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Press Releases: Daily Press Briefing – June 14, 2016

2:12 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Hello, everybody.


MR KIRBY: Why are you smiling, Samir?

QUESTION: It’s nice to see you back.

MR KIRBY: It’s been a long time.

QUESTION: Did you miss us? (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: Oh, you have no idea. What’s that? (Laughter.) All right. Because I’ve been gone so long and miss you so greatly, I do have a few opening comments to make, so just please bear with me as I work my way through this.

First, I think and I hope that you’ve seen my statement we just put out on the situation politically in Bahrain. I don’t want to rehash the whole thing for you but I do want to make clear that we are deeply troubled by today’s alarming move by the Government of Bahrain to dissolve the opposition political society Al-Wefaq. We are following this situation closely, as I think you can imagine we would, and we urge Bahraini officials to reconsider this decision. As we’ve consistently maintained, peaceful criticism of the government plays a vital role in inclusive, pluralistic societies. Bahrain has made some progress recently in addressing the concerns and the grievances of its citizens since the events of 2011. The government’s action today against Al-Wefaq is not consistent with the commitment to sustaining that progress or to pursuing unfulfilled reforms.

On Ukraine, we welcome Russia’s decision to exchange Yuri Soloshenko and – I’m going to try to get this right – Hennadiy Afanasiev, Afanasiev – for separatists that were convicted in Ukraine. These two individuals, like many other Ukrainians still in Russian custody, were convicted on trumped-up, politically motivated charges. Their release is another important step in fulfilling Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and should now provide impetus for the complete implementation of those agreements, including releasing all other hostages and unlawfully detained persons.

Just a note on the Secretary’s travels. I know you know he is in Santo Domingo today. He is participating in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, the Western Hemisphere’s premier multilateral organization. This morning – and if you haven’t seen his comments, they are posted on our website now – he spoke about the important role that the OAS plays as a platform to promote a hemispheric commitment to the values of representative democracy, human rights, inclusive development, and hemispheric security. He also discussed our support for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and efforts to combat corruption and increase transparency in the hemisphere. And he reiterated our longstanding position of the need for a national dialogue in Venezuela to address their challenges. He also called for the release of political prisoners.

The Secretary expressed our concern as well for the situation in Haiti, and he made clear that the people of Haiti deserve a chance to express their will and elect a president without further delay. Now, as also a part of his schedule today, he met with the conference’s host, Dominican President Medina, and reinforced our commitment to a strong bilateral relationship. He underscored in that meeting the need to resolve the risk of statelessness facing Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and uphold the country’s obligation to combat discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.

Finally, today, as you – the Secretary is, as we speak, meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rodriguez. The meeting is providing the Secretary an opportunity as well to exchange views and to reiterate our call for national dialogue in order to find solutions to the political, economic, human rights, and social challenges that are facing Venezuela right now, as well as to call for respect for the constitutional mechanisms, including the recall referendum process. I think we’ll probably have a more detailed readout of the meeting when it’s over.

Finally, as part of the White House’s Unite – the United State of Women Summit, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver remarks here at the State Department this evening. The dinner, co-hosted by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Women, will highlight women’s economic empowerment and the government-wide efforts surrounding Let Girls Learn as well as new commitments by organizations in the private and nonprofit sectors to support adolescent girls’ education.

With that, Brad.

QUESTION: Can I start with Bahrain?

QUESTION: Can we start with Bahrain? Oh, okay. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just wanted to ask, firstly, what are the consequences if Bahrain doesn’t reconsider this as you urged?

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t think it’s useful to get into consequences at this point. Bahrain knows what a close friend and partner the United States is, how deeply we are committed to that relationship, and committed, quite frankly, to Bahrain’s success. And as I said in the opening statement, this decision itself is not – we don’t believe – in the spirit of and certainly not in keeping with the kinds of progress they have been able to make on the human rights and – on the human rights front in just the last couple of years. So it’s not about – it’s not about a threat of some sort of specific consequence here, Brad. It’s about a good friend expressing a very deep and genuine concern to another good friend.

QUESTION: We’ve heard a lot – we hear from you talk about – vague talk about progress, but it’s becoming harder and harder for a lot of independent observers to see – opposition party shutdown, independent Center of Human Rights president or head arrested, pressure on independent media. What is this progress that you speak of?

MR KIRBY: They have created some new institutions in the government that have helped improve oversight and accountability over the security institution as, as you remember, it is still the security institutions that we – that we continue to have the most concern about. But we’ve also been honest that more work needs to be done. So there has been some oversight and accountability progress made, but we – again, we’re very honest about the fact that there needs to be more work.

QUESTION: Do you actually —

QUESTION: And then I have just one more. Why didn’t the Secretary raise any of these issues in-depth when he visited Bahrain? I mean, they’re not new issues – the lack of implementation on its human rights reforms. I think he made very sparing reference, but he didn’t really address crackdown on civil society, crackdown on independent press. He kind of just brushed over the whole problem.

MR KIRBY: No, I would – I totally disagree with that, Brad. I mean, he absolutely raised our concerns over the human rights situation in Bahrain when we were there. And it’s because we have such a close relationship with Bahrain we can have those kinds of very frank discussions, and he very much raised it.

QUESTION: I don’t —

MR KIRBY: And it has —

QUESTION: How did he – he didn’t – he didn’t condemn any specific action. He even – I think he stood there – and since he hasn’t done that much, even though it took, I don’t know, months for someone they promised right in front of him to be released immediately, he was very restrained at the time.

MR KIRBY: You’re talking about in the press conference. I’m talking about in the actual meetings. And I can assure you that he did raise our concerns about the human rights situation there and about our desire to see Bahrain be as successful as it can be. And we continue to believe that that kind of success is derived best through free and open expression of views and in espousing an opposition that can peacefully articulate the concerns that they have about the decisions that the government makes. That is not something that he was at all bashful about in speaking with Bahraini leaders.

Now, we could argue whether or not you thought there was enough emphasis placed on it when he came out and did the press conference, but I can assure you, having been in the room for the meetings myself, that the Secretary was very, very candid about it.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to his counterpart, or has any other senior State Department official spoken to Bahraini officials about your dismay at this latest court ruling?

MR KIRBY: We have – I can tell you that we have raised our concerns about this decision at various levels. I don’t have any communications specifically by the Secretary to read out to you today, but I can tell you that we have raised our concerns about this decision at various levels here at the Department.

QUESTION: Does that mean beyond the embassy, in other words, here from Main State?

MR KIRBY: Various levels, so beyond the embassy.

QUESTION: At high levels?

MR KIRBY: At high levels, various and high levels here at the State Department. I don’t have any specific communications on the Secretary’s behalf to read out to you.

QUESTION: Can you tell us who? I mean, if it’s high, was it Assistant Secretary Patterson or —

MR KIRBY: I don’t have the list, but I can tell you that it has been raised at various levels here at the Department.

QUESTION: And have there been any consequences for Bahrain since its increasing suppression of dissent since 2011 from the United States?

MR KIRBY: Well, you know there was – there was a prohibition on certain security assistance that had been – that had been imposed since 2011. And just several months ago, of course, we lifted part of it, but not all of it, because we still had some concerns about some of the security forces – concerns which, as I mentioned to Brad, still exist. So it’s not as if we have lifted all restrictions and completely absolved ourselves of the concerns that we still have with Bahrain. And again, I can tell you this is something – this is a topic that we routinely raise with Bahraini leaders.

QUESTION: And how do you address – just last one for me. How do you address critics who argue that the United States – the value that the United States places on its strategic relationship with Bahrain and the basing of the Fifth Fleet there means that it acquiesces in human rights violations and the suppression of democratic expression there?

MR KIRBY: Well, I would tell such a critic to go look at our Human Rights Report, where we lay out our concerns very openly and honestly right there online. I would also tell that critic to take a look at some of the decisions we made post-2011 to withhold some security assistance material, which, when you think about, if you want to – if – and I wouldn’t agree with this characterization, but if you were going to characterize our bilateral relationship from a security perspective – I’m not arguing that that’s what your question implies – but if that’s the – if you want to consider that the limit, then that decision alone I think speaks volumes about the fact that we’re not bashful about being clear and firm about our concerns on the human rights front, because that is where some of the restrictions in that sector were placed.

So I think we’ve been open, we’ve been transparent, we’ve been forthright. It’s all in black and white if you go look at the Human Rights Report. And if we weren’t – and if we didn’t feel comfortable enough in the relationship – because it is a strong bilateral relationship, and we greatly appreciate the assistance of Bahrain and the fact that they host our Fifth Fleet there and their contributions in the region to larger security and counterterrorism efforts. But if it wasn’t for such a strong partnership and such a strong bilateral relationship, I wouldn’t have felt quite as free and easy as I did today in bringing this up right at the top of the briefing – rather than wait to be asked about this decision, just to go ahead and lay it out and be very clear about what our concerns are, because we do have that kind of a relationship. It’s that strong that we believe that it can not only weather these sorts of disagreements over these developments, but that we can use this to work our way through it.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more? And then I’ll yield on Bahrain as well.


QUESTION: If Kerry wasn’t bashful in his meetings and the relationship is so strong, how do you explain that they’re doing exactly what you say they shouldn’t be doing? Did they not get it? Are they just not intelligent enough to see it or do they not care what you say or what?

MR KIRBY: I think that’s a great question for officials in Bahrain, Brad. I can’t speak for motivation here. They have to speak for the reasons – they have to speak to the reasons for the decisions that they’ve made. What I can speak for is our view of the decision, which we obviously don’t approve of.

QUESTION: But if you are trying to push respect for human rights, respect for democracy in all places —


QUESTION: — Bahrain included, what’s your – don’t you try to figure out why your strategy is not working if it’s not working?

MR KIRBY: Would —

QUESTION: Don’t you – you come up – well, we pushed this, but it clearly didn’t work; they’ve done exactly what we didn’t want to do. Do you try to figure that out or do you just say, “Well, they just didn’t agree with us on democracy this time”?

MR KIRBY: No, I don’t think we take quite that glib approach to foreign policy, Brad. Obviously, we certainly would like to have this decision overturned. We are more concerned with that and with a process in Bahrain that values freedom of expression than we are with trying to dissect the particular reasons why this decision was made.


QUESTION: Just to follow up on the previous questions, now, you mentioned the base in Bahrain. That ought to be like leverage for you, because you are providing Bahrain with a great deal of security that it needs. It did not need to be so insecure about its minorities and so on, or the accusation that they levy on them, that they have connections with other countries and so on?

MR KIRBY: Look, as I said to Brad, though, Said, this isn’t about holding something over somebody’s head, using leverage. It’s about freedom of expression and our desire to see this decision changed.

QUESTION: But my point is that you’re saying that a friend-to-friend – you mentioned something like this – there’s an element of some sort of equanimity. But in fact, you invited – I mean, you should be leveraging your power in that part of the world, and the fact that you have provided them with protection for over decades, not only years, and to basically say in public what you say in private. You say that in private you raise all these issues, but yet in the press conference you’re not saying that.

MR KIRBY: We have – the relationship with Bahrain is long. It exists on many levels, not just security. As I said, we’re grateful for them hosting the Fifth Fleet and we’re grateful for their contributions to regional security. We have every expectation that that relationship, their contributions and ours – not just to the relationship but to the region – will endure and it will continue, not just because it must, because of the threats, but because we continue to believe that a multilateral approach to security issues in the Middle East is absolutely vital.

So it’s in no one’s interest, theirs or ours, to try to render moot any one part of the bilateral relationship with Bahrain going forward. What matters to us, as I said at the outset, is Bahrain’s success. Obviously, what matters – our bilateral relationship matters too, but Bahrain’s success matters to us. And we’ve seen them make progress on some human rights issues – not all. Recognize there’s still a lot of work to be done – I’ve said that. But they have shown that they can and they are willing and able to make progress. This decision seems to be stepping back from that, certainly not in keeping with the kind of progress we know they can make. And so we’re going to continue to urge them to do the right thing in this regard and to reverse this decision. And I just think it’s way too premature at this point to try to talk about repercussions and consequences as a result of any reluctance on their part to do that, to overturn it.


MR KIRBY: Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: On this issue. Bahraini Government has said that Al-Wefaq Society was promoting the Iranian regime ideology, or Wilayat al-Faqih ideology. In this case, do you support their decision?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m going to let them speak to why they made the decision. We believe that this opposition group represents, in its being, opposition political views peacefully expressed. And we continue to believe in freedom of expression there and everywhere, and we don’t think this is in Bahrain’s interest ultimately, this decision. We don’t think it’s in their interest.

QUESTION: But in case they were promoting that Iranian ideology —

MR KIRBY: I have nothing – I’ve seen nothing to indicate that that’s the case.

QUESTION: Does it concern the U.S. that, despite the Secretary’s strong criticism of how the Bahrainis have handled human rights, that they went ahead and did this? Does it make the U.S. question whether the Bahrainis are taking this government’s concerns seriously? And if that is the case, why won’t you say what the U.S. is prepared to do in order to make the Bahrainis understand that human rights isn’t just something that seems attractive when it might be politically expedient, that it has to be underscored no matter what?

MR KIRBY: I think Bahrain very much understands our concerns about human rights issues.

QUESTION: And yet they went ahead and shut down Al-Wefaq.

MR KIRBY: Right. I can’t, again, speak for their motivation to do it. But I can tell you that they are very well aware of our concerns about human rights in that country. These are concerns we routinely raise – and we have, in fact, raised in this particular decision. We want them to do the right thing here, and we believe the right thing to do is to overturn that decision. And we’re not at a point – since it just happened, we’re not at a point right now where it does anybody any good to speak to specific consequences or repercussions. Let’s continue to have the discussion, let’s try to get to a better outcome, and then we’ll take it from there.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that there might be a period of time that is acceptable to the U.S. Government for Al-Wefaq to be closed or for any opposition political entity —

MR KIRBY: No, I’m not suggesting that at all.

QUESTION: — in Bahrain to be closed?

MR KIRBY: I’m not suggesting that at all, no.


QUESTION: DNC – Democratic Party officials say Russian Government hackers penetrated —

MR KIRBY: Wait, are we done with Bahrain?


QUESTION: Democratic Party officials say Russian Government hackers penetrated the computer network of the DNC and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on Donald Trump. Can you support the claim?

MR KIRBY: I would refer you to the DNC for comment on this.

QUESTION: Is the government looking into this?

MR KIRBY: I’d – you’d have to talk to the DNC and to law enforcement authorities on this.

QUESTION: Are U.S. authorities looking into this?

QUESTION: We did and they said it happened, they – we all talked to them, they said it happened. So – all right.

MR KIRBY: Okay. So there’s your answer.

QUESTION: Now that we’ve established that it happened, what do you think about Russians hacking into the DNC and stealing files?

MR KIRBY: Look, I’m – I am – I’m not going to get into a law enforcement issue here, particularly one where I’m not steeped on the details. The U.S. Government is the subject of countless cyber intrusions and attacks every day from all kinds of places. And it’s a concern that we take very, very seriously, and it’s a concern, frankly, that we raise internationally all the time with other countries as we deal with them. So it’s something we take seriously. I’m not going to speak to law enforcement authorities or to the DNC on this particular issue. They need to speak to that.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, you don’t know if the authorities are looking into this claim?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have – I don’t have any more knowledge about this than I’ve just given you. I mean, I – these – just seen these recent press reports. I don’t have anything to corroborate them. I’d refer you to the Democratic National Committee and to law enforcement authorities to speak to this – to these reports. I just don’t have additional info.


QUESTION: Just more generally, under what circumstances is a hack considered an act of war, generally?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speculate about that.


QUESTION: But previous people who have held your position, John, have talked about hacking into U.S. businesses, whether it’s from China, whether it’s from North Korea, whether it’s from Russia. Given that we’re talking about an organization that, while it is technically a nonprofit, is a political organization and is part and parcel of the U.S. political system, is there, one, no real concern within the Obama Administration about this? And two, have officials from the U.S. Government expressed their concerns to the Russian officials about this incident?

MR KIRBY: Well, on the first question, “Is it of concern,” the reports – and again, I’m only speaking to press reporting here – I don’t have any direct knowledge about this case. Obviously, they’re concerning, and if they’re true, it would be of deep concern. And yes, you’re right – it’s not a U.S. Government – the Democratic National Committee is a political organization, not a U.S. Government organization. But sure, that would be deeply concerning to us if it’s true.

I’m sorry, your second question was?

QUESTION: Have U.S. officials —

MR KIRBY: Oh, have we —

QUESTION: Yeah, have you expressed any concerns – I mean, it’s been done before when it deals —

MR KIRBY: Speaking —

QUESTION: — with private companies and the U.S. Government has spoken out about attempts to hack into private companies. Why not talk about an organization that is part and parcel of the political system? It may not be an official government agency, but it is part of the system.

MR KIRBY: Right. I’m not aware of any conversations that have happened. I can only speak for the State Department. I don’t have any conversations or communications to read out with respect to these reports. Again, these reports have just come in today and I’m talking off of press reporting solely, so I have no communications on behalf of the State Department to read out. I’d refer you to law enforcement authorities for if they have done any outreach based on this press reporting. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Sorry, are any representatives from this building speaking to law enforcement officials on this issue?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any conversations.


QUESTION: Saudi Arabia, concerning the Secretary’s meeting last evening with the deputy crown prince – I saw the readout. It looks like they discussed a wide range of issues.

Two questions: Did the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act come up? And then secondly, at this point, based on this meeting, how would you gauge at this point the level of Saudi concern about this measure?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’d refer you to Saudi authorities to speak to their levels of concern about —

QUESTION: It wasn’t part of —

MR KIRBY: I think the readout was pretty comprehensive, and I’m not aware that it came up. Not aware that it came up.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on the readout?


QUESTION: Okay. Now, it says that they focused on Syria, and apparently there are differences between your views and their views. They basically want to arm the – the Saudis, they want to arm the opposition with, let’s say, anti-tank weapons, ground-to-air missiles, and so on. So you don’t see eye to eye on this issue.

MR KIRBY: On the issue of —

QUESTION: On the issue of arming the opposition until they are able to bring down the Assad regime. That’s basically what the Saudis want.

MR KIRBY: So I’m – you’re – I’m trying to understand —

QUESTION: I mean, okay, Syria was a focus. Let’s put it this way: Syria was a focus in these discussions —


QUESTION: — as Yemen was and as Libya was and so on. But the Saudis – on Syria, the Saudis want a different policy from you where you arm the opposition group, the Syrian opposition group with the kind of weapons that will empower them, let’s say, in inflicting heavy damage that can bring the regime down, such as ground —

QUESTION: He’s waiting for a question.

QUESTION: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: He’s waiting for a question.

QUESTION: Well, there is my question. (Laughter.) My question is – no, wait a minute —

MR KIRBY: I still didn’t hear it.

QUESTION: Let me —

MR KIRBY: But so let me – I’m not going to make you do it a third time.

QUESTION: Let me ask you – okay —

MR KIRBY: I think if you’re asking if there’s this big philosophical divide —


MR KIRBY: — between the Saudis and the United States on how to move forward on the ground in Syria, the answer’s no. Look, the Saudis were a founding member, quite frankly, of the ISSG. And if it were not for Saudi leadership, we wouldn’t have had that first meeting of the Syrian opposition groups back in December in Riyadh. They have been at this right at the – right from the beginning with the United States and with Russia and with Turkey, moving this process forward. Everybody – and I can – and I don’t want to speak for a foreign government, but I’m comfortable in this regard saying that the Saudis share our concerns about trying to get to a negotiated political process in Syria for a transition – a transitional process to get to a government in Syria that’s not headed by Bashar al-Assad. And they have been leaders, quite frankly, in trying to help us get to that outcome. Now, we’ve got a long way to go.

On the fight on the ground, I would remind you two things: It’s – for the United States, anyway, and for the coalition, it’s about going after Daesh. It’s not about militarily going after the regime. In fact – second point – that’s why we have a cessation of hostilities in place, fragile though it may be. And the Saudis were key figures and key leaders in helping us get to that cessation of hostilities through, what, two, three different communiques and a UN Security Council resolution.

So we’re all working at this problem very, very hard. I’m not going to speak for what they specifically want to do differently; that’s for the Saudi Government to speak to. But I can tell you that on the issues that matter – getting a cessation of hostilities that’s nationwide and enduring, getting humanitarian access to the still thousands and thousands of Syrians that are still in need, and moving a political process forward that gets us to a government that’s not led by Bashar al-Assad – Saudi Arabia has been with us step by step.

QUESTION: Okay. My last question on this.

MR KIRBY: Well —

QUESTION: In light of Assad’s statements last week that he is intent on liberating every inch of Syria, are you likely to change your policy towards arming the opposition with the kind of weapons that —

MR KIRBY: If you’re asking me based on his comments – comments that were predictable – if we’re going to change the approach that we’ve taken inside the International Syria Support Group towards where we’re trying to get to in Syria, the answer is no.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more on the readout about their conversation about Orlando? It mentioned in there that they spoke about that.

MR KIRBY: As I understand it, it was a general discussion. Obviously, the crown prince [1] expressed their condolences for the losses, and I think both he and the Secretary in the context of speaking about the tragedy in Orlando focused – used that as an opportunity to focus the conversation on the need to continue to fight the threat of terrorism in the region and particularly the fight against Daesh. I mean, it was – what happened in Orlando is a grim reminder of how real the threat still is from terrorism, and an opportunity for both men to talk about the ways in which we need to continue to cooperate towards that threat.

QUESTION: Was there any discussion of Saudi funding for Wahhabist schools outside of Saudi Arabia?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything beyond the readout in terms of the communication to talk about. The readout of the discussion, though general, is inclusive.

QUESTION: Did Secretary – I’ll give it one more shot. Did the Secretary raise the matter of LGBT rights with the Saudi crown prince? [2]

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to go beyond the readout.

QUESTION: When you say that the readout, though general, is inclusive, do you mean that there was no topic that was discussed that is not referenced in the readout?

MR KIRBY: I think the topics that were discussed at the dinner were expressed in the readout.

QUESTION: But the – so there were no other topics that came up?

MR KIRBY: I’m comfortable with the inclusiveness of the readout. I don’t have a more exhaustive list of topics to read out to you. It’s an accurate portrayal of the discussion over dinner.

QUESTION: Sure. I mean, I just – the reason I’m harping on the word “inclusive” is I’m interested in the completeness of the readout. Do you regard it as a complete readout?

MR KIRBY: None of my readouts are complete in a literal sense. In fact, you guys never fail to let me know that. They are readouts; they are summaries of what can be very long discussions. I’m comfortable that the readout accurately portrays both the tone and the tenor of the discussion as well as the major topics. I don’t have any more additional detail of the conversation to read out to you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: What is the Secretary’s assessment of Vision 2030?

MR KIRBY: Boy, this got you guys all riled up, the readout?


QUESTION: Just before we got on Vision, I just – before we leave the question of Orlando, you said the Saudi crown prince [3] expressed his condolences and that this – the matter was – the specific attack was discussed in general terms, which while not exactly —

MR KIRBY: I mean, it – obviously there was no —

QUESTION: Also, for the record, he’s the deputy crown prince.


MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, the deputy crown prince. Thank you for the correction. The – look, the – of course it came up, I mean, having just occurred and having been so tragic. But as I put in the readout, talking about what happened in Orlando and the manner in which people either become self-radicalized or ascribe themselves or even travel to the region to become members of or affiliated with groups like Daesh, obviously led to, as you would expect it to lead to, a larger, deeper discussion on counterterrorism in general in the fight against Daesh.

QUESTION: Right. And my question is: In the realm of that discussion, was there anything that the Secretary, on behalf of the United States, asked of the Saudi deputy crown prince and his government?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to – I don’t have any additional detail about that part of the conversation than what was in the readout.

QUESTION: Like specifically, is there more – do you get the sense there’s more cooperation to be done with this specific case and the Saudis? We know that he, Omar Mateen, traveled there twice. Was there any request of the Saudis to see if he had done anything – had been radicalized over there or had any suspicious engagements over there?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get ahead of an open investigation, and I can assure you that the Secretary’s dinner last night was not intended to do that either.

QUESTION: In light of the fact that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar in particular to stop funding these extremists and so on, was that in any way this topic, or at least Saudi Arabia’s portion of this —

MR KIRBY: Well, I think the former secretary referred to —

QUESTION: — implicit —

MR KIRBY: — citizens of —

QUESTION: Right, citizens.

MR KIRBY: — those countries who fund terrorist networks. Again, I’m not going to go into any more detail from the readout.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR KIRBY: I can tell you that they talked about – they certainly talked about what happened in Orlando and the need to continue to press the fight against terrorist groups. But regardless – look – go ahead.

QUESTION: She didn’t say “citizens” technically.

QUESTION: She didn’t say these funding – these funding drives happen —

MR KIRBY: “People of.”

QUESTION: — in public and in full view of the governments. They happened in public.

QUESTION: She said their government allows their citizens to fund —

MR KIRBY: All right. Well, again —

QUESTION: Right. Yeah, thank you. That’s exactly it. Thank you, Robin. So, yeah, I mean, this is —

MR KIRBY: Look —

QUESTION: Just to clarify.

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to debate, as I’m not – as I refuse to debate comments made on the campaign trail, all right? We all know that terrorist groups get resources and get funding from a variety of sources. It’s one of the reasons why – and you heard the President talk about this earlier today – that we’re going so hard at Daesh’s financing, because we know that that can put a stranglehold on their ability to operate and to resource themselves and to train and to equip and to sustain themselves. And we believe that all nations everywhere have an obligation to do what they can to try to combat the spread of terrorism and extremism through all manner of different efforts.

And if you look at just the fight against Daesh, it exists on many levels. We often talk about the military level of effort, but we all know there’s other levels of effort there, and we want all countries – and all countries who are threatened by terrorism have a stake in this to do what they can to help —

QUESTION: But then why —

MR KIRBY: — to help limit the ability of terrorist groups to finance themselves, to resource themselves, to man themselves, and to operate.

QUESTION: But that’s – why can’t you say, then, that the Secretary then raised these very points with the Saudi – senior Saudi official he met yesterday?

MR KIRBY: Because I’m not going to go into more detail than what I put in the readout of the dinner.



QUESTION: What, out of principle or what? I mean, it’s a meeting with an incredibly important official from an incredibly important country in the Muslim world the day after a major terrorist attack in the United States.

MR KIRBY: If you’re asking me have we never raised the issue with Saudi officials —

QUESTION: No, that’s not what I’m asking you now.

MR KIRBY: — of course we have raised the issue. I’m going to stick with the readout. I know you guys don’t like this readout – for some reason, this has really stuck in your craw – but that’s the readout that I have from the dinner last night. And that’s as far as we’re going to go on it, and I’m not going to take any additional questions on the details of the dinner last night.


QUESTION: Sir, as far as this terrorism is going on, many countries, many governments and many —

MR KIRBY: Goyal, let me stop you there. If you’re going to ask about the dinner last night, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, my friend.

QUESTION: Can’t he ask for something —

QUESTION: Many people around the globe are shocked that the —

MR KIRBY: That I can probably give you.

QUESTION: — most powerful country like the U.S., all these things can happen. And the – somebody somewhere is providing weapons to these people, ISIL or ISIS or whatever, on – with different names they come up. And also at the same time, much debate is going on around the globe, including in India and here in the U.S. among think tanks, that the funding, just like you said earlier, is coming in the name of charity from Saudi Arabia, but – because they want to keep terrorism out of their countries, but to other countries is okay.

But my question is you hear what the think tanks are asking: Why can’t we really stop these fundings and weapons, and we had had so many summits and international organizations and all that?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, that’s – it’s a great question. It’s also a very difficult one to answer. As I said, we recognize that terrorist organizations, whoever they are, get resourced through many different ways, some of them donations. Not all of them, but – not all their money comes from donations, but some do. And we continue to press on countries around the world to do what they can to put a stop to – whether it’s – whether they’re implied loopholes that allow for this stuff to happen or express policies that don’t prohibit it, whatever it is, to help us put a stop to the ability for individuals, entities, groups to fund terrorist networks.

But we also have to recognize that donations are not the only source of revenue. As a matter of fact, you look at a group like Daesh, and by and large, it’s oil revenues and their own extortion – that is the largest manner in which they fund themselves, which is why we’re going after their oil revenues so much. So it’s a complicated question to answer and it’s something we’re – we are constantly focused on.

QUESTION: Okay. Can we switch topics, John?

QUESTION: John, quickly – a diplomatic question quickly. When Secretary meets so many – his counterparts, foreign ministers and so forth, just like President meets presidents and prime ministers, you think maybe Secretary maybe thinking now to bring all these ambassadors and have a diplomatic talk with them about these individuals that come from their countries?

MR KIRBY: Well —

QUESTION: And brief these ambassadors and input and output?

MR KIRBY: I don’t know about a conference, Goyal, but I can tell you that these are conversations that we have all the time, routinely, with our counterparts all around the world. This is not a new topic of conversation. It’s not something we haven’t tried to tackle before or that we’re going to give up on trying to tackle going forward. It’s something that we’re very, very keenly focused on.

QUESTION: Because only innocent people are victim around the globe of these terrorists.

MR KIRBY: Yes, they are.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Olson was in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the weekend and last week. Do you know what were the issues they discussed – he discussed with the leaders of the two countries?

MR KIRBY: I think we’ve already —

QUESTION: Yes. And did the issue of Torkham border, the clash between Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s armies came up?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to – I don’t have additional details to read out. But in Islamabad, Ambassador Olson met with government officials there, including the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, the chief of the army staff, and he discussed a range of bilateral, regional issues. In Kabul, he met with Afghan Government officials, to include President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and the National Security Advisor Atmar. He also met with General Nicholson, again, to talk about —

QUESTION: But the readout makes no reference to the tension between the two countries. When he was there, there was clashes between the Afghan and Pakistani forces across the border. And one senior Pakistani army official was killed.

MR KIRBY: I don’t have additional details to read out from his conversations. I could tell you we are all watching the tensions very closely, that we are in touch with officials on both sides. We continue to urge a calm resolution to the tension. We obviously don’t want to see clashes; we don’t want to see violence; we don’t want to see it get worse. And I can assure you that Ambassador Olson shares those sentiments. Now, I just don’t have additional details to read out to you from those meetings.

QUESTION: And secondly, on – in Karachi, in the last few months, even last week, there have been few extrajudicial killings by the park rangers and the army. Are you aware about that?

MR KIRBY: I have – let me —

QUESTION: Those are related to the MQM leaders.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. Well, I can’t speak specifically to those cases. I can tell you that we are concerned about reports of continuing extrajudicial killings and deaths in custody, as well as disappearances and abductions around the world. We raise these human rights concerns regularly in the bilateral discussions that we have across the region. We also encourage the investigation of all allegations of these kinds of violations and abuses in a manner that’s transparent, open to the public, and that meets international standards of human rights. We want to see these people being held to account. I don’t have anything additional with these specific cases.

QUESTION: There is a Leahy amendment which restricts U.S. to provide civilian and military aid to armies which are involved in extrajudicial killings. Does this Leahy amendment apply to Pakistan in this case?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to specific cases on Leahy vetting. We don’t do that. But I can tell you that we fully apply the Leahy law in Pakistan, and no aid to the Pakistani military can or does go to any units that are credibly implicated in abuses.

QUESTION: So in this case, do you think the Pakistani army is involved in extrajudicial killing?

MR KIRBY: I am not going to speak to specific cases, as I said.

You had one?

QUESTION: Yeah. A couple. On Iran, an Iranian minister says that Iran has reached a deal to acquire Boeing aircraft. Do you know if that’s true? And though I realize this is largely a Treasury matter, do you know if all U.S. government approval required for such a deal to go through have been obtained?

MR KIRBY: Okay. I can maybe, I think, get to some of that. Without commenting on specific announcements by private companies, I would remind you that under the JCPOA we issued a statement of licensing policy that allowed for case-by-case licensing of individuals and entities seeking to export, re-export, sell, lease, or transfer to Iran commercial passenger aircraft and associated parts and services exclusively for commercial passenger aviation. Although I can’t speak to this specific report regarding Boeing, I can say that we have seen a number of major companies make tangible plans to take advantage of the new commercial opportunities afforded by the JCPOA. As we’ve said before, we’re not going to stand in the way of permissible business under the JCPOA with Iran, and we are going to do what we can to meet our commitments as long as Iran continues to meet their nuclear-related commitments. Beyond that, I’d have to refer you to the private company.

QUESTION: Okay. And you can’t, then, address whether or not Boeing has gotten a license —

MR KIRBY: Right, I can’t.

QUESTION: — to sell aircraft? Okay.

MR KIRBY: That’s right, I can’t.

QUESTION: Then on the other issue of the JCPOA, Foreign Minister Zarif is quoted as having said in Oslo that he believes that the United States has removed sanctions on paper but that it needs to do more to remove the, quote, “psychological remnants,” close quote, that prevent banks from going ahead to lend. Do you think he’s right that you need to do more to address the non-legal barriers to trade, and is this going to be one of the main topics if the Secretary sees him this week?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on the Secretary’s schedule to read out. What I would tell you is just a couple of things on the first part of your question. We have and we will continue to meet all our obligations under the JCPOA. We have and we will stay actively engaged with partner governments and the private sector to clarify the sanctions that were lifted on implementation day. So to be crystal clear, the United States is not standing in the way – as I said on your earlier question about Boeing, not standing in the way nor will we stand in the way of business that can be legitimately done and permitted with Iran since the JCPOA took effect.

And I think, as for psychological remnants, it would be I think fair to remind that what might help lift some of the psychological remnants, to use that phrase, would be Iran’s ceasing the destabilizing activities that they continue to carry out, their support for terrorism which they continue to foster. So what makes business nervous, what makes business reticent isn’t some lack of education or effort by the United States, but when they see missiles being shipped to Hizballah, missiles being fired at U.S. aircraft carriers, and support to terrorist groups. That’s what makes business nervous. Those are the psychological remnants which need to be lifted.

QUESTION: One more from me: Has the Legal Adviser’s Office made any progress in its continuation of its review of the excising of the briefing?

MR KIRBY: They continue to do their work. We’re going to respect that process and let them continue. I don’t have any updates today.

QUESTION: John, can – quick one on —

MR KIRBY: I got time for just – yeah.

QUESTION: — Iraq. Very quickly, is there anything that you care to share with us on Fallujah, what is going on in Fallujah? Because Secretary of Defense Carter said that U.S. Apaches are involved in the fight against Daesh, and I was wondering whether they are involved in the fight against Daesh in Fallujah.

MR KIRBY: I wouldn’t speak to – I can’t speak to DOD equities, Said. I know that the Iraqi Security Forces continue to try to move on the city center in Fallujah, which is where the bulk of Daesh forces remain. I – but I’m going to push you over to the Defense Department for updates on the progress of that campaign.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:02 p.m.)


[1] deputy crown prince
[2] deputy crown prince
[3] deputy crown prince