Friday, July 29, 2016

US Spox: We still are deeply concerned by these reports

DPB #134
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2016
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Qs & As on Turkey 

QUESTION: Turkey? 
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: A Turkish prosecutor prepared an indictment regarding the failed coup, and it says that the indictment says that the CIA and the FBI trained Gulen followers. This is not the first time Turkish officials are trying to tie the U.S. to the coup attempt. I know that you said that the accusations are ludicrous, but they are constant. I wonder, how does this constant flow of accusations affect cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey?
MR KIRBY: There’s no change in the cooperation with Turkey, particularly when it comes to their support for the counter-Daesh operations. As I think our military has spoken to, the operations at Incirlik have resumed to a normal level. So I’m not aware of any practical, tangible impact on our bilateral cooperation with respect to Daesh, but again, I would just say what I said yesterday: Any accusation, claim, allegation, or suspicion that the United States was in any way involved in this coup attempt is utterly false and inaccurate.

QUESTION: Sir, James Clapper said seemed to have said the opposite of what you just said. He said that the purge in the military is harming cooperation with Turkey, especially regarding operations against ISIL. He said many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested, there’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with Turkey. Now, how serious is that? What you’re saying seems to be conflicting what he said.
MR KIRBY: Well, your question was has there been any impact, and my answer to that is no. To date, there’s been no impact on Turkey’s cooperation and membership and participation as a member of the coalition against Daesh. And I would also point you to what Turkish officials have said themselves to us bilaterally, but even publicly, that there’s not going to be any negative developments as a result of their efforts to investigate and get to the bottom of this coup on their willingness and ability to continue to support coalition operations. And again, thus far, there haven’t been.
I’m not in the predicting business and so I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals or speculation about where this goes forward. But thus far, as you and I are sitting here talking, there’s been no practical impact.

QUESTION: Turkey – in response to General Votel’s expressing concerns about the purge in the military, President Erdogan has just accused him of siding with coup plotters and said, quote/unquote, “Know your place.” Do you think Turkey has crossed the line in the friendship that you often talk about? And is there a line that Turkey can cross?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’ve seen those comments. I think you saw that General Votel himself put out a statement just not long ago making it clear that he wasn’t at all siding with coup plotters. As a matter of fact, as you know, our government has condemned that coup attempt very clearly and very consistently. And I’m also not going to react to every bit of rhetoric out there that seems to come every day. Turkey is a NATO ally, they are a friend, and they are a partner an important partner, especially in the efforts to counter Daesh in Syria. And that partnership continues. And they themselves have committed to continuing that partnership and that’s where our focus is going to be going forward.

QUESTION: That rhetoric seems to be having an impact on the ground in Turkey. Just earlier this week, thousands of people marched onto the Incirlik Air Base chanting anti-American slogans. Are you concerned about the safety of U.S. personnel in Turkey and the safety of nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base?
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to the latter one way or the other. As to the former, we are always concerned about the safety and security of U.S. personnel, be they military or civilian, certainly those that work inside our embassies and facilities. I mean, that’s something we’re always concerned about, and not long ago, a couple weeks ago, you and I, we were all talking about steps that we were taking to try to help better ensure that safety and security right inside Turkey because of the terrorist threat. Now, I’ve seen the reports of the protest activity. We – above so many others, we value freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the Turkish people have that right. That’s a democratic principle that’s enshrined in their own constitution. They have that right. And they have and they certainly have the right to express their views one way or another.
If you’re asking me, as a result of that protest, did that elevate our concerns, I’m not aware that it did. As far as I have seen, it was a peaceful assembly of people expressing their views and did not pose a threat to American personnel or our equipment or facilities.

QUESTION: But are you worried that the accusations and the rhetoric that Turkish officials are putting out there may incite violence against U.S. personnel in Turkey?
MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we certainly don’t want to see any rhetoric enflame tensions or lead to or encourage violence. And I can assure you that we are in constant communication with Turkish authorities and have been since the coup attempt to talk to them about what they’re doing and how it’s going. Our ambassador remains engaged every day, but obviously, it’s not – we certainly wouldn’t want to see anything, be it through words or actions, that could put any innocent people in harm’s way – not just Americans, but any innocent individuals in Turkey in harm’s way. 

QUESTION: On Turkey, Turkish justice minister and foreign minister said that they have credible information that Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, may run away from U.S. I was wondering if you shared a similar concern.
MR KIRBY: I have no information one way or the other about that, and I’d – and that’s really not a matter for the State Department to speak to.

QUESTION: And I was also wondering if U.S. taking any security measures to make sure such thing will not happen.
MR KIRBY: Again, that is not a matter for the State Department to discuss. That’s really a matter for the Justice Department to speak to, and I won’t comment further on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in the extradition treaty – and I think it’s in Article 10 – it says in cases of urgency, if in this case, if Turkey gets suspected of such thing, U.S. needs to arrest the person for 90 days before the extradition. So it involves the State Department and the Justice Department, so I was wondering if any steps on the security of Gulen to make sure that he won’t run away is taken on --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything further to add to that. Those are questions that really should be directed to the Justice Department and law enforcement authorities. As I said, we are in receipt of some material. The Justice Department is still analyzing that material, and that and again, the whole process of extradition can be a fairly lengthy legal process, and we’re going to respect that process. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more to say.
QUESTION: Follow-up from yesterday, I think. You were asked about 130 media organizations being shut down in Turkey, and you said that you are seeking to get more information about those shutdown media groups organizations. And today 20 of 21 journalists detained in recent days sent the prosecutor ask them to be arrested just today. So it seems like the journalist, most of them, will be arrested, it looks like. I was wondering if you have any comment on that.

MR KIRBY: We still are deeply concerned by these reports and we’re still trying to gather more information. As I said in my previous answer, our ambassador remains daily engaged with his counterparts, as you might think he would.
And again, let me just reiterate again that the United States supports freedom of expression around the world, and we have talked many, many times here in this room about our concerns over freedom of expression and of free press in Turkey. Those concerns remain today. And when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value, it is of concern to us. And again, we continue to express that.

QUESTION: Turkey. 
QUESTION: I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the story about the so-called Traitors’ Cemetery outside Istanbul. According to our story, which is based which includes reference to local media reports as well, at least one Turkish military officer who is accused of involvement in the coup was buried in this cemetery, which, as I understand it, is marked Traitors’ Cemetery and by the government. And he was denied or was not given the normal religious rites that would accompany such a burial. Do you regard that as a violation of his or his family’s rights or religious freedom?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, obviously and we had a conference here in just the last couple of days about the importance of human rights, religious minorities and that was obviously for religious minorities. But I mean, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of worship remains a universal value that we obviously hold in very high regard. So broadly speaking, we always want to be able to see particularly in democracies we want to be able to see that those rights, that those freedoms are respected.
Now, I’ve seen a press report same as you, Arshad, and I’ve only seen a press report, and nothing beyond this article which I was able to read before coming down here. As I understand it in these very early minutes here after seeing this story that this was a municipal decision, and I think best right now to refer you to the Government of Turkey for more information about this particular decision which is, again, we understand at this early hour, was made at the municipal level.
We are, like you, trying to gain a little bit better clarity about this and what it actually means.

QUESTION: Can I just one follow-up. When following the killing of Usama bin Ladin, the U.S. Government made very clear that it had chosen to conduct his burial at sea in accordance with Muslim traditions. That was clearly a very deliberate decision even towards someone that the United States held responsible for the killing of 3,000 people on 9/11. Do you think that, as a general principle, people should be – if it is their or their family’s wish, should be – or even in
this case if it’s not – I mean, I doubt you consulted the bin Ladin family, although maybe you did do you think that people should be accorded the normal religious rituals?

MR KIRBY: To be laid to rest in accordance with their religious practices? 
MR KIRBY: Absolutely we do, sure. Sure we do. And you were right; that was a very sharp example but obviously a famous example of how we observe that ourselves. And of course, as a general principle, as I said, in keeping with our belief in the freedom of worship, we believe that individuals should be accorded those customs, those traditions, those rites, to be laid to rest in keeping with the same practices by which they worshiped when they were alive.

QUESTION: And then last one from me on Turkey. Turkish officials today, I believe, said that something like 50,000 people have been Turkish citizens have been deprived of their passports following the coup attempt. This is a broader question, but it goes to the fundamental question of and I know you guys have said, look, they deserve to be able to get to the bottom of this.
On the other hand, when thousands and thousands, or in this case, tens of thousands of people are being affected, for example, by losing their ability to travel outside the country, does that not raise concerns in the United States about Turkey’s ability over the long term to maintain a democratically run and cohesive society? Or do you see any risk that the elimination of or the dismissal of the academics and the incarceration of journalists and the dismissals of civil servants and judges and so on is going to rend the sort of fabric of the society and just make its divisions even deeper over time?
MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly don’t want to see that. As we’ve said many times, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally; their democracy matters to us. That is why we’ve been so forthright in recent weeks about press freedoms, for instance. So that is absolutely not an outcome that we would like to see.
But again, we note that this was a serious coup attempt that, though failed, was had a measure of organization to it and execution to it that would alarm any government so threatened. And we understand their need to try to get to the bottom of this and to try to figure out what happened and to be able to put in place measures so that it can’t happen again. I think any government would be in their rights to do that.
We’re watching this very closely, as we’ve said. We’ve also been very honest with our friends in Turkey about our concerns, about the importance of rule of law and due process, as they go about this investigation. I think we’re loathe to make a judgment or a characterization on each and every decision that’s being made, but I can assure you that we remain in close touch with our counterparts in Turkey as they are being made and as this process moves forward, and we’re going to stay committed to doing just that.

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable to you – I mean, I understand you don’t want to make judgment on each and every thing, but the way you’re talking, it sounds like it’s conceivable to you that it’s perfectly reasonable to pull 50,000 people – I mean, 50,000, that’s like a small city, certainly a very big town – that it’s conceivable, that it’s entirely within – reasonable to pull that many people’s passports as they’re investigating this.
MR KIRBY: That’s not what I said and I’m not making – again, I’m not going to make judgments or characterizations on each and every decision that they’re making. We have been very honest and candid about our concerns with respect to rule of law and due process. Those concerns remain as valid today as they did when we first expressed them, and we will continue to monitor events closely and to stay in close touch with Turkish counterparts. But I’m – as I have before, I’m going to avoid making either lump-sum characterizations or individual characterizations of each and every decision.

QUESTION: Just one question, a follow-up, if I may. You have been talking about these rights universal rights, fundamental rights but Turkey suspended European Convention of Human Rights. And so far, these days, the official authorities don’t need to even bring charges to detain anyone, which, right now, what’s going on, journalists are being detained without giving any reason or any evidence, and they stay at least 30 days because of state of emergency. So your citation or reference doesn’t really matter for Turkey, looks like.
MR KIRBY: Well, I think you’d have to ask Turkish officials that question. Nothing’s changed about our views. I don’t – but the decisions they’re making, they should speak to. 

No comments: