My Q and A with SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON SYRIA Via Conference Call
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Q Thanks so much. I'm from the Turkish press. You touched on your administration consulted with your ally, Turkey. And you said that within the last 24 hours Erdogan's language was important. My question is within the last 24 hours since you are closing to this decision to tell us [Assad to go] how was the reaction from Turkey? Turkey was the lifeline to the [Syria] in the past times. How do you expect this time Turkey to move forward from this point on? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just offer a couple of comments. First, as we've stressed before, our partnership with Turkey on this issue, as on many other issues, has been extremely important, particularly in the case of Syria because of Turkey's longstanding relationship with that country and with that government. And so I think it's particularly telling that the Turkish leadership has been so strong in its condemnation of the Syrian regime's abuses of its own people; so strong in its determination to bring further pressure to bear against the Assad regime.
So we've stayed in close touch not just in the last 24 hours but in recent weeks and months, and we look forward to continuing to do that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd just add that the President did speak, as I said, to Prime Minister Erdogan on August 11th. It was a long conversation that focused very much on Syria. And in that conversation they were able the consult about the steps that their governments were taking, including the steps that Turkey is taking and including the steps that the United States was taking today and was considering to take going forward. At that time, they reiterated their deep concern about the Syrian government's use of violence against civilians and their belief that the Syrian people's legitimate demands for a transition to democracy should be met.
They also agreed to have our teams be in very close coordination and to consult on a near daily basis to monitor the development of events in Syria, and to remain coordinated as we move forward. So I think that the coordination and consultation has been constant and strong with Turkey that does play a very important role here. And we expect that that will continue to be the basis going forward given the direction of President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan to their respective governments.
My Qs and As with US State Dpt. Spokesperson Nuland, August 18, 2011
QUESTION: So in his latest phone call, you are saying that Foreign Minister Davutoglu is also included within last 24 hours?
MS. NULAND: He – no, no. She hasn’t talked to him in the last 24 hours. She talked to him whenever it was – Monday I believe, right?
QUESTION: In the morning, it was published and reported that the Syrian President Asad called UN General Secretary and said that their operation will be halted. This was not taken seriously? This was the reason you went ahead with the stepping down message?
MS. NULAND: We’ve had lots of promises from Asad – lots of promises, lots of broken promises. But it’s not about his broken promises to us. It’s about his broken promises to his own people. So yes, we’ve seen the reporting and we know that he called UN Secretary – or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called him and told him that it was time to stop, and he promised to stop. But our reporting from the ground is that the thuggery continues.
We still have Syrian security forces and pro-government thugs rampaging in cities across Syria. They continue to raid home,; they continue to arrest people daily without any judicial due process. We received reports just yesterday that there were 150 people in al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, arrested, and there were more arrests in Latakia. So he had plenty of time to act, and he didn’t act.
QUESTION: I just want to ask if you have anything else to add from yesterday’s conversation in terms of Turkey and Israel and the conversation between –
MS. NULAND: I said yesterday that the characterization that we’d seen in the media was inaccurate. The Israeli Government itself has put out a statement saying – agreeing that the press characterization was inaccurate. So I would draw your attention to that.