DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 13
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016
My Qs & As w Briefer Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson
US Has Serious Concerns About Turkey's Commitment to Democracy
QUESTION: Indictment of -- Can Dundar and the Ankara rep Erdem Gul revealed. And the indictment is asking two times the prison [life] – in prison and plus 30 years in prison. What’s your take on this indictment?
MR TONER: Well, I mean, we’re obviously very troubled by the reports. You’re talking about Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar – Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, as you said, seeking life imprisonment. We said before the extraordinarily harsh criminal charges, pretrial arrest, and now the prosecution’s call for life sentences raise serious concerns about Turkey’s commitment to fundamental principles of freedom of expression, of democracy, of due process, and judicial independence. So we call on Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals, all organizations, including but not limited to the media, are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism in accordance with Turkey’s constitutional guarantees of media freedom.
QUESTION: Just one more on that.
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: Apparently, those journalists – everybody can be tried, including journalists, it’s obvious, but these journalists are in jail while they are asking for life imprisonment. And also Vice President Biden seen one of Can Dundar’s family when he was there (with his son) and he said that your father is a courageous man. So right after Vice President left Turkey this indictment and asking for imprisonment, is there another additional angle you see right after Vice President left Turkey and meeting with the family and same people are rotting in jail?
MR TONER: Yeah. I would hope not. We obviously have very – as I said, Turkey’s a NATO ally. It’s a democracy. It’s a friend. It’s a partner. We have these kinds of conversations with Turkey about the quality of its democracy and we’re going to continue to raise these kinds of issues as we move forward. We’re not going to shy away from that – those kinds of discussions. So I would hope there’s no link.
Why American and Turkish Officials not taking questions from the press?
QUESTION: Another question, the question many Turkish journalists are asking: Why the American officials, when they are together with the Turkish officials, for a number of years now, are not taking questions from the press?
MR TONER: Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. I don’t really know that – what decisions were made or – in terms of his press availability. A lot of that comes down to simple logistics, whether he’s – whether he or any official has the time to do a press availability when they’re on the ground in any given country. So I can’t speak to the details of the Vice President’s trip. I know with Secretary Kerry, we always try to carve out some time to do media availabilities. Sometimes those are shorter than other times, but we always try to work that in in some respect.
QUESTION: A number of European countries, but particularly Denmark, just passed a law which allows Danish authorities to seize valuables from migrants. I think there are similar laws not as rigid as this one. Do you have any position on this kind of laws?
MR TONER: I mean, really – you’re talking about the Danish law?
MR TONER: I mean, I would refer you to the Danish authorities. I mean, there’s a number of things that countries in Europe – number of steps that these European countries are taking to deal with the influx of refugees and the impact that that’s having on the economy, on other aspects of life in these countries. It’s been an enormous – extraordinary, if you will – surge of refugees coming into Europe. I think what we’ve said all along is in dealing with this surge of – influx of – immigrants, rather, or migrants – refugees, rather; excuse me – refugees into Europe, that there needs to be a comprehensive approach to dealing with it, that all the countries that are dealing with this influx need to agree on how they’re going to deal with that and come up with a way to treat these refugees, many of whom are fleeing violence, fleeing persecution, in a way that is systematic but also humane and takes into consideration the dire circumstances that they’re both fleeing and then oftentimes landing into in these countries.
US Supports PYD is not participating Geneva Talks
QUESTION: The main Kurdish party in Syria, why hasn’t – why haven’t they been invited? What is your take on that?
MR TONER: So these were invitations that were issued by Staffan de Mistura. I’d refer you to him and to his party – or his group that – to the UN for the rationale behind who they invited. Obviously, there was a vetting, there was a meeting in Saudi Arabia for choosing the members of the HNC. I can say that in general, Kurds have been included in this entire process. They were represented in last month’s opposition conference in Riyadh, in fact, where some 115, 116 participants did establish the HNC. So I’m not sure – are you speaking specifically about --
QUESTION: PYD. I mean, the Kurds in general, but they are the largest party --
MR TONER: PYD. No, I understand. So the UN hasn’t announced its list of invitees or those extended in an advisory role, but our understanding is that the PYD will not be participating in the – in this week’s talks.
QUESTION: Your position as the U.S. Government, do --
MR TONER: It’s not our position. It’s – I’m just saying it’s our understanding.
MR TONER: That’s my understanding at this point.
QUESTION: Do you believe they should have been invited? The Russians say they should be invited. Lavrov himself said that without the PYD, there will not be a, quote-un-quote, definitive resolution for the conflict in Syria.
MR TONER: Yeah, and I’ll just say that I understand there’s differing views and differing opinions on their inclusion or exclusion from the process. I’d just say we stand by the HNC, its current composition, and the choice by Staffan de Mistura to invite additional representatives also to participate in this process. We stand by the process thus far, how it’s chosen who represents the Syrian opposition.