Thursday, June 23, 2016

US: we see absolutely no reason to remove terorist designation of Al Nusra

US on Erol Önderoğlu Arrest

QUESTION:  So on Monday, Erol Onderoglu, the longtime Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey, was detained.  He’s now, I understand, being charged with terrorist propaganda, allegedly because he covered protests against the closure of a newspaper, which comes under his remit as a Reporters Sans Frontieres representative.  Obviously he’s been involved in all of these cases before that you commented on.  Does the U.S. Government have any views on the detention and charging of --
MR KIRBY:  Yeah – no, we certainly do.  We’ve seen the reports.  Again, this appears to be just a continuation of a troubling trend that we’ve seen in Turkey to discourage legitimate discourse and freedom of expression, freedom of the press.  And again, as we’ve said, as Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the authorities there to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in the Turkish constitution, which includes freedom of speech.  In a democratic society, we believe that critical opinions should be encouraged, not silenced.  We believe democracies become stronger, not weaker, by allowing the expression of diverse voices within society and the actions and the work and the important efforts of independent journalists.

US: are there foreign fighters and material across Turkey-Syria?  Absolutely,
QUESTION:  And Turkey-related – I’m sorry – the Russians called on Turkey to – again to close its border with Syria.  Do you have any comment on that?
MR KIRBY:  -- look, I’d say a couple of things.  The Turkish Government should be given credit for efforts that they have made to try to get a better handle on the border with Syria.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is there still a flow of foreign fighters and material across that?  Absolutely, and we know that.  And we’re working closely with Turkey to try to help them get a better handle on it.  But they have made efforts and they are working at it and they are mindful of that.  And as we have said before, that border – there’s – they have legitimate security concerns because of that border.  And they are hosting hundreds of thousands --
QUESTION:  Refugees.
MR KIRBY:  -- of Syrian refugees and doing the best they can with it.  So it’s not a philosophical exercise for them.  They’re mindful of the challenges on that border, and we believe that they’re working hard at the challenge.

QUESTION:  Some months back there was talk of about 98 kilometers of the border that was quite porous and so on.  Is there any update on closing these holes in the border and so on?
MR KIRBY:  That was predominantly what I was speaking about, was that 98 kilometers which has remained problematic.  And I think Brett McGurk spoke to this a week or so ago in a briefing at the White House, that they are – that they’re working hard on that.  It’s – nobody is saying it’s a complete success, but everybody is mindful of that stretch and the importance of it, and we believe the situation is improving.
Yeah.  I’m sure you’re going to be on Turkey, too.  Yeah, go ahead.

US: we see absolutely no reason to remove terorist designation of Al Nusra
QUESTION:  On Turkey.  Thank you.  One Turkey-Syria and then only Turkey:  President Erdogan has been talking about the al-Nusrah group in Syria, and he has repeated several times – not once, not twice – that al-Nusrah is fighting with ISIS whatever they got, so why would you call them terrorist organization?  Do you have a comment on that?
MR KIRBY:  Fighting with or fighting against?
QUESTION:  ISIS – against, sorry.
MR KIRBY:  They are a UN-designated terrorist group.  And the U.S. would consider them a terrorist group, and we see absolutely no reason to remove that designation or to treat them in any other way.  And they are not party to the cessation of hostilities.
QUESTION:  Okay.  In Turkey, just three journalist got arrested three days ago for only because taking part with the newsroom of a critical newspaper.  I was wondering if you have comment on this new arrest.  They have been still in jails right now.
MR KIRBY:  I did – I already commented on that before you came in.

QUESTION:  I’m sorry.

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