Daily Press Briefing - November 19, 2015

John Kirby
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 19, 2015



TRANSCRIPT:

2:17 p.m. EST

MR KIRBY: Okay, now you’re stuck with me. The only thing I have to say at the top is to just welcome a group of political appointees here today. They’re working in various offices here at the State Department. I don’t know if all of you have been here to watch a briefing together, but welcome. It’s good to have you here.

Brad.

QUESTION: There were a couple Warden Notices that went out – I think one in Kabul and one in Rome.

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are these connected and are you seeing a wider or a growing threat to Americans overseas right now?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think we have to take the continued threats by ISIL seriously, as we always do, and we’ve seen in just the last 24 hours additional video threats. And so the Secretary encourages our posts overseas to do whatever they deem is appropriate in terms of making the appropriate notices to their employees and to Americans that are traveling in those countries. So clearly, I think, without question some of these notices you’re seeing are in – are a result of the attacks in Paris and the continued threats that ISIL is making against Westerners around the world. And that’s – that’s prudent leadership, and that’s what we expect our ambassadors and our posts to do.

QUESTION: You don’t see kind of a – I mean, these are still specific. Rome was just for the places you identified in Italy that you were concerned about. It’s not an overall message for travel to all of Europe per se.

MR KIRBY: No, no, but we, as always, highly encourage U.S. citizens that are traveling abroad, whether for business or tourism purposes, to check our website, state.gov, and look for the appropriate notifications there and the notices. But no, there’s – I’m not aware of any blanket Europe-wide security notice that’s been implemented, nor do we think that that’s coming.

But again, we have to take the threats seriously. We have taken it seriously, and we expect the posts to continue to do – to issue these notices as they deem appropriate.

QUESTION: When you say that you don’t expect that blanket notice for Europe to – you don’t expect it to come up --

MR KIRBY: I’m not anticipating one that big and that wide anytime soon, Lesley, but I wouldn’t rule anything in or out. I mean, we just have to kind of work our way through this. Right now it’s being done by specific posts in specific areas based on concerns that they might have about safety and security, and again, that’s the right thing to do.

Yep.

QUESTION: Syria and the diplomatic process. President Assad gave some interviews to European outlets and especially to the Italian television where basically he reject the timetable agreed in Vienna in terms of political transition. So what’s your reaction to that? And do you know if Secretary Kerry was – had a conversation with his Russian counterpart about that?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any recent conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov to read out – certainly nothing in the last several days. And while I’ve seen those comments, I would just say that we – coming out of Vienna, the Secretary felt that there is a positive sense of momentum here. The communique was signed up to by all 20 participants, 18 nations, and it’s the Secretary’s expectation, as he believes it’s the expectation of every foreign minister that was in that room, that that is the framework going forward. That is the timeframe that we are going to try to work towards, the January 1st target date of getting the opposition groups and the regime to sit down; six months after that to get a process built out, a framework, to get to a constitution – the drafting of a constitution; and then once that constitution is drafted, then a timeframe of 18 months after that to hold free and fair elections. And it – that remains our expectation here in the United States that that’s going to be the process moving forward because it wasn’t just dictated by us or by the Russians, it was something agreed to by consensus of all 20 participants.

QUESTION: But in Paris, Secretary Kerry told us that we are maybe weeks away from a big political transition in Syria. Is it your sense that the Syrian regime is on board for that without speaking about President Assad?

MR KIRBY: What he said was he thought we were weeks away to being able to get a ceasefire in place, not a big political transition in Syria. I mean I just laid out for you – as the communique does – how long we think that’s going to take. And I also would point out, Nick, that this is not – these aren’t hard and fast dates. I couldn’t give you a date certain on the calendar when there’s going to be elections in Syria. It was a broad process with target opportunities laid in there which he outlined in that press conference in Vienna. But he did say – we talked about this yesterday – that he’s optimistic that we could be – that we could get to a ceasefire in the next weeks. How many weeks? I don’t know. And as we talked about yesterday, there’s still a lot of spade work to be done to lay the groundwork for that. This will be administered, sponsored, supported by the UN and, as I mentioned yesterday, we’re going to be looking to the UN leadership here to get that process moving forward.

QUESTION: I think he did say – I think he said we’re weeks away conceivably from the possibility of a big transition for Syria.

MR KIRBY: Well, I think he’s referring to the – in that regard the implementation of a ceasefire, which would be a big development politically moving forward in Syria.

QUESTION: But you’re not --

MR KIRBY: I’m not – I’m not – I don’t think he intended, and I’m certainly not predicting, that weeks away from having a whole new government in Syria.

QUESTION: No, but given that the inherent bargain of this negotiation has been that you and your European and Arab partners will deliver the opposition, the Russians and the Iranians, who are at the table, would deliver Assad, are you disappointed that they’re already kind of pouring cold water over this entire transition strategy?

MR KIRBY: I think it’s – well, certainly the comments appear to be at odds with the agreement laid out in Vienna. I mean, that’s pretty obvious. That’s self-evident. That said, I think it’s too soon to say that anybody’s throwing in the towel here. We just got back from Vienna. And again, the Secretary believes, and he believes that all the other foreign ministers that were there believe, that the communique that everybody signed up to is workable, it’s achievable, and it can have a sustainable, lasting effect on Syria if it’s implemented. And it’s our expectation that all the participants will do what they can in their power and meet their commitments according to the communique and the 2012 Geneva communique, and that includes Russia, Iran, as well as all the other partners.

QUESTION: That’s my follow-up question. And are you confident that Russia and Iran – the two players at the table who have significant influence with Assad – will be able to get him to take a position different than what he said yesterday?

MR KIRBY: Well, as I said yesterday, they certainly have – they are the two powers that have the most influence over Assad and his decision-making. And I don’t think it says anywhere in that communique that they have the implicit task of bringing Assad to the table. But clearly they have influence over Assad in ways that nobody else does. And as I said yesterday, we expect on all sides those who have influence over the players inside Syria will use that influence, and again, meet their commitments in the communique.

Yes.

QUESTION: John --

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR KIRBY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

QUESTION: On Syria.

MR KIRBY: Why don’t we stay in the Middle East region, right? Okay?

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: And then we can – then we can do Venezuela, okay? Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Yeah. So Assad is going to stay now ‘til after the elections – the achieving of free elections, in power?

MR KIRBY: That hasn’t been spelled out yet. The exact role of Assad in this transition process is still being discussed.

QUESTION: Because the Secretary said yesterday that the – when they formed the transition government, they’ll take some of the current power that is with Assad now. So he will keep his power.

MR KIRBY: Well, that’s what a – that’s what a transitional council, a transitional government does. It provides for the transition from one government to another. And what that’s going to look like exactly I don’t think has been worked out. But clearly what we’re after is – and nothing’s changed; we want a transition to a government that is free of Assad and representative and responsive of the Syrian people. So obviously, there’s going to have to be a process for that change to occur, that transformation to occur. Exactly what Assad’s role in that’s going to be has not been completely hashed out.

QUESTION: Is there going to be a timetable for when Assad’s role will be decided?

MR KIRBY: I can’t give you an answer to that specifically. What I can tell you is that in the multilateral sessions, which will continue to occur going forward, the role of Assad in this transition will be spelled out. But that’s why it’s so important, as we’ve talked about before, to get the opposition groups into this discussion. I mean, you can’t – that’s why it’s important for us to try to get to a January 1st target date of getting the opposition to a unified negotiating position so that they can sit down with the regime and begin to have that discussion. They have to be a vital part of that in order for it to be sustainable and for it to be – to have the ultimate effect that we want it to have.

So I can’t answer your question, “what’s the timetable.” That still has to be worked out, and to a degree, to a large degree, that’s going to have to be worked out by the regime and opposition groups.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any more insight into the work that’s being done by the various strands of the opposition and the Saudis’ role? And as a follow-up, would the U.S. want to be a part of those discussions, or at least an observer to those discussions?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything to read out to you today in terms of what participation or observation we might do in that. The Secretary talked about the fact that Saudi Arabia now will take the lead in terms of having these initial discussions with the opposition. I will leave it to Saudi authorities to explain and to talk about what that process is going to look like. And I don’t have – like I said, I don’t have an answer for you now to the degree to which we will be in the room, observing or participating. It’s going to be a Saudi-led initiative.

QUESTION: Is there an inclination in this building that the U.S. should be observing so that they know who exactly might be a part of the plan? Or is there a better sense of that being in the room?

MR KIRBY: I don’t think they’ve – I don’t think they’re – I’m not aware of any decisions made in terms of observing. I’m confident that whether we’re in the room or not, we’re going to have plenty of transparency and visibility into the process and how it’s going.

Brad.

QUESTION: Can we move on to Israel-Palestine?

QUESTION: Can I – on Syria?

MR KIRBY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you. So just one question: While Russia and Iran are ardent supporters of Assad in these negotiations, and the United States priority has been removing ISIL, not weakening Assad in Syria, what makes you so confident that Russia and Iran would basically throw Assad under the bus at some point, or let him, like, compromise on their side instead of the United States compromising while you are basically not doing much to remove Assad, and you were saying that your priority is removing ISIL? What makes you that so confident that they might --

MR KIRBY: I would point you to the communique, which we just issued last week – or on Saturday – out of Vienna, which lays out exactly what kind of major steps we’re going to take forward here to get to a political transition in Syria. And I would remind you – and if you didn’t watch the press conference, please go back and look at it, and you’ll see sitting next to Secretary Kerry was Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, as well as Foreign Minister Lavrov from Russia. All three of them talked about the importance of moving forward here and getting to this political transition. And so what gives us confidence is that Russia and Iran were in that room, not once but once but – well, we’ve been talking to Russia for a while about this. But Iran – that was the second time Iran had been represented in Vienna in this multilateral sessions. And that communique speaks for everybody; all 20 participants signed up to that language. So that’s what gives us the confidence. And it’s not just the United States who wants a government that’s more responsive to the Syrian people; everybody in that room did.

Now the role of Assad is still a question that needs to be answered. We all recognize that. And nowhere in that communique and nowhere in that press conference did you see anybody speak with great specificity about how – what Assad’s role is going to be in this transition and when he moves out. That all needs to be worked out. That’s why these next steps are so important, particularly getting the opposition groups unified.

But short answer to your question, what gives us confidence is the momentum that we have seen and we have felt in Vienna and the very plain language represented in that communique about how we’re going to move forward politically. Okay?

QUESTION: Yeah. There were a couple things regarding Americans in Israel and Palestine. One, I don’t know if you’ll be able to say anything about this, but an American was apparently killed today in an attack, an 18-year-old, I think. Do you know about – can you say anything about this?

MR KIRBY: I can’t say much, Brad. We’re certainly aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was killed in an attack in the West Bank today, but I don’t have any information right now to be able to confirm that.

QUESTION: And then a sentence was delivered for an Israeli policeman, who a year ago was seen on video beating an American citizen, American dual-national.

MR KIRBY: Right.

QUESTION: I think he got six weeks of community service. Do you feel this is adequate accountability?

MR KIRBY: We were disappointed to learn that the Israeli police officer who severely beat American teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir in July of 2014 was spared prison time by an Israeli court yesterday. Given the clear evidence captured on videotape of the excessive use of force, it is difficult to see how this sentence would promote full accountability for the actions of the police officer in this case. We understand there is a possibility for the Israeli state prosecutor to appeal the decision, and we’re going to continue to follow that closely, as you might expect.

I’ll just state again, the safety, security, and protection of American citizens overseas is of paramount importance for this Administration, and we have demonstrated repeatedly – we’ve demonstrated that repeatedly in cases all over the globe.

QUESTION: Do you feel --

QUESTION: John, do you have --

QUESTION: Just one more on this. Do you feel that this somehow indicative, this sentence, or calls into question Israel’s overall commitment to holding accountable its government or military personnel who commit abuses?

MR KIRBY: I don’t think we’re at a stage now to make a leap here in terms of trend analysis for this. We treat each of these incidents separately and uniquely, and I’ll let my comments stand.

QUESTION: John, the Israelis are saying that Secretary Kerry is meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu next week. Can you confirm any of that?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any travel announcements to make today for the Secretary.

Said.

QUESTION: Could I quickly follow-up on Brad’s question? Sorry for being late. On – you said you were disappointed, but are you surprised? You’re not surprised, because there has been – as he indicated, the precedent shows that the Israelis have basically conducted themselves in this fashion, from a judicial point of view, over the past over and over again.

MR KIRBY: Yeah. I think I’m just going to stick with the verb that I chose to use: disappointed.

QUESTION: Okay. Because also we can go back to the Dawabsha family burning back on July 31 and many, many other incidents. But to carry this – the issue, the Palestine-Israeli issue, there has been a number of stabbings today and --

MR KIRBY: Yes.

QUESTION: First, if you would comment on that.

And second, the prime minister of Israel basically lumped everything together. He’s saying that the Paris horrible attacks and so on and what is happening in the West Bank are part of the same sort of larger paradigm and the same kind of ideology. Do you believe that? Do you also believe that these incidents are motivated by religious zeal, for instance?

MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen the prime minister’s remarks, so I’m going to refrain from specific comment. And as I have said before, I’m not going to get into parsing and characterizing everything said in that part of the world. What I’ll tell you – back to your asking about our reaction to the stabbings, yes, of course, we’ve seen these reports and condemn in the strongest sense these terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. And as we’ve said many, many times, Said, we remain deeply concerned about the situation there, the violence, and we want to continue to encourage all sides to take affirmative steps to restore the calm and to prevent actions that are only going to further escalate the tensions.

QUESTION: One of them was a soldier. He was not a civilian. One of them --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have any – I don’t have specific information on the victims of it. But obviously, we’re certainly aware of it and condemn it, condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, also my last question on the Palestine-Israeli issue. There have been – there has been reports by the Israeli intelligence services and so on leaked to the press that the current situation, with a diminished ability of Mahmoud Abbas and so on, the violence is not likely to ebb anytime soon. Are you aware of those reports and do you agree with them?

MR KIRBY: I’m not. I’ve not seen those. And even if I had, we don’t talk about intelligence matters or leaked reports here. The violence continues. We want to see it stopped.

Yes.

QUESTION: The authorities in Honduras and Costa Rica announced that they arrested six Syrians with Greek passports. Can you – do you have anything to tell us? Is this terrorism-related issue?

MR KIRBY: What I can tell you is we’re aware that several Syrian nationals recently sought to enter Honduras carrying false citizenship documents, and they’ve been detained by Honduran authorities. Our embassy in Honduras is working very closely with their counterparts to verify the identities.

QUESTION: I have another question. I heard today the Republicans are asking for changes on the visa policy for many countries, especially the European countries. They are calling into question, as they said, a program that allows Europeans to travel to America without a visa. What is the position of the State Department? Are you planning to do any changes on this?

MR KIRBY: Who’s calling into the question the --

QUESTION: The Republicans. There is an announcement by the --

MR KIRBY: No, no, I got it. I just didn’t understand the question.

QUESTION: And some Democrats.

MR KIRBY: So we talked about this a little bit yesterday, this weaver – Visa Waiver Program. It is a useful program and it has received in the past strong bipartisan support, both sides of the aisle. And there is a purpose for it. It is also a dynamic program. It’s a program that we never stop looking at and never stop consulting with Congress about. And in light of the Paris attacks, we’re certainly mindful that there are certain members of Congress that want to take another look at this and we’re aware of some potential legislation coming. We’re going to continue to work with members of Congress on that and any other concern they have. The Secretary understands the very real security concerns that have been expressed, and he will continue to coordinate and communicate with members of Congress about this.

The program has a purpose, but like every program like this, you don’t want to stray from the main purpose of it. And it has a function, but you also want to make sure that at all times that you’re adapting it and making sure that you’re continuing to review it such that our national security is not put at any greater risk. So again, we’re mindful of the concerns about this program, a program which obviously wouldn’t exist without the support of Congress. And the Secretary is going to continue to engage members of Congress on it.

QUESTION: I have another question. The Secretary is going to Athens and Nicosia on December 3rd and 4th, and I wanted to know what is going to be on the agenda.

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on the Secretary’s travel schedule to speak to today, so I’m just going to have to leave it at that for today.

Yeah. Okay, you’ve been patient. Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s a follow-up on the same.

MR KIRBY: Okay.

QUESTION: So --

MR KIRBY: No, it’s okay.

QUESTION: It’s the --

MR KIRBY: We’ll just jump around.

QUESTION: The European Union is not stopping the Schengen, but they are strengthening --

MR KIRBY: They’re not stopping the what?

QUESTION: Schengen.

QUESTION: They are not scrapping the Schengen, like you can travel around in – within the EU. But they are – there’s a document that is going to adopted on Friday and I think Reuters has already published it. It says that – it shows that they are going to strengthen their identity and passport controls across the borders of the countries. And so do you think that you are going to double-check these people who are coming without visa? Because not --

MR KIRBY: As I said --

QUESTION: These terrorists were not on your no-flying list.

MR KIRBY: As I said, the Visa Waiver Program is – like all such programs, it’s dynamic. And if we have to adjust, we’ll adjust. These are conversations that we’re going to have with members of Congress.

And as I said yesterday, nobody takes the safety and security of the American people more seriously than Secretary Kerry and President Obama. I mean, that is foundational to everything that we do. In fact, it’s a core reason why you have a State Department and why you have diplomats around the world, is to help look after our national security interest.

So I can’t tell you and I wouldn’t predict what, if any, changes may come to that program. We certainly respect the decisions and the responsibilities that foreign governments feel they need to make in light of the attacks in Paris and in light of the continued threat of terrorism around the world. That’s – those are sovereign decisions that they have to make as well, and we certainly respect that.

QUESTION: John, do you feel that the Visa Waiver Program strengthens control over the border in the U.S. or weakens it? There seems to be a conception that it’s giving people a free pass into the country, but I always --

MR KIRBY: No.

QUESTION: I mean, I always heard – I heard --

MR KIRBY: See, I think this is a – no, that’s a great question, and I think there is a misconception here that if you’re in this Visa Waiver Program, it’s just a free pass and nobody – and you’re not vetted at all, and it’s not true. So if you want – just because I want to get this right, I’d like to read you just this little section here:

Each applicant traveling under the Visa Waiver Program is screened and vetted by the Department of Homeland Security. In order to travel without a visa under this program, an applicant must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA, prior to boarding a U.S.-bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is Customs and Border Protection’s automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States. And in November of 2014, enhancements to ESTA went into effect to improve security by helping the U.S. Government to more effectively identify travelers who might pose a risk to the United States.

So being in the program or traveling under the program doesn’t give, as Brad mentioned, a free pass to anybody. It’s – you still have to get screened. You still have to be vetted. And like I said, it’s a dynamic program. As recently as a year ago, it was updated and enhancements were made. I can’t predict what changes may come; I don’t know. But I can tell you that everybody’s taking the concerns very, very seriously, and if there are changes that need to be made, we’re going to make them and we’ll work with Congress.

QUESTION: But I think states have quite strict qualification criteria to actually get into the program. Are you worried that by suspending them from the program, you would actually make it less secure because then the states wouldn’t be required to do all these internal checks and share the information with the United States?

MR KIRBY: That is a very legitimate concern. You’re right, that in order for a nation-state to be a part of this, there are – there’s a very significant vetting process and deliberative decision-making process in that regard. And so again, one of the – there is some advantages to it, not just for the speed and ease of travel for prescreened individuals but for the ability to have those checks in place, and if they – if they’re kicked out of it, that’s a concern that we have to deal with. So it’s a legitimate concern. Again, I wouldn’t get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet, but I want to make it very clear that the Secretary both believes in the importance of the program and in adapting it if it – if changes that are need to be made and making those changes to continue to make it just as secure as possible.

QUESTION: Do you know any country has been kicked out of this Visa Waiver Program, and then why, the reason?

MR KIRBY: I don’t. I’m not aware that anybody was “kicked out” of it.

Yeah.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Hold on. Stay on --

QUESTION: Bahrain?

QUESTION: -- the visa stuff. Given the vote today, do you think that it’ll pass the Senate? There were Democrats that voted with the Republicans today, so it is a real threat.

MR KIRBY: I don’t know. I’m – I think it’s a mistake in this town to try to predict what Congress is going to do. I wouldn’t begin to do that.

QUESTION: And also, if it becomes law, are your efforts in the Middle East at all compromised by this?

MR KIRBY: If it becomes law?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR KIRBY: I think, again, Lesley, that it’s too soon to say. I mean, it’s proposed legislation. We haven’t had an opportunity to examine it in any great detail. We’re careful not to speak to the details of proposed legislation. I think what we’re interested in doing is continuing to have a discussion with Congress about this program, and it’s just too soon to say what a law governing changes in the program would do to our foreign policy concerns and interests around the world until it becomes law, and if and when it becomes law. And so our focus right now is working with members of Congress as they continue to mull this. It’s just too soon to say.

QUESTION: John, you mentioned ESTA for some technical question. Do you know how long does that take for an individual to fill the ESTA form, and how long does that take for to – for them to get preapproved to come into the States?

MR KIRBY: I do not. I don’t have that level of detail.

QUESTION: Can you take that question?

MR KIRBY: Sure, I’ll take that.

Yeah, Said.

QUESTION: Bahrain, the meeting between Secretary Kerry and --

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Now, the Secretary says we finally – we also discussed the internal challenges of the reconciliation process and so on, and then he talks about how to resolve sectarian divisions and so on. Did the Secretary raise with him issues of stripping individuals of their citizenship, arbitrary arrests, and so on? Did he discuss the human rights issues at length?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think – I mean, just by what we already said about the meeting, I think you can take from that that certainly human rights issues came up. They routinely do.

QUESTION: But even the human rights word – the word of human rights is not even there.

MR KIRBY: This is a – we’ve been very candid and forthright, and Bahrain is a key partner in the region. As you know, they host our Navy’s Fifth Fleet out there and they’re a partner in the fight against ISIL. But obviously, we’ve been concerned about – and we’ve said it very publicly – concerns about some of the human rights issues in Bahrain, and we’re not bashful, and we’re not afraid to say that. Friends should and can have those kinds of discussions. So I think – and look at our Human Rights Report. If you want proof and evidence of the fact that we are able to have an open dialogue with Bahrain about our human rights concerns, it’s right there.

QUESTION: But looking at the record also, I mean, for the past few years and so on, it seems that the Bahrainis are quite resistant to your ideas or your pressure, so to speak, to bring about a better human rights situation in the country.

MR KIRBY: Well, there’s clearly improvements that we continue to believe need to be made, and there have been some. As you know, we – there were some – a few months ago we freed up some assistance but not to every – to the defense ministry, not to the interior ministry. So we have seen some progress. We’d like to see more. And that’s why discussions like the one today are so important.

QUESTION: Venezuela?

MR KIRBY: Venezuela.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have anything – the President of Venezuela has ordered a comprehensive review of its relations with the United States, given the information that United State NSA is actually spying on the PDVSA employee?

MR KIRBY: All I would tell you is that our government will respond through diplomatic channels to the Venezuelan Government. We regularly review our policies for electronic surveillance. As a general rule, we don’t comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity. And I would just say that this is something that we’re going to – we’ll work through – again, we’ll work through diplomatic channels with Venezuela to address.

QUESTION: How do you justify or would you like to respond to criticism that U.S. is hypocrite in terms of spying on the national – spying based on national security – I mean intelligence matters?

MR KIRBY: Well, as I said, I mean we regularly review policies with electronic surveillance. We don’t comment publicly about all that. And I’m just – I’m not going to get into that.

QUESTION: So my understanding is that in terms of – when USA is responding to, for example, the Chinese criticism that it’s okay; everyone’s doing that based on national security to gather intelligence matter, but it’s not okay to use that intelligence matter for commercial gains. Is that the case with Venezuela?

MR KIRBY: We’ve said that that’s U.S. policy. We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to – there’s no intent to use electronic surveillance to benefit commercial gain. That’s not changed. That’s not changed at all anywhere around the world. The President was crystal clear about that. And we have no interest or intent to destabilize the Venezuelan Government.

So look, I don’t think I’m going to go any deeper than what I went. But we’ve seen many times that the Venezuelan Government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside their country.

QUESTION: Asia?

MR KIRBY: I’ve got time for just one more. Huh?

QUESTION: Asia?

MR KIRBY: Asia. Any particular place? (Laughter) It’s a big, big region.

QUESTION: Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Do you have any details about the meeting of Secretary Kerry with the visiting general?

MR KIRBY: Somewhere in here I do. Hang on a second. (Laughter.) We’re going to work to get this into an iPad. Go ahead, what’s your –

QUESTION: So do you have any details about the meeting of Secretary Kerry with the second Sharif within three weeks?

MR KIRBY: What I can tell you is that he met yesterday with Chief of Army Staff Sharif to follow up on some of the security-related conversations that he had with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October.

The general’s consultations in Washington were part of our regular ongoing bilateral discussions with a broad range of Pakistani officials, and we appreciate the productive discussions we had regarding our bilateral defense and security relationship.

The Secretary reaffirmed our commitment to the U.S.-Pakistan partnership and its importance in addressing issues of mutual concern and ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity across the region.

QUESTION: Can you – like it has been now since 2008 where six Americans lost their life in Mumbai attacks. Did this come up?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to go into any more detail than what I just read to you. So I don’t have anything more to add.

QUESTION: Usually you do not comment on intelligence-related subjects. This is something I – maybe I am misunderstanding – this may be intelligence subject. But I just wanted to know if Kashmir was mentioned or if the Mumbai attacks were mentioned. Because there are – six American lives were lost.

MR KIRBY: No, I’m well aware of the lives lost in the Mumbai attacks. Look, I don’t have great detail in terms of every item discussed. I just read out to you the broad guidelines of the discussion, which the Secretary appreciated and was grateful for. This is an important relationship. It’s a complex relationship, and it’s one we want to continue to improve.

As for Kashmir, all I would say is we continue to be concerned about any violence along the Line of Control, and we continue to urge the governments of both India and Pakistan to reduce tensions along that line and to resume dialogue to address these issues. This is for the two parties to work out.

I got time for just one more.

QUESTION: One more. Do you have anything to say about this operation, apparently, by the Omanis to ferry out or fly out three Americans from Yemen?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything for you on that. I’m sorry.

Thank you very much, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR KIRBY: Have a great Thursday.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:52 p.m.)