Thursday, July 28, 2016

US is deeply concerned by the reports 130 media organizations are shut down

DPB # 133
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Turkey Qs & As

QUESTION: Yes. A couple questions. Ambassador Bass is quoted by the Turkish media in a speech as saying that Gulen was responsible for the coup. So is that accurate? Also, Turkish Government officials are quoted, saying that if Gulen is not extradited it will have a serious impact on U.S.-Turkish relations. What is the response to that?
MR KIRBY: Well, first, the answer to your first question is no, he didn’t give a speech and he never said that. On the answer – in the answer to the second question, look, we’ve been very consistent here in everything we’ve said about Mr. Gulen and any potential for extradition, that that kind of a decision would have to be evidence-based; it would have to be properly processed the way it is supposed to in coordination between the State Department and the Justice Department. As I have indicated earlier, we are in receipt of some material, and that material is being analyzed right now. I don’t have an update for you, and I wouldn’t get ahead of what is and can be a fairly lengthy legal process.

QUESTION: Since your comment yesterday characterizing Turkey, we now have official confirmation that more than 130 Turkish media organizations have been shut down. Is that question was asked yesterday, I think, by Arshad or somebody. Do you still consider Turkey a democracy, considering the thousands of people in detention, tens of thousands of suspects, and the arrests of journalists and 130 to 150 media organizations being shut down?
MR KIRBY: Well, let me just address the media piece of that. We’re obviously deeply concerned by the reports and we’re seeking additional information from Turkish authorities. As you well know and as I’ve said many, many times from the podium, the United States supports freedom of expression around the world. And we have concerns when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value. We expect Turkish authorities to uphold their assurances that the Turkish Government will protect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: The Turkish officials also suggesting that Erdogan, the Turkish president, wants to put the military under his direct control, not have it as a separate entity. Would the U.S. be supportive of such a move, which would require a change in the constitution, or does this raise more concerns about his ability to wield power and to control more facets of the Turkish Government?
MR KIRBY: We’ve talked at length, Ros, about what’s going on in Turkey. We’ve condemned the failed coup. We’ve made clear that we understand the Turkish Government has a right and a responsibility, quite frankly, to their citizens to get to the bottom of this, to investigate it, and to hold those responsible for the coup to account.
The President and Secretary Kerry have also, of course, stressed the importance to their Turkish counterparts of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law throughout this process. I’ve
said that I’m not going to make it a habit from this podium of responding and reacting to every single decision. We’ve seen this in press reporting same as you, and I would leave it to Turkish authorities to describe the motives behind it.
But obviously, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally. Their democracy matters to us. Their success as a democracy matters to us. And so as a friend and an ally, we’re going to continue to stay in close touch with Turkish authorities as they work through this.

QUESTION: Quick two questions on Turkey.
MR KIRBY: I’m guessing your question’s also on this.
QUESTION: Yes. Earlier, Turkish administration announced that they will send justice minister and interior minister here for the extradition process. Do you know if that visit is still happening, or --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any updates on their – to give you, and I would point you to Turkish leaders to talk about their travel.

QUESTION: And the last one. There are still a lot of conspiracy theories or theories regarding U.S. involvement, despite the fact that --
MR KIRBY: About U.S. what?
QUESTION: U.S. involvement in the coup attempt. There are still a lot of stories every day, headlines in Turkey. Do you think that the government Turkish Government is doing to counter these messages, or do you think the why do you think these blames and accusations are still continuing?
MR KIRBY: Well, I couldn’t possibly begin to know the answer to that question. The people propagating the false rumors are the ones to ask. Obviously, we had no involvement in this, and any suggestion otherwise is ludicrous. But why such a rumor would still be propagated or still be able to find purchase over there, I couldn’t begin to guess. We are not only an ally to Turkey, we’re a friend, we’re a partner, and Turkey remains a member of the coalition to counter Daesh. And we value that partnership, and as we’ve said all along, we’re going to continue to look for ways to deepen and strengthen it going forward.

QUESTION: President Erdogan is going to Moscow next week, and there are a lot of opinion pieces and speculations that Turkey’s getting closer to Russia and there may be some tensions increasing between the U.S. and Turkey, as earlier question mentioned. Do you have any comment on Turkey’s getting closer to Russia, whether --
MR KIRBY: Look, I mean, as a sovereign nation, Turkey has every right to pursue bilateral relations that it believes are important and to improve and strengthen those bilateral relations that it chooses to improve and strengthen. So I’m not – we’re not in – wouldn’t be in a position to comment or qualify one way or another President Erdogan’s travel or his discussion with foreign leaders. That’s his right and responsibility; that’s the right and responsibility of a sovereign nation.
What matters to us is both a bilateral and multilateral relationship that we have with Turkey: multilateral through NATO, multilateral through the coalition to counter Daesh; and, of course, the bilateral relationship that we have. And look, we’ve been nothing but honest and open and forthright with you right here in this briefing room about issues and things that happen in Turkey that concern us. We’ve also been open, candid, and forthright with Turkish leaders about those same issues, as well as – and this often doesn’t get attention by you guys – but the all the many ways in which we see eye to eye with Turkey on many things and the things that we try to work together on and try to advance, and there’s a lot of those too. I understand that doesn’t make headlines, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening even today as Turkey works through the aftermath of this coup, because operations against Daesh continue. Operations against Daesh out of Incirlik continue.
So there’s – as there always is in a consequential bilateral relationship like the one we have with Turkey, there is a wide menu, an agenda of issues, to talk with them about. That’s certainly no less true in fact, more true, I suppose, if you want to look at it that way, in the wake of this coup attempt. And that’s why Ambassador Bass is working so hard to continue the communication and the dialogue and to improve the mutual understanding that he has with his counterparts there in Ankara.

QUESTION: John, following up on that, there was a message put out by the U.S. consulate saying that there are protesters marching towards the Incirlik demanding that it be closed. Is there any concern about what appears to be a growing march of protesters?
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen that report, Abbie, so I’m going to have to kind of go back and take a look at that. So without addressing a specific query about a protest march on Incirlik, let me just say that, again, we appreciate Turkish support for the coalition in terms of the use of the Incirlik Air Base for operations against Daesh in Syria. As I said, those operations continue, Turkish support continues, and Turkish leaders from President Erdogan right on down to the foreign minister in his conversations with Secretary Kerry made it very clear that there were not going to be negative developments in terms of those efforts as a result of this coup attempt. And with the exception of some temporary loss of power, which we talked about last week, they’ve been good to their word – that there hasn’t been a degradation in coalition use of Incirlik or Turkish support for that use of Incirlik against Daesh in Syria. So again, I just don’t know anything about this – the protests and I’d have to go find a little bit more out for you before I could answer specifically a question about that. 

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