Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
June 24, 2016
Index for Today's Briefing
1:43 p.m. EDT
MR KIRBY: It's all right. Do you want me to wait for --
QUESTION: I'm going to go get changed first.
MR KIRBY: Oh yeah? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: We are still here.
MR KIRBY: Hey, Goyal. Okay. So, look, I don't have any opening statement today. That was our opening statement for the day, and I'm glad that he was able to make some time to talk to you. I know how interested you guys were in that. So we'll just get started.
QUESTION: Let's start with Brexit.
MR KIRBY: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: One, do you have any communications of the Secretary's to read out at this point?
MR KIRBY: What I can tell you is that the Secretary did speak with the Foreign Secretary Hammond earlier today. We will have – we'll be able to provide a more detailed readout of that phone call. It – truth is, it just concluded not long ago, so you will be hearing more from the Secretary on this issue and as a result of his phone call. But it was a good discussion.
QUESTION: Okay. We saw the White House statement. From the State Department's perspective, how do you view the result of the referendum? Is this bad for American diplomacy, for projection of American moral and physical force in the world?
MR KIRBY: I – we – I think we look at this as expressive of the views and the perspectives of the British people, and we think that it tells us more about that than it does anything else. We obviously respect those views, as we respect this decision. Nothing is going to change about the deep and abiding relationship that we have with the UK, which is, as you know, a special relationship, and we're going to continue to work hard with the UK and the EU as the – as they work through what this decision means and across an array of specific issues. But we absolutely fully respect the will of the British people here.
QUESTION: On the UK side, when the President visited the country in April, I believe, he made a reference to going to the back of the queue when it comes to trade negotiations and other things, strongly saying that – strongly advocating that the UK should stay in the European Union. Is that something that you reaffirm today?
MR KIRBY: Well, what I would say is we're currently evaluating the impact of the UK's decision on TTIP, for instance. We have a close historical relationship with the UK economically and politically, and we will consider how the UK, as it negotiates with the EU, fits into our strategy of pursuing broad trade platforms.
QUESTION: But how does this special relationship – how is it affected? We've heard everyone say that it won't be affected, but on the other hand you have this comment lingering from the President that they would have to get in the back of the queue on trade, for example. That's not very special, to be at the back of the line.
MR KIRBY: There's – no I – actually, I would disagree. I mean, the special relationship remains a special relationship, and we're confident that no matter what the implications are of this vote, that the relationship between the United States and the UK will remain as strong as ever. And also, I would add our partnership with the EU across a range of security, political, and economic issues will remain very strong indeed. And as I said – back to the – your question on the comment about "back of the queue," we're going to work closely with the UK and the EU as they work their way through what this decision means, and then we'll consider what the options are as a result of that process. But we fundamentally do not see any change to the U.S.-UK special relationship as a result of this.
QUESTION: My last one, and it's the EU side. How worried are you that this will hamper U.S.-EU cooperation given Britain's prominent role in joint military operations? I understand you'll still have NATO, but for bringing EU support to some of these things – sanctions against Russia and other shared U.S.-UK objectives that weren't always shared by the entire European Union.
MR KIRBY: We're confident that the U.S.-EU partnership will also remain very vibrant, very strong across a range of not just security but political issues going forward. There's lots of work that we still are doing and will do with the EU. I mentioned yesterday that while in Rome, the Secretary is going to meet with the UN – the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. He looks forward to that chat. I have no doubt that this vote in the UK will come up, but I can also tell you that the Secretary has no doubt that our cooperation with the EU on all these kinds of matters will remain strong.
Will there be changes as a result of this? There very well may be. I mean, there's – one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that this will be a fairly lengthy process. I don't know how long it's going to take, but we recognize that this isn't going to happen immediately. And so now begins conversations between the EU and the UK about how to manage this decision, and the Secretary is convinced that we have to obviously stay closely engaged through that process but remain calm and remain measured and remain confident in the strength of these relationships.
QUESTION: Right. But at the end of the day, when the – when Britain leaves, when the United Kingdom leaves, does the U.S. lose influence with the European Union?
MR KIRBY: I don't believe that we believe that that's the case, no. And you mentioned NATO, and it's important to remember that the UK remains a key NATO ally and inside the alliance often punches well above its weight in its contributions, and we have every expectation that those commitments will continue.
QUESTION: Kirby, do you have any concern – you talked about the process that now begins which could easily – could take up to two years.
MR KIRBY: By some estimates, yeah.
QUESTION: Well, I think that – isn't that what the treaty says?
MR KIRBY: I think so.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any concerns that Britain and the remaining members of the European Union are going to be enormously focused on the terms of their disengagement and that they will also be highly focused on what other parts of the European Union may be looking to peel off, including Scotland, and that therefore that may, as some former U.S. officials say, make it harder to have a strong, activist, self-confident, outward-looking European partner in dealing with global challenges?
MR KIRBY: You mean in the EU as a --
QUESTION: In the EU --
MR KIRBY: In the EU as a partner?
QUESTION: -- and with the British. Yes, but both.
MR KIRBY: Well, again, there's a couple of things there, Arshad. We – supremely confident in the strength of our relationship with the UK. We are also equally confident in the strength of our partnership with the EU. Now, you asked about what other members of the EU may or may not be looking at – those are sovereign decisions that the people of those nations have to discuss and debate, and that's not for the United States to involve ourselves in.
The – but I can tell you where we stand right now. The Secretary is very confident in our partnership with the EU going forward, and there's a lot of work to be done. I mean, the EU is a member of the ISSG, for instance. As you know, the Secretary is very, very focused on still trying to move the political process forward in Syria. We don't see any diminution of their role and their participation in that. They were represented in the Iran deal talks and still are a key player as we move forward for JCPOA implementation. So there's a lot of work to be done, and the Secretary is focused on keeping that partnership vibrant and strong.
QUESTION: Right, but one of the key – one element of President Obama's Administration has been to try to enlist greater support from other nations or blocs, like the EU, for major challenges. That can range anywhere from Libya to climate change.
MR KIRBY: Indeed.
QUESTION: And so the question I have is – and I'm not asking for you to comment on whether or what other nations or regions might peel off from the EU – whether you think that this – what is – what seems inevitably to be a protracted period of intra-European negotiation and wrangling over how they divorce from the British is just, as a practical matter, going to make it harder to secure European support on a whole host of things.
MR KIRBY: Okay, I guess I misunderstood your first question. I think – I mean, the short answer is that, I mean, obviously, we're going to be watching this process closely, as you might expect we would. We're obviously interested in it. We're confident, though, that the EU and the UK, as they work through the particulars that you've discussed here, that they'll do so in a measured, deliberate, purposeful manner; that it will take some time; that it's important for us to let that process play out. And in the intervening time, whatever time that is, the Secretary is convinced that the United States will be able to continue to manage strong, healthy relationships multilaterally and bilaterally all throughout that. And he's comfortable that we'll be able to work our way through this without sacrificing the important commitments, be they security or economic, that we have both with the UK and with the EU and with – bilaterally with nations that comprise the EU.
So the short answer, I suppose – and that wasn't a very short answer, I apologize – but it's no. The Secretary is confident that we'll be able to work our way through this and that the relationships will remain strong.
QUESTION: And then one other one. There's been a – as you know better than me, there's been a longstanding debate over burden sharing within NATO but also on other matters vis-a-vis the EU. The predictions by virtually everyone are that British growth is going to suffer as a result of pulling out.
MR KIRBY: I'm sorry, British what?
QUESTION: That British growth will suffer and that European growth more broadly will suffer and that global growth may suffer because of this. Do you have any worries that if growth – if these countries are not growing as fast, that they will be even less able to spend 2 percent on – of GDP on national defense, which most of them don't anyway, and will be even less able to contribute to collective security?
MR KIRBY: Well, I think it's too soon to speculate with that level of specificity with respect to economic growth, development, and contributions. We understand – and it's not – it comes as a surprise to nobody that this vote – that there's – as a result of this vote there's some uncertainty out there. And we understand that.
The Secretary is convinced that we can work our way through that; that this is a process that will take some time; that there needs to be continued dialogue, discussion as the EU and the UK work their way through that. Separate and distinct from this, we also know that some NATO nations have trouble – have made trouble – have had trouble – sorry – making their 2 percent of GDP. The UK is not one of them, but other nations have had difficulty reaching that goal. And I don't think that he would believe it's helpful right now to speculate or hypothesize about the degree to which this decision is going to impact those commitments.
What I can tell you is that the Secretary remains committed, as the United States is a NATO member, to those commitments. And we've got a NATO summit coming up, where I'm quite certain that the vitality of the alliance going forward will be high on the agenda. But I just don't think that this soon after the vote that anybody can say with certainty what will be the long-term impacts here. What's important from our perspective is that knowing this process will take a little bit of time, and retaining our confidence in the ability of leaders both in the UK and the EU to manage that process, as I said, in a measured, deliberate manner, to make sound decisions as they work their way through this.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on a point?
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: I know it's an issue of sovereignty, and you emphasized that point. But are you worried that what happened in Britain could, let's say, that the trend to pull out of the EU could pick up momentum in places like the Netherlands, France, even Germany, and so on? Are you concerned that this might happen?
MR KIRBY: Again, we're not going to speculate one way or the other, Said. We believe firmly in the partnership that we have, the United States has with the EU, and on moving that partnership forward. There are a lot of issues that we have worked together with the EU on, as I mentioned a couple to Arshad, and there are more that are no doubt coming. And so we're focused on keeping that partnership strong and vibrant going forward, and I wouldn't speak to – I wouldn't speak or hypothesize to the future decisions that other nations would make one way or the other.
QUESTION: Because they do make a point. I mean, the flip side of that: They say why should – Germany, for instance: Why should we take in 2 million refugees that are a result – that come here as a result of civil wars and poverty and famines and so on? Is that a valid point, in your view, that is being adopted by certain elements that push for pulling out of the EU?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, we believe that the European Union remains an indispensable partner for the United States in stimulating economic growth and addressing regional and global challenges. Nothing's going to change about our view about the strength of the partnership and the important work that the EU continues to do across a range of issues.
And I think I'd leave it there. Yeah.
QUESTION: As a follow-up with this question, the vote shows an increase of this anti-globalization, anti-globalization --
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- anti-integration sentiment that we are seeing not only in Europe but also here in the United States. How concerned is the U.S. with this movement?
MR KIRBY: Well, as I said, we respect the voice of the British people. They have – they made this decision and we respect that. And for whatever the reasons or motivations were, I mean, this was – this is the will of the British people and now we have to move forward. And one of the great strengths of our relationship with the UK is that, because it's so close, we can have honest discussions with one another about these kinds of things. So look, for the United States perspective – and I can only speak for the United States and for Secretary Kerry, for the State Department, for the way this Administration views the world and foreign policy, and that is one of engagement; that it is important, we believe, we are engaged. We believe it is important to stay engaged. And we like to see our friends and partners and our allies also stay engaged with one another bilaterally or multilaterally. The world is an extremely dynamic, complex environment regardless of the vector that we're talking about – economically, from a security perspective. And so we strongly believe in the power of interconnectedness and engagement between nations and between peoples, because from that can grow better understanding, and from better understanding can grow the kinds of compromises, the kinds of sound decisions that can lead to greater security and stability in so many trouble spots around the world.
That is why the Secretary worked so hard to help fashion together what has now become the International Syria Support Group. That is why the Secretary worked so hard inside the P5+1 process to get to the Iran deal. That is why, when we talk about North Korea launching missiles, we state over and over and again that we want to get back, we'd like to get back, to a Six-Party Talk process. Obviously, the DPRK hasn't proven a willingness to do that, but the point is that we believe in these multilateral mechanisms. We just talked – I was – in my answer to Arshad a little bit about NATO and our strong commitments to arguably the most successful military alliance in the history of the world. These multilateral platforms matter because they provide fora for the kinds of dialogue, cooperation, and engagement that can help lead to better security and stability around the world.
It's a long answer, but it was a very good question.
QUESTION: But John, and what I think she was getting at is --
MR KIRBY: You mean I didn't answer the question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is --
MR KIRBY: It was a great answer though. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is there U.S. concern that some of the dissatisfaction behind Brexit on issues such as immigration – is there a concern that that might spill over to the United States?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, the American people get to decide what matters to them, and it's not for me to say one way or the other how they should come down on those kinds of issues. I'm not going to engage in what I know is an issue on the campaign trail.
We believe that we are pursuing smart immigration policy, that smart immigration policy matters. We understand the concerns by many European nations about especially – what the – the challenges that they're dealing with, with what is arguably the worst refugee crisis that Europe has faced since World War II. And we recognize that, which is why we've committed so many funds to trying to help with that and why we are continuing to work with our partners over there as they pursue comprehensive, multilateral approaches to try to deal with this. It's also why, Pam, we're working so hard to try to solve the civil war in Syria, so that a major element inside that flood of refugees can be stemmed and so people can have a home to go back to.
But yes, we understand the concerns about what's going on in terms of migration and refugees around the world. We understand the concerns that are expressed by people over there as well as American citizens, which is why, again, we're working so hard (a) to try to admit additional refugees in the country, and the President has set new goals that we are working hard to meet, but also, just as critically, to try to solve the problems to prevent the flow of refugees in the first place.
Goyal, I'll come back to you in just a second. Yeah.
QUESTION: Hi, I just want to know your reflections on David Cameron as prime minister, from your perspective – how will he be remembered in the U.S. as --
MR KIRBY: I don't think that's – I don't think that's for the State Department to characterize one way or another. The Secretary has great respect for the prime minister and for his leadership and – and the decisions that he has made are – obviously we respect those decisions as well. And we respect, as I said, the will of the British people, but I don't believe that would be appropriate for us to characterize one way or the other.
QUESTION: Well, what do you think of his decision to put this to a referendum?
MR KIRBY: Again, these are – these were his decisions to make, and obviously, it was the will of the British people here that was voiced and that he made very clear he respected, and we respect him for that.
QUESTION: And can I just ask – Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations said today the special relationship will be that much less special, the United States will have no alternative but to increasingly turn to and rely on other countries, this is a cloud without a silver lining. I mean, are you saying you disagree with everything he's arguing there?
MR KIRBY: With all due respect to Mr. Haass, I would say yes, we disagree with that sentiment. We don't believe that the relationship with the UK will remain anything other than special and strong and deep and abiding, and I think I said that at the outset. We value this relationship very, very much and have every expectation that it will stay just as strong and vibrant going forward.
QUESTION: You said – just one more on this before we move – you said it's a measure of how close the U.S. and the UK are that you can have honest discussions with the UK.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But when we've asked for your opinion on their – the decision by the voters to leave the European Union, you said, "We respect their opinion." Well, what is your honest – what is your honest assessment?
MR KIRBY: You don't think I was being honest before?
QUESTION: Well, if – that doesn't sound like an assessment at all.
MR KIRBY: Look, I mean, again, one of the --
QUESTION: It sounds like you're not close enough to have that honest – to present that --
MR KIRBY: No, of course – no, of course we are, Brad. I mean, it's one of the great strengths of the special relationship with the UK that – over so many years – been our ability to speak candidly about our concerns, about our hopes, about our expectations. And you saw us do that before this referendum. We're comfortable that we were able to do that in this case, just as we are comfortable and confident in the future strength of the relationship going forward.
QUESTION: So what are your concerns with the result of this referendum, then, if you're so comfortable expressing them?
MR KIRBY: We had already – we had already expressed – our government had already expressed what we – what we felt about the pending vote. But the people of Great Britain have spoken, so that – that argument is now over and now we have to focus on moving ahead.
QUESTION: So – but those concerns that you expressed before the vote that this would be a mistake, you still believe that? Or you stopped believing that because they did what you said was going to be a mistake.
MR KIRBY: What we said was we believed in a strong UK voice and a strong EU.
MR KIRBY: And that was our position in advance of the referendum. The people of Great Britain have spoken and they want the UK out of the EU. That's beyond dispute. And so we now have to move on. We now have to – it doesn't mean that our concerns prior to the vote were invalid or are invalid now, but it doesn't matter now. They've made their decision, and so we're going to move on and we're going to continue to work at this relationship.
QUESTION: I realize you don't want – there's not much value in saying, "You were wrong," but given that this is going to be a protracted process and it's not the result that you found to be preferable, do you hope that the UK and the EU will manage to maintain as many bands of connectivity as possible, regardless of how this process ultimately ends?
MR KIRBY: I think that's a discussion that has to take place between the UK and the EU. What I did say earlier, though, is that we're confident that they'll be able to do this – because it will take some time – we're confident that they'll be able to do this in a measured, deliberate way and to address the concerns that have now been very clearly expressed by the British people. But I wouldn't get ahead of that process. We're just – we're comfortable and we're confident that it will be done with measure and deliberation. Okay?
Okay. We're going to move on?
QUESTION: Two different questions.
MR KIRBY: Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. One is: Yesterday, India set the global record by launching 20 satellites in a single mission, including 17 and one from the foreign payloads. Is that including the U.S.? Or what role you think U.S. is playing as far as the U.S.-India space mission is concerned?
MR KIRBY: Goyal, you're probably talking to the wrong guy. I think you probably ought to talk to NASA about that. I don't have any knowledge on the space launches. I'm sorry. I just didn't come prepared for that.
QUESTION: Okay. Second, what kind of message you think U.S. Congress is setting by – when they had a sat-in or on the floors like they were doing yoga? Only two weeks ago, Prime Minister Modi was in the U.S. Congress chamber when he said that this is a temple of democracy. And now these kind of things happens only in the Indian parliament, like sat – sit-in on all the protesters, all that, all in the Indian parliament or many other parliaments around the globe. So what do you – what message you think the U.S. Congress was sending to the rest of the world?
MR KIRBY: What message was the U.S. Congress sending to the rest of the world? You mean as a result of the sit-in of Democratic members on gun laws? Look – well, obviously, the issue itself is not one for the State Department to address – the issue of domestic gun laws. That's not our focus here at the State Department. The – and I'm very careful not to speak for any member of Congress, a group or individually. That's also not our role here. But, look, democracy can be messy; democracy can be dramatic at times. And as we say with respect to different issues around the world when I get up here and I talk about democratic freedoms elsewhere, we believe that freedom of expression is important, and the ability to have your voice be heard.
And so I would hope that however you come down on the issues in terms of domestic gun laws, that one clear message of what's been going on in Congress is that we are a democracy and that we – and that we're not afraid to make our voices heard one way or the other, and we think that's important. And we think that to be able to do that in a peaceful way, to be able to do that in a transparent way is important. And when we – and when I stand up here and I talk about some places around the world where you can't do that, that's why. And so, again, wherever you come down on the issue, it's clear that in the halls of our Congress, that they are exercising their right to free speech and to expression.
QUESTION: And finally, U.S. and Bangladesh officials met in Washington at the State Department, and a wide range of issues were discussed, of course, from the press release. What – was this also discussed during this meeting, the attacks on the minorities in Bangladesh? And what kind of assurance do you think the Bangladesh officials gave to the U.S. officials that these things will not happen or they have arrested a number of people in that connection?
MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we've long talked about our concerns over the situation in Bangladesh, and I – again, I would say that clearly those issues and our concerns were obviously part of the discussions here at the State Department. But I don't have anything more detailed than that.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
MR KIRBY: Justin.
QUESTION: Thanks, John. I wanted to get your take on the AP story about the Clinton calendar when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state here and ask you if it's common practice for the secretary of state to scrub private meetings from the official calendar, as it would appear was done in her case. And – so what's your take on that whole story?
MR KIRBY: Well – couple of things. The State Department maintained and preserved extensive records of Secretary Clinton's calendars, and that's evident from the records provided by the department to the Associated Press in this case. It's a matter of ongoing litigation, and as such, I'm not going to offer additional details about that. I'm also not in a position to speak to how past secretaries and their staff handled schedules. But again, it's an ongoing matter of litigation, and I'm not going to be able to get into more detail on it.
QUESTION: When you – you can't talk about how schedules were kept in the past? That's your position?
MR KIRBY: I – no, I cannot. I cannot speak to how --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, how is --
MR KIRBY: -- past secretaries or their staff handled their schedule.
QUESTION: How is the current Secretary's schedule handled with regard to private meetings and how that might be reflected on the official calendar, the official public record for the historic record?
MR KIRBY: Well, a couple of things. I mean, we do keep records of Secretary's calendar. It shouldn't be surprising that there are often various internal calendars that are kept. And of course, as you know, we put out a public calendar every day that reflects his public engagements. But his daily schedules are being maintained and preserved as they should be, and they're being maintained and preserved properly.
QUESTION: But in regards to the private meetings – that's what this whole piece is about, the private meetings with, in Clinton's case, people who turn out to be major donors to her campaign and to her family foundation. What is happening with Kerry's private meetings? Are those being – are those – are the participants of those meetings preserved in the official record? What's the common practice here?
MR KIRBY: I can't speak to how it was done in the past, Justin, but the Secretary's calendars are being properly preserved and maintained, and that includes who he's meeting with. Okay? I mean, I just don't know how --
QUESTION: Does that include dinners, like when he's on the road and he's traveling, if he goes out to dinner, if he goes out for drinks with an official or with an important person? Does he --
MR KIRBY: I mean, if it – we don't --
QUESTION: Even if it's not publicly announced, is that put in the official historical record?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: It is?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: And then you said at the beginning that --
MR KIRBY: It's put in the – it's recorded. You said put in the public record.
QUESTION: Recorded. Not – but it's not in a public – no, I said in the official historical record.
MR KIRBY: I mean, there's a record of his calendar. But look, when he's on vacation we don't keep a calendar for him.
QUESTION: Right. But if it's a workday --
MR KIRBY: But if he's doing a working meeting or a working lunch or working dinner, all that's recorded.
QUESTION: Well, let's say it's not a working dinner but he's on the public dime. He's going – he's in Paris or London or wherever, and he meets friends for dinner, and that's being paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. Is that recorded as a – in the record – who he met with?
MR KIRBY: It's recorded that – it's recorded that he will be having dinner, but we don't – we don't --
QUESTION: You wouldn't say with whom?
MR KIRBY: -- list every single participant if it's a private dinner. But it's recorded that he's having a meal. Now, when he's here in Washington and when he's at the end of the day and he goes home, do we record on there when he sat down and ate? No.
QUESTION: But you see it as a slight – when he's on a trip where he's being – taxpayers are funding for him and his security --
MR KIRBY: I understand. That's right. And you've traveled and you've been able to see that we're not bashful about saying that --
MR KIRBY: -- when he's going to eat. Most of his – and you also know, Brad, most of his meals when he's on the road are working meals.
QUESTION: I understand. I'm just asking if the individuals – I mean, I understand these are a little different cases, unless the Secretary plans to run for president in a few years' time, but it's a little different. But do these individuals he meets with while he's on official trips and spending taxpayer money, do they get recorded in that official record?
MR KIRBY: Yes. I mean --
QUESTION: Okay. But those --
QUESTION: The private --
MR KIRBY: I mean, if he 's --
QUESTION: I want to draw a distinction here just because I want to – I want to understand the question. I have no view of this. Presumably, if he has a private meeting, some friend of his drops by his hotel in Paris --
MR KIRBY: We would not – there would be no reason to, nor was there a requirement, to list in great detail a completely private non-work related meal that he might be having.
QUESTION: Or in any detail, right?
MR KIRBY: Right, right.
QUESTION: I mean, presumably you take the position that secretaries of state, like other people, get to have a certain amount of privacy, and that includes meeting --
MR KIRBY: I mean, with friends or family, of course. I mean, that's not something that would need to be recorded or detailed, and there would be no reason to do that. But as you guys know who have traveled with him that there are very few private, non-working meals even for the Secretary. They're often – he does a lot of business over the course of meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And as you know, those of you who have traveled, we make it known that he's doing that.
QUESTION: So to be clear, you don't see any glaring impropriety with the way Secretary Clinton's schedule was handled?
MR KIRBY: I'm not going to speak to the manner in which former Secretary Clinton's calendars were handled.
QUESTION: I have one more on this.
QUESTION: I do, too.
QUESTION: At the beginning, you said you provided extensive records from the set of meetings that the former secretary had. Were you supposed to provide extensive records or complete records?
MR KIRBY: Again, I've articulated --
QUESTION: Because I think that's part of the problem here. Well, the issue raised in the story was that things are incomplete, and extensive doesn't imply complete.
MR KIRBY: Right. So again, I'm going to go back to what I said before: maintained and preserved extensive records. And we have provided those through Freedom of Information to the Associated Press. It's all out there – well, at least it's out there to the Associated Press. It's ongoing litigation, therefore not complete, and I'm really not at liberty to talk about it in any more detail.
QUESTION: But as a general matter, does the State Department believe it has any public obligation to maintain, for the historical record, records of private meetings by any secretary of state?
MR KIRBY: When you say private, you mean --
QUESTION: By – what I mean private, I mean non-work related, totally un-work related meetings.
MR KIRBY: We have – let me put it another way rather than – we have – we know we have an obligation to properly document and record and preserve the record of the Secretary's tenure and the work that he has done, the policies he has pursued, the decisions he has made. And his official calendar is one component of that much larger story. And we're confident – again, without getting into great technical detail, we are confident that we are properly preserving the record of his time as Secretary in terms of the official travel he has done, the meetings he has attended, the work that – and the work and the efforts that he has put into advancing American foreign policy.
MR KIRBY: And we're comfortable that we are doing that properly through the preservation of calendars.
QUESTION: Yeah. No, but you're not quite getting at what I think is the nub of the question. Maybe you don't want to. But I think it's a reasonable question to ask, which is whether the Department thinks that it has an obligation to maintain records of his private, totally non-work related meetings. I mean, if you are, then secretaries of state really don't have kind of almost any privacy because they can't meet a friend for dinner.
MR KIRBY: Let me try it – let me try it again. Maybe I'll keep whittling away here. We know we have an obligation to preserve his record as Secretary of State. There are obviously some moments of his life that have no bearing on his performance as Secretary of State that are – that are reflective of him as a father, as a husband, as a grandfather. And I think that the American people would understand that that wouldn't necessarily – those times of his life, be they on a given day or a week or a month – they wouldn't be reflective of our requirements to preserve his record as Secretary of State.
Does that help?
QUESTION: I think so.
QUESTION: So I don't --
MR KIRBY: I think that was a – I appreciate you coming back at me on that.
QUESTION: I don't want to be pedantic, but my lingering question related to this is: What is private and what is public? I understand if he's on vacation, that's private. But if you're on official government travel, for example, where you're getting paid by the U.S. taxpayer to travel, being followed by a security detail that is being paid by the U.S. taxpayer to provide that security --
MR KIRBY: That doesn't preclude private --
QUESTION: That doesn't preclude --
MR KIRBY: That doesn't preclude – that doesn't preclude some measure of privacy for the use of his time, Brad. I mean --
MR KIRBY: For instance, we don't record for the public record when he lays down to sleep and when he wakes up. I mean, there are times in your life even on the road that --
QUESTION: But that's not – yeah.
MR KIRBY: -- don't require extensive recordkeeping.
QUESTION: But that's not a meeting. That's not --
QUESTION: How do you know?
QUESTION: Well – (laughter) – depends.
QUESTION: But as far as I know, that's not a meeting. And two, that's not part of --
MR KIRBY: If – let me – let me try to put it another way: If he's having a meeting on the road or at home that bears directly to his work as Secretary of State, we're properly recording that.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: I want to bring just one last thing back to Clinton, because it's really about Clinton. And what strikes me as odd is that you won't defend her past practices and you're hanging that or hiding behind litigation, which, as my understanding, really doesn't involve her past practices so much as it does records of those practices, which the AP is suing for. I assume that's what the litigation you're talking about, and I'm just not understanding how you could hide behind that in not being able to defend her past practices.
MR KIRBY: I'm not – first of all, I'm not hiding behind anything, Justin. It's a case of ongoing litigation and there – and I'm simply not able to discuss it further, and I think you would understand that. If it's in a case of ongoing litigation, there are limits to what I can say, and I'm simply not going to cross those limits. And as your – for your larger question, I am also – regardless of the ongoing litigation, I am not in a position, nor should I be expected to, to speak to the scheduling habits of a previous secretary of state. I just – I'm not able to do that.
QUESTION: Can we move on to the Palestinian-Israeli issue?
MR KIRBY: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: On the Secretary's meeting, upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, it has been reported that the Secretary is going to sort of suggest a last-ditch, quote/unquote "last ditch proposal" to the prime minister, basically to see whether he's going to fish or cut bait as far as the two-state solution is. Can you enlighten us on those?
MR KIRBY: As I said yesterday, I think --
MR KIRBY: -- the Secretary plans to discuss a range of regional issues with the prime minister at their meeting in Rome, which includes the fight against Daesh, recent developments in Syria. He will not be trying to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians or offering any new initiatives.
QUESTION: So no new initiative, no new ideas and so on? Because --
MR KIRBY: I --
QUESTION: -- again it's been also reported, if you would indulge me – if you would comment on this. It's been reported that in the event that he cannot get anything going or – whether on past efforts or new efforts, what we are likely to see is probably the United States and maybe the President himself or the Secretary of State saying these are the outlines, these are the parameters of a resolution that will end up with a two-state solution as you see it.
MR KIRBY: Again, I think I will leave my answer the way it was. I don't have anything more to add on that, Said. As we've said many times, we still believe in the importance of a two-state solution. Obviously, as a part of this broader discussion that the Secretary will be having with the prime minister, they'll talk about where things stand with respect to movement to or away from a two-state solution. Clearly that's going to be on the Secretary's mind as well. But as I said at my outset, he's not going to restart talks. He's not going to lay down any new initiatives. This is the next in what has been and will remain a series of discussions with leaders on all sides of the issue.
QUESTION: Can I ask a related question? The Israeli justice ministry – Reuters reported that the Israeli justice ministry is drafting legislation that will enable – would enable it to order Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media to remove online postings it deems to be inciting terrorism. Do you have any comment on that?
MR KIRBY: Well, I haven't seen that report, Said, so we'll have to take a look at that. We've talked about social media in the past. In general, as you know, we support freedom of expression and the free flow of information regardless of the medium, but we also condemn incitement to violence.
QUESTION: Yeah, but this comes in light of a new definition of incitement, really a broad definition by the Israelis of incitement to terror and so on. So if you would look at this, and I mean, look at --
MR KIRBY: Well, you got me a little bit unprepared here.
QUESTION: Sure, okay.
MR KIRBY: I haven't seen this particular thing. But in general, I would tell you what we've said before when we've talked about social media. We support freedom of expression but we also are mindful of the dangers that can come from inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to violence.
MR KIRBY: Eritrea.
QUESTION: There are reports from the region that Deputy Assistant Secretary Shannon Smith traveled to or perhaps is still in Eritrea. First of all, can you confirm if she's there? And then secondly, if so, why is she there and who is she meeting with?
MR KIRBY: I do not have an update on that travel, Pam. Let me take that for you.
I've only got time for a couple more. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I'll be quick. Do you have any – we had an interview with the top North Korean diplomat for the United States, saying they won't give up nuclear weapons with a gun to their head. Do you have a comment on --
MR KIRBY: You have an interview with a top --
QUESTION: We, the Associated Press, had an interview with the top North Korean diplomat --
MR KIRBY: North Korean diplomat.
MR KIRBY: Look, I would say the same thing we've said before. Nothing's changed about our desire to see a complete, verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula, and the kinds of capabilities that the DPRK continues to pursue are doing nothing, obviously, to get us to that goal. We continually – as we have, we've condemned their activities in the past and we urge the North to take the necessary steps to prove that they are willing to return to the Six-Party Talk process so that we can get to that goal of a verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula.
QUESTION: And then today in Korea, the Financial Action Task Force met, which I know is not a State Department mechanism per se, but the U.S. and 30-odd other governments decided to suspend but not completely take off Iran from its countermeasures list for money laundering and terrorist financing. Do you hope that this will go some way to satisfying the Iranian demands for greater access to the international financial system?
MR KIRBY: Well, I would say we support the Financial Action Task Force decision. We also – as they have said, we welcome Iran's high-level political commitment to an action plan to address the deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating of financing of terrorism regime. This commitment to an action plan was key to their – the task force decision to temporarily suspend countermeasures. While the action plan is a positive step by Iran, even with this suspension of countermeasures Iran will remain on the black list until it completes its action plan in full.
So this has no effect on the U.S. Government's Iran-related sanctions, and again, this – largely, this is going to be up to Iran now to meet the commitments that it has made.
QUESTION: Can you just say what Iran did besides committing to some action plan? What has it already done concretely that lent – that lent to its suspension?
MR KIRBY: Well, it has created – look, this is a better question for the task force because I'm not an expert.
QUESTION: I understand.
MR KIRBY: But I understand – as I understand it, this temporary suspension of countermeasures – it's actually – and you know this – it's a recommendation of a temporary suspension of countermeasures because the nations of the task force have to determine for themselves if they are going to, in fact, suspend, and they might not. But it's hinged upon – what you – you ask what Iran has done. As I understand it, what they've done is to make a firm commitment to an action plan to deal with the concerns about money laundering and support for terrorism and the financing that goes along with that. They've made this action plan to deal with it, so there's – so the task force has recommended to the members that they could suspend countermeasures temporarily in the wake of this commitment to develop the action plan. But again, if Iran doesn't follow through on that, those that do decide to suspend countermeasures can always snap them back.
QUESTION: Theoretically, if they actually do what they say they're going to do, which is end terror financing within the next 12 months, you could take them off the state sponsor of terrorism list too, right, because they wouldn't be funding terrorism anymore either?
MR KIRBY: Well, the sponsorship of terrorism exists not just in the financial world. There's also material support as well as other ways of supporting terrorism. I wouldn't get ahead one way or another of a decision or speculate where that might go. They are still considered a state sponsor of terrorism. I do not see that changing in the wake of this decision by the task force.
QUESTION: Why would you – given that they are a state sponsor of terrorism, why would you trust them to enact any measures to prevent the financing of terrorism?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I don't want to speak for the task force; but as we've said before, this isn't about trust. That's why the suspension is temporary and it's still – it's just a recommendation, really. The nations themselves have to decide whether they're going to do it. But for us, this has never been about just blind trust. Iran – as I understand it, the task force agreed to make – to recommend the suspension based on their commitment to an action plan, but they made very clear in their statement that Iran's got to meet that goal now. They've got to not only further develop the action plan but implement the items on there to deal with their support for terrorism financing and their money-laundering issues.
QUESTION: What I don't quite get is – I understand that. I don't quite understand why you would support recommending even a suspension of the countermeasures for a state that you believe and have believed for years has committed and supported acts of terrorism, including those that have killed U.S. citizens. Why not not make such a recommendation until they've actually taken the actions that you want to see done?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, this was a consensus view of the Financial Action Task Force, so I'm not – I can't speak for every member there. Obviously --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the United States of America.
MR KIRBY: Obviously, we supported this – we supported this decision inside the FATF, as it's known. We supported this decision. But again, it's contingent. It's contingent on them actually meeting the action plan and following through; and if they don't, then obviously they won't be able to enjoy the full suspension; it is temporary at best. But --
QUESTION: Well, why even give them a temporary benefit if – I just don't understand that. Why even give them a temporary benefit if --
MR KIRBY: Again, I don't want to speak for the task force, but apparently --
QUESTION: But you have --
MR KIRBY: But obviously, the task force felt that the commitment to the action plan was significant enough to warrant this temporary suspension. And again, we'll see where it goes. We'll just see where it goes. And we support that decision.
I got just one more, and then I've got to go.
QUESTION: Sorry, on China. The Chinese embassy sent a letter of protest to the Senate Armed Services about a flight by senators above the contested Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands. I was wondering if you got a similar letter. Are you in contact with the Chinese embassy on this issue?
MR KIRBY: I'm not aware of any such correspondence.
Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:38 p.m.)
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