From: Eilperin, Juliet [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 02:55 PM
To: Barnes, Desiree N. EOP
Subject: POTUS pool 8-first half of gaggle
White House press secretary Josh Earnest gaggled aboard Air Force One on the way back from NYC, this is the first half of that gaggle. As always, please check the quotes against the transcript:
Asked about what were signs of progress on Syria out of the UN meeting, Earnest said, “As you noted, there were a handful of new countries that committed to join our counter-ISIL campaign, so we’re now up to 65 nations across the globe that are part of this coordinated effort to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”
He noted their contributions will take a variety of forms, not just military but efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters and cut off ISIL’s financial support.
“We also saw indications from the French at the beginning of the week that they are prepared to take military action inside of Syria,” he said.
“And then, the president had a constructive conversation yesterday with President Putin, and we certainly welcomed President Putin’s acknowledgement a political transition in one form or another is necessary in Syria. And while there continue to be significant differences, this was not an effort to paper over those differences, because we have start differences over Assad, but just the acknowledgement of what the president’s been saying for quite some time, that a political transition inside of Syria will be required, to address the root cause of the problems plaguing that country” was welcome.
“So there are some positive movements in the right direction… But the obstacles remain and this will remain a priority of the president and his foreign policy team.”
Earnest added that one other concrete outcome of the meeting with Putin that they agreed to start conversations on a “practical and tactical level to deconflict American and Russian military activity inside of Syria.”
“That’s a tangible bit of progress out of that meeting,” he said.
In terms of whether this will be an issue a year from now, Earnest said, “I would anticipate that a year from now, that we will continue to be having a conversation about what we can do to address the problems of Syria.”
He added he wouldn’t predict “that the problems plaguing that country are going to be solved overnight. But I would anticipate that we will have some evidence of additional progress that we will make over the course of the next year. We certainly have made progress over the last year.”
In terms of Assad staying on, Earnest reiterated that the U.S. believes he needs to go, though he said the president acknowledged it would be “a managed transition” and “it’s unclear what time frame this would be under… There are a lot of other countries that agree with us.”
On Obama’s meeting with Castro:
”The two leaders had an opportunity to discuss some of the regulatory changes that have been announced in the last couple weeks on the part of the United States. The State Department is leading some civil aviation coordination talks in Cuba right now. And these are all additional steps that are leading toward more normal relations between our two countries.”
“It was an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their consultations about some of the regulatory changes that are being made by the United States. The president also reaffirmed our commitment to see the Cuban government do a better job of not just respecting but proactively protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people, and we continue to believe a deeper engagement, deeper people-to-people ties, deeper economic engagement between the United States and Cuba, will have the effect of moving the government and the nation in a positive direction.”