Daily Press Briefing - November 2, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing:
Daily Press Briefing
2:00 p.m. EDT
MS TRUDEAU: Hi, everyone.
MS TRUDEAU: Thank you. Where’s the applause? Come on. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Your maiden briefing.
MS TRUDEAU: Thank you, thank you. I’ll never tell Kirby you guys did that.
QUESTION: We want to get some answers. (Laughter.)
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. We have a few things off the top. Today we mark the second annual International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. We do so at a time when too many reporters around the world face an unprecedented level of threats and violence. They are harassed, imprisoned, or even killed for simply doing their jobs, for reporting the news. Even worse, those who commit crimes against journalists are rarely brought to justice. In nine out of 10 cases, perpetrators go unpunished, according to UNESCO.
We take this opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering support for the work of reporters worldwide. The United States will continue to prioritize the safety and security of journalists on this day and every day.
Scheduling note: Later today, Under Secretary Rick Stengel will be delivering remarks on this issue at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Next, on Turkey. We congratulate the people of Turkey on their participation in yesterday’s parliamentary elections. The United States looks forward to working with the newly-elected parliament and with the future government. As a friend and NATO ally, we are committed to continuing our close cooperation with Turkey to advance our shared political, security, and prosperity agendas.
We understand the OSCE will issue a comprehensive final report on the election in coming weeks. We note the OSCE released a statement of preliminary findings today highlighting that the elections offered voters a variety of choices but that restrictions on media freedom remain a serious concern. We reiterate our own concerns. The media outlets and individual journalists critical of the government were subject to pressure and intimidation during the campaign, seemingly in a manner calculated to weaken political opposition. We urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in Turkey’s constitution.
And finally, a travel note. Today, Secretary Kerry is in Astana, Kazakhstan where he met with Prime Minister Massimov, Foreign Minister Idrissov, and President Nazarbayev. As you’ve already seen, the Secretary also gave a speech at Nazarbayev University on Central Asia in the 21st century.
Tomorrow, Secretary Kerry travels to Dushanbe in Tajikistan and Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, where he’ll meet with the respective presidents in both countries. He will then stop in London, where he’ll meet with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond before returning to Washington on Wednesday.
As you know, it’s part of Secretary Kerry’s trip to all five countries in Central Asia. He’s the first Secretary of State to visit all five countries in one trip.
And Matt, I go to you.
QUESTION: All right. I’m sure you – this is very exciting, isn’t it?
MS TRUDEAU: I hope it’s equally for me as it is for you, Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah, good. So this is a kind of a logistical thing. But apropos of your opening statement and much of your statement on Turkey, I’m wondering if we can talk a little bit about this incident that happened yesterday in Uzbekistan involving a reporter and the role that Diplomatic Security played in removing her from this room. Can you explain what happened here? Because it seems to be at odds with your opening statement about harassment of journalists, et cetera.
MS TRUDEAU: Well, I think – and thank you for the question because it’s important to put this in context. So I think some of you have seen the media reports on this. There was a photo spray yesterday before a bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry and the Uzbek president. As many of you know, photo sprays are very different from standard press conferences where reporters could ask questions. At the end of the spray, per standard procedure, the press were escorted out of the room where the reporter shouted a question. It’s a normal occurrence. It happens all the time, I think as many of you know, as was normal when Secretary Kerry and the Uzbek president chose not to answer that.
Our press support team and Diplomatic Security work hard around the world on these trips as well as here in the Department to work for access for journalists on this. However, we’re not perfect. We’re going to take a look at what happened. If there’s ways that we can review and fix on how we do these processes, we absolutely will.
QUESTION: Well, I think the issue is not so much that they refused to answer the question because, as you note, that happens all the time. I think probably less than 50 percent of the time that someone --
MS TRUDEAU: That’s probably high.
QUESTION: -- shouts out a question we actually get a response in a photo op like that. The issue of concern, I think, is that someone in the American delegation – whether it was a security agent or someone else – is heard on the video saying, “Take her out.” And particularly given the circumstances in Uzbekistan – which even you guys say does not have an illustrious human rights record, particularly with regard to press freedom – participation in removing almost physically a reporter from a room is a bit problematic; is it not?
MS TRUDEAU: So what I would say is in reviewing the tape and talking actually to people who were on the ground there, what it looks like is this was part of the standard procedures. People were being ushered out of the room at the end of the photo spray. That said, we’re looking at it. We take this seriously. And if there’s things that we need to do to do our job better, we absolutely will.
QUESTION: Do you understand what actually happened?
MS TRUDEAU: So --
QUESTION: And when you say “escorted,” was the journalist physically touched by either DS or the press staff?
MS TRUDEAU: From my understanding, she was escorted out. Sort of what happened in – if she was touched, I can’t say. But we are looking at it. We take it seriously, Arshad.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, it’s just one thing to say, “This way, if you please,” and it’s another thing if somebody actually puts their hands on a journalist.
MS TRUDEAU: No, we understand that, and it’s something we’re looking at.
QUESTION: And I think in general, just as a comment – and I’ve always felt this way doing these travel – if you don’t want press to ask a question, please don’t invite us. We travel all the way across the world to come to these rooms to get a question, and if you’re going to be pushing us out of the room, just don’t bring – if you don’t want us there, don’t invite us. That’s what I would say. It’s --
MS TRUDEAU: Well, I --
QUESTION: That’s not even a question, that’s just a comment.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: But thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: Well, I would answer that, though, even though that wasn’t a question and it was just a comment. No, you have an important role, and the U.S. Government is committed to making sure that you guys have the highest access that we can possibly get. I think many of you – I’ve done trips with many of you. Our press team on the ground as well as our Diplomatic Security agents, they hustle and they work hard to get you guys in there. We’re committed to that, and we’re going to continue to push it.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that they don’t, but this was an – are you acknowledging that this was a mistake, that you should not – that U.S. personnel should not have been involved in doing this?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, I think I’d separate this from the issue of human rights in Uzbekistan versus what happened there. I’m saying what we’re looking at is what happened on the ground, and if there’s things we can do better, we absolutely will.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re not acknowledging that this was a mistake.
MS TRUDEAU: At this stage – I wasn’t on the ground – I can’t say it was. But what we are saying is people who are on the ground are looking at it.
QUESTION: And do you think --
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not sure I understand. I mean, if you’re not acknowledging that this was an error, how can you even come out and give the opening – your opening statement about reporters being harassed and you support the freedom of the press around the world? I don’t understand how you can say that and then not acknowledge that what happened here, or in Samarkand, was aberration, which you said you were not perfect – understood. But if the Uzbeks want to throw people out of a room physically or otherwise, that’s one thing, but for American – part of the Secretary’s delegation to participate in it, do you not see that as a problem, or is it (inaudible)?
MS TRUDEAU: So from my understanding of it, they were – it was at the very end of the spray. They were actually being physically escorted out. I’m not sure if there was touching involved. So to go to your point, they were physically escorted out and then – and then someone turned around and shouted a question. I don’t know enough that I can characterize it as that, but we are looking at it.
QUESTION: One question. Is it your view that – I mean, it’s my view having been to many of these and asked lots of questions, that somebody is perfectly within their rights, a reporter, to call a question out at the beginning, in the middle, at the end. That’s our job. Does the fact that they were being escorted out and a person called out a question – is – do you think you’re not allowed or not supposed to ask a question on your way out?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, the ground rules for a photo spray are pretty well defined. They go in, there’s the spray, people are escorted out. I would point out that the Secretary on this trip did a number of engagements with the media. Again, I’m not on the ground so it’s hard for me to parse exactly what happened, but I will say we are looking at it.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, my basic point would be I think reporters are allowed to call out a question at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. I mean, freedom of the press is freedom of the press. There’s no written contract that says you can ask a question in the first 20 seconds.
MS TRUDEAU: Point taken. Matt, do you want to follow up again?
QUESTION: Do you think the question was sensitive, that’s why she was escorted?
MS TRUDEAU: So I would say, categorically, her removal had nothing to do with the content of the question. We understand it was – it was a logistical issue. Pivoting off that, I would say the Secretary raised human rights at every stop of his Central Asian tour. I think you guys have seen the content of the speech that he made today. If not, you’ll get that shortly. But he spoke very forcefully about human rights, about the need for the region’s government to protect basic human rights in order to strengthen governance, bolster security, and promote economic development. So I would divorce the two, Michel.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Turkey?
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: I – just one more on this. So can you – if you’re not acknowledging that this was an error, are you at least saying that something like this is not going to happen again?
MS TRUDEAU: I’d like to say it wouldn’t but, again, on a lot of these situations, we don’t control every variable.
QUESTION: No, and I think that that’s understandable. And I think to Michel’s point, it’s – I think it’s pretty clear to all of us who have actually been in these situations that it is not the content of the question, it’s the mere fact of asking the question that can upset or rile host-country, non-U.S. security. The point here is is that instead of – this wasn’t just host country security --
MS TRUDEAU: I see your point.
QUESTION: -- and host country security of a country that has got an abysmal human rights record according to your own human rights reports, and a member of the – at least one, maybe more, members of the U.S. delegation – of Secretary Kerry’s delegation were actively helping in this. And that’s the issue here. So anyway, I guess that --
QUESTION: And who was behind this? U.S. Secret – Diplomatic Security or --
MS TRUDEAU: It was the end of the photo spray. The press were being escorted out.
QUESTION: But the Diplomatic Security or the --
MS TRUDEAU: Normally we do that joint. And I just want to emphasize: It was the end of the spray. They were on their way out the door.
QUESTION: It was joint?
MS TRUDEAU: That’s how these movements happen.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Move on?
MS TRUDEAU: Turkey.
QUESTION: So I note that you noted your own concerns about the pressure and intimidation on journalists in Turkey ahead of the election. Do you concur with the OSCE preliminary view that the conduct of the campaign was unfair because of the media and media access issues?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, as I said in my opening statement, they’ve released a statement of preliminary finding – findings that noted that the election had – voters had choices but restrictions remained a concern. We understand that a full report from the OSCE will come out later, so we’ll wait on that, but we’ve spoken very forcefully from this podium on our concerns on media freedom in Turkey.
QUESTION: And do you think that the return to single-party rule in Turkey is (a) a good thing, and (b) will it have any effect – positive, negative, neutral – on U.S.-Turkish cooperation against the Islamic State in Syria?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, we look forward to working with whatever new government. We understand the official election results will be released in coming days. We’re not going to speculate on the final result.
Shortest briefing ever. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we go to Yemen for a second?
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: Can I ask one more question about Turkey?
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: And then we’ll go to Yemen, Matt.
QUESTION: So the leader of the pro-Kurdish party, HDP, said – accused the ruling party of restricting them from campaigning during the election, and he said we cannot say the election was completely free and fair. Can you – what do you – what’s your – I know you responded to the OSCE report, but --
MS TRUDEAU: I’m going to stay there. At this stage we haven’t seen the final report of the monitors on the ground. We’re going to wait for that. In terms of parsing the words of individual parties on the ground, that’s a Turkish matter. I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: Matt.
MS TRUDEAU: We’re aware of those reports. Due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on them.
QUESTION: Okay. So there are privacy considerations?
MS TRUDEAU: Due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on those reports.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, that’s basically a confirmation that they are Americans, right? Because if they weren’t Americans, there would not be any privacy considerations, correct?
MS TRUDEAU: I’m going to stay where I am.
QUESTION: Would that be a leap?
MS TRUDEAU: It would be that due to privacy considerations, I’m not going to comment on those further.
QUESTION: No, would it be a leap? If you’re saying you can’t speak to it because of – privacy considerations would not apply to non-Americans. Is that correct?
MS TRUDEAU: Privacy considerations in this case preclude me from speaking about these reports.
QUESTION: Privacy considerations just in general – forget about Yemen – do not apply to non-American citizens. Is that correct?
MS TRUDEAU: Depends on which case, but in this case, due to privacy considerations, I can’t speak to those reports.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about these reports? The UN seems to be.
MS TRUDEAU: I would direct your questions to the UN, Matt.
MS TRUDEAU: So the Secretary’s spoken to the importance of having all the stakeholders at the table for these discussions – that’s regardless of the very clear differences that remain among those participating. We expect many of those differences will remain, but that does not mean we shouldn’t try and resolve the conflict and end the suffering of the Syrian people.
I’d note specifically to your question Iran is among the many stakeholders, and it certainly has, along with Russia, significant interest in the conflict in Syria now. Iran could act in partnership with the international community; in respect to Syria, these are decisions for the Iranian leaders to take.
QUESTION: That means you don’t care if they leave?
MS TRUDEAU: We would like to see a path forward where these stakeholders come around the table and work to take steps to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, which is to advance that political dialogue. These, however, are discussions that individual countries need to have.
QUESTION: You spoke last week of being aware of reports, but do you have any further information about an Iranian American being detained in Iran?
MS TRUDEAU: So I’m aware of reports. Privacy considerations prevent me from discussing more on that. But we would say that we are concerned about all Americans detained in Iran. They need to be home for their families.
MS TRUDEAU: We welcome the meetings of the leaders of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and China in Seoul. We support their efforts to improve relations among the three countries. We believe strong and constructive relations between South Korea, Japan, and China support regional peace and prosperity, which serves our interests and the interests of the region.
QUESTION: Would you like to see them meet regularly from now on, year after year as this was the first one?
MS TRUDEAU: Those are decisions for those three nations to take.
MS TRUDEAU: Go ahead.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: The trilateral – the Japan-South Korea leaders met, and they agreed on accelerating talks about the so-called (inaudible) issue to seek an early settlement or compromise of issue. They --
MS TRUDEAU: So we welcome reports that President Park and Prime Minister Abe agreed to accelerate their efforts to resolve this sensitive issue. Again, we’d refer you to the Governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea for more information.
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: Have you seen reports of violence in Nepal?
MS TRUDEAU: We have seen those reports of violence.
QUESTION: And what do you think about them?
MS TRUDEAU: We are aware of the reports. We’re closely following the situation in Nepal. We extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased. We encourage all Nepalese to continue to engage in the democratic process through peaceful, nonviolent means. And we call on Nepali security forces to exercise appropriate restraint as people exercise their democratic rights. And we encourage – we continue to urge Nepal’s leaders to reach an accommodation that builds the broadest possible support for the constitution.
QUESTION: One section of Nepalese people who are basically having this agitation feel that this – the new constitution is not intrusive enough. Do you agree with the assessment?
MS TRUDEAU: Okay, well, for internal Nepali politics, I’m going to refer you to the Government of Nepal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) --
MS TRUDEAU: Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you. It’s been a while. Do you have any comment on the report that came out I think about a week ago about the interpretation of the word “spouse” regarding refugee visas now include same-sex partners? And I believe it’s from P3 countries – Iraq, Syria, Central America. Do you have information?
MS TRUDEAU: I’ve seen those reports. Why don’t I take that question and we’ll get back to you?
QUESTION: Okay. Great, thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: Okay, thanks. Michael.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: I understand that the U.S. has offered to help with the investigation. Have the Russians responded to that request? And what type of assistance are you referring to? What are you offering?
MS TRUDEAU: Okay, well, we have offered assistance to the Egyptians. At this stage we have not received a request to do them.
QUESTION: Not to the Russians? Nothing in --
MS TRUDEAU: Well, we understand the Egyptians are actually in charge of the crash investigation.
QUESTION: Have you had any communication with Americans – like businesses in the area – over concerns of it might be terrorist related?
MS TRUDEAU: Okay. We’ve seen – we’ve seen no indication at this time that that might be the case. But what I would note is that for Americans overseas, we stay in communication through travel.state.gov. In Egypt or in Moscow, in countries around the world, the best way to stay in touch with American embassies overseas is to actually register, get the security alerts, get the information.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the Islamic State claiming – or one of their subsidiaries claiming to shoot this down? Is that – are you looking into it?
MS TRUDEAU: We’ve seen no reports that would support that. Okay.
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: The defense – the Russian defense ministry says it has investigated allegations of its targeting hospitals in Syria, and say that in five of the – out of six towns that were mentioned in various reports, there were no hospitals. They say there is a hospital only in the settlement of Sarmin, which is in the Idlib province. Last week, John Kirby told us that the U.S. had operational intelligence that Russia had hit a hospital. Which hospital exactly did he mean? Was it the one in Sarmin?
MS TRUDEAU: So thank you for the question on that. As Mr. Kirby discussed last week, we’re not going to get into the details of operational assessment or intelligence. We stand by his words.
QUESTION: Can you really offer no details on the hospital that the U.S. accuses Russia of hitting?
MS TRUDEAU: We’re going to stand by Mr. Kirby’s words.
QUESTION: You’re not even going to say where it is, that hospital that you are saying Russia hit?
MS TRUDEAU: What we’re saying is that we have seen information that Russia is targeting civilian infrastructure. And we would point you to –
QUESTION: But you spoke to – you spoke about –
MS TRUDEAU: – Syrian NGOs on the ground as well as open source reporting on that.
QUESTION: He spoke about a specific hospital in Syria. Where exactly is it? What details can you offer about that hospital?
MS TRUDEAU: Again, I’m not going to get into this sort of detail of operational assessment for this. Maybe you should speak to the Russians on their targeting.
QUESTION: Well, actually, they have --
QUESTION: Well, hold on a second. Clearly either she or her colleagues have spoken to the Russians about it, and they --
MS TRUDEAU: Good point.
QUESTION: -- say that you’re wrong. Okay? Isn’t it incumbent on you to come up with some – I mean, even a location? It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult or violate any kind of intelligence thing to – intelligence sources and methods to say where exactly it is that you’re talking about when you make the accusation. That’s the first thing.
And then the second thing is you’ve just expanded it quite broadly to say not just hospitals. You said that the Russians are actually targeting civilian infrastructure.
MS TRUDEAU: The Russians – thank you, Matt. Actually, the Russians have hit – and thank you for the clarification.
QUESTION: Are they target – you’re – are you --
MS TRUDEAU: No, they’ve hit. And I appreciate that. They are not targeting --
QUESTION: Okay. So they are not targeting civilian infrastructure?
MS TRUDEAU: No, and thank you for that.
QUESTION: Ma’am, well, details are especially relevant. This morning the Russian defense ministry has released images and video of the hospital in Sarmin which was allegedly hit by Russia, and the – these images – they show the building of the hospital which doesn’t look like it was recently bombed. I printed them out just in case you haven’t seen them. I can show them. Can you see why it’s important for the U.S. to show its evidence of the alleged destruction of a hospital by Russia?
MS TRUDEAU: How about this? I’ll take your question. If there’s information we can share, we’ll get back to you. Okay.
MS TRUDEAU: I’d be happy to. Thanks.
QUESTION: I thought you might. It’s kind of obscure, but a panel on arbitrary detention has investigated and ruled on a – the question of whether former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been arbitrarily detained. They conclude that he has. And in their language, they request that the government release him immediately.
Are you aware of this? Have you seen it? Do you think that its claims have – or that their ruling has merit and that Ibrahim should indeed be released?
MS TRUDEAU: So thanks for the question, Arshad. We are deeply concerned by Anwar Ibrahim’s detention for what appears to be politically motivated reasons. The decision to prosecute Anwar and his trial have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the court. Secretary Kerry raised our concerns most recently with Deputy Prime Minister Zahid on his visit to Washington in October. In our discussions with the Malaysian Government we continue to stress fairness, transparency, and rule of law are essential to promote confidence in Malaysia’s judicial system and democracy.
QUESTION: Can I?
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, Matt.
QUESTION: Do you know when the first two sentences of that, what you just read, were written? I think they probably could have been written about a decade ago.
MS TRUDEAU: So we continue to raise this. (Laughter.) As we said – as we said, Secretary Kerry just raised this with the deputy prime minister. Thanks.
MS TRUDEAU: Of course.
QUESTION: My question is actually about the bilat between China and Japan. And they seem to have agreed to not officially confirm the conversations they had between the two. And it’s --
MS TRUDEAU: And you’re looking at me to do that then?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, no. It’s about – it was basically about South China, but my question is if you’re concerned that they were not spoken about the South China issue, because I recall that President Obama asked President Park when she was here to be vocal about any Chinese activities that is not legitimate to the international standard.
MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So for discussions in between two nations I’m going to refer you to the two nations involved. We’ve made our position very clear on South China Sea.
QUESTION: So it doesn’t concern you all – it – you at all?
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to detail our diplomatic conversations on that. But for conversations between two nations, they should answer that.
MS TRUDEAU: Sure.
QUESTION: Brett McGurk tweeted that he is now in Iraq or he would be in Iraq shortly. He mentioned three cities where he will be meeting, two of them Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Baghdad. So can you talk about the meeting that he would have in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil? Anything that you have to share with us?
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to preview his meetings. But we’ll see if we can get you a readout, perhaps, after.
QUESTION: Is it related to the Kurdish presidency crisis?
MS TRUDEAU: Again, that’s a good effort. I’m not going to preview his meetings. If there’s anything to read out afterwards, we’ll get back to you on that.
QUESTION: In an interview earlier today, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief stated that Iran had started to implement the nuclear deal and already begun reducing the number of centrifuges. Do you have a response to that?
MS TRUDEAU: Sure. All JCPOA participants began making the necessary arrangements and preparations for implementation of their JCPOA commitments on adoption day. The specific steps Iran will take are spelled out in detail in the text of the deal. We’ll leave it to Iran to manage that process and predict their own timelines. Only upon completion of those steps as verified by the IAEA will Iran receive sanctions release – relief under the JCPOA.
QUESTION: That’s great.
MS TRUDEAU: Matt.
QUESTION: I have one (inaudible).
MS TRUDEAU: Okay. Arshad.
QUESTION: No, go ahead.
MS TRUDEAU: I defer.
QUESTION: No, I’m done.
QUESTION: Hang on one second. Sorry.
MS TRUDEAU: Give me a hint.
QUESTION: It’s just the weakness of my memory. Deputy Secretary Blinken this morning said that the United States stood by the 2008 Bucharest NATO statement in which the countries of NATO asserted that Georgia will be a member of NATO. Do you also stand by that statement with regard to Ukraine?
MS TRUDEAU: So the alliance on a consensual basis invites nations when they are ready and can contribute to security in the North Atlantic area. Any decision on NATO membership is for Ukraine and the members to take. I’m not going to speculate on a country’s qualification or readiness before that formal application is --
QUESTION: But he said that Georgia will be – he said that we stand by what we said in 2008.
MS TRUDEAU: 2008?
QUESTION: It was ’08, yeah. I looked it up this morning.
MS TRUDEAU: Bucharest.
QUESTION: And the operative paragraph says that both Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO. This was hailed as a great victory by the administration at the time, and you’ve asserted that it is – or you’ve repeated this morning that you stand by that vis-a-vis Georgia. Do you stand by it vis-a-vis Ukraine?
MS TRUDEAU: Well, again, we’re not going to get into Ukraine’s readiness. I believe that actually President Poroshenko or Prime Minister Yatsenyuk have spoken to this recently --
MS TRUDEAU: -- talking about their readiness to join NATO and prioritizing the reforms that need to take place. Again, NATO’s a – it’s a two-way street. It’s – yes, sir?
QUESTION: No, go ahead. I’m just wondering if he didn’t mention Ukraine because he was standing next to the prime minister of Georgia, not --
MS TRUDEAU: Well, no. So your question --
QUESTION: But I’m asking you about Ukraine.
MS TRUDEAU: Yes. I don’t think the deputy --
QUESTION: I understand, but I mean, if it – but had --
QUESTION: Unless the prime minister of Ukraine is in the room and that causes some squeamishness, but I don’t see why it would.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m just wondering if he didn’t – if he left Ukraine out because there wasn’t anyone from Ukraine there.
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to speculate on the deputy secretary’s remarks.
QUESTION: Well, then, I think Arshad’s question is particularly – is appropriate.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Again, so what I would – what I would again point to is Ukraine’s own comments on that. We’re not going to talk about that before formal application is --
QUESTION: I get it. The reason I’m raising it, though, is that there was significant criticism at the time of the alliance’s decision to make an assertion about two countries, stating with certainty that they will become members of the alliance. This was hailed as this great diplomatic success, and here you are seven years later and one of the countries, you guys say, is in the middle of a war against Russian-backed separatists. And I guess what I’m wondering is if you’re able to officially acknowledge that maybe Ukraine won’t actually be a member of NATO someday.
MS TRUDEAU: Well, what I’d say is that the United States stands with NATO on its open-door policy. And so when a country is ready and when it takes the steps ready join the alliance, if it’s agreed by all currently 28 members of the alliance, then that will take place. But that’s for individual countries to make. Individual countries have priorities. They would speak to that themselves as well.
QUESTION: What I’m perplexed by is you won’t just say, “Yeah, we stand by it. We don’t know when they’ll be members and we don’t know whether Crimea will be part of them when they’re members, but yes, they will be members,” but you’re not willing to say that.
MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to get ahead of any process or any formal request.
QUESTION: Can I just --
MS TRUDEAU: Of course, Matt.
QUESTION: In one of your – the first – the answer to the first question, you talked about how – that making a judgment about how would-be members can contribute to security in the North Atlantic area. Do you have off the top of your head a mileage estimate between Georgia – and Ukraine, for that matter – and the North Atlantic?
MS TRUDEAU: No.
MS TRUDEAU: No.
QUESTION: They’re – are they close?
MS TRUDEAU: The greater Euro-Atlantic region.
QUESTION: So the Atlantic --
MS TRUDEAU: It’s like the United States and Canada are members of NATO.
QUESTION: Yeah, but they both border the Atlantic Ocean.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
MS TRUDEAU: Fair.
QUESTION: They both border the North Atlantic Ocean.
MS TRUDEAU: I have no mileage estimates for you, Matt.
QUESTION: As far as I know, neither Georgia nor Ukraine are anywhere near the Atlantic.
MS TRUDEAU: It’s a hemisphere issue.
MS TRUDEAU: Thanks.
QUESTION: One question on Syria. Have you set the date and place for the upcoming meeting on Syria?
MS TRUDEAU: I don’t have travel to announce. As soon as we do, we’ll get back to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS TRUDEAU: Thanks, guys.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)