Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pengaton Confirms: Russians Violated Turkish and NATO Airspace

Pentagon, for the first time, confirmed that indeed Russian fighter jet breached Turkish airspace, as reported by Turkish authorities yesterday.

DoD spokesman Mark Wright, when asked whether US can confirm that Russians indeed breached Turkish airspace as NATO's, confirmed that Russians violated Turkish and NATO airspace. Wright sent this confirmation:

"We are aware of reports and can confirm that yesterday another Russian combat aircraft violated Turkish - and NATO - airspace.

As we have stated after past incidents, the United States joins NATO in standing in solidarity with Turkey, and we call on Russia to respect Turkish airspace and cease activities that risk further heightening instability in the region.

It is important that the Russians and Turks talk to each other and take measures to prevent escalation‎."

NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg also made a statement yesterday, confirming Turkish claims that Russian jet violated Turkish airspace and called on Russia to act ''responsibly'' and ''fully respect NATO airspace.''

Russian Defense Ministry denied any Russian jet breached Turkish airspace yesterday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

US Has Serious Concerns About Turkey's Commitment to Democracy

DPB # 13

My Qs & As w Briefer Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson

US Has Serious Concerns About Turkey's Commitment to Democracy

QUESTION:  Indictment of -- Can Dundar and the Ankara rep Erdem Gul revealed.  And the indictment is asking two times the prison [life] – in prison and plus 30 years in prison.  What’s your take on this indictment?
MR TONER:  Well, I mean, we’re obviously very troubled by the reports.  You’re talking about Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar – Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, as you said, seeking life imprisonment.  We said before the extraordinarily harsh criminal charges, pretrial arrest, and now the prosecution’s call for life sentences raise serious concerns about Turkey’s commitment to fundamental principles of freedom of expression, of democracy, of due process, and judicial independence.  So we call on Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals, all organizations, including but not limited to the media, are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism in accordance with Turkey’s constitutional guarantees of media freedom.

QUESTION:  Just one more on that.
MR TONER:  Sure.
QUESTION:  Apparently, those journalists – everybody can be tried, including journalists, it’s obvious, but these journalists are in jail while they are asking for life imprisonment.  And also Vice President Biden seen one of Can Dundar’s family when he was there (with his son) and he said that your father is a courageous man.  So right after Vice President left Turkey this indictment and asking for imprisonment, is there another additional angle you see right after Vice President left Turkey and meeting with the family and same people are rotting in jail?
MR TONER:  Yeah.  I would hope not.  We obviously have very – as I said, Turkey’s a NATO ally.  It’s a democracy.  It’s a friend.  It’s a partner.  We have these kinds of conversations with Turkey about the quality of its democracy and we’re going to continue to raise these kinds of issues as we move forward.  We’re not going to shy away from that – those kinds of discussions.  So I would hope there’s no link.

Why American and Turkish Officials not taking questions from the press?

QUESTION:  Another question, the question many Turkish journalists are asking:  Why the American officials, when they are together with the Turkish officials, for a number of years now, are not taking questions from the press?
MR TONER:  Oh, gosh, I’m sorry.  I don’t really know that – what decisions were made or – in terms of his press availability.  A lot of that comes down to simple logistics, whether he’s – whether he or any official has the time to do a press availability when they’re on the ground in any given country.  So I can’t speak to the details of the Vice President’s trip.  I know with Secretary Kerry, we always try to carve out some time to do media availabilities.  Sometimes those are shorter than other times, but we always try to work that in in some respect.

QUESTION:  A number of European countries, but particularly Denmark, just passed a law which allows Danish authorities to seize valuables from migrants.  I think there are similar laws not as rigid as this one.  Do you have any position on this kind of laws?
MR TONER:  I mean, really – you’re talking about the Danish law?
MR TONER:  I mean, I would refer you to the Danish authorities.  I mean, there’s a number of things that countries in Europe – number of steps that these European countries are taking to deal with the influx of refugees and the impact that that’s having on the economy, on other aspects of life in these countries.  It’s been an enormous – extraordinary, if you will – surge of refugees coming into Europe.  I think what we’ve said all along is in dealing with this surge of – influx of – immigrants, rather, or migrants – refugees, rather; excuse me – refugees into Europe, that there needs to be a comprehensive approach to dealing with it, that all the countries that are dealing with this influx need to agree on how they’re going to deal with that and come up with a way to treat these refugees, many of whom are fleeing violence, fleeing persecution, in a way that is systematic but also humane and takes into consideration the dire circumstances that they’re both fleeing and then oftentimes landing into in these countries.

Others journalists:

US Supports PYD is not participating Geneva Talks
QUESTION:  The main Kurdish party in Syria, why hasn’t – why haven’t they been invited?  What is your take on that?
MR TONER:  So these were invitations that were issued by Staffan de Mistura.  I’d refer you to him and to his party – or his group that – to the UN for the rationale behind who they invited.  Obviously, there was a vetting, there was a meeting in Saudi Arabia for choosing the members of the HNC.  I can say that in general, Kurds have been included in this entire process.  They were represented in last month’s opposition conference in Riyadh, in fact, where some 115, 116 participants did establish the HNC.  So I’m not sure – are you speaking specifically about --
QUESTION:  PYD.  I mean, the Kurds in general, but they are the largest party --
MR TONER:  PYD.  No, I understand.  So the UN hasn’t announced its list of invitees or those extended in an advisory role, but our understanding is that the PYD will not be participating in the – in this week’s talks.
QUESTION:  Your position as the U.S. Government, do --
MR TONER:  It’s not our position.  It’s – I’m just saying it’s our understanding.
QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)
MR TONER:  That’s my understanding at this point.
QUESTION:  Do you believe they should have been invited?  The Russians say they should be invited.  Lavrov himself said that without the PYD, there will not be a, quote-un-quote, definitive resolution for the conflict in Syria.
MR TONER:  Yeah, and I’ll just say that I understand there’s differing views and differing opinions on their inclusion or exclusion from the process.  I’d just say we stand by the HNC, its current composition, and the choice by Staffan de Mistura to invite additional representatives also to participate in this process.  We stand by the process thus far, how it’s chosen who represents the Syrian opposition.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Q to US State: What does your express of concern good for?

DPB #9
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

QUESTION:  Yeah – you read at the top.  Have you raised this concern with the Turkish Government, first of all?
MR KIRBY:  I think you saw Ambassador Bass’ statement --
QUESTION:  Ambassador Bass tweeted about this, but it was a public statement.
MR KIRBY:  -- which was pretty clear, pretty concise, and pretty public.  Yes, of course, we always raise these issues with Turkish authorities, publicly and privately.
QUESTION:  What was – because he was blamed to be kind of enemy of the Turkish-U.S. relations.  When he tweeted on this, mayor of Ankara said that he is hurting the relations between the two.  So I’m wondering – of course, he’s not a part of the government, but I’m wondering if you with the same reaction for the government as well.
MR KIRBY:  Do I have the same reaction --
QUESTION:  Like the Ankara mayor said.  Do you believe that --
MR KIRBY:  What I can tell you is that Turkey has no better friend than the United States, and they certainly – and that’s certainly represented in Ambassador Bass.  Nobody is more committed to seeing Turkey succeed and to live up to its own constitution and democratic values.   Nobody is more committed to that than Ambassador Bass.  And it’s because he deeply cares about the Turkish people and the health of the Turkish democracy that he spoke the way he did, that he issued the statement of concern that he did. 
It wasn’t a – it wasn’t picking sides on the academics’ arguments or not.  That wasn’t the issue.  In fact, you can look at his statement and he makes that clear.  It was the idea of being able to express opinions freely and openly and to challenge – to challenge government in a peaceful, democratic way, which is enshrined in the Turkish constitution itself.  So to the mayor of Ankara – and I’ve seen those comments – I would say that Turkey has no better friend than Ambassador Bass, and that’s very much represented in his statement.
QUESTION:  Did you see the same reaction from the government?
MR KIRBY:  I’ve only seen the press reports from – the same ones that you’re alluding to.
QUESTION:  And have you discussed this issue with the government on the reaction?
MR KIRBY:  I’ve answered that question already.  Of course, we raise these issues all the time with Turkish authorities.
QUESTION:  No, the reaction of the mayor.  I mean, because --
MR KIRBY:  I don’t have an update for you.  The article just appeared a little bit ago.  I’ve seen it same time as you have.
QUESTION:  Okay.  And can I finish – and you said “a troubling trend.”  Are you concerned about the direction of Turkey in general?
MR KIRBY:  I think I’m going to leave it at my opening statement.  It’s a troubling trend that we’re concerned about.
QUESTION:  And the last one:  I know that you’re cautious about not to interfere with the domestic policy issue with other countries, and the government circles and pro-government circles, they say – criticize the Ambassador Bass comments to interfere with the domestic policy of Turkey.  Why you think that this is not an internal issue for Turkey, and why you made the statement at the top?
MR KIRBY:  We are uniformly and always expressly concerned about freedom of expression around the world, and I can’t tell you how many times in just the eight months I’ve been at the State Department that I’ve stood up here and I’ve talked about our concerns with respect to freedom of expression and freedom of the press from this very podium about places all over the world.  It’s one of our core values and it’s one of our key principles here in the United States.  It matters deeply to us. 
And we know that it matters deeply to the Turkish people because it’s in their constitution.  And so when we see express examples where those values are not being lived up to – values that, again, is enshrined in their own constitution – we believe we have an obligation to speak up about it.  And we’re going to continue to do that.
QUESTION:  Do you believe that these detentions are hurting the U.S.-Turkish relations?
MR KIRBY:  Turkey’s a NATO ally, a strong partner, and a friend.  And I’ve said this before:  Even allies and friends aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye on everything.  And good friends and allies – if you are a good friend and ally – should be able to discuss freely the concerns that you have with one another, and we do that with Turkey.  We’re not always going to see everything the same way that they do, but it doesn’t mean that the partnership is weaker.  It doesn’t mean that we’re not as strong an ally.  It means that it’s a healthy relationship, that you can speak freely and express – and express those same concerns, and we’re going to continue to do that when and where we see it’s appropriate.

QUESTION:  Same subject?
QUESTION:  The fight against ISIS?
MR KIRBY:  Sure.
QUESTION:  On the same subject?
MR KIRBY:  Sure.


QUESTION:  While you are talking about these concerns, right now dozens of academicians who signed that petition detained, some of them already fired and suspended.  So when we report about your concerns, usually the echo comes from Turkey is that these concerns have been displayed for a long time, but the trend is continuous.  Do you think these concerns that you have been expressing make any difference?  If no, then what is it good for, this expressing concerns, as long as this witch hunt is going on in Turkey?
MR KIRBY:  Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t speak up and express the concerns when we have them?

QUESTION:  I think many people think that U.S. should make necessary policy changes as many think this building has enough able diplomats to propose such policy recommendations.
MR KIRBY:  We want to see Turkey, as I’ve said before, live up to its own democratic values.  Ultimately, these are decisions that Turkish leaders have to make.  These are sovereign decisions that they have to make.  That’s what we want to see, and that’s why we express our concerns in real time when they happen.  We do that privately and we do it publicly, and we’re going to continue to do that.  But ultimately, we want to see Turkish leaders make the right decisions here and move in the right direction.  I won’t go beyond my opening statement in terms of characterizing a trend or not.  I said we call it a troubling trend, and that’s where I’ll leave it.  But we want to see those principles enshrined in the Turkish constitution to be valued and to be implemented.


QUESTION:  You, in the same opening statement, you said that Turkish democracy is strong enough to embrace this freedom of expression.  Can you tell us what aspect of Turkish democracy you see strong nowadays?
MR KIRBY:  It was a broad statement that I stand by.  We believe that it is a strong enough, resilient enough democracy.  We believe the Turkish people are strong enough and resilient enough to live up to these values, and that’s what we want to see them do.


QUESTION:  And finally, today one of the oldest mainstream newspaper, Cumhuriyet newspaper, it’s reported by the censorship watchdog that has been selectively blocked by some of the country’s largest service providers the day after President Erdogan fiercely attacked the newspaper.  Headline came yesterday.  Do you have any comment on this particular --
MR KIRBY:  I haven’t seen that report, but obviously, if it’s true, everything that I mentioned in the last few minutes and in my opening statement would still stand, that we want to see Turkey live up to its democratic values, and that includes freedom of expression and freedom of the press.  And we’ve been nothing but consistent about that particular matter over these many months, but I haven’t seen that report.

And finally, on Turkey – if I can keep this page from falling off.  We’ve seen reports of Turkish academics being investigated and detained for expressing their opinions about the conflict in southeast Turkey.  We see this action as part of a troubling trend in Turkey, whereby official bodies, law enforcement, and judicial authorities are being used to discourage legitimate political discourse.  As our ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, has already stated in a statement today, “Expressions of concern about violence do not equal support for terrorism.  Criticism of the government does not equal treason.  Turkish democracy is strong enough and resilient enough to embrace free expression of uncomfortable ideas.”  As Turkey’s friend and NATO ally, we urge Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions uphold the universal democratic values that are enshrined in their constitution including freedom of expression.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Why US is not air dropping food, medicine for starving Syrians

Why the US Govt does not airdrop food and medicine to Syrian towns under siege of Assad & Hezbollah? Is the US govt considering air dropping those towns? Tens of thousands are starving to death places like Madaya, Ghouta, Mouadamiya under  thesiege, eating leaves and cats etc. US airdropped food and medicine to the Yazidis in Mt Sinjar.

US State Department Senior Official Elizabeth Trudeau responded via email: 
As we said at the top of yesterday’s press briefing, we urge the Asad regime to fulfill immediately its stated pledge to lift its siege and allow humanitarian access to the besieged towns of Madaya, in Foah and Kefraya, as well as the many other towns throughout Syria suffering at the hands of the Asad regime.

We continue to work through our humanitarian partners to send urgent assistance and food to those in need throughout Syria, including these hard-to-reach and besieged areas like Madaya and other Damascus suburbs.  However, for the safety and security of those providing and receiving this assistance, we cannot provide further details.

Trudeau, Elizabeth K
US State Department

Monday, December 21, 2015

US calls on Turkey to take all precautions to protect civilians in SEast

DPB # 211
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs and As w Spox Kirby
QUESTION: On Turkey-Russia question over Syria, it looks like the President Putin continues to issue threats to Turkey, latest is Russia banned Turkish jets within Syrian airspace. What’s your view? It has been a month since the Turks shot down the Russian jets. Do you think steps need to be taken or de-escalation? Do you have any comments?
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen those latest remarks. What I would tell you is our position hasn’t changed since the shoot-down that we want to see the tensions reduced, obviously. And we – while certainly – like I said, we respect Turkey’s right to protect its airspace. We want to see the tensions there nonetheless brought down between Turkey and Russia and would, as we said before, urge both sides to work on de-confliction measures.
QUESTION: On the northern Syria again, these 98 kilometers that has been talk about between the Jarabulus and the Afrin, do you – it looks like the Russians are now helping Syrian Kurds. There are reports that Syrian Kurds may take – start launch assault on ISIS place, or the other Syrian opposition groups. Do you have any update on that particular area?
MR KIRBY: No. I would point you to Russian officials to talk to what they’re doing militarily inside Syria. As I said earlier, we continue to see the bulk of their military activity be against opposition groups and not against ISIL. But in terms of whatever support they claim they’re giving to Syrian Kurds, I think they would have to speak to that.
QUESTION: Do you have any issue with Syrian Kurds taking over that particular area instead of other Syrian opposition groups?

MR KIRBY: Instead of other Syrian opposition groups?
QUESTION: Yes, or Turkey’s --
MR KIRBY: For us, the cooperation that we are giving to Syrian groups, be they Turkoman, Christian, Arab, or Kurds, is about continuing to degrade and destroy ISIL. It’s ISIL’s control over areas that we’re focused on. And we want Syria – this is why there’s a political process going on – we want all of Syria – a unified, whole Syria – to be governed by a legitimate and a responsive and responsible government in Damascus. And that’s not the case right now. That’s why the Secretary is so focused on this diplomatic front. But our focus in terms of territory governance, it’s to take it away from ISIL and then work politically to get a government in Damascus that can adequately, sufficiently govern it for all Syrians. Okay?
QUESTION: So Syrian Kurds can take over that place? You wouldn’t have any issue with that?
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that at all, sir. I said our focus is on taking away the area and the territory that ISIL has inside Syria so that, as the political process moves forward, you have a government in Damascus that can govern and legislate for a whole, unified Syria in Damascus.

QUESTION: On Turkey this time. Turkey’s own southeast Kurdish region have been – have seen increasing – the situation is escalating within Turkey’s own southeast region, with the Kurdish region, such as Cizre or other places under the curfew. Do you have – or do you monitor the situation?
MR KIRBY: The curfew?
QUESTION: Yes. Several towns under curfew right now.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. We’ve seen those reports. What I would say is we hope to see a renewed commitment to the political process by the Turkish Government and the PKK to bring about a just and sustainable peace for all Turkish citizens. While we understand Turkey needs to take security measures, it should also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and to act consistently with its legal obligations. And I’d refer you to Turkish authorities for more details about it.
QUESTION: And the press freedom issue in Turkey, it looks like over three dozen or about three dozen journalists are still detained. And it looks like especially in Kurdish areas, many of the Kurdish journalists recently have been detained. The – one of the Vice reporters have been in jail over, I think, about three months, over three months. Editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily and other newspapers’ journalists are still in jail. Have you had a chance to talk to Turkish Government recently? Are you --
MR KIRBY: We routinely – we routinely express our concerns about freedom of expression and protection of journalism in Turkey, as I’ve said many, many times. We look to the Government of Turkey to ensure that law enforcement and judicial authorities act in accordance with international legal standards, including full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Biden’s office refutes Turkish PM Davutoglu’s refutal:

Biden’s office refutes Turkish PM Davutoglu’s refutal:

Vice President Biden’s office issued a statement regarding call with Prime Minister Davutoglu of Turkey on December 14th and in that, stated:

1) Biden-Davutoglu Call:
The Vice President spoke again today with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu regarding Turkey’s troop deployments in northern Iraq. The Vice President welcomed reports of the withdrawal of Turkish troops out of Camp Bashiqa as an important step to de-escalate recent tensions. The Vice President reiterated that any foreign military presence in Iraq must be with the full consent of the Iraq government.’’

2) Biden - Al-Abadi phone all
On December 16, Biden’s office issued another readout, this time his call with Iraq’s PM Al-Abadi. In that, Biden said: “The Vice President spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi yesterday following his December 14 call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The Vice President noted the recent deployment of Turkish forces into northern Iraq had occurred without the prior consent of the Iraqi government. Both leaders welcomed initial indications of the withdrawal of some Turkish forces and agreed this should continue, reiterating that any foreign forces can only be present in Iraq with the coordination and permission of the Iraqi government.”

3) Obama Urged Erdogan in a phone call
After this phone call, President Obama also talked President Erdogan and his office issued a statement on Friday. In that, Obama “urged” Erdogan to pull back from N.Iraq:
“The President urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces, and reinforced the need for Turkey to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.”

4) PM Davutoglu refutes Biden remarks to Abadi
Davutoglu, on the way back from Brussels, spoke to Turkish journalists yesterday, remarks published today and said “Biden didn’t urge us to pull back troops from Iraq.” Davutoglu, as reported on Hurriyet Daily News: Another issue on the agenda is the presence of the Turkish military at a base near Mosul, publicized earlier this week, which created tension between Turkey and Iraq. Davuto─člu has spoken with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden twice on the issue, but he denied that Biden had urged Turkey to withdraw troops from Iraq.

“I didn’t get such a statement from Biden. I spoke twice with Biden and he never said such a thing. He advised us to carry out this issue through consensus with Iraq. In fact we all want the same thing anyway,” Davutolu said. Turkey’s security starts from its borders with Iraq and Syria, but because neither country can control their borders Turkey is obliged to step in, Davuto─člu said. “I wish they could control their borders and our troops were not obliged to go there,” he added.

The prime minister also stated that Ankara and Iraq “agreed in principle” on the Turkish deployment on Iraqi soil to train Iraqi citizens and volunteers, which is why he did not seek Iraqi consent for the most recent deployment.”

5) Biden’s Office Refutes Davutoglu’s Refutal
Saturday morning I reached out VP Biden’s office and asked about PM Davutoglu’s latest remarks and whether they could shed light on these different accounts from US and Turkish side.

Vice President Joe Biden’s aide, defended their originial readout in an email sent from White House. White House official sent this short refutal for PM Davutoglu and this time openly told Turkey redeploy its forces at Camp Bashiqa: “the readout is accurate. The Vice President urged Turkey to redeploy forces at Camp Bashiqa that were not previously coordinated or approved by the Iraqi government.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

US Welcomes Turkey-Israel Agreement to Improve Relations

Today, senior White House official, when asked about reports that Turkey and Israel agreed initial understanding to improve relations, sent this:

"We have seen reports of a potential agreement between Israel and Turkey to restore diplomatic relations.  We would welcome this step in improving relations between two of our key allies in the region, particularly given our common interests and the challenges we face.  We refer you to Israel and Turkey for further details."