DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 211
MONDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2015
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson
My Qs and As w Spox Kirby
TURKEY - RUSSIA
QUESTION: On Turkey-Russia question over Syria, it looks like the President Putin continues to issue threats to Turkey, latest is Russia banned Turkish jets within Syrian airspace. What’s your view? It has been a month since the Turks shot down the Russian jets. Do you think steps need to be taken or de-escalation? Do you have any comments?
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen those latest remarks. What I would tell you is our position hasn’t changed since the shoot-down that we want to see the tensions reduced, obviously. And we – while certainly – like I said, we respect Turkey’s right to protect its airspace. We want to see the tensions there nonetheless brought down between Turkey and Russia and would, as we said before, urge both sides to work on de-confliction measures.
PYD - SYRIA - RUSSIA - TURKEY
QUESTION: On the northern Syria again, these 98 kilometers that has been talk about between the Jarabulus and the Afrin, do you – it looks like the Russians are now helping Syrian Kurds. There are reports that Syrian Kurds may take – start launch assault on ISIS place, or the other Syrian opposition groups. Do you have any update on that particular area?
MR KIRBY: No. I would point you to Russian officials to talk to what they’re doing militarily inside Syria. As I said earlier, we continue to see the bulk of their military activity be against opposition groups and not against ISIL. But in terms of whatever support they claim they’re giving to Syrian Kurds, I think they would have to speak to that.
QUESTION: Do you have any issue with Syrian Kurds taking over that particular area instead of other Syrian opposition groups?
MR KIRBY: Instead of other Syrian opposition groups?
QUESTION: Yes, or Turkey’s --
MR KIRBY: For us, the cooperation that we are giving to Syrian groups, be they Turkoman, Christian, Arab, or Kurds, is about continuing to degrade and destroy ISIL. It’s ISIL’s control over areas that we’re focused on. And we want Syria – this is why there’s a political process going on – we want all of Syria – a unified, whole Syria – to be governed by a legitimate and a responsive and responsible government in Damascus. And that’s not the case right now. That’s why the Secretary is so focused on this diplomatic front. But our focus in terms of territory governance, it’s to take it away from ISIL and then work politically to get a government in Damascus that can adequately, sufficiently govern it for all Syrians. Okay?
QUESTION: So Syrian Kurds can take over that place? You wouldn’t have any issue with that?
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that at all, sir. I said our focus is on taking away the area and the territory that ISIL has inside Syria so that, as the political process moves forward, you have a government in Damascus that can govern and legislate for a whole, unified Syria in Damascus.
TURKEY - SEAST, CIZRE CURFEW
QUESTION: On Turkey this time. Turkey’s own southeast Kurdish region have been – have seen increasing – the situation is escalating within Turkey’s own southeast region, with the Kurdish region, such as Cizre or other places under the curfew. Do you have – or do you monitor the situation?
MR KIRBY: The curfew?
QUESTION: Yes. Several towns under curfew right now.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. We’ve seen those reports. What I would say is we hope to see a renewed commitment to the political process by the Turkish Government and the PKK to bring about a just and sustainable peace for all Turkish citizens. While we understand Turkey needs to take security measures, it should also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and to act consistently with its legal obligations. And I’d refer you to Turkish authorities for more details about it.
PRESS FREEDOM TURKEY
QUESTION: And the press freedom issue in Turkey, it looks like over three dozen or about three dozen journalists are still detained. And it looks like especially in Kurdish areas, many of the Kurdish journalists recently have been detained. The – one of the Vice reporters have been in jail over, I think, about three months, over three months. Editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily and other newspapers’ journalists are still in jail. Have you had a chance to talk to Turkish Government recently? Are you --
MR KIRBY: We routinely – we routinely express our concerns about freedom of expression and protection of journalism in Turkey, as I’ve said many, many times. We look to the Government of Turkey to ensure that law enforcement and judicial authorities act in accordance with international legal standards, including full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.