Daily Press Briefing: Cuba

2:10 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MR KIRBY: That’s a nice response. I like that. Okay, just a quick scheduling note. I think you know the Secretary arrived last night in New Delhi to participate in this year’s U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. This morning he met with Indian National Security Adviser Doval and the Minister of Power Goyal. He met later with the Minister of External Affairs Swaraj. And together with Secretary of Commerce Pritzker and her Indian counterpart, they chaired the second S&CD. The Secretary’s visit to India will continue tomorrow and will include meetings with senior officials and a speech at the Indian Institute of Technology on the U.S.-India relationship and its importance to global peace and prosperity.

With that, we’ll start. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we start with Turkey and Syria? Both President Erdogan and the Turkish chief of general staff have basically signaled that they’re going to continue prosecuting their operations. What success, if any, have you had in persuading your YPG allies to vacate those areas and in persuading your Turkish allies from pursuing their operations against the YPG?

MR KIRBY: Well, the first thing I’d say is it still remains a pretty dynamic, fluid environment. That’s one. Two, we’ve seen largely, over the last 12 to 18 hours, that there has been calm. And of course, that’s welcome. As we said yesterday, we don’t – that we don’t believe tactical operations between members of the SDF and Turkish forces or Turkish – or forces supported by Turkey to be productive in terms of the fight against Daesh.

The third thing that I would say – and I think General Votel spoke to this over at the Pentagon this morning – that Kurdish forces have, in fact, moved to the east of the Euphrates. And so what I – again, I can’t speak for Turkish leaders and what they’ve said they’re going to do or not do, but certainly – and again, General Votel talked about this this morning – we see Turkish operations in that area. And to the degree that those operations are designed to secure that stretch of border, as was always the plan, well that’s helpful; that’s constructive.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that all Kurdish forces have moved across the river?

MR KIRBY: I’m not an expert on the tactical laydown. I would point you to my colleagues at the Pentagon. All I can do is repeat what General Votel said today, which was that he – he said that Kurdish forces had met their obligation to move to the east of the Euphrates. I can’t count every nose and every pair of ears, but I would just point you back to what the Pentagon has said about it.

QUESTION: John, is there any ceasefire between Turkey and YPG? Because an American official has said there is a ceasefire now and there’s an agreement between the two parties. Turkey has denied and that YPG has confirmed.

MR KIRBY: I would point you to both sides to speak to where they are in terms of these clashes we’ve seen over the last couple of days. As I said in my first answer, we would note that over the last 12 to 18 hours or so, there’s been calm, that there have – there have been no clashes between those two sides. And that’s a welcome development. It’s one that we strongly encouraged even yesterday.

QUESTION: And are you mediating between the two parties to —

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: Why not? Do you want them to fight?

MR KIRBY: Again, there’s been a period of calm here over the last 12 to 18 hours. That’s a welcome thing. We’ve made clear to both of them what our desires are in terms of the focus being on Daesh. But if you’re asking me are we in some sort of negotiating role or mediating role between them, the answer is no.

QUESTION: The YPG has said that they are working through the coalition in order to talk to the Turks. Are they wrong?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not – you’re asking me for details here on conversations that really are better placed over at the Defense Department. I can tell you that we – I’m not denying that we have communicated to both sides our desires to see the clashes between them stop, and we welcome the last 12 to 18 hours where that has appeared to be the case, and to refocus all of our efforts on Daesh. It wouldn’t surprise me if, because they’re all – because we’re all members of the coalition, because we all should be focused on going after Daesh, it wouldn’t surprise me that conversations were happening in the context of the coalition. I just can’t speak to the details of it.

QUESTION: Well, would you welcome a mediation role, or do you think the two sides should discuss their differences directly?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, so far the clashes have stopped, so that’s the outcome that we wanted to see. We want to see that continue. I’m not sure that there’s a role for the United States here in terms of mediation. We have made our position quite clear privately, and then again publicly yesterday and again today, so we’ll see where it goes.

QUESTION: But do you —

QUESTION: So you’re not calling that a ceasefire though, this – you’re just describing what happened. You’re not saying that there’s a ceasefire.

MR KIRBY: Well, it’s 12 to 18 hours and we’ve seen calm. We’ve seen the clashes stop between the two sides. And again, that’s the outcome that we want. We want – we don’t want to see them fighting each other. We want to see everybody in the coalition – and we all are – focus our efforts on Daesh. You can call it what you want, but what – I can tell you what we want to see is focused efforts against Daesh.

QUESTION: But you’re not aware of an agreement that there would be an end to the violence that would last sort of longer than what you’ve seen?

MR KIRBY: You’d have to talk to the sides on that. Again, we made clear what our hopes and expectations were. We welcome the fact that the clashes have stopped at least over the last day, day and a half, and we’d like to see that continue.

QUESTION: But first the news came from a U.S. official confirming that there is a ceasefire agreement between the two parties. Why don’t you want now to —

MR KIRBY: Who’s the U.S. official?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MR KIRBY: Oh, you don’t know. So it’s an anonymous source.

QUESTION: That’s what I’m asking. I know. I didn’t ask it —

MR KIRBY: Yeah. Oh, so we should just – yeah, so we should just take that all to the bank. Look, I’m not going to speak for anonymous sources here. And you’re asking me why shouldn’t we mediate. And there’s – since the clashes have stopped – and that’s a good thing, and we want to see that continue – I’m not so sure that there’s a need for any kind of mediation by anybody. And that’s point one.

Point two, we, again, made clear privately to both sides our concerns about these clashes and about the need to refocus on Daesh, and we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to have those conversations as necessary. Hopefully, Michel, they won’t be necessary. Hopefully, this can be – this reduction in the tensions here can be more enduring and we can all do what we’re supposed to do inside the coalition, and that’s degrade and defeat Daesh.

QUESTION: One last question for me. Latest reports coming from Syria said that ISIS spokesman got killed in Aleppo. Do you have any confirmation?

MR KIRBY: I don’t.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: On the same subject.

MR KIRBY: I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: Last couple hours, Turkish press reports that U.S. Ambassador Bass, John Bass, summoned to Turkish foreign ministry in Ankara for the statements coming out from U.S. officials regarding this truce or ceasefire. Do you have any comment or —

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen reports that he got summoned, so I just – I have nothing to say on that. I haven’t seen that.

QUESTION: One more. Have you been informed or do you have any information regarding Turkey-backed FSA forces, next step for them? Do you know whether they are going to go to westward or – you’re not coordinated? You have not been informed about their coordinates?

MR KIRBY: I think General Votel spoke to the fact that Turkish operations along – just on the other side of that border have – are continuing, in terms of going west. And I think the general said that – and this was something that we’ve been long in discussions with the Turks about – that that’s a good thing, that the whole idea here is to secure that border to prevent the flow of foreign fighters across it. It’s a stretch of the border that the Turks have long been concerned about and that we’ve been in communication with them about those kinds of operations.

But if you’re asking me where they are today and how far they’re moving and where they’re going, you’d have to talk to Turkish officials about the movement of their troops. That wouldn’t be something that the State Department would speak to one way or the other. Again, I’d point you back to what General Votel said this morning at the Pentagon and the way he characterized it.

QUESTION: There are reports that the U.S. has not been informed or not coordinated regarding Turkish incursion into Syria. Would you be able to comment whether you are dissatisfied with —

MR KIRBY: Again, that’s a better question for the Defense Department to speak to. I think General Votel also talked about that a little bit today. They – I’ll just repeat what I said again yesterday. The operations by Turkish forces to secure that border, including some operations on the Syrian side, is something that we had been in discussion with them about and supportive of. Yesterday, we were talking specifically about the clashes between Turkish forces or Turkish-backed forces and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish fighters. And I said yesterday that those are uncoordinated, they weren’t being supported by the United States, and in terms of notification, there was very little at all. That’s different than the purpose of Turkish forces being in Syria at the outset, which was to help secure that border. Okay?

Barbara.

QUESTION: Just to follow up with Michel saying a U.S. official had talked about a ceasefire, the – Colonel John Thomas, Central Command spokesman, said there’s a loose agreement to stop fighting. Is that —

MR KIRBY: Is that a different official than his anonymous official?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MR KIRBY: Is that the one you were quoting, Michel? Is that a different guy?

QUESTION: No.

MR KIRBY: Different guy?

QUESTION: No, but you said who said it. That’s what I’m saying, that that’s what – that’s a named person.

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I can’t – I – those are comments that are attributed to a military official, and the Pentagon should speak to that. Again, call it what you will. What we’re saying is we welcome the fact that there has been calm over the last 12 to 18 hours, that these clashes have ceased. We want to see that continue. We want to see that endure. And you can put whatever label you want on it. What we want is a focus on counter-Daesh operations by all members of the coalition. And when we had clashes of the sort that we had over the weekend, as I said yesterday, that they were not productive to that effort, they were not helpful, they were not moving us in the direction that we think all members of the coalition need to move, and that is to focus military activities against Daesh.

QUESTION: Where is Ambassador McGurk today?

MR KIRBY: Ambassador McGurk —

QUESTION: Yes.

MR KIRBY: — is on travel in the region.

QUESTION: He’s in the region?

MR KIRBY: He’s on travel in the region. That’s as much detail as I have today.

Abbie.

QUESTION: Different subject. I wanted to ask you about some comments that Secretary Kerry made when he was in Bangladesh. He seemed to suggest that perhaps the media shouldn’t be covering terror attacks quite as much as they do. He said, “Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn’t cover it quite as much. People wouldn’t know what’s going on.” Can you offer any clarification on —

MR KIRBY: Well, I’d say a couple of things. I mean, first of all, the Secretary’s views about the media, press freedom, and certainly the strength and the power of independent press reporting of events around the world are well established and well known by all of you. I think you all know how much he appreciates the work that you do and the importance of the light that you can shed on so many issues. What he was referring to in that statement was simply that – an acknowledgment of the fact – and it’s a fact that all of you know – that often in acts of terrorism there’s more than one purpose. There’s the violence itself and the havoc that it can wreak and the fear that it can instill and the damage that it can cause. And there’s also the notoriety that comes with the press coverage from it, the glorification of that through amplification in the mass media. And I think he was just referring to that as a fact and something that we all have to be mindful of as these events happen.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: At the risk of amplifying an attack, do you know what’s happening in Bishkek?

MR KIRBY: Bishkek. I can tell you that we’re aware of a – of what appears to have been a vehicle-borne IED that exploded there. As I understand it, it was near the Chinese embassy. I don’t have all the particulars. I know it’s being investigated by officials there. I can tell you that we’ve been in touch with our embassy and all U.S. and embassy personnel have been accounted for. So we’re not aware of any injuries at this time. And the embassy will be closed tomorrow for independence day observances there, but it’s our expectation that they’ll be able to pick up right after that.

QUESTION: Sir, India and Pakistani media —

QUESTION: Sorry, there was —

QUESTION: — is reporting —

QUESTION: — there was a previously scheduled closure tomorrow?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: For the independence day celebrations observance.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Sir, India and Pakistani media is reporting that Pakistani Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani has been reprimanded by White House due to his anti-Indian activities. Sir —

MR KIRBY: By his what activities?

QUESTION: Anti-Indian activities. Anti-Indian activities.

MR KIRBY: He’s – can – I’m sorry, you went really fast there. Can you just try that one again?

QUESTION: All right. All right. Sir, Indian and Pakistani media —

MR KIRBY: No, I – just – just let me try – let me just try it again.

QUESTION: Sir, Indian and Pakistani media is reporting that the White House – that the Pakistani ambassador, Jalil Abbas Jilani, reprimanded by White House due to his anti-Indian activities. Do you agree with these media reports?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen a report of that. I would refer you to the White House to speak to that. I’m not – I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: Sir, I’ve just seen Secretary Kerry’s statement in India. He just said that Pakistan in recent months taken strong actions against Haqqani Network. But if we see Pentagon, they have different views about the Pakistani action against Haqqani Network. Why State Department, Pentagon are not on the same page?

MR KIRBY: Well, I – I’m not going to just presume that your implication is correct there, that we’re not. I don’t know what comments you’re talking about from the Pentagon that differ from what we’re saying here at the State Department. Look, I’d just say that we all recognize that the continued security threat that is posed by the Haqqani Network and by other terrorist groups that operate inside Pakistan and along that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Pentagon is obviously well aware of that, as we are here, and it’s a conversation that we continue to have and will continue to have with our partners in the region. I’m not aware that there’s any dissonance here in terms of the way we’re seeing it.

Is there a particular comment that you’re referring to?

QUESTION: Yes, sir —

MR KIRBY: What is it?

QUESTION: It’s a BBC report about – and said that John Kerry has said that —

MR KIRBY: No, I know what my Secretary said. You’re saying there – that’s a difference opinion that’s expressed at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Pentagon – sir, Pentagon —

MR KIRBY: So what’s the Pentagon say?

QUESTION: The Pentagon withheld the – refused to issue the certificate for the military assistance to Pakistan, saying that Pakistan is not doing enough against Haqqani Network.

MR KIRBY: There is a constant conversation that we are having with our Pakistani partners about the threat posed by Haqqani and by other extremist groups there in the region and certainly operating inside Pakistan. And we make these decisions routinely and they’re based on active, fluid, dynamic conversations that we have with Pakistani leaders. I don’t know of any difference. I think the United States Government is viewing this very much all in the same – in the same light.

QUESTION: Stay on the region?

QUESTION: Can we continue in the region?

QUESTION: Continue in the region?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you want to go first?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. In his press conference, Secretary also said they recently spoke to Prime Minister Sharif and General Raheel in Pakistan. Do you know when they talked last, what this was about?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know – let’s see if I have a recent call. I don’t have a recent call to read out, so I’d have to find out when the last discussion was.

QUESTION: Okay. And he also announced resumption of trilateral dialogue with India and Afghanistan. Why it was stopped in the first instance? He did explain why the reasons for resuming this dialogue. Why it was stopped in the first instance, and at what level this will be held next month?

MR KIRBY: I think the movement forward – I think we have to work through those details. And I think what matters is that, as the Secretary said, those discussions are important and they are going to continue. And he talked about the constructive role that India has played inside Afghanistan and wanting to see that – see that role continue. So we’re focused on the future here. I’m not going to get into a debate or a discussion about what happened in the past and the degree to which those talks didn’t continue. What matters is they are going to continue going forward, and that’s why – one of the reasons why the Secretary’s there in New Delhi today.

QUESTION: At what level this will be held?

MR KIRBY: As I said, I don’t have that kind of detail right now. I think that kind of stuff needs to be worked out.

QUESTION: Continue in the region – thank you, sir. As far as U.S.-India relations are concerned, a lot going on this week. Secretaries of State and Commerce, of course, are in Delhi, and defense minister of India is in Washington, where U.S. and India – they announced yesterday that India is a major defense partner of the United States. So out of these meetings in Delhi, what are we expecting this time more or any other major partnership between U.S. and India is expected —

MR KIRBY: I think there’s – there’s already a tremendous partnership between the United States and India, which cuts across quite a few sectors. And it’s not just security and defense related; it’s economic, trade, and information and technology sharing. I mean, there’s a – it’s a pretty full and complete, comprehensive relationship and it’s one that we are committed to deepening and strengthening, and I think that’s why the Secretary of Defense’s counterpart is here, it’s why the Secretary and the Secretary of Commerce Pritzker is there – are there in New Delhi, to continue this Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. I mean – so if you’re asking me are there major announcements to be had, I’m not aware of any. These kinds of discussions – and this is where we want to be, right? We want to be able to have these kinds of bilateral discussions that cut – that really do cut across all the sectors of a bilateral relationship to deepen it and grow it and to keep it going forward.

QUESTION: And is there major talks going on about threats in the South China Sea, and also any regional terrorism threats?

MR KIRBY: You mean in the discussions in New Delhi?

QUESTION: During this meeting, yeah.

MR KIRBY: Well, certainly as part of the S part of it, right – strategic. I mean, they talked about strategic regional issues. I don’t have a specific readout on each and every one of these, but discussing tensions in the Asia Pacific region is something that’s not uncommon when we’re meeting with our Indian counterparts, and there’s certainly a lot there because India is – India does have a purpose and a presence in the Pacific that’s important.

QUESTION: And finally, Secretary’s visit to Bangladesh – you have anything – any major things were discussed or announced between the two countries? Because Bangladesh still needs U.S. help in many areas, including fighting terrorism.

MR KIRBY: I would point you to – I mean, my deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, was on the trip and issued a series of readouts from each of the bilateral meetings, and the Secretary did a press conference. I’d point you to the transcripts of those readouts and that press conference for the kinds of things that the Secretary discussed and advanced while he was in Bangladesh.

But by and large, and if you look at – again, I don’t want to spoil the read for you, but I mean, they talked about counterterrorism, they talked about climate change, they talked about Bangladesh’s progress on democracy and human rights. And the Secretary certainly made clear our expectations that that kind of progress would continue and deepen and grow and be better than it is right now. So it was a wide-ranging set of discussions, but again, I encourage you to go look at our website and you can see all the things that were discussed in Bangladesh are there.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I had a quick follow-up —

QUESTION: Thank you ,sir.

QUESTION: — on this defense thing.

MR KIRBY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. One at a time. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up on defense. This – yesterday China – in fact, today China had expressed concern about India and U.S. signing a logistic agreement, and they have said it will not make India safe. What is your comment on that?

MR KIRBY: On the what? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Yesterday India and U.S. signed a major logistic agreement which the two countries were working for last 10, 12 years. China has reacted strongly to it. They are saying that – they expressed concern and saying that this will not make India safe.

MR KIRBY: So a couple of things. I haven’t seen the details of this agreement and I haven’t seen a reaction to it by China, so I’m going – you’re going to have let me get back to you on the specifics about this. Broadly speaking, a deepening, stronger, more cooperative bilateral relationship with India is nothing that anybody should fear or worry about. We both are democracies; we both have incredible opportunities and influence on the global stage, and a better relationship between the United States and India is not just good for our two countries, not just good for the region, it’s good for the world.

QUESTION: John —

MR KIRBY: Barbara. You’ve been patient.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you had any comment on the EU decision for Apple to pay 13 billion euros in back taxes. I know the White House and Treasury have made some critical responses; does the State Department have anything to —

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything to add to that today. You’ll have to let me take that question. I suspect that that’s really going to be something more for the Treasury Department to speak to than the State Department. I just don’t have anything on it.

QUESTION: The Afghan Taliban has released a video of a kidnapped North American couple – one American, one Canadian – Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle. They are forced to appeal for an end to executions of Taliban prisoners by the Afghan Government. Do you have anything you can say on that publicly?

MR KIRBY: I do. We’re aware of recent reports that a video featuring U.S. hostage Caitlan Coleman and her husband Joshua Boyle has been released. I would tell you that the video is still being examined for its validity. We remain concerned, obviously, about the welfare of Caitlan and her family, and we continue to urge for their immediate release on humanitarian grounds. We are regularly engaged with the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan at the highest levels to emphasize our commitment to seeing our citizens returned safely to their families. And I think as you know, and I’ve said many times, the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas remains one of our highest priorities here at the State Department. We continue to work aggressively to bring all U.S. citizens held hostage overseas home to their families.

Okay. Abbie and then you.

QUESTION: Congressman Mia Love has sent, I believe, a letter to the State Department regarding Joshua Holt, who is being held in Venezuela.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The letter is asking that the State Department put more pressure for the Venezuelan Government to release Josh. Do you have any response to that or to some of the frustration that’s been expressed by the family?

MR KIRBY: Well I’m not – I won’t – as I don’t – we’re not going to respond to congressional inquiries or correspondence here from the podium. We’ll respond to the congresswoman in the appropriate way. What I can tell you is that – a couple of things, just broadly speaking. We can now confirm that a U.S. citizen, Joshua Holt, was arrested in Venezuela on June 30th of this year on weapons charges and that he’s currently being held in a prison in Caracas. Consular officers from the United States embassy in Caracas visited Mr. Holt most recently on the 16th of this month and are providing all possible consular assistance.

We call on the Venezuelan Government to respect due process and human rights and guarantee a fair trial. State Department officials have been in contact with Venezuelan Government officials regarding this case. The embassy and the department are following it closely. And again, the embassy has visited Mr. Holt on a regular basis and intends to continue to do so as he awaits trial.

QUESTION: I believe his trial is September 15th. Will the State Department have any representation there?

MR KIRBY: It’s typical for us to do that, and I can tell you that certainly would be our desire. I just don’t have anything specific to say to be able to confirm it, but obviously that’s – that is – it’s a very common practice for us to be there, to be represented there. Yeah.

Yeah.

QUESTION: This is just a quick follow on to the Apple question, because House Speaker Paul Ryan just added a statement saying that the decision is awful and it’s also in direct violation of many European countries’ treaty obligations. Is that anything that you’d be able to confirm?

MR KIRBY: Does that make it easier for me to then talk to? No. I just – look, I just don’t have anything —

QUESTION: But if you could look into it, that’d be —

MR KIRBY: As I said, I’ll have to look into it and see. I suspect this is something really for the Treasury Department to speak to. But you guys got me unawares here, so I’m just going to have to take the question, and we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: And then just the only other thing I had is that the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has reported that IS spokesman and external operations manager, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, has been killed. Any confirmation?

MR KIRBY: Nope. In the last ten minutes, I have no more confirmation than when I answered the question from Michel.

QUESTION: Oh okay. Got it.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Turkey. On Turkey.

MR KIRBY: Turkey.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR KIRBY: Shocker. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Today another 35 journalists – there is a new detainment list about another 35 journalists in Turkey.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: It is now about 150 journalists, according to estimates, since we don’t know the exact numbers, but this should be around that number. This more than combined of China, Iran, and Egypt. I was wondering if you have any comment on this.

MR KIRBY: I mean, we’ve seen these reports, and as we’ve said before, we – and frankly, what I’ve said earlier in this briefing, we obviously continue to support independent, free media reporting and freedom of the press all over the world, including Turkey. And we’ve talked a lot over the last several months about our concerns, about a growing trend in the wrong direction with respect to press freedoms and freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Turkey. Those concerns remain valid today.

Now, look, we understand, there was a very active and serious coup attempt in Turkey and that the Turkish Government has an obligation in looking after its own citizens to also fully investigate this coup attempt and to hold those responsible accountable. And so, as we’ve said before, we simply urge Turkish leaders, as they work through that process, they do it with all due respect for rule of law and for international obligations and human rights.

QUESTION: But you cannot imagine about 100 journalists will be involved in the coup. Is there a justification in your imagination that these (inaudible) journalist —

MR KIRBY: We’re not going to characterize the – every decision they make in the process of conducting this investigation, and you’re asking me to speculate about who was involved and at what level, and we simply don’t have the information to make that kind of an assessment, nor would it be appropriate from this podium.

QUESTION: Last week Vice President Biden, after he left Turkey – I think he was in Latvia – and he was asked about why he withheld criticism regarding crackdown in Turkey, and Mr. Vice President said that since nobody has been tried or executed, there is no need for speak up; when that happens, we can speak up.

MR KIRBY: I think —

QUESTION: Is this the policy, that you are waiting for someone to be executed, then the speak up more —

MR KIRBY: Our views, our perspective on these events in Turkey have not changed, not one bit. And I think I just articulated them in the answer to your last question. We understand they have an obligation to investigate. We have – we understand and we appreciate they also have an obligation to their own citizens to hold those accountable for this. This was a potentially – well, it wasn’t potentially. It was a violent and precarious, dangerous coup attempt, and real people suffered as a result of it. So they have an obligation to look into this and get to the bottom of it and to try to prevent that kind of thing from happening again. We understand that, and that hasn’t changed, and the Vice President wasn’t saying anything different than that.

We also, though, urge Turkey, as they work through that process, as I said before, to observe rule of law and due process in accordance with their own constitutional principles, and to observe international obligations and human rights as they work through that. And we’re in close touch with them and we will remain in close touch with them as they continue to work through that process. But there’s not – no change at all in terms of the approach that we’ve taken here. We condemned it that very evening – the coup attempt, that is. And again, we’ve – we were and we remain in close contact with Turkish authorities going forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) condemn these kind of a Turkish administration approach the freedom of press in Turkey and jail in these many —

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Would you condemn also jailing this many journalists in Turkey?

MR KIRBY: As I said before, Michel – I’m sorry, Michele. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Ilhan.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. You guys look so much alike. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into the habit of characterizing each and every decision or each and every statement that comes out of Turkey.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) not about a statement.

MR KIRBY: No, it is.

QUESTION: This is being —

MR KIRBY: You’re asking me to —

QUESTION: — happening for about two months.

MR KIRBY: You’re asking me to say whether I’m going to condemn the jailing of journalists.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR KIRBY: They are conducting an investigation. I can’t begin to speculate here who was or who wasn’t involved in this and it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to do that. They’re doing this investigation and we understand they have to do that. We simply have urged them, in terms of process, how to go about doing that in a way that is thorough and complete, but also transparent and fair. And so we’re going to stay in close touch with them as they go forward, but we haven’t yet, and I’m not going to begin to make a judgment here from the State Department podium in Washington about every single decision that they’re making as they conduct that investigation.

QUESTION: So this is not about single decision. This has been going on for almost two months —

MR KIRBY: And we have —

QUESTION: — and jailing for hundreds of journalists.

MR KIRBY: We have talked about – I said it earlier – our concerns about a worrisome trend in Turkey, before the coup, about limiting press freedom and about shutting down media outlets or detaining reporters. We’ve been nothing but honest and open about that, and in fact, I said the same thing again today to your first question. But if you’re asking me to condemn this specific decision, what I’m saying is we’re not going to get into characterizing each and every move they make as they investigate this. We’ve talked to them about process and what our hopes and expectations are for that going forward. And we’re going to stay in close touch on this. We’re watching it as closely as possible.

Yeah, Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you, John. In the Clinton email documents, 2012 former President Clinton was planned to visit Kaesong Industrial in North Korea. That is the former Secretary Clinton asked him to visit that Kaesong Industrial. Do you have anything how that happened, who invited him? I mean, North side or South side?

MR KIRBY: I don’t, and I wouldn’t speak for invitations or decisions that were made by the previous secretary of state. I think you’d have to talk to her staff about that. I don’t have any information on that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The organization Human Rights Watch is calling on the UN Security Council to impose further sanctions on the Government of Syria. Is this something that the State Department supports?

MR KIRBY: So I would just say that we’re aware of the reports of that and I’d have to refer you to the UN specifically.

QUESTION: And then a follow-up: How important is it to hold the Assad regime accountable for the use of chemical weapons in Syria?

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: A follow-up would be: How important is it for the international community to hold the Assad regime accountable for the use of chemical weapons in Syria?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, without speaking to this specific report —

QUESTION: Sure.

MR KIRBY: — obviously, the international community did and I think remains committed to limiting or effectively trying to pressure the Assad regime to stop using chemical materials as weapons. Now, as we know, we got most of the material out, and we’re grateful for the international partnership, and it really was an international partnership that got that material out. But clearly, we know and we’ve seen in this most recent OPCW report that Assad continues to barrel bomb his people and use chlorine to do it.

So I think there’s a strong international community mandate to see that end, and that is why – again, not speaking to UN decisions. I think that – I’d refer you to them. But that is why the Secretary is working so hard inside multilateral fora, not just the United States unilaterally but inside a multilateral structure, to bring an end to this war so that – so that the regime can’t continue to use chemical materials against their own people. And one of the things that our two teams, the U.S. and Russian teams, are going to continue to try to work through after Geneva on Friday is the technical modalities to get a cessation of hostilities that is enduring across the nation that would effectively prevent the regime from being able to conduct those kinds of missions.

Okay?

QUESTION: Any update on the meetings between the Russians and the U.S.?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any update today, no.

Barbara.

QUESTION: Cuba. Nine Latin American countries have sent a letter to the Administration saying that U.S. policy, its wet foot/dry foot policy which guarantees citizenship to Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, is creating an immigration crisis for those countries through which they pass, and asked the Administration to review that policy. Do you have a response to that, and is there any review likely to be made?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ll tell you a couple things. So we did receive the letter that you’re referring to signed by nine foreign ministers from Latin America about what is known as the Cuban Adjustment Act. Obviously, we are concerned for the safety of all migrants throughout the region, including migrants seeking to journey northward through South and Central America and Mexico. Irregular migration often involves dangerous journeys that illustrate the inherent risks and uncertainties of involvement with organized crime, including human smugglers and trafficklers – traffickers, excuse me, in attempts to reach the United States.

We continue to encourage all countries to respect the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, and to ensure that they are treated humanely. And we’re going to continue to, obviously, engage governments in the region on this issue going forward. So we did receive the letter. I’d refer you to the authors of the letter for any more specific information on its content. I have no meetings to announce at this time, and the Cuban Adjustment Act remains in place and wet foot/dry foot remains U.S. policy regarding Cuban migration.

I can take a couple more. I haven’t gotten to you yet.

QUESTION: Russia has announced that President Putin will visit Japan in December. Do you welcome this visit? Do you have any response?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen reports of that. I would let officials in Moscow and in Tokyo speak to official travel by themselves or by foreign leaders. Obviously, these are sovereign decisions that countries have to make in terms of their bilateral relations, but I – we don’t –

QUESTION: Can you —

MR KIRBY: We wouldn’t have a comment, one way or the other.

QUESTION: Can you speak a little bit more broadly then on whether you would welcome closening ties between Russia and Japan?

MR KIRBY: I mean, look, those are decisions for the people of Russia and the people of Japan to make, in terms of bilateral relations. We have bilateral relations with both Russia and obviously we have a very strong bilateral relationship and alliance with Japan that we take very, very seriously. But these are decisions that these governments have to make about their bilateral relations. Certainly, the United States is – we’re not concerned or worried about bilateral relations between Russia and Japan, and we leave it to them to define what that relationship is going to be.

QUESTION: Sir —

QUESTION: So in that context — sorry, just one more follow-up on that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Sure, sure.

QUESTION: In the context of the Minsk agreement, U.S. has previously said that you don’t want to see a return to business as usual in engaging with Russia. In the context of that, do you have anything to add —

MR KIRBY: We still have concerns about, quote/unquote, “business as usual” with respect to Minsk implementation. Now, there’s been some progress towards implementation of Minsk, and that’s a good thing – progress by both sides. There needs to be more. The Secretary has spoken to that quite openly.

But again, you’d have to talk to officials in Moscow and Tokyo in terms of this visit. I can’t even confirm for you that it’s going to happen. I don’t have any information on it. They should speak to whether there’s going to be a visit and what the agenda is going to be and what they’re going to talk about. That’s for them to speak to. But nothing’s changed about our view that it’s still not – it’s still not time for, quote/unquote “business as usual” with Russia across a wide variety of sectors, given the concerns that we still have about their actions in Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea, and the tensions that still exist as we try to get Minsk implemented.

QUESTION: Sir, the Indian defense minister was here in United States. So did the U.S. side take up the situation of Kashmir with the Indian defense minister?

MR KIRBY: The defense minister’s meetings were at the Pentagon. You should talk to my colleagues at the Defense Department on that. He didn’t meet us with – here.

Thanks. Appreciate it.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)

DPB # 151

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