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Daily Press Briefing, August 24, 2015

John Kirby
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 24, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




2:02 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Afternoon, everybody. Couple things at the top. First, I want to say the United States welcomes the agreement reached between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK earlier today. We support President Park’s tireless efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, which support peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. We continue to coordinate closely with the ROK and to reiterate our unwavering support for the alliance. And I’m going to refer you to the Republic of Korea for more detail with respect to the agreement reached.

On Ukraine, we welcome today’s meeting among Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, and President Poroshenko in Berlin, and their ongoing, shared commitment to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. We remain concerned, of course, about violence in eastern Ukraine. Our analysis continues to show, and as I have said before, that it is the combined Russian-separatist forces and not Ukrainian forces who are initiating aggressive activities. Ukraine’s military posture continues to be defensive. We firmly reject Russia’s efforts to point to Ukraine as the aggressor. There is no indication that Ukraine intends to conduct or is undertaking preparations for offensive operations in their own country or in eastern Ukraine.

We commend the OSCE’s ongoing efforts to facilitate Minsk implementation, and condemn separatist attacks and pressure on the monitors, which we continue to see. We call on Russia and the separatists to end the violence and begin full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including ensuring the safety and full access for OSCE monitors.

And then finally, today members of the UN Security Council held their first Arria-formula meeting on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender – or LGBT – issues, particularly in the context of ISIL’s crimes against LGBT individuals in Iraq and in Syria. This historic event recognizes that the issue of LGBT rights has a place in the UN Security Council. Around the world, the UN has documented thousands of cases of individuals killed or injured in brutal attacks simply because they are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT. This abhorrent practice is particularly widespread in ISIL-seized territory in Iraq and in Syria where these violent extremists proudly target and kill LGBT individuals or those accused of being so. No one should be harmed or have their basic human rights denied because of who they are or who they love.

We would like the thank Chile for co-sponsoring this event with us. The United States will continue to raise the plight of target LGBT individuals around the world and work to protect their basic human rights.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks, but since I’ve been gone, the main news I’ve noticed since being back in the building is that the Dunkin Donuts and Subway have opened. I will defer to Brad for --

MR KIRBY: The lines have been quite long, I understand.

QUESTION: -- for the first question. Yes, yes. Especially at lunch.

MR KIRBY: All right, Brad.

QUESTION: Starting on Iran, and slightly different than what we talked about last week, I wanted to check if you saw the comments from President Rouhani over the weekend regarding purchasing weapons wherever they need to purchase them. Do you see that as consistent with the continued arms embargo that you negotiated as part of the JCPOA?

MR KIRBY: We’ve certainly seen those comments, Brad, and they are a reminder of what we said before about the potential threats that Iran still poses in the region and a reminder that they continue to conduct destabilizing activities and support to terrorism in the region. Which is why we’re not going to take our eye off of that, and it’s why U.S. sanctions with respect to that activity will remain in place. And it’s why we continue to have a very robust military presence in the region. And finally, it’s why the President and Secretary Kerry have made it very clear that we are going to continue to look for ways to build the partner capacity of our allies and partners in the region.

QUESTION: Do – would you consider that a violation of the UN sanctions as well as the JCPOA, if he were to make good on these threats to purchase weapon --

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not an expert on every one of the UN sanctions that were – that are in place. Again, these sanctions are – were put in place to bring them to the table for the nuclear talks. I would also remind you that those sanctions are still in place, and they will not be lifted until they have met the key implementing steps under the Iran deal in that agreement.

So let’s just see – let’s see what they do. While the deal does offer some sanctions relief, again, only if and when they meet their key implementing steps, and the IAEA can certify that they have, the United States will still have sanctions in place to deal with some of these destabilizing activities.

QUESTION: And just lastly on this subject, have you had any conversations with the Iranians since July 14th to clarify what this would mean to the continued arms embargo and ballistic missile provisions? Or is it --

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any conversations that – to read out to you on that, Brad.

QUESTION: So and then are you – would you – are you then disappointed by President Rouhani’s comments?

MR KIRBY: Certainly, those comments don’t do anything to decrease tensions in the region, and they certainly on the face of them don’t point to a more helpful or constructive role by Iran in the region. But it does, as I said at the outset, it’s a reminder of how seriously we need to continue to take the threat that Iran poses in the region through other activities.


QUESTION: Can I go to Korea?

QUESTION: Could you tell us --

QUESTION: Can we go to Korea, unless we’re still on Iran?

MR KIRBY: Said, are you on Iran or do you want to --


MR KIRBY: Iran? Yeah.



QUESTION: Okay. Could you tell us if the IAEA has similar agreements with the same kind of inspection regime and so on with other countries? Can you list the countries that the IAEA --

MR KIRBY: No, I can’t, Said.

QUESTION: -- has similar agreements?

MR KIRBY: I can’t. I would point you to the IAEA for that. And we talked about this at quite some length last week.


MR KIRBY: These are confidential agreements that the IAEA has with nations with which they have these arrangements, and they’re – so I’d point you to them to speak to that. And my guess is that they wouldn’t, any more than they would go into detail about the one with Iran. It is, however, typical for them to have those kinds of arrangements with other countries.

QUESTION: So why is this confusion on the issue of inspection? Why is there so much – like, a great room for confusion? Why can’t you say, or the Iranians or the IAEA, come out and say this is the inspection regime, this is – we have Iranian inspectors but they will be accompanied, or the Iranian inspectors will be accompanied by the IAEA inspectors and so on?

MR KIRBY: Well, the reason why we’re not able to just come out and detail it is because it’s an arrangement between the IAEA and Iran. And those are, by design, confidential arrangements. So it wouldn’t be our place to speak to the details of it.

That said, why is it confusing? I mean, you could answer that probably as well as I can. I mean, Secretary Kerry, Under Secretary Sherman, Secretary Moniz have all talked at length about their comfort with the IAEA’s ability to get the access and the information it needs to be able to validate that Iran is meeting these key implementing steps before sanctions relief can occur. So I mean, there’s no discomfort or confusion on the government’s side in terms of having in place a framework that can do exactly what we need it to do, which is to verify – not trust, but verify that Iran is meeting its end of the deal.

QUESTION: So when it’s said that Iran will not inspect itself, it is, in fact, Iran will not inspect itself?

MR KIRBY: Well, I would just point you to what the director general said last week, that he found reports that self-inspection was going to be the rule of the day, he found those to be misleading. And he said in his own words – I think I’ve got it here, I think I saved it. He’s “disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work.” His words.

Now, what’s entailed with the important verification work – I mean, that’s between him, the IAEA, and Iran – the details of that.

QUESTION: And finally on the issue of exchange of embassies between Britain and Iran, now that there is a British embassy, is this what the future will look like in the event that deal does not go through, that you have unraveling and the breakdown of sanctions and countries going their own way with Iran?

MR KIRBY: Well, I won’t speak for other nations, Said. And the decision to restore diplomatic relations, that’s a sovereign decision made by states. In this case the United Kingdom did that by reopening their embassy. But for the United States, we have no intention to do that, and what we want to see out of Iran is actions, the appropriate actions to prove that they are going to meet their end of this deal before they get a penny of sanctions relief. And that’s where our focus is.

And as I said to Brad, we’re also not losing sight of the other activities that they continue to be capable of in the region, including state sponsorship of terrorism. And we have tools at our disposal, be they diplomatic, economic, or military, to deal with those. But look, each nation around the world – these are sovereign decisions that they make about restoring diplomatic relations or not. We just did two weeks ago when we went down and opened our embassy in Havana. These are sovereign decisions and we have to respect those sovereign decisions by other nations.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran, now that it’s come up? I was going to wait. This – but on the agreement or the debate over the agreement. A few minutes ago at the White House, your colleague there, Mr. Earnest, said, “It continues to be our view that this agreement is not a side agreement and it’s not a secret one, primarily because this Administration went to great lengths to brief every member of Congress about the contents about the agreement. And now that we have seen what appears to be, or at least what the AP has assessed to be a near-final agreement – document that has been released, it’s hard to make the case that this is some kind of secret agreement.”

Is it the Administration’s position that, one, that this is not a secret agreement, and one reason that it’s not a secret agreement is because the AP published it?

MR KIRBY: It is Secretary --

QUESTION: Because that certainly sounds like what he just said.

MR KIRBY: Well, I did not see the comment, but I’m sure you’re reading it --

QUESTION: Well, I transcribed it quite accurately.

MR KIRBY: I’m sure you did, Matt.


MR KIRBY: It is Secretary Kerry’s view that this is absolutely not a secret or side deal, and I’ve said as much here from the podium. This is – these confidential arrangements – now, the contents of which are confidential. The fact that there is an arrangement between the IAEA and Iran is, of course, not secret or confidential. They do this typically around the world. So it’s Secretary Kerry’s view that it’s neither secret nor is it a side deal. It is an appropriate arrangement between the IAEA and another nation to verify.

QUESTION: So you don’t take issue with the veracity of the document that was published; you just think that the interpretation of it or the presentation of it, as Director General Amano quoted you saying, was somehow incorrect. Is that correct?

MR KIRBY: I think that’s what I said last week. I mean, I’m not --

QUESTION: Okay. So I don’t want to go over --

MR KIRBY: And I’m not --

QUESTION: -- stuff that you’ve already gone over last week. I understand this was an issue of some --

MR KIRBY: I appreciate that. Just one last point: I mean, as I said last week, I’m not going to comment on the veracity of leaked documents. So --

QUESTION: Okay, but your colleague at the White House just basically said this isn’t a secret agreement partly because AP has published it.

MR KIRBY: I understand.

QUESTION: And that sounds to me – and correct me if I’m wrong – as though you’re saying one of – parts of the Administration’s argument that this isn’t a secret deal at all is not only because you’ve briefed members of Congress on it, but because it’s been published.

MR KIRBY: Well, it has been briefed to members of Congress --

QUESTION: And been published.

MR KIRBY: -- the parameters of it. Well, it is now, or at least a – at least a leaked version of a draft document is now. But look, I mean, I don’t want to get hung up on AP’s coverage of this. It – we – Secretary Kerry doesn’t view it as secret --

QUESTION: Believe me, neither do I.

MR KIRBY: Secretary Kerry doesn’t see it as secret or side because it is typical. It’s a typical arrangement between the IAEA and another nation, and it’s vital to making sure the verification process takes place appropriately so that we can hold Iran accountable to its end of the deal.

QUESTION: Right. Well, is it possible, in your opinion, for the IAEA to do its job if part of the agreement is for Iran to have the people go in and do the samples itself as long as there is some kind of IAEA monitoring?

MR KIRBY: I would just say, as I said last week, that we are confident – remain confident that this deal in all its parameters will provide the IAEA the access it needs to do its job and to verify.

QUESTION: The access it needs to the facility?

MR KIRBY: Access and information that it needs to be able --

QUESTION: Okay. There’s a difference between access and information. Are you saying that they will have the access to this facility that is – that you’re comfortable with?

MR KIRBY: Yes. We’ve said that before.

QUESTION: Okay. They themselves.

MR KIRBY: We have said before that we’re comfortable that the IAEA in this deal will have the access they need to do their jobs, to include military sites, and we’ve said to include Parchin.

QUESTION: And that means that IAEA inspectors will go in?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into the technical parameters between the IAEA and Iran.

QUESTION: So it’s possible – so you said – let me just – I’ll just end this, because I know it was gone over. I’ll stop asking questions after this. You – in the event there was an arrangement reached – or there is an arrangement reached where the IAEA does not itself actually send in its own inspectors, but that Iranian inspectors go in, take the samples, and bring them back to the IAEA – that does not necessarily – you think that that is okay, right? You think that that gives the IAEA the access and information needed to be able to do its job, correct?

MR KIRBY: Again, without getting into the details, Matt, we are comfortable and confident that --


MR KIRBY: -- this deal gives the IAEA the access that it needs and the information it needs to verify.

Yes, Janne.

QUESTION: On Korea, Korean situations. The North Korea threatened – as you know that the North Korea threatened military action to South Korea. And the other hands, North Korea want to talks. They using two-track missions. And also, at the meantime, now ongoing 2+2 high-level military talks between South and North Korea in Panmunjom DMZ. Do you think is this helpful – reduce tensions in Korean Peninsula, 2+2 talks?

MR KIRBY: Do I think that it will reduce tensions?

QUESTION: Yeah. Yes.

MR KIRBY: Well, that’s certainly our hope, but we’re going to judge the north by its actions, as we always do.

QUESTION: But what about the military actions? They like the talks, but they also wanted to – action to – military action to South Korea. They have two tracks.

MR KIRBY: Well, look, as I said at the beginning, we welcome this agreement, and it’s – we’re certainly hopeful that it leads to destabilizing – I’m sorry, to – that was not good – to decreasing the tensions – you guys got me on destabilizing activities – (laughter) – decreasing the tensions on the peninsula. We – it’s – obviously it was a very tense several days, and we are mindful of that. And again, we welcome this agreement, but now it’s up to the north to act and not simply just make assurances with respect to their own military activities there along the border.

So we’re going to have to see how this – how it plays out.

QUESTION: John, following on that, I mean, is it – I know you welcome the agreement. Is it a good thing that the south has agreed to cease its broadcasts as of tomorrow?

MR KIRBY: Well, look. I mean, we’re not – we’re not going to take a specific position on what they’ve agreed to do. You’ve seen the agreement. This was obviously a compromise by both sides. And again, I think that’s not insignificant all by itself. We hope that it will contribute to decreased tensions. And we’re just going to have to see how it plays out. But I’m not going to parse each agreement that each side made.

QUESTION: Well, but you welcomed it as a whole.


QUESTION: And the reason I ask the question – and I realize it’s a compromise, but it does appear as if the south has caved to the North Korean demand that they cease the broadcasts, which, as I understand it, they have every right to do. It’s not like it’s an act of aggression to – like firing shells over the border; it’s broadcasts. So I’m wondering why it’s good in such a circumstance – why backing down on something like that is necessarily good and necessarily leads to decreasing the tensions, and why it might not just lead to the north trying to bully its way into other concessions by the south.

MR KIRBY: I think the ROK has remained pretty resolute in the face of continued North Korean aggressive action and rhetoric. And I don’t know that I would characterize anything as backing down. They’ve been strong and they’ve been resolute, and we have an ironclad commitment through an alliance with South Korea to help contribute to peace and security on that peninsula. But this was, as most agreements are, a compromise. And I would point you to the South Koreans to speak to the specific items that they agreed to.

What’s important here is that the two sides did get together, they did come to an agreement that they both found mutually satisfactory, and that’s the important thing. And that tensions now, which had been running pretty high over the last several days – have an opportunity to decrease a little bit and take some of the air out of this. And I think, obviously, we’re going to have to see how it plays out. We’re going to watch it very closely, as we have. But again, I think that they were able to come to agreement is noteworthy. And again, we welcome it.

QUESTION: And apparently is – agreement is agreement, but North Korea is – whenever time they’re going to break this agreement, they do again and --

MR KIRBY: Well, as I said, we’re going to judge the north by its actions, Janne.



QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?


QUESTION: Any updates on that Kurdish political parties meeting and U.S. involvement?

MR KIRBY: So yesterday, the five main political parties in the Iraqi Kurdistan region met and decided to continue their discussions. We remain engaged with all the key stakeholders, the United States does. And as I said last week, this is, of course, an internal matter. And we’re – I’d refer you to the Kurdistan Regional Government for further information.

QUESTION: So one point on this issue, and specifically on U.S. involvement. I’ve been monitoring the social media reaction by the people and also the Kurdish media, that they’ve seen the U.S. involvement is a negative one, is not in favor of democracy, is not in favor of representation law. Because what we have heard from the delegations, that – Kurdish parties’ representation in the meetings – that Ambassador McGurk, he is pressuring everyone to accept extension – President Barzani’s presidential extension for two more years as justifying with the ISIS issue or crisis or threat. And also this is, as you have mentioned before, this is the end of his term, and by law he’s not allowed to stay. And also it’s not an election that he’s suggesting. It is something – extension – which is not democratic, not according to the law. So can you confirm that this is what he suggested in the meeting?

MR KIRBY: What I can confirm is that Ambassador McGurk was invited back to those meetings in Erbil after he had already left and went to Baghdad. We talked about this last week. He was asked back. And as I said last week, our role was simply to attend and to say what we have said all along, which is that we urge a unified, inclusive approach by all the political parties there, but that these were or these will be decisions that they make for the good of the people they represent. And any assertion that Brett McGurk or any other American delegate or any other American there in Iraq was putting undue pressure on the parties to do one thing or another is absolutely false.

QUESTION: That means you confirm that that’s not true, that he’s not – he didn’t suggested any – in any way to --

MR KIRBY: Ambassador McGurk was invited back. He didn’t go to Erbil to put pressure on any one party or for any one purpose. He was invited back, and so he went. And his message was that – what it has always been, which is that we want a unified approach by all the political parties to reach a consensus and to go forward so that they can best represent the people of the region.

QUESTION: Last one on this. Do you believe – like, is it United States position that it is important that the Kurdish political parties to reach an agreement whether to stay – to allow President Barzani to stay as the president of Kurdistan in any way because of – you think that they – everybody should focus on the ISIS threat at the moment?

MR KIRBY: We’ve said now is the time for unity in the face of a common enemy, and our focus is on defeating and degrading ISIL. And we want everybody to share that, obviously, same goal and to come together to unite against what is in fact a common enemy to all people living in Iraq.

As for the solution that they come up with, again, these are internal matters for them to speak to, for them to decide, and for them to explain – not for the American Government to dictate, and we aren’t.

QUESTION: Sorry, one thing is not clear. What do you mean by “unity?” Because they are all part of a government, all five major political parties. What this unity means, which is – I mean, they are – if they are part of the government and they are all in the parliament, so does this unity means that the division of the region that we have seen in the past in ’90s, so what is the unity --

MR KIRBY: I just meant a unified approach. Don’t read too much into it. I mean, we want them to take a unified approach forward to best represent the people of the region.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Can we stay on ISIS?


QUESTION: About the (inaudible) and Iraq. And over the weekend, the second in command was apparently targeted and killed, the second in command of ISIS. Now, a couple months ago there was the head of the finance and whatever for ISIS also was destroyed. Why do you think that despite sort of the fragmentation of the command and control of ISIS, they seem to be thriving? Why is that?

MR KIRBY: I don’t think we would share the assessment that they’re thriving, Said. Do they remain a capable and viable enemy to the people of Iraq and Syria? Absolutely. Are they determined? Have they proven resilient? Yes. But they’re not 10 feet tall, they’re not invincible, and they’re in possession of less territory now – some 30 percent less now than what they had a year ago. And they are losing not only foot soldiers on the ground and tons of equipment every month; they are also losing some of their leadership. I’ve said it before, I mean, this is a career path with a short shelf life if that’s what you want to choose to do with your life; you’re going to be held to account.

Now, we’ve also said it’s going to take time. This is not an enemy that’s going to be defeated swiftly or easily. It’s important to remember two things. The best way of defeating them on the ground is with indigenous forces – Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq, Peshmerga up north, of course – and then that’s why the Pentagon continues to work on this train and equip mission for Syria.

Number two, what really is the long-term solution here is good governance – good governance in Iraq and good governance in Syria. Prime Minister Abadi’s making some reforms, he’s making some very significant decisions, and he’s trying to lead Iraq to a better future. Obviously, Syria is in a whole different category right now with the Assad regime and the brutality that they continue to submit their – the Syrian people to. But I guess I’d challenge the assessment that we’ve had no impact on ISIL. That’s just not true.

QUESTION: Why did the (inaudible) firing back, but they were able to move to Palmyra, for instance, about 150 kilometers on an open road and do it in daylight, apparently. So why not, let’s say – I mean, we recall that – the images of the Iraqi army withdrawing from Kuwait and being decimated along the way. Why is that --

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, your question presupposes the fact that we – that we have perfect visibility and knowledge of every move they make everywhere they make it. That’s just not the case. And in Syria, we recognize that it’s a tougher nut to crack because you don’t have solidified, unified opposition counter-ISIL forces throughout Syria. Obviously, in the north we have counter-ISIL forces that are quite effective. It’s not uniform throughout. It’s not even uniform throughout Iraq, as we know, even though the Iraqi Security Forces are battling very hard and are improving their battlefield proficiency each and every day.

Again, this is going to take some time, but we’re not omniscient and there are going to be times when ISIL advances. There’s going to be times when they achieve a tactical victory here and there, as we’ve seen them do. Oftentimes, they are short lived. You look at Kobani and you look at elsewhere in Iraq where they have occupied ground like the Baiji oil refinery and they get knocked out. So it’s going to – there’s going to be give and take here.

But if you take 10 steps back and look at what we’ve done over the last year, you can see a steady diminution of their power and their influence. They don’t like to admit that, of course, and you won’t – looking at their propaganda, you won’t see any of that. But they are shrinking their territorial gains and they are losing leaders, they are losing foot soldiers, they are losing equipment that they can’t always readily replace. It’s not like they have a supply chain the way a conventional army does. But it’s going to take time.

QUESTION: And lastly, today the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that there is a new initiative – a new U.S.-Turkish initiative, basically, to take the fight to ISIS. What is he talking about?

MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) Well, let me – I have it here somewhere. I’ve reorganized the book, so give me a second. What he’s referring to is discussions that we’ve had to finalize technical details for Turkey’s full inclusion in counter-ISIL air operations. As you know and we’ve talked about before, they weren’t flying missions in what we call the ATO, the air tasking order, because we had asked them not to so that we could properly coordinate their air operations. We’re finalizing those details now, and I suspect that you’ll see him involved in the air tasking order soon.

I think it’s also – stepping back, I mean – just a healthy reminder that they have been a strong contributor to the coalition efforts whether it’s taking care of millions of Syrian refugees, allowing us now access to some of their air bases, and hosting a train and equip site inside Turkey. So they continue to contribute and we continue to be grateful for those contributions.


QUESTION: Same topic?


QUESTION: So the Foreign Minister Cavusoglu stated that the talks concluded with the U.S., finalized. But you are saying that the talks are ongoing right now with Turkey?

MR KIRBY: No, no, I wouldn’t push back on the notion that we’ve concluded discussions, but we’re finalizing technical details now as a result of that.

QUESTION: So it’s ongoing. The second question is: Friday, last Friday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated that Ankara needs to step up its efforts by the Syrian border against ISIL, whereas you have been sounding here kind of – U.S. is content with Turkey’s effort. Is there a different approach to Turkey?

MR KIRBY: No, I don’t think there’s a different approach here. We – all nations in the coalition can continue to improve and to do more, everybody. And we’re mindful, as are the Turks, that the border remains an issue, and they’re taking steps. And they have contributed, and they continue to do so. I mean, here we are just talking about finalizing some details to get them up in the air flying missions against ISIL. That’s not insignificant. But every – all nations in the coalition, when you’re up against a resilient, determined enemy like ISIL, can – you always want to self-assess and make sure that you’re doing all you can. And oftentimes you find out in military operations – and I don’t want to get into a discussion too much here about military operations – but oftentimes you find out you can always do better. There’s no difference. There’s no difference.

I find it interesting that we continue to have this discussion about Turkey. I mean – and I don’t mean to – I’m not trying to sound flip. I’m not. But here’s a nation that has 2 million refugees that it’s taking care of inside Syria, significant security concerns of their own with the – a foreign terrorist group like the PKK continues to attack them, as we saw throughout the weekend. They’ve allowed us to use airbases now. They’re going to soon be flying in the coalition air tasking order, inside the coalition planning cycle for air ops. And yet I continue to get questions up here like, “Why aren’t they doing more? Why aren’t they doing enough?” Everybody can do better, including the United States.

But I think it’s fair to say that every member of this coalition – and it’s a coalition of the willing, and it can’t be a willing coalition if you’re being dictated to by everybody else what you have to do. You contribute what you can, where you can, when you can, and you spend as much money as you can. And maybe you shed as much blood as you can. Those are sovereign decisions that members of a coalition have to meet and make for themselves in accordance with the desires of their government and their people, and the Turks are doing that.

QUESTION: Yet many U.S. unnamed officials, they – and they are talking about how Turkey is not doing enough. Do you think there is something for U.S. Government to reckon with?

MR KIRBY: I think I answered that question just a minute ago.


QUESTION: On Turkey, can we get into some of the political developments? On Friday, President Erdogan said that there would be likely snap elections in November after his party was unable to form a coalition government. This is pretty unprecedented, because the party has had a pretty absolute majority for over a decade. Is there concern that this political uncertainty could potentially alter or complicate the U.S.-Turkish relationship at this critical time?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, I’m going to – as I am in many other cases here, loath to discuss internal political matters in another country. What we’ve said is that we’re going to – Turkey is an ally and a partner, and we’re going to continue to work with whatever Turkish government is in place. And I’m not going to get into characterizing the internal political issues.

QUESTION: There are some concerns, though, because this call for new elections – I mean, a lot of people are linking it to the fact that he just didn’t like the outcome of the last set of elections. Since then, there’s been kind of an upping of nationalist rhetoric in the country. Are there concerns that this could lead to kind of a more authoritarian system? I mean, he’s already said he wants to institute a presidential system in Turkey that could increase his own powers. I mean, does this not create any concerns for the U.S. as far as that relationship?

MR KIRBY: I think we’re – we’re watching this just like we watch political developments in other places around the world. I think our stance, again, around the world for inclusiveness and representative government; fair and free, credible elections – it’s ironclad. We make that case everywhere around the world. But I’m not going to talk specifically about internal matters inside Turkey.

What we want to see is Turkey continue to be the strong ally and partner that it is, and we’re going to – again, we’ll watch this closely and we’ll work with the Turkish Government going forward.


QUESTION: Just follow-up on the same question. The question was about the authoritarianism, increasing authoritarianism in Turkey. So as the U.S. Government, you take this question as an internal matter? As far as we know, authoritarianism --

MR KIRBY: I’ve answered the question. I’ve answered the question and I’m going to leave it at that.

Yes, back there.



QUESTION: So there’s – a change of subject, sorry. So there’s some reporting out today – and I just wanted to see if you could comment on it – that the State Department did not appear to have submitted some legally required information regarding Secretary Clinton’s email server to the DHS during her term as secretary. Are you familiar with this at all?

MR KIRBY: I’m not familiar with that specific --

QUESTION: There was a – there’s a – there was some kind of program in 2010 from the DHS called the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program where every 30 days they were supposed to get a list of systems and vulnerabilities from all government agencies, and evidently they – there’s some reporting that they didn’t get that from State regarding that server. Are you familiar at all with this?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any information on that today.

QUESTION: Can you take it or anything --

MR KIRBY: I will take it, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to you on it. Some of these issues are under review and under investigations, and there may be a real limit here to what we can do in terms of detail on that.


QUESTION: John, just to follow up on that issue. Sorry. I know you addressed this before. But when Secretary Powell used a private server, was that a strictly private server, or he was using both? I mean, is this – was there – was that a similar situation to Secretary Clinton, or was it entirely different? Or what is the difference?

MR KIRBY: Said, I honestly have no idea how former Secretary Powell handled email here. And I think we’ve – I mean, I think my predecessors have talked about former secretaries and their email habits before. I just don’t have that. I’m not focused on that. Sorry.


QUESTION: On Russia?


QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov today said he has seen signals to restore bilateral communication channels that were frozen by the United States. Are you currently considering reopening these, specifically the bilateral commissions --

MR KIRBY: Look, what I would tell you is that there are areas where we cooperate with Russia. The Iran deal is one of them. Syria and a way forward for a political transition is another. And there’s areas, obviously, that we disagree. I don’t have anything to announce with the restoration of any one vehicle here today, but Secretary Kerry continues to communicate directly with Foreign Minister Lavrov on a range of issues. I expect that communication will continue. And as I said, there are some areas where we’re going to see progress and work closely together on, and then there’s going to be other areas where we continue to disagree.

QUESTION: Senator Cruz today said he asked the Obama Administration to release this report about a U.S. – it was prepared by the Pentagon – about a U.S. response to alleged violations of the INF treaty with Russia. What do you think of the senator’s request? Do you think this is a good idea?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen the senator’s request. I’d point you to DOD for this.

Yeah, Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the protest in Lebanon?

MR KIRBY: We’ve seen the reports of the protest activity. And as our ambassador, Ambassador Hale, said today in Beirut following his meeting with the prime minister, we are deeply troubled by the images and reports of injuries. We support a thorough investigation and accountability, and of course, restraint. This weekend Lebanon’s vibrant civil society voiced its frustration over the political paralysis that has held Lebanon captive for too long. The United States continues to strongly support the prime minister’s efforts to advance political consensus so that the cabinet can work on many urgent issues.



MR KIRBY: Come on, now. Is that – oh, Said? I thought you had your hand up again. Oh, I thought – it sounded just like you. Goyal.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Before Prime Minister Modi visits the U.S. Silicon Valley next month and going to the UN, now the tension between the two countries – India and Pakistan – is building on the border, because the NSA-level – national security administration-level talks failed, or they were canceled. India said it was canceled by the Pakistanis, and Pakistanis said that India is not willing. So blame game going on between the two countries, but people are hurting – the innocent people in both countries.

My question is here, that India said that when two prime ministers – India and Pakistan – met in Russia, they agreed next level of talks in India will be on – only on terrorism, about terrorism between the two countries, counter-terrorism, but when these talks were started, that the Pakistanis start to saying that, “We will not talk about terrorism but other issues, including Kashmir.” Then that’s what happened.

So where do we go? Because Pakistan doesn’t want to talk about terrorism, and India is saying that before any talks start before the two countries terrorism issue must be – and/or Pakistan should stop terrorism into India, and then we can talk, and all the issues that remaining and past and future. So what role you think U.S. is playing or will play in the future now between the two countries?

MR KIRBY: Well, look. We were encouraged by the constructive interaction – the early constructive interaction between the leaders of India and Pakistan earlier this year, as you pointed out, and Russia, and we’re disappointed that the talks didn’t happen. And as I’ve said before, Goyal, we just encourage India and Pakistan to resume a formal dialogue soon. As we’ve said, this is – the issues are important; we recognize that. The tensions in the region are significant; we recognize that. And we believe it’s important for leaders of both countries to resume these – this dialogue and discussion and to try to come to some resolution.

QUESTION: And you think next – you think next month when UN leaders meet at the United Nations – global leaders, including, of course, Secretary of State, will be there, and the Indian foreign minister will be there and so will be the leaders from India and Pakistan – you think there will be some kind of talks there and U.S. will encourage or will have some Secretary-level talks between three --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any specific schedule items to read out for the UN General Assembly next month. You’re right, Secretary Kerry will be going. I think you can expect that his dance card will be pretty full. He’ll have a very ambitious agenda of meetings and discussions. And as to whether or not the leaders of India and Pakistan will use the opportunity to further discuss, I’d point you to them.

What we’ve said and I want to repeat is that these are issues for the two to resolve together, and that’s what we continue to encourage, is a resumption of dialogue between the leaders of both India and Pakistan.

QUESTION: Let me ask you one more quickly. As far as terrorism is concerned, where do U.S. stance* as far as terrorism against India is concerned? Because two countries – U.S., India – also talking about counterterrorism and all their own – all the time.

MR KIRBY: Right. What – I didn’t follow the question.

QUESTION: As far as terrorism against India is concerned from Pakistan, what – that’s what India is saying – U.S., India is also talking many times on counterterrorism in the region, so where do U.S. stands as far as terrorism against India is concerned – or in the region?

MR KIRBY: Look, we’re very – I mean, look, we’re very clear about the continued threat of violent extremism around the world. And if there’s – there are many shared challenges facing the global community. That’s certainly one of them. And as I said, we want both nations to sit down and hammer out the issues between them. Some of them have to do with violent extremism and some of them don’t; we understand that. But these are issues that the two parties have got to work out.

Our position about terrorism and the threat that it continues to pose around the world remains the same, and the United States will stay committed to countering violent extremism using all the elements of national power and international cooperation that we can.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: John, does it – does it mean that you – when you say that India and Pakistan need to resolve it between themselves, does it mean that you don’t see any role for the United States in this conflict?

MR KIRBY: In what conflict? The conflict that --

QUESTION: Meaning India and Pakistan.

MR KIRBY: Well, what we’ve said, particularly with the tension in Kashmir, is that our position has not changed, that this is an issue that India and Pakistan need to resolve.

When it comes to countering terrorism around the world, obviously the United States plays a role and we want everybody to play a role in that. But when you’re asking me about these particular tensions, we’re disappointed that the talks didn’t occur and we would like to see them resume.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to anybody in New Delhi or Islamabad after the cancellation of the talks?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any readouts. I don’t – I don’t have any readouts of the conversations.

QUESTION: But will the United States make any effort to restart the talks?

MR KIRBY: This is – these are – I said before this is an issue for India and Pakistan to come together and to resolve, and we’ve been very clear about that. I don’t have any readouts of conversations to add to that discussion.

Yes, in the back there. And I’ll get to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV Pakistan. With the new wave of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, especially in the Kabul – a few were claimed by the Taliban, a few were not.

MR KIRBY: Right.

QUESTION: Since the start of 2015, the White House stops saying Afghan Taliban as terrorists. I hope you know about it. So how do you see this new strategy for not calling Afghan Taliban the terrorists? Is this new strategy helping for the peace process?

MR KIRBY: There’s no new strategy with respect to the Taliban. Look, the – what we’ve said is we want to see Afghan-led political reconciliation continue to advance. And it was encouraging, the first round of talks a few weeks ago. We haven’t been able to see that happen again. Yes, there’s been some violence as Kabul as recently as just a few days ago. And you’re right, the Taliban claim responsibility for some and others they didn’t, so I’m in no position to judge who’s responsible.

Hang on a second, sir. I got you.

But there’s no new strategy with respect to what we’re trying to do in Afghanistan with our international partners. That’s what the Resolute Support Mission is all about. And you might have seen three Resolute Support civilians were among the dead this weekend. It’s about helping the Afghan National Security Forces continue to take the lead for security in their country. It’s a serious mission that we’re seriously committed to, but there’s no new strategy here.

And as for the Taliban’s future, much of it is for them to determine if they’re going to renounce violence and renounce the terrorist type tactics that they use, and contribute to a meaningful reconciliation process in Afghanistan, well then we support that – an Afghan-led reconciliation process.

QUESTION: So how do you see the involvement of China in this peace process?

MR KIRBY: How do I see what?

QUESTION: The involvement of China in this peace process. I mean, the second round of talks of Afghan reconciliation process which are due to be held in China.

MR KIRBY: As long as it’s Afghan-led, I mean, we’re not – for other nations who have interests, as China does in Afghanistan, there’s a border there – as long as that participation is helpful to an Afghan-led process, then we’re in no position to say we don’t support that.

Yeah. Matt, did you have one?

QUESTION: Yeah. A week or so ago the Administration weighed in in the lawsuit against the Palestinian – against the PLO and the PA about the damages for the terrorism lawsuit. Today the gist of the Administration’s intervention or filing was that they shouldn’t be required to pay too much or an onerous amount because that would have negative implications for U.S. national interests and promoting a peace agreement, a two-state solution, and also the potential existence of the Palestinian Authority.

Today the judge has issued a ruling requiring them to pay 10 million upfront and then another million a month to secure the damages while this case is being appealed. Is that – in the Administration’s view, is that too much to be asking? Does this place an undue – does the Administration believe it places an undue burden on the Palestinians?

MR KIRBY: Well, we’re aware that the court made a decision in the Sokolow case regarding the bond. To reiterate, earlier this month the U.S. Government submitted a statement of interest in the Sokolow litigation to apprise the court of its interests as they related to the bond required while the PA appeals. This filing was a statement of the interest of the United States and not on behalf of any party. And I’m not going to be able to comment further.

QUESTION: Well, is the United States concerned at all that some or any of this money will be actual money that you might have provided to the Palestinians in the past?

MR KIRBY: I’m just not going to be able to comment further, Matt.

QUESTION: And that’s because why?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to be able to comment further on this particular case.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that – I mean, you submitted the statement of interest on behalf of the U.S. Government saying that it’s in the national interests of the United States. I just want to know is whether the judge’s decision today, or do you think the judge in making his determination today, took your statement of interest on board, or is this onerous to the Palestinians or unhelpful to U.S. foreign policy?

MR KIRBY: I mean, I understand the question, Matt. I’m just not going to be able to comment further today.


MR KIRBY: John, a quick follow-up on that. You being their largest contributor, giving the Palestinians close to $500 million a year, will you guarantee those, like a loan guarantee or --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any --

QUESTION: -- for $10 million and 1 million more a month?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything further to add on this today.


QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe announced that he would not attend the September 3rd ceremony in China. Do you have a reaction to that? And do you have any update on who the U.S. will be sending?

MR KIRBY: As we said last week when President Park announced her plans, that these are sovereign decisions that nations have to make, and we’re going to respect those decisions. As for the United States, I don’t have anything to announce with respect to our attendance at this time.


QUESTION: The British media, specifically the Mail, said for a year they’ve been trying to get records of discussions between Tony Blair and George W. Bush at his ranch at Crawford in April of 2002, where the then prime minister is suspected of striking a deal with then President Bush to invade Iraq. The newspaper says the U.S. Government has the details of the discussions but refuses to release them under FOIA. Do you know why?

MR KIRBY: This is the first I’ve heard of this. I don’t have anything to add to that.

QUESTION: Have you heard about the Chilcot inquiry?

MR KIRBY: I have not.


QUESTION: On Japan, a follow-up to the explosion on the Sagamihara base over the weekend, and coming on the heels of the helicopter accident in Okinawa, do you think that this will influence sort of the U.S. interests in maintaining its security relations with Japan, in particular the Futenma relocation facility or the U.S. support for the security bills being pushed through the Diet?

MR KIRBY: Nothing’s changed about our position on the Futenma replacement facility. We’ve talked about this before. We continue to work with the Government of Japan as we move forward to have that facility replaced, which we believe is in the best interests of our alliance. These – the fire you’re talking about and the aircraft mishap which we’ve talked about last week – I mean, these are going to be fully and fairly investigated by the military. I would point you to DOD for more comment about causation and any results. As I understand, they’re both still being investigated, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about that.

QUESTION: What would you say for – to the citizens of Japan? This sort of feeds into their fear or concern about the safety of U.S. bases or U.S. military installations.

MR KIRBY: Well, look, speaking at a – as a veteran myself, I can tell you that no military in the world takes safety – certainly, the safety of our people and the people that we serve and defend – more seriously than the United States military. And as I said at the outset – and I don’t want to speak for DOD here – but these incidents will be fully and fairly investigated, and then they will be transparent about what the results of those investigations were and what recommendations and changes they have to make to move forward.

I wouldn’t even begin to speculate about what caused that fire. It just happened. They’re looking into it. And as I said, you can expect that they’ll take – they’ll let the facts take them wherever they are. I do think that we have proven over many decades how seriously we take the security of Japan and our commitments and our alliance to defend Japan, and nothing’s going to change about that moving forward.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just very quickly --

MR KIRBY: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned before Syrian refugees. Can you update us on where U.S. efforts stand in that regard, what the goals are for this year, how many you’ve let in, if you think those efforts are sufficient?

MR KIRBY: Hold on a second, I think I got something on that.

So we expect to welcome between a thousand and 2,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, and 5-8,000 Syrian refugees in next Fiscal Year 2016. There are 15,000 Syrian refugee referrals in the pipeline from UNHCR. We continue to be a leader in this regard, both in terms of refugees we bring in but also the amount of money that we contribute to the effort.

As we’ve said before, that’s not the metric of success here, though it’s – accepting refugees is one aspect, but really it’s about helping ensure – because most of these people want to go home, and you can expect that – that’s understandable, and so what we’re really committed to is helping to foster the kind of political transition inside Syria so that it is a safe environment for Syrian people to return, including the millions that are seeking refuge in Turkey right now.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:58 p.m.)

DPB # 144

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