My Qs and As w/State Dept Spox Psaki on Turkey & Syria
November 19, Tuesday, Washington
QUESTION: Yesterday’s meetings, after Foreign Minister Davutoglu met, he said that about Chinese missile defense that --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- he stated that U.S. is not troubled at all by this. This discussion was part of the discussions, but he said that there is no trouble, basically. Would you be able to confirm on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can convey that during his visit – as you know, they discussed a range of issues and had a lengthy press avail yesterday. But Secretary Kerry reiterated our concerns and the importance of procuring a NATO interoperable system, which has long been a concern we’ve expressed to Turkey. And that was how he conveyed it during the meeting yesterday.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Davutoglu also said that these discussions regarding the Chinese missile defense system started in 2009. This is quote: “For four years, nobody raised any concerns. Nobody said this is not good for NATO.” Would you – I mean, he’s – basically is that you have been quiet for years, and after Turkey makes its decision --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d have to check on that. It’s hard to believe we wouldn’t have concerns about an agreement with a – on a system, a potential agreement on a system that’s not interoperable with NATO and with a company that has U.S. sanctions against it. So – but in terms of the timing, I don’t have any details on that.
QUESTION: This question was asked before as well, but under the latest circumstances it looks like the Syrian regime, the Assad regime, has been taking many towns and cities, especially at least six, seven cities in Aleppo or towns in Aleppo and also western Damascus, and these fights in the western Damascus mostly led by Hezbollah fighters. Under latest circumstances, last couple of weeks, given the regime’s taking many towns, would you now confirm that the Assad regime is indeed gaining ground and the balance of power on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about this a bit in the past. I’m not in any position to give a battleground update from the podium. Obviously, we’ve said – and the Secretary has said – that there would be ups and downs on the ground game. This is one of the reasons why we’re pressing so hard to move towards a political resolution, towards a Geneva conference to be the vehicle for doing that. But beyond that, I don’t have any independent confirmation of specific towns or success on the battlefield.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry also said that his main game plan basically on Syria to make sure that Assad knows he won’t be able to win on the ground, on the battleground. And after almost a year, would you be able to confirm that basically U.S. policy over Syria within the last year has failed?
MS. PSAKI: No, I would not.
Do we have any more on Syria?
QUESTION: How it is that? I mean, the goal was stated very clearly by Secretary. A year later now, we are seeing opposite effect. How is that you can argue it is not a failed --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary wasn’t even the Secretary a year ago. But I’m happy --
QUESTION: Almost a year ago.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I’m happy to look at what comments you’re referring to. Obviously, he’s made many comments on Syria. One that’s most common, I should say, is that we – there’s no military solution on either side. That’s why we need to have a political solution, and that’s what our focus is on.
QUESTION: Well, maybe the question is best asked this way: The Secretary, when he came in 10 months ago, or almost 11 months ago, said that the goal was to get – was to change Assad’s calculation.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you believe that you have changed or that the policy has changed President Assad’s calculation?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, Matt --
QUESTION: Not yet.
MS. PSAKI: -- this is a complicated situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Well, that’s the answer to his question then.
MS. PSAKI: It’s – we remain committed to working toward it.
QUESTION: But – so it has not yet changed the calculation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Assad is still in power --
MS. PSAKI: -- I think we all know.