hostage.

MR KIRBY: No, James.

QUESTION: They paid the ransom.

MR KIRBY: No, James. It’s their money. It’s their money.

QUESTION: Because they released the prisoners.

MR KIRBY: They were going to get it anyway.

QUESTION: Would you at least agree, John --

MR KIRBY: But look, guys, we had to – if we hadn’t done that and if for some reason the Iranians did play games and we didn’t get the Americans out and we hadn’t tried to use that leverage, then I can understand the disdain and the criticism here. But this was a sound decision made in the endgame of two separate negotiation tracks.

QUESTION: I’m making no value judgment on the decision. I’m just trying to get you to say what it is, which is very simple, and --

MR KIRBY: I have described what it is for the last 15 minutes. I haven’t used the Latin phrase that you like --

QUESTION: You haven’t for the last – you haven’t – you have not --

MR KIRBY: -- but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t described what happened.

QUESTION: Listen, this happened in January, and this is the first time you’ve ever said flat out that they wouldn’t get the money until the prisoners were released. That took – let’s count it – what, seven months? Why all the beating around the bush if it was such a great and noble decision?

MR KIRBY: The only reason that we’re having this discussion is because of the press coverage, Brad. We’ve said all along --

QUESTION: So evil reporters have made you dredge this up?

MR KIRBY: No, I’ve never called you guys evil. I’ve called you other things, but never evil.

QUESTION: I mean, you can’t blame press coverage because you didn’t say what this was seven months ago.

MR KIRBY: We did describe it seven months ago, Brad. Did we go through the --

QUESTION: You did not say it was contingent – this was contingent on that, and now you’re saying --

MR KIRBY: Did we – we said --

QUESTION: -- flatly out that this was – this payment was contingent on the release of the prisoners.

MR KIRBY: I said – I said it was --

QUESTION: You did not say that in January.

MR KIRBY: I said this was – as I said before, we of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.

QUESTION: John, you said that – that everyone all along at all points has been completely above board about this, but you would agree that what you’re telling us today represents a new factual disclosure from the Administration, does it not?

MR KIRBY: I certainly would agree that this particular fact is not something that we’ve talked about in the past, but the – but if you go back and look at the press coverage, your own coverage of this when it happened, nobody made any bones about the fact that these two process were coming together at the same time and we took advantage of the opportunity we had with the closure of the nuke deal, with The Hague Tribunal, and with talks to get our Americans back – we took full advantage of that. And I don’t think anybody in the Administration is going to make any apology for having taken advantage of those opportunities to get these Americans home.

QUESTION: And would you agree that a reasonable observer could look upon a situation in which cash is withheld until prisoners are released as something akin to ransom?

MR KIRBY: Well, an observer, whoever he or she may be, can look at this however they want. I’ve described now over the last 10 or 15 minutes what happened and what our thought process was going through that, and I’ll let others decide for themselves.

I got to get going here, guys.

QUESTION: Okay. So we need to – sorry, just before we go, then, can we talk about Rio? Do you want to – and the U.S. swimmers. Do you have any statement you would like to provide? What’s the latest? Are you encouraging Brazilian authorities to let go – let the U.S. swimmers leave the country?

MR KIRBY: Look, I – as much as I know you’d love me to talk specifics on this case, I can’t do that, Justin, out of privacy considerations. I’m just not at liberty to discuss this. This is for the parties to work out. I’ve seen the press coverage of it, but I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to give you much more than that. As I think you know, we have a consulate in Rio; we have trained consular officers there – around the world – and their job is to help us look after the safety and security of Americans overseas. That’s about as far as I can go.

QUESTION: Have they had consular contact?

MR KIRBY: I’m afraid I just can’t go into any more specifics about this case.

QUESTION: Based on the press coverage alone, which is in depth – I mean, these guys apparently – the Brazilians are saying publicly that Lochte and the swimmers lied about being robbed. Does that – are you worried that that is some sort of embarrassment to the U.S. participation in these games and --

MR KIRBY: Again, I’ve seen press coverage of this evolving case, and I’m not going to comment or characterize it one way or the other. I just can’t do that.

I got time for one more.

QUESTION: Beyond the consular angle of this, can you say whether there have been diplomatic conversations between U.S. diplomats on the ground in Rio and their counterparts, their Brazilian counterparts?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any. I’m not aware.

QUESTION: Please can I get one on Asia?

MR KIRBY: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. The Korean defense ministry spokesperson said earlier today in a press briefing that they are aware that North Korea has started reprocessing their spent fuel into plutonium. Do you have a reaction, and do you have any update on what the U.S. assessment is?

MR KIRBY: I think my colleague talked about this yesterday. I mean, we’ve seen the reports. I’m not in a position to confirm them one way or the other. If true, it’s obviously a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and clearly flies in the face of the DPRK’s international obligations, and we would urge them to fulfill those obligations immediately.

Thanks. Appreciate it, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:36 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 17, 2016

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 17:06

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 17, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:07 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Hey folks. Happy Wednesday.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: It is Wednesday, right?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: It’s happy, too.

MR TONER: Yes, I’ve – anyway. Welcome to the State Department. I don’t have anything at the top, so Brad?

QUESTION: Could we start off – yesterday you said that the call between the Secretary and the Russian foreign minister was – had just briefly ended and you didn’t have a full readout. Do you have a more complete readout today?

MR TONER: I mean, I guess – thanks for the question. So the call did take place yesterday. I mean, the focus was on – not surprisingly – how do we get past the current challenges in our efforts with Russia to coordinate on a credible nationwide ceasefire, access to humanitarian assistance, and getting the Geneva talks back up and running. So we’ve been very clear about not getting too much into the details of what those remaining challenges are. The Secretary has addressed this before in – as have we, myself and John. But that was really the focus of the conversation was there – we continue to talk with Russia, we continue to work through some of the issues that we have, some of our concerns. And indeed, they have concerns as well that they can speak to or not. But that was the focus of the conversation.

QUESTION: Yesterday you guys were a bit befuddled by the --

MR TONER: A bit --

QUESTION: -- befuddled --

MR TONER: Befuddled.

QUESTION: Or confused by the Russian decision to start undertaking missions from Iran. Did you get clarity from that telephone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov about the intent and the purpose of the – these missions?

MR TONER: Well, I mean – sorry, I didn’t mean cut you off there.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR TONER: I think – I mean, it was raised. I’m not going to necessarily get into the details of what Foreign Minister Lavrov said about it. But you’ve seen public remarks by Russia as to why they’re pursuing this agreement or this arrangement with Iran. Yesterday we said, we’re looking for – or we’re looking at it, we’re trying to get a better assessment of what’s going on. But I stand by what I said yesterday, which is that fundamentally this isn’t helpful. And it’s not helpful because it continues to complicate what is already a very dangerous situation in and around Aleppo when you have Russia using Iranian air bases as a way to carry out more intensive bombing runs that are hitting, continue to hit, civilian populations. And so our concerns remain very vivid, and we’re trying to remain focused on – specifically with Aleppo, but on a broader scale trying to get a cessation of hostilities back in place in Syria, and this doesn’t help it.

But more broadly, Brad, this is not – we understand the importance and the significance of them using Iranian air bases. But Iran – or rather, Russia has been doing this kind of – or have been carrying out these kinds of airstrikes for months now. So that element of it is not new. The fact of the matter is it’s only exacerbating what is already a very dangerous situation.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke directly to you, Mr. Deputy Spokesman Toner, about your comment yesterday that this use of Iranian – of an Iranian air base may have violated the UNSCR 2231. What is your view now that you guys have had another day of assessment?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, let me first just qualify by it’s not my view. We have lawyers who are looking at it and trying to assess it, and they continue to do so. We don’t – I don’t have a definitive assessment. I think they’re looking at it.

But regardless, just to focus on process, I mean, for the Security Council to determine whether an action is a violation of one of its sanctions, it would need to, I think, agree to some kind of language determining that a violation has occurred. And all of – any of that language, Russia would have a chance to make its case that it’s not. I mean, we know how the Security Council works. So regardless of --

QUESTION: But here has – yeah.

MR TONER: -- whether we or other members of the Security Council, the Permanent Five members, raise concerns or raise concerns that this might be a violation, Russia will have ample opportunity to make its case that it’s not.

QUESTION: That has no bearing on whether you consider it a --

MR TONER: Agree, agree.

QUESTION: When there’s been many cases --

MR TONER: I agree with that.

QUESTION: -- with only at Iran with ballistic missiles, where you insist that it is your view that it is a violation.

MR TONER: I agree. I’m just saying that --

QUESTION: Do you – in this case, do you view it as a --

MR TONER: We just haven’t reached that assessment yet.

QUESTION: Okay. I just have one or two more on this.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. Go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: On Syria.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: The secretary-general of the UN warned that Aleppo could become a catastrophe. I think he’s used this language a lot of times before, but regardless, he called specifically on the U.S. and Russia to agree on the ceasefire as soon as possible. What’s the holdup?

MR TONER: Well, we want to get there, but that doesn’t mean conceding to a bad arrangement. We have certain issues that we want resolved before we can enter into that kind of coordination mechanism with Russia. We’ve been very clear about that. We believe we can get there and we continue to work at it. But to speak to the UN secretary-general’s comments, you’re right; he said it before and we’ve said it before; we need full humanitarian access immediately, yesterday, two days ago, a week ago, and we don’t have it. What we have seen are half-steps and half-measures by Russia, opening three-hour corridors or three-hour windows where humanitarian assistance can be delivered that frankly the UN has said doesn’t work. So we are equally alarmed by the worsening situation in Aleppo. I don’t think anybody cannot be. And we need to and we want to get to a place where we can get the violence in and around Aleppo to cease.

QUESTION: My very last one.

MR TONER: Please. Yeah, go ahead, Brad.

QUESTION: Are you open to a ceasefire with Russia that doesn’t include all this stuff about military coordination, military partnership?

MR TONER: Well, that’s a --

QUESTION: People will die in the meantime if you keep negotiating.

MR TONER: No, I understand what you’re saying. I think I understand what you’re saying. I think, I mean we’ve done this before where we’ve looked at pauses or whatever we – however they’re referred to or characterized as. I think that’s always on the table if we can get some kind of preliminary pause before we reach a broader agreement or a way forward on coordinating, of course, we’d pursue that.

QUESTION: Mark, just a quick follow-up on this.

MR TONER: I’ll get you next.

QUESTION: How is this bombardment from the base in Iran violates 2231? How does it violate it? In what sense?

MR TONER: Well, again, I don’t want to get into --

QUESTION: My understanding is that --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- is that that involves deliveries of arms to Iran, or weapons and so on.

MR TONER: Yeah, I mean, it’s a bit more nuanced and complicated than that.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: And I understand your – I don’t have the language in front of me, but it’s a bit more nuanced and complicated. It involves sometimes allowing certain weaponry or – to be used or housed in Iran. Again, I don’t have the language in front of me, but it’s very nuanced and it’s very complex, which is why I just told Brad we’re looking at it, we’re assessing it, and we’re assessing whether this would constitute a violation. And if we do so, then there’s a process in place that we would take it to the UN Security Council, and then that process would play itself out where every member of the UN Security Council would be able to weigh in whether they agree with that or not. So we’re just not there yet.

QUESTION: So, but as long as it is not in Iranian hands or Iranian possession, it is not a violation, is it?

MR TONER: I’m sorry, one more time the question?

QUESTION: My question is: As long as the Russians obviously control all these airplanes and they probably control the area from which they bomb and so on, as long as it is not in Iranian hands, is it a violation? I’m trying to understand.

MR TONER: Yeah. No, and I agree. As I said, I just don’t have – I think that’s what we’re looking at right now and our lawyers are looking at it. We haven’t made an assessment. We’re looking at it. And it does require a very detailed legal analysis whether there was a violation. And again, it’s not just – as I understand it, it’s not just supplying the Iranians certain weapons or certain offensive weaponry. It’s more complex than that whether you’re using it – I can get you the language. I mean, you have it in front of you, no doubt. But --

QUESTION: And my last question is: Why do you think, in your view or your assessment, why do the Russians – why are they using an Iranian base when, in fact, they have Khmeimim that is housing many airplanes and they can bomb from there? Is there a political message, really a solidification of this --

MR TONER: No, and there’s – sure.

QUESTION: -- Iranian-Russian alliance?

MR TONER: The short answer, Said, is I don’t know and we don’t know. The – we’ve seen Russian politicians and officials say that this is part of a cost-saving measure that allows them to move closer to the attack. That’s really for them to try to characterize what their intentions are here. Again, I would just go back to what I said in response to Brad’s question. The Russians have been using their bases in Syria to carry out similar attacks for months now. And so while I don’t want to in any way underplay the significance of them using Iranian air bases as they are, I would just – I think it’s important to remember that they’ve been carrying out similar airstrikes that have purported to target Daesh and ISIL, but in a large number of cases hit indiscriminately civilian targets, civilian – civilians themselves, as well as – we talked about yesterday – moderate Syrian opposition groups, all of which only complicates and exacerbates an already difficult situation and leaves us nowhere closer to what we need to get in place in Syria.

QUESTION: On this question?

QUESTION: Well, I --

MR TONER: I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: I have one quick one on that.

MR TONER: Yeah --

QUESTION: Just following up on --

MR TONER: Get it out of the way then. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- what Brad was asking yesterday --

MR TONER: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: -- is have you considered any further how this arrangement – Russian arrangement with Iran will affect any potential military cooperation with Russia? I mean, is this something you can truly engage in if they are in fact cooperating with Iran at such a level?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, again, I would just pivot back to what I said before, which is that – so Russia and Iran are both members of the ISSG, this International Syria Support Group. They’re also – and it’s no surprise to anyone; we’ve all known that they’ve been longtime supporters of Assad and the regime. Heck, Iran’s been active on the ground, troops on the ground, in Iran – in Syria, rather – for a long time. So again, I don’t want to --

QUESTION: So for all those reasons, why would you cooperate with Russia militarily?

MR TONER: Well, I think, again, part of the operating assumption with the ISSG is that you bring all the quote/unquote “stakeholders” with regard to Syria in the same room and you try to reach a consensus on a way forward. Everyone who has signed up to the ISSG has at least claimed to support a political solution and a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria. Now, every – now, many of the countries who sit on the ISSG have their own motives and their own positions on the way to get there, but that’s part of what we’re trying to do here through diplomacy is reach consensus and then move forward with that. That’s all we can do right now; that’s the mechanism we have in front of us. And so ultimately, and we’ve talked about this, if Iran and Russia continually prove – or continually – continue, rather, to disregard those efforts, then I think at some point we have to reach a different assessment. But at this point we’re not ready to go there yet.

QUESTION: Mark, on this issue.

MR TONER: Please, Michel.

QUESTION: Russian military spokesperson has said today – or has asked the State Department to check the content of UN Resolution 2231. And he said, “We suggest the representative of – the representatives of the State Department get out their pencils and trace the lines on the map to discover the fact that Syria is a separate sovereign state.” Do you have any comment on that?

MR TONER: I saw the quote, actually, and I would just – for the record, I would remind them that my name is Mark Toner, not Michael Toner. (Laughter.) Maybe it was just a bad translation. I don’t know. If what you’re asking me, Michel, is whether we have – what specifically is the question for us to answer is whether we – what --

QUESTION: Both to check the content of the UN Resolution 2231 and then that Syria is a separate sovereign country.

MR TONER: Well, I think the assertion is – and I hate to parse a Russian official’s language, but I think the assertion there is that we’re somehow carrying out military strikes in a sovereign nation, that we don’t have its approval. Is that the point? Because if that’s so, we’ve been very clear that we believe that we have the authorization – the legal authority, rather – to use military force against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria.

QUESTION: I think he means that Russia didn’t break the UN Resolution 2231.

MR TONER: I think he made – I think he was making two points with that. And look, I mean, with regard to the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, we’re assessing it. It’s very complicated. It is not clear-cut in the sense of they’re not – that it prohibits providing Iran with offensive weaponry. It has gradations, if you will, on what you can or cannot do with regard to providing or giving Iran offensive capabilities. And so we’re looking at it and we’re trying to make a sober assessment of whether this constitutes, in our view, a violation. We’re not there yet. So I would just ask everyone to be patient, and once we do reach an assessment of whether it is or isn’t, then we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And what about the other point – Syria as a sovereign country? Do you use your pencils --

MR TONER: Well, that’s – I was trying to answer that. I said we’ve been through this before where the accusation is that we’re somehow operating outside the bounds of international law. We disagree. We are operating both in our own national security interests but also in the region’s security interest in trying to carry out strikes against Daesh and against ISIL. Frankly, the regime thus far has been incapable of going after and handling this threat to their own national security thus far. And in fact, we’ve seen the regime, as much as they purport to be full-throatedly and wholeheartedly going after ISIL and Daesh, we’ve seen that they collaborate when it’s in their interest to do so.

QUESTION: My last question --

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: -- on Syria. Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani has denied today reports that Iran has made a military base available for the Russian forces, and he said that Iran has not made any base available for the Russians. The Russians have confirmed the use of Iran military base – air base. Who should we believe?

MR TONER: Honestly, Michel, that’s for the – that’s for them to work out between themselves. If there’s confusion or a disconnect there, we certainly wouldn’t speak to it.

QUESTION: But do you have any confirmation that the Russians are using military air bases in Iran?

MR TONER: I mean, we’ve talked about our assessment, and they’ve through the memorandum of understanding asked – as we talked about yesterday, asked for us – for overflight for Iraq. I’m not going to get into any more details that we might have that they are using Iranian air bases, but they have spoken to it. They have confirmed that they are doing so. The Iranians seem to differ, but I can’t make that determination here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Abigail.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to the Iraqi prime minister granting permission to Russia to allow to fly over Iraqi airspace? You had, I believe, mentioned yesterday – expressed concerns --

MR TONER: Yeah, I did, and I mean – look, we’ve – we’re in constant contact and dialogue with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi leadership, but ultimately they’re a sovereign country and they make their own decisions, and I wouldn’t attempt to speak to that.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: So Prime Minister Abadi has said a few things, like about the operation in Mosul. One, he seems to be concerned that the Peshmerga might take more territory from Mosul. He says the Peshmerga, quote/unquote, “shouldn’t pursue” ambitionist expansion – “expansionist ambitions.” What do you make of that?

MR TONER: Well, I would just say that we engage regularly with Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad to advocate and encourage a unified front in the face of the continuing threat of Daesh or ISIL, and in fact, we hold and have held joint planning sessions between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Barzani and the national security advisor for the Government of Iraq, and I think one took place last week. It was the second, I believe, of these meetings, and the intent here of those meetings is to try to build that kind of partnership and to work through some of the challenges as Iraqi forces writ large look towards the liberation of Mosul.

QUESTION: He has also said that, “No force” – I’m quoting him – “other than the ISF is allowed to enter Mosul city,” meaning that the Peshmerga is not allowed to enter Mosul city. Is that the understanding the United States has, that the Kurds shouldn’t be allowed to enter the city?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think that there just needs to be closer coordination between – and we’ve encouraged that and, indeed, it has taken place. Thus far, there have been these meetings as they look towards Mosul, and frankly, the next steps in liberating Iraq from ISIL. I think it’s absolutely important, and we’ve emphasized this all along, that the Peshmerga and all the various fighting groups in Iraq need to be under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi military. That’s been our assessment all along. There needs to be that coordination mechanism. But we certainly recognize, and we’ve said so many times, the vital role that these groups, including the Peshmerga, play and have played thus far and showed tremendous courage in liberating parts of Iraq that have been under the control of ISIL.

So I think what we’re talking about is better coordination, better communication between the Kurdish forces and the Iraqi Government, military.

QUESTION: But are you expecting to achieve that better coordination, better understanding --

MR TONER: We think we’re on the road there, yes.

QUESTION: -- before the actual operation begins on the city?

MR TONER: We – as I said, we’ve had this – these two joint meetings. We expect that coordination to continue, and through that mechanism we hope to address all these issues.

QUESTION: But on Russia, the question arose yesterday about whether Moscow intended a longer-term presence in Iran, and we discussed that and you didn’t quite – uncertain. And what I understand since is that Hamadan Air Base has been enhanced and expanded specifically for Russian use, including building four long-range – long runways for the Russian bombers. That, of course, took some months and speaks to planning for a significant longer-term presence.

So a series of questions. One, is that your view? And two, in yesterday’s raids, what did Russia attack? Did it attack Daesh targets or did it attack the civilians and moderate rebels, as the U.S. has complained before?

MR TONER: So in response to the first question, which I think is what’s Russia’s long-term plans with Iran or whether we have – whether this was a long-term planned operation, I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Well, do you have more – I have more information, so maybe you do as well, that the Hamadan Air Base, which Russia is using in Iran, was expanded and developed specifically for the use of these Tu-22 bombers, and that work – the enhancement and development, including the longer runways – speaks to an intent for some longer-term presence and not simply an occasional flight out of that air base. Is that your view as well?

MR TONER: Again, I wouldn’t necessarily respond to that. I don’t have that level of detail, frankly, but I think that’s a question for the Russians and the Iranians to answer.

Now, your second question was what was hit yesterday. I think I spoke to this yesterday, but I’ll repeat that, as per usual, there were ISIL targets hit, but as per usual, there were also civilian targets and also opposition – moderate opposition targets also hit. And again, that is indicative of a pattern that we’ve seen.

QUESTION: Can you say which was targeted more?

MR TONER: I can’t. I don’t have that kind of breakdown.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Mark --

MR TONER: Are we done with Syria or the region?

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: Syria.

MR TONER: Let’s finish and I’ll get to you. I promise. Yeah, please.

Go ahead in the back – Turkey? Wait, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR TONER: Where are we? Are we done with Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, Syria.

MR TONER: Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: One more Syria, then Turkey, and then Afghanistan.

QUESTION: The head of Kurdish National Council in Syria, Ibrahim Biro, was kidnapped last weekend by the PYD forces. And later on --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- he was forced to leave the country, and now he’s in Iraq. I was wondering if you are following the case.

MR TONER: I don’t. I’m aware of reports of the case. I just don’t have any more detail for you. I apologize.

Please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mark. Just yesterday, Ozgur Gundem newspaper – a pro-Kurdish newspaper – building was sealed and the newspaper is shut down. And about 14 journalists, maybe more, detained just yesterday, so it’s almost 100 journalists right now in Turkey sitting in the jails, and there are dozens of others also on detainment lists. I was wondering if you have any comments on this.

MR TONER: Well, I mean, I think we are always concerned, and we’ve been very clear about that, whenever we see an independent media outlet shut down. I think that we would encourage Turkey, as it takes these kind of steps in the security realm, to be mindful of the impact that that kind of action would have on its democratic institutions, one of which is a free and independent media.

Please, yeah.

QUESTION: There’s fighting going on between different factions of the Taliban after a U.S. drone strike killed Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour in May. Two factions emerged, one more hardline than the other. We’re now learning that the Taliban cracked further and a third splinter group emerged. How does this affect reconciliation prospects, if that is still the goal?

MR TONER: Well, I think it is, and we’ve said all along that this needs to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process. I mean, any time you’ve got various splinter groups emerging, that does make those efforts more complex, but that remains our overarching goal and what we view as really the long-term solution for Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability. But I don’t have an assessment of what the latest development might mean for prospects, but we continue to encourage those efforts.

I think that, that said, it has been a difficult fighting season in Afghanistan, and we’ve seen Afghans’ security forces thus far meet the challenge. But it’s also important to remember that they’re still under threat, there’s still a high level of violence, and that a large number of Taliban groups and factions continue to press the fight, and we need to continue our support to the Afghan military.

QUESTION: Why do you think the fractioning is going to make it more complex – reconciliation --

MR TONER: Well, again, I’m just – I mean, we can all provide our armchair assessment, but any time you’ve got a splintering of a group, then it’s harder to get consensus.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Do you hope – I have two more. I have two more.

MR TONER: Please, go ahead. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you hope as different Taliban factions fight each other, Taliban as a whole will get weaker?

MR TONER: Again, I think, frankly, our – I mean, anything that would weaken their ability to cause harm to innocent Afghan civilians we would welcome, but I think what our preference would be would be that these various – or some in the Taliban leadership would recognize that there is no long-term military solution to what they’re pursuing in Afghanistan, would lay down their arms; would adopt the constitution, accept it, and agree to sit down, as I said, in – as part of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

QUESTION: One more.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that ISIL may be taking advantage of the fractioning among the Taliban? Earlier this August, an Afghan general said over the past two months the Taliban had stopped fighting ISIL. Afghan officials are worried that the Taliban might be forging an informal alliance with ISIL in eastern Afghanistan. What is your assessment?

MR TONER: Well, I think our assessment is that we continue to see – we’ve talked about affiliates, different groups affiliating themselves with ISIL. But we’ve continued to see an effort on the part of ISIL – we’ve seen it in Libya and elsewhere, frankly – for it to expand or to reach out its tendrils, if you will, into different places that are ungoverned spaces, and certainly that’s true for Afghanistan. So we’re monitoring the presence of ISIL-affiliated groups very closely in Afghanistan. We’re actively engaged with the Government of Afghanistan and our partners in the region to prevent that from taking place. We don’t want to see them gain safe haven or material support from the Taliban or anyone.

QUESTION: One more follow.

QUESTION: Can I continue on Afghanistan?

MR TONER: Yeah, let’s do Goyal and then you. I’m sorry, Lalit.

QUESTION: Mark, the innocent people are the victims of these terrorists – terrorism in Afghanistan – and what they are asking now after so many years, they have not seen or had a good night’s sleep because of these terrorist activities. What they are asking from the United States and international community: when there will be a light in the darkness in their life, when they will have a good night’s sleep? And what’s the message for those innocent people?

MR TONER: Well, look --

QUESTION: I mean, what is the future of Afghanistan as far as they --

MR TONER: Well, we’re trying to – so let me just say the United States has made a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, and we’re going to help Afghanistan build a more stable, peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future. We have sacrificed in both blood and treasure to make that happen, and we’re going to continue to fulfill that commitment. And we stand firmly behind the democratically elected government. We commend President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah on the progress they’ve made in 18 months into a five-year term, but we want to continue to build on that progress. We want to work to increase the capability of Afghan Security Forces to provide for the security of the Afghan people, but it is a long, difficult road. But we’re certainly not going to abandon it.

QUESTION: One more, just a general question.

MR TONER: Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: General question. And that is that dozens of nations are fighting against these terrorists at ISIL, Taliban, or ISIS and all, among others. My question is have you – and they have no bases, they have no – they are not nations or countries. Have you reached those who are financing them and arming them, because we are – without financing or arming, they cannot fight against the innocent people.

MR TONER: It’s absolutely a challenge. We’ve seen it most recently with Daesh or ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Terrorist financing is a huge piece of solving the overall challenge of terrorism, because as you note, they need to have access to funds in order to operate. We have focused on that and we have made, frankly, great strides in choking off ISIL’s access to those funds. We did similarly well in cutting off al-Qaida’s access to funds, but it remains a challenge.

Please, Lalit.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: The unity government – the differences of the unity government now has come out in the open. To what extent this is affecting the war against Taliban in Afghanistan?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, look – you’re talking about Afghanistan, of course. We’ve seen Chief Executive Abdullah’s public remarks regarding President Ghani and the Government of National Unity, which is what I think you’re referring to. We remain supportive, as I just said, of a government of national unity. We encourage the president – both President Ghani, rather, and Chief Executive Abdullah to work together to pursue common goals, which is a prosperous, stable Afghanistan. We regularly consult with both of them, President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, and their key advisors as we work – as they work, rather, to implement what is a very difficult and ambitious domestic reform agenda. And we’re going to continue that support.

QUESTION: The unity government you know was formed as a result of Secretary Kerry’s trips to Afghanistan and his negotiations with these two leaders. Is he worried about such issue coming up two – nearly two years after the formation of the government, and he is making any effort to reach out to these two leaders?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, as I just said, we remain in very close touch with both leaders, both through our embassy but also from Washington as well. I think our assessment is, as I just said, that they’ve got significant challenges facing them, but we stand by and ready to support them as they work through these challenges. We want to see them implement, as I said, a – what is an ambitious reform agenda. But we continue to consult with them, their advisors, and we believe that they understand the importance of them working together rather separately – than separately.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MR TONER: North Korea.

QUESTION: Can I ask just one more on --

MR TONER: Let’s close out Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Just again, how concerned are you about ISIL taking advantage of fractured Taliban?

MR TONER: Well, I think I answered this. I mean, look, we’re always looking at ISIL’s ability to find safe haven and then expand to work with, as I said, these affiliate groups, factions of groups such as the Taliban that they might be able to exploit. And we’re monitoring it very closely. We’re in close contact and coordination with the Afghan Security Forces in that regard, and we’re going to continue. As we’ve said before, if we see opportunities to take out key leadership, we’re going to strike.

Please.

QUESTION: Well, just --

MR TONER: No. Come on, please.

QUESTION: Just one more. I’m sorry. When after the killing of the Taliban leader Mansour, President Obama said it was an important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you still think of it as a milestone with – did you – I’m sorry. Did you expect the fracturing of the Taliban with the removal of the leader? What did you expect to happen?

MR TONER: I think we said at the time and what I would still contend is that it was (a) a strike to take out the leader of an organization that was intent on carrying out acts of terror on both the Afghan people and, frankly, international forces that were resident in Afghanistan, and we took that opportunity. But we also took that opportunity to send a clear message that the Taliban needs to recognize that it has no future in fighting and that it should seek talks with the Afghan Government. As I said, Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process it has to be, but I think those are the – were the goals of that – carrying out that strike, and we stand by them.

Please.

QUESTION: North Korea’s atomic energy agency in a written response to the Kyodo News Service confirmed what the Intelligence Community and the IAEA have been indicating, that there’s been a resumption of plutonium reprocessing at the Yongbyon facility. In their comment they also hinted at a coming fifth nuclear test, while the foreign ministry in Pyongyang today issued fresh threats against U.S. bases in the Pacific. Sanctions don’t appear to be deterring the North Koreans. What is the United States contemplating to try to mitigate North Korean behavior in violation of all these UN sanctions?

MR TONER: Well, we’re certainly aware of the reports regarding resumed plutonium production. If these reports are correct, it is obviously a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions which prohibit such activities.

I would say these actions only serve to increase the international community’s resolve to continue to counter the DPRK’s, North Korea’s prohibited activities. And that, as you noted, continue – or includes implementing existing UN Security Council sanctions. Our commitment to the defense of our allies in the region – and that includes the Republic of Korea as well as Japan – remains ironclad. We also remain prepared to defend ourselves as well as our allies. And we call on North Korea once again to refrain from actions that only raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps that will fulfill its international obligations.

As to next steps or additional steps we might take, I don’t have anything to preview right now. We continue to evaluate our options. But again, our focus has been thus far on getting these hard-hitting sanctions that we managed to get passed through the UN Security Council fully implemented, and that involves working with our regional partners to implement those sanctions to the fullest extent.

QUESTION: Related to that. Any comment on the North Korean diplomat who has defected to South Korea?

MR TONER: I don’t really have any comment specifically to the case. I mean, we obviously urge all countries to cooperate in the protection of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers within their territories. We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea and the treatment of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers, and we’re going to continue to work with countries – other countries, rather, and international organizations – that includes the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – to protect North Koreans, North Korean refugees, as well as finding long-term solutions for their plight.

QUESTION: I have a question --

QUESTION: A different topic?

MR TONER: Okay, I’ll get --

QUESTION: Yeah, one more on North Korea.

MR TONER: Okay, I’ll get to you. One. Okay.

QUESTION: And you said that this is intelligence information, but do you have any information on the North Korea preparing for the fifth nuclear test?

MR TONER: I don’t have any information to share with you on that specific threat. We’ve – except to say that we’ve seen a pattern, obviously, over the past six months or so that is deeply concerning. We’ve taken steps to try to address that. We can – we’re going to continue to evaluate our options going forward.

Please.

QUESTION: I’ll be quick. Was there any discussion, formal or informal, about Secretary Clinton’s using a wireless earpiece or Bluetooth while she was here? And also --

MR TONER: Sure. Go ahead, sorry.

QUESTION: What is the State Department’s policy on this technology?

MR TONER: I have an answer. So thanks for bringing that up because I did – as I did promise yesterday, we did look into those two issues. So we did – we did have internal discussions, and I can say that State Department officials do not recall any discussions about the feasibility of then-Secretary Clinton potentially using a wireless earpiece or Bluetooth-enabled device within the confines of Mahogany Row or the seventh floor. And in answer to your second question – or maybe it was your first, I apologize – but given the potential security vulnerabilities of that type of technology, the department would not and does not approve of the use of such devices in a secure space.

QUESTION: Was she --

QUESTION: Was she asked? Was she – so she asked or you --

MR TONER: We said we don’t recall any --

QUESTION: You don’t recall her asking?

MR TONER: There was no discussions of it. I – that – sorry, that was a roundabout way of saying we don’t – there was no discussions about it, it was not raised.

QUESTION: But was she doing it?

QUESTION: Seventh floor --

MR TONER: I don’t believe so. I mean, I think we said that – frankly, I don’t have a direct answer to that. I mean, I don’t think she was. I mean, we don’t – as I said, what we were asked about was whether we had pursued any request to use that kind of technology, and no one recalls that ever being raised. And in fact, we would not allow it. So the answer to it – the answer to that is no.

QUESTION: Can – do you have more on this?

QUESTION: No, go ahead.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about --

QUESTION: I just want to know if you – your answer, you referenced seventh floor, Mahogany Row. Neither yesterday or today’s question mentioned that. Is that a blanket statement, period, this was never discussed, or was never discussed with reference to the seventh floor?

MR TONER: I was only talking about – so it’s secure spaces. And what I was talking about – I’m sorry if I was unclear about that. Mahogany Row is a secure space. That’s what I was trying to – not necessarily the whole seventh floor, but --

QUESTION: So it was just never discussed?

MR TONER: Never discussed.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I --

MR TONER: That’s according to our – again, we did ask all the people who were – would have been knowledgeable of this.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Rio. There are two – the American swimmers there have come – run into some problems with this report from Ryan Lochte about a robbery, and that’s obviously been drawn into question. And now a judge in Rio has ordered that passports be seized and that Ryan and another swimmer – at least one other swimmer, the judge said, cannot leave the country. We know that Ryan has already left the country, but the three other swimmers who were with him that night we don’t believe have. We’re not sure.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: What is going on? Is there some sort of international incident boiling up here? What is going on? What are you hearing from your Brazilian counterparts?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, unfortunately, we don’t have Privacy Act waivers for any of these individuals who were involved in this incident. We’ve all seen the media reports, as you note, that a Brazilian court has issued an order to seize the passports of several U.S. athletes who were involved in this incident the other day. I have to refer you to the parties involved for further information because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

I would note more broadly, though, that we encourage all parties to work with Brazilian law enforcement in their investigation of the incident, but I’d refer you to those Brazilian authorities for any more information about the case.

QUESTION: Does that mean you would – I mean, this might be far-fetched, but would you want Ryan Lochte to go back to Rio, then, if you’re encouraging him to work with Brazilian authorities?

MR TONER: I mean, ultimately, that’s all for an American citizen – we would never, obviously, require any American citizen to comply with those kinds of requests. I think I’ll stay where I was, which is that we would urge or we would like to see and encourage American citizens to do what they can to work with Brazilian authorities to close out this investigation.

QUESTION: And are you working – can you say if the State Department is consulting with --

MR TONER: I can’t, apologize. I just can’t.

QUESTION: Can I move on very quickly to the Palestinian --

QUESTION: I have one more about --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. Go ahead. We’ll close this out. Please.

QUESTION: Being that you’re encouraging U.S. citizens to work with law enforcement in Brazil, is there any concern about the way U.S. citizens are being handled during the course of the Olympic Games by the Brazilian Government or by the Brazilian law enforcement?

MR TONER: I mean, we’ve talked a lot in the run-up to the games about providing, through a range of sources, information to the multitude of Americans who are on the ground right now in Rio and in Brazil. Thus far I’m not aware of any pattern of any kind of harassment or anything at all, frankly, in terms of crime. I’d have to, obviously, consult with our embassy in Rio – in Brazil, rather, to get more information about that. But thus far I don’t think we’ve seen any concerns whatsoever about the security situation other than that there have been several incidents, of which this is one, that have been reported. But I think at any event on the scale of the Olympics with the number of visiting tourists who are taking part in that event. That’s always something that’s a matter of concern. We always urge American travelers to be mindful of security surrounding a big event, whether it’s the Olympics or whatever event that takes place around the world.

QUESTION: And to respect the laws and rules --

MR TONER: And, of course, to respect the laws and rules of the government of the country in which they are.

QUESTION: On emails? Can I ask on emails?

QUESTION: Can I --

MR TONER: Said, I’ve already been to you, so I’ll get back to you, I promise, and then we’ll do emails.

QUESTION: So you mentioned yesterday that you were working to come up with a production schedule; you might present the production schedule on the email in an August 22nd court date. Do you have anything further on that --

MR TONER: I don’t.

QUESTION: -- and whether you have a production schedule or whether it would be in the public interest to at least produce these emails before Election Day?

MR TONER: I don’t have any – as I said, we’ll – we’re looking at it. We’re assessing the number and how we might share them. I think I confirmed yesterday that we would obviously hand them over to Judicial Watch – any of the emails in addition that were received or sent by Secretary Clinton in her official capacity as secretary of state which were contained in the material that was handed over to us by the FBI – but I don’t have any additional details to provide on how that production schedule would take place.

QUESTION: But are you looking at Election Day as a deadline? I mean, do you think that would be in the public interest, to have these emails out there before then?

MR TONER: Frankly, and having dealt with the tremendous amount of emails that we had to deal with in responding to the previous FOIA request – some 55,000 – it’s always been – our goal is to work through as quickly and as expeditiously as possible but mindful of the fact that we need to work to address interagency concerns and possible classification upgrades; that we’re always working to produce these documents as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Mark, in assessing the number --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- as you put it, does that mean you’ve counted how many there are, and can you share that?

MR TONER: I don’t have a firm number for you.

QUESTION: You can’t tell us --

MR TONER: I’m sorry, I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: We’ll see if we have – we can get that for you, okay?

QUESTION: Yeah, or how many pages of emails. Comey described it as several thousand. Is that what you assessed?

MR TONER: So I don’t want to give a wrong number. I’ll get back to you on that, promise.

QUESTION: You got a number there, though.

MR TONER: No, I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: You can come up.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: I’m always seeking to answer your questions, Justin, trust me.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Very quick question on the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

MR TONER: Please. Okay.

QUESTION: Today, the Israeli radio said that the prime minister’s office – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office – was getting ready or preparing some sort of response for an equivalent or ultimately some sort of a suggestion by the President of the United States on the two-state solution that may come up at the Security Council. Do you have any – first of all, have you heard the report?

MR TONER: I’m not aware of any plans. I’ve seen the reports.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: I’m not aware of any plans for a speech.

QUESTION: Not a speech. Now they’re saying that it’s going to be like a draft proposal at the United Nations Security Council. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: Again, I’m aware of the reports that you’re referring to. I’m not aware of any intention to – again, to roll out some kind of new plan or strategy. But that said, we continue to focus on efforts to achieve a two-state solution. We believe it’s absolutely vital to the future of the region.

QUESTION: And including working with the French on this thing – the French proposal?

MR TONER: Including working with the French. We continue to look at the French proposal and to talk to them about it.

QUESTION: On Africa?

MR TONER: Sure, and then I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the hunt for Joseph Kony. Ugandan army has played an important partner role in reducing the scope of Kony’s LRA organization, but this week there were reports that they were withdrawing. Can you clarify whether they are indeed withdrawing and whether the U.S. is engaged in negotiations to keep them for a bit longer?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, we are – I can confirm we’re working closely with the Ugandan military and other contributors to the African Union Regional Task Force to ensure a successful completion of their mission. And I can say the Ugandan military’s long commitment to countering the Lord’s Resistance Army has resulted in improved security for the people of Uganda. In collaboration with the African Union and the United Nations, the United States continues to support the efforts of the countries in the region to combat the threat and end the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army and bring the remaining LRA leaders to justice. I can say that over the past four years the Ugandan military has removed four, I think, of the LRA’s top five most senior and notorious commanders from the battlefield. So they have done tremendous work, and we want to see those efforts continue.

QUESTION: So you’re still in negotiations about whether they remain?

MR TONER: Well, I just think I don’t want to talk about our consultations and discussions with the Uganda military; just to say that we continue our collaboration and we want to see a successful completion of the mission.

QUESTION: And just as a follow-up to that --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: The LRA Crisis Tracker, which looks at detailed data, suggests that Joseph Kony’s group has begun to abduct individuals again. And some groups, the Enough Project in particular is concerned that this could lead to the LRA becoming powerful again in the region. Do you have any words of reassurance in that regard?

MR TONER: Well, I would just say that our overarching strategy focuses on the protection of the civilian population. And it’s also, frankly, focused on apprehending or removing Joseph Kony and – as well as other remaining senior LRA commanders from the battlefield.

But we’re going to continue to pursue those objectives. It’s all about, fundamentally, as you note, providing for the security of the people who are affected by this group. We – without speaking to necessarily whether we’ve seen an uptick in kidnappings or other efforts to intimidate the local populations, we’re going to continue to collaborate, as I said, with and cooperate with those security forces that make up this regional task force. We have had – we have seen success thus far, but the mission is not complete yet.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: The UN said today that the results of the initial fact-finding mission by the UN mission in Juba – or the initial fact-finding investigation by the UN mission in Juba into the attack on the Terrain apartments, it’s expected to be turned over to the UN this week. But after the announcement of the special investigation by the secretary-general last night, they’re saying the results of this fact-finding investigation will not be released to the public. Do you think that considering the nature of these attacks and the accusations towards the UN peacekeepers that this fact-finding investigation and the result of it should be released to the public?

MR TONER: Well, first of all, I mean, I think we’ve spoken to this in detail over the last couple of days, and I know Ambassador Power also issued a very strong statement regarding the UN’s – or the need for the UN to carry out as quickly as possible an investigation into what happened. I think we’re always encouraging transparency in these kinds of reports. But I think what’s mostly important – or most important here is that they carry out as quickly as possible this fact-finding review of the incident to determine how – to ensure this never happens again.

QUESTION: Do you need a fact-finding mission to tell you that the UN did nothing to respond when they were told that they – these people, these aid workers, were in need of help?

MR TONER: I think always in these kinds of incidents – and again, this was absolutely abhorrent what happened, but I think it’s always useful to look at – to not draw at any broad conclusions but to look at the timeline of what happened and to understand the decision-making that went into that process – as I said, if only to make sure that in future cases – similar situations, rather – that this doesn’t happen again.

QUESTION: Can you say how many Americans were implicated in that attack, or victims in that attack?

MR TONER: I don’t think we’ve been able to give a precise number, and the reason why is we don’t have Privacy Act waivers on all the individuals involved. I’m not certain I have a firm number there. I apologize.

QUESTION: Well, if there were Privacy Act waivers, that would imply that there were Americans, right? So --

MR TONER: There were Americans. We’ve --

QUESTION: But – so you can – can you say, again, a number of Americans even if you don’t have the waivers? Like, no, we’re not asking for specific information. Just if --

MR TONER: Sorry, you’re looking for a specific number or you’re saying --

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, how many Americans were victims there?

MR TONER: I’ll see what I can get for you on that. I don’t have it in front of me.

QUESTION: And also, staying in South Sudan --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the Sudanese Government has apparently rejected the UN Security Council resolution for the troops. Do you have any reaction to that, and does it – what’s the next step if indeed they do reject?

MR TONER: You’re talking about – I’m sorry, South Sudan?

QUESTION: Yes. Oh, sorry, Sudan.

MR TONER: Sudan. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. Getting mixed up.

MR TONER: So – and I apologize. The question again? I was trying to look for the figure that Justin had asked for. I apologize. Can you just give me the question one more time?

QUESTION: So there was a UN Security Council resolution I think a few days ago – I don’t know if my colleagues can help me with that – that authorized a new set of troops to go in. And the government has rejected that. I think it was – it was South Sudan.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

QUESTION: Sorry, it was.

MR TONER: Yeah, this is South Sudan. That’s why I was confused. Well, we do support the deployment of a regional protection force under the auspices of UNMISS, and that was authorized, as you noted, by the UN Security Council on August 12th, to help restore and preserve the stability in Juba. So we want to see that UN Security Council resolution adhered to. Such a force, we believe, needs to be able to ensure free and safe movement in Juba, as well as the protection of vital infrastructure. And we have supported the region’s request in calling on the Government of Sudan – South Sudan, rather, to accept the deployment of this force for the purpose of restoring stability and for the purpose of re-establishing a level of normalcy and stability for the people.

QUESTION: Mark, to stay in South Sudan --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- since South Sudan soldiers are responsible for the attack on July 11, is the State Department considering taking additional sanctions against South Sudan leadership? And what do you respond to Human Rights Watch, who pressed you again to impose an arms embargo on the two parties?

MR TONER: Sure. I mean, I don’t have anything particular to announce in terms of additional sanctions. We might – we obviously want to see both sides in the conflict – or all sides, rather, in the conflict cease their violence so that, as I said, some kind of stability and normalcy can return to the situation on the ground. And that means as well as – I believe there was – we saw today, just to – there was an announcement to hold early elections by Kiir and that’s obviously of great concern to us as well, because it is once again a unilateral action that’s in violation of the letter and the spirit of the peace agreement.

So what we want to see, again, is both parties stop the violence and work on adhering to the peace agreement.

Yep. And this is the last question, guys. You’ve had me up here for more than an hour.

QUESTION: Sure thing. The consulate in Lagos or the issue – just – I know you spoke about this on Monday, but I just wanted to see that if – I know that a determination has not been made, but in terms of how many locations are being considered, and was there any concern about the optics of this request coming so soon after Secretary Clinton left office that it almost seems like it might have been waiting for them to leave office before the request was made?

MR TONER: You’re talking about the request for the consulate?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, look, I thought we addressed this last week pretty extensively. We’ve not as of today contracted or acquired any property for a new consulate in Lagos – or Lagos, rather. We have over the past several years identified and looked at and evaluated multiple properties. We’ve had conversations about multiple property with the property owners and their representatives because we’re looking, as we’ve noted, to acquire property for a new consulate in Lagos. And this process is in no way connected to or subject to individual preferences or pressure. It’s run out of the Overseas Building Operations. It’s managed by career real estate professionals, and they evaluate potential properties under consideration before any property is put under contract.

So just to clear the air here, this is a process that is followed not just in Lagos but throughout the world when we’re looking at acquiring new properties for either consulates or embassies. And as I said, in Lagos there’s – was no deviation of that process – from that process, rather.

Is that it, guys? Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:10 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 16, 2016

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 14:39

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 16, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:08 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Hey, Brad. Hey, everyone. Wow, quite a crowd. Might have to wear my glasses so I can see in the back.

QUESTION: It’s always great to be back.

MR TONER: I know, how nice. Let me tell you, vacation – try it. (Laughter.) I’m sure I’ll be beaten down in no time, but – (laughter). Anyway, I don’t have anything at the top, so over to you, Brad.

QUESTION: Can we start with Russia’s use of the Iranian air base for Syria missions today?

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: What – firstly, what is your general response to this decision by Russia? Do you find this concerning? Are you worried about a deepening Russian-Iranian military alliance?

MR TONER: Well, I think we’re still trying to assess – and – assess what exactly they’re doing to the extent that they’re doing it. It appears that they did use, in some fashion, Iranian air bases, and I believe the Defense Department has already spoken to that to some extent, so I would refer you to them.

But look, I mean, it’s – I guess I would say it’s unfortunate but not surprising or unexpected, and I think it speaks to the continuation of a pattern that we’ve seen of Russia continuing to carry out airstrikes, now it appears with Iran’s direct assistance, that at least purport to target ISIL and Daesh targets as well as Nusrah targets, but in fact – and we’ve seen this continually – predominately target moderate Syrian opposition forces. So that’s unfortunate, and frankly, that only makes more difficult what is already a very contentious and complex and difficult situation, and it only pushes us further away from what we’re all at least say we’re trying to pursue, which is a credible nationwide cessation of hostilities and a political process in Geneva that leads to a peaceful transition.

So what’s unclear to us right now, as I said, I think, is the extent to which they’re using Iran. We’ve seen varying reports that maybe it was a one-off thing, or whether they’re going to continue; we just don’t know at this point. I can confirm – I am sure some of you have seen it – Secretary Kerry did speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov. I think this came up in some fashion, but I don’t have much detail beyond that.

QUESTION: That’s the next question.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you get from Foreign Minister Lavrov any answers to these questions? Did they, in fact, say it was a one-off? Did he explain why they were using – is there a military reason for this?

MR TONER: I believe it didn’t come – it did come up, and I apologize, but the call was just – it just concluded before I came up here. But I believe it did come up. I believe it was raised by the Russian side, and I think Secretary Kerry stated our concerns.

QUESTION: Last year when the Iranian nuclear agreement was enshrined by the UN – I think it was 2231 --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- there was specific language that carried over from previous resolutions about the use of Iranian territory or even its airspace for combat aircraft. Do you view this as a violation of the UN Security Council – I think it said provided that – it was permissible if the Security Council gave specific permission on a case-by-case basis. I’m guessing that didn’t happen in this case. Correct me if I’m wrong.

MR TONER: I don’t believe it did happen, and we’re looking into it is the short answer to your question. If these reports are true, it could very well be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which, as you noted, prohibits the supply, sale, or transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advanced by the UN Security Council. I just don’t have a definitive answer. I know our lawyers are kind of looking at the – and trying to collect as much – many details as they can at this point.

QUESTION: Well, what would be the real-world ramifications of that? Just great, Russia violated something, but it doesn’t really matter?

MR TONER: Fair question, and I don’t have a complete answer for you. I know that it would be discussed at – obviously at the Security Council level. As to what steps may be taken as a result or as a consequence, if it is even proven that this happened, I can’t give you much detail right now.

QUESTION: And I have one more technical question.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding – looking at the map, it looks pretty clear that they would have used Iraqi airspace. Is that your understanding? And two, do you know of any Iraqi permission for them to use that airspace?

MR TONER: I’d have to refer you to the Iraqi Government to speak to whether they gave permission; but yes, normally, it is prudent for any country overflying someone’s territory to seek permission.

QUESTION: But you don’t --

QUESTION: I have a follow-up. Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: You said they did use it in some fashion. Does that mean that you still believe they are using it as a base?

MR TONER: I don’t know, and frankly, we’ve seen varying reports. I mean, I’d have to really refer you to the Russians to speak to what their future intentions are regarding the use of Iranian air bases. It’s unclear whether – we’ve seen, frankly, news reports and other reports that they may have just used it as a stopover. We just don’t have any firm details.

QUESTION: But Mark, I mean --

MR TONER: I just don’t.

QUESTION: -- the U.S. has a vast intelligence base. How come the U.S. wouldn’t know if Russia using Iran as a base?

MR TONER: Well, again, we’ve – we haven’t completed our own, I think, internal assessment of what exactly took place.

QUESTION: When did the U.S. become aware that Russia had been – was using this base?

MR TONER: Sure. I think through Department of Defense channels we were told, again, as part of de-conflicting in advance, but I believe it was very short notice.

QUESTION: So they gave you – you notice of it through – on their coordination under (inaudible)?

MR TONER: I believe so. I’d refer you to Department of Defense. I think our new spokesperson spoke to this in Baghdad.

QUESTION: So – and how do you think that this – does it complicate what the U.S. is trying to do in Syria?

MR TONER: I mean, again, I don’t want to overhype this in the sense that, look, we’ve known that Iran has been supportive of and an active combatant in the Syrian civil war in support of the regime. Russia has been supporting the regime. So the fact that they’re working together now to carry out airstrikes collaboratively against what they say are terrorist targets but what we have seen are still a majority – well, I don’t want to say a majority, but are still a mixed bag of targeting, which is some legitimate ISIL, Nusrah targets but also a lot of moderate Syrian opposition.

So again, just to get back to your question, I don’t want to say it’s – we’re surprised, shocked, but it’s not helpful. It’s not helpful to the situation that we currently have where we’ve got the stalemate around Aleppo, where we have no access to humanitarian assistance or insufficient access to humanitarian assistance, where we have civilian populations at incredible risk, and we’re no closer to any kind of credible cessation of hostilities like we had a few months ago, certainly not nationwide, and as a result, no real relaunch of negotiations in Geneva. So it just – as I said, it complicates what is already a tense, complicated situation.

QUESTION: And my one follow-up.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: The one is on cooperation. Lavrov – the Russians did say that they discussed today the possible cooperation. Given the fact that this is now Iran and Russia are cooperating, which – on this base, is it your understanding that the cooperation agreement that Kerry is seeking with the Russians can go ahead given this? I mean, you were looking for a cessation of hostilities. Isn’t that – that was the main factor here.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: And everything seems to be pointing in an opposite direction.

MR TONER: Well, again, I don’t want to – my short answer to you is no, it is not – does not preclude the fact that we will reach some kind of cooperative arrangement with Russia, and we continue to pursue that. We continue to speak with Russia in working groups, or via working groups I guess, about ways that we can put in place a credible nationwide ceasefire, have full access to humanitarian assistance, and then again, get negotiations restarted in Geneva. And that continues to be our focus. We’re not there yet, though.

QUESTION: So Mark, I just want to follow up on --

QUESTION: It doesn’t preclude it? Sorry.

MR TONER: Sorry, I thought you said – and I apologize if I misunderstood. I thought you said does this latest development now --

QUESTION: Preclude the --

MR TONER: -- preclude us from doing that.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: I said it doesn’t. We’re still continuing to pursue that. I mean --

QUESTION: So they wouldn’t have to end this arrangement with the Iranians to have a similar arrange – I mean, that would suggest that you’re open to the possibility of a U.S.-Russia-Iran partnership.

MR TONER: I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: But no, I know you didn’t say that.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: But that’s what it means. If Russia has a partnership with Iran and is flying from those bases, at the same time it has a partnership with you, that’s Russia-Iran-U.S. partnership.

MR TONER: I meant today’s events did not necessarily preclude that we would stop those discussions.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: And I wasn’t trying to --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: And thank you for trying to clarify or for clarifying. I don’t want to jump ahead too far. I think what I would say is we continue to have those conversations, we continue to pursue that goal, because we believe it’s the best way – the goal of creating a coordination cell with Russia that we’ve talked about before in the past, because we believe that’s the best mechanism to get this back on track, this effort back on track in Syria. But we don’t know all the details about today’s events and whether there is some kind of ongoing partnership or coordination effort with Iran, so I think we’re still looking for clarification on that.

QUESTION: Mark, also on cooperation --

QUESTION: Mark, I just want to follow up.

MR TONER: I’ll get Said and then I’ll get to you. I promise.

QUESTION: Yeah. Is this just a one event kind of a thing --

MR TONER: That’s something I don’t know, Said. Yeah --

QUESTION: -- or is it going to – is it – has it happened in the past? Is it part of a continuing pattern?

MR TONER: It doesn’t appear to have happened in the past, and the reason why is because (a) they acknowledged it was happening today – they – the Russian authorities, but also we did, as I acknowledged to Lesley and as the Department of Defense has already acknowledged, they did give us notification.

QUESTION: And you said that whatever negotiations or whatever process that may go on is not really contingent on Russia --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- ceasing this kind of operation. First of all, do you have any reason to believe that this is going to be just a one event or part of a future – or a process that may go on, and in a way, jeopardize whatever process that you are trying to do with the Russians to bring about some sort of a political solution? And second, do you have – with all due respect, I mean, do you have the leverage to tell Russia no, you cannot cooperate or you cannot use Iranian bases to bomb whatever targets that they want to bomb in Syria?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, of course not, and that’s a very frank answer to your question. We can only pursue dialogue and discussion and diplomacy with Russia. That said – and we’ve talked about this many times in the past – is no one should be under any illusions that there is some kind of military solution or ultimate victory to be gained in Syria. And in our continuing conversations and dialogue with Russia, they insist that they are of the same mindset. Again, we’ve said we have to test this to its limits, this idea that Russia is on board with pursuing a political solution in Syria.

We’ve talked before about these tension points, which is where they see terrorists, we see moderate Syrian opposition. We do agree that Daesh and Nusrah, or whatever it’s rebranded as these days, are terrorist organizations, but beyond that, we have a difference of opinion. And we believe, as you know, that it’s important that that moderate Syrian opposition that has bought into the process, bought into the cessation of hostility, not be subjected to ongoing airstrikes and attacks by the regime.

QUESTION: I have just a very quick follow-up --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: -- on the potential for these talks and the potential for working together with the Russians. There was an interview in Foreign Policy of Mr. Robert Malley, an advisor to the President on the Middle East. And he basically said that we can conceivably support an armed opposition for the foreseeable future and this war can go on and on. In a way, he was trying to incentivize the Russians to come along. So is the United States prepared to have this conflict go on endlessly?

MR TONER: So I haven’t seen the interview. My – and I’m not trying to parse your words --

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: -- or hit your interpretation of what the interview said. My sense or guess is that he said something along the lines of what we, including the Secretary, have said before, which is that there’s no military solution, but the alternative to a diplomatic solution, which we believe is the best way forward – or a political solution – could mean full-scale war. And that means all the members of the – or not all the members, but various members of the ISSG supporting different factions in this civil war that they believe is in their interest that could, frankly, exacerbate what is already a very difficult situation. And so we certainly don’t want to see – the last thing anyone wants to see in Syria is for things to get worse. But we believe that unless there’s some kind of credible process towards a political resolution to the conflict, that could very well happen.

QUESTION: Mark --

QUESTION: Just – you said --

MR TONER: Yeah, of course, go ahead.

QUESTION: You said it was unfortunate that Russia flew out of the Iranian airbase. And today on that specific mission --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Russian authorities said that the strikes had eliminated five major terrorist weapons depots and training compounds in the area. Do you have information to refute that, and if yes, do you think – if no, do you think it is unfortunate that they were targeting terrorist depots and weapons depots and training facilities?

MR TONER: So I – sure. Fair question. I’d refer you to – always to Department of Defense, who does this kind of analysis, and especially our very good people who are stationed in Baghdad, but also the Pentagon regularly assesses where these strikes go or who they hit or who they target.

QUESTION: But there is a reason why you said “unfortunate,” so --

MR TONER: So let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish. So let me finish. So what we continually find is indeed there are, among the airstrikes, what we would consider legitimate strikes against Nusrah, against Daesh/ISIL. But we also continue to see strikes that target moderate Syrian opposition forces. Now, we have seen – and you know this as well as anybody in this room – there are disagreements. And that’s what we’re trying to work through over how to go about this, whether – how to separate these and get a clear understanding of who is in the moderate opposition and then cordon them off, if you will, in a sense, so that they’re protected under a cessation of hostilities.

But to this point we’ve not gotten there. And as my – the reason I said it’s unfortunate is that today’s events, if in fact they did hit moderate Syrian opposition forces, they’re only going to exacerbate what is already a very difficult situation.

QUESTION: A senior – I want to – yeah, on this topic, please.

MR TONER: One more question. Yeah, please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: A senior Chinese military official, Guan Youfei, went to Damascus, sought closer military ties with Syria, and according to Chinese news agency Xinhua, pledged assistance in training Syrian forces. What are your thoughts about a China support for the Syrian Government?

MR TONER: Well, first of all, I’d refer you to the Chinese Government to talk about their level of support or their intentions. We speak regularly with Chinese officials on Syria, including ways to strengthen the cessation of hostilities in a way to get the political track up and running, improve humanitarian access. And we’re going to continue to have those conversations with China. But I can’t speak to what their intentions may or may not be in terms of working cooperatively with the Syrian Government.

QUESTION: But not their intentions, but the U.S. position on this, or opinion on this?

MR TONER: I mean, I guess I – look, I mean, the ISSG, the International Syria Support Group, includes the gamut. We have governments within that group that have worked with the regime, in support of the regime. We all know that. We have governments within that organization or that group that have worked with the moderate Syrian opposition. I think the important thing is: Do all the members of this group and do any – and does China agree with the sense that or the idea that we cannot have a military solution in Syria, that we’ve got to get a cessation of hostilities back on track, and we’ve got to work collaboratively in order to get there?

QUESTION: Follow?

QUESTION: Specifically on the fight against terrorists, is the U.S. just as --

MR TONER: Last question, because there’s a lot of --

QUESTION: Follow?

MR TONER: Okay, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. just as – on the fight against terrorists in Syria, is the U.S. just as determined not to help the Syrian army in their fight against these terrorist groups?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, we’re not going to work with the regime forces, if that’s what you mean. What I think we have talked about is a way to – if we believe that – sorry. We believe that there is a way that we could, if we address all the issues and all our areas of concern, work with Russia to target specifically ISIL or Daesh – nice catch – effectively and really focus our efforts. But we’re not there yet. And we’re certainly not going to turn our back on the moderate Syrian opposition forces that, frankly, are vital to any kind of political transition in Syria.

You, please.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: Sorry.

QUESTION: When you said that these Russian planes flying from Iran to Syria --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- flew over the airspace of Iraq, could you explain whether that was the airspace of the Kurdistan region?

MR TONER: I can’t. I just don’t have that level of detail. I apologize.

QUESTION: Or Iraq? You don’t know? And the other part of the question --

MR TONER: I think that would be a great Department of Defense question.

QUESTION: Okay, I will seek --

MR TONER: Okay. Sorry, I’m not trying to – I’m just – I just don’t have that level of --

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll get more specificity. I thought you might know.

MR TONER: Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: But whether it was the Kurdistan region or whether it was Iraq, I mean, if the United States does not want to see more such strikes in the future, how about asking whatever authority’s airspace they – these planes flew over to deny the Russians permission to fly over their airspace?

MR TONER: Well, fair question. I’m sure we’ll continue to talk to Iraqi authorities about that. But --

QUESTION: How large is Iraq’s air force, as you know?

MR TONER: Yeah, fair point. But – and that’s a fair point as well. But look, Iraq is a sovereign country and it’s going to make its own decisions. But we’re going to raise our concerns.

QUESTION: In this regard, Mark, a Russian news agency has said today that – or has quoted Colonel Christopher Garver --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson, saying, “U.S. forces ensured the safety of Russian bombers en route to Syria from an Iranian air base as the aircraft traversed areas controlled by the U.S.-led coalition.”

MR TONER: I think I – I’m pretty sure that’s simply speaking about the fact that we de-conflicted. We used – we were – and my understanding is that it came relatively late, but we did receive word that they were going to request and carry out these operations, and that’s part of that mechanism, that de-confliction mechanism that we laboriously discussed here in the briefing room, but it’s to prevent any kind of mishap over the skies of Syria.

QUESTION: Are you alarmed that this thing may even get worse? In essence, you have Russia, Iran, Hizballah, and potentially Iraq, like a Shia camp, fighting the opposition, which are 100 percent Sunni, Saudi Arabia and the other countries. Do you see this really getting out of hand? Are you alarmed --

MR TONER: Yeah, I mean, again --

QUESTION: -- that this may happen if you don’t reach an accommodation with the Russians?

MR TONER: No. Sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off. Look, I mean, the Secretary and others have spoken about this far more articulately or eloquently than I could, but absolutely. There’s a chance this could – if there’s no process in place, or at least hope for a political resolution, that this could descend even further into bloodshed and conflict and, as you noted, spread to become a wider conflict. And that’s our concern, and that’s why we’re trying to pursue, to the extent every – the extent possible a diplomatic solution.

Yeah, Tejinder.

QUESTION: As you’ve been listening, like I had a question about the Indian minister visiting Syria.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And the minister is meeting the president and is also supporting like – and now you have the reports of China supporting, now Russia, now Iran. So there is a coalition that is supporting the Syrian regime. So do we still stand on that point that Assad has to go? Or do we find a political solution that includes him?

MR TONER: I’ll begin at the end of your question. So we’ve long said that the view of the United States is that there can be no successful political transition with Assad as the leader of Syria, but how that transition takes place, the pace of that transition is really something to be negotiated in Geneva between the two sides. That’s for them to figure that out. But we believe that Assad cannot be the future leader; we, the United States, believes that Assad cannot be the future leader of Syria because of the misery and carnage that he has caused in Syria on his own people.

In answer to your question, look, I mean, I don’t want to give any kind of credence or – to your question, saying that there’s some kind of pro-Assad coalition forming. I’ll let the Indian Government speak to what its intentions are. I think – as I said in a previous question about China is I think what is important here is that whatever you’re – whatever side you support, if I could put it that way, is that there be a general consensus towards a political or a diplomatic solution for Syria. Otherwise, it’s just going to get worse. And let me be clear, I’m talking about just the civil war. What we all need to focus on and what we’ve talked about before is we’re trying to end the civil war that’s taking place in Syria so that we can all focus our efforts to destroying and degrading Daesh.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: Just --

QUESTION: Can I ask one?

QUESTION: Can I just clarify that? The question was that the Assad is getting the support from not only India but China, Russia.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: These are not just small countries or small powers. So what is – how can you still stand, because when you come – when it comes to the negotiations table, so you’re going with this mindset that Assad has to go and these people are supporting Assad. So where do we stand on that?

MR TONER: That, my friend, is the art of diplomacy. And I’m not being facetious or lighthearted about it. I’m just – that’s walking into a room and building a consensus and dealing with tough issues and coming at it with different viewpoints. We’ve done that before. This Secretary of State has shown that he is capable of building that kind of consensus, whether it’s on climate change or an Iran nuclear deal. But that is – as I said, that’s the cornerstone of any successful diplomatic process.

Please, Brad.

QUESTION: Can you help me – help us get through --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the new stands on the Clinton emails?

MR TONER: Of course. Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a couple different things going on.

MR TONER: I hope so.

QUESTION: Yeah. Me too. Firstly, we understand that you will produce now emails for the Judicial Watch case. These are the new emails the FBI was able to recover from the server. Can you explain what exactly is going on with that?

MR TONER: Right. So you’re talking about the commitment to produce the FBI emails or the new --

QUESTION: The new work-related emails that were turned over to you as part of – after the FBI investigation, if I understand it.

MR TONER: Got it. Okay.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Right. So I think I’ve got this right. But I can confirm that last Friday, in a court filing, the State Department voluntarily agreed to produce to Judicial Watch any emails sent or received by Secretary Clinton in her official capacity during her tenure as Secretary of State which are contained in – within the material turned over by the FBI and which were not already processed for FOIA by the State Department. So you understand the distinction: anything that’s not already part of that 55,000 that we already went through. Anything that’s new that was sent or received by Secretary Clinton in her official capacity we would voluntarily produce to Judicial Watch – those emails.

And we also, in that filing, advise that we are or we would be prepared to suggest a production schedule to the court on August 22nd. So we’re not there yet. We’re looking at, frankly, the scope of the work involved and trying to come up with a plan.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: And before I ask about the FBI stuff --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- will those emails also be put on your website for the general public, in the way that you did with the 55,000 pages?

MR TONER: Yeah, I don’t have a definitive answer yet. I think, Brad, we’re still assessing how these documents will be produced, and we’re also in discussions with the court on this matter. So it’s part of what we’re looking at, I think, over the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: And then just real quick on --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Yesterday, your colleague mentioned that you wanted to see the notes – the FBI notes – that would be passed to the Hill. Have you been able to see them yet, and --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- were there any – if you have, or have you – did you notice any issues?

MR TONER: Yeah. So we did – as you know, my colleague mentioned yesterday, we did ask the FBI that we be kept apprised of any information that they provided to Congress. And the reason why we did this is because it would relate to State Department equities, and this is a – frankly, a time-honored, traditional interagency practice. So we were provided – we have been provided emails with – the FBI intends to give to Congress, and we’ve reviewed them. The State Department obviously respects the FBI’s desire to accommodate the request of its committees of oversight in Congress, just as we do with our oversight committees, and we’re going to continue to cooperate, just as we have with the FBI in every step of the process.

QUESTION: Okay. So you reviewed them, but you didn’t have any problems, per se, with those being shared with members of Congress?

MR TONER: No, I – sure. I think we’re satisfied, after having reviewed these emails, that the FBI has made arrangements to ensure that the documents will be transmitted subject to appropriate handling rules.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: I’ll put it that way – or controls. I guess I’ll put it that way.

QUESTION: And then there was also the issue of the FBI’s notes from its interviews that would be shared. Have you had the chance yet to review those before they are shared?

MR TONER: So my understanding is that we continue to work with the FBI on that, on those interview summaries – the 302s I guess is what they’re known as. We obviously respect the FBI’s desire to accommodate Congress and its committees of oversight, but we haven’t quite reached an agreement on those.

QUESTION: So you – they haven’t shown them to you yet?

MR TONER: My understanding is we’ve not received those summaries yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Can I go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Okay. According to Peace Now, which is an Israeli NGO, Israel is doing surveys, conducting surveys, and planning to take land in southern – in the Bethlehem area, which will basically cut – and they are building a road to connect the settlement of Efrat with Givat Eitam, which will basically cut the West Bank in half. Have any reaction to that?

MR TONER: Well, we’re concerned. We’re concerned because these plans, if carried out, would have the effect of isolating Bethlehem from the southern West Bank, and that’s fundamentally – in our view, fundamentally incompatible with the pursuit of a two-state solution. That’s it.

QUESTION: Now, the Palestinians --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- in turn, they put together a file that they want to take to – either to the ICC or the Security Council.

MR TONER: They put together a what? I’m sorry; I apologize.

QUESTION: As a – to the International Criminal Court --

MR TONER: No, no, I didn’t hear the first. They put together a file?

QUESTION: A file.

MR TONER: I’m sorry. I just didn’t hear what you said. Sorry.

QUESTION: A file. As according to Geneva Convention, settlements are war crimes. So they put together this file. They want to take it to the ICC; they want to take it to the Security Council. Because Israel has been quite obstinate in terms of heeding your calls and your advice and so on, why wouldn’t you support Palestinian efforts in either venue? Would you – is it likely that you would support an effort in the Security Council where, conceivably or presumably, a resolution can be taken place to say that the settlements are illegal?

MR TONER: Well, look, I think I just spoke very forcefully about – on our view that these settlements are counterproductive. Israel is an important partner and ally, and we believe that we can effectively make these points to Israel, to the Israeli Government, as part of our bilateral relationship. But I’m not going to go beyond that.

QUESTION: But you’ve – repeatedly you’ve called on the Israelis to stop demolitions --

MR TONER: Sure. One more question. Sure.

QUESTION: One more. One more on this.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. It’s okay.

QUESTION: You’ve repeatedly called on the Israelis to stop demolitions. Yesterday, they demolished 50 Palestinian homes. You know they make like a few dozens or maybe more than a hundred people homeless and so on. So I mean, it seems that we have like a broken record. I keep asking the question; you keep telling me exactly the same thing. Will there be ultimately a U.S. position, where you can actually take a stand, a real stand, that will stop Israel from these excesses?

MR TONER: Said, I mean, as a spokesperson --

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: -- I mean, it’s my job to get up here and tell you what our position is about these kinds of actions. We make these equally clear to the Israeli Government in our private conversations with them. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into the – any detail or hypotheticals about what additional actions we may or may not take.

QUESTION: Azerbaijan?

QUESTION: I want to talk on Turkey.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR TONER: I’ll get to you. Thanks.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR TONER: Turkey.

QUESTION: Thank you. What’s your take, Mark, on the fact that the Turkish prosecution has demanded this morning life terms against Fethullah Gulen – sorry – given the fact that he’s living here? And we talk about it yesterday with Elizabeth. What do you think about Fethullah Gulen’s request to set up an international investigation about the coup in Turkey?

MR TONER: So I stand by what Elizabeth said yesterday. No, of course, in terms of an extradition request for Gulen, we’ve, I think, been abundantly clear that this is a process that is separated and apart from any kind of political process, any kind of emotionally driven reaction to the events that happened in Turkey. It is part of our legal requirements under the extradition treaty that we have with Turkey.

We’ve received documents regarding Gulen. We’re continuing to look at those documents. We’ve said also repeatedly that this is not going to be an overnight process, that it needs to be studied, it needs – all the evidence needs to be looked at before we can make a decision, and we continue to process that request.

QUESTION: So you are still not certain that these documents constitute a formal extradition request by the Turkish authorities?

MR TONER: I think I’ll just say that we continue to look at what we’ve received from Turkish authorities and study them and analyze them, and we’ll make a decision when we make a decision. I don’t mean to be – I’m not trying to be trite or anything. I’m just trying to convey that this has been an exceptional case in that we usually don’t even get into this level of detail in talking about extradition requests, but we have acknowledged at least that, because the Turks have been very public as well – but we’ve also acknowledged that we have this treaty with them, that we’re going to look at this, that we’re going to work it through the system. But I think we owe it to the integrity of this process not to get into too many details and not call a play-by-play on how we’re feeling today about where this stands. I think we need to be very deliberate – and we are being very deliberate – about analyzing the materials that we’ve had.

So I don’t want to say, yes, this is a formal extradition request regarding this or that event or this or that concern by the Turkish Government. I just want to say we’ve received several batches of materials from the Turkish authorities and we’re analyzing them.

QUESTION: But Mark, Kerry had a discussion or at least a call with his Turkish counterpart today.

MR TONER: Yeah. That’s right.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout on what --

MR TONER: Just that they did talk about – well, they talked about the breadth of bilateral and regional issues, obviously talked a lot about Syria and counter-ISIL efforts, but they did raise this extradition matter.

QUESTION: And who was the call from and to whom?

MR TONER: That’s a good question. Let me see if it’s – I want to say it was – no, you know what, let me make sure. I think it was Cavusoglu reaching out to Secretary Kerry, but let me just double-check that.

QUESTION: At this point, you still haven’t seen the minimum of evidence against Gulen, given that you haven’t even arrested him to start the extradition process.

MR TONER: Well, right. I mean, we haven’t made a decision. I mean, it wouldn’t even be a minimal – a minimum of evidence. I mean, we wouldn’t – my understanding is that we wouldn’t take any action, legal action, against an individual until we determine --

QUESTION: You don’t stop a guy from leaving the country while you’re weighing his extradition?

MR TONER: There are mechanisms in place to do that.

QUESTION: Usually if a guy’s accused of masterminding a terrorist attack you confine him before you decide on whether you’re going to – you don’t let him go free.

MR TONER: I understand what you’re asking, but that was not the question that I heard. And again, talk to somebody over at Department of Justice. But there are mechanisms in place via – short of an extradition that you can stop someone or not allow them to take place.

QUESTION: Has his passport been revoked or his freedom of travel been restricted?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to that. I won’t speak to that. I would not speak to that.

QUESTION: You cannot speak to --

QUESTION: Mark?

QUESTION: So you’re saying it’s possible that you have taken some restrictions on his movement that just haven’t been publicized?

MR TONER: I’m just not going to – I’m not going to speak to his status. I’m not going to speak to where we’re at in this process, Brad.

QUESTION: And one more on Turkey. There was a document that came out from the German interior ministry – I don’t know if you saw it – that described Turkey as the central platform for Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Islamist militant groups in Syria. Is that your view, that Turkey’s now the big Islamist on the block?

MR TONER: I’m sorry. Where is this report from?

QUESTION: German interior ministry. Leaked documents.

MR TONER: I have not seen it, so I don’t want to speak to it.

QUESTION: What is your feeling on Turkey’s support for Islamist militantism?

MR TONER: Look, I mean, I think that Turkey has suffered, frankly, from terrorism, ISIL-related terrorism but also PKK-related terrorism, and has been victimized by these terrorists. So I think that it is – and it is an important member of the coalition to defeat Daesh in Syria. And beyond that, it has also acknowledged that it has a problem with foreign fighters transiting or using its territory, and that’s something that we’ve tried to focus on, frankly, in trying to stop the flow of these foreign fighters into Syria and out of Syria back into Western Europe and back into other parts of Europe. These continue to be challenges that we’re working to address with Turkey. Our opinion, though, is that Turkey is an important democratic ally and NATO member.

QUESTION: So you don’t see it as a terror supporter or terror enabler, just as a terror victim?

MR TONER: No. Look, I mean, it is dealing – it is at a crossroads of many of these different groups and ideologies. And it is, I think, working hard to confront these challenges and provide for the security of its people.

QUESTION: Mark --

QUESTION: Azerbaijan?

MR TONER: Let’s do Azerbaijan. I’ll get to you. I promise, Goyal.

QUESTION: Okay. Azerbaijan opposition figure Jafarli has been detained, following his criticism of changes to the constitution. What is the position of the State Department on his arrest as well as these proposed changes to the constitution?

MR TONER: Sure. So with regard to the arrest of, I think on August 12th, of Azerbaijani opposition – he’s frankly the Republican Alternative movement executive secretary. His name is Natig, as you noted, Jafarli. We’re very troubled by his arrest. We’re also troubled by reports that – of additional arrests of activists. We would urge strongly the Azerbaijani Government to release these and other activists who’ve been incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms. And we call on them to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens and to allow an open and public dialogue about the direction of their country, particularly in the run-up to the planned September 26 constitutional amendment referendum. And so we would also urge the government to submit the constitutional amendments for a joint Venice Commission and ODIHR opinion as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, please. Your turn, Goyal.

QUESTION: South Asia. Quick question.

MR TONER: South Asia.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Starting with India. Mark, U.S. is the most favored nation for visitations and investment in the U.S. for thousands of Indians. And now this – at least one Shah Rukh Khan keeps coming to the U.S. and complaining against the U.S. This was the third time for him last week when he was held for four hours at the L.A. International Airport. He said because his name is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan. He said he’s the superstar and billionaire – maybe in Indian rupees. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Pretty good.

QUESTION: Last time he was held at the JFK for two hours, and then Liberty International Airport in Newark also for two hours. But few words which he tweeted – I mean, he tweeted – I cannot even say in public meeting here. But Madam Nisha Desai, she tweeted – in one line she said that – a casual sorry; even U.S. diplomats sometimes are pulled over and screened for extra screening. So what I’m asking you is, in India he made a big thing about this, and Indian media is saying that U.S. apologize to Shah Rukh Khan. Is this casual sorry, is apology, or any comments? Because he said, why I am always pulled by the U.S. airports?

MR TONER: Can I – you know what, Goyal? Can I just look into it? I’m sorry, I just am not aware of the – I’m not trying to be glib; I’m just – I’m not aware of the – what happened. I need to get all the facts of his – of this case, and I’ll get back to you with an answer.

QUESTION: And second, just a quick question about India and Pakistan.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Both countries just celebrated independence days.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: And now Pakistan has invited again India for talks – conflict talks and all that. But what Indian officials in Delhi are saying that after supporting terrorism against India and also home minister, Mr. Rajnath, was in Pakistan for the SAARC meeting, which was a failure for him or his visit was failure. And Sushma Swaraj, the foreign minister of India, said that we already said many times that unless – until Pakistan stops terrorism against India, there is no way – any use of talking. So you have any comments about this?

MR TONER: So I just – my only comment is that – and I’ve said this before – is that we would encourage greater dialogue and counterterrorism cooperation between both Pakistan and India. We’ve said that many times. It’s for the good of both countries; it’s for the good of the region. Frankly, it’s for the benefit of the United States. It’s important that Pakistan do the utmost to prevent terrorists from carrying out acts of terror – not just in Pakistan, but elsewhere in the region. So it’s important that there’s greater collaboration, greater dialogue. And we would encourage any effort in that regard.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR TONER: Thank you. Yeah.

Please.

QUESTION: On Japan.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: In the --

MR TONER: Good to see you.

QUESTION: Washington Post reported that President Obama is considering new nuclear weapons policy, which includes the one that the U.S. will never use a nuclear weapon, but U.S. will never use their – no first use.

MR TONER: No first use. Right.

QUESTION: And then the report also said the Japanese prime minister expressed a concern to U.S. officials because Japan is – Japan is worried about the threat from North Korea. But do you have any comment on that possible new --

MR TONER: Well, I think we share Japan’s concern about the threat of North Korea’s actions. Look, the President in his landmark 2009 speech in Prague talked about a way forward, a path, if you will, that would – to a world without nuclear weapons. And in the past years this Administration has achieved progress on a number of fronts in that regard: reducing our own deployed stockpiles and launchers through the New START, but also diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy and securing the Iran deal, which will help, we believe, stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are always looking for additional ways to achieve progress towards the President’s goal while maintaining – and this is important – a credible deterrent for the United States, our allies, and our partners.

So we’ve said we’ll continue to review our plan modernization programs. We’re going to continue to assess whether there are additional steps that we can take to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our security strategy and pursue ways to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime further. But as I said, we’re always going to maintain a credible deterrent for our friends and our allies.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that? Have there been concerns expressed diplomatically by Japan and South Korea about this proposal that the President is supposed to make before the UN General Assembly next month?

MR TONER: I’m not aware. That’s an honest answer.

Please.

QUESTION: I have two questions. The first one was on Gitmo. I was wondering if you can guarantee the American people that the 15 detainees released this week won’t go right back out into the battlefield to fight against and target Americans. And if not, why continue to release them?

MR TONER: Well, good question. I think that we’ve talked about this before. But what’s important is that any time – so as we scale down Gitmo and hopefully one day close it altogether, the detainees have been vetted through what is a very rigorous process, and I can assure you that it’s a very rigorous process – looked at all of the – whether they would return to the battlefield; recidivist or recidivism, I guess, is – was the terminology used. Is it 100 percent foolproof? Have there been no cases or zero cases of this happening? Well, no. There have been cases of it, but very few. I don’t know the percentage in front of me, but it’s incredibly small. By and large, these detainees that have been sent to various countries and governments who have accepted them have worked very hard to maintain surveillance of these individuals, to keep track of them, keep an eye on them, if you will, to ensure that they no longer pose a security threat to anyone – not just the American people, but to anyone. That is something that we take very seriously. These governments who take these detainees on and find them homes and resettle them also take it very seriously because it’s on their home soil that these people are living. That’s, I think, step one in any kind of plan to close Gitmo: where you relocate the detainees. I think security, safety of innocent civilians is foremost.

QUESTION: And I have another question --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: -- on a different topic. We understand there was a discussion at the State --

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on --

QUESTION: Oh, yeah, sure.

QUESTION: -- Gitmo. So what is – how many cases where the former Gitmo detainees were actually caught in attacking or planning attacks on the United States? Do you have any record of that?

MR TONER: How many --

QUESTION: How many incidents? You said that there were some incidents, but you don’t think they --

MR TONER: Yeah, I don’t. There is – you know what? And I’m not trying to – we can get you this, but the Department of Defense also puts out recidivist rates.

QUESTION: Okay, this --

MR TONER: Again, they’re relatively small.

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s a difficult word to pronounce: recidivism rate. And compared, let’s say, to American prisoners in American prisons. I mean, how does it compare?

MR TONER: I don’t --

QUESTION: In my understanding, it’s a lot less.

MR TONER: I don’t, but that doesn’t sound unrealistic to me.

Please.

QUESTION: Thank you. So we understand there was a discussion here at the State Department about the feasibility of then-Secretary Clinton using a wireless earpiece or Bluetooth earpiece. This is roughly the same time period as the lengthy discussions about BlackBerry use. So was there an informal discussion or a formal request within Secretary Clinton’s proposed use of a wireless earpiece or Bluetooth?

MR TONER: Hold on a second. So I think we just got this request – or this question in an hour or so ago. We’re looking at it. We don’t have an answer for you yet. We’ll get back to you when we know more about whether indeed Secretary Clinton asked for or requested to use a Bluetooth or wireless earpiece within – what I think you’re talking about was within the seventh floor.

QUESTION: And then what’s the --

MR TONER: Mahogany Row, so-called Mahogany Row.

QUESTION: Is there a State Department policy on Bluetooth devices from your security professionals or anything that way then?

MR TONER: Well, again, we’re looking into what the stated policy is. I mean, in general, any kind of Bluetooth – it’s a security assessment whether any kind of device – whether a – whether it’s a phone or, as I said, a Bluetooth earpiece might be used as a way to gain access to information or listen in on conversations, but I don’t have a clear, definitive policy for you. We’ll get that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure thing.

Please.

QUESTION: The Washington Post has a big story that you have doubtless seen that lays a lot of responsibility on the White House for the messy situation in Iraq today, that actually in 2012 when the U.S. troops withdrew, it pressed for extensive cutbacks in State Department programs slated for Iraq over objections of both the military and the State Department with negative consequences. Do you concur in that assessment? And if not, why not?

MR TONER: I’m aware of the article. I mean, look, it’s a very lengthy piece and lengthy analysis. I guess in answer to your question, I would say that I can acknowledge that our security relationship is fundamentally different than it was – than the one we had with Iraq prior to 2011. We all know that. The majority of programs that were run by the Department of Defense weren’t impacted as much by budget cuts as they were by the fundamental change in our security cooperation with Iraq as well as the departure of thousands of Department of Defense personnel. And I think that they can probably speak in greater detail to those programs or the effect or ramifications of those programs being closed or shut down or scaled back.

It also should be noted that the Government of Iraq also had a say in all of these decisions. They are a sovereign country, as I mentioned previously. So there were Department of State programs, for instance, that they were not in favor of supporting at that point in time or at that time.

I also think with regard to our general focus or how we’re targeting or going about pursuing a strategy to root out terrorist networks in Iraq, we’re doing it in a different way, and we’ve talked a lot about that. I mean, how we’re going after ISIL and Daesh in Iraq right now is that we are working through the Government of Iraq to build up the capabilities of Iraq’s forces to destroy, dismantle ISIL, to rebuild these communities, and to provide for the security of the Iraqi people going forward.

That’s a hard thing to do, harder than just putting a lot of U.S. troops on the ground in some ways and going after ISIL and Daesh, but it’s an important thing to do, because ultimately, this is about enabling Iraq to provide for its own security. And we’ve seen on the battlefield Iraq’s forces, security forces, have shown that they have the ability, and we’ve seen it with Kurdish forces as well – the ability to defeat, go after, defeat ISIL, to remove them, and then in places where we’ve seen them rebuild communities that have been devastated by ISIL.

As I said, this is a long-term strategy, but it’s one we have to do in conjunction with the Iraqi Government and we have to succeed at if we want Iraq to be able to, frankly, stand on its own two feet going forward.

Please.

QUESTION: Back to the emails.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Just a couple of clarification points. So can you – are you able to say the number of emails that the FBI will be turning over to Congress as part of --

MR TONER: Turning over to Congress?

QUESTION: State Department --

MR TONER: I don’t think I do have that. I apologize. Sorry for the awkward pause as I look through this.

QUESTION: Dramatic.

MR TONER: Dramatic pause. (Laughter.) Thank you.

I don’t. We’ll try to see if we can get you a firm number on that --

QUESTION: So it would not be the entirety of the thousands of Clinton emails that --

MR TONER: Well, no. And again, my understanding is that these are not just Clinton emails. These are emails from other individuals and sources that haven’t been out there yet, so it’s not just – these are not unseen Clinton emails; these are from different sources, different individuals. I don’t know how to put it.

QUESTION: And going back to the Judicial Watch --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Earlier in August you had released a statement saying that these documents would be made public as part of your legal obligation, so – as far as the Clinton emails that were originally procured by the FBI that were then handed over to the State Department. So will those still be made public?

MR TONER: I’m sorry. So just to clarify, you’re talking about – right, the thousands of documents that the FBI provided. We have agreed to produce to Judicial Watch any emails sent in her official capacity. We are still trying to come up with a decision on how we’ll or whether we’ll release them publicly, as we did with the 55,000. So I --

QUESTION: So it is now a question as to whether they – it would be up to Judicial Watch as to whether or not they were to become public?

MR TONER: Yes. Well, no. I mean, not – look, I mean, we’re still assessing, I guess is how I’d put it at this point. We have voluntarily agreed to produce to Judicial Watch these emails, and we’ve made that in a court filing last Friday. But in answer to Brad’s question, which is are we going to put them up on State’s FOIA website like we did with the previous 55,000, we’re still trying to assess how or if we’re going to do that.

QUESTION: Yemen very quickly?

MR TONER: Yemen, sure.

QUESTION: Follow-up on – yesterday there was – the question was asked on the bombardment of the hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders and the school.

MR TONER: Yeah, of course.

QUESTION: I wonder if you have received any word from the Saudis that they have begun conducting an investigation or where the situation is.

MR TONER: Well, certainly – and I think we spoke to this yesterday – we strongly urge all sides to end these kinds of offensive military actions in Yemen. We express our condolences to the victims’ families of yesterday’s horrible attacks – or airstrikes, rather. Goes without saying that civilians are the most vulnerable victims of any conflict, and we’re always concerned by civilian casualties, and especially in this case – in this conflict.

In terms of – we have obviously expressed our concerns to the Saudi-led coalition. We’ve urged them, as I said, to cease all military action. The only solution to Yemen’s challenges, as we have said many times, is through peaceful dialogue, so we reiterate our calls for the Saudi-led coalition to take all feasible measures to protect civilians while also ensuring accountability and avoiding future civilian harm.

As – I don’t think there’s an update on yesterday’s statement that we said that the Saudi-led coalition has announced it will conduct an investigation. I would just add that we would urge them to do it very quickly and to release their findings publicly.

Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: One more on Yemen.

MR TONER: One more. Sorry.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to a bipartisan group of senators who have expressed their concerns about the continual sale of arms to Saudi Arabia given these civilian casualties?

MR TONER: I mean, I’ll – any – look, I mean, I haven’t seen the letter, so I am hesitant to respond to it except to say that any defense or security products that we give to or sell to the Saudis, as with any country, are under the end-use protocols that always look at and monitor usage of them.

QUESTION: Defensive? You sell more than defensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. Is that – I mean, fighter jets are purely defensive? Missiles --

MR TONER: Sorry, security – security materials. I apologize.

QUESTION: Mark, did you get any update from UN on South Sudan?

MR TONER: No, I don’t believe so, Tejinder. Let me just look very quickly. Sorry, guys. I’m not trying to – I think we’re pretty much where we were yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: But let me just very quickly look here.

I mean, we – what I – all I can say is that we’ve raised this incident and our concerns with senior officials in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the secretary-general’s staff, and we’re going to continue to seek clarification on the UN’s response to the incident on July 11th. We’ll continue to pressure the UN to improve security for all UNMIS personnel, as well as NGO workers and civilians.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:10 p.m.)

DPB # 143


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 15, 2016

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 18:14

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 15, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:04 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Hey, guys, sorry I’m late. Welcome to the State Department. I have a few things at the top. First, on Venezuela. The United States is deeply concerned by the Venezuelan court of appeals decision to allow the miscarriage of justice to continue against political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez. Since Mr. Lopez’s arrest and imprisonment in February of 2014 and his conviction and sentencing in September of 2015, we have underscored our concern with the unsubstantiated and politically motivated charges brought against Mr. Lopez. We have repeatedly called for his release and that of all others imprisoned for political reasons.

The United States calls on the Government of Venezuela to guarantee the rights of Mr. Lopez and all political prisoners to due process, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and a fair, public, and impartial trial consistent with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Venezuela’s constitution. Rather than silencing peaceful democratic dissent, now is the time for Venezuela’s leaders to listen to diverse voices and work together to find solutions to the political, social, and economic challenges facing the Venezuelan people.

Next, on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United States offers our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the reported massacres that occurred the night of August 13th outside of Beni, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by presumed elements of the Allied Democratic Forces armed group. Congolese authorities and the UN peacekeeping mission are working jointly to determine those responsible for the attack as well as the details of the what exactly happened.

We deplore in the strongest terms this horrific attack and will continue to support all efforts to end the ongoing violence in eastern Congo, to increase civilian protection, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

And with that, Matt, over to you.

QUESTION: Right. Let’s start – I want to get to Syria very quickly, but I want to start just with Yemen --

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: -- because I think it will be brief. You have seen the reports about an MSF hospital being bombed. What, if anything, do you have to say about that?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’re deeply concerned by a reported strike on a hospital in northern Yemen. We’re gathering more information. As we’ve said in the past, strikes on humanitarian facilities, including hospitals, are particularly concerning. We call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately. Continued military actions only prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this was apparently done by Saudi – the Saudi coalition that you guys are big supporters of, though. Is there – have you raised this issue? This is not the first time that civilian and the hospitals have been targeted there.

MS TRUDEAU: So we remain in close contact with the Saudis on this. We would note that the Saudi committee that was designated to look into civilian casualties – the previous ones we’ve discussed from this podium – did share its findings with the UN. We believe that’s a step forward in transparency. And as we previously underscored, we also call on them to public release those reports.

QUESTION: But does it have any – is there any consequence to this?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I’d say is I’m not going to get ahead of any decision, but U.S. officials have regularly engaged with Saudi officials as whether – as well as other coalition members on the importance of mitigating harm. As part of this, we’ve also encouraged them to do their utmost to avoid harm to entities protected by international law such as this hospital.

QUESTION: Do you know if there is any unease or angst about – in this building at least with the policy people about the fact that this is a U.S.-supported campaign that seems to keep hitting civilian --

MS TRUDEAU: I think that we continue to raise our concerns directly with Saudi and other coalition members.

QUESTION: So the answer is no, there isn’t any?

MS TRUDEA: I think the answer is, is that harm against civilians is always a concern. We always raise that issue.

QUESTION: All right, I’m done with that.

QUESTION: Could I – just quickly on Yemen? There was also a school that was hit.

MS TRUDEAU: There was.

QUESTION: There was a school which the United Nations submitted some sort of a complaint or a condemnation. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS TRUDEAU: I do. And we’ve seen those remarks. We do share the United Nations’ concern about the alleged strike on the school in Saada governorate on August 13th. We will continue to review information on that strike. Regardless of the cause – and this goes back to Matt’s point – this incident reinforces concerns underscored in the secretary general’s recent report detailing the horrific consequences that Yemen’s conflict continues to have on children.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: You’ve seen these reports that Russia is saying it’s close to a military – joint military action with the U.S. in Aleppo. Is there any truth to these?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen the press reports of the Russian defense minister’s comments. We have nothing to announce at this time. We do speak regularly with Russian officials about ways to strengthen the cessation of hostility, improve humanitarian access, and bring about conditions necessary to find a political solution to the conflict.

QUESTION: So you say you’re not ready to announce anything yet, which means that you’re working on something?

MS TRUDEAU: We have remained in close touch, as we’ve been clear about, with the Russians on ways to, as I said, advance the cessation of hostilities, improve the access, and to bring about the conditions necessary for a political transition.

QUESTION: But is there a specific discussion with the Russians about – that’s centered on Aleppo and possible --

MS TRUDEAU: I have nothing to read out on that. Absolutely --

QUESTION: So there’s no – there are no discussions or --

MS TRUDEAU: I just – I have no information to share on that.

QUESTION: So as part of the broader dialogue that you say you have with the Russians on this, is there anything that you’re aware of that involves joint military action around Aleppo?

MS TRUDEAU: There is nothing to announce at this time, Matt.

QUESTION: When do you expect this to be announced?

QUESTION: He was quite certain on --

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on one second. We’ll go to Michel and then we’ll come to you, Said. Okay.

QUESTION: When do you expect this to be announced on your part?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, I have nothing to announce. We’ve seen his comments. We’re very focused on the three components that I mentioned: cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, political transitions are political conditions necessary to bring a political solution to this conflict.

Said.

QUESTION: I just want to understand. So are you – you are denying that what he said about joint military action against militias? Is --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I’d also look very closely to what the Russian defense minister said himself on that. But in terms of our position, we have nothing to announce.

Okay.

QUESTION: And the --

QUESTION: But you are not denying that it could happen?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to get ahead of anything on that, Michel. Matt, you had more Syria, or was that it?

QUESTION: No.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Lesley.

QUESTION: On Syria.

QUESTION: Since you are – because I’m completely confused. So there are ongoing discussions that Secretary Kerry is talking about on – but that is not just Aleppo. That is a broader Syria --

MS TRUDEAU: These are the conversations that we have been having with Russian officials on the three components that we’ve been very transparent about. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay, but he seems to be narrowing it to Aleppo, just Aleppo, which sounds like --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, and I would refer you to the Russians to speak to what their defense minister said.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS TRUDEAU: For the United States, we have nothing to announce.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Syria still.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we going to stay on Syria? Of course, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Indian External Affairs Minister M.J. Akbar is visiting Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon this week. Do you have any comments on that? What is the --

MS TRUDEAU: No, I think we would say it’s for a sovereign country to decide who they speak to. We’ve been very clear with our position on Syria. We’ve shared that with our partners around the world. I’d let the Indian Government speak particularly to their meetings.

QUESTION: No, but that – we are not supporting Assad, then – so what --

MS TRUDEAU: Again, that would be for the Indian Government to speak to their visits and the purpose of those visits.

Let’s stay on Syria.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, very quickly. The king of Jordan just gave an interview, I think this morning, to a semi-government newspaper in Jordan and he said that Jordan is at its capacity; they cannot absorb any more refugees. Do you have any comment on that? Do you have any --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I think we’ve been also very clear and deeply appreciative of the work that Jordan has done in welcoming refugees. We appreciate the generosity of Jordan and the Jordanian people. They’re hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. The United States continue to stand with Jordan. We’ll work with the international community on an expedited basis to identify alternative mechanism, especially to address that very vulnerable Syrian population right along the Jordanian-Syrian border.

In terms of what the king said himself, I would refer you back to the Jordanian Government.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you. Are we still staying on Syria?

QUESTION: Syria.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS TRUDEAU: Let’s stay on Syria and then we’ll get there, okay?

QUESTION: All right. Turkish foreign minister said that U.S. promised Turkey that once the Manbij is cleared from Daesh, PYD forces will leave west side of Euphrates River. And I was wondering if you set any timeline for PYD on this regard, and can you confirm that you are in touch with PYD forces regarding this issue?

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say is we’ll back up a step and let’s talk about Manbij and the situation on the ground there. Liberating Manbij City will cut a key route that ISIL has used to move fighters, finances, weapons, supplies in and out of the remaining territory under ISIL control in Iraq and Syria. Liberating the city will also facilitate the isolation of Raqqa, which is a critical step towards removing ISIL in Syria. The operation complements ongoing operations that the coalition are conducting to reduce the ISIL threat to Turkey by supporting vetted Syrian opposition forces fighting ISIL near the Mara line and along Turkey’s border since mid-April. Expelling Manbij City will also liberate between, we understand, 35,000 to 40,000 citizens from ISIL control.

The Arabs fighting for Manbij are from Manbij, and they’re fighting to take back their homes. The Kurdish forces are a critical component of the SDF. That said, we do have commitments from Kurdish leadership that the local Arabs liberating their own lands will be the ones to rebuild the area and restore local control when the terrorists are finally evicted. I think that answers some.

QUESTION: Okay. And one more question.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: The leader of Kurdish National Council, Ibrahim Biro, was kidnapped by PYD, I think on Saturday. And later he was freed on Iraqi border, and he was forced to leave Syria. I was wondering if you have anything on that.

MS TRUDEAU: I have – I’ve not heard of that report. I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Actually, I was emailed that question on Saturday, but --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, let me look into that.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we staying on Syria?

QUESTION: One more, just quick follow-up on Syria. Would you endorse or encourage SDF forces to go westward and go after Al-Bab, a near – another city? Is there some coordination between U.S. --

MS TRUDEAU: So ask this again?

QUESTION: Would you encourage SDF forces to go westward from Manbij area to Al-Bab and other cities?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. In terms of sort of operational components and what the SDF is doing and where they’re taking the fight to ISIL, I’m just not qualified to speak to that, I’ll be honest.

Do we have more on Syria?

QUESTION: Related to Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: We’ll do related to Syria. That was close, Abigail.

QUESTION: Right. I know you guys love talking about politics. Donald Trump --

MS TRUDEAU: Which I won’t.

QUESTION: -- is speaking right now. He’s speaking about his new immigration policy. And some of the things that he’s speaking about are adding the government using questionnaires, social media, interview with friends and family. It sounds like things that are already being done in the screening process. Do you have any – do you think any of these things are missing right now from the current process?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t speak to political rhetoric from any campaign. What I would say is, as we’ve spoken from many times on here, is we stand by the integrity of our visa process. And I’ll just leave that there.

Are we – any more on Syria?

QUESTION: He’s basically talking about some sort of an ideological litmus test for people who are coming.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Again, I’m not going to speak to what political candidates may or may not reflect.

QUESTION: Okay, but is that really any different than in the very old days when they said – they used to say, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Is that similar?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to speak to that, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Any more on Syria?

QUESTION: I have – can I come back to the issue of this --

QUESTION: Okay, but just one more thing. I think that I heard you say this, but I just want to make sure. Your response to the question is essentially there – you don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the visa system the way it is now and that you are --

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that we --

QUESTION: -- you’re confident in its ability to screen out people that might be a threat as it exists?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say two things on that. And actually, thanks for the question. We’ve said from this podium – I’ve said from this podium many times – is that we’re constantly looking to adapt the visa program, as well as our screening, as well as the information we have, as the world changes. That said – and this is what I said earlier – we stand by the integrity and the scrutiny of our visa program.

QUESTION: So Elizabeth --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah?

QUESTION: -- I wanted to come back to this issue of the reports on the joint military action.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: You’re not denying that – you’re not saying this is not going to take --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, no, but as I said, we talk to the Russians all the time, Lesley. We talk to them on those specific components. Speaking specifically to your question on what the Russian defense minister – I have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: I’ve not seen the defense minister’s comment. I’ve just seen Sergey Lavrov’s comments.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I think it actually started with Defense Minister Shoigu, but I just --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: I just have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay. So, but you’re not denying that – though, that there was --

MS TRUDEAU: I just have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Just – you just – nothing on the --

MS TRUDEAU: We remain in close contact with the Russians on the three components that are the main focus of our work right now.

Are we done with Syria?

QUESTION: India.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, hold on. Let’s do this; let’s go to Afghanistan first.

QUESTION: Thank you. As you know nowadays there’s conflicts or rifts between Dr. al-Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has become quite bad. Do you have any comment about it? And also, do you think that the U.S. need to send some delegation to Afghanistan to solve their problem in this sensitive time? It’s a big problem.

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen Chief Executive Abdullah’s public remarks regarding President Ghani and the Government of National Unity. We remain supportive of a government of national unity, and we encourage both President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to work together to pursue these common goals.

Are we – any more on Afghanistan? Okay, let’s go --

QUESTION: Hold on a second.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Just on that. I mean, this was one of – what Secretary Kerry says was – points to as a big achievement, not just of his but for the Administration as a whole, engineering this kind of president and chief executive agreement. Is there a concern that – in this building that that is unraveling?

MS TRUDEAU: No. We – there’s not. We still think that there’s work to be done, but there has been concrete and significant progress in Afghanistan since the Government of National Unity. We do remain in touch with the Afghan Government and we will remain in touch as they move forward.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But you’re – really, there’s no concern at all that the progress is in danger?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t say that at all, Matt. I would say we’ve seen the comments. We believe the Government of National Unity --

QUESTION: These are the --

MS TRUDEAU: -- has made significant progress in Afghanistan. We believe that that’s the path forward and we continue to support it.

QUESTION: These are the comments where he basically threatens to pull out of the government?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. We’ve seen those.

QUESTION: Yeah. And you’re not concerned about it?

MS TRUDEAU: We remain in close touch with them on these particular comments as well as the future of the government.

QUESTION: So you are concerned that there might be a problem?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to characterize it as concern, Matt. What I’m going to say is we think that there’s a lot of work to be done, but we believe a lot of progress has been made.

QUESTION: One more. One more.

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on. Are we on Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Afghanistan. One more quickly.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Madam, does Afghanistan supports U.S. drone attacks from their soil against Pakistan? It has started again, because they were stopped in the past but now they are again drone strikes are going on.

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t speak to that, Goyal.

QUESTION: Oh. Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead, Steve.

QUESTION: Okay. On Zambia.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: The opposition is challenging the results of the presidential election, alleging vote rigging, riots are breaking out in the south today. Does the United States recognize the results of the re-election of President Lungu?

MS TRUDEAU: So the United States welcomes the Zambian citizens’ democratic spirit which was characterized in voting on August 11th. We congratulate President-elect Edgar Lungu and call on all candidates to show leadership in respecting the official results as announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. We do encourage all Zambians to maintain the good conduct exhibited during the vote, and if they have objections to the results, to use the approved legal mechanisms for peaceful re-address.

We do note the statements by many of the international election observer missions which highlighted concerns with the pre-electoral environment, specifically increased violence and restrictions on freedom of press and assembly. We hope that the government will address these concerns in the context of future elections to strengthen Zambian democracy. We have a strong partnership with Zambia and with the Zambian people. We look forward to advancing our shared interests.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Are we – I think we’re done with Zambia. Let’s go here.

QUESTION: Elizabeth, so a question about these documents that Fox News has obtained, we’ve shared with you, showing that just weeks after Secretary Clinton left office the State Department expressed interest in acquiring a property owned by the brother of a major Clinton Foundation donor who we talked about last week, Gilbert Chagouri. The expression of interest also came within days of former President Clinton touring the property. What can you tell us about this?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so you’re asking specifically about Lagos, about Nigeria, just for context.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry. Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: No, it’s okay. So a few points, okay, that I’d like to make of this. As of today, as of right now, we have not contracted or acquired property for a new consulate in Lagos. The site search for a new consulate in Lagos began in 2011, as prioritized by the Capital Security Construction Program. Many of the potential sites under consideration by the department, to include the Eko Atlantic development, were identified by an independent international real estate firm, as is typical in site searches around the world. The Eko Atlantic site was identified, as I said, by an independent international real estate firm in 2012.

Our site search process, speaking specifically about this but also generally on how we operate, is managed by career real estate professionals in the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations with input from independent real estate firms and other department stakeholders, to include Diplomatic Security and overseas post. Career professionals evaluate and score potential properties under consideration before any property is put under contract. This robust process was followed in Lagos, as it is around the world.

Over the last several years as we have identified and evaluated multiple properties, the department has had conversations with multiple property owners and their representatives about the possibility of acquiring property for a new consulate in Lagos. The department does not comment, however, on the specifics of ongoing real estate negotiations, which this is.

QUESTION: Thank you for that. Just quickly, so if the process started as early as 2011 when Secretary Clinton was still in office, was she aware that Eko Atlantic was among one of the sites being pursued?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not aware she was.

QUESTION: Okay. And then lastly, was this a decision that Patrick Kennedy would have been involved in?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage when it is a site search, I specifically mentioned who has – that’s the career professionals and OBO. It’s Diplomatic Security. It’s independent real estate. In terms of who in leadership would be aware, this is a very preliminary thing. We do this with all of our sites around the world.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, you still don’t have any property but the process started in 2011? That’s five years.

MS TRUDEAU: And --

QUESTION: Is this --

MS TRUDEAU: That it is. I would say that in some of our posts around the world, acquiring property that’s appropriate for the type of facility that a U.S. consulate or, in some cases, a U.S. mission, a U.S. embassy requires, is a long progress. But I do note it was 2011.

QUESTION: Yeah. But, so they’ve been in negotiations over this specific property for five years?

MS TRUDEAU: No, not negotiations. What they’ve been is they’ve been looking for a property, identifying – taking a look at properties since 2011.

QUESTION: Not just this property?

MS TRUDEAU: No, multiple properties.

QUESTION: So when did this property become involved? When did it get into the mix?

MS TRUDEAU: So it was identified as a potential in 2012.

QUESTION: So it went on for a year before – and now it is the preferred property?

MS TRUDEAU: I – actually, I can’t tell you it’s the preferred because of so many of our – we don’t comment on specifics of ongoing real estate negotiations on that.

QUESTION: I don’t think anybody --

MS TRUDEAU: But I would say we looked at multiple. This one was identified in 2012.

QUESTION: But so in other words, then, negotiations for the sale of this property has been going for four years, not five.

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t say that this is the preferred site.

QUESTION: I know, but as in --

MS TRUDEAU: As a --

QUESTION: As a property that is in the mix or it – to be --

MS TRUDEAU: Or I would say assessment. I would say taking a look at the requirements. I’m not sure if any of you guys have been to our consulate in Lagos. This obviously is a priority, but I do note it has been since 2011.

QUESTION: It can’t be that much of a priority if it’s taken five years --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, there’s a lot of very specific, as you well --

QUESTION: I know.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: I know, but it just seems like a long time.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we good on this one?

QUESTION: Just one more, please.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: What you are saying is that you can’t talk about the inclusions. Can you talk about the – is this property --

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t actually talk inclusion or exclusion. What I can do is say that yes, this was part of the galaxy of options that we’re considering.

QUESTION: So it’s still there or not – that you can’t say?

MS TRUDEAU: We can’t speak about specifics. What I would say is that it was brought to our attention as a possibility by an international independent real estate forum in 2012.

QUESTION: We go Iraq – back to Iraq?

QUESTION: More --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, wait. More on this?

QUESTION: Yeah, more on Clinton.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So, you guys. Let’s wrap this up and then we’ll move to foreign policy.

QUESTION: More on Clinton. So congressional members will soon be receiving notes from former Secretary Clinton’s interview with the FBI. Was the State Department in consultation with the FBI about the release of this – these notes or of the transcript to congressional members? Did the State Department express any concerns or do they have any concerns now about the release of these notes?

MS TRUDEAU: I’d say the State Department respects the FBI’s desire to accommodate the request of its committees of oversight in Congress, just as we do with our oversight committees. We have cooperated and we will continue to cooperate with the FBI every step of the way.

QUESTION: Is it --

MS TRUDEAU: Anything more on this?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is it true that the State Department --

MS TRUDEAU: You are the king of follow-ups today, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Is it true that the State Department is not happy with the FBI for not sharing these notes with the State Department and instead sharing --

MS TRUDEAU: I’d characterize it this way: The State Department has asked the FBI that we be kept apprised of information provided to Congress that contains sensitive information related to State Department equities and for an opportunity to review it. Such an opportunity for review is in keeping with standard interagency review process when dealing with another agency’s documents or equities. For example, we routinely provide the FBI with the opportunity for such a review when we’re considering providing to Congress information relevant to their equities.

Additionally, just to that point, the State Department honored the standard practice during the 10 months we worked collaboratively with the – within the interagency to process the nearly 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s emails for public release. The State Department has already cooperated and continues to cooperate extensively with Congress directly on matters related to former Secretary Clinton’s emails. We have provided Congress with copies of upgraded emails from the Clinton email set; numerous State Department officials have conducted voluntary interviews with various committees; and, obviously, we’ve been in frequent contact with Congress on these matters.

QUESTION: But the question was, is the State Department not happy with the FBI going ahead and sharing and not sharing with the State Department those notes?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say what I said again, is we respect the FBI’s desire to accommodate the requests of its committees of oversight in Congress. We have cooperated. We will continue to cooperate with the FBI every step of the way, and any suggestion to the contrary is false.

QUESTION: So one more follow-up on that. So the State Department has not had the opportunity to review these notes before they would be released to Congress?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, it’s my understanding we’re still in direct touch with the FBI on it. I just don’t have an update for you on that. Okay?

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS TRUDEAU: Are we done on this?

QUESTION: Different subject?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, we’re done on this. Hold on. Let me go to Laurie, because I already got you, Steve.

QUESTION: Okay. Over the weekend, Kurdish Peshmerga forces crossed the Greater Zab River and liberated a dozen villages from ISIS control, so it looks like the liberation of Mosul is really approaching. And both President Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, and General David Petraeus have spoken of the need to plan Mosul’s post-ISIS governance. After meeting with Special Envoy Brett McGurk over the weekend, President Barzani said that the people of Mosul will not accept the old order and that drastic changes are necessary. General Petraeus has called specifically for establishing a provincial council to represent the diverse peoples of Mosul. Can you give us some idea, some concept of how you see the governance of post-ISIS Mosul now?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, one – a few things on this. For both President Barzani as well as General Petraeus, they would speak to their own comments on that. I’m not going to characterize their comments either way. I would also say that it’s our understanding, while huge progress has been made, the situation in Mosul still does remain fluid in some ways. We can say, however, that we have confidence in Prime Minister Abadi in his efforts to promote accountability and transparency, combat official corruption, and to build more inclusive institutions. As we’ve said in the past, long-term stability in Iraq will require the government in Baghdad to be responsive to the needs of all Iraqis. We’ve worked hard for many years to support that effort.

You mentioned Special Presidential Envoy McGurk’s visit – recent trip to both Baghdad and Erbil. He reaffirmed the coalition and the United States commitment to provide assistance to the Iraqi campaign to defeat on the battlefield but also after the battles are won with essential stabilization and humanitarian support.

QUESTION: But the exact dimensions of that stabilization hasn’t been worked out yet. Is that what you’re --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, it’s – he did note the recent pledging conference, as you noted, that would go through the UN. We had that conversation on that. In terms of the exact mechanics on that, no, I don’t have – I don’t have a readout.

Are we on Mosul?

QUESTION: Elizabeth, yeah, on the very same point.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Because also, McGurk said that the future governance of Mosul is – should be decentralized somehow – I mean, those were his words – because that’s what the government wants. It wants decentralization. Does one – is one to understand that you are sort of encouraging some sort of a confederacy within Iraq, that it would be --

MS TRUDEAU: No, I wouldn’t get ahead of that at all. What --

QUESTION: -- it would be divided into regions and governorates and so on (inaudible)?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I wouldn’t characterize it as that at all. That’s for the Government of Iraq to say.

QUESTION: Right.

MS TRUDEAU: What I will say, though, is that we need a well-coordinated, well-meshed-up political, economic, and stabilization plan that, as I mentioned to Laurie, accounts for the needs of all Iraqis.

QUESTION: But he did mention the word “decentralize” (inaudible).

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I would – I haven’t seen his exact remarks, but thanks for that, Said.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iraq?

MS TRUDEAU: Are we doing Iraq? Sure.

QUESTION: Yes. On Brett McGurk’s visit to Erbil, he met with – I think this is the first time he does this – he met with every single major party leader in the Kurdish region, including the opposition leaders. Can you explain why he did that?

MS TRUDEAU: I’ve got a brief readout on that. So he – I’ll start at the top because we’ll start with Baghdad and then we’ll move down.

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk and his deputy, Lieutenant General Terry Wolff, visited Iraq for meetings with senior Iraqi Government and security officials. He commended the Iraqi Security Forces as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga for their achievements on the battlefield. He welcomed the recent advance, as we were just talking about, with the Kurdish Peshmerga east of Mosul and Iraqi forces south of Mosul which are helping to shape the conditions for Mosul’s ultimate liberation and stabilization. He also outlined the recent increases in U.S. and coalition support, including support for stabilization in those liberated areas.

In meetings with the governor of Nineveh province, the Nineveh operations commander, and other leaders involved in the planning for the liberation of Mosul, he emphasized the importance, as I just mentioned, of a well-coordinated military, political, economic campaign plan. The United States and our coalition partners are committed to working with all Iraqi leaders, to your question, to ensure this plan is well-developed.

So I think this is a – this is one of those instances where, when you see the opportunity to go into a recently liberated area, you see the need for that well-coordinated, well-mashed-up – meshed-up plan that requires the support of all those local leaders. That’s the sort of communication that we continue to have.

QUESTION: There’s some political crisis in the Kurdistan region and some people, some commentators from the region, have explained the meetings between Brett McGurk and the opposition figures in Kurdistan – not just the people in power – as some sort of interference on the part of the United States to bring those parties together --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to solve this political crisis. Do you --

MS TRUDEAU: I would actually take it as a different way. I would interpret that as the view that the United States stands behind the people of Iraq – all Iraqis – as they continue to take a look at stabilizing and rebuilding the city of Mosul.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Are we more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On Saturday, August 13, Widad Hussain, reporter for Roj News Agency, was found dead in Duhok, Iraq. And according to some news reports, Widad was kidnapped by some unidentified persons in Duhok, and a few hours later he was found dead. And according to some primary investigations, he was tortured to death. And this is not the first time for a journalist to be killed in the Kurdish region of Iraq. I am wondering to see if you have raised this with the Kurdish security officials, and particularly for this – for the killing of this journalist and also the previous ones who were killed and the perpetrators were never found or tried. What’s your – what is your stance on that, please?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, first, we would offer our condolences, obviously, to his family and friends. The United States anywhere in the world, but particularly in areas where transparency matters – the importance of journalists and brave journalists on the front lines can’t be overstated. In terms of the investigation on this, I’d refer you to local authorities. I just don’t have any insight into that.

QUESTION: This has been said before. Whenever incidents like this happen, they commit a committee for it, for the investigation, but it seems like there’s no result or the perpetrators were never brought to trial. I’m really curious about what is your stance on freedom of press and targeting journalists specifically --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, of course, I think you know our stance on freedom of press --

QUESTION: Anything in particular?

MS TRUDEAU: -- and you also know our stance on accountability. This is something we raise around the world, not only in Iraq.

Okay, are we done with Iraq?

QUESTION: Asia, please?

QUESTION: Go back to Yemen?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, let’s do Asia. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s a question about Taiwan. The interior minister is going to inspect Itu Aba Island, the Taiping Island, tomorrow. Does the State Department have a comment on it, and did you receive any notice from President Tsai or her administration about it?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I’m not going to speak specifically to that visit, but I would note our full position, which we’ve said repeatedly from this podium, is we call on all South China Sea claimants to avoid actions that raise tension; to take practical steps that build confidence; and to intensify efforts to find peaceful, diplomatic solutions to disputes.

Okay. More on Asia?

QUESTION: More on Yemen. Sorry.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, wait. Let’s do Asia. Let’s wrap up Asia. Steve.

QUESTION: Have you had any indications that Pyongyang is no longer recognizing Sweden as the protecting power for the United States?

MS TRUDEAU: Sweden remains our protecting power in the DPRK. It is important to realize, though, that the United States Government has no diplomatic relations with North Korea. We have no means to provide normal consular services to U.S. citizens there. The embassy of Sweden in the North Korean capital is the protecting power, as I mentioned, for U.S. citizens, providing limited emergency consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea. However, even when requested by the Swedish embassy, the DPRK still routinely delays or denies consular access to U.S. citizens.

QUESTION: Have you noticed any sort of change as far as their attitude towards the Swedes from what you just said?

MS TRUDEAU: As I would say, it’s routine that they do deny consular access.

Are we – wait, Asia? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Earlier today, 10 South Korean congressional members landed on the disputed Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan. Do you have a response and are you concerned that this might set back reconciliation efforts of Japan and Korea?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. You know what, I haven’t seen that report. Let me see if I can get a response for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: So does the State Department see the action – the interior --

MS TRUDEAU: We call on all claimants to reduce tensions. I’ll leave my comment where it stood.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: So did you get any notice from Tsai, though?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no conversations to read out on that.

Anything more on Asia?

QUESTION: India.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Hold on, Goyal. We’ll get there.

QUESTION: Peru?

MS TRUDEAU: Abigail.

QUESTION: India is in Asia.

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you. (Laughter.) Abigail.

QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that a U.S. tourist was killed during an earthquake in Peru?

MS TRUDEAU: We are aware that a U.S. citizen was killed during the earthquake. Our condolences do go out to his family and friends. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment, other than to express our deepest condolences to all those impacted by the earthquake. We’re monitoring the situation and we remain in close contact with Peruvian authorities.

Okay, now we’re going to Asia. It’s all you, Goyal.

QUESTION: India. Okay, thank you, madam. Very simple question.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Today India celebrates 70th independence day.

MS TRUDEAU: And I think you saw the Secretary’s statements marking their independence day.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am, I did. My question is: President of India, Mr. Mukherjee, talks about development and moving forward, including India-U.S. relations and also rule of law, human rights, and 1.2 billion people – world’s largest democracy – still standing tall. But on the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said – first time this is something like happened – that the Kashmir in Pakistan – or they call occupied Pakistan in Kashmir – is part of India and they’re all Indians, and time has come now to speak out for those who are depressed or suppressed by the military there. And now thousands have been demonstrating inside Pakistan, but what they are saying is that they are not allowed to speak out by the military government and so forth. So what – have any comments about this Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments that now he’s – has directed the Indian foreign ministry to look into this?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I wouldn’t speak to Mr. Modi’s comments. That would be for him to speak to. Our position, as you well know, on Kashmir has not changed. The pace, the scope, the character of any discussions in Kashmir is for the two sides to determine. We support any and all positive steps that India and Pakistan can take to forge closer relations. We’re aware of the clashes. We remain concerned about the violence, and we encourage to – all sides to make efforts to finding a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: Finally, because so far any demonstrations or demonstrators were only against India or against the Kashmir in India, but never, ever in the occupied Kashmir in Pakistan, even those people were standing here demonstrating against the Pakistan at the Pakistan embassy. So what do you think? Is this the time now for State Department to look into that part of Kashmir also? Whose people are – want to speak out what they are --

MS TRUDEAU: I would leave our comments on Kashmir where I left them. We do remain concerned about the violence.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Two questions – quick question on Turkey. First one is: Today, Washington think tank talk about nuclear weapons in Incirlik Base in Turkey, and it states that terrorists or other hostile forces may capture these weapons. Also, there is a briefing at the U.S. Congress about the same subject. Are you concerned about the nuclear weapons?

MS TRUDEAU: I would refer you to the Department of Defense to speak to that.

QUESTION: Okay. Second question is: Today, Committee to Protect Journalists stated – declared Turkey as a top journalist-jailing country. About 42 journalists right now implicated as the coup – involvement with the coup and jailed, and about 100 also on the detainment list, and total journalists are 78 in Turkey. I was wondering if you have any comment on this.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I don’t have a comment on that specific report. What I would do is reiterate what we’ve said many times from this podium as Turkey’s friend, as NATO ally, as partner. We urge Turkey to abide by its constitutional commitment to fundamental principles such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, due process, judicial independence. These are key parts of any healthy democracy and a key part of Turkey’s own constitution.

Okay. Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: In Turkey particularly, anti-American rhetoric was discussed here last week.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, one more time.

QUESTION: Yeah, anti-American rhetoric in Turkey --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- was discussed here last week, which sparked after the coup attempt in Turkey, and particularly on Gulen’s extradition, whom Turkey thinks was behind the coup attempt. And I was wondering how the State Department sees this anti-American rhetoric in Turkey can be solved. And do you have any idea what U.S. can do regarding this?

MS TRUDEAU: I mean, we spoke about this at length last week. I’d direct you to that transcript. Of course we’re concerned about it, but we remain in close touch with our Turkish allies as part of this dialogue. I just don’t have anything to add to that.

One more.

QUESTION: Yeah, so I wanted to go back to Yemen.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, hold on one second. Can we wrap up Turkey?

QUESTION: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: Yes, related to that. The foreign minister of Turkey said that he got some positive signals or positive feedback about the extradition process. Given the fact that on Thursday you said in general that extradition processes could be years, I mean, what are these positive signals?

MS TRUDEAU: I couldn’t – yeah, I couldn’t speak to his specific comments, Nicolas. What I would say is what we’ve said before, is the extradition process, it’s very formal, it’s legal, it’s governed by a treaty. We will abide by that treaty. I just don’t have updates for you on that.

QUESTION: And Fethullah Gulen wrote an opinion piece in the French newspaper Le Monde where he said that he is – he would like to have a kind of international investigation set up by an international committee to investigate about the coup d’etat, and he said that he would be ready to take part to this investigation. Does it change your position regarding his stay in the United States?

MS TRUDEAU: No. Our extradition is governed by the treaty, and we will follow that treaty.

Are we done on Turkey?

QUESTION: Well, how about --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: -- just the general point of him wanting an international investigation? Is that something you think is a wise idea, or are you confident that the Turks can --

MS TRUDEAU: We’re confident in our extradition process, that any information --

QUESTION: No, no, this has --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- nothing to do with extradition.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: Has the – I mean, it has to do with Gulen in that he is calling for an international investigation into the coup. Is that something that you think is wise? Is it necessary? Or do you have full confidence that the Turks can do their own investigation and prosecute those responsible without any kind of violations of due process or rule of law?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that as the Turks continue to work through this, we understand that they will continue to prioritize their own security as they seek to hold accountable to those who were responsible for this failed coup. We have raised our concerns on issues of due process and transparency. In terms of in international investigation, I would refer you to the Turks. We wouldn’t take a position on that, Matt.

Turkey? Are we all done? Okay. Then I’m going to go to Yemen and then I’ll go to you, Abigail.

QUESTION: All right. So just to clarify earlier what you said about Yemen in regards --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to the hospital bombing this morning, you are – is it fair to say that you’re not coming out and condemning the attack; you’re saying we’re raising concerns with the coalition?

MS TRUDEAU: No, of course we would condemn any attack that hit civilians. We’re gravely concerned by any reports of civilian casualties. What we’re saying is we’ve seen these reports. Of course we would condemn any strike against a hospital.

QUESTION: Okay. Because, I mean, I’ve been hearing you all say for months now that we’re raising these concerns with the Saudi-led coalition, but this is the fourth attack on an MSF medical facility in Yemen in the past year, let alone countless others on clinics and hospitals. Are you concerned that these sort of stern conversations aren’t having the desired effect?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what we would say – and we’d point you back to what we talked about earlier – is the Saudi-led coalition themselves have taken a look at these, they have done reports. One of those reports – I think one or two has been turned over to the UN. We’ve also called on them to make those reports public. And so there is more transparency in that accountability. We remain gravely concerned about civilian casualties anywhere in the world where they occur, and Yemen is no exception.

QUESTION: And just one more.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: You all have called on all parties in that conflict to help facilitate the free flow of humanitarian aid, correct?

MS TRUDEAU: We have.

QUESTION: So on Friday, the Saudi-led coalition bombed a bridge leading to Sana’a that Oxfam says is used to convey 90 percent of humanitarian aid to that city. What do you have to say about that attack? Do you condemn that attack?

MS TRUDEAU: We have seen those reports, and if the bridge was deliberately struck by coalition forces, we would find this completely unacceptable. The bridge was critical for the delivery, as you note, for humanitarian assistance. Destruction will further complicate efforts to provide assistance to the people of Yemen.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Great. Abigail?

QUESTION: How do you determine whether it was deliberately or not deliberately attacked?

MS TRUDEAU: I think that this is one of the ongoing investigations that we’ll take a look. We continue to get reports from the ground. We’ll also be in touch with the coalition partners, and we’ll continue to gather information, Said.

QUESTION: I’m asking whether you, the United States, has an effort on its own to determine whether something --

MS TRUDEAU: We would have an effort in --

QUESTION: That is --

MS TRUDEAU: -- cooperation with our international partners there.

QUESTION: Including the Saudi --

MS TRUDEAU: But yes, we also do have our own sources.

QUESTION: Including the Saudi-led coalition?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, that would be one of the sources we get information from.

Abigail.

QUESTION: South Sudan.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes. And I’m glad for this. Please.

QUESTION: There was a fairly disturbing account put out today of the July 11th attack on the
Terrain hotel compound. And as part of it, survivors are saying that they waited for hours after calling for help from the U.S. embassy as well as other embassies in the area, with no one responding. Do you dispute that, and do you have any timeline that you can share with us about what occurred during the time of the assault?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I think we’ve all seen those horrific reports. I want to say at the top that privacy considerations will prevent me from talking about any specific part of this in detail. But as I go through this, I do not in any way want to minimize in any way, shape, or form what people might have gone through during that crisis in South Sudan.

So in terms of the timeline: In the midst of the ongoing fighting throughout the city between government and opposition forces, Embassy Juba actively responded to the July 11 assault on a private compound hosting U.S. citizens, among others. Upon learning about the attacks at Terrain camp, Ambassador Phee immediately – herself – immediately contacted South Sudanese government officials, including officials in the presidential guard and National Security Service. National Security Service sent a response force to the site and put a stop to the attack. Presidential guard forces also went to the scene, but they arrived after the National Security Service.

Following the attack and in the midst of ongoing fighting and violence throughout Juba, including in the immediate vicinity of the embassy, the U.S. embassy ensured that U.S. citizens and foreign nationals affected by the attack were moved to safety and provided emergency medical assistance. The U.S. embassy also facilitated the rapid departure of those involved from South Sudan by air ambulance.

As part of its response to the crisis in South Sudan, the U.S. embassy provided emergency services for those in need and assisted in the departure of more than 80 U.S. citizens during last month’s crisis.

We’ve stated we condemn these attacks. We have called for accountability for those who are involved in the violence.

Anything more on South Sudan?

QUESTION: So you can’t confirm that Americans were singled out and were specifically assaulted due to the fact that they were American in the course of the assault?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not in a position to say that any particular nationality was singled out.

QUESTION: And as part of the report, it suggests that it was South Sudanese soldiers who were in fact committing this assault. So how was the U.S. embassy – how could they be assured that the people that they were calling were the ones who were actually going to help rather than contributing to the ongoing --

MS TRUDEAU: So what I can say is that the attackers in this incident wore uniforms and they were armed. There were both opposition and government troops in Juba at that time. Armed clashes were occurring throughout the city. The area where Terrain is located was controlled by the SPLA on July 10th and 11th.

Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted – you said that the – in the midst of the ongoing attack at Terrain, you said Embassy Juba actively responded.

MS TRUDEAU: We did.

QUESTION: So the active response, though, as far as I can tell from what you said, was that the ambassador made a phone call. Is that --

MS TRUDEAU: The ambassador made several phone calls.

QUESTION: Several phone calls?

MS TRUDEAU: When we were assured that people would go out and bring people in, then we actively ensured that those people were safe. So yeah.

QUESTION: But in the midst of – while it was going – I understand what --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you’re saying after it was over what you did, but during it, was there --

MS TRUDEAU: When we received reports, we called the people who are best poised to go out and make it stop, which was the National Security Services as well as the presidential guard.

QUESTION: But – yeah, I understand that, but I mean – but was it just the ambassador or did other people – did other staffers do anything? I mean, I’m just trying to get an idea of what the active response was.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, in terms of sequence, it was – it was reaching out to the government officials who were in a position at that place to intervene.

QUESTION: So I think that the point that at least the survivors of this or some of the survivors of the attack is, is there wasn’t any kind – any attempt to intervene. Is that not appropriate or --

MS TRUDEAU: I – it’s – again, there was an immediate response from the U.S. embassy to identify and dispatch the people who could intervene immediately in the attack.

QUESTION: Right. But the embassy itself was not in a position to do anything?

MS TRUDEAU: Was not in a position to do that.

One more. Sir.

QUESTION: May I quickly go back to Japan?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Earlier today, several ministers of the Japanese Government as well as an envoy for Prime Minister Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines all the soldiers who were lost in World War II, commemorating the fact that the 15th of August was when Japan surrendered to the Allies. The Chinese Government, the Korean Government were very unhappy about that, and I was wondering if you have a comment to that.

MS TRUDEAU: So we continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues in a manner that promotes healing and reconciliation for all parties. We believe, as we’ve said before, that strong and constructive relations between country* in the region promote peace and stability in their interests as well as in the national interests of the United States.

QUESTION: Just one short follow-up: Does it at all frustrate the U.S. Government that the tension between Japan and Korea or Japan and China are rising when the tensions between the United States and China is rising regarding the South China Sea?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I wouldn’t do sort of geopolitic Sudoku there. What I would say is that we continue to call for regional stability, regional dialogue. Certainly, that’s of primary importance not only to the U.S., but the region.

Abigail, you had one more.

QUESTION: A quick one on South Sudan.

MS TRUDEAU: That’s okay, of course.

QUESTION: So did the embassy, then, reach out to the UN peacekeeping force or try to get the UN peacekeeping force there quickly? Is there any follow-up to that, any concern on the part of the U.S. about their handling of the situation?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve raised the incident with senior officials in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as well as the Secretary General’s staff. We will continue to seek clarification on the UN’s response to the events on July 11th.

QUESTION: So did – but can you say whether the embassy, then, did try to reach out and get the UN peacekeeping force there on --

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information on that, Abigail.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, you guys. I’m sorry, one more, guys.

QUESTION: I just never heard that phrase before. Can you explain what geopolitical Sudoku is? (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: It is. It’s a great phrase, isn’t it? That’s fun.

QUESTION: But can you explain what it is exactly?

MS TRUDEAU: I think it’s the complicated math of regional tensions.

QUESTION: I thought the whole point of Sudoku was it wasn’t complicated math.

MS TRUDEAU: It depends on what version of Sudoku you do, Matt. (Laughter.)

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:58 p.m.)

DPB # 142


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 11, 2016

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 16:42

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 11, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Good afternoon, everyone. I have two short things at the top, then we’ll get to your questions.

First, on Turkey: The United States condemns yesterday’s bombings in Kiziltepe and Diyarbakir. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and wish a quick recovery to the many injured.

Secondly, on a happier note, we’re pleased to welcome to today’s press briefing a group of Haitian journalists who are participating in a weeklong USAID-sponsored training on health journalism at VOA Creole Service. It’s a pleasure to have you guys here. Bienvenue.

Matt.

QUESTION: Let’s see, we could start with Ukraine or Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: It’s up to you, my friend.

QUESTION: Do you have any – well, since you mentioned Turkey in your opening, we’ll start with --

MS TRUDEAU: Let’s start with Turkey.

QUESTION: -- Turkey. You will have seen the Turks have proposed joint operations, military operations, whatever that means, with the Russians in Syria, and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about that.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we’ve seen those reports, certainly, and we remain in close contact with our Turkish allies and our partners in the fight against Daesh. We’ve been clear if – work against Daesh, against ISIL is a priority for all of us – if this is truly a step in that direction, we would welcome that.

QUESTION: Okay, so you don’t have any fundamental – as long as it takes that form, you wouldn’t have an issue with it? You don’t have a problem?

MS TRUDEAU: As we remain in coordination with all the members of the anti-ISIL coalition, this would be part of that and we would welcome it.

QUESTION: Okay. And what about suggestions from some Turkish officials that they’re looking to expand – I don’t know if “replace” is actually the right word, but – at least at the moment, but expand their non-NATO defense and security cooperation? Is that an issue for you guys?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, Turkey’s been a member of NATO since 1952. It is a tremendous member of the alliance. It’s a framework nation in Afghanistan. We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish allies not only in Afghanistan, but in training, in exercises around the world. Is Turkey – I’ve seen the comments on that. I’d refer you to the Turkish Government for more information. A fundamental tenet of NATO is interoperability. We believe it’s important that NATO countries procure military equipment that’s interoperable with NATO systems. So I’d point you to the Turks to clarify that.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know, does the – when you talk about interoperable equipment, does that basically mean U.S.-made equipment?

MS TRUDEAU: No, so a lot of --

QUESTION: Or can --

MS TRUDEAU: -- the NATO equipment that you see, or NATO standard – it’s actually a formal standard. It doesn’t have to be U.S.-made equipment – though of course, as an American, I’m always happy to see U.S. equipment – but it’s a NATO standard.

QUESTION: So this stuff that you’re talking about is made in other NATO countries as well?

MS TRUDEAU: So it depends on what it is. As I said, NATO interoperable equipment is a well-recognized standard when you’re taking a look at military hardware in order to assure when we go out on exercises, when we do have to actually use this equipment, that interoperability is a fundamental sort of bedrock of NATO.

QUESTION: Right. But primarily, the country that manufactures most NATO interoperable equipment that meets that standard is the United States, right?

MS TRUDEAU: The United States is a major defense manufacturer.

QUESTION: So basically you would like – you’re saying you would like to see the Turks buy American, and not --

MS TRUDEAU: I always, as an American, like to see people buy American.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: But interoperable is our bottom line.

QUESTION: And then the last thing: This is kind of to do with Turkey – well, more to do with Syria, and I’ll wait so people who --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, good. Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: We’ll get Turkey and then if you guys are Turkey, we’ll go around.

QUESTION: I’ve got --

QUESTION: Turkey. Thanks. Yeah, yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, let me go to Russia Today first.

QUESTION: Two weeks ago, Brett McGurk said the U.S. didn’t want Russia to join the anti-ISIL coalition. Today, Turkey invited Russia to engage in joint anti-ISIL operations. Did Turkey break ranks?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I think I just answered this question.

QUESTION: But did – what is the simple answer to the – reaction to that?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve been very clear that if Russia is interested in fighting against ISIL, which they’ve said they want to do, then we would welcome that.

QUESTION: Did Turkey communicate with Washington prior to making that offer to Russia?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no communications on that to read out.

QUESTION: Well, as you said, Russia – Turkey is a NATO ally, it is a member of the U.S.-led coalition, it is offering joint operations. So does that mark a change in the coalition strategy?

MS TRUDEAU: As we’ve said, and I just said, we have been very clear that if Russia is really interested in taking the fight to ISIL, to combating a terror threat that, frankly, involves the entire global community, we would welcome their interest in that. We’ve had doubts in the past. Let’s see where this goes.

Said.

QUESTION: Yeah, I had this --

QUESTION: Well, wait a minute.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: The short answer to her question, does this change the strategy, is “No,” right?

MS TRUDEAU: “No,” exactly.

QUESTION: Or it doesn’t change the --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, it doesn’t.

Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you to comment on a statement attributed to President Erdogan in which he’s suggesting that you guys must choose between Gulen or Turkey. I wonder if you have any comments on that.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I wouldn’t speak specifically to that. You’re asking fundamentally about the question of extradition --

QUESTION: Right.

MS TRUDEAU: -- which we’ve spoken a lot about. I would point out an extradition treaty has two signatories --

QUESTION: Right.

MS TRUDEAU: -- two partners who have engaged in this. It’s a legal, technical process. It’s very clear how this process unfolds. It’s not influenced by emotion. It’s not influenced by politics. We have received documents. We are – continue to review them and we continue to be in close touch with our Turkish friends on this. But it’s a process that is governed by the law and the legal system.

QUESTION: So let me ask you, then, if it is so clear, why is it that the president of Turkey or Turkish officials are having such a hard time understanding this very basic legal process? Do you think maybe because this Turkish president wants to get as much mileage as possible out of this process?

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, Said, I couldn’t talk to that.

QUESTION: No, let me put that out.

MS TRUDEAU: I would direct you to the Turks to speak to that.

QUESTION: Why do you think – why do you think they keep putting the – why do they ignore this thing? You keep saying that this is a lengthy process, it is a legal process in which you – it must go through and so on. Why do you – why do they insist that you must do this right away?

MS TRUDEAU: I couldn’t even start to project my own opinion on what comments coming out are. We would direct you to the Turks to speak to their own comments.

QUESTION: Do you think that he’s utilizing this issue maybe to sort of augment his hold on power or things like – you don’t want to --

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize it as that. This was a very serious incident. The President, the Secretary of State, our military leadership have all condemned this failed coup and we certainly stand with the Turks as they seek to bring perpetrators to justice. That said, we also have talked to them publicly, we’ve spoken to them privately about the need to do that in accordance with due process, rule of law, with the freedoms that are guaranteed under Turkey’s own constitution. So in terms of their motives or some of the rhetoric we’ve seen coming out, I’d direct you to the Turks for that.

QUESTION: And finally, how would the defection of high-ranking military officers and so on from Turkey, whether to the U.S. or elsewhere, affect this alliance that you have with Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: I think our alliance with Turkey, as I mentioned – in NATO since 1952 – our partnership with Turkey is deep and strong and solid, full stop.

Ilhan.

QUESTION: Turkey and --

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on, let’s go to Ilhan and then I’ll go to you, Arshad, if that’s okay.

QUESTION: Yeah, sure. Sure.

MS TRUDEAU: Ilhan.

QUESTION: Just the same question, just a follow-up. This extradition process has been told to Ankara for a long time now.

MS TRUDEAU: This is a very lengthy process.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: Sometimes it can be months, it can be years. I’m not going to put a timeline on that.

QUESTION: Even though this told – you told Turkey about this, President Erdogan just came out yesterday and said either Gulen or Turkey. And also, though, you just stated that you have been trying to assist Turkey in terms of their investigation or after coup situation.

But on the other hand, beginning from President Erdogan, Turkish administration officials have been accusing U.S. that not supporting its ally and one thing, the last thing, that Secretary Kerry will be maybe coming to Turkey and President Erdogan says --

MS TRUDEAU: Is there a question in this, Ilhan?

QUESTION: Yes. I am sorry.

MS TRUDEAU: (Laughter.) It’s okay. I’m just losing – yeah.

QUESTION: That’s fine, that’s – so my question is: Why do you think, even though you have been telling this and explaining this to Ankara, this rhetoric – it keep coming from Ankara?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, this goes back to Said’s question. I’m not going to speak to the comments of foreign leaders. It’s up to them to explain. The U.S. position has been very clear. Turkey is our friend, it’s our partner, it’s our NATO ally. We stand with the democratically elected government of Turkey.

QUESTION: Can you confirm Secretary Kerry going to Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no travel to announce, Ilhan.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Arshad.

QUESTION: Just to be simple and clear – this is a question for you.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government believe it needs to choose between its close partnership and alliance with Turkey and Mr. Gulen? Surely, the answer is no.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I wouldn’t even characterize it that way. I think that what the U.S. would say is we would live up to our obligations, absolutely, under any extradition treaty. And that is completely separate and part – apart from our deep and abiding partnership with Turkey.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe you need to choose between the two?

MS TRUDEAU: We don’t need to – obviously not. But I don’t even think it’s a choice, Arshad.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: I think that the legal process governing extradition is very clear; it’s laid out in a treaty. And our support and partnership for Turkey should be unquestioned.

QUESTION: And second, you began this briefing by condemning, as I believe multiple U.S. officials already did yesterday --

MS TRUDEAU: They did.

QUESTION: -- the recent attack in Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Two.

QUESTION: You then reiterated the multiple, multiple denials of any – well, you condemned the attempted coup and so on. Are you getting a little weary of the critical and somewhat belligerent rhetoric from Turkish officials toward the United States?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize it as that. I would say to what I think I said earlier this week. We understand that this was a very serious situation in Turkey and we understand the Government of Turkey is still working through that. What I think my job is and where the United States is is we want to reassure Turkey that our partnership remains solid.

QUESTION: So another one on this, please.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: A Turkish official today said that the Turkish authorities have detained a total of 35,022 people in relation to the aborted coup. Just over half of those – or 17,740 people – have since been formally arrested; 11,597 were released, and 5,685 remain in custody, but apparently not yet formally – not formally arrested. Is it conceivable to you that 17,740 people could have been involved in plotting a coup that the Turkish intelligence services didn’t find out about in advance?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not an intelligence agent. I’m not on the ground. I’m not a member of the Government of Turkey. As they continue to work though this, I’d refer you there. But again, I would reiterate what we’ve said before, is we would expect all these investigations, fully understanding that they need to hold those accountable for this very grave act, needs to be done with due process and in accordance with international norms and meeting the very high level of democratic standards that’s enshrined in their own constitution.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable to you, even theoretically, that 17,000 people can have collectively plotted a coup?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m just not qualified to answer that, Arshad. I’m really not.

QUESTION: Can you think of another instance, just off the top of your head, where any country has arrested 17,000 people for one alleged act or event?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m actually not aware of all of the charges that have been filed against the number of people you’re speaking about, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speak to.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify something --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: -- on the Gulen thing?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said this is a very – could be a very lengthy process. You said it could take – it could be months; it could be years. Do you really --

MS TRUDEAU: And I said I’m not going to speculate on the amount of time.

QUESTION: Yeah, well, it sounds like your message to the Turks is don’t hold your breath on this.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I think my message is --

QUESTION: But I --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify something here.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is that the – when – if an extradition – is that for the actual review of the extradition request and not including an appeal on the extradition --

MS TRUDEAU: It’s a – it’s the whole process.

QUESTION: So you’re not saying that it’s going to take the Justice Department and the State Department – it could take years for them to reach an initial decision on this?

MS TRUDEAU: It’s my understanding it would – the entire process can be very lengthy.

QUESTION: Which includes appeals or whatever?

MS TRUDEAU: Which includes the entire – yes.

QUESTION: All right. Is it just possible – I don’t know if this is available – to find out what the average – if there’s an average length of --

MS TRUDEAU: I think that’s a question for Justice.

QUESTION: Exactly. But they don’t have briefings.

MS TRUDEAU: I know. And I’m here for you.

QUESTION: Yeah. So maybe you could call over there and --

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, Matt.

QUESTION: -- shake it loose?

MS TRUDEAU: Are we saying on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes. This is also Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on. Okay. I’ll get to you. Okay. Go ahead, Laurie.

QUESTION: The last time I heard you or any other U.S. official speak about what Russia was doing in Syria, it was to the effect that most Russian attacks were on targets – on people other than Daesh. So my question is: Is that still the case, as far as you know? And if that is the case, that most Russian targets are other than Daesh, could it be that Turkey is trying to shift what Russia is doing in Syria by proposing these joint operations against Daesh?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’m not going to speculate on Turkey’s motives on that. We have been clear, as multiple people have said in the past, is that we have been concerned about Russia’s strikes in the past. And we’ve also been very clear that if Russia is serious, as I said before, about combating Daesh that would be very much something that we would continue to stay and dialogue with them on. You’re asking about what Turkey’s role was in that? You’re going to need to speak to Turkish officials.

QUESTION: But until now, the U.S. understanding of what Russia’s been doing has been that it’s largely been attacking targets that are other than the Daesh targets.

MS TRUDEAU: Our position has not changed on that.

And I’m going to you.

QUESTION: Just to – thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Just to make sure I report this correctly. You said that – what you said suggested that the U.S. is fine with Turkey’s offer of joint operations. Is that so? Did I understand correctly?

MS TRUDEAU: Our position is if that Russia is serious about taking the fight to Daesh that we would welcome having those conversations.

Yes.

QUESTION: Why isn’t the U.S. now carrying out joint operations with Russia?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, as we’ve said in the past, and this goes to Laurie’s points, we’ve been very unclear what Russia’s objectives were in the past. We’ve spoken about that repeatedly here. This announcement that they’ve made, that Russia is now recommitting to taking a look at taking the fight against Daesh – that would be something I think we would all welcome. Let’s see where this goes. Russia’s actions in the past have raised questions.

Arshad, you had a follow-up on this?

QUESTION: No.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Matt, you wanted to go to Ukraine.

QUESTION: Uh, no. I wanted to go to Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: But then I want to go to Ukraine, if that’s allowed.

MS TRUDEAU: We will.

QUESTION: Well, not physically, but maybe – not today at least.

MS TRUDEAU: Sign a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Of course. Have you guys – you guys have seen these reports of another chemical – alleged chemical weapons attack in Aleppo with chlorine. I’m just wondering if you have any information about that.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. So we are looking into reports of chemical weapons being used against civilians in Aleppo. We take these reports very seriously. We condemn, as we have in the past, any use of chemical weapons.

I’d note we are, likewise, very concerned about the increasing number of allegations of chemical weapons use over the last few weeks. We have long expressed our strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons. Use by any party in Syria would violate international standards and norms against such use. Syria is a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and use of any chemical weapons by the Assad regime, as alleged in recent reports in Saraqeb and Aleppo, would violate the convention, as well as UNSCR 2118. All parties must abide by commitments under the cessation of hostilities, including the moratorium on targeting civilians and civilian facilities. The fact remains, as we’ve said before, there’s no military solution.

QUESTION: Right. But do you have any reason to – you don’t have any reason to doubt this report? Or you can’t confirm it? You can?

MS TRUDEAU: Can’t confirm it. We continue to gather information.

QUESTION: Okay. And does it tell you anything, or does it suggest anything that there are this – that there is this increasing – or this seems to be a trend, a growing trend, of allegations of the use of chlorine?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. As I said, we’ve noted the trend. We’re increasingly concerned about it. We continue to gather information on this. It’s something we’re monitoring very closely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on this?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you been – over the past two weeks, you suggested two weeks – over the past two weeks, have you been able to confirm that chemical attacks took place?

MS TRUDEAU: We are not able to confirm.

QUESTION: Because the Syrian Government just did sort of a very – sort of a statement refuting all these allegations.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So --

MS TRUDEAU: The Syrian Government refutes a lot of things.

QUESTION: The Syrian Government, they are party to this conflict. I mean, you – you’re taking some of the statements, or all these statements, come basically from opposition groups that --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, so we do also take statements from people on the ground --

QUESTION: Right, I understand.

MS TRUDEAU: -- medical professionals, aid groups.

QUESTION: What I’m saying, that the allegations always seem to point to the Syrian Government being responsible for these attacks. Have you been able to confirm any of these allegations?

MS TRUDEAU: We continue to look into reports. We are not in a position to confirm them. More?

QUESTION: Can I just ask another question?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. We’ll get to you, Nick.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Syria, but not chemical related.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Today the envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said that what they need is 48 hours of a ceasefire, not the three hours that are proposed.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So could you comment on that or --

MS TRUDEAU: So we talked a little bit about this yesterday, and Arshad actually asked this exact same question.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS TRUDEAU: No, it’s fine. It’s – the UN has come out and they’ve said that the three hours are not enough, which, actually, Arshad had made that point yesterday. We support the UN on this. Our bottom line on this is that aid deliveries should not be subject to – well, all aid is good, all pauses are good. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said yesterday, is that delivery of aid, of humanitarian supplies, of medical supplies, of potable water, is a fundamental access right that all parties need to facilitate moving forward.

Are – I’m sorry. Nick, and then I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: Related to that, have you seen or have you read the letter some 30 doctors from Aleppo sent to President Obama, which is basically an SOS and also which is asking, which is demanding that the humanitarian pause would be longer than three hours per day?

MS TRUDEAU: So a few things on that. I’m not going to speak to sort of the process of the letter or any response, because the letter was to the President, so the White House would respond to that. Speaking to the content of the letter, the United States has repeatedly condemned indiscriminate bombing of medical facilities by the Assad regime in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. The attacks, I think as illustrated in this letter, are appalling; they must cease.

We commend the bravery of medical processionals across Syria who are working every day in perilous circumstances with minimal supplies to save lives. The U.S. is working continually to address the crisis in Syria through the UN, engaging with Russia and others, to find a diplomatic approach to reduce the violence in a sustainable way and allow unimpeded, lifesaving humanitarian access into places like Aleppo. The conflict in Syria requires a diplomatic political solution. This is the only thing that can end the bloodshed.

QUESTION: Just so I’m clear on one thing, you’re still all good with the notion of three-hour ceasefires if they actually happen, even though they’re --

MS TRUDEAU: Any pause is good, anything that cuts the violence. The UN has said they’re not workable for them. It’s the UN who’s bringing the aid in, so in terms of a technical – of course, we support the UN and their work.

QUESTION: Why can’t you – I mean, what I don’t understand – I understand that any pause --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- probably is good for the people who would not be getting bombed.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: But on the other hand, any pause is not, according to the primary institution responsible for delivering the aid, sufficient to actually deliver the aid. So I don’t understand why you don’t make kind of a stronger call for more of a ceasefire rather than three hours, which the UN says just isn’t enough.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we’ve been very clear, though, that we believe that a long-term, permanent, nationwide ceasefire is of vital importance not only for the people on the ground but to create that political space so we could have that.

QUESTION: Has Secretary Kerry had any phone calls with Foreign Minister Lavrov today or yesterday about this topic or about Ukraine?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no calls to read out from the Secretary. But back on your original point, I do understand --

QUESTION: Does that mean he didn’t call, or you just don’t have anything to say about them if he did call.

MS TRUDEAU: I have no calls, no calls.

QUESTION: Are you sure?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m positive.

QUESTION: So yeah, because in the --

MS TRUDEAU: But let me answer one thing on this with Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Arshad, if I have an update, I’ll get back to you. But as of this time, I have no information. However, I do want to point out that we’ve also seen the reports that the UN is speaking directly with Russia too, taking a look at how to make this a workable humanitarian pause, is the phrase that I’ve seen. Of course, we urge them to come to an agreement as swiftly as possible.

I’m sorry, Nick.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, because in the past, unless mistaken, any ceasefire, any cessation of hostilities for 48 hours around Aleppo was decided or discussed jointly by the U.S. and by Russia.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm, yep.

QUESTION: Does it mean that this one was a unilateral proposal from --

MS TRUDEAU: We were not consulted on the specifics of this Russian announcement, so yes, I can confirm that.

Let’s go here.

QUESTION: Yes, moving to China.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, are we good? Okay, China.

QUESTION: The Chinese launched a satellite, which they reported that would allow them to monitor their territory – territorial claims in the South China Sea. Do you have a comment on --

MS TRUDEAU: I would reiterate what we have long said about the South China Sea. So we call on all claimants to use the diplomatic space that the tribunal – the arbitral tribunal created to have conversations that reduce the rhetoric, to not engage in provocative actions, and engage in a way forward that can resolve these diplomatically.

QUESTION: So do you see this launching of the satellite as a --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m actually not aware of the satellite launch on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: China?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, China.

QUESTION: Yeah. In your recent International Religious Freedom Report released yesterday, it mentioned the case of a Falun Gong practitioner, Wang Zhiwen.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Actually, very recently he was blocked from traveling to United States and reunite with his family. The customs official just cut his passport into half when he passed through the customs office. So do you have any comments on that?

MS TRUDEAU: We do. Thank you for the question. We are concerned by reports that Chinese authorities canceled the passport of Wang Zhiwen, a Falun Gong practitioner who was released from prison in 2014. We call on the Chinese Government to allow him to travel unimpeded. We continue to urge China to protect religious freedom for all in China, including those belonging to members of ethnic and religious minority groups and those who worship outside official state-sponsored institutions. Thank you.

We’re --

QUESTION: Can I stay in the region?

MS TRUDEAU: I think we’re going to stay on China, and then I’ll get to you, Said.

QUESTION: Sorry, I wanted to go to Japan.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Are you – we’ll stay --

QUESTION: Religious freedom?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Why don’t we do religious freedom, then we’ll go to Japan. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, in the religious freedom report, Ambassador Saperstein described the Middle East as being particularly bad, which is self-evident. The Kurdistan region hosts the majority of refugees and persons displaced by the fighting with Daesh, and the United States has declared a number of those people hosted by the Kurdistan region as being subject to genocidal attack by Daesh, including the Yezidis. So my question is: What is – how would you evaluate the contribution of the Kurdistan region to promoting tolerance – religious tolerance – in the region?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So on specifics on that, I’m going to refer you to the International Religious Freedom Report. I’d say the United States works very closely with the Kurdistan Regional Government to facilitate help and support those who have been displaced by Daesh, but in terms of assessing their view of tolerance, assessing their view of religious freedom, I’m going to have to refer you to the report.

QUESTION: I didn’t see that in the report.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) So --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I mean, I – it’s – we can take a look at that, but I just have nothing more to offer.

QUESTION: Well, you just --

QUESTION: Could you ask the Office of Religious Freedom for an answer to that question?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m happy to take that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Or just say “I’m not going to answer the question.”

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks.

QUESTION: Don’t refer her to a report that doesn’t mention it.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, to be honest, I’m not aware that it wasn’t in the report, so thank you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Japan, the reconstruction minister, Masahiro Imamura, visited the Yasukuni Shrine, and – well, first, do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: We have spoken before about visits to the shrine. As we’ve said all along, that we believe it’s important to be respectful of historical legacies, but I would refer you to the Government of Japan on that.

QUESTION: Would you discourage other ministers from going?

MS TRUDEAU: I would leave my comments where we – where I left them and I’d refer you to the government to speak to actions of their own ministers, okay?

Are we going to Ukraine – no, Said, we’ll go there, and then we’ll go to Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay, I just – very quickly, I want to ask you on the Palestinian issue, okay?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli – first of all, I wonder if you have any comment on Israel’s intent to lease privately owned land by Palestinians to relocate the Amona residence outpost. Do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: I do. Thank you. We’re deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli Government has begun the process to take over privately owned Palestinian land to relocate the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona. This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinions and counter to longstanding Israeli policy to not seize private Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. If this moves ahead, it would effectively create a new settlement or significantly expand the footprint of an existing settlement deep in the West Bank. This is a continuation of a process that has seen some 32 outposts that are illegal under Israeli law being legalized in recent years. I’d note more broadly – and this is an important note, Said – this is a number of trends that have been highlighted in the recent Quartet report that are threatening the two-state solution. Those trends also, though, include Palestinian incitement.

Along those lines, we’re deeply concerned by reports that there was a post on a Fatah Facebook site that boasted about killing Israelis. We understand the page has now been taken down. There’s absolutely no justification for any statement that glorifies terrorism or glorifies violence. Incitement to violence is a grave concern. It’s why the Quartet report also calls on Palestinians to act decisively to stop it.

QUESTION: On the same topic of settlements, also the Palestinians claim that you are pressuring them not to go – because the Israelis seem to be dismissing your urging them to sort of cease the settlement expansion and so on and the expropriation of land. So the Palestinians want to go to United Nations or the Security Council. They’re saying – some reports are suggesting that you are pressuring them not to do so, and in fact, you are calling on your allies among the Arab nations to do the same thing, to pressure the Palestinians not to go to the UN.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah --

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t speak to that, and I’m – I certainly wouldn’t speak to hypotheticals or speculative reports on that, so --

QUESTION: What --

QUESTION: And finally, let me --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. One second.

QUESTION: Yeah. And I have one final thing. Also the – my newspaper reported that Mahmoud Abbas, or an advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, Majdalani told them that the PA president claimed that Secretary Kerry in their last meeting suggested to hold a meeting that includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Russia, and Egypt, of course, and the Palestinians and the Israelis in Egypt. And he rejected that because he felt that this was a way to undermine the French initiative. Do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: So I did see your report, but I’m not aware of any such proposal. As we’ve said before, we’re generally keeping a very open mind about French efforts. We remain in close touch with the French, as well as other international partners, to continue to discuss ideas, how to move things forward in a constructive direction and bring us closer to achieving peace.

QUESTION: Just to be clear --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: I mean, what precisely would be unprecedented if they went ahead with this?

MS TRUDEAU: It’s – I believe the – let me double check exactly what it is. I believe it’s the location, but let me find out, Arshad.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Ukraine?

QUESTION: Ukraine. The tension seems to be rising again between Kyiv and Moscow, and I’m wondering what, if anything, are you counseling both sides, and what, if anything, are you prepared to do to prevent this from exploding, essentially?

MS TRUDEAU: So thanks. We are extremely concerned about the increased tension near the administrative boundary between Crimea and Ukraine. Our position, as I said yesterday, is well known. Crimea is part of Ukraine and is recognized by such – as such by the international community.

In question on actions, we call for the avoidance of any actions that would escalate the situation there. We continue to remain in close touch with international partners on this, but we believe now is the time to reduce the tensions, reduce the rhetoric, and get back to talks.

QUESTION: So have – is there anything particular – in particular that you can point to by either – by any of the sides involved that has escalated tensions, that has --

MS TRUDEAU: I believe – I would point back to we believe that any actions, including rhetoric, including remarks, have the ability to escalate what is already a very tense situation and a very dangerous situation.

QUESTION: But can you talk – can you name specifically if there has been – if or what you see as an action or a use of rhetoric that has?

MS TRUDEAU: I think we’ve seen it actually coming out of Moscow. We’ve seen rhetoric where accusations have been lobbed. We’ve seen tensions spike on that administrative boundary, so it’s time to take a step back. We call on all sides to reduce.

QUESTION: Okay. So all of the actions that you believe are escalating the tensions have come from the Russian side?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize it as that. We call on any actions – in avoidance of any actions.

QUESTION: Okay. Today, the – Ukraine put its troops on alert in Donbass. Is that something that escalates tensions or is that, in your view, something that’s a legitimate action to take?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve seen those reports. I’m going to refer you to the Ukrainians to speak on that. We have seen a recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine and combined with the Russian-backed forces’ systematic denial of unfettered OSCE access to the monitors, I would point out that this is – as I mentioned, this is a very tense time. We do understand that there is violence and we do recognize Ukraine’s right to defend itself and defend its own citizens. In terms of how they mobilize their forces, I’m going to refer you to the Ukrainians to speak to that, though.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but – so if I call the Ukrainians, they’re – I mean, that doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m just asking – I mean, if I wanted details of what they were actually doing on the ground, then I might do that, but I’m asking whether the United States, which has accused the Russians of escalating the rhetoric, escalating the tensions, believes that this move by the Ukrainians is also escalating tensions?

MS TRUDEAU: We actually are calling for a reduction in all actions.

QUESTION: So this would be included?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry, could I just --

QUESTION: Do you regard the Russians’ decision to – or their announcement that they are going to hold military exercises in the region as something that raises tensions?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we’ve seen the Russian statements about military exercises in the Black Sea. Is that your question?

QUESTION: Yeah, the Black Sea exercises, sorry.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I mean, we’ve received no information from the Russian Federation regarding the purpose of that activity other than what’s appeared in the press and official Russian public statements. As we have in the past, we expect Russia to fulfill all relevant commitments to provide neighbors with appropriate assurance and transparency about the size and character of its activities. With all exercises, including these, any activity must be consistent with international law and with due regard for the rights of other nations. In terms of the scale, scope, size, we’ll refer you to the Russians to speak to it.

QUESTION: But given the tensions with Ukraine, is this a good time for Russia to be doing military exercises, period, even in the Black Sea?

MS TRUDEAU: As we’ve said, we just actually received no information on the purpose of it. We’ve seen the same reports you have.

Are we going to stay on Ukraine?

QUESTION: On Ukraine?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Is there any merit to Russia’s accusation that the Ukrainians have been plotting terrorist activities in the Crimea, they have plotted to assassinate the president of Lugansk – the (inaudible) Lugansk area, which is not recognized – Igor Plotnitsky and so on. Is there any merit in these accusations the Russians are making?

MS TRUDEAU: I haven’t seen the details of that. I have no information on it. We’d reiterate again that Crimea’s part of Ukraine.

Goyal.

QUESTION: A quick question on South Asia.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: One, I know the report came out yesterday and you already spoke about this. My question is that after two – more than two years of Prime Minister Modi’s government, how many points out of 10 do you give to his government as far as religious tolerance or religious freedom in India is concerned under his leadership in India?

MS TRUDEAU: You know what? Ambassador Saperstein actually spoke at length about this during his brief – that particular question. So I’d point you to his transcript on that.

QUESTION: But how does Secretary Kerry think and feel now as far as how he’s dealing with the Indian counterparts or Indian --

MS TRUDEAU: Again, Goyal, we actually spoke about this exact question at length so I’m not going to rehash it.

QUESTION: And --

MS TRUDEAU: You had another question?

QUESTION: And two related. One, as far as this unity between Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan, that is creating problems for the democratic elected government in Pakistan of Nawaz Sharif because Pakistan is blaming that these are the Afghan Talibans in unity and Afghanistan is saying that they have come from across the border, from Pakistan. So at the same time, Imran Khan is also calling the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but – and that is putting more pressure on the military and also on the democratic elected government of Nawaz Sharif.

So where this triangle stands and what message do you have for the elected government in Pakistan and also this unit – Afghan Talibans or ISIS?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve actually spoken to the reports of the Taliban and ISIS joining together. We spoke about that on Monday. In terms of our conversations, we’ve been very clear with the highest level of the Pakistani Government that Pakistan must target all groups. I’d note that General Sharif actually spoke to this very recently. Pakistan and the broader region’s stability requires that military threats be addressed in a comprehensive way. Instability in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interest and will undermine, as you note, the significant progress that the Pakistan military has made in shutting down terrorist safe havens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: And that’s it?

QUESTION: No. No, no, no.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I was looking at you, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, is there anyone – I mean, I don’t want to --

MS TRUDEAU: No, I think we’re good.

QUESTION: Okay. I want to return to something that we were talking about yesterday at some length, which is the latest – these latest emails that were --

MS TRUDEAU: Fantastic. Yeah.

QUESTION: Fantastic?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. (Laughter.) Funny, that’s not the response I expected. (Laughter.) But anyway, I wanted to return to the question about whether or not the emails in question – that the appearance of any impropriety in the – of impropriety in the emails that were released – I wanted to ask if that – if the department had looked into those, looked into that – to those appearances and come to a determination one way or another about whether anything that happened was actually improper.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Are you speaking about the question --

QUESTION: I’m speaking about both issues that we were talking about yesterday – one, the hire – the recommendation of someone to be hired; and then secondly, the foundation asking for a meeting to be set up.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure. Well, let me speak to the personnel issue first, okay? As I said yesterday, we won’t speak to specific personnel decision. I do have more clarification, though the name of the individual being referred to was redacted under FOIA for privacy reasons. At the beginning of the Administration – at the beginning of an administration, we receive recommendations for aspiring employees from a great many places and sources. The department does not believe it was inappropriate for Mr. Band or any other individual to recommend someone be considered for employment at the State Department. We also do not believe it’s inappropriate for someone recommended in this matter to be potentially hired insofar as they meet the necessary qualifications for the job. As I explained yesterday, individuals can be and are proposed for political appointee positions by a wide variety of sources. This is not unique to this Administration. Former Secretary Clinton’s staff have stated that this individual was not a Clinton Foundation donor or employee, but even such a history would not have precluded an individual from employment with the department.

The State Department follows a standard procedure when hiring political appointees. Pursuant to statute, the Office of Personnel Management issues authorizations granting agencies the authority to hire a limited number of non-career appointees, often referred to as Schedule C or political appointments. There are more than a thousand Schedule C positions throughout the federal government. State Department has been using this authority for decades, through all administrations. Individuals are reviewed for security clearance eligibility and suitability and are placed according to their educational and work experience in the appropriate positions and at the appropriate pay grades. It is not at all surprising that individuals at State, and for that matter all other agencies who have the same OPM-granted authority, can be brought into government using such authorities. We are confident that our hiring decisions are made in the best interest of the department and the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: So bottom line on that one of two issues is that the department does not – this is quoting you – “the department does not believe it was inappropriate for Mr. Band to make the recommendation.” That’s the bottom line?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, on the other issue?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. So while I can’t speak, as I mentioned yesterday, to that specific email – or, as you know, we’ve made it a policy not to speak to these – I do know a spokesperson for this individual has indicated he ultimately had no contact with the State Department officials on this topic. That said, as we said yesterday, State Department officials are regularly in touch with a range of outside individuals and organizations, including nonprofits, NGOs, think tanks, and others. The nearly 55,000 pages of Secretary Clinton’s emails released by the department over the past year give a sense of the wide range of individuals inside and outside the government that State Department officials are in contact with on a range of topics. The department’s actions under Secretary Clinton were taken to advance administration policy as set by the President and in the interests of American foreign policy. The State Department is not aware of any actions that were influenced by the Clinton Foundation.

QUESTION: Any action at all over the course of Secretary Clinton’s tenure?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: That’s a rather sweeping statement. Do you --

MS TRUDEAU: It is. I think everyone’s aware of the scrutiny that this department is under. We would obviously take any questions seriously. I think you are all aware of that. I stand by my statement.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the question has been raised just in the last two days. And so I’m just wanting to make sure that people have looked at this and determined that there was no impropriety. That is correct?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And then sorry, last one, just on the first issue.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: You still cannot say whether or not this anonymous redacted person for privacy reasons was in fact hired?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct. The Privacy Act limits our ability to comment on the hiring process. As such, we cannot speak to specific personnel decisions. The name of the individual being referred was redacted under FOIA for privacy reasons.

QUESTION: Yeah, the name was. But you can’t also --

MS TRUDEAU: And we can’t speak to specific personnel decisions, as I mentioned yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. So the only way that one could tell if one was not working for the department if someone did get hired or not is all of the sudden if they show up – start showing up in the building to work every day?

MS TRUDEAU: So it would be for the podium that I would not be able to speak to it for the Privacy Act.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you confirm that you were hired by the State Department?

MS TRUDEAU: I would not be standing here otherwise. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. So you can speak – then you can speak about personnel.

MS TRUDEAU: It’s sort of like the cat. I’m here, you can see me, you can confirm it for yourself.

QUESTION: Right, exactly.

MS TRUDEAU: You are aware of reports that I’m standing here briefing for you.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Noel was hired by the State Department?

MS TRUDEAU: And you know what, that was a fantastic hire, so I – so I would say you know that he’s here.

QUESTION: Well, all right. All – but all joking aside, I mean, so --

MS TRUDEAU: No, it is because of – we cannot speak to specific personnel actions. I’m sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: But you just spoke to Noel’s hiring.

QUESTION: Well, you just spoke to – you just spoke to both yours and his.

MS TRUDEAU: That’s all I’ve got for you. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So wait --

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, I’m sorry. Wait. We have --

QUESTION: I’ve got a brief one on Southeast Asia. What’s your take on the very offensive comment made by the Indonesian presidency against LGBT people, saying that there is, quote, “no room for gays in Indonesia”?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen that, and we’re also aware and closely monitoring reports of possible measures in Indonesia that would restrict the freedom of expression for LGBTI individuals. In principle and in practice the United States Government will always strive to protect and advance the universal right of all people, including LGBTI individuals, to express themselves both online and offline. We encourage Indonesia, which rightly prides itself on diversity and tolerance, to respect and uphold international rights and standards by ensuring equal rights and protections for all of its citizens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: So suffice it to say, you think this is a bad idea?

MS TRUDEAU: We are very closely monitoring reports and we’re in close contact with our friends.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 10, 2016

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 16:48

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 10, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:03 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, you guys. Sorry I’m late. Matt, I have nothing at the top.

QUESTION: Wow.

MS TRUDEAU: I know.

QUESTION: I don’t really have anything huge, but I guess let’s start with Syria. Have you – you’ve seen the reports out of – that the Russians have announced a daily three-hour ceasefire for aid to get to Aleppo?

MS TRUDEAU: In fact, why I was late, so thanks for the question. We’re just seeing this proposal. I don’t have a lot of details for you on it. We would welcome any pause that successfully facilitates delivery of vitally needed humanitarian supplies, but such a ceasefire must be observed by all parties. Our position has not changed. There are commitments that mandate free and open access for delivery of supplies requested by the UN, to include UNSCR 2254 and numerous other resolutions that Russia’s long agreed to. All parties must abide by those commitments. All supplies, including food and medical supplies as determined and requested solely by the UN, need to be delivered now.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS TRUDEAU: But wait. We’ll go Arshad, and then we’ll go to you, Nick.

QUESTION: I mean, so you welcome any pause that would facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies, but the UN has said that it needs, at a minimum, a pause of 48 hours – not three hours daily – to actually make the deliveries. Are you not supporting the United Nations in their stated need for 48 hours?

MS TRUDEAU: We’re absolutely supporting the United Nations as they seek access to this. However, what I’d like to point out is any pause, any pause in the violence, is good for the people of Syria.

I’d also, though, point out what we’ve said all along, that we continue to call for a nationwide, permanent cessation of hostilities. So in terms of logistics and getting supplies in there, absolutely, we support the UN’s case.

QUESTION: So – and you don’t think that this might be yet another ruse where the Russians are willing to permit some kind of pause but not actually to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies by the United Nations?

MS TRUDEAU: As we’re just seeing the proposal and I don’t have a lot of details on it, I’m not going to project out on that. Full and complete access is something we’re deeply committed to.

Nick.

QUESTION: Are you able to say, Elizabeth --

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on one second, Ros --

QUESTION: Sure.

MS TRUDEAU: -- and then I’ll come back to you.

Nick.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: But there we are, so now we go to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you able to say who’s going to take a look at this proposal, who’s going to discuss it with the Russians? Is the Secretary read in on this? What happens now?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. At this stage, genuinely, we’ve just seen it. I don’t have a lot of details on terms of process and how it’s going to be reviewed here at State. I may have more for you later.

Anything more on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes. Given the situation on the ground, do you think there is still hope that Secretary Kerry and Russia would be able to make the announcement that Secretary Kerry said he would hope to make this month?

MS TRUDEAU: We spoke a little bit about this yesterday. Further cooperation with the Russians will require some bottom lines. That includes restraint on the part of the regime, which so far hasn’t been forthcoming. I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement. We believe that that space for a permanent ceasefire does permit the sort of political talks that need to happen for a transition. So I just don’t have anything more to add.

Nick.

QUESTION: Well, the Libya crisis --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, hold on. We’re going to stick on Syria, and then I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: Very brief, I have a feeling. Just on the reports of the Americans killed fighting for the YPG --

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information.

QUESTION: Still nothing?

MS TRUDEAU: No. Thanks for the question, though.

Nick. Are we good on Syria? Okay. Let’s go.

QUESTION: Libyan forces say they are – have kicked ISIS out of Sirte today. Has the State Department heard these reports? I mean, was the U.S. apprised of what was going on or involved in any way?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have any sort of play-by-play on that in terms of operational details. I’m going to refer you to the Department of Defense. As we’ve said, we support the GNA as they continue to move against the threat of Daesh in their country.

Shortest briefing ever.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no.

MS TRUDEAU: I was going to say, “Guys -- ”

QUESTION: We’ve got --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, Arshad. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So can we go to Ukraine?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: So there are reports that – well, there was a whole bunch of stuff on Ukraine. First, the Russians state that Ukrainian – forgive me one second. So Russia’s federal security service says it thwarted an armed Ukrainian incursion into Crimea that was designed to target critical infrastructure, and they said that a Russian soldier and an FSB employee was killed in these clashes. They say this happened – the alleged attempted incursions took place over the weekend. Have there been such incursions, to the U.S. Government’s knowledge? I’ve got more, but --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Do you want to line them up --

QUESTION: No.

MS TRUDEAU: -- or you want me to do them one by one?

QUESTION: We’ll do them one by one.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we’ve seen the reports. We’re going to refer you to the Government of Ukraine for further information. I would note that we’re also directly in touch with Ukrainians ourselves.

QUESTION: So Crimea, you do not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Correct?

MS TRUDEAU: No. And in fact, I welcome the question, because we don’t want to be distracted from the real issue here, which is not only Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, but their continued aggression in eastern Ukraine. Our view on Crimea is well known. Crimea is and will always be part of Ukraine. We condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea, and our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine.

QUESTION: So if you don’t recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia, doesn’t Ukraine have the right to send anybody it wants into what is, after all, Ukrainian territory?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that we would refer you to the Government of Ukraine to speak to these reports of actions. As I said, I’m not in a position to confirm it, but we are directly in touch with Ukrainians as well.

QUESTION: Well, but surely you must have a view on – the Russians here are saying that two of their citizens have died, and they’re accusing the Ukrainians of incursions onto territory that’s Ukrainian territory. Surely you must have a view on whether incidents like this and the rhetoric accompanying it increases or decreases tensions in the region. Is it a good thing for Ukrainians to be sending people into Crimea, and is it a good thing for Russia to be repulsing that and then making harsh statements about it?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I think what I would do is just reiterate – reiterate our point. Crimea is Ukraine. In terms of conversations or questions on what happens in Crimea, we’re going to refer you to the Government of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay, then – well, last thing.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Russian President Putin, speaking in Moscow, has described the alleged Ukrainian actions as, quote, “stupid,” and, quote, “criminal,” and said that he thought there was no point in holding planned talks on the peace process for eastern Ukraine as a result. What’s your view of that? Would you like them to be talking about how to calm things in eastern Ukraine, or do you agree with him that there’s no point in that?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we always think there’s a point of conversation. We always think that dialogue is a process that should be explored. As you know, we’ve supported the Minsk process as we move forward. I haven’t seen President Putin’s remarks so I can’t comment directly on those, but what I will say is dialogue is really where we’d like to see this go. But in terms of the reports of incursion into Crimea, we’d refer you to Ukraine.

Anything more on Ukraine? Okay, Justin.

QUESTION: I don’t have a question on Ukraine. If somebody else does – I hear nothing, so I’m going to keep going.

MS TRUDEAU: It’s like an auction.

QUESTION: Yeah. And I get the sense that you want to keep this moving.

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, Justin.

QUESTION: And I support you in that effort. The Clinton emails. (Laughter.) Does -

QUESTION: Just the subject she wanted to go to. (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right. I think she was trying to skip out before this came up. (Laughter.) But all right, so I want to ask you about one of the emails, and I know you addressed this briefly yesterday. One came from – that the critics have seized on came from Doug Band of the Clinton Foundation, asking Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills in an email to, quote – it’s saying, “It’s important to take care of” – and then the name is redacted, and he is obviously pushing to get this person a job in the State Department. And then Huma replies, basically, they’re working on it.

Can you tell us why the State Department redacted that name, and whether or not this person wound up getting a job or not?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I can’t speak to specific case – cases. I’m also not going to speak to specific redactions. I will note though, broadly, the department regularly hires political appointees with a range of skill sets for a broad variety of jobs. It’s not unusual for candidates to be recommended to the department through a variety of avenues.

QUESTION: The --

QUESTION: Hold on, because that answer --

QUESTION: Let me just follow up, Matt. Sorry.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on one second, and then I’ll get there, Matt.

QUESTION: The Clinton campaign is on background saying today it’s a – it was a young advance staffer, not a donor or a foundation employee. I guess I just – I need a little help understanding why this person’s name cannot be shared.

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to specific cases, and I certainly can’t speak to comments from the – from the campaign.

QUESTION: Would it be wrong to assume that, then, that this is a case simply of nepotism or something like that? I mean, what – how are we then supposed to interpret what --

MS TRUDEAU: You – I can’t speak to specific cases, Justin.

Matt, did --

QUESTION: But it’s the State Department’s decision to redact those names, and nobody else’s decision.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. And I’m not going to speak to specific redactions nor specific cases.

Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious. Were you answering his question “was this person hired,” without getting into who it was?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I can’t speak to specific cases or specific --

QUESTION: This is pretty – in fact, it’s pretty non-specific since we don’t know what the name is. It’s specific as to --

MS TRUDEAU: But you’re asking about a specific hiring action?

QUESTION: I’m asking if the person referred – if you know if the person referred to in this email whose name has been redacted ended up getting a job here.

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information to speak to specific cases.

QUESTION: But you just said --

QUESTION: But it’s --

QUESTION: In your answer to Justin, you said that the State Department hires from all sorts of places.

MS TRUDEAU: From all sorts of avenues. We receive recommendations from a variety --

QUESTION: But this person wasn’t hired, then?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information --

QUESTION: Or was?

MS TRUDEAU: -- on that specific case or any specific case.

QUESTION: But if the person is not named, then it’s not specific.

MS TRUDEAU: I think we’re parsing.

QUESTION: I --

MS TRUDEAU: More on Clinton emails?

QUESTION: No, it’s not really parsing. It’s – I mean, it – it’s specific to people who are non-career State Department employees who were hired after this email. That’s the universe. And the question is: Is this person referred to one of them?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, I am unable to speak to specific cases.

QUESTION: Well, how then can you disabuse us of the notion that there’s any impropriety here?

MS TRUDEAU: Because the department regularly hires political appointees with a range of skill sets from a broad – for a broad variety of jobs.

QUESTION: But why should we trust that’s – that that’s – why should we believe that that statement exonerates any – her – the Clinton – of any impropriety? I mean, we don’t know who it is. How then can we read that as it’s all good?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m just not going to speak anymore to specifics on this.

Do we have more on Clinton emails?

QUESTION: Yes, we do.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course, we do. Do you mind if I go to Abigail first?

QUESTION: No.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead, Abigail.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to criticism by some that suggest there was a relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department at the time? There was an email that came out in this recent set that is between the – an executive at the Clinton Foundation and Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills where he is requesting to set up a meeting between a billionaire donor and the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. Do you have any response to --

MS TRUDEAU: So very similar to what I said before, I’m not going to speak to specific emails. However, I think you guys know State Department officials are regularly in touch with a wide variety of outside individuals and organizations, including businesses, nonprofits, NGOs, think tanks. The nearly 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s emails released by the department over the past year give a sense of the wide range of individuals both inside and outside of government that State Department officials are in contact with on a range of subjects.

QUESTION: So you don’t feel like this email or you don’t feel like there was impropriety in the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department at the time?

MS TRUDEAU: We talk to a wide range of people, at my level, at various levels in the department – NGOs, think tanks, business leaders, experts on a variety of subjects.

QUESTION: But that’s not her – that’s not her question.

QUESTION: Except in this – and importantly, in this case, Secretary Clinton made a pledge that she would not personally or substantially in any way involve herself with the Clinton Foundation. So it’s not just any outside organization. It’s the specific organization that she said ahead of time she wouldn’t have contact with. So doesn’t that – doesn’t this, then, seem to violate that pledge?

MS TRUDEAU: So again, to reiterate, department officials are in touch with a wide range of individuals. I’d note that former Secretary Clinton’s ethics agreement did not preclude other State Department officials from having contact with Clinton Foundation staff.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can you at least try to answer Abigail’s question, which was: Has the department looked into this and determined that there was no impropriety?

MS TRUDEAU: The department is regularly in touch with people across the whole spectrum, Matt.

QUESTION: That’s not the question. The question is whether or not you’ve looked into this – the building has looked into it and determined that everything was okay, that there was nothing wrong here.

MS TRUDEAU: We feel confident in our ability and our past practice of reaching out to a variety of sources and being responsive to requests.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, are you – am I not speaking English? Is this – I mean, is it coming across as a foreign – I’m not asking you if – no one is saying it’s not okay or it’s bad for the department to get a broad variety of input from different people. Asking – the question is whether or not you have determined that there was nothing improper here.

MS TRUDEAU: We feel confident that all the rules were followed.

QUESTION: That’s (inaudible).

MS TRUDEAU: Good.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we – we’re still doing Clinton emails? I’ll come back to you, Abigail. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: So Judicial Watch released 10 additional pages of emails this morning.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In one of them, it documents that Secretary Clinton’s – former Secretary Clinton’s then-chief of staff Cheryl Mills was advised of a FOIA request in which the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had sought, quote, “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable … of or associated with Secretary Clinton.” That – the email that chief of staff – then-chief of staff Mills received was sent on December the 11th, 2012, and according to the emails released, I believe she acknowledged it and said thanks in response.

So if she was aware, as she was because she was notified of this FOIA request asking about the different email accounts that were associated with Secretary Clinton at the time, why did the department subsequently tell the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that there were no responsive records?

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Because she knew, because she – we know for a fact – emailed with Secretary Clinton on her private account. So – and we also know that she, as a lawyer, is the person who helped make the determinations on which of the emails on the private server constituted federal records and should therefore be turned over to the archives, many of which have now been made public. So why, if she knew in December of 2012 that there were requests for clarity on how many accounts Secretary Clinton had, did the State Department not forthrightly and honestly answer that request rather than just saying there were no responsive records?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. A lot there, so I’m going to give you a fulsome response on that. In 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known by the acronym CREW, sent FOIA requests to a number of agencies seeking information about email use by agency heads. This FOIA request, as it relates to the State Department, has been covered extensively in the press and reviewed previously by State’s inspector general. The documents released today show what the OIG already reported in January 2016, that former Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up. The OIG report also found no evidence that S/ES, L, and IPS staff involved in responding to requests for information, searching for records, or drafting the response had knowledge of the secretary’s email use. Ms. Mills has testified about this topic previously; that testimony is publicly available.

I can’t speculate what may or have – may not been known about that email use. What – but I would note that the January IG report found no evidence that any senior State Department officials who exchanged emails with the secretary reviewed the search results or approved the response to CREW. Nothing in these documents alters the facts as found by the IG. So it’s in the IG report.

QUESTION: I get that it was covered in the IG report. What I don’t understand, though – I mean, the IG report also concluded that the response that there were no responsive records was, quote, “inaccurate and incomplete.” And my question goes to why someone who was aware of that specific FOIA request, who was aware of the specific request for information regarding how many emails – email accounts the secretary had or were associated with her, would not have disclosed to S/ES, L, the FOIA people, or anybody else the fact of the private server so that federal records could in fact be made available in response to the FOIA request.

MS TRUDEAU: So I think what you’re asking about is why wasn’t that FOIA request amended.

QUESTION: No, I’m not asking that. I’m asking why the person – a person who was both in a position to know about the FOIA request and who was well aware and frequently corresponded with former Secretary Clinton on her private account did not make the existence of that account available and known to the people whose legal responsibility it was to respond honestly, accurately, and completely to a FOIA request. That’s my question, not why wasn’t it amended. Why wasn’t it correctly responded to in the first place?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. It’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for you. As I note, we – the IG found no evidence that any senior department official reviewed the search results or approved the response to CREW.

QUESTION: What about non-senior people?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no process chart, flow chart, on how that FOIA request was responded to, but it was taken a look at. The IG reported this in January 2016 and did note that result.

QUESTION: Can I also ask back on the hiring?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I want to Abigail too unless we answered – okay.

QUESTION: I mean, essentially that.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was just going to say I guess it just stands out that it seems like a pretty broad request, so it seems like something you would flag if the response was no records in response to that. It seems like something that a FOIA person would note is unusual or that there might be an issue or a problem there.

MS TRUDEAU: Again, I can’t speak to process. I would note that this was extensively covered, though, in the January 2016 IG report.

Go ahead, Nick.

QUESTION: But that didn’t ultimately put any blame on Cheryl Mills, did it – that IG report?

MS TRUDEAU: I’d refer you to the IG report itself.

QUESTION: Because it really looks like she was not speaking up.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m – yeah, I’m not going got characterize the IG report. They would speak for themselves.

Go ahead, Nick.

QUESTION: You mentioned that State receives a lot of recommendations for candidates and things like that. I mean, what sort of guidelines do you have in place to make sure that when you act on those claims, the department or staff in the department are not drifting into nepotism or, I mean, a hiring decision --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I think the department has public guidelines that are online in terms of appointments. I would direct you there. In terms of questions on screening for nepotism, which you raised, we follow federal law.

QUESTION: Or cronyism.

QUESTION: And have you been – have you been reviewing those guidelines in the wake of some of these email disclosures to make sure they’re adequate?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m aware of no review.

Was that a question, Arshad?

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to make sure that your answer covered not merely nepotism, which refers to family members, but also cronyism, which refers to associates.

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that we live up to our federal obligations.

QUESTION: I looked up nepotism. It can be friends too --

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, Justin.

QUESTION: -- in the broad sense of the definition.

QUESTION: So in other words, in – also in this hiring situation, you’re confident nothing was – that the department is – the department --

MS TRUDEAU: We feel confident that we followed State Department guidelines and federal law.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Have you looked into it on that one instance? You can’t say that you --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not aware of any review going on now.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re confident you lived up to the guidelines even though you haven’t reviewed it?

MS TRUDEAU: I am not aware of any review, but I am confident that we followed the guidelines and the State Department’s internal procedures as well as lived up to federal law.

QUESTION: So you’re confident that you followed the guidelines even though you’re not aware of any review?

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you think that’s a high enough standard?

MS TRUDEAU: Federal law?

QUESTION: For confidence that you followed the law.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m very confident in the State Department’s own internal process and personnel system, absolutely.

QUESTION: No one is – no one – I don’t think anybody is suggesting that the building, the department, can’t hire whoever it wants to it thinks is qualified. It’s just this appearance that’s out there, and so that’s why I think the question’s being asked. If you’re confident the rules weren’t broken – I think that’s what you’re saying, right?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, Matt.

Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you, Elizabeth.

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, wait, are we done with this? I don’t want to move off if we’re --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: And recently, United States have sanctioned against the North Korean human right abuse. Will these sanctions be included – the no religious freedom in North Korea? Or you have a separate --

MS TRUDEAU: So remember the International Religious Freedom Report that Deputy Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Saperstein released today? It’s from 2015. So it’s actually from last year. That’s how it’s mandated. So we would look to next year’s report if that would be included.

QUESTION: So this religious freedom – no religious freedom inside North Korea, it will be included – that human right abuse in North Korea?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I would direct you both to our Human Rights Report as well as the IRF report, because it does cover countries around the world.

QUESTION: So what kind of sanctions to North Korea – do you have any – specifically what kind of sanctions to North Korea? Do you have anything on --

MS TRUDEAU: Anything new to read out --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: -- versus what we did in the rollout 10 or 15 days --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: I have nothing new to foreshadow on new sanctions.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Sir.

QUESTION: On Vietnam?

MS TRUDEAU: Vietnam.

QUESTION: There are reports that Vietnam has shipped several rocket launchers from its mainland to five of its Spratly Island bases in recent months. Are you aware of the reports and do you have any comments?

MS TRUDEAU: We are aware of the reports that Vietnam has deployed close-range missile systems on several of its outposts on the Spratly Islands. We continue to call on all South China Sea claimants to avoid actions that raise tensions, take practical steps to build confidence, and intensify efforts to find peaceful, diplomatic solutions to disputes.

QUESTION: And how would you like China to respond to this news?

MS TRUDEAU: I would just reiterate what we just said, which is we intensify the efforts to find peaceful, diplomatic solutions.

QUESTION: Would you call on Vietnam to halt or reverse these moves?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve called on all claimants to avoid actions that raise tension, so yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS TRUDEAU: Wait.

QUESTION: -- the Middle East?

MS TRUDEAU: Let’s stay in Asia.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Do we have more on Asia?

Sir.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about – apparently, there are reports coming out about the UN Security Council and a statement on North Korean missile launches, and that apparently, there was a dispute over whether or not the language over THAAD missiles would be included in that. I was wondering if you had any comment on the reports about that.

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t comment on internal UN Security Council deliberations.

Are we still on Asia? Okay. Sir.

QUESTION: The Belize high court just struck down the country’s sodomy law as we were literally sitting here. Do you have any initial reaction to that?

MS TRUDEAU: So I haven’t seen those reports, Michael.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ll get back to you if we have a comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Thanks.

MS TRUDEAU: Please.

QUESTION: Sorry, I didn’t want to go back to Asia. I wanted to clarify something that I asked yesterday, actually, about the Chinese naval vessels in the Senkaku Islands.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that the department was closely monitoring the situation with the Japanese Government and that the U.S. doesn’t take a position on the Senkakus, but I just wanted to – I should have asked this yesterday, but do you take a position on China’s actions and whether the naval presence has sort of violated the spirit of the Hague arbitral ruling? And this has happened increasingly over the past couple of days and I just wanted to…

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, okay. So thanks for the question because I do have something to add on that. We continue to closely monitor the situation around the Senkaku Islands. We are in close communication with the Japanese as allies and are also concerned about the increase of Chinese coast guard vessels in the vicinity of the islands. As you noted, the U.S. position on the Senkaku Islands, as stated previously by the President, is clear and longstanding. The Senkaku Islands have been under Japanese administration since the reversion of Okinawa in 1972, such they fall within the scope of the article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. We oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku islands.

QUESTION: What was added from yesterday’s response?

MS TRUDEAU: That last line.

QUESTION: We oppose any --

MS TRUDEAU: We oppose. Thank you.

Okay, guys. Thank you so much.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait.

MS TRUDEAU: Oh wait. It was so quiet.

QUESTION: All right.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, I’ve got three I’m seeing. Matt, Arshad, and then Ros.

QUESTION: Go ahead, Ros.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: There are reports that a rear admiral from Turkey detailed to NATO offices down in Virginia Beach has asked the U.S. for asylum. Can you confirm those reports?

MS TRUDEAU: I’d refer you to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of State does not comment nor do we handle any asylum cases.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. aware of any move by Turkish nationals to try to find safe harbor here in the U.S. because of the crackdown by the Erdogan government in the wake of the coup last month?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, for situations where reports of asylum or alleged asylum claims, I’m going to refer you to USCIS.

QUESTION: And do you have any update on whether the Turkish Government has filed a formal extradition request for Fethullah Gulen?

MS TRUDEAU: We addressed this a little yesterday. As we’re in the position – we have documents, we continue to stay in close contact with Turkish authorities. This is a technical, legal process. I really don’t have an update on if a determination has been made.

QUESTION: Short of asylum, though, there are ways that Turkish citizens who are in the United States now may get some kind of relief from not having to leave when their visa expires. This has been done by executive order numerous times, especially with Latin America. Are you aware of any move to do that on the --

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information on that at all.

QUESTION: Is that being considered?

MS TRUDEAU: I have absolutely no information on that.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Sorry, just to follow up on that --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m – sure.

QUESTION: -- have the Turks expressed any concerns to the State Department about this rear admiral potentially staying here?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no conversations or information on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you regard emails about the potential hiring of individuals at the State Department as sort of a part of legitimate government business?

MS TRUDEAU: I think personnel actions at some point do become legitimate government business. I wouldn’t be in a position to say when requests for information or recommendations become that. I think that’d be a technical question that --

QUESTION: So – well, I guess my question is why some of these emails that address these things that you say – you get information from lots of people about potentially hiring people for political jobs at the State Department – why those weren’t included in the emails that former Secretary Clinton’s office turned over to the State Department.

MS TRUDEAU: So as the department made clear in March 2015, the department also requested former aides to former Secretary Clinton, including Huma Abedin, that should any of them be aware or become aware of a federal record in is his or her possession, such as an email sent or received on a personal email account while serving in an official capacity at the department, such a record be made available to the department. The department has received records in response to those. I’d note I believe the record you’re speaking about was not to former Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: Okay. Understood.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: If that said person, redacted, had been hired, would said person still be covered under privacy considerations?

MS TRUDEAU: To be honest, I don’t know.

Okay.

QUESTION: All right, I have brief ones. One on Congo.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Dr. Congo, as we like to call it. Are you aware of this Human Rights Watch researcher who has been expelled from the country? And if you are, what do you have to say about it?

MS TRUDEAU: We are. Thank you for the question. We’re very concerned by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s decision not to renew the visa of Human Rights Watch senior researcher for the Congo. The forced departure of this researcher, together with the expulsion of Congo Research Group and Global Witness members earlier this year, is incompatible with efforts to support greater transparency, accountability, and democracy in the DRC. We urge Congolese – the Congolese Government to allow Human Rights Watch senior researcher to resume her important worker in the DRC without delay. We also call on all Congolese actors, both government and the opposition, to respect democratic norms and to refrain from violence.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry, just – it’s incompatible with efforts to what?

MS TRUDEAU: Support greater transparency, accountability, and democracy in the DRC.

QUESTION: Gotcha. Okay, and then --

QUESTION: I got another one on that.

QUESTION: On Congo?

QUESTION: But besides making a public appeal, what else are you going to do to try to get the Democratic Republic of the Congo to actually allow this researcher to return?

MS TRUDEAU: We have regular conversations with the Government of the DRC. I’m not going to detail those conversations, but certainly the promotion of accountability, transparency, democracy are part of those dialogues.

QUESTION: So other than public and private pleas, do you plan to do anything else to try to get the government to let her back in?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not quite sure what you’re asking.

QUESTION: Well, I’m asking whether essentially your response to this is both public suasion in the form of the statement that you made to us and presumed private suasion in the regular conversations that you have with them but you won’t discuss further. Are you doing anything else to try to make this happen?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I have no actions to foreshadow on that.

One more.

QUESTION: And then the last one, yeah. I – just it was pointed out to me a little bit earlier that some staff from a consul – consulate general in Jerusalem went out to this village of Sussia today.

MS TRUDEAU: Sussia.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering – and then they posted photographs of them being there and on – I’m just wondering if this indicates some kind of greater level of concern on your part for what may or may not happen there.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we spoke a little bit about this yesterday. Certainly our staff continue to engage broadly with members of the community there. I would reiterate, though, that if the Israeli Government proceeds with demolitions in Sussia, it would be very troubling and would have a very damaging impact on the lives of the Palestinians living there who have already been displaced on other occasions. We continue to be hopeful a positive resolution can be reached that reflects these concerns.

Great. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 9, 2016

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 07:02

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 9, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Afternoon, everyone. I have one thing at the top, and then we’ll get to your questions. A scheduling note: the annual International Religious Freedom Report, which is due tomorrow, describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations, and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the report in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

Tomorrow, Deputy Secretary Blinken will release the 2015 annual report at 10:00 a.m. here in the briefing room. He will be joined by Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Saperstein, who will also give remarks and take questions. We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just start with the question that I’ve been asking a couple times. I just want to know – I just want to try and get this cleared up. Am I ever going to get an answer to the question about the planes? (Laughter.)

MS TRUDEAU: I’ve given you the answer I can give.

QUESTION: So there is no attempt on your part to uncover more information about what --

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve given you what we can give, Matt.

QUESTION: So it’s basically a waste of time to keep asking about it? Is that what you’re saying?

MS TRUDEAU: Pretty much. Yeah. I appreciate the question. As we’ve said, we’re not going to get into a tick-tock. We’ve explained what the delay was for the plane with the Americans leaving, and I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay. On a – also, this is a lingering question. It’s a different subject completely, but --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it’s not really policy. So you’ve probably seen that Judicial Watch has released another --

MS TRUDEAU: I have.

QUESTION: -- batch of email. I’m curious to know what your take on this is, particularly the fact that some of them – 44 of them of what was – what they have put out were previously not put out by the State Department, even though they were while she was secretary of state.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I have quite a bit to say on that, so thank you for the question. We’ll get this out of the way at the top. So former Secretary Clinton has previously acknowledged that she emailed with department officials before March 18th, 2009, the date of the first email in the collection that former Secretary Clinton provided to the department in December 2014. Former Secretary Clinton has also indicated that she does not have access to work-related emails beyond those that she turned over to the department. In addition, at the department’s request, Secretary Clinton confirmed for the court that she believed that all of her emails on clintonemail.com in her custody that were potentially federal records were provided to the department. In September 2015, we also asked the FBI to inform us should it recover any records from Secretary Clinton’s server that we don’t already have.

As you know, the department recently received documents from the FBI reflecting emails sent to or from former Secretary Clinton’s email, which were not included in the materials provided to the State Department by former Secretary Clinton in December 2014. The State Department has produced approximately 52,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s emails through a monthly FOIA release process that involved 14 releases over 10 months. This was a massive undertaking, and our staff worked incredibly hard to get this done. There are many FOIA requests related to former Secretary Clinton’s emails. We are now focused on responding.

We have produced, in response to FOIA requests, a number of emails involving former Secretary Clinton that were not part of the approximately 55,000 pages. And to the extent that additional emails are retrieved that are responsive to FOIA requests, we will continue to do so. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible and to respond to specific requests.

QUESTION: Do you know – have you asked – presumably this is included in your request to the FBI. Do you know that that – to turn over the emails that they recovered – do you know if you specifically asked for emails that may have been from before that March ‘09 date from the FBI?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve asked them, should the FBI recover any records from Secretary Clinton’s server that we don’t already have, to inform us, so any records.

QUESTION: Regardless of --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Regardless of the timing of them? Okay. That’s it for me.

MS TRUDEAU: Lesley.

QUESTION: Well, not on the emails. Can I change --

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Can I see if anyone’s got email? Tejinder?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: The – can you give – you gave us like 52,000, over 40- -- what about this, how many emails – what is the status from the FBI? Like have you received everything that they’re supposed to give?

MS TRUDEAU: From the FBI?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: So we can confirm on August 5th the FBI provided the State Department with the second and final transmission of documents. As you know, and as we’ve said many times, the department takes its record management and Freedom of Information Act responsibilities seriously. Just as we appropriately process the material turned over to the department by former Secretary Clinton, we will appropriately and with due diligence process any additional material we receive from the FBI to identify work-related agency records and make them available to the public, consistent with our legal obligations.

As I noted, we’ve received this on August 5th. We’ve just received it. We’re still assessing what that process will look like.

QUESTION: Is there any number of emails or number of documents that you have received total?

MS TRUDEAU: As our filing stated, we received documents in the thousands. It’s ongoing litigation, so I don’t know a lot more to offer than what was in the filing.

QUESTION: And the inner – internal review --

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Where is any updates on that?

MS TRUDEAU: So I have no update from, I guess, a couple weeks ago, where I spoke about it extensively from the podium. So no update from then.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: And are we done with emails? Super.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I turn to Turkey, please.

MS TRUDEAU: Is this an email? Okay. Good. Let’s go to Turkey.

QUESTION: You’ve probably seen today the reports of Erdogan meeting Vladimir Putin. But the question I want to ask you is the one on this – on kind of everything overshadowing it, which includes Turkey today warned of anti – rising anti-American sentiment and a risk to a migrant deal. Do you think that any of this – how seriously are you taking this? And how much does this visit and these discussions between Erdogan and Putin put at risk any of the American interests --

MS TRUDEAU: So I would separate these out completely. We spoke about the President’s conversations in Russia. As I said yesterday, we don’t view this as a zero-sum game. Certainly Turkey and Russia are both members of the fight against Daesh. They’re both members of the ISSG. There’s a lot of common goals, common interests there. In terms of those bilateral discussions, I’d refer you to the Turkish Government to speak to their president’s travel.

Speaking on the migrant deal, we have said publicly how important we believe this is. We hope this will move forward.

On the anti-American rhetoric, because I know you had about three questions in there, one of the things that we remain concerned about is rhetoric that we don’t view as helpful. As we engage with our Turkish counterparts, we are concerned. We expect all parties – media, civil society, the Turkish Government – to be responsible in their statements on this. We believe our relations and our partnership and our friendship with Turkey is strong. We’ve said this publicly. We stand with the Government of Turkey on this.

QUESTION: A lot of this seems to be coming down to the fact that there’s been no move yet on Gulen, the cleric. Is there anything further – are you hearing anything further on an extradition or any further developments on that?

MS TRUDEAU: No. I have nothing more to read out. As we’ve said publicly on this, this is a legal, technical process, governed by the 1981 extradition treaty signed by both of our countries. This will continue to move forward, and we’re directly in touch with Turkish authorities on this process.

Are we staying on Turkey?

QUESTION: On this issue.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Barbara, I’ll come to you after Michel.

QUESTION: Turkish justice minister has said today that they – or has warned the U.S. not to sacrifice bilateral relations for the sake of Mr. Gulen. And he said if the U.S. does not deliver Gulen they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist. Any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to comment to that specific question. As we’ve said, the extradition process is a very technical – it’s legally governed. This is not a process that is influenced by emotion or political rhetoric. It’s actually governed by a treaty.

Barbara.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. Have you responded in any way to this – these allegations in the Turkish press that the Wilson Center was behind the coup? Have you raised it with counterparts in terms of the unacceptable rhetoric that you talked about?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’ve seen those comments, and certainly we’ve seen the Wilson Center itself has spoken to it, so I would direct you there. I think this sort of conspiracy theory, inflammatory rhetoric, as I said, is absolutely not helpful. I would refer you to the Wilson Center and its personnel and its directors to speak to this, but conspiracy theories get us nowhere.

QUESTION: But you haven’t – the State Department hasn’t raised it as part of the back and forth with Turkish officials.

MS TRUDEAU: I – we’ve certainly spoken to our Turkish counterparts on unhelpful rhetoric.

Carol.

QUESTION: Oh --

QUESTION: When --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, I’ll come back to you, Matt. I’m sorry, do you mind? Go ahead, Carol.

QUESTION: When Erdogan and Putin were speaking today, they seemed to suggest that the United States did not really respond expeditiously in the immediate hours after the coup. Do you think you came up with a response soon enough, recognizing that the Secretary was in Moscow and it was approaching midnight when this was happening?

MS TRUDEAU: I can speak to what we did do. I think all of you guys were in the same position we were. We were watching this unfold here in the United States on social media. We were getting reports. It was unclear for quite a while what exactly happened. I would note that the State Department issued a formal statement from the Secretary about 7:00 p.m. that night. That was very quick. And that statement was very clear in our support of Turkey, its democratically elected government, and the Turkish people. So thanks for the question, Carol.

I’m going to go to Matt and then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Just on the rhetoric, have you seen the – this photograph that purports to show Ambassador Bass meeting with a military officer, who looks like one of those implicated in the coup, the day before?

MS TRUDEAU: I have not.

QUESTION: It’s circulating out there. I’m just wondering if --

MS TRUDEAU: I have not, no.

Are we done with Turkey?

QUESTION: I have one more question.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, one more. Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: I mean, are – I mean, how nervous do you get when you see Putin meeting with the Turkish prime minister? I mean, what do you think could be jeopardized if our ally with – or if like our ally with Turkey is – it’s weakened?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I don’t think it’s a question at all that our relationship with Turkey would be weak or weakened at all by this. As I said, not a zero-sum game. These are sovereign nations. They have relationships around the world. Turkey and Russia have common goals not only in the fight against Daesh but within the ISSG, taking a look at the situation in Syria. In terms of the content of those discussions, though, I’m going to refer you to those governments.

Okay. Are we good on Turkey? Ma’am.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: There is so many reports, especially Wall Street Journal said that Taliban and Daesh has made alliance to fight against Afghanistan Government. Do you have any comment, and what do you think about this?

MS TRUDEAU: So we spoke a little bit about this at the daily press brief yesterday. I’d refer you to those comments, okay?

QUESTION: Can I --

MS TRUDEAU: Nike.

QUESTION: Yes. The situation in Helmand Province in Afghanistan is very dire, getting worse. Do you have any concerns about the Taliban is getting more and more of threats? And also the peace process in Afghanistan is out of control, out of hand.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I guess I would start with the Afghan forces. While they continue to face a number of operational and institutional challenges, the Afghan forces have made progress. I think if we take a look at where we were even 15 years ago, it’s extraordinary. The support with – the Afghan forces, they now have the support of Afghan air capabilities, the U.S. airstrikes, expanded U.S. authorities. They remain in control of all population centers.

I would say that our commitment to the Afghan forces remains clear. I think you saw the President as well as our other NATO allies and partners discuss this in Warsaw just a few weeks ago or maybe a few months ago. Time is slipping by.

In terms of your question on peace talks, as you know, we addressed a little bit about this yesterday. We call on the Taliban to participate in peace talks with the Government of Afghanistan. As we discussed yesterday, the Taliban have a choice on this.

QUESTION: Any information on the situation in Helmand province particularly?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that as the Afghan forces continue to stabilize and secure their country for the future of the Afghan people, there are obviously situations where the battlefield movements remain fluid. We believe, however, that they are growing increasingly strong, increasingly capable, and we will stand with them.

Okay, more on Afghanistan? Are we okay? Laurie.

QUESTION: Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been asking the counter-ISIL coalition countries to help with medical supplies and particularly the treatment of wounded Peshmerga outside of the country when the necessary treatment is not available in the Kurdistan region or in Iraq. There’s an official list of such wounded Peshmerga. So does the State Department have any programs or any intention to establish such programs that would assist these wounded warriors?

MS TRUDEAU: So we provide tremendous assistance to the Peshmerga, to include much-needed medical supplies and equipment. However, I would note we do not have a program to transport wounded Peshmerga out of Kurdistan. Taking a look, though, at the assistance, on July 11th, with the full of approval of the Government of Iraq, Secretary Carter finalized a memorandum of understanding with the KRG that would facilitate the utilization of $415 million. These funds, to address your question, will provide short-term assistance in medical equipment as well as food, ammunition, stipends, and other assistance. I would also note last summer, in coordination with coalition partners and the Government of Iraq, the KRG received equipment and supplies to aid wounded Peshmerga, including 150 vehicles, including ambulances.

QUESTION: Sorry, how much was that?

MS TRUDEAU: 415 million.

QUESTION: 415 million?

MS TRUDEAU: On July 11th.

QUESTION: With the Mosul offensive coming up, would you consider expanding this program to address that specific need of getting treatment --

MS TRUDEAU: I’ve got no new programs to announce on that. As we’ve said multiple times from this podium, we are very aware of the importance of the Peshmerga in this fight, and we’re also very aware of the assistance that the situation requires.

QUESTION: Sorry --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes sir.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. We’ll get there, Said.

QUESTION: Who wrote that phrase? “Facilitate the utilization of” – doesn’t that just mean spend?

MS TRUDEAU: Is that what I just said?

QUESTION: Yeah. Does that mean spend?

MS TRUDEAU: Let’s say spend. (Laughter.) Let’s say spend.

QUESTION: Is that from the Pentagon? Did they write that?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, doesn’t that sound like a Pentagon line? (Laughter.)

Said.

QUESTION: Facilitate the utilization --

QUESTION: Yeah. Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: That’s a – that was – that’s world-class.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: The United Nations just called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo because apparently there was intense fighting.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: My question to you: How does that work? Because there seems to be lack of enthusiasm, let’s say, calling for a ceasefire a couple days ago during the offensive of the opposition – opposition group. So could you just, first of all, update us on what’s going on and how do you see this ceasefire?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Well, I’m not going to update you on the ground. We spoke a little bit yesterday about how fluid the situation is. But let me make our position clear on this: We continue to urge all parties for complete compliance with a nationwide cessation of hostilities. We firmly believe that full compliance with the cessation by all parties is the only path to improve the prospect for successful talks.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, these temporary or brief ceasefires and so on, they seem to break down, first of all, very quickly and not have a lasting effect. Should there be some sort of a call or an effort for a countrywide ceasefire that would bring all groups – have you in this case or your allies lean on the opposition – opposition groups that keep changing names and keep changing modes of attack.

MS TRUDEAU: I mean, we couldn’t agree more on this and we’ve been clear on this. We are calling on all parties to do this. What we would say, though, as you well know, the Syrian regime, aided by Russian efforts, is responsible, we believe, for the majority of these violations. We believe these actions are only encouraging more terrorism – the very thing that the regime and Russia are supposedly trying to combat.

QUESTION: But I’m a little bit confused because the attacks by the opposition, the opposition groups, or Fateh al-Sham, which is – was, what – couple weeks ago was Jabhat al-Nusrah, and they are aided by weapons that are supplied by the Saudis, supplied by many of your allies and so on – even, some say, supplied directly by you. I mean, how do you juxtapose this against your call for a lasting ceasefire?

MS TRUDEAU: I would talk about what Ambassador Power said yesterday, and as well as she made some comments to the press today in New York. At the informal UN Security Council meeting yesterday, they had that conversation about the situation now in Aleppo and the impact on civilians. It is really hard to characterize this. This is dire. The reinstitution of a cessation of hostilities – all parties, to your point, respecting that – is the only path forward.

Sir.

QUESTION: There’s more reports --

MS TRUDEAU: Are we staying on Syria? Because --

QUESTION: No, Yemen.

QUESTION: I’ve got a Syria question.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, hold on.

QUESTION: No worries.

MS TRUDEAU: Let me stay on Syria. John.

QUESTION: The charge from the opposition after this UN ceasefire call is that just as they broke the siege in Aleppo, now that there’s this call for a ceasefire when there’s all sorts of other attacks going from the regime against the opposition in other parts of the country as well. Is that a fair criticism of the UN, which is calling for --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I wouldn’t bat back individual conversations on when a ceasefire was called or why it was called. Let’s talk about the importance of a ceasefire and let’s talk about why we’re doing it, which is calling for the protection of civilians and access to humanitarian aid. I think we’ve seen reports – the lack of access to potable water, the lack of access to medical supplies, the lack of access to food. This is a dire situation.

Let’s stay on Syria. Michel.

QUESTION: To what extent are you still believing in the cessation of hostilities agreement? It looks like all the Syrians, the Russians, the Iranians, nobody is believing in it. And we saw what happened in Aleppo in the last couple days. Why you are still calling the – all the parties to comply with this agreement and no one believes in it?

MS TRUDEAU: The basic truth is there’s no military solution to the conflict in Syria. We’ve said that repeatedly. It’s our belief and it’s the belief of the majority of members of the ISSG is that there will be no peace in Syria without a political transition. A cessation of hostilities provides the space where we could have hope of having political talks.

QUESTION: And after the session in the Security Council yesterday, do you still believe that de Mistura will be able to resume talks at the end of this month?

MS TRUDEAU: We strongly support the efforts of the – of Mr. de Mistura and we hope that we will come to a point, as he continues to work through that, that that will happen.

Matt, and then I’m going to go to Nick.

QUESTION: Just very briefly on Aleppo and this group that is allegedly involved, was involved in breaking the siege – a rebel group, the ones that were accused of beheading this --

MS TRUDEAU: Al-Zenki.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Beheading this child. One, do you know if the reports are true that they are or were involved in the fighting around Aleppo recently?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen reports that the alleged perpetrators in last month’s video have been seen fighting in Aleppo. I’m not in a position to confirm.

QUESTION: Okay. Should you – should it become confirmed that they are, is that an issue for you guys?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Well, obviously, when reports of the beheading came out is we strongly condemned the barbaric actions seen on that video no matter what group was responsible. We note that that group had also said that they would hold those individuals to account. We’re not in a position to confirm if that’s happened, but we do expect all parties to comply with obligations under the law of armed conflict.

QUESTION: So you’re unaware that there has ever been a resolution to this specific --

MS TRUDEAU: I am not in a position to confirm that, no.

QUESTION: -- case. And then just the other thing, which I think you probably won’t answer, but is this group still being supported by or was it ever supported by the United States?

MS TRUDEAU: So for security reasons, we do not comment on which groups are funded by the United States. However, we don’t support groups that commit this sort of barbarity, period.

QUESTION: Okay. So that would suggest, imply without saying it directly, that if a group were to have done something like this and it had been getting U.S. support, it would no longer be eligible for U.S. support if --

MS TRUDEAU: I’d just repeat my last point: We do not support groups --

QUESTION: Are there – is it against the rules to complete a syllogism in this building?

MS TRUDEAU: It is – for security reasons, we don’t indicate which groups we do support. It’s policy.

QUESTION: Even if you don’t support them any longer?

QUESTION: I’m asking you if you don’t support them, not if you do.

MS TRUDEAU: What I’m saying is that we don’t support groups that would engage in this sort of barbarity.

QUESTION: That would engage in?

MS TRUDEAU: That may have engaged.

Okay. We’re going to stay on Syria, so Nick, you were going to go, and then – but Nick is done.

QUESTION: I have (inaudible).

QUESTION: And then can I do Syria after Nick?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Are you guys on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Let’s --

QUESTION: Sure. So is there any update on the proposed arrangement with Russia regarding the targeting of al-Nusrah in cooperation – back in Moscow, the Secretary, quite a while ago now, said they had made some progress on that. Is there any new information?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no update from the Secretary’s comments in Moscow.

QUESTION: And is there a concern in this building that Aleppo – there may be some waiting on the side of the Russians in – with regards to the situation in Aleppo before any agreement is agreed to?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not going to get ahead of those conversations.

Barbara.

QUESTION: Well, it’s really kind of similar to what he was asking, which is you continually say there’s no military solution and it has to be a political agreement, but isn’t it quite obvious by now that the parties on the ground and the Russians think that whoever gets Aleppo will have leverage at the political negotiating table? So no matter what the U.S. might be saying, that that dynamic is going to take over – has taken over.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I wouldn’t tie it to any particular military operation. What I’d say is we believe – in speaking broadly about the talks, and the Secretary said something very similar – is if there is a chance to get to a genuine cessation of hostilities that provides the sort of full humanitarian access that we’re talking about, that protects civilians and provides the space – facilitates a framework for a political transition, we have to try.

Lesley.

QUESTION: Yeah. I know the Secretary is on vacation, but has he made any calls with regard to this through – to Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have any calls from today to read out.

QUESTION: No?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS TRUDEAU: If I have any update, I’ll have it for you tomorrow.

QUESTION: So can I just ask, in straight --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: -- what – I mean, does he still believe that a deal or – is possible given what’s happened in Aleppo?

MS TRUDEAU: So I would actually point you back to what President Obama said, which Russians’ – Russia’s actions over the last several weeks do raise serious concerns about their commitments to pulling the situation back. It is time that Russia proves it’s serious about advancing its shared objectives in Syria, but again, we believe that this full cessation of hostilities, that humanitarian access – the space for a political transition is really our only choice now.

Nick, are we – and then we’ll go back.

QUESTION: A quick one on the Philippines?

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, wait. Are we done on Syria? I’m sorry, we’re not. We’ll get to the Philippines. Go ahead, Abigail.

QUESTION: On Syria, do you have any information on reports that two Americans were killed while volunteer fighting for the YPG in Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: Due to privacy considerations, I have no information for you.

QUESTION: To Yemen, there’s --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry. You know what? Hold on one second.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, just --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Privacy Act does not apply to deceased.

MS TRUDEAU: That’s true, but --

QUESTION: So does that mean that you do not believe that these people are dead, that they are still covered by the Privacy Act?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that I have no information on that that I can share at this point.

Before we go there, are we good with Syria? Okay. I’m going to go to the Philippines, then I’ll come back to you. Go ahead, Nic.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. On the Philippines, do you have a readout on the meeting the Filipino charge d’affaires had yesterday, I think, at the Department of State? Or at least could you tell us if you were satisfied with the clarification he gave about the very offensive comment his president made against your ambassador in Manila?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I have no further details of that discussion to read out. I’ll leave our comments on that – on what was said yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to ask – I’m not sure I understand why it is you were seeking clarification --

MS TRUDEAU: I think what we were seeking is --

QUESTION: -- specifically. You were protesting or you were complaining --

MS TRUDEAU: I think what we were seeking is perhaps a better understanding of why that statement was made.

QUESTION: So clarification of the circumstances? You didn’t want him to actually clarify the --

MS TRUDEAU: I think clarification of --

QUESTION: -- the content of what the president said, did you?

MS TRUDEAU: I would agree with you --

QUESTION: It’s pretty obvious.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: So you are not seeking apologies?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to detail any of the discussions that happened at that.

QUESTION: But – sorry to insist, but the U.S. Secretary of State was in Manila ten days ago. It’s one of your closest ally in Asia. The president has clearly insulted your ambassador. The U.S. is not going to protest officially?

MS TRUDEAU: We actually asked the charge to come into the department, which happened yesterday. We had that conversation. I’m going to not read out any more details of that conversation.

QUESTION: Is --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir. Is this Philippines?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion to withdraw or to suspend any financial aids to Philippines?

MS TRUDEAU: Not to my awareness, no.

QUESTION: There are reports out of Yemen that 14 civilians were killed due to Saudi-led airstrikes. Is the State Department concerned about the increase in civilian causalities in Yemen?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we do all – urge all sides to halt all offensive military actions, including in particular the area I believe you’re speaking about on the Saudi-Yemeni border, in Taiz, and in the areas between Marib and the capital. Of course we’re very concerned.

QUESTION: And then a follow up. Are – is there any concern by the State Department that weapons that may have been part of a U.S.-Saudi deal in the past, maybe even dating back to when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state – is there any concern that those weapons are being used when these civilian causalities are happening?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve actually spoken about end-use of weapons before from this podium. Speaking specifically on Yemen now, what we’re talking about is – we’re urging all sides to refrain from these offensive military actions. In terms of end-use conversations, they actually come when we do weapon transfers.

QUESTION: So there’s no concern particularly --

MS TRUDEAU: I think our concerns are always on civilian causalities and our concerns are especially on the situation in Yemen, which is at a very precarious place right now.

QUESTION: But there’s not going to be a halt in any of the tranches of bombs to Saudi Arabia?

MS TRUDEAU: This is – as you guys know, we have – when we do arms shipments, we do announce those. Those are in – as required. I don’t have anything to announce on that.

Nick.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: Philippines? Or, I’m sorry, Yemen?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: You have expressed – not you only – from this podium the concerns. It’s not the first time that civilians have been killed in Yemen. Have you directly talked to Saudi Arabia? Have you reached out? Because from the Yemeni side, they’re not killing – going and killing civilians in Saudi Arabia, but it’s the Saudi Arabians who are killing these Yemeni citizens.

MS TRUDEAU: We’re seeing actually all sides perpetuating violence against civilians in Yemen.

QUESTION: But have you talked to Saudi Arabia about it?

MS TRUDEAU: We have had conversations with our partners on our concern. We’ve said this publicly; we’ve said this privately.

QUESTION: Not the partners. Saudi Arabia specifically asked?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve had – we call on sides. We’ve had conversations with our partners on that.

QUESTION: Do we have any dates, the last time you --

MS TRUDEAU: I have no conversations to read out, Tejinder.

QUESTION: On South Korea.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: On that. So a month ago, John Kirby said from the podium that the U.S. had reached out to China to offer details about the system that it was going to install, and to his knowledge the Chinese had not responded yet. Since then, has China responded and have there been discussions with China about THAAD placement?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I have no conversations to read out on that, Nick. Let me check, and if we have something I’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Elizabeth --

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MS TRUDEAU: Wait. Are we staying on South Korea?

QUESTION: No. Can we go back to Saudi Arabia and Yemen?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: There is a news saying that the State Department has approved a 1 billion sale of 153 General Dynamics M1A2S Abrams tanks to Saudi Arabia. Do you have anything on this?

MS TRUDEAU: I do. As we are required to announce these, on August 8th, the department approved notification of Congress of a proposed transfer of Saudi – of up to 115 M1A27[1] Saudi Abram main battle tanks and related equipment, valued at up to 1.15 billion under the Foreign Military Sales program.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just one more follow up on that.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have there been any sort of conversations between U.S. State Department and the Saudis to avoid civilian causalities as more weapons deals are in the talks? Is the State Department concerned that U.S. weapons that have been sent to Saudi Arabia will take part in the killing of civilians?

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say is we regularly talk to our partners and our allies around the world. Civilian causalities are obviously of grave concern to us.

Are we going to stay on this? We --

QUESTION: China?

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: I want to go to China.

MS TRUDEAU: Yep.

QUESTION: Did you see the reports yesterday or overnight on the Center for Strategic International Studies provided the satellite photograph showing China had built reinforced aircraft hangars on one of the disputed islands?

MS TRUDEAU: I did see those reports.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, does one believe this is – that China’s continuing with reinforcing its hold in these areas, is it a militarization? Have there been discussions --

MS TRUDEAU: So I would say that this type of potentially dual-use construction activity has raised tensions in the region. It also calls into question China’s willingness to abide by President Xi’s statement last September that China does not intend to militarize its outposts in the Spratly. Such actions undermine regional confidence that China’s willing to resolve contested matters in a non-coercive manner.

We reiterate, as we have in the past, our call for all claimants to halt land reclamation in disputed areas in further development of new facilities and new militarization of their outposts, and instead to utilize the opportunity presented by the July 12th arbitral tribunal’s decision to reach an understanding on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas.

QUESTION: So you do think that this is – is China continuing the same behavior?

MS TRUDEAU: It certainly calls into question China’s willingness to abide by President Xi’s statement.

QUESTION: And can you independently – I mean, I’m not questioning the CSIS, but have you – are these the same images and are they true to what is happening? I mean --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I would just let our statement --

QUESTION: I’m saying it’s not --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I can’t --

QUESTION: You can’t verify?

MS TRUDEAU: Exactly. Are we staying on China?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: So are you planning on taking any additional steps or changing your strategy in terms of pressuring the Chinese? I mean, they have been continuing to build despite your statements and calls for de-escalating tensions and taking this opportunity.

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that we continue to raise our concerns about China’s actions both publicly and privately. We continue to work on multiple fronts to convince all parties to refrain from provocations, to work to peacefully resolve disputes.

QUESTION: Do you think that continuing to raise these concerns have had a positive effect?

MS TRUDEAU: I think continuing to raise these concerns is part of the process of diplomacy.

QUESTION: I also have a sort of technical question. Beyond reclamations, it’s been reported that there’s been an increasing number of Chinese coast guard ships that have been spotted near the Senkaku Islands. Would you extend the same sort of statement of concern? How do you assess these actions?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’re closely monitoring the situation. We’re in close communication with the Japanese Government regarding their concerns. The United States position on the Senkaku Islands, as stated previously by the President, is clear and longstanding. The Senkaku Islands have been under Japanese administration since the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. As such, they fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. We do not take a position on the question of ultimate sovereignty on the islands.

Anything more, Japan? Okay. We’re going to go here, and then I’ll come back to you, Said.

QUESTION: Can I go back on China? I mean, I know you’ve raised concerns, but are there any consequences for them rejecting The Hague decision at all or --

MS TRUDEAU: As we said, we believe the arbitral tribunal presents a window of opportunity that claimants can take to explore diplomacy and to resolve these issues in accordance with international law.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Iran, does the department have anything on this letter that former Iranian President Ahmadinejad sent to President Barack Obama regarding settlement claims?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen the letter sent from the former president to President Obama. In terms of the details on the court case, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Justice.

Okay. Said.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Very quickly, yesterday, we talked about World Vision --

MS TRUDEAU: We did.

QUESTION: -- and the employee. Today, the Israelis announced the arrest of a UNDP employee engineer under really the most dubious of charges. They say that he worked on repairing homes that maybe some Hamas officials lived there and so on. So is this – are we seeing a trend that the Israelis are trying to really choke any kind of UN effort or humanitarian effort for the Palestinians, especially in Gaza? Are you concerned?

MS TRUDEAU: So there’s two answers to that. One, I can speak from the U.S. view and what we think about on U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza moving forward. We believe U.S. assistance to the Palestinians serves our vital national security interests and is undertaken in close coordination with our local and international partners, which does include the Government of Israel. These include efforts in the West Bank and Gaza to alleviate humanitarian suffering and work towards economic prosperity and security.

The allegations against Palestinian humanitarian workers, if proven true, are a clear signal that both donors and nonprofits need to continue to be as vigilant as possible to help assure assistance reaches those it is intended to help. We continue to work with our partners, including the Palestinian Authority as well as the Government of Israel, to strengthen safeguards to ensure vital assistance reaches the intended recipients.

On the UNDP charge as well as on the World Vision charge, there are ongoing investigations on this, as you know, as you alluded to. As the investigations move forward, we’re working closely, we’re monitoring closely. We understand, actually and particularly, World Vision is doing its own independent investigation. The UNDP charges just came out. They’ll also continue to take a look at it as well.

QUESTION: Because the track record is that Israel has never really been a fan of these UN programs, whether it’s UNRWA or UNDP or others and so on. And certainly, the Palestinian Authority does not have the authority to pursue such investigations, or in fact, the desire, especially where things as far as Gaza is concerned. I’m saying that would the U.S. suggest or involve itself in such a – any kind of independent investigatory body to look into these matters?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, as I mentioned, World Vision is doing its own. I’d refer you to the UN Development Program. I’m not aware if they’ve announced their own independent investigation. But we will continue to monitor this closely. As I said, aid to these areas is a U.S. national security priority.

QUESTION: And one last question on the power.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Israel is cutting off power to many villages and towns in the West Bank because the Palestinians are unable to pay their bills. And apparently, they’re – so they appealed to this – to the high court. And the high court said that although they do have the authority to stop or to force the electric company, the Israeli electric company, from cutting off the electricity, they will not do so. My question to you: Is the United States – can the United States infuse authority – the Palestinian Authority or those concerned with some sort of emergency fund to pay off or --

MS TRUDEAU: I have no additional funding to announce. Actually, I wasn’t tracking that. Let me take a look at it; we’ll see. On something like this it sounds like it’s in court right now. But let me see if I’ve got anything more on it, Said.

QUESTION: Elizabeth, yesterday --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you were asked about the demolitions of --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- homes in a Palestinian village. I’m wondering – today there were some more demolitions in the South Hebron Hills that included the demolitions of some EU-financed or donated buildings, and I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts on that.

MS TRUDEAU: We do, actually. We’re aware of reports that the Government of Israel has demolished several EU-funded Palestinian homes in the West Bank. We remain concerned about the increased demolition of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which reportedly have left dozens of Palestinians homeless, including children. More than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, with more Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem thus far than in all of 2015.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to them about this?

MS TRUDEAU: I – we remain in close contact.

QUESTION: No, I know. I – yeah, but about this specific thing.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I’d say is the recent Quartet report itself actually highlighted. We believe that this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansions, legalization of outpost, denial of Palestinian development. We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, we do remain in close contact. I’m not sure if this particular one has been raised.

QUESTION: My only – seriously, my only – yeah, okay. That’s what I wanted.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: You don’t know if there’s been any --

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t know if we’ve raised this particular incident, but the question of demolitions has been raised routinely.

QUESTION: In general, yes. Okay. Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay.

QUESTION: I had this --

MS TRUDEAU: One last, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Yeah, I had this one lined up, that the – have you received anything officially from the – from Brussels, from the EU authorities about on this particular subject? Because there is a feeling there that the Europe builds and Israel is demolishing with the tacit support of the U.S.

MS TRUDEAU: I have no --

QUESTION: They have not reached out to you?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no communication to read out particularly on this.

Thanks, you guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:45 p.m.)

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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 8, 2016

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 17:26

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 8, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Good afternoon, everyone. A few things at the top. I think you’ve seen our statement that just was released on Pakistan. The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks today in Quetta, including the murder of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of the Baluchistan Bar Association, in the bombing at the Civil Hospital that killed dozens of Pakistanis and wounded many others. We send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured, and we offer our assistance to Prime Minister Sharif as his government investigates and works to bring these murderers to justice. These terrorists targeted a hospital, the judiciary, and the media, the most important pillars of democracy. These brutal and senseless attacks only deepen our shared resolve to defeat terrorism around the world. We’ll continue to work with our partners in Pakistan and across the region to combat this threat.

Next, on Macedonia, the United States expresses its condolences to all those in Macedonia who have suffered in the recent flooding. The people of Macedonia are in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn the dead, treat the injured, and address the extensive losses and damage caused.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. I don’t have a lot today, but let’s start with seeing if I can get an answer to a question that I asked – that was asked twice last week, having to do with Iran and the $400 million shipment. And that question is: Are you now able to say whether or not the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off from Tehran? Because as you may know, since the question was last asked on Thursday, one of the former prisoners said that they had to wait for this other plane, or at least another plane to arrive. Are you able to shed any more light on that?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’m not going to get into the tick-tock of specifics, but claims that our freed Americans were not allowed to depart Iran until a plane full of cash landed anywhere are false. As U.S. officials have previously publicly discussed, there was a delay in our citizens being released that day that had nothing to do with the Hague settlement and was related to resolving some last-minute issues solely related to the prisoners – most importantly, locating and ensuring all of the individuals who were involved with the prisoner swap were on the plane and ready to depart – Mr. Rezaian, Mr. Abedini, Mr. Hekmati. Suffice it to say getting all the pieces put into place, making sure our citizens were released, and with our reciprocal goodwill gesture of providing relief to certain Iranian citizens here in the United States, required delicate diplomacy up to the end. So I think that answers your question.

QUESTION: Okay. I missed the part where you said that – when the plane arrived.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. We – it was the question if there was a delay before the taking off until a plane coming down. It was false.

QUESTION: There was not. So in other words --

MS TRUDEAU: There was not a delay.

QUESTION: In other --

MS TRUDEAU: There was no timing that was associated between the two.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, whether or not you intended for there to be timing or not, is it correct that the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off?

MS TRUDEAU: No. Claims that the freed Americans were not allowed to depart until a plane full of cash – and I’m doing that in air quotes – are just false.

QUESTION: Yeah, but still, in terms of the timing of it, did one arrive before the other left?

MS TRUDEAU: There was no delay in allowing the Americans to leave.

QUESTION: But you just said there was a delay and it was related to the --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, there was no delay waiting for a second plane full of cash.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: I understand that you don’t want to draw any connection between the two things. I just want – I just want to know whether or not the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not going to get into a tick-tock. What I do, though, want to disassociate the idea – that you haven’t said but has been in the public narrative – that there was some sort of tie between the two.

QUESTION: Yeah, I realize that you guys don’t think there was. But it seems a very simple question to ask whether or not the plane with the money landed before the plane with the prisoners took off. I mean, I don’t --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’ve – I have no exact tick-tock on that. What I do know is that the plane with the Americans was only delayed being – taking off because of logistics that were associated with the people on board.

QUESTION: All right. And then also on Iran --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you probably will have seen that the Iranians yesterday confirmed the execution of this nuclear scientist who had come to the U.S. and then left. Given the fact that he was here and that you all spoke about it at the time that he returned to Iran, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about this, if you’re trying to track it any more closely than you would another case.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I’d say is, of course, we’ve seen those reports. We reaffirm our calls on Iran to respect and protect human rights, to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases. We have consistently and publicly expressed our concerns about Iran’s human rights record through a range of channels. As you know, we include a large number of Iranian cases in our annual Human Rights Report, in our International Religious Freedom Report. We also partner with other countries to discuss this in the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.

QUESTION: So the way you’re – the way that the Administration is looking at it then is as – is as a case, just a human rights – potential human rights violation case, not anything special because of his --

MS TRUDEAU: Correct.

QUESTION: -- his past? Okay.

QUESTION: And do you believe that he did not receive due process?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that we’ve raised our concerns on that. I’m not going to speak specifically about this case. As Matt indicated, we were very public about this case when he chose to return to Iran. I’m just going to let our comments --

QUESTION: But why – I mean, you’re talking generally about concerns about due process, but we’re asking about a specific individual. Do you think he got due process or not?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I couldn’t speak to Iranian judicial procedures related to this specific case. When this individual chose to return to Iran, we obviously spoke about it then. As I said, we’ve made our concerns known writ large around Iranian due process, around Iranian respect for human rights.

QUESTION: Okay. Can we move to --

MS TRUDEAU: Sure. Matt, you’re good?

QUESTION: Yep.

QUESTION: -- East Asia?

MS TRUDEAU: Arshad.

QUESTION: Two topics.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: One, what is your assessment of the vote in Thailand about the referendum there? And in particular, do you believe (a) that the environment in the country prior to the vote was conducive to a free and fair vote without intimidation; and (b) do you believe that the approval of the new constitution, including the provisions reserving seats for the military or military-chosen lawmakers, is a good thing for democracy?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so I have quite a bit to say on this, so thank you for the question.

We do note that Thailand’s electoral commission has announced preliminary results that a majority of Thai citizens who voted in the national referendum on August 7th approved a proposed constitution. We do, in response to your second question, remain concerned that the drafting process for the constitution was not inclusive, that open debate was not permitted in the run-up to its adoption. Once the results are final – again, we understand these are preliminary results – we urge Thai authorities to proceed with next steps to return Thailand to elected, civilian-led government as soon as possible. As part of the process to return Thailand to democracy, we strongly urge the government to lift restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, so the Thai people can engage in an open, unimpeded dialogue about the country’s political future.

QUESTION: And can you address specifically the question of your view of the draft constitution itself and the seats reserved for military-chosen lawmakers?

MS TRUDEAU: So we – I think I’ve raised our concerns on the process leading up to the draft constitution. We raised concerns about it not being inclusive, not being open. And in terms of the reservation for the military seats, as I said, we continue to urge Thai authorities to return Thailand to an elected, civilian-led government as soon as possible.

QUESTION: And then one other one on the Philippines.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: You’ll have seen that dozens of Philippine government and police officials turned them in – turned themselves in on Monday, a day after newly inaugurated President Duterte linked them to the drug trade. If I understand it correctly, he, the president, had ordered the police to hunt these people down if they failed to surrender within 24 hours, so a couple of questions here. One is: Is this a good, judicious use of the exercise of the rule of law to demand people surrender and threaten to hunt them down?

And second, what do you think about the hundreds of people who have been killed since Duterte came into office as president? These are – by some estimates it’s 400, by other estimates as many as 800 people have been killed as suspected drug dealers, including some by vigilante squads since he took office. What do you think about that?

MS TRUDEAU: So there’s a lot there. I guess I’d start sort of taking a back step and taking a look at our partnership, which is based on respect for rule of law. We’ll continue in our conversations with Filipino authorities to emphasize the importance of this fundamental democratic principle. We, as you know, and you’ve heard us say many times from this podium speaking broadly is we believe in rule of law. We believe in due process. We believe in respect for universal human rights. We believe fundamentally that those aspects ensure and promote long-term security. We are concerned by these detentions, as well as the extrajudicial killing of individuals suspected to be involved in drug activity in the Philippines. We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with its human rights obligations.

Okay, Barbara.

QUESTION: Change in topic?

QUESTION: No, can I stay --

MS TRUDEAU: Are you guys – I’m sorry, I’ve got one more on Philippines, then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: If I may --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Is that true the United States recently announced $32 million in assistance to Manila’s efforts to fight against drug trafficking?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So the 32 million is not new funding. So I actually need to correct you there. It’s rather cumulative funding previously appropriated that we’re currently implementing. Assistance provided to these funds, I’d like to emphasize, is subject to the same vetting that our other security assistance is. So all of our security assistance promotes human rights through training content and by promoting professionalism, due process, and rule of law.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: So the 32 million should not be used in any activities involve actual judicial killings?

MS TRUDEAU: Extra – no, exactly.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if you saw the reports recently come out from Duterte have some very strong words she said about U.S. ambassador to Philippines, Ambassador Goldberg.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Given the remarks being so insulting to U.S. envoy, how do we – how should we expect a cordial cooperation between the two?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say two things on that. The first, specifically on the remarks, we’ve seen those inappropriate comments made about Ambassador Goldberg. He’s a multi-time ambassador, one of our most senior U.S. diplomats. We have asked the Philippines charge to come into the State Department to clarify those remarks.

QUESTION: When did you call the charge in?

MS TRUDEAU: I understand that that happened today.

QUESTION: And what did you – besides just asking for clarification, I mean, what did you --

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to read out that detailed conversation, but it was specifically on those remarks.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: Hold on. Yeah.

QUESTION: What were – were there specific remarks that were raised with the charge?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, specific remarks that were made about our ambassador to the Philippines.

QUESTION: I know, and I’m aware of what they were. But was there anything that was more egregious in what was said than --

MS TRUDEAU: No, I’m not going to detail that conversation. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just two questions about Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Turkish officials have said they’ve asked – they want a number of people associated with Gulen extradited as well. Can you tell us anything about that? Have they made any requests, who these people are and what association they have with him?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. As always, and I think we’ve spoken at this quite a bit about Mr. Gulen himself, the extradition process is a formal, legal, technical process. We’re not going to unpack that. In terms of other extradition requests coming in, I just have no information. I couldn't speak to that.

QUESTION: And they said today also in Turkey that 10 foreigners – foreign nationals have been arrested associated with him. Do you have any information about that? Were any of them Americans?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no information on that.

QUESTION: And just now a quick change of topics since I’m speaking.

MS TRUDEAU: Well, you know what, any more on Turkey? I’m sure we have more on Turkey. Barbara, let’s close this out and then we’ll go back.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you have any travel announcement for Secretary Kerry, because there are reports suggesting that Secretary will be in Turkey on August 24th.

MS TRUDEAU: I have no travel to announce. Anything more on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any comments on what Mr. Erdogan just said, that he’s going to – he wants to improve relations with Russia and work with Russia in the fight against ISIS and many other issues? Does that – first of all, does that concern you? Do you have any comment on that? Does that in any way puts the spotlight on sort of strained U.S.-Turkish relations?

MS TRUDEAU: I guess what I would do is emphasize where we’ve been since this failed coup. Turkey is a friend. It’s a NATO ally. It’s a partner. We stand with Turkey as they continue to work through this. This isn’t a zero-sum game, and certainly the fight against Daesh is something that concerns all of us regardless of where we are in the world – not just Daesh, but violent extremism writ large. So I’ve seen Mr. – President Erdogan’s comments. I wouldn’t have anything specific more than that to read out.

QUESTION: So why do you think – I mean, how do you explain this insistence right across the whole political, media, and so on – fabric of Turkey – that they insist that somehow the United States was involved with this coup in one way or another?

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve --

QUESTION: This just keeps on going. It has not --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. We’ve spoken about that, Said.

QUESTION: I understand, but --

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve dismissed it absolutely as absurd, as without fact. I’m not going to back every piece of rhetoric that we see in reporting. I can’t tell you if it’s accurate. But what I can tell you is accurate is that we stand with the democratically elected government of Turkey, as well as the Turkish people.

QUESTION: So do you --

MS TRUDEAU: Anything – wait. Are we staying on Turkey, Said?

QUESTION: I’m done.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. More on Turkey?

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: President Erdogan, as you know, has been pushing for Turkish national reconciliation in the wake of the attempted coup with all parties except the pro-Kurdish HDP, which is conspicuously left out of this national reconciliation. Do you have any comment on that? Do you think it is a prudent idea?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t speak to that at all. I think what President Erdogan does as he continues to build reconciliation and continue building Turkish democracy is for him to speak to.

QUESTION: You actually believe that he is building reconciliation?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that --

QUESTION: They’ve arrested 60,000 people, right, since the coup.

MS TRUDEAU: And we’re aware of this.

QUESTION: Is that reconciliation?

MS TRUDEAU: What I would say is that we have spoken about this a lot. We’ve spoken about our concerns with Turkey both publicly and privately, and speaking specifically to comments on which party he’s talking to and the logistics and where and when, I’m just not going to speak to at all.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you believe that he is promoting reconciliation?

MS TRUDEAU: I think that --

QUESTION: Because there are a lot of people who believe that he’s going after anybody who he thinks is an opponent to his rule.

MS TRUDEAU: I think that – what are we? We’re 20 days away from what was a failed coup attempt. I think that this was a profoundly – it was a critical period for Turkey, and I think Turkey is still working through that. As we stand with Turkey, as they continue to investigate, as they continue to work through this, we have raised our views on – as they respect international norms and human rights within Turkey.

QUESTION: But usually if there is a minority, ethnic or religious, which is discriminated against in some country, the United States expresses – and rightly so – some objection. In the case of the Kurds of Turkey, they had nothing to do with the coup – even Erdogan isn’t claiming that – but still they are excluded from this national reconciliation that he’s promoting. That seems to be okay with you?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I think it’s a question, as I said, that you need to speak to Turkey about.

More on Turkey?

QUESTION: Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Wait. Do we have one more? And then we’re going to go to Barbara, because I owe her one. Are we on Turkey?

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead, Abbie.

QUESTION: Do you have any further information on the 10 foreigners who were arrested in the sense – are you actively trying to find out more about whether Americans were involved or --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I just have no information on that at all. I’ve seen the same reports.

Okay, anything more on Turkey? Then we’re going to go to Barbara, then we’ll go over to Syria.

QUESTION: Syria as well --

MS TRUDEAU: Well, there we go.

QUESTION: So just your response on the opposition in Aleppo, opposition forces breaking through the siege. Do you welcome that? Because this should presumably bring in some humanitarian access to that part of the city.

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say is, first, it’s an extremely fluid situation in Aleppo. We continue, as you can imagine, as the other members of the international community, to monitor this very closely. I believe you saw the UN met today on this; I think you saw Ambassador Power’s remarks on this. This is really where we’re focused: All parties must open for delivery of humanitarian supplies to all residents of Aleppo. We are very focused on the impact on civilians right now. As we’ve said, the style of starvation tactics, denial of humanitarian goods, targeting of civilians are never justified. In terms of sort of operations on the ground, who’s in control of what, it’s a very fluid situation now. We’re – we continue to get readouts and reports on that.

QUESTION: But we saw the footages that the opposition --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- broke the siege on eastern Aleppo. In principle, do you support such a movement --

MS TRUDEAU: In principle, we support access for the civilians there to get the humanitarian support they need. We support an inflow of medical aid, food aid, water, potable water. That’s really our focus on that. In terms of how sustainable that is, in terms of where the fighting groups on the ground, I’m just – I just can’t speak to it because it is so fluid.

QUESTION: But do you see it as a positive development?

MS TRUDEAU: I think the positive development is seeing civilians get the humanitarian aid that they need.

QUESTION: So you’re not alarmed that there is an assault by opposition groups on Aleppo? I mean, you expressed a great deal of alarm when the situation was reversed, when government forces, so --

MS TRUDEAU: What we are alarmed about is any party targeting civilians, any civilian being impacted by this sort of fighting. And as we said today at the UN, as we’ve said repeatedly, our priority right now is that humanitarian access.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the opposition groups are using American arms, such as antitank missiles and so on, and how they – how did they get their hands on it? Was it --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, yeah --

QUESTION: -- through the CIA or --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not – I can’t speak to sort of equipment.

QUESTION: -- or some of your allies?

MS TRUDEAU: And again, I’m not going to speak to operations on the ground. As I said, humanitarian access right now today is number one for us.

QUESTION: Would you be concerned if, let’s say, some of your allies, like the Saudis or the Qataris, were providing the opposition with American-made weapons without clearing it with you first, such as the TOW missiles?

MS TRUDEAU: I mean, certainly, our end-use agreement with weapons is something that we track very closely, Said.

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS TRUDEAU: Are we – wait. Hold on one second. Let’s finish up Syria.

Go ahead, Michel.

QUESTION: Any talks with the Russians about the situation in Aleppo in the last --

MS TRUDEAU: So as you know, we continue to have those conversations at Geneva. We continue to have discussions on this. In terms of what the situation is on the ground on Aleppo, of course we continue to see the same information.

QUESTION: But any breakthrough? Any --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I have no update on that from where we were last week.

Are we done with Syria? Let’s go to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Afghan officials are worried that the Taliban may be forging an informal alliance with ISIL in eastern Afghanistan. Just today Afghan General Mohammad Zaman Waziri was quoted as saying, “They fought deadly battles with the Taliban before. But over the past two months, there has been no fighting among them.” Is the U.S. concerned about a possible alliance between ISIL and the Taliban?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. So we are – thank you for the question. We’re aware of the reports. We’re obviously monitoring for the presence of Daesh-affiliated individuals and groups in Afghanistan. We remain actively engaged with the Government of Afghanistan, as well as our partners in the region, to deny terrorist organizations such as Daesh or their branches safe haven and material support.

In terms of the confirmation, if they are working together, I just don’t have any confirmation I can provide at that time. We’ve seen the same reports.

QUESTION: All right. Is it still U.S. policy to reconcile with the Taliban?

MS TRUDEAU: We believe the Taliban have a choice. Rather than continuing to fight their fellow Afghans and destabilizing their country, we believe they should engage in a peace process and ultimately become a legitimate part of the political system of a sovereign, united Afghanistan supported by the international community.

QUESTION: The Taliban now seem all but willing to engage in a reconciliation process. Are you worried that they may reconcile with ISIL instead?

MS TRUDEAU: I think I’ll leave my comments where I said. The Taliban have a choice; we’ve made that choice clear. I think the Afghan Government has also made that choice clear.

QUESTION: Another on Afghanistan?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on – apparently, there was an American along with an Australian abducted in Kabul on Sunday night. Do you have anything on that – near the American university of Afghanistan?

MS TRUDEAU: So you’ve all seen those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I have nothing further to add at this time.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell us – I believe earlier in the year, you guys put out a warning. What’s the overall – your current assessment of just the security threat to American citizens in Kabul and Afghanistan right now?

MS TRUDEAU: So I would direct you – and thank you for that, because that was a great lead-in – travel.state.gov. Travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe. We do note that the U.S. embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular assistance to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited. For the latest on that though, check out travel.state.gov. There is a Travel Warning in place.

Do we have more on Afghanistan? I’m sorry, Said.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region – Pakistan?

MS TRUDEAU: Are you okay? Let’s do Pakistan.

QUESTION: I saw your statement, opening statement on Quetta --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and Pakistani Taliban has claimed credit for it. Do you believe that Pakistani Taliban --

MS TRUDEAU: I’ve seen a number of claims of responsibility for that. I’m not in a position to confirm any of that. I’d refer you to the Government of Pakistan on that. Regardless of who’s responsible for this act of terror, we condemn it.

QUESTION: Have they sought any assistance from you in investigating --

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve offered assistance. I don’t have any feedback if they’ve accepted.

QUESTION: Have SRAP or the Secretary been able to contact, talk to their counterparts?

MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have calls to read out now, but you know, I think, that our ambassador remains in close touch with Pakistani authorities.

QUESTION: This also did a question on – there was a press conference in Karachi today by Syed Salahuddin in which he said that – he basically sort of threatened of nuclear warfare between India and Pakistan. How do you see such statements coming from terrorist leaders inside Pakistan?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, and the name again?

QUESTION: Syed Salahuddin.

MS TRUDEAU: I – what I would say is I’ve seen those comments. We believe that regional safety and security actually is the responsibility not only of the two countries to speak directly to each other but also to have that support within the broader international community. I’m not going to respond to every piece of rhetoric that I’ve seen coming out of that. Of course violence is a concern to us, but what I would say is that issues like this are best resolved through dialogue between those countries.

QUESTION: Do you consider --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, are – one more second. Last one.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you consider this as a rhetoric or are you --

MS TRUDEAU: I think --

QUESTION: -- worried about such statements coming out from leaders who have close contacts with some people in the establishment?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t characterize something out of hand as rhetoric. What I would say is I’ve seen reports, and anything that doesn’t lead to a calm and peaceful and moderate resolution of differences then is not helpful.

Said.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course we can.

QUESTION: First of all, let me ask you about the Palestinian Authority. The police of the Palestinian Authority last week severely beat Palestinian children and, in fact, broke their arms, their legs in some instances. They were demonstrating against power cut. Now, this police is trained and financed by the United States of America. Do you have a position on this?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we obviously condemn violence against innocent civilians. I haven’t seen these particular reports, but I would say that is our broad position on that.

QUESTION: Well, the – we often talk about Israel and the Palestinians in prison, but also in PA prisons, there seems to be a great deal of abuses – human rights and otherwise – for Palestinian prisoners. How do you keep or how do you maintain – how do you ensure that they continue to adhere to international standards – the Palestinian Authority – considering that it is not really a state but you do maintain some sort of a close observation of what they do, correct?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say a few things on that. Certainly I think the conversation with Palestinian leaders is important. I’d also say that the international community plays a very important role in this. I would think that as we take a look at our annual reports, we certainly cite this. Again, speaking specifically to the reports that you indicated, I don’t have a lot of details on that. But violence in prisons is not isolated to any one country; it’s something that I think concerns many countries around the world, and it’s often a system – a question of judicial reform, prison reform, training, transparency.

QUESTION: And I have one last question.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the village of Sussia – the Palestinian village of Sussia – which is about to be demolished, and the inhabitants – 350 inhabitants are about to be removed by the Israeli defense forces or occupation forces. Do you have any comment on that?

MS TRUDEAU: So is this a new settlement or --

QUESTION: This is – it’s been decided sometime back, but now they are going to implement it. They say that these structures were illegally built, and of course this is an old Palestinian village, so --

MS TRUDEAU: So this is a question of demolitions you’re asking?

QUESTION: The question is – yes, right. I mean, in spite of your call --

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve spoken – of course.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS TRUDEAU: I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I mean, you’re constantly calling from this podium to – urging the Israelis not to demolish, not to – but obviously they’re not listening to you, I mean, so --

MS TRUDEAU: This is a conversation we’ve had a lot, and as we’ve said, we are concerned by the accelerated rate of demolitions undertaken by Israeli authorities that continue in the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem. We’ve discussed this before.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, if we can just stay there.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Are you guys watching this world – this case against World Vision?

MS TRUDEAU: We are, Matt.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about that?

MS TRUDEAU: So we are aware of the reports an employee at the Gaza branch of World Vision has been charged with redirecting humanitarian assistance funds on behalf of Hamas. We’ve seen the World Vision statement on this as well. We’re very concerned with the allegations. We’re following the Israeli investigation closely. If confirmed, Hamas’ embezzlement of humanitarian assistance funds reaching some of the most vulnerable people would be reprehensible.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this actually may open – I mean, it would bode very ill for Palestinians that are most in need for this humanitarian aid, because Israel will use this as a pretext to either prevent humanitarian groups from functioning there or restricting them and so on.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, that’s a hypothetical. I’m not going to get ahead of the Israeli investigation on this. We’ve made our position clear. We’re in touch with Israeli authorities on this. I don’t think anyone disputes the need where this humanitarian assistance was targeted.

Anything more on this issue? Okay, then let’s move on. Nike.

QUESTION: Right. Another demolition-related question, but this time it’s on Tibet. I wonder if you have anything to say about reports that Chinese has launched demolition against a Tibetan Buddhist institute without their consent.

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, we have seen those reports and we are concerned that Chinese authorities initiated the demolition of residences at Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Institute without the consent of the institute’s leaders. We urge authorities to cease actions that may escalate tensions and to pursue forthright consultations with the institute’s leaders to address any safety concerns in a way that does not infringe on the right of Tibetans to practice their religion freely.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So just following up on the Dr. Amiri case.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: As it’s been widely reported and it’s become talked about a lot in recent days that Dr. Amiri was referenced in the emails of former Secretary of State Clinton.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the department think that – and some have even charged that there’s a link between that appearance in unclassified emails and the prosecution and execution of Dr. Amiri. Does the department see any linkage between the two?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’re not going to comment on what may have led to this event. But as we spoke about with Matt, there was public reporting on this topic back in 2010. Former Secretary Clinton discussed this issue in public at that time, so this is not something that became public when the State Department released those emails. The press conference that she did was actually July 13th, 2010 where she specifically referenced this issue.

QUESTION: So there’s no – I guess there’s no – not the redactions weren’t looked at or – and anything like that. I mean, is it not policy to re-review the redactions in a case like this or what the policy was on this?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’d say none of the emails that have been raised by the media on this topic were upgraded to classified when they were released to the public through FOIA by the department.

Okay.

QUESTION: Wait, can I --

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I just have to go back to the plane --

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: The issue of the planes.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: And the prisoners. What was the logistical problem that kept them on the ground in Tehran?

MS TRUDEAU: It was locating and ensuring that all of the individuals who were involved with the prisoner swap were on the plane and were --

QUESTION: And how do you know that that wasn’t related to a plane with cash arriving?

MS TRUDEAU: So we feel confident that that was a logistical issue that was solely related to the individuals on the plane.

QUESTION: Right. But how do you know that? Because the Iranians told you or the Iranians couldn’t find someone?

MS TRUDEAU: It was our assessment based on the information we had.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But I mean, there are ways to – there are many countries in the world where you can go through immigration and you’re hit up for a bribe. And they might say that it’s a logistical issue that’s delaying you getting in, but in fact they want some cash. So I’m just curious as to how you’re – why it is that you’re confident that it was an unrelated logistical issue in this case.

MS TRUDEAU: So based on the information that we knew and what was happening on the ground, we’re confident that it was related solely to those individuals.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS TRUDEAU: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV. You just condemned the killing of 93 people in the Quetta bomb blast. I’ve just seen your comments. But at one side U.S. condemned the killing of innocent Pakistanis, and on the other side blocking the military assistance. You know about the Pentagon decision last week. Despite knowing the sacrifices Pakistan made in this war against terrorism, you still have the doubts about the sincerity of Pakistani Security Forces in their military operations? I mean, do you really believe that Pakistan is providing shelter to some of the terrorist groups?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So when you’re asking specifically about the Department of Defense’s certification of the funding, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Defense. What I will say is that Pakistan has said that they will go after all terrorists regardless of affiliation. I don’t want to politicize this terror attack. This is reprehensible. What I will say is that we stand with Pakistan as they move forward on this fight against terror.

QUESTION: An American citizen, Matthew Barrett, was previously deported from Pakistan on spy charges in 2011; was again arrested for re-entering in the country. Is there any contact with the Pakistani authorities on this?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’ve seen those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I have no information to offer you.

QUESTION: But he was arrested in 2011. Was there any kind of investigation at that time that was he really involved in spying?

MS TRUDEAU: As I said, due to privacy considerations, I have no information to offer.

Sir.

QUESTION: Japan’s emperor had delivered a video message that implies wishes on his abdication. Does U.S. State Department has any view or reaction to this?

MS TRUDEAU: So we greatly appreciate the emperor’s continuing contributions to the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Japan. For further details on the emperor’s statement, I’d refer you to the Government of Japan.

And that’s it.

QUESTION: No, no --

MS TRUDEAU: No. One more.

QUESTION: No, no, it is very brief, very brief.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: It’s Bahrain.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: And I’m – you guys have talked about the case of Nabeel Rajab --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- numerous times. His trial has now been delayed again. I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about that, and also reports that he is being denied medical attention.

MS TRUDEAU: So you’re correct. We understand that the – that his next court date has now been scheduled for September 5th. We call on the Government of Bahrain to release Nabeel Rajab, full stop.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about his treatment or do you have concerns about --

MS TRUDEAU: It’s – I would say that representatives of the U.S. embassy in Bahrain attended his last hearing. We’ll continue to stay engaged on this.

QUESTION: No, I know, but I’m wondering if you have any concerns about how he is being treated in custody.

MS TRUDEAU: We’ve raised concerns with the Government of Bahrain, particularly on this case. In terms of his treatment in prison, I have nothing to read out.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Great. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 4, 2016

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 16:35

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 4, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:39 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Hi guys. Happy Thursday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: And what makes it even more special is it’s a Thursday in August, which means tomorrow – everybody want to join with me?

QUESTION: No briefing --

MR TONER: True to our tradition, there will be – thank you, Matt – no briefing.

QUESTION: There will be one.

MR TONER: What was that, Said?

QUESTION: There will be a briefing. An old one.

MR TONER: An old briefing. (Laughter.) Anyway, welcome to the State Department. I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency in democracy. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Is that what it is? (Laughter.) I thought it was a --

MR TONER: Sorry, I didn’t mean to break out in laughter. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I thought it was an exercise in spin and obfuscation.

MR TONER: All right. Can you tell this is my last briefing before vacation? Anyway.

Okay, let’s start. So just at the top, I did want to briefly mention the U.S. Secretary of State was in Argentina today. He did meet with Argentine President Macri. They also – he also met, rather, with the local American Chamber of Commerce and will, of course, as always, meet with the personnel and families from the U.S. embassy there.

He did meet with the foreign minister earlier today. They launched the High-Level Dialogue to strengthen a bilateral partnership that is rooted in common values, principles, and interests. And as part of the dialogue, Secretary Kerry also met with Foreign Minister Malcorra as well as the Argentine ministers of production and energy. They discussed economic reform priorities, trade and investment energy – or rather, trade and investment, energy, and bilateral cooperation in support of Argentina’s reintegration into the international financial community and sustainable economic growth in both our countries.

I’ll leave it there and over to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Just very briefly, do you have anything more you can say about this American woman who was killed in the attack in London?

MR TONER: Not a whole lot more. You saw the Secretary passed on our deepest condolences to the victims and families of those who were killed or injured in last night’s attack. As you know, we did confirm the death of a U.S. citizen, and there are reports, of course – many of you have reported that there is another U.S. citizen who was injured in that attack. We, as always, stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance to the families of the victims.

I can’t, because of privacy considerations, share any additional information at this time.

QUESTION: Have the Brits given you any indication – more than what they have said in public – about what was behind it?

MR TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no. They’re – obviously, the investigation continues, and they’ve spoken to at least their initial findings.

QUESTION: Okay, all right.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then also, while he was in – or still is in BA, the Secretary was asked about the Iran --

MR TONER: He was.

QUESTION: -- the transfer. And basically repeated what you guys and the White House said yesterday --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- about it not being a ransom. But, so in keeping with your opening statement pledge to be --

MR TONER: I knew that would come back to haunt me.

QUESTION: -- that this is an – that this is an exercise in transparency in democracy, can you – do you have a better idea about why you can’t get in to discuss the details of how this 400 million was sent?

MR TONER: Sure. So I did ask this question. And look, bottom line is that we generally make a practice of not commenting publicly on the details of these kinds of transactions such as settlement payments. We don’t normally even identify the parties involved, and that’s just due to the confidential nature of these transactions. But --

QUESTION: Well, wait a second.

MR TONER: And I recognize that a lot of – a lot of details have been shared off the record.

QUESTION: You guys shared them back in January.

MR TONER: Well, we did acknowledge that --

QUESTION: You announced the entire settlement. It wasn’t as if you could keep quiet.

MR TONER: Well, we did acknowledge the settlement, but the details is what I’m saying, how these transactions are carried out.

QUESTION: So you’re still not prepared today to confirm --

MR TONER: I’m not prepared to confirm that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me just make the point that that doesn’t seem very transparent.

MR TONER: And your point is well taken.

QUESTION: Okay. So despite the fact that the Administration – Administration officials – including you, including the Secretary, including your colleague at the White House – are saying over and over and over again that this wasn’t a ransom payment, that question or that case continues to be made by many, many people – not just people who are necessarily critics of the Iran deal, but by others as well. And so do you acknowledge at least the appearance of --

MR TONER: Well, and I think I spoke to this yesterday --

QUESTION: -- of ransom --

MR TONER: Sure. Well, I mean, look. I mean, first of all, a couple of thoughts on that. One is – and I spoke to this yesterday. I thought I did, at least. The optics --

QUESTION: You did. But the thing is that it did not put this to rest. And when you come out and talk about transparency but – and then say you’re – you expect people to just take you at your word, which is fair enough, that this wasn’t a ransom payment, and yet it persists. So people aren’t taking you at your word – not you personally but the Administration in general.

MR TONER: No, I understand that, Matt. I understand that. I mean, look. I mean, I will acknowledge or I will admit – and I think that this was – there was, as we’ve all talked about, whether at the White House or the Secretary or myself, that there were several lines of effort ongoing that came – that culminated at the same time. Part of that was because we had these – as I said, the space that was opened up by the negotiations, that we had the maneuvering room, if you will, to close out this ongoing settlement dispute.

But the idea that this was all orchestrated as part of some kind of quid pro quo is just not accurate. And the reason is is that the settlements team, they were toiling in that vineyard separate and apart from the other negotiations that were ongoing for, as I said, years if not decades before on some of these settlement issues. But we were – and we saw an opportunity to close out this settlement case as part of this – as I said, as part of the implementation day agreement, or reaching implementation day, rather.

And at the same time, we were working the release of these detainees. I recognize, I can see, the optics of this and that people would draw assumptions. People do. We can’t keep them from doing so, but it’s just not true that there’s any linkage.

QUESTION: Well, there’s – okay. Well, there’s a report – I’m sure you saw it last night – that the Justice Department had issues with this and said that it would look --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- even if it wasn’t technically per se a ransom, it would give that perception. And it’s hard not to see that if it is viewed by the receiving party as a ransom or a quid pro quo, how it isn’t.

MR TONER: Well, again, we talked about this yesterday – I thought, at least. A couple points to make on that. One is there’s always an interagency discussion around any decision like this, and every relevant agency weighs in. And I think I said yesterday that, of course, we were aware of the optics surrounding this and the fact that people might draw that conclusion. But it was – we felt it was in our national security interest, as well as in the interest of the American taxpayers, to save them what could have been billions of dollars had this gone to settlement or adjudication. We felt it was prudent to act and to seize the moment.

But that’s not to say that this – these – all of these aspects weren’t discussed within the interagency process. And I think the Justice Department has spoken to this as well. But as the – I think the article that you’re referring to seemed to allege that somehow we overruled these other agencies, and I --

QUESTION: The State Department doesn’t have that much pull? (Laughter.)

MR TONER: I don’t want to underestimate our – the weight we pull, but I can assure you that it’s a consultative process. And it’s --

QUESTION: Well, in the consultative process – and I realize you probably weren’t involved in it --

MR TONER: We can’t overrule --

QUESTION: -- did anyone say that, “Hey, maybe” --

MR TONER: We just can’t overrule other agencies. We don’t – but it is – as I said, it’s a discussion.

QUESTION: Okay, that’s good to know. So if I want to cover power in Washington, what building should I be at?

MR TONER: We’ll talk about that off the record. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But wait, I just want – (laughter) – last question. This’ll be the last one.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: The – so in all of the interagency discussion --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and knowing that you probably weren’t directly involved in that discussion, but from what you know of it, was there anyone out there that said, hey, maybe it would be best, if we want to avoid this perception – which you knew was going to happen – to wait a little bit on making this delivery?

MR TONER: So I’ll leave it at this – with this, that this decision was thoroughly vetted through the interagency process. We looked at all the pros and cons of it, and ultimately, it was decided that the pros outweighed the cons and that we should take advantage of the fact that we can reach agreement on this now.

Now, to go back to your other point, which is that the perception – or that this is going to be played up by the Iranians as – as you noted, as a ransom – and we’ve seen some comments by some Iranian officials to that – in that vein. We’ve tried never to let Iranian rhetoric sway our actions in any way, shape, or form, because we know that oftentimes they’re playing to their own domestic constituency. Again, we were clear-eyed as we went into this, but we ultimately felt like it was the right decision to act.

QUESTION: Mark, was there --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Was there discussion around this that if the money wasn’t paid, or if you didn’t do the deal or pay up then, that you might never have been able to, given domestic political pushback here?

MR TONER: So look, I think what was probably of greater concern was the fact that our legal teams and legal experts who’d been working on this process believed that this could go before the tribunal for decision sooner rather than later. So again, there was some – that was motivation, I think, to move quickly on a settlement that we felt was in our interest to take.

As for the domestic political piece, we always are aware that – and that writ large about our policies towards Iran that there are always going to be people within – on the Hill who, as Matt noted, who are going to be against some of this outreach. You always take that into consideration.

QUESTION: And then did this Administration, did officials at the State Department, brief people on the Hill before that deal was made, or just afterwards? So were they aware that this was a cash payment, and were they aware why this was being done at that time?

MR TONER: It’s a good question, Lesley. So I know they were informed about the settlement before. I don’t know that they were informed about the mechanics of that settlement, like how it would take place, whether it would – whether it was in cash, et cetera. I don't have that answer in front of me. I apologize.

QUESTION: When --

MR TONER: I haven’t been – I don't have the details. I’ll try to get more clarity on that.

QUESTION: When you said – yeah, that’d be good. When you say “before” was it just before the money was released or before the tribunal met? I mean, what do you mean by “before the timeframe”?

MR TONER: Well, before the settlement was reached I think is what – before we actually did the transaction on the settlement.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: So – but as to the details of how that transaction took place, I just don’t have that level of clarity.

QUESTION: And then one more. When was the 1.3 billion in interest settled? That was done through a – through the Judgment Fund, which is administered by the Treasury. But when was that 1.3 – I was told it was fully settled. When was that done and how was it done?

MR TONER: Sure. So the payment for the compromise that was reached on interest, that was 1.3 billion, as you note. That was provided out of the Judgment Fund, and that’s the source of funding to pay judgments and settlements of claim against the United States when there is no other source of funding. And I think awards and settlements of tribunal claims have been paid out of that fund in the past, since 1991 I think, to a tune of some 278 million before – prior to this settlement.

Your question is when --

QUESTION: When? Was it done several weeks after the 400 million in cash was transferred?

MR TONER: I know that it was done. I don't know the – I don't have a date, the specific date on when that actually took place.

QUESTION: Can you find that out, please?

MR TONER: I can try to find that out. I know also that Treasury was speaking to that yesterday, as well as today.

QUESTION: Oh, I didn’t see those remarks, which is – because it’s caused confusion as far as when they were paid.

MR TONER: I understand.

QUESTION: And was that also paid in cash, or was it done through the transfer mechanism, given that sanctions at that stage were then lifted?

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: Well, some sanctions, not all.

MR TONER: Right. Sorry, I’m just looking through here to see if I have an actual date on it. I don't think I do.

QUESTION: Mark --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- you said that some Iranian officials were saying that it was ransom money. They were saying that?

MR TONER: Yeah. I think The Wall Street Journal article yesterday --

QUESTION: Iranian officials said that it was ransom money and that is not their money in fact?

MR TONER: I think The Wall Street Journal article yesterday cited one Iranian military official saying it was ransom. But again, I’m not going to – is that what you were asking me?

QUESTION: Yeah. That’s what I’m – because you said that. I mean --

MR TONER: Yes. Yeah. If you look at the piece that ran in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, it does quote a --

QUESTION: I mean, there were Iranian officials saying it at the time, back in January as well, right?

MR TONER: And you’re right. Yeah, I agree. Yeah.

QUESTION: But can I just ask you – so --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: -- you said that the tribunal might have been coming up with its judgment that could have cost the taxpayers billions more dollars. So what makes you – what gave you the idea that after three decades of litigation this tribunal was going to come to a decision the very week that you also reached the nuclear deal --

MR TONER: Oh, I don't know – no, I didn’t mean to imply that --

QUESTION: -- the very week that you got the --

MR TONER: But I didn’t mean to imply that it was going to be that very week. I think that that was --

QUESTION: So --

MR TONER: -- an impetus for acting because --

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: -- we thought it would come soon. I don't know – I don't have a timeframe.

QUESTION: After 35 years, it was just going to come?

MR TONER: Well, again, all of these things – I mean --

QUESTION: Did they – did someone on the commission tell you?

MR TONER: No. But I mean, look, these teams have been working on these issues, and it was going to come up in the near future. And the legal experts or the team that was working on this – their advice was to act while we could for a settlement that would save people money. I don't know that there was – I don’t --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: I’m not trying to imply that it was --

QUESTION: After 35 years --

MR TONER: I’m not trying to imply that it was that next week or even that next month, but it was, I think, it was considered that it would be --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, but then if it wasn’t --

MR TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no. Finish.

MR TONER: No, no. I --

QUESTION: I get what you’re saying. But I’m just saying that then doesn’t it give more – wouldn’t it give – make it more of a – wouldn’t it have given a less of that – wouldn’t it be less bad optics then – if it wasn’t that imminent, if it wasn’t going to be the next day or the next week – to wait so that the Iranians couldn’t make the argument that it was a ransom, no?

MR TONER: Again, we’re back to the optics argument, and I’ve said what I’m going to say on that.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. One more on the --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the optics argument. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Thanks.

QUESTION: So the U.S. policy against paying ransom – it seems like it was designed to prevent the feeling by other countries or terrorist organizations that the U.S. Government could be blackmailed.

MR TONER: That’s accurate.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that because of the timing of this that other countries or terrorist organizations will see this as a change in U.S. policy, that they could kidnap an American and request ransom and it would be paid?

MR TONER: Well, I would hope not. And obviously we’ve been working hard over the last 24 hours in trying to disabuse anyone of that conclusion. We don’t pay ransom and we don’t for specifically those reasons. And so all I can say is that is our policy going forward. It’s been our policy, and anyone who acts under the assumption that we do pay ransom would be acting wrongly.

QUESTION: So how is the balance likely to be paid in the future, Mark?

MR TONER: How is the balance --

QUESTION: The balance of what --

MR TONER: The balance was paid.

QUESTION: Completely, you paid?

MR TONER: Said, I think I just confirmed that.

QUESTION: So – you just confirmed that?

MR TONER: Yeah, yep.

QUESTION: So there is no --

MR TONER: Out of the settlements fund, yeah – or the Judgment Fund, excuse me.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: But what I don’t have – and I apologize – I don’t have a date of when that took place.

Please.

QUESTION: Yeah. And you’re going to take that as a question?

MR TONER: I will do my best.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And Mark, do you know if the Secretary would consider going in front of the House committee to testify, as he has been asked to?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, obviously, we always try to work with Congress to address their concerns. As to who would testify before any kind of hearing, that’s something we’ll take under consideration, given the Secretary’s busy schedule, busy travel schedule. We would try to work with Congress to find some kind of way forward, but I’m not aware that he’s been asked.

Please.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR TONER: I’m happy to change topics, but let’s finish with Iran. If we’re done – done with Iran? Okay. Go ahead, Barbara.

QUESTION: Just Argentina.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Mr. Kerry said that the declassified documents from the Dirty War would be – the first tranche would be delivered on Thursday. Do you have any information about what will be in that – those documents? Will they be specific – will they reference specific cases of the disappeared? Will they give the families answers to their questions?

MR TONER: So – sure. So my understanding of that is that it will – additional – it will be declassification of additional U.S. Government records that are related to human rights abuses by the Argentine military dictatorship, and in fact, that he delivered a first tranche of these declassified documents to President Macri. I don’t necessarily have – I mean, I would characterize them as military and intelligence records, but I don’t have – I don’t know if they speak about specific cases. I would assume that there are some details in there that speak to specific cases, but I don’t have any more details for you.

QUESTION: Any more transcripts of calls between Kissinger and the general? Communications?

MR TONER: I don’t know what the contents were. However, they – the documents will be posted on the Director of National Intelligence website and available to the public on August 8th, so there you go.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: I want to just a follow up on that --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Are these documents the same documents that the President said were going to be released --

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: -- when he was there?

MR TONER: I believe so, yes.

QUESTION: So --

MR TONER: In keeping with – yeah – President Obama’s commitment – yes --

QUESTION: So --

MR TONER: -- that he made the President Macri.

QUESTION: And do we – you know any more, like how many there are? Were they transported down there on pallets, or were there fewer than – could you bring them in briefcases or something like that?

MR TONER: I don’t have a – I don’t have a sense of the scale or the scope of the delivery of documents. I’ll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: And that he gave some to the president today and a second tranche on Thursday. Is that correct? No, today’s Thursday. Sorry.

MR TONER: Yes. My understanding it was just the tranche was delivered today.

QUESTION: One tranche. Okay.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Turkish media reporting the Secretary will go to Turkey later this month. Is that true?

MR TONER: Nothing to announce in that regard.

QUESTION: Related to that?

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Could you tell us exactly where the U.S. is in the issue of the extradition process of Mr. Gulen? As you may have seen, a Turkish court has issued what they call an international warrant against Mr. Gulen. Do you see this as the former – formal, sorry, extradition request?

MR TONER: So my understanding of where we are with the extradition request is that we’ve been – or that the Turkish authorities have delivered – I think made several deliveries of documents to us and that we’re in the process of going through those documents. As you know, we don’t – and we’ve said this previously – we don’t speak publicly about the details of the extradition request process. It’s not something that is necessarily an overnight process. It takes time to evaluate the evidence that’s presented.

I think at this point – my understanding at least, having talked to my colleagues at the Department of Justice, is that they’re still trying to make a determination of whether the documents that were delivered to them do constitute what they believe is a formal extradition request. And I realize there’s some – the rhetoric coming from Turkey is that they have made a formal request. I think and I believe, in fact, that we’re still trying to assess that.

QUESTION: So your position has not changed in two weeks? You still don’t know if or you don’t say – you cannot say if it’s a formal --

MR TONER: Right. We’ve received – as I said, we’ve received documents. We’re studying those documents. And we talked about an initial tranche that we had received from them that did not, we believe, constitute a formal extradition request. But we subsequently received more documents. We’re looking through them, and I think they’re trying to figure out whether this is the full request. And I don’t think they have reached that determination yet.

Please.

QUESTION: The second tranche of documents, does that involve evidence related to the coup itself? Because the first one I think was based on investigations from before the coup.

MR TONER: You are correct, I think, on the first thing. In terms of the second tranche, I don’t know. I think they’re still trying to assess whether that’s the case. I don’t have a specific readout on what – whether those documents pertained specifically to Mr. Gulen’s involvement in or alleged --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, is there any – have they supplied any evidence directly related to the coup?

MR TONER: Yeah, I don’t know, honestly.

QUESTION: On Turkey, couple more.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: After three weeks, do you have more of a understanding how the coup happened in Turkey, whether your own assessment, whether the documents from Turkey? But your own assessment; do you think this Gulen movement or Fethullah Gulen have anything to do with the coup?

MR TONER: I mean, it’s a fair question. I’m not sure that we would necessarily share our assessment. I think that – well, a couple things. One is, as we’ve done from the very beginning, we condemn the failed coup in Turkey, and we also have rejected and continue to reject any attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey. We support that government wholeheartedly as a strong ally and partner in the region.

In terms of assessing who was behind the coup, I know the – we all know that Turkish authorities are looking at that very closely and investigating it. That’s a matter for them to reach a conclusion about. I don’t have any specific conclusions to draw at this point.

QUESTION: While Turkish authorities are investigating this, shut down – Turkish authorities shut down hundreds of media organizations; about 66,000 people are sacked and about 20,000 people are arrested. These numbers can be a little different.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: And President Erdogan today said this is only the tip of the iceberg; they just starting to – do you – how are you assessing so far Turkish Government’s action, whether you see them excessive actions, as was questioned here?

MR TONER: So – and we’ve conveyed this publicly as well as privately in our conversations with our Turkish counterparts. Indeed, as you said, the President spoke with President Erdogan shortly after the coup attempt, and Secretary Kerry has spoken with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, several times as well. And we made very clear we understand the need for them to go after the alleged perpetrators of this coup; but at the same time, we’ve emphasized the importance of upholding the democratic institutions and the rule of law that exists in Turkey and the importance of that to the Turkish people and to the integrity of Turkey’s democracy.

QUESTION: But you see these moves as signs that a major purge is underway, maybe a major purge that cuts across all institutions and aspects of Turkish society?

MR TONER: I mean, I think what I’ll – I’ll leave it at this. I would say we’re watching developments there very closely, and we’re making very clear that the Turkish Government – again, while we understand the basis for its actions – that it also bears in mind that it must hold true to its democratic standards.

QUESTION: Are you --

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up?

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry, Antoine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Go on.

QUESTION: No, I just wanted to say that all – almost everybody in Turkey agrees or thinks that the United States had something to do with the coup.

MR TONER: Well, and I – when he asked me about our conclusions, I didn’t want to offer that up there, but that’s completely absurd. And I’m – we’re conscious of the fact that after an event like this there’s lots of conspiracy theories, lots of allegations tossed about, but the suggestion that the United States was in any way involved in the attempted overthrow of the government – the democratically elected government of a NATO ally, a major NATO ally, is just absurd.

QUESTION: Today, New York Times ran an editorial and it was then – there is a question that it’s asking what to do with a vital ally that is veering far from democratic norms. This is the one question. And in same editorial, also it talks about the former State Department official, Henri Barkey. And it says that evidence against Barkey – when the coup erupted in Turkey, he was on the Istanbul island holding a workshop for academics and made some phone calls.

My question is whether former official Henri Barkey has anything to do with the coup as far as --

MR TONER: I’d have to ask you to contact him directly. He’s a former official. I don't know that he plays any official role. I have no idea what his involvement may or may not have been. I just don’t have any details on that.

QUESTION: The first question, the question about the vital ally that’s veering far from democratic norms – what to do with such ally?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think that there has been concern expressed by many organizations, by many leaders around the world about the scope of the Turkish Government’s efforts to go after the alleged perpetrators of this coup attempt. We’re obviously watching it closely. We’ve been consulting closely with our Turkish counterparts at every level, and indeed, General Dunford was just there this past week and met with his counterparts.

We want to continue, obviously, to cooperate closely with Turkey as a NATO ally and as a major counter-Daesh coalition partner. We don’t want to see a disruption to those efforts, because frankly, ISIL/Daesh is as much a threat to Turkey as it is to Europe, as it is to the United States, as it is to the region. So we all need to focus on the immediate goal of going after and maintaining the pressure on Daesh. We’ve made tremendous progress, but we want to keep that pressure on.

But as to the extent or the scope of the government’s crackdown, if you will, after the coup, we’re watching it closely. We’ve expressed our thoughts about it to our Turkish counterparts and we’re going to maintain that dialogue with them going forward.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Tuesday, Iran executed over 20 largely Kurdish prisoners, calling them terrorists and saying – and claiming they were Islamic extremists.

So, two questions: Do you have any comment on those executions generally? And given that the Iranian Kurds are predominantly secular – and Kurds tend to be secular generally because national identity trumps religious identity – might Iran be mischaracterizing those whom it executed to confuse people inside and outside the country?

MR TONER: So I would just say we reaffirm our calls for Iran to respect and protect human rights and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases. This is something we’ve consistently expressed. Our concerns about Iran’s human rights record have been expressed in a range of channels – obviously in our annual Human Rights Report but also in our International Religious Freedom Report. And we’ve also worked with other countries within the UN framework – General Assembly as well as UN Human Rights Council – to highlight our human rights concerns in Iran.

So without trying to address the specifics of this case, which we frankly don’t know much about, I would just say that what we would expect and call on Iran to do is to ensure that any legal process is fair and transparent.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Iran has – excuse me. Iran has the highest number of executions per capita of any country in the entire world. If the Iranians aren’t heeding your – paying attention to these reports and your suggestions, are there further steps that you’d be contemplating?

MR TONER: Well, again, I mean, these are all actions – or all, rather, concerns that we would address appropriately in the right fora. One of those, as I noted, was the UN Human Rights Council. We – one of the most effective things that we can do is shine a light on some of these actions, and we do so through our Human Rights Report, which is widely read and widely regarded as one of the best, most thoroughly researched publications about human rights, the state of human rights, around the globe. So these are all efforts that we continually make to, as I said, shine a light on where we view excessive human rights abuses.

QUESTION: Just back on Iran. I’ve got --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: I have to ask two – they’re very brief – back to the settlement question.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure thing.

QUESTION: Do you know why the settlement was not reached on the 16th, the same day that the nuclear deal was implemented? What was it that held it up until – the announcement until the 17th, which, as you recall, is the day that the prisoners were released? Do you know?

MR TONER: I don’t know.

QUESTION: And then, yesterday, I believe you agreed to take the question from my colleague James Rosen about the timing of the plane carrying the – I won’t say cash; I’ll say just carrying the method of payment for the 400 million.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Did it land in Tehran before or after the plane carrying the prisoners left Tehran for Geneva?

MR TONER: And I don’t believe we’ve gotten clarity on that as well either. In terms of the timing, I don’t have it.

QUESTION: Can you take the question again?

MR TONER: Well, we – the question is --

QUESTION: Do you know, was it --

MR TONER: The question is still taken, I mean, if we haven’t gotten an answer.

QUESTION: Was it – okay. Well, do you know, was there an effort made to find out?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And the answer came back we’re not going to tell you, or the answer was we don’t know, we’re still looking into it?

MR TONER: We’re still looking into it.

QUESTION: So it’s an active question still.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I move quickly to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Very quickly.

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Last week, an Israeli soldier in the occupied city of Hebron roughed up a little Palestinian girl on a bicycle, and then he took her bike and destroyed it. My question to you is very simple: Should Israel compensate this little girl for the bicycle? Very simple.

MR TONER: So I don’t know that that’s a question we necessarily should answer from the podium of the State Department, but what I’ll say is we understand the tensions that exist in Israel regarding security and security concerns, but – and I’ve seen the video; I know what you’re talking about – it’s also legitimate to say that what’s portrayed in that video is concerning and raises emotions on the part of many people who see it, and that any security forces – and I’m talking about not just Israel’s, but any security forces around the world – have a difficult job. We understand that they have to balance a lot of factors in carrying out their duties, but they also need to be aware of how their actions portray what they’re doing and the reasons behind what they’re doing to the rest of the world. So that’s a question for the Israeli authorities to speak to. I’m just offering my opinion.

QUESTION: But you subsidize Israel to the tune of billions of dollars.

MR TONER: We do.

QUESTION: Should you deduct like $100 to pay for that bicycle? It’s a serious question.

MR TONER: No, I --

QUESTION: Should you deduct $100 from the $40 billion or so that you’re about to give Israel for the next 10 years, and say this is to replace the bicycle?

MR TONER: Said – so I spoke about this a little bit yesterday. Our security relationship with Israel is important both to Israel’s national security interests as well as our own, as well as the region’s, and it’s vital that we maintain that close cooperation. And, frankly, that relationship, as I said yesterday, is ironclad. Israel is a strong democracy in the region and a strong proponent of democratic values in the region. We’re looking at this incident. I agree that, again, for those who watched the video, I can see where it raises emotions and raises concerns. And what we’ve always said – and that bears – that is true for Israel’s security forces or Israelis, as well as for Palestinians – is that all sides need to bear in mind and take – or make efforts not to escalate tensions and be aware that their actions could escalate tensions in what is already an overly tense situation. And I think that’s our message.

QUESTION: So you don’t – you will not urge Israel to compensate this little girl --

MR TONER: I’m not aware of any efforts on that part.

QUESTION: -- to the tune of $100 for – to pay for the bicycle?

MR TONER: I’m not aware that we – and I’m not even sure we could do that.

Please.

QUESTION: South Asia.

MR TONER: Of course. Wait, where are we?

QUESTION: Two questions. Thank you, sir.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Mark, SAARC is meeting in Islamabad, and home ministers from the SAARC nations met there, including Mr. Rajnath, home minister of India. What he emphasized was mainly on terrorism. And even before his arrival there were demonstrations by the terrorists wanted by the U.S. and India in Islamabad for blocking him – not to come to Islamabad. Those terrorists are openly calling on the death to U.S. and death to India, and they don’t care because nobody is arresting them or going after them. My question is here, that --

MR TONER: You’re talking about in Islamabad, this – where this meeting took place.

QUESTION: In Islamabad, right – Karachi, Islamabad and all – and all that. Home Minister of India Mr. Rajnath said that I am here on the invitation of the Government of Pakistan, and we wanted to make sure that we fight together against these terrorists who are killing innocent people – and not only in India, but also in Pakistan, among others. And what he said that – to Pakistan, that don’t glorify the killings of terrorists, and don’t make them martyrs, because that will – they will come back to you, and they are coming back to you anyway, so we should unite, all of us, against them.

But somehow, he said Pakistan is not listening because at least three terrorists are wanted by India – of course, their names are Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi, among others – which he said we have given the proof to the Pakistanis and – but they’re not listening. So what he’s saying, where do we go from here? And what – you have anything about this --

MR TONER: I mean, I – first of all, Goyal, you’ve heard us say it many times: I mean, we encourage that kind of regional dialogue regarding counterterrorism efforts. We advocate for closer cooperation, certainly, between India and Pakistan to deal with terrorist threats in both their countries. Terrorism is obviously a reality in both countries, and they need to – in order to effectively confront it, they need to work together. And that’s something we’ve long encouraged.

So it’s important that these have these fora – these forum – this forum, rather, to talk about in a candid way some of the areas of disagreement and some of the areas of concern between the two of them. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the back-and-forth except to say that we obviously believe that Pakistan needs to do all it can to confront all terrorists operating on its soil. We’ve seen it make progress; we want to see more progress on its part.

QUESTION: Second --

QUESTION: Can I move to a --

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just – I have to leave in five minutes. On the – you’re familiar with the Jordan --

MR TONER: You made me stand up here yesterday. I’m not – I might just make you – I’m just teasing. Sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You’re familiar with the situation of the Syrian refugees in the Jordan berm?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: There was a delivery of aid by crane today by the UN, which I assume you think is good news, welcome news. But I’m just wondering if – do you – are – is this satisfactory? Are you pressing the Jordanians to allow more in?

MR TONER: So as unorthodox a method as it was, we are very happy that the UN was able to deliver food and other urgently needed assistance to – for the first time, I believe, since June 21st to these Syrian refugees or these Syrians, displaced Syrians who are on the other side of the border. And if the UN and the Jordanian Government agreed to it that a crane is the most efficient or effective way, or appropriate way to do that, then we’re not going to second-guess that decision.

The point is that the food and the other assistance got to the people who desperately need it. Is it enough? No. We need everyone to do more, and we certainly recognize that Jordan has done a tremendous amount, and we appreciate the generosity of Jordan in – and the Jordanian people for that matter in hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, and stand together with them and are going to continue to work with the international community to identify ways that we can assist those vulnerable Syrians who are stranded on the Jordan-Syria border.

And it also speaks, frankly, to the broader issue that we haven’t gotten full humanitarian access – the UN has not gotten full humanitarian access to all the areas within Syria, and that’s another thing we need to continue to pursue.

QUESTION: All right. So secondly --

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: -- you’re probably aware that a lawyer, the third this week in China, has been convicted of subversion.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about today’s case, but then more generally the trend that appears to be emerging?

MR TONER: So we’re obviously watching the trials, these human rights activists and lawyers who were detained on and around July 9th this – in 2015. We’re concerned that several have been sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years based on what we consider vague and apparently politically motivated charges, such as, quote, “subversion of state power,” end quote. It’s troubling that Chinese authorities denied these defendants access to their chosen counsel and family members as well, and we urge China to release all the lawyers and activists who were detained on July 9th, 2015, and remove restrictions on their freedom of movement and professional activities.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria really quick? Do you have anything new on the chemical attacks or the allegations of chemical attacks by Russia or --

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: -- the opposition groups?

MR TONER: So – and we also had the, obviously – so we’ve had two separate allegations made over the past several days. We’re looking into both of them, as we would any credible allegation of a chemical attack. We – as we stated clearly yesterday, we condemn the use of any chemical weapons. Russia did share – I was not aware of it when I briefed yesterday, but did share the allegations of the second chemical weapons attack, but up till now we’ve not seen conclusive evidence to suggest that such an attack took place.

But, of course, we’re very concerned about and are looking into the allegations – these allegations, as well as the allegations of chlorine gas that was used by the regime in the town of Saraqeb. We would call on the OPCW, as well as the UN, to use existing mechanisms to investigate these allegations thoroughly. And use by any party in Syria of chemical weapons would violate international standards and norms against such use, and we call on all parties to abide by all commitments made under the cessation of hostilities, and that includes a moratorium on targeting civilians or civilian facilities.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: The newly appointed Japanese defense minister, Tomomi Inada, earlier today declined to say whether Japan liberated or invaded Asian countries in World War II. Is there any question here at the State Department on whether Japan invaded or liberated Asian countries?

MR TONER: Look, I’m not going to re-litigate what is historical record. I’ll leave it there.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s constructive for a defense minister to raise such questions, given the potential to exacerbate regional tensions?

MR TONER: Look, I’m not going to parse or second-guess those comments. Japan’s a democracy. There’s freedom of speech there. Again, I’m just not going to re-litigate historical record.

Please, in the back, sir.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on Guantanamo. Former Guantanamo detainee Jihad Dhiab, who was sent to Uruguay in 2014, went missing a while ago, and as I understand, he’s still missing. What is the – what does the Department of State know about this case as of today?

MR TONER: I’m aware of the case and I’m actually looking – I thought we had an update on that. If we do, I’ll try to get it to you afterwards. I just don’t have it in front of me. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay. And let me ask you another question about this case --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: -- if you have this information.

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Is this person considered a threat to the U.S.?

MR TONER: This person who went missing?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Again – and I don’t want to speak out of – I was aware that one of these individuals who went missing actually turned up. That’s why I’m looking so befuddled, because I thought that one of them actually had turned up, but let me double check that.

I mean, of course – a couple of points to make. One is whenever we decide anyone from Guantanamo is eligible for relocation or resettlement, that is only done after a very lengthy process where it’s determined that this person, to the best of our knowledge and best of our belief, no longer constitutes a risk or a threat not just to the United States but to anyone. And that’s the first – very first step before we even negotiate or begin to talk to other governments about resettling these individuals.

As part of the resettlement dialogue that we have with other governments, we talk about ways to, in fact, ensure that these kinds of incidents can’t take place, where resettled Guantanamo inmates simply disappear or fall off the grid for whatever reason. It has happened, and there are even cases, as we all know here, where some of these individuals have even shown back up on the battlefield. The cases of – those kinds of cases, rather – the percentage is very low, very low. We’d like it to be zero, but in any process like this, we can never be 100 percent correct all the time. But we take it very seriously.

And so as to whether we’re concerned, of course. We’re always concerned when any one of these individuals, as I said, falls off the grid or falls off the radar, disappears, and we make every effort to work with both national authorities in these countries, as well as regional authorities, to locate them.

QUESTION: Can I have – I don’t know if you have the figures, but the latest update on the number of detainees (inaudible)?

MR TONER: Yeah, I apologize. I will – I may – don’t know if you can see, this book is a little chock full of information here. But we’ll get those for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: Can I just clarify your answer --

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: -- on the gas attack?

MR TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: You said there was no conclusive evidence. Are you talking about – which gas attack?

MR TONER: Both.

QUESTION: Both?

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, look, it’s – so just to talk about the process, I mean, these are – these kinds of attacks are always investigated through the OPCW.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: And they’re not – we’re not able to reach – or they’re not able to reach a conclusion overnight or even in a couple of days. But they are looking at the facts and the allegations and are investigating it appropriately.

QUESTION: So you’re talking about the one that was reported last week --

MR TONER: Both.

QUESTION: -- and then the one that the Russians --

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, we’re calling on – we want to see both investigated. There was – yeah, there were two incidents, one on – that’s believed to be, alleged to be the regime, the chlorine gas, and then this other one was reported yesterday.

QUESTION: And then – and the Russians had – did notify you of --

MR TONER: They did.

QUESTION: Okay. And then can I just --

MR TONER: Of the second attack.

QUESTION: Of the second attack. Can I just follow up on the other one?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: On another issue related, is how do you square these ongoing attacks and the tensions in Syria with what – with how the – with ongoing or with discussions with the Russians on military cooperation? Can you have normal discussions as well as – while these kinds of attacks are going on?

MR TONER: So you’re correct that it does make that dynamic difficult. The fact that the Russians supported the regime in its attempt to seal off and retake Aleppo, unbeknownst to us, has not made those efforts to work together on finding a way forward any easier. And in fact, as the Secretary alluded to after his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Vientiane last week, we believe that the discussions we’ve had with the Russians in Geneva have made progress.

The goal of those discussions, as we’ve talked about, is how to make sense of what groups are located where in and around Aleppo, but certainly beyond Aleppo in and around Syria, so that we can focus efforts where we believe they need to be focused, which is on going after Nusrah and going after Daesh. And then, only then, can we put a moderate – or can we put in place a cessation of hostilities that is credible and that will allow talks to get going on again in Geneva. That’s where we’re at. It’s not an easy place to be and certainly not made any easier by these latest – this assault on Aleppo. And – but that doesn’t mean we’re – we don’t still believe that the effort is worthwhile to pursue.

QUESTION: So you are still talking?

MR TONER: We are still talking.

QUESTION: And can I – one more follow-up. He – Kerry said that he was going – he wanted to have a – he said in Laos, in fact, where you were, that he would be able to announce any – or he hoped to announce an agreement on this early August. Given these new tensions and attacks, is that still possible?

MR TONER: We’re not there yet.

QUESTION: On Syrian refugees, very quickly. I know there is something probably come out tomorrow on the status of the Syrian refugees. Do you know how many refugees have been admitted? You’re saying that the target --

MR TONER: I do.

QUESTION: The target is 10,000.

MR TONER: I do.

QUESTION: And it’s in October?

MR TONER: I do. I can say as of August 4th there have been nearly 8,000. The exact figure is 7,905 Syrian refugees have been admitted. That’s as of August 4th.

QUESTION: So by all accounts, you’ll be able to meet the target of 10,000 by the end of the fiscal year?

MR TONER: (Knocks.) Is this wood? Yes. We knock on it. I knock on it.

QUESTION: I just wanted to finish my counterterrorism question quickly.

MR TONER: I don’t know how that will show up in the transcript. Sorry.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. One, is U.S. satisfied with Pakistan as far as fighting against terrorism? And second, as far as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is concerned, he’s very serious fighting against terrorism and running his government peacefully. But his hands are tied by the military because he doesn’t want to make the same mistake which he did in 1993 when his government was overthrown by the military. So many experts in Pakistan and here think that there are parallel governments are going on there by the military and by the civilian. So where the U.S. is now – is anybody has been connected or contacted from Islamabad here? What’s going on in Pakistan? Or how do you feel or U.S. is taking this two powers or two governments within Pakistan?

MR TONER: That’s a very detailed question. How I would answer it is we believe that Pakistan has taken and is taking steps to counter terrorist violence, and certainly focusing on those groups that threaten Pakistani or Pakistan’s stability. They have – the military has shut down some of these safe havens. They’ve restored government control to parts of Pakistan that were used as terrorist safe havens for years. And these are important steps that have continued – or contributed, rather, to security interests in the region. And they’ve come at a cost of Pakistani lives lost. But at the same time, we’ve been very clear with the highest levels of the Government of Pakistan that they must target all militant groups, and that includes those that target Pakistan’s neighbors, and they must also close all safe havens.

So I guess, to put it briefly or summarize it, they’ve made progress. They’re going after groups, but selectively. We need to see them go after all groups, and as I just said, even those groups that might not threaten Pakistan itself but threaten its neighbors.

QUESTION: Sir, I have a quick question on the same topic.

MR TONER: Of course. Of course.

QUESTION: Before that, one person just comes in my mind. Sir, you were just talking about the incident happened in Israel. Sir, you just said that you are very concerned – United States is very concerned about the security of Israelis. Sir, what about the security of Palestinians? I mean, is it the – do you give the same importance to the security of the Palestinians as the Israelis?

MR TONER: You’re talking about Palestinians?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: I mean, of course. What we want to see and our consistent messaging is – or consistent message, rather, is that we want to see all sides in Israel and in Pakistan – or – I’m sorry, excuse me. In – I was just talking about – sorry, I apologize – and in – among the Palestinian people exercise restraint and take measures that don’t escalate tensions that are already there. Obviously, the security situation there is very tense. All I was trying to convey in my response to Said’s question was that there have been a series or a number of terrorist attacks on innocent Israelis, and that has generated a high level of concern – rightly so – among Israel’s security forces – a heightened sense, if you will. And that’s understandable. But as they carry out – and again, I’m not just noting this for Israel, but in any place around the world – that any security forces need to exercise a certain amount of restraint. It’s part of the job; it’s part of their duties.

QUESTION: Sir, you just said that Pakistan doing – has progressed in the military operation against the terrorist networks, but I think you are well aware that Pentagon has withheld $300 million of military assistance to Pakistan for not acting against those militant groups who are fueling violence in Afghanistan. Do you have anything to say on that?

MR TONER: Not much. I mean, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense regarding the decision that they took with regard to Fiscal Year 2015 funding. We continue within the Department of State to provide assistance to the Pakistani people, and some of that does include security assistance. But I don’t have anything specific to add to your question about this reduction in funding.

QUESTION: Sir, but are you agreed with the Pentagon that Pakistan is not doing enough to eliminate Haqqani Network and other militant groups who are fueling violence in Afghanistan? Are you agreed with the Pentagon?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think – and I think I just addressed this in talking to – responding to Goyal’s question – we have concern about terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan’s borders. We’ve urged the Government of Pakistan to address this and to pursue closer counterterrorism cooperation with Afghanistan against all groups that pose a long-term security threat to the region, not just to Pakistan.

QUESTION: Sir, situation in Afghanistan is very interesting. Recently, visit of a delegation of Afghan Taliban recently was in China. I mean, they are not talking to the U.S., they are not talking to Pakistan, they are not willing to talk with the political side of Afghanistan, but they are visiting China. I mean, what China can help in the peace in Afghanistan?

MR TONER: Well, I’d refer you to the Chinese authorities and Chinese Government to speak to that.

Yeah, one more.

QUESTION: One on China. Yesterday, China formed a quadrilateral counterterrorism alliance in association with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. Do you think this is a helpful move from China?

MR TONER: I’m sorry, you’re – are you talking about the same – you’re not talking about the Taliban group, but you’re talking a separate thing.

QUESTION: No, it’s a different --

MR TONER: I apologize.

QUESTION: This was a meeting --

MR TONER: Could you just give me the question one more time?

QUESTION: This was a meeting of the military leaders of four countries at the initiative of China. Other countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. They have formed a quadrilateral counterterrorism alliance. How helpful is this in your fight against terrorism?

MR TONER: I mean, I think my answer is that we don’t view it as in any way counterproductive and we don’t view it as a zero-sum game that China pursues closer ties – certainly in the security field and certainly in the counterterrorism field – with Central Asian countries. And there’s a lot of work to be done, there’s a lot of problems to be addressed, so we certainly don’t view any effort to more closely coordinate among those countries – all of whom are affected by terrorism in the region – we don’t view that as a negative at all. In fact, we view it as a positive.

QUESTION: So you view this as a helpful move in the fight --

MR TONER: I said I view it as a positive.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:41 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 3, 2016

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 16:38

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 3, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:42 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Matt.

QUESTION: Hello.

MR TONER: How are you, Matt?

QUESTION: I’m well. And you?

MR TONER: Good. I’m hanging in there. Hey, everyone, welcome to the State Department. I can see there’s a packed crowd today, I think, of outgoing PAOs and IOs; is that right? Anyway, welcome and happy Wednesday. Just one thing to read at the top and then I’ll take your questions.

As many of you know, Secretary of State Kerry met today with the foreign ministers of the five states of Central Asia for the second C5+1 ministerial, and that was upstairs in the Benjamin Franklin Room. You all saw we put out a media note as well as a joint statement. And obviously, the group discussed issues of economic connectivity, regional security, the environment, and climate change as well as humanitarian issues, and they also agreed to launch five joint projects that were developed by the C5+1 working groups that met after the first ministerial in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, which was last November 2015. The United States is excited to be continuing the C5+1 format as we broaden and deepen our relationship with the Central Asian states.

Over to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. There’s a lot to go through. Let me start with Iran, and I know that this was raised ad nauseam at length during the White House briefing, but – so I’ll try and make mine extremely short.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: As has been pointed out over and over and over again by your colleague over there, the agreement on The Hague claim was settled and announced by you all publicly in January.

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Do you know why at that time you guys were not prepared to say that the 400 million that Iran was owed – why you were not prepared to say or describe the manner in which that was transferred to the Iranians?

MR TONER: Well, I think – and I’m still, frankly, not prepared to talk about the mechanics of how that transfer was made.

QUESTION: Okay. My question is: Then why?

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: What is the big secret here? Why is this such an issue?

MR TONER: Well, that’s a fair question. I think, look – I mean, first of all, let me tell you what I can say about it.

QUESTION: Well, don’t just repeat the same --

MR TONER: I won’t. I don’t know – I didn’t see – I didn’t see --

QUESTION: I mean, we’ve all heard this on --

MR TONER: If I repeat myself, then – or I repeat Josh, rather, then --

QUESTION: Well, it went on for almost over – it went on for over an hour.

MR TONER: No, I mean, what I can – what I would say is, without getting into the nitty-gritty details of how that payment was made, what I can say is that Iran was at that time, and frankly still is to some degree, relatively disconnected from the international financial system. And so that raised certain challenges in getting them their money. It couldn’t be done over wire transfers or any of – kind of the legal methods that – or the legal – the financial methods, rather, that are commonly used to transfer large sums of money. So, bearing in mind that, we had to figure out ways to get them the money. We don’t have – we’ve never re-established a direct banking relationship with Iran and still, frankly, don’t intend to do so.

QUESTION: Well --

MR TONER: So, I mean, those are the limitations under which we were operating to --

QUESTION: But it seems like there may be other ways to – I mean, were other ways considered and discarded? I mean, you could have sent them gold bars or something, I suppose, but – that’s pretty heavy, but – and I don’t know --

MR TONER: Although I don’t know that that’s any --

QUESTION: -- how much 400 million in euros and Swiss francs weighs, but there’s bitcoin --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: Yeah, I would say so, too.

QUESTION: Couldn’t you have gotten like a cashier’s check from some European bank and presented that to them?

MR TONER: Well, again, we’ve seen – again – and I don’t want to weigh too deeply into this, but we’ve seen – subsequent to the JCPOA implementation day and the lifting of some sanctions, we have seen – in a separate channel altogether but we’ve seen a reticence by some banks to engage or do business or financial transactions with Iran due to several reasons. One is, as the President has made clear, that Iran’s continued bad behavior does make them reluctant. Let me finish. The other is that – sorry, I thought you were looking at me like you’re getting impatient. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I am.

MR TONER: And the other is that there are sanctions laws – there are sanctions, rather, that are still in place that financial institutions, international banks still don’t have a clear understanding of, and all of that weighs on, again, our ability or anyone’s ability to engage in financial transactions with Iran.

QUESTION: So physically whose cash was it? Was it the governments of the --

MR TONER: I’m not going to get into the details. I’m just not.

QUESTION: Did you have to give the governments that supplied these bank – this currency the equivalent?

MR TONER: Again, I --

QUESTION: I mean, it seems like you could have gotten a great deal post-Brexit if you had paid them in sterling, per se, you know?

MR TONER: Matt, I --

QUESTION: Did you have --

MR TONER: I’m not privy to those details and I don’t have them and I don’t know that I could get into that level of detail.

QUESTION: Why – I just don’t get why not.

MR TONER: Again, I don’t think – I don’t know how common it is for us to get into the details of these kinds of transactions.

QUESTION: Well, you see what happens when you don’t and then it comes out how – I mean, the amount of --

MR TONER: I guess so. I mean --

QUESTION: -- the amount of --

MR TONER: Frankly, if we’re – but --

QUESTION: -- conspiracizing or whatever, without you giving a definitive account of it, people are – draw their own conclusions.

MR TONER: But we did acknowledge that this took place at the time. The President and the Secretary both spoke to it. I mean, frankly, other than some of these salacious details that they’re trying to put forth as to the transactions --

QUESTION: Salacious?

MR TONER: Well, in terms of --

QUESTION: I thought it wasn’t salacious.

MR TONER: No.

QUESTION: Your whole point, the Administration’s whole point is that it’s not salacious.

MR TONER: That’s not true. I’m saying that the article alleges that --

QUESTION: Well, we can get to that later.

MR TONER: -- there’s very little news to this. We have been out, from the day or the time that the implementation – or the JCPOA was signed on implementation day and have talked about all of these – all the elements: the freeing of the detainees, obviously the agreement signing and reaching implementation day, but as well as resolving this claim.

QUESTION: Do you know why it was this claim – there are more other outstanding claims --

MR TONER: There are.

QUESTION: -- that Iran has against the United States. Why was it decided – back a year ago, whenever it was, that the litigation on this really got heated up in the course of the nuclear talks, why was this one the one that was chosen to be settled?

MR TONER: Sure. I think my understanding was that they were close to reaching a settlement, so it was within grasp. I think there was concern – and we’ve talked about this – from legal experts that if it didn’t – and it went to the tribunal that we would – frankly, it would not be favorable, the tribunal’s decision to us.

QUESTION: And my last one on this is just --

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Does the – if a private citizen owed the Iranian Government, let’s say, a more modest amount of money – say $40,000, still more than 10,000 that would – required to be transferred, would it be legal for that person, whoever it is, to send cash to the Iranian Government? Would it be legal under current U.S. law to send that cash to Iran?

MR TONER: Good question. I’m not sure the answer. I mean, it’s not – I mean, obviously, there’s no applicable sanctions that I’m aware of, but I know we’re not doing – from U.S. financial institutions, we’re not engaged --

QUESTION: Well, did the Administration require to get from itself, from Treasury, a special, specific license to do this --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- 400 million cash transfer?

MR TONER: I’m not aware of that, but I can certainly ask.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: I got a couple of --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: One – and you used the word “salacious” – do you feel that there’s something unseemly about having made this transfer to the Iranians in the form of cash?

MR TONER: I mean, I was being a little glib and I should never do that from the podium. What – the point I was trying to make was that other than some of the, again, alleged details – because I’m not going to speak to the mechanics beyond what I just said – that there really wasn’t much new to this article. It made a lot of allegations that this was ransom. It is not, it was not, we said from the beginning. But again, there’s not really anything that all of you weren’t aware of at the time that this happened other than, as I said, some of the – we have not gotten into the details of how that transfer took place.

I’m sorry, your question one more time on this?

QUESTION: My question was: Is it unseemly that you paid this in cash?

MR TONER: I mean, there were – so there were reasons to do so, again, operating under the constrictions that we were operating under, which was that the – at the time, that – and to an extent, it remains the case that Iran is, frankly – or was disconnected from the global financial system. And so this is not something new, it’s not – it’s – again, we’ve seen this manifested elsewhere as it tries to get back into the international marketplace. It’s having a hard time connecting with banks and other institutions. So, no, I mean, I don’t – I think it was – we were – all options were vetted. This was considered to be the most efficient way to do it. And again, I’m not trying to confirm the details in that article. I don’t want to do it.

QUESTION: Well, can you say what other options that were considered?

MR TONER: I don’t. I don’t have them in front of me. I apologize.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) ask about one particular option?

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: I mean, you’ll recall that when Treasury designated Banco Delta Asia as – under the Patriot Act as a primary money laundering concern and then froze about $25 million in North Korean accounts and then you guys – the U.S. Government ended up giving the money back – and as I recall, that transfer also to a country with very little access to the outside banking world, you ended up having the New York Federal Reserve execute that transfer through an obscure third or fourth or fifth-tier regional Russian bank. I mean, was there any way of doing it through the Russians or through the Chinese or through somebody else?

MR TONER: In all honesty, Arshad, I don’t – in answer to Matt’s question, I don’t have kind of a list of the various options that were looked at. I just know that in the effort to conclude this settlement as quickly and as efficiently as possible, that they did clearly vet all of the available options and arrived on a solution.

QUESTION: And one other thing for me.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: The coincidence, or near coincidence, in terms of timing of the release of the four and eventually a fifth U.S. --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- person detained in Iran and this payment naturally leads people to wonder if they are causally related. Without using the word “ransom,” why shouldn’t people believe that the two events are somehow linked and that you would not have gotten the Iran – the U.S. citizens out absent the resolution of this matter and the payment of these funds?

MR TONER: Sure. I mean, it – and honestly, it’s a fair question given how these all came to a head at the same time, and I think we’ve addressed that in – at the time we addressed it, obviously. And what I think is that you saw these were three very separate efforts, and in fact, with regard to the tribunal and the settlement of those claims, I mean, that tribunal was established in 1981. Some of these claims have been – had been in process or in train for – the settlement of them – for many, many years, decades in fact.

I think what one can fairly say is that – and I think we acknowledged this at the time – is that our negotiations to reach the nuclear deal with Iran did open up enough space, if you will, for us to reach a resolution on other outstanding issues. We were very clear all along and – that there was never a linkage between reaching the JCPOA and freeing the Americans, but we never failed to advocate for their release, and every time we met with the Iranians. And similarly, there was no linkage between the settlement and the freeing of these Americans, but we saw an opportunity to resolve these three separate pieces concurrently that were being resolved at the same time, and of course that was two what we believed are national security interests in our advantage. And in the case of the settlement, we’ve made the case – the President on down has made the case that because of this settlement, because it wasn’t – it didn’t – wasn’t decided by the tribunal, we believe we saved American taxpayers lots of money.

QUESTION: And by “no linkage,” is it fair – I got two more quick ones. Sorry.

MR TONER: Sure, sure, go ahead. Please, I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: By “no linkage” --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- you mean no quid pro quo?

MR TONER: Exactly, thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. And then second, do you understand why the Iranians may themselves see a quid pro quo here?

MR TONER: Yeah, I – and it’s hard for me to speak to that, and I saw the quote in the article by an Iranian commander. I mean, we’ve said before we see things in the Iranian press all the time by senior Iranian officials. We try not to respond to them, frankly, because they’re largely meant for domestic consumption. They have their political sphere, as we do, or their political environment. It’s just, again, I – I would just say there was no quid pro quo, and I don’t know for what reason they would be saying there was.

QUESTION: Mark?

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: All the politics aside --

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- I’m a little bit confused on a couple things regarding this issue.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: One, these are Iranian money that were unfrozen because --

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: -- legally unfrozen, correct?

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: Yeah, this was money that --

QUESTION: Second --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Right, okay. Second, I understand you’re saying that the global financial system was not open to the Iranians, but explain to me, why couldn’t this be done like a straightforward financial transaction through a third party? I mean, directly with – through one of your allies, and so on? I mean, this gets done every day hundreds of times. I mean, not in terms of cash that is carried in bags and so on, but in terms, let’s say --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- upfront, open, declared kind of a financial transaction.

MR TONER: Sure. Again, I don’t want to go down – get too far into the details of how the financial transaction took place other than to say that we were operating under certain limitations, that all of the various options were looked at and vetted, and we went with an option that succeeded in getting the Iranians the money that they were owed through the settlement.

QUESTION: Now, there is still some money for the Iranians, as you said to begin with. Is it likely to happen the same way, or is it going to be done differently?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to that. I mean, we’ll obviously make good on all our commitments that we’ve reached with them legally through the settlement process. But I can’t speak to even what the timeline is for that.

Please.

QUESTION: On the same.

MR TONER: Go ahead, Tejinder.

QUESTION: The – I just want to clarify this, that the Executive Branch can go ahead and do what it wants to do to carry out, and in this case I have no questions on that. But have you – does the Executive not supposed to inform the Legislative, the Congress or Senate, about these actions? Because just --

MR TONER: Yes, we always inform them, yeah.

QUESTION: -- less than – I think less than an hour ago, Senator McCain has issued a statement. And in that he says – I’ll quote – “It is clear that this payment was a ransom for Americans held hostage in Iran,” quote closed. So if he was privy – if he knew about this, he will not make that statement like that. So how are you going to – if this had not come out in that story of – how this would have been a hush-hush thing, or it would have – you would have put out a statement saying that we have transferred 400 million --

MR TONER: Yeah, I can --

QUESTION: Didn’t you put a statement out in January saying --

MR TONER: Yes, we did. Yeah. And I can assure you that we don’t do anything without notifying Congress, regardless of what that may be. We always make Congress aware of whatever actions we’re taking. With all due respect from – to Senator McCain, I would also object to his comparison that this was – or his allegation that this was some kind of ransom. As I said, it was not. It was not a quid pro quo; it was not a ransom. What you saw was the culmination, as I said, of several lines of effort, in particular this one that had been ongoing over the course of many years, that we saw an opportunity to resolve quickly and to our advantage.

Please.

QUESTION: Just a --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead, Tejinder. One last question and I’ll get to you, James.

QUESTION: Going back to the Matt’s question about the --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- whether it was more than 10,000 or – I went through the Government of U.S. rules about taking out money out of the country. And so in that there is no exception that the government can do this. So it is something – who authorizes it? Is it – how this is done? Is – are those rules not applicable to the government around sanctions? Because – or is it the first one? Because we have heard about sacks of – suitcases of cash to Afghanistan or other places. So can you just throw some light on what exactly goes on? Like --

MR TONER: Well, again, I said this before several times, Tejinder. I’m not going to speak to the mechanics of how this settlement payment was made. If you have broader questions about how money is exchanged for these kinds of settlements, I would probably direct you to the Department of Treasury.

Please. Go ahead, James.

QUESTION: Can you at least assure us that the hostages were in the process of being set free prior to the touching down of this plane with the pallets of cash?

MR TONER: I’m – so – and I’m going to be very precise here. So – and I was actually with the Secretary in Vienna, I want to say, when we did reach the – this was the night of the implementation of the JCPOA. And as I said, it was a moment where three separate lines of effort were culminating at the same time. And all of them were, as I said, separate but distinct lines of effort operating concurrently. You had the JCPOA implementation day, you had the freeing of the American hostages or detainees, and you also had this Hague settlement taking place. So as to the timing, I simply don’t – I can’t answer conclusively that these hostage – or these detainees, Americans, were on a plane before that money arrived. I might be able to get you an answer on that, but what I can say --

QUESTION: If you could take it as a taken question.

MR TONER: Sure. What I can say though categorically is that there was not any kind of understanding on the part of the Iranians and certainly not on the part of us that these two were linked, that one had to happen before the other would.

QUESTION: Was this a U.S. military plane that transported this currency?

MR TONER: I’d have to refer you – I apologize for doing that – to Department of Defense to really answer how that was – if that was the case. And again, I can’t speak to the mechanics of how the --

QUESTION: Do you happen to know the answer to my question, whether you see fit to address it from this podium?

MR TONER: Not with 100 percent certainty, no.

QUESTION: Would you describe this arrangement whereby the United States wires a large amount like this to European central banks for the purposes of conversion of the currency, and then the stacking of it in this way on pallets aboard an unmarked plane for delivery to a foreign government, is that typically how we do business?

MR TONER: No. And again, I don’t want to – I’m not going to confirm the allegations that are made in this article. What I will say is that when we’re forced to get a little creative – let me put it this way – when we’re dealing with a country that was largely cut off from international financial institutions and the international banking system due to years of sanctions, and so operating in that environment we had to look at available options to us in order to get that money to them – money that, frankly, was their money, plus interest.

QUESTION: And one other development that appears to have taken place roughly around the same time was the capture and release of the U.S. Navy sailors by Iran, which was just a few days before the arrival of this unmarked cargo plane. And so can you assure us that no ransom was paid for those hostages?

MR TONER: Absolutely no linkage on that, absolutely no linkage at all. I can absolutely 100 percent confirm that there was no linkage in that regard. In fact, I thought that was – and forgive me if I’m – my timing – sense of timing is wrong, but I thought that was several weeks after the fact[1]. But no quid pro quo, no ransom, nothing to do with the freed American sailors.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: The idea – this is a question about the actual deal itself.

MR TONER: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: It’s a question that I asked earlier this week, yesterday.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: You have seen the report from David Albright’s ISIS, the good ISIS, on breakout times after year – after year 13?

MR TONER: Yes. This involves the – also the AP story that was from last month.

QUESTION: Correct. In fact, the ISIS – that the – their estimate is that the breakout time after year 13 doesn’t go down by six months as we had calculated it, but goes down to four months, even less. What is --

MR TONER: This is after year 10?

QUESTION: Thirteen.

MR TONER: Thirteen, rather. Okay, sorry.

QUESTION: I asked Kirby about this yesterday. He hadn’t – said he hadn’t seen it, so I’m just --

MR TONER: Yeah, and I apologize, Matt. I don’t have it in front of me. I think we would stand by what we’ve said previously. We’ve had this – we’ve had all of our experts look at this, and we would stand by what we’ve said, which is six months. If that changes, I’ll have to get back to you.

QUESTION: Which is six months. No, that’s what we estimated it to be.

MR TONER: You’re talking about the report that --

QUESTION: They said that – well, the AP report calculated it as six months breakout after year 13. ISIS says that it’s not six months, it’s four months.

MR TONER: I know. Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s actually less. The breakout time would be less after year 13.

MR TONER: All I can say, we haven’t changed our assessment. Let me put it that way.

QUESTION: Well, listen, back in April of last year, before the final deal was done --

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: -- but after the interim agreement was reached, President Obama did an interview with NPR – this was on April 7th – and he was asked about concerns about the deal and especially in the out years of it. And he said: what is more – what is a more relevant fear would be that in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout time would have shrunk to almost down to zero.

Now, that would seem that the Administration – four months is not zero, but it would seem that the Administration had this same concern. Does it not? Has that concern faded?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, not at all, Matt. And I think we’ve – when we’re addressing the initial leak of the report in the AP story that did so, I think we were very clear in saying that what we believe the JCPOA has allowed us is to have eyes on Iran’s nuclear program so that if after year 15 we see a concerted effort for them to attain a nuclear weapon, we will be able to detect that with enough time.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, breakout year 13 not 15. That’s just one, but --

MR TONER: Sorry.

QUESTION: But anyway, the same day that that interview aired on NPR, your – one of your predecessors was asked about this comment and whether or not – well, asked about – it was unusual because the President was trying to sell the deal as something good, and yet here it was saying – he was saying or appeared to be saying that the breakout time would shrink – would shrink almost down to zero, he said. We’re now talking four months, according to independent experts. And what your predecessor said was that the quote was garbled and it was not – it was a little confusing, but that the President was referring to a scenario in which there was no deal at all, not to a scenario in which you had reached a final deal.

MR TONER: Yeah, I --

QUESTION: And that just seems to be now flat out wrong, so I’m wondering if you can explain that.

MR TONER: I can’t. I don’t have the President’s transcript in front of me.

QUESTION: I have it right here.

MR TONER: I don’t have the – I mean, I can --

QUESTION: So I’ll show it to you afterwards and --

MR TONER: Why don’t we do this – yeah, I mean, I’m happy to try to get you answers to your questions. I would just say that, in general, we understand that the breakout time will be diminished after specific years. We’re aware of that. But part of the JCPOA is to provide us with the access, the eyes on Iran’s nuclear program – civilian now – nuclear program so that we’re able to detect any shift whatsoever towards the possible attainment of a nuclear weapon and address it accordingly.

QUESTION: Okay. So then just to put a very fine point on it, and I’ll stop then.

MR TONER: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: You – the Administration concedes that the year-long minimum breakout that you had sought, breakout time that you had sought in the negotiations, essentially disappears after year 13, not after year 15?

MR TONER: I don’t want to confirm that. I want to look at what – sorry.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MR TONER: Sure thing.

QUESTION: Before we do, I just wanted to --

MR TONER: Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Please, go ahead, James.

QUESTION: -- express my gratitude that you agreed earlier to accept as a taken question the matter of whether or not this plane carrying all this cash touched down before or after the process had begun to release these detainees.

MR TONER: What I will say to you, James, is that whatever transfer of funds took place to the Iranians – I can try to see what the timeline was – but again, making very clear that there was no quid pro quo, there was no tit for tat involved.

QUESTION: My inbox is always open.

MR TONER: Thank you, sir. (Laughter.)

Why don’t I go back? I’ll get to you, Said. I’m going to go to the back here.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Russian ministry of defense reports that in Aleppo there was recently --

MR TONER: Are we ready to switch to Syria?

QUESTION: -- a chemical weapons attack.

MR TONER: I’m happy to do so.

QUESTION: I just had one more on Iran.

MR TONER: Oh, let’s finish. I promise I’ll get to you. I just wanted --

QUESTION: Okay, right.

QUESTION: So just really quickly – CNN. Is there any concern in this building about the optics? I mean, I know you’re saying there’s no quid pro quo, but when you’re doing it on the same day and that much cash, I mean, was there not that both in Iran or – and just internationally, this would be seen as potentially linked? I mean, was that not a concern?

MR TONER: It’s a fair question. And of course, yes. I mean, look, we were aware that this was the – of the optics. However, one of the reasons we tried to address it up front – and as I said, the President spoke to this settlement, Secretary Kerry spoke to the settlement at the time and tried to say, “Look, guys, I know it looks like, but there’s no there there.” And so we’ve always been aware of it, but that didn’t keep us from, frankly, sealing a deal that saved the American taxpayers a considerable sum of money.

QUESTION: And then just on the fact that it was cash – I don’t want to go too much into the mechanics – was there any – also concern that bulk cash like that could be used by Iran to fund some of its more --

MR TONER: Nefarious activities?

QUESTION: -- nefarious activities? I mean, just the --

MR TONER: I mean, what we’ve seen – and I think it was Brennan who spoke about this a week or so ago. What we’ve seen thus far, and that’s not saying that there’s any guarantees to any of this, but so far what they’ve used the settlement for has not been for any nefarious activities. In fact, it’s been directed towards development projects, infrastructure projects. Now, I say that with no guarantees, but that’s what we’ve seen so far.

Please.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Just one more and this will be very brief.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to know – did the Iranians agree or demand that this, whatever form of payment it was, did they agree on a specific form --

MR TONER: I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- or did they demand a specific form?

MR TONER: I don’t know.

QUESTION: I mean, did you guys offer them, “How about 400 million in diamonds?” And they said, “No, no, no. We want cash.” Or can you give us – did they have to agree to the method of payment?

MR TONER: I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but you go back to the diamonds and gold like that’s some easier currency. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it’s outside the international financial system --

MR TONER: I guess so. I guess so.

QUESTION: -- which seems to be your biggest concern here.

MR TONER: Anyway, I don’t have the answer for you. If I can get an answer, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) --

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: On Syria. The Russian ministry of defense says that in Aleppo there was recently a chemical weapons attack and that it was conducted by the Harakat Nour al-Zenki organization, which is an opposition group that has received support from the United States. Is the United States still supporting this organization?

MR TONER: So – unaware of that allegation. The only thing I’m aware of is the alleged chemical weapons attack on the town of Saraqeb. I don’t – I think we’re talking about separate incidents if I’m correct. I don’t know.

QUESTION: I’m referring to something in Aleppo.

MR TONER: This was – you’re talking about something in Aleppo. So haven’t seen those reports. Obviously, as we said with the incident that took place I think two days ago, allegedly, there were reports of chemical weapons being used in another town. But the same would hold true with this, is obviously we condemn strongly the use of any chemical weapons, and any credible allegations of their use in Syria we’ll investigate. And I believe it’s the purview of the OPCW that would carry out such an investigation.

As to your follow-up question about this group, I don’t have in front of me that we actually fund them. I mean, we – you’re saying we provide them with assistance?

QUESTION: Yes, as part of the so-called moderate opposition.

MR TONER: Yeah. I don’t know what --

QUESTION: Now, the group also --

MR TONER: Again, I haven’t seen the allegations yet, so I think it’s too early for me to (a) make that assessment and (b) make that connection.

QUESTION: It’s been said that the State Department is also investigating allegations – I mean, there’s a video of this group beheading a 10-year-old Palestinian boy.

MR TONER: Yes. Yeah, I’m aware of that.

QUESTION: How are those investigations going? Has there been any result?

MR TONER: Yeah. So we did talk about that. We were looking into those – that incident. Obviously, we condemned – if it were true. I know that the group itself said that they had also made some arrests and then set up a commission of inquiry into the incident. I don’t have any updates at this point in time, but I can certainly check and get back to you.

QUESTION: So what does a rebel group in Syria have to do to not receive U.S. funds any longer? What is the line that they must cross? What kind of controversial incident must take place for a group to stop receiving U.S. funds?

MR TONER: Well, first of all, there’s a lot of vetting of the Syrian moderate opposition that has already taken place, and it’s not just by the U.S., but it’s by all the members of the ISSG and, frankly, the UN. And it was established that al-Nusrah as well as Daesh or ISIL were considered to be by all members and by the UN to be terrorist organizations. I think, again, these are not easy processes, and one incident here and there would not necessarily make you a terrorist group.

Now, let me be very clear that we don’t condone any of the activities that you just cited. Possible use of chemical weapons, possible beheading of a young child, any human rights abuses – any of those things would give us serious cause for concern. That said, where we are in the broader geopolitical or political situation in Syria is – and one of the ongoing discussions that we’ve been having with Russia is how do we clearly delineate between these known terrorist groups – Nusrah and Daesh – and the moderate opposition, and how do we have a clear understanding of who is where so that we can, longer game here, get back in place a cessation of hostilities that is credible, that can also then jumpstart the political process.

QUESTION: So it sounds to me like what you’re saying is that even if these allegations are true, there’s still a chance that the United States would continue supporting these groups. Is that what you’re saying?

MR TONER: I’m not making any – I’m not, frankly, answering any hypotheticals. We just don’t know at this point. As I said, we would regard any of the acts that you mentioned or cited – and again, they are just allegations at this point – we’d take them very seriously and look into them and investigate them.

QUESTION: They’re not a red line. They’re not a red line to end U.S. support.

MR TONER: Again, I – so for a terrorist organization, there are fundamental actions, one of which is an intention to carry out terrorist attacks both within Syria but as well as on the West. Some of these groups – as I said, Nusrah and al-Qaida – or – well, al-Qaida is al-Nusrah; they’re one and the same – and Daesh – have expressed and indeed acted on these intentions. But as to the other members of the moderate Syrian opposition, look, we’re constantly evaluating their behavior. And frankly, for them to be a member of the moderate Syrian opposition and to be part of the cessation of hostilities and the Syrian Democratic Forces, it requires that they meet the standards. And those standards are respect for human rights and adherence to a cessation of hostilities.

QUESTION: And does that include not using chemical weapons?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Is that part of the standard?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: So you – you’re just – you’re still looking into the chemical weapons charges?

MR TONER: Yes. Yeah, I don’t have any updates on that.

QUESTION: There’s no --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, if a group was using chemical weapons, their funding would be cut off?

MR TONER: Again, I will not make any statements of one or the other until we know all the facts and have determined who is to blame for any – I mean, honestly, this is the first time I’m hearing about a report for use of chemical weapons. But again, we have also seen reports of the use of chemical weapons on another town, and we’re looking into that. So I mean, again, we just don’t have --

QUESTION: Does the State Department have a policy not to support groups that use chemical weapons?

MR TONER: We condemn the use of chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Yes, but do you have a policy of not supporting groups that do such things?

MR TONER: Again, we would evaluate any support for any groups that are engaged in any kind of activity that, frankly, go against international norms.

QUESTION: The other thing you said about --

QUESTION: A related question on ISIS?

QUESTION: The other thing you said was the possible beheading. Are you not convinced that the video is accurate?

MR TONER: No, I apologize. I’m just not aware that we’ve determined --

QUESTION: Who exactly is behind it?

MR TONER: -- who is actually behind it.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: Your turn.

QUESTION: Today marks the second anniversary of the beginning of ISIS’s genocide against the Yezidis --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- including wholesale murder and institutionalized rape and sexual slavery of Yezidi women. And the Yezidis and the Kurdistan Regional Government, because of the nature of these crimes – crimes against humanity – are trying to get these crimes referred to the International Criminal Court. But they are not getting support from the United States, or not enough support from the United States, for this referral. And why doesn’t the U.S. do more to help the Yezidis and the Kurdistan Regional Government get these crimes referred to the ICC?

MR TONER: Sure. So a couple of points to make. One is there’s no doubt, obviously, that those responsible for the heinous acts that have been carried out against the Yezidi people should be held accountable for their actions. And there are certainly venues at national and international levels in which accountability could be pursued, and that includes the International Criminal Court in appropriate circumstances. I think I would just say that our focus, immediate focus, is on supporting the efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces and authorities to hold the perpetrators of Daesh’s atrocities accountable. And in both Iraq and Syria, we are supporting ongoing efforts to document and to analyze and preserve evidence of the atrocities that have been committed there that could serve a wide range of future justice purposes, accountability purposes.

So I’m not going to say that we want them to pursue this at the International Criminal Court. I would just say, as we’ve said in the past, it’s often for these countries, these nations, and these people to decide for themselves how they want accountability to be held. I think our goal here is to see that there is accountability, and that’s something we always would encourage.

QUESTION: These are crimes against humanity, and trying them in a national judicial system like Iraq doesn’t seem sufficient, plus which a large number of these crimes took place in another country like Syria. And they’re asking for the United States to support their efforts to try them in some international forum.

MR TONER: And we have not excluded that. I think there’s – as I said, there’s a number of venues at which accountability can be pursued. And that includes the International Criminal Court. I think at this point, in this stage, we’re still, frankly, in the process of trying to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to destroy, degrade Daesh on the ground. I mean, it still holds territory in Iraq. We’ve made tremendous progress, but our focus is still on defeating Daesh on the battlefield. But as we do that, we’re certainly working with Iraqi authorities to collect evidence – as I said, to preserve evidence that can be used in whatever process of accountability that eventually takes place.

QUESTION: The Yezidis feel that the Iraqi Government does not pay attention to their problems.

MR TONER: Again, I’m – I – we’re obviously acutely aware of the Yezidis’ suffering. We’ve been a huge advocate for them, including the gestures that – or the airstrikes that took place to save a large portion of them. But unfortunately, many of them were systematically killed and wiped out by Daesh, by ISIL. And as I said, we’re committed to helping them and helping Iraqi authorities find justice.

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Can I go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: Last Wednesday the department issued a very strong statement that was really kind of – encompassed the protesting home demolition, expansion of settlement, the maltreatments of Palestinians – I mean, the whole gamut and so on. But ever since then, the Israelis have done many, many things, including demolishing more homes, demolishing more agricultural outposts, enforcing administrative arrest law and imprisonment law against children and so on.

It seems that every time – every time that you say something or issue a statement expressing displeasure, the Israelis – they double down on what they’re doing. And this is really happening on the eve of maybe concluding the largest deal in history in terms of arms. We’re talking about $40 billion over 10 years. So why or what will the United States do to make good on its expression of displeasure?

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: We don’t want to go through all the things that they have done.

MR TONER: I understand that. And it’s --

QUESTION: There are so many.

MR TONER: Look, we don’t hesitate to speak to our concerns about Israel’s behavior when we believe it is counterproductive to what our goal, and frankly, the stated goal of Israel and the Palestinian people is, which is a two-state solution. So we’re forthright and we’re transparent about our concerns when they arise. And certainly, that speaks to ongoing settlement activity. And that was, as you noted, the statement that came out I think on July 27th. And we’re going to continue to make those concerns clear to the Israeli authorities as appropriate both in our diplomatic engagement with them, which is nearly constant, daily, at all levels, but also publicly where we see fit.

Speaking to the broader relationship, though, we have an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, and our MOU, as you alluded to, is evidence of that. And it’s – look, I mean, our relationship with Israel is vast but very strong. We believe they are a strong democratic force in the region. We understand the need they have to protect their citizens against terrorism and violence, but in all cases, we always ask that they act with restraint and with respect for the human rights of the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: I understand. But I’m saying that the United States has a great deal of leverage basically to say, “Listen, you’ve got to stop doing this.” I mean, not only say, “We disapprove, we condemn,” and so on, but, “You’ve got to stop doing it.” Because a lot of this money goes directly to aid the settlements, to expanding the settlements and do other things.

MR TONER: Well, look, I mean, all I can say to that is in diplomacy and in bilateral, and frankly, multilateral relationships, you need to have multiple channels and multiple levels of engagement. And you’ve got to be able to say, “We disagree here, but we’re going to continue to provide for your security as much as possible because we value your friendship and your alliance in a region where it is valuable and in our national interest.”

QUESTION: Okay. Well, okay --

MR TONER: I’m just saying, like, you’ve got to compartmentalize. And I’m not trying to trivialize one or the other.

Sorry.

QUESTION: I’ve got a related question. Are you aware of this incident in which apparently some five Americans were detained and then expelled by Israel at the airport?

MR TONER: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about that?

MR TONER: So yeah, thanks.

QUESTION: Have you said anything to the Israelis about it, or is it something that you regard as their right, just as any other country’s right, to allow or deny entry?

MR TONER: So first of all, we are aware of these reports. It was a group of citizens that were denied entry into Israel and deported. In answer to your question, I can’t speak specifically due to privacy considerations. I know that’s a sensitive topic for you, but we’re unable to comment on these specific cases.

But generally speaking, the U.S. Government seeks equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity. And specifically, the U.S. Government remains concerned about unequal treatment that Arab Americans – some Arab Americans receive at Israel’s borders and checkpoints. And we regularly raise with Israeli authorities our concerns about the issue of equal treatment for all U.S. citizens at ports of entry. And I’m sure, without speaking to this specific case, that we’ll do the same.

QUESTION: So you believe – without getting into the details of this, you believe that this is a case of unequal treatment?

MR TONER: We have --

QUESTION: You said you’re sure --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that you’ll raise these concerns again, which suggests that you do believe that this is a case of unequal treatment. Is that correct or am I reading too much into it?

MR TONER: No, no, no, that’s okay. It’s a fair question. I would just say that we’re – we have seen cases of this in the past. We’ll look into this incident. If it is indeed a case, we’ll raise it.

QUESTION: But this happened time and again.

MR TONER: I know.

QUESTION: I mean, time and again, because --

MR TONER: Guys, I apologize for this --

QUESTION: Let me just very quickly ask you on --

MR TONER: -- (inaudible) couple more questions.

QUESTION: -- one last thing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Asia.

MR TONER: I’ll get back to you. Yeah, yeah. I promise.

QUESTION: One last thing. One last thing: Did the Secretary agree when he met with Abbas to support the French initiative?

MR TONER: I don’t believe any decision was made categorically to – I know that we’ve had ongoing discussions, and in fact he met with Ayrault when he was there in Paris, and we have been in continual contact with the French, but we’ve not made any specific decisions on whether to support it.

Please.

QUESTION: Just --

MR TONER: And then I’ll get back to you, I promise.

QUESTION: -- a quick question on the Japanese cabinet reshuffling. Do you have any comments, particularly on the defense minister? She’s been seen as very conservative. Both China and Korea have made complaints.

MR TONER: No, I mean, look, we’re aware obviously of the new Japanese cabinet. From our perspective, we’re going to maintain, sustain, and frankly, work to deepen our close cooperation with the Government of Japan, and that’s across a range of regional and global issues. And we want to obviously, as I said, strengthen our cooperative efforts. Specific to your question about the defense minister, I don’t want to get into commenting on what we consider to be really domestic politics in Japan.

QUESTION: Well, in the past she’s made regular visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and when asked earlier today, she did not rule out a visit later this month.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: And visiting – is visiting the shrine something you would discourage given that you have spoken about --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- shrine visits in the past?

MR TONER: I mean, I’d just say we continue to emphasize the importance of approaching historical legacy issues with – in a manner, rather, that promotes healing and reconciliation, and that’s always been our position regarding the shrine.

QUESTION: Just a quick one.

MR TONER: I’ll get in the back, and then if I have time.

QUESTION: Thank you. Me?

MR TONER: Yeah, you. No, it’s okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Sorry.

QUESTION: Oh, my God – so confused. On North Korea, as you know, that the North Korea launched two ballistic missiles to sea over Japan yesterday. Do you have any comment on this?

MR TONER: Any comments? Yeah, we’re aware of the reports. Obviously, we’re monitoring and continue to assess the situation with – in close coordination with our regional allies and partners. We strongly condemn this action as well as North Korea’s other recent missile tests, which, it goes without saying, violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea from using ballistic missile technology. We intend to raise our concerns at the UN to bolster international resolve and commitment to hold the DPRK accountable for these provocative actions. I don’t want to speak to the outcome of any meetings, but I think there – the Secretary Council consultations will take place sometime this afternoon to address last night’s launch.

QUESTION: But regarding on the North Korean continue to launch the ballistic missiles or No Dong missiles, does the U.S. have any strong another sanctions against North Korea? Do you have any plans for --

MR TONER: Sure. Well, I mean, look, I never want to preclude any additional sanctions, but we did pass a very strong sanctions package several months ago – sorry, I can’t remember the exact date – and as we always say, with sanctions, they’re only as effective as as well as they’re implemented. And so what our focus has been is working with other likeminded partners in the region – certainly that includes China – in trying to ensure that these sanctions are implemented to the full extent possible so that the DPRK, the North Korean regime, feels the squeeze and is encouraged to then engage with the international community and address the concerns about its nuclear program.

Guys, I have to end there. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Mark, you’re going to have to make time. Sorry, there’s too much going on here. One, South Sudan.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, I mean --

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: -- schedule the briefing so you have enough time to answer the questions around the world. Don’t just, like, try to run away after --

MR TONER: I’m sorry, has anyone seen me run away from this podium?

QUESTION: South – no. Well, that’s --

MR TONER: I think I’ve been up here --

QUESTION: Fair enough. You have been.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: South Sudan, right? The place is on the brink of collapse. Not so long ago, this was being hailed as kind of a triumph for U.S. and other diplomacy. I’m just wondering if you have any specific concerns about the situation there today.

MR TONER: We do.

QUESTION: See, you wanted to say this. You wanted to have the time to say this.

MR TONER: Yeah, exactly. I mean, we’re obviously very concerned about the current violence. We’re calling on all sides to abide by the ceasefire and refrain from any more destabilizing rhetoric. We’re doing everything we can to press actors on both sides to end the current violence. We’ve also called for an immediate halt to combat operations in full compliance with the peace agreement that was signed a year ago. I think that I would say that the United States is deeply disappointed in the leadership of South Sudan, that given the opportunity of independence and then, frankly, a second chance that came with the August 2015 peace agreement, have thus far failed to put aside personal power struggles for the good of their people. But we are working still to address the crisis and that certainly includes almost $1.6 billion now in emergency humanitarian assistance that dates back to 2013, but certainly that’s something we continue to address. And we work with our likeminded regional partners to address the crisis, but obviously it’s of tremendous concern and the killing continues and the disregard for the peace agreement continues.

QUESTION: All right, two very extremely brief ones --

MR TONER: Please. Yeah, please.

QUESTION: -- having to do with congressional letters. One, on Haiti.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Are you aware of a letter that was sent by numerous members of the House asking for the Secretary to push or press the UN harder on dealing with the cholera epidemic in Haiti? And if you are familiar with it, are you aware of any response, and is the Secretary willing or able to do that?

MR TONER: So you’re talking about – yes, a congressional letter on cholera – excuse me. I apologize.

QUESTION: Right.

MR TONER: I’ve been up here so long my voice is waning. (Laughter.) No, certainly we appreciate I think it was Representative Conyers’ leadership on this issue. We’re going to continue to work with him and the United Nations. We did receive his letter, as you note, of June 29th. We’re going to respond. We do plan to express in the letter our agreement that the devastation and human suffering caused by the cholera outbreak is tragic and to underscore our commitment, first and foremost, to a robust and sustained response to the epidemic itself, one that is designed to leave Haitian communities stronger, healthier, and more resilient in the future. So we have thus far provided more than $95 million for cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti. This assistance is complemented by a substantial U.S. assistance package for Haiti’s overall health system. And we obviously continue to work intensively to work with the UN to support and amplify its efforts in Haiti to contain the disease. There have been significant gains in cholera prevention and control since the peak of the outbreak in 2011, but there’s more work, obviously, to be done.

QUESTION: All right. Last one, on Brazil.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: A number of lawmakers have also written to the Secretary, considering he’s going to be in Brazil albeit for the Olympics later this week. These lawmakers are asking him to express concerns or to push the Brazilian authorities on democracy and rule-of-law issues while he’s there. Do you know if he has any plans to do that?

MR TONER: So, first of all, let me just – as you noted in your preamble to your question – congratulate and wish Brazil a very successful and safe Olympics – very excited about the games. Although I’m more of a track and field guy; I’ll wait for the second week.

But be that as it may, we have received the letter. We will respond, obviously, as we do to any congressional correspondence. Look, we continue to follow political developments in Brazil. As we’ve said, we are confident that Brazil can work through it – the current political challenges – and by working within its constitutional framework. But as you note, the Secretary is going to be in Rio tomorrow and he will meet with the Foreign Minister Jose Serra, and we can expect that they’ll discuss the full range of issues, including some of these domestic political issues as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Yep, thanks for asking.

QUESTION: Just one on India. You can take it and give an answer. During Indian prime minister’s visit in June, it was with big fanfare announced that U.S. is returning 200 culture artifacts estimated at around 100 million at a ceremony. But the Indian Cultural Minister Mahesh Sharma in a written reply to the upper house of the Indian parliament said U.S. authorities have returned only eight antiques to – so can you explain what is going on?

MR TONER: Yeah. I can’t – I don’t have any update on --

QUESTION: You can’t? Can you take the question?

MR TONER: I assure you we’ll take the question. We’ll get you answer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Thanks, guys. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)

[1] The United States Navy riverine command boats were seized by Iranian forces on January 12, 2016.


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 2, 2016

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 15:19

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 2, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

12:22 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Matthew.

QUESTION: Hello.

MR KIRBY: Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Same to you.

MR KIRBY: Thank you. Guys, I’m going to have to be a little quick today because we have, I think you know, the State lunch here with Prime Minister Lee, so we’re going to try to get done here by about 1:00 if possible.

On that topic, I think you probably saw events at the White House, but today the President is hosting Prime Minister Lee of Singapore for an official visit and State dinner. They will celebrate, of course, the close and longstanding relationship between Singapore and the United States that has served as an anchor for the U.S. rebalance to Asia, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The President and the prime minister will highlight the enduring principles that have inspired the tremendous growth in our cooperation. And of course, as partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the counter-ISIL coalition and the Paris climate agreement, the two leaders will discuss how our relationship can continue to address international challenges and advance a rules-based order in the Asia Pacific region. And I think you know we’re hosting – co-hosting a State lunch here at the State Department in just less than an hour from now.

For tomorrow, the Secretary, Secretary Kerry, will host the foreign ministers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for the second C5+1 ministerial meeting. And we welcome the Central Asian delegations to Washington and congratulate the five states as they approach their 25th anniversaries of independence. The group will be continuing the talks they began in Samarkand last November during Secretary Kerry’s historic trip to Central Asia, and they will focus on issues of economic connectivity, regional security, environmental – I’m sorry, environment and climate change, and of course, humanitarian issues.

Finally, just a programming note. The Secretary will be traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina beginning tomorrow and through Thursday. In Argentina he will meet with Argentine President Mauricio Macri to discuss cooperation on regional and global issues. He and the foreign minister, Foreign Minister Malcorra, will launch the U.S.-Argentina High-Level Dialogue to address pressing global challenges, including bilateral, regional, multilateral, and economic issues. While there he’s also going to meet with the Argentine-American Chamber of Commerce to discuss U.S.-Argentine commercial engagement and trade. There may be another stop on this trip, but I suspect we won’t have more on that until a little bit later today.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. I don’t have anything huge, but I just wanted to run – have you seen – are you aware of the latest comments that the supreme leader of Iran has made about the nuclear deal and the fact that the United States has not lived up to its end of it – end of its – end of its – to its end of the deal? Which is not a new complaint, but --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- what he said that is new is basically that you guys can’t be trusted on anything now. What do you – do you make anything of that?

MR KIRBY: I’ve seen the comments. And as we’ve said before, I’m not – we’re not going to respond to every bit of rhetoric out of Iran on the JCPOA. That said, we still assess that they’re meeting their obligations under the JCPOA, and we’re meeting ours. And it’s our intention to continue to meet our obligations and our commitments under the JCPOA because we believe it’s that important, because we believe it can have a stabilizing influence on the region and indeed on the world. And so where the Secretary’s focus is is on doing just that – making sure that we stay in compliance, and, of course, to watch as Iran continues to meet its commitments.

QUESTION: Okay. And then specifically on --

MR KIRBY: And by the way, I think you said something about not trusting us, right?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. Again, this has never been about trust; it’s been about verification and a very strict regimen of being able to verify their compliance. So with all due respect to the supreme leader’s comments, nothing about the deal has ever been based just on trust.

QUESTION: With all due respect toward the supreme leader’s comments?

MR KIRBY: To his comments.

QUESTION: Not to him?

MR KIRBY: To his comments.

QUESTION: To his comments only? But just then on that point though, I think what – from his perspective, or from the Iranian perspective, they’re saying that we only negotiated on the nuclear deal and we’re not going to be involved in anything else, because you can’t be trusted, as you’ve proven, allegedly, on the nuclear deal. And yet you continue to, the Secretary continues to, try to bring Iran into the Syria conversation, or have brought them in and continue to. So that will continue? You don’t see any reason to stop?

MR KIRBY: Well, I know of no changes in Iranian plans with respect to the International Syria Support Group. They are a member; it’s our expectation that they’ll remain a member and remain part of that conversation on Syria. But obviously, that’s a sovereign decision that they would have to make. I’m not aware of any changes to it.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my last one is – this is more specifically toward the Iran deal itself: Have you seen the new calculations from the good ISIS, as it is known?

MR KIRBY: What?

QUESTION: David Albright’s group, ISIS?

MR KIRBY: Oh, no.

QUESTION: That based on the – Iran’s long-term R&D, the document that they submitted to the IAEA, they have calculated that, unlike a calculation that the AP made, that the breakout time after year 13 would not be six months but would rather be four months. Have you seen that? And if you have, do you have any comment on what you think about it?

MR KIRBY: I’ve not seen it, Matt. And as far as I know, nothing has changed about our own assessments and the assessments made by the P5+1 in the negotiations about breakout time. I just don’t have anything more on that.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: There is a report quoting a Syrian rescue service that operates in rebel-held territory in Syria that a helicopter dropped containers of a toxic gas on a town close to where the Russian helicopter went down yesterday. Do you have any clarity on what may have happened there, whether a toxic chemical was used, and if so, whether it might be a substance banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention?

MR KIRBY: We’ve seen reports as well, Arshad, and I’m not in a position to confirm the veracity of them. Obviously, we’re looking into it as best we can with partners in the region. And certainly, if it’s true – and again, I’m not saying it is – but if it’s true, it would be extremely serious. We’ve long expressed our strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons on civilians, which, of course, violates not only the cessation of hostilities but international standards and norms, including the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which the Government of Syria is a member and two – as well as two UN Security Council resolutions, 2118 and 2209. So again, I’m not in a position to confirm. We’re taking it seriously. We’re looking into it and we’ll see.

Now, as you also, I think, know from prior reports of the potential use of – and I know you’re not saying this was chlorine; neither am I, but the alleged use of chlorine – the OPCW has the monitoring – the responsibility for that, and those investigations can take quite some time to try to actually determine what happened. But obviously, it’s a serious report and we’re certainly concerned about it.

QUESTION: Chlorine, of course, is not a banned substance.

MR KIRBY: It’s not. But if it – as a substance it’s not because it has industrial purposes. But if it’s used as a weapon, it still is considered a violation.

QUESTION: John, could I just follow up on this? Now, you’re saying “if true.” Those – the civil defense forces or the white helmets, as they are known, and first of all, is the United States in any way involved in training them, financing them, funding them, or anything like this?

MR KIRBY: Funding who?

QUESTION: These groups. This group. The civil defense forces providing --

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any --

QUESTION: You’re not aware.

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any connection.

QUESTION: How do you – how do you – how will you know whether it is true or not? I mean, do you ask the --

MR KIRBY: Well, again, it’s the --

QUESTION: -- these groups to submit evidence?

QUESTION: It’s – as I said before, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, has a fact-finding mission, and it’s their job to investigate all credible allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. If the mission determines that a specific incident in Syria involved or likely involved the use of chemicals as weapons, then the incident will be – I’m sorry, I’m trying to go too fast. The incident will be referred to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism which is established under Security Council Resolution 2235 to identify those that were involved for further investigation.

So there’s a process here. OPCW owns that process.

QUESTION: In the Secretary’s statement yesterday when he called on the Russians and the Syrians to stop their offensive or bombardments and so on, and in turn the United States will also lean or call on the opposition groups to stop whatever activity they do – how will you influence these opposition groups? They keep morphing into something else every other day, and they are – they take on different identities. How are you going to basically influence them?

MR KIRBY: We have been in touch with opposition groups from the onset, and what the Secretary was referring to yesterday was his intention to make sure that we maintain that contact going forward. I mean, he was referring simply to the fact that we know we have a responsibility on groups we influence. We want other nations who have influence on other opposition groups to use that appropriately as well to try to get the cessation of hostilities to actually be stable and to be enforced. But the Russians too have an obligation, and he’s been very clear about their obligations here, not just as co-chairs of the task force, not just as co-leads of the ISSG, but because they have a unique relationship with the regime in Syria.

QUESTION: And finally, do you think that it is doable by the end of August for the talks to start, as Mr. de Mistura --

MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly hope so, Said. I mean, that’s really not – I don’t think anybody can predict it, but the special envoy did suggest that he was going to try to get the next round started before the end of August. The Secretary supports that goal and that effort. And that’s why I think, back to what he said yesterday, we’re – we have teams that are working so hard, a U.S. team and a Russia team working so hard right now to try to get the technicalities worked out of these proposals to better enforce the cessation of hostilities. Because we both know that that was a big reason why the previous three rounds didn’t work, because the cessation was not being observed.

Okay.

QUESTION: John, Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we just stay on this?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: So really after the – everyone was under the impression that after the August 1st, if there wasn’t a transition process in place or at least talks going on, that there was going to be some kind of a change in how you approach this. Clearly that doesn’t seem to be the case. Is that right?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know – I think some people – I’ve seen some reporting on this that would suggest that there was some sort of gauntlet thrown down about August 1st, and that’s just not the case. It was not a deadline. It was a target date. It wasn’t just the United States. The Russians also – when that date was rolled out as a target date, it was in Moscow, and the Secretary was standing next to Foreign Minister Lavrov, who also agreed that the 1st of August was a good date to be looking at, not just – and they didn’t just pull it out of thin air. It was – if you look at the timeline or the process that was codified in the UN Security Council resolution, it would lead you to say that August was the timeframe when a framework for a transitioning governing body was to be established.

QUESTION: Yes, but --

MR KIRBY: Now, wait now. I’m getting there. Hang on a second. This is all important pretext. But --

QUESTION: Okay. I thought you said you wanted to be done by 1:00.

MR KIRBY: Well, I do. I do. I can get this --

QUESTION: We can go back through all four years of this.

MR KIRBY: I can get this answer done by 1:00, I promise you.

QUESTION: But my question is very, very simple, though. You said that it – you said it – that the August 1 date didn’t appear out of – just didn’t come out of thin air. But it appears to have gone into thin air now.

MR KIRBY: No, not at all.

QUESTION: Yeah, it certainly does, John.

MR KIRBY: Not at all, Matt. I mean, look, we got --

QUESTION: We only have 24 --

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

QUESTION: 1:00 p.m. (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: We have – I mean, we have the potential of a resumption of political talks here in August. We have two teams that are working very, very hard, between the United States and Russia, to try to get some of these technicalities worked out. What the Secretary said then and what he said again yesterday was, in essence, our patience is not infinite. And we have, in the past, thought through alternatives to this preferred diplomatic approach, and we will continue, as a government, to continue to look at alternatives and options. But if you’re asking has, as of today, August 2nd, the strategy changed, the answer is no. And the Secretary still believes that the efforts that we’ve got these teams working on are worthwhile and that, as he said in Moscow a week or so ago, if fully implemented and in good faith, they have a real possibility of getting the cessation of hostilities to be enforceable nationwide.

QUESTION: What’s the new date now?

MR KIRBY: Hmm?

QUESTION: What’s the new date? Any other date?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have a new date for you. And again, August 1st was a target; it wasn’t a deadline.

QUESTION: What’s the new target? (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to throw out a new target. The Secretary said yesterday we’re working hard on this with the Russians. We’re mindful of the failures of the past to see the cessation of hostilities be enforced. And we’re certainly mindful, as we work on this, of special de Mistura – Special Envoy de Mistura’s goal of trying to get the talks resumed in the end of August. So we’re going to keep working at it, and we’ll see where it goes.

QUESTION: Kirby, the Secretary yesterday said that if – he said we’re trying to arrive at that – that being disrupting the cycle of violence and getting the Russians to refrain from their own attacks and to restrain the Syrian Government from offensive actions. And he said, quote, “If we can’t, nobody’s going to sit around and allow this pretense to continue,” closed quote. What did he mean by that?

MR KIRBY: I think he was referring to the fact that we have seen the regime, time and time again in the past, say they were going to do something and not do it. We have seen, time and time again in the past, the Russians claim that they were going to use their influence on the Assad regime to bring about a certain outcome – humanitarian access, cessation violations, support to a political process. And there have been times where they have not made – met their own commitments in that regard. So that’s what he referring to. I mean --

QUESTION: Is he going to drop the diplomatic pretense at some point?

MR KIRBY: I’m not – again, I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals here. I think the Secretary was very clear. Again, the point he was trying to make is that our patience isn’t infinite here for this approach that we’ve been trying to pursue.

QUESTION: In a sense, it doesn’t have to be infinite though. I mean, your patience can just extend for six months till the end of this Administration.

MR KIRBY: I couldn’t – I’m not going to predict that, Arshad. And I rather take issue with the notion – and I’m not saying you’re suggesting this, but just let me put it out there – that the work the Secretary’s doing to try to bring peace about in Syria is driven by the electoral calendar here in the United States. He’s mindful, of course, that we have an election coming and he’s mindful that the Administration has roughly six more months in office, and he knows that. But that’s not what’s driving his sense of urgency to try to get something done, to try to make progress in Syria. What’s driving his sense of urgency, quite frankly, are reports such as what you cited today, which, again, we can’t confirm, but if true are very, very troubling. It’s more and more Syrians are being killed, maimed, injured, forced to flee by their own government, and that’s simply unacceptable.

QUESTION: Is it conceivable to you that U.S. patience or that this Administration’s patience will run out before it leaves office?

MR KIRBY: I don’t honestly know the answer to that, and I don’t think the Secretary knows the answer to that. I have said before, and I think you could hear it in his voice yesterday, that he is increasingly frustrated by the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: Can you comment on the humanitarian corridors that – the UN’s saying that they ought to be under the auspices of the UN. The Russians are saying we can make – facilitate those human – in Aleppo.

MR KIRBY: The UN.

QUESTION: Yeah, UN. Yeah. You think – do you have --

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t have anything additional to say. We talked about this last week. Our point is --

QUESTION: But now it seems to be people and fighters and so on that are actually taking advantage and leaving the city.

MR KIRBY: Well, those are tough decisions that those individuals have to make in terms of whether they’re going to use those humanitarian corridors to leave. We’re concerned that when they do that there’s not a sufficient infrastructure to support them out there as displaced persons internally in Syria.

But the point, Said, is – and this hasn’t changed – that they shouldn’t have to flee. They shouldn’t have to make that choice, because there’s already requirements – international requirements for the Syrian Government to provide humanitarian access and support to their own people, and that’s – that hasn’t been happening in a sustained, unimpeded way as the assault on Aleppo continues. And if the cessation of hostilities was being observed by the regime, then there would be no need for a humanitarian corridor in the first place.

QUESTION: And just so you know, you can announce the other stop on the trip.

MR KIRBY: Well, let me wait for Elizabeth to get back, but thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: Let me go to you and then we’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR KIRBY: Okay. I can’t keep track of so – just one at a time, guys. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. At the Aspen meetings last week or over the weekend, the CIA Director John Brennan said, quote, “We’re still a long way from a situation in which,” quote, “the bulk of the people” – and he’s referring to Iraq and Syria – “view their country as representative.” Would you agree or disagree with that statement, that characterization? If you disagree, why would – why do you disagree with the CIA view?

MR KIRBY: That sounds like a question from my history exam in college. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, how – is it --

MR KIRBY: If not, why not. Listen, I’m going to let the – I’m going to let the director speak for his knowledge of views. I’m not a pollster. I don’t – I couldn’t possibly speak with any expertise about the opinions of the majority of Iraqi citizens.

This is what I can speak to, and this is what I do know, that we continue to support Prime Minister Abadi as he continues to work through political reforms and to try to form a more inclusive, more effective, more efficient government in Iraq – oh, by the way, fighting a major presence inside his own borders of a terrorist group, Daesh. So there’s an awful lot on his plate. There’s an awful lot on the plate of the Iraqi Government. We’re going to continue to support them as they continue to work through these issues.

And he has made progress. There is no question, when you look at Iraqi Security Forces, that they are more inclusive, that their battlefield competence is rising, in many ways because we’re helping with that mission on the ground, and that they have been effective on the ground against Daesh in many places throughout Iraq: Fallujah, Tikrit – I mean, you could go on and on – Baiji.

So we’re committed to this effort, alongside our Iraqi partners, and we’re going to do everything that we do in Iraq with their consultation, with their permission, with their support going forward.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. view the legacy of sectarianism from the Maliki government something that it has to help the Abadi government deal with, to encourage them and help them – help Abadi deal with that legacy of sectarianism?

MR KIRBY: Look, certainly we’ve talked about this, that one of the reasons that we believe Daesh was able to be so effective two years ago going through Mosul was they went up against Iraqi Security Forces that had not been properly maintained in leadership, in resources, in training and equipment, and an Iraqi Security Force that Prime Minister Maliki paid little heed to when it came to making it more pluralistic and non-sectarian and inclusive. And so when Prime Minister Abadi came into office, I mean, he knew that that was a problem he was inheriting, and he has made strides to try to improve that. And we’ve seen it on the ground; we’ve seen it in Baghdad. We’re going to continue to support him as he works through that.

But look, nobody also ever expected the challenges facing him to be solved overnight. Again, he’s trying to do – anything that – take Daesh out of the picture and the tasks before him are still daunting. They’re – I mean, given what he inherited and the turmoil that Iraq has gone through for so long, then you add Daesh into the picture and you can see that there is an awful lot of work that still needs to be done. And we’re mindful of that. We’re committed to standing with him as he does that, as he works through that.

QUESTION: Libya?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Not so long ago, commander of U.S. forces in Africa at his confirmation hearing – Thomas Waldhauser – said that he did not know what the overall strategy in Libya was. What is the overall strategy in Libya? It appears that with the Libyan Government not being able to fight terrorists on its own, the U.S. will be there for a long time. What is the U.S. doing not to be there for a long time?

MR KIRBY: Well, let me challenge a couple of the notions in your question, but I’ll do it this way: The strategy in Libya continues to be to support the Government of National Accord and a – and the political process that Prime Minister al-Sarraj is trying to put in place to, again, form an effective unity government. And we continue to believe that the best path forward for the Libyan people is a political path and political solutions, and our support to the prime minister remains steadfast and sure.

The strikes that you’re talking about in the last couple of days – and they were airstrikes; there was no U.S. footprint on the ground here – they were airstrikes and they were done at the specific request of the prime minister and the Government of National Accord to go after Daesh targets inside Libya.

QUESTION: The overall strategy is to support the GNA, the GNA moving forward?

MR KIRBY: Correct.

QUESTION: Well, the GNA has been having a very difficult time unifying the country. There is this parallel government in Tobruk, and just a few days ago the parliament in Tobruk refused to vote – refused to hold a vote of confidence in the GNA. So at a time when the GNA is having a difficult time unifying the country, do you think UN backing and now U.S. military support could give a green light to give a sort of a signal to the GNA to crack down on parts of the country that won’t go along with it?

MR KIRBY: Well, we’re not interested in seeing a crackdown, to use your phrase. We’re interested in seeing the GNA succeed, and we’re going to support the prime minister in his efforts to do just that. And to the other parties --

QUESTION: But it may happen.

MR KIRBY: To the other parties that you’re talking about, we continue to call on them to support the GNA. The responsibility is on them to support the GNA as the international community is supporting the GNA. That’s the path forward here; that’s the best thing for all Libyans. And so to the degree that they want to obstruct, delay, obfuscate, and make more difficult the work of the GNA, then we’re just – we’re going to continue to call on them to cease those activities and support the GNA. That’s the way forward.

And as – and this is a political solution that we’re seeking, not a military one. But the President has been clear – President Obama has been clear – that where and when we’re able to degrade and defeat Daesh, we’re going to do it. Now, these strikes were done at the specific request of the GNA, and I suspect you’ll see that kind of communication and consultation going forward. It wasn’t the first time that we did strikes against Daesh targets in Libya and it may not be the last.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. arming or planning to arm forces under the control of the GNA?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any such plans.

QUESTION: What about U.S. ground troops? Are there plans to deploy troops in Libya to fight against ISIL?

MR KIRBY: You’d have to talk to the Defense Department, but I am aware of no such plans. Again, we’re seeking political solutions in Libya. This is a – the strikes you saw yesterday were very much in keeping with the same approach that we’ve taken in Iraq and that we have tried to take in Syria, which is supporting ground forces – indigenous ground forces to fight against Daesh. So I’m not aware of any change in those plans at all from a military perspective and no – not aware of any effort or desire or intent to put U.S. forces in a combat role on the ground in Libya. This is about supporting indigenous ground forces, as we’ve done elsewhere.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up? A quick follow --

QUESTION: Do you reject the Russians’ claims that you are acting illegally? They claim that you are acting illegally.

MR KIRBY: The --

QUESTION: The Russians.

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ve seen the claims. It’s just false. There was a legal authority to do this in terms of our counterterrorism role. And again, I would remind you, Said, it was a specific request by the GNA and Prime Minister al-Sarraj to conduct these strikes.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey President Erdogan is now saying that Turkey’s friends are standing with terrorists and coup plotters. His government has now, it says, submitted a second document to the United States explaining why Gulen needs to be immediately arrested. And there’s a delegation of Turkish lawmakers in town visiting Justice, DHS, and over here. I’m wondering if you’ve got anything to respond to these comments, especially about that – if – essentially, they’re saying if the United States doesn’t hand over Gulen, then the United States is supporting terrorists and coup plotters and it could endanger the strategic alliance.

MR KIRBY: Well, look, I think, again, we very strongly condemn the failed coup. We’ve strongly rejected any attempt to overthrow democracy in Turkey. And we support, as we’ve said from the very beginning, the democratically elected government there. Turkey remains a NATO ally. They remain a key partner in the coalition to defeat Daesh. I think you saw that General Dunford, the Joint Chiefs chairman, was just recently there and had good, constructive meetings and came out of those meetings and publicly commented about the positive tone of those discussions. Incirlik remains open to U.S. aircraft to conduct strikes against Daesh in Syria and we look for that cooperation to continue.

We’re mindful that this was a serious coup attempt and that Turkey has put in place measures to investigate and to try to bring those responsible to account. All along, from the very beginning, we’ve also urged and encouraged our friend Turkey, as they do this, to observe rule of law and to preserve confidence in their own democratic institutions. And we’re going to stay committed to that partnership going forward.

So I’ve seen lots of comments out there, and again, just like before, I’m not going to respond to every bit of rhetoric. But again, I can assure you that Turkey has no better friend than the United States. We want to see Turkey emerge from this strong and democratic and surefooted.

QUESTION: But you mentioned General Dunford’s visit and his comments and his message to the Turkish officials that he spoke with.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And you talked about how he spoke of a positive tone of these discussions, and yet less than a day afterwards, the president of the country – not the joint – not the Turkish joint chiefs chairman, not the Turkish prime minister, but the president of the country, the commander-in-chief makes these comments. Does that not dishearten you at all? I mean, is this message – this message that you guys are trying to send doesn’t seem to be getting through. Isn’t that --

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I can’t --

QUESTION: Isn’t that a problem?

MR KIRBY: I can’t speak for President Erdogan or his comments. I can only speak for us and --

QUESTION: I know. Aren’t you – and my – so my question is: What – are you not – does this not dishearten you? Does it not make you – annoy you or bother you that your good friend, ally, democratically elected President Erdogan that your – send your Joint Chiefs of – chairman of your Joint Chiefs of Staff over there to make nice with his people and to explain your position, and yet the next day, he comes out and trashes you again?

MR KIRBY: Well, look --

QUESTION: That’s not a problem?

MR KIRBY: Matt, what matters is the partnership that we have with Turkey going forward, and certainly in the practical, tangible ways that partnership can be realized such as going after Daesh in Syria and the support that we continue to get from Turkey in that regard.

President Erdogan, as the sovereign head of state of the Government of Turkey, is certainly free to express his views and his frustrations as he sees fit. We respect his right to do that. We’ve also been open and honest that even before the coup, we didn’t agree with Turkey on everything. So we’re going to stay committed to having the dialogue going forward, and that dialogue is happening. I mean, our ambassador, John Bass, is still working hard every day in Ankara to reach out to his counterparts and to talk about these developments as they go forward.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about the second document that was mentioned that the Turks have talked --

MR KIRBY: No, I have not heard about a second document. And again, I’d refer you to Justice Department on all questions about extradition.

QUESTION: But President Erdogan is going to Moscow in one week. Do you read anything in this visit?

MR KIRBY: You’d have to talk to President Erdogan about his travel habits and his plans. I don’t know. I mean, again, sovereign heads of state are – have every right and responsibility to conduct bilateral relations as they see fit.

QUESTION: One more on this, if I may.

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: President Erdogan is quoted, at least in our story, as saying, “I’m calling on the United States: what kind of strategic partners are we that you can still host someone whose extradition I have asked for?” Do you regard the – what you are aware of as so far having been transmitted by the Turks – I’m not asking about the second batch, if there was a second document. Do you regard that as an extradition request?

MR KIRBY: As I understand it – and now I’m getting into an area really that it’s not for the State Department to comment on. So I’m going to obviously refer you to Justice. But as I understand it, they are in receipt of documents. I do not know how many; I do not know in what number of batches they’ve come in, nor do I know the content. And as I understand it, they are still analyzing those documents, and I don’t believe that a judgment is made one way or the other yet in terms of whether it’s formal extradition.

I do want to make two points --

QUESTION: Formal extradition request.

MR KIRBY: Right.

QUESTION: Yep.

MR KIRBY: Yes. A couple of points. It can be, as I said before, a lengthy legal process, the task of extradition. And as you know, we don’t typically make it a habit of speaking to specific cases. Now, this one was obviously unique, given the circumstances. It was unavoidable that we would have to address it, given the very public calls for it by the Government of Turkey. So we have had to do that. But I don’t want to set an expectation up that we’re going to be able to give you a blow-by-blow of the process as it works its way through.

QUESTION: Well, except that they keep yelling about it and talking about it in public, and if that forced you to talk about it the first time, I think it – you’re going to have to – you’re going to keep getting the question, whether you’re prepared to answer it or not.

MR KIRBY: No, I’m --

QUESTION: Anyone else has --

MR KIRBY: -- fully prepared – look, I know I’m going to get – continue to get the question. But again, it’s a process, and we’re going to try to preserve the sanctity of it. And while I understand that it’s going to keep coming up here, I just want to set the expectations as low as possible that I’m going to be able to provide a very detailed rundown every single day of the progress of it.

QUESTION: You succeeded.

QUESTION: Two very quick questions.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, you’re going to have to be real quick, because I got to get going.

QUESTION: Very quick. Today also President Erdogan said there has not been a single Western officials visited me after General Dunford. I was wondering if you have any visitors going to Turkey from U.S. Government any time soon.

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any other travel to speak to, other than the chairman’s trip --

QUESTION: And second very quick question is that it has almost been three weeks since the coup attempt, and you said that you want Turkey to observe the rule of law. Do you think so far Turkey’s action not --

MR KIRBY: I’ve also said I’m not going to characterize every action that they take. I’m not going to start doing that today. We – our ambassador, John Bass, is working very closely with his counterparts in Ankara, talking through what the developments are and the decisions that the government is making. And I’m going to leave it there for today.

I do have – Matt was right, and I can now --

QUESTION: Oh.

MR KIRBY: I know --

QUESTION: I’m going to put that on a loop --

MR KIRBY: Absolutely. I think --

QUESTION: -- and have it play continually. (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: I’m going to have a cake tonight in your honor, because I – for you to be right. But the President did announce today that the designation of a presidential delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, the – that the opening ceremonies would be held on the 5th of August; the delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the opening ceremony. The Secretary will be leading that delegation. And then the White House put out a list of the rest of the delegation members. I’ll refer you to their press release on that.

And with that, have a great afternoon. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Bon appetit.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:59 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 29, 2016

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 16:44

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 29, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:36 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday to you. A couple things at the top.

On Cuba, we are concerned about the physical well-being of Guillermo Farinas, Carlos Amel, and other activists that are engaged in a hunger strike. We are monitoring their situation closely. We stand in solidarity with those who advocate for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. We have raised our concerns directly with the Cuban Government both in Washington and Havana.

On Yemen, we note with grave concern yesterday’s announcement issued by some elements within the Houthi General People’s Congress to form a governing council. Such actions are out of step with the spirit of the negotiations and do not constructively move the talks forward. We maintain that the UN-led negotiations are the single best chance for stability, and we call upon parties to show good faith and flexibility to make progress that will directly improve the lives of millions of Yemenis. The people of Yemen have suffered for far too long and they are counting on their representatives in Kuwait to restore peace. We reiterate our strong support for UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his efforts over the course of these talks. We also express our deep appreciation to the Government of Kuwait for their support in hosting the negotiations and the role that they are playing to bring stability to the region.

Finally, on Afghanistan, we welcome Afghanistan today as the 164th member of the World Trade Organization, or WTO. Afghanistan will enjoy new opportunities now for multilateral trade and expand its potential for future development and prosperity. We applaud Afghanistan for the years of effort required to meet this milestone achievement and we look forward to working together with that country as a full member of the WTO going forward.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we start with Syria?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: The conversations that Secretary Kerry said are now ongoing in which you’re trying to figure out whether or not the Russian humanitarian operation is a ruse, where are they taking place, who’s involved in them, and what have you learned so far?

MR KIRBY: I think there’s a little confusion there in the question. He was referring – there’s sort of two things here. There are discussions going on between U.S. and Russia teams in Geneva – I talked about this a little bit yesterday – to work through the technicalities and the modalities of the proposals that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry agreed to back in Moscow a couple of weeks ago. These are designed to get the cessation of hostilities in a better place, to get it more enforceable, and to create the space that Special Envoy de Mistura needs to resume the political talks.

And I think you heard the Secretary today talk about conversations he’s been having with Russian officials to better understand the announcement yesterday of humanitarian corridors and what that – and what that means, and also to express quite frankly our concerns about these corridors. There should be no need for them if the cessation of hostilities is being enforced and observed in and around Aleppo. People should not have to be told to leave or given the impression that there is some sort of forced evacuation. They should be able to stay in their homes peacefully because they’re not at risk by regime forces.

QUESTION: Well, here’s – I’m looking at what he said, and he suggested that there are – so are the conversations that he’s talking about with regard to Aleppo, those are the conversations that he’s having with the Russians?

MR KIRBY: Those were the – that was the question you asked him today, was about – was about Aleppo and the humanitarian corridor, and he referred to discussions he’s been having with Russian officials about that. But there are – and look, in addition to discussions in Geneva, of course, the Secretary has maintained a healthy dialogue with Foreign Minister Lavrov about the proposals.

QUESTION: But that’s not what he said. I mean, I asked him about it and he said, “We’re deeply concerned about the definition, and I have talked to Moscow twice in the last 24 hours. I met with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Laos three days ago. This is very much potentially a challenge, but we have a team that is meeting today working on this and we’ll find out whether or not it’s real or not.”

MR KIRBY: He’s referring to the same U.S.-Russia teams that I was talking about in Geneva. They are there primarily to work through the technicalities and modalities of these proposals, but it – I think it stands within reason that they would also be discussing with Russia and Russian authorities that are part of their delegation about these humanitarian corridors.

QUESTION: Okay, so they are --

MR KIRBY: But that’s not the function. That’s not the purpose.

QUESTION: I get it, but they are talking about that. I mean, that’s what he said.

MR KIRBY: Well, that’s what he said. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MR KIRBY: I can’t dispute that.

QUESTION: So do you have any – I mean, it’s fairly late now in Geneva. Do you have any greater understanding as to whether this is or isn’t a ruse?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not quite sure when you say “ruse” what you mean. Can you explain to me what you mean by a ruse?

QUESTION: Well, yesterday you yourself from the podium raised questions about the plan, and you said, if I remember correctly, that it – without further clarification, it appeared to be an effort to get militants to surrender and to get civilians to leave.

MR KIRBY: And to force an evacuation.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. So we are – so --

QUESTION: So rather than being a humanitarian operation where you’re trying to protect everybody, you yourself were suggesting that what they’re really trying to do is get the militants to just lay down their arms and get everybody else to leave.

MR KIRBY: I was saying that without further clarification --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: -- that’s what it appears to be. But I don’t think I used the word “ruse.” In any event --

QUESTION: No, but he did.

MR KIRBY: In any event --

QUESTION: But he did.

MR KIRBY: Well, he did because it was raised in the question that you asked him today.

QUESTION: I don’t decide what comes out of his mouth. He didn’t have to use that word.

MR KIRBY: In any event – in any event, we could argue all day about the word “ruse.” In any event, we still don’t have additional clarification enough to be able to fully know, and that is what the Secretary was alluding to today.

QUESTION: One other thing: Why would you need to evacuate civilians if the purpose of your actions is to provide them with humanitarian relief? Why not just give them humanitarian supplies?

MR KIRBY: Excellent question, and probably one of the questions that our team is trying to explore with Russian officials. I couldn’t possibly answer that. Only they can answer that.

QUESTION: And what do you think about Special Envoy de Mistura’s statement today that perhaps what they should do is take these corridors, if they are opening them, and simply hand them over to the UN so that the UN can then take responsibility for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people in the city, as you’ve been – or in those parts of the city, as you’ve been demanding for many, many months now?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’d say, first of all, there should be no need for humanitarian corridors because there should be no need for the people of Aleppo to feel besieged – and they do, and they are. Point one.

Point two, we’ve seen the comments that the special envoy made about the potential role here for the UN, and we’re trying to get a little bit more clarity on exactly what he meant by that. I don’t have an update for you and I don’t have a position by the United States on that suggestion. But as with all manners of proposals and options and alternatives proposed by the special envoy, obviously we take those seriously; we want to learn more about it.

QUESTION: One more thing. Why – is fundamentally your fear that what the Russians and the Syrian Government are trying to do, if indeed they are trying to get the opposition fighters to lay down their arms and get the civilians to evacuate – is your fundamental concern that they’re essentially laying the ground for Syrian Government or allied forces to retake and bring all of Aleppo under government control? Is that what you think may be the objective of this?

MR KIRBY: Again, we’re not – we don’t have perfect clarity on what they’re trying to do, which is why our teams are going to be discussing and why the Secretary also is personally trying to get better clarity on what this means. But as I said yesterday, that if that is the – if it – if it, as it appears to be – if it is as it appears to be, which is a forced evacuation and an attempt to basically purge Aleppo of opposition groups, in other words force a surrender, then it would be absolutely in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which, by the way, the Russians voted for and signed up to – as a matter of fact, as part of the ISSG, helped create. And that would be obviously of deep concern to us. But we need to know more.

QUESTION: Last one. The Secretary said he spoke to Moscow twice in the last 24 hours, and I asked him if it was Lavrov and I didn’t quite understand his – whether he responded to that. Has he spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov twice in the last 24 hours or to somebody else?

MR KIRBY: I do not have any recent conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov to read out to you.

QUESTION: Does that mean he’s talking to somebody else?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov to read out with you over the last 24, 36 hours.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary ever speak directly to President Putin?

MR KIRBY: Of course he speaks directly to President Putin.

QUESTION: On the phone?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of phone calls with President Putin. He’s obviously met with President Putin. I can assure you that he was not referring to President Putin in this regard.

QUESTION: Then who’s he talking to?

MR KIRBY: I just don’t have further details to read out to you in terms of his conversations. He said he has talked to Moscow – to Russian officials – twice in the last 24 hours, and I think I’m just going to leave it at that.

Abbie.

QUESTION: The Russians are reporting that the U.S. ambassador requested a meeting with the deputy foreign minister, which occurred today. Do you have any further readout of that meeting? They said that Syria was discussed. Was that an attempt to get clarity through discussions with the U.S. ambassador?

MR KIRBY: With the – I’m sorry, the --

QUESTION: The U.S. ambassador to Russia met with the deputy foreign minister today in Russia.

MR KIRBY: Oh, our ambassador in Moscow.

QUESTION: Yes. My apologies. Yes.

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry – no, no, no, I just – I was having trouble. I don’t have a readout of that meeting or discussion, so we’ll – I’ll have to take the question and see if we can get more clarity for you on that. So I just don’t know. I don’t know what the character of that conversation was.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: When you – sorry, when you say “talked to Russia” --

QUESTION: Syria and Iraq?

QUESTION: When you say “talked to Moscow,” he definitely meant, as you just said, talking to Russian officials, not talking to the U.S. embassy in Moscow to try to get them to figure this out?

MR KIRBY: I’m – again, I’ve got no more clarity – no more detail to provide with respect to those conversations.

QUESTION: But what you just said was “talking to Moscow, to Russian officials.” So you – he did talk to Russian officials, correct?

MR KIRBY: He – yes, he spoke to Russian officials.

QUESTION: Fine. Thanks.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: There was this meeting in the building today with about 20 countries on aiding ethnic and religious minorities that have been targeted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and I’m just wondering if you have any actionable takeaway to report from this conference today.

MR KIRBY: Well, the conference just ended, and I’m certain that we will be providing more detail about that. It was over the last two days. I think we’re going to let the organizers gather and collect takeaways from that, and I’m sure that we’ll have more information to provide as a result of it. So I don’t want to get ahead of the findings, recommendations, or ways ahead that they might have taken away from it, but it was an important two days and an important discussion to have. It’s something that the Secretary remains focused on and I can assure you will for the entire time that he’s in office.

QUESTION: Will what?

MR KIRBY: And will remain focused on.

Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the United Arab Emirates foreign minister today?

MR KIRBY: It was a good meeting. I think you saw that he spoke a little bit to media beforehand. Obviously, lots to discuss with the foreign minister, not least of which, of course, is what’s going on in Syria, but also the issue of violent extremism throughout the region.

QUESTION: How about Libya?

MR KIRBY: They – obviously, you can expect that topics like Libya, topics like Yemen, and the broader challenges in the Middle East obviously came up, yes.

QUESTION: How about Iraq?

MR KIRBY: They talked about the counter-Daesh efforts, which obviously includes what’s going on in Iraq.

Yes.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A Turkish prosecutor prepared an indictment regarding the failed coup, and it says that – the indictment says that the CIA and the FBI trained Gulen followers. This is not the first time Turkish officials are trying to tie the U.S. to the coup attempt. I know that you said that the accusations are ludicrous, but they are constant. I wonder, how does this constant flow of accusations affect cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey?

MR KIRBY: There’s no change in the cooperation with Turkey, particularly when it comes to their support for the counter-Daesh operations. As I think our military has spoken to, the operations at Incirlik have resumed to a normal level. So I’m not aware of any practical, tangible impact on our bilateral cooperation with respect to Daesh, but again, I would just say what I said yesterday: Any accusation, claim, allegation, or suspicion that the United States was in any way involved in this coup attempt is utterly false and inaccurate.

QUESTION: Sir, James Clapper said – seemed to have said the opposite of what you just said. He said that the purge in the military is harming cooperation with Turkey, especially regarding operations against ISIL. He said many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested, there’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with Turkey. Now, how serious is that? What you’re saying seems to be conflicting what he said.

MR KIRBY: Well, your question was has there been any impact, and my answer to that is no. To date, there’s been no impact on Turkey’s cooperation and membership and participation as a member of the coalition against Daesh. And I would also point you to what Turkish officials have said themselves to us bilaterally, but even publicly, that there’s not going to be any negative developments as a result of their efforts to investigate and get to the bottom of this coup on their willingness and ability to continue to support coalition operations. And again, thus far, there haven’t been.

I’m not in the predicting business and so I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals or speculation about where this goes forward. But thus far, as you and I are sitting here talking, there’s been no practical impact.

QUESTION: Turkey – in response to General Votel’s expressing concerns about the purge in the military, President Erdogan has just accused him of siding with coup plotters and said, quote/unquote, “Know your place.” Do you think Turkey has crossed the line in the friendship that you often talk about? And is there a line that Turkey can cross?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’ve seen those comments. I think you saw that General Votel himself put out a statement just not long ago making it clear that he wasn’t at all siding with coup plotters. As a matter of fact, as you know, our government has condemned that coup attempt very clearly and very consistently. And I’m also not going to react to every bit of rhetoric out there that seems to come every day. Turkey is a NATO ally, they are a friend, and they are a partner – an important partner, especially in the efforts to counter Daesh in Syria. And that partnership continues. And they themselves have committed to continuing that partnership and that’s where our focus is going to be going forward.

QUESTION: That rhetoric seems to be having an impact on the ground in Turkey. Just earlier this week, thousands of people marched onto the Incirlik Air Base chanting anti-American slogans. Are you concerned about the safety of U.S. personnel in Turkey and the safety of nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to the latter one way or the other. As to the former, we are always concerned about the safety and security of U.S. personnel, be they military or civilian, certainly those that work inside our embassies and facilities. I mean, that’s something we’re always concerned about, and not long ago, a couple weeks ago, you and I, we were all talking about steps that we were taking to try to help better ensure that safety and security right inside Turkey because of the terrorist threat. Now, I’ve seen the reports of the protest activity. We – above so many others, we value freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the Turkish people have that right. That’s a democratic principle that’s enshrined in their own constitution. They have that right. And they have – and they certainly have the right to express their views one way or another.

If you’re asking me, as a result of that protest, did that elevate our concerns, I’m not aware that it did. As far as I have seen, it was a peaceful assembly of people expressing their views and did not pose a threat to American personnel or our equipment or facilities.

QUESTION: But are you worried that the accusations and the rhetoric that Turkish officials are putting out there may incite violence against U.S. personnel in Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we certainly don’t want to see any rhetoric enflame tensions or lead to or encourage violence. And I can assure you that we are in constant communication with Turkish authorities and have been since the coup attempt to talk to them about what they’re doing and how it’s going. Our ambassador remains engaged every day, but obviously, it’s not – we certainly wouldn’t want to see anything, be it through words or actions, that could put any innocent people in harm’s way – not just Americans, but any innocent individuals in Turkey in harm’s way.

Yeah.

QUESTION: As we’ve discussed here, the State Department did a fantastic job with the pledging conference in support of Iraq, raising $1.2 billion. It’s a lot of money. That was great.

MR KIRBY: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) But as was said here as well, the money’s going through Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government – the KRG – has said they don’t expect to see any of it. That’s what the head of their foreign relations department said earlier this week. And that’s – they’re not going to get any of it as far as I understand, because – even though they host two-thirds of the 3 million refugees and IDPs in Iraq, and another 1 million are expected to come in in the context of the Mosul offensive. So first, is that a reasonable assessment? And if it is, are you prepared to use your influence with Baghdad to ensure that some significant part of that money goes to the Kurdistan region? And if not, is there some other way to address this problem?

MR KIRBY: I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding in the statement itself. The money is not going to Baghdad. The money is going to the UN and to agencies – UN agencies that distribute, based on need, the amount – the proper amounts of humanitarian assistance. So those donations, and our contribution is among them, will go to the UN to distribute. And they do a remarkable job figuring out who needs to get it, where they are, and how much they need to get. And we have complete trust and confidence in their ability to keep doing that.

QUESTION: Thank you for that clarification. It’s an important distinction, so thank you.

MR KIRBY: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Turkish justice minister and foreign minister said that they have credible information that Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, may run away from U.S. I was wondering if you shared a similar concern.

MR KIRBY: I have no information one way or the other about that, and I’d – and that’s really not a matter for the State Department to speak to.

QUESTION: And I was also wondering if U.S. taking any security measures to make sure such thing will not happen.

MR KIRBY: Again, that is not a matter for the State Department to discuss. That’s really a matter for the Justice Department to speak to, and I won’t comment further on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in the extradition treaty – and I think it’s in Article 10 – it says in cases of urgency, if – in this case, if Turkey gets suspected of such thing, U.S. needs to arrest the person for 90 days before the extradition. So it involves the State Department and the Justice Department, so I was wondering if any steps on the security of Gulen to make sure that he won’t run away is taken on --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything further to add to that. Those are questions that really should be directed to the Justice Department and law enforcement authorities. As I said, we are in receipt of some material. The Justice Department is still analyzing that material, and that – and again, the whole process of extradition can be a fairly lengthy legal process, and we’re going to respect that process. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more to say.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: Just one question on Turkey, to follow-up --

MR KIRBY: I knew we were going to stay on Turkey anyway, so --

QUESTION: Follow-up from yesterday, I think. You were asked about 130 media organizations being shut down in Turkey, and you said that you are seeking to get more information about those shutdown media groups – organizations. And today 20 of 21 journalists detained in recent days sent – the prosecutor ask them to be arrested just today. So it seems like the journalist, most of them, will be arrested, it looks like. I was wondering if you have any comment on that.

MR KIRBY: We still are deeply concerned by these reports and we’re still trying to gather more information. As I said in my previous answer, our ambassador remains daily engaged with his counterparts, as you might think he would.

And again, let me just reiterate again that the United States supports freedom of expression around the world, and we have talked many, many times here in this room about our concerns over freedom of expression and of free press in Turkey. Those concerns remain today. And when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value, it is of concern to us. And again, we continue to express that.

Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the story about the so-called Traitors’ Cemetery outside Istanbul. According to our story, which is based – which includes reference to local media reports as well, at least one Turkish military officer who is accused of involvement in the coup was buried in this cemetery, which, as I understand it, is marked Traitors’ Cemetery and – by the government. And he was denied or was not given the normal religious rites that would accompany such a burial. Do you regard that as a violation of his or his family’s rights or religious freedom?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, obviously – and we had a conference here in just the last couple of days about the importance of human rights, religious minorities – and that was obviously for religious minorities. But I mean, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of worship remains a universal value that we obviously hold in very high regard. So broadly speaking, we always want to be able to see particularly in democracies – we want to be able to see that those rights, that those freedoms are respected.

Now, I’ve seen a press report same as you, Arshad, and I’ve only seen a press report, and nothing beyond this article which I was able to read before coming down here. As I understand it in these very early minutes here after seeing this story that this was a municipal decision, and I think best right now to refer you to the Government of Turkey for more information about this particular decision – which is, again, we understand at this early hour, was made at the municipal level. We are, like you, trying to gain a little bit better clarity about this and what it actually means.

QUESTION: Can I – just one follow-up. When following the killing of Usama bin Ladin, the U.S. Government made very clear that it had chosen to conduct his burial at sea in accordance with Muslim traditions. That was clearly a very deliberate decision even towards someone that the United States held responsible for the killing of 3,000 people on 9/11. Do you think that, as a general principle, people should be – if it is their or their family’s wish, should be – or even in this case if it’s not – I mean, I doubt you consulted the bin Ladin family, although maybe you did – do you think that people should be accorded the normal religious rituals?

MR KIRBY: To be laid to rest in accordance with their religious practices?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: Absolutely we do, sure. Sure we do. And you were right; that was a very sharp example but obviously a famous example of how we observe that ourselves. And of course, as a general principle, as I said, in keeping with our belief in the freedom of worship, we believe that individuals should be accorded those customs, those traditions, those rites, to be laid to rest in keeping with the same practices by which they worshiped when they were alive.

QUESTION: And then last one from me on Turkey. Turkish officials today, I believe, said that something like 50,000 people have been – Turkish citizens have been deprived of their passports following the coup attempt. This is a broader question, but it goes to the fundamental question of – and I know you guys have said, look, they deserve to be able to get to the bottom of this.

On the other hand, when thousands and thousands, or in this case, tens of thousands of people are being affected, for example, by losing their ability to travel outside the country, does that not raise concerns in the United States about Turkey’s ability over the long term to maintain a democratically run and cohesive society? Or do you see any risk that the elimination of or the dismissal of the academics and the incarceration of journalists and the dismissals of civil servants and judges and so on is going to rend the sort of fabric of the society and just make its divisions even deeper over time?

MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly don’t want to see that. As we’ve said many times, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally; their democracy matters to us. That is why we’ve been so forthright in recent weeks about press freedoms, for instance. So that is absolutely not an outcome that we would like to see.

But again, we note that this was a serious coup attempt that, though failed, was – had a measure of organization to it and execution to it that would alarm any government so threatened. And we understand their need to try to get to the bottom of this and to try to figure out what happened and to be able to put in place measures so that it can’t happen again. I think any government would be in their rights to do that.

We’re watching this very closely, as we’ve said. We’ve also been very honest with our friends in Turkey about our concerns, about the importance of rule of law and due process, as they go about this investigation. I think we’re loathe to make a judgment or a characterization on each and every decision that’s being made, but I can assure you that we remain in close touch with our counterparts in Turkey as they are being made and as this process moves forward, and we’re going to stay committed to doing just that.

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable to you – I mean, I understand you don’t want to make judgment on each and every thing, but the way you’re talking, it sounds like it’s conceivable to you that it’s perfectly reasonable to pull 50,000 people – I mean, 50,000, that’s like a small city, certainly a very big town – that it’s conceivable, that it’s entirely within – reasonable to pull that many people’s passports as they’re investigating this.

MR KIRBY: That’s not what I said and I’m not making – again, I’m not going to make judgments or characterizations on each and every decision that they’re making. We have been very honest and candid about our concerns with respect to rule of law and due process. Those concerns remain as valid today as they did when we first expressed them, and we will continue to monitor events closely and to stay in close touch with Turkish counterparts. But I’m – as I have before, I’m going to avoid making either lump-sum characterizations or individual characterizations of each and every decision.

QUESTION: Just one question, a follow-up, if I may. You have been talking about these rights – universal rights, fundamental rights – but Turkey suspended European Convention of Human Rights. And so far, these days, the official authorities don’t need to even bring charges to detain anyone, which, right now, what’s going on, journalists are being detained without giving any reason or any evidence, and they stay at least 30 days because of state of emergency. So your citation or reference doesn’t really matter for Turkey, looks like.

MR KIRBY: Well, I think you’d have to ask Turkish officials that question. Nothing’s changed about our views. I don’t – but the decisions they’re making, they should speak to.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV. First, about the situation in Indian-held Kashmir – we spoke about it last time. So more than 50 persons have been killed by the Indian security forces and more than 2,000 are injured. So the latest situation is that the Indian security forces have start using pellet guns on the protesters, which have inflicted horrific injuries on protesters. More than two dozen young kids lost their eyesight. So, sir, the question is here not about the Kashmir problem – I know what you’re going to say about it. The question is about the human rights violations in Kashmir. Do you in touch with the Indian authorities of what really happening in Kashmir?

MR KIRBY: Well, let me say this. I mean, we’ve obviously seen reports of the clashes between protesters and Indian forces in Kashmir. And we’re, of course, concerned by the violence, as you might expect we would be. We encourage all sides to make efforts to find a peaceful solution to this, and I can tell you we are, as you would expect we would be, in close touch with our Indian counterparts there in New Delhi as this goes forward. But we’re obviously concerned by the violence and we want to see the tensions de-escalated.

QUESTION: Sir, human rights violations are not only happening in Kashmir. It’s happening in – over all India. I mean, we have, like, dozens of report of killing people for eating beef. I mean, can you imagine you cannot have beefsteak in India? If you have it, you’re going to be killed. I mean, the – recently – yesterday, the two Muslims women were openly beat up by the Hindu extremist on the road for buying a beef from a shop. I mean, do you have anything to say about that?

MR KIRBY: We stand in solidarity with the people and Government of India in supporting exercise of freedom of religion and expression and in confronting all forms of intolerance. We look forward to continuing to work with the Indian people to realize their tolerant-inclusive vision, which is so deeply in the interests of both India and the United States. And we’re obviously concerned by reports of rising intolerance and violence. We just talked about violence a few seconds ago against minorities. As we do in countries facing such problems around the world, we urge the government to do everything in its power to protect citizens and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

QUESTION: Sir, here’s another question about the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Sir, they have been asked to leave the – leave Pakistan as soon as possible. As you know, that there are more than 3 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan and most of them are living there for the last 30 years. They have kids there, they have grandkids there, but now they are – forcibly, they are facing a deportation. UN also has expressed concerns on that. But are you in touch with the Pakistani authorities --

MR KIRBY: We are in close contact --

QUESTION: -- on the Afghan refugees?

MR KIRBY: We’re in close contact with the Government of Pakistan as it manages what is obviously a complex issue. We along with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR continue to monitor that situation and to advocate for the humanitarian treatment of all Afghan refugees. We’ve encouraged and we will continue to strongly encourage the Government of Pakistan to treat migrants in accordance with international humanitarian principles. We also recognize Pakistan’s genuine concerns and its right to undertaken appropriate measures to enforce its immigration laws.

Okay, looks like that’s about it. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 28, 2016

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 16:34

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 28, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

1:47 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Hey, everybody. I don’t really have much at the top, except to announce that the Secretary will be traveling to Paris, France, tomorrow evening. While in Paris, he will be meeting with President Abbas to obviously talk about prospects towards helping us create conditions for a two-state solution. It – there is a possibility that there could be additional bilateral meetings while we’re in Paris, of course. And as we have more information about his schedule, we will be certain to provide it to you. But the primary purpose is a meeting with President Abbas. The Secretary will return to Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

And with that.

QUESTION: Is that – just a quick thing. You said he’s going to travel tomorrow evening. Will the meetings be on Saturday then?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And when you say additional bilats, is it the French or is there any possibility of him meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MR KIRBY: Again, I can only tell you there’s a possibility for additional bilateral meetings, and I don’t have details on those to read out to you today. As soon as we have better clarity on the schedule, we’ll give you that information.

QUESTION: And just simply stated, can you give us a sense of what is the purpose of meeting with President Abbas?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think I sort of addressed it in my opening statement. It’s to continue discussions that we have had with President Abbas about prospects for a two-state solution and trying to make meaningful progress to create the conditions where that solution can be more successfully pursued.

QUESTION: And you think there’s – that’s actually – sorry. You think that’s actually possible between now and the end of the year, to create the conditions where that solution can be more meaningfully pursued?

MR KIRBY: The Secretary’s not looking at trying to make progress based on a fixed date on the calendar. I mean, this is something he’s been focused on since he’s been the Secretary of State and will remain so for, I can assure you, the entire time that he’s in office. And he – you’ve heard him speak to this many times yourself here recently, and of course, you’ve seen the travel that he’s made to the region. This remains an area of prime focus for him, and he’s going to pursue it with the same alacrity and the same energy that he has.

QUESTION: Right. But there’s – I’m – you say he’s not focused on a particular date, but he is surely focused on the date of January 20th, 2017, when he will cease to be Secretary of State. He has less than six months left to try to advance this. And I’m asking if you think – if he thinks that meaningful progress can be made to create the conditions so that this can be fruitfully pursued in those six months. Or is – he really doesn’t – not think that’s possible?

MR KIRBY: No, of course, he believes that there’s – the possibility exists. He wouldn’t be having these discussions, he wouldn’t think it was important enough to go and have this meeting if he didn’t believe that there was still a chance to make meaningful progress.

QUESTION: May I? I think just to put a finer point on what Arshad is saying is, is he trying to just continue to move this along, as you’re saying, until the day he leaves with just the desire to leave it in the best possible shape for his successor? Or is this part of a effort to try and get something meaningful in terms of negotiations or some kind of understandings before he leaves office?

MR KIRBY: I think it’s a genuine, concerted effort, as it has been since he’s been the Secretary of State, to move the process forward, to make progress on creating those conditions where a two-state solution can be realized.

QUESTION: But I mean, again, I’m just going to repeat where – I think you know where I’m coming here. Is he trying to just continue to improve the situation so that his successor can pick it up? Or does he honestly think that between now and then there’s an opening for something tangible, other than just improving the climate for the next administration?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, ultimately, the really decision-makers here are there in the region: President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu. They’re really the ones that can make or break any movement towards a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Is he trying to get negotiations together that could have some kind of – obviously there won’t be a complete and final peace deal before he leaves. There’s just – doesn’t seem to be that kind of space or climate. But is he trying to get some kind of process restarted under his watch?

MR KIRBY: He would like to get us to a position where you can actually make meaningful progress towards a two-state solution, and he’s not going to give up on that goal. I’m not in a position, nor would he, to predict exactly on what timeframe that could happen. But if you’re asking is he just trying to hold down the fort here until he’s done or --

QUESTION: I didn’t say hold down the fort. I did not say hold down the fort. I said continue to – hold down the fort would be to just manage it. I understand and am acknowledging that you’re saying that he’s trying to continue to improve the climate. But is that just – is that trying to lead to something where he would restart what he was doing earlier in the term?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to predict specific outcomes, Elise. He’s committed to this. He believes that there is still meaningful progress that can be made. And he’s not putting a deadline or a timeline on it. It is an issue of great importance to him. He still has the same sense of urgency about it. And it’s with that same sense of urgency that he is – that’s he’s going to continue to pursue these discussions.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: Last night, Vice President Biden called Vladimir Putin a dictator. Now, that is a very specific word used for the roguest of rogue states. In the past, it’s been used for President Assad, Muammar Qadhafi, North Korea, Saddam Hussein. Is it an official position of this Administration that Vladimir Putin is a dictator?

MR KIRBY: I’m not in a position to characterize – or further characterize the Vice President’s statements. I think they speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Well, was he speaking on his own behalf or was he speaking --

MR KIRBY: He’s the Vice President of the United States, so I mean, as – he’s speaking as the Vice President of the United States. What I can tell is our focus here is --

QUESTION: Would you --

MR KIRBY: -- much less on a title, one way or the other, and more on working with Russia to try to achieve progress on very difficult issues like Syria.

QUESTION: I understand that. And I mean, you’ve worked with dictators in that regard anyway. So it doesn’t – I’m not saying that would preclude you working with Vladimir Putin on Syria or not. Would – from this podium, are you prepared to call Vladimir Putin a dictator?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to – I’m going to let the Vice President’s comments speak for themselves. And I’m not going to qualify them one way or another going forward.

QUESTION: So are you saying that he’s speaking on behalf of the Administration when he calls Vladimir Putin a dictator?

MR KIRBY: He’s the Vice President of the United States, Elise.

QUESTION: A yes or no answer would be great.

MR KIRBY: You would have to talk to his staff in terms of further clarification or qualification of his comments.

QUESTION: Because the Russians are very – because obviously, there’s a lot of barbs being traded back and forth between the U.S. and Russia, but Russia is taking particular umbrage with --

MR KIRBY: I would point you to the Vice President’s staff for comments about his speech. All I can tell you is that the Secretary remains focused on trying to work with Russia on issues where we think we can work with them on. And that obviously includes Syria and it obviously includes getting more progress on the Minsk agreements. That’s where the Secretary’s head is. That’s where his head is.

QUESTION: Can we --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Turkey --

QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria?

MR KIRBY: I think let’s stay with Syria and then we’ll --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Syria, yeah.

MR KIRBY: You were on Syria too?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: All right. Well, let me go to Arshad, then to you, and --

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Syria – the leader of Syria’s Nusrah Front says that it is breaking ties with al-Qaida. Do you still regard – they’ve also adopted – they say they’ve adopted a new name. Do you still regard the group by another name as a terrorist – foreign terrorist organization? And from your point of view, are they still a legitimate target in Syria?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, Arshad, this alleged announcement here of their new name and potentially new affiliation is, what, minutes old here. So I think, as you well know, we judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals. Affiliations may be a factor, but ultimately it’s their actions, ideology, and goals that matter the most. And that’s how we’re going to judge going forward, as we have in the past. Certainly, thus far – and again, this announcement is, what, less than an hour old – we certainly see no reason to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different, and they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.

QUESTION: Have there been any messages sent to the Administration or to your interlocutors, whether it’s in the Arab world or Staffan de Mistura, in this vein that along with this affiliation could come some kind of more moderate position that they’d be interested in?

MR KIRBY: No. I mean, again, they just made this announcement, so --

QUESTION: I understand, but they didn’t just do it out of a hat. Like, obviously it’s something that’s been considered for – they didn’t just wake up this morning and say, “We have a new name.” This has obviously been --

MR KIRBY: Then you have more insight into their thinking than I do. I don’t know --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it didn’t just come out of thin air. I mean, obviously this was a considered decision of at least 24 hours, I would think.

MR KIRBY: You’d have to ask them, Elise.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering, have you --

MR KIRBY: There has been no communication that I’m aware of that would – that would indicate any sort of a different approach to this group at this point. This announcement just got made. And again, we judge an organization by its actions, its ideologies, its objectives. And we see nothing --

QUESTION: And what if it were to moderate --

MR KIRBY: -- that would change our views at this point.

QUESTION: And what if it were to moderate its actions and just focus more on this – on the Assad regime and not the Syrian moderate opposition?

MR KIRBY: It’s a terrific hypothetical that I would be absolutely – it would be impossible for me to try to engage in.

QUESTION: Well, would you – would it not be a good opportunity to encourage them to do so if the – given the fact that they’re breaking with the world’s most --

MR KIRBY: You mean they needed more encouragement than the – than the fact that they have been targets of kinetic strikes thus far?

QUESTION: No, obviously that’s probably – I mean --

MR KIRBY: That’s – that would be, I would hope, discouraging. So no, look, I can’t predict what this means – it just happened – or what it portends for the future. It could very well just be a rebranding technique. So we just have to – we’re going to have to wait and see. And as I say, we judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves. And so we’re – and thus far there’s no change to our views about this particular group.

QUESTION: The way that Julani describes the new – well, the same group, new names, objectives – sound very similar to that of ISIL. Does that give this government pause?

MR KIRBY: The new objectives that they’ve stated?

QUESTION: Yes, in this video, that they’re going to basically stand up for the rights of Muslim people around the world; they’re going to claim territory; they’re going to act on their behalf, God willing.

MR KIRBY: They have given us pause – I mean, more than pause, as I’ve said. They have – because they are a foreign terrorist organization, they have been outside the cessation of hostilities. In the last hour or so, since this announcement’s been made, we certainly see no indication that would give us a reason to change the designation of this group. Again, you judge an organization like this on their goals, their ideology, their objectives.

QUESTION: And in that same vein, the deputy foreign minister, Mr. Ryabkov, of Russia, is still alleging as of a couple of hours ago that the U.S. still has not distinguished between terrorist groups and moderate opposition as part of trying to negotiate some sort of cooperative deal between the U.S. and Russia on fighting ISIL inside Syria. I take it, then, that you dispute his characterization?

MR KIRBY: Yes, I would. I would.

QUESTION: What is the status of trying to reach that agreement that --

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to – as you said, look, I’m not – we’ve said we’re not going to talk about the specifics of the proposals that the United States and the Russia – and Russia have agreed to pursue here to try to better enforce the cessation of hostilities. And the reason why I’m comfortable disputing a notion that we’ve somehow been less clear here about groups is that it isn’t just about the United States. It’s the international community, the ISSG, the UN all have agreed that UN-designated foreign terrorist organizations are outside the cessation of hostilities, and those are the only groups that are outside the cessation of hostilities. And to date, that has included, obviously, Daesh and al-Nusrah. And so it’s not just about the degree to which we’ve been clear; it’s about the degree to which the international community has been clear.

QUESTION: And going back to Nusrah, or Fateh al-Sham as they’re now calling themselves, what is being done to try to ferret them out, if I can use that expression, as the coalition is trying to help the Syrian opposition go after ISIL, go after the regime, whatever it is that’s happening on the ground right now inside Syria?

MR KIRBY: I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “ferret them out.”

QUESTION: All right, that was a cute way of saying of trying to kill them.

MR KIRBY: There’s been no change to the fact – again, they just made this announcement like an hour ago, right?

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: So --

QUESTION: But the fact was that even before they decided to change their name, they were still – they’re in Manbij fighting --

MR KIRBY: They are still a designated foreign terrorist organization.

QUESTION: They’re still in Raqqa – right.

MR KIRBY: They are still not a party to the cessation of hostilities and therefore are still a fair target for coalition operations.

QUESTION: But given that they’re fighting in the same neighborhoods, on the same streets with people that the U.S. and other members of the coalition are --

MR KIRBY: And I – excuse me, I want to correct what I said. Not a fair target of coalition operations. The coalition is going after Daesh. But they’re still --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: They’re still – they’re still legitimate targets for --

QUESTION: The United States?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, for the United States and, of course, for Russia, which has a military presence in Syria. So I wanted to correct that.

QUESTION: Yeah. So how does – so how does, then, the U.S. try to go after them or try to support the moderate opposition as it’s fighting ISIL? How do you tease all that out? How do you not end up killing the wrong people, killing your own people?

MR KIRBY: This is – the fact that the loyalties of some opposition fighters have shifted or shift and that there has been an intermingling of sorts with al-Nusrah is not a new problem. It has been a struggle. Some of that intermingling has been by design, as I said, because some loyalties have shifted among members of these groups. And some of it has been coincidental. But it has complicated efforts to better and more effectively target al-Nusrah. That is one of the reasons why, quite frankly, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov have spoken at length about trying to get some proposals in place to move forward to better be able to enforce the cessation of hostilities, which this group is still outside of.

But I’m loath to get into specific military targeting and intelligence issues from this particular podium. I mean, it remains – it has remained a problem. It remains one today. And again, that’s why it was so important for the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov to have that discussion in Moscow a couple of weeks ago.

QUESTION: And finally, given that the top leadership of al-Qaida put out audio messages indicating that they supported Nusrah’s move to change its name and make itself a distinct organization, what does that say to you, if anything, about al-Qaida’s overall influence on other extremist groups around the world?

MR KIRBY: Look, al-Qaida core leadership has been decimated. We know that and we’ve talked about that many times. It still obviously remains a lethal terrorist organization with still lethal capabilities with designs to attack Western targets and to try to improve its influence. So we’re very mindful of the threat still posed by al-Qaida.

I don’t know what this announcement, yet one hour old, means in terms of al-Qaida’s influence one way or the other. And as I said, we judge an organization by what it does, by its goals, by its objectives, not by the name. So I think we’re just – we’re going to have to watch this as it goes forward. But there’s been, again, no change to our approach to this particular organization regardless of the new brand that they claim to be under.

QUESTION: Turkish media, recording Ambassador Bass in a speech saying that Gulen --

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria? Unless this is Syria.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Syria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, it’s just our tradition to try to go through one topic if we can.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry.

MR KIRBY: I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: A couple more things on Syria. The Russian defense minister today said that the Russian and Syrian militaries will start a large-scale humanitarian operation in Aleppo during which civilians and militaries – militants, excuse me, will be given a chance to leave the city. Did the Russians coordinate this with the United States? Did you know this was coming?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any coordination. We’ve seen this announcement, and I would tell you that it – hang on a second, let me make sure.

Without further clarification, this appears to be a demand for the surrender of opposition groups and the evacuation of Syrian civilians from Aleppo, and any offensive actions would be inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and our own understandings with the Russians. Our position on humanitarian access has not changed. Russia and the regime must uphold the basic agreed principle that the UN determines what assistance is necessary to relieve the suffering of civilians in besieged communities. And all supplies, including food and medical supplies, must be delivered immediately.

QUESTION: So you don’t see this as humanitarian at all; you see this as basically an effort to get the militants to give up --

MR KIRBY: Again, without further clarification, this would appear to be a demand for the surrender of opposition groups and the evacuation of Syrian civilians from Aleppo. What needs to happen is the innocent people of Aleppo should be able to stay in their homes safely and to receive the humanitarian access, which Russia and the regime have agreed – in principle, have agreed, certainly, according to the UN Security Council resolution, to provide.

QUESTION: Is that another way of saying that you think this is a way of the – for the Syrian Government to just try to win Aleppo for itself once and for all?

MR KIRBY: I think I’ve responded to the answer on this. Again, without further clarification, it appears to be a demand for the surrender of opposition groups and the forced evacuation of innocent Syrian civilians.

QUESTION: Would this move be going against the steps that they agreed to, to work towards a further military cooperation?

MR KIRBY: It goes against the UN Security Council resolution and their own stated commitments. I’m not going to detail the proposals that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry had agreed to in Moscow, as those proposals are still being – the modalities of those proposals are still being discussed.

QUESTION: Defense minister --

QUESTION: Which means you don’t have an agreement yet?

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I mean, that’s what that means, right? “The modalities are still being discussed of proposals” means that there’s no agreement?

MR KIRBY: The way they’re going to be implemented and executed or --

QUESTION: You have a general understanding?

MR KIRBY: -- the methods are still being discussed, but there were proposals agreed to.

QUESTION: The defense minister also spoke of sending experts to Geneva at the request of Secretary Kerry.

MR KIRBY: Well, again, this is all part of – as I said, there are still modalities of these proposals to be discussed, and I believe that’s what the defense minister was referring to. I’d have to let them speak to what officials they’re sending to Geneva. But coming out of Moscow, Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry agreed that our teams would continue to meet and discuss and to get better – some better clarity on the modalities of how to actually implement these proposals, and that’s what’s happening.

Go ahead. You had a question on Ambassador Bass?

QUESTION: Yes. A couple questions. Ambassador Bass is quoted by the Turkish media in a speech as saying that Gulen was responsible for the coup. So is that accurate? Also, Turkish Government officials are quoted, saying that if Gulen is not extradited it will have a serious impact on U.S.-Turkish relations. What is the response to that?

MR KIRBY: Well, first, the answer to your first question is no, he didn’t give a speech and he never said that. On the answer – in the answer to the second question, look, we’ve been very consistent here in everything we’ve said about Mr. Gulen and any potential for extradition, that that kind of a decision would have to be evidence-based; it would have to be properly processed the way it is supposed to in coordination between the State Department and the Justice Department. As I have indicated earlier, we are in receipt of some material, and that material is being analyzed right now. I don’t have an update for you, and I wouldn’t get ahead of what is and can be a fairly lengthy legal process.

QUESTION: Since your comment yesterday characterizing Turkey, we now have official confirmation that more than 130 Turkish media organizations have been shut down. Is – that question was asked yesterday, I think, by Arshad or somebody. Do you still consider Turkey a democracy, considering the thousands of people in detention, tens of thousands of suspects, and the arrests of journalists and 130 to 150 media organizations being shut down?

MR KIRBY: Well, let me just address the media piece of that. We’re obviously deeply concerned by the reports and we’re seeking additional information from Turkish authorities. As you well know and as I’ve said many, many times from the podium, the United States supports freedom of expression around the world. And we have concerns when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value. We expect Turkish authorities to uphold their assurances that the Turkish Government will protect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: The Turkish officials also suggesting that Erdogan, the Turkish president, wants to put the military under his direct control, not have it as a separate entity. Would the U.S. be supportive of such a move, which would require a change in the constitution, or does this raise more concerns about his ability to wield power and to control more facets of the Turkish Government?

MR KIRBY: We’ve talked at length, Ros, about what’s going on in Turkey. We’ve condemned the failed coup. We’ve made clear that we understand the Turkish Government has a right and a responsibility, quite frankly, to their citizens to get to the bottom of this, to investigate it, and to hold those responsible for the coup to account.

The President and Secretary Kerry have also, of course, stressed the importance to their Turkish counterparts of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law throughout this process. I’ve said that I’m not going to make it a habit from this podium of responding and reacting to every single decision. We’ve seen this in press reporting same as you, and I would leave it to Turkish authorities to describe the motives behind it.

But obviously, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally. Their democracy matters to us. Their success as a democracy matters to us. And so as a friend and an ally, we’re going to continue to stay in close touch with Turkish authorities as they work through this.

QUESTION: Quick two questions on Turkey.

MR KIRBY: I’m guessing your question’s also on this.

QUESTION: Yes. Earlier, Turkish administration announced that they will send justice minister and interior minister here for the extradition process. Do you know if that visit is still happening, or --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any updates on their – to give you, and I would point you to Turkish leaders to talk about their travel.

QUESTION: And the last one. There are still a lot of conspiracy theories or theories regarding U.S. involvement, despite the fact that --

MR KIRBY: About U.S. what?

QUESTION: U.S. involvement in the coup attempt. There are still a lot of stories every day, headlines in Turkey. Do you think that the government – Turkish Government – is doing to counter these messages, or do you think the – why do you think these blames and accusations are still continuing?

MR KIRBY: Well, I couldn’t possibly begin to know the answer to that question. The people propagating the false rumors are the ones to ask. Obviously, we had no involvement in this, and any suggestion otherwise is ludicrous. But why such a rumor would still be propagated or still be able to find purchase over there, I couldn’t begin to guess. We are not only an ally to Turkey, we’re a friend, we’re a partner, and Turkey remains a member of the coalition to counter Daesh. And we value that partnership, and as we’ve said all along, we’re going to continue to look for ways to deepen and strengthen it going forward.

QUESTION: President Erdogan is going to Moscow next week, and there are a lot of opinion pieces and speculations that Turkey’s getting closer to Russia and there may be some tensions increasing between the U.S. and Turkey, as earlier question mentioned. Do you have any comment on Turkey’s getting closer to Russia, whether --

MR KIRBY: Look, I mean, as a sovereign nation, Turkey has every right to pursue bilateral relations that it believes are important and to improve and strengthen those bilateral relations that it chooses to improve and strengthen. So I’m not – we’re not in – wouldn’t be in a position to comment or qualify one way or another President Erdogan’s travel or his discussion with foreign leaders. That’s his right and responsibility; that’s the right and responsibility of a sovereign nation.

What matters to us is both a bilateral and multilateral relationship that we have with Turkey: multilateral through NATO, multilateral through the coalition to counter Daesh; and, of course, the bilateral relationship that we have. And look, we’ve been nothing but honest and open and forthright with you right here in this briefing room about issues and things that happen in Turkey that concern us. We’ve also been open, candid, and forthright with Turkish leaders about those same issues, as well as – and this often doesn’t get attention by you guys – but the – all the many ways in which we see eye to eye with Turkey on many things and the things that we try to work together on and try to advance, and there’s a lot of those too. I understand that doesn’t make headlines, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening even today as Turkey works through the aftermath of this coup, because operations against Daesh continue. Operations against Daesh out of Incirlik continue.

So there’s – as there always is in a consequential bilateral relationship like the one we have with Turkey, there is a wide menu, an agenda of issues, to talk with them about. That’s certainly no less true – in fact, more true, I suppose, if you want to look at it that way, in the wake of this coup attempt. And that’s why Ambassador Bass is working so hard to continue the communication and the dialogue and to improve the mutual understanding that he has with his counterparts there in Ankara.

QUESTION: John, following up on that, there was a message put out by the U.S. consulate saying that there are protesters marching towards the – Incirlik demanding that it be closed. Is there any concern about what appears to be a growing march of protesters?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen that report, Abbie, so I’m going to have to kind of go back and take a look at that. So without addressing a specific query about a protest march on Incirlik, let me just say that, again, we appreciate Turkish support for the coalition in terms of the use of the Incirlik Air Base for operations against Daesh in Syria. As I said, those operations continue, Turkish support continues, and Turkish leaders – from President Erdogan right on down to the foreign minister in his conversations with Secretary Kerry – made it very clear that there were not going to be negative developments in terms of those efforts as a result of this coup attempt. And with the exception of some temporary loss of power, which we talked about last week, they’ve been good to their word – that there hasn’t been a degradation in coalition use of Incirlik or Turkish support for that use of Incirlik against Daesh in Syria. So again, I just don’t know anything about this – the protests and I’d have to go find a little bit more out for you before I could answer specifically a question about that.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: It recently emerged that the Iraqi Government has just issued orders to make the Shiite militias, the Hashd al-Shaabi, a formal part of the Iraqi army. Among many things, the number two in the Hashd al-Shaabi and the fellow who is, in effect, its head is a designated U.S. terrorist for the role he played in attacking U.S. troops when we were there and for his close ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

So I’d like to know, what is your view of this Iraqi decision to formalize the role of the Hashd al-Shaabi?

MR KIRBY: First thing I’d say is – and as I’ve said before – this is an Iraqi decision. Prime Minister Abadi has been clear and he’s been consistent about trying to create a more inclusive force to go after Daesh both inside the Iraqi Security Force proper and in working with Popular Mobilization Forces – not all of which, I might remind you, are influenced directly by the IRGC or by Iran. And it is the government in Baghdad – the Iraqi Government – that is and should be making decisions about the degree to which these forces are factored into actual strategy execution on the ground.

For our sake, the only other thing I’d say – and again, we’ve made this clear before too – is that we support those forces working under the command and control of the Iraqi Security Forces. But it is up to the Government of Iraq to decide on troop composition and on placement on the battlefield, and we’re going to respect those decisions.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Well, if I could --

QUESTION: Sorry, yeah, please.

QUESTION: Yeah. So, I mean, the Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Abadi, have said that the Hashd al-Shaabi should participate in the offensive to take – retake Mosul, but others, like political leaders in Mosul – in the Mosul area, have said that’s a bad idea. So is that – I mean, your view on Hashd al-Shaabi’s participation in Mosul’s liberation is it’s okay if that’s what the Iraqi Government wants? It seems that’s what they want too.

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is that these are – the composition of forces on the ground – and I’m – you’re getting me into military issues that I’m really not comfortable discussing in any great detail, so I would also ask you to seek out my colleagues at the Pentagon. But what we have said consistently is this is an Iraqi campaign strategy – it has been from the start, the whole issue of going after Mosul. We are supporting that – we’re advising it, obviously – and we’re helping, but it’s their campaign strategy. And it’s the strategy, oh by the way, that they have already started to execute. And we have helped in some shaping operations in and around Mosul.

But the composition of forces in the field – that’s a decision for the Iraqi Government to make and for Prime Minister Abadi to make. And he has made it clear that he’s going to be as inclusive as possible, but that he – he intends to, and he has the right to reserve for himself the final decision about composition in the field. And so the degree to which Popular Mobilization Forces by any name or any affiliation are used in the campaign against Mosul, again, that’s for them to decide. And our role is to support Iraqi Security Forces and the Government of Iraq as they begin to – well, they already have begun, but as they complete the job of defeating and degrading Daesh inside Iraq.

Okay.

QUESTION: Just going back to Turkey, I want to make sure I understand something that you said about Incirlik when you said there’s been no degradation. Is what you are saying that the tempo of operations from Incirlik has not changed – it is as high now as it was before the attempted coup?

MR KIRBY: Obviously when there was temporary power problems, I think there was a momentary pause, and it didn’t take very long for them to begin flying again. I’d point you to my colleagues at the Defense Department in terms of the actual tempo. When I said no degradation I was talking strategically from a larger perspective. I have no idea what the flights out of Incirlik are on a day-to-day basis. I suspect it changes every day based on the campaign and targets, but I’m given to understand that there’s been no – as I said, there’s been no degradation to operations out of Incirlik. Now, again, I can’t point to every single mission. You’d have to talk to my Defense Department colleagues.

QUESTION: And then I got a couple others on Syria. You said that to the best of your knowledge there had been no consultation by the Russians with the United States about this Aleppo operation. What makes you – if they’re not consulting you about things like that and if you say that with – without further clarification it appears to be a ruse, what makes you think you’re likely to get a wider deal with them on Syria?

MR KIRBY: Well, it’s – okay, a couple things here. I wouldn’t call it a wider deal. We – and we did have an agreement coming out of Moscow on a set of proposals to better enforce the cessation of hostilities so that – and let’s not forget – so that Special Envoy de Mistura can have the political space he needs to get talks resumed as early as we hope – next month. And the Secretary was, I thought, extraordinarily pragmatic in the way he described it even that very night. He said, look, if these steps are implemented, and implemented in good faith, they have a real chance at seeing progress with respect to the political solution in Syria. But if they’re not, then obviously we’re going to have to reconsider where we are.

And so that’s what’s going on right now, Arshad. Our teams are discussing the modalities of these proposals and how to actually get them implemented. Those discussions are ongoing. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov talked about that process a little bit out at the ASEAN Regional Forum, on the sidelines of it. And we’ve now seen an announcement by their defense minister that they’re sending additional senior officers to join those discussions. Again, all that is positive movement, but as the Secretary said himself, the proof’s going to be in the pudding here and whether or not these modalities can actually be agreed to and can actually be effective.

Now, on this – the corridors in Aleppo, again, you’re – again, I have no indication that there was any advance consultation on this. And as I said, without further clarification – which would indicate we didn’t have clarification at the outset – it does not appear to be anything more than a demand for the surrender of opposition groups.

So it is deeply concerning to us, this announcement.

QUESTION: And one other thing. Who’s going to meet with General – and I’m probably going to mispronounce this – Gajima Gomadov, who is the general whom the Russian defense minister said would be going to Geneva next week and who’s going to meet with Gennady Gatilov, who he said will be leaving tomorrow?

MR KIRBY: I don’t – first of all, I can’t verify that those are indeed the individuals that Russia is going to send. The Russians need to speak for that. There are obviously teams from both our countries that are having these discussions, and I’m assuming the expectation would be that these gentlemen would join the Russian team in those discussions. I just don’t have any more specificity in terms of the agenda or who’s in the room at any given moment during the discussions.

QUESTION: But are you guys – to your knowledge, are you planning to send any other senior officials from the U.S. side?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any additional officials that would be sent.

QUESTION: And who’s leading the talks from the U.S. side?

MR KIRBY: It’s – certainly our Special Envoy Michael Ratney is involved in this, as is, of course, Brett McGurk, but I don’t have a roster of everybody that’s that – that’s at these meetings.

Yes, in the back there.

QUESTION: Different regions. One, Venezuela. Do you have any reaction or comment to the former Guantanamo detainee that resurfaced in Venezuela?

MR KIRBY: I’ve seen those reports, but I’m not in a position to confirm them.

QUESTION: And do you have any comment on North Korea saying that the U.S. has crossed a red line and declared war?

MR KIRBY: I think what I would say is the same thing we’ve said – that it’s time for the DPRK to cease rhetoric and to cease actions that only serve to destabilize the peninsula and do nothing to improve the lives of the North Korean people.

Okay, one more.

QUESTION: Hillary Clinton emails. Do you --

MR KIRBY: So glad I asked for one more. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You had stated that you had received an initial batch of emails from the – or documents from the FBI that they had recovered in the course of their investigation. Are you expecting another set of documents?

QUESTION: Batch from the Russians? (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: Another set? I don’t have anything to speak to today. We have received a batch that we’re still going through. I can’t rule out that there won’t be additional documents given to us by the FBI, but I’m going to have – I just don’t have any – anything new to say on that. I mean, we have received some that we’re still going through.

QUESTION: So you don’t have a – any numbers that you could say as far as pages that have been provided or --

MR KIRBY: Again, we’re still going through the batch that was provided to us, and again, I just don’t have more detail right now.

QUESTION: Two quick ones, if I may?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you – and I don’t know if you were asked about this and I missed it, but there’s a report that an American citizen of Bangladeshi descent was killed in Bangladesh. Can you confirm that report?

MR KIRBY: I have seen reports that a U.S. citizen was killed in a police raid in Dhaka. We understand that there’s an ongoing law enforcement investigation on the matter, and so I’d refer you to local authorities for more detail on that.

QUESTION: Really? So you can’t even confirm that a U.S. citizen was killed?

MR KIRBY: I can only confirm that we’ve seen reports that a U.S. citizen was killed in a police raid in Dhaka.

QUESTION: Aren’t you trying to find out?

MR KIRBY: And out of respect for the privacy of those affected --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: -- we’re going to decline further comment.

QUESTION: And then one other one – or two other ones. China says it’s pressing ahead with its own missile defense system. Do you have any views on that? And at the same time, do you have any views on China’s statement that it plans to hold drills with Russia in the South China Sea?

MR KIRBY: We’re certainly aware of the statement from China’s ministry of national defense. We continue to carefully monitor China’s military modernization and to encourage China to exhibit transparency with respect to its capabilities and its intentions. We encourage China to use its military capabilities in a manner conducive to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.

Now, as to the exercises, we have seen their announcement of joint exercises. And again, as we’ve said many times, I mean, militaries – part of the obligation of national defense establishments are to exercise and to try to improve capabilities. And we do that. We do that bilaterally with many nations. China has been invited, as you know, to participate – or was invited to participate in the recent RIMPAC exercise. Some of our exercises are bilateral, some are multilateral, and they’re certainly – it’s certainly to be expected that China and Russia would also pursue multilateral or bilateral training opportunities. But just as we do for ourselves in our training exercise and operations, we would expect that those exercises comply with international obligations and international law.

QUESTION: You don’t think it raises tensions for them to do that in the South China Sea?

MR KIRBY: The physical act of exercising doesn’t – there’s no need for it to raise tensions. Exercises and operations are meant to hone capabilities. It doesn’t have to be that way. It really depends on the way it’s conducted. And as I said, our expectation is that these exercises and operations, like ours, would be conducted in accordance with international obligations and law.

Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:32 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 27, 2016

Wed, 07/27/2016 - 15:25

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 27, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

1:09 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY:  Hello, everybody. 

QUESTION:  Hey.

MR KIRBY:  A couple things here at the top.  As you know, the Secretary has just wrapped up a series of meetings in the Philippines.  The president of the Philippines hosted the Secretary for a working lunch at his residence in Manila.  The luncheon was an opportunity for the Secretary to congratulate President Duterte for his election victory, which he, the Secretary, said showed the strength and vibrancy of Filipino democracy.  The two also discussed the full range of bilateral and regional issues that underpin our relations, including the recent decision by the Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea; security and defense cooperation; law enforcement assistance; human rights; countering violent extremism; economic development; and climate change.  The Secretary pledged U.S. willingness to provide continued assistance to the Philippine Government as it works to address drug trafficking and violent extremism, and to deepen and strengthen our bilateral relations across the board. 

Also today, the Secretary met with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay to follow up on the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit discussions, including the situation, of course, in the South China Sea.  They reviewed bilateral cooperative efforts on law enforcement, regional security, violent extremism, and combating transnational crimes like human trafficking.  They also discussed the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will coordinate our efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region while also allowing the United States to provide rapid assistance to the Philippines in the event of emergencies and natural disasters. 

Finally, just today I want to welcome to the briefing a group of Haitian journalists that are participating in a week-long training on broadcast journalism and social media at the Voice of America Creole service.  So thanks very much for being here.  We appreciate having you.  Since 2008, VOA and the United – and the – and our embassy, I’m sorry, in Port-au-Prince collaborate annually to send Haitian print, radio, and broadcast journalists to the United States for training to support the important role that the media play in building democratic societies.  This program, as I understand it, includes a visit to the White House, Capitol Hill, and to the Newseum.  So it’s great to have you guys here; good to see you.

And with that, we’ll get right after it.  Arshad.

QUESTION:  I’d like to start with Russia.  As I’m sure you know, the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has called on Russia to try to find the personal emails of Secretary Clinton.  Is there – to your mind, is it appropriate for a candidate to call on another country to try to obtain a former Secretary’s emails, whether personal or official?

MR KIRBY:  I don’t know that it’s our place here at the State Department to make a judgment about the appropriateness of comments made by candidates for elected office.  I think we would let those candidates speak for themselves and their views.  So I think I would just leave it there.

QUESTION:  To my understanding, Secretary Clinton said publicly that she, quote, “did not keep,” close quote, those emails, and FBI Director Comey when he described the results of the FBI’s investigation and its recommendation not to bring charges said that they were deleted.  Is it – quote, “deleted.”  To your understanding, do those emails exist anywhere?  Did the State Department itself find any of those emails other than occasional ones that may have gone to officials here from the secretary?

MR KIRBY:  I don’t believe we have any information one way or the other to contradict or otherwise characterize the way former Secretary Clinton did with respect to those personal emails, or the FBI director.  Our focus, as you know, was on making available to the public the 55,000 pages of work-related emails that former Secretary Clinton turned over to us, and we did that over the course of many months, as you well know, and that was our focus.

QUESTION:  Staying on that, we had been told that the FBI has started – given the first batch of the documents, emails, and the State Department has not yet started processing.  Can you update us on that?

MR KIRBY:  I really don’t have much of an update.  I think we’ve already told you that we did get some material from the FBI and we are starting to work our way through that, but I don’t have an update.  And as I think we said at the time, I mean, we’re not going to offer a daily blow-by-blow on this.

QUESTION:  And it is – and about the internal process, I think we were updated around two weeks ago, so it’s not day to day, but is there any update on the State Department’s internal --

MR KIRBY:  The internal review?

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR KIRBY:  No, I don’t have an update for you.  It’s underway and I think my colleague, Elizabeth, walked you through sort of the parameters of that, and I don’t have anything to add.

QUESTION:  So you say that it is underway, so it has started?

MR KIRBY:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Okay.

MR KIRBY:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on the Russian --

QUESTION:  Also on the email – on the email, we were talking about Trump and Clinton’s email, right?  I missed that part.  I just got here, but --

MR KIRBY:  Yeah, you did.  Why don’t you just go back and check the transcript?  I had a good exchange with Arshad right off the bat.

QUESTION:  I just wanted to --

MR KIRBY:  I was pretty content with it.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I just wanted to preface this --

MR KIRBY:  I mean, it’s all right there.

QUESTION:  I wanted to preface this by saying I missed that.  I was just walking in, although I’m sure Arshad covered it in detail.

MR KIRBY:  Wait, so before you ask your question, you should ask Arshad what he asked, right?  And that way, it won’t be exactly the same.

QUESTION:  Or how you didn’t answer would be the better question.

QUESTION:  I’ll be doing a debriefing later.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  So --

MR KIRBY:  He’s got all the context.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Look, I mean, one of the questions, seriously, that people are asking about Trump’s call essentially for a foreign government or an invitation more or less for a foreign government to hack a presidential candidate, a secretary of state – one of the questions is:  Is this treasonous?  Is this a treasonous action to call on such activity?  I mean, what – how would you answer that?

MR KIRBY:  I’m not going to – as I think you know, Justin, I’m not going to respond to campaign rhetoric or to the comments that either candidate for president of the United States are making in their campaigns.  It’s just not appropriate from this podium.  This matter, this specific matter that we’re talking about, is under investigation by the FBI.  And we’re going to respect that process.  We’re not going to comment on what is an ongoing investigation.

QUESTION:  Would you comment more broadly on what it means for a U.S. citizen to call on a foreign government to spy on the U.S.?  I mean --

MR KIRBY:  I will let the candidates speak for themselves on the campaign trail and let them speak to and answer for their comments as they seek the presidency.  That’s for them to speak to.  What I can tell you is that this department is out of politics and staying out of the politics.  That’s where the Secretary’s head squarely is, and his focus is on pursuing the foreign policy objectives of this Administration.  And I just at the top read out his meetings with the president of the Philippines today.  And he’s on his way back and he had a very full and eventful trip out there, meeting with our ASEAN – with ASEAN members.  There’s an awful lot for us to focus on, and what we’re not going to focus on is rhetoric by either candidate for the presidency.

QUESTION:  And just to be clear, to go back to how this all ended with Clinton – I know you’re still doing your investigation – there is no --

MR KIRBY:  It’s not an investigation. 

QUESTION:  Oh, your --

MR KIRBY:  It’s an internal review.  It’s an administrative internal review, and as I said to Tejinder, we’re – while it is underway, we aren’t going to be providing frequent or routine updates on the progress of it.

QUESTION:  Okay, but you can already – you’ve already made the determination that she – Secretary Clinton’s email was never hacked by a foreign government, correct?

MR KIRBY:  I’m not going to talk about cybersecurity issues here from the podium, and again, I’m not going to characterize the work of the reviewers that are doing this process.  But the process itself is aimed at determining the degree to which information was classified at the time and then – and therefore transmitted, and examining issues of accountability for any transmission of sensitive or classified information.

QUESTION:  And if foreign governments did hack into her email, that would be considered spying, correct?

MR KIRBY:  I am not an expert on cyber espionage.  I mean – so look, I would point you back to what the FBI director --

QUESTION:  No, but that’s a basic question.  But the --

MR KIRBY:  But the FBI director addressed this issue.

QUESTION:  I’m just asking a basic question:  If they were hacking into her email, that would be spying, right?

MR KIRBY:  There are attacks on U.S. Government cyber accounts and networks every day.  There are – almost every federal agency is under that threat every single day.  It’s something we take very, very seriously.  And people try to gain access to it for a number of reasons, and not all of those reasons are espionage.  Are some of the motivations espionage?  Well, I certainly couldn’t rule that out.  But you’re asking me a hypothetical situation that I’m – it’s impossible for me to answer what the motivation is of a given hacker.

QUESTION:  It depends on the motivation.

MR KIRBY:  It depends on the motivation; it depends on the organization behind it and the purpose for it.  Could it be cyber espionage?  Absolutely it could be, but I’m just in no position to judge.

QUESTION:  Can I just – one small clarification?  Sorry for – Trump a few hours ago at a news conference down south (inaudible) said that he didn’t know if it is Russia, if it is China, or it – if it’s a hacker with a IQ of 200 who has done this.  And the – one of the major media outlet – the U.S. media – has said – quoted intelligence official that they believe that it’s Russia.  So will you be able to confirm or deny if you have anything on that?

MR KIRBY:  No.  As I said, this is a matter that the FBI is investigating, and I’m not going to get ahead of the work that investigators have to do.  And so I think that’s where we absolutely need to leave it.

QUESTION:  What is the level of concern with the new comments from the Russian defense minister about their southwestern front, saying there are activities with NATO that has compelled them to boost troop presence, air defenses?

MR KIRBY:  So we’ve seen those comments and seen the reports of those comments.  If true, we believe that this would appear to run contrary to ongoing efforts to stop violence and to de-escalate the tensions in eastern Ukraine in line with Russia’s commitments under Minsk.  We expect Russia to fulfill any relevant commitments under existing arms control and confidence-building agreements, such as the OSCE’s Vienna document.  Reports indicate that part of this buildup includes Russian troops in Crimea, and on that, our view is also consistent and well-known.  Crimea is and always will remain part of Ukraine.  We’re not going to allow, as we’ve said many times before, the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.

And on Crimea, let me reiterate that we condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation there.  Sanctions related to Crimea will remain in place as long as the occupation continues.

QUESTION:  Is there anything, though, that NATO has done that apparently brought forward these comments or these purported Russian moves?

MR KIRBY:  Well, the Russians can speak for themselves in terms of what their motivation here is.  But let me be clear, as we have in the past, that neither the United States nor NATO is a threat to Russia.  NATO is a defensive alliance which has safeguarded European security for more than 60 years now, and countries everywhere have a right to choose their own security arrangements.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  Syria?  Yesterday, State Department issued a statement saying U.S. and Russia urge the UN to prepare a proposal with respect to the political process in Syria, and the proposal should serve as the starting point for future negotiations.  Meanwhile, de Mistura said in order to go forward, he needs details from the Americans and Russians.  Is there a disconnect here on next steps between U.S., Russia, and the UN?

MR KIRBY:  No, I don’t think there’s any disconnect at all.  As our statement said, we had good discussions in Geneva, and we all did agree that moving the process forward here with respect to the cessation of hostilities, which is what the proposals are really all about – it’s what the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov talked about in Moscow; it’s what they talked about just recently on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.  Getting the cessation of hostilities in a more sustainable, more enforceable way across the nation is a foundation – a starting point, if you will – to making sure that the political talks can move forward.  So no, I don’t think there’s any disconnect at all.  Again, we greatly appreciate the leadership of Special Envoy de Mistura and his access to us and to the Russians and ours to him, and the ability to continue to move this forward.  I think he has spoken about trying to get the political talks restarted relatively soon.  We obviously support that, but we know that – again, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, the U.S. and Russia both realize that it’s really important to get the cessation of hostilities in a better place so that the conditions can be created for those talks to actually be successful.  And that’s really what the talks in Geneva were about, okay?

QUESTION:  Do you know what details he’s referring to that he’s waiting on from America and Russia?

MR KIRBY:  I don’t think it would be useful to get into a much more detailed discussion of it here from the podium.  Again, we are – all three of us are very well connected and communication is frequent and regular, and I can assure you that – at least from the United States perspective – that we’re committed to making sure that the special envoy has the information he needs, has the support he needs, more critically, to try to, again, create the conditions for political talks to resume.

QUESTION:  Based on the progress, are you confident that they might start in August?  There was some expectations set earlier – or hopes set earlier about August.

MR KIRBY:  Well, I’d let Special Envoy de Mistura speak to specific timing.  I think that’s really his purview to do that and I wouldn’t want to get ahead of his own decision-making process.  I know that he is committed to doing this as soon as possible.  We obviously want to see the talks resume as soon as practical as well, but I’d be loath to try to guess or speculate when on the calendar that could happen.

Samir.

QUESTION:  The Syrian opposition, in a letter to the Arab League summit this week, described Russia as a force of occupation in Syria.  What’s your reaction to this?

MR KIRBY:  I haven’t seen that particular comment, but look, we have been nothing but clear about Russia’s military presence and their activity in Syria for many, many months now.  They have a historic defense relationship with Syria that goes well – back well before the current conflict.  They’ve had basing there, they’ve had troops there, they’ve had a presence there, so it came as a shock to no one here at the State Department that, as the civil war progressed in Syria, that they would have interest in how things were going, which is why, quite frankly, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov connected so early on to sort of – to begin to form what has now become a quite expansive International Syria Support Group.

We were also very honest at the outset when we saw Russian military activity bolstering the Assad regime and expressing our concerns about that, and we still do.  But where the Secretary is – and I believe where Foreign Minister Lavrov is – is that they’re both committed to trying to achieve the outcomes of both Vienna communiques and the UN Security Council resolution, which calls for political transition in Syria.  And it’s the how-do-you-get-there that they’re working so hard on right now, and just as my previous answer, in order to have that outcome, you’ve got to create the right conditions.  In order to create the right conditions for people to have political discussions, you got to have the violence significantly reduced, because one of the reasons why the previous three rounds of talks have not succeeded is because the Assad regime has continued to drop bombs on innocent civilians and moderate opposition groups.

So, again, I haven’t seen those comments.  We’ve been, again, nothing but, I think, very clear and candid about our concerns in the past about Russian military activity and, as we’ve also said, that there can be a role here for Russian military forces against groups like Daesh and al-Nusrah in Syria.  And to the degree they’re willing to commit to that goal – the same goal that the international community has, this coalition of now 67 members – that’s a conversation that we’re willing to have.  And that’s the conversation, quite frankly, that Secretary Kerry’s been having with Foreign Minister Lavrov in just the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on that?  You’ll recall that back in May, the Secretary said that the target date for a transition in Syria was the 1st of August, and he said at the time, quote, “Either something happens in these next few months or they’re asking for a very different track,” close quote.

Question one:  Is it fair to say you’ve given up on any hope of a transition in Syria by August 1st?

MR KIRBY:  I think – I don’t think he said that he expected a transition on August 1st, Arshad.  I think what he said was --

QUESTION:  He said that was the target date.

MR KIRBY:  Target date.  He said it was a target date to develop a framework for a transition.  I don’t think it was – and I can go back and check the quote myself.  I don’t believe he said that he expects a full transition in Syria even on August 1st.  But point taken.  And I think the Secretary’s talked about this actually on this recent trip, and I think he said publicly that he still expects that we can see – perhaps see some movement here, positive movement, in the month of August.  We’ll have to see.  But we’re certainly not giving up on the goal, and as I said earlier, the goal for us is to see progress as soon as possible. 

And again, the Secretary believes that if some of the proposals that we discussed with the Russians in Moscow a couple of weeks ago, if they’re implemented fully and in good faith, he continues to believe that progress can be made, that we can start to lay down a framework for transition – political transition in Syria, and that there’s a possibility that we might be able to see some sort of progress next month.  It’s possible.  But I also want to stress that the Secretary has also been very clear-eyed about this, even as recently as last week when he talked about it – that he’s been careful not to be wide-eyed and optimistic about it, that he’s looking at this very pragmatically.  He’s extraordinarily mindful of the challenges that we faced in the past, the commitments that the Assad regime have made and then ignored, the influence that the Russian Government has not exerted as they had said in the past that they would be willing to exert, so he’s mindful of the challenges.  And I think we’re all going to be working on this very, very hard and obviously pushing to see some progress next month, but we’ll see.

QUESTION:  Are you working on a different track?  I mean, he said in that – on that date, he said so either something happens in these next few months or they’re asking for a different track.  On the other occasions, he’s told us, he’s warned us, against thinking that there’s no Plan B.  Are you working on alternatives if his hopes do not materialize next month?

MR KIRBY:  There have been over many months now interagency discussions here in the United States Government about options and alternatives to the current path, which is the pursuit of a political transition in Syria.  And as the President said himself not long ago, none of those options are great options.  None of those are preferred options.  That the diplomatic path that we’re pursuing, that he, the Secretary, is pursuing is absolutely still the preferred path.  And again, I would only point you back to what the Secretary said.  He believes that it is possible on that path to make some progress before the end of the summer, so we’ll see where it goes.

QUESTION:  What is the utility of warning people that you might adopt a different policy if you never adopt a different policy?

MR KIRBY:  Well, the question would presume that there isn’t going to be an adoption of a different approach --

QUESTION:  But there hasn’t been so far.

MR KIRBY:  -- and I just don’t think we’re at a position to say that right now.  We’re --

QUESTION:  There hasn’t been so far, and the war’s been going for five years.

MR KIRBY:  Well, it’s a very speculative question that I don’t think that it would – that it’s possible to answer, nor would it be useful to try to answer right now.  The path that we’re on, the Secretary and the President still believes, is the right approach.  It’s still the right path.  And as I said, the Secretary believes that progress can be made – perhaps some progress before the end of the summer.  So the belief here is that it’s still worth pursuing this diplomatic approach that we’ve been pursuing.

And then it would be a great parlor game to try to guess and game out but what if and when, and I just don’t think we’re at that point right now.  But there has been – and, frankly, there continues to be – sincere thinking and discussion in the interagency of alternative approaches.  But I can assure you that no decisions have been made to stray off of or to change from the diplomatic approach that we’re taking right now.

And the other thing I’d like to add, just if I could, is that it’s not just the – an approach that the United States is taking.  It’s an approach really by I think a very representative body of the international community – which, oh, by the way, includes Russia.  We have a UN Security Council resolution now that codified this ISSG process that the Secretary has led – he and Foreign Minister Lavrov – and now that’s – that has a gravitas all its own.  And it is representative – their efforts are representative of a truly international approach to trying to solve the civil war in Syria through a diplomatic track.  And so it’s not just about us.  It really is an approach that the entire international community has signed up to.

QUESTION:  Can I go to Iran?

MR KIRBY:  Yeah, go ahead.  You want to move to what?

QUESTION:  Iran.  Iran.

MR KIRBY:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Now that the Iranians are holding three Americans, I’m wondering what the Secretary’s contacts have been like with his Iranian counterpart.

MR KIRBY:  Look, Michele, I appreciate the question.  And while – again, we’ve seen reports of the detention of Iran of a person reported to be a U.S. citizen, and I can tell you we’re looking into that.  I just don’t have additional information to provide at this time.

What I can tell you, separate and distinct from that, is that the issue of American citizens detained in Iran is an issue that never fails to come up in his discussions with his counterpart in Iran, Foreign Minister Zarif.  It’s a constant topic of discussion.  But I’m just not able to go into any more detail.

QUESTION:  Are you trying, though, to – I mean, the other Americans in January were released after there was a separate channel – the McGurk channel – with the Iranians.  Are you trying to revive that channel?

MR KIRBY:  I just don’t have additional information for you right now.  I can tell you that we never lose sight of our concerns over American citizens detained in Iran.

QUESTION:  And there are lots of other – there’s Canadians, Brits, others who have been – seem to be swept up in this right now.  Are you working with other governments to come up with a united front to deal with this issue?

MR KIRBY:  Again, I really don’t have additional information to speak to.  We have, obviously, an obligation to look after the safety and security of American citizens abroad.  We take that very, very seriously, and we do not miss an opportunity to raise with Iran our concerns about American citizens that are unjustly detained there.  And I can appreciate that you’d like more detail on that, I really do, but I’m just not at liberty to provide it right now.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  Can you even say whether you are seeking consular access to the person most recently reported to the U.S. – to the dual citizen most recently reported as having been detained?  I realize they don’t typically provide that, but can you at least say whether you’re asking for it?

MR KIRBY:  Well, you know we – there’s a protecting power.  We don’t have a consul there.  I mean, I get the purpose of the question.  Again, I’m really not at liberty to provide more information right now.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  One Syria-related question before transitioning to Turkey.  Today, there was a suicide bombing in Qamishli, a Syrian Kurdish city, which killed about 50 and injured over 100.  Want to see – I think ISIS already claimed that, if you have any comment.

MR KIRBY:  Yes.  Thank you.  We certainly condemn in the strongest terms today’s reprehensible terrorist attack that killed scores of civilians in Qamishli, Syria and we extend, of course, our deepest condolences to all the families of those that were killed, and, of course, our thoughts and prayers for those who have been injured.  This attack, once again, displays the type of horrific atrocities that Daesh has perpetrated against tens of thousands of innocent people across Syria and Iraq and only affirms – reaffirms, I should say – international resolve to strengthen our efforts to degrade and defeat Daesh and to support those who are also working to degrade and defeat Daesh.  And that resolve remains unchanged, wherever they might be in the world.

Now, on the details of it, I just don’t have – I’ve, again, seen the same reports.  We have no reason to doubt the veracity of the claims of responsibility by Daesh, and I – as for further details on it, I’d have to point you to authorities there.

QUESTION:  On Turkey, over the weekend there was a arrest warrant issued for 42 journalists, and just today there is another warrant for detainment of 47 journalists.  And there are more lists are coming up, obviously.  It looks like there will be hundreds more.  There are about 15,000 people detained.  These are official numbers.  Over 60,000 people are sacked, suspended across Turkey.  I was wondering, first of all, your comment.  And second, you mentioned last week or Monday that Turkey should not take excessive actions after the coup.  Do you think these actions are – can be classified as excessive?

MR KIRBY:  Well, we also said that we’re not going to get into the business of characterizing every decision every moment that it’s made.  I think I would point you back to what the Secretary has said repeatedly, that we have been nothing but strong in expressing our grave concern about the failed coup.  We have been nothing but strong and candid in condemning that failed coup and –condemning the coup attempt, not the fact that it failed, obviously – and expressing our unequivocal support for the democratically elected civilian government of Turkey.  The President himself strongly condemned the failed coup attempt and expressed U.S. support for Turkish democratic institutions.  He thanked Turkish authorities for their continued support in ensuring the safety and well-being of our diplomatic missions and personnel, American servicemen and women who are there, and civilians – our civilians throughout Turkey.  And, of course, we have urged President Erdogan to show restraint, to act within the rule of law, to avoid actions that would lead to further violence and instability.  We obviously support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice and we also continue to stress the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law through the process.

QUESTION:  Okay.  So about these journalists – over hundred journalists.  From here, do you think this many journalists can be involved with the coup?  Do you think this can be realistically happened?

MR KIRBY:  Well, look, I – these kinds of actions – and we’ve talked about this in the past, our concerns over press freedoms.  I think we would see this as a continuation of what I’ve talked about as a troubling trend in Turkey, where official bodies – law enforcement and judicial – are being used to discourage legitimate political recourse – I’m sorry, discourse, legitimate political discourse.  I mean, we’ve been I think very consistent about that.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on that?  Do you believe that the current Turkish Government is systematically dismantling the institutions of society, including the judiciary and the press, that can serve on – as a check on the powers of the executive?

MR KIRBY:  I think I’m going to have to point you back to what I’ve said here just a few minutes ago.  The – we’re not going to characterize each and every move as they occur.  What we’ve been – I --

QUESTION:  I’m talking about the whole thing.

MR KIRBY:  What we’ve – what we’ve been very consistent on is condemning the coup attempt, the attempt by military force to overthrow a democratically elected government.  I think our position was crystal clear on that since that night.  And we’ve also, in conversations with Turkish authorities at various levels, urged restraint, a dedication to rule of law, and the democratic principles that have upheld the elected government in Turkey already. 

But again, I’m not – and we’re obviously watching and – developments there and we’re staying in touch with Turkish authorities.  Our ambassador has been in near constant communication with his counterparts in the Turkish Government.  And I just don’t know that we’re going to be able to characterize it any deeper than that.

Yeah.

QUESTION:  John, knowing your vast knowledge about the world affairs and all, most of the dictators in history have been democratically elected.  Do you feel you are still saying Turkey is still a democracy when all this purging is going on?

MR KIRBY:  Again, Tejinder, it is a democratically elected government, and it was a government that at least some elements of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow.  There’s obviously an investigation going on by Turkish authorities to figure out exactly what happened here, and how it could happen.  We, as I said at the outset, understand the need for them to be able to get their arms around this failed coup and to hold the perpetrators to account.  We’ve said that again from within the first hour or two of it happening.  We’ve also said, and continue to believe, that a measured, deliberate approach to that that is – that observes the rule of law and due process is important.  And we continue to make those concerns known.

Okay.

QUESTION:  I have another one, back to Russia.  It’s a little out of left field, but there was also a very public accusation today that President Putin has, in the past year, publicly used an offensive racial slur to refer to black Americans and perhaps the President.  It was unclear in the accusation.  Is that something that you have any knowledge of, that President Putin has ever used racial slurs publicly to refer to Americans?  Have you seen that?

MR KIRBY:  I have not seen that, no.

QUESTION:  You have not seen that?

MR KIRBY:  No. 

QUESTION:  Yeah.

MR KIRBY:  I got time for just a couple more and then I’m going to have to go.

QUESTION:  Today Turkish prime minister said to Wall Street Journal that evidence is crystal-clear that Fethullah Gulen, exiled cleric here, is behind the coup.  And he ask why the U.S. just can’t hand over this individual to us.  Do you have a comment on this particular --

MR KIRBY:  I haven’t seen those comments.  But as we’ve said, we have received some materials from the Turkish Government, and those materials are being reviewed.  I don't have an update for you on that process. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  I have two quick on Asia. 

MR KIRBY:  Okay.

QUESTION:  First, I was wondering if you had anything on American citizen James Wang.  He was sentenced today by a Chinese court to prison for selling magazines about the Chinese – Chinese politics.

MR KIRBY:  Yeah.  We can confirm that U.S. citizen James Wang was arrested in China on the 31st of May, 2014.  Since his arrest, we have asked our Chinese counterparts repeatedly for permission to visit him, including permission to attend his trial.  Those requests have all been denied.  We’re going to continue to request access to Mr. Wang so that we may provide the appropriate consular services.

QUESTION:  And then also I was wondering if you had a readout of Deputy Secretary Blinken’s meeting today with his South Korean counterparts.

MR KIRBY:  What I can tell you is that he is meeting with the – I got it here somewhere, hold on.  It’s not in ROK.  I’m looking.  Oh, here it is.  I’m sorry.  She was yelling at me.  I did have it in the right place.  Sorry.  He’s – the Deputy Secretary is hosting First Deputy Director of the Republic of Korea National Security Office Cho Tae-yong in Washington today for the third round of U.S.-ROK strategic consultations on North Korea policy.  Those meetings are ongoing, as I understand it.  They’re discussing issues of mutual concern, including ways to enhance international resolve in holding North Korea accountable for its actions and its destabilizing violations of UN Security Council resolution – sorry, resolutions.  This meeting reflects our continued engagement with our partners in the region and underscores our commitment to address the pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities by the DPRK.

I got time for just one more.

QUESTION:   One more on the internal review that the department is conducting into the excising of the portion of the briefing video.  Have you made any progress on establishing how that came to happen and who made the request for it?

MR KIRBY:  On the – I’m sorry, on --

QUESTION:  This is on the briefing video.  You remember the – yeah.

MR KIRBY:  Oh, the video.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  That’s okay.

MR KIRBY:  No, for some reason I misunderstood the question.  I can tell you that our Office of the Legal Adviser is continuing that work.  It’s not complete.  I don't have an update for you.  But they are still working at it.  And when we are in a position to speak about their findings and their recommendations going forward, we’ll do that.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR KIRBY:  Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:51 p.m.)

 


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 26, 2016

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 17:41

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 26, 2016

Share Index for Today's Briefing

TRANSCRIPT:

2:12 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you very much. We’ll move on to the regular daily press brief.

Today, Secretary Kerry met in Laos with his counterparts from the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum and the 18-member East Asia Summit. The foreign ministers discussed shared priorities and key challenges facing the Asia Pacific region, including North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as the situation in South Sudan – or in the South China Sea, apologies. In addition, the ministers discussed a range of important transnational challenges, including terrorism and violent extremism, climate change, and trafficking in persons. The foreign ministers also discussed specific actions to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing as well as ongoing concerns regarding the degradation of the marine environment.

At meetings today, several ministers including Secretary Kerry highlighted the significance of the recent decision of the tribunal in the Philippines versus China case, which is binding on both parties. Secretary Kerry also emphasized to his counterparts the importance of the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. As the meeting concluded, Secretary Kerry and his party continues on to Manila for meetings with President Duterte and other senior Philippine officials.

Next, on Somalia. We condemn the terrorist attack this morning in Mogadishu, which took place near the international airport. Civilian, UN, AMISOM casualties have been reported, yet we have no final confirmation on numbers yet. We extend our thoughts to the families and friends of the Somali people and United Nations and AMISOM personnel who were killed and injured in this barbarous attack. We remain committed to helping Somalia progress towards a path towards peace and prosperity and the defeat of terrorist groups, including al-Shabaab.

Finally, we would also like to extend our condolences regarding the horrific terrorist attack today at a Catholic church in Normandy, France. We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the murdered priest, Father Jacques Hamel, and our thoughts and prayers with the other victims of the attack as well as the parishioners and community members at the church. The United States and France have a shared commitment to protecting religious liberty for all faiths. Today’s attack will not shake that commitment. We stand with the French as they move forward in their investigation.

And with that, we’ll go to Abigail.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about reports of a shooting at a shopping mall in Sweden?

MS TRUDEAU: I do not, actually. Is that happening now?

QUESTION: There was a warning put out on the embassy website, an emergency message.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So that would make sense that a security message has gone out. As you know, when we do security messages for U.S. citizens overseas, it’s often breaking news like that and it instantly goes to U.S. citizens who have registered. So I take the opportunity again for those who travel and work abroad, please do register with the STEP program at travel.state.gov. In terms of this latest incident, I don’t have details.

Ros.

QUESTION: Yeah, can we talk about what’s happening in South Sudan today?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Riek Machar has been basically kicked out of the government, and someone who had been the mining minister has been replaced. Is this helpful towards trying to establish unity within the government and across South Sudan writ large?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’ll back up and provide a little context for this because these events are taking place rather quickly. So Taban Dang Gai, the former minister of mining, as you noted, in the transitional government was sworn in as the first vice president on July 26th. On July 25th, yesterday, President Kiir did issue a republican decree replacing former Vice President Machar with Taban Dang Gai. Machar has stated that he rejects Taban’s selection as his successor and has requested that he be removed from his position in the SPLM-IO, In Opposition, as well as the transitional government.

However, we would note that the peace agreement contains procedures and requirements that govern changes in leadership in the transitional government. Specifically, the agreement provides that, and I quote, “The top leadership body of the armed opposition has the power to nominate a new first vice president if the position is vacant.” A number of senior SPLM-IO, In Opposition, members in Juba met on July 23rd and agreed that Taban would take the position of first vice president. However, they also recommitted to implementation of the peace agreement and rebuilding IO unity. Other IO leaders have contested whether the group can act as the top leadership body. They’ve also contested whether the government can relieve Machar of this position under the agreement.

So what I would say on this is there were provisions within the peace agreement on this. The government writ large, both SPLM-In Government as well as In Opposition, remains in dialogue. We see that the president has issued a decree on this. The United States writ large stands with the people of South Sudan. We will work with the Government of South Sudan. In terms of this and whether it’s allowed under the peace agreement is going to be a question for the leadership of South Sudan.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe that the government is operating in good faith with the replacement of Machar with Mr. Taban?

MS TRUDEAU: We believe it’s up to the leaders of South Sudan to decide on their political leadership. We do expect, however, the transitional government and all parties to take every step possible to avoid the fighting and to reach a peaceful resolution of these differences.

QUESTION: Is there any input or guidance that U.S. officials are providing to all sides in South Sudan right now?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t say guidance. I would say that we remain in discussion with all parties. Our fundamental concern is peace and stability in South Sudan. What we’ve seen is this recent spate of violence has increased the suffering of the people of South Sudan, I’m told 40 percent of whom face hunger. This latest spate of violence, this political situation now, does not add to the stability which the people of South Sudan so clearly need.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. My first question is last week U.S. Government stated that it received documents from Turkey regarding extradition process for Fethullah Gulen, and you were going to take a look whether this can be qualified as an extradition request. Are you – have you made that decision yet?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no update on that. As we mentioned last week and I believe we touched on this week too, we have received documents. We continue to review them. So I have no update on that.

QUESTION: The Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu today stated that they have – even though they already submitted necessary documents to U.S. Government, they have not responded that yet. Do you have any particular response to that comment?

MS TRUDEAU: I wouldn’t. I’d let the foreign minister’s comments stand. But I would say that as we’ve said, the extradition process is a formal process, it’s a legal process, it’s a technical process, it’s governed by the extradition treaty that both our governments signed. So we’re going to let that process play out.

QUESTION: Okay, and another question. After the coup – I haven’t been able to ask this question. Yesterday, there is a new arrest warrant for 42 journalists, and there are more. These 42 journalists only just yesterday numbers. And for example, there are 19 journalists, arrest warrants for 19 journalists in Antalya, south city, and there are other cities similar warrants. Are you concerned that after the coup attempt government is moving to basically go after the critical voices and news journalists along with the coup plotters or allegedly coup plotters?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I’d say what we’ve said repeatedly: In a democratic society, critical voices need to be encouraged; they don’t need to be silenced. We have said many times, not just in relation to Turkey but countries around the world, that democracies become stronger when they let voices from diverse points of view speak.

I’d note, and the President has spoken to this himself, we’ve conveyed both publicly and in private conversations with our Turkish friends and allies the importance of protecting freedom of the press. We are committed to defend freedom of the press, media freedom, due process, freedom of assembly everywhere in the world.

QUESTION: So in terms of in this context, are you concerned with this ongoing campaign of arrests for Turkish journalists?

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say is that we have actually spoken to this. The President spoke to this and we’ll let his comments stand.

QUESTION: The Travel Warning notes that the voluntary departure of relatives of those working for U.S. embassy and consulate personnel has been authorized.

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What has changed in the last several days, since it does seem that, for better or worse, President Erdogan has a firm grip on power? Why is it not safe for the relatives to stay?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so it’s important to differentiate on this. This is an authorized departure, so this is an authorized departure. I think many of you saw the Travel Warning that went out. It’s an authorized departure for our embassy in Ankara as well as our consulate in Istanbul for the family members of U.S. personnel stationed there. This is a precautionary measure. It does follow the July 15th attempted coup. We continue to monitor the security developments there, and as we have information, of course, as we are obligated to do, we will share that with the American public. But again, this is an abundance of caution, and again, this is optional. So this is authorized; this is not ordered.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: On the attack on the Catholic church in France and the --

MS TRUDEAU: Horrific.

QUESTION: -- murder of the elderly priest. Last year, the German news weekly Der Spiegel published an analysis of Daesh which was a leak from German intelligence, and it said that Daesh was created in Syria as the regime there began to lose its grip and that Daesh was established by former Iraqi intelligence officers in Syria, and then they took it back into Iraq. And the Kurdish leadership in and out of government has said pretty much the same, like President Barzani’s media advisor in 2014, quote, “Most of the people in the region believe that the organization known as ISIL is actually founded and ruled by the Baath.” Is that an analysis that you would agree with, or you have a different view?

MS TRUDEAU: So you’re asking me to comment on a leaked German report.

QUESTION: Well, I’m – okay, let me say – how do you – how do you understand the structure of this organization which has murdered this priest --

MS TRUDEAU: So – sure.

QUESTION: -- ISIS or Daesh or – how do you understand its structure? Who’s ruling it?

MS TRUDEAU: I would say that there’s been books written about the – what Daesh is, the structure of Daesh, how they continue to adapt and change. Certainly, from this building, while the history of Daesh and where they came from – the rise of Daesh and, in fact, violent extremism writ large in ungoverned spaces – is something that we talk about a lot. I think where this building is and where our counterparts are in the interagency is how do we fight them as they continue to adapt, and where is the commitment in the international community to combat Daesh.

And so you saw this last week, and we spoke about it earlier this week. You see – I think we’re now at 67 countries and international organizations have joined around the world to combat Daesh. I’m not going to speak about where they started or what their foundation was, but really what we’re very focused on is how they’re adapting and how we can adapt to mitigate that risk.

QUESTION: Don’t you think it’s – Sun Tzu, know the enemy, to understand Daesh – that to fight Daesh most effectively, one should understand what it is?

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, absolutely, and I agree with you on that, and also taking a look at how they continue to adapt and change. We’ve spoken many times from this podium too that as the amount of territory that they control in Iraq and Syria shrinks, that we do see these attacks that are – don’t require coordination, they don’t require a lot of resources. And also, frankly, we have discussions about what it means for attacks to be inspired by Daesh or maybe directed by Daesh. This is a very fluid, I would say, security situation and a fluid group. So we are very much committed to finding out about them. We have whole departments within the interagency focused on this.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m sorry. So we’re going to stay in Syria and then I’ll go to you, Samir. Of course.

QUESTION: Regarding the Secretary’s recent talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov about how to proceed militarily inside Syria, has there been a formal agreement reached between the two governments as part of going after Daesh and other terrorist groups inside the country? When might we expect a formal explanation of what this would require from all parties?

MS TRUDEAU: So I think you saw the Secretary had a press conference, actually, in Laos where he spoke to this a little. We’re not going to speak to what we’re going to do over the next couple weeks until it’s done, if it’s done. We’ve been doing our homework; we’ve been doing a lot of it. We’ve been talking to our partners in the international community. We do hope that somewhere within the first week or two of August we’ll be in a position to tell you what we’re able to do, frankly in the hopes that it’ll make a difference in the lives of the people of Syria. So no, I’m not in a position now to unpack that. I’d stay where the Secretary stayed today in Laos.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that, whatever the U.S. is expecting Russia to do, Russia will do it?

MS TRUDEAU: So the Secretary also spoke to this. This is not an agreement, as we’ve said, that’s based on trust. Certainly this building, I think, is very pragmatic on this. We have seen, as we’ve said, that Russia does have an influence in that country, in that arena, with this regime. We continue to have conversations about how to make that influence mean something to the people of Syria.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Samir.

QUESTION: There’s a press report that Jabhat al-Nusrah is expected to announce soon it’s disconnecting its relations with al-Qaida. Is this going to change – is this going to influence the cooperation with Russia or --

MS TRUDEAU: I’ve seen that report. I just don’t have a comment on it. We believe Nusrah’s fundamental nature is that it’s al-Qaida in Syria.

Okay.

QUESTION: Even if they announce that --

MS TRUDEAU: This is – this would be something, one, I’m not going to speculate out, and two, we believe its fundamental nature is well known.

Abbie.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS TRUDEAU: Oh, I’m sorry. Are we staying on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Sort of. We’re going to Syria, and then I’ll come back to you, Abbie.

QUESTION: Just one question on Syria. In northern Syria, in Rojava region, Syrian Kurdish region, some time ago there’s reports that the U.S. is building a Rmeilan air base. Do you have any update on that air base?

MS TRUDEAU: Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be for the State Department to speak to it. But I’ve seen no reports of information on that.

Abigail.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning denied any association with a hack into the Democratic National Convention emails. Secretary Kerry briefly addressed this, but is there belief from within this building that they accept their denials?

MS TRUDEAU: So Secretary Kerry did address it. The belief within this building is that the FBI is doing an investigation. It’s a live investigation. We’re going to let that play out.

QUESTION: Can I switch to Estonia?

MS TRUDEAU: You, of course, can switch to Estonia.

QUESTION: There was a message put out that there was a warning of a possible bomb threat at the international airport there, the credibility of which was unknown. Has there been any further information found out? Was it a credible threat?

MS TRUDEAU: I don't have further information for that. I’d direct you to the Estonians to speak to.

Goyal.

QUESTION: South Asia?

MS TRUDEAU: Of course. You were just at the White House. How’d you get over here so fast?

QUESTION: Oh, I didn’t know you were watching me there.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course. (Laughter.) How are you?

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam, I just have two questions on South Asia, one on Pakistan and one on India.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: As far as Pakistan is concerned, there’s a particular one community in Pakistan, they’re called Muhajirs, and it’s an ethnic community and which has been under attack by the Pakistani military and by the terrorists there and extremists and all that. Several times they had demonstrated here at the State Department, outside, and – but this week on Saturday, they were at the White House, several hundred of them, and they were asking justice from the President and from the Secretary, that their community is under attack because of their human rights belief and all that, and they don’t consider them to be Pakistanis or Muslims even, some of those in the military and their intelligence, ISI, among other things. And they’re – even they came from 35 countries and also all over the U.S. to voice their genocide against their community.

My question is here, at the same time, there was a handful of demonstrators also counting them –or countering them, and they were praising the Pakistani military and the military who is taking action against these minorities and ethnic groups, and these group, small group was supporting them, the military of Pakistan. So where does this community stand? And because many times the Secretary meets many Pakistani officials and also we had many officials here. So what is their future? What message do you think Secretary has for these and other minorities under attack in Pakistan?

MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say – not speaking to the protest, of which, frankly, I wasn’t tracking, but speaking broadly to the issue of human rights and the issue of minority rights, not only in Pakistan but around the world – is that the United States continues to work hard and in our engagements both bilaterally with countries as well as broad reports, like our Human Rights Report, to detail and express concern and to engage with governments to support the rights of marginalized, disadvantaged minority groups around the world. It’s of enormous importance to the U.S. And again, not saying America’s perfect, but saying that this is something, I think, that we as an international community can all learn from each other on.

And you had a question on India?

QUESTION: Yes. As far as terrorism is concerned and U.S. India has now agreement and treaty and also meeting and greetings as far as fighting against terrorism inside India or ISIL and others. Now India has been fighting against terrorism, in which many of – are tracking India from outside, across the border and also. So where do we stand today – U.S., India, terrorism-fighting treaties? Or where are we there, as far as fighting against terrorism, which India has been shouting – shout – and also asking the U.S. help – to help India bring those wanted by India from other countries?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, not speaking specifically to any particular case, I would say as two large democracies, the United States and India have a joint commitment to fighting against violent extremism – the kind that impacts the people of India or the kind that impacts anywhere around the world. India, unfortunately, has suffered at the hands of terrorists. They understand this issue and our cooperation – law enforcement, counterterrorism, countering violent extremism – is extremely strong and robust. Okay.

QUESTION: May I have one more quickly on China?

MS TRUDEAU: One more quick and then I’ll move over here.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So according to the Reuters, the North Korean foreign minister who was visiting the Laos said to the reporters that any additional nuclear test depends on the position of the United States. Are you aware of this statement, and are you – is there any reaction on this?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’ve seen the foreign minister’s comments. Our position, I think, would be what it has been continually from this podium and from the U.S., is we call on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region. We think that they should focus on taking concrete steps to fulfilling its commitments and international obligations.

Ros?

QUESTION: Yeah. The Israeli-U.S. defense relationship.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you – can you confirm Israeli reports that Jacob Nagel, the acting national security advisor, is coming to the U.S. over this coming weekend to meet with, among others, the National Security Advisor Susan Rice to talk about finalizing a new 10-year military deal?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t. For issues on Ambassador Rice’s meeting, I’d refer you to the White House on that.

QUESTION: Do – are you aware of any meetings that may be held with pol-mil folks in this building?

MS TRUDEAU: I am not. I am not. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

DPB # 131


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 25, 2016

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 15:03

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 25, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:11 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Just a recap, if I could, of the Secretary’s meetings and discussions today. He met today, as I think you know, with the foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN members in Laos to discuss shared priorities in the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership, including strengthening democracy, good governance, and economic integration in Southeast Asia, as well as upholding a rules-based regional order. The foreign ministers discussed U.S.-ASEAN Connect, which is an initiative to deepen U.S. economic cooperation through targeting strategic sectors, including innovation, energy, and business engagement. They discussed specific actions to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and they pledged to strengthen cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism.

The foreign ministers also discussed the South China Sea. Several ministers, including Secretary Kerry, noted the importance of fully respecting diplomatic and legal processes to resolve disputes peacefully, and they called upon both parties in the Philippines-China arbitration to abide by the decision of that tribunal and to uphold international law. We expect these issues to feature at the meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit foreign ministers’ meeting, which Secretary Kerry will attend tomorrow.

The Secretary and his ASEAN counterparts agreed on the importance of full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2270 to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and he also met today with counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam at the ninth ministerial meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative. Participants welcomed the progress that this initiative has made in promoting sustainable development in the Mekong region, and they launched the Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership. This partnership will provide training for government officials from Mekong Initiative countries aimed at building regional capacity and infrastructure plan.

That’s it for the top today. Who’s got a question? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. This is on Iraq, and Iraq’s defense minister has been saying that the Kurdish Peshmerga will not be fighting in the liberation of Mosul – that they only have a logistical role to play. Can you clarify what the U.S. view on this is?

MR KIRBY: Our view has been since the very beginning that we are there to support an Iraqi campaign plan and an Iraqi strategy to defeat Daesh in the country. And we continue to provide support to that campaign and to that strategy through train, advise, and assist missions and, of course, obviously through coalition air power and other assets. But this is an Iraqi plan, and I’m not going to speak here for an Iraqi operational strategy. What we are focused on is supporting the Government of Iraq as it continues to take back territory from Daesh. And we’re supporting their efforts, trying to improve the battlefield competency and capability of Iraqi Security Forces.

QUESTION: So you would accept the – if it’s an Iraqi definition, you would accept the definition of the role of the Peshmerga in the liberation of Mosul as only having a logistical role if that’s what the Iraqis are saying?

MR KIRBY: What I’m saying is these are decisions – how the strategy to retake Mosul – those are decisions that Iraqi leaders have to make. Our job is to support the Government of Iraq. Obviously, we want to see Mosul retaken; everybody is committed to that goal, but this is an Iraqi plan, an Iraqi strategy, and we’re going to support them as they execute that.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question.

MR KIRBY: I was certain that you did.

QUESTION: It has to do with the statement of the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KRG, that he issued today. And I – well, what he – we know, okay, that the KRG, the Kurds, are among America’s most loyal allies in the Middle East. And if you think about the vast area between Jordan and India, the KRG is quite arguably America’s most faithful and trustworthy ally. But today the president of the KRG, Masoud Barzani, issued a very strong statement noting the bravery and sacrifices of Peshmerga in fighting ISIS, as well as that of the Kurdish people generally, who host two-thirds of the refugees and displaced persons in Iraq. And he complained that nonetheless, Iraq created obstacles for a Kurdish representative to be present in the last anti-ISIS summit in Washington. Quote, “Unfortunately, the host of that summit went along with the Iraqi foreign minister. This is merely one example of many where the people of the Kurdistan region and their aspirations are deliberately neglected in accordance with the personal mood of certain individuals.” How would you respond to that?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen those comments, and so I’m not going to put myself in the position of responding to remarks that I haven’t seen or were not aware of. Let me just go back and talk a little bit about last week’s ministerial, which was very important – the counter-ISIL ministerial. I mean, both days – the pledging conference and – was obviously critical too, but they were two separate events. But let’s talk about the counter-ISIL ministerial for a minute. I mean, now you have 67 members, with the inclusion now of Interpol, in the truly international coalition to defeat Daesh, and there were substantive, constructive, positive discussions that were had last week on how to improve coalition efforts across all the lines of effort against Daesh. And there was, of course, an Iraqi delegation led by that country’s foreign minister, which included a member of the KRG. So – and again, we left – as we do with any country in this coalition, we left decisions of delegation participation up to that government, and the Iraqi Government chose to include a member of the KRG.

Now, let me just say a point about what you said in terms of efforts by the KRG and the Peshmerga in the fight – and they have been very effective, they have been very brave, they have been competent, and we have on many occasions said how much we appreciate that competence and that bravery, that skill on the battlefield, which is why we continue to support the Iraqi Government in Baghdad as that government tries to deal with this threat. And we have from the very beginning encouraged dialogue, cooperation, coordination between north and south, between the KRG and the Iraqi Government in Baghdad, which we will continue to do. And I don’t know how – any more tangible way to get to this than you just look at the travels of the Presidential Special Envoy Brett McGurk, who goes to the region very, very frequently and he constantly spends time in Irbil talking to leaders up there about how – what kind of progress they’re making and how things are going to go moving forward.

QUESTION: Well, I guess a statement like the – there’s an expectation on the part of the U.S. that the Peshmerga are going to play a critical role fighting in the liberation of Mosul would address those kinds of concerns.

MR KIRBY: They have played a critical role in the fighting, and as for the campaign against Mosul, I think you can understand – at least I hope you can understand – why the U.S. Department of State wouldn’t be commenting about the specifics of a military strategy; and number two, even if I were going to do that, why we wouldn’t transmit publicly exactly how a strategy against a still determined, lethal enemy is going to be prosecuted. Everybody understands the importance of Mosul, the Iraqi Government obviously first among them who understands the importance of retaking Mosul. They have a strategy; they have a campaign plan. That campaign plan, by the way, has already been in motion, and DOD can speak to this with much greater specificity than I can, but there have been shaping operations going on for many months now around Mosul. We’re going to continue to support that strategy and that plan, but it is an Iraqi plan, and we have all along said that we support Prime Minster Abadi’s efforts – politically and militarily – to be as inclusive as possible as he continues to prosecute the efforts against Daesh inside his country.

QUESTION: Okay, but my last comment would be that it was not so long ago that the United States actually worked to remove the Iraqi foreign minister, who was then prime minister, from his position, and the United States was not quite so deferential to the Iraqi Government.

MR KIRBY: Well, I think I’ve spoken to this issue quite extensively today.

Ma’am.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. On the possibility that Russia was behind the DNC hack, could you tell us if the Secretary has spoken or any other State Department official have spoken to their Russian counterparts, either to ask about this, protest, whatever, or if there’s been any other sort of communication with the Russians – letters, missives, whatever?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, I think it goes without saying that issues of cyber security remain a topic of discussion between us and our Russian interlocutors on a continuous basis. I don’t have any specific conversations to speak to, and nor would I as this matter is under investigation by the FBI.

QUESTION: Could you say whether this – the interference in an electoral campaign by a foreign power – rises to the level of an attack on – through cyber attacks – rises to the level of attack on vital installations or even cyber warfare?

MR KIRBY: I think we need to let the FBI do their work before we try to form any conclusions here about what happened and what the motivation was behind it. The FBI has spoken to this. We’re going to respect that process.

Ma’am.

QUESTION: On Asia, there are a few meetings at the State Department today that I wondered if you had readouts on: Under Secretary Tom Shannon’s meeting with the South Korean vice defense minister as well as Under Secretary Gottemoeller’s meeting with the Japan ambassador to NATO.

MR KIRBY: Let me get back to you on that, all right?

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: We’ll see if we can’t get you some basic readout information after those meetings are complete. I don’t have anything for you right now here at the podium.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Okay. I think this is a new record. Thanks, everybody. Have a great day.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:22 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 22, 2016

Fri, 07/22/2016 - 15:21

Elizabeth Trudeau
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 22, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS TRUDEAU: Happy Friday, everyone. The legendary Richard Boucher, a spokesperson here at the department, once had a four-minute press brief. I don’t think I’ll make that today, but we’re going to be pretty brief. I do have a few things at the top.

First, today, Poland’s parliament approved new legislation regarding the constitutional tribunal. While the new law has addressed some Venice Commission recommendations regarding legislation passed last year that was later ruled unconstitutional, it impedes a compromise resolution to the seating of six judicial nominees.

At the NATO Summit, President Obama expressed concern over rule of law to President Duda and urged all parties to work together to sustain Poland’s democratic institutions. The United States encourages Poland’s authorities to promptly redress unresolved issues so Poland’s democratic institutions and the system of checks and balances are fully functioning and respected.

Secondly, I’d just like to flag this morning we did release a fact sheet on the Olympics/Paralympics that’s happening in Brazil. Especially for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for these games, we’d make sure you please register at travel.state.gov and take a look at that information. There’s excellent resources.

Finally, one point on Albania. The United States congratulates the people of Albania on the passage of justice reform. This is a historic step forward for Albanian democracy. The unanimous approval of the reform is a strong statement of national unity. Albania’s leaders have placed the country on the right side of justice and history and moved it further down the Euro-Atlantic path. This success belongs to Albania’s people and civil society who never gave up their demands for change. The United States is committed to helping Albania implement this reform and ensure its success.

And we’ll go to Abbie.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any information about reports of a shooting at a mall in Munich?

MS TRUDEAU: I do, and thanks for the question. We’ve seen these initial reports. I think we all know this story is just breaking now. So, again, we’ve seen initial reports about a shooting at a shopping center in Munich, Germany. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We’re following the situation closely here at the Department and we’re working with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens have been impacted. For details on this as the situation continues to unfold, we’re going to refer you to German authorities. Thanks.

QUESTION: Do you – so you have no further information about anyone injured at --

MS TRUDEAU: At this time I’m going to refer you to German authorities. I think we’re all aware that this situation continues to unfold. It would be premature for me to say anything else.

Great. Oren.

QUESTION: Yeah. Turkey’s ambassador said that Turkey will work with this joint State Department-Department of Justice team on the extradition request. What’s the next steps in this – the extradition request for Mr. Gulen?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So we spoke about this quite a lot yesterday and we’ve spoken about it, I think, in fact, all week. We’ve been clear the United States would be willing to provide assistance to Turkish authorities conducting their investigation in this coup attempt. U.S. Government officials in the United States and in Turkey, including representatives from the Department of Justice, have offered to consult with the Government of Turkey on this matter, including hosting their Turkish counterparts either here in Washington or traveling to Ankara for consultations. Beyond that, I just have nothing to add.

QUESTION: In terms of the assistance that the U.S. Government will provide, what exact type – what exactly is that assistance going to be? I think they said that it’s not going to be – help with the investigation. What exactly are they going to provide?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, I just don’t have anything more to add on the granularity on that. We remain in close touch with our Turkish allies, our friends, our partners on this. The extradition process, as we’ve talked about extensively from here, is a legal process. It’s governed by our extradition treaty, so it’s a very formal, very technical process on that. But in terms of the cooperation, the offer is there.

Great. Laurie.

QUESTION: It seems the State Department did a great job hosting all those international conferences on Iraq.

MS TRUDEAU: Thank you. We appreciate it. It was a good team.

QUESTION: No, terrific, and I was very pleased to see the Kurdish – KRG representative was there as well.

MS TRUDEAU: She was.

QUESTION: And that was terrific. And you even raised more money – somewhat more money.

MS TRUDEAU: Over $2.1 billion for Iraq.

QUESTION: And you said, if I recall correctly, 2 billion was the goal. So you raised more than your goal?

MS TRUDEAU: That’s correct.

QUESTION: So I have a question for the next phase.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Because the Iraqi Government’s a – well, it ranks 161 out of 168 countries for corruption in Transparency International’s index, and it’s not known particularly for its honest government. What mechanisms are in place to make sure that this money is spent correctly, and since the Kurdistan region hosts two-thirds of the displaced persons and the refugees from the war with Daesh, to ensure that the Kurdistan region gets its fair share of the – this humanitarian aid?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, I’d start off by saying that the United States is grateful for each of the countries and organizations who were represented at the conference. As you know, this was a tremendous success, so thanks for recognizing that. These countries and organizations who participated are demonstrating important leadership, and they’re making it possible for Iraqi citizens displaced by Daesh to return – to choose to return – to their homes, to receive the services they need in order to rebuild their community.

Speaking specifically about the money, because I do want to discuss that a little, pledges from these international donors will go to four critical need areas in Iraq: humanitarian assistance, de-mining, the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization, and the Funding Facility for Expanded Stabilization. The latter, it’s my understanding, functions as a bridging effort between the Iraqi Government and the coalition in areas liberated by Daesh.

In terms of the Iraqi Government’s work on this, our partnership with the Iraqi Government is deep and it’s strong. This is something that we’ve spoken frequently about in our support of the government as they seek to reform their own efforts in doing this, so it’s something that we’re very closely invested in.

In your question on what money is going where, the conference just wrapped up, so I’m not going to get ahead of that. What we will say, which we have always said, is that funding and the support will go through Baghdad, but we are very aware of the impact that certain areas of the country have experienced at the hands of Daesh.

QUESTION: And doubtless you have in mind measures to make sure that Baghdad spends the money appropriately and it doesn’t go into people’s pockets?

MS TRUDEAU: So that’s one of the conversations that we continue to have with U.S. aid regardless of where it goes in the world.

Great. Tejinder.

QUESTION: Yeah. So on – you used the word “pledges.” At most of these conferences there are pledges. I remember Haiti, for example. And how much money and when is it going to come and where is it going to come? Who is going to be the collector?

MS TRUDEAU: Mm-hmm. So we’re still tallying the amount, so the comprehensive list of pledges from yesterday’s conference is still evolving. It’s my understanding there’s a number of countries who are still making announcements, so I’m not going to give you a total there. We anticipate, actually, more funds will come in. However, as of right now, 26 donors pledged contributions totaling more than 590 million for urgent humanitarian assistance. Those funds will support the needs as identified in the UN’s 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan. Fourteen nations announced new funding – which gets to your question – for critical stabilization programming in Iraq, pledging more than 350 million. An even larger number of countries were able to make a combined pledge of an additional 125 million for UNDP’s funding facility, which we spoke about.

What each country does in terms of its budget or its funding mechanisms – we let each country speak to itself. But Secretary Kerry spoke about the U.S. funding yesterday and said it would be immediate.

QUESTION: I’m trying to understand that the U.S. hosted the conference.

MS TRUDEAU: We did. We were the --

QUESTION: The pledges were made. Now, who is going to – is it going to make sure that the pledges are converted into checks or a transfer of money?

MS TRUDEAU: So this is – this would be the coalition, the group --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: -- of individuals who actually participated in the conference. As you know, we had an extremely robust group of co-hosts who also have assumed a leadership position in that as well.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You just talk about the team that will work on the extradition --

MS TRUDEAU: We are skipping all over the place today. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, I should have told you.

MS TRUDEAU: No, it’s fine. I should have gone to --

QUESTION: Going back to Turkey, we know that the U.S. also offered your help for the investigation of the coup attempt. Have you been – received any kind of response?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no update on that. I know we spoke about it yesterday, but I don’t have any new information on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, John Kirby stated that U.S. is concerned about what’s going on since the coup – failed coup attempt last week about the administration – Turkish administration actions. Today, they are – new websites are closed down and a few more journalists detained. I was wondering if you have been able to communicated your concerns with the Turkish Government. And do you have any update on this?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I would point you to is what President Obama himself said today, which starts from the premise that Turkey is our friend, our ally, it’s our partner in one of the toughest fights that the world is facing now. We’ve discussed this many times. I don’t have anything to add to what the President said. I think his comments trump everything.

Great. Tejinder.

QUESTION: Going back to President Obama, he has commented on last night’s speech of Republican nominee, saying that whatever he’s drumming up, that the world is – U.S. is collapsing, that we’re – so the U.S. part I’m leaving out. What is the observation from this department? Because you deal with the world, so do – what do you feel that – about his comments? Like, you cannot say you can’t – because you see the President has also – has commented. He’s commented on domestic point of view, he’s commented on foreign. But you deal with the U.S. policies with all the countries. What are you hearing? What are you getting so --

MS TRUDEAU: So, I – a couple things on that. I’m not going to speak to political rhetoric, Tejinder. We won’t from this podium.

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. I would point you to the President’s comments. The President of the United States, more than anyone else in this Administration, deals with the world. So I would frame it in the way.

But I would also say of course we track the same issues you do – you on that side of the podium, us on this side of the podium. So I think we’ll leave the President’s comments where they stood.

QUESTION: Do you agree that – because he gets his feedback from this department.

MS TRUDEAU: I think the President gets his feedback from a lot of different places, Tejinder.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is one of the major policy with all the embassies and --

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, I’m not going to characterize sort of developments in the world.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: I think that would be a pretty broad reach.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: Abbe.

QUESTION: New topic.

MS TRUDEAU: Of course.

QUESTION: Have you received from the FBI the first initial set of documents from Hillary Clinton’s emails?

MS TRUDEAU: So thank you for the question. I’ll start off and just note something from the top. The department takes its record management and Freedom of Information Act responsibilities seriously. Just as we appropriately process the material turned over to the department by former Secretary Clinton, we will appropriately and with due diligence process any additional material we receive from the FBI to identify work-related agency records and make them available to the public consistent with our legal obligations.

The FBI provided the department with an initial set of material on Thursday. We’re going to review the material to identify those that are agency records. As we have not yet reviewed the material, we’re not going to speculate further about their scope or content, nor do we have any details to offer on how or when any such agency records will be released.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the state of the internal investigation into possible mishandling of classified information?

MS TRUDEAU: No, I think I updated that – it feels like a long time ago, but I only think it was last week. I have no update from that.

Great. Great, guys. Thanks so much. Have a good weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)

DPB # 129


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - July 19, 2016

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 18:12

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 19, 2016

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TRANSCRIPT:

2:18 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: How are you? Matt back from his sojourn in the White House. Exciting.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR TONER: Exciting.

QUESTION: Not really. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Anyway, anyway, good to have you back.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Welcome, everyone, to the State Department. Just a couple of things very briefly at the top.

First of all, an update on Secretary Kerry – obviously spent the day, as you know, in London and the U.K. He did meet with the new U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, and he also met with United Nations Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. That was followed by a bilateral meeting with the new U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Afterwards, he met with both Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, rather, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Ayrault, Italian Foreign Minister Gentiloni, as well as EU High Representative Federica Mogherini also in London, where they discussed a range of multilateral issues. Finally, I understand Secretary Kerry is ending his day with a working dinner, again hosted by Foreign Secretary Johnson.

I also want to announce some upcoming travel. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Vienna, Austria on July 22nd to join EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the U.S. delegation in Vienna for the first day of High-Level Talks at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

The meeting is aimed at making progress on a hydrofluorocarbon phasedown amendment for adoption later this year. Achieving such an amendment would build upon the climate change success achieved last year in Paris and is one of the most consequential and cost-effective means the global community can take this year to combat climate change.

Secretary Kerry will then travel to Paris, France on July 22nd, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss ongoing efforts to advance a two-state solution. He’ll also from there travel to Vientiane, Laos from July 25th to 26th to participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting, the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting, and the Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting. At all of these ASEAN meetings, the Secretary will discuss the region’s security architecture and shared transnational challenges including maritime security; illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing; the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; and the South China Sea.

Finally, Secretary Kerry will visit Manila, the Philippines, from July 26th-27th, where he will meet with President Rodrigo Duterte as well as Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay to discuss the full range of our cooperation with the new Filipino administration.

It’s quite a trip, and I know some of you will be joining us on it. That’s all I have. Matt, over to you.

QUESTION: Right. Where to begin?

MR TONER: Where to begin. Yes.

QUESTION: Where to begin? Well, let’s start with Turkey since this came up at the White House.

MR TONER: Sure thing. Of course.

QUESTION: And your colleague at the White House kind of threw this over to you and the Justice Department, so I wanted to – he said – I wanted to follow up on it.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: He said that the Turks this morning had submitted some documents electronically relating to Mr. Gulen and his status and their potential eventual extradition request. And he also said that these documents were now being reviewed by the Department of State and the Department of Justice. Can you explain to us what those documents are that you’re reviewing? If they don’t amount to a formal extradition request, what exactly are they?

MR TONER: Sure. So first of all, you’re right and Josh is certainly correct to say that we did receive materials which we are in the process of analyzing under the treaty. As Josh stated, I’m not – also not in a position at this point in time to judge or to say specifically what those documents encompass or whether they constitute a formal extradition request.

What I can say is, as we know, as we all know, that there’s a well-defined, well-established process that’s in place that governs these types of interactions, and we’re looking at these documents now. We’ll update you all as appropriate whether – if we determine that they are a formal extradition request, because as we’ve said, we’re waiting for that formal extradition request to come through. And we’re also going to continue working closely with Turkey to clarify and work through the process.

I don’t think I can stress enough that this is not an overnight process. That’s just not how these processes work. So this is going to take some time, but we’re going to stand by the extradition treaty and we’re going to act in accordance with the extradition treaty. I just can’t say – you want me to definitively state what these documents are. We’re still in the process of analyzing what they are.

QUESTION: Well, did they tell you, or did they just dump them on you and say, here, look at this, here’s 50 pages --

MR TONER: Again, I think they were --

QUESTION: -- but we’re not going to tell you what it is?

MR TONER: My understanding --

QUESTION: Didn’t it come with a subject line saying --

MR TONER: My understanding is that they were delivered – first of all, even though we have spoken a little bit about the fact that we had not received a formal extradition request yet from the Turkish Government, as you all know, we don’t normally share the details of extradition requests, so this is an uncomfortable space to be in as a spokesperson. That said – so I don’t want to necessarily --

QUESTION: Are you asking for sympathy? (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Just a little understanding.

QUESTION: Well --

MR TONER: No, no, of course. Let me finish, Matt. So I don’t want to attempt to characterize what these documents are until we’ve made a final evaluation that we believe they constitute a formal extradition request according to the treaty that we have with Turkey. We’re still in the process of analyzing that. I don’t want to characterize how the Turks have characterized them. I don’t want to attempt to speak on behalf of them.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay, but in the extradition treaty --

MR TONER: Of course, yes.

QUESTION: -- is there something that’s less than a formal extradition request, or is there --

MR TONER: There can be --

QUESTION: Does the treaty lay out a process by which --

MR TONER: There can be --

QUESTION: -- first they give you something that is less than a formal request and then --

MR TONER: Yeah. I mean, and I would refer you to the DO – Department of Justice to speak more definitively on this, or frankly, anyone with a legal background or a legal degree, which I don’t – neither of which I have. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Anyone but you. I get that.

MR TONER: No, but my understanding, Matt, is there are other steps and other documents that can be put forward short of a formal extradition request.

QUESTION: And what would those – what might those be?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t --

QUESTION: I’m not asking what they are.

MR TONER: Yeah, that’s okay.

QUESTION: What is – but what are the kinds of things that they might submit that have not – that don’t rise the level of a formal extradition request?

MR TONER: Well, again, I don’t want to get into the characterizing what we may have received. I think we’re just in the process of evaluating whether these --

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: -- whether these are a formal request or not.

QUESTION: All right.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And then related to this but not on the extradition --

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: -- and this will be it for me.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: There have been an enormous number of arrests and firings in Turkey. We’re talking like 20,000 civil servants, 8,000 police, 9,000 troops, every single dean of every pubic university in the country. What do you make of this? Is this not a little bit concerning to you, or is this something that you think is warranted by the attempted coup?

MR TONER: Sure. Good question and a fair question. What we have said and what our assessment continues to be is that in the aftermath of Friday’s dramatic events, where the democratically elected Government of Turkey and the people of Turkey felt under threat that their government was about to be overthrown by a military coup, it is understandable and justified, frankly, that the government would take actions to go after the perpetrators, to conduct a thorough investigation into what happened, and really to try to provide for the security of the Turkish people in light of, as I said, what was a – an intended coup of the government, the democratically elected government. So I cannot overstate the sense of the Turkish Government and the Turkish people right now that they truly felt and truly feel under threat.

At the same time, the types of arrests and roundups and that you cite have not gone unnoticed by us. We have urged the Government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability in the wake of Friday’s events, but also – or we’ve also urged them to uphold the democratic standards that the Turkish constitution provides for, as well as rule of law.

So just to sum up, we support completely the efforts to bring the perpetrators of the coup to justice. We just also caution against any kind of overreach that goes beyond that.

QUESTION: You don’t – so you don’t think that this is overreach? I mean, you’re talking tens of thousands of people here. Surely if they were all involved – I mean, if they were all involved in this, one would assume that the coup would have gone a different way, no? I mean, do you really think that this is – that this kind of a reaction is warranted and that is justified, as you said, as in --

MR TONER: In light of --

QUESTION: In going after the coup plotters, has the Government of Turkey, to this point, since Friday, upheld the democratic standards and rule of law that you are calling for them to --

MR TONER: Look, Turkey is an ally; Turkey’s a partner; Turkey’s a friend. We understand the tremendous stress that the government has gone through. But in all of our conversations – in all of our conversations, whether it’s through Secretary Kerry – and also, as you know, President Obama spoke with President Erdogan earlier today – we have also stressed the need to avoid any escalation and avoid any efforts or any actions, rather, that would increase tensions and, frankly, jeopardize the strong democratic tradition that clearly Turkey’s citizens hold dear and were out in the street defending on last Friday.

QUESTION: Mark --

MR TONER: Yeah. Sure, Lesley.

QUESTION: -- can you confirm a meeting between the Turkish ambassador and Blinken today, please?

MR TONER: I believe that meeting took place earlier today. I don’t have a readout.

QUESTION: Was that – what was that – was that meeting about these materials that you’re talking about or --

MR TONER: I’m not clear, Lesley, how those materials were transmitted to us. Josh said electronically. I have no reason to doubt that.

QUESTION: Well, was it more to discuss those materials or was it more to reiterate the advice that you’ve been talking about in terms of being mindful?

MR TONER: I think it was larger than that, Lesley – or sorry, Elise. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. We’re interchangeable. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: I’m sorry, Elise. See, you’re not here enough that I don’t get to talk to you all the time. I apologize. Anyway, so I don’t have a full readout. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Deputy Secretary Blinken after the meeting. I think going into it the expectation was that it’s going to be a broader meeting than just talking about the extradition request, obviously. That’s important. Clearly it’s on the minds of the Turkish Government in the aftermath of Friday’s events.

But beyond that, as I said, we are offering our support to Turkey’s investigation. We’re also offering our support and advice to the Turkish Government as they attempt to go after the perpetrators of Friday’s coup attempt. So it’s a broader – and also, frankly, the fact that this week – later this week we’re going to have a large counter-Daesh or counter-ISIL meeting, and Turkey is an important partner and ally in that effort.

QUESTION: To --

QUESTION: Is the minister – from what I understand that the minister --

MR TONER: Yes --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: The --

MR TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The foreign minister is not going, attending any more.

QUESTION: He canceled his visit.

MR TONER: So I have heard those rumors as well. I’d have to refer you to the Turkish Government to speak to who is actually going to represent the delegation here on Thursday.

QUESTION: Who requested the meeting?

MR TONER: Today? I don’t know. I believe --

QUESTION: Can you --

MR TONER: I’ll check.

QUESTION: And then can I ask

QUESTION: You believe – what were you going to say?

MR TONER: No, I’ll check. I don’t want to believe, I want to be sure.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the --

MR TONER: Of course, Lesley.

QUESTION: -- thing on the – Erdogan has asked parliament to consider a death penalty. Do you – is this something that the U.S. would support, given that it --

MR TONER: It’s not for just to support or not support. That’s a question for the – for Turkey’s political system to debate.

QUESTION: But the EU specifically said that this is a deal-breaker if they go ahead with this.

MR TONER: That’s – again, that’s for the EU to also to comment on. We don’t have, frankly, a role to play or anything to say about whether another country would pursue that option.

Please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mark. On North Korea.

MR TONER: Are we done with this?

QUESTION: No.

MR TONER: Let’s finish Turkey. Yeah, let’s finish Turkey. Turkey, Turkey. And then we’ll get to you, I promise.

QUESTION: Mark, on Friday I was wondering at what time Secretary Kerry was informed about the coup attempt in Turkey?

MR TONER: You’ve – I mean, he was overseas at the time. I’m trying to remember where he was exactly on Friday. He was in Moscow.

QUESTION: Moscow, yeah.

MR TONER: So you’ve challenged by ability to calculate international time zones. I’m not, frankly, sure. I’d have to look into it and get back to you. I mean, look, suffice it to say that as this story broke – and much of it broke over social media – the Secretary, as was the President, was immediately briefed about what we knew what was happening on the ground. And I spoke a little bit about this yesterday when somebody – I think a Turkish reporter – asked me why were we so slow in responding.

Well, look, I mean, frankly, we were – within a couple of hours, we had, from the State Department, had issued a very strong statement in support of the democratically elected Government of Turkey, and our – I think our embassy had done that even – had issued a similar statement even earlier than that. But suffice it to say that it was quite a chaotic and confused situation on the ground and so it took a little bit of time for all of us to understand what was happening.

QUESTION: Mark, you said --

MR TONER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said the State Department released a strong statement, but actually, Secretary Kerry said that we support democratically elected – no, he said that – would support stability and peace in Turkey. He didn’t mention anything about democratically elected government. After a couple hours of Kerry, President Obama said U.S. support democratically elected Turkey. Kerry’s first comment didn’t mention anything about Turkey democratically elected government.

MR TONER: I think you might be – and I’m not sure – but you might be referring to a brief --

QUESTION: So my question is --

MR TONER: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Yeah, please.

MR TONER: You might be referring to a brief question he got from a reporter on his way out, when, again, we were still assessing what was actually happening on the ground. But if you go back, you’ll see that there was a statement issued in Secretary Kerry’s name that supported the democratically elected Government of Turkey. But please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Basically, the first reaction of U.S. wasn’t anything to do with the democratically elected government; rather, supporting the peace and stability in Turkey. And after three hours, we started to hear the rumors that the coup is failing, and then I heard the statement from President Obama. I’m just saying a couple of stories that I’ve been reading in the news – yeah.

MR TONER: I’m aware of the stories and let me just --

QUESTION: That’s – and --

MR TONER: And I frankly appreciate you raising these stories because it’s absurd, some of the allegations that are out there, we’ve seen in some of the Turkish media, but in other media as well.

QUESTION: And the Turkish Government. It’s not just the Turkish media, Mark.

MR TONER: Well, regardless of who is putting them out there, it’s absurd to think that the United States was somehow complicit or in any way connected to the events of Friday. I can reject that categorically, wholeheartedly, and just say that this is a NATO ally, it is a partner, it is a democratically elected government, it is a strong democracy, and we stand with and stood with Turkey during that crisis.

QUESTION: And you said that the rumors were already on social media when Secretary Kerry spoke, and it quite difficult for me to understand that U.S. is hearing at the same time as the other people on social media. So you describe Turkey as a strong NATO ally, that the --

MR TONER: Look, I mean, social media – I don’t want to get into a discussion of – I mean, we get our information from a variety of sources, including social media, and I think anybody would say today that very often, social media can be ahead of the curve. It depends on the circumstances and it depends on the country, but very often, people who are there on the ground reporting back, it is a – to dismiss it as a source of information, I think, would be foolish for any government or any person to do.

QUESTION: And Turkish PM today said regarding the Mr. Gulen, we have no doubt on the source of this coup attempt, and he said that I would like to ask my American friends, did you look for evidence when demanding the terrorist who carried out the September 11 attack. So he was quite strong that they sure about this – it’s related with the Gulen, and they also said that U.S. did not look for evidence when they were going after the terrorist as a first reaction after the attacks.

MR TONER: Well, again, I’m not going to – I mean, I’m not going to re-litigate how we investigated the 9/11 attacks, but I can assure you that we were certain, based on the evidence that we had, of who was behind the attacks. That’s a separate issue and I don’t want to even go there. But when you’re talking about the possible involvement of Gulen in last Friday’s events, we have been clear almost from the very first hours when these allegations began to emerge there is an established process for this. There is an extradition treaty that we have had since 1979, I believe, with the Government of Turkey. And the Secretary was very clear in saying that once we receive a formal request, we will look at the evidence, we will judge the evidence, we will determine based on the evidence – not driven by political motivation, not driven by emotion, but based on the evidence we receive, we will make a determination as to the extradition.

QUESTION: And my last question.

MR TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: I was wondering how would you describe Mr. Gulen. Like, is he only a religious leader for you who runs schools in U.S. and charity organizations, and without any – holding any power in Turkey or in U.S.? How would you describe him?

MR TONER: Look, I mean, I’m not sure it’s incumbent on us to describe what his activities are, the extent of his activities are, his involvement with events in Turkey. He is here, thus far, legally. He runs a variety of operations from where he lives in Pennsylvania.

QUESTION: When you say “variety,” would you name some?

MR TONER: I’m not going to – I mean, look I’m not – no, I’m just not going to --

QUESTION: Do you seem his as a – but do you see him – it is a legitimate --

MR TONER: I mean, I think --

QUESTION: Do you see him as a political figure with a constituency inside Turkey? I mean, he’s living here --

MR TONER: I mean, I think --

QUESTION: He’s living here under – he has a green card.

MR TONER: Right. Correct.

QUESTION: But would you consider him kind of a political – here on political asylum? Like, what is your feeling about why --

MR TONER: Well, I mean, first of all – sure, sure. Let me – so first of all, political asylum is a very defined category. He’s never asked for asylum, so that’s off the table. Look, I mean, he is, by any assessment, someone who is in the public space in Turkey. He is someone who some Turks are – follow or are interested by him. But I think all we can do to assess him is to say, is he doing anything illegal? Not to our knowledge. Is he involved in last Friday’s events? Well, we’ll evaluate the evidence that’s presented to us, but I don’t want to attempt to characterize his behavior as anything other than what it is.

QUESTION: I understand. This isn’t the first – like, this --

MR TONER: Yeah. That’s true.

QUESTION: -- attempted coup notwithstanding, this is not the first time that the Turks have raised concerns --

MR TONER: Concerns, yeah.

QUESTION: -- or questions about his political activities.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has there ever been any kind of move to talk to him or investigate any of these allegations?

MR TONER: To talk to Gulen himself?

QUESTION: Or his associates --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- to investigate any of these allegations, because they’re longstanding allegations that he’s trying to subvert the political process in Turkey.

MR TONER: Sure. Honestly, Elise, I’m not sure what our history of contact has been with him. I can try to get more information for you.

QUESTION: Can you – but can you also take the question about these longstanding allegations that the Turks have --

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and whether also you think that whether some of these – (a) has there ever been any investigation into him and (b) do – is there any – do you think that there’s any validity to some of the allegations that the Turkish Government is using the attempted coup as a pretext to go after him, despite the evidence?

MR TONER: Well, that’s – so I can answer that, and how I would answer that is we certainly hope not.

QUESTION: I mean against him in particular.

MR TONER: You can’t – right, no, I mean – and that’s what I think – so first of all, I will take your question about any previous contacts that we’ve had with him or concerns that we’ve had with him, and I’ll try to get you an answer to that.

But in answer to whether the Erdogan government is using him as some kind of scapegoat or using the coup as a way to target him or go after him, that’s why it’s so important that we go and work through the established process as dictated by the extradition treaty, and we’ve been clear that that is an evidence-based process. So it’s not for us to pass judgment on what may be behind the motivations and whether it’s legitimate or not. We just have to look at the evidence and make a judgment based on that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR TONER: I’ll get – yeah, sure. Go ahead, Matt, and then I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: It’s still on Turkey, yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just follow up what you just said, Mark. You said that you are going to evaluate according to the documents presented to you about the Gulen’s involvement with the coup. So you have been presented some evidence regarding tying him to the coup?

MR TONER: So I’m not sure – I think you might have just walked in; I apologize if you didn’t hear it. So at the top of the briefing I just talked about – and Josh actually spoke to this at White House. We have received some documents, materials --

QUESTION: I know that. But the question is --

MR TONER: So we’re not – yeah, please.

QUESTION: Was it also the evidence within that documents that tie him to coup?

MR TONER: Well, again, I think we’re still analyzing what these documents entail and whether they entail or constitute a formal extradition request.

QUESTION: You also said that you have offered your sources for the investigation, you also said yesterday --

MR TONER: Resources.

QUESTION: Resources. Has Turkey communicated with you? Are they interested in --

MR TONER: That’s a good question. I’ll try to get an answer for that, whether they’ve followed up on that with us.

Matt, did you have other – are we off Turkey? And then I’ll get to --

QUESTION: Yeah, two extremely brief ones. The Secretary’s remarks in Moscow that you were talking about before, did he – maybe I misheard because I wasn’t here, but did he not say that he hoped for continuity? Was that one of the words that he used?

MR TONER: I believe so.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: And I apologize. I wasn’t actually here. But I think that’s the phrasing. I don’t have it front of me, Matt, so it’s partly --

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then just lastly, and I think you’re probably going to refer me elsewhere, but I have to ask about --

MR TONER: Sure, of course.

QUESTION: -- Incirlik and the power situation there.

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Literally the power situation there.

MR TONER: Yeah. (Laughter.) No, that&rsqu