Fwd: Travel pool report 2 - POTUS-May press questions

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From: Andrew BEATTY >
Date: September 4, 2016 at 12:48:25 PM GMT+8
To: "Allen, Jessica (xxx@email.com)" >
Subject: Travel pool report 2 - POTUS-May press questions

POTUS and PM May finished their meeting at the JW Marriott.

Rather than taking questions in the meeting room, they moved to a room which was set up with podiums and a stage, where the pool had been waiting.

In open remarks he was quick to praise May.

"The bottom line is that we don't have a stronger partner anywhere in the world than the United Kingdom and despite the turbulence of political events over the last several months, we have every intention to making sure that that continues. "

POTUS was asked about Syria and about the kerfuffle at the airport yesterday and Brexit.

"We have long been interested in finding a way to reduce the violence, improve humanitarian access on the ground, as a precursor for a political
transition inside of Syria. It is a very complicated piece of business."

He defended talking to the Russians as necessary but not sufficient for ending the conflict.

"Our conversations with the Russians are key because if it were not for the Russians, then Assad and the regime would not be able to sustain its offensive. And these are difficult negotiations. We have grave differences with the Russians in terms of both the parties we support, but also the process that's required to bring about peace in Syria."

"But if we do not get some buy-in from the Russians on reducing the violence and easing the humanitarian crisis, then it's difficult to see how we get to the next phase. So John Kerry and his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have been working around the clock, as well as a number of other negotiators to see what would a real cessation of hostilities would look like that could provide that humanitarian access and provide people in places like Aleppo relief."

"We're not there yet. And understandably, given the previous failures of cessations of hostilities to hold, we approach it with some skepticism. But it is worth trying. To the extent that there are children and women and innocent civilians who can get food and medical supplies and get some relief from the constant terror of bombings, that's word the effort.

"I think it's premature for us to say that there's a clear path forward, but there's the possibility, at least, for us to make some progress on that front."

He specifically mentioned UN envoy Mistura's work in creating a "longer-term structure for a political transition."

"We are supporting his efforts as well. And those two things hopefully can operate in tandem."

On China he said:

Re the visit "so far it's been extraordinarily productive. It is true that not for the first time, when we come here, there ends up being issues around security and press access. And part of the reason is because we insist on a certain approach to our press pool, for example, that other countries may not insist on. We think it's important that the press have access to the work that we're doing. That they have the ability to answer questions. And we don't leave our values and ideals behind when we take these trips."

"It can cause some friction. It's not the first time it's happened. It doesn't just happen in China, it happens in other countries where we travel. I think this time maybe as Josh put it,' the seams are showing a little more than usual' in terms of some of the negotiations and jostling that takes place behind the scenes."

"In fairness, you know, when delegations travel to the United States, sometimes there are issues about our security procedures and protocols that they're aggravated with, but don't always get reported on."

"But none of this detracts from the broader scope of the relationship. As we saw yesterday, president Xi and I continued what has been a historic joint project to elevate climate change issues. The bilateral discussions that we had yesterday were extremely productive. And continue to point to big areas of cooperation."

"When I bring up issues like human rights, there are some tensions there that perhaps don't take place when president Xi meets with other leaders. But that's part of our job. That's part of what we do. And so I wouldn't over crank the significance of it."

"This is not the first time that these things happened. And it doesn't just happen here, it happens in a lot of places. Including, by the way, sometimes our allies. Part of it is we also have a much bigger footprint than a lot of other countries."

"We've got a lot of planes, a lot of helicopters, a lot of cars, a lot of guys. You know, if you're a host country, sometimes it may feel a little bit much. You notice some chortling among the Brits. They probably find it a little overwhelming as well."

But the one thing I will say is we don't make apologies for pushing a little bit harder when it comes to press access. And that's been the case from my very first state visit here. And we don't always get everything that we'd like to see. But we think it's important for us to at least stand up for those values."

May was asked what the phrase "Brexit means Brexit" means. She responded.

"Brexit does indeed mean Brexit. The 23rd of June the people of the UK voted for the UK to leave the European Union, the government respects that decision, we respect the wishes of the people, and we will put that into practice. There will be no second referendum, no attempt to turn the clock back, no attempt to try to get out of this. "

POTUS touched Brexit also.

"It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. But I also said at the time that ultimately, this was a decision for the British people, and the British people made that decision. And I never suggested that we would quote-unquote 'punish Great Britain.'

He said he thought that "if, in fact, the people of the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union, their first priority would be to renegotiate terms of trade with the economic unit that they sell half of their goods to. So that, in fact, is I think the approach that the prime minister is wisely taking. That in a prudent, well-informed fashion, with consultations with businesses and stakeholders as well as her counterparts across the channel."

More broadly, he said:

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure that the consequences of the decision don't end up unraveling what is already a very strong and robust economic relationship that can become even stronger in the future."

The pool is holding in the room, POTUS expected to meet Erdogan shortly.

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