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THE REGULAR STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING WITH JOHN KIRBY FS32X72 State Department Spokesman John Kirby - Briefing KIRBY: Hello everybody. I don't have anything to start with today. So we'll just get right to it. QUESTION: I think there's various questions regarding American citizens but I guess we'll get to them later. I wanted to ask first about this good ISIS report, the Institute for Science and International Security. Specifically on various changes that were made to the JCPOA by the Joint Commission.QUESTION: I gather you've had a chance to read it. Can I just ask you one, has there been any loosening to the low enriched uranium stock pile rule as written down in the agreement? KIRBY: No. QUESTION: No. So 300 kilograms that's defined in the agreement remains the stockpile limit for Iran and they have never crossed that? KIRBY: It does and yes they've never crossed that. QUESTION: So do you -- do you agree with the report and also I think there was (ph) a media report by Reuters that these amount to secret agreements that have changed the nature of the JCPOA in any way? KIRBY: No we wouldn't agree with that characterization at all. I think as many of you know, it's written right in the JCPOA which established the Joint Commission that the work of the Joint Commission would be confidential. Unless the Joint Commission decided otherwise and it's right there in the JCPOA itself. And it's designed that way. QUESTION: Do you consider -- and I'll let my colleague ask some follow-up questions. But did the LEU that's in the system as it were, do you not -- do you not count that as part of the stockpile? KIRBY: Well, what I would tell you is that -- that according to the JCPOA, Iran is limited to a stockpile of 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium that is usable for the making of fissile material or useable to -- to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon. And that limit hasn't changed; they've not exceeded that limit. And you know, beyond that I'm just not able to get into additional details. QUESTION: Why don't we step back a second and just ask, what is your broad reaction to this report? KIRBY: Well, we've read the report, we -- I've looked at is myself. What I can tell you is that Iran's nuclear commitments under the JCPOA have not changed. There's been no moving of the gold posts as it were. The Joint Commission has always been intended to address implementation issues when they arise. That's the whole purpose for it. And as I said, the work of the JC -- of the Joint Commission as stipulated in the agreement itself is to be confidential. I also would assert that the Joint Commission has not and will not loosen any of the commitments and has not provide any exceptions that would allow Iran to retain or process material in excess of its JCPOA limits that it could use in a breakout scenario.KIRBY: And as I think I answered in Brad's questions the notion which I've seen in the report mentioned several times, the beginning middle and end, that there was -- that there was some untowardness here about the confidentiality of the work of the joint commissions is not founded. And any suggestion to the contrary is just false and you can read it right in the JCPOA. QUESTION: Putting aside whether it would require an exemption from the English language to use an alleged word like untowardness, the question it seems to me, is if the work of the joint commission is by definition confidential, how then is appropriate oversight over the joint commission ever to be exercised by the U.S. Congress or any other interested party? KIRBY: Well, the Congress has been fully briefed on the JCPOA and has been -- and we have maintained the regular content with members of Congress about the work of the joint commission. QUESTION: In other words, to put it plainly, the joint commission has not provided any exemptions for Iran's requirements under the JCPOA or anything that could be construed as an exemption? That's your position? KIRBY: Well, OK you don't like the way I used untoward, I'm not going to quibble with you on what construes or who construes what. What I can tell you is, James, as I said in the past, and I'll be happy to repeat it. The joint commission has not and will not loosen those commitments and no loosening of the commitments that Iran is responsible for under the JCPOA. And it has not provided any exceptions that would allow Iran to retain or process material, in excess of its JCPOA limits, that it could use in a breakout scenario. And I will just remind you if you will allow me, that as you and I sit here today, that breakout timeline is about a year long. And before the JCPOA, we were talking about a few months. QUESTION: Have there been any briefings to members of Congress on the work of the joint commission? KIRBY: Yes, as I said. The Congress has been kept informed and we have briefed... (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: You said on the JCPOA. KIRBY: No I did not. I said both. But I'll say it again, the administration has briefed Congress frequently and comprehensively on all the joint commission's work. QUESTION: When was the last such briefing? KIRBY: I'd have to get a date for you, I don't know. And I would also add that the members of Congress that continue to have questions and may have questions in light of this report, we are more than happy to continue to conduct those kinds of briefings. QUESTION: Last one from me. The White House issued a background statement to Fox News earlier today referring to the allegations in this report that have to do with Iran's production of heavy water and that statement noted that Iran had swiftly addressed its overproduction of heavy water and to the satisfaction of the IAEA. When was Iran not in compliance with its overproduction of heavy water? KIRBY: I think I addressed this back in March and I don't know the exact date but we were very open about it at the time and in fact I know I was from the podium that they had exceeded the -- I think it's 130 ton limit, the IAEA caught it and Iran corrected it. They corrected it fairly expeditiously. QUESTION: You know I don't want to play semantics with you but I am concerned that I ask you a question of whether or not the joint commission has enacted any exemptions for Iran or anything that a reasonable observer would conclude to be an exemption and by way of answers, you talk about the loosening of commitments. And so I just wondered if you could address my question on its own terms? KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about the specific work of the joint commission, James. I'm not going to do that. And I can't do that because by the agreement itself, it's confidential. I'm not going to get into it. QUESTION: So what permits you to - KIRBY: Now wait a second. I understand where you are going there. I'm not going to talk about it. But what I can assure you and everyone else is that there has been no loosening of Iran's commitments and there have been no exceptions given that would allow them to exceed the limits, whether it's the limits of LEU or the limits of heavy water, that would allow them to have a usable amount of material in excess of what they're supposed to have towards the production of fissile material. QUESTION: So if you can say there's been no loosening, and there's been no exceptions, what is it that prevents you from using the word "exemptions"? There have been no exemptions granted. KIRBY: The Joint Commission has provided guidance in implementing the JCPOA. That's what it's for. It's designed to do that. None of that guidance allows Iran to have more than 300 kilograms of LEU that it can use to enrich further and as the IAEA has said themselves, Iran is implementing on that commitment. QUESTION: Do you regard David ISIS as a reputable figure? KIRBY: David Albright? QUESTION: Excuse me, David Albright of the good ISIS. Do you regard David Albright as a reputable figure in this kind of analysis? KIRBY: I'm not going to characterize the - Mr. Albright can speak for his own work and we certainly respect his intelligence and respect the position that he holds. We certainly respect the work of ISIS. This isn't about - I'm not going to get into characterizing him one way or another. QUESTION: He's not some partisan foe of the Iran deal, correct? KIRBY: I don't know. You'd have to ask Mr. Albright what his views are about the Iran deal. I'm not going to characterize his own proclivities with respect the deal. QUESTION: Could we - I'd like to return to the exception exemption issue as James points out every time he asks you about exemptions and whether or not the Joint Commission has issued any exemptions, you say there's no loosening and they did not provide any exceptions. Can you tell us, well - not can you tell us - did they provide any exemptions? KIRBY: What I can tell you is the work of the Joint Commission is confidential and I'm not privy to it, as I shouldn't be, and even if I was, I wouldn't be at liberty to discuss it. What I can assure you is the same thing I assured your colleague of, is that there's been no loosening of the commitments. Iran has not and will not under the JCPOA be allowed to exceed the limits that are spelled out in the JCPOA. QUESTION: So just for the last time, you're not going to address the question or not exemptions were issued? KIRBY: I'm not going to address the work of the Joint Commission because I cannot address the work of the Joint Commission. QUESTION: Second - QUESTION: You're standing there and telling us there was no loosening, there were no exceptions made, so you are very materially discussing their work in those sentences, aren't you? KIRBY: I'm telling you what is not happening, which is Iran is not being permitted under JCPOA to exceed. Look I understand the wordplay here too, OK? And I get what you're trying to do. But I'm not going to speak for the work of the Joint Commission and deliberations that they have worked through in order to QUESTION: What I'm saying is -- KIRBY: -- make sure that they are properly supervising Iran and the JCPOA. QUESTION: But you expose yourself to this, John, because by telling us what is not happening, and here is x and y is not happening with the Joint Commission, and then declining to do so on the specific question we keep asking you, in essence you appear to be confirming that it is what is being done (ph). KIRBY: I don't think I'm exposing myself. I think I'm trying to do the best I can to answer your questions.KIRBY: And I think again, if I might, what's important here for people to remember is that Iran is meeting it's commitments of the JCPOA. Iran under this deal cannot possess a nuclear weapon, cannot threaten its neighbors with nuclear bombs. And the breakout as you and I talk here is one year. Before this deal it was a few months. Before this deal Iran had 12,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium. Now they have less than 300. That's the most important fact to remember about all of this, not whether or not I'm going to go into detail in describing for you, and getting into the definition of exceptions versus exemptions -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Consistent with your practices from the podium, John, I'm just trying to get you to be consistent -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I appreciate all the help I can, my mom also gives me great advice everyday. I'm telling you everything I can tell you and I am not able to go into the work (ph) of (ph) the commission (ph). QUESTION: I'd like to go back to the issue of the 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium. In JCPOA in point seven it explicitly states that Iran quote, "will keep its uranium stockpile under 300 kilograms of up to 3.67 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride or the equivalent in other chemical forms." The Albright report says that one of the exemptions that it says was in effect on implementation day allowed Iran to have more than 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium in the following forms - low level solid waste, low level liquid waste, sludge waste. KIRBY: I've seen the report, I've seen the report. QUESTION: Do you - can you state unequivocally that Iran never had more than 300 kilograms of LEU in uranium hexafluoride or any other chemical forms including the three that I just named. KIRBY: What I said and I'll say it again, Iran is allowed under the JCPOA to have no more than 300 kilograms of LEU in its stockpile. Material that it could enrich further if it were not for the JCPOA and they are not above that limit and they have not exceeded that limit of 300 kilograms of useable LEU which can be used to enrich further. They have not exceeded that limit. QUESTION: But the agreement says, and I just read it, it doesn't say useable. The word useable ain't in there. It's point seven. It's explicit in the agreement. It's in black and white, and it doesn't say useable. It says, "will keep its uranium stockpile under 300 kilograms of up to 3.67 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) or the equivalent in other chemical forms." No word, useable, in there. So that's the question, did it ever go above it? KIRBY: I answered the question Arshad (ph). Iran - QUESTION: You said useable, you didn't say that - which caveat it. It's quite possible they can go above 300 if it's not in useable forms. KIRBY: Iran has not exceeded its stockpile limit of 300 kilograms of LEU. QUESTION: Okay (ph), in any form? KIRBY: Do you want me to put the punctuation point on the end of that? QUESTION: I did. KIRBY: Oh, you did, OK. QUESTION: You asked if I did and I told you I... QUESTION: So that's - so that's in any form including those forms that Arshad's spelled out? KIRBY: Chase (ph), I've answered this question. I've answered the question. They have not exceeded the stockpile limit stipulated under JCPOA of 300 kilograms of LEU. QUESTION: Just in any form? (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I answered the question. QUESTION: When you say the JCPOA, you mean the original text of it, not anything that's been adumbrated or modified later, correct? KIRBY: I don't know that there's been any modifications later. The Joint Commission's work goes on as supervisory in terms of ensuring implementation but the text hasn't changed. QUESTION: The guidance that you referenced the joint commission providing on implementation, is that guidance conceivably of a nature that could be decisive in how the deal gets implemented in one respect or another? KIRBY: Well (ph), we (ph) -- QUESTION: Could it conceivably change the actual understanding (ph) of the original deal (ph)? KIRBY: The joint commission's job is not to change the text of the agreement. You can't -- you can't do that. It is designed to regularly consult and provide guidance on implementation, but it can't change -- it does not change the agreement itself. QUESTION: You know for -- QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE). QUESTION: You know for example that -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I don't know if you can, actually. I -- I'm not sure -- QUESTION: Okay. Go ahead. QUESTION: Quick -- yes (ph), I just wanted -- just to clarify, you said that Iran has not exceeded its limits on the POA. But are you saying at -- at no time have they exceeded it or you're saying that they're not exceeding it currently. KIRBY: No. I think Brad (ph) asked this. Since implementation day, they have not exceeded the 300 kilogram limit of LEU. Now, as I said, we did note and we were open about the fact that for a short period of time they exceeded the quantity of heavy water they were allowed to have and they corrected that. IAEA caught it, addressed it with them and they got it back to within limits. But as far as LEU is concerned, since implementation day they have been in compliance. QUESTION: Can I -- can I just ask this term you're using about usable for fissile material creation. What substances -- do you have like a codification of what forms are usable? Is this -- this was not agreed to in the JCPOA, where is this determination being made? KIRBY: I'm now a nuclear expert, Brad. QUESTION: Well you said it, not me. I mean -- KIRBY: I know I said it, but that -- QUESTION: -- so where is it coming from? KIRBY: -- doesn't make me an expert on nuclear energy. There are obviously forms of the material that are -- cannot be further enriched and made into fissile material for a bomb. That's -- as I understand it, that's a fact. QUESTION: And the U.S. and Iran are in agreement on these as well as the entire P5+1? KIRBY: I believe that this makes it very clear that the P5+1 is in agreement on the commitments that Iran must make. QUESTION: On the -- because you're using this term that's not in the document. I'm just trying to figure out how we can actually check that or understand what it means. If you say, some things are usable, but some things aren't, but I don't know which are which-- You -- you're supposed to -- that's not spelled out in the document. That seems to be a new idea here. KIRBY: I -- I -- it's not a new idea. I don't -- look, I don't -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Okay, then show me where it is if it's not a new idea. KIRBY: No. I'm not going to go through this with you at the press conference here on chapter and verse in here. QUESTION: You don't have too, he (ph) already did -- KIRBY: The point is -- the point is, that there is a limit of 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium that can be further enriched for fissile material to produce a nuclear bomb. That's the limit that they're allowed to possess. QUESTION: Well that's what -- KIRBY: They are -- they are -- they have not -- QUESTION: That is not the limit, he just read it out. KIRBY: They have -- QUESTION: It doesn't say that. You just changed it again. It does not say that in the agreement. This sentence that you just said does not exist in the JCPOA. You've (ph) just invented it. KIRBY: I -- I don't know how to address it any further, Brad (ph). QUESTION: For the -- for the joint commission -- QUESTION: Think about it after the -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: No. I'm not going to think about it, Brad (ph) -- QUESTION: Well you should. KIRBY: -- I've answered the question (ph) as best as I can.QUESTION: For the joint commission to issue its guidance, do the various members of that commission have to agree unanimously on that guidance? KIRBY: The work of the joint commission is very collaborative and the deliberations are, obviously, shared with all the members. And it is a -- their oversight duties are done as a acts of consensus, meaning, they deliberate and talk and come to conclusions amongst themselves. QUESTION: My concern about the guidance -- if I could make a rough analogy -- is that no judge here in the United States after the fact, can change the text of a law that is brought before the judge for interpretation. But the way the judge interprets the law can have a very significant impact on how that law is administered, correct? KIRBY: I don't know. I'd defer to your superior knowledge of the law. QUESTION: And so, perhaps the Joint Commission can't change the text or the agreement, but the guidance they issue can potentially have a very serious impact on how the implementation is actually administered, correct? KIRBY: It's a complicated agreement. I think it would be -- it would've been foolhardy to not set up a process by which the P5+1 could implement this very complicated agreement. There is a lot of good sense in having a commission to supervise -- provide guidance on implementation. But that doesn't change the fact that they can't change the agreement itself, and the tenets of it. QUESTION: John, just a big picture kind of question on this, I mean, part of the criticism here is that perhaps you feel as if Iran has -- you know, adhered to the spirit of the agreement. But the question is, are they adhering to the letter of the agreement in all it's points? And that some critics are charging that -- even if you feel that they're adhering -- that it's enough for them to adhere to the spirit of the agreement and you're willing to cut them some slack on a few kilometers here or a few kilometers there to make sure that they're adhering in general to the agreement. KIRBY: There's been no cutting of slack, Elise. And the IAEA has certified -- I'm aware of at least once, probably more than once, that Iran has been in full compliance of JCPOA commitments. Hopefully, they refer to it as the spirit of their commitments. They talk very explicitly about Iran being in compliance with it's commitments. And the Secretary himself has certified that to the congress. QUESTION: So this issue of what exactly constitutes -- you know, the low-enriched uranium that is -- that they are now allowed -- that they are only allowed to keep up to 300 kilograms, is kind of important. Because there have been -- you know through this process of negotiating this deal, there were these issues of Iran being able to change -- to convert this material to other forms, but that conversion process could be reversed? So when you -- I guess caveat or describe it as say, "300 kilograms of material that can be further enriched," I think we are all trying to understand whether there's other forms of LEU that they can -- low-enriched uranium that they can keep in some other kind of form that would be allowed. KIRBY: I'm simply not enough of a nuclear powered energy expert to address that specific question. What I can tell you is, is that the JCPOA has set the limit for low-enriched uranium to 300 kilograms. And that since implementation day, Iran has been in compliance with holding to that limit. And as I said, before the deal, they had 12,000 -- now they've got less than 300. They went from having a few months breakout time to a bomb to now having now have about a year --QUESTION: Moving -- KIRBY: And -- oh by the way -- -- oh by the way -- and this is something that we're I think forgetting -- that as a result of this, there is now in place the most stringent, strident inspection regimen ever put in place in a deal such as this on a nation that has nuclear power capabilities. The IAEA themselves, have said that they're comfortable with the access that they have, the information that they have, to make their certifications and thus far, they have made clear that Iran is in compliance. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) KIRBY: Sure. QUESTION: Do you have anything on the second (ph) please? KIRBY: I don't think we're done with this right now. Go ahead. QUESTION: Kenny Burgurga (ph) from The Guardian. What about these 19 extra hot cells that were bigger than the limits prescribed by the JCPOA. The significance being that you can separate plutonium at least, if you line up these hot cells together. KIRBY: Yes. Again, not an expert here but regarding hot cells and without getting into specific discussions which I'm not able to do, JCPOA specifically permits the possibility of larger hot cells approved by the Joint Commission. I quote right here from the JCPOA, "Iran will develop, acquire, build or operate hot cells with dimensions beyond 6 cubic meters in volume, and specifications set out in Annex 1 of the Additional Protocol, only after approval by the Joint Commission." So, if the Joint Commission approves larger hot cells, it's possible for them to have larger hot cells. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) KIRBY: I can not speak to -- as I said at the top of my answer to you, I'm not going to speak to specifics here, I can't. QUESTION: And on the question of the Joint Commission's (inaudible)... KIRBY: Around the what? QUESTION: On the question of confidentiality, can you explain the rationale for that confidentiality other than it's in the agreement? I know one of the virtues of JCPOA was that it was a public document. Is there a rationale why these -- this interpretation should be confidential? KIRBY: I'd say in general, diplomatic discussions are confidential in nature unless all the parties agree otherwise. QUESTION: Last question maybe (ph) taking this from a different approach, is it the position of the Department that Iran can only have been judged to be in compliance by Implementation Day by virtue of guidance that was in fact issued by the Joint Commission? KIRBY: Again, you're asking me about the deliberative discussions that I'm not privy to and I couldn't answer. What I can tell you is that since Implementation Day, they've been in compliance with the exception of that one time when there was an excess of heavy water. All right, we done with this? QUESTION: One follow-up on this. In -- I think it was Annex 4, not Annex 1- - where it describes in detail how it is that the Joint Commission can permit larger hot cells if it wishes. It also says that the Joint and it describes that the Joint Commissions deliberations and decisions are confidential, but it says that they can be made public. Why didn't the Joint Commission -- and I fully acknowledging that the under the agreement, it has the right to keep things confidential. Why not make its decisions public so that the public at large and the nuclear specialists community can understand precisely what is being decided and agreed to and permitted here?QUESTION: Why not make those things public -- KIRBY: Well, as I said, in diplomatic discussions, particularly multilateral diplomatic discussions, they're confidential in nature unless all of the parties agree otherwise. And the joint commission continues to work under the practice that these will be -- that these deliberations, these discussions, their work will be maintained at confidential. QUESTION: And has the United States government, as a member of the joint commission, believe that all such things should be confidential of (ph) its deliberations? KIRBY: I'm not going to speak for specific. QUESTION: I'm not asking anything specific, I'm just saying, do you think their deliberations should be confidential or not? I'm not asking you... KIRBY: We respect the consensus view of the joint commission of which we're a member, and that consensus view, thus far has been to keep their work confidential. QUESTION: So consensus as you know means unanimous. In diplomatic terms, every member of the joint commission has opposed making public its work? KIRBY: I'm not going to -- I don't know the answer. QUESTION: You just said consensus, that was a consensus position. The word consensus means everybody agrees to it. Does that -- I want to make sure you're saying something accurate here. That every member of the joint commission has decided it's better to keep its deliberations and decisions secret or if you're using the word consensus in some of other non-precise way? KIRBY: Arshad, don't insult me. And don't stand up there and try to lecture me on English, OK? Let's get beyond that, let's be grown-ups here. In diplomatic discussions, particularly multilateral ones, as I said, those discussions are confidential unless all parties agree otherwise. So the joint commission and I don't know who voted for what, and frankly it's irrelevant. The joint commission has decided to keep their work confidential as they are expected to do unless they choose otherwise in accordance with the JCPOA and that's where we are. And I understand that you may not appreciate that or may not like that but that's the decision of the joint commission and the information has been shared and briefed to members of Congress, as it has been shared and briefed to members of other legislative bodies in other members of the P5+1. QUESTION: In a classified setting, correct? KIRBY: As far as I know, yes. QUESTION: Yes, so it's not a consensus decision, it's not a unanimous decision, you can't say it was a unanimous decision? KIRBY: I do not know. I do not know. QUESTION: OK, fine thanks. KIRBY: I can tell you that again, they're confidential unless all other -- unless all parties agree otherwise. Are we off this? QUESTION: Yes, change this (ph)? KIRBY: Yes, go ahead. QUESTION: Do you have something (inaudible)? I read one news report about Al Arabiya English that he met the Egyptian president. Did he had any other official meetings in Delhi today? KIRBY: I don't know of any. He attended the senior staff meeting this morning by VTC and he's made some phone calls but I don't have a readout of that meeting. QUESTION: About 65 House lawmakers wrote to President Obama calling on him to withdraw his request for Congressional approval for more than $1 billion in arms sale to Saudi Arabia until Congress can more fully debate American military support for the Saudis. They cited increasing reports of civilian casualties in Yemen. I'm wondering if you're aware of this letter, are you in discussions with the White House about delaying the sale and is there concerns that U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia are increasingly being used in the war (ph)? KIRBY: I'm only recently aware of the letter, Elise and I can't, wouldn't speak to Congressional correspondents, certainly not that go said, to the president of the United States.KIRBY: That's really for my colleagues at the White House to speak to. What I can tell you is that Saudi Arabia remains a key ally and partner in the region. The United States continues to support a defense -- a strong defense and security relationship with Saudi Arabia. The secretary talked about this a little bit when we were in Jeddah a week or so ago. And -- and we obviously understand and share concerns by members of Congress about the damage to civilian infrastructure and to innocent civilian lives in Yemen as a result of Saudi-led coalition operations. And that is also something that the secretary raised with counterparts in Jeddah when we were there. But we -- but we will -- we will obviously respond to their concerns in kind, and that means responding appropriately to their correspondence. QUESTION: But particularly if there's a -- you know, concern about you know, civilian -- damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties, there must be also a concern that that could be being done in the hands of U.S. weapons. (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I can't speak to the specifics of every tactical strike or mission that the Saudis take and what equipment and material they're using. Obviously, we have a strong defense relationship with Saudi Arabia which results in foreign military sales of -- of quite a bit of articles of defense-related equipment. There's no question about that. And there are, as you well know, there are what we call end-use agreements on these kinds of things and we do -- we stipulate. And when we have concerns, we express those concerns. And we have had concerns with the -- the conduct of some coalition operations in Yemen and we've not been bashful about expressing those privately or publicly. And as I said, I can assure you that the secretary raised those concerns with Saudi leaders when we were in Jeddah. But this is, you know, we're aware of the concerns. Actually, we share some of those concerns. But I couldn't speak for the exact manner in which there will be or won't be any changes to the defense relationship. That's something that we have to work out. QUESTION: (inaudible) American citizens in various trouble around the world. I'll try to go through some of them quickly. KIRBY: Just going to have to give me time to move around in the book. QUESTION: Yes, that's fine. KIRBY: Because... QUESTION: Firstly, on these reports that the Kurds have returned some remains to the United States of three Americans who apparently were killed in the last two months. Can you confirm that and any other details? KIRBY: All I can say is I don't have anything more additional to what I said earlier. We -- we have been working to help facilitate the return of the reported remains of private U.S. citizens killed in Syria. We remain in close contact with local authorities and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. But I'm just afraid I don't have any more information at this time. QUESTION: And I've missed a couple days because I was away, but so if -- if there's no update on some of these from what you've already said, just tell me that. On the American citizen in Turkey who is in custody? Do you have an update on that? KIRBY: I don't, and I did talk about that individual yesterday. QUESTION: OK. And then on the individual Mr. Holt (ph) in Venezuela. KIRBY: No update. QUESTION: No update. And then on the... KIRBY: But we did address that. We can point you to the transcript. QUESTION: OK. And then there was the latest video of the Coleman family. Do you have a comment on that?KIRBY: All I can tell you is that we're still examining -- we're still examining that video and I don't have additional information on that case right now. QUESTION: So you -- you're checking its veracity and... KIRBY: Yeah, I mean we're examining it, as you would expect that -- that we would. (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Can you just do one more American citizen? Do you have anything new to say about Sandy Phan-Gillis? Her husband today said -- accused China of suppressing evidence that weakens its case. KIRBY: I don't really have much in terms of an update for you. We remain deeply concerned about Ms. Phan-Gillis's welfare. We continue to monitor her case closely. Consular officers from the consulate there have visited her on a monthly basis since she was detained back in March of last year. We have repeatedly pressed Chinese authorities to provide further details of the case and to give our consular officers full and unrestricted access to her as required by the Vienna Convention. We urge the government of China to review and consider seriously the views expressed by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, including its recommendation to release Ms. Phan-Gillis. QUESTION: (inaudible) not have anything else, but I've got to ask. Her husband has asked for President Obama to ask President Xi for her release. Obviously, that's a White House question, but to your knowledge has her husband asked the State Department or Secretary Kerry to directly seek her release? KIRBY: I'm not aware of any such request. QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: Yesterday you expressed concern for the results of the vote in Gabon. Since you expressed concern, the parliament has burned down. There's been 1,000 arrests. Opposition headquarters has been raided and Ban Ki Moon has called for the release of political prisoners. Have you got any update (inaudible) position? And are U.S. citizens in Libreville safe? KIRBY: Well, we've issued, as you might expect, our embassy in Libreville sent a security message out today to inform U.S. citizens of the widespread violent demonstrations throughout Gabon in the aftermath of the presidential election. The embassy urges Americans there to remain at home and off the streets. I don't have any information specifically about the welfare of individual Americans, obviously. QUESTION: Are you in touch with the government or the electoral commission about the (inaudible) results? I noticed in your statement yesterday you called for more transparency in polling station by polling station results. Obviously, you haven't received that. KIRBY: We are certainly in touch with the government of Gabon in the wake of the elections. And I do want to stress that we deplore the escalation of violence following the release of those results. It's provisional election results by the government. We urge all parties to come together peacefully at this critical time to halt the slide towards further unrest. We call upon the security forces to respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Gabonese citizens and of all residents of Gabon. The international community is watching these events closely and will consider appropriate actions going forward. QUESTION: The U.N. specifically asked for the release of some of the prisoners. Is that something the U.S. associates itself with here? KIRBY: I don't have -- I don't think we have a position on necessarily that. Obviously, we don't want to see -- we've been very clear, we don't want to see anybody illegally or unjustifiably detained. But I'm not familiar with this particular call. Clearly, we would want the release of anybody who was being illegally detained or jailed for freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, or being part of a political discourse. (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: More on Gabon? Let me stay on Gabon and then we'll come around. Go ahead. QUESTION: Does the United States agree with France or -- and E.U. by calling the results of election of all polling districts should be announced before an official winner is declared? And whether United States asked for a recount of the ballots? KIRBY: As I understand it, no permanent results have been declared. What was released yesterday were provisional results that still need to be certified by the Constitutional Accord. And as I said to Dave's answer, we are encouraging the government of Gabon to release the individual polling station of results. We are asking that the legal procedures for certification of the results be followed according to Gabonese law in a fair and transparent manner. QUESTION: But it doesn't mean that a recount will be asked? KIRBY: What we are asking for is that the legal procedures for certification be followed according to Gabonese law. QUESTION: Given the close cooperation between the United States and Gabon -- because in the effort to fight against terrorism, how will this election affect the future of cooperation? KIRBY: I think it's too soon to say. We are obviously closely watching this situation unfold. We have made our concerns known. We will continue to do that. And I'm not going to get ahead of any decisions on bilateral cooperation on way or another. North Korea? QUESTION: Thank you. QUESTION: Two on North Korea. I'll be fairly quickly. First, one of the world's most renown academic experts on North Korea, Dr. Bruce Bechtol of the Arizona State University (sic), has suggested that the recent ballistic missile testing by North Korea indicates -- or at least the weight of the evidence -- indicates that China may have supplied a submarine launched ballistic missile to the DPRK. Is that your understanding? KIRBY: James, I think you know the -- I'm not able to speak to intelligence matters here from the podium. QUESTION: Nothing further on that subject? KIRBY: I'm afraid not. QUESTION: And secondly, the South Korean Ambassador has given an interview to VOA in which he stated that, "further provocations by the North would lead the ROK to seek restrictions on North Korea's membership at the United Nations." Is the United States planning to seek any restrictions on North Korea's membership at the U.N.? KIRBY I haven't seen the interview of those comments. And I'm not aware of any such move or desire by the United States at this time. QUESTION: And lastly, wouldn't the provision of a submarine launched ballistic missile to North Korea violate relevant U.S. Security Council Resolutions? KIRBY: To the best to my knowledge, yes, but I'm not an expert on all of the resolutions. That certainly would seem to me to be -- be a, yes. Obviously, we've got in place pretty stringent -- more strident now in the last 20 years or so -- sanctions on the North and the kinds of things that they are able to procure or obtain. QUESTION: Allow me just to say for the record, and to take the liberty of speaking for Arshad, when I say that I think everyone in this room respects your intelligence and would never seek to lecture you on English or anything else. And that reflects not only your work in this room to date, but also you're entire career as a public servant. KIRBY: I appreciate that. Thank you. QUESTION: John, can I get one more on -- KIRBY: I've already gotten you -- QUESTION: Do you have any information about the U.S. citizen David Sneddon who reported disappeared in 2004 in China? There are some reports that he has disappeared in North Korea. KIRBY: Yes, the embassy in Beijing, and the consulate -- and I can't quite pronounce this correctly -- Chengdu -- have been in regular ongoing contact with local authorities since David Sneddon was reported missing in China in August of 2004. KIRBY: As you know, and I've said many times, one of the highest priorities of the U.S. Department of State is the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas. This includes providing all appropriate assistance in welfare and whereabouts cases for U.S. citizens. When a citizen is believed to be missing abroad, we work with local authorities who are charged with investigating disappearances within that - their country. In June of 2012, the Department invoked the health and safety exception to the privacy act and released to the Stens (ph) all information that we had regarding his case. We continue to closely monitor this matter and we continue to raise it with Chinese authorities. I can not speculate for the reasons of his disappearance, however I can tell you that you that we have seen no verifiable evidence to indicate that Mr. Sneddon was abducted by North Korean officials. (Inaudible) or Turkey, what else? QUESTION: A few questions, if I may. KIRBY: It's OK, I'm going to get to you. (LAUGHTER) KIRBY: I can see the exasperation on your face. We will work ourselves around here, it's all right. Go ahead. QUESTION: Earlier this week -- KIRBY: Your face - you can hold your cards pretty close -- (LAUGHTER) KIRBY: It's hard to tell what you're thinking James (ph). QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) (LAUGHTER) KIRBY: I didn't want to say that. I can just smell the smoke. (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Earlier this week, U.S. Centcom Spokesman Colonel John Thomas said there was a loose agreement between Turkish and Kurdish forces to stop fighting each other in Syria. Turkey summoned the U.S. Ambassador to criticize the U.S. for making such a statement, and Turkey's E.U. Affairs Minister said they do not accept any compromise or a cease-fire with the Kurds. Was there or was there not an agreement? KIRBY: I think we've dealt with this before -- QUESTION: That was my question yesterday -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: --in the media, but was there an agreement or was there not? KIRBY: Well, I mean I don't think I can give you any better answer then I did earlier on this. First of all, I want to correct the record. Our Ambassador was not summoned in over this, so the press reporting on that was false and I checked that with Ambassador Bass myself. QUESTION: (Inaudible). KIRBY: You said he was summoned in. He -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: That is what Turkey reported and here's what the Turkish Foreign Minister said -- KIRBY: I don't want to get dealt into this. I'm just telling you that the reports that he got summoned were wrong. He talks to his counterparts in the Turkish government pretty much every day, so I'm not going to say that he isn't on the phone with them. I have no problem believing the fact that Turkish Officials might have expressed, as they continue to express, various concerns about the situation in Syria with Ambassador Bass. But the reporting that he was summoned was just wrong. Now in the agreement, I would refer you again as I said, to our counterparts in the Defense Department. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) KIRBY: You'd have to talk to the parties about whether there was a quote-on-quote agreement, and I'm not even sure I understand what you mean by agreement. What I did say and what I'll say again today is that we saw a calm, we continue to see that calm persists. That's welcome, that's good. We continue to call on everybody to focus their efforts on Daesh inside Syria. Now Turkey is inside Syria for a purpose, a purpose we talked about, which is to secure that stretch of border which has remained a major avenue for foreign fighters and for material to reach Daesh inside Syria. We're obviously supportive of that effort by Turkey to secure that stretch of border and those are the conversations that we're having with them. QUESTION: Just to clarify, it was the U.S. Centcom's Spokesman who said -- KIRBY: So -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: -- ceasefire agreement -- KIRBY: You're asking me to confirm something that the Pentagon confirmed themselves on the record. I'm in no position to say whether that's right or wrong. They should speak for their own comments and if they're comfortable saying that on the record, then you can take it or accept it or not. QUESTION: They speak for the U.S. and you do, too. Isn't that right? (LAUGHTER) KIRBY: A lot of people speak for the U.S -- (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Actually, so to your response, do you think the fact that the clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces diminished in the past few days -- KIRBY: Yes. QUESTION: -- relative to the event (ph) speaks to the U.S. being right about this loose ceasefire agreement and Turkey being misleading. KIRBY: Being right about it in what way? QUESTION: That there has been a loose, I'm quoting the U.S. -- KIRBY: I can appreciate -- I do appreciate the effort to try to get me to confirm something that the Pentagon's already confirmed themselves on the record. I'll let them speak to whether there was an agreement and what form it took. From the State Department perspective, we're much less worried about whether something was inked on paper or not and much more concerned about the fact that those clashes have ceased. Because as we said at the time, it was doing nothing to help us focus our efforts against Daesh so that those clashes stopped and have remained -- that there's been no renewal of that violence between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters, is a good thing. But it's only half of a good thing, right? The rest is we need everybody, and continue to focus on fighting Daesh. QUESTION: So from the State Department perspective, there is a ceasefire in place? KIRBY: No I didn't -- Diane, I didn't say that. I'm not -- I don't know what led to the -- what specifically led to the end of the clashes. But we're glad to see that. Now whether, and frankly... (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I'm not sure how relevant it is whether there was an agreement, as your couching it, or not. Clearly somebody agreed to stop the fighting and that's a good thing so I'm not walking away from the fact that there was some meeting of the minds here to stop fighting one another, that's a good thing. And I'm also not saying we were just passive bystanders here. We obviously have been trying to -- and we have stayed in contact and dialogue with everybody on this. And as I said yesterday, looking for ways to keep the channels of the communication open so that that dialogue can persist so that we don't see a renewal of these clashes. QUESTION: About the dialogue, do you think that U.S. and Turkish officials, leaders understand each other well? Because it is one event that they're commenting on and one side says one thing and the other says, that's not what happened. KIRBY: I can't speak for the level of understanding of another individual, much less another nation. I can just tell you that our focus has not changed. Our understanding of concerns that the Turkish government has about terrorism and about their views of fighters on the other side of the border with Syria are well known and we continue to have these discussions with them. Do we agree on everything? No. But I don't know of another nation in the world where the United States agrees on every possible thing. So I mean we're going to continue to work through these issues and we want the focus to be on Daesh. QUESTION: Can we move on? QUESTION: Could I just ask about a suggestion from David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist about the need for political strategy to accompany the military strategy in fighting Daesh, particularly in Syria. And he highlighted two elements.QUESTION: One was the need to reconcile Ankara with its own Kurdish population by having negotiations between the PKK and Ankara, which KRG president, Massoud Barzani has also called for. And the second part of this suggestion was a political vision for Syria. He suggested federalism but something that addresses Kurdish political aspirations there, otherwise their motive to keep on fighting against ISIS is limited. QUESTION: Do you have any comment on those two points? KIRBY: Well, I would just say this, that we do have a strategy. We do have a political view of the future for Syria. That's why Secretary Kerry has been working so hard inside the International Syria Support Group to get us to a point where the opposition and the regime can renew talks to work on a transitional governing structure for the future of Syria. We've long said -- nothing's changed that. We believe in a whole, unified, pluralistic Syria that has in place a government that represents the voices of all Syrians and can be responsive to them and to their needs so that this civil war can end. Now, the issue of federalism is something that the Syrian people would have to determine. What we've said, the large umbrella of what we want is a whole, unified, pluralistic Syria. QUESTION: Would something like the Iraqi model be something the United States would consider? KIRBY: I'm not -- that is for the Syrian people to determine not the United States. QUESTION: (Inaudible) whole, pluralistic, unified Syria. What country in the world do you not want to see whole, pluralistic and unified? That's not a vision of anything. That just means you want a country. I mean, that's nothing. KIRBY: That -- no, I disagree. QUESTION: There's 193 countries in the world. You don't think any of them should be divided or disunited or at civil war. Is that correct? Which ones do you want in civil war? (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: Oh, come on, Brad. But I absolutely take -- I take real issue with your statement that it's nothing. It's not nothing, and it's not nothing to the millions of Syrians that have been suffering over the last five years. QUESTION: It's nothing to the 500,000 who died. KIRBY: It's an awful lot. QUESTION: It isn't. KIRBY: I couldn't disagree with you more. I couldn't disagree with you more. A whole, unified, pluralistic Syria that's not at war with itself, that doesn't have a government that's barrel-bombing and gassing their own people. QUESTION: Which doesn't exist. KIRBY: It doesn't exist now and that's why we're working so hard -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: -- on trying to reach it. QUESTION: Anyway. KIRBY: I could not disagree with you more about that. I absolutely, stridently think that that is a -- QUESTION: That is a bold and progressive agenda. OK, fine. KIRBY: I didn't say that. I said --- I said it is a vision for Syria. And I take great issue with the fact that it wouldn't be. QUESTION: Well, it's shared by everybody. So great. QUESTION: (inaudible) what about (inaudible) Kurds and some kind of lessening of the conflict there; negotiations between the PKK and (inaudible)? KIRBY: Well, look, I mean, we have long called on the PKK to renounce violence and terrorism and return to negotiations. I mean, we've -- I've said that many, many times. There's nothing changed about our position on that. QUESTION: So you would support an initiative for negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK? KIRBY: We have long said that we want the PKK to renounce terrorism, stop the violent attacks against innocent Turkish citizens, and renew talks. I mean, we've been very honest about that, but they've got to stop the violence. They've got to renounce terrorism. QUESTION: Change of topic? (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: (inaudible) accusations that because you supported the YPG in Syria it has emboldened the Kurdish movement, and that's one of the reasons why the PKK feels it has cover to engage in -- KIRBY: You'd have to ask PKK terrorists, you know, whether they feel emboldened or not and why. They're a designated foreign terrorist organization. Yes? QUESTION: Just one more on the subject. KIRBY: No, I want to move on. Go ahead. QUESTION: This is a different topic. But the Russians are talking about the possibility of hosting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in October with an attempt to kind of give a revival of some kind to a peace process. How would the U.S. view that?KIRBY: I think the secretary has said many times that he welcomes all ideas and all initiatives that can explore and hopefully get us closer to a viable two-state solution. QUESTION: This would be a different scenario or one that hasn't happened so far? It would be another world power mediating in the Israel-Palestinian peace process (ph), which is something that the Americans have done until now. You always talk about direct negotiations in an American sponsored peace process -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: The Secretary's view is that any new idea, initiatives, or option that can get us close to a viable two-state solution is worth exploring. QUESTION: Question? KIRBY: Yes? QUESTION: One on Afghanistan, this -- have you seen this news report about the Chaman border -- on the Af-Pak border being closed for some time. And now, Pakistan has said this, they are going to re- open it. How do you see this developing? KIRBY: We've seen those reports and those statements, and of course, we welcome that. QUESTION: Quick one, John? KIRBY: Let me work around and then come back. Abby, did you have something? QUESTION: It's on Syria. KIRBY: OK. QUESTION: Kerry and Lavrov spoke today, and the Russian read-out says that they -- Lavrov urged the need of separating the Syrian opposition from terrorists. Is there any progress on that point since the two of them met? KIRBY: They did talk today and they did talk about Syria, and the work that our two teams are doing in Geneva this week to try to work out some of the technicalities on these proposals for a better cessation of hostilities. The issue of marbling if you will of opposition groups or opposition fighters that co-locate themselves for whatever reason with groups like Al-Nusra and Daesh remains a problem. It certainly remains an issue that the Secretary and the Foreign Minister have talked about -- will continue to talk about. And certainly, it's part of the context of the discussion between the two teams that are working out these technicalities. QUESTION: One more. The U.N. Envoy and the U.N. Advisor on Humanitarian Aid gave a press conference today. It was a fairly impassioned speech by the Humanitarian Advisor saying that, "he felt that we had all failed the people of Darayya." I wondered if you had any comment on that -- on that? KIRBY: I haven't seen those comments, but again, I can tell you that everybody continues to be extraordinarily frustrated by the situation on the ground in Syria. The Secretary no less among them -- and that's why we are working so hard to try to get a cessation of hostilities. But let's be honest here, while the international community certainly continues to have obligations and commitments to try to end this war, to try to create a home for the Syrian people that can live in peacefully -- it is Bashar Al-Assad who is -- with support from Russia and Iran -- I understand that -- but it is he who is the one killing his own people. He is the one gassing them. He is the one barrel bombing them. He is the one who is sieging their cities. He is the one who's his ordering forces to take out medical supplies when those few humanitarian conveys can get into places like Darayya or even Aleppo on the rare occasion. It is Bashar Al-Assad who has failed the people of Syria. Yes? QUESTION: Can you please take a question regarding North Korea? QUESTION: Article 25 of the U.N. Charter said that old members are implementing United Nations Security Council Resolutions -- are duties of old members. Given North Korea continues to violate the resolution -- and it's been six months after 2270 was inducted -- does the United States believe the DPRK should be kicked out of the U.N. or at least there should be some restrictions? KIRBY: I don't need to take that question, Nike (ph). I know of no such effort by the United States. These -- this last resolution is the most -- represents the most stringent sanctions on the regime and as I said then, and I recognize we're six months into it, but sanctions do take time. They take time to have an effect and each and every time that the North Korean regime behaves provocatively, it really only galvanizes the international community that much more. QUESTION: If South Korea were to present a proposal for revoking DPRK membership in the U.N., would the U.S. consider that positively? KIRBY: It's a great hypothetical question that I'm not going to entertain. Yes? QUESTION: I want to follow up on a statement the State Department made last month regarding security trainings for Former Secretary Clinton. The statement was the secretary and senior staff in the office of the secretary received in person orientation on handling classified information and then worked daily with qualified professional staff. So my question is, who are the people who actually would brief someone like Secretary Clinton when one of those in person briefings happened and do you have any dates of when those briefings happened? KIRBY: I don't. I don't have the dates on when those briefings might have happened or if they happened but that is not an uncommon practice, particularly for somebody at that level. And it's usually people that work inside the administrative bureau here at the State Department. QUESTION: So they're State Department employees that would -- KIRBY: By -- QUESTION: Do you have any more specifics, I guess? KIRBY: I don't, I don't. Yes? QUESTION: Just one question, last week about 10 days ago, a State Department with the DOJ sent a team Turkey for extradition request to work with Turkey in Ankara. I was wondering if you have any feedback on those meetings from Ankara? KIRBY: They did have a meeting, a joint team of State and Justice Department employees did go visit Ankara to talk through the process and process issues. I'm told that those were constructive meetings, I don't have a specific readout for you. As I said at the time, issues of extradition can often be lengthy in terms of the process and how long it takes and I just don't have an update for you. Yes? QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the treasury sanctions that were issued today in relation to Ukraine and also did that come up in the call with Foreign Minister Lavrov? KIRBY: The call with Foreign Minister Lavrov was about Syria. I don't know -- let's see here. OK, sanctions. The text on these pages is not -- I still find I'm using my glasses even when the front is big. The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets controlled designated and identified, a range of individuals and entities today under three executive orders to maintain the integrity of the current sanctions imposed on Russia. The sanction's maintenance action is designed to check attempts to circumvent existing sanctions, strengthen sanctions implementation and provide additional information to assist the private sector with compliance.KIRBY: It also demonstrates the United States commitment to link sanctions to Russia's complete implementation of the Minsk Agreements and an end to the occupation of Crimea as well as our solidarity with the European Union's decision to extend its sectoral sanctions through January 31, 2017. But any further details on this, you'd have to go to the Department of Treasury. These are their sanctions. I'll take one more. (CROSSTALK) QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) maintenance on the current (ph) regime or are you toughening your stance? KIRBY: More maintenance. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) could you make sure that we get updates on Super (ph) UK's (ph) engagements in Delhi and any read-outs of the meetings? KIRBY: We'll pass that on to the traveling team. We'd be happy to do what we can. QUESTION: One final one. The Secretary has gotten a little bit of criticism online for the comment he made the other day about - it was kind of an off-hand comment about how it'd be nice if reporters maybe didn't report as much about terrorism. I don't know if you -- KIRBY: I did and I addressed this the other day. QUESTION: Okay. KIRBY: I mean I did address it, I'm happy to restate it today. He was simply referring to the fact that there are often more than one purpose for acts of terrorism, that the violence and destruction and death and fear itself that they can instill, but also the notoriety that can come with the press coverage of them. QUESTION: (Inaudible) KIRBY: I mean obviously, I think you all know the Secretary well enough to know how much he values the work of a strong, independent press and having you ask the tough questions and cover the tough issues. QUESTION: I was personally, greatly dismayed by - no, I wasn't. (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: I just didn't know it had come up already. KIRBY: But I did -- QUESTION: Thank (ph) -- (CROSSTALK) KIRBY: I said the same thing just a few days ago. QUESTION: Thank you. KIRBY: Okay, thanks everybody. << Go Back Print this page Print this page Save this pageSave this page CALENDAR FNS Coverage Schedule Subscriber only line Seperator Daybook Subscriber only line Seperator Today in Washington Free
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