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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 14, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

2:03 p.m. EDT

MR KIRBY: Two minutes means two minutes.

QUESTION: You know some of us have things to do in between the bullpen and --

MR KIRBY: Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were busy. (Laughter.) Next time I’ll mean three minutes when I say two.

All right, I don’t have any opening comments today so we’ll just get right to it. Let’s go to Matt.

QUESTION: None? You have no travel announcements or anything like that?

MR KIRBY: I have no travel announcements today.

QUESTION: All right, let’s start with – there seems to be an echo.

MR KIRBY: There does seem to be an echo.

QUESTION: Or maybe it’s just my sonorous voice.

MR KIRBY: I’m sure it’s a combination.

QUESTION: Yes. Let’s start with the Middle East and some comments that Secretary Kerry made yesterday and also that the White House just made. One, how solid is it the Secretary is going to go to the Middle East in the coming days?

MR KIRBY: I think – and the Secretary addressed this last night, Matt – he has every intention of traveling to the region soon. And I don’t have anything to announce today with respect to travel, but he made it very clear last night that he intends to go soon, and I suspect you’ll see us follow up on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there any discussion that you’re aware of of him convening a quote/unquote “summit” between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jordan?

MR KIRBY: Look, I’m not going to get into specific agenda items when he travels, so I have nothing to report on this – on the press reporting I’ve seen with that, with respect to that. But as he said yesterday, he does remain deeply concerned by the continued escalated violence, and it’s something he’s been focused on obviously for a while now and intends to travel to the region to continue those kinds of discussions. How, what form, where, all that – I think, again, there’s – I don’t have any travel announcements to get to today, so I just don’t have any details.

QUESTION: In other words, the “where,” when he says travel to the region, travel to the Middle East, does not necessarily mean traveling to Israel or the Palestinian territories per se?

MR KIRBY: That’s correct. Travel to the region is as specific as I can be right now.

QUESTION: But with the intent of addressing that – the issues in Israel? I mean, that’s --

MR KIRBY: Certainly. I mean, one of the reasons he wants to go right now, and as he talked about last night, is his continued deep concern – concern that he expressed yesterday up in Boston – about the violence. So obviously, that would be foremost on his mind as he travels to the region, which will happen soon. I just don’t know when that’s going to be. I don’t have any announcement for you on that. And as for specific stops and agenda items, we’re just not there yet.

QUESTION: The other – let me go to some of the other things that he mentioned. There’s been quite a bit of, I don’t know, uproar maybe is the right word about his comments about settlements contributing to – massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years being responsible for the current upsurge in violence. Recognizing that the settlement issue is one that is of serious concern to the Palestinians, is it the Administration’s view that settlement activity is, in fact, to blame for or is responsible for the current surge in attacks that we’re all seeing?

MR KIRBY: I think the Secretary was very consistent yesterday and has been over time in not trying to affix blame for the recent violence too particularly, and he was unequivocal yesterday, as you saw, in condemning the terrorist attacks against Israelis. What he has talked about is the challenges that are posed on both sides by this absence of progress towards a two-state solution. So – and he’s also highlighted our concern that current trends on the ground, including this violence, as well as ongoing settlement activity are imperiling the viability of eventually getting to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: So it is not, then, the Administration’s view that a massive increase in settlement activity in the last years is directly responsible?

MR KIRBY: I think the Secretary well understands that there’s a lot of nuance and context behind the violence that’s occurring recently. And as I said, he was careful not to affix blame in either direction on this in terms of past practices. What he did talk about – and you might have seen it if you saw him at Harvard last night – is that he understands there’s disenfranchisement, there’s disgruntlement, there is – there’s frustration on both sides that have led to this.

QUESTION: Can I ask, why is it so important for him or for the Administration not to affix blame or not to call out who it believes is responsible for what’s going on right now? Is it the case that the Administration does believe that both sides bear responsibility for this?

MR KIRBY: I think he’s been very clear that he wants both sides to take affirmative actions, both in rhetoric and in action, to de-escalate the tension, to restore calm, and to try to move forward towards a two-state solution. He also recognizes, as a public servant with a long career associated with foreign affairs and the diplomatic relations of this country, that many of these issues are ages old. And when there’s a specific attack such as we’ve seen, we are not shy about calling it out. And as I said last week on – if we believe it’s terrorism, to say it’s terrorism. We’re not shy about that in terms of affixing responsibility for it. But in terms of the general scope of the violence that we’re seeing and the unrest, he’s been very clear that rather than to affix blame specifically on all of that, to try to focus on moving forward and restoring calm.

QUESTION: Okay. But isn’t one of the things that you have to do if you’re going to move forward and restore calm is to address what has happened previously, no? Isn’t it?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, of course. I mean, you have to deal with this issue in the context of the times and in the context of what’s going on. I mean, how far back do you want to go in terms of some of these – some of the ill will? He’s trying to keep it in perspective of what we’re seeing right now, which is obviously not constructive and not helpful to getting us to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: John?

QUESTION: All right, this will be very brief. I understand that you have decided now how to qualify the stabbing attack on the Palestinians in Dimona?

MR KIRBY: Yes, we’ve had a chance to look at that attack more deeply, and I think you’re going to ask me what – do we consider it an act of terrorism. And we do.

QUESTION: You do consider it an act of terrorism. Okay, so that would suggest then that you believe that this is – that both sides are, in fact, committing these --

MR KIRBY: Well, I would say certainly individuals on both sides of this divide are – have proven capable of and in our view guilty of acts of terror.

QUESTION: All right. And then the visit to Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif by Israelis, is that – does the Administration consider that to be visits to there – does the Administration consider that to be incitement?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to be able to characterize every single act with terminology. What the Secretary has said and stands by is that we want to see the status quo restored, the status quo arrangement there on Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount, and for both sides to take actions to de-escalate the tensions. So incitement can take many forms. Again, I’m not going to – I’m not going to go through a laundry list of what is or what isn’t. I mean, the Secretary spoke specifically about incitement yesterday, and we recognize that incitement can go both ways here. But it’s the – whether it’s action or rhetoric, it’s things that encourage others to continue this cycle of violence, it’s just not helpful and not going to get us to what we really want to see there.

QUESTION: Is it the Administration’s position that the status quo at the Temple Mount has been broken?

MR KIRBY: Well, certainly, the status quo has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence.

QUESTION: John?

QUESTION: John?

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary spoke about re-engaging last night. That’s the word he used. Was – is that – what does that mean? I mean, re-engaging since last year’s failure of the talks? Does that mean that he’s even looking at trying to get the sides together?

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of – I don’t want to get ahead of things here. But when the Secretary talks about re-engaging, he – it speaks directly to his desire to continue to pursue a two-state solution there. And he recognizes that that’s hard work, that’s complicated, that that’s going to take some time. It doesn’t mean by saying re-engaging that we were disengaged. It just means that I think the Secretary obviously believes that this is an effort worth pursuing and worth pursuing as energetically as possible.

QUESTION: So he’s – what I understand what you’re saying is that he does – he is thinking of trying again to mediate in bringing these two sides together.

MR KIRBY: No, I wouldn’t go that far, at least not at this point, Lesley. What he’s interested in doing right now, immediately – and you heard him talk about this yesterday – is trying to see if there’s ways where we can reduce the violence and to help restore some sense of calm there so that meaningful work can be done to try to find a two-state solution. But right now it’s difficult to have that kind of a discussion when there’s so much violence going on, and you see it again just today. So I think that’s where his chief concern right now is on communicating his desire to see that – the violence be reduced.

QUESTION: So does he believe that bringing the sides together would be helpful, or is it premature?

MR KIRBY: When you say bring the sides together, I --

QUESTION: Bring the leaders --

MR KIRBY: To work on a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Two separate rooms, same house, same building?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to get into modalities here. The Secretary’s made clear his concerns over what’s going on there and his desire to travel to the region to engage and to discuss and to try to find ways to reduce the tensions, restore the calm, and then start to work collaboratively, hopefully, towards a two-state solution.

QUESTION: John?

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What would be the practical steps that both sides can take immediately to defuse the situation? What would be, like, practical suggestions to both sides that they must do now?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, I wouldn’t get too specific here. I think the Secretary spoke about this yesterday very clearly that the violence needs to stop. So to the degree leaders on either side can help lead to that outcome, that would be useful. The incitement needs to stop.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: So to the degree to which leaders – whether they’re responsible for it or not, to the degree that they can contribute to an atmosphere which isn’t encouraging more violence, more killing, that would be useful. And then, again, to sort of put in place and then keep in place, maintain a sense of calm. All that would useful right now, and I think that’s really again where the Secretary’s head was yesterday. It’s where it is today, and it’s why he’s interested in pursuing travel there soon.

QUESTION: For instance, the Israelis put a great many checkpoints in the last, let’s say, 24 hours in and around Arab neighborhoods, Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, and so on. Would that be something that the Secretary or you would call on the Israelis to undo, so to speak, to sort of – to alleviate some of the frustration or the feeling of being cooped in and so on by these young men and women?

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t think it’s going to be useful for me to stake out a position on each and every decision that the Israeli security forces are making. They certainly have an obligation towards their citizens and we understand that. Again, what the Secretary wants to see is the violence cease.

QUESTION: Mahmoud Abbas just made a speech, a short speech, a little while ago. I wonder if you’ve had the chance to see it.

MR KIRBY: I have not.

QUESTION: But he’s – he’s basically accusing Israel of conducting summary executions, and so on. He’s threatening to take it to the international court – the International Criminal Court. He’s saying that we will not be held hostage to agreements that Israel is not adhering to, and so on. Apparently he’s talking about Oslo. He’s saying that the Palestinians must have a recourse to resist an occupation. Do you agree that the Palestinians must have some sort of a method or recourse, and so on, by which they oppose this occupation that has gone on for so long?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, without getting into specific terminology here, Said, what we would like to see is progress made on both sides in both rhetoric and in action towards a meaningful two-state solution. That is very difficult to get to, to even get to the process of pursuing that when there’s so much violence going on, which isn’t doing anything but spiraling the tension upward rather than downward. And so again, what we want to see is both sides take the actions to calm things down so that we can have meaningful discussions and progress towards a two-state solution.

QUESTION: So --

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- you’ve called this wave “terrorism.” You now have 28 attacks over 14 days, 7 dead, over 70 wounded. Just a couple hours ago you had Ambassador Saperstein come here and he said to hold Israel to different standards than other – any other country isn’t just inappropriate; it’s anti-Semitism. What would you have – in terms of these checkpoints, what would you have Israel do? And I’ll follow up on that, because the exact quote from yesterday wasn’t actually read. Kerry said, “And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years,” and “Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.” Is the suggestion that what Israel should do is stop settlements? And if that’s the suggestion, are you not also suggesting that the terrorism that is happening at the current moment, as you describe it, has legitimate political motivations?

MR KIRBY: On settlements, our policy has not changed. We continue to believe – to continue to take the position that they’re illegitimate. So there’s been no change on our policy on settlements, and – now hang on, just let me finish. You ask a whopper of a question, so you got to give me a chance to answer here. So no change in our position on settlements. And obviously, we don’t want to see that practice continue, okay? That’s crystal clear. And you’re right the way you read the quote back, and I’m actually glad you did because it just reinforces my point earlier. The Secretary wasn’t saying, well, now the settlement activity is the cause for the effect we’re seeing. Is it a source of frustration for Palestinians? You bet it is, and the Secretary observed that. But he’s not – this isn’t about affixing, as I said, blame on either side here for the violence. What we want to see is the violence cease, and we want to see it end.

And so to your other question, well, what do you want to see the Israelis do? I think you mentioned checkpoints. I’m not – I’m not – it’s not our – we’re not going to dictate immediate security requirements onto Israel. Again, the Israeli Government has a right and a responsibility to protect its citizens. Now, we have seen some – I wouldn’t call the checkpoints this, but we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force. Obviously, we don’t like to see that, and we want to see restrictions that are elevated in this time of violence to be as temporary as possible if they have to be enacted. What we want to see, though, to your second question, is for both sides to take – to take the leadership responsibilities of calling for calm, maintaining that calm, and being able to restore a sense of normalcy so that people can get on with their lives safely and not have to worry, but also so that we can really begin to have again a meaningful discussion towards a two-state solution – which we continue to believe is the outcome that is – that’s best for the people there in the region.

QUESTION: But Abbas seems to be losing complete control. I mean, apparently these – a lot of these people are very young and they are not – they’re not listening to him. They really – he had no authority over them. They move about. A lot of them are from East Jerusalem, where he exercises no authority whatsoever. So what would you have him do? I mean, in fact, his leverage with the Palestinians seems to have dissipated. In such a situation, what would be a course of action that the United States, as someone who has garnered this peace process or the pursuit of a two-state solution has done for over 20, 25 years?

MR KIRBY: Said, I can’t give you – and I wouldn’t, just like I’m not – we’re not going to dictate from this podium temporary security restrictions that the Israeli Government may or may not need to put into effect. I’m not going to dictate from this podium specific steps that President Abbas has to take. I mean, he’s the leader. And the Secretary was very clear yesterday our expectation of leaders is that they’re going to do what they need to do to get calm restored, to reduce the violence, and to begin to start again on a process of dialogue here towards a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Doesn’t that leave you in a very awkward position because – or a difficult position, not awkward – the fact that he was elected 10 years ago and does not really have a great deal of credibility among his people?

MR KIRBY: My position up here is never difficult or awkward. Look, I – the --

QUESTION: Really? Never difficult? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) All right.

MR KIRBY: I think I’ve answered this. I don’t think I really can answer it any better than I have in the past. I think my answer will be the same.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up on logistics? Now you said that the Secretary may meet in the region. But he could also go to the West Bank and to Israel, right? It is possible on his trip?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to – I don’t have any --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: -- specifics on his travel to announce, Said. And I think you can understand. When we have something that we can talk about in terms of dates and places and agenda items, we’ll do that. We’re just not at that point right now.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran.

MR KIRBY: I wasn’t looking --

QUESTION: Oh, we got more usable soundbites we’re going to go – okay, go ahead. Let’s get some --

QUESTION: I wanted --

QUESTION: Not everyone is looking for soundbites.

QUESTION: No, I know. Some people just have all day to be here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Whoa, (inaudible).

QUESTION: I’ll make it snappy.

QUESTION: No, it’s not you, believe me.

QUESTION: Okay. I was just wondering --

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry to put you in the middle of that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. The Secretary, the department is very concerned about the level of violence. Is there some sense or concern that we’re at the edge of something that could spiral out of control? Are you concerned about another intifada-like situation, or is it just a matter of --

MR KIRBY: Well, obviously, nobody wants to see --

QUESTION: Obviously, right.

MR KIRBY: -- anything on that scale occur. And that’s why, again, the Secretary has been so candid about his concerns. That’s why he wants to travel soon to the region. Nobody wants to see that on that scale. Frankly, nobody wants to see any violence and any single death or injury as a result of these sorts of acts of violence. This – as we’ve described many of them, acts of terror, is obviously reprehensible and nobody wants to see that happen.

So I think we all share a sense of concern and urgency about this. And again, the Secretary has conveyed that. He will continue to convey that. and again, what we want to see is calm restored.

QUESTION: So I just have two extremely brief ones, so we can move on after that. You said in answer to my question on the status quo whether – at the Temple Mount whether it’s been broken or not, you said that it has not been observed and that is what has led to – I think. I’ll go back and look at the transcript, but I think you said it had not been – it was not – has not been observed and that is what has led to a great deal of the violence. That certainly sounds like you’re affixing some kind of blame to Israel if this is, in fact, what the Administration believes has led to the violence – the visits by – visit by Israelis to --

MR KIRBY: Well, it’s not about believing it, Matt. I mean, you just looked at what’s been happening in that – on Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount recently. I mean, just if we’re looking at this in acute – through an acute lens, I mean, the activity there, the status quo not being observed, has led to violence. There’s – that’s indisputable. That’s not a belief; that’s a fact.

QUESTION: Okay. But that --

MR KIRBY: Now, but it’s not about – but it’s not about affixing blame on one side or the other. There’s a status quo there. There’s a status quo --

QUESTION: It certainly sounds like it, no?

MR KIRBY: No, there’s a status quo there that we want to see restored, and the status quo has worked in the past in keeping things calm.

QUESTION: All right. And then the second brief thing was that you said you would – in response to Michael’s question, you said you’d seen reports of what many would consider to be excessive use of force. And I presume that you were talking about from the Israeli side. Is that correct?

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: Would you consider – would the --

MR KIRBY: We’ve --

QUESTION: You said what many would consider. So is the Administration among those who would consider what the Israeli actions have been to be excessive?

MR KIRBY: I think, again, without qualifying each and every one of them, we’ve certainly seen some reports of security activity that could indicate the potential excessive use of force. And again, we don’t want to see that anywhere. We don’t want to see that here in our own country. So yeah, we’re concerned about that.

QUESTION: So the – so you have raised this issue with Israelis? You’ve said that --

MR KIRBY: We – we’re always concerned about credible reports of excessive use of force against civilians, and we routinely raise our concerns about that.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, that’s just a little bit different than what you said before. So you believe that these are credible reports of excessive use of force by the Israeli security forces on Palestinian citizens?

MR KIRBY: We’ve seen reports. We’re always concerned about those kinds of reports.

QUESTION: I just have one really quick one. Just four days ago the prime minister’s office said that Kerry – and I’m quoting here – “clarified that the U.S. is aware of the fact that it is Israel’s policy to maintain the status quo” on the Temple Mount “and not to change it.” That’s from the Israeli side. That’s a readout from the Israeli side. I understand you’re saying that there have been breaches of that, but it is your understanding that the Israeli policy is not to change the policy or --

MR KIRBY: I’m not – it’s not my place to characterize Israeli policy. I can only tell you what our policy is and what we’d like to see.

QUESTION: So – okay, all right.

MR KIRBY: Justin.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about this Iranian state television broadcast which purports to show an underground tunnel packed with missiles and missile launchers. A, do you think this video is legitimate, and, B – in other words, real – and do you think that it’s provocative in nature? They say in the broadcast that this could be used if enemies make a mistake. That was the quote. Have you seen this footage?

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: No? So you can’t comment on whether it may be authentic or not?

MR KIRBY: It’s impossible for me to comment on a video I haven’t seen, Justin. But look, I mean, to take 10 steps back here, I think it’s important to remember the Iran deal was about stopping their pathways to a nuclear weapon, which it does, and that an Iran without nuclear weapons is certainly better for the region and better for our allies and partners to deal with than an Iran with nuclear weapons.

The third point I’d say is that nobody has and nobody will turn a blind eye to the destabilizing activities that Iran continues to prove capable of in the region. So I don’t know about this video and I haven’t seen it, so I can’t qualify it one way or the other. But let me just make it clear that we have tools at our disposal across the levers of government to continue to deal with the malicious and destabilizing activities that we know Iran’s capable of.

QUESTION: And do you want to weigh in at all on the --

MR KIRBY: Most likely my answer will be no, but go ahead. Keep going.

QUESTION: -- on the debate going on right now about the future of the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan? What’s – what opinion does this building take about the need – 9,800 there now, there’s obviously a strong argument to keep a large presence in the future given the threats in the region. So what’s this building’s --

MR KIRBY: Our focus here at the State Department is on continuing to improve and deepen our relationship with the Afghan Government. What we’re all working towards is a more normal relationship with the country of Afghanistan that’s not so based on security matters, and that’s where Secretary Kerry’s focus is going to be. The troop presence and how big it is, how long it lasts, I mean, that’s a matter for the Commander-in-Chief and only the Commander-in-Chief to decide. And I’m certain that whether there’s a decision or not, and if there is one, what it will be – all that will be done in consultation with military commanders.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR KIRBY: Sure.

QUESTION: We have a report that the U.S. is sending 300 troops to Cameroon. Do you know what this is about? Is it part of a bigger effort against Boko Haram? Is it something going on in the region as far as just West Africa? What – do you know anything about that?

MR KIRBY: I would refer you to the Defense Department for details on troop deployments.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: So there’s no concern specifically what’s going on in Cameroon? It’s probably about Boko Haram, but you don’t know anything as far as focus?

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say I didn’t know anything. I said that I’d refer you to the Defense Department to speak to troop deployments.

QUESTION: As far as the diplomatic side, has there been some kinds of concern --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any --

QUESTION: -- specifically on Cameroon?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any specific diplomatic initiatives to read out with respect to Cameroon. But as to – as for the troop deployments, again, you’d have to go to the Pentagon for that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Mark said on the podium that U.S. provided ammunition to Syrian Arab groups over the weekend, not Syrian Kurdish group PYD. But PYD leader Salih Muslim told Turkish press that PYD and its allies received the American ammunition airdrops. Polat Can, another PYD spokesperson, said that they would distribute the ammunition to allied Arab groups. So have you airdropped ammunition pallets to Syrian Arabs or Kurds?

MR KIRBY: I would point you to the Defense Department to speak to airdrops. That’s a military matter. As I understand it, there were no – that the drops recently conducted of some 100 bundles went to Syrian Arab counter-ISIL fighters.

QUESTION: Whether or not they were or were not – which is, as you say, a Pentagon matter – the Turks did call in – there has been some diplomatic move on this, has there not?

MR KIRBY: I think that it’s safe to say that the Turkish Government continues to raise their concerns about Syrian Kurds --

QUESTION: Are you --

MR KIRBY: -- and we continue to have discussions with them.

QUESTION: And are you aware of any such contact today?

MR KIRBY: There have been discussions very, very recently about continued concerns by the Turks about the YPD, and we’ll continue to discuss that with them. We understand their concerns with respect to that. They’re longstanding. They’ve been very honest about it, and we’re going to continue to engage with them about those concerns.

I think it’s just important to remember, getting – and I understand the sensitivity on this – the focus in Syria for the United States and the other 60-plus members of the coalition is about counter-ISIL. And we will continue to appropriately support those groups that are proving effective against ISIL inside Syria. But in this particular case, I think the Pentagon spoke to that very clearly about what was delivered and to whom it was delivered.

QUESTION: Is it true that American Ambassador John Bass was summoned to Turkish foreign ministry over the concerns related to PYD?

MR KIRBY: I think Matt was just asking about that. I don’t talk about the details of diplomatic conversations. I can tell you that we continue to talk to the Turkish Government about their concerns, specifically with respect to the Syrian Kurds, and those discussions will continue.

QUESTION: Another question, last one: Have you seen the Turkish prime minister’s comments on the ammunition deliveries to PYD? He said that if these ammunitions fall into the hands of PKK, Turkey will destroy those ammunition in Syria as it has done in Iraq.

MR KIRBY: Is there a question there?

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s a question.

MR KIRBY: What’s your question?

QUESTION: My question is have you --

MR KIRBY: Have I seen those comments?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: No, I have not.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Iran for one – go ahead.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is just going to be very brief. Yesterday in his comments in Boston, the Secretary said the following thing about the Iran deal and the Jason Rezaian verdict. He said, “I’m not going to go backwards,” in terms of talking about the conversations you’ve had with the Iranians over the course of the negotiations, “except to say that the families themselves of these hostages knew exactly what our strategy was and why it was important not to hold a nuclear agreement hostage to hostages.” Has the Administration changed its position on whether these detainees, as you had called them before, are now being held as – by Iran as hostages and should be considered that?

MR KIRBY: No, no. His use of the word “hostage” was simply misspeaking. There’s no change in policy.

QUESTION: So the – so neither the Secretary nor the Administration believes that these Americans are hostages?

MR KIRBY: We continue to talk about Americans that are being detained in Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, he --

QUESTION: Was he scolded for that? I’ve been scolded for that.

QUESTION: He said, I mean, “hostage” three times in the same sentence, so --

MR KIRBY: I understand. There’s no change to our policy.

QUESTION: All right.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria?

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you about the Russian airstrikes. Now, the Russians are claiming that they’re hitting so many ISIL sites and camps and so on. You, on the other hand, say that most of these strikes miss ISIS or are directed toward someone else. How do you determine whether the – which reports are correct? I mean, how do you determine the veracity or the lack thereof of Russia’s reports?

MR KIRBY: As I addressed this I think last week --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: -- and without getting into intelligence matters, we have a variety of sources of information that, when taken together, gives us a good degree of confidence in what we see the Russian military forces striking. And they continue to strike the preponderance – the vast majority of targets continue to be opposition groups and not, in fact, ISIL.

QUESTION: And do you think that – I mean, seeing that how the – apparently or allegedly the Syrian army is fixing to attack Aleppo and so on with the aid of Russian air power and so on, do you have any comment on that?

MR KIRBY: I mean, I’ve seen reports of that, Said. I’d let the Russians speak to their operations. I don’t even speak to U.S. operations from this podium. That said, nothing’s changed about our conviction that there’s not going to be a military solution to the civil war in Syria --

QUESTION: Do you --

MR KIRBY: -- that the fight needs to be against ISIL. And if the Russians are able and willing to contribute to that fight, that’s a discussion that’s – that we’re willing to have.

At the same time, assuming they’re willing to have that discussion, what has to happen is continued work towards a successful political transition. There has to be two tracks here. You can’t divorce them; you can’t separate them. They have to go hand in hand, and we’ve made that very clear to the Russians.

QUESTION: My last question regarding the Russian aircraft carrier. Russia is apparently moving its one and only aircraft carrier towards Syria’s waters. Do you have any comment on that? Is that exacerbating the situation? Is it driving the situation over the brink?

MR KIRBY: I actually haven’t seen – I actually haven’t seen that report, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: So I wouldn’t speak to, again, specific military movements of even our own military. But again, keeping – you have to keep all this in context. True or not, what we want to see is an effort against ISIL inside Syria and not an effort militarily to continue to prop up the Assad regime and to keep him in power and to prolong the civil war and to invite more sectarian violence and tension and more extremism inside Syria.

QUESTION: And can I just follow up on that one? Have you seen the reports of Cuban – 200 to 300 Cubans? A source says that basically a brigade of tank-trained soldiers --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- have gone into Syria to help the Russians.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I’ve seen those reports.

MR KIRBY: You can’t confirm?

MR KIRBY: I am not in a position to independently confirm them.

QUESTION: What about these reports that Lavrov, these claims that Lavrov is making that the U.S. turned down multiple opportunities – one in Moscow and one in Washington – to hold higher-level de-confliction talks or military talks?

MR KIRBY: We’ve continued to show a willingness to talk to Russian – to Russian leaders --

QUESTION: On the phone.

MR KIRBY: -- and Russian authorities on Syria, all the way up to the – I mean, President Obama and President Putin talked about Syria in New York two weeks ago. Secretary Kerry continues to talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov about this. And DOD is continuing to have lower-level military discussions with the Russians about professional and safe conduct.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR KIRBY: The point I’m trying to make is there is a dialogue ongoing. It will continue. I’ll let the Russians speak to whatever proposal they may or may not make. I don’t have anything on that. What I’ll tell you, though, is certainly the openness and willingness on our side is not in dispute to have --

QUESTION: Well, they’re saying you rejected these deals, these opportunities to talk.

MR KIRBY: Yeah, I don’t have anything specific on this proposal. But if you just look at the past, Justin --

QUESTION: Why not --

MR KIRBY: If you just --

QUESTION: Why not --

MR KIRBY: If you just look at the past, there’s been no shortage of opportunity and certainly no lack of willingness by the United States to have a conversation or multiple conversations at various levels with Russian authorities about what’s going on in Syria. And --

MR KIRBY: Nevertheless, you won’t directly address whether or not you turned down this opportunity to talk?

MR KIRBY: I think I told you before I don’t have anything specific on that proposal. But I also think it’s important --

QUESTION: I got you.

MR KIRBY: -- for everybody to recognize what’s happened to date and what will continue to happen in terms of dialogue with the Russians. Regardless of this proposal, nobody can, on the face of it, accuse the United States of not being willing to engage in a dialogue and a discussion with Russia about what they’re doing in Syria. But --

QUESTION: But you want to do it one way, they want to do it another way. We’ll leave it at that.

MR KIRBY: Do what one way?

QUESTION: They want to have these meetings. You don’t want to do the meetings that they’re proposing. You want to do your own meetings, video teleconference that they record and put on YouTube.

MR KIRBY: (Laughter.) No, I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to continue to have a dialogue, as we must with Russia, about what they’re doing in Syria. But all of that – and all that’s great, but if it doesn’t lead us to a better outcome here, which is not the pursuit of a military solution to the civil war, not the propping up of Assad, not the exacerbation of more violence in Syria, then those discussions aren’t going to prove very productive and fruitful, and having a debate about who offered what and what’s on the dance card is kind of immaterial. Because what matters in Syria is the result, and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION: John, yesterday Secretary Carter seemed to draw limits on the way you’ll interact with Russia about Syria. He said that our work with Russia has to be focused on air safety and that the U.S. doesn’t want to be associated with what Russia is doing in Syria. And that seems a little different than what you’re saying. He was saying we’re willing to talk to them, but on air safety issues, not anything else.

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, that’s the Defense Department’s primary concern here in – with respect to military activity – Russian military activity in Syria – which is to make sure that coalition pilots are safe and are able to continue to conduct their missions. And I thought Secretary Carter was very clear about what he’s looking at here, which is safe and professional conduct. And that’s the level of discussions that they’re having or – and willing to have with the Russian military.

QUESTION: So he wasn’t speaking for the Administration? He was only speaking for the Pentagon?

MR KIRBY: No, of course, the Secretary of Defense also speaks for the Administration. I don’t see anything disconnected at all between what Secretary Carter said about what they’re doing and the conversations they want to have and what we here at the State Department or our colleagues at the White House are trying to pursue in terms of a more positive outcome in Syria. I did not – and I was there. I didn’t take anything away from the Defense Secretary’s comments that would lead me to believe – should lead anybody to believe that there’s a gap here or a disconnect.

QUESTION: Okay. It sounded to me like there might be a little bit of a disconnect, but --

MR KIRBY: I think – again, I don’t want to speak for another federal agency, so I’ll be careful here. But my sense of it was he was speaking for the equities of the Defense Department, which is the ability to conduct a military mission inside Syria. That’s their mandate. And his job as Defense Secretary is to be able to report to the Commander-in-Chief that he can do the job he’s been tasked to do and he can do it safely and efficiently and effectively. And to the degree you have Russian military aircraft now in Syrian airspace, you have – you need to make sure that you can continue to answer all bells, as we say in the Navy. And that means having an assurance of safe and professional conduct, in this case by the Russian side. And that’s his concern. It should be his concern.

Nobody is talking about – at this point anyway, certainly nobody is talking about some wider or deeper cooperation with the Russian military in Syria, largely because – back to – I think it was Said’s question – we haven’t seen in the targets that they’re hitting that they’re willing to be serious about going after ISIL. And what we’ve said is if you’re willing to do that, if you’re willing to have a constructive role against ISIL, well, now there’s a conversation that’s worth having, and we can sit down and look at ways that maybe they could play a constructive role. But we’re just not at that stage right now, and I think that’s what he was referring to. I wouldn’t read too much into that.

QUESTION: From the diplomatic side though, has there been any complaint registered with the Russians about your allegations that they’re going after U.S.-supported troops or fighters, rebels?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we don’t talk about the details of diplomatic conversations, Matt. But I think it’s – I think you can reasonably assume that on various levels we’ve certainly made our concerns known to the Russians about what we see them continuing to strike. As a matter of fact, I think in the last phone call readout that we did between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov we addressed that.

QUESTION: Right. But is it just expressing concern, or are you telling them to stop it?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to --

QUESTION: Well, the reason I’m asking is because the line of questioning that came from what Secretary Carter said yesterday about the de-confliction and the safety of U.S. pilots in Syrian airspace and you wanting the Russians to have safe and professional conduct does not appear to show a concern – correct me if I’m wrong – for the safety and well-being of the people on the ground that you say are actually being targeted instead of ISIL.

MR KIRBY: Oh, believe me, we --

QUESTION: It does?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, we’ve --

QUESTION: It does include that?

MR KIRBY: Absolutely. We’ve – yes, we’ve made it very clear that we want that kind of activity to stop. Of course we do. I mean, and there’s no – that’s not getting us anywhere near to the outcome we want. So yes, of course, we’ve said we want that activity to stop. And if they’re going to continue to drop ordnance inside Syria from their aircraft, we’d like that ordnance to be aimed at ISIL and al-Qaida-affiliated targets.

Yes.

QUESTION: I’ll switch the topic to South China Sea. The tension of South China Sea is increased again because of last week the Financial Times reported that a U.S. warship would sail within 12 miles of the South China Sea area. And recently, the Chinese state-owned media Xinhua Agency said it is a kind of flagrant provocation and warning the U.S. not to do so. How would you respond to it? And when will this military action going to happen?

MR KIRBY: All right, let me just take the second one first because I think you all know what I’m going to say here. I mean, is anybody – I’m not going to speak to military operations present or future, so I’m just not going to get into that.

What we’ve said all along is that the U.S. military, and Secretary Carter talked about this yesterday, will fly, will sail, and will operate wherever it needs to in accordance with international law to protect our national security interests and the interests of our allies and partners, period. How that’s done, where that’s done, when that’s done, that’s all for the Defense Department to speak to. What we’ve also said is that we want to see the reclamation activity stop, the militarization of some of those reclaimed features stop. None of that’s doing anything to help reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

Now, we don’t take a particular position on individual claims, which I know is a separate matter but it’s an important context here. We do take a position on the use of coercion or threat of force to exert influence on those claims. We want to see these things worked out diplomatically and in accordance with international law.

So again, I don’t have anything to speak to in terms of military operations, but we have made very clear our concerns about China’s activity in the South China Sea and we will continue to do so.

QUESTION: John, can we stay in China? Has there been any communication between the United States and China regarding the son of detained human rights lawyer Wang Yu? The 16-year-old son was put under house arrest, according to family members, as he was trying to flee for the United States.

MR KIRBY: Pam, I don’t know if I have anything on that or not. Let me just check one other place, and if I don’t, you’re going to have to let me take that question. I don’t think that I have anything on that for you. I’m afraid I’m going to have to get back to you, Pam. I’ll take that question.

QUESTION: One more on the South China Sea issue? The way you guys talk about this, it kind of sounds like you’re treating it as if it’s in a vacuum – that the United States will sail around these islands just as it sails through any other international waters. But do you guys at least acknowledge that it will have diplomatic repercussions, that it will raise tensions with China if you do?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not going to speculate about military operations and whether or not they’ll occur, where or when they’ll occur. I won’t speculate. We have an obligation to defend our interests, and our military does that better than any in the world. And speaking as a former naval officer – again, I want to be careful here that I’m not speaking for the military, but speaking as a former naval officer I can tell you the Navy has and will continue to sail and to operate in accordance with international law where it needs to to defend our interests and to secure those – help secure those interests of our allies and partners. It’s not – it’s not an act of bravado; it’s a requirement. That’s why you have a navy. And I’ve said before, I’ll say it again: freedom of the seas is not just about – not just for whales and for icebergs. That’s why you have a navy – to help protect the freedom of the seas, and our Navy does that, again, better than any other in the world. This isn’t – this is a principle, a fundamental principle that we’re going to continue to uphold.

QUESTION: So is it your view that – I mean, the Chinese are on the record as saying that this would – that they would be very displeased if the U.S. Navy sailed close to these islands. Is it your view that that principle is worth sacrificing some good will with China for?

MR KIRBY: Well, again, you’re asking me to speculate about operations, which I won’t do, especially operations which haven’t even happened yet. (Laughter.) Somebody’s having a good time out there.

QUESTION: John, can I --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: But hang on a second. Hang on. It’s a fair question and I want to answer it. We obviously want to have a constructive relationship with China, and we do on many matters. I mean, China was enormously helpful in the Iran deal negotiations and President Xi when he was here signed with President Obama new clean energy and climate goals – all very useful. And we have been able to cooperate and to discuss things like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and they share a concern about piracy on the high seas, as do we. So there’s lots of areas where we can cooperate diplomatically, economically, and even militarily on occasion.

Nobody wants to see the relationship succeed more than Secretary Kerry. That said, we have primary security obligations to the American people and to our allies and partners in the region, and those have to be upheld. I’m not going to speculate about what the Navy’s going to do where or when. I won’t do that. But I think it would be irresponsible if we proved unable or unwilling to act on these fundamental principles in terms of international law.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: John, is the very act that you’re saying, “Well, we can go where we want to” not enflaming what is already a really tense situation in the South China Sea? I mean, even though you say it’s to defend your interest and allies, but is that act just not one that’s --

MR KIRBY: Well, again, without – again, without speculating, you guys are asking me to talk about military operations which I won’t do. One could make the argument that what’s destabilizing in the region is the reclamation activity and the militarization of the reclaimed features. And one could also make the argument that in not sailing, flying, and operating in accordance with international law, by not being able or being willing to do that, that that itself could invite more destabilizing activities.

Yeah.

QUESTION: John, yesterday when commenting on the --

QUESTION: I had a question on the same topic.

MR KIRBY: Okay. Let me come back to you.

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

MR KIRBY: She’s been very patient, sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: I know you’re probably not going ask about the South China Sea.

QUESTION: It is a different topic, though.

MR KIRBY: It’s fine, it’s fine.

QUESTION: Change of – yeah.

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, commenting on the Dutch investigation report, Mr. Toner said it does say that MH17 was shot down by Buk missile fired from separatist-controlled area in eastern Ukraine, and we’ve said it from day one.

Here’s the actual – here is what the actual report says, page 147: “The area from which the possible flight paths of a 9N314M warhead carried on a 9M38-series missile as installed on the Buk surface-to-air missile system could have commenced is about 320 square kilometers in the east of Ukraine. Further forensic research is required to determine the launch location. Such work falls outside the mandate of the Dutch Safety Board.”

I understand that Mr. Toner voiced the U.S. assessment, but why attribute it to the Dutch report when it wasn’t there?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think what the Dutch Safety Board investigation was looking at was the precise coordinates of the launch location and not the general area. And from the very beginning, we have said that – and we had information that made clear to us that the general launch area was in separatist-held territory. And I think that that’s supported by what the Dutch Safety Board has reported – that that area that they reported it coming from is the same area where we believed it came from at the time.

Now, I think what that’s referring to is the specific location in terms of, like, no-kidding grid coordinates, which I understand they didn’t – which they didn’t have in the report. But in terms of the general area in which it occurred, their findings concurred with our findings at the time that it was in an area that was controlled largely by separatists.

QUESTION: That is the U.S. assessment, but the report itself does not say that the missile was fired from separatist-controlled area. It’s what the U.S. says. Why --

MR KIRBY: It subscribes an area that we knew back then was separatist-controlled.

QUESTION: Yes, the U.S. knew back then, but it’s not what the report said. And Mr. Toner said that is what the Dutch report said, and I read to you what the Dutch report actually says, that they don’t determine the location.

MR KIRBY: I think if you lay the report – if you lay the report and its findings over what we said at the time, you’ll see that they match in terms of what generally happened here.

QUESTION: Where exactly in the report does it say that it comes from a separatist-controlled area? Do I understand it correctly that Mr. Toner just misspoke?

MR KIRBY: No, I don’t think he did. I don’t think he did. We have long maintained – and nothing in the Dutch Safety Board investigation contradicts this – in fact, it supports it – that it was a Buk surface-to-air missile and that it was fired from Russian-controlled separatist territory. Now exactly where, I --

QUESTION: Where in the report does it say that? Well, it says – I’m looking at it. It says, “Further forensic research is required to determine the launch location. Such work falls outside the mandate of the Dutch Safety Board.” Where in the report does it say that it – the missile came from rebel-controlled area in eastern Ukraine?

MR KIRBY: The report basically validates exactly what we knew at the time: a Buk surface-to-air missile fired from separatist – an area that at the time --

QUESTION: As the U.S. assesses.

MR KIRBY: -- we knew at the time – not just the United States – but we knew was Russian-controlled separatist territory. And we’re very comfortable in the findings of the Dutch Safety Board. We appreciate the hard work that went into it, and we continue to want to see those responsible for this to be brought to account.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more question on that investigation report? So what the investigators also said yesterday was that there were – the warning signs were there for the Ukrainian authorities to close the airspace. I mean, war was going on on the ground and in the air, but that hasn’t been done. Do you think there should be some responsibility for not taking such an important precaution?

MR KIRBY: I think there’s a whole other set – this safety board was responsible for determining the “what,” what happened, what brought the plane down. And then as you know, there’s a criminal investigation looking into accountability, and I think we need to let that work go on. And I think that’s the process that needs to be followed right now.

It’s – but regardless, somebody fired that missile, right? We know it was fired from Russian-controlled separatist territory and that it was a Buk surface-to-air missile which the Ukrainians did not have. And innocent people died because their airliner got shot out of the sky. And I think it’s important that we remember those people and those victims and their families, and to let the investigators continue to do their work so the proper people can be brought to account for this horrific incident. And that’s what the focus ought to be. That’s what the focus ought to be.

QUESTION: No, sorry. Just days before --

MR KIRBY: No, I’m going to move on now.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So I wanted to ask about the 12-mile exclusion zone, and I’m hoping you will deploy your background as a naval officer to answer this. But my understanding is that that is – that 12-mile zone is laid out under international law around sovereign territories. But isn’t it also true that it does not apply to manmade structures?

MR KIRBY: I think I’m going to just go back to what I said before – actually, what Secretary Carter said – which is that our military and our naval forces are going to act in accordance with international law, and they’ll do that. And I am really – I’m not going to get into a detailed discussion here from the podium about where geographically on the map that international law applies. It’s international law and it’s pretty obvious. And I’m not a --

QUESTION: Is it the Law of the Sea?

MR KIRBY: Huh?

QUESTION: Is it the International Law of the Sea, or is it --

MR KIRBY: No, no, no, international law.

QUESTION: Okay, okay.

MR KIRBY: There’s – international law in general. But I think I’m just going to leave it where --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: And I think, actually, Secretary Kerry was very clear about this. And I think rather than speculating about the specifics of where, when, and how, I just again would reassert we have an obligation here to the American people and to our allies and partners.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I go to Afghanistan briefly?

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: MSF says that the – this international humanitarian fact-finding group is prepared or has proposed going to do an investigation into the Kunduz hospital bombing, but that in order for it to happen both the United States and the Afghans have to give it their okay. Is this something that the U.S. is prepared to do?

MR KIRBY: Prepared to do what, Matt?

QUESTION: To give them permission to go ahead and start an independent investigation.

MR KIRBY: I would just go back to what I said last week. I mean, we’re not taking --

QUESTION: Well, this question was – I’m sorry to stop you, but this question was asked --

MR KIRBY: Because you know where I’m going to go.

QUESTION: Well, the question was asked and not answered at the White House, and I’m hoping that you can give a better answer than your colleague over there did, who simply repeated that the U.S. is doing its own investigation and is confident that those investigations – that investigation – the three investigations will be transparent and people will be held accountable if that’s required. That is not my question.

My question is whether the United States is prepared to give permission or if it will withhold or deny permission to this group, this international humanitarian fact-finding commission, to do an independent investigation into what happened.

MR KIRBY: It’s my understanding that we’ve not taken a position on that particular issue, and that’s what I said last week, that we don’t have, and I’m not aware of any effort to take or stake out a position on this independent investigation mechanism. The --

QUESTION: Well, but before the investigation happens it requires some affirmative action on your part. Are you saying that you’re just going to ignore the request for permission?

MR KIRBY: What I am saying is – what I’m saying is that we’re not taking a position on this --

QUESTION: Well, then it --

MR KIRBY: -- on this issue of an independent investigation. There are three ongoing now.

QUESTION: Yes. I understand.

MR KIRBY: And the Secretary has complete trust and confidence that those three will be thorough and fair and complete – and transparent when complete – and that we’ll be able to get answers to what happened, how it happened, and more importantly, how we can prevent it from happening again.

QUESTION: I have no doubt that the Secretary and the rest of the Administration believe that this – that that is the case. That is not my question. My question is what --

MR KIRBY: But that is my response. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, the problem is that it doesn’t answer the question. If you’re just going to – you have to take affirmative action in other – in order for this investigation to happen.

MR KIRBY: I know of no such action --

QUESTION: You are – well, exactly.

MR KIRBY: -- that is being considered.

QUESTION: So essentially, you’re just going to ignore it and hope it dies.

MR KIRBY: To say that we’re --

QUESTION: No, the – I’m not saying you’re not interested in finding out what happened. I’m not saying that you’re not doing or the Administration or the military or NATO or whoever is actually is doing an investigation. I’m not even casting doubt on whether the investigation will be fair and honest and transparent or that people will be held accountable. The only thing I’m asking is whether or not you will give permission for an independent humanitarian fact-finding mission – committee to look into what happened. And I think what you’re saying – I think the answer to my question is, “No. We’re not going to take any action on it,” which means that their request effectively dies because you’re ignoring it, right?

MR KIRBY: The Secretary is confident that the investigations underway will --

QUESTION: I’m sure he is, and --

MR KIRBY: -- be able to get us to the bottom of what happened and how it can prevent it from happening again, and if it needs to, to hold those to account that need to be held to account, if that’s the case.

QUESTION: Yeah, but can you just explain what the – so the Administration will not give permission. Is that correct?

MR KIRBY: I know of no such effort at this time.

QUESTION: You know of (inaudible).

MR KIRBY: No such effort to give this time to move forward on – or to take a position on an independent investigation.

QUESTION: Okay, so in other words – but you do accept that not taking a position on the – on an independent investigation means it won’t – means one won’t happen, right?

MR KIRBY: I understand the modalities that you’re talking about. Again, what our focus is on is on the investigations that are currently ongoing and to making sure that those investigators are able to let the facts take them where they may. That’s what matters here. And look, nobody – I said this before – nobody investigates itself more thoroughly or aggressively than the United States military.

QUESTION: Okay. I am not taking issue with that.

MR KIRBY: I understand – I know you’re not – I know you’re not debating it. But I think it’s an important point to point out.

QUESTION: Though some people would debate it. I, however, am not.

MR KIRBY: Okay. Fair enough. And I appreciate that.

QUESTION: It’s a simple question and I don’t understand why I can’t get a simple answer that no, you’re not going to give permission.

MR KIRBY: I’ve given you an answer, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Very quick one on Yemen. The U.S. Navy apparently issued a report saying – suggesting that the Saudi-led coalition is hindering the access of humanitarian ships into Yemen. Can you confirm or --

MR KIRBY: As I understand it, this is a – it’s not a report issued by the Navy; it’s part of a daily summary --

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: -- that the commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: -- the Navy component to Central Command does every day in terms of his – just his daily situational awareness. I won’t speak to the details of those kinds of military summaries. That’s really for my colleagues at the Defense Department to speak to. That said (inaudible) have made very clear – and I’ve done it several times from this podium myself – about our concerns on the humanitarian front inside Yemen and the desperate need of the Yemeni people to continue to get, which has not been free-flowing, humanitarian aid and assistance, whether it’s from the sea or from the air or any other way. And I would – and we’ve raised those concerns with the Saudi-led coalition about the need – the desperate need for humanitarian aid to continue to flow into Yemen. We want to see that happen. We understand there’s challenges, but we want to see that happen. And I would also point you to what King Salman said when he was here in Washington, that he himself affirmed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to seeing that aid get to the people who need it. And that’s what our focus is on and we’ll continue to raise our concerns with Saudi Arabia and the coalition in Yemen as we need to.

Okay? Thanks, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:09 p.m.)



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