Monday, March 28, 2016

US: regrettable that Turkey closed journalists trial to public or media

DPB # 51
MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016

Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs and As w Spoox Kirby: 

QUESTION:  Turkey?
MR KIRBY:  Just once when I call on you I would love to hear you say something other than that.  Is that gonna happen?
QUESTION:  I hope.
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  One day.  (Laughter.)
So for few --
QUESTION:  Mozambique.  (Laughter.)
QUESTION:  For few days --
MR KIRBY:  And then ask a question about Turkey.

US: such a ridiculous claim and charge that I’m not going to dignify it with an answer.

QUESTION:  For few days in Turkey, media known to be close to current government have been accusing U.S. Government for attempting to overthrow Erdogan government.  These allegations and claims have been voiced by at least half a dozen newspapers and dozens of other reportings.  My question to you:  Does the U.S. Government --
MR KIRBY:  Are we trying to overthrow the Government of Turkey?  Is that your question?
QUESTION:  -- try to overthrow the Erdogan government?
MR KIRBY:  It is such a ridiculous claim and charge that I’m not going to dignify it with an answer.
QUESTION:  Fact that these are the media known – like Soviet’s Pravda – is very close to Erdogan government, there is no way the editorial can be run without President Erdogan and the government’s knowledge.  How do you comment with a ally country’s – this kind of allegations to another ally country?
MR KIRBY:  I’m not sure I understand what allegation you’re talking about.  The allegation that --
QUESTION:  That overthrowing --
MR KIRBY:  -- because they’re run by the government, they have to editorialize pro-government comments or the allegation that we are trying to overthrow the Erdogan government?
QUESTION:  These allegations of overthrowing Erdogan government coming directly from the media very close to the President Erdogan, who’s supposed to be here tomorrow or the other day.
MR KIRBY:  I don’t care who it’s coming from.  It’s ridiculous and it doesn’t merit a response by the United States of America.
Back here.

QUESTION:  Just one more.  I am so sorry, just one more.
MR KIRBY:  This one’s on Mozambique, though, right?

QUESTION:  Next time, hopefully.  Over the weekend – last Friday about 10 diplomatic missions visited journalist trial on Friday --
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  -- including, I believe, American diplomat there --
MR KIRBY:  Yes, that’s right.
QUESTION:  -- and the President Erdogan have been basically saying that this is not your business.  Would you comment on that?  Do you stand by by your diplomatic -

US on Can Dündar & Erdem Gül case: we regret that this case is now being tried in the public - in private without the public or media or diplomatic access.

MR KIRBY:  Yes, and there were U.S. representatives at the opening of this particular trial.  And that’s completely in keeping with standard diplomatic practice – to observe and report on political, judicial, and other developments in host countries.  This was not only not the first time, but it darn sure won’t be the last time that we observe these kinds of judicial proceedings. 
Personally, we regret that this case is now being tried in the public --
QUESTION:  Closed.
MR KIRBY:  I’m sorry, in private without the public or media or diplomatic access.  So that’s regrettable.  And number three, and you’ve heard me say this before, we continue to urge the Turkish Government to abide by its commitments enshrined in its own constitution to the fundamental principles of democracy, including due process, judicial independence, and freedom of expression, including freedom of the press.
Okay.  Yeah, you had one on Turkey back there?
MR KIRBY:  Both of you guys?
QUESTION:  Oh, I don’t know.
QUESTION:  No, I don’t.  My question will be on Iraq.
MR KIRBY:  Oh.  Well, then I’m not going to go to you now.
Go ahead.
QUESTION:  Thank you. 
MR KIRBY:  I’m waiting for Mozambique.

QUESTION:  So Turkish President Erdogan will be in D.C. this week and President Obama has no plans on a one-on-one meeting.  From the State Department point of view, has the relation with Turkey changed since his last visit to D.C. in 2013?
MR KIRBY:  Well, I think the short answer to your question is no, but I mean, I’m not aware of back in 2013 how we characterized it.  Look, they’re a NATO ally, a strong partner in the counter-Daesh coalition.  And in about 12 minutes, I’m going to have to get upstairs because the Turkish foreign minister is going to be here for a bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry.  This is a very important bilateral relationship to us.  We take it very, very seriously as we know the Turks do as well.  There is an awful lot to talk about.  We’ve talked before that we don’t always agree on everything; media freedom is one of them.  But that’s the strength of a healthy relationship when you can disagree and still have productive discussions about the things that you – that are common threats and challenges, such as terrorism, such as Daesh.  So we look   forward to the discussions going forward.
QUESTION:  And how about the way they’re handling the situation with the Kurdish separatists?  How is the U.S. regarding that? 
MR KIRBY:  The Turkish separatists?
MR KIRBY:  You mean – are you talking about the Kurdish fighters on the other side of the --
MR KIRBY:  Look, there’s no doubt we’re going to talk about the situation in Syria and about that stretch of border that continues to provide an avenue for foreign fighters and supplies to get to Daesh across their border.  But obviously, the Turks have concerns about this and we continue to look forward to having discussions with them and engage with them on those concerns.  I mean, we – we understand there’s – they still have those concerns.  Our view, and I’ve said this as recently as last week – we don’t accept semi-autonomous, self-declared zones inside Syria.  That’s not going to change.  But we’ll see how the meeting goes and I’ll certainly give you a readout after it’s over, but this is not a new topic of discussion.  It’s not a new issue – area of concern by Turkish authorities, and we look forward to continuing to have a dialogue with them.

Friday, March 18, 2016

White House calls on Turkey not to interfere w editorial operations of media outlets

  March 17, 2016


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

    My Qs and As w White House Spox Josh Eanest

Q    Thank you.  On Turkey, Josh, you talked about Turkey last week as well.  And just today, after you talked about Zaman newspaper, the biggest newspaper seized.  Today, there’s an indictment at the second best-selling newspaper’s owner, now ask for 23 years of jail sentence.  My first question -- I’ve got two questions -- my first question is, do you think NATO ally, U.S. friend, is, under President Obama’s watch, losing its democratic character?

     MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me start by saying that Turkey is a NATO ally, and the United States takes our obligations to our NATO allies seriously.  And the nation of Turkey in the last several weeks has been plagued by terrorist activity, including violence perpetrated by terrorists against innocent civilians.  And the United States stands with our NATO ally in Turkey as they confront those terrorists.  We also stand with them as they assert their right to defend themselves.  And we have also found it effective and valuable to our counter-ISIL effort to be able to draw upon the important contributions that Turkey has made.

     Turkey has made progress in sealing the border between Turkey and Syria.  That has had a tangible impact on the ability of ISIL to move foreign fighters from around the world to Syria.  So that’s a positive thing.  We have also secured an agreement from Turkey to allow the United States and coalition aircraft to use military facilities and airbases inside of Turkey to more efficiently and more effectively carry out military operations against ISIL targets in Syria.  All of that is positive and important.  At the same time, the United States continues to be troubled by the Turkish government’s use of appointed trustees to shut down or interfere with the editorial operations of media outlets that are sometimes critical to government.  Court-ordered supervision of a media company’s finances and operations should not prompt changes to the newsroom or to a news organization’s editorial policies.  We call on the Turkish government to ensure full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.  And in a democratic society, critical opinions should be encouraged, not silenced. 

     So we urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold the universal, democratic values enshrined in Turkey’s constitution, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press.

     Q    And one more.  You just talked about freedom of speech.  There is a petition signed by 1,100 academics in Turkey, including some of the U.S. -- dissidents from U.S. as well.  And now hundreds of these academics are under trial.  Some of them got fired, suspended.  And 700 or 600 of them are under investigation just because they signed the letter.  So my question is, since President Erdogan is scheduled to come to Washington, D.C. -- I think it’s not confirmed -- if he comes, or if in Ankara, do you think the U.S. needs to raise these human rights issues with Ankara more forcefully, considering we know that President Obama did not raise these issues in recent meetings in Antalya or Paris?

     MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me just say generally that the Obama administration has followed in the footsteps of previous administrations here in the United States of advocating for universal human rights around the world.  And President Obama routinely, in his meetings with leaders around the world, continues to impress upon those leaders how much of a priority we place on respecting basic universal human rights, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.  These are priorities for the United States both in terms of them being closely held values here at home, but also in terms of the way that we advocate for those values around the world.

     So in our conversations across the government, with our Turkish counterparts, it is not at all uncommon for us to continue to advocate for those values and continue to urge the Turkish government to do a better job of respecting those basic human rights. 

     Now, we have frequent conversations with the Turkish government because we are able to effectively coordinate with them on a range of issues, particularly issues that are critical to U.S. national security.  And we value that coordination and our ability to cooperate with the Turks, particularly when it comes to our counter-ISIL cooperation.  But that does not in any way lessen our commitment to standing up for the kinds of universal human rights that we believe should be protected not just here in the United States but around the world, particularly inside the borders of some of our closest allie''

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

US Spox is out of words on Turkey: "I don't know what to add"

DPB # 44
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson 

My Qs & As with US Spox

QUESTION:  Mark, there was a letter signed in Turkey by academicians about two months ago, and you talk about it then here.
MR TONER:  Yeah, I remember.
QUESTION:  And now today or yesterday, three of those academics got arrested for signing this petition, but it looks like numbers shows about thousand academics, 1,100 of them signed the letter and about hundreds – 471 of them under investigation; 156 of them under legal investigation.  There are terminations, suspensions, resignations.  So there is a clearly witch hunt against them just because they signed this petition.  I wanted to ask if you have any comment on this.
MR TONER:  Well, I would just – sure.  I just would say we see these actions as part of a troubling trend in Turkey whereby official bodies, law enforcement and judicial authorities, are being used to discourage legitimate political discourse.  And in any democratic society, when critical opinions should be encouraged – or, rather, critical opinions should be encouraged and definitely not silenced.  So we would just urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions, as we’ve said many times of late, uphold universal democratic values and are in our – that are enshrined, rather, in Turkey’s constitution.

Same Talking Points on Turkey for months..
QUESTION:  So this talking point has been the same talking points over two months.  I don’t think there is a single new word in this.  And while hundreds of academics --
MR TONER:  Being rather harsh.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I am pretty sure.  And hundreds of hundreds of academics are getting arrested, and Mr. Erdogan just today said basically that columnists, or journalists, or anyone should be also tried under the terrorism charges for their writings and all that.  Clearly, he advocates for new terror legislation, which he can easily do, his government, probably within next few days. 
And finally, today, there’s a Chris Stevenson – he is a British academic who also – about to deported because couple of Nowruz invitations --
MR TONER:  I’m not aware of that, but --

US Spox Mark Toner: I don't know what to add..

QUESTION:  -- found in his bag.
MR TONER:  Look, I’m not aware of that latest report, but I don't know what to add other than to say we have concerns about this climate, if you will, whereby legitimate, critical voices, editors, academics, what have you, are being discouraged from engaging in public discourse.  It’s troubling.  We raise it with Turkey.
QUESTION:  Mr. Erdogan’s coming to Washington, D.C.  He’s planned, scheduled to come in two weeks.
MR TONER:  That’s right, for the – yeah.
QUESTION:  I think there is no meeting scheduled yet, but do you think that these issues should be raised with him when he’s in – he will be in town?

No confirmation yet for Erdogan's Washington visit
MR TONER:  Well, again, without even confirmation that he’s actually coming, and certainly recognizing that he’d be meeting at the White House and meeting with the President, I don’t want to speak to what the agenda might be, except to say that we talk about a wide range of issues with Turkey, and we don’t shy away from discussing human rights, certainly with our close partners and allies.
QUESTION:  Are you sure he’d get a meeting at the White House if he did come?
MR TONER:  I’m not sure.  I really don’t want to speak to – I just don’t have clarity on that.
In the back, sir.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

US Spox Gets Angry on PKK question: I’m not even going to dignify the charge

Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Spox: I’m not even going to dignify the charge
QUESTION:  The message warned Americans to stay away from the – from Ankara’s center due to potential terrorist attack.
MR KIRBY:  Right.
QUESTION:  The notice issued by your embassy widely criticized by the people in Turkey.  Even some of them said that the U.S. Government is on the side of the PKK, the militants.  So could you please clarify that?   Did the embassy run this notice without getting information, intelligence from Turkish officials?  Did they get the information from Turks?
MR KIRBY:  I’ve heard this interesting little rumor.  Let me just put a fork in it right now.  The information that we shared with the public about the concerns – the security concerns we had –  which is our obligation; we have to do that – was received by Turkish authorities.  I mean, it was because we have a good information sharing arrangement with Turkey that allowed us to issue this warning.  So Turkish authorities very much were a source for this kind of information.  And I’m not even going to dignify the charge that the United States is in any way cooperating or assisting or condoning the actions of groups like the PKK, which we’ve said before is a Foreign Terrorist Organization.  It is absolutely ridiculous.
QUESTION:  So the Turks usually share in information all the time with you – with the embassy?
MR KIRBY:  We have – look, you can understand I’m not going to get into a great amount of detail about the sharing of information and intelligence.  What I can tell you is in this case the information that we – that permitted us to provide that notice was information that came from, obviously, many sources, but the Turkish authorities helped us develop the information we needed to issue that warning.  And it’s good that we did.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.

What do you think it says about the atmosphere in Turkey
QUESTION:  What do you think it says about the atmosphere in Turkey that pro-government newspapers and commentators would leap to conspiracy theories like the one you just tried to shoot down?
QUESTION:  This is, after all, a NATO ally of yours.
MR KIRBY:  It is.  And they still are. 
MR KIRBY:  And it’s a relationship that remains strong in the face of these sorts of threats, as the warning itself proved.
QUESTION:  Well, does it?  Does it?  We’ve talked about – you’ve talked about in here the harsh criticism of Ambassador Bass.
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.  Yeah.
QUESTION:  And now this kind of thing. 
KIRBY: I’m not saying it’s not a – I’m not saying it isn’t an uncomplicated or that it isn’t --
QUESTION:  Well, is it a relationship in trouble?
KIRBY: No, it’s not a relationship in trouble.
KIRBY: No. Look, they’re a close --
QUESTION:  The Turkish Government is closing down newspapers, seizing newspapers that appear to be fomenting rumors that the United States is in cahoots with PKK and conducting terrorist attacks in the capital --KIRBY: Well --
QUESTION:  -- based on the fact that you put out a warning.  And they’re going after your ambassador.  How is it not a relationship in trouble?
KIRBY: I’m trying to – as you run through that, I’m trying to figure out how you’re coming to the conclusion that it is. I mean, we are NATO allies.
KIRBY: We are friends and partners. We are not going to agree on everything, Matt.  And when we don’t, we’re open and honest about it.  And as I said, the criticism of Ambassador Bass was unwarranted and undeserved.  Turkey has no better friend than Ambassador Bass.  We’re not going to see eye-to-eye with them on everything, but it doesn’t mean that the relationship is invalid or deteriorating or diminishing.  It means that we’ve got some friction points.  And what’s healthy about the relationship is that we’re able to share our concerns about that.  We may never come to agreement on some of these issues.  We recognize that.  But it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to – that we’re going to stop raising them.  And that we can do that, that we can have those tough discussions and dialogue is the sign of a relationship that is, at its core, healthy.
QUESTION: Can I have some clarification on this issue, on Turkey and NATO?  Because I believe I heard last week in this room that membership in NATO is conditioned on democracy.  Is it?  Is it conditioned on a country being democratic?
  1. KIRBY: It’s – yeah, it’s a democratically based alliance.
QUESTION:  Wasn’t Turkey a member of NATO when it was actually governed by a military junta?
  1. KIRBY: I don't know the history, Said.
QUESTION:  Well --
  1. KIRBY: I don’t. I don’t.
QUESTION:  Turkey --
  1. KIRBY: You’re missing the larger point here.
  1. KIRBY: Okay. You’re missing the larger point.
KIRBY: Turkey is an important ally and a friend. And as I said before, when we were talking about press freedom, their democracy matters to us.  The health of their democracy matters to us.  Their constitution enshrines certain democratic principles, to include free speech and freedom of the press and free and peaceful protest.  And we want to see Turkey succeed.  We want to see the Turkish people enjoy all those basic freedoms enshrined in their constitution.  And when we see indications that that’s not happening or that those principles are at risk, we raise it.  We raise it privately; Ambassador Bass does.  And we raise it publicly here from this podium.  And we’re going to continue to do that.

US: not seen the reports that this individual crossed the border into Syria and got training
QUESTION:  Also the Turkish minister of internal affairs today identified that this – the suicide attacker was a woman who has joined the PKK in 2013.  So according to ministry’s new statement – official statement, she crossed into the Syria and got some training from the PYD.  I know your explanation many times from this podium towards the PYD, but after this – the official statements by Turks, is it going to change your view or still you’re going to consider PYD as a helpful organization, helping the fighting with Daesh?
KIRBY: I have not seen the reports that this individual crossed the border into Syria and got training. I haven’t seen the ministry of interior’s comments, so I can’t verify the veracity of them.  The PKK is a Foreign Terrorist Organization.  We regard it as a terrorist group.  We’ve continually called on the PKK to cease attacks against Turkish citizens, to cease terrorism period, but in this case particularly against Turkish citizens.  And they continue to do that.  And we’ve also said that the Turkish Government, like any sovereign government, has a right to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks.  In so doing, we’ve also called on Turkey to do so observing their international obligations, international law, and to do it with a sense of precision so that further civilian causalities are not suffered as a result.  But we recognize the threat that the PKK continues to pose to the people of Turkey. 
Now there are many groups in Syria that are effective at fighting Daesh.  And some of these groups are Kurdish – not all of them, but some of them are.  And the support that they get as they prosecute the fight against Daesh continues largely on a military front from the use – the support of air power, coalition air power.  That’s really the gist of it.  We’ve – we have been clear and consistent that the fighting inside Syria, the military line of effort, is to be used against Daesh.  That was – that’s the focus of coalition air power.   When the Pentagon had a train and equip program in place, it was to train and equip opposition groups to fight Daesh.  That’s – that has been the effort inside Syria and it will continue to be.

Monday, March 14, 2016

White House Spox Explain why Obama called Erdogan 'failure' and 'authoritarian'


Aboard Air Force One
March 11, 2016
En Route Austin, Texas 
  Q I want to ask about two different things in the story. The first is President Erdogan.  President Obama’s opinion of him is -- President Obama reportedly believes that he is a failure, authoritarian, and hadn’t done enough militarily to intervene in their neighbor, Syria.  Is that an accurate kind of representation of the President’s view and what he conveyed in those interviews?
MR. EARNEST:  Let me just say that what our view of Turkey has been is that we did spend some period of time urging the Turks to engage more effectively with our counter-ISIL coalition. And over the last nine months or so, that’s what they’ve done.  We have seen the Turks give access to the United States and our partners to military facilities inside of Turkey that has made military operations against ISIL in Syria more efficient and more effective.  We have seen the Turks take specific steps to more effectively seal off their border between Turkey and Syria.  Now, there’s more work that we’d like to see them do, but there’s no denying that they have made important progress in sealing off the border.
Turkey has also borne a significant burden when it comes to Syrian migrants fleeing violence in their country.  And we have certainly been appreciative of all that the Turks have done to try to meet the needs of those people.  And the United States has provided the Turks significant financial assistance to do that.  And we have made the case that Turkey should take these steps because of the obvious national security consequences for Turkey. All this instability along their border is destabilizing and not good for the country.  
So they had their own interests for intervening, and we made clear that we would stand by our NATO ally as they did it.  We have done that.  And that has served the interests of Turkey, it’s served the interests of the United States, and it served the interests of our counter-ISIL coalition quite effectively.
Q So is it fair to read from your silence that you don’t dispute the notion that President Obama sees President Erdogan as a failed authoritarian?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, what is also true is, even though we had been able to effectively cooperate with the Turks when it comes to Syria and a whole host of areas, we also have expressed our concern with some aspects of the political climate inside of Turkey.  There are some ways in which we feel the Turkey government has not been sufficiently supportive of universal human rights -- the kind of human rights that we obviously deeply value here in the United States and that we advocate for around the world.
Let me give you one example.  Recently, the Turkish government announced essentially the takeover of Zaman newspaper in Turkey.  This is one of the largest media outlets inside of Turkey and it has essentially been taken over by the government. Here in the United States, we deeply value the freedom of the press -- in fact, that’s one of the main reasons we’re having this conversation right now -- and we are concerned when we see those kinds of values be so obviously trampled upon.  And we have not hesitated to speak out when we see it, and we have not hesitated to speak out in those instances in Turkey where it’s clear it’s happening.

Friday, March 11, 2016

US Spox Toner confirms Goldberg's interview on Erdogan

DPB # 40
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson 

My questions on Jeffrey Goldberg's interview on Erdogan

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mark.  Today there was an interview on Atlantic by President Obama, and in part of the interview President Obama is talking about Turkey and Mr. Erdogan.  And he is saying, apparently, that President Obama now considers him failure and authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria.  Is there any way you can talk about it?  Was this the expectation, for Turkey to use its army within the Syria or – some context on this?
MR TONER:  Sure.  First of all, I’m aware of the, frankly, very wide-ranging interview that you’re talking about that touched on a broad range of issues, but notably Syria and the situation there and our work with our partners and allies in the region to address some of the challenges posed by Syria.  I’m not going to speak to what the President said or didn’t say in that other than to say that we have been very clear that we will continue to work closely with Turkey on how to address the situation in Syria, both the civil that we now have a cessation of hostilities in but also the counter-Daesh effort.  That is a complex – difficult, sometimes – discussion that we have with Turkey where we differ on various pieces of the strategy.  That said, Turkey’s done a number of – or taken a number of steps, including providing refuge to over a million Syrian refugees, also providing the use of its – of the air force base in Incirlik for close-in air support for the coalition forces to bring to those groups fighting Daesh in northern Syria. 
So I’m not going to speak to the specific quotes other than to say that we remain committed to working closely with Turkey on this issue and on any other issue.  NATO is – Turkey is a close partner, NATO ally, it’s a democracy.  We want to see that democracy continue to be strengthened, and we’re going to work closely with Turkey going forward.

QUESTION:  One final question on same quote.
MR TONER:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  Apparently, President Obama also calls Erdogan authoritarian.  Lately, Washington Post editorial was calling Erdogan despot, despotic behavior.  Do you consider – as a government, do you consider President Erdogan now more of a authoritarian leader rather than democratic leader?  Does he still qualify as a democratic leader right now?
MR TONER:  (Coughing.)  Excuse me.  So I think we’ve been pretty clear in our assessment or our concern and expressing our concern about some of the steps not necessarily by President Erdogan, but that the Turkish Government, Turkish authorities have taken against, for example, the media, but other groups that we believe runs counter to Turkey’s own democratic constitution and democratic standards and norms.  And so as a close partner, as an ally, we are ready to have those conversations with Turkey about how to strengthen its democratic processes, its democratic institutions.  We believe strongly in Turkey as a vibrant democracy and that extends to its leadership as well.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Painful Remarks on Turkey by US Spox J.Kirby

DPB # 37
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson 

Turkey portion:

QUESTION:  John, is it still – is it still the Administration or the United States position that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy?
MR KIRBY:  Is it still the feeling of the United States Government?
QUESTION:  Yeah.  That hasn’t changed, right?
MR KIRBY:  Right.
QUESTION:  Okay.  It’s still --
MR KIRBY:  I’m kind of wondering where this is going.
QUESTION:  It’s still – I know.  Well, you won’t.  You’ll know in a second.  It is still a criteria or a requirement that members of NATO are democracies; is it not?
MR KIRBY:  I’m not aware of any change to that. 
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  So given those two positions have not changed – stances, I’m wondering what you can – what you make of the seizure of Turkey’s largest newspaper, opposition newspaper --
MR KIRBY:  I talked about this --
QUESTION:  -- and what you have to say about the status of democracy there.
MR KIRBY:  I talked about this quite a bit on Friday.  I’d refer you to the transcript back then rather than have me go through all the same points.
QUESTION:  Okay.  Are you --
MR KIRBY:  I was very clear about our concern about the move to trusteeship over this – over Zaman, which is what I think you’re talking about.
MR KIRBY:  And the court case that led to that decision for trusteeship.  We were very, very explicit on that.  And as I said Friday and I’ll say it again today, Turkey’s democracy still matters to us and we want to see – for the sake of the Turkish people, we want to see the Turkish Government continue to live up to the values enshrined in its own constitution – its own constitution, not just ours – about press freedom. 

QUESTION:  So where I’m also going with this is there was over the weekend a lot of very harsh criticism lobbed at the ambassador.
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.
QUESTION:  Do you have anything to say about that?

Utmost Faith, trust and confidence in Ambassador Bass
MR KIRBY:  I would – I saw that criticism.  And let me just state unequivocally that – well, a couple of things.  First of all, the President and the Secretary have and have had the utmost faith, trust, and confidence in Ambassador Bass and the work that he’s doing out there, and he has the full support – the full support – of Secretary Kerry as he continues to engage the Turkish Government with respect to this particular issue – well, all issues, but this one in particular that you’re asking about.
Number two, I would say that the Turkish people have no better friend than the one they have in John Bass.  He really cares about Turkey and Turkey’s success and their future and the Turkish people.  And that’s why he speaks out on issues like this when it’s important to do so.  And again, I would just reiterate he continues to have the full support and confidence of Secretary Kerry and the President.
QUESTION:  So what do you make of this very harsh and vitriolic criticism?
MR KIRBY:  Well, it’s unwarranted.  It’s certainly undeserved.  And it is at the very least incredibly unfortunate given the fact that the ambassador is so dedicated to furthering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
QUESTION:  And I wasn’t here on Friday, but did you speak then, when talking about the seizure of the – the takeover of the newspaper, about what this tells you about the state of democracy in Turkey?  Did you speak to that?  You say that it still matters and you still care about it.
MR KIRBY:  Well, as I said --
QUESTION:  But do you see this as an erosion?
MR KIRBY:  I’m not ready to say that we’ve got some sort of trend analysis here.  But – but --
QUESTION:  Really?  
QUESTION:  How is it not an erosion?
QUESTION:  Has the trend – the trend --
QUESTION:  You talked about the trend on Friday.
MR KIRBY:  I know.  See, when I --
QUESTION:  Only the --
MR KIRBY:  When I say “but,” that means I have more to say in my sentence --
QUESTION:  Go ahead.

Trend is not in a positive direction
MR KIRBY:  -- and you just have to let me finish it.  But we do continue to be concerned about these ongoing reports.  And I mean, I’m – obviously, the trend is not in a positive direction in terms of press freedoms in Turkey.  And that is worrisome, and that’s why we continue to talk about this.
QUESTION:  One of the things you said on Friday was that the administrative takeover shouldn’t lead to any newsroom changes.  Obviously, in the edition of Zaman that’s come out since then, you’re very prominent on the front page.  Oh, that’s an old picture.  But – you look very young.  Obviously, there has been a change in newsroom policy, so the – I mean, the trend since your Friday, it’s been downhill since then.

US: Certainly we are worried about where things are going 
MR KIRBY:  Yeah, yeah, as I said, I mean, we are certainly worried about where things are going with respect to press freedoms in Turkey.
QUESTION:  Are you also worried that Turkey is not paying any attention to your worries?
MR KIRBY:  I’m sorry?
QUESTION:  Are you also worried that Turkey is not paying attention to your worries?
QUESTION:  Well, they’re paying attention (inaudible).  (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY:  What I would --
QUESTION:  But they’re rejecting your worries.

US: Turkey making decisions contradict directly democratic principles
MR KIRBY:  Well, clearly they continue to make decisions – regardless of our pleas and the pleas of others in the international community, they continue to make decisions that are in – that contradict directly democratic principles that are enshrined in their own constitution, and press freedom is one of them.  And they continue to ignore their own obligations – again, under their own constitution.  So if you’re asking me, does that concern us, does that worry us, the answer is absolutely yes.  And that is why Ambassador Bass has been vocal about it and honest about it and candid about it, as he should be, with Turkish leaders.  And I think we’ll – we will continue to be so. 
As I said, yes, Turkey is a NATO ally, and Turkey is a key partner and a friend on many levels and on many issues, not the least of which is the fight against Daesh in Syria in particular.  And we’re not going to see eye to eye with them on everything.  We clearly don’t agree with the decisions that they’ve been making with respect to press freedoms.  And we believe it’s important, particularly with one’s friends, to be able to state honestly and baldly our concerns.

Turkish-US friendship over? 
QUESTION:  But with all friends there’s a point where the friendship’s over, and an alliance of democracies is only an alliance of democracies if the members --
MR KIRBY:  I don’t think that’s – I don’t think that’s in anybody’s interests; certainly not – it’s not in our --
QUESTION:  But is it --
MR KIRBY:  -- interests, it’s not in Turkey’s interests, and that’s not what we want to see as an outcome.  What we want to see --
QUESTION:  (Inaudible) --
MR KIRBY:  What Ambassador Bass wants to see is Turkey succeed and Turkey live up to those democratic principles.  I mean, this isn’t about – this isn’t about picking on them over one issue that we don’t like.  Yeah, we don’t like it when newspapers are shut down or reporters are muzzled or trusteeships are established which change clearly what will be or what could be the editorial content of what should be an independent journalist – arm of journalism in Turkey.  But that doesn’t mean that it has to tear asunder an entire bilateral relationship, nor do we think it will.  And though we absolutely don’t agree with what’s going on there with respect to press freedoms, we still are able and want to be able to continue to have conversations with the Turks not just about this, but about a whole range of other issues.
QUESTION:  And you don’t regard the latest in the long series of troubling attacks on the press – I may not have gotten the phrasing exactly right, but steps against the press that took place on Friday in the takeover of Zaman – as constituting an erosion of democracy in Turkey?

US: Trend is going in the wrong direction
MR KIRBY:  Let me put it this way, Arshad:  As I said, it is a trend that is going in the wrong direction, no doubt about that.  I mean, how many times do I get up here and have to say the same thing about press freedoms in Turkey?  So it’s certainly not going in the right direction.  But what I would say is the trend as it is now, the actions as they are being taken, are doing nothing to contribute to free, democratic principles in Turkey – the same free, democratic principles that, as I said before, are enshrined in their constitution.  None of this is contributing to that goal.
QUESTION:  But that does not --
MR KIRBY:  Go ahead.

US: critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced
QUESTION:  Follow-up on same issue.  Thank you.  First, would you – after a couple of days later, would you condemn this act of the government taking over the paper?  And second, would you call on Turkish Government to return the newspaper to the journalists?
MR KIRBY:  I said it last week; I’ll say it again.  We remain deeply troubled by the government’s use of appointed trustees to shut down or interfere with the editorial operations of media outlets that are critical of the government.  Court-ordered supervision of a media company’s finances and operations should not prompt changes to the newsroom or editorial policy, and we call, as we’ve called on before, the Turkish Government to ensure the full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.  In a democratic society, critical opinion should be encouraged, not silenced.  We urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values, as I said, enshrined in their own constitution, which includes freedom of speech, assembly, and of course, the press.

US: Magnitsky Act for Turkey?
QUESTION:  If the government has not returned, like the other groups that you mentioned on Friday – basically, they run the media groups to the ground and shut down – would you consider taking actions such as Magnitsky Act, like against Russia, seizure of these media groups being run by other pro-government journalists?  And actually a year or later, even U.S. Government forgets about it and the officials go on and give interviews, as we have seen from the current U.S. ambassador in Ankara recently, last year.  So my question again:  Would you consider taking action that kind of sanctions against those who involved with this seizure of the media groups?
MR KIRBY:  I won’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made one way or the other with respect to that.  I just won’t get ahead of it.