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US State Department: Daily Press Briefing - June 28, 2013

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - June 28, 2013

06/28/2013 03:44 PM EDT

Patrick Ventrell

Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

June 28, 2013

Index for Today's Briefing

MONGOLIA

Presidential Election

SNOWDEN

In Touch with Countries Snowden Might Transit

Daily Contact with Russians

Ecuador

General Passport Revocation Information

EGYPT

Journalist Arrests / Closing Media Channels

Amb. Patterson Still in Place / Supportive of the Egyptian People Not Any Particular Group

Status of Promised Reforms / IMF / U.S. Aid to Egypt

Demonstrations

BANGLADESH

Suspension of Bangladesh's GSP Privilege / Workplace Safety

Recent Violence

RUSSIA

Suspension of Election-Monitoring NGO

CHINA

United States-China Bilateral Talks at ASEAN

Discrimination against Uighurs and Muslims

EGYPT

16 American NGO Workers Sentenced

CHINA

Amb. Locke's Visit to Tibet Autonomous Region / Tibet Policy Act

SYRIA

Continue to Work with Members on the Hill

CAMBODIA

Ban of Broadcast of Foreign-Produced Khmer Language Programming

AFGHANISTAN

Amb. Dobbins / Talks with Taliban

EGYPT

Security Situation

TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Happy Friday. The ranks really are thinning toward the end of the week here.

QUESTION: There’s no one here.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, let me go ahead and do one thing at the top and then I’ll turn it over to all of you.

This is on Mongolia. We congratulate the people of Mongolia on their June 26th presidential election in which voters re-elected President Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party. We note that Election Day was peaceful, voter participation was high, and preliminary indications are that the election was conducted in a free and fair manner in accordance with the Mongolian constitution. This was the first Mongolian election observed by the Election Observation Mission of the OSCE, of which Mongolia became a participating state on November 21st, 2012. Mongolia continues to demonstrate its commitment to the further development of the principles of democracy and free and fair elections.

After more than two decades of impressive democratic and market economic transformation, Mongolia continues to serve as a positive example for emerging democracies around the world. The U.S. looks forward to continuing our positive and constructive engagement with Mongolia and further strengthening the friendship between our two countries.

QUESTION: Congratulations to the Mongolian people. This is just a technical question.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: What part of Mongolia actually touches Europe? Why is the OSCE involved? I don’t understand.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, my information here says that they are a participating state. It doesn’t look like they’re a member; it looks like they’re a participating state.

QUESTION: So why --

MR. VENTRELL: I am not sure why the OSCE has participating states’ electoral observation missions.

QUESTION: You do acknowledge that Mongolia is nowhere near Europe?

MR. VENTRELL: Mongolia --

QUESTION: Doesn’t border it, doesn’t have anything to do with Europe.

MR. VENTRELL: The last time I checked, Mongolia is not in Europe, no.

QUESTION: All right.

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So I don’t expect that you’ll have anything new to say, but I have to ask if there’s any update on the Snowden situation.

MR. VENTRELL: I really don’t have an update other than to say that we continue to be in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or that could serve as a final destination. Also in touch, clearly, with the Russian authorities, and we’re advising governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and should not be allowed to proceed any further other than necessary to return to the United States. So we continue to make that active case through diplomatic and law enforcement channels.

QUESTION: All right. And are you aware of any specific contact with the Russians today?

MR. VENTRELL: Our contact with the Russian is daily – with the Russians is on a daily basis, so we were in contact with them today.

QUESTION: Do you --

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything --

QUESTION: Here, there, who, phone --

MR. VENTRELL: Through law enforcement and diplomatic channels, but I’m not going to go into it further.

QUESTION: All right. Would you say that the message to the Russians has been consistent since day one, or has it changed, has it evolved over the course of the last couple days?

MR. VENTRELL: No, we’ve been consistent. We’ve said that it – we don’t want this to negatively impact bilateral relations. It’s understandable that there are some issues raised by this, but from our perspective, based on our cooperative history of law enforcement, and especially since the Boston bombings, that there’s certainly a basis for expelling Mr. Snowden, and just to reiterate that that’s based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him.

Jill, go ahead.

QUESTION: Patrick, do you have reaction to what the Ecuadorans are saying now about the trade? Because obviously, they’re pushing back very strongly on any thought that they have any human rights violations, press violations, et cetera, and they’re saying, “We don’t want your help.”

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, these are sovereign decisions for the Government of Ecuador to make about what kind of relationship they want with us. We’ve had our differences, but we’ve also found ways to cooperate, so we’ll see if there’s still a way forward to cooperate, but it takes two to tango, so to speak.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, there’s kind of a mixed message that comes out of here, because on the one hand you’re saying, “We don’t want this to affect, and it’s really too bad if it does,” and yet there really are not only implied threats, but pretty direct threats. Your phrasing yesterday was pretty direct. So --

MR. VENTRELL: It was.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Well, then, explain why so direct, why threats? Because this is being interpreted as the U.S., of course, bullying the rest of the world.

MR. VENTRELL: No, I wouldn’t say that at all. The point is just that we’re making a consistent point to any government that might take him as a final destination that this is somebody wanted on serious felony charges and we’d like him returned to the United States. And so we’ve had law enforcement cooperation and other types of cooperation with some of these countries, including Ecuador. We’d like to see that continue, but clearly detrimental if that cooperation isn’t received. So we’re talking about somebody charged with very serious crimes, so we’ll continue to make that case. We’ve been consistent.

QUESTION: Well, is that a statement of fact or a threat?

MR. VENTRELL: No, I would say that these are statements of fact. We want this based – built on cooperation. It would be very concerning if that cooperation isn’t there. So I wouldn’t call it a threat. I’d say that we’re making the same points in public that we’re making in private, that this is a serious – somebody accused of serious crimes who we want returned.

QUESTION: The other day you mentioned the passport revocation --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that you notified people in writing. Were you able to find out how exactly he was notified in writing, or if he has yet been?

MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is it was through a letter, is how we notify people.

QUESTION: I understand.

MR. VENTRELL: I can’t talk about a specific case, but in general, we do so in writing, and it’s usually through a letter. That’s the standard practice.

QUESTION: And the reason you can’t talk about a specific case, even though we --

MR. VENTRELL: Because it’s – the Privacy Act prohibits us from talking about specific cases.

QUESTION: And – okay. That’s --

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: Patrick?

MR. VENTRELL: Nicolas.

QUESTION: Did you notify the Russians that you cancelled the passport of Mr. Snowden before he left Hong Kong to Moscow? Because the Russians are saying this morning that they were not aware of the cancellation of the passport of Mr. Snowden.

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, I can’t get into the specifics of one individual passport. Suffice it to say we’ve been in close communication with the governments involved. In the case of Hong Kong, the authorities were well aware of our interest in Mr. Snowden and they made a calculated decision to let him go when he clearly – having gone to Russia, we’ve been in close communication with the Russians and we think that there’s very much a basis, based on the travel documents issued, to – in addition to the serious nature of the crimes, to return him. And so we’ve made that case very – that case clearly and been in close cooperation with the Russian authorities.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of subject. Hasn’t --

QUESTION: Wait, I just have --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: This, I don’t expect you’ll know the answer to but it might be --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: How – when you revoke or cancel someone’s passport, how are foreign governments – not in this case, just in general – how are they supposed to know? Is there some database that this goes into that – when you go through immigration, that it’ll show up as not valid?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have a full list of how the data sharing is done between --

QUESTION: Well, I would be interested in that, not right now but if you can get it.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. I’d have to look into that for more detail.

QUESTION: I don’t know if maybe DHS is involved in that. And then the other thing is, is that you talked about the temporary travel document that you – do you know if that has been given – has been delivered to the Russians?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I wouldn’t be able to get into specifics of an individual case, other than to say that when you have these kind of serious felony charges, we’re prepared in those type of cases to issue a one-entry document.

QUESTION: But do you know if that has – but has one been prepared?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information one way or another.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: I would like to know your views on Morsy’s attack, in his speech on Wednesday against the judiciary, against media, and steps taken to close some TV channels like Faraeen and the attempt to arrest Tawfiq Okasha and reopening investigation against TV anchors and against journalists. What’s your reaction on that speech?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ve been talking about Egypt at some length throughout the week, and as we know, we’re watching – as you know, we’re watching events and developments in Egypt closely. Just to reiterate some of our broad points that we’re – from our opinion, all Egyptians have the right to express their opinions and concerns freely. We’ve urged the government to protect that right. We urge all parties to refrain from violence and express their views peacefully. And political leaders have the responsibility of taking steps to ensure that groups do not resort to violence.

So we really want an atmosphere where that can be done. We want the government to protect the people’s right to make their voices heard, and we want people to, if they so choose to protest, to do so peacefully.

QUESTION: But my question is specific regarding attacking journalists and attacking media freedom.

MR. VENTRELL: We are strong supporters of the freedom of media around the world. I’m not sure about the specific actions that you’re talking about here, but we’re very clear that we’re supportive of the freedom of media around the world.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something else regarding U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Mrs. Anne Patterson?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: There are some news that Ms. Patterson will be returned back to Washington and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Mr. Stuart Jones will replace her in Cairo. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have any personnel announcements to make. Ambassador Patterson continues to be the President’s representative and the representative of the United States people in Egypt at this time. But I don’t have any further --

QUESTION: No plans to – for her returning back?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we do rotate ambassadors when there’s a normal ambassador rotation, but I have no – nothing to announce about this particular Embassy. Our Ambassador is still in place.

QUESTION: Last question. Regarding her meeting with Mr. Khairat Shater, he’s a vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood, he has no official position. Can you explain her meetings with --

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not aware of each individual meeting of Ambassador Patterson, but she and our Embassy team have broad contacts across society in Egypt. And just to reiterate – and she’s been clear about this, we’ve been clear about this – we don’t support any individual or a particular party in Egypt. We are supportive of the success of all Egyptians. And so media reporting or other efforts to think otherwise are just incorrect. We are very supportive of the Egyptian people and their way forward, and not of any particular individual or group.

Jill.

QUESTION: Patrick, also on Egypt, I remember a while ago, when the Secretary was there, the Egyptian Government was promising to carry out a number of reforms that would then be able to – allow them to get IMF or international help, et cetera.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s the status of those reforms now?

MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is we still need to see further progress. My understanding is they have not made an agreement with the IMF yet, and so we’ve continued to push in our conversations with the government to finish those reforms. And the broader point is that we want both the government and the people who have their concerns – there are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. And so both the government and those who have concerns need to work through those, and through those politically and in the political sphere.

QUESTION: Because that’s a pretty serious thing. As I remember, the Secretary was saying without that, they really can’t stabilize the economy, and if they can’t stabilize the economy, they’re --

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s exactly what our concern is. We want the Egyptians to step forward, to be able to move forward, and have the kind of reforms that are going to put their economy back on track and their political system on track.

QUESTION: So what’s the level of engagement right now on that specific – the economic side of it?

MR. VENTRELL: I’d have to check. I think that’s primarily through the Embassy, through our economic experts there and others, but – I’m not sure if we sent teams from Washington to advise on that at any point, but it’s primarily, of course, between the government and the IMF that have to make those sort of negotiations. And we’ve been very clear that we want forward progress on that.

Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, when he visited Egypt in March, he promised $190 million as a first step of $450 million. What’s the situation of this U.S. aid to Egypt?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any update on further aid since the Secretary’s visit. I’m happy to check in, but I’m not aware of any new assistance at this time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any message to Dr. Morsy’s regime regarding the huge demonstration all over Egypt today, tomorrow and --

MR. VENTRELL: I think what you heard is that we want the government to protect the right of the people, to make their voices heard, and we call on the Egyptian Government to be responsive to the justified concerns of the people. As I said earlier this week, he’s the first democratically elected leader. He has a special responsibility to reach out to all political groups and try to build consensus through compromise.

Okay. Lalit.

QUESTION: On Bangladesh?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: The President yesterday suspended Bangladesh to get GSP benefits.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from Bangladesh, any kind of response from them?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you mentioned, President Obama did announce a decision to suspend Bangladesh’s GPS[1] benefits that USTR announced yesterday. Let me note that the United States believes this moment represents an opportunity for Bangladesh to take action to improve labor and safety standards. So the U.S. will work with Bangladesh on the steps needed to potentially restore its GSP privileges, but that requires going through a process so that Bangladesh can make improvements.

So we’ll continue to work with them so that they can take additional substantive actions to improve worker safety. I’m not sure if they’ve been in direct contact with us since this announcement, but successfully addressing these underlying labor rights and workplace safety issues will help ensure that there’s never again another fire or collapse like we saw in some of these horrific incidents.

QUESTION: And do you have some of the measures which the U.S. is taking along with the Bangladesh Government to address these issues?

MR. VENTRELL: Just to say that we need to see improvement in worker and safety rights, including the right to freely associate and engage in collective bargaining. I don’t think here from the State Department podium I can get into all the necessary actions. I’d really refer you to USTR about the specifics, but that’s sort of the broad areas that we’re looking to cooperate with on the – with the Bangladeshis on – with labor concerns.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, did you say that the suspension of the trade preferences represents an opportunity for Bangladesh? Is that what you said?

MR. VENTRELL: Right. This is an opportunity that they need to take advantage of.

QUESTION: And so this is a positive thing, then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, look, we – Matt --

QUESTION: (laughter) This is the most – that’s completely twisted.

MR. VENTRELL: Matt, to take the lens back a little bit, remember --

QUESTION: They’ve had an opportunity for years and years and years --

MR. VENTRELL: Right.

QUESTION: -- to do this, and so now all of a sudden – so you punish them and then call it an opportunity?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, this crystallizes their decision-making. We want to see the Bangladeshi economy succeed.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. VENTRELL: We think that there are important economic opportunities to lift more people out of poverty into the middle class. And there are great economic opportunities. But it has to be done in the context --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. VENTRELL: -- of better labor and safety standards, which I think we’ve seen, because of these really horrific incidents --

QUESTION: So if the State Department were --

MR. VENTRELL: -- what a key need that is.

QUESTION: If the State Department were a traffic cop and Bangladesh was a speeding motorist, and you gave them a ticket, you would say that would – represents an opportunity for them to slow down?

MR. VENTRELL: That would be one way to phrase it.

QUESTION: Hmm.

QUESTION: Can I just follow?

QUESTION: Right. I’m sure they’re very pleased with the opportunity that you’ve given them.

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Patrick, there had been number of hearings on the Capitol Hill and number of congressmen and senators, they were asking the Administration to rebuild or – as far as safety on the one side, and the other side, they were asking to rebuild the factories and all that because it is in the interests of – to both countries, Bangladesh and the U.S., because of those garments and all those things. So what steps do you think the U.S. is taking on the advice of the U.S. Congress?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I think that there are many members on the Hill who share the Administration’s concern that – both that we help Bangladesh improve its economy and lift people out of poverty, but at the same time do so in a way that – where we have factories that maintain fire safety standards, factories that are structurally sound, and improve worker safety conditions. So those are broadly shared both on the Hill and here in the Administration.

QUESTION: And maybe you can get the OSCE involved as well. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I – one more just quickly?

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: As far as these violence in Bangladesh, it’s because of due to poverty and job – unemployment and all that. This incident, all these factors also contributing, and that’s the government’s job, so what is that – what do you think the government is asking the U.S., or what the Bangladesh Government can do to calm this violence and democracy can continue in Bangladesh?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s a really broad question, but, I mean, there’s a lot of multifaceted issues you phrased. But clearly, we want to get their economy improving. We want to help as they consolidate on democratic reforms.

Jill, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Russia.

MR. VENTRELL: Yes.

QUESTION: I know you’re engaging on a daily basis, so I’m interested in whether, on another subject, you’re bringing up some of the events that have been taking place this week, specifically the human rights organization Golos was shut down.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you brought it up with them? What’s your reaction?

MR. VENTRELL: We have, and you know this in the context of their so-called foreign agent law, and you know we raised concerns going back to when this law was initially being debated and passed. And now we’ve raised some concerns during its implementation.

So we are very disappointed by the recent action of the Russian Ministry of Justice to suspend for six months the activities of the election monitoring NGO Golos under the so-called foreign agent law. This is the latest example of a disturbing trend in which the Russian state is suppressing civil society activities within the country.

Just to give you – for those of you who aren’t familiar with Golos, since 2000, it’s been a preeminent domestic source for objective monitoring of elections in Russia. In 2012 it received the prestigious Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award for its accomplishments, achieved despite increasing pressure from Russian authorities. So it’s a highly professional, nonpartisan watchdog organization. Their work is helpful. It’s helpful to the Russian people to inform them about the integrity of Russian – elections in Russia.

So we are concerned. We were concerned about this law when it was being debated, and now that it’s being implemented as well.

QUESTION: Are you discussing it directly with them, or is this just public statements?

MR. VENTRELL: We have raised it directly with the Russian authorities. Okay.

Go ahead, Nike.

QUESTION: Yes. The other day you mentioned that Secretary Kerry is planning to have a bilateral talk with Chinese Foreign Minister next week during the ASEAN. Do you – is that finalized yet? Do you have more details on the date and then the agenda?

MR. VENTRELL: The traveling team will be en route to ASEAN and they’ll be able to read out in more detail all the bilateral meetings that he’s going to have. But he’ll meet with a number of counterparts while he’s there.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: As far as these latest hundreds of people died in the Muslim --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- region of China, you think this is the beginning of the movement for democracy in China, elsewhere like took place? And Chinese are still suppressing in the name of one China or in the name of that they don’t want to open to the rest of the world as far as the freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and movement and all those other things. How much now U.S. is expressing or asking China really now time has come to open?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, Goyal, I’m not sure how broad a conclusion we draw about these specific incidents, but you heard me talk about them here at the podium, and you heard me say that we’re deeply concerned about ongoing reports of discrimination against and restrictions on Uighurs and Muslims in China. And we’ve urged China to address those counterproductive policies, and we’ve urged a thorough and transparent investigation into some of this violence. So I’m not sure that we’re going to broad – draw broader conclusions, but we do want Chinese citizens to have their rights protected.

QUESTION: But are you supporting any kind of movement or democracy in China or movement for democracy and human rights?

MR. VENTRELL: Look, internally in terms of China’s citizens, that’s – the future of the Chinese is for them to decide. Broadly speaking, around the world, we support democratic aspirations, but each country is in a different stage of development. So I’m not sure that I would draw that direct a conclusion.

Jill, you looked like you had something. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just need to ask, any updates about the NGOs and the 16 American NGOs workers who were sentenced to jail in Egypt? Do you have any communication with the Egyptian Government regarding that issue?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have an update on that, but you know how strongly we felt at the time, and --

QUESTION: It was a political sentence.

MR. VENTRELL: -- that we were – we’ve said that at the time, and we were deeply concerned, but I don’t have an update.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any communication regarding that issue, that point?

MR. VENTRELL: It’s been a regular part of our communication with Egyptian authorities, but I’d have to check in on an update.

Nike, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you made – you had some details about Ambassador Gary Locke’s visit to Tibet.

MR. VENTRELL: Yes.

QUESTION: And then now that today they concluded a trip to Lhasa, I wonder if you have more details to add, like who do they meet, what did he see, and is there any more deferment on the possibility to have a U.S. consulate in Lhasa.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, a couple of you asked about this yesterday. Just to reiterate that he finished his visit, I guess it was still today, physically the 28th, but many hours ago since China’s ahead of us. But Ambassador Locke met with local officials, including the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and Lhasa Party Secretary Qizhala. He met with leading monks from a number of Lhasa monasteries that attended his meetings with Secretary Chen. He also called on TAR authorities to preserve in these meetings – to preserve Tibet’s language, culture, and religion, and expressed our deep concerns over self-immolations.

In terms of the potential for a consulate, that still remains our policy, that, as envisioned in the Tibet Policy Act, we’ll continue to make the best efforts to establish a consulate in Lhasa.

QUESTION: The discussion to have a Lhasa consulate still going on?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, it’s still our policy. I’m not sure that there’s been any change in the Chinese views of that.

QUESTION: And then, Patrick – sorry. Just before Secretary Kerry – I mean before Ambassador Locke traveled to Tibet, Woeser, she is a independent Tibetan writer, and she was once awarded by this – by the State Department of Women of Courage Award. She was under house arrest. So I wonder if that was brought up during this.

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure if her case was brought up on this. I’d have to check.

QUESTION: Do you have more details on the facts --

MR. VENTRELL: I’d have to check into that. I’m not sure one way or another.

Okay. Anything else? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Syria.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s been a lot of activity on the Hill in recent days, including a – I think there was a report about a hearing yesterday that was meant to be about intelligence reports and then sort of morphed into a discussion on Syria. But are you concerned that sort of some kind of sense of – a perception of disunity in the U.S. Government might sort of embolden or strengthen the regime’s hand there?

MR. VENTRELL: Look, we continue to be in close contact with the Hill. Members of Congress have their views, but there are a large many and the vast majority of Congress that wants to see the kind of secure, stable, nonsectarian Syria that we’re looking for, and so we’ll continue to work with members of the Hill in that regard.

Okay.

QUESTION: Just quick one on Saudi Arabia. Saudi King just recently announced that their week will start now Sunday through Thursday, means they are now aligning with the international community weekend, Friday and Saturday. My question is that – what – the human rights advocates and religious freedom advocates are calling that Saudi Arabia should announce now that they should open as far as human rights for the women and human rights overall and also the religious freedom, among other things. Is U.S. in talk with Saudi Arabia that they – really again the time has come to align with the international community on opening of Saudi Arabia in many fronts?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, human rights is part of our discussion with Saudi authorities. I’m not sure I’d draw a connection between days of the week and our wider human rights discussion, but it is something we raise.

QUESTION: Does the United States consider the days of the week, which days are workdays and which days are weekdays, to be a human rights – or which days are weekends?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure that we take a position on that.

QUESTION: No?

MR. VENTRELL: No.

QUESTION: How about, did you take a position on when the President of Turkmenistan changed the months – the names of the months of the year to his own family members’ names?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think we have taken a position on that.

QUESTION: No? So, okay.

Did you get an answer on the Cambodia question?

MR. VENTRELL: I do have an answer on Cambodia.

QUESTION: Ah, great.

MR. VENTRELL: This is on – for those of you who hadn’t seen reports about a ban on broadcasting of foreign-produced radio programming in Cambodia, we’ve seen a copy of the directive issued by the Cambodia Ministry of Information banning the broadcast of foreign-produced Khmer-language programming in the 31-day period leading up to the July 28th national elections. This directive is a serious infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process. We are deeply concerned by this action and urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider this decision. While our GC officials at the highest levels have publicly expressed an intention to conduct free and fair elections, these media restrictions and other efforts to limit the freedom of expression call into question those intentions and the credibility of the electoral process.

QUESTION: Did you – have you made that case to the government directly?

MR. VENTRELL: We are making it directly to the government.

QUESTION: Do you know, has it been done already or is it --

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure, with the time change and the hours, that we’ve been able to check in with our post, but it will be made if it hasn’t already.

QUESTION: Okay. And by the Ambassador, I presume, or the – by the Embassy?

MR. VENTRELL: By our post.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s not something that – sorry?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not aware that we’ve made a call from Washington. It would be done by our post.

QUESTION: One final. Do you have any update on the talks with the Taliban?

MR. VENTRELL: I do not, other than to say that Ambassador Dobbins is en route back to the United States on a plane at this time.

QUESTION: So no scheduled talks with the Taliban --

MR. VENTRELL: Talks have --

QUESTION: -- no talks with the Taliban are scheduled so far?

MR. VENTRELL: Talks have not transpired or materialized.

QUESTION: Just one more on Egypt.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: With all these demonstrations, I know there were warnings earlier this week about the danger potentially for American citizens in the metro and all of that business. But what’s the latest in terms of any, let’s say, plans to take U.S. personnel out or order departure?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything on that one way or another. But we --

QUESTION: Can you get back on this to us interim?

MR. VENTRELL: I just don’t have anything for you on that right now. But we certainly – whenever we make any security announcements, we do so publicly, and you all will be the first to know, but I just don’t have anything for you.

Okay. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:07 p.m.)

ENDS

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DR Congo: Head Of UN Mission Condemns Deadly Rebel Attacks

A MONUSCO APC is greeted by FARDC soldiers on their way back from the front line in the Beni region of the DRC where the UN is backing the FARDC in an operation against ADF militia. Photo: MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti More>>

UNESCO Chief Denounces Killing Of Cambodian Journalist

17 October 2014 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today denounced the killing of a Cambodian reporter shot while investigating illegal logging in the eastern part of the country. More>>

Detroit: Impact Of Water Disconnections On Human Rights

GENEVA / NEW YORK (15 October 2015) – Two United Nations human rights experts will visit the city of Detroit (Michigan- USA) from 18 to 20 October 2014, to learn more about the impact of large-scale water disconnections on low-income, marginalized ... More>>

UN Lauds Role Of Family Farmers In Ending Global Hunger

A farmer at work in a dragon fruit field in Viet Nam (July 2013). Photo: FAO/Hoang Dinh Nam | See more photos More>>


Funding Gap Looms Amid Efforts To Tackle Ebola & ISIS

Funding Gap Looms Amid Efforts to Tackle ‘Twin Plagues’ Ebola, ISIL, Warns UN Rights Chief More>>

ALSO:

  • The White House - Ebola: What You Need to Know

  • Egypt Sentences Another Al Jazeera Journalist

    In another disturbing move against freedom of speech and independent journalism in Egypt, one of Al Jazeera Arabic channel’s presenters, Ahmed Mansour, has been sentenced in absentia to fifteen years imprisonment by Cairo’s criminal court on the absurd ... More>>

    ISIL Advance On Iraqi Town Unleash New Flood Of Displacement

    Syrian Kurds from the town of Kobane seeking shelter in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Photo: UNHCR/D. Nahr More>>

    ALSO:

  • U.S. Department of State - U.S. Condemns ISIL Attacks in Iraq
  • U.S Announces Humanitarian Assistance For Palestinians

    Today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced $414 million in U.S. assistance to the Palestinians. More>>

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