DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 40
THURSDAY, MARCH 10, 2016
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
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.