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Daily Press Briefing

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 5, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




1:37 p.m. EDT

MR TONER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. Happy Wednesday. Sorry, I should say that with more certainty. Happy Wednesday.

Just very briefly at the top, and then I'll get to your questions. The United States – first I wanted to speak about the Burundian human rights activist who was attacked. The United States condemns the brutal attack on prominent Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and calls for those responsible to be brought to justice immediately. This attack reinforces the urgent need for the government and the peaceful opposition to work together in pursuit of a consensus and find a peaceful path forward for the people of Burundi. Failure to do so carries with it the risk that Burundi's political crisis will only deepen and further undermine the peace and stability enabled by the Arusha Agreement over the past decade. We call upon all stakeholders to exercise calm and restraint and avoid provocative statements and acts. We urge the Government of Burundi to ensure the safety of Mr. Mbonimpa, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and for the sake of the citizens of Burundi, we wish him a safe and speedy recovery.

That's all I have at the top. I'll take your questions. No questions? Great. We're done. No, I'm just kidding. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: If we can go back to what we were talking about the other day, the email – the Clinton email issue.


QUESTION: I had a couple of follow-up questions for you. And one is kind of similar to just what I asked the other day, and that's just simply looking back at this statement from the IC IG and the State Department IG: Is the State Department – in your response the other day, is the State Department contending that the State IG might have made a false statement when he said that these four emails contained classified information when they were generated?

MR TONER: We just haven't seen them. So we – what we've seen, what we have vetted internally, and frankly through the interagency, we have, as I've talked about, redacted portions of those that we believe now are confidential or classified material. But through our process, we've not seen anything that former Secretary Clinton has given to us that should've been classified at the time. So it's just – it's not any way passing judgment on what they have deemed to be classified. It's just we haven't seen it.

QUESTION: Okay. When you say you haven't seen it, though, I mean, these are four emails out of only about 40 that were specifically turned over to the IG to look at. And are – I mean, are you saying that the IG didn't point out to the State Department, "Hey, there's these 40 emails; here's these four that are classified"?

MR TONER: To my knowledge, we have not. No, they – this was something that they – again, without – and I – this is how the OIG works, and the IC IG, but they conveyed these to the FBI or Department of Justice. They referred to – referred them to the Department of Justice. So we don't have – basically we don't have eyes on this. They're operating independently, so we haven't seen them. That's my understanding. If that's wrong, I'll get back to you, but I think that's right.

QUESTION: So they sent it to the FBI, and then they sent a memo to the Senate and the House intelligence committees and the CIA director, but they have not told the State Department --

MR TONER: Specifically these things, yeah.

QUESTION: -- which four emails they're talking about?

MR TONER: No. And that said, as I've talked about on – I can't remember now; it was Friday, I guess – we have in the past month or so tried to incorporate a contingent of IC reviewers, basically, into our office here that's reviewing these documents so that they can – just trying to streamline the process, to be frank, and trying to get their input from the get-go. But certainly throughout this process we've been clearing things through the interagency.

Please, go ahead. Yeah, please.

QUESTION: One more on the emails. So it's been reported – and I think that you confirmed from this podium, or someone did, that the State Department identified classified material in the emails in May and instructed Clinton's lawyers on appropriate measures for physically securing those emails. My question is: Why wouldn't you just ask for them to turn them back over to you? I mean, are --

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- do they have --

MR TONER: It's a good question. So you're right. So you're talking about the emails in the possession of former Secretary Clinton's lawyers, is what you're talking about, right?


MR TONER: So the counsel for the former – for former Secretary Clinton advised the Department at the time that it was a subject to a separate document preservation request from the Select Committee on Benghazi, and from the inspectors general for the department as well as for the intelligence committee. So accordingly, Department officials provided Secretary Clinton with instructions regarding appropriate measures for physically securing these documents. So because of these preservation requests or orders, they did not want to physically relocate them or give them directly to the department. So what we did, as I talked about a little bit last week, is we actually had a security expert go look at the facility where they were being held at the lawyer's offices and made sure that they were up to code or up to standards.

QUESTION: Is that lawyer cleared, does have --


QUESTION: -- appropriate clearance?


QUESTION: And so basically --

MR TONER: And that's not uncommon. We do – people who are outside the State Department – that's another good point to stress, is that we do occasionally, for a variety of reasons, clear people to hold classified documents who aren't employed by the State Department.

QUESTION: So basically, there were two entities in the U.S. Government who wanted these emails --

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and so you just told them how to keep them so they can get them to both of you.

MR TONER: Right, and again, it was subject to – this is important, and I'll try to explain it – but there's a separate document preservation request. So the lawyer's office said they're going to hold onto those because of that request to preserve these documents rather than hand them over, but also, obviously, we have access to them.

QUESTION: Can I just follow on that one, please?

MR TONER: Please go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: I've also got the memorandum that Charles McCullough, the inspector general of the intelligence community, had sent to members of Congress. And he says in here that he requested the rest of the 30,000 emails in State possession, "However, State rejected my office's request on jurisdictional grounds."

So the State Department has cleared Ms. Clinton's personal attorney to view these and to keep them at his facility, but did not turn them over to the intelligence community IG. Do you know if this has changed at all?

MR TONER: Again, as we clear these documents, these emails, and go through the process and, as I said, redact those portions that we now would deem classified or should be upgraded, we share those with the intelligence community already. We have – but there are clear channels here, to be frank, and we have shared those with our own IG. But it's not incumbent on us and frankly not in our jurisdiction to allow the IC IG access to those emails.

That said, we're going through them all diligently. We're sharing them through the process that's established to clear these documents via – or in accordance with FOIA regulations, sorry. The IC is getting eyes on these. It's just how we're diligently kind of going through the process, and before publication, we always clear these through the IC.


QUESTION: And why would the State Department clear David Kendall to have them and to view them but not the IC IG?

MR TONER: Well, he's – that – again, he is former Secretary Clinton's lawyer. He is in possession of these. Again, because of these – as I tried to lay out, because of the request that he's had to preserve those documents, he has asked to hold onto those. So in accordance with that, we simply cleared the site where they're being held, made sure that it was a secure facility and capable of holding what could be potentially classified material.


QUESTION: Do you already have all the emails he has?

MR TONER: Yes, I believe so. I'll double-check on that. Yeah, I mean, I believe it's the same set of --

QUESTION: Like, if they weren't preserved, you wouldn't have them?

MR TONER: Right, right, exactly. Correct, yes, that's correct.


QUESTION: I know you said you sent a physical security expert over.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: As the FBI investigates the setup, has the State Department been involved in any way in that investigation, the --

MR TONER: Not --

QUESTION: -- physical security expert been questioned in any way or --

MR TONER: Involved in – I'm sorry, just – on what, the – what --

QUESTION: The FBI is investigating the security of the setup of her server.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And as State Department was part of the initial assessment of whether it was secure, have they been involved in the FBI investigation?

MR TONER: I just don't know. I don't know if we've been in discussion with them or that's been a separate – and it could well be, just because of the integrity of whatever investigation there is. I just don't know the answer.


QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: On Japan. So the Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga quoted Prime Minister Abe in his conversation with Vice President Biden that the allegations about spying could shake – quote, "could shake the relationship of trust in our alliance and I would have to express serious concerns," end quote. Do you have any reaction to that, especially given --

MR TONER: I don't beyond what I've – sorry – what I've conveyed over the last couple of days. You're talking about the conversation --

QUESTION: Between Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Abe.

MR TONER: Yeah. No, I mean, except that, as I said yesterday, the Government of Japan has conveyed their concern or their sentiments about this. I've been very circumspect in what I've said to address these allegations because I don't want to speak to classified documents or allegedly classified documents, but we've been in touch with the Japanese. We've been talking through these issues, but we believe our relationship is strong.


MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, his quote kind of goes against that, that "it could shake the relationship of trust in our alliance." And so does that --

MR TONER: Again, I – other than – I'm not going to – I mean, I'm not going to dispute his words. I'm just going to say that we believe the relationship is on strong footing. We believe going forward it's only going to get stronger. This has been a bedrock of security and stability for the region and we expect it to remain so.

QUESTION: So he also requested --

MR TONER: Yeah, go ahead. Finish.


MR TONER: That's okay.

QUESTION: He also requested an investigation. In the phone conversation it's been recorded that he's requested an investigation. Are you aware of this request? Are you – is State going to be supporting this investigation?

MR TONER: I'm just not aware of it, so I don't have anything to comment on it.


QUESTION: Malaysia?


QUESTION: While the Secretary was in Kuala Lumpur, did he at all discuss former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's conviction on sodomy charges that certainly continues to spark protest and outrage among local LGBT rights advocates? Was that all – was that discussed in any way yesterday in Kuala Lumpur?

MR TONER: Well, I can say that first of all, Secretary Kerry raised the issue of human rights in all of his meetings in Malaysia. But I can also confirm that when he spoke with Prime Minister Najib, he did raise Anwar's case and ask that Anwar be afforded much needed medical attention. So it was raised.

QUESTION: And then as a follow-up to that, Malaysia, Singapore are among the countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized. Both countries are poised to join the TT – the TPP, rather, if ratified. Was that issue raised as well during his meetings in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore? And if so, how would that factor into ongoing negotiations over TPP that we continue to hear about?

MR TONER: Well, only – I mean, I don't have a greater readout to give you. As I said, he did raise human rights. As we've been very clear from this podium and elsewhere, gay rights are human rights. And so in that context, we certainly believe that gay rights fall into the concerns that we would have going forward on any kind of trade agreement that our concerns be alleviated.

QUESTION: And then as a final question, as a follow-up to that, Congressman Meeks a couple of months ago told me that there's, quote, "enforceable standards" within TPP. Based on your comments you just said and what has been discussed from the podium and elsewhere, should folks be confident that any final agreement with TPP will have those enforceable human rights standards?

MR TONER: I'm not an expert on the standards that are within the TPP proposal, but I do believe that he is correct in that there are human rights standards written into the agreement that we would expect to be upheld.




QUESTION: Yesterday a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia would not join the anti-ISIL coalition. Did the United States ask them? Have we tried to persuade them to join? Did Kerry bring this up with Lavrov? The readout seems like a one-way conversation. The U.S. – here's our air campaign position, but did you say, "Hey guys, let's join. What ideas do you have"?

MR TONER: Well, I wouldn't --

QUESTION: If not, why not?

MR TONER: I wouldn't characterize it as a one-way conversation. It was our readout and we don't attempt ever to speak on behalf of whoever our interlocutor is in those – yeah, right --

QUESTION: Or what you understand them to say – your perception.

MR TONER: Right. It was a – I think it was a substantive conversation. Clearly, we're seeking to move forward for a peaceful resolution in Syria – sorry, you're talking about in Syria in terms of political resolution or anti-ISIL?

QUESTION: First anti-ISIL --


QUESTION: -- and I guess both --

MR TONER: Yeah, yeah, sure.

QUESTION: -- more particularly.

MR TONER: Well, he did talk about the situation in Syria. And as I've stated very often, it's a very complex, very fluid situation. We're looking for a way forward, a political resolution. We're clear that even though we want to see a political resolution consistent with the Geneva communique, we don't see Assad as part of that. We're trying to work through some of these issues with Russia. We talked about de Mistura's efforts at the UN, and we certainly are supportive of those. We have a new envoy for Syria in place now and he's getting acquainted with the issues.

To speak to the anti-ISIL efforts, we have a coalition right now that's taking the fight to ISIL in northern Syria. I'm not going to speak for another government or why they may or may not join that coalition, but certainly, it's an effort that has brought together a pretty diverse group of governments and different entities in common cause. Because of the depravity, because of the brutality of ISIL, I think most people recognize it as a severe, even existential threat. It's in our national security interests, obviously, but it's in the security interests of many. So we would always encourage more people to join us in the efforts to defeat and degrade ISIL, but I can't speak on behalf of the government.

QUESTION: But also it would be --


QUESTION: -- it would be a positive thing for Russia to join. I mean, they have quite some – they have common cause --


QUESTION: -- with you on that. So, and they have of the military capabilities that would be nice to tap into. Don't – do you --

MR TONER: They certainly do. And I would just – I would just characterize we're – obviously, from today's meeting and the meeting just a few days ago in Doha, we're very much engaged with Foreign Minister Lavrov talking about all these issues and the possible way forward. I don't want to get out ahead of what we may decide or how we may move on this, but we're fully engaged.

Yeah, go ahead. I'm sorry, go ahead please.

QUESTION: One more on that meeting?


QUESTION: Can you talk about – did they discuss the situation in the Ukraine? Do you have anything further on that?

MR TONER: They did. They talked about – they did talk about Ukraine. They talked about the – so first of all, they did – there was – this is the one that was on the ASEAN ministerial sidelines, not the one in Doha a few days ago. They did discuss the situation in Ukraine and specifically the steps needed to see Minsk – the Minsk agreement fully implemented. And as I just was explaining, they also covered in depth the situation in Syria, to include the importance of finding a political solution, the need to continue to address the Assad regime's possession and use – potential use of chemical weapons, obviously. And then they spoke a little bit about the upcoming UN General Assembly and plans to counter violent extremism. So it was a broad range of topics.

QUESTION: Did it seem like the ceasefire was closer or --

MR TONER: Ceasefire in?

QUESTION: The Minsk agreement.

MR TONER: In Minsk agreement. You know what? We've seen continued violations of the ceasefire. We're still not quite there yet. We still haven't seen the Russian separatists or, frankly, the Russian troops on the ground in eastern Ukraine fulfill their commitments to Minsk. So we continue to work that issue.


QUESTION: Yeah, and on Lavrov's plan to defeat ISIL, and I'm wondering how much it's in line with the U.S. strategy, current strategy to defeat ISIL, particularly on regards to the other dynamics in Syria such as Assad regime and the Kurdish forces on the ground. And how much do you see Russians' plan in line with the U.S. plan?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, again, I think it's important when you're talking about the various forces at play in Syria, we recognize the fact that the Assad regime has showed, frankly, no capability or no willingness to go after ISIL, I-S-I-L. Our focus, frankly, has not – has been on supporting those groups in northern Syria, especially Turkoman, Syrian Arabs, Syrian Kurds who are taking the fight to ISIL, who are looking to push them out of northern Syria. We talked about the agreement with Turkey to use some of its airbases to really focus our efforts, airstrikes and what have you, to support these groups fighting in there.

We look to – we – I can't really speak to the Russian proposals. But I think, as I tried to convey, this is – ISIL's existence is something that brings together a broad range of governments, of entities out there, because of its brutality, because of its – the terror that it's fomenting in this apolitical state that it's created. But again, just to be very clear, this is something that the Assad government has created, this kind of stateless zone where ISIL can establish itself and thrive. And so we need a political resolution to what's going on with the Assad regime right now in Syria. We also need to take the fight to ISIL. So we need to do both.

QUESTION: Sure. And on that, do you see any change on Russia regarding the Assad?

MR TONER: Again, we're talking – and I don't want to get out ahead of any decisions or any shifts, but we had a – the Secretary had a substantive conversation with Foreign Secretary Lavrov today. We're going to continue to talk going forward.

Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: A follow-up on some other question. You just talk about the cruelty of the Assad regime and you have been talking about it for some time. Today on New York Times there was a article by the Human Rights – head of Human Rights Watch was talking about how the barrel bombs in Syria have to be stopped at least if you are not getting any kind of political solution anytime soon, that the U.S. Government has to use – given that U.S. has capability to do that like northern Syria or you are able to give the – give warnings to Assad regime, don't you think it's about time for U.S. to take some concrete steps against Assad regime in terms of barrel bombs?

MR TONER: In terms of --

QUESTION: The stopping.

MR TONER: Well, we've been, I think, very clear that we condemn the use of barrel bombs. I think you're talking – just to be clear, you're talking about the reports that the Assad regime has dropped, I think, over a thousand barrel bombs on the town of Zabadani is what you're specifically addressing. Yeah.

QUESTION: And they have been dropping those bombs across Syria on opposition.

MR TONER: Yeah. No, look, I mean, we're outraged that the Assad regime continues to use barrel bombs as an instrument of terror against the Syrian civilians. It's been widely documented – obviously, the use – by the international community. No country should defend or excuse these kinds of tactics. And frankly, these reports of barrel bomb usage just highlight the daily horrors of what's happening in Syria and just underscore again the need for a political process, for a political resolution to the situation, and ultimately to hold those responsible for these actions accountable.

QUESTION: Just to put a fine point.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Officials like former U.S. official Fred Hof has been talking about it as well --


QUESTION: -- but the argument is here that U.S. can impose or can use its leverage against the regime to stop these bombs by warning or using deterrence. Do you think that U.S. can do this?

MR TONER: Well, I think we've been – as we were with – clearly in addressing the threat of chemical weapons, we've been attempting to clearly convey and even curb the Assad regime's use of these kinds of offensive weaponry that, frankly, just kill innocent civilians and bring untold horror into the – their daily lives. We continue to be concerned about it. We're looking at ways to address it. I don't want – again, don't want to get out ahead of any decisions that haven't been made yet, but it's of great concern to us.

Please, sir.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government plan to launch a formal complaint after an Iranian warship pointed a weapon at a U.S. Navy helicopter? It happened in the Gulf of Aden on July 25th.

MR TONER: Frankly, I'm not aware of the report. I'll have to look into it.

QUESTION: Will you take that one?

MR TONER: Yeah, sure thing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: There are some reports – back to Syria by the way --

MR TONER: Have we left?

QUESTION: -- that the New Syrian Forces are fighting with al-Nusrah Front. And I was wondering if the fighting, combatting al-Nusrah is part of the New Syrian Forces mission. And how do they deal if they face the Nusrah Front soldiers on the ground?

MR TONER: Sorry. You're saying – you're asking – I just want to make sure I understand your question. You're asking if al-Nusrah --

QUESTION: The New Syrian Forces are clashing with the --

MR TONER: Right, right.

QUESTION: -- al-Nusrah Front on the ground.

MR TONER: Well, I mean, we've been very clear that we're looking at defensive actions to protect these forces. Our stance on al-Nusrah is very well known, and we're going to continue to protect these forces, the NSA, as you refer to them, as they bring the fight to ISIL in northern Syria. So we've been providing them with, as I said, defensive strikes to help protect them where we can.

QUESTION: Sorry, a follow-up on that.

MR TONER: Yeah, please.

QUESTION: So is – are you also bringing the fight now to al-Nusrah Front? Is that part of --

MR TONER: I said we're – insofar as – insofar as they're under threat – these anti-ISIL Syrian forces are under threat by al-Nusrah, we're going to – and we said this – we're going to take steps to protect them.

QUESTION: So the New Syrian Forces will not be taking – well, they, themselves, will not be attacking al-Nusrah Front. That's not part of their mission.


QUESTION: It's exclusively to fight ISIL.

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. It's not part of their mission, but do they also share information or intelligence regarding the al-Nusrah or something on the --

MR TONER: I'm not going to speak to that from here.


QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I was wondering: Will the U.S. be making any sort of statement for the commemorating the 70th anniversary of the war? Will that come from the White House or State or --

MR TONER: 70th anniversary --

QUESTION: August 15, yeah.

MR TONER: Of the – yeah.


MR TONER: I'm sorry, of the war.


MR TONER: Yeah. Again, I don't want to get out ahead in front of it, but certainly, I can expect some kind of public statement, whether it comes from the White House or here or both, often is the case.


MR TONER: Please, yeah.

QUESTION: It has been a while that we haven't asked about the press freedom in this room. You usually talk about recently this strategic alignment or an alignment with Turkey and security issues. But one thing that – it seems they are getting more problematic in Turkey. In recent case, Istanbul prosecutor's office prepared an indictment against 18 journalists in Turkey, asking up to seven years each for covering the previous terror attempt at the Istanbul courthouse. Do you have any comment on these cases?

MR TONER: Sure. We've made clear – and we made clear that we remain concerned about Turkish Government interference with freedoms of expression and assembly as well as the administration of justice, including due process. As you know, we believe media freedom and due process are key elements in every healthy democracy, and they're enshrined in the Turkish constitution and in OSCE and other international agreements to which Turkey is and the United States have both, frankly, committed. We continue to urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold Turkey's core values, and that includes democracy and universally recognized and fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: Do you see any uptick in the recent, recent times? We have seen this case of insults by the president to hundreds of people, blocked websites, news websites, most of them pro-Kurdish websites, blocking even Twitter accounts of the journalists. So it is – clearly there is something, this trend is becoming --

MR TONER: I don't know if I would call it an uptick. We have seen cases, as you cite, and others. And in each case, our position's very clear.

Please, go ahead, in the back.



QUESTION: So there's a Indian family in Oregon who's – who took their child to the hospital and then U.S. authorities have taken legal custody of the child. Firstly, are you aware of this case? And secondly, have you – if so, have you had any information from India's MEA on this?

MR TONER: Sorry, I'm not aware of the case. But just to recall, you said that it's an Indian couple in Oregon?

QUESTION: Yeah. In Oregon, the child had an injury and they went to the hospital. And the authorities for whatever reason decided that it was a case of some sort of abuse and they've taken custody of the child and things like that. Have you heard about this?

MR TONER: I'm frankly not. I would point you to local authorities and, I mean, certainly – but the couple is not being detained or --

QUESTION: Yes, one of them was – has been arrested as well.

MR TONER: Okay. I mean, there's – obviously there's consular aspects to this, whether the Indian diplomats would get access to their detained citizens, but as to the particulars of the case, I really can't speak to them from here. This is a local law enforcement issue.

QUESTION: Is this something that you could take and come back with more information, or --

MR TONER: I can see if I have anything more. Yeah, sure.


MR TONER: Please go ahead, and then you.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports – there's a report out today from Bloomberg specifically that the U.S. intelligence community has informed Congress of evidence that Iran was sanitizing its suspected nuclear military site at Parchin in broad daylight days after agreeing to the nuclear deal with world powers. The new evidence, which is classified, was satellite imagery picked up by U.S. Government assets in mid and late July showed that Iran had moved bulldozers and other heavy machinery.

MR TONER: I'm not – I – I've not seen those reports until you just spoke to them. But we've been very clear that with the new joint agreement that we planned that you can't hide nuclear activity. There are traces that remain. So – but I can't speak to that specific instance, what you're talking about. I'll try to see if I have anything more, but – please.

QUESTION: So Japan will be meeting North Korea on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum. Do you support this meeting? Do you encourage this dialogue?

MR TONER: Well, I think what we would urge is any effort that would convince North Korea to address the international community's concerns and to get back on a process where it comes – it addresses – as I said, the international community's concerned about its nuclear program. We would support that, but --

QUESTION: I mean, specifically, they are going to be addressing the issue of abductees.

MR TONER: That's another really important issue between Japan and North Korea. So hopefully North Korea will be supportive.

QUESTION: And you had indicated that – I mean, that the U.S. would not be meeting with North Korean counterparts.

MR TONER: I know.

QUESTION: And so that hasn't changed?

MR TONER: No. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I was wondering if the U.S. received extradition request of Fethullah Gulen from Turkey? And what's the current status on that?

MR TONER: (A) I can't speak to extradition requests of specific individuals. So I don't have any more information on him is (b). Sorry. Anything else, guys? Yeah, please.

QUESTION: Hi. Also on Turkey.

MR TONER: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Pentagon has said today that the U.S. has launched its first drone strike into northern Syria from I think Incirlik Air Base on Monday. Can you elaborate more on this?

MR TONER: I mean, I don't have much more to say. The Pentagon is much more appropriate to speak to kind of the operational details of our collaboration and cooperation with Turkey. But I can confirm that. I mean, they obviously already have – we're looking to, as we've been very clear, use Incirlik as a way to bring the fight to ISIL. It's much closer – in northern Syria, rather. It's much closer, and so we can really intensify our support for those anti-ISIL groups that are fighting in northern Syria in support of their efforts.

QUESTION: So you can confirm that Incirlik will be used to attack targets in northern Syria, not the other parts of Syria? It's only northern Syria?

MR TONER: I mean, I think what we've said all along is that it's going to be used as a platform to take the fight to strike in support of anti-ISIL forces, but strike ISIL targets mostly there in northern Syria.

QUESTION: Do you have any timetable to start to free – ISIL – start creating ISIL-free zone in northern --

MR TONER: First of all, no zone. (Laughter.) I have to be very clear about that. We're taking the fight to ISIL. We're trying to get them out of that whole region, eventually destroy and degrade them entirely.


MR TONER: So there's this kind of continuing narrative that we're creating some kind of zone or enclave or whatever you want to – or safe haven or whatever. That's not our goal here. Our goal is to take the fight to ISIL, defeat them, and destroy them ultimately so that many of the people who have been displaced from that region can return and once again peace and stability can be re-established. But no timetable for when we're really going to get into full swing. A lot of these operational details are still being worked out with the Turkish Government.

Please. And I think it's the last one. I'm sorry, I have to run again today. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay, on Sudan. According to Sudan's deputy UN envoy, the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has – who is accused of war crime and genocide by the International Criminal Court, is planning to come to U.S. on September to speak on UN conference. And I was wondering if he can come to U.S. and if he can get U.S. visa, if he can speak in the UN, because U.S. was quite critical when he spoke in the African Union in June that he walked away without getting arrested.

MR TONER: Well, again, we don't have any – we've seen reports that President Bashir plans to speak at the UN summit in September – Summit for Development. We don't have any further information at this time. We can't, frankly, talk about individual visa cases or disclose any details from it. We're prohibited by law from doing so. More broadly, though, as you correctly stated, even though we're not a party to the Rome statute of the ICC, we have strongly supported the ICC's efforts to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. So I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION: So if he comes to U.S., then I assume that according to your statement, he will be arrested?

MR TONER: Again, I'm not going to get out and speak to hypotheticals. We haven't received any word that he's intending to go there. And frankly, if we did, I couldn't speak to it from here. Sorry about that.

Is that it, guys? Thanks so much.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)

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