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Libyan Newswire

Press Releases: Daily Press Briefing – March 3, 2016

2:16 p.m. EST

MR KIRBY: Okay, good afternoon, everybody. Just a couple things at the top.

QUESTION: I’m so sorry. Can I ask one question as a follow-up to this?


QUESTION: Ethiopia needs help and it is great that the State Department is doing this, but what would you say to Flint, Michigan residents if they asked, “Can you help us first?”

MR KIRBY: Well, I think the President has already spoken to efforts that the federal government intends to do to continue to help the people of Flint, Michigan get through that.

QUESTION: As I understand, they’re struggling with the budget to replace all the pipes and —

MR KIRBY: I understand. You’re – it’s a fair question. I think it’s a question better asked to a different federal agency than the State Department. All I can point you back to is what the President has said himself about the water crisis in Flint and the seriousness with which he is taking it and the U.S. Government is taking it. But it’s really not a question for me to address from this particular podium.

QUESTION: It’s just about taxpayer money. That’s why I ask.

MR KIRBY: That’s right. And I think – I think if you look carefully – I can’t speak for other agencies, but I can certainly speak for this one. We take our obligations to spend and to shepherd taxpayer dollars – we take that very, very seriously. And that there are needs for tax dollars here in the United States certainly goes without saying. There are also needs around the world, and that’s our focus here at the State Department is how we’re marshalling and using the funds that we’re given every year around the world.

And I would remind you that, as the Secretary said when he testified last week, the State Department budget is about 1 percent of the federal budget. So $1 out of every 100 goes to State Department equities. And I think, quite frankly, for that small percentage, the American people are being well served by the work that diplomats are doing all over the world and the kinds of aid and assistance that we’re providing, such as the one that Ms. Smith talked about.

Okay, pivoting to some other issues. On Zika, I wanted to let you know that as part of our efforts here at the State Department to combat Zika at home and abroad, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom is hosting a briefing today with over 70 foreign diplomats here in Washington, D.C., to help assess affected country needs, inform foreign missions of the U.S. Government’s response efforts, and to provide the latest scientific information available on the virus. Senior officials not only from the State Department but from the Department of Health and Human Services, including CDC and NIH as well as USAID, are also going to be participating in that briefing.

Also today – and I think you saw this on the public schedule – the Secretary is meeting with Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on Libya Martin Kobler to discuss next steps following the February 23rd endorsement of the cabinet signed by a majority from the Libyan House of Representatives. We remain focused on supporting Libyans as they usher in the unified Government of National Accord cabinet. And it’s critical, we believe, that this process move forward immediately.

Many courageous Libyan leaders are striving to meet their responsibilities under the Libyan political agreement, while a few seek to evade them and obstruct the progress. We in the international community must support Libyans as they move forward and prevent spoilers from holding the process hostage. We strongly condemn attempts to obstruct that process.

We also support, as I said before, the special representative’s effort to reconvene the Libyan political dialogue in Tunis next week to move the process forward. And we note the important role of the Libyan political dialogue whose members have already done so much to make reconciliation, once so remote, a real possibility now.

We also remain focused on backing incoming Prime Minister al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord as they take their rightful place in Tripoli. Only by seating – and we’ve said this before – an inclusive functioning government in the capitol can Libya begin to restore its unity, regain stability, and rebuild the economy. And we are committed to providing the unified government full political backing and technical, economic, humanitarian, security, and counterterrorism assistance, as requested.

I would remind again we’ve talked about the role that groups like Daesh are trying to play in places like Libya, and we’ve said it – said before. I mean, the best antidote to a group like Daesh is good governance, and that’s really what we’re trying to seek in Libya is good governance through a political process. So the Secretary is meeting, actually, with the special representative as we speak and we’ll have a short readout of it when it’s complete, probably from me.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. I didn’t – I don’t really have anything big, but just – or worldwide, with worldwide import. But the Senate just a few minutes ago – in the Senate just a few minutes ago, Senator Udall asked for unanimous consent to confirm Roberta Jacobson to be ambassador to Mexico. Senator Risch objected on behalf of himself and Senator Rubio, who apparently is not in town today for some reason. I’m just wondering, is this a responsible foreign policy position for lawmakers to take?

MR KIRBY: What? Objecting to —

QUESTION: They’re objecting on – they’re objecting, and least one senator is objecting because Ambassador-designate Jacobson’s role in negotiating the normalization with Cuba.

MR KIRBY: As you know, Matt, there is an advise and a consent process. There’s an advise-and-consent responsibility for the United States Senate, and nobody takes that more seriously than Secretary Kerry, who served for 29 years on the Senate, and he understands there’s that role. That said, he continues to urge for her immediate – and a vote – a vote and her immediate confirmation in the post as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. That’s not an unimportant post, and she is supremely qualified for it. This is an important relationship here in the Western Hemisphere, and the Secretary firmly believes that it’s time to get her confirmed and in place.

And it’s one thing – certainly there’s a role the Senate has to play here. But at a certain point, it does become an obstruction to our ability to conduct the foreign policy of the United States, particularly when the objections are not related in some cases to an individual’s qualifications for the job or their potential to do it. And this particular nomination, as you know, has been held up for an inordinate amount of time, and the Secretary does believe that it’s past time to vote on it and get her confirmed and get her down there to Mexico City.

QUESTION: Yeah. But my question is: Do you think that it’s a responsible position for senators to take to block this nomination, or is it irresponsible?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to characterize individual senators’ behavior. There is an advise-and-consent. We believe that the process has gone on too long, that the reasons for obstructing her confirmation have not been founded on suitable grounds about her qualifications or her potential to be a terrific ambassador for the United States in Mexico, and therefore it needs to end. We want a vote on her confirmation.

QUESTION: What has been harmed between – in the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico because there’s no ambassador?

MR KIRBY: It’s not about what’s been harmed, Ros. It’s just the gap has been too long in terms of when she was nominated until now, and it doesn’t exactly speak well of the United States’ real and honest commitment to the relationship with Mexico when we can’t even get our ambassador confirmed and down there. So it’s not – it’s certainly not helping to further our foreign policy goals with Mexico on some very important issues. And again, as the Secretary said himself right from this podium, you need your talent out there. And nobody’s more talented or capable for this post than Roberta Jacobson, and we want to see her confirmed.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Mr. Kobler? He had a meeting – you mentioned that you guys had a meeting with Martin Kobler. Now, he said yesterday that he basically failed in his efforts, failed in his mission completely, the implicit message being that he’s just giving up on the process. So did you convince him otherwise? What is – where do we stand —

MR KIRBY: Today’s meeting isn’t about convincing him otherwise, and I’ll let Mr. Kobler speak for his comments. We obviously don’t consider this process failed at all. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reasons why the Secretary is so much – looking forward so much to this meeting. There has been progress, as I alluded to in my opening statement, in terms of getting a cabinet named and starting to get some of the political institutions in place.

So there’s been real progress, but there are a few entities and individuals that are trying to obstruct that. They are the ones who are failing what the Libyan people need and what they want, and it’s not Mr. Kobler or his efforts or his leadership. As I said at the outside, we’re going to continue to support what he’s trying to do.

QUESTION: And one last question on Libya. There are a lot of reports that suggest that the United States, as well as Europe or European governments, maybe more and more are getting inclined to make – perhaps be part of the military attacks or attacking Daesh and ISIS and other groups and so on. Is that the case?

MR KIRBY: In Libya?

QUESTION: In Libya, yes. Are you —

MR KIRBY: Well, I —

QUESTION: Are you headed in that direction?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak for other nations and what sovereign decisions they might be making with respect to military operations. That’s for them to speak to. I’m also, as you know, reluctant to speak about even U.S. military operations from this podium. What – I would just go back to what I think the Secretary has said so well: The goal here has to be getting this Government of National Accord seated and in place so that real political process – progress, I’m sorry, can be made in Libya, because, as we’ve said before, we believe the real antidote to groups like Daesh and to terrorism and extremism writ large is good governance. And obviously, there’s – we’re not at that place in Libya right now. So that’s what he wants to see happen and that’s what we’re going to be focused on here from the State Department.

That said, the commander-in-chief has been – has made it clear, and I believe – and I – again, I won’t speak for DOD, but I can certainly point you to comments that Secretary Carter and General Dunford made as recently as a few days ago that we have to protect the American people from the threat of terrorism, and we’ve made no bones about the fact that the United States will do that where and when needed. There has been – and DOD has spoken to this – there has been military action taken against Daesh in Libya by the United States, and I can’t certainly rule that out in the future, but I won’t speak to specific operations. And what other nations decide to do, I think they should speak to that.

But what we – again, I want to come back to the core issue. What we want here in the United States and what is clear, as I said in my opening statement, the international community wants is real political progress there, because again, that’s the ultimate sustainable solution to combating extremism.

All right. Pam.

QUESTION: North Korea?


QUESTION: Does the U.S. consider North Korea’s decision to fire projectiles as a provocation? And if so, will there be any additional response beyond the U.S. and UN sanctions that were imposed yesterday?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ve seen the reports of these missile shots that they allegedly took. I’m actually not in a position right now to independently confirm that they actually did that, but let’s just assume for a moment that they did. Not exactly surprising. It’s typical of the kind of response that we have seen from them in the past. Is it provocative? Absolutely, it is. There’s no doubt about that. It is just – if true that they fired off these missiles, it would just be another example of increasingly provocative – unnecessarily provocative – conduct by Pyongyang. That only underscores the importance of the resolution that was passed yesterday and the resolve of the international community in a unified way to enact more robust measures.

Now, I’m not at all in a position to predict what, if any, additional measures might be taken by the UN or by any other nation with respect to these reports of these latest missile launches. I wouldn’t get ahead of that. What we want to see, what we’re focused on right now, is now that this resolution is passed, is making sure that it gets enforced in a robust manner.

QUESTION: Yesterday, John, after the resolution passed, the Chinese ambassador to the UN once again suggested that it might be a good idea to have peace talks operate in parallel alongside the Six-Party denuclearization talks. I know that you guys have spoken to this many times, but since he’s raised it again, do you have – is there any interest at all in the United – inside the Administration for this – to do this?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think the Secretary actually addressed this when Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here last week when he talked about that we haven’t – we’re – we haven’t ruled out the possibility that there could sort of be some sort of parallel process here. But – and this is not a small “but” – there has to be denuclearization on the peninsula and work through the Six-Party process to get there.

So I don’t think we’re in a position to rule out possible discussions on a peace process, but we’re not going to decouple that in any way from what really needs to happen, which is complete denuclearization and adherence to the Six-Party process moving forward.

QUESTION: So does that mean that it is not – the Administration does not rule out having talks to finally make the armistice permanent before there is a resolution to the nuclear issue?

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that. I said, as the Secretary said —

QUESTION: Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out.

MR KIRBY: As the —

QUESTION: It sounded like you’re talking about parallel, which means —

MR KIRBY: The Secretary said he – that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there could be discussions about a peace – resolution of the armistice.

QUESTION: Discussion about a parallel track —

MR KIRBY: But – there’s not going to be —

QUESTION: — before a resolution to the nuclear issue?

MR KIRBY: Let me make it very clear.

QUESTION: All right. Yes, please.

MR KIRBY: There – nothing is going to change about our belief that first and foremost there has to be denuclearization. And we – and as we talked about before when the North Koreans floated this idea, and we made it clear that we weren’t even going to begin to have that discussion until denuclearization was factored in; then it all kind of collapsed at that point. So nothing has changed about our position and our policy on denuclearization.

QUESTION: So there has to be denuclearization and then you can contemplate a peace process?

MR KIRBY: I don’t want to get ahead of every bit of the process, but nothing’s changed on our policy that denuclearization has to be a part of this, and the Six-Party Talks is the process and the vehicle to do that.

Thus far, the North has shown no willingness or even the ability to consider returning to that process, but that’s the right process, that’s the vehicle, and that’s what – that’s how we want to pursue this.



QUESTION: Immigrants again, okay. Today the Russian foreign ministry said that in the last 24 hours, there were 14 violations of the ceasefire, basically attacks around Damascus and other areas – populated centers – but mainly against government positions or installations and so on. Can you confirm what the Russians are saying? And have the violations been committed only by opposition groups or by the Syrian forces?

MR KIRBY: I can’t. I can’t confirm those numbers or those reports. I’ve seen the press reports of these Russian estimates. They can speak for that if they want. As I said from the very outset, we aren’t going to get into a daily tally here. We have seen claims of violations. We want those claims to be reviewed and evaluated. As we said, there’s a process in place to do that. We’ve also seen – and over the last 24 hours, there hasn’t been, in our estimate – in our estimates, not any significant new numbers of alleged violations. I’m not ruling out that there hasn’t been alleged violations, but again, I’m not going to get into tallying the number. If the Russians want to do that, they can do that.

QUESTION: So would you concur with the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who said the ceasefire is largely holding? I mean, there have been some violations, but it looks like it is something that can go on, can have more —

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I think we would agree with that, that it generally does appear to be holding, and that’s an encouraging sign, continues to be encouraging. But we’re not taking anything for granted here. We’re only into less than a week of this, so we’re going to keep watching it very, very closely.

QUESTION: But the fact that it held for six days —


QUESTION: — is a good thing – good —

MR KIRBY: It’s – look, in that it is generally holding, certainly is better for the Syrian people and the potential for real political progress in Syria, which is ultimately the goal here. But that doesn’t mean that we’re turning a blind eye to claims and allegations of violations or that we think that they are any less important. They aren’t. We take them very seriously. We want everybody to take them seriously. And as I said, there’s a process in place to have them vetted and to be reviewed.

The right number of violations needs to be zero, and we’re not at zero now, so I want to be clear that we take these seriously and we’re not walking away from it. But yes, that it has largely held and that there is a clear reduction in violence in Syria is certainly a good thing, and we’d like to see that trend not only continue, but actually improve over time. I mean, the war’s been going on now for – we’re almost at the five-year anniversary here, mid – the middle of this month, five years. And for the first time in five years, there is actually a downward trend in the organized violence against the Syrian people. I mean, I – like you, I read the news and I read a story this morning about people in Aleppo actually now being able to come out, and markets are opening up and kids are playing in playgrounds. That’s encouraging. That’s what you want to see. But it’s still fragile and we’re going to keep watching it.

QUESTION: My – a quick question. I mean, you certainly have assets that you can – or means to determine or detect who is violating the ceasefire. I mean, would you say that the Syrian Government has, by and large, upheld its end of the bargain?

MR KIRBY: I would say that we have many means of learning about potential violations and we continue to see indications of potential violations. I’m going to continue, however, from this podium, to refrain from tallying them up or pointing a finger. We want – there’s a process in place for them to be reviewed and evaluated. We need to let that process work its way out, and I just don’t think that it would be helpful to that process or to the ultimate goals for us to get into a daily tick-tock of each and every one.


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MR KIRBY: Are you on Syria? Okay.

QUESTION: Is Bryan Pagliano, who was the person who set up – helped set up and manage former Secretary Clinton’s email server – private email server – still a contractor at the department?


QUESTION: And do you have any comment on the reports that – well, actually, two things. One, do you know when he ceased to be a contractor? Because I believe he was one until September of last year.

MR KIRBY: All I can talk about, for privacy considerations and restrictions, is his time when he was employed as an IT specialist at the GS-15 level as a government employee from May 2009 to – through February 2013 in the Bureau of Information Resource Management. I’m not able – again, for privacy restrictions – to go beyond that.

QUESTION: Mark confirmed in a briefing in September, though, that he was still a contractor.

MR KIRBY: I would just point you back to my answer to your first question in terms of whether he still is employed as one, and he is not.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any comment on the reports that he has been granted immunity so as to be able to – immunity from prosecution so as to be able to discuss his activities on her behalf?

MR KIRBY: No. I’m not going to comment, as I’ve not commented before on ongoing reviews and investigations.

QUESTION: Sorry. Why exactly can’t you say if someone is employed as a contractor?

MR KIRBY: I’m not able to provide additional details because of privacy restrictions.

QUESTION: Can you cite the privacy restriction?

MR KIRBY: No, I can’t. But I’m not going to comment —

QUESTION: You can’t cite the restriction that you say prevents you from talking about employment —

MR KIRBY: I don’t have additional details about his follow-on appointment at the State Department.

QUESTION: Can you find out? Because I don’t think that that’s – I challenge whether or not you are able to talk about employment status of contractors for privacy reasons.


QUESTION: Or former contractors. And I’m —

QUESTION: Specifically – and yeah.

MR KIRBY: It may not be that there are privacy regulations necessarily, but the fact that there are ongoing reviews and investigations. And I’m not going to provide any more detail than I was able to already. I already answered the question about whether he is —

QUESTION: That’s a full – as a fulltime —

MR KIRBY: — is he still employed here at the State Department.

QUESTION: — as a fulltime State Department employee, yes, you did answer that question. But that was —

MR KIRBY: And I also answered the question about whether he was still employed —

QUESTION: — unfortunately —

MR KIRBY: — as a contractor, and the answer to that is no.

QUESTION: Yeah. So —

MR KIRBY: So there is no tie to him right now.

QUESTION: — the answer – but the question he asked – those are great answers, but —

MR KIRBY: Yes, they were.

QUESTION: — but they weren’t the answers to the – they didn’t address the question, which is when did he stop being a contractor.

MR KIRBY: And I said – I did answer that question. I said I’m not going to get into that for privacy restrictions.

QUESTION: That’s not an answer.

MR KIRBY: It is an answer. You just don’t like the answer.

QUESTION: Are you sure, Kirby, that there is a privacy restriction that bars you from saying when somebody ceased to be a contractor at the State Department?

MR KIRBY: I’m not an expert on every privacy regulation here, but I’ve gone about as far on this one as I can. And as you know, there are reviews and investigations underway, and I’m just not able to speak about it.

QUESTION: Would you mind double-checking?

MR KIRBY: We’ll take that question and happy to get back to you on that.


MR KIRBY: But I’m not going to go any further than I just did.

QUESTION: Change of subject? What kind of data has the U.S. shared with Dutch investigators on the downing of MH17? I asked Mark Toner about this yesterday. He said he would look into it. I wonder if you have anything.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. I’m actually not going to be able to give you a lot of information on that.

QUESTION: Do you know if the data included satellite images or radar data?

MR KIRBY: As I said, I’m not going to be able to give you much on that. There is an active – still an active review going on, and I’d refer you to the Dutch Government about – on that review. We have been and will continue to assist as is appropriate, but I’m not going to be able to give you much more detail on that.

QUESTION: Has there been —

QUESTION: You didn’t – hold on a second – you didn’t give any detail at all.

MR KIRBY: Well, I said —

QUESTION: “Not much more” is – there’s none. Can you confirm at least —

MR KIRBY: Well, that’s a subjective opinion on your part. I thought I gave information. I said that we’re helping. I’m just not going to talk about exactly what we’re helping with.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but you did give them some kind of information, yes?

MR KIRBY: We continue to work with the joint investigation team and law enforcement authorities. But I’m not going into the details of cooperation.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you have given them – I’m not asking what specifically – does that mean you’ve given them information —

MR KIRBY: It means that we’ve continued to communicate and assist them.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know what that means. We’re continuing to communicate right now, but I’m not getting any answers and no one else is either. (Laughter.) So what does that mean, “continue to communicate?” Have you or have you not given them any information?

MR KIRBY: It means that we are cooperating with them and assisting them —

QUESTION: Does that —

MR KIRBY: — in their efforts. I’m not going to get into the details of what that is.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you – but that answer means nothing, though. Have you given them information, data – any kind?

MR KIRBY: I’ve answered the question.

QUESTION: Has there been a request from Dutch investigators for radar data or satellite images from the U.S.?

MR KIRBY: You can contact Dutch authorities and ask them about the progress of their investigative efforts and what they’ve needed and how they’re doing on it. I’m not going to be able to give any more information.


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: Did you have a question?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yeah. The environmental activist Berta Caceres was murdered early yesterday in her home west of the capitol of Honduras. Does the State Department have a comment on her murder?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think our embassy’s already put out a statement on that. We certainly condemn her murder and we call for a prompt, professional, and through investigation into the crime and for those responsible to be held accountable by the Honduran justice system.

QUESTION: How confident is the U.S. Government that the Honduran Government is going to be capable of carrying out a fair and prompt investigation into her murder? In the past two weeks, she and her family were detained by local and state authorities and harassed because of their ongoing activism against the construction of a dam in that area.

MR KIRBY: Well —

QUESTION: And she was very afraid for her life and she was on the (inaudible).

MR KIRBY: — what I can tell you is we’ve offered Honduran authorities any assistance that they might require as they work on this investigation. As I said, we’d like a prompt, professional, and thorough one done, obviously. And we’re going to continue to offer whatever assistance they might require. I don’t want to get ahead of that process and sort of pre-judge it in any way; I don’t think that would be a good thing to do.

QUESTION: Just one more. The NGO Global Witness says that for indigenous activists, particularly in the environmental area, Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world for them to try to protect their communities from multinational corporations coming in and taking over their land and their resources. Does the U.S. share this NGO’s concern about the risk to political activists in countries such as Honduras?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen that particular report, so I’m not able to comment on that, offer a qualitative assessment. We take very seriously the threats to our citizens abroad everywhere, as well as to those that are trying to do the important work of so many nongovernmental organizations. And we monitor it as best we can. But I’m not in a position to specifically make a qualitative assessment based on that finding.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: But obviously, we take it seriously.

QUESTION: John, I got my question about the refugee crisis —


QUESTION: — in Greece and Turkey. It’s a long question; be patient with me, because I have some numbers. In January and February this year, 122,637 people reach Greece, all of them through Turkey – 46 percent are Syrians; 28 percent are Afghans, 18 percent Iraqis. 410 people die the last two months in Aegean, among them many, many children. Last year, over 800,000 entered Greece from Turkey, and this happened with the help of illegal traffickers. I know the position of the United States Government, the Secretary about trafficking, against the trafficking. I’m not going to read his quote. Given that Turkey was already, according to the Department of State trafficking report, a country with problems, what the U.S. Government has done to prevent one of the larger human trafficking in human history? And also are you considering that maybe instead of allow human trafficking industry in Turkey to flourish to find a way to transfer Syrian refugees from Turkey to the countries of interest legally and with safety, as Greece is proposing?

MR KIRBY: You’re right; that is a very long question.

QUESTION: I know. Sorry, I apologize.

MR KIRBY: It’s okay. It took you a long time to write it out too, I’m sure.


MR KIRBY: Look, in all seriousness, human trafficking and migrant smuggling are distinct crimes. And many smuggling cases don’t involve human trafficking. We understand this is a complex set of challenges and that many European nations are struggling under the continuing influx of people seeking safety. We also know that our EU partners are committed to implementing initiatives that member-states have agreed on to meet those challenges.

We continue to hope – and you’ve heard the Secretary talk about this – that European nations will build upon their progress to date. He just met with Foreign Minister Steinmeier from Germany just a few days ago, where they had a very extensive discussion about what EU nations are doing and Germany’s leadership in particular. But we want them to build on their progress and to successfully implement a comprehensive and coordinated solution that focuses on saving lives and ensuring human – that the human rights of all migrants are respected.

Obviously, we all – and I mean all – everybody still needs to do more. And that’s why the President is hosting a high-level event on refugees at the UN General Assembly in September, with the aim of expanding the humanitarian safety net and creating more long-term, durable opportunities. It’s also why he ordered that we take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. All this is going to require a vigorous and sustained effort to secure new and significant commitments and obviously to provide greater access to education, employment opportunities for these refugees – not just for the millions of Syrian refugees, but for those fleeing intense strife and persecution all over the globe.

So we strongly urge countries that are bordering areas of conflict to continue to develop solutions that prioritize saving lives, addressing the humanitarian needs of all migrants and refugees, and to provide the protection that they need for those who can’t return. Okay?


QUESTION: Can I follow up with a question on Turkey?


QUESTION: I mean, Turkey is one of your biggest allies. Yet in many ways it’s like a thorn in the side, because it seems – or there seem to be elements in Turkey that benefit from trafficking of – in this case, human trafficking, then oil trafficking, arms trafficking, the trafficking of militias and so on into Syria and all these things. It seem to be really an obstinate kind of ally in this fight, in this horrible tragedy that bedeviled Syria in the last five years. Would you —

MR KIRBY: Is that a question or a statement?

QUESTION: I mean, I just wanted to because every time we ask about Turkey you guys emphasize that it’s a great ally, it’s a major ally, NATO —

MR KIRBY: It is.

QUESTION: But it seem to be really on – always on the other side, so to speak.

MR KIRBY: Turkey is an important ally and they’re an important partner, and they are contributing in significant ways to the fight against Daesh as part of a coalition member. And I would remind you they have two and a half million Syrian refugees on their side of the border that they are still trying to care for. And it’s a border that you know better than most that remains still a dangerous place. So they are contributing.

Look – and Mark, I think, addressed this yesterday – we obviously aren’t going to agree on everything. And we’ve been open and candid with Turkish leaders on issues regarding the situation in Syria that we don’t agree on, and that kind of candid conversation will continue. But this isn’t some – this isn’t some theoretical exercise for the Turks. I mean, it’s right there. It’s right there along their border. And there’s real, tangible, practical implications and impacts to them and to their people, and we understand that. And though we may not agree on every aspect, we are going to continue to work at it diligently with Turkish leaders to try to move – to move forward and to try to help eliminate what is clearly a common threat to both of us, which is Daesh.



MR KIRBY: Yeah, in the back. I’ll come to you in a minute, Samir.

QUESTION: My name is Thanos Dimadis. I represent the biggest media organization in Greece. It’s called Alpha TV Channel Station of Greece.

MR KIRBY: Welcome.

QUESTION: My question is about Turkey. As you know, today I think you know about that the Greek prime minister, Mr. Tsipras, had a telephone conversation with prime minister of Turkey, Mr. Davutoglu. According to some Greek media reports and as far as I know about that, Mr. Tsipras expressed his concerns to Mr. Davutoglu about the role of Turkey regarding Turkey’s commitment to stop the flows of immigrants from Turkey to Greece and the rest of Europe. I would like to know whether the Department of State is satisfied or how does – is assessing, how does the State Department assessing the Turkey’s policy according to the implementation of the Turkish commitment to stop these flows of immigrants.

MR KIRBY: We – as I said, this isn’t a theoretical practice issue for the Turks. It’s very real. Two and a half million people and they’re working at it very, very hard. In fact, much of the millions of dollars that the United States – I’m sorry – billions that we contribute to this effort, and it’s more than 5 billion now, goes to places like Turkey and Jordan to try to help them better take care of the refugees that are there, because we think it’s preferable if they stay close by so that when there is a home for them in Syria, they can go back home and they can do so in a fairly – a much easier manner.

There’s no question that some refugees are making these decisions on their own that they’re going to leave. And I know the Turkish Government is aware of that and doing what they can to try to provide for those refugees as best they can. But they can’t stop each and every individual or family from – if they want to move. Now, we obviously discourage that movement as well, because we want them to stay there. But obviously, people are going to make that decision and they’re going to go.

I can’t speak to the discussions between those two governments, and I’ll let them characterize what they discuss. What I’ll tell you is we recognize this is a tough challenge. We recognize that Turkey is trying very, very hard to deal with it. That’s why we are also a major contributor financially to this. And as I said earlier in my other answer on this issue, that we want all the nations in Europe to work together to find comprehensive solutions and to try to work through this as best they can, understanding that they have very real economic issues to deal with as well as security issues of their own. We certainly understand that. But we believe that EU nations, all nations on the continent actually, the best way to deal with this is to deal with it together in a unified, comprehensive way.

QUESTION: So in contrast to some European nations and some European states that they are not very satisfied by the way that Turkey is trying to fulfill its commitment, the Department of State thinks that Turkey is doing its best?

MR KIRBY: I won’t speak for what other nations may feel. We are – we recognize the challenges that Turkey is facing on this. And as I said earlier, we also recognize that everybody can do more, everybody can do better. I didn’t say that there isn’t efforts that everybody can make. Everybody, including the United States, can do more and can do better. And so what we want is to see everybody to step up to that challenge.

QUESTION: I’m very sorry, one last question. Do you – do you salute the way that FYROM is treating the refugees, trying to pass their borders and going throughout Europe? I mean, are you satisfied by the way – I’m sure that you’ve seen the —

MR KIRBY: Am I satisfied by the efforts of who?


QUESTION: That would be the Former Yugoslav Republic —

QUESTION: We don’t accept the term “Macedonia.”

QUESTION: Greeks refuse to use “Macedonia.”

QUESTION: So I’m going to call it FYROM. Are you satisfied by the way that FYROM is treating the refugees who are like stuck in Greek —

MR KIRBY: I can appreciate —

QUESTION: Try to get FYROM in your response.

MR KIRBY: I can appreciate —

QUESTION: And I would – I would appreciate if you respond by using the name FYROM. (Laughter.)

MR KIRBY: I’m sure that you would —

QUESTION: I want to promote (inaudible) on behalf of Lambros.

MR KIRBY: I’m sure that you would appreciate that as well. I’m going to go back to what I said before. I am not going to get into a tit-for-tat or to speaking to each and every European nation on what they are or they are not doing. They can speak to that.

We’ve been very open and honest about the fact that we believe everybody can do more and everybody can do better to address this incredibly difficult challenge, the worst refugee crisis that we’ve seen since World War II. And we want everybody to do more and everybody to do better, and we put ourselves right in that group too, okay?

QUESTION: You think Greece can do more?

MR KIRBY: We want everybody to do more and to address this in a comprehensive way.

Look, I think you can just look at the sheer numbers of people that are making this difficult decision to move and the crisis and how it’s affecting everybody. Everybody is being touched by it and therefore everybody has a responsibility to address it.


QUESTION: Yes. What’s the U.S. reaction to the Arab interior ministers and the council – the Gulf Cooperation Council? They designated Hizballah, the Lebanese party, as a terrorist organization.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. I would just say we – we’ve noted that they’ve made that decision, as you well know, since the mid to late ’90s. The United States has long ago has characterized or addressed them as an FTO – designated them as an FTO.

QUESTION: I mean, do you see this development – are you concerned from this development that may lead to a new conflict in Lebanon?

MR KIRBY: Nobody wants new conflict, obviously. But I would let these states speak for themselves and to their decision to so designate. Again, we’ve made our decision about Hizballah a long time ago. Okay?

Yeah, go.

QUESTION: A different question. A question on human rights, a general question. Every year State Department issues human rights reports and UN also has a declaration of human rights, and plus Secretary meets a lot of leaders from around the globe as far as human rights are concerned. But in many ways, do you agree that maybe these talks with those leaders, countries, and all there who violates human rights, especially on women and trafficking and all that, doesn’t work?

But whenever there is a documentary comes out – now, I’m talking in this case a documentary, Oscar-winning documentary on Pakistani women – that did work. The documentary did work and law was changed in Pakistan the very next day by the prime minister.

But as far as human rights, so far these books and all those talks really doesn’t work. Do you agree with me that there should be more documentaries on those violations and all around the globe? Including on India also, there were documentary and it did work.

MR KIRBY: Do I think there should be more documentaries about human rights? Is that the question? I think, look, anything that can shed a light on human rights violations and the issues that so many people are facing around the world is a good thing. I mean, I’m not an expert in how documentaries get made, but look, through whatever media it is, or medium it is, if it can shed a light on this kind of suffering, then that’s a good thing. Especially if that kind of – if that kind of spotlight can also lead to legislative changes that make things better for people all around the world, we certainly would be in support of that.

I’ve got time for one more. Pam.

QUESTION: Does State Department finance any documentaries? Let’s say if this works —

MR KIRBY: Are we planning any?

QUESTION: At State Department, do they —

MR KIRBY: No, not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: — finance any documentaries on the topics that may help? It may save the time and money from the State Department if people make more documentaries, especially in, let’s say, violations against women in Saudi Arabia. There’s no documentary, but somebody who’s willing to make, but it cost —

MR KIRBY: Again, if a documentary can lead to shedding light on this kind of human suffering that can, again, lead to legislative changes that alleviates that suffering, certainly that’s a good thing. And I think everybody would welcome that kind of thing. But if you’re asking are we – do we have a concerted or sort of dedicated program to try to encourage that kind of – no, we don’t. I mean, we do have significant cultural diplomacy efforts, but I don’t – we’re not – we don’t have an office that’s set up to try to get documentaries made about particular topics.

Pam, last question.

QUESTION: I have a couple on Russia-Ukraine. The first one is a Russian court has delayed the case involving Nadiya Savchenko, who’s the Ukrainian pilot who was detained in connection to the deaths of two Russian journalists. She responded by launching a hunger strike.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I’ve seen those reports. Yeah.

QUESTION: The State Department has previously called on Russia to release her. What is the position that you’re taking now, considering there’s a greater urgency in her situation?

MR KIRBY: The same position we have taken: She needs to be released. We’ve said that all along. She’s been detained for no good reason, and we want to see her released and sent home where she belongs. And that – again, I can’t confirm the hunger strike. We’ve certainly seen the press reports. That certainly doesn’t make this any easier and certainly would – we want her released immediately regardless. But obviously, if she is, in fact, launching a hunger strike, then certainly now her health would be an added issue to increase the urgency on that. But she needs to be released. We’ve said that all along.

QUESTION: And in reference to the foreign ministers meeting in Paris on the Minsk agreement today, there’s been a lot of U.S. criticism of Russia for backing the rebels in Ukraine and violating provisions in the agreement, but does the U.S. share those concerns about Kyiv because of its failure to push through with the election law for the Donbas region that would set the stage for a vote later this year?

MR KIRBY: We – so a couple of things. First, we still continue to want to see Minsk fully implemented, and we believe there’s – there is continued work that needs to be done on both sides to get Minsk fully implemented. There’s no question about that. On Kyiv, they are making some progress. Obviously, there’s more progress that needs to be made on reforms. The Secretary met with President Poroshenko when we were in Munich not too long ago and he talked about that with the president. We continue to have those discussions with Ukrainian leaders. We recognize that political reform is important, not just to the stability of their government but to the Ukrainian people, and we want to see that continue to progress.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s possible for Ukraine to implement its obligation to increase autonomy in eastern Ukraine before Russia removes its troops and releases control of the Russia-Ukraine border?

MR KIRBY: What we want to see is Minsk fully implemented, which means people pull back from the line of contact – the heavy weapons, the troops as well – that the violations cease. And I think it’s – the expectations on the government in Kyiv are well known, and they know what their obligations are under Minsk, and we want to see them fully meet those obligations.

Thanks, guys. Gotta go.

(The briefing was concluded at 3.01 p.m.)