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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – May 18, 2016

2:06 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, guys, I beat you. You have sacrificed the first line of questioning. All right, I don’t have an opening statement. So against my better judgment, I’ll go to you, Arshad. Go ahead and kick us off.

QUESTION: Can we start with the Secretary’s meeting with Egyptian President Sisi?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: We’ve all, I think, seen the readout. The mention of a strengthening – the U.S. commitment to strengthening Egypt’s democratic institutions is the second to the last phrase in the statement.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is that where it is in your set of priorities with Egypt?

MR KIRBY: No. No, and I wouldn’t read too much into the placement of the words on the readout in terms of priority. We talked at length about the democratic challenges that exist in Egypt and the work that still needs to be done. And that absolutely was context in the meeting today, but I wouldn’t read too much into where it was placed in the readout.

QUESTION: So that was a major feature of the meeting?

MR KIRBY: It has been. It’s been – it has been a significant topic of discussion each and every time we meet with Egyptian leaders.

QUESTION: Do you know for a fact that it was today? I know you weren’t there, obviously, so —

MR KIRBY: I wasn’t in the meeting and I’ve seen the readout the same as you. I haven’t gotten a more detailed – I have not been given a more detailed understanding of the actual conversation, but as I understand it so far, yes, it was a topic of discussion, as it always is.

QUESTION: And last one, and you may well not know the answer to this, but do you now if the Secretary raised the case of the Italian graduate student/journalist who died in Egypt? I realize he’s not a U.S. citizen, but on the other hand, it does seem to have been a rather unexplained and not fully investigated incident how he came to have died.

MR KIRBY: Well, as I understand it, the investigation’s ongoing, and the Italian authorities are participating in that investigation. I don’t have an update of where they are on it. I’ve not – I’m not aware of any indications that the investigation is over. I do not know to what degree, if at all, it was specifically raised in today’s meeting. I can – I’ll ask that question of the traveling team to see. But I would hasten to add that this particular case has, in fact, been raised by the Secretary in the past on more than one occasion as well as, of course, by our post out there. So it’s not something we’re bashful about raising with Egyptian leaders. Whether it – whether it came up in today’s meeting or not, I just – I’ll have to check.

QUESTION: In light of the recent delivery of the MRAPs to the Egyptian military, does this Administration feel that it has even more of a responsibility to raise questions about how the Egyptian Government treats journalists, treats political activists, treats people who work with NGOs, to treat these people with the respect, both moral and legal, to which they are entitled given that the U.S. opens itself up to criticism by making good on its military-to-military relationship with Egypt?

MR KIRBY: Well, we raise those concerns on their face and completely independent of other factors. We raise those concerns because they matter and they matter by themselves, and it’s a – and we’re not going to shy away from calling it like we see it when it comes to concerns about freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Egypt or any other country quite frankly. And it’s – and those concerns are not linked nor should they be linked to other aspects of a bilateral relationship, I mean in terms of specific assistance provided that is ongoing.

That said, Egypt does face significant counterterrorism challenges, and we recognize that. They talked about that again today, and we believe that helping them, assisting them in their efforts to deal with this significant threat remains an important priority, and we’re going to continue to work on that side of the relationship. But I guess if your question is, in light of recent provision of materiel, does that make it more incumbent upon us to raise concerns about freedom of expression, I guess the short answer, Ros, is no, it’s important enough all by itself.

Okay, Michel.

QUESTION: John, on Egypt, two questions. After two meetings with President Sisi and a meeting with Foreign Minister Shoukry on Friday, how can you describe the relations between Egypt and the U.S. at this time?

MR KIRBY: This is an important relationship, and it’s important to the region – Egypt is important to the region. It’s important with respect to the continued efforts to deal with the terrorist threat there. Egypt also participates, as you know, in the International Syria Support Group, so there’s – there are contributions, there are ideas, there are inputs that we value coming from Egyptian leaders with respect to what’s going on in Syria.

So look, it’s an important relationship, and for so many reasons and on so many levels, and that’s why the Secretary felt it was important to go to Cairo today to talk about some of those issues in more detail. Specifically, I think you know the Egyptians have also floated some ideas that they might have about the Middle East peace process and the Secretary wanted to hear directly from President al-Sisi about what some of those ideas were.

QUESTION: In this regard, is Egypt playing any role to advance the peace process between Arabs and Israel —

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ll let Egypt speak —

QUESTION: — in coordination with the U.S.?

MR KIRBY: I’ll let Egypt speak for itself and for its views. I’m not going to get into that. But what – I’d point you back to what the Secretary said when we were in Paris last week, and a question was specifically raised to him about French proposals, but his answer still stands and I believe if he was here he would say the same thing, that we’re not going to turn away any good ideas or options or concepts and proposals that might merit further study and reflection and discussion, and that would include these.

QUESTION: Is something changing in the climate around the Mideast peace process? You have the French who are trying to put together a conference. You have the Egyptians who are saying that they’re willing to deal with various parts of the Palestinian body to try to get them back to the table. They’ve had conversations with the Israelis. The Israelis indicate that they’re interested. Is there some sort of situation coalescing that might lead to actual talks before the end of this President’s term?

MR KIRBY: I don’t want to get ahead of discussions that are happening, even the discussions that are happening today. What I will tell you is that we, the United States, and I can only speak for the United States Government – we remain committed to trying to get to a two-state solution, which means you have to get to the kind of conditions that are conducive to having discussions that would lead to that. And as you know, Ros, that has been a difficult discussion to be had in recent weeks and months because of the violence. And we’ve said many, many times that what we need to see from all sides here is the kind of leadership demonstrated and shown that can help us take the tensions down and help us get to a situation where meaningful discussions can be had. So what I think you’re seeing is a continued concern by not just the United States, by – but by other governments in the region and outside the region about the situation there, about the fact that the violence still persists, about the fact that the tensions are still high, and about the fact that we still aren’t at a position – or at a point, I should say – where meaningful discussions can occur with respect to getting at a two-state solution. I think you’re – what you’re seeing is a very legitimate concern by other governments.

And look, not to keep beating this, but we share those concerns, obviously. And the Secretary wouldn’t have gone to Cairo today – he wouldn’t have had the discussions that he has had even in the last week – if it wasn’t still of significant concern to him.

QUESTION: But people have been concerned, governments have been concerned, but suddenly everyone is talking about not just the concern but about the potential for the Israelis and the Palestinians to start talking to each other again about some potential peace agreement. Is this a moment – is this a turning point?

MR KIRBY: What I think you’re – first of all, it’s not as if people are just waking up to this as a problem. There have been discussions and there has been concern for a long time now. So I don’t think you’re – I don’t think you’re seeing a particular inflection point here today, but you are seeing increasing concern by governments in and outside the region about what’s going on and, I think, legitimate, genuine efforts to try to help find a way through.

But ultimately, Ros, it’s going to come down to leadership there – Israeli leadership, Palestinian leadership, ultimately – to honestly create the kinds of conditions that need to be created such that a meaningful way forward to a two-state solution can be had. That’s what really – it’s going to depend really on the leadership there.

QUESTION: Can Egypt play a role in this regard, John? And what role?

MR KIRBY: Again, you’re asking me for a specific roadmap going ahead, and I just don’t think we’re there, Michel. So I mean, I’m – I think it would be premature to try to detail with any specificity what role one nation or another might play. What we really need to see there – and we’ve said many times – is for the leadership there to do the things to exert the leadership and influence that we know they have and can to create the proper conditions.

So while we continue to urge that – a reduction in the rhetoric, a reduction in the violence, affirmative steps to restore calm – the Secretary is also not going to ignore other ideas from other nations about how we might help bring that about. But ultimately, everybody understands that whatever ideas are floated, whatever initiatives are pursued, it’s going to require leadership there in the region.

QUESTION: Libya?

MR KIRBY: Are we done on this? Libya, go ahead.

QUESTION: Libya. UN Security Council members say that they’re ready to supply Libya’s UN-recognized government with weapons to fight ISIL. The fact that Libya is still split, not all factions have endorsed this UN-backed government, does the U.S. think that that should not be a factor in the decision to send weapons?

MR KIRBY: That we think what should not be a factor? That not every nation —

QUESTION: The fact that there is the lack of unity in Libya. Do you think that should not prevent the international community from sending weapons to Libya?

MR KIRBY: I think what the Secretary said is that we recognize the Government of National Accord, so does the international community; that there is a process written in to the UN Security Council resolutions which allow for the GNA, Government of National Accord, to request a waiver to the embargo for certain types of assistance.

And as the Secretary said and as your own foreign minister said, that we’re – that we want to respect that process, but it has to be done through that process, which means it has to be done through the UN; and that for our part, the United States would look favorably on those requests, obviously considering them carefully and weighing them carefully, making sure that they are aligned with the actual counterterrorism mission in Libya and the threat that’s posed by terrorism in Libya. So I’m not sure I’m – I don’t know if I’m totally answering your question here, but I guess what I’d say is there is a process here, and the Secretary wants that process to be observed and respected. He also wants that process to be used effectively to try to deal with these waiver requests appropriately, given the very real threat that’s there in Libya.

QUESTION: Is the lack of unity in Libya a concern for the United States when deciding whether or not to send weapons to Libya?

MR KIRBY: It is a concern for the United States on its face. And again, I’d point you back to what the Secretary said the other day, that this is a moment for all Libyans to come together and to support the Government of National Accord. That is the legitimate government and that is the government that we believe deserves the support of the international community, and we’d like to see all Libyans, wherever they are throughout the country, to come together to support that government. So the – is it a concern, the lack of consensus, there? Obviously, it is. And we want —

QUESTION: Specifically with regard to the decision to send arms.

MR KIRBY: But the decision to – and remember, it’s not just about sending arms. It’s about perhaps even a training component, so let’s not get too fixated on just arms. Whatever the – first of all, there has been no request from the GNA to date – not that I’m aware of anyway, no specific requests. And the – if you’re asking is the fact that there’s discord in a country, is that going to affect the decisions about whether training and assistance is provided, what I would tell you is what’s going to affect the decisions about whatever training and assistance is provided is going to be the degree to which those requests are vetted and approved by the international community, by the UN, and the degree to which they align with the legitimate terrorism need – counterterrorism needs inside Libya. Those are the factors that will weigh most heavily in there. Separate and distinct from that, obviously, we want to see all Libyans everywhere – now is the time for all Libyans everywhere to come together.

QUESTION: And more generally, what is the U.S. assessment of the situation in Libya politically and security-wise?

MR KIRBY: Well, clearly, there’s still a security threat inside Libya. I mean, we just talked about that. I mean, we wouldn’t be talking about the potential request for exceptions to an embargo if we didn’t recognize that there is a growing terrorism threat inside Libya and a security situation that requires attention.

And politically, we understand that the Government of National Accord has a lot of work to do. We’re gratified that they’re there. As the Secretary said, from the United States perspective, we’re pledged to continue to support their efforts, and we look forward to working with Prime Minister al-Sarraj. The prime minister himself knows very well the challenges that he’s facing inside Libya. So if you’re asking if everything is completely stable in every sector of society in Libya, of course it’s not. And the GNA just got there and they know they’ve got a lot of work to do, but they do have the international community solidly behind them as represented by the multilateral meeting that was held in Vienna just two days ago.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Syria, northern Syria. I was a little late. I hope this question was not asked. Has U.S. Special Envoy Ambassador McGurk visited Kobani yesterday? This according to Kurdish officials – officials.

MR KIRBY: No, those reports are wrong.

QUESTION: He never arrived there?

MR KIRBY: No, he didn’t visit there.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: Totally false reporting.

QUESTION: Any U.S. official visited the area yesterday or today?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any visit. In Kobani?

QUESTION: The – north – north Syria.

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any visits, no.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Syria too, John, Secretary Kerry has talked yesterday about Plan B regarding Syria. Is there a Plan B, and what is it?

MR KIRBY: Michel, we have gone around and around about this.

QUESTION: Yeah, but two weeks ago, you said there is no Plan B. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry talked about the Plan B. We want to make sure that there is a Plan B, and what is this plan?

MR KIRBY: There has been, over many weeks, discussions about alternatives that it would be irresponsible for us not to be considering. Should all efforts to pursue a political solution in Syria fail, it would be imprudent for us not to be thinking about other options.

But our focus remains on the plan that is being executed now and implemented now, which is to try to get at a political solution, to try to get the cessation of hostilities to be in effect nationwide, to try to get more communities the humanitarian access – or the access to humanitarian goods, food, water, medicine that they deserve and that they need, to try to bring the violence to an end, and to try to get in place – in accordance with the four-now communiques and a UN Security Council resolution – a government in Syria that’s responsible for and responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.

That’s the plan that we’re working on. I mean, I don’t know if you need any more proof than that than looking at the meeting yesterday in Vienna.

QUESTION: And one more: The Secretary talked too about the 1st of August deadline. What are you – what are your expectations? What do you expect to start on the 1st?

MR KIRBY: Well, first of all, I’ve seen some press reporting that this is a deadline. The Secretary has, from the moment that he first started talking about August 1st, which was in Moscow after meeting with President Putin, and in a press conference with Foreign Minister Lavrov, both men said that August 1st was a target. And he’s been very clear every since – ever since talking about that that it’s a target timeframe. He’s never described it as a hard deadline, but that the idea would be that by August, we’d like to be able to have the framework for a transitioning – transitional governing structure, if not in place, certainly in concept and approved and ready to go. That’s the goal. And that’s actually not that different – if you go back and look at the original timeline that was set forth in the wintertime in the third communique, it’s very much in keeping with that.

QUESTION: Thank you. Do you think it’s still possible to have this body ready by the 1st of August?

MR KIRBY: We’re very committed to getting there. We’re very committed to getting there.

QUESTION: And do you expect to solve the differences between the U.S. and Russia on the future of President Assad between the 1st of August target —

MR KIRBY: The – so there’s a lot in your question there, and there’s a lot implied. I would point you back to what Foreign Minister Lavrov said himself just a couple of days ago, where he said they’re not – their support is not for Assad as an individual or for – as a person, he said very clearly. What they have pledged to do – and again, in keeping with all the communiques and the UN Security Council resolution – is pledge to set up a political structure that would lead to a transitional government that is Syrian-decided – decided by the Syrian people – and Syrian-owned, and that what they want – and again, I don’t want to speak for another country’s foreign minister, but you can go look at the transcript yourself – he said what they want is they want to make sure there’s a governing structure in place. We share that concern. I mean, there’s a lot more that we agree here with Russia in terms of the political structure going forward than we disagree. We have said all along from our perspective that Assad can’t be a part of the long-term future of Syria, that we need a transition to a government away from him and towards one that, again, is decided by the Syrian people, and democratically elected, and can provide for a whole, unified, non-sectarian Syria – which, obviously, the Assad regime can’t do.

So I’d let the Russians speak for themselves in terms of their views with respect to Assad. But again, I’d point you back to what the foreign minister said himself. And if your – the second part of your question is, “Well, are we putting a deadline on sort of resolving all the differences with Russia?” No, we’re not. We’re not – we don’t agree with everything with Moscow with respect to Syria. We don’t agree with everything with Moscow with respect to lots of other places around the world, including Ukraine. But what’s important is that we can continue to have the dialogue and the discussion, and that Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Secretary can continue to talk, and that the United States and Russia are still leaders inside the ISSG, co-chairs of the cessation of hostilities task force. That cooperation at that level we absolutely expect to continue, as it must.

QUESTION: China?

MR KIRBY: China.

QUESTION: U.S. has imposed massive tariffs on Chinese steel, upwards of 500 percent, according to one report. Is this Administration worried that China might try to retaliate or try to take the U.S. to the WTO?

MR KIRBY: Look, I’m going to refer you to the Treasury Department for that particular issue. That’s the appropriate place to take it. What we’re focused on is the broad relationship with China and to continue to try to move that relationship forward in a constructive way. China’s another country where we obviously don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: And we have and we will continue to have venues to discuss those differences and try to work through them. But there’s also a lot of things that we do see eye to eye with China on – climate change, oceans preservation to name a few. And, of course, the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. China signed up to these very strong UN Security Council resolutions with respect to North Korea provocation. So it’s a – still a complex relationship, but it’s one that we’re going to keep working at. As for the specific issue of tariffs, again, I’d refer you to the Treasury Department.

QUESTION: Well, I take your point that while this is technically the purview of Treasury, one of the things which —

MR KIRBY: You take the point but you’re still going to try to get me to answer it.

QUESTION: I take the point, but I’m going to come right ahead. Both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Clinton before him have made as part of their track record trying to make it easier for U.S. business to gain access, to build relationships in other countries. So in that context, is this building hearing from their Chinese counterparts about this is unfair, this is not how we should be resolving concerns about the price of our steel or of our cars or of our furniture, whatever it may be? I mean, the State Department, to put it bluntly, has put its nose into something that Treasury and Commerce would – could argue, “That’s our turf.”

MR KIRBY: I don’t know if I agree with that. I’m not aware of any communication with respect to this particular issue on tariffs. But – and so I’m not going – not speaking to that specifically. The approach that we take to China isn’t agency by agency; it’s an interagency approach. And the kinds of decisions that we make as a government with respect to our relationship with China are done after much consultation and discussion inside the interagency apparatus.

Again, I’m not going to speak to this particular issue. It really isn’t appropriate for me to address this from this particular podium, but I can tell you that as a government, obviously, we recognize that this is a very consequential relationship. The U.S. and China relationship is extraordinarily important. President Obama has put a lot of time into this; Secretary Kerry has put a lot of time into this, as other cabinet officials have. And we’re going to continue to work at it. That’s really as far as I can go on that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Venezuela. Do you have any comment on the latest anti-Maduro protests and there being tear gas fired at the protesters seeking his – seeking a referendum to end his term?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, Arshad, we – seen those reports as well. Deeply troubled by that, and I would just point you back to what we said yesterday in terms of expressing our deep concern about the difficult conditions that the Venezuelan people are experiencing right now. This goes for medicine, electricity, shortages of food, so we understand where this frustration’s coming from. We believe that, as I said yesterday, this is the time now for Venezuelan leaders to listen to the people, to their voices, and to try to work together peacefully – all Venezuelans to try to work together peacefully to solve these things. But reports of excessive use of force and violence against protesters obviously is troubling to us and of deep concern. So yes, we’ve seen these reports and we don’t believe that that response to peaceful protest about real difficulties facing the Venezuelan people is the appropriate response.

QUESTION: And what is – just to follow up, what is the – what specifically do you regard as excessive use of force? Is it the firing of tear gas or is it something else?

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t want to get into a tactical discussion, but when you see people who are protesting peacefully treated in this rough manner, that – we don’t believe that’s appropriate. I don’t want to – because all I’ve seen is reporting on this, and so I don’t want to get into each and every act taken by security forces against peaceful protesters.

QUESTION: And – yeah, follow-up on that. The Organization of American States put out a few minutes ago a very strong open letter from its general secretary accusing President Maduro of becoming, quote, “a petty dictator” if he doesn’t listen to his opposition. Do you – does the U.S. share their view?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen that report. What I would say is that we believe, as I said before, that this is a time for leaders to be leaders. And what we’d like to see is Venezuelan leaders listen to the voice of their people and to make reasonable, prudent decisions about addressing those concerns. This is a time for leadership, but I’m not going to characterize it in any more detail than that.

Yes. You had your hand up.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller is in India, and during her visit India tested a supersonic ballistic missile defense system. So how does the U.S. see this development given that Under Secretary Rose is visiting South Asia to discuss strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction? So is this a —

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, can I ask you to repeat the first part of it? You went really fast, and I had a hard time.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry.

MR KIRBY: Can you say it again?

QUESTION: Sir, Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller was in India.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And during her visit, India tested a ballistic missile test – a supersonic ballistic defense system. So how does the U.S. see this development given that Under Secretary Rose is visiting South Asia to discuss strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction? So is this a setback to U.S. efforts?

MR KIRBY: Well, look, without speaking to the specifics of this test, I would tell you the reason why Under Secretary Gottemoeller was there is because these are significant issues and this is a significant relationship. And the degree to which there was or there wasn’t a launch doesn’t take away from the fact that, again, these are important issues to discuss and why she was there. And again, I just will say it again – this is an important relationship that we believe can only benefit from more dialogue and more communication and better understanding.

QUESTION: So technically it’s about Afghan peace process, the recon process. So reportedly, a meeting was held today in Islamabad with a special group – U.S. was also a part of that meeting. So is there any progress in that meeting or any change of stance and conditions on Taliban regarding peace process?

MR KIRBY: Are you talking about the Quadrilateral —

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR KIRBY: — Consultancy[1] Group?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m not going to read out the meeting. As I understand it, it’s a two-day affair and today is only day one. So I’m not going to get ahead of outcomes here. But let me just stress again that we continue to support the Afghan Government’s efforts to end the conflict though a peace and reconciliation process, a process that we have said time and time again must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. This is as – I don’t know it was in your question, but it’s the fifth such quadrilateral meeting, and yes, we participated. Our Ambassador Olson, our special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was our representative, as he has been in the past on these meetings. And I would just say again we continue to join President Ghani in calling on the Taliban to participate in direct peace talks. They have a choice now, and we hope they make the right now.

QUESTION: So an Afghan extremist group led by Hekmatyar Gulbuddin said he’s very eager to get into the peace deal with the Afghan Government. Gulbuddin is famous to change his strategies and attacks on Western forces. He was also in the list of most wanted terrorists in past. So what is the United States assessment on Hekmatyar? I mean, is he a terrorist?

MR KIRBY: I dealt with this – I dealt with this yesterday. I mean, obviously, Mr. Hekmatyar is still a designated individual, but we welcome steps by the Afghan Government to engage in talks with the HIG with respect to trying to end the violence. As I understand it, those discussions are ongoing. I’m not aware of any final resolution here, and I would certainly point you to officials in Kabul to speak to more details about these talks, but we welcome the efforts by the – by President Ghani and the Afghan Government to deal with them through dialogue. And obviously we hope that it can lead to a better, less violent outcome for the Afghan people.

QUESTION: Sir, there are too much voices in Congress about the Haqqani Network, that Pakistan is not doing much to eliminate Haqqani Network. So what’s State Department view on that? Is your —

MR KIRBY: Our view today is the same —

QUESTION: Is your assessment different with the Congress?

MR KIRBY: Our view today is the same as it’s been every other time you’ve asked me this question. Look, Pakistan has said itself that they’re not going to discriminate among terrorist groups, and it’s our expectation that they will – that they’ll continue to meet that pledge. The Pakistani people have suffered at the hands of terrorists for far too long. They’ve lost friends, they’ve lost family, they’ve lost soldiers and troops to the same shared threat. And we continue to discuss and to talk and to try to work together with Pakistani leadership to get at what is a very real, very shared challenge – not just to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but to the entire region.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. On Bangladesh, I have two questions. One – as you know, one of your colleague, Xulhaz Mannan, killed – USAID officials. And it’s a common phenomenon of Bangladesh. Even day before yesterday one Buddhist monk has killed in northern part of the Bangladesh, district Bandarban. So from the authority of Bangladesh, what action been taken? What is the update on these issues, number one?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have an update on that particular incident, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to let me take that question and get back to you. I don’t have – I don’t have much information on that particular incident.

QUESTION: Okay. And secondly —

MR KIRBY: Sorry.

QUESTION: Secondly, the – regarding Bangladesh, the U.S. position is very clear, very clear, as we know. The last election was held in 2014, January, and that was an non-participatory election. And then after that, U.S. urge for a participatory, inclusive election and restoring the democracy of Bangladesh. So what is the present position, U.S. position? Because the government is already two years completed and then – and the – there are no freedom of press and freedom for expression, extrajudicial killing is going on. And I – we have seen your report, the State Department Human Rights Report, the violation of the human rights. So what is the current position of this and the two assistant secretaries visiting recently in Bangladesh?

MR KIRBY: You asked a lot there. Our position on what exactly?

QUESTION: On Bangladesh, the U.S. position that they’re restoring the democracy, because last election was held in 2014, January. It was non-participatory election. And after that election, U.S. urged for a inclusive and participatory election, free, fair and credible. So what is the present position?

MR KIRBY: Well, we still want to see —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: — free, fair, credible elections. We still want to see Bangladeshi citizens able to participate in a democratic process. We still want to see human rights observed and freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Bangladesh, as we want to see it elsewhere. So we still have these very real concerns, and that hasn’t changed.

On your other question, you’re just going to have to let me take that because I’m just not aware of that particular incident. Okay?

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR KIRBY: All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. Boy, you let me off easy today.


[1] The correct name of the meeting is the Quadrilateral Coordination Group.

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