2:08 p.m. EDT
MR KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody. A couple things to start out with and then we’ll get at it.
First, I think you may have seen my statement about the sentencing of Oleg Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko. I just want to reiterate it here again. The United States strongly condemns the sentencing of these two in a Russian military court – 20 and 10 years, respectively – on groundless accusations – allegations, I apologize – of plotting terrorist attacks and other subversive activities in Russian-occupied Crimea.
This is a miscarriage of justice. Both Ukrainians were taken hostage on Ukrainian territory, transported to and imprisoned in Russia, and had Russian citizenship imposed on them against their wills. They’ve reported abuses by Russian authorities, who also restricted their access to lawyers, family, and others while in jail for more than a year. Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.
The United States stands by those who are persecuted for exercising their rights to speak freely and engage in peaceful protest. We again call upon the Russian Federation to implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Mr. Sentsov, Mr. Kolchenko, Nadia Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages.
On the Maldives, the United States is disturbed by the Government of Maldives’ recent late-night transfer of former President Nasheed back to prison. Former President Nasheed is serving a sentence imposed after a trial that was conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law and Maldives’ international obligations to provide the minimum fair trial guarantees and other protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We renew our call on the Government of Maldives to release former President Nasheed, end politically motivated trials, and take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence, and to ensure fundamental rights are respected, including the freedom of speech, press, and peaceful assembly.
We also urge the government to ensure former President Nasheed’s safety and well-being in custody. We further urge the government to make progress on all political cases pending, including against former Defense Minister Nazim, whose appeal process has been delayed, and against Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran, who has not been charged since his May arrest.
Finally, a travel note. Secretary Kerry will be traveling to Anchorage, Alaska on the 30th of August to host the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience, which, if you run that out, spells GLACIER in the acronym. During GLACIER, Secretary Kerry will lead and participate in sessions focused on changes in the Arctic and the global implications of those changes, climate resilience and adaptation planning, and strengthening coordination on Arctic issues. Portions of the conference will be livestreamed on our website.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you think someone got a promotion or a raise for coming up with GLACIER? (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: I would certainly hope so.
MR KIRBY: That seems like it took some effort.
QUESTION: So there’s a division in the State Department that’s solely responsible for coming up with witty acronyms?
MR KIRBY: The – that’s the bureau of acronym development.
QUESTION: Yes? Acronym development? Okay.
MR KIRBY: Bureau of Acronym Development, which stands for BAD, so – (laughter). Not bad, huh? Just bringing that right off the top.
QUESTION: Wow, that was a pretty witty way to begin a Tuesday. I want to put in for being the assistant secretary of BAD. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Actually, Matt, when I took the job here, people already sort of described you that way. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, did they? Touche.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- about $10 million a year, they say, to conduct – to do the stuff that’s going to be related to the Iran thing. My question is – I had read the U.S. representative’s comments to the meeting, and I understand that the Administration is ready to pony up its share of whatever of that it takes. My question is – do you know how much that is? Is it the standard UN assessment? And does Iran have to pay for any of this?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any specific funding contributions to speak to today in terms of amount, Matt. We’re still working our way through that. I do want to add that we have every intention to continue to contribute to the IAEA for this purpose of this – doing this very important work of the verification of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments. I won’t speak for Iran. I don’t know what, if any, commitments Iran has or will engender under this, but we’ve – as we noted in the statement, we’re committed to working with all the member states to ensure that the IAEA has the resources that it needs.
QUESTION: All right. Well, does that mean that should there be an Iranian inspection part element to this – in other words, should it be the case that under the IAEA rules or the IAEA arrangements with Iran, that Iranians – Iranian officials themselves are going to be doing some or part of any inspections of sites, whether it is military sites or declared nuclear sites, that the IAEA, and by consequence the United States as a – with what its contribution is, is going to be paying for these Iranian officials to conduct whatever work it is that they have to do? Or is that up to the Government of Iran to pay for?
MR KIRBY: Well, I honestly don’t have a specific answer for you in that regard. I mean, again, we’re going to contribute – continue to contribute to the IAEA and their funding needs specifically as it relates to this deal. And it’s not just us; we want other member states to do it as well. I’ll let Iran speak for itself in terms of what, if any, contributions it plans to make. But I don’t know that I would characterize the funding resources applied to IAEA and their need to do this work as sort of then paying for any efforts done by Iranian officials to meet compliance. I don’t --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, someone’s got to pay for it. They’re not going to work for free, whoever they are, whether they’re Iranians or they’re from Djibouti.
MR KIRBY: Well, I’m assuming many of them are government – work for the Government of Iran. But --
QUESTION: Right. So do they – okay, so my question – and maybe this is a question better directed to the IAEA, but I’m not sure they’re going to answer it considering how un-forthcoming they’ve been about the details of the side – parallel – sorry, not side – parallel, confidential, not secret agreements. So I mean, I think that it is – it’s a relevant question to ask who actually is going to be paying for the inspections that get done.
MR KIRBY: Yeah, I’m not saying it’s not a relevant --
QUESTION: And if you can refer me to someone else, that’s great.
MR KIRBY: I’m not saying it’s not a relevant question. I do think it’s better placed to the IAEA.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Can we go to (inaudible)? So John, did you say that there has been a request for some money?
MR KIRBY: Well, I think the IAEA said --
QUESTION: No. Has there been a request from the – by the Administration to Congress for funding?
MR KIRBY: No. Like I said, I don’t have anything to announce with respect to specifics on additional funding. It’s important to remember that we have been a contributor for resources for the IAEA as they have – as we have worked and they have worked to monitor the JPOA over the last couple of years, and we fully expect that that commitment will continue going forward under the JCPOA. I just don’t have a dollar figure to talk about today or any specific request that was made of Congress as of yet.
QUESTION: Isn’t it --
QUESTION: Well, do you know if that would be – would it come under the previous contributions, or would you be asking for additional money? Because it seems to me that if Congress doesn’t like the deal or a majority in Congress, maybe not a veto-proof majority but if a majority in Congress doesn’t like it, that they might be able to stop this – you from contributing your share.
MR KIRBY: Well --
QUESTION: And I’m not – so I’m just wondering if it could come out of the current U.S. contribution to the IAEA or not.
MR KIRBY: I think it’s going to depend on the need and what dollar figure we settle on in terms of our contribution as to whether or not it can come out of existing funds that have already been legislated or it will require a request for additional. And I just don’t think we’re there yet.
QUESTION: So isn’t it – I mean, it’s – is it not a concern if this – the IAEA runs out of money next month that it can actually do its job of monitoring --
MR KIRBY: Of course it’s a concern. That’s why we made the statement in Vienna today that we’re going to support and that we want other nations to contribute and to support as well. I mean, this is obviously critically important work, this verification regimen that the IAEA is responsible for under this deal, and we want to make sure that they have the resources they need to get it done. So yes, it’s obviously a concern.
QUESTION: So I assume that this is going to get fixed before the – they start running out of money?
MR KIRBY: Well, I just don’t have a timeline for you or any more details than that. But I mean, I think we made clear – although we may not have the detail for you today, we certainly have made clear, made publicly clear, that we’re going to continue to contribute and do our fair share.
QUESTION: John --
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: -- on Korea situations, more detail about the – ask about the – in the agreement on South and North Korea yesterday, North Korea expressed the word “regret,” R-E-G-R-E-T, instead of they using – instead of apologize to South Korea.
MR KIRBY: Yeah.
QUESTION: What is difference between regret and apologize? Is there any diplomatic word for regrets is more --
MR KIRBY: You’re asking the wrong guy about diplomatic word meanings. I’m still learning all kinds of new language here at the State Department. (Laughter.) I think – and you can tell I’m not exactly succeeding.
QUESTION: Haven’t you seen the wheel, this regret/condemn --
MR KIRBY: No.
QUESTION: -- apology.
MR KIRBY: But I appreciate the reminder about the comments – or the word choices in my statements. The – look, I think what’s important to remember here, Janne, is that this was first and foremost an agreement between north and south, and that President Park found acceptable the expression made by the north. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me here at the U.S. State Department to weigh and to try to characterize the difference between the word “regret” and “apology.” The important thing is that they came to an agreement and that we now have an opportunity for the tensions to be decreased, and we’re starting to see that happening now. I think we still have a couple more days here to take a harder look at this, but that’s the most important thing – that dialogue brought about an agreement to decrease the tensions.
Now, obviously, as I said yesterday, actions speaker louder than words, so we have to kind of see how this plays out.
QUESTION: Because that North Korean delegation, Mr. Hwang Pyong So, who is military chief, he go back to North Korea, have his statement say, “We never have said any apology to South Korea; it’s a totally different say.” So how are we going to accept this agreement, and how United States have --
MR KIRBY: It matters most that north and south have accepted this agreement. This was a discussion between them, and they came to this conclusion, to this agreement. And now our expectation is that we want to see it implemented, and we want to see the tensions decrease. We weren’t in the room and weren’t a party to the discussions, and I think that’s wholly appropriate. And so I think it – your questions would be better placed to people that were in the room and not to the U.S. State Department. What – as I said, we’re – yesterday – we welcome this agreement, we want to see the tensions decrease. And as for what was agreed to on either side and how they feel about it or characterize it, that’s for the sides to speak to. Okay?
QUESTION: Quick follow-up?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: Somebody had a follow-up on this? Yes.
QUESTION: So you had announced that Ambassador Robert King was going to Beijing. Was this prompted by the increased tensions between North Korea and South Korea?
MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, we announced that --
QUESTION: Ambassador Robert King, the – on human rights in North Korea, the special envoy.
MR KIRBY: No, I mean, I don’t – this was not tied to the tensions over the weekend.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have a --
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: Can we go to Maldives?
MR KIRBY: Did you have something else?
QUESTION: Do you have further details or a readout about his meetings in Beijing?
MR KIRBY: I do not, no.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
QUESTION: Can we go to Maldives?
MR KIRBY: Yes, go ahead.
MR KIRBY: Yes, I can confirm that our ambassador, the President’s representative to China, will be representing the United States at the event.
QUESTION: And was there any reason that the representative was from the ambassadorial level rather than from a higher --
MR KIRBY: He’s the President’s representative to China and he is the President’s choice to represent the United States at this event, and the ambassador’s looking forward to attending.
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any additional decisions to speak to today. I think we made our point very clear here today in our statement, and now we’ll be looking to see what the government there does.
QUESTION: And this has been conveyed to the Government of Maldives too, right?
MR KIRBY: Yes.
QUESTION: Not publicly?
MR KIRBY: Well, we don’t talk about the details of diplomatic conversations, but I think you can assume that since I felt comfortable enough bringing it up here at the podium that the message has been conveyed in other vehicles as well.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Biswal is traveling to Sri Lanka right now. Does she has any plans to travel to Maldives?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any additional travel plans for her to speak to or to announce.
MR KIRBY: Okay?
QUESTION: Yeah --
MR KIRBY: Is that okay?
QUESTION: That’s fine. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Is that where you were going to go anyway?
QUESTION: I was going there anyway.
MR KIRBY: Why am I not shocked? (Laughter.) All right, let’s talk about Turkey.
QUESTION: It seems like the Pentagon today confirmed that the talks between the Turkey and U.S. have concluded, and technical talks to integrate Turkey into the coalition. First, would you be able to confirm it? And second, or you can comment on that – what kind of a timetable should be expecting the Turkish fighter jets start striking in – against ISIL?
MR KIRBY: Well, I think the Pentagon confirmed it, and that’s – I don’t think you need any more definitive confirmation than from DOD about this. And as for a timeline, I would – first of all, I’d point you to DOD for details about what is clearly an operational matter in terms of getting Turkish aircraft into the air tasking order. So I don’t have anything on timing to give you today and that’s really a DOD matter.
QUESTION: Can we also say that with this conclusion there will be also some kind of a anti-ISIL territory you’ll be start – you’ll be starting with Turks to create this territory that we have been talking about?
MR KIRBY: You’re asking if there’s a quid pro quo here for getting them into the ATO for establishment of a zone, right?
MR KIRBY: I mean, that’s kind of where you’re – so I’ll say it again because we’ve talked about this many times. I mean, there’s – we’re not talking about preparations or plans for a zone of any kind. What we said is where ISIL goes, the coalition’s going to go. And right now, they tend to be up in that stretch along the northern border of Syria, southern border of Turkey, roughly west of the Euphrates. That’s where they’re operating – one of the places they’re operating – and we’re going to continue to focus on them where they are, but no different than before. I mean, there’s no plans right now in the books for a buffer zone of sorts or a no-fly zone of sorts.
This – the moving Turkish aircraft into the ATO is a normal progression of their assistance and cooperation with the coalition against ISIL, and we welcome – we will welcome them in the skies. And I know I can speak for the entire government when I say we look forward to having them flying those kinds of missions for the coalition.
QUESTION: Do you feel better about types of local forces to secure that zone by the border now comparing to few weeks ago now?
MR KIRBY: I’m not sure I quite understand the question. I mean, there are counter-ISIL fighters on the ground in Syria. Not all of them are Kurdish. And we’re going to continue to look for ways to support them as best we can as they go after ISIL. And that’s the goal here not to forget. It’s to go after ISIL, to degrade and defeat them. I mean, if you’re asking for an assessment of the quality of the fighters, I would point you to DOD. I really want to stay away from getting into operational assessments.
QUESTION: And speaking of local forces, there are reports just yesterday came out that some of the U.S.-trained forces – New Syrian Forces actually tipped off by Turkey to al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusrah inside Syria. Would you – what’s your comment or reaction to that story?
MR KIRBY: We’ve seen no indication that that’s true.
QUESTION: Okay. The accusations are pretty heavy and serious. So one of the accusation is that Turkey is not satisfied with this program – the current train and equip program – and Turkey wants something bigger.
MR KIRBY: Well, once again it strikes me how many different times we’re going to try to find fault with Turkey’s contributions to the coalition. I’m not going to riff the way I did yesterday, but I stand by everything I said yesterday. We see no indication that these allegations are true, and so I’m not going to entertain hypotheticals about whether they are or they are not. Turkey is an ally and a partner in this fight, and now – today here we’re talking about getting them into the ATO, getting them into the air, flying missions against counter-ISIL, and yet we still are having a debate about the degree to which they’re serious here. So I think we all need to focus on the real fight, the real struggle, and that’s against ISIL. And that’s what we’re focused on here at the State Department.
QUESTION: John, I want to ask about the diplomatic side. I mean, as you know and you read, the – on the internal political issues going on. And I’m not asking you to comment on those, but that uncertainty and given the election coming up, is there not some kind of concern that this could disrupt in any way or force a blowback during the election of this fight that’s going on against ISIS? I mean, is it not their concern that politics can interfere in the end, specifically given the vote?
MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t think it would be helpful for me to speculate about where it’s going to go and what impact it may or may not have in the future, except to say that we’re going to continue to work closely with whatever government the Turkish people select. And we have worked constructively with the Turkish interim government on a number of issues, counter-ISIL coalition efforts – obviously we’ve been talking a lot about that – since those June elections. And we look forward to continued cooperation with the new government.
I think it’s safe to say that, particularly when it comes to ISIL and the threats there in the region, that we both share a common sense of purpose here and a concern over the priority about going after ISIL. So, again, I don’t want to speculate on what the future may hold the – politically, we’re going to look for ways to continue to cooperate with the Turkish Government.
QUESTION: But for now, it hasn’t impeded any of those operation – joint operations? The one they announced today, the technical details – they haven’t actually announced when Turkey will --
MR KIRBY: That’s right.
QUESTION: -- will start.
MR KIRBY: They haven’t.
QUESTION: Is that – made me wonder whether politics has a – could play an issue.
MR KIRBY: Well, I would point you to DOD for how specifically Turkey’s going to be – these technical details are going to be hashed out. That’s really a military thing to do. I have certainly seen nothing that would indicate that politics – internal politics in Turkey with respect to the interim government – are playing a role here.
And I think it’s important to also remind, Lesley, that we are the ones who asked Turkey to hold off and not fly as part of the ATO for a little while. We’re the ones. And that was an – that was to help us better come to agreement about how best to fit them in. Every country brings to a fight different capabilities, different skill sets, and so this was a decision we made to ask them to hold off. So, I mean, that had absolutely nothing to do with politics. It had everything to do with military efficiency.
QUESTION: So when they actually – when they start being part of this, that’s up to DOD? This is not a – State’s not involved in --
MR KIRBY: That’s correct. That’s correct. That’s a military decision.
QUESTION: I haven’t gotten into this because I don’t really – you’re saying that since the beginning of the airstrikes, the Turks have been asked not to fly?
MR KIRBY: No, no, no, Matt. No. This was after the agreement to – for them to allow us to use airbases.
QUESTION: Just use the airbases.
MR KIRBY: Part of that discussion was a discussion of when and how to get Turkish aircraft involved in coalition missions. And at the time of the agreement to use the bases, we said hey, just hold off --
QUESTION: Which was just several months ago.
MR KIRBY: Huh?
QUESTION: Less than a – two months ago?
MR KIRBY: It was about a month or so ago.
QUESTION: Yeah. All right.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. Yeah. But that wasn’t a longstanding thing.
QUESTION: General related question on Australia’s involvement in the coalition campaign. The Administration’s requested Australia’s involvement in the Syrian airspace. Are you able to shed any light on what the nature of that request is, and also whether it was prompted by a request from the Australian Government?
MR KIRBY: No, actually I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s – those are diplomatic conversations that we have with countries in the coalition, and I wouldn’t get into characterizing the details of them. As I’ve – we’ve often said, two things: It’s a coalition of the willing, and each country has to be able to contribute what they’re willing and the people that live in that country are willing to support. We want to respect; those are sovereign decisions.
And number two, Australia is already a member of this coalition. We’re very grateful for the contributions they’ve already contributed. They’re a good friend and partner in so many different ways. So we look forward to continued cooperation with Australia, but I wouldn’t get into the specifics of the conversations between us and them.
QUESTION: John, can you – also, sorry, can you confirm that the special envoy to Syria is going to Moscow?
MR KIRBY: No, I can’t. Let me take that question.
QUESTION: Just a clarification on the joint flights. Is it understood that the Turkish-U.S. joint flights will be mostly over this area that you don’t call a safe zone? (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: I’ll let DOD speak for the details of mission planning. Again, they’re – we expect Turkish aircraft to be flying soon. I couldn’t tell you when that’s going to be, and I certainly would be in no position to talk about where or what kinds of missions. That’s really for the coalition to speak to.
MR KIRBY: I’d – really would refer you to the White House for discussions about President Xi’s visit. That’s for them to speak to, and we – all I can tell you just from Secretary Kerry’s perspective, he’s very excited about this visit. He spoke about it when we went to Kuala Lumpur; meeting with his counterpart, he – we – they – we spoke about this visit a lot. Very much looking forward to it, and I think everybody is – shares the same, again, sense of purpose about making sure it’s a successful visit.
QUESTION: But you have a thousand-point drop in the market. So does it because a business-as-usual meeting or does it elevate it to a higher status?
MR KIRBY: I’m just not going to speculate about what’s going to be discussed during the President’s visit. We’re all looking forward to that. As for the market, I would refer you to the Treasury Department. Secretary Lew is monitoring this, and that’s really a more appropriate place for a question like that.
QUESTION: I have another topic.
QUESTION: Really? They’re not looking at your 401K? No?
MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) Mrs. Kirby is. I don’t even know how to get to it.
QUESTION: Second topic.
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. So let me get to this. So what you saw was the Office of the Inspector General released their report of an inspection of the diplomatic work being conducted by our mission in Japan. And as the report reflects, that mission has significantly advanced U.S. interests in Japan and enhanced our wide-ranging collaboration with the Japanese Government, under the leadership of Ambassador Kennedy and her team.
And our partnership with Japan has never been stronger, which we believe – Secretary Kerry believes is testimony to the mission’s success, and again to Ambassador Kennedy’s leadership. Now, this is a result of a routine inspection which the inspector general conducts on embassies all around the world, and the goal is to do this every five years working closely with embassy personnel to identify areas for improvement. We consider these inspections to be really good, valuable management tools to help us get better at what we do. So we appreciate the hard work that the IG goes into these reports; we appreciate the feedback, the very honest, candid, forthright look at how our embassies are performing. And again, I think if you read the entire report, you’ll see that the mission in Japan is working very hard, very ably to advance our interests there in Japan.
Now, you asked about the emails. I know, I was going to get to it, but I wanted to make sure that it was clear what this was and where it was coming from. We did note comments by the IG related to the use of commercial email by some personnel at the embassy there – at the mission in Japan. And in accordance with department policy, the mission requires the use of official email accounts to conduct official business whenever possible. So – and no different to what we said before, the use of private email is allowed for some government purposes as long as certain rules are followed. The mission –again, this I think is clear in the report – periodically reminds employees of the importance of following these rules. And they include ensuring that certain types of protected information are not transmitted in non-official channels and that records sent or received on private email accounts are preserved as required.
QUESTION: But I believe some sensitive information – not classified, sensitive information – was part of that email traffic.
MR KIRBY: I think the inspection report annotated that that was a potential issue, and I think I would also add that the mission in Japan is implementing all the recommendations, including the recommendations with respect to email traffic, as we speak. I mean, they’re – they’ve taken the inspection report very seriously, as we would expect them to, and they’re implementing all those recommendations.
QUESTION: Can I – you said that the use of private email is allowed for some government purposes as long as certain rules are followed.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: What are those some government purposes that this is allowed for?
MR KIRBY: The rules are – and I can get you the whole list. I didn’t bring them up here. But it’s if you can make sure that the traffic is being preserved and recorded inside the government system as soon as practical, if not copying your government account on it when you send it; if you can’t do that for some reason – the system’s down or whatever – that you make sure you preserve it and then get it saved inside the government system.
It is not prohibited to use private email. It is discouraged, obviously, and we recognize there are instances when there may be no other choice, as long as the records are being preserved and recorded.
QUESTION: Okay. That explains what the rule is, but it doesn’t say it’s allowed – it doesn’t explain what the “some government purposes” are. Is it any government purpose as long as it doesn’t --
MR KIRBY: No. No, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, obviously, you need to be mindful when you’re on a private email account of the sensitivity of information that may or may not be transmitted.
QUESTION: So just a couple more things that’ll be quick. Is there any indication that Ambassador Kennedy violated the rules for using a private email account?
MR KIRBY: No, no.
QUESTION: There’s --
MR KIRBY: She uses an official email address for official business.
QUESTION: All right. So there’s no indication – does that mean that there is no indication you’re aware of from what the IG found that there was anything other – any classified information that was transmitted?
MR KIRBY: No, none at all.
QUESTION: And it’s your understanding, then, that even – that even before the OIG went in and made its recommendations or one recommendation about this, that they were proper – these emails that the ambassador and her staff were sending on their private accounts were being archived?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have that level of specificity, Matt, but what I can tell you is that they are implementing all the recommendations that the IG found, to include to make sure that they are completely in compliance with that policy. I have no indications that uniformly they were not before the IG.
QUESTION: Okay. But you said that there was no indication that they were – that they had broken any of the rules, so that would suggest that they were being properly archived. But now I think what you’re saying is you’re not sure --
MR KIRBY: I can’t speak for every --
QUESTION: -- that they – if were or if that’s happening now.
MR KIRBY: I can’t speak for every email that was sent or received before the IG got there. What I can tell you is that the ambassador did not violate department policy in the use of her email, but as the report noted, that there were other members of the staff who used private email. So I don’t want to speak for everybody, but I can tell you that the ambassador did not violate department policy.
QUESTION: And then the last thing I have – this is not a question of her operating some kind of a private server with its – this is – is that correct, or is it?
MR KIRBY: No. It is correct that it’s not
QUESTION: So this is, in other words, using a commercial – a Gmail account --
MR KIRBY: A commercial email account.
QUESTION: -- a Yahoo account.
MR KIRBY: Something akin to that. I don’t know exactly what she used, but it was not a private server.
QUESTION: Do you know the reason why she used a private server? Was there --
MR KIRBY: She didn’t use a private server.
QUESTION: It wasn’t a private --
QUESTION: I mean – sorry.
MR KIRBY: She didn’t use a private server. I can only tell you what the IG found was that there were some members of the staff who used a private email account for some purposes. And again, I think it’s important to remind everybody that it’s not prohibited to do that as long as the records are being preserved and recorded. And as I answered to Matt, we’ve seen no indication that Ambassador Kennedy violated any department policy with respect to her email practices. And she does use, has used, continues to use, a government email account for her official business.
QUESTION: Apart from the preservation issue, though, the OIG report also talks about potential security risks, including data loss, hacking, phishing, things of that nature. Is the State Department confident that the employees who used personal email accounts for business mitigated those risks appropriately?
MR KIRBY: What we – what we’re confident is that they’re taking the findings of the IG seriously and implementing all their recommendations. I think it’s – we’re also comfortable in the fact that we have here at Main State worked hard to make sure that everybody that works in the State Department here or around the world understands the risks inherent in using email accounts that are outside the system. I think we’re all cognizant of that.
There are times when you have to rely on a private email account because maybe the system’s down, but I think what we ask and what we expect is that everybody will understand the risks inherent in that. And that’s why we don’t want them to rely solely on a private email account to conduct business. It really should only be used very, very sparingly and as carefully as possible, and then, again, make arrangements to have all that stuff preserved and saved and recorded.
QUESTION: Do you know – I’ve got two very brief ones more on this. One, the recommendation that this was under, Recommendation 46, is for some reason redacted. Can you explain why the recommendation for the embassy to fix what seemed – would seem to be a relatively easy thing to fix – one, don’t use a private email account for official business; and two, if you do it, make sure it’s – you’re doing it – you’re using it not for classified information and you’re storing it properly. Why would that be redacted?
MR KIRBY: I’d point you to the IG. I mean, this is their inspection report which they made public. And they are, as you know, an independent --
QUESTION: They didn’t make the recommendation public. And it would seem to me the recommendation would be fairly obvious. I realize this is not your report; it’s the IG’s, so I’ll ask them as well.
MR KIRBY: Yes. At --
QUESTION: But it just strikes me as a bit odd that a recommendation to fix something which seems to be pretty obvious would be redacted.
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’d point you to the IG to speak to that.
QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing is: Are you aware – has the IG been asked by the Secretary as part of its overall – his request for the overall review, have they been asked to look at this at each embassy when they do these kinds of inspections? Is this something that’s going to be coming up in – as we see these IG reports released for embassies in Brunei or Brasilia or wherever --
MR KIRBY: Well, this is part --
QUESTION: -- that there is going to be a section about – not necessarily that something has – is wrong, but that there’s going to be a section that they’re going to look at the use or potential use of commercial email for official business?
MR KIRBY: I’m aware of no specific tasking to the IG with respect to that. I would point you to the IG to speak to the tasking they’ve been given by the Secretary and how they’re going to execute it. But I’m not aware of any specific tasking by the Secretary to do an embassy-by-embassy look on this particular issue.
Again, so two things. One, the Secretary did ask the IG to go take a look at our communication practices here to determine what, if anything, we can do broadly better. And they’re still doing that work. And then again, I think it’s important to remind that Main State here has put out policies with respect to the use of private email, and our expectation is that everybody wherever they are – here in Washington, D.C. or around the world – have digested that memo and that policy and will execute it.
QUESTION: Related – it’s not Embassy Japan but it’s on Secretary Clinton’s email. There was a report this morning or maybe yesterday – I believe it was similar to a report that came out while I was away – saying that the – some of the emails that Secretary Clinton had received or sent contained information that was – was actually classified when – at the time that it was sent or received. Have you addressed this?
MR KIRBY: I have addressed this, but I’m happy to do it again.
QUESTION: Well, no, no, don’t worry. If it’s more – if it has been addressed, then that’s fine.
MR KIRBY: Okay.
QUESTION: But if it hasn’t --
MR KIRBY: It has been.
QUESTION: It has been. All right. I will go look --
MR KIRBY: I can show you the transcript from last week.
QUESTION: -- and I will see if it addresses my question.
MR KIRBY: Okay, fair enough.
QUESTION: And if it doesn’t, I’ll ask tomorrow.
MR KIRBY: I have no doubt that you will, Matt.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the email stuff --
MR KIRBY: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: -- with Ambassador Kennedy? I just want to make sure I understood something that you said. In response to Matt’s questions, you said that the policy is that it is acceptable to use private email if you archive by forwarding or cc’ing your official email address so that it is captured in the system, in the archives, correct?
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: And you also said that you have no indications that the ambassador – I’m not talking about the entire group that’s mentioned in the IG report, but that the ambassador had violated any State Department policies.
MR KIRBY: That’s right.
QUESTION: And I just want to make sure that the syllogism is correct that the ambassador archived all of her emails either when she – that dealt with official business either when she sent them or subsequently.
MR KIRBY: I think I’d leave it the way I did, Arshad. I mean, there’s absolutely no indications that she violated department policy. Department policy says only use it infrequently. She did use it infrequently, she does have an official email address that she does use for business, and the department policy says that those things need to be archived. There’s no indication that she violated any of those department policies.
QUESTION: So far as you know, she archived all that stuff?
MR KIRBY: Again, she’s – there’s been – there’s no indication that she violated department policy in this regard.
MR KIRBY: He did meet with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir yesterday in Nantucket. It was a brief meeting, a couple of hours, I think. And as they always do, they talked about a range of issues of regional concern, talked about Syria, talked about Iran, of course, and talked about other security issues in the region. So yes, they did meet.
QUESTION: Did they talk about the king’s upcoming visit?
MR KIRBY: All I’ve – the readout that I received was that they talked about regional security issues, and I’ve gone in about as much detail as I can on that.
QUESTION: Was there a reason that this meeting was not announced?
MR KIRBY: Well, I mean --
QUESTION: Or was it and I just missed it?
MR KIRBY: No. No, you didn’t --
QUESTION: In fact, I must congratulate Samir. This – his question was the first time I’ve heard about it. I think that if the Secretary of State is on vacation, wherever he – we should know if he’s going to have an official meeting, particularly if you’re willing to read it out after the fact. It wasn’t a secret, but I don’t think we knew about it.
MR KIRBY: No, I wouldn’t. He --
QUESTION: Maybe I’m out of the loop on this one.
MR KIRBY: He meets frequently with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir. There was no concerted effort to conceal it or to not speak to it. Discussions that he has with certain foreign ministers happen on a high-frequency level. This is one of those. Minister – Foreign Minister al-Jubeir is one of those counterparts with whom he has many conversations. And so I don’t think there was a concerted effort to conceal. I think it was just the judgment that this was not atypical, not out of the realm of the kinds of dialogue that he has with his counterpart in Saudi Arabia.
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: What do you think then about the resignation of Abbas from the PLO Executive Committee?
MR KIRBY: We understand that several members of the PLO Executive Committee, including President Abbas, offered their resignations, which, as you know, triggered a meeting of the Palestinian National Council to choose a new executive committee, and I would refer you to the PLO for any further information on this. President Abbas has not stepped down as either the PA president or the head of Fatah, and I’m not going to speculate about Palestinian politics here from the podium.
QUESTION: But they expressed, like, frustration from the Israeli intention of, like, having continued the negotiation or, like, continue on the path of, like, two-state solution. They expressed doubts about that.
MR KIRBY: Well, I think I would let them speak to their reasons here.
QUESTION: But you haven’t talked about – to them about any of those issues?
MR KIRBY: We talk to counterparts all the time about lots of issues. Obviously, we’re still very concerned about where this is going. But again, I wouldn’t outline those here from the podium, and I certainly wouldn’t speak for Palestinian leaders about the reasons they took these actions. It’s for them to speak to.
QUESTION: And there is no paper that you – that the Administration submitted to the Palestinians?
MR KIRBY: I have nothing for you on that.
QUESTION: Okay, no.
QUESTION: Is it – correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it is the Administration’s view that it is the head of the PLO that is the negotiating partner in peace talks with the Israelis, not the president or prime minister of the PA, correct?
MR KIRBY: I’m not an expert on that, so why don’t you let me go back and look in terms of what the policy is.
QUESTION: But I think --
MR KIRBY: But again, he’s still – he’s still the president.
QUESTION: Right, yeah. No, my next question was going to be, if I’m right about that and my memory might be wrong, but whether his resignation from the executive committee would therefore – and I realize there aren’t any, to my knowledge, active peace discussions going on, but whether that would make it harder for you to conduct peace talks if you don’t have sort of a duly authorized Palestinian representative to carry them out as head of the PLO.
MR KIRBY: Well, we still consider him, obviously, an important and valued partner here in this. And again, I’m not going to speculate about Palestinian politics and what that might mean in terms of moving forward towards to trying to come up with – looking for actions and policies and a genuine commitment for a two-state solution. I just wouldn’t speculate.
QUESTION: Can you take that question, though? Because if the head of the PLO is the official person who does the --
MR KIRBY: I will take Arshad’s question about whether that position is considered the lead negotiator. I truly don’t know that fact, and I will take that question.
QUESTION: Can you – did you – were you able to get any kind of a response to my question yesterday about the judge’s order and the lawsuit and the 10 million, which directly affects the finances of the PLO and the PA?
MR KIRBY: I think --
QUESTION: And apparently, according to the government, the Administration, it affects U.S. national security interests. I’m going to take this as a no, yeah?
MR KIRBY: No, no.
QUESTION: Oh, really? Oh, my gosh.
MR KIRBY: I got it here somewhere.
QUESTION: I’m going to be surprised for the first time.
MR KIRBY: I thought I had it here somewhere. I can’t believe I can’t find it.
Matt, let me get back to you.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm, sure.
MR KIRBY: I have it.
QUESTION: You had 18 pages on the Maldives and you can’t find it. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Let’s take the next question.
QUESTION: It’s all right.
MR KIRBY: I’ll get them. Dang it, I know it’s in here somewhere.
Go ahead. Who’s next? Yeah.
MR KIRBY: Sure.
QUESTION: You had pretty strong diplomatic language against the justice in Russia today for the Ukrainian filmmaker. It comes one week after a pretty strong statement also for this Estonian agent. Do you think that – I mean, is the U.S. prepared to follow these words by action and taking further diplomatic actions against Russia? And do you see – don’t you see any impact on the conversation you have between Washington and Moscow on important topics, matters like Syria and Iran?
MR KIRBY: Do we --
QUESTION: Don’t you see any impact --
MR KIRBY: About our strong statements here?
MR KIRBY: I mean, we make – we state these positions, we are clear about them because they need to be stated clearly, and because our commitment to fair and equitable judicial processes, to human rights, to democracy, to the rule of law is universal. And we’re not afraid to say, to object, or to condemn or to express our deep concern about these kinds of issues when they need to be expressed, regardless of what else may be going on in a bilateral relationship.
Will the statement today affect how Russia behaves or acts or responds? I don't know. That wasn’t part of the calculus. It needed to be said because of the way these two gentlemen and others are being treated inside and by the Russian Federation, and we’ll continue to speak out when it needs to.
There are many things that we don’t agree with Russia on. Obviously, this is one of them. There are others too. There are other areas where we can and we have and we will continue to find opportunities to cooperate, such as on the Iran deal, and we hope on Syria moving forward. That is why Secretary Kerry has had so many discussions lately with Foreign Minister Lavrov about trying to find a way forward to reach a political transition.
So do we – so the short answer to your question is no, we’re not worried necessarily by making these strong statements that they’re going to have some sort of adverse affect. They need to be said on the face of them, and we’re going to continue to do that.
QUESTION: What, on the lawsuit?
MR KIRBY: I found a response to the issue.
QUESTION: Ah, okay. (Laughter.) There’s a big difference between a response and an answer.
QUESTION: Very big.
QUESTION: It’s kind of like “regret” and “apology.” We’re going to find out the difference right now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Address and resolve.
MR KIRBY: I just didn’t have it tabbed right. So look, I’m not going to make any comment on the decision itself. The judge has made his ruling. But this is a judgment of the court’s – of the court, and of course, we’re going to respect it. We offered our views, including our interest both in supporting the rights of victims of terrorism to vindicate their interests in a federal court, and to receive just compensation for their injuries and avoiding the harms that could arise if the Palestinian Authority’s ability to operate as a governmental authority is severely compromised.
So I do not know, we don’t know how these views factored into the court’s decision, but we had an opportunity to express our views and we did that.
QUESTION: But my question is more – and I appreciate you going to bat for us and getting that answer. I know it was difficult. But the question is --
QUESTION: That response, shall we say.
QUESTION: Right, the response. The question, though, or the main part of my question from yesterday is that – do you think that your views and your statement of interest in this case was taken into account by the judge? In other words, does the figure of 10 million plus a million a month during the appeal process --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- is that – do you think that that is okay, and do you think that that decision reflects your interests, your stated interests in the case?
MR KIRBY: Well, as I said, we don’t know what factors the court used in making their decision. So I wouldn’t want to characterize why they came down where they came down. We --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you for – to say that the judge listened to us and agreed with us. I’m not asking for causality. I’m just wondering, you – the department – the deputy secretary, I think, signed the statement of interest --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: -- to the court, and I just want to know if you believe that the court’s decision is in keeping with what – whether or not that was the reason for the judge’s decision or not, but if you believe that it is in keeping that the judge took into account the U.S. Government’s interest on this case.
MR KIRBY: I’m just not at liberty to comment specifically. We’re going to respect the court’s decision.
QUESTION: Can I – I’ve got one more, just back on the emails for – the Embassy Tokyo emails. And I’m going to just read one – two sentences here, but it’ll be very brief. “The OIG identified instances where emails labeled sensitive but unclassified were sent from or received by personal email accounts.” That’s sentence number one. And then it says – skipping down a bit, “Employees are also expected to use approved, secure methods to transmit sensitive but unclassified information when available and practical.” I just want to make sure that it is the case that it is in some circumstances okay, even though not encouraged, to send or receive sensitive but unclassified information on a commercial email account.
MR KIRBY: It is clearly not okay to send classified emails, and I know that’s not what you’re asking. It is highly, highly discouraged to send information that you think is sensitive but unclassified --
QUESTION: Or marked sensitive but --
MR KIRBY: Or marked such.
QUESTION: But it is not against the rules per se? You can do it if you have a good reason for it. Is that the question – I mean, is that the --
MR KIRBY: You can do it if there’s no other viable means of communicating information and, as I said, you take the proper steps to make sure that it’s recorded --
QUESTION: And then getting back --
MR KIRBY: -- and gets into the – back into the government system. Again, we – let’s not lose the main focus here is we want people to use their government system account for official business.
QUESTION: I understand that, but then I want to get back to – so given that answer and given what – the answer you gave to Arshad and me before, your understanding is that Ambassador Kennedy did not – did – sent sensitive but unclassified information, but it was – or received it, but it was in accordance with the accepted – with the rules. Is that – that’s correct?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have – I’d point you to the IG, and I haven’t – I don’t – I can’t speak to every email that may have – may or may not have been sent on a personal email account. But as I said, there’s absolutely no indication that she violated department policy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And when did it become the policy of the department to, as you said, highly, highly, highly discourage the transmission of --
MR KIRBY: I think I just used two highlys, but --
QUESTION: Did you? I’m so sorry. (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY: Yeah. No, that’s all right.
QUESTION: I withdraw one highly.
MR KIRBY: I think it was in the – this new policy about having the emails documented and preserved for record purposes is a relatively new one. I think it’s a couple of years old, Arshad. I can actually pull the policy statement for you so you can see it. It’s certainly not something we’re bashful about sharing, I just don’t have the exact date.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d like to see it, because --
MR KIRBY: But it’s relatively recent.
QUESTION: Okay. Because I thought that there was a policy statement about this I think in October of 2014, but I’m trying to figure out if in fact it went further back than that.
MR KIRBY: That may be it. I’ll have to pull it and find it for you. I just don’t have it in front of me.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR KIRBY: I meant to bring it up with me, actually, and I didn’t do it, so – yeah, go ahead, Nicolas.
MR KIRBY: The bombing?
QUESTION: -- about who is in behind the attack 10 days ago? Because the Thais – your military allies – seem to be completely in the dark.
MR KIRBY: I don’t have an update for you. And as we said last week, this is really an area – an incident that’s being investigated by Thai authorities, and I’d point you to them. But I have seen nothing that would indicate that we have additional information that investigators don’t have.
QUESTION: They didn’t request any U.S. assistance in terms of law enforcement?
MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any request by the Thai Government for assistance in this investigation, but the offer still stands. We’re willing to help in any way we can.
Yeah, back here.
MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: China’s war anniversary ceremony, upcoming, will it be held next month? And as you said about Ambassador Baucus will attend to this ceremony --
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: I want to confirm about he also will join to the military parade, or he will skip the military parade?
MR KIRBY: I don’t have specific details about what events in conjunction with this anniversary that the ambassador will go to. I’d point you – I’d ask you to talk to the embassy there in Beijing. They may have a much better sense of what events he’s going to participate in.
Okay, I got time for just one more. Yeah, back here.
QUESTION: On China?
MR KIRBY: Huh? Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. Do you have a response to Governor Scott Walker’s call to cancel President Xi Jinping’s state visit next month?
MR KIRBY: The – as I think I said before, we’re all looking forward to the president’s visit. Secretary Kerry is going to be personally involved and looks forward to his participation and to making sure that it’s a success, and there’s no plans to change the visit.
QUESTION: Do you think those types of comments are unhelpful for the upcoming visit?
MR KIRBY: I am not going to get into discussions here from the podium about comments made by candidates in the next presidential election. The – President Xi’s visit is a very important visit for our bilateral relationship with China, and as I said, we’re very much looking forward to it and to making sure that it’s a success.
QUESTION: Thank you. One question on Venezuela, because the Venezuelan Government ordered a closure of the border with Colombia after President Nicolas Maduro said that his country was under attack by some paramilitary groups – Colombian paramilitary groups.
MR KIRBY: Right.
QUESTION: And this, of course, has caused a humanitarian and political crisis. Do you have any comment on that?
MR KIRBY: Governments have a sovereign right to control their borders, and I’m going to refer you to the Venezuelan Government for additional information on its decision regarding the border with Colombia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:09 p.m.)