Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
July 2, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
1:01 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: For what?
QUESTION: Earlier briefing. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Yeah. I got the memo yesterday. I’m happy to oblige. And thanks, everybody.
A couple of things at the top and then we’ll get right at it. Secretary Kerry has had a busy day as he and his team continue to work with the EU and our P5+1 partners towards concluding a final deal with Iran to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of that – of Iran’s nuclear program. Last night the Secretary met with the German foreign minister. Today he has met bilaterally with the UK foreign secretary, the EU High Representative Mogherini, and the Chinese foreign minister.
I’m not going to have detailed readouts of all these meetings, but obviously they were primarily focused on addressing the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. And finally, he’s meeting right now, as we speak, with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Secretary of Energy Moniz continues to meet as well with his counterpart, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, and all the teams continue to work toward trying to close the remaining gaps.
I do want to emphasize here again what the President and Secretary Kerry have both said – the President said just the other day – that we’re only going to accept a deal that effectively shuts off all the pathways to a nuclear weapon for Iran. That is the focus and that remains the focus as we work to see if we can get this done. There’s going to be a lot of outside voices, as we’ve said before, and a lot of public opinion, but our focus remains on what’s going on inside those negotiating rooms. We don’t have any further updates on meeting schedules over the next few days, but as we get them we certainly will provide them.
I also want to note, and you may have seen this, that the White House did announce that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will lead a presidential delegation celebrating our National Day at the Milan Expo 2015 on July 4th. As Secretary Kerry has noted, our participation in the six-month Milan Expo is a chance to share with the world the work that American scientists, chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others are doing to feed a growing global population in a nutritious and sustainable manner. We congratulate our USA Pavilion team for welcoming the one-millionth visitor this week at the Expo.
And then lastly, as we head into the 4th of July holiday weekend, I also want to note that there’s another important anniversary coming in this month of July. On the 26th, we’ll celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, which was one of the world’s first comprehensive laws guaranteeing equal rights to persons with disabilities. Secretary Kerry as a senator cast his vote for that act and proudly did so. This year he has asked all our embassies to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ADA during their official July 4th festivities, and that those festivities be accessible, that they include representatives of the disabled communities in each country, and that our ambassadors and diplomats highlight the remarkable and continuing impact that the ADA has had, not just here in the United States but around the world, in strengthening the rights of disabled people.
With that, I’ll take questions. Lesley.
QUESTION: Yeah, can I go?
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’m sure we all have just questions on Iran, but for now I wanted to start off with – we’ve got reports out of Berlin saying that the ambassador – the U.S. ambassador there has been – is going to be called in this afternoon to meet with Angela Merkel’s chief of staff over new spying allegations. Can you confirm that meeting? And I thought this was over, the fact that the U.S. had guaranteed that it wasn’t spying on anybody.
MR KIRBY: Well, nothing – so first, yes, Ambassador Emerson met today with the Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier – that’s true. And I won’t talk about the content of the discussions, but yes, there was a meeting today.
As a matter of policy, as we said before, Lesley, we’re not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations or the veracity of leaked documents, but as we’ve also said, we do not conduct foreign intelligence activities unless there’s a specific and validated national security purpose, and that applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.
And then the last thing I’d say is we continue to enjoy a long and very productive friendship with Germany based on shared values and a history of cooperating to advance our interests around the globe. Nothing’s going to change about that.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Well, given that this meeting is happening so quickly after the last blowup over NSA surveillance, is the U.S. using perhaps too broad a definition of defining when it’s appropriate to do this kind of work on allies?
MR KIRBY: I’m not sure I completely understand the question, Ros, but as I said right at the outset, we don’t conduct foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there’s a specific national security purpose. And that applies to, again, ordinary citizen and world leaders alike.
QUESTION: Well, let me try to put it more plainly: Is the ambassador just going to have to pencil out time in his calendar every day to be hauled into the foreign ministry or into the chancellor’s offices to be yelled at by German officials about this?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’m not going to characterize the content of the conversation. I don’t know that I would, however, call it a “yelling at.” We have strong and very deep relations and a friendship with Germany, one that we value, one that the Germans value. And again, I can’t – and I can’t speak for what German authorities may or may not do in the future based on leaks that may or may not be coming out. What I can tell you is that nothing’s changed about the strong relationship that we have and will continue to have with Germany, and I think leaders from both countries have already talked to this in terms of recognizing that this relationship is important, will continue, must continue, and that our two leaders have already spoken to the fact that we’re going to continue to work past this.
QUESTION: But John, was this raised in the discussion today between the Secretary and the German foreign minister?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have a specific readout of that conversation so I don’t know if it was discussed.
QUESTION: And there was just a readout now in Berlin in which – there’s a readout from the chief of staff which said that the U.S. ambassador said that German law had to be respected and violations must be punished, and that this would be investigated. Do you know anything – I mean, he seems to be saying that the U.S. will be looking into who leaked or --
MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any investigative process with respect to these leaked documents, and as I said, we’re not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations.
QUESTION: But do you think that this is – I mean, this is the latest in a, as Ros pointed out, a series of issues and that Berlin just said that it had already impacted – was putting strains on security cooperation between Germany and the United States.
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen those comments, so certainly that’s not any – nobody – our desire is not to have there be any strain on the relationship. As I said, it’s a very deep and strong relationship and friendship, partnership, on a whole range of issues from natural disease to ISIL. And I see nothing that indicates that our cooperation with Germany over these very pressing national security issues of the day is going to diminish at all, and that’s certainly not our desire for any of this to affect it in any way whatsoever.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, John. There were – there was a report today in Telegraph newspaper that your Arab allies have wanted to send arms directly to the Peshmerga but the United States has effectively prevented them from doing so. Is that true?
MR KIRBY: We have talked about this a lot, so I’ll just say it again: The Kurdish forces in Iraq, the Peshmerga, have been getting material, aid, and assistance from the coalition – not just from the United States, but from the coalition. It is being provided through and by the Iraqi Government in Baghdad, which is how we’re going to keep doing this. And the government in Baghdad has not held things up, has not caused there to be impediments to the delivery of this material. And as I said I think last week – and I kind of went through the extensive amount of arms and ammunition that have been provided and will continue to be provided.
QUESTION: But those officials who have talking to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity – multiple officials, apparently, from different Gulf countries – they are saying – they are very critical of the Obama strategy and saying that there should be more advanced weapons transferred to the Peshmerga, and more directly. But you have apparently, according to them, effectively told them to – do not do it. Is that true?
MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any instructions that were given by the United States to other nations about the manner in which they would or would not arm Peshmerga forces. What I can speak to is our consistent, persistent policy of making sure they get the arms and ammunition they need quickly, efficiently, effectively, and that has – and that’s been going on. That’s been happening, and it’s been happening through the government in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I have several Russia-related points. I wanted to follow up on the latest meeting between Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry in Vienna on June the 30th. Among other things, they discussed the fight against the Islamic State, and Minister Lavrov, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that they agreed to try to arrange broader consultations with participation of the states from the region. And he expressed hope that these talks would take place in the near future. I was hoping to hear the – if there is – if there was some movement on that, if you have a date or – and place for those discussions, if you can shed any more light on that.
MR KIRBY: No, I don’t have anything in terms of schedule to announce here, or even that – agreement that those kinds of talks would be held. As you know, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov speak all the time. The situation in Iraq and in Syria often comes up, the fight against ISIL. But I don’t have any decisions to read out from a result of this latest meeting.
QUESTION: Okay. And the other point – the second point was they obviously discussed Ukraine, and the agreement, I think, was for Deputy Secretary – Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin and Assistant Secretary Nuland to meet in Switzerland. Karasin later told our reporter in Geneva that this meeting will take place on July the 9th, but that it’s not going to be Geneva; it will be someplace else. Do you have a confirmation for that and the place?
MR KIRBY: No, I don’t.
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, the Dutch Government prepared a final report on MH17 crash and sent it to a number of interested parties or states, including the United States. Do you have any comment on that?
MR KIRBY: I would refer you to the Department of Transportation, which is part of the technical investigation team. Our assessment here is clear and has been consistent – MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. We continue to support efforts to ensure that justice – to ensure justice for the relatives of all those killed. And then I would also refer you to Dutch investigators who have the lead on the investigation for any updates in that regard.
Yeah, back here.
QUESTION: On Cuba, the Cuban Government announced that the opening of the embassy in D.C. would be on July 20th and the delegation will be led by the foreign minister. Can you confirm that?
MR KIRBY: I’d refer you to the Cubans to speak to their plans and their schedules.
QUESTION: I mean, but is the U.S. prepared – I mean, have they been notified, have you been notified that you will be – they will be visiting that day?
MR KIRBY: Again, I’m going to – you have to talk to the Cuban authorities about their plans to open their embassies. We can talk about – when we have specific plans, we’ll talk about our plans to formally open our embassy down in Havana. As I think we pointed out yesterday, because of the – due to the exchange of letters by both presidents, July 20th begins the – that begins the start, the restoration, the resumption of diplomatic relations between our two countries. And so at that – on that date, our interests section down in Havana will begin operating as an embassy, and the same would be true for the Cuban facility here.
As to their travel plans and their plans to formalize in some way through ceremony that resumption of diplomatic relations, again, I’d refer you to Cuban authorities to speak to that.
QUESTION: Any date for the Secretary to go yet?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on his schedule to announce today with respect to that.
QUESTION: In terms of embassy operations, do you expect a staffing increase on – at the American Embassy when it opens on – or when the letters take effect on July 20th?
MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any staffing changes that are going to have to be made, at least not in the immediate future, Ros. I’m not aware of any.
QUESTION: Change of subject, Pakistan. A few weeks ago, Secretary had called Pakistani prime minister and had expressed concerns about tensions between India and Pakistan.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: Now there are reports that the two prime minister will be meeting in Russia on the sidelines of SCO meeting – Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting. How do you see the two prime ministers meeting there --
MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of a meeting that hasn’t happened. So that would be foolhardy for me to try to do that here publicly. But I think Secretary Kerry was clear when he spoke about this a couple of weeks ago to all of you that relations between India and Pakistan are important to us. It’s an important region with lots of challenges, lots of common challenges that both countries can continue to work on. But many of them – all of them – need to be worked on between India and Pakistan, and we’d like to see those tensions reduced.
QUESTION: So do you see the Secretary’s call has any impact on the region? Have the tensions reduced from your perspective?
MR KIRBY: Because of that one phone call?
MR KIRBY: I don’t know that Secretary Kerry would credit his one phone call for some new trend in security relations. But it is important to him to continue to have a dialogue with his counterparts in India and in Pakistan because the issues are so important to regional stability. And I think it’s safe to say that you can continue to see him engaged on this, and there’ll be more dialogue. But a reduction in tensions overall – and we’ve seen the tensions rise and fall over time. You’ve seen this. But reduction is what we’re all after and I think suits all parties.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: Syria? I was a little late. I hope I am not going to repeat anything if you already talked about Syria. But --
MR KIRBY: Were you late?
QUESTION: Yes, a few minutes. Sorry about that.
MR KIRBY: Okay. We know we start these on time, right? (Laughter.) Okay.
QUESTION: I think we’re just so used to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Sorry about that.
MR KIRBY: You’re so used to it? Well, you need to get out of your old habits. Maybe I should start a new policy that if you’re late and I’ve already addressed the issue, I’m just going to refer you to the transcript. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I hope not. On Syria --
MR KIRBY: I’ve talked all about Syria today – (laughter) – so you’re out of luck. Go ahead.
QUESTION: A couple days ago, this question was asked about Turkish buffer zone plans. Since then, it seems that some – again, the Turkish military moves by the border continues. And it’s reported in Turkish press that there is a redline by the Turkish Government that if the PYD forces go forward from Jarabulus then Turkey is going to intervene. I don’t know if you have any comment on these declarations or --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything specifically to address with respect to that hypothetical situation you’re proposing. And certainly, any kind of action like that would be for Ankara to speak to, not me here in Washington.
More broadly though, I would like to restate some of what we talked about before when this issue came up earlier in the week. The United States shares Turkey’s concerns about the presence of ISIL forces in northern Syria, and that that presence poses a threat to the security of the region. We continue to discuss with Turkey and other coalition partners how best to combat ISIL in the region. It’s a complex problem. It’s going to require contributions and support from many coalition partners. And we’ve talked about that many, many times that this has got to be – it can’t – it’s not just a Turkey problem and not just a problem from the other border in Iraq, but it’s a coalition issue, it’s an international problem.
And I also want to restate again that we appreciate the generosity – the extraordinary generosity and hospitality of the Turkish Government and people who – and I think it’s important to remind – who are supporting the needs of nearly 2 million refugees who fled the violence in Syria and Iraq. So they are doing a lot. All of us – and we’ve said this before – all of us can do more to try to deal with the flow of foreign fighters across that border. But again, I just don’t have anything specific with respect to that hypothetical.
QUESTION: So – but there is a big difference, it seems like. The Ankara sees PYD, Kurdish forces also, as threat and openly declares that they will not let PYD to go to west, whereas the United States is supporting through airstrikes. So is – it’s fair to say that there’s a big friction when it comes to Syrian Kurds between the U.S. and Turkey, and how do you deal with this huge difference on the policy?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, this is an issue that we routinely discuss with our Turkish counterparts. We understand their concerns, their security concerns about those groups in Syria. Again, I said at the outset we do understand the concerns they have, certainly the concerns they have about ISIL in northern Syria as well. And they’re an important ally and partner, and part of being a good ally and partner is working through some of the issues that you have between yourselves. This is – we understand these concerns and we’re going to continue to work through them with Turkey.
But it is a – there is a larger issue here, and that is the growth of ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. And again, we – growth is a relative term. I don’t mean that they’re expanding territory necessarily but that they remain a lethal threat and a threat to all our partners in the region.
QUESTION: Can I go back to your strong and deep relationship with Germany?
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: I understand --
MR KIRBY: I already talked about this before you came in.
QUESTION: No, I said – I heard, but I want to go back – return to the strong and deep relationship. (Laughter.) The chief of staff of Angela Merkel’s office is saying that this type of revelations are putting strains on the relationship. So, I mean, while you – I don’t think any – either side would argue that the relationship is very important and strong, but what about the assertion that this is really going to impact, and not only in terms of relations or friendship, but the type of cooperation you can have with Germany?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, without speaking to the allegations on these intelligence --
QUESTION: Well, they’re in the WikiLeaks documents, so you don’t need to.
MR KIRBY: I know that. Let me get --
MR KIRBY: Let me get it out. Without speaking to those allegations or the veracity of them – and I can’t, obviously, speak for the German Government or how they’re reacting to this; that’s for them to speak to – it’s certainly our hope that nothing, regardless of whether it’s these leaked documents or anything else, that nothing gets in the way of the strong cooperation, partnership, and friendship that we enjoy with the German people. And I think it’s important to remind, Elise, that there’s a lot going on. I mean, there’s a lot – we’re doing a lot with the Germans. They’ve assisted in the Ebola response and the fight against ISIL, and their commitment to Article 5 and NATO and what’s going on in Europe with Russia and Ukraine. I mean, there’s a lot of work to be done and is being done every day with the German Government and the German people, and it’s certainly our hope that nothing gets in the way of that.
QUESTION: Well, but undoubtedly there’s a lot going on, but I think what the Germans are saying – and you don’t really need to speak to the veracity of them. Not only are they in the WikiLeaks documents but the fact that the ambassador is there, obviously you’re taking these allegations or the revelations seriously. But I think what the Germans are saying is this goes to an issue of trust. And so while you may not – while you hope that nothing would affect the relationship, the Germans are saying our ability to trust you is going to be directly affected by these type of things.
MR KIRBY: I don’t know that that’s – I’m not going to speak for the German Government.
QUESTION: Well, that’s what Berlin says.
MR KIRBY: I don’t know that that’s what’s been stated here. We --
QUESTION: Well, what was stated is this is putting strains on the relationship.
MR KIRBY: Again, and I’ll just say what I said again: We hope that nothing could put strains on what is and will remain a very important partnership.
QUESTION: But do you think that no matter what you do to one of your strong and deep allies, like, nothing is going to put strains on that?
MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to go revisit the past here on these alleged intelligence activities. We do not conduct foreign intelligence surveillance activities that – unless there’s a specific and validated national security need. And as I said at the outset, that goes for senior leaders and for ordinary citizens alike.
QUESTION: And so when you --
MR KIRBY: We don’t do that.
QUESTION: When you say we do not, you mean in the present?
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to, again, these alleged --
QUESTION: They’re not alleged, John. They’re published --
MR KIRBY: -- leaked specific intelligence allegations.
QUESTION: They’re published cable leaks.
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to that.
QUESTION: Okay, but --
MR KIRBY: I’ll tell you what we’re doing now, what we’re focused on now, and the relationship – the strong relationship that we have with Germany.
QUESTION: So are you trying to say that regardless of what’s coming out now, this is an issue from the past?
MR KIRBY: I am not going to comment on the veracity of these alleged intelligence activities. I’ve made it very clear what we are not doing in the realm of intelligence surveillance activities. And again, the third point is how much we value this relationship with Germany and intend in every regard to keep it as strong and vibrant as it is right now.
I already got you, and I got you.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria and Turkey (inaudible)?
MR KIRBY: I’ll come back to you later.
QUESTION: But dealing with the World Food Program funding for --
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- for emergency food assistance.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: You noted yesterday that the value of those vouchers for Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons is being cut in half.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: Since you made that announcement, have any other countries come forward to say that they’re willing to put in more money so that people aren’t adversely affected by what seems to be just a lack of money?
MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any since yesterday, of any additional contributions by other donor nations. I could tell you that here at the State Department we’re actively considering whether we should increase our own donations, which, as I said yesterday, are greater than anybody else’s combined. And we’re going to continue to focus on this. It’s an important issue.
QUESTION: How quickly could a decision on additional funding be made?
MR KIRBY: It’s hard to say, Roz. I mean, since the World Food Program announced this decision to cut their budget by half in – with respect to Syrian operations, which is a very recent decision – I just spoke to it yesterday. It’s – I mean, we’ve just now started having these discussions and I just don’t have an update for you.
QUESTION: Can I --
MR KIRBY: You want --
QUESTION: Can I move to Venezuela?
MR KIRBY: I tell you what, let’s do Syria first --
MR KIRBY: -- and then we’ll go to Venezuela.
QUESTION: Okay. On Jarabulus, back to Jarabulus, it seems like the PYD Kurdish forces may be attacking the Jarabulus to take over from ISIS. Would you be supporting that kind of operation subsequently --
MR KIRBY: I don’t. I don’t – just as a matter of course, I don’t do battlefield updates here. So I don’t have an update on the situation on the ground today, and I’m just not in a position to speak to that.
QUESTION: The Turkish Government – one of the claims that the PYD and the Assad regime work together against the Turk. Do you have any kind of finding would support that PYD and the regime working against moderate Syrian opposition forces?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have a specifics on who exactly the Assad regime is making deals with or cutting deals with. I think that’s for them to speak to. What I think is important to keep bringing everybody back to is that the fight inside Iraq and in Syria by the coalition – 62 some-odd nations – is against ISIL. That’s the common enemy. That’s the focus. And that’s the group that had – that has been allowed to fester and grow inside – to fester inside Syria, because Assad has lost legitimacy to govern and has lost an ability to have any effect whatsoever on the wide swaths of Syria to the north. That’s the focus of the coalition efforts. And again, for what Assad’s doing, you have to talk to him. But that’s what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: There was a Reuters report yesterday about the United States and Venezuela speaking behind closed doors about normalizing relationship. Allegedly Tom Shannon flew to Caracas at least once, maybe several times. I don’t remember the report accurately. I was hoping you can – you could speak to that a bit, if there was – if indeed these talks are taking place, things like that.
MR KIRBY: Look, communication with other countries is – it’s a hallmark of diplomatic efforts. As a key component of our conversation with Venezuela, whether it be the government or political opposition or others, we’ve underscored the importance of dialogue and respect for democratic institutions and elections and our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. We – and we maintain diplomatic relations with Venezuela. There’s embassies in both countries, and we have strong ties between our two people.
Ambassador Shannon was invited by Venezuelan President Maduro to Caracas in early April. They met on April 8th – not behind closed doors. There’s no – there’s nothing secretive here. And following the Summit of the Americas, Ambassador Shannon was invited again to Caracas for another conversation on May 12th. The conversations were positive and productive, and they will continue. In June when Ambassador Shannon was in Haiti, President Martelly of Haiti invited representatives of the United States and Venezuela to Port-au-Prince to discuss support for Haiti’s elections and reconstruction and development there. Those talks were productive with President Martelly identifying areas where both countries could deepen engagement with Haiti in coordination with ongoing international efforts.
So the delegations – the U.S. and Venezuelan delegations – took advantage of that opportunity to continue bilateral talks. And as in previous meetings in Caracas, that delegation, again, was led by Ambassador Shannon.
So I know that’s a lengthy answer, but there’s nothing behind closed doors here; we maintain diplomatic relations with Venezuela. And as I said before, those discussions are going to continue.
QUESTION: One question on the Fourth of July preparations in the United States. It seems that the U.S. security forces have stepped up security measures this year. Does that have anything to do with the growing threat of ISIL – what seems to be the growing threat of ISIL on Western countries, and including the United States?
MR KIRBY: Well, really those kinds of questions are better put to the Department of Homeland Security. That said, I think this is no different than the kind of vigilance that we want Americans to observe around major events like this. There’s no specific critical – credible threat that has been identified.
But I think it’s just good common sense when you have large gatherings, like I expect that we’ll have this weekend, for people to just be vigilant, keep their head on a swivel. But they should get out and enjoy the holiday. It’s an important date in our history, and I know I speak for Secretary Kerry when I say that Americans should go out and enjoy that, and I think we will.
QUESTION: On the South China Sea, have you seen the report put out by CSIS that China is near completion of an airstrip on one of the reefs? And do you have a reaction to that?
MR KIRBY: Yeah, I’m aware of that report. I’d say the reaction is exactly the same as it has been – that we don’t find reclamation activities, and certainly don’t find the militarization of those outputs, to be helpful to regional security and stability; in fact, quite the contrary. And we’re going to continue to impress upon China as we do with all claimants that our interest is in lowering the tensions. We remain committed to upholding international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and the peaceful management and resolution of disputes.
QUESTION: John, are you also monitoring the movement of the Chinese oil rig that was reintroduced into the region recently? It’s the same one that raised hackles last year when it was (inaudible).
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen an update on that. I just don’t have anything new on that.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Regarding the South China Sea, do you think that this is a new normal that you’re going to have to accept, in the sense that once those artificial islands are made, you can’t unmake them? Will you have to somehow make a compromise and acknowledge that this is the new status quo?
MR KIRBY: No, we’re not recognizing the status quo as some sort of new normal. We – our position on these facilities hasn’t changed and it’s not going to change.
QUESTION: And you’re not going to have to make a compromise later on --
MR KIRBY: We --
QUESTION: -- regarding the type of militarization that will (inaudible)?
MR KIRBY: There’s no change to our policy and our concerns about these facilities.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
MR KIRBY: Yeah, Goyal.
QUESTION: A couple of questions on South Asia, please.
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: Starting with – there is some warning, Nepal warning. Any reason for that Travel Warning to Nepal?
MR KIRBY: Oh, to Nepal. Yeah, we did just issue a Travel Warning update, and I got it here somewhere. But basically, the update is to recognize that conditions are better, so we’re stopping the – what had been an authorized departure of nonessential personnel. That authorized departure will now not be needed anymore in recognition that conditions are getting better there. That’s the update.
QUESTION: So there is no --
MR KIRBY: It’s reflective of the fact that the situation is getting better.
QUESTION: It’s nothing to do with any credible threat or anything --
MR KIRBY: No. I mean, if you look at the travel update, it actually talks about the improving conditions. So things are actually better there now in the wake of the earthquake, and again, we continue to want to support the Government of Nepal as they continue recovery efforts.
QUESTION: These days, we have been talking about climate change and all that, how much it will affect the globe. Upcoming in November, I believe, there is a climate summit in Maldives, and U.S. is taking the initiative and all that. But according to some experts, Maldives may change their climate, it may go down in the next 25 to 30 years because of the change in the atmosphere and all that. Is that – what the U.S. is doing about that, because since U.S. taking initiative to take this summit?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything schedule-wise to talk about with the summit, but, I mean, Secretary Kerry has been profoundly interested and crystal-clear about his concerns about the growing threats of climate change and what that does to natural resources – resource competition, security, stability, economic prosperity. He’s been a stalwart leader on this issue for many years, long before he was Secretary of State. And he’ll continue to – he just took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. I mean, this is an issue that matters deeply to him and to the United States Government. So our focus is not going to lessen on the growing threats of climate change. I’ll just have to get back to you on this. You said it was in the Maldives? Is that --
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
MR KIRBY: I’ll just have to get back to you. You always get me on something, Goyal. I can’t – every single day, I just – I have to take a question from you.
Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. And finally, as far as Sri Lanka – situation in Sri Lanka, anything update on that, sir?
MR KIRBY: On what?
QUESTION: In Sri Lanka. Any update on Sri Lanka – situation in Sri Lanka?
MR KIRBY: You got me there too. I did not prepare for a Sri Lanka question today. So that’s two. You’re killing me. You’re killing me.
QUESTION: That’s okay. We are here to celebrate now 4th of July. Thank you, sir.
MR KIRBY: Well, I won’t be able to enjoy my weekend until I know we’ve gotten back to you on these answers. (Laughter.) It’s going to be just bounding around in my brain until I can --
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MR KIRBY: No, it’s okay. No, it’s all right. That’s why I took this job.
All right, we’ll take just a couple more. Yeah.
QUESTION: Any comment on the World Cup final, U.S. versus Japan, on Monday? (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Well, I think it’s – should be obvious where our cheering section’s going to be for the game, but look, we congratulate both teams for getting to the finals. Absolutely exceptional athletic performances, and I know we’re all going to look forward to watching the game. And we’re certainly going to be cheering for our hometown girls, there’s no doubt about that. And also, just – it was heartbreaking to see how the game ended between England and Japan. I saw – just watched the video of that young player and what happened when that final kick of the game, and that’s tough. But that’s sports, and again, we’re looking forward to watching the finals.
QUESTION: Sir, just one more question on Iraq. Some health officials in Fallujah have voiced concern against Iraqi bombardments, Iraqi airplanes, by the Iraqi army that has caused a lot of civilian casualties in that town while they’re bombing ISIS positions. Have you seen those reports and are you concerned?
MR KIRBY: Nope. See, you have an iPhone and I don’t.
QUESTION: Actually --
MR KIRBY: I am not – so I can’t – I – and again, guys, I want to keep away from doing battlefield updates and assessments. I mean, our policy on civilian casualties, our approach – nobody is more scrupulous about trying to prevent civilian casualties more than the United States, and I would also expand that in this fight against ISIL to the coalition. I think all coalition members that are participating in a kinetic, military fashion are showing great restraint and care in not trying to cause civilian casualties, and I would point that the Iraqis as well have been trying very, very hard. I don’t know what happened here in this particular town, and so I’d be loath to try to comment one way or the other. But obviously, the protection of innocent civilians is a key component of this campaign – the military arm of this campaign – and it will continue to be so.
Okay, thanks, everybody. Have a great 4th of July weekend.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:39 p.m.)
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