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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – July 29, 2016

1:36 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday to you. A couple things at the top.

On Cuba, we are concerned about the physical well-being of Guillermo Farinas, Carlos Amel, and other activists that are engaged in a hunger strike. We are monitoring their situation closely. We stand in solidarity with those who advocate for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. We have raised our concerns directly with the Cuban Government both in Washington and Havana.

On Yemen, we note with grave concern yesterday’s announcement issued by some elements within the Houthi General People’s Congress to form a governing council. Such actions are out of step with the spirit of the negotiations and do not constructively move the talks forward. We maintain that the UN-led negotiations are the single best chance for stability, and we call upon parties to show good faith and flexibility to make progress that will directly improve the lives of millions of Yemenis. The people of Yemen have suffered for far too long and they are counting on their representatives in Kuwait to restore peace. We reiterate our strong support for UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his efforts over the course of these talks. We also express our deep appreciation to the Government of Kuwait for their support in hosting the negotiations and the role that they are playing to bring stability to the region.

Finally, on Afghanistan, we welcome Afghanistan today as the 164th member of the World Trade Organization, or WTO. Afghanistan will enjoy new opportunities now for multilateral trade and expand its potential for future development and prosperity. We applaud Afghanistan for the years of effort required to meet this milestone achievement and we look forward to working together with that country as a full member of the WTO going forward.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we start with Syria?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: The conversations that Secretary Kerry said are now ongoing in which you’re trying to figure out whether or not the Russian humanitarian operation is a ruse, where are they taking place, who’s involved in them, and what have you learned so far?

MR KIRBY: I think there’s a little confusion there in the question. He was referring – there’s sort of two things here. There are discussions going on between U.S. and Russia teams in Geneva – I talked about this a little bit yesterday – to work through the technicalities and the modalities of the proposals that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry agreed to back in Moscow a couple of weeks ago. These are designed to get the cessation of hostilities in a better place, to get it more enforceable, and to create the space that Special Envoy de Mistura needs to resume the political talks.

And I think you heard the Secretary today talk about conversations he’s been having with Russian officials to better understand the announcement yesterday of humanitarian corridors and what that – and what that means, and also to express quite frankly our concerns about these corridors. There should be no need for them if the cessation of hostilities is being enforced and observed in and around Aleppo. People should not have to be told to leave or given the impression that there is some sort of forced evacuation. They should be able to stay in their homes peacefully because they’re not at risk by regime forces.

QUESTION: Well, here’s – I’m looking at what he said, and he suggested that there are – so are the conversations that he’s talking about with regard to Aleppo, those are the conversations that he’s having with the Russians?

MR KIRBY: Those were the – that was the question you asked him today, was about – was about Aleppo and the humanitarian corridor, and he referred to discussions he’s been having with Russian officials about that. But there are – and look, in addition to discussions in Geneva, of course, the Secretary has maintained a healthy dialogue with Foreign Minister Lavrov about the proposals.

QUESTION: But that’s not what he said. I mean, I asked him about it and he said, “We’re deeply concerned about the definition, and I have talked to Moscow twice in the last 24 hours. I met with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Laos three days ago. This is very much potentially a challenge, but we have a team that is meeting today working on this and we’ll find out whether or not it’s real or not.”

MR KIRBY: He’s referring to the same U.S.-Russia teams that I was talking about in Geneva. They are there primarily to work through the technicalities and modalities of these proposals, but it – I think it stands within reason that they would also be discussing with Russia and Russian authorities that are part of their delegation about these humanitarian corridors.

QUESTION: Okay, so they are —

MR KIRBY: But that’s not the function. That’s not the purpose.

QUESTION: I get it, but they are talking about that. I mean, that’s what he said.

MR KIRBY: Well, that’s what he said. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MR KIRBY: I can’t dispute that.

QUESTION: So do you have any – I mean, it’s fairly late now in Geneva. Do you have any greater understanding as to whether this is or isn’t a ruse?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not quite sure when you say “ruse” what you mean. Can you explain to me what you mean by a ruse?

QUESTION: Well, yesterday you yourself from the podium raised questions about the plan, and you said, if I remember correctly, that it – without further clarification, it appeared to be an effort to get militants to surrender and to get civilians to leave.

MR KIRBY: And to force an evacuation.

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. So we are – so —

QUESTION: So rather than being a humanitarian operation where you’re trying to protect everybody, you yourself were suggesting that what they’re really trying to do is get the militants to just lay down their arms and get everybody else to leave.

MR KIRBY: I was saying that without further clarification —

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: — that’s what it appears to be. But I don’t think I used the word “ruse.” In any event —

QUESTION: No, but he did.

MR KIRBY: In any event —

QUESTION: But he did.

MR KIRBY: Well, he did because it was raised in the question that you asked him today.

QUESTION: I don’t decide what comes out of his mouth. He didn’t have to use that word.

MR KIRBY: In any event – in any event, we could argue all day about the word “ruse.” In any event, we still don’t have additional clarification enough to be able to fully know, and that is what the Secretary was alluding to today.

QUESTION: One other thing: Why would you need to evacuate civilians if the purpose of your actions is to provide them with humanitarian relief? Why not just give them humanitarian supplies?

MR KIRBY: Excellent question, and probably one of the questions that our team is trying to explore with Russian officials. I couldn’t possibly answer that. Only they can answer that.

QUESTION: And what do you think about Special Envoy de Mistura’s statement today that perhaps what they should do is take these corridors, if they are opening them, and simply hand them over to the UN so that the UN can then take responsibility for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people in the city, as you’ve been – or in those parts of the city, as you’ve been demanding for many, many months now?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’d say, first of all, there should be no need for humanitarian corridors because there should be no need for the people of Aleppo to feel besieged – and they do, and they are. Point one.

Point two, we’ve seen the comments that the special envoy made about the potential role here for the UN, and we’re trying to get a little bit more clarity on exactly what he meant by that. I don’t have an update for you and I don’t have a position by the United States on that suggestion. But as with all manners of proposals and options and alternatives proposed by the special envoy, obviously we take those seriously; we want to learn more about it.

QUESTION: One more thing. Why – is fundamentally your fear that what the Russians and the Syrian Government are trying to do, if indeed they are trying to get the opposition fighters to lay down their arms and get the civilians to evacuate – is your fundamental concern that they’re essentially laying the ground for Syrian Government or allied forces to retake and bring all of Aleppo under government control? Is that what you think may be the objective of this?

MR KIRBY: Again, we’re not – we don’t have perfect clarity on what they’re trying to do, which is why our teams are going to be discussing and why the Secretary also is personally trying to get better clarity on what this means. But as I said yesterday, that if that is the – if it – if it, as it appears to be – if it is as it appears to be, which is a forced evacuation and an attempt to basically purge Aleppo of opposition groups, in other words force a surrender, then it would be absolutely in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which, by the way, the Russians voted for and signed up to – as a matter of fact, as part of the ISSG, helped create. And that would be obviously of deep concern to us. But we need to know more.

QUESTION: Last one. The Secretary said he spoke to Moscow twice in the last 24 hours, and I asked him if it was Lavrov and I didn’t quite understand his – whether he responded to that. Has he spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov twice in the last 24 hours or to somebody else?

MR KIRBY: I do not have any recent conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov to read out to you.

QUESTION: Does that mean he’s talking to somebody else?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov to read out with you over the last 24, 36 hours.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary ever speak directly to President Putin?

MR KIRBY: Of course he speaks directly to President Putin.

QUESTION: On the phone?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of phone calls with President Putin. He’s obviously met with President Putin. I can assure you that he was not referring to President Putin in this regard.

QUESTION: Then who’s he talking to?

MR KIRBY: I just don’t have further details to read out to you in terms of his conversations. He said he has talked to Moscow – to Russian officials – twice in the last 24 hours, and I think I’m just going to leave it at that.

Abbie.

QUESTION: The Russians are reporting that the U.S. ambassador requested a meeting with the deputy foreign minister, which occurred today. Do you have any further readout of that meeting? They said that Syria was discussed. Was that an attempt to get clarity through discussions with the U.S. ambassador?

MR KIRBY: With the – I’m sorry, the —

QUESTION: The U.S. ambassador to Russia met with the deputy foreign minister today in Russia.

MR KIRBY: Oh, our ambassador in Moscow.

QUESTION: Yes. My apologies. Yes.

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry – no, no, no, I just – I was having trouble. I don’t have a readout of that meeting or discussion, so we’ll – I’ll have to take the question and see if we can get more clarity for you on that. So I just don’t know. I don’t know what the character of that conversation was.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: When you – sorry, when you say “talked to Russia” —

QUESTION: Syria and Iraq?

QUESTION: When you say “talked to Moscow,” he definitely meant, as you just said, talking to Russian officials, not talking to the U.S. embassy in Moscow to try to get them to figure this out?

MR KIRBY: I’m – again, I’ve got no more clarity – no more detail to provide with respect to those conversations.

QUESTION: But what you just said was “talking to Moscow, to Russian officials.” So you – he did talk to Russian officials, correct?

MR KIRBY: He – yes, he spoke to Russian officials.

QUESTION: Fine. Thanks.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: There was this meeting in the building today with about 20 countries on aiding ethnic and religious minorities that have been targeted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and I’m just wondering if you have any actionable takeaway to report from this conference today.

MR KIRBY: Well, the conference just ended, and I’m certain that we will be providing more detail about that. It was over the last two days. I think we’re going to let the organizers gather and collect takeaways from that, and I’m sure that we’ll have more information to provide as a result of it. So I don’t want to get ahead of the findings, recommendations, or ways ahead that they might have taken away from it, but it was an important two days and an important discussion to have. It’s something that the Secretary remains focused on and I can assure you will for the entire time that he’s in office.

QUESTION: Will what?

MR KIRBY: And will remain focused on.

Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the United Arab Emirates foreign minister today?

MR KIRBY: It was a good meeting. I think you saw that he spoke a little bit to media beforehand. Obviously, lots to discuss with the foreign minister, not least of which, of course, is what’s going on in Syria, but also the issue of violent extremism throughout the region.

QUESTION: How about Libya?

MR KIRBY: They – obviously, you can expect that topics like Libya, topics like Yemen, and the broader challenges in the Middle East obviously came up, yes.

QUESTION: How about Iraq?

MR KIRBY: They talked about the counter-Daesh efforts, which obviously includes what’s going on in Iraq.

Yes.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A Turkish prosecutor prepared an indictment regarding the failed coup, and it says that – the indictment says that the CIA and the FBI trained Gulen followers. This is not the first time Turkish officials are trying to tie the U.S. to the coup attempt. I know that you said that the accusations are ludicrous, but they are constant. I wonder, how does this constant flow of accusations affect cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey?

MR KIRBY: There’s no change in the cooperation with Turkey, particularly when it comes to their support for the counter-Daesh operations. As I think our military has spoken to, the operations at Incirlik have resumed to a normal level. So I’m not aware of any practical, tangible impact on our bilateral cooperation with respect to Daesh, but again, I would just say what I said yesterday: Any accusation, claim, allegation, or suspicion that the United States was in any way involved in this coup attempt is utterly false and inaccurate.

QUESTION: Sir, James Clapper said – seemed to have said the opposite of what you just said. He said that the purge in the military is harming cooperation with Turkey, especially regarding operations against ISIL. He said many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested, there’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with Turkey. Now, how serious is that? What you’re saying seems to be conflicting what he said.

MR KIRBY: Well, your question was has there been any impact, and my answer to that is no. To date, there’s been no impact on Turkey’s cooperation and membership and participation as a member of the coalition against Daesh. And I would also point you to what Turkish officials have said themselves to us bilaterally, but even publicly, that there’s not going to be any negative developments as a result of their efforts to investigate and get to the bottom of this coup on their willingness and ability to continue to support coalition operations. And again, thus far, there haven’t been.

I’m not in the predicting business and so I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals or speculation about where this goes forward. But thus far, as you and I are sitting here talking, there’s been no practical impact.

QUESTION: Turkey – in response to General Votel’s expressing concerns about the purge in the military, President Erdogan has just accused him of siding with coup plotters and said, quote/unquote, “Know your place.” Do you think Turkey has crossed the line in the friendship that you often talk about? And is there a line that Turkey can cross?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’ve seen those comments. I think you saw that General Votel himself put out a statement just not long ago making it clear that he wasn’t at all siding with coup plotters. As a matter of fact, as you know, our government has condemned that coup attempt very clearly and very consistently. And I’m also not going to react to every bit of rhetoric out there that seems to come every day. Turkey is a NATO ally, they are a friend, and they are a partner – an important partner, especially in the efforts to counter Daesh in Syria. And that partnership continues. And they themselves have committed to continuing that partnership and that’s where our focus is going to be going forward.

QUESTION: That rhetoric seems to be having an impact on the ground in Turkey. Just earlier this week, thousands of people marched onto the Incirlik Air Base chanting anti-American slogans. Are you concerned about the safety of U.S. personnel in Turkey and the safety of nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to the latter one way or the other. As to the former, we are always concerned about the safety and security of U.S. personnel, be they military or civilian, certainly those that work inside our embassies and facilities. I mean, that’s something we’re always concerned about, and not long ago, a couple weeks ago, you and I, we were all talking about steps that we were taking to try to help better ensure that safety and security right inside Turkey because of the terrorist threat. Now, I’ve seen the reports of the protest activity. We – above so many others, we value freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the Turkish people have that right. That’s a democratic principle that’s enshrined in their own constitution. They have that right. And they have – and they certainly have the right to express their views one way or another.

If you’re asking me, as a result of that protest, did that elevate our concerns, I’m not aware that it did. As far as I have seen, it was a peaceful assembly of people expressing their views and did not pose a threat to American personnel or our equipment or facilities.

QUESTION: But are you worried that the accusations and the rhetoric that Turkish officials are putting out there may incite violence against U.S. personnel in Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we certainly don’t want to see any rhetoric enflame tensions or lead to or encourage violence. And I can assure you that we are in constant communication with Turkish authorities and have been since the coup attempt to talk to them about what they’re doing and how it’s going. Our ambassador remains engaged every day, but obviously, it’s not – we certainly wouldn’t want to see anything, be it through words or actions, that could put any innocent people in harm’s way – not just Americans, but any innocent individuals in Turkey in harm’s way.

Yeah.

QUESTION: As we’ve discussed here, the State Department did a fantastic job with the pledging conference in support of Iraq, raising $1.2 billion. It’s a lot of money. That was great.

MR KIRBY: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) But as was said here as well, the money’s going through Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government – the KRG – has said they don’t expect to see any of it. That’s what the head of their foreign relations department said earlier this week. And that’s – they’re not going to get any of it as far as I understand, because – even though they host two-thirds of the 3 million refugees and IDPs in Iraq, and another 1 million are expected to come in in the context of the Mosul offensive. So first, is that a reasonable assessment? And if it is, are you prepared to use your influence with Baghdad to ensure that some significant part of that money goes to the Kurdistan region? And if not, is there some other way to address this problem?

MR KIRBY: I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding in the statement itself. The money is not going to Baghdad. The money is going to the UN and to agencies – UN agencies that distribute, based on need, the amount – the proper amounts of humanitarian assistance. So those donations, and our contribution is among them, will go to the UN to distribute. And they do a remarkable job figuring out who needs to get it, where they are, and how much they need to get. And we have complete trust and confidence in their ability to keep doing that.

QUESTION: Thank you for that clarification. It’s an important distinction, so thank you.

MR KIRBY: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Turkish justice minister and foreign minister said that they have credible information that Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, may run away from U.S. I was wondering if you shared a similar concern.

MR KIRBY: I have no information one way or the other about that, and I’d – and that’s really not a matter for the State Department to speak to.

QUESTION: And I was also wondering if U.S. taking any security measures to make sure such thing will not happen.

MR KIRBY: Again, that is not a matter for the State Department to discuss. That’s really a matter for the Justice Department to speak to, and I won’t comment further on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in the extradition treaty – and I think it’s in Article 10 – it says in cases of urgency, if – in this case, if Turkey gets suspected of such thing, U.S. needs to arrest the person for 90 days before the extradition. So it involves the State Department and the Justice Department, so I was wondering if any steps on the security of Gulen to make sure that he won’t run away is taken on —

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything further to add to that. Those are questions that really should be directed to the Justice Department and law enforcement authorities. As I said, we are in receipt of some material. The Justice Department is still analyzing that material, and that – and again, the whole process of extradition can be a fairly lengthy legal process, and we’re going to respect that process. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more to say.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkey?

QUESTION: Just one question on Turkey, to follow-up —

MR KIRBY: I knew we were going to stay on Turkey anyway, so —

QUESTION: Follow-up from yesterday, I think. You were asked about 130 media organizations being shut down in Turkey, and you said that you are seeking to get more information about those shutdown media groups – organizations. And today 20 of 21 journalists detained in recent days sent – the prosecutor ask them to be arrested just today. So it seems like the journalist, most of them, will be arrested, it looks like. I was wondering if you have any comment on that.

MR KIRBY: We still are deeply concerned by these reports and we’re still trying to gather more information. As I said in my previous answer, our ambassador remains daily engaged with his counterparts, as you might think he would.

And again, let me just reiterate again that the United States supports freedom of expression around the world, and we have talked many, many times here in this room about our concerns over freedom of expression and of free press in Turkey. Those concerns remain today. And when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value, it is of concern to us. And again, we continue to express that.

Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the story about the so-called Traitors’ Cemetery outside Istanbul. According to our story, which is based – which includes reference to local media reports as well, at least one Turkish military officer who is accused of involvement in the coup was buried in this cemetery, which, as I understand it, is marked Traitors’ Cemetery and – by the government. And he was denied or was not given the normal religious rites that would accompany such a burial. Do you regard that as a violation of his or his family’s rights or religious freedom?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, obviously – and we had a conference here in just the last couple of days about the importance of human rights, religious minorities – and that was obviously for religious minorities. But I mean, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of worship remains a universal value that we obviously hold in very high regard. So broadly speaking, we always want to be able to see particularly in democracies – we want to be able to see that those rights, that those freedoms are respected.

Now, I’ve seen a press report same as you, Arshad, and I’ve only seen a press report, and nothing beyond this article which I was able to read before coming down here. As I understand it in these very early minutes here after seeing this story that this was a municipal decision, and I think best right now to refer you to the Government of Turkey for more information about this particular decision – which is, again, we understand at this early hour, was made at the municipal level. We are, like you, trying to gain a little bit better clarity about this and what it actually means.

QUESTION: Can I – just one follow-up. When following the killing of Usama bin Ladin, the U.S. Government made very clear that it had chosen to conduct his burial at sea in accordance with Muslim traditions. That was clearly a very deliberate decision even towards someone that the United States held responsible for the killing of 3,000 people on 9/11. Do you think that, as a general principle, people should be – if it is their or their family’s wish, should be – or even in this case if it’s not – I mean, I doubt you consulted the bin Ladin family, although maybe you did – do you think that people should be accorded the normal religious rituals?

MR KIRBY: To be laid to rest in accordance with their religious practices?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: Absolutely we do, sure. Sure we do. And you were right; that was a very sharp example but obviously a famous example of how we observe that ourselves. And of course, as a general principle, as I said, in keeping with our belief in the freedom of worship, we believe that individuals should be accorded those customs, those traditions, those rites, to be laid to rest in keeping with the same practices by which they worshiped when they were alive.

QUESTION: And then last one from me on Turkey. Turkish officials today, I believe, said that something like 50,000 people have been – Turkish citizens have been deprived of their passports following the coup attempt. This is a broader question, but it goes to the fundamental question of – and I know you guys have said, look, they deserve to be able to get to the bottom of this.

On the other hand, when thousands and thousands, or in this case, tens of thousands of people are being affected, for example, by losing their ability to travel outside the country, does that not raise concerns in the United States about Turkey’s ability over the long term to maintain a democratically run and cohesive society? Or do you see any risk that the elimination of or the dismissal of the academics and the incarceration of journalists and the dismissals of civil servants and judges and so on is going to rend the sort of fabric of the society and just make its divisions even deeper over time?

MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly don’t want to see that. As we’ve said many times, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally; their democracy matters to us. That is why we’ve been so forthright in recent weeks about press freedoms, for instance. So that is absolutely not an outcome that we would like to see.

But again, we note that this was a serious coup attempt that, though failed, was – had a measure of organization to it and execution to it that would alarm any government so threatened. And we understand their need to try to get to the bottom of this and to try to figure out what happened and to be able to put in place measures so that it can’t happen again. I think any government would be in their rights to do that.

We’re watching this very closely, as we’ve said. We’ve also been very honest with our friends in Turkey about our concerns, about the importance of rule of law and due process, as they go about this investigation. I think we’re loathe to make a judgment or a characterization on each and every decision that’s being made, but I can assure you that we remain in close touch with our counterparts in Turkey as they are being made and as this process moves forward, and we’re going to stay committed to doing just that.

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable to you – I mean, I understand you don’t want to make judgment on each and every thing, but the way you’re talking, it sounds like it’s conceivable to you that it’s perfectly reasonable to pull 50,000 people – I mean, 50,000, that’s like a small city, certainly a very big town – that it’s conceivable, that it’s entirely within – reasonable to pull that many people’s passports as they’re investigating this.

MR KIRBY: That’s not what I said and I’m not making – again, I’m not going to make judgments or characterizations on each and every decision that they’re making. We have been very honest and candid about our concerns with respect to rule of law and due process. Those concerns remain as valid today as they did when we first expressed them, and we will continue to monitor events closely and to stay in close touch with Turkish counterparts. But I’m – as I have before, I’m going to avoid making either lump-sum characterizations or individual characterizations of each and every decision.

QUESTION: Just one question, a follow-up, if I may. You have been talking about these rights – universal rights, fundamental rights – but Turkey suspended European Convention of Human Rights. And so far, these days, the official authorities don’t need to even bring charges to detain anyone, which, right now, what’s going on, journalists are being detained without giving any reason or any evidence, and they stay at least 30 days because of state of emergency. So your citation or reference doesn’t really matter for Turkey, looks like.

MR KIRBY: Well, I think you’d have to ask Turkish officials that question. Nothing’s changed about our views. I don’t – but the decisions they’re making, they should speak to.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV. First, about the situation in Indian-held Kashmir – we spoke about it last time. So more than 50 persons have been killed by the Indian security forces and more than 2,000 are injured. So the latest situation is that the Indian security forces have start using pellet guns on the protesters, which have inflicted horrific injuries on protesters. More than two dozen young kids lost their eyesight. So, sir, the question is here not about the Kashmir problem – I know what you’re going to say about it. The question is about the human rights violations in Kashmir. Do you in touch with the Indian authorities of what really happening in Kashmir?

MR KIRBY: Well, let me say this. I mean, we’ve obviously seen reports of the clashes between protesters and Indian forces in Kashmir. And we’re, of course, concerned by the violence, as you might expect we would be. We encourage all sides to make efforts to find a peaceful solution to this, and I can tell you we are, as you would expect we would be, in close touch with our Indian counterparts there in New Delhi as this goes forward. But we’re obviously concerned by the violence and we want to see the tensions de-escalated.

QUESTION: Sir, human rights violations are not only happening in Kashmir. It’s happening in – over all India. I mean, we have, like, dozens of report of killing people for eating beef. I mean, can you imagine you cannot have beefsteak in India? If you have it, you’re going to be killed. I mean, the – recently – yesterday, the two Muslims women were openly beat up by the Hindu extremist on the road for buying a beef from a shop. I mean, do you have anything to say about that?

MR KIRBY: We stand in solidarity with the people and Government of India in supporting exercise of freedom of religion and expression and in confronting all forms of intolerance. We look forward to continuing to work with the Indian people to realize their tolerant-inclusive vision, which is so deeply in the interests of both India and the United States. And we’re obviously concerned by reports of rising intolerance and violence. We just talked about violence a few seconds ago against minorities. As we do in countries facing such problems around the world, we urge the government to do everything in its power to protect citizens and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

QUESTION: Sir, here’s another question about the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Sir, they have been asked to leave the – leave Pakistan as soon as possible. As you know, that there are more than 3 million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan and most of them are living there for the last 30 years. They have kids there, they have grandkids there, but now they are – forcibly, they are facing a deportation. UN also has expressed concerns on that. But are you in touch with the Pakistani authorities —

MR KIRBY: We are in close contact —

QUESTION: — on the Afghan refugees?

MR KIRBY: We’re in close contact with the Government of Pakistan as it manages what is obviously a complex issue. We along with the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR continue to monitor that situation and to advocate for the humanitarian treatment of all Afghan refugees. We’ve encouraged and we will continue to strongly encourage the Government of Pakistan to treat migrants in accordance with international humanitarian principles. We also recognize Pakistan’s genuine concerns and its right to undertaken appropriate measures to enforce its immigration laws.

Okay, looks like that’s about it. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)

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