Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, Turkey portion of the State Dpt. Press Briefing, 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:  It seems you informed European countries yesterday (inaudible) on this announcement for stepping down.  Have you contacted Turkish administration too?

MS. NULAND:  We have been in constant contact with Turkey about the staging of our respective diplomatic moves, and Turkey was very much aware of the timing of our actions today.

QUESTION:  Because today we have sanctions, we have – it is – in terms of Syrian regime, we have sanctions, we have some countries who withdraws their ambassador from Syria.

MS. NULAND:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  And we have calls for stepping down.  What is the role of Turkey in this picture?  Because you said several times that your coordination is excellent.  And what is the result of this coordination?

MS. NULAND:  Well, yesterday, you saw the very strong statement from Prime Minister Erdogan comparing Asad to Qadhafi and expressing Turkish frustration.  So Turkey has tried very hard to convince its neighbor to do the right thing and end the violence.  And unfortunately, Asad has not been listening.  So we see increasingly tough rhetoric from Turkey, and the expectation is that that will also be matched by action if this bloodshed does not stop.

QUESTION:  Have you asked to join the international chorus for calling of stepping down against Syria regime from Turkey?

MS. NULAND:  We have been in constant contact with Turkey, and they will make their own national decisions.  We took these steps today.  They know what we are going to do, and they’ll make their own national decisions.  But I don’t think anybody can question that Turkey’s not happy either with what’s happening in Syria.

QUESTION:  Turkey has launched a cross-border operation yesterday on Northern Iraq against PKK.  It was an air assault.  Yesterday, you had said that was a hypothetical question.  Can I get your comment, if I may?

MS. NULAND:  The Turkish military, as you have said, we understand has conducted airstrikes both yesterday and today against PKK terrorists in Northern Iraq.  As you know, the United States recognizes the right of Turkey to defend itself against terrorist attacks.  Just in the last month, the PKK has killed more than three dozen Turkish security personnel.  We also support continued close cooperation between Iraq and Turkey in working to combat the PKK, which is a common enemy of Iraq, of Turkey, of the United States.

QUESTION:  It turns out, too, in ground operation, it’s still valid, this statement?

MS. NULAND:  You’re again taking me into hypothetical places.  That was a good effort, though.  That was a good effort.

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