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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 14, 2017

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 18:04
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 14, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • IRAQ
  • DEPARTMENT
  • DEPARTMENT/UNGA
  • IRAN
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • SYRIA
  • IRAQ
  • CUBA
  • BURMA/BANGLADESH/REGION
  • RUSSIA
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • DEPARTMENT

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:51 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Well, hello. Nice to see you. Hi, everybody. How are you today?

    QUESTION: One day away from Friday.

    MS NAUERT: One day away from Friday. Can’t wait. And then we’re all going to be together next week, or at least a lot of us will, right? Looking forward to that.

    I’d like to start out today by mentioning the terror attack that took place – got a little bit of an echo in here – terror attack that took place in Iraq, and we’d like to condemn that in the strongest possible terms, the barbaric attacks that took place in Nasiriyah, Iraq. They’ve been claimed by ISIS – the attacks have. The brutal attacks demonstrate, once again, the savagery of the enemy that so many of our nations face. We want to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a speedy recovery for those who’ve been wounded. The attacks are a reminder that all Iraqis must remain focused on defeating ISIS. The U.S. reaffirms its commitment to support the government and the people of Iraq in their struggle against ISIS.

    The second thing I’d like to announce is the democracy – Community of Democracies ministerial, which will take place here in Washington tomorrow. I know there was a little bit of reporting on that earlier in the year, but that will, in fact, happen. Secretary Tillerson will host the ninth Community of Democracies Governing Council Ministerial here at the Department of State tomorrow. The United States is hosting this ministerial as we complete our two-year presidency of the Community of Democracies and will bring together more than 90 governments and more than 50 representatives from civil society groups around the world.

    The ministerial will focus on current challenges and the enduring connection between democratic principles and economic development. Participants will also discuss strategies to counter authoritarian actions by countries, including North Korea and Iran, and will seek to condemn the ongoing human rights abuses in Venezuela. They will also consider ways to support civil society that is under threat around the world and share lessons learned in countering terrorism while still protecting human rights.

    In hosting the ministerial, the United State affirms that standing up for human rights and democracy is both a moral imperative, grounded in the best traditions of our country, and a strategic priority vital to our national interests. We will continue to work with members of civil society and our partners worldwide to strengthen democratic governance, promote the rule of law, and defend individual liberty for all.

    QUESTION: This is the Community of Democracies that Secretary Tillerson didn’t want to have, right?

    MS NAUERT: This is the Community of Democracies that some reporters wrote about that wasn’t happening, and it is certainly happening. We’ve got it going. It’s not as long as it has been in years past, but we have it, and we’re proud to host that.

    A couple more things I’d like to address before I get to your questions. The U.S. State Department is pleased to announce a groundbreaking $25 million award to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. It’s a transformational three-year program with a goal to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery, human trafficking in specific countries or regions around the world. The State Department would like to thank Congress for its support and in particular the leadership of Senator Bob Corker, who’s championed this effort.

    The initiative reflects the United States broad and bipartisan commitment to increase U.S. and global funding to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery globally. Its goal is to leverage U.S. funds to build a significant resource base with contributions from other governments and private donors and develop a global platform of data, analysis, and lessons learned to inform and improve global efforts to combat modern slavery.

    Reducing the prevalence of human trafficking globally should be a joint effort with other governments and civil society around the world. The initiative will seek to raise commitments of $1.5 billion in support from other donors. The funds will be used to combat all forms of modern slavery that align with the three Ps of the global anti-trafficking framework: prosecution, protection, and prevention. At the same time, the program will ensure that survivor voices are integrated throughout the project design and implementation.

    And then finally, a note about the UN General Assembly next week. As you know, it will be high-level week for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. It opened on Tuesday, and I’d like to start off by letting you know that Secretary Tillerson and the department have identified a few key goals for our engagement with the international community. We have five overarching priorities this year. The first is taking bold steps on UN reform; the second, broadening multilateral and counterterrorism efforts to defeat ISIS and other terror organizations; humanitarian assistance, in particular for refugees and the communities that host them; de-escalating the Syrian conflict; and finally, addressing the threat to global peace and security posed by North Korea.

    The State delegation will be led by Secretary Tillerson. He will be joining the President and other senior leadership from the White House, the State Department, and USAID Administrator Mark Green will join us, as will participants from other agencies. On the larger question related to the President’s schedule and high-level events during the week, I will ask you to hold off on some of your additional questions for the White House. They will be announcing part of the schedule in conjunction with Ambassador Haley and also National Security Advisor McMaster. They will talk about that at the White House tomorrow.

    And with that, I will take your questions.

    QUESTION: Right. Speaking of the White House, since they have not yet, and apparently may not now, put their names to the sanctions waiver extension that were – extensions that were granted to Iran today, could you talk about that?

    MS NAUERT: Sure. So the Secretary in London today – and he made an announcement a couple hours ago in which he started talking about that. So I want to first, in case you missed it, cover some of what the Secretary had to say. And he laid that out saying – reminding us that, first of all, the Iran policy review is still underway. So while that is ongoing, we had a deadline. That was today.

    “The Trump administration is continuing to review and develop its policy on Iran,” said the Secretary. It is still underway. There have been several discussions internally among the NSC, the White House, and also the State Department, but no decisions have been made just yet. He said, “I think it’s worth noting that...the administration continues” to review the JCPOA and that President Trump has “made...clear to those of us who are helping him develop this policy that we must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran’s nuclear capabilities; that is one piece of our posture toward Iran.” And I think if one revisits the preface to the JCPOA, the preface needs – reads this – and we have talked about this here a lot – that Iran would need to contribute positively to international peace and security.

    So the Secretary spoke to that a short while ago. Overall – in terms of the overall administration, we did a lot today. The administration enacted tough new Treasury sanctions against 11 entities and individuals, some of whom – or some of those entities were responsible for cyber attacks on U.S. financial institutions. The Department of Treasury has more information about those specific sanctions.

    But the point is that we continue to look at some of the reckless, malign behavior of the Iranian regime. I want to continue to point that out. That’s one of the reasons that we are here talking about this. We consider it to be reckless. We consider it to be dangerous. And I think it’s always worth reminding folks just how bad that government can be – not the people, the government.

    A full range of their malign activities – let’s remember what it includes: ballistic missile development; material and financial support for terrorism and also extremism, not just within their own country but around the globe; complicity in the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people; an unrelenting hostility to Israel; consistently threatening freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf – we have seen that, as our – have – have our U.S. Navy sailors; cyber attacks against the United States, ergo the sanctions today; human rights abuses; arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens. The Iran policy from this administration will address the totality of what the Iranian regime is doing.

    I mentioned the 11 new entities that were sanctioned. In addition to that – and I know that this is what you’re most interested in perhaps, Matt – the administration did approve waivers in order to maintain some flexibility as we support on Capitol Hill and among allies and partners to address the flaws in the JCPOA and additional time to develop our policy to address the full range of Iranian malign behavior.

    Now, waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the JCPOA, nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior. Again, no decisions have been made on the final JCPOA. We still have some time for that.

    QUESTION: That’s all very nice, and it was – what was that, about a five-minute response?

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me.

    QUESTION: No, it’s all right. But I’m just wondering why you feel the need or the obligation to go through the litany of complaints before getting to the – getting to the actual answer and the interesting – the most interesting news of the day?

    MS NAUERT: I think it’s always important to remind the world --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’ve talked here quite a bit. The JCPOA covers a certain section --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Of activities that Iran is responsible for, and that is to try to contain its nuclear program. If I may finish. There are a lot of things that the JCPOA does not handle, does not mention, and that is a concern of this administration that we feel is important to highlight. There have been many years in the past in which you didn’t hear a lot about the bad things that Iran has done. Many would argue that since the JCPOA was signed – and I’m not making the JCPOA responsible for this – but Iran has upped its bad behavior in many instances. We’ve seen the harassment of our sailors. We’ve seen what they’ve done in Syria. We’ve seen Hizballah going into Syria causing more problems. We’ve seen Iran continuing to supply weapons to other fighting forces.

    They are doing a whole lot of bad things, and I think it’s also worth reminding the American public, folks watching, folks listening, folks who read your newspapers and publications, exactly why we are here at this point, exactly why there are concerns about the JCPOA, and why we’re looking at our Iran policy in totality. Because the fact of the matter is Iran is about a lot more – the Iranian Government, I should say, is about a lot more than this nuclear program. They’re doing a lot of bad things, and we want to address and highlight those things.

    QUESTION: Heather, just to be clear on one thing. May I follow up? You talked about how we waived some sanctions. Can you be precise? Are the sanctions that were waived today the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 Section 1245 sanctions? And were there any others other than those?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: So you’re not aware of what?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if there were any others.

    QUESTION: But it was those?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – I don’t have that information in front of me right now.

    QUESTION: So you don’t know what sanctions were waived?

    MS NAUERT: I know that some sanctions were waived. I don’t have that specific information in front of me at this time.

    QUESTION: Can you take that and put it out for everybody so that everybody knows what sanctions were waived?

    MS NAUERT: I will look. I will see if I – I will look and I will see if I can get that for you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks.

    QUESTION: I understand what you’re saying about Iran’s other behavior being – needed to be highlighted, but what do you say to those who charge that you’re moving the goal posts on the actual criteria for Iran to be in technical compliance of the actual JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t think that’s the case at all. I mean, in the preface to the JCPOA it talks about what Iran’s responsibilities are for that. And that’s why when we look at this, we say that Iran is not in compliance – not in compliance with the spirit of the law. And we’ve talked about that extensively.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I --

    QUESTION: Can I ask about the --

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hold on. Settle --

    QUESTION: Well, but does the --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: Does the deal itself --

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Does the deal itself call for Iran to be in compliance of the spirit or the letter?

    MS NAUERT: We have talked about how we believe that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the law. Okay.

    QUESTION: No, I understand that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But in terms of, like, certifying or not certifying, so, in fact, do you feel that you could certify that Iran is not in compliance because of the spirit as opposed to the legal letter of the law?

    MS NAUERT: Last I checked, we have until October the 15th to handle that.

    QUESTION: Well, you’re certainly kind of – between now and then, like, it does seem as if --

    MS NAUERT: Well, look – and I’m not going to get ahead of that. I’m just not going to get ahead of where we end up. All of this is under review. I think the Secretary was clear about that today. The administration has spoken about this. It’s all under review, and so I’m not going to get ahead of what – of what’s going to happen in the end in that review.

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: Heather, Heather, my publication --

    QUESTION: Can I ask --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and others have reported today that there’s a U.S. --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, you’re with --

    QUESTION: Betsy Woodruff with The Daily Beast.

    MS NAUERT: Hi to you. Hi, Betsy.

    QUESTION: Nice to see you. Thanks for a first-time – a first-time visit.

    MS NAUERT: Oh. Well, welcome.

    QUESTION: I’ve been a longtime viewer.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: My publication and others have reported today that there’s a U.S. citizen who was recently apprehended, in custody of U.S. troops, who was fighting alongside ISIS.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

    MS NAUERT: Betsy, we’re going to stay with Iran first, and then we’ll move on to that. Okay? Thank you.

    QUESTION: Can I just ask --

    QUESTION: Heather, how about --

    QUESTION: You made a --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on.

    QUESTION: You made an allusion to or a reference to the fact that you – that over the course of the past couple of years there hasn’t been much talk about Iran’s bad behavior.

    MS NAUERT: I think in the view of many in this administration that we haven’t highlighted as a U.S. Government – if you were to ask anyone in our U.S. military, I’m pretty sure that they would agree with this as well. All of the bad things that Iran has done – think of the U.S. forces, the U.S. troops that have been killed in Iraq by Iranian-led militia. Think of that. We haven’t talked about that. We haven’t addressed that a lot as a U.S. Government. And now, under this administration, that’s something we want to put a focus on some of the bad things that Iran has done, and not just keep our relationship or our conversations about Iran related to the nuclear activities. They’re responsible for a whole lot more bad activity around the world.

    QUESTION: I get that. But the suggestion was that the previous administration didn’t call out Iran for ballistic missile tests or its anti-Israel stance or support for Hizballah --

    MS NAUERT: I think --

    QUESTION: -- or support for Assad.

    MS NAUERT: I think many in this administration would view that the previous administration – and I don’t talk about that a lot, but the previous administration did not do enough to highlight and make the American public and folks around the world aware of just how bad the Iranian regime is and the horrible things that they’ve done to people, including our U.S. military.

    QUESTION: Okay. Because I and others have sat in here over the course of the last eight years – in some cases even longer – and that’s – many in the administration might not think that the previous one was talking about Iran’s behavior, but you can go back and look at transcripts of your predecessors talking about malign Iranian behavior outside of the nuclear arena. So I just want to – just because many people in this current administration don’t think that the previous administration talked about it, that’s not entirely the case.

    MS NAUERT: Well, perhaps next time I bring it up then, Matt, you won’t kind of turn up your nose at it, because it is an important fact that --

    QUESTION: I’m not turning my nose up at it. I just think that --

    MS NAUERT: -- that people need to be made aware of. Okay. A few more --

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: A few more questions on Iran, and then we’ll move on.

    QUESTION: Related to the preface --

    QUESTION: -- on Iran, guys? I just – I got one --

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead. Said, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you. The list that you laid out is really a long list. Is it conceivable that Iran can actually adjust to these demands without having a total regime change?

    MS NAUERT: Our issue is with – our --

    QUESTION: I understand. I understand --

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary addressed --

    QUESTION: -- your issue is with the government and not the people. And that’s what I’m saying.

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary addressed the election, his re-election, and one of the things he said about that is that we have a new opportunity. And if he chooses to change the way that he handles some of the activities of his government, we would certainly welcome that. It’s a new opportunity.

    QUESTION: Can I ask about --

    QUESTION: Will the Secretary meet on the margins of the General Assembly with the Foreign Minister Zarif?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a schedule for the Secretary’s --

    QUESTION: Could it happen?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a schedule for the Secretary’s sideline meetings. One-on-one meetings – that is highly doubtful. I’m not aware of anything like that that would occur. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I ask you --

    MS NAUERT: Hey.

    QUESTION: -- in London earlier today, the Secretary said that Iran was clearly in default of the preface – he quoted the preface of the JCPOA. So, I mean, you also were saying that the administration has not made a decision yet. Can you clear that up? Does the State Department believe that being in default of the preface of the JCPOA does not constitute being in default of the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: Look, the JCPOA – and the deadline for that is October 15th, okay.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: So we have that time, okay. I’m not going to get ahead of where we’re going to end up standing on the JCPOA at this time. The Secretary talked about, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. I think we’ve been clear that we believe that they’re in default of – excuse me – that they are not in compliance with the spirit of that, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Can I ask --

    QUESTION: But I mean, just one quick follow-up. I mean, it’s --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Not asking you to get ahead of it --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but he did say in that – in those remarks that they are in default of the sentence of the preface, the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So how does that not constitute a determination that they’re in default?

    MS NAUERT: I think he said not in default of these expectations, and he said that immediately after he spoke about how, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Saying that they are in default of that, because of all of the other things that they’re doing, is not inconsistent.

    QUESTION: So can I ask about the --

    QUESTION: Can we go to that --

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me. Mr. Arshad in the first row, could you just hold on please? Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Can we go to – it’s on the preface, though.

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me. I’m taking --

    QUESTION: By all means.

    MS NAUERT: -- The Guardian’s question first. Okay?

    QUESTION: By all means, by all means.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s wait our turn, please.

    Go right ahead, sir.

    QUESTION: Yeah. In the preamble, it says that the signatories anticipate that the deal would contribute to the peace and security of the regime, not that the individual signatories would do it. So it was an expectation doing the deal would make things better. How can it be said that Iran – that that somehow, Iran is in default of the spirit of that? I don’t understand.

    MS NAUERT: I think the malign activities speak for themselves. Okay.

    Now I would be happy to take your question. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: My question is very similar. I mean, the language actually says “they anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.” They say nothing about Iran committing to contributing to international peace and security; they just say that the full implementation, they expect, will generally – so I don’t even see how Iran is in – not in compliance with that. You’re saying that – all that’s said in the preface is that carrying out the deal will help lead to peace and security.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the full quote of the – of that deal in front of me, and I can look and bring in that next time.

    QUESTION: Well, I just read it to you.

    QUESTION: Just one --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s move on from Iran onto something else.

    QUESTION: Can I have just --

    MS NAUERT: Elise, last question on Iran. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Super quick one. Are you looking to have a meeting of the JCPOA countries, signatories in New York next week? And has Iran agreed to such a meeting?

    MS NAUERT: So there is a ministerial that’s under discussion at this time. We don’t have any meetings set on that, but as soon as we do – if that were to happen, that would be – actually be an EU meeting, so they would have to confirm any of that. But I know that is one of the things that is under discussion.

    QUESTION: And would you like or prefer that Iran is not part of that meeting?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have an answer to that. I just – I’m not aware.

    Okay. We’re moving on. Who wants --

    QUESTION: North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: We’re moving from Iran now. I think we’ve covered it sufficiently.

    QUESTION: Korea?

    QUESTION: Heather, can I ask about --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: -- can I ask an ISIS question?

    QUESTION: So do you have a readout of Ambassador Yun’s meetings in Moscow? And how – if – how receptive were the Russians to U.S. efforts to put pressure on North Korea? And is he back in the U.S. now?

    MS NAUERT: Let me check for you on Ambassador Yun’s schedule. He was in Moscow I believe it was for two days. I’m not sure if he’s just back in the United States right now or not. I believe he will be back at least by tomorrow.

    I don’t have a readout to provide you from that meeting that he had with some of his counterparts in Moscow, but the agenda was to talk about the DPRK. And we were very happy and pleased that Russia signed on to the UN Security Council resolution this time once again, as they did to the UN Security Council resolution last month. We think that that is a step in the right direction. The fact that we were able to sit down and speak with some of Ambassador Yun’s Russian counterparts and have this conversation and recognize the activities that the DPRK is involved with and that it’s a threat to international and regional security I think is a terrific step in the right direction.

    QUESTION: And are there plans for a ministerial or meeting on DPRK? How big of a focus will this play at the UN General Assembly?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think when the Secretary came in and became Secretary of State, when the President brought him in to do that, the President said to him, “Top issue I’d like you to work on is North Korea.” And the Secretary has taken that on in a very robust fashion. There is not a meeting – there’s virtually not a meeting that he has with his overseas counterparts where he does not discuss the issue of North Korea, not only its destabilizing activities, not only its provocative actions, but – we’ve talked about this a lot – the number of guest workers that they have, the money that’s taken from those guest workers that goes back into the pockets of the Kim Jong-un regime, not to its people, that gets used for its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs. So we are very concerned about that and that’s why it is such a top priority. Of the issues – and there are so many important issues that they’re going to be speaking about at UNGA – DPRK, I can assure you, will be the top if not – the top.

    QUESTION: Heather, follow-up on --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Hi. South Korea – today, South Korean Government announced that it would give North Korea $8 million in aid to North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: South Korea said that it would give --

    QUESTION: $8 million.

    MS NAUERT: $8 million.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, I’m unaware of this. Okay.

    QUESTION: Oh yeah. How can this affect sanctions against North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I haven’t seen that report, so I just – I don’t want to comment on it since I haven’t seen it.

    QUESTION: They reported it this morning.

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: They – South Korea reported this morning, so – yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I just have not seen that myself, so I don’t want to comment on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: But this money going to nuclear development for the – I mean, Kim Jong-un’s --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I – look, I don’t know – I don’t know if that’s – I believe you if you say it, but I haven’t seen it myself, so I just don’t want to comment on it. Okay?

    Hi, Rich.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. On the lack of an oil embargo in the UN Security Council resolution, the Secretary said this morning that he’s hopeful that China will take it upon themselves to disrupt North Korean oil supplies. Is there an expectation that China will do that?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary was clear in what he said, that he hopes that they will. We’re not going to – we can’t force the Chinese to do anything, certainly, but I think that that would be a strong show of support if they were to do that. I mean, we’re happy with their vote in the UN Security Council. This vote, the last vote, they’ve been taking some steps in the right direction. That would be another step that they could take. We will continue to use all available options on the table if we were to impose additional unilateral sanctions, but we’ll keep having conversations with the Chinese and other nations about that.

    QUESTION: And you expect this will be a central part of those conversations?

    MS NAUERT: It certainly could be, but I don’t want to get ahead of any additional conversations.

    QUESTION: Does that line, we can’t force the Chinese to do it – does that apply to other countries and other issues or is it just on China and North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: We’re just talking about China right here.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Thanks.

    Okay, anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: Kim Jong-un did not accept UN sanctions against North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Does that surprise you? That doesn’t surprise me.

    QUESTION: Well, that’s what we’re always --

    MS NAUERT: Of course not. Of course not.

    Okay, let’s move on. Betsy, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah. My publication, Daily Beast, and others, including Fox News, have reported that there’s a U.S. citizen who traveled to Syria, was fighting there along ISIS – alongside ISIS – when he was apprehended by the Kurds and handed over to the U.S. military. My question is: Is he currently in Syria or Iraq, and has the Red Cross had access to him? Do you have any information about just where he is?

    MS NAUERT: So I don’t have a lot for you. I can tell you that we’re aware of that report that a U.S. citizen was detained. Beyond that, I just don’t have any specifics on that. Let me check to see if I have anything additional, but I don’t. This is early on. We just learned about this issue a couple hours ago – to my awareness, at least – and I believe that that is all we have.

    QUESTION: Well, it seems that he surrendered to Kurdish elements of the SDF in Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Are you saying you don’t know, or you can’t say because of privacy --

    MS NAUERT: Look, we don’t have a lot of information on that. That is what is being reported; that is what somebody said. I just can’t – I can’t confirm that.

    Go ahead.

    QUESTION: But the DOD statement that they initially gave us said that we needed to ask the Government of Iraq about it. Is there – do you have any information on who --

    MS NAUERT: That who would ask the Government of Iraq about it?

    QUESTION: That our publication, when we were reporting this out --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: We reached out to CENTCOM and they said we – they said they were deferring to the DOJ and the Government of Iraq. Just from your post at the State Department, do you have any sense of why the Government of Iraq could be involved in this issue with a U.S. citizen fighting with ISIS in Syria?

    MS NAUERT: I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. Look, perhaps the Government of Iraq – I mean, this is a hypothetical in a sense, in that perhaps the Government of Iraq has him. I don’t know where this man is. I can only tell you that we are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was fighting for some sort of a terror group. Whether it was ISIS or not, I do not know.

    It serves as a good reminder that in a nation of 330-some million people, some people will be dumb enough to go to Iraq and Syria to try to fight for ISIS. We encourage people not to do that. As the U.S. Government, we say don’t go do that. I mean, you can’t be very bright if you’re going to go over there and do that. Beyond that, I just have no information. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I – just one more thing on this? The CENTCOM statement, the most recent one, says, “The coalition defers questions pertaining to captured ISIS fighters to their relative nations’ departments of state or equivalent agencies.” And --

    MS NAUERT: I’d say thanks, DOD.

    QUESTION: Yeah. And they’ve been --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information for you.

    QUESTION: And in fact – and in fact, the Pentagon – it’s not just CENTCOM in Baghdad or wherever.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: It’s also the Pentagon.

    MS NAUERT: Look.

    QUESTION: Everyone’s throwing this to you guys and --

    MS NAUERT: We don’t have any information on this.

    QUESTION: Well, then call them out right now and say, “Stop referring questions to the State Department.”

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Thanks, DOD. Stop referring questions --

    QUESTION: There we go, okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- to the State Department when we don’t have any information --

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: -- about who this person was. But it is a good opportunity to remind American citizens, do not go to Iraq or Syria. It is not safe. And if you go there to Iraq and Syria, very bad things could happen to you. Leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Can we stay with Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on that?

    QUESTION: Just because you don’t have any information on it, does that lead us to believe that --

    MS NAUERT: Guys --

    QUESTION: -- the U.S. Government doesn’t actually have this person in custody and that --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. Look, I don’t have any information about this. Okay? This is getting to be a bit much now. When I tell you I don’t have any information about it, I am telling you I don’t have any information about it.

    QUESTION: But I’m just asking if – if you did have someone, would Consular Affairs make us aware, or is that something that you guys wouldn’t necessarily --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the answer to that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I’d have to check on that.

    QUESTION: Stay on Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Today, the president’s office of the northern – the KRG, the --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- the Kurdistan Region – issued a statement that he’s looking at alternatives as a result of his meeting with Mr. McGurk and a high-level UK person.

    MS NAUERT: He’s looking at alternatives to what?

    QUESTION: To the – to the referendum that is scheduled for the 25 of this month.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Okay. So I would – could you share with us if you have any idea as to what that alternative might be to the referendum which would conceivably result in an independent Kurdistan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’m not aware of that. I believe that Brett McGurk is still over there in the region, and I’m just not aware of what meetings he had and what came up in those conversations. But the U.S. Government, as we have told you, we don’t support the planned Kurdish referendum on September 25th because we feel that that takes the eye off the ball of ISIS and that we should all remain focused on ISIS. And when I topped at the beginning of this briefing with that most recent attack that took place in Nineveh province, that’s a good reminder why we can’t take our eye off the ball, which is ISIS.

    QUESTION: Well, the Kurds are hoping that even if they have a referendum and you are --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- opposed to it, once they go ahead with statehood that you’ll be the first to recognize them. Could you give us – I mean, is your position firm on this non-support of --

    MS NAUERT: Our position is firm that we don’t support this referendum at this time. We do not support the referendum on Kurdish independence at the time because of ISIS. Okay.

    QUESTION: Moving away from Iraq, if that’s okay?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Can we talk about Cuba?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: I don’t know if you have any new information to give us. I know sometimes you randomly have new details, new totals, or something. But any response to the report from the Associated Press that includes some of the details of these attacks, including that for some people, they could hear a noise and feel an attack in certain parts of a room but not others?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I certainly read the article with great interest, as did a lot of us. There’s not going to be a lot that I’m going to be able to confirm about that report. I think all of this underscores that we are, at the State Department, very deeply concerned about what has taken place and what has happened to our American personnel who have been serving at our embassy in Cuba. It’s a good reminder of the work that our people do each and every day to represent the United States in – all across the world and sometimes in very difficult situations, and this has certainly turned out to be a difficult situation for some of our people.

    I don’t have any change in numbers to provide you at this time. We can certainly say that 21 people have been affected by this. We hope that that number will not increase. We certainly can’t count that out. We are having our people medically tested. We have a full-time medical officer who is there in Cuba. But as you know, and we’ve talked about this before, our staff is also able to get medical treatment and tests and everything here on what I’ll just call the mainland. They continue to undergo tests. Our folks are able to leave Havana, leave Cuba, and return back home if they wish to do so, if they wish to – I think we call it compassionate curtailment or something like that – where they’re able to switch out a job. So if they’re serving there in Cuba, they want to come home and do something else, they are certainly welcome to do so. The investigation into all of this is still underway. It is an aggressive investigation that continues, and we will continue doing this until we find out who or what is responsible for this.

    QUESTION: So --

    QUESTION: Does the number keep climbing because there have been new incidents or because more people have seen medical professionals and gotten diagnoses?

    MS NAUERT: I think – so the last reported incident we have remains the same as what I told you before a few weeks ago, which was late August. We are not aware of anything that has taken place since that time, but our people continue to undergo tests. The symptoms – and I’ll be vague about this, but can be different in different people. And I’m not going to get into any specifics beyond that. But our people are continuing to be tested.

    QUESTION: One more follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The incident at the end of August, you prior to that had said that there hadn’t been any incidents since the spring.

    MS NAUERT: That’s correct.

    QUESTION: Were there any then in between that you didn’t know about until more recently?

    MS NAUERT: Not that – not that I am aware of. Not that I am aware of at this time.

    QUESTION: And because more information, obviously, keeps coming in on this and the details have changed as more people have come forward – I know at one point the phrase “health attack” was used, then we’ve gone to “incident” – is there any reason to use the word “attack” at this point based on whatever new information you have or --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. The Secretary said in – back in August that our personnel in Cuba have been subject to health attacks. We have medically confirmed that our personnel’s health was affected by these incidents. So I’ve been a little bit more broad. I’ve used the terms “incidents,” but as we have learned more, the Secretary has referred to it as such.

    QUESTION: So wait – well, the Secretary referred to it at that time, so --

    MS NAUERT: Correct.

    QUESTION: -- is it appropriate to call these “attacks?”

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary called them health attacks; he certainly did. They are – the health of Americans was, in fact, affected by it.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s the word “attack” that is the issue here, so --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I understand, I understand.

    QUESTION: I mean, is it --

    MS NAUERT: Look, the reality is we don’t know who or what has caused this, and that’s why the investigation is underway.

    QUESTION: Okay, so for the people who remain there, because nobody really knows what’s going on here, is there any kind of precaution that has been taken? I mean, I don’t know what that would be, but can you say whether they’ve been able to --

    MS NAUERT: I --

    QUESTION: -- identify things that they could do to --

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: -- try to avoid this?

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have – certainly our Diplomatic Security and others have been able to look through people’s rooms and do searches and things of that nature. But we still don’t know who or what is causing this, and so it’s hard to do a lot – a lot more when you don’t know who or what is causing something.

    QUESTION: But there’s some extra security at some of the – isn’t there? The Cubans --

    MS NAUERT: I’m --

    QUESTION: -- have provided extra security now?

    MS NAUERT: If there is, I’m not aware of that, but we can look into it.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Have they changed anything about the living arrangements or the furnishings, or I mean, have they moved things out of the residences?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I can look into that and see what I can get for you.

    QUESTION: Heather, beyond compassionate curtailment --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- has there been any consideration at the State Department of maybe reducing staff of those who have not been affected, as it appears, whether it’s a health attack or incident or whatever, that this is a dangerous situation and the U.S. isn’t sure what’s causing it?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, look, it obviously is a dangerous situation when our people have been affected. We are tremendously concerned about that. We still have work that needs to be done. Our folks can come back to the United States if they wish to do so. It shows the bravery, the hard work and the dedication of Americans, whether they are serving in Cuba or whether they are serving anywhere across the world. We have folks who are in – down in the Irma territories right now. We have folks in Iraq and in Syria, all across the world doing difficult jobs, and I want to recognize them and let them know that we care, we certainly have not forgotten about them, and that this investigation is aggressive. It’s a multiagency investigation and that investigation will continue till we figure out what’s going on.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I just, like, clarify one thing?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: When you – in the answer – your answer to the first question said you weren’t able to confirm the detail – any of the details that were in the report, but you’re not disputing anything in the report, are you?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not confirming – I’m not confirming anything in the report. That wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do so, because some of what was reported was very detailed and it would certainly go beyond anything that we would be able to comment on.

    QUESTION: I understand that, but you’re not taking issue with any, like, specific parts of the story, are you? No?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to confirm, I’m not going to deny pieces of the story. It just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that because then that is akin to the State Department saying, “Yes, this happened. No, this happened,” certain things about that.

    QUESTION: Have residences been changed at all?

    MS NAUERT: I – Michelle, not that I’m aware of, but I will certainly look into that for you. I think that that is a good question. It’s a question that deserves to be asked, and I will be sure to follow up with our Diplomatic Security folks about that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Is Cuba still cooperating with the U.S. investigation?

    MS NAUERT: Last I heard, yes, they have been.

    Okay. All right.

    QUESTION: Madam --

    QUESTION: Burma.

    MS NAUERT: Anything – okay. Let’s talk Burma.

    QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple of quick questions. The timing of summoning the ambassador.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Was there anything that that hinged upon? I mean, why this week as opposed to last week?

    MS NAUERT: So let me clarify one thing about that. And I know you had reported that the ambassador to Burma was brought in here to the State Department yesterday to have a conversation with our Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Murphy. Patrick Murphy is the one who – well, has been very active and very engaged on this. Deputy Assistant Secretary Murphy will be heading to Burma sometime this weekend for a trip next week, and that’s when he’ll be meeting with government officials. Among the things that he will be pressing for will be additional humanitarian access, reporter access, and expressing concern about the state of the Rohingya.

    I just want to clarify though, so we’re clear, we didn’t call him in as in the official call-in. They agreed to a meeting. The ambassador came here and then they had what was described to me as a tough conversation, obviously, about a tough situation.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    QUESTION: And did --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: -- that ambassador deliver any kind of – I mean, did they come in prepared to deliver any assurances or --

    MS NAUERT: If they --

    QUESTION: -- what did they give towards --

    MS NAUERT: If they did, I am not aware of that. But I think it’s a good sign that we have had a very highly engaged dialogue with the government there, between the ambassador – our U.S. ambassador who is serving in Burma – he’s had a lot of conversations with representatives of the government there. Our deputy assistant secretary has as well. This is an issue we are very passionate about and we continue to work on it.

    QUESTION: And some senators want to not expand military-to-military cooperation anymore with Burma. Does the Secretary feel that that’s a good idea? Or is he one who thinks more engagement is better?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of what those members of Congress are asking us to do or not to do, so I would just have to refer you back to those members of Congress. I have not asked the Secretary that specific question.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Burma?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Just a follow-up, quick follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.

    QUESTION: Is he also planning to go to Bangladesh because of the Rohingyas refugees are there?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if he’s going to Bangladesh. I know for a fact he’s going to Burma. We have been pretty clear in thanking the Government of Bangladesh for accepting so many of the Rohingya into their country to provide them at least a safer place. The United States has provided $63 million or so to internally displaced people as well as externally displaced people. I know that the country has received some of that money themselves in that assistance. But I don't know if he’s traveling beyond Burma.

    QUESTION: And also, has Secretary spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi on this issue?

    MS NAUERT: Not at this point.

    QUESTION: And next week at UNGA, the Bangladeshi prime minister is coming. Does the Secretary have any plans to meet her?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that on his schedule. Okay?

    Hey, Elise.

    QUESTION: The Secretary was pretty forceful today in his comments --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- about the situation there. And he kind of gave a nod to comments by other officials that have called it ethnic cleansing. And what is the position of the State Department? I know it’s a very, like, legal term.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. It’s a very technical thing.

    QUESTION: Is there a review going on with the State Department lawyers in terms of trying to determine whether this constitutes any type of effort towards genocide or ethnic cleansing?

    MS NAUERT: I can only say that we are assessing the situation on the ground. There is still – I mean, despite the horrific pictures that you’ve seen and the reporting and some of the harrowing details that you’ve read about, there’s still not a lot of information that, as a government, we’ve been able to independently verify, in terms of from our own people being able to ask those questions and getting enough good answers, solid answers that are verifiable.

    In addition to that, we’ve been working with a lot of partners on the ground. But as you know –well know – the humanitarian situation has been difficult. While there are some people there, there are certainly not enough. We work with a lot of those humanitarian organizations on the ground to try to get additional information, but we just don’t have enough just yet. But I know that that is all being assessed and reviewed.

    QUESTION: So – okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah. I’m struggling with this. The government – the Trump administration keeps saying “if” ethnic cleansing or “if” this sort of catastrophe is unfolding. 250,000 people – are they all lying? I mean, you have satellites; you have intelligence. How this many days, this many weeks later do you not know what’s going on?

    MS NAUERT: I think we want to make sure that we are right in that assessment. As Elise mentioned, it is a technical issue. When it comes to assessing that, there are a lot of things that need to be met. It’s not as simple as you want to make it right now, but I can tell you it’s under review. We are passionate about this issue; we care about this issue. We have had folks engaged in this for many years. This has not just started all of a sudden. This has been unfolding for decades now. But we are certainly focused on it now, as we were before, and we’ll continue to work on this, okay.

    QUESTION: So if you find it’s ethnic cleansing, what is the responsibility that the U.S. has in that situation?

    MS NAUERT: I – it’s a – that’s a hypothetical. I’m just not going to get into that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Well, no, no, no. I mean, it’s actually --

    MS NAUERT: She said – just said “if.” That’s a – it’s a hypothetical.

    QUESTION: Well, but --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into that.

    QUESTION: I understand, but if you’re trying to assess --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah?

    QUESTION: If.

    QUESTION: -- whether – well --

    MS NAUERT: What?

    QUESTION: If.

    QUESTION: The practice of trying to assess whether ethnic cleansing took place, when there is a determination, that definitely triggers a policy response --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and you’re making an effort to assess that.

    MS NAUERT: We are making an effort to assess this, okay. And that --

    QUESTION: So not as it – not as it applies to Myanmar --

    MS NAUERT: Look --

    QUESTION: -- what does the State Department do in situations where ethnic cleansing has been found?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think you’ve seen our action in the past. I think you’ve seen how much we care about issues such as that in the past. It’s under review, and that’s all I can say about it, okay.

    QUESTION: How long do you think the review will take?

    MS NAUERT: I will never preview how long a review will take. You could ask me that about the previous Afghan review; you could ask me that about our Pakistan review; you could ask me that about our Iran review.

    QUESTION: Well --

    MS NAUERT: I’m never going to give you a timeline on how long a review will take. We will do a review until we have sufficient information and until we can provide good solid information with evidence – that is backed by evidence. Okay?

    Thank you, everybody.

    QUESTION: Before you walk away could I ask you two really brief and very disparate things?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: One, on the latest escalation – or what appears to be escalation in your ongoing diplomatic spat with the Russians – they seem to have removed some of your parking spaces. (Laughter.) Are you guys going to retaliate? What’s next here? Are you going to be forcing Russian diplomats in Washington to ride bicycles, or what’s the deal?

    MS NAUERT: A lot of people around here ride bicycles. That’s not --

    QUESTION: I know.

    MS NAUERT: -- such a bad idea. Someone was lobbying me on that in the garage the other day. We can confirm that the parking spaces that were previously designated for our consulate personnel in Russia were recently removed, so we can confirm that that happened. We will plan to raise that issue with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss that with them.

    But I don’t want to characterize that as any sort of retaliation. I think we want to forge ahead with our relationship with the Government of Russia. And we had a good meeting. Under Secretary Shannon had a positive meeting with Mr. Ryabkov, and we’ll go from there in our relationship.

    QUESTION: All right. But so in other words, you don’t intend – there doesn’t – you don’t intend to respond to this. Has it --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information to provide on that. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Okay. Do you know – just offhand, do you know if it has caused major inconvenience for people in Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer to that.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: We have fewer people there, so --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- maybe a few --

    QUESTION: And then lastly at – I mean, to – I understand that the administration’s thinking on the Taylor Force Act and that – and Palestinian aid has evolved. What’s the latest? Is the administration prepared to support the Taylor Force Act now, which as you know, would cut off aid to --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- the Palestinians if they don’t stop payments to the families of --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? This was something that was just brought to my attention as I was walking out here, and I didn’t get a chance to go through it all. So I just don’t have any – an update --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- for you on that right now, but I can get that for you in just a little bit.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Thank you, everybody.

    QUESTION: Just a small one on the UN --

    MS NAUERT: We got to go.

    QUESTION: Just a practical one. You – do you have a rough estimate for how much smaller your footprint will be at UNGA this year than in past years?

    MS NAUERT: So what I can tell you is that we have a very robust agenda. We have our diplomats and folks who are on their way up there. The Secretary heads up there on Friday, as I mentioned. We have a full schedule of meetings that we are still working out right now.

    Some folks like to focus on the overall size of the footprint, and I can tell you that diplomats are still going. We are still doing all of the work that is necessary and important to the State Department. In terms of a smaller footprint, there will be some support staff who will not be going this year, because we recognize that there is this thing called technology. There’s this thing called email, which some people are able to provide support staffing to our colleagues who will be in New York by emailing information in.

    So we don’t feel that this year we need the bodies that we have had in years past. The Secretary firmly believes, coming out of the private sector, that he needs to – and that we all need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And by not having as large of a footprint in New York the week of UNGA – by the way, have you checked hotel rates?

    QUESTION: I --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’ve --

    QUESTION: -- have for many years. Yes.

    MS NAUERT: I found a hotel right down the street – and it’s not a great hotel, by the way – it’s $1,400 a night.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: So I mean, the hotel rates alone are ridiculously expensive. So by cutting back and cutting back the number of support staff going, we feel like we’ll still be able to do our job. We’ll still be able to conduct diplomacy, but some of our folks will be back here in Washington --

    QUESTION: Sure. Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- or working from elsewhere.

    QUESTION: And do you have an estimate on the savings?

    MS NAUERT: I’m – I do not. Nope. Thanks, everybody.

    QUESTION: Were you quoting – that’s the government rate? $1,400?

    MS NAUERT: That was just the regular rate. I don’t know what the government rate is.

    QUESTION: Be careful about extolling the virtues of email from this podium.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, right? Oh my gosh. Good point.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:39 p.m.)

    DPB # 50


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 12, 2017

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 19:23
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 12, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • HURRICANE IRMA
  • DEPARTMENT
  • RUSSIA
  • UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • RUSSIA
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
  • CHINA/NORTH KOREA
  • NORTH KOREA
  • NORTH KOREA/RUSSIA
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • ISRAEL
  • TURKEY/RUSSIA
  • TURKEY
  • HURRICANE IRMA
  • IRAN
  • DEPARTMENT
  • IRAN
  • DEPARTMENT

    TRANSCRIPT:

    3:04 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: How are you today? We were holding out for the White House to finish, but I know you all have a lot of stories to file. So here we are. We’re going to get going anyway.

    Let me start out by talking a little bit about Hurricane Irma. And we want to express and extend our condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones and to the communities who have been affected by Hurricane Irma. We’d like to thank our international partners in the region for working with us to deliver disaster assistance and humanitarian relief to those affected by the storm. Since Friday, more than 2,000 individuals have been evacuated from Sint Maarten, including more than 300 people evacuated by Royal Caribbean cruise line and 1,700 by U.S. military air transport. We’re grateful to our colleagues at the Department of Defense for their nonstop support in this effort.

    Evacuation flights from Sint Maarten resume today to San Juan, Puerto Rico. And we are also planning an evacuation flight from Tortola, that’s British Virgin Isles, the Beef Island Airport, to San Juan later today. We’ve used email, phone calls, social media, radio announcements and the warden system to get the word out. And I’d like to thank all of you for helping us to get the word out. We’ve gotten the word out – you all have as well – to Americans who have been traveling overseas and have assisted them through that in helping to get transportation back here to the United States. So I just wanted to extend our thanks for that.

    Our embassies in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Barbados, as well as the United States Consulate General in Curacao are now open. Many staff from the posts are involved in Hurricane Irma relief efforts, so our routine consular services are limited at this time. The U.S. Embassy in Havana and the surrounding area suffered extensive flood damage. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of assistance should contact our embassy by telephone. Our staff is providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

    As we help U.S. citizens, USAID has teams on the ground in hard-hit areas of St. Martin, in Antigua, Barbuda, the Bahamas, leading the United States disaster response efforts. Some of the areas have limited access to safe drinking water, and homes have been destroyed following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. The supplies USAID will provide will help prevent the spread of disease through hygiene kits and will provide shelter and blankets to the affected communities.

    In addition, one more point on Hurricane Irma I want to mention to you: Flights for Wednesday, September the 13th out of Sint Maarten, on the Dutch side I’m referring to, will be limited. We do not anticipate U.S. Government flights after Wednesday. That is important to note. We don’t anticipate any flights after Wednesday. Flights will be boarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. U.S. citizens are advised to arrive at the airport as early as is safe to do so. We discourage U.S. citizens from traveling in the dark. Please do bring your passport and travel documents to the airport if you have them. U.S. citizens may still proceed to the airport for processing if you no longer have your documents.

    Thanks for listening to that and thanks for helping us get out that information. With that, I’ll take your questions. Where do you want to start today?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Matt.

    QUESTION: I’ve got two brief housekeeping things.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: First is: Maybe I missed it, and please forgive me if I did, but was there ever an official announcement of the 243(d) visa limits?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: There was?

    MS NAUERT: I believe so. Hold on one second. I have something for you on that.

    QUESTION: Because – well, the reason I am asking is because the embassies in Guinea and Eritrea put out announcements saying that they had halted issuing most nonimmigrant visas as of tomorrow.

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: But they – the other two countries that had been talked about – Cambodia and Sierra Leone – had not made such announcements. So I’m just --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Give me a second here, because I do have some information on that. And it’ll take me a sec to find it.

    QUESTION: All right. Well, it’s not that huge, so I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I mean, I do want the answer, but you can do it at the very end if you want.

    MS NAUERT: Why, thank you.

    QUESTION: And then I was wondering if you had any readout of the Shannon-Ryabkov meeting.

    MS NAUERT: I have a little bit of something for you on that. Of course, what Matt is referring to is our Under Secretary Tom Shannon is in Helsinki, Finland today, and that is where he is meeting with his counterpart, Mr. Ryabkov, there. I have a somewhat limited readout of that meeting. This, of course, is the third meeting that they’ve had this year alone. They had one in April, they had one in July, and this is the most recent one since July. That program, or channel, if you will, was set up in order to address some of the smaller issues so that the rest of the department could focus, so the Secretary could focus, on some of the larger issues with his counterpart.

    Give me one second just to find what I have for you on this readout. Okay.

    The United States and Russian Federation held a meeting on strategic stability issues in Helsinki, Finland on September the 12th. That’s today. The U.S. delegation was led by Under Secretary Tom Shannon, Jr., and the Russian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The discussions provided both sides with an opportunity to raise questions and concerns related to strategic stability and also to clarify their positions on that matter.

    So I don’t have a whole lot for you, but that’s what I can provide you.

    QUESTION: That’s all you have?

    MS NAUERT: That’s all I have for you, yep.

    QUESTION: So you can’t say if anything was resolved or if anything got worse, or if they agreed that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov would meet next week in New York, or if – anything else?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any more for you on this. Our schedule is still developing. I know a lot of you will have questions about our scheduling at the United Nations next week. We’re still working on developing that schedule. So we anticipate to have a fuller readout about the UNGA schedule on Thursday.

    QUESTION: Last meeting, the readout was that they’d agreed to – both sides wanted to set a schedule for the resumption of strategic stability dialogue on major issues. Has there been any progress on that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any kind of schedule for you. That meeting just took place today. As you know, Helsinki a bit ahead of us, so I have not talked to Mr. Shannon. But as soon as I get some information on that, I’d be happy to bring it to you. At least what I can.

    So let’s stick with this issue. Does anybody have any questions about this?

    QUESTION: Very quickly --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- on the new Russian Ambassador Antonov. Has there been a meeting between him and anyone in this building? He called today for – to sort of scale back or de-escalate this tit-for-tat and so on. I wonder what your comment would be.

    MS NAUERT: Well, and that’s – that’s exactly what we want. We want our relationship to have already reached its low point. Both of our nations are going forward with the goal to try to improve our relationship and look for areas of mutual cooperation. So we start from here, and hopefully things will only get better. Okay.

    Hey, Michele.

    QUESTION: Hi. Sorry, thanks. Still on Russia. On this Buzzfeed report that there was this document presented to the State Department, as well as the White House, on Russia wanting to immediately heal the relationship and get back on track, can you talk about this meeting in which this was presented? Can you tell us a little more about that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with any particular meeting that you’re referring to. I just saw this article that you’re referring to as I was walking out here, so trying to scramble to get up to speed on that. Essentially, allegedly talks about resetting our relations. That’s what we want also, so I’m really happy to hear that we’re all on the same page. We want to improve relations; two world nuclear powers need to be able to work together on areas of mutual cooperation.

    QUESTION: Well, what was the immediate U.S. response to that plan that was put together, according to this report and according to this document?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not aware of that. It would be considered a private diplomatic conversation that I just can’t confirm any of the details of that. But the Secretary has talked about it, our relationship, a lot, saying that we take a pragmatic approach to our relations with Russia and we have to have areas that we can work together. Where we don’t see eye to eye, we will certainly uphold American values, we will speak about American values and things that are important to our nation, but we want to work together with them as well.

    QUESTION: Okay. If this was – if this was – no one has disputed the authenticity of this document.

    MS NAUERT: I haven’t seen it. I just haven’t seen it.

    QUESTION: Okay. Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: I’ve only seen the news report, and so I don’t want to get --

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- beyond this because, literally, this was handed to me just --

    QUESTION: Understood.

    MS NAUERT: -- just moments ago. And so --

    QUESTION: That’s why my question is just going to be a general one.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: That if Russia was looking for an immediate reset, basically, on – that was clearly not going to happen; am I right? I mean --

    MS NAUERT: I just – that I just don’t know. I can’t comment on that in particular. I just can tell you that I know we look forward to trying to improve our relationship with that. A very good indication of that is – one thing – Mr. Shannon meeting in Helsinki with his counterpart. Another example of that will be other meetings that we have going forward. Nothing to announce at this time, but as we have those I’ll let you know. Okay.

    QUESTION: One of the anonymous officials cited in responding to the report --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry? The what?

    QUESTION: One of the anonymous officials who was cited in the report that you’ve only just seen said that the route to a reset goes through Ukraine, and he confirmed generally that you have to resolve the crisis in Ukraine before you can warm up talks.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to stand here and make policy for us. That is an issue --

    QUESTION: Can you comment on the exiting policy? Is it the policy that the Ukraine crisis has to be resolved?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I know we have to resolve that crisis. And part of the reason that we put Kurt Volker in the place to manage the ongoing issue with Ukraine is because the Secretary views that as something that’s tremendously important. That has been a sore spot between the United States and Russia. We believe in Ukrainian territorial integrity. That certainly has not changed. But anything more on this news report, I just can’t comment on it, can refer you back to the Russian Government if they want to comment on this report. Okay.

    QUESTION: So there have been indications, I believe, that the Russians may be prepared to demand that the United States pare its staffing in Moscow in its embassy even further. How will that reflect on your – on the Secretary’s push for better relations?

    MS NAUERT: Look, I don’t want to speculate on any kind of hypothetical, and I’m not going to take the bait on another nation supposedly coming out with what could be perceived as a threat. I think the Secretary believes that no further escalatory action is necessary at this point, and we look forward to trying to forge ahead.

    Okay. Anything else on Russia? Okay, we’re done with Russia.

    QUESTION: China-North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey.

    QUESTION: Hey.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Rich Edson. How are you?

    QUESTION: Very well today, thank you. Today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Marshall Billingsley testified that he cannot assure the committee that they’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to shut down North Korean revenue flows, expunge North Korean illicit actors from the banking system, expel middlemen and brokers who are establishing webs and front companies; it urgently needs to take demonstrable public steps to eliminate North Korea’s trade and financial access.

    You’ve said last week that China needs to do more, but there is – there is movement behind the scenes, though this seems to be a little bit more of an indictment on China not – needing to do a lot more. Is there a difference between Treasury and State’s assessment of China cracking down on North Korea, and what is the latest assessment that State has on that?

    MS NAUERT: I think we have all said this, whether it’s coming out of the White House, whether it’s coming out of Treasury or here, China can do more. We know that they can do more. We know that 90 percent of the trade goes through China, so we expect them to do more. They just backed the UN Security Council resolution yesterday. They backed the one the month before. That’s significant.

    China has repeatedly said that they do not believe in a nuclearized Korean Peninsula. They are working with us, we are working with them, to try to get to that goal. Can China do more? Yes, of course. All nations can do more. The Secretary has a meeting with the state councilor later this afternoon. I don’t want to preview that meeting. I don’t want to get ahead of those meetings that the Secretary will have, but when I have more for you I’ll certainly bring it to you.

    QUESTION: And in the sanctions that the Security Council cleared yesterday, is the administration satisfied with the outcome? There was – the U.S. and its allies had pushed a stronger version. China and Russia – China – Russia is now saying that it got everything it wanted out of this.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So is the U.S. satisfied with --

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think we’re in a really good spot. We have had two unanimous votes, UN Security Council resolutions, within a period of about a month. That shows that the world is acting together, that the world is acting together and worried and tremendously concerned about the destabilizing activities of North Korea. I can’t be any stronger on that than that. I mean, we are happy with that. We are pleased with that. Some people want to pick it apart and say, wow, you didn’t get enough. This is significant. These are tremendously significant.

    QUESTION: You’ve also mentioned from here, though, that sanctions take a long time to have a real effect.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: These sanctions are clearly significant based on what everyone who spoke yesterday said, but does the world have time to wait for them to – if they’re going to change North Korea’s behavior for --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, look, this is a three-pronged approach: We have Treasury Department, we have the Department of Defense, and we also have the State Department. So we’re continuing to push forward with what we are doing with the diplomacy, and that’s our piece of it. This is the strongest set of sanctions that have been passed by the UN Security Council on DPRK. The strongest set of sanctions; that’s significant. There were times when we in the building last week were talking about, “Gosh, will China and will Russia vote for this?” They, in fact, did. So we are --

    QUESTION: But today – oh, I’m sorry.

    MS NAUERT: We are pleased, and I think that reflects the attitude, the shared attitude, of the world.

    QUESTION: But the President today said that the sanctions were not a big deal and nothing compared to what needs to be done. That seems like the complete opposite of what you just said.

    MS NAUERT: I think what the President is talking about is that more can be done. We are – that is not – we are not at the ceiling when it comes to sanctions against the DPRK. We’re sort of at the floor at this point. There’s a lot more that we can do --

    QUESTION: Floor? On the floor?

    MS NAUERT: The floor.

    QUESTION: Really?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Not the ceiling, the floor. Okay.

    QUESTION: I get it.

    MS NAUERT: Maybe a step above the floor.

    QUESTION: I don’t know. It seems like you’re pretty close to the ceiling.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, well, okay. Ceiling, floor, wall --

    QUESTION: I mean, there’s not that much more to the sanctions.

    MS NAUERT: Wall, whatever you want to – however you want to look at it, we are not at the – we’re not at the ceiling. And I think that’s what the President was saying.

    QUESTION: So do --

    QUESTION: So are they a – are the sanctions a big deal, or are they not a big deal?

    MS NAUERT: Look – (laughter.)

    QUESTION: (Laughter.) Because I’ve heard two --

    MS NAUERT: I think the --

    QUESTION: -- really different things in one day.

    MS NAUERT: I think the sanctions – and I’m not going to go against the President, but I think the sanctions are significant. I think the President is more looking at that there is more that can be done and recognizing that the world has a lot more work that can be done. Okay.

    QUESTION: Shortly before the vote, the Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted that this vote that was coming up when she sent the tweet was a result of North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Has the administration made a definitive determination that this was, in fact, a hydrogen bomb, or was she getting a little too far forward on her tweets?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and let me look for her exact quote here, because I have it somewhere. I think what she was doing is referring to – she said it was – she referred to the September 3rd test as a “claimed hydrogen bomb.”

    QUESTION: Not in the tweet she didn’t.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, well, in her remarks yesterday at the Security Council she said that. So North Korea claims it was a hydrogen bomb, and I believe that what she was – that’s what she was referencing.

    QUESTION: Okay, so this is a case of Twitter, perhaps, not being the best --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, look, it’s --

    QUESTION: -- way to --

    MS NAUERT: It’s obviously very serious what happened. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Palestine-Israel.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, hi.

    QUESTION: On the – on the marine --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Sir, tell me your name again.

    QUESTION: Julian Borger from The Guardian.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, right. Hi.

    QUESTION: On the marine interdiction part of the sanctions --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- will that be backed up by any resources to carry that out? Because it – does it imply much more naval patrolling, more attempted interdictions of --

    MS NAUERT: Well, a lot of that would be a DOD issue.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: There’s a little bit I can try to give you on that, and then I would just refer you to DOD for all of the specifics on how exactly that gets done.

    The resolution provides UN member-states with new tools to stop high seas smuggling of prohibited products. If a flag state or a vessel does not cooperate with inspections, then the vessel can be designated for asset freeze, denied port access, it could be de-registered, and it could suffer other penalties. That’s all we have here at the State Department on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Heather? Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Heather?

    QUESTION: On DPRK.

    QUESTION: On DPRK. On the --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hi, Jaehne.

    QUESTION: On North Korea and DPRK. Thank you. If North Korea does not dismantle its nuclear weapons, then South Korea want tactical nuclear relocation into Korean Peninsula for nuclear battles in Korean Peninsula. What is the U.S. position on this?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’ve certainly seen those reports about that. I’m not going to comment or get ahead of any discussions that could be happening or may not be happening. I’m not aware of any conversations that are being had with the State Department on that matter. Okay?

    QUESTION: But does the – does the U.S. considering about this issue?

    MS NAUERT: I think that would be a DOD issue, and I’m not prepared to talk about that.

    QUESTION: But that’s not a DOD issue. This is a U.S. issue.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah. I don’t have anything for you on that. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: One more. Joseph Yun, special representative for the Korea – North Korea policy, he visit Russia and meeting with the Six-Party delegations up there.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Do you know any purpose of these meetings?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I have just a little bit of information. I can confirm that our Ambassador Yun – and many of you know Ambassador Yun – he is in Moscow today, and that is where he is meeting with some Russian officials. Among the topics that he’s talking about – and this is – when you all ask me, “Is the world on the same page,” goodness, here is an area of mutual cooperation with Russia, and that is that Ambassador Yun traveled to Moscow to meet with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to talk about cooperation on the DPRK. It’s an example of our ongoing discussions with the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK. So we’re pleased that he’s there and that those conversations are ongoing.

    QUESTION: Because last week, President Moon of South Korea, he visit Russia and he have a meeting with Putin. Putin doesn’t want to ask – help with these sanctions – UN sanctions regarding pressure North Koreans.

    MS NAUERT: I would say this: Russia voted for the sanctions yesterday at the UN Security Council.

    QUESTION: But this is not --

    MS NAUERT: They voted for the last round of sanctions and I think those actions speak very loudly, and we look forward to Russia adhering to its commitments. Okay?

    QUESTION: But this is not strong enough sanctions.

    MS NAUERT: Look, we are taking steps. I think the world is happy and the world is pleased with what took place yesterday. The world is working together, okay, working together to hold Kim Jong-un and his regime to account. Okay?

    QUESTION: Do you know if Ambassador Yun made any stops before Moscow --

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware of any.

    QUESTION: -- to like Switzerland, perhaps?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. Okay. Anything else on Russia today?

    QUESTION: Can I go to Palestine-Israel? Can I --

    QUESTION: Palestine?

    QUESTION: On Russia, and also on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can you respond to The Washington Post report this morning that Russia is actually not cooperating and has been undermining sanctions by increasing trade, smuggling with North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I saw that report and here’s what I can say to that: Russia supported the UN Security Council resolutions yesterday. They support the overall goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. That has not changed. They supported the resolutions. They supported the resolutions a little over a month ago. So we anticipate and hope that they will follow through on their agreements.

    QUESTION: Do you have any evidence? Does the U.S. Government have any evidence --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any – I don’t have any information beyond that.

    QUESTION: -- that they’re – that they are increasing trade, even?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, if that’s the case. Okay? Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Can I move on, please?

    QUESTION: Yes, I had a follow-up on the --

    QUESTION: Can I move on? Can I move on?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Can I move on --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I want to go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The President has issued a --

    QUESTION: I had one more on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Go ahead. Sure.

    MS NAUERT: Abbie.

    QUESTION: Please. I’ll wait. Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead, Abbie.

    QUESTION: I didn’t mean to interrupt.

    QUESTION: No, that’s okay. No problem. Go ahead.

    MS NAUERT: Apologize to Said. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: Please. Go ahead, yeah. No problem.

    MS NAUERT: It’s quite all right. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on what Conor asked. The Assistant Secretary of Treasury testified today about deceptive practices used by North Korea, specifically looking at that port of Vladivostok, Russia, and the switching of flags. Do you feel like the recent sanctions specifically allowing for the checking of ships, they’re – when they’re trying to smuggle will prevent that sort of thing from happening? And is that something specifically that the U.S. is talking to Russia about --

    MS NAUERT: Well --

    QUESTION: -- stopping?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – in talking to Russia about where?

    QUESTION: About stopping their practice where they’re using Vladivostok, Russia as a port in order to offload coal.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So with the interdiction that we talked about, that would be a goal of that – to be able to prevent things from happening of that nature. Beyond that, I can’t tell you anything about what’s happening in those meetings right now. I just don’t want to get ahead of some of those meetings. Okay? All right. Said.

    QUESTION: Very quickly, I just wanted to ask if there are any plans for Secretary Tillerson to meet with either the Palestinian and Israeli leaders either with the President when he meets with them or separately. Do you have – is there anything that you can share with us?

    MS NAUERT: So I don’t have anything for you on the Secretary’s schedule today at the UN General Assembly. That’s what you’re referring to, right?

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So we’ll have some scheduled meetings to be able to tell you about Thursday, as you all know, that these things develop, and they’re late developing sometimes. So that’s where we are right now with the meetings. I can tell you, though, that the President is planning to sit down with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and I know that the President’s looking forward to doing that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Any --

    QUESTION: Can you explain what’s going on with this $75 million that the State Department allegedly or Secretary Tillerson allegedly wants to remove from the additional money to the MOU? Is this a thing or not?

    MS NAUERT: So I can tell you this: Israel is an important, trusted ally of the United States. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change. We have a strong relationship with Israel. I just mentioned that the President looks down – looks forward to sitting down with the Israeli prime minister next week at the UN General Assembly. When I have the Secretary’s schedule for you, I’d be happy to bring that to you.

    In terms of the memo of understanding – that’s one of the things you’re referring to – I know we support the memo of understanding. I know that Israel is in the position to be able to get that funding and that is something that we support.

    QUESTION: So there is no attempt or desire on the part of this building or the Secretary to have the Israelis return it or to not give it the extra above and beyond what was in the MOU, the money that Congress – the 75 million extra that Congress appropriated?

    MS NAUERT: What I can tell you is Israel is an important, trusted ally. I know that we support Israel strongly. The President obviously has a very strong relationship with the nation of Israel, and that certainly won’t change, and I know the President is looking forward to seeing him.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but that doesn’t answer the question about the 75 million.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, they’re going to get the money.

    QUESTION: They are?

    MS NAUERT: They’re going to get the money, yeah.

    QUESTION: So this is not an issue, then? Okay.

    QUESTION: Just very quickly, if I could follow up.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to a conference via video --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- in a settlement in Israel. It’s a conference of a political party that is calling for removal of the Palestinians. He, in fact, said to them that they came to this land when it was barren and they have the right to settle (inaudible). Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m --

    QUESTION: I mean, he’s basically advocating ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I wonder if you would have a statement on that.

    MS NAUERT: Said, I’m not aware of what the prime minister allegedly said today, so I’m hesitant to comment on anything that I haven’t seen myself.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Israel today?

    TURKEYRUSSIA">QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Turkey. The Turkish Government is going to buy the S-400 air defense system from Russia. Obviously, the details of the system we’ll try and get from DOD, but from a diplomatic point of view, this is a bit of a slap in the face for NATO, isn’t it?

    MS NAUERT: Well, one of the things that we want is it’s important for NATO countries to have military equipment that’s considered interoperable with the NATO systems, with the systems that NATO nations currently have. A Russian system, if Turkey were to buy these S-400s, as is being reported, that would not meet that standard, so that would of course be a concern of ours. It would be inconsistent with the statement – the commitments made by allies at the Warsaw Summit that is supposed to enhance resilience by working to address existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment through some of our national efforts.

    QUESTION: So it would be a breach of these agreements in spirit, or is there some NATO rule that’s being broken here?

    MS NAUERT: I would have to check with NATO on that if there is a rule that’s being broken. That I just don’t know offhand.

    QUESTION: And you’re not prepared to discuss any repercussions if Turkey goes through with this?

    MS NAUERT: Not at this point.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Turkey, same issue? Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah, hi. Hi, Ilhan. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: We had a Turkish journalist in here yesterday who was here visiting the State Department with --

    QUESTION: Oh, I didn’t see.

    MS NAUERT: -- with another team. Yes.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: So we were happy to have her.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, a Turkish administration official – actually, spokesman – Minister Bekir Bozdag was talking about the probe here in New York South District indicting ex-minister, and Turkish administration now calls it as a coup or repetition of coup against Turkish Government, accusing U.S. Government to using a judicial process to overthrow Turkish Government. And this is coming from the spokesman of the government. I was wondering, what’s your reaction to that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m going to say three words: That is ridiculous. That’s it.

    QUESTION: Okay. That’s it.

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Turkey?

    QUESTION: Do you have some comments on the alleged meeting between --

    QUESTION: Yes, I have a question. I have a question.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, go ahead. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, Michael Ignatiou from MEGA TV, Greece. On the question of the missiles, since the system is not compatible with NATO and U.S.A., are you going to stop this deal? Are you going to ask the Turks not to go ahead and buy the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any conversations we’re having about that, but if I learn anything about it, I can certainly try to let you know.

    QUESTION: But you are against this sale, correct?

    MS NAUERT: Look, we want – and under the Warsaw agreement, these pieces of equipment are supposed to be interoperable with NATO nations, and this would not be interoperable, so that’s a concern of ours.

    Okay, anything else on Turkey today?

    QUESTION: Hurricane Irma?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s move on then. I thought we were done with Irma. Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I just had very – two quick questions about Hurricane Irma. In the past few days, we can see the Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean and some American citizens were stranded there. So how do you make sure these American people can evacuate in a very short time? Because according to the CBS News, some current State Department employees say the lack of leadership is one reason that evacuation has been so --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? That narrative – and no offense to our friend here in the audience – that narrative, as far as I could know – as far as I could see, was reported by one news outlet. One news outlet with unnamed former administration officials wrote a story claiming that the State Department wasn’t doing enough, and the State Department was too slow to act. What I can tell you is about 2,000 people have been evacuated from Sint Maarten, and we did that in a quick period of time as a storm was bearing down on us and another storm was immediately running behind. Our staff, backed by the Department of Defense, went through incredible efforts to help people get home, to help evacuate people, and they’re still engaged in doing that. We have a task force that started more than a week ago – let’s say a week ago Friday, so it would now be about 10 days ago – that has been planning for this, how would we respond to this as a U.S. Government. We have not only been evacuating people but also providing supplies, clean water, assistance. We have our disaster recovery assistance teams, our DART teams from USAID, who flew there to many of these countries before the storm even hit just so they could be prepared to help out – not just helping with American citizens, but helping with those countries.

    The United States is the most generous nation around the globe. We continue to do that. We’ve been on top of this. I spent time yesterday thanking the folks at our task force. We had about 80 people working on this task force at various periods of time, and this is the Irma task force that was run out of our Operations Center upstairs. And if you go up there and you see it, we’ve got maps all over the place; you have people on the phone talking to Americans here at home who are reporting, “My cousin Billy was last seen at this hotel on St. Martin. Can you help put us in touch?” And our folks were involved in doing that.

    So herculean efforts on the part of our staff, and in fact, even during the worst times of the storm, our embassies, while closed, were still able to provide somewhat limited services to American citizens on the ground. So I don’t think that anyone, outside of one news organization, would say that the United States didn’t do a bang-up job in helping people get home.

    QUESTION: So all these 2,000 people are back in the United States?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know where they are right now. Some of them would be in Puerto Rico, which of course is the United States. I don’t know where everybody is right now, but we did that, and other nations certainly look to us to help out too and we have been able to provide some support for other nations. Americans come first when it comes to getting on these planes. We saw Royal Caribbean – I mean, they just did it on their own, started bringing some people home as well. So this is what we do as Americans. We take care of our people.

    Okay. Any other questions on Irma?

    QUESTION: Can I just clarify one thing?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: You just said that the task force started 10 days ago?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So it didn’t start Friday officially?

    MS NAUERT: The task force started prior to last Friday. I was just up speaking with our task force director – Robert, you were with me; we can double-check that – yesterday morning, and she told me about that and said, “Hey, sorry, we didn’t get all the information out.” Does that help? Does that answer your question?

    QUESTION: Kind of, but, I mean, multiple sources at the State Department said that it started last Friday.

    MS NAUERT: Look, the task force was meeting. They were having conversations. They were --

    QUESTION: So it officially started 10 days ago?

    MS NAUERT: That is what I was told yesterday, that it started then and that they were meeting, having conversations. I mean, were there a bunch of people hovering around in a building when there was no storm? No, of course not. But were they having meetings and planning for a hurricane that was on its way prior to last Friday? Absolutely. I was on the phone days and days ago before the hurricane hit, talking to folks internally here about what was going on. Okay?

    QUESTION: Move on?

    Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: I just – there are a couple of deadlines that are fast approaching on Iran --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- on the nuclear deal. First, the sanctions waiver needs to be expired – needs to be extended or eliminated this week, and then in October there’s another decision about certification of the deal.

    And I am curious: The last administration when it presented the deal to Congress, it included the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and identified it as a related document. And there is an argument that is being made now that because the previous administration which negotiated the deal linked the two – in other words, the JCPOA and the UN Security Council resolution – you could – the administration could find Iran to be not in compliance with the JCPOA if it is violating the UN Security Council resolution. Is that this administration’s position? Is that an argument that the administration is sympathetic to?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not aware of the – I’m not aware of the linkage of that, so I’m going to hesitate to speak to that because that just – I’m not aware of it.

    What I can tell you: We’re continuing to conduct a full review of our Iran policy. That has certainly not changed. I know a lot of you are very interested in what’s going on and what’s going to come out of that. During the course of the review – and I’ll say this again – that we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its malign activities. We all know some of the nefarious activities Iran is involved with in many parts of the world, destabilizing activities, and that unfortunately has not changed, but we will continue to try to counter that.

    We will continue to look to the IAEA to conduct inspections, to continue to monitor and verify all of Iran’s nuclear commitments to make sure that they are adhering to those nuclear commitments. We also note Iran’s continued activities. We believe that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the JCPOA, because the JCPOA’s agreement calls for regional and international peace and security. We don’t believe that Iran is in compliance with that. We are – we certainly believe that they are in default of the spirit. We’ve discussed that before. The review is though – however, still underway, so I don’t want to get ahead of what that review might hold.

    QUESTION: And then I will be quiet after this, but --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- just before you call it a day, the answer to the 20 – 243(d) visa stuff --

    MS NAUERT: Are you running? Are you running off?

    QUESTION: No, no.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: But I’m just going to --

    MR GREENAN: There’s a visa section in the white book.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Do you want to go over it now?

    QUESTION: Other people can go first.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. All right.

    QUESTION: Just real quick on Iran.

    QUESTION: Really quick on Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Just that the IAEA found yesterday that Iran is implementing its nuclear commitments. The administration confident in that assessment?

    MS NAUERT: So it’s a report that is still confidential at this point. So I’m not going to comment on a report that’s still confidential at this point. We typically don’t discuss the details of something before it is officially released, so I’m going to adhere to that policy. I can say we appreciate the efforts of the IAEA to – as they work to verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA. We remain fully committed – and this has not changed – to ensuring that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. I want to be firm on that one. We continue to review and to monitor Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA in order to ensure that Iran continues to strictly meet all of its commitments.

    QUESTION: And the U.S. has confidence in the IAEA?

    MS NAUERT: They have done a good job of doing its work. We thank them for that. As you know, we’ve had visits with them, as has Mr. Shannon, over at the IAEA to have conversations about this, and so we stand by their work.

    QUESTION: Mr. Amano said – Amano said that Iran was --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who?

    QUESTION: The head of the AIEA --

    MS NAUERT: Uh-huh?

    QUESTION: -- said that Iran was playing by the rules. So if they come and say, “Iran is playing by the rules,” will you still say that they are not complying?

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think I was clear that the --

    QUESTION: Heather, I understand the spirit --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. The administration believes that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the law.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: The Iran review is still ongoing. We will continue to follow the letter of the law, but we believe that Iran is in violation of the spirit of the law, and I’m not going to get ahead of what that review will contain and I’m not going to forecast it either.

    QUESTION: So there’s been suggestion that there is going to be some sort of a new deal or a new renegotiation of this deal --

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not --

    QUESTION: -- as suggested by --

    MS NAUERT: Said, I’m just not going to speculate. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move on. You had a lot of questions today.

    QUESTION: I have a lot.

    MS NAUERT: You certainly do. Hey, Gardiner. How you doing?

    QUESTION: Hey, Heather. So there was unusually fierce criticism of the Secretary and the administration of this department in the last several days on Capitol Hill – bipartisan criticism in both your Appropriations Committee and your Authorizing Committee. In the Appropriations, they obviously largely rejected your proposed budget. Senator Lindsey Graham talked about not needing to stay on the battlefield during very tough times. In your nominating hearing today there was a chorus of senators criticizing this department for, for instance, not sharing anything about the ongoing efforts for reorganization.

    I’m just wondering if you can answer some of those criticisms, but also help us understand why it is that there is so much concern on Capitol Hill about the management of this department right now.

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think a couple things. One, what we are looking at is the appropriations process. And this is exactly how the appropriations process works. We look forward to working with Congress. Congress may choose to give us more money, but we work with the budget that we are given. I remember Secretary Rumsfeld once years ago saying, “You go to war with the army you have,” right. We work with what we are given. Our people are no less – no less dedicated as a result of the budget that we are anticipating. We are still working full force, full steam ahead, and that has not changed one bit.

    Congress can express its concerns. They are fully – that is fully appropriate for them to do that. We look forward to working with Congress and to engaging with them. I know we’ve got a lot of members on the Hill over the next few days. It would be very difficult to keep track of everything that every one of our folks has testified to on Capitol Hill. So I think that’s the first part of your question.

    The second part of your question was?

    QUESTION: I mean, it seems that there is an unusual amount of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans about the way this administration is administering the State Department. Do you agree with that assessment? And if so, why do you think that might be?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to speculate as to why members of Congress have opinions. We all know that the politicians have their opinions about how things should be run, and they’re right to have those opinions, and frankly, that’s a democracy. It’s okay for them to ask questions, and to ask tough questions. We deserve it, to be asked those questions, and we will answer those questions to the best of our ability.

    In terms of the overall redesign, this week we provided some information to the Office of Management and Budget. As you all know, when we put together – when Secretary Tillerson spearheaded the redesign, it had a few phases to it – three phases, in fact: one, two, and three. We’re now through phase two. We are at the point where we are sending information up to the OMB – I believe it’s sometime today – where we’re giving them some of our information, and then OMB will take a look at that, and then we’ll end up going from there.

    When we look at the redesign, this is really a very unique program, and I know a lot of people like to try to make fun of the redesign, but look, one of the things that’s incredibly unique about it is that employees were asked what they want, how they want to see the State Department redefined for the future. And I’ve worked in the private sector, I’ve only worked in government for a few months, but I can tell you no private sector company that I worked for ever asked my opinion about what the future of that company should look like. And so that’s pretty incredible that the State Department did that, from the top levels down to the newbies starting here, ask them to weigh in – not only in the listening tour, but in the survey. And then we have these working groups that were broken out with people from each of the departments and bureaus who could help provide their advice and suggestions about best practices going forward.

    So as we get more information on what the redesign holds, I’d be happy to bring that to you. But OMB’s getting something; I believe it’s today.

    QUESTION: Will you make that report that went to the OMB today public?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if that’ll be public at this point; I’m not sure if that’s something that OMB – if that’s in the agreement. I’m just not aware of that. Okay.

    QUESTION: When you say information, what kind of information did you send them?

    MS NAUERT: We sent them a letter, I think, along with our report. Whatever it was that was required under the budget and the redesign, right?

    MR GREENAN: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Looking at Robert.

    QUESTION: You have to share that with Congress by the 15th, don’t you?

    QUESTION: Yeah. That’s – Friday’s the deadline.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: All right. So it’s --

    MS NAUERT: So we give it to OMB first, and my understanding is that they preview it, and then Congress gets it.

    QUESTION: By Friday?

    MS NAUERT: I believe so, yeah. We’re on track. We’re on track. Okay.

    All right, guys, we got to wrap it up. Let me give you one last question.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to bring you back to the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: By the way, our new guy from Reuters.

    QUESTION: That’s right.

    MS NAUERT: Welcome.

    QUESTION: Not so new. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Well, an old guy, but he’s new to us, right?

    QUESTION: An old guy who’s new, right. (Laughter.) Just remind, did you just say that the administration has no position yet on the report, the latest IAEA report? Because there was a statement made by the U.S. rep to the IAEA today welcoming that report, and praising the IAEA for its work on the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? All right, guys. Got to leave.

    QUESTION: Wait, can you get to my --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, your last one. Visa. Hold on. This was – so suspenseful. Do you remember where this is, Robert?

    MR GREENAN: Under the visa tab.

    MS NAUERT: Visa tab.

    MR GREENAN: Back there. In the white book, in the back.

    MS NAUERT: Ah, see. It’s hiding. Okay.

    QUESTION: So first of all, was it ever officially announced that these four countries were going to be hit by this – by the restrictions?

    MS NAUERT: Did we communicate with those countries?

    QUESTION: No. Did you communicate publicly? I don’t know, I was away for some part of last month after the initial reports out of DHS and here, but I don’t know that it ever was formally announced that this was going to happen under 243(d) of the INA.

    MS NAUERT: I was away the same period of time that you were, so we – it may have come out, and may have slipped my attention.

    QUESTION: Well, anyway --

    MS NAUERT: Here’s what I can tell you about 243(d), and this is basically countries that weren’t taking back some of its people who had been convicted and served their time – criminal offenses. The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and also Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017. That’s tomorrow. The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Consular operations at the U.S. embassy will continue. The visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension. State received notification under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from the Department of Homeland Security for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. According to that section of the law, when a country denies or unreasonably delays accepting one of its nationals, the Secretary of Homeland Security may notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary must then order consular officers in that country to discontinue issuance of any or all visas. The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions, and the categories differ slightly country by country.

    QUESTION: Do they in this case?

    MS NAUERT: They do. Do you want to go over them?

    QUESTION: Yes, please.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. If anybody has to go, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: And also, do they only – does it only apply to government officials and their families or is it --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe so. Let me just – I want to – I want to make sure that we get everything absolutely correct. Obviously, a sensitive situation, so I’m just going to read straight from the book. Cambodia: The U.S. embassy in Cambodia has discontinued the issuance of B visas – those are considered temporary visas – for visitors for business or pleasure. The Cambodian ministry of foreign affairs employees with the rank of director general and above and their families – that is who it affects in Cambodia.

    In Eritrea, as of September 13, the U.S. embassy in Eritrea has discontinued the issuance of all B visas, which are temporary visitor visas for business or pleasure. So that’s for all – different from Cambodia.

    In Guinea, as of September 13, the United States --

    QUESTION: Hold on. So that means it applies to everyone, not just --

    MS NAUERT: All B visas.

    QUESTION: But for all Eritreans, not just government officials?

    MS NAUERT: Correct. Let me just go back and read this for you again.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: As of September 13, the U.S. embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, has discontinued the issuance of all B visas. Those are temporary visitor visas for business or pleasure. Okay?

    Guinea: As of September 13, the United States embassy in Conkary, Guinea --

    QUESTION: Conakry.

    MS NAUERT: -- Conakry, thank you – has discontinued the issuance of B visas, temporary visitor for business or pleasure, and F, J, and M – like Mary – visas, temporary visitors for student and exchange programs to government officials – hold on – and their immediate family members. So that just applies to government officials then in Guinea.

    And then for Sierra Leone, as of September 13, the United States embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has discontinued the issuance of B visas – temporary visitors for business or pleasure – to ministry of foreign affairs officials and immigration officials.

    Now, the State Department may change the covered visa categories at any time. Visa suspensions may include any category of visa applicants as determined by the department on a country-by-country basis.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? All right. Thanks, everybody. Great to see you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:51 p.m.)

    DPB # 49


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 7, 2017

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 18:37
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 7, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • HURRICANE IRMA
  • BURMA/REGION
  • KUWAIT
  • BURMA/REGION
  • DPRK/REGION
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • RUSSIA
  • SYRIA
  • DEPARTMENT

    TRANSCRIPT:

    3:07 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: I think they fixed the air conditioning. How about that? Hi, everybody. How is everyone?

    QUESTION: Welcome back.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. It’s good to see you. Good to be back.

    Okay. So we have a lot going on today, certainly. And I want to start out talking a little bit about Hurricane Irma. And the first thing I want to say about that is that our condolences are certainly with those who have lost so much, including their loved ones, from the destruction of Hurricane Irma. We are continuing to monitor the path and also the impact of Hurricane Irma as the situation continues to evolve. We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens who are overseas. We’ve said that many times from this podium, and today would be no more of a perfect moment than now to mention that again.

    Since Tuesday, our embassies have issued security messages and also travel warnings for the affected countries to inform U.S. citizens of the storm and to recommend that they begin making preparations to either depart or to shelter in place. The State Department has regular contact with our embassies to ensure that we have the latest information on our operations, U.S. citizen needs, and disaster assistance plans. We are communicating also with foreign authorities.

    In terms of our embassy operations and travel warnings, we continue to update information for U.S. citizens on the Hurricane Irma page at travel.state.gov and also through our emergency and security messages. The Department of State has authorized non-emergency U.S. Government employees and family members to depart the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and also Cuba. We have ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency U.S. Government employees from the Bahamas. As the storm passes through the region, our embassies will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

    In terms of emergency contact information – and this is important for folks who have family members, loved ones, and friends who are traveling in the Caribbean. If you are in the United States and are worried about a family member traveling there – again, this is in a foreign country, not in the United States – you can inform the Department of State about U.S. citizens affected by the hurricane who require emergency assistance through our website. You can go to travel.state.gov or you can call us at the following number: 1-888-407-4747. That’s from the U.S. and Canada. If you’re calling from overseas that number is 202-501-4444.

    In addition to that, our sister agency, USAID is providing some important information and some important teams on the ground, and they’ll have some additional information for you on that coming forward. We are committed to working with partners in the region to provide life-saving assistance as our neighbors in the Caribbean respond to the disaster. USAID officially activated a disaster assistance response team – many of you know that as DART – as Irma continues its destructive pass – path across the Caribbean. Disaster experts on DART were deployed to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Barbados, and also the Bahamas ahead of the storm, and they’re now coordinating with local authorities and humanitarian organizations on the ground to deliver vital assistance as soon as conditions allow.

    I’d like to recognize those brave Americans who are willing to go in what is potentially harm’s way in order to save or assist others. DART is comprised of experienced disaster response officials who are conducting damage and needs assessment. They’re working with local authorities and our humanitarian partners to coordinate distribution of emergency food assistance and relief supplies. USAID will have more information on this in – sometime later today.

    In addition to that, there’s a matter we’ve got a lot of questions from you recently on, and it’s something that we care about deeply here, and that is the situation taking place in Burma. I’d like to talk about this as a follow-on to the two statements that have recently been released from both the State Department and the USUN since the violence erupted there in late August.

    We are deeply concerned by the troubling situation in Burma’s northern Rakhine State. There has been a significant displacement of local populations, following serious allegations of human rights abuses, including mass burnings of Rohingya villages and violence conducted by security forces and also armed civilians. We, again, condemn deadly attacks on Burmese security forces, but join the international community in calling on those forces to prevent further violence and protect local populations in ways that are consistent with the rule of law and with full respect for human rights. We urge all in Burma, including in the Rakhine State, to avoid actions that exacerbate tensions there.

    We welcome the Government of Burma’s acknowledgement of the need to protect all communities and its pledge to implement recommendations of the Advisory Commission on the Rakhine State aimed at addressing long-standing challenges that predate the country’s democratic transition. We call on authorities to facilitate immediate access to affected communities that are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

    The United States is working through the United Nations and other international organizations to assist tens of thousands of civilians who have fled to southeastern Bangladesh since August the 25th. We are also communicating with Burma’s neighbors and other concerned international partners on efforts to end the violence and assist affected communities there.

    I would be happy to take your questions on that, but first I have one final thing. And I’d like to say we are very pleased to host the leaders of the state of Kuwait here in Washington this week. We got a late start today, as you well know, because we wanted, of course, the President and the emir of Kuwait to finish up their meetings and their press conference at the White House.

    As you know, the President just met with His Highness Emir al-Sabah at the White House. And tomorrow, here at the State Department, we will host the second annual United States-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, which is co-hosted by Secretary Tillerson and the first deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Kuwait. Kuwait is a strong regional partner, and we look forward to tomorrow’s meeting on education, trade, investment, homeland security, and also military cooperation. We also want to continue to thank Kuwait for its strong diplomatic efforts in trying to resolve the ongoing Gulf dispute.

    And with that, I would be happy to take your questions. Who’d like to start today?

    QUESTION: So why don’t we go right back to Myanmar? You said in your statement just now that the U.S. welcomes the call from the Government of Burma for the need to protect all different communities. That certainly hasn’t been the predominant message from Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in the last several weeks. Do you – does the U.S. have confidence or faith at this point in the efforts or desire of the Government of Myanmar to protect the Rohingya community?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think there are a few things going on there. As you all as journalists who are passionate about foreign affairs well know, that it is a difficult place to get information from. It’s difficult to get access to. We’d like to certainly call on the Government of Burma to allow better, greater access for reporters and journalists to be able to enter that country and be able to provide accurate information about what’s going on on the ground. There also remains a humanitarian situation, where it is very difficult for humanitarian aid groups to be able to get in and provide the supplies and the support that is necessary. We are continuing to have conversations with the government, not only about the violence there, but also about those issues of journalists and also, perhaps more importantly, the humanitarian aid situation.

    Our ambassador over there, he and I – Ambassador Scot Marciel – exchanged emails earlier today to talk a little bit about the situation. He’s been on a plane and has met numerous times with the government – three times, in fact – in I believe it was just this week alone. So we remain very engaged in that.

    QUESTION: So the U.S. does have tools at your disposal. Obviously, we had a pretty broad sanctions regime against Myanmar; some of that has been lifted in recent years. Is the U.S. considering putting back sanctions or adding new sanctions to try to push back on these allegations of human rights violations that you were just describing?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the issue of sanctions, but it’s something that we don’t want to get ahead of the conversations that we’re having. We’re having diplomatic conversations at this point; any potential sanctions are just not something that I could comment on this time. Either – assuming that they might happen, or might not happen.

    QUESTION: Heather, the leader --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s stay on this issue before we switch to the next one.

    QUESTION: Yeah, on Burma.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The leader claims, Aung San Suu Kyi – she claims that this started by fake news. Is --

    MS NAUERT: She – say that again? She what?

    QUESTION: This whole crisis --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- is stoked by fake news and the trading of fake news and so on. Now, the U.S. – has the U.S. been able to authenticate the calamity that is taking place and the size of it on its own?

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s exactly why I mention how difficult it is. I mean, there – it is a difficult country to get into. It is a difficult country to get around. It doesn’t have the roads and infrastructure that many other countries do have. So it’s a difficult terrain in order to be able to get the facts on the ground that are accurate. That’s why we certainly call on that country to help facilitate journalists being able to come in, aid groups to be able to come in. We work with those organizations, the aid groups, very closely and carefully in order to try to best assess the situation. It’s a complicated situation. It’s a complicated country and the situation going on there. We don’t want to do anything that would inflame tensions. But we hope that we can get more solid information from the ground there.

    Okay. Hey, Michelle.

    QUESTION: Hi. What kind of engagement has Secretary Tillerson himself had on this issue in the last two weeks? Have there been phone calls? How has he been involved?

    MS NAUERT: This is something that I know the Secretary cares about. This is something where we have phone calls and diplomatic conversations that have certainly been had at various levels. I don’t have any calls to read out for you right now. But as we do, I will certainly let you know. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Elise.

    QUESTION: Hi. It seems as if – we haven’t really heard from Secretary Tillerson about any diplomatic efforts going on. Is that because you don’t feel like you want to discuss them right now, or is that because the administration is leading with more of a kind of deterrent message on the North --

    MS NAUERT: On this specific issue, you’re talking about Burma?

    QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

    MS NAUERT: Are you talking about Burma, or are we moving on to North Korea?

    QUESTION: Sorry. We’re moving on to North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Okay. Elise, wake up this morning.

    QUESTION: Sorry. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stick with Burma before we move on to something else, please. Anybody else on Burma? Hi there.

    QUESTION: So are you saying the Secretary hasn’t spoken to anyone on --

    MS NAUERT: No, I just don’t have any calls to read out for you at this time. This is a subject that has come up a lot. A lot of people are talking about this here at the State Department. You all are focusing on this now. Our ambassador has made three trips to the capital this week alone. And so it’s something that we just continue to focus on, and we will continue to monitor it.

    QUESTION: Do you have any – do you think Aung San Suu Kyi is doing enough to prevent the violence?

    MS NAUERT: Look, there is access – very, very limited, if any, access to humanitarian needs and equipment and supplies. That would be one of our top concerns. We’re concerned about the violence there – that includes allegations of violence conducted by both security forces and civilians. We would like all sides to try to calm the tensions. What we’ve seen there has been very concerning to the U.S. Government as we care about what is happening to the population there. The U.S. Embassy is following the developments very closely. And let me just again mention that it’s very difficult to verify some of the reports in light of the security situation there. I’ll just – I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Obviously, we all would like to have more access for journalists in Myanmar, but you guys have an embassy in Nay Pyi Taw. You’re not saying that the U.S. can’t determine whether or not the allegations are fake news unless there’s more --

    MS NAUERT: There – some of these areas are areas of open conflict, which we can’t necessarily get out there and get on the ground as State Department employees when there is open conflict there.

    QUESTION: Have American diplomats been in Rakhine State to try to look at this?

    MS NAUERT: I can look into that for you. I don’t know if we’ve had anybody exactly right there.

    Okay, let’s move on to – let’s move on to something else.

    QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on whether you think Aung San Suu Kyi should keep her Nobel Peace Prize?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t have anything to comment on that. That would be up for the prize – yes.

    QUESTION: Do you urge Bangladesh authority to allow Rohingya refugees in their country as thousands of Rohingya refugees in the border to get into Bangladesh?

    MS NAUERT: I know it is a difficult situation for Bangladesh, as it is for any country, to absorb refugees. We have provided – I believe it’s about $55 million this year in – to Burmese refugees not only in Burma, but I believe also in Bangladesh. If I have anything more for you on that, I’ll get that to you.

    Hi there.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Nice to see you. On North Korea, do you have any detail on new sanctions on North Korea? Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: You know I’m going to say this. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: We’re never going to forecast sanctions. I think what you’re referring to is what many are talking about at the United Nations, and that is a situation I’m just not going to forecast right now.

    QUESTION: They’re not talking about it. It’s a draft resolution that’s been released to the council for a vote.

    MS NAUERT: So that is a detail of a draft resolution, and that’s something – we don’t go into the details of a draft resolution on current diplomatic conversations. But you’ve all read the news, you’ve seen the reports, and so I’ll just leave you with that.

    QUESTION: What about Russia’s --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, we’re not going to Russia just yet.

    QUESTION: No, no, no, Russia’s comment pre-emptively opposing any type of sanctions against North Korea or additional --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Look, we have had Russia’s cooperation at the U.N. Security Council in the past. What the DPRK has done and its – we all know what happened on Sunday night. We all have not yet been together since those activities occurred.

    QUESTION: You mean the nuclear tests?

    MS NAUERT: I’m talking about the testing that took place, yes. What I want to say about that is that this is not just a security situation for the United States. It’s not just a security problem for the United States. This is a security problem for the world. China recognizes that. I think Russia recognizes that. We’re getting different levels of cooperation. We were certainly happy when Russia backed the last round of U.N. Security Council resolutions. China did certainly as well.

    QUESTION: What is the administration assessment of the pressure campaign given that you’ve had the intelligence assessment come public that they’ve miniaturized a warhead, you’ve had a missile fly over Japan, and you’ve had a hydrogen test. Is it working?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, that’s a fair question. I mean, a lot of people look at the recent events that have occurred, especially on Sunday night, and ask: Is the pressure campaign, is your diplomatic campaign working? It’s a legitimate question. It is what we do here at the State Department. We look at pushing and continuing the conversation about the pressure campaign and putting pressure on the DPRK to denuclearize. China shares that concern with us. They also support denuclearization, as does virtually every country across the globe. It is an important issue for us, and it’s an important issue for them.

    Yes, I can say that the pressure campaign is working. Now, when you see a test that took place on Sunday, you may think, goodness, that is not working. But that is not the case, and here’s why. It can take a long, long time for sanctions to work. It can take a long time for a pressure campaign to work. It is not an overnight thing. It’s not a big, sexy military operation. This is handled very, very differently.

    We will continue to push forward with this campaign. We are having success. One of the best areas of success that we can point to are all of the countries that we’ve had diplomatic conversations with where we have asked those countries and discussed with those countries, and they frankly support it as well, closing down the size of – or excuse me, not closing down the size – limiting the size of DPRK missions in their own countries, limiting the number of guest workers. We’ve seen some recent success in Spain, in Peru, also Kuwait, with regard to that, just to name a few. There are also the independent sanctions that other countries have been willing to do. We’ve seen that with Australia and many other partners in the region as well.

    This all will take time. It will take time to help remove that money that the DPRK is getting and we believe is going to its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It’ll take time to get that money out to really force that regime to come around.

    QUESTION: And just real quick --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- when you said China shares the U.S. concerns, is it concerned enough?

    MS NAUERT: We’ve always said this: China has – China can certainly do more. It’s also a country that is willing to do some things behind the scenes, and we’re happy with that. We don’t need to be so public; we don’t need to take the credit; we don’t need countries to thump their chests in order to show exactly what’s going on. This is what diplomacy is. Sometimes it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s not so fun for people who are covering it because you may not have much to publicly point to. But there are things going on behind the scenes, I can assure you, that is giving us cause to be hopeful for the future. Again, this is something that will take quite some time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that’s what we do here. We’ll keep pushing forward.

    QUESTION: Can I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Isn’t it, though, like – isn’t it a little bit of a race against time? Because if you’re saying that it’ll “take a long, long time,” in your words, and some of the commanders have estimated that by the end of the – in a year – in less than a year’s time, North Korea not only could have – they’ve already demonstrated the ICBM --

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think, Elise, that’s --

    QUESTION: -- but also married it and so --

    MS NAUERT: That’s why I think we have – this U.S. Government has a multipronged approach. Diplomacy is just one part of that. You heard Secretary Mattis talking about the military piece of it. You’ve heard Secretary Mnuchin talk about the Treasury portion of it. We have Ambassador Haley who’s talking about the UN Security Council portion of it. So we’re all working in concert together. I’m just speaking to our one piece of it, and we’re plowing ahead. We’re moving forward.

    QUESTION: But I mean, if you’re hoping for a diplomatic solution, I mean, can you --

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s always the preferred --

    QUESTION: Do you have the – I know. I understand.

    MS NAUERT: That’s always the preferred approach.

    QUESTION: I understand. Yeah, exactly.

    MS NAUERT: The diplomatic solution.

    QUESTION: So are – do you think you have enough time? If the sanctions are going to take a really long time, do you think you have enough time to let a diplomatic solution play out?

    MS NAUERT: We are going ahead with the diplomatic solution. We are asking countries, our allies, our friends, our neighbors, you name it – anybody we’ll sit down and talk with, we are asking them to assist us. And it’s not just assisting the United States. It’s not, hey, help the United States here. It’s help the world. Because the world has joined in condemning the United Nations – excuse me, the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, all of these nations and entities are coming together condemning DPRK for its activities. So it’s not just us. We’re all helping out one another.

    QUESTION: Just one last one. The President didn’t answer when asked today whether part of a solution would be accepting North Korea’s nuclear status. What does the administration, and particularly Secretary Tillerson --

    MS NAUERT: Our administration’s view has not changed. We have long called for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But if you – part of the problem is that even before this administration, North Korea’s program has grown considerably, as you can see (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: Well, let’s point out it’s taken many, many years to get here. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Well, I understand, but at some point, do you have a choice but to accept them as a nuclear state?

    MS NAUERT: Our position has not changed.

    QUESTION: Which is?

    MS NAUERT: We want the denuclearization of North Korea. That is what we want; that is what we are pushing for. We will not accept, as Secretary Tillerson has said, a nuclearized North Korea.

    QUESTION: Heather, what if the diplomatic solution did not work?

    MS NAUERT: What if it doesn’t work?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Well, we have a – we have the whole-of-government approach.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: We have the Department of Defense. We have the Treasury Department. We have the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council. And we have our piece here at the State Department. So we’re just going to keep pushing forward. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but we’re going to keep pushing forward and that will not change. We are committed to this. When this President first came into office, his top national security priority, he said, is this, the DPRK, and put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in charge of that, and that’s what we are pushing forward with.

    QUESTION: So the U.S.A. has all options on the table, so you --

    MS NAUERT: All options are still on the table. That’s why we have this multipronged government approach.

    Okay, I think we’ve exhausted this. Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: One more on that?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I understand that you won’t talk about the draft resolution --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- at the UN, but is there any way you can discuss how the State Department feels in terms of cutting off oil to North Korea? Is that something that you guys think is imperative? Where does that fall on the list of diplomatic pressure?

    MS NAUERT: It could be something that would be potentially a very big deal if that were to happen, and that’s all I will say about that.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Is Tillerson making calls to other countries specifically on that topic?

    MS NAUERT: He’s made a lot of calls. I don’t have a readout or a list of all the calls that he has made recently, but he has been on the phone a lot since Sunday night, as he – well, he always is, as a matter of fact.

    QUESTION: And talking about oil?

    MS NAUERT: Well, talking specifically about the DPRK. Whether it’s been oil in that, that I’m not aware of, but we continue to have a full, robust approach to our – to what we’re looking at with the DPRK.

    Okay, let’s move on to something else.

    QUESTION: I have one.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, China is saying that sanctions can only be part of the package with some kind of dialogue. So is some dialogue, direct talks with North Korea still a goal for you after the latest test?

    MS NAUERT: Well, it certainly – we would always like to be able to sit down and talk, but North Korea is showing the world that it is not serious and it is nowhere near the point where it wants to talk. What they did over the weekend and what they’ve done recently is a tremendous security concern to the world. When they’re willing to show us that they are serious about sitting down and having conversations, we will know it. We think we will be watching for the signals, and we’ll just go from there.

    QUESTION: What did they do over the weekend? Was it a hydrogen test?

    MS NAUERT: I believe there’s a very specific term that we want to call it, and I think it’s an advanced nuclear test. I think that’s what we’re referring to it as the U.S. Government. Okay? Yeah.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) anything like North Korea another nuclear test soon or missile test?

    MS NAUERT: That, I’m not going to forecast into what could or could not happen in the future. Okay, let’s move on from North Korea.

    Said, hello. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome back.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Very quick questions, first pertaining to press freedom. The Palestinian Authority arrested a Palestinian peace activist. Twenty-five members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson --

    MS NAUERT: Say the last part again about --

    QUESTION: Twenty-five members of Congress sent a letter.

    MS NAUERT: Ah, yes. Okay.

    QUESTION: To Secretary Tillerson. Are you aware of that letter calling on him to use leverage so to have this person released today? Nine more members of Congress sent a letter to President Abbas. So do you --

    MS NAUERT: I’m aware of that letter that was sent to Secretary Tillerson, and we’ve certainly seen the reports of the arrest that you mentioned. In general, and I’ll say this again, it’s important that governments protect the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, and be able to create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.

    QUESTION: And my other question pertaining to Ambassador David Friedman, he gave us an interview to the Jerusalem Post last week, last Friday.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And he termed the Palestinian territories as allegedly occupied. Has there been any departure from the standard U.S. position that these territories are occupied?

    MS NAUERT: Our position on that hasn’t changed. The comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy.

    QUESTION: Okay. But he is the ambassador of the United States of America.

    MS NAUERT: His comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can we just go back to the journalist that was jailed for a second?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Matt.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: What are you doing over there? You two are confusing me. You switched sides.

    QUESTION: Well, I had to finish up writing about the Kuwait press conference, so I was late.

    MS NAUERT: Got it, okay. You may be excused.

    QUESTION: Just you are talking about Issa Amro, right?

    QUESTION: Right.

    QUESTION: That’s who --

    MS NAUERT: Yes, yes.

    QUESTION: And do you take a position on the extended detention that a judge ordered today and the fact that this likely means that – I mean, he was supposed to come to the United States later this – I believe later this month. And it’s – so if you have anything more to say about --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of the announcement of an extended detention. If we have anything for that, I can see what I can find out for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: All right, let’s move on to something else. Hi.

    QUESTION: Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s --

    QUESTION: Russia President Putin says Russia reserves right to out more U.S. diplomats. So if U.S. and Russia talked about full parity, it’s not 455 U.S. diplomats in Moscow but minus 155. Do you have any comments about that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t want to speculate on any potential Russian actions. We have talked for some time here about how our relationship with Russia is at a low point. We would like that relationship to improve. We don’t want to continue this kind of diplomatic tit-for-tat. There are far too many areas where we can, we hope we can, cooperate with Russia. One of them would be Syria, for example, where that ceasefire is now – what are we at, two months now? Six weeks? Something like that. But we’re pleased with that.

    So my point is I’m not going to speculate. I’m not going to get into forecasting any potential Russian reaction to that. But we hope that the relationship can improve, and we hope we’ve hit the low point and can just improve things from here on up.

    QUESTION: At the same time, we can see Russian-released video showing U.S. law enforcement agencies conducting unknown activities inside a building of Russia consul generals.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry? You work for?

    QUESTION: I work for China Central Television.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, CCTV. Okay, got it.

    QUESTION: Yeah. The thing is, this kind of issue arouse lots of attention at the moment. Do you have any explanation?

    MS NAUERT: So I think what you’re talking about is when our officials went through some of the facilities with the Russians. There were two places – first of all, let me just say that Russian officials were invited to come along with us as we toured those facilities last weekend. They chose not to accompany us on the New York walkthrough for whatever reason. I simply do not know. It is certainly in our authority to be able to look around, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: So wait a second. You --

    QUESTION: I’m just curious --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: You describe these as a tour?

    MS NAUERT: Well, what do you want? What do you call it? What would you call it? A search?

    QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. Did they open closets? Did they --

    MS NAUERT: I would assume they opened closets, but I haven’t talked to any of the people who did that.

    QUESTION: Well, that’s not really a tour. A tour sounds like it’s like a sightseeing thing, like you walk in and say oh, look at that, there’s a nice painting. There’s – this is – there was a search?

    MS NAUERT: This is a very serious activity.

    QUESTION: Right. No, but there was --

    MS NAUERT: It was a very serious activity.

    QUESTION: There was a search, right?

    MS NAUERT: And if I used the word “tour” and that seemed too light in fitting of the activity that took place, then pardon me for that.

    QUESTION: But – well, Heather --

    QUESTION: What part of --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Is this normal protocol? Is this normal diplomatic protocol?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, sir? What’s your name?

    QUESTION: Bill Jones with Executive Intelligence Review.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Bill.

    QUESTION: Is this normal diplomatic protocol when you ask a country to leave? They usually can gather their stuff, destroy whatever they have which is sensitive, and leave. The FBI doesn’t barge in and look at everything they’ve got, and it seems in the case of the trade mission this is exactly what they did. President Putin said he would take a suit, a lawsuit, against it.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sure – I’m sure he did. Welcome to the American legal system.

    QUESTION: Is it normal for the (inaudible) --

    MS NAUERT: Mr. Putin has apparently met the legal system, then, in the United States. Look, I don’t know exactly what is the FBI’s protocol, but I do know that our inspections, whatever you want to call it, going through the properties was something that we conducted lawfully.

    QUESTION: And the searches in --

    QUESTION: So according to – according --

    QUESTION: The searches in the other cities, San Francisco and D.C., the Russians did accompany the Americans on those?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. They only chose not to accompany us on the New York walkthrough.

    QUESTION: And on those two that they did accompany, did they complain or did they protest it when the agents or whoever it was, the U.S. security, went through closets and cupboards and --

    MS NAUERT: Not that I’m aware of. I can try to find out from our folks who were along for the ride, but --

    QUESTION: I mean – I mean, was this like a police search? Did they rip open mattresses and, like, upholstery off chairs or something?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.

    QUESTION: All right. Then the other thing just having to do with Russia is President Putin has expressed some --

    QUESTION: Regret?

    QUESTION: -- disappointment or regret at having awarded now-Secretary Tillerson the Order of Friendship. I’m wondering, what does the Secretary think of that, if you know? Is he willing to perhaps return the award since --

    MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question. Very interesting comment from President Vladimir Putin. The – I’m just going to leave it at that, interesting comment. The Secretary has good friends. As America, we’re welcome – we certainly welcome our many friends and partners from Canada to Spain to our many, many friends around the world and would gladly stand up our friends to Vladimir Putin’s friends.

    QUESTION: Well, is it something that he has on, like, display in his office? Is it something that he would like to now cover up and --

    MS NAUERT: Did you take your silly pills today? What’s gotten into you?

    QUESTION: No, I’m just – I’m just wondering. I mean, is this a big deal to him that President Putin --

    MS NAUERT: I – honestly, Matt, I have not asked. I have not asked him that question.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: We know that there are leaders around the world who will say sometimes humorous, sometimes sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Is Secretary Tillerson --

    QUESTION: Do you see it – I mean, do you see it as sarcastic and off-the-cuff, or do you see it as President Putin kind of saying that, like, well, when he worked with Exxon he was more friendlier than when he’s the Secretary of State?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know what Vladimir Putin was thinking. I just – I don’t – I can’t get into his head. I don’t know. Let’s move on. Let’s move on to something else.

    MR GREENAN: I just want to clarify something.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    MR GREENAN: The searches were not carried out by the FBI, and they were not --

    MS NAUERT: Oh.

    MR GREENAN: They were inspections and it was with Diplomatic Security. I don’t know if that came through clearly.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. Okay. Let’s just make that clear for everybody. Robert, our press operations director, Foreign Service officer – he’s been here many years – thank you for clarifying that. So the FBI was not involved – contrary, sir, to what you had said – not involved in those searches. Okay. That was --

    QUESTION: But what was the legal basis --

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me, that was Diplomatic Security agents. They are a part of the State Department. They’re trained federal agents. Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but excuse me, what was the legal basis for entering Russian property without Russia’s consent? How can you explain this?

    MS NAUERT: Ma’am, this is something that we – the Russian Government said that it wanted to get to parity. Russian Government said it wanted to get to parity. And now, our missions, this – a number of our buildings are closer to parity. Okay. And I’m just going to leave it at that. Okay.

    QUESTION: I mean --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: Okay. On Russia as well?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on. Go ahead. Hi.

    QUESTION: On Russia, can you update on the status of visa processing at the mission in Russia? Is it still no longer going on?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: What level --

    MS NAUERT: That visa processing resumed – I believe it was September 1st. Let me double-check on that. That is – yeah, that’s correct; visa processing resumed on September 1st. We still do not have the number of Consular Affairs or regular staff for that member – for that matter working in our embassy, so we’re not able to process visa applications as quickly. We know lots of Russians want to visit the United States. This is a great place to come. We support all kinds of freedoms, including freedom of – freedom of speech, free press, and all of those things. So we certainly understand that a lot of people would want to come here to visit, and we’re working on processing those through. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on something --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- you just said about – about parity? What does the U.S. searching Russian property have to do with parity?

    MS NAUERT: We – okay, first of all, and I guess you guys find this funny, but --

    QUESTION: No, I don’t find it funny. I’m not laughing.

    MS NAUERT: Some chuckles in the back here. I just want to point that out, that the whole reason --

    QUESTION: No, I understand. I understand.

    MS NAUERT: -- the whole reason that this occurred was because the Government of Russia said that they wanted parity.

    QUESTION: Understood.

    MS NAUERT: They asked a lot of our members to leave from our properties in the – in Russia.

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: And so here, we’re trying to get back to parity.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And these are – all of this was conducted in accordance to the Foreign Missions Act. It was all conducted in accordance with the Vienna Conventions.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Well, but I’m just curious, like, do you still consider that sovereign Russian property or were those properties searched because there was a concern that they were being used for intelligence purposes, which would be, like, a different issue than parity? Because the Russians kind of closed some --

    MS NAUERT: Elise, I’m not going to get into that right now. Okay?

    QUESTION: Why?

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to get into that.

    QUESTION: Well, no. But I --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move – let’s move – let’s move on to something else right now.

    QUESTION: No, I want to know what – whether it’s because a concern about the property itself, because I’m not sure that an issue of parity --

    MS NAUERT: Some of these matters I’m not going to get into and debate with you here from the podium. When I can give you additional information, I certainly will be happy to.

    QUESTION: Could you take a question, though, maybe, perhaps, or consider taking a question? Are you aware of, in Russia or any other country where U.S. missions that have been vacated, have been searched by the host government, whether it’s their version of the FBI or their version of Diplomatic Security or --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? I don’t know if you all are working for RT today or what, but --

    QUESTION: Seriously?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Come on.

    QUESTION: No, no, no, no. (Inaudible.)

    MS NAUERT: See I can be funny too, Matt. Come on. You’re joking around. No, look.

    QUESTION: No, but I mean there’s a broader – there’s a broader issue here.

    MS NAUERT: I will ask that question. I don’t know. I’ve been here four months. I don’t know the normal process.

    QUESTION: Right. That’s why I’m --

    MS NAUERT: Thank you for asking. I don’t know the normal process for going through those facilities, but I will look into that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: But specifically about the Russian property – about the U.S. properties in Russia that you had to close because of the parity issue. Were they searched by Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Elise, I don’t know the answer to that question. I will look into it and see what I can get for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Does anybody have anything else on other issues?

    QUESTION: On Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Syria.

    QUESTION: On Syria, really quick, the Israelis bombed a target in Syria, saying that it was a factory for chemical weapons. But apparently the message that is being sent – one to the Russians and one to the Syrians and Iran and a third one to the United States of America – because it seems that they have been left out of the process that you spoke about, the ceasefire that took place a couple of months ago. Is that how you see it? Have you spoken to them about the reason for this attack and whether it is actually – the message is that they should not be left out of any agreement?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that. Okay. I’m aware of the report. I just don’t have anything for you on that.

    Hey, Michele.

    QUESTION: Hey, Heather, I’m in the back. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill today to add $10 billion back into the State operations budget.

    MS NAUERT: I saw that. Yeah.

    QUESTION: What does this Secretary think about that?

    MS NAUERT: It’s a situation where we are in the process – or the Senate, I should say, is in the appropriations process. I certainly saw that that number would take – that number was suggested. We certainly look forward to continuing to answer questions from members of the Senate and also the House. We have two officials who are testifying. Our Ambassador for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales I believe is before the House Foreign Relations Committee today. Is that right? He’s House Foreign --

    QUESTION: Sales is at --

    MS NAUERT: Where – yeah, he’s at House Foreign – yeah, where he’s testifying on the budget. And Ambassador Alice Wells, who is the acting assistant secretary of SCA, she is – she’s on the Hill testifying on the budget as well. So we’ll just wait as that appropriations process works its way through.

    QUESTION: What should we expect? Because next week, I guess, is the deadline, the 15th, for the redesign. Or is that – are we going to see the whole redesign by then, or are you still in the process?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure where that stands today. Okay?

    QUESTION: Pakistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. One more question.

    QUESTION: Just on the budget, one --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Aside from the numbers, the comments made by, in particular, Senator Graham but also a Democratic senator who I – name escapes me at the moment – are a pretty stark repudiation of not just the White House, the budget director, his earlier comments on this, but also the President and the Secretary’s own comments about the utility of soft power, in other words, diplomacy. Do you guys have anything to say about the fact that the lawmakers seem to hold it in higher regard than the current occupants or the current leadership of the --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that’s really the case, Matt.

    QUESTION: No? Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I mean, we take our job here and our mission here very seriously, as does Secretary Tillerson. The President asked Secretary Tillerson to do this job many months ago because he felt that he was the best person for this job. So just because a budget reflects a smaller number on the part of the administration does not mean that diplomacy is not important. This administration values that. We all value that. The 75,000 people who work here each and every day here and around the world value that, and we keep pushing forward with it. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: All right, guys. Leave it there. Got to go. We’ve got to go.

    QUESTION: Heather, can you give any more information on that (inaudible) incident that happened last (inaudible)?

    MS NAUERT: I cannot, other than to say the investigation is ongoing. We anticipate that whenever we have new information on that and we can bring it to you, we certainly will. Okay. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:44 p.m.)

    DPB # 48


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 24, 2017

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 17:39
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 24, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • QATAR/IRAN
  • QATAR/ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS/UNITED NATIONS
  • NORTH KOREA/SYRIA/UNITED NATIONS
  • NORTH KOREA/EGYPT
  • NORTH KOREA/RUSSIA/CHINA
  • REPUBLIC OF KOREA
  • NORTH KOREA
  • CUBA
  • TURKEY
  • CAMBODIA
  • DEPARTMENT/RUSSIA

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:25 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Air conditioning still not fixed?

    QUESTION: No.

    QUESTION: Love it. Thank you. It’s great.

    MS NAUERT: Goodness. Do we have an electrician in the house? I was told it’s a motherboard issue, and I haven’t heard the word motherboard since, I don’t know, maybe 1992 or something.

    QUESTION: It was so cold we couldn’t even sit in here.

    MS NAUERT: Andrea, come on. You know the lights. They get hot. How is everybody?

    QUESTION: Great.

    MS NAUERT: We’re doing all right? Matt, I understand you are eager to get out of here.

    QUESTION: I am.

    MS NAUERT: So enjoy your vacation. We will miss you.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Starting out today, I want to start out in Afghanistan and talk a little bit about an announcement, an important announcement, that came out of Afghanistan from the government there today. President Ghani launched the Afghan Government’s new compact. It’s called the Afghan Compact. The compact represents the Afghan Government’s commitment to key reforms aimed at improving security and creating a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous society.

    We have long stressed and supported the Afghan Government’s efforts to fight corruption and improve its governance, and the compact is an important new step in that effort. The implementation of the new commitments, which include benchmarks in four key areas – governance, security, peace and reconciliation, and economics – they carry with them the opportunities to improve the delivery of government services, stem official corruption, and prepare for secure national elections in 2018. The benchmarks are tied to global standards of good governance put forward by the World Bank and other leading institutions.

    The development of the compact and its ultimate implementation was an important consideration in the development of the administration’s new South Asia strategy. Chief Executive Abdullah highlighted the fact earlier this week, when he said that nation building is a job for the Afghans themselves to do and not the United States or other countries. So we congratulate Afghanistan on that and look forward to any way that we can assist them.

    Today’s announcement demonstrates Afghans’ renewed commitment to taking up its share of the burden. As President Trump has said, the United States remains committed to supporting Afghanistan, as long as they continue to make real reforms, show real progress, and produce real results.

    And I’ll take your questions.

    QUESTION: That’s it?

    MS NAUERT: That is it.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: Where do you want to start?

    QUESTION: I have – I don’t have a lot, but I have two very brief follow-ups, but I’ll wait until the end to ask those. So the only other thing I have is: Do you guys have any thoughts on the – what appears to be a bolstering of relations between Qatar and Iran, with Qatar sending an ambassador back to Iran? This is not the direction that the other – that the Arab neighbors wanted to see Qatar move in. So do you guys have anything to say?

    MS NAUERT: So let me first just mention something about the overall Qatar dispute, and that is something that we continue to keep a very close eye on. As you know, our Deputy Assistant Secretary Tim Lenderking was recently over there, working on that issue, along with General Zinni. We remain very deeply concerned with the status of that dispute. It’s been now – how many weeks? – 12 weeks or so – let me double check the facts on that. But it’s --

    QUESTION: Since June 5.

    MS NAUERT: Since when?

    QUESTION: June 5.

    MS NAUERT: June the 5th. It’s gone on for far too long. It really has. So we remain deeply concerned with the status of that. In terms of your question, Matt, about restoring diplomatic ties with Iran and Qatar doing that, we would just basically say that we encourage the parties to try to minimize the rhetoric. I know this – you’re going to want more of answer on this for you on this particular matter. The Governments of Qatar and Iran are the best ones to answer those questions. Just want to say overall, we just remain very concerned about the dispute.

    QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But I mean, you guys have been involved, albeit maybe not enthusiastically, but you were forced to get involved because they weren’t making any progress on their own. And I – so I don’t think it’s out of the – I don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask what – if the United States thinks that Qatar and Iran restoring diplomatic relations is a good thing for the dispute resolution process or not.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, completely fair question. There are diplomatic things that may be going on that we’re simply not aware of or can’t speak about right now. So I know it’s not a very satisfactory answer. You’re more than welcome to ask me about it as much as you like. I just want to go back to just say we’re concerned about the status of the dispute.

    QUESTION: Right. I get it. But does this make it worse?

    MS NAUERT: And we’ll continue to have conversations with the Government of Qatar.

    QUESTION: Do you not have an opinion?

    MS NAUERT: Is the dispute – do we regard the dispute as worse?

    QUESTION: No. Is the restoration of diplomatic ties helpful to resolving the dispute? Does it hurt?

    MS NAUERT: I just don’t --

    QUESTION: Is it something you don’t have an opinion on?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not – I’m just not going to characterize it, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But overall, we remain very concerned about the status of this dispute and we’re making those messages clear.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Could you clarify something with Zinni?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Is his involvement was just that one mission or is he an envoy, like an ongoing process?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not certain if he has a particular role or title. Let me double check on that for you. My understanding is that the general was brought on with his broad range of expertise in his previous career in the military as assisting with the Qatar dispute.

    Okay? All right. Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: Can we move on?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, go right ahead. I understand --

    QUESTION: One follow-up on Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. In terms of the White House delegation that traveled to the region this week, they were in Qatar on Monday. And it seemed like that was a portfolio that the Secretary was taking care of and owning the dispute. So what’s the benefit of sending the White House delegation there to follow up? And did Tillerson speak with them before they went on the trip?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we remain in very close contact with the White House, with Mr. Kushner’s office, Mr. Greenblatt’s office, and so forth. All of these meetings our embassy is involved with. We’re involved in the facilitation of the meetings, attending a lot of the meetings, debriefing following the meetings. I can give you somewhat of a readout from that meeting that you just asked about.

    On August 22nd, 2017, Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for Arabian Gulf Affairs Tim Lenderking met with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and his senior advisers to talk about advancing President Trump’s goal of a genuine and lasting peace among the Israelis and the Palestinians. The parties discussed the importance to the peace effort of countering terrorists and extremists, improving humanitarian situation in Gaza. The two sides affirmed the close relationship between the United States and Qatar and committed to strengthening the relationship and close cooperation.

    So I think that was really the limit of their conversations.

    QUESTION: Did the Secretary have conversations with them before they went over there?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not certain if the Secretary himself actually spoke with – you mean with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt?

    QUESTION: Kushner and Greenblatt.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not certain of that. But I know our staffs talk regularly, and we talk with them as well as the NSC, and they communicate with us very well.

    Okay? All right. Anything else on Qatar? Okay. Said, why don’t you go ahead?

    QUESTION: Yeah. I want to go to --

    MS NAUERT: What do you want to talk about?

    QUESTION: -- the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: I want to go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, if I may.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about an issue that the United States is pressuring the United Nations, I guess, Human Rights Council to – or not to publish the list of American companies that are doing business in Israeli settlements. Can you confirm that? Or what reason would you have to pressure the United Nations to delist or not to publish the list of these companies?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think we take issue with the list itself, and we’ve been very clear about that. The United States is adamantly opposed to this so-called black list and this resolution. We have been from the very beginning. We fought against this in Geneva. That’s where it was originally proposed. We consider these types of resolutions to be counterproductive, and they really do nothing to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    QUESTION: And certainly you don’t want to encourage the settlements to have their own semi-independent kind of economy and trade and all these things.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, say that again?

    QUESTION: Well, the target of this list is to show the companies that are doing business with settlements that you and the rest of the world consider to be illegal.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think overall we just view that type of black list as counterproductive. Does that help facilitate peace? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

    QUESTION: Well, but --

    MS NAUERT: And the United States, I think, has been pretty clear about that.

    QUESTION: -- but neither are the proliferation of settlements and their economy. Does it help peace?

    MS NAUERT: We don’t think that that kind of list is productive, period.

    QUESTION: Okay. Can I get you to comment on one last --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- on a last issue. The – a report shows that there are 35 – 3,400 – 3,455 Israeli structures in the West Bank on privately owned Palestinian land, which you opposed. And in the past, there were condemnation of these efforts. Thus far, since this administration came into office, there have been no condemnations of such building of settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. So I wanted to ask your position on this.

    MS NAUERT: I think in terms of building on lands, it gets back to – the administration is committed to doing what it can to try to advance peace. The President, as well as others in the administration, have said repeatedly – and I feel like I get this question every single day from you – that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the cause for peace. I’ll leave it at that. Okay? Let’s move on to something else.

    Andrea, hi.

    QUESTION: Related subject in terms of the Greenblatt-Kushner trip. In the meetings with Netanyahu, was it the decision of the embassy to defer to Israel’s decision to have only government cameras there? An embassy camera shot their statements as well as state – Israeli – as far as I know, there were no reporters there.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, you know what? I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you on that. I have not asked that --

    QUESTION: Could you take that question as to the policy of our embassy in coverage?

    MS NAUERT: So the question is: What is the policy of the U.S. embassy --

    QUESTION: When Kushner is traveling --

    MS NAUERT: Uh-huh.

    QUESTION: -- and there is a photo op, which there was, and he made a statement, which he did.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: And so did the prime minister. What is the policy now? To only have so-called “fake news” by the government cameras cover that rather than journalists?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Whose cameras covered this?

    QUESTION: A camera – I am told a camera from the embassy, from the American embassy, and a camera from the Israeli Government --

    MS NAUERT: So an official – an official photographer?

    QUESTION: Right. Shooting statements that made it look like they were press statements. I will – I was not there, so I’m taking this off of reports I’ve seen.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not aware of this report. I can’t confirm that that took place, but I can certainly look into that for you.

    QUESTION: I’d like to know what the U.S. embassy’s policy is.

    MS NAUERT: I will look into that. I will look into that for you.

    QUESTION: When Kushner is traveling and making statements.

    MS NAUERT: Yep, I’ll look into that for you, certainly. Okay. Hi, Laurie.

    QUESTION: Hi. My question --

    MS NAUERT: What do you want to talk about? Iraq?

    QUESTION: Actually, no. Syria.

    MS NAUERT: All right.

    QUESTION: The UN reported earlier this month that two shipments had been intercepted in the past half year from North Korea to a Syrian Government agency responsible for chemical weapons production. Can you provide more details on those shipments, and do you think that, then, are your efforts to isolate North Korea and prevent Syria from manufacturing, using – and using chemical weapons effective, or do you think there are problems with it?

    MS NAUERT: So a couple things on this. This is a confidential report. This was put together by the UN. It is – hold on a second. I have some more information on this. I’m looking in the wrong place. Give me a second for you. Here we go, okay.

    So that report, my understanding is that it will be released eventually by the United Nations. So USUN will have to provide all the specifics on that report, but as a general matter I can say overall that we would applaud the work of this particular committee and its work to try to hold North Korea responsible or accountable.

    We continue – and we talk about this a lot – to encourage member-states to provide that committee with information on the DPRK’s attempts to circumvent UN sanctions. So there are the sanctions against the DPRK. If, in fact, this is true, what is being – what is being reported, that would be a very grave, gave concern to us.

    QUESTION: And to follow up on that, The Washington Post has a big article which you doubtless saw saying that the real motivation, energizing motive for this dispute with Egypt over financial aid, was really Egypt’s dealings with North Korea. Is that true? Is that accurate?

    MS NAUERT: So I mean, what I can tell you about that is that we’ve long talked about concerns about democracy, about human rights. We have long listed our concerns about Egypt and the direction that it has been – it has been going in.

    As it pertains to DPRK and Egypt, we continue to work with our allies and partners. Egypt is one of them. We have conversations with Egypt and many other countries around the world about the need to isolate the DPRK, and we do that because we recognize that countries around the world that do business with North Korea enable money to go into North Korea’s illegal nuclear and ballistic weapons programs. And that is a huge concern of ours and it’s a huge concern to the international community as well.

    We have a deep and multifaceted relationship with the country of Egypt. We have a lot of areas of close cooperation. But DPRK overall as a broad matter is a big concern to the United States. Okay?

    QUESTION: On Raqqa, on Syria, if you may --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, let’s just stick –

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Does anyone else have any questions about Egypt?

    QUESTION: DPRK.

    QUESTION: DPRK.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s then switch over to DPRK. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: A follow-up. Good. A follow-up on that part. Are you concerned that the recent sanction against Chinese and Russian entities and individuals may harm the progress you have been seeing with those?

    MS NAUERT: No, and here’s why: The companies and the individuals who have been sanctioned – the third-party sanctions – are in China and Russia, but we don’t target any specific governments at all with regard to sanctions. We look at those sanctions – and Treasury can talk about this more – but we would regard those sanctions as not being necessarily a part of the government but companies that are involved in illicit activity, companies or individuals who are involved in illicit activity.

    Russia and China have pledged to adhere to the sanctions, to adhere to the sanctions against the DPRK, and we trust and look forward that – to them adhering to that. We take them at their word; they said that they would and we don’t have any reason to believe that they wouldn’t now. Okay?

    QUESTION: But the Chinese foreign ministry actually came out, object this sanction. I wonder if during the phone call between Secretary Tillerson and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi the Secretary Tillerson explained the motivation behind this sanction.

    MS NAUERT: Again, this isn’t to target a government. These are to target entities and individuals who are funding some of DPRK’s programs. Okay?

    QUESTION: Last one --

    MS NAUERT: And this can happen anywhere around the world where we see people who are involved in those types of things or companies. And we will keep an eye on them and, if appropriate, Treasury will look into it and then sanction them. Okay?

    QUESTION: And last one: Could you please explain what’s the precondition now for the United States to start the negotiation with North Korea? Because in March, Secretary Tillerson actually – he said the negotiation could only be achieved if North Korea give up the weapons of mass destruction, but recently he also suggested that Pyongyang only had to demonstrate that it was serious about a path before the talk begin.

    MS NAUERT: Look, overall our policy on DPRK has not changed. We want a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. The world wants that. UN Security Council resolutions have backed that up as well. So that has not changed. But the Secretary has looked at this, as one of the countries that cares deeply about this issue, and has said that Kim Jong-un needs to take steps – further steps – in order to show that he is serious before we are willing to sit down. So our policy on that hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: But serious about what? Serious about giving up their weapons program or serious about not advancing it beyond where it is currently? Because he said both things --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, and let me read, let me read a quote from something he recently said: “The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang, but given the long record of North Korea’s dishonesty in negotiations and repeated violations of international agreements, it is incumbent upon the regime to signal its desire to negotiate in good faith. A sincere indication would be the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches, and other weapons tests.”

    Susan Thornton has talked about this – and look, we hope to get to that point with them, but there’s still a long way to go.

    All right, anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Yeah, one follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey, how are you?

    QUESTION: Yeah. The sanctions on China and Russia – there are reports that maybe the U.S. Government is still considering expand the range of these sanctions, like to some major banks in China. So I’m just wondering that can you confirm there is a discussion about this --

    MS NAUERT: I can’t, because that would be something – I can’t confirm it. It would be something that Treasury would be looking at and considering if that were to be the case, but I’m just not aware of that. Okay?

    Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. You mentioned United States is pleased to see North Korea demonstrate some level of restraint, but at the same time, we can see the joint military exercise between U.S. and South Korea. So we know this is like pre – or planned before, but have you ever thinking about if cancel this kind of joint military exercise, that would be beneficial to regional stability?

    MS NAUERT: I feel like I keep getting this question again and again and again. These exercises with South Korea, or any of our allies for that matter – these have been done for decades and decades. In particular with South Korea, which is ongoing right now – I suppose that’s why you’re asking me about that – we’ve been doing it since 1953, and this is something that we do for military readiness. It’s something that we do to our ally as – with our ally. As you know, we have a very close relationship with the Republic of Korea.

    The – it’s a combined command-and-control event. It’s designed to improve the alliance’s ability to defend the Republic of Korea. We also have 17,500 U.S. servicemembers who are serving and participating in that. There are 3,000 who are involved in this coming from off-peninsula. These are regularly scheduled; it’s an annual exercise that we do all the time. It comes with many months of planning. But to suggest that our activity with our ally of the Republic of Korea is in any way equivalent to the DPRK’s actions is simply false. Okay?

    All right. Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Yeah, I have one, just – on DPRK.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Dave.

    QUESTION: Thank you. The Secretary spoke of a measure of restraint that he wants to acknowledge, and it’s true that there haven’t been any missile tests or nuclear tests since the new round of sanctions. But this week, they did release a round of propaganda photographs showing Kim Jong-un and what were described as missile scientists and commanders, and there was various missile paraphernalia in these photographs and diagrams on the wall.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Does that give you cause for concern? Is that provocation even if it didn’t involve an actual firing?

    MS NAUERT: And I’m glad that you refer to it as a propaganda photo because that’s simply what it is. We don’t know that the timing – we don’t know the timing which that photo was taken. We don’t know if it’s an old photo or if it’s a recent photo. We don’t know if that photo was taken before the Secretary’s comments or after the Secretary’s comments. Sometimes there’s a lag time between things that are said here and things that get posted in the DPRK.

    We consider it overall a good first step that there haven’t been any missile launches or testing for three – three – three-plus weeks or so, but we need to see more.

    QUESTION: You need to see more of nothing?

    MS NAUERT: We need to see – (laughter) – we need to see them take more action, more – or inaction in that instance.

    QUESTION: Okay. But this gets back to the – I remember when I first asked this the other day --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and you made the kind of joke about you were going to reward your kid for not stealing a cookie.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But isn’t that what this is?

    MS NAUERT: In what way?

    QUESTION: Well, I mean, if you’re willing to talk with them as long as they don’t do something --

    MS NAUERT: No, we’re not at that point yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of activities or forecast what’s going to happen in the future or talk about hypotheticals. We need to see more action, more serious action --

    QUESTION: So they actually have to do something, just not do nothing?

    MS NAUERT: The point is they need to take steps in the right direction. Okay? It’s been three-plus weeks since they haven’t done any missile launches or missile tests. We’re pleased with that and we’d like to see that go on more, but they need to do a lot more.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: During this period, has Ambassador Yun been able to speak to Mr. Pak Yon-kil or any of his colleagues at the North Korean delegation in the UN?

    MS NAUERT: I just don’t – I don’t have any conversations, calls, or meetings to provide you right now.

    QUESTION: Because there aren’t any or because they’re --

    MS NAUERT: I just don’t – I don’t have any.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Just – just one – just one --

    MS NAUERT: You know one of the problems with it being hot in here is everybody gets sleepy. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Just one clarification.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Conor, how are you? You want to talk about Cuba? Okay.

    QUESTION: Yes, quickly.

    QUESTION: Staying on North Korea, just a --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Pardon me one second. I’ll do North Korea and then I’ll move --

    QUESTION: Yeah. Just a clarification: How are you confident that China will honor the latest sanctions against North Korea? It hasn’t done in the past. And what about the monitoring of the commercial corridor between those two countries? The coal is going, everything, and – so how are we going to be confident that, yes, this time China is honoring?

    MS NAUERT: China – China has talked about how it intends to do that. We have to take some of our partners at their word. The situation – and I think many nations want stability in the Korean Peninsula. Many nations understand the threat that the DPRK faces. Let me read to you just a little bit from Secretary Tillerson when he was in Manila and he was referring exactly to this with regard to the Chinese.

    He said, “We had discussions in Manila about the situation.” He’s referring to the Chinese and also the Russians. He said: I know they’re having talks as well with representatives from North Korea. “I think that is evidence that they have very good, open channels of communication to be able to talk to the regime of North Korea, and we hope that they will be encouraging them to stand down their program and abide by UN Security Council resolutions, which both China and Russia have voted for in the past. I’m hopeful that they can use their influence – and I think they do have influence with the regime – to bring them to a point of dialogue, but with the right expectation of what that dialogue will be.”

    So there are ways that, certainly, other nations can reach out and communicate their messages to the DPRK.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: So we’re taking China at its word right now. Okay? Conor, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So yesterday you said that the State Department had brought medical professionals down to the staff in Havana. I’m wondering if you can say whether or not one of those doctors was one of the Americans who has been injured by the activity.

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware of that. I am not aware of that at all. This is the first I’m hearing of that.

    QUESTION: So it’s exclusively U.S. diplomatic personnel who have been injured and have these symptoms?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that – again, my understanding is that the people who experience these symptoms were U.S. Government employees who were there working for the U.S. Government.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: And then just as well, the – I’ve have heard from some senior officials here that Cuba has been responsive to the U.S. request for an investigation. Would you say that the Cubans have been working with the U.S. on the investigation, or is that an over-characterization?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. Responsive, working with – I --

    QUESTION: But it’s not a joint investigation with the two --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe it’s a joint investigation. The U.S. Government is investigating this. We have multiple agencies and departments who are involved in this and take it extremely seriously. We were talking about this yesterday. This is something that we have not experienced in the past. We are working very hard to try to take care of our folks who are there – they’re on official duty – and trying to provide them all the care and the treatment and the support that they would need.

    QUESTION: And then just one last question.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I’d ask yesterday, but you ran out of time. Can you say whether or not the attacks are ongoing still?

    MS NAUERT: I was briefed on this both yesterday and today, and I was told that the incidents are not ongoing at this point. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: I do have some news, which I know some of you will be very interested in hearing about this. I want to mention that I have an update for you on this, on the number of people who have been affected. We have not provided that information in the past. We only now have the confirmation of the number of Americans who have been affected by this. We can confirm that at least 16 U.S. Government employees, members of our embassy community, have experienced some kind of symptoms. They have been provided medical treatment in the United States as well as in Cuba. We take this situation extremely seriously. We are trying to provide them the help, the medical care, the treatment, and the support that they need and the support that they deserve.

    QUESTION: Can I --

    QUESTION: May I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: I know, I know. We’ll have a lot of questions about this. And I don’t have a ton of information.

    QUESTION: But when you --

    QUESTION: Well, but when you --

    MS NAUERT: I’ll give you what I can.

    QUESTION: Do they – does that include spouses at all, who may --

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that all the – you know what --

    QUESTION: -- that come under chief of mission authority, but are they all actually --

    MS NAUERT: You know what, let me check on that for you, because I just got this information as I was coming out here and I don’t have that in front of me. So let me find out if these were all actually employees or if some of these are family members. Can we check on that while we’re in here and see if we can get you that information before the briefing ends?

    Andrea.

    QUESTION: When you said that the – that there were no more – that they are no longer experiencing the symptoms, did --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Did I say no longer experiencing the symptoms? I mean the incidents.

    QUESTION: No, no. The incidents.

    MS NAUERT: The incidents are no longer occurring.

    QUESTION: Does that mean that something was found or something at – in these buildings was intermediated? I mean, how do you know that it’s no longer an issue? Was there some physical --

    MS NAUERT: There --

    QUESTION: -- object or --

    MS NAUERT: To my knowledge --

    QUESTION: -- discovery?

    MS NAUERT: -- nothing – last I heard, nothing has been identified as here is a piece of equipment, for example.

    QUESTION: And can you update us on the report – CBS had a report of brain damage according to a doctor treating at least one employee. I’m not sure whether – about the numbers. Have you anything further --

    MS NAUERT: I --

    QUESTION: -- to suggest --

    MS NAUERT: I can’t confirm.

    QUESTION: -- quote, “brain damage?”

    MS NAUERT: I can’t confirm any of that. I can’t confirm that CBS report, and we would never give information about the health status of one of the Americans.

    QUESTION: And for all the 16 that you mentioned --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- are they all out of country now, or are some still --

    MS NAUERT: No, I believe that some of them are still there. Okay.

    QUESTION: When you say at least 16, could that number climb?

    MS NAUERT: All I have is – and again, this is information that I got just as I was coming out here. At least 16 members – that number could change.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    QUESTION: Can you say anything on-the-record about what you think happened to them at this point?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve talked about this before. I think --

    QUESTION: Do you have, like, any new information that you could share on-the-record?

    MS NAUERT: No. I don’t. I don’t have anything new for you. What I’ve said in the past, that these incidents started taking place late in 2016, that we know our Americans started experiencing some symptoms, started reporting them in to embassy personnel, we started investigating, and eventually we got to this point. Okay? All right.

    QUESTION: Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: Sorry if I had missed this, but there are also reports that this – these same victims of attack had also had cars vandalized, homes broken into, pets poisoned. Can you confirm that these same individuals were harassed in different ways?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I don’t have any information on that for you in particular. As a general matter, I know that various governments have seen that kind of behavior from the Cuban Government in the past. But again, we’re not assigning responsibility at this point. We don’t know who the perpetrator was of these incidents. That is why I want to be firm and say, because I’ve seen some misreporting on this, the investigation is ongoing. The investigation is ongoing and we will continue to try to find the source of these incidents and the perpetrator.

    QUESTION: Just to button up the answer --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- to Andrea’s question, so if we haven’t found a device and we don’t know who did it, and we’re talking about symptoms that are not, like, “Ow,” no longer ow; we’re talking about things that have – that developed over time, how do we – how do we know that this isn’t ongoing?

    MS NAUERT: How do we know that it’s not – because we talk with our staff and we talk with the medical professionals.

    QUESTION: And what percentage of the embassy family are 16?

    MS NAUERT: Matt asked that question. I said we’ll see if I can get you something on that. I don’t know. These – again, this information was just given to me as I was coming out here, so let me try to see what I can get for you. I may not be able to provide you an answer, but I will do my best to do that.

    QUESTION: And the U.S. Government employees, are they all U.S. citizens?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Okay?

    QUESTION: Change to Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Hi. How are you, Ilhan? Nice to see you.

    QUESTION: Doing fine. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And then we have to wrap it up.

    QUESTION: On --

    MS NAUERT: Because I see --

    QUESTION: No, no, no. I got my two very brief follow-ups, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s go to – let’s go to Ilhan, and I know – I see some of you falling asleep in here in the heat. (Laughter.) Taking a little nap in here. It happens to me too.

    QUESTION: In Turkey today --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- local court issued another arrest for American pastor Brunson, who has been mentioned by President, Vice President, and recently by the Secretary of State.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: And he is accused of attempting to abolish Turkey – Turkish Parliament, change of constitutional order, and spying accusations. What that means is that it doesn’t seem he’s going to get release any time soon even if the other arrest warrant is perished. Do you have any comment on this recent?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So you’re talking about Pastor Andrew Brunson. That is a case that people here follow very closely. Some of our bureaus – I’ve had numerous conversations with them about his case. Pastor Brunson has not been forgotten. The safety and security of Americans is one of our top priorities here at the State Department. Secretary Tillerson has spoken about this, about Pastor Brunson, who’s now been imprisoned for about 10 months now. He was taken into custody back in October of 2016. The Secretary said this: The United States continues to advocate for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson. He’s been wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey. We take this issue very seriously. We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad very seriously. Since Pastor Brunson’s arrest, our consular officers have visited him regularly. They continue to do so. I will see if I can find a date of his last consular visit for you. I do not have that, though, at my fingertips. We continue to provide appropriate consular services to Mr. Brunson and his family. He does have an attorney who may be able to answer some additional questions about his legal case.

    QUESTION: Final one: There are about dozen or more American and Turkish American citizens in Turkey prison since the last coup attempt. How do you assess in general Turkish policy regarding these issues? Have you been able to provide consular services other citizens or are you happy with – anything change recently on this?

    MS NAUERT: There have certainly been some instances of delays or denials of consular access to some of our U.S. citizens who are in Turkey, who have been detained or arrested by security forces. Some of them are also dual nationals who possess Turkish citizenship, and some of this all continues. So – just want to remind folks that in accordance with the Geneva – excuse me, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the United States has a legal right to access our U.S. citizens who have been detained in Turkey and who do not also possess Turkish citizenship. U.S. citizens – although the United States does not have a legal right to access the dual citizens, and that’s the case in quite a few countries – Iran, for example – U.S.-Turkish citizens detained in Turkey, and we continue to press for access to them.

    Okay. All right, guys. We’re going to have to wrap it up there.

    QUESTION: Can I get another too?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Just wondering if you had anything – any response from the Cambodians to your message the other day, or if there’s any – have there been any developments, improvement, or regression in the situation? That, and then secondly – well --

    MS NAUERT: Want me to do that one first?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So just a couple things: Since you asked and are interested in that and – we have a lot of concerns about the situation in Cambodia. I was able to put together sort of a list of some of our meetings, some specifics – ways that we have reached out to the Government of Cambodia to express our concern about what they’re doing with regard to newspapers, publications, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and the organization that you used to work for as well.

    A couple things here. Our ambassador has had numerous meetings. The most recent one was on August the 22nd in which he met with the head of the Cambodian tax authority to urge Cambodia to avoid the perception and the reality of using the tax code in a biased fashion against entities they perceive to be as their enemies. We talked about this yesterday where they’re imposing exorbitant taxes on these entities. It seems to drive them out of business. So that is a huge concern of ours.

    He also had some meetings back in June with the prime minister. They talked overall about freedoms in Cambodia, including freedom of the press, democracy, and so forth. Our Under Secretary Shannon has had meetings on this issue here in Washington. He met with the foreign minister. I can’t remember if we talked about that at the time, but they talked about our commitment to democracy.

    So these conversations – it’s just a sprinkling of a few that have taken place. The Secretary has written to the foreign minister about these types of issues and our concerns.

    QUESTION: Was that recent?

    MS NAUERT: He wrote to them earlier this spring.

    QUESTION: Have they given an --

    MS NAUERT: So these conversations are certainly ongoing.

    QUESTION: Do you know, to the best of your knowledge, have the Cambodians given you any sense of where they got the idea that journalists or news organizations would be the enemy?

    MS NAUERT: No, I – they haven’t --

    QUESTION: No?

    MS NAUERT: They haven’t, not to my knowledge.

    QUESTION: Even after what I told you the other day?

    MS NAUERT: Even after what you told me the other day, certainly.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then --

    MS NAUERT: I just don’t have anything for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the second follow-up is on – now it’s – we have a week now – this is Russia – before the – and I’m just wondering, have the staff reductions begun? Or I mean, because it seemed – the clock is – the clock is ticking.

    MS NAUERT: Right, right. Just to sort of reiterate some of the points that I made yesterday, we consider this to be regrettable. This is not our choice to have to reduce the number of U.S. staff and U.S. personnel serving in Russia. Not only does it affect our employees and people who are simply trying to do the work of promoting democracy, helping Americans, et cetera, overseas, but it also hurts Russian citizens. We have many Russian citizens who work for the United States as locally employed staff. They will now be out of jobs. President Putin claims that he cares about the economy in Russia. That’s a funny way of showing it, caring about the economy by putting your people out of work. The Russian Government knew the impact of these staff cuts and the impacts that it would have. We have until September 1st in order to – that deadline in order to get back to the Russian Government about our next steps.

    To answer your question, in terms of Americans, yes, some of them are now being brought home and are in the process of that.

    QUESTION: Okay. Maybe – is it – I thought that the staff – the reduction of staff had to be done by September 1st. Is it your understanding that you just needed to reply to the Russians by September 1st?

    MS NAUERT: We have said that --

    QUESTION: Maybe I’m – I might have this wrong.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure, but we have said we will respond by September the 1st.

    QUESTION: Right, but when – but my – I had been under the impression that your response was going to be pulling the – reducing – reducing the – reducing the staff.

    MS NAUERT: That’s a good question. I’m not – I’m not sure.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Let me – let me double-check that for you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: All right, guys. Everybody, thanks a lot. And if anyone’s off next week, have a great vacation. I’ll be off next week, so – but we will try to bring you briefings and other people who can fill your newspapers and all of that, publications and everything.

    You’re on --

    QUESTION: Televisions?

    QUESTION: With me.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: We’re on vacation together? Okay all right. Everybody, take care. Thank you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:04 p.m.)

    DPB # 47


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 18, 2017

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 17:24
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 18, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SPAIN
  • MISCELLANEOUS
  • SPAIN
  • DEPARTMENT
  • SPAIN
  • DEPARTMENT
  • SYRIA/TURKEY
  • IRAQ/SYRIA
  • CHINA
  • DEPARTMENT
  • JAPAN/REGION
  • DPRK/RUSSIA
  • DEPARTMENT/RUSSIA

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:21 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, how are you? Hi, everybody. How is everyone today?

    QUESTION: Friday.

    QUESTION: Tired.

    MS NAUERT: I know, Friday – ready for the week to be over, right? Okay. But it has been a busy couple days, certainly.

    Let me start out by first addressing what happened in Spain yesterday and overnight. The United States wants to strongly condemn the terror attack that took place in Barcelona, Spain. We extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of the victims and the people of Spain, as well as our hopes for a quick recovery for those who have been wounded. The United States stands in solidarity with Spain. Crimes like this cowardly attack only reinforce our shared resolve to stop these senseless attacks that target the innocent.

    The U.S. consulate general in Barcelona continues to work with local authorities to identify and provide assistance to U.S. citizens affected by the terror attacks in Las Ramblas and in Cambrils. As Secretary Tillerson said earlier today, we can confirm that one American citizen was killed in that attack, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his friends. We can also confirm that there was a injury of another U.S. citizen. It was a minor injury, we’re told. Out of respect for the family’s privacy and in their time of grief, we have no further comment on that matter.

    Spanish authorities report that there are still several casualties who have not yet been identified. The U.S. consulate in Barcelona continues to issue emergency and security messages to update U.S. citizens in the area. U.S. citizens are advised to maintain security awareness and monitor media and local information sources. We also strongly encourage U.S. citizens in Barcelona to contact their family and friends back here in the United States to directly inform them of their safety and their security. President Trump spoke with President Rajoy today to – and said to him that we stand ready to offer any assistance necessary to Spanish authorities as they pursue their investigation.

    As a second matter today, I’d like to bring this up. It’s something that takes place tomorrow, actually, and that is World Humanitarian Day. It is a time to protect aid – or recognize, rather, aid workers who have lost their lives to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. We come together as an international community on August the 19th to honor the brave men and women who heroically risk everything to serve those who are in need around the world. Nearly 300 aid workers worldwide were killed, injured, or kidnapped in 2016 alone, a particularly dangerous year for humanitarian staff. Providing humanitarian assistance and saving lives is growing harder as crises and conflicts grow in complexity and also strain scarce resources.

    Violations of international law put aid workers in grave danger. The numbers tell a pretty tough story. An unprecedented number, 141.1 million people across 37 countries, are now in immediate need of assistance. Just this week the United Nations confirmed that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda has topped 1 million people as the conflict in South Sudan has created the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. The United States has a long and distinguished history of helping people in need as a result of conflict and natural disasters. The United States and our humanitarian partners are responding to crises around the world, providing life-saving assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. In 2016 the United States, the world’s leading humanitarian donor, contributed more than $7 billion to humanitarian efforts around the globe. This World Humanitarian Day we remain committed to saving lives and recognize the tremendous service of all humanitarian heroes, including our brave aid workers and partners on the ground. And we want to thank them for their bravery and their work.

    With that, I will take your questions.

    QUESTION: Just very quickly --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Matt.

    QUESTION: -- on Barcelona --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- before I get to something – can you at least – I realize you can’t give details about the two casualties, but were they killed in – were they in Barcelona or in the other place?

    MS NAUERT: They were in Barcelona.

    QUESTION: Okay, and in light --

    MS NAUERT: The one American who was killed was in Barcelona.

    QUESTION: Do you know about the injured?

    MS NAUERT: The other injury – I believe the other injury was in Barcelona as well. I can double check that for you.

    QUESTION: Okay. And was the injured person you referred to – his family, for the person who died, it – can you be more specific about the sex of the injury? Man or woman?

    MS NAUERT: Two males. Two men.

    QUESTION: Two men. Okay. All right. And then I just wanted to go to – my understanding is that your email system is back up. Is that correct?

    MS NAUERT: Temporarily back up. So our email system – so if any of you had emailed us this morning and did not get a response, that was not intentional. Our email system has been down since --

    QUESTION: Not necessarily intentionally.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) I would never not get back to you all.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) She says speak for yourself. Carol texted me. (Laughter.) Nevertheless, it has been quite a headache today. Our email system has been down. It was brought up just a short while ago. I understand they’re still working through some of the details. It’s something that was a technical glitch – that’s how our folks are describing it, right?

    STAFF: Internal issue.

    MS NAUERT: We literally got off the phone with them 20 seconds ago. A little longer than that. And so it was – what was – remind me.

    STAFF: Internal issue.

    MS NAUERT: It was just an internal issue, so if there’s anything different on that, we’ll bring that to you.

    QUESTION: Well, when you say “internal issue,” can you – can – you can rule out that this was, like, kind of a sabotage or an outside hacker? Because – I just remind you, this was well before your time, but in 2014 we had this issue, and we were basically given false information that this was – that the system was shut down for routine maintenance, when, in fact, it was shut down so that the technicians could go in and do battle with hackers who had infiltrated it. So you’re assuring us that there’s nothing like that?

    MS NAUERT: To my awareness, there’s nothing – that is not the case.

    QUESTION: And it’s just the unclassified system?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, thank you. Unclassified system.

    QUESTION: Okay. But – so when you say temporarily back up, you don’t expect it to go down again, do you?

    MS NAUERT: I would hope not. There are some glitches that they’re still working out. I got a big batch of emails in about 10 minutes ago, and then didn’t. So we’re kind of sharing with you how the sausage is being made right now. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: So it’s like everyone else’s email system – it goes up, and then goes – when it goes down, it comes back sporadically.

    MS NAUERT: I think so.

    QUESTION: Okay. That’s all I have.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I mean, I have other stuff, but other people --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Would anyone like to talk about email or Spain? Let’s try to stick to a more organized system of regions today.

    QUESTION: Spanish email.

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Spain? Yeah, hi.

    QUESTION: Just generally, Heather, on Spain, is the fact that an American was killed, does that change the U.S. involvement in the investigation at all, or the U.S. response at all?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we have a very close partnership and collaboration with the Spanish authorities and with the Spanish Government. The President just talked to their president a short while ago. Secretary Tillerson spoke to this yesterday, as did Mike – Vice President Mike Pence. Among the things that we have said to the Spanish Government is that we are standing by and willing to offer any assistance that they might need in the investigation or with resources in terms of helping out their folks on the ground there. That hasn’t changed; we still stand by that, and are willing – the entire body of the U.S. Government – willing to stand by to help the Spanish.

    QUESTION: Actually, on Spain, do you – I mean, apparently it was a much more complex attack and a more dangerous attack was planned using butane explosives or something like that, and then there was a couple of weeks ago a plot in Australia that the Australian authorities disrupted, and they said it was very sophisticated and was supposed to involve some sort of chemical agent. Do you see that ISIS is stepping up its attacks as it’s losing territory?

    MS NAUERT: You raise a good point about how ISIS is losing territory. And we know that coalition partners, backed by the United States in Iraq and also Syria, have taken back much, much of that territory that ISIS held in the first place. As that continues to happen, as they lose ground – they’ve lost like 70 percent of the ground that they had initially taken in Iraq, more than 50 percent of the ground that they had initially taken in Syria – they become more desperate. We do know that other European attacks that happened in the last year were plotted out of Raqqa, Syria. That is one of the reasons that the coalition has focused so much on the city of Raqqa and taking back Raqqa from ISIS, because some of those plots were hatched from Raqqa. We know that as a fact.

    What has happened now may just be an instance where they are trying to show that they may still hold some relevancy as we continue to take back ground from them.

    QUESTION: So you think it’s too early to say there’s any pattern of escalating attacks?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t say – I can’t say that. I don’t want to draw any conclusions. Spanish authorities are investigating that; I don’t want to get ahead of any of their investigations.

    Anything else on Spain? Okay, let’s move on to something else. Go right ahead, Rich.

    QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. On today’s announcement on diversity, and the Secretary’s comments on race relations in the country. It seems obvious, but just to ask: How much did Charlottesville play into the timing and the content of the Secretary’s remarks, and the announcement for this new diversity initiative? And how long has he been constructing this or thinking about it?

    MS NAUERT: Sure. So let me take you back quite a few months. The Secretary’s first day on the job, when he came in here and he went into the main hallway at the front where all the flags are at the State Department, he looked out across the crowd, and one of the things that he said to our employees is, “When people see you, they see America.” Meaning, looking at the minorities, looking at all the different faces, the different types of names and everything – that is America, and that’s what we represent, not just here in America but also overseas. And that’s a priority for him.

    Let me take you to about two weeks ago, and that’s when Deputy Secretary Sullivan spoke at our town hall meeting. One of the things that he said – it was closed press, but one of the things that he did share with the people at our town hall meeting, and who were also watching overseas who work at the State Department, was we have a commitment to diversity, and we can do a whole lot better than we currently do as a State Department.

    And so that was really the genesis of the Secretary’s comments today, in bringing in some of our interns and our – those who are involved in our fellowship programs here, Pickering and Rangel – we’ve talked about that program that intends to bring in diverse applicants into our Foreign Service program. So that’s one of the things that the Secretary focused on today, bringing them all in and addressing the issue of diversity.

    This also takes place as we undergo the redesign of the State Department, and in undergoing the redesign of the State Department, this is something that we’ll consider. We look at our overall mission and we look at our overall objectives and the scope of what we do, and this is one way to reflect on that. So the Secretary is making this a big priority of his.

    QUESTION: But certainly, he was aware of the timing of this just a few days after Charlottesville?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, and I think one would be remiss if they didn’t touch on what had happened in Charlottesville over this past week. And that’s a good reminder for all of us, not just here but Americans serving abroad, that what happened last week in Charlottesville is not representative of America. Yes, we have freedom of speech. Yes, that is something that we embrace. Hatred is not something we embrace. It’s not who we are as a people. That’s not what we want to show overseas. But it reminds us that there is still a battle that can go on internally within our own country, and it’s something that we’re working to address and to try to fix.

    QUESTION: Can I --

    QUESTION: So what’s --

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, sure. Hey, Elise.

    QUESTION: Hi. Well, it seemed as if it was a not-so-subtle repudiation of the President’s declaration that both sides were to blame, and kind of equating the hate speech protesters and those that were protesting the statue with the peaceful protesters. And when he also brought up – when he invoked George Washington at a synagogue, kind of indirect – antithetical to President Trump’s remarks that George Washington was no different than Robert E. Lee.

    MS NAUERT: I think what the Secretary was stating is what we all think about America and what we represent as Americans, and those are the best ideals. And we represent diversity as Americans. We represent hope. The Secretary talked about this today, where we’re the kind of country where it doesn’t matter where you came from, it doesn’t matter what your parents did, it doesn’t matter what your last name is, that you too can succeed. And I think he’s hoping to not just underscore those ideals but to help promote them across the country and across the world as well.

    QUESTION: Well, would it be wrong of us to infer from his remarks that he does not believe that both sides were to blame for last week’s incidents?

    MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question, but I think he was very clear, and I will restate some of this for you. Those who embrace poison in our public discourse, they damage the very country that they claim to love. We condemn racism. We condemn bigotry in all of its forms. Racism is evil. It is antithetical to American values. It’s antithetical to the American idea. So I think the Secretary was clear in his personal beliefs about that.

    QUESTION: On this?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: He mentioned that you would be keeping in place the Pickering and Rangel fellowship programs, which we – you had said before. I know that. But he said – he said all fellowship programs. Does that include the Presidential Management Fellows?

    MS NAUERT: I believe so. Let me double-check that part of it for you, though.

    QUESTION: So when exactly is the – I mean, the hiring freeze, with the certain exceptions that have been made already for the two A-100 classes, is in – is still in place, correct?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So the – there’s a department-wide hiring freeze. The Secretary touched on that this morning. That hiring freeze was put in place earlier this year so we could kind of get a better temporary – it was a temporary hiring freeze.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: But to get a better sense as to who we have here, what our folks are doing, and what current jobs are open and what current jobs are perhaps duplicative.

    QUESTION: Right. So it is still not being lifted and it won’t be lifted until after the reorganization is complete?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not certain about the time in which it will be lifted. All I can tell you is that it’s temporary. I think that’s something that’s still under consideration.

    QUESTION: Okay. Because there’s a lot of angst and stress among this building and among former officials who think – or who have been under the impression that these programs are going away and that the Secretary was not committed to having a full – a full and effective complement of diplomats in the Foreign Service. Is that incorrect?

    MS NAUERT: Well, here’s what I can tell you. The Pickering and Rangel fellows program is staying. We have a new class that’s incoming. I talked with some of the fellows this afternoon and asked them what they thought about the speech and asked them how they’re enjoying the program, and they gave it all a thumbs up. So I know that they’re pleased with it. Of course they’re very happy that the program is remaining and we are as well, and talking with a lot of Foreign Service officers in the building, even the white guys, they all said, “We love this. We love this program. We’re so pleased that it’s staying.” So I think building-wide I can speak for that – the importance of diversity, and kidding aside. But the importance of diversity to the programs here.

    QUESTION: Well, so do you have any idea how quickly the Secretary envisions building the Foreign Service up to a point where it does reflect the face of America or it does reflect the diversity of America?

    MS NAUERT: So part of the program here – and this is something that he kind of outlined in broad brush strokes earlier today – to build a recruiting team, to go out to some schools in different places around the country so that people don’t necessarily have to seek us out – and I’m not talking just about Foreign Service officers, but this would also apply to civil servants as well, according to my understanding of it – but where we would try to build up relationships with various institutions, where we would go out and basically do recruiting, talk to different students on different campuses and so forth. One of the things that they want to do is hold minority-focused job fairs and see that as a way of helping to introduce the State Department to people who may not normally know about the State Department and know about careers available here.

    Another interesting idea the Secretary brought up was looking to our veterans, our veterans across the country, many of whom are getting out of the military and are looking for a civilian career now. They are a talented, important work pool, a workforce that knows how to get things done and knows how to get things done in difficult circumstances, and that really mirrors what we do here at the State Department. So the Secretary has talked about how he wants to try to recruit veterans and bring in veterans. So those are just kind of among the big toplines that we would focus on here.

    QUESTION: Right, but for the students that’s clearly a multiyear process, because you’re not going to be able to get these people in and then get them into senior positions where, if the stat is correct that he mentioned, only 12 percent of the senior Foreign Service is non-white, which is far more pale, male, and Yale than I actually ever thought it was, but – and I’ve been here for quite a long time.

    MS NAUERT: I know.

    QUESTION: But the issue that – or the question I have is: Previous Secretaries have tried to do exactly the same thing, and this veterans idea is not new, and in fact, veterans get preference for hiring in all federal civilian jobs. But there was a particular push in this building years ago, and it still doesn’t seem to have worked. So I guess my question is what exactly is going to be different this time around, because we had Secretary Powell notice this and see it, Secretary Rice too, and so --

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’d have to go back and look – I’d have to go back and look at the numbers, the recruiting numbers and then the number of people who actually joined the State Department, the Foreign Service, and other programs that we have here, to see where it is now compared to where it was five, 10 years from now. So I’d have to go back and actually look at the data and compare the program that the Secretary has outlined – again, broad brush strokes, but outlined now – compared with the programs before. If you want me to do that, I can take a day or so to dive into that and try to figure it out, but I know that this is something that the Secretary --

    QUESTION: If I say yes, you’ll never talk to me again, right?

    MS NAUERT: No, of course I will. But it would take me some time to figure all that stuff out. That would be data-driven. But I know – I can tell you that this is important to the Secretary and this is something that he really wants to do.

    QUESTION: Right. But I – well, I – I mean, you don’t have to personally do it. Perhaps there is some way to quickly find out whether the numbers of the – minority numbers have been going up or going down or have been static over the course of the years despite these programs.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not going to promise you that today, but we can certainly look into it. Okay? Okay. And you reporters out there, don’t start writing this and give me a deadline of 5 o’clock today, because it’s going to take a while to hunt down those numbers.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Thank you, Matt.

    Okay. Sir, hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: China.

    MS NAUERT: China. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I ask one more question on Charlottesville?

    MS NAUERT: Sure, of course.

    QUESTION: Does the Secretary ever plan to publicly address what he thought of President Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville? And do you know if – since they speak so frequently, do you know if he has had a private conversation with him telling him what he thought of – specifically about his remarks? Not just the incident itself, but the reaction.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. A couple things. I know the Secretary has spoken with the President this week – not in person, but he’s spoken with him by phone. I’m not aware of whether or not it was a one-on-one call or whether it was just a group call, like a principals’ call or something of that sort, but I know he has spoken with the President this week. As you know, right now he’s at Camp David, and that’s where we’re – they’re having conversations, so that conversation may be going on at this time. I know that the Secretary has spoken out on two occasions about race this week alone: one as he was meeting with the foreign minister from Canada, in which he addressed what happened in Charlottesville; and then I think his overall views on race and diversity and the place in America that it properly holds today. So I think the Secretary has spoken a fair bit about that.

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Do you have any more on how the ambassadors are going to be – the pool is going to be selected, how that – having a minority in that group with the --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, I’m glad you asked that. One of the things the Secretary mentioned today is that when we look at our ambassadorial candidates at that pool, that the Secretary wants to have someone who represents a minority represented in those interviews to be interviewed for the job. And the Secretary said perhaps if that person is not ready yet for that position, that gives us a good opportunity to know who that person is and have that person on our radar and help bring that person along into the future. So it helps to identify a quality base of candidates and helps the State Department to better work with them to get them to that position which they aspire to.

    QUESTION: Is that effective immediately?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn't get a chance to ask him that. Okay.

    Hi, Laurie.

    QUESTION: There are reports that Turkey is attacking the Syrian Kurdish city of Ephraim. Is that what’s going on? And if so, what is your reaction? What is happening in Ephraim?

    MS NAUERT: So I’ve seen that report, and I – I’m afraid I just don’t have anything for you on that right now.

    QUESTION: Well, then, I have another question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thanks. Iraq has requested – has formally requested the UN’s help in investigating ISIS for war crimes. Can you give us some idea of what the next steps are going to be and what your role is going to be in that?

    MS NAUERT: So one of the things we’ve addressed here before is the amount of aid that we’ve helped to provide to Iraq, I believe also through the United Nations as well. I would need to double check on that. I have it in my notes somewhere. And part – what that is – the aim of that is to help the Iraqi Government and to help the United Nations to be able to identify some of those who have been involved in these – what we can call war crimes, genocide, and all of that.

    So the United States is putting financial aid so that they can – they can kind of better handle that situation.

    QUESTION: So how does this request to the UN change things, does it get more parties involved, make it formal?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah – I’m not sure exactly. So I’d have to just look into that further and get back to you on it. Okay?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi. Hi. What’s your name?

    QUESTION: Omur Sahin from BirGun, a Turkish newspaper.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I’m going to ask about the Reuters interview with Syria Democratic Forces spokesperson, that he said --

    MS NAUERT: An interview with who?

    QUESTION: With Syria Democratic Forces spokesperson.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: He said the U.S. will remain long after ISIS is defeated. I’m going to ask if you have a comment on that. And also, are you having some discussions with Syria Democratic Forces about your further plans in the region?

    MS NAUERT: Are we having conversations with who?

    QUESTION: With Syria Democratic Forces.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, with the Syrian Democratic Forces --

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: -- about – okay. So the United States and coalition partners work with the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the main goal in working with that entity, that group, was to take back Raqqa. We know that they are tried and true and tested, battle tested, battle ready, to take out ISIS, and they’ve done a good job of that. That operation, of course, is still underway to take out ISIS from Raqqa. So we have worked with them. We see that as something that’s being done in a very focused fashion and not in broader fashion.

    In terms of what you are referring to – that interview – I’m familiar with that interview, and let me just kind of point back to what one of our colleagues, someone over at Department of Defense, was talking about and that is our overall mission. And our overall mission, and we’re not taking our eye off the ball in this regard, is to defeat ISIS. Whether it’s in Iraq or in Syria, that is our intent, to defeat ISIS and not do anything more than that. We want Syria governed by Syrians, not by the United States, not by any other forces, but by Syrians.

    QUESTION: So you say you’re not planning to stay after defeating ISIS?

    MS NAUERT: Look, that is not our plan. Our intent is to defeat ISIS, and we’re keeping our focus on that.

    Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Does the Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, wait. By the way, anything else on Syria?

    Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Does the Secretary believe that U.S. is at economic war with China?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: Does the Secretary believe that the U.S. is at economic war with China?

    MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question. I think what you’re probably referring to is our – Mr. Lighthizer, who handles trade for us. Is that – is that what you’re trying to get at?

    QUESTION: But does China pose any kind of economic national security --

    MS NAUERT: I have not – I have not asked the Secretary that. I know the Secretary continues to recognize China as a country we can have close cooperation with on many issues, on many fronts. They’ve been extremely helpful to us now in dealing with DPRK and – but again, I haven’t asked him that question.

    I know that the administration overall looks at China and looks at some of its trade practices and has concerns about it, and that’s a matter that other institutions are going to take up within the U.S. Government.

    QUESTION: I don’t think he was referring to Mr. – the trade representative, Mr. Lighthizer. I think he was referring to a view of China expressed by the until-several-hours ago chief strategist of the White House in an interview --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- in an interview with a magazine in which the – this now former official also went after a career State Department official who handles China.

    MS NAUERT: Now I understand what you’re --

    QUESTION: Do you have --

    MS NAUERT: Now I understand what you’re talking about. My apologies, sir.

    QUESTION: Do you – or do you know, does the Secretary have a view on those comments? He said yesterday that he had seen them. I’m wondering if he does have a – if he – does he share the view of China that the former chief strategist of the President evinced?

    MS NAUERT: That he what?

    QUESTION: Evinced. That he spoke about to the magazine, that the --

    MS NAUERT: Which one – which part – portion of those comments in particular are you referring to?

    QUESTION: The – that the United States is at – in an economic war with China.

    MS NAUERT: I have not asked the Secretary that question. He’s not here right now. He mentioned that he’s aware of the comments, but we’ve been focused on a lot of bigger things – bigger things meaning DPRK, and bigger things in terms of what’s going on today and their meeting with the President today.

    QUESTION: Right.

    QUESTION: On that issue – sorry --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi.

    QUESTION: -- it was pretty well-known when he said it in the interview that Mr. Bannon opposed the role that Susan Thornton was playing. Now that he’s removed – and it’s quite well-known that Secretary Tillerson favored Ms. Thornton to be the actual assistant secretary for East Asian affairs as opposed to acting – does the Secretary now see the way clear for her to take that position officially?

    MS NAUERT: Susan Thornton is fantastic. A lot of us have worked here quite closely with Susan. Susan’s been a part of the tip of the spear in dealing with the DPRK and she’s done it – she makes it look like it’s effortless and I cannot imagine that it is. But she handles herself very, very well, and she happens to be a very smart and accomplished woman as well. The news about Mr. Bannon broke about 11 o’clock today. The Secretary landed – or arrived at Camp David sometime after that or not long thereafter, so we have not had a chance to talk about this in particular.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey, how are you?

    QUESTION: Thanks. I want to go over the meetings that happened yesterday --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- the 2+2. First, I just wanted to know if you had, like, a readout about how the meetings went. Did they go as expected? And then also, within the joint statement, I noticed that THAAD was never mentioned. And I didn’t know, was that never brought up during these meetings, or what’s the situation with that?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. A couple things: For the meeting that took place yesterday between the two-by-two – excuse me, the 2+2 between the Secretary and his counterpart, and also Secretary Mattis and his counterpart as well, they defined their shared roles, their missions, their capabilities, under the alliance that was going forward.

    As you know, the Secretary then met later on in the afternoon with his counterpart and their staffs as well. They talked about the strong trade and investment relationship between the United States and Japan, they talked about the administration engaging Japan to reduce barriers to trade and investment, they talked about enhancing economic and job growth in the United States and the region. They also touched upon DPRK. I was sitting in the meeting and I don’t recall the topic of THAAD coming up, but if one of them isn’t going to raise it, then they’re not going to raise it.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Kono?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I hope that answers your question. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yesterday during the press conference, both sides actually raised their concern in East and South China Sea. So today the Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson said United States and Japan, which are not parties in South China Sea, should respect the effort made by countries in the region to solve the issues peacefully with their – through coordination and negotiation. I wonder if you have a response to that.

    MS NAUERT: So in terms of the South China Sea, our position remains the same. Nothing has changed with regard to that, and we’ve talked about it many times here and so I’d just prefer to leave it at that.

    QUESTION: And particularly in the joint statement, there was this line mentioned that both sides recalled the incidents in 2016 August. I wonder, because it has been a year – I’m referring to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – and I wonder what’s – since it’s been a year, what’s the urgency and need for United States and Japan to bring this – brought up this issue again? And also, they both highlighted the article of the mutual defense treaty between Japan and United States and they also especially emphasized Article 5. So what’s the reason behind it? I wonder if you could elaborate.

    MS NAUERT: So in terms of the Senkaku Islands, our position on that is – has not changed, and that has been clear, I think, all along. They’ve been under Japanese administration since the reversion of Okinawa back in 1972. They fall within the scope of Article 5, so that’s the – the technical definition or what encompasses the governing of that – of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. So we oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of those islands.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you. Hi, sir.

    QUESTION: Can we move to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: So a couple of days ago, Foreign Minister Lavrov in a statement to TASS made a very interesting statement basically saying, we cannot support the ideas that some of our partners continue to put forward and that literally aim to economically strangle North Korea. Now, it seems that the United States position is to economically strangle North Korea until they come to the denuclearization and stop their missile programs. So how do you square that? What do your – what’s your response to this?

    MS NAUERT: And remind me, you work for who again?

    QUESTION: Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese newspaper.

    MS NAUERT: Japanese. Okay. So I just ask that because you’re reading the Russian talking points – (laughter) – so that’s why I wanted to know about that.

    Look, it’s not just the United States. The DPRK would like to paint this as a conflict or as a stressor between the United States and the DPRK. It is hardly that. The entire world looks at what North Korea has been doing in terms of its illegal nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, and see – the entire world sees that as a threat. We saw that at the UN Security Council through its resolution.

    One of the ways that we believe that we can help get Kim Jong-un to the table to start negotiate is by showing him the repercussions of his actions, and the repercussions of his actions – he can – we will increasingly make the situation difficult for him. By that, I mean they get their money, they bring their money in, and it funds their weapons programs. By tightening the belt on North Korea, by ensuring that they don’t take in as much money as they have in the past, that helps to reduce the amount of money going into their weapons program. That we see as a key threat. The Secretary has talked about that; Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis in their op-ed earlier this week. That’s one way that we can address the issue. And Kim Jong-un can see how isolated he will become – not just from the United States, but the world – if he maintains that.

    QUESTION: Was that really just earlier this week?

    MS NAUERT: I know.

    QUESTION: It seems like – (laughter) --

    MS NAUERT: I know. That was Monday.

    QUESTION: It seems like a long time ago.

    MS NAUERT: It does feel like a long week, doesn’t it?

    QUESTION: Time has no meaning anymore.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, I’m sensing everybody’s a little sleepy here on a Friday. It’s a summer Friday in August, so thanks, everybody, for coming in. We sure appreciate it.

    QUESTION: Isn’t no briefing on Fridays an August old tradition?

    MS NAUERT: I would – (laughter) – but you know what, Elise? So many of you wanted to do more. Okay?

    QUESTION: It’s true. It’s why we’re all here.

    MS NAUERT: So look, look, let’s just – but wait, let’s just back up for a second.

    QUESTION: That’s why we’re all here.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s just back up for a second and take a look at this week. Okay? So Tuesday, we had our briefing, right. Wednesday, I went over to the Foreign Press Center and spent some time with just a couple of you but some other folks, so that was fantastic to be over there. Yesterday, we had the 2+2 with Secretary Tillerson and his counterparts. And then today, we had the briefing and, by the way, brought in Mark Green, the new USAID administrator, to speak with many of you.

    QUESTION: Can I ask --

    MS NAUERT: So – hold on – thank you all for all the engagements that you’ve been involved with, and we’ve been trying to bring as much as we can.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: A Russia question real quick? So the – (laughter) --

    MS NAUERT: We said goodbye already.

    QUESTION: This is a little sudden. So the drawdown is in process; it has to be done by September 1st. Do you all have any sense yet of which of the – there’s three consulates and an embassy – which posts you’re removing people from, what the mix is?

    MS NAUERT: I – look, I don’t have anything for you on that. I know that we have agreed to provide a response to the Russian Government by September the 1st, and we so we plan to adhere to that, and that’s all I have.

    Okay. Thanks, guys.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Have a great weekend.

    QUESTION: You too.

    (The briefing was concluded at 2:57 p.m.)

    DPB # 45


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 15, 2017

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 17:22
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 15, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • IRAN
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • IRAQ/REGION
  • INDIA
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • INDIA/CHINA/REGION

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:52 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: We’ve had a busy day here today at the State Department, starting with the Secretary announcing the International Religious Freedom Report and the rollout of that today. Earlier today, the Secretary released the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom that provides an overview of the status of religious freedom today in nearly 199 countries and territories. In his remarks, Secretary Tillerson affirmed that religious freedom is a foreign policy priority in this administration. As the Secretary said today, “No one should have to live in fear, worship in secret, or face discrimination, because of his or her religious beliefs.”

    The Secretary also called out the egregious examples of those who deny individuals their fundamental freedom to exercise or practice their religion or belief. In particular, he called out the crimes of ISIS for what those crimes are – genocide. There can be no doubt about that. ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controlled.

    The protection of these groups and others subject to violent extremism is a human rights priority in the Trump administration. Thanks to the hard work of the men and women at the State Department and the administration’s commitment to the issue, there is no nation as dedicated or as effective at advancing religious freedom as the United States. The 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom can be found on our website, and that is a big part of our effort.

    Secondly, I’d like to take the opportunity to welcome two new colleagues here at the State Department this week. First, Nathan Sales has started his work as the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism. We had a nice chat yesterday, so welcome to him. Before he joined us, Mr. Sales was an associate professor at Syracuse University College of Law. That is where he wrote in the fields of national security and counterterrorism. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, and as senior counsel at the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice. Welcome, Nathan Sales.

    Also, Carl Risch started this week as the assistant secretary for Consular Affairs. Carl has been serving as acting chief of staff in the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. He was previously the field office director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the American Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. He’s also a former Foreign Service officer, so we are thrilled to have him back here at the State Department. Welcome.

    With that, I will take your questions. Matt, would you like to start?

    QUESTION: Thank you, yes. We may get back to the Religious Freedom Report --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- which is really important, but I wanted to start with North Korea, which seems – the Secretary upstairs, when asked about the latest, said he didn’t have any comment on the pronouncement from Pyongyang on the Guam tests or plans for the Guam tests. But – and he said that you continue to be open to having a dialogue. Is it still the position of the administration that the North Koreans have to do something other than just say “we want to talk” before you’ll sit down with them?

    MS NAUERT: I think so. I mean, the Secretary, I think, was pretty clear about that today. Just a couple days ago he spoke about this as well. He said, look, we’ll talk, but they have to take some serious steps. Susan Thornton, our acting assistant secretary for East Asia Pacific, who’s been very engaged with the Secretary on this issue, has said the same thing. Look, we’re willing to sit down and talk with them, but it appears that that’s not – that’s not going to happen imminently. They have to take some serious steps before we get there.

    QUESTION: All right. Well, does not doing something count as a step? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I think they would have to be a little bit more clear.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: And again, when Kim Jong-un talked about Guam, that, again, is a hypothetical of sorts.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: So they would have to do a lot more.

    QUESTION: Well, okay. So just to be clear, not launching ballistic missiles towards Guam is not enough for you guys to talk with them?

    MS NAUERT: I feel like that’s sort of a question that my child might propose. (Laughter.) If my child were to say, “Hey, Mom, if I don’t steal this cookie, will you then give me television?”

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: No. The answer’s no on that one. I think we can all relate to that.

    QUESTION: Are you suggesting, then, that Kim Jong-un is a child?

    MS NAUERT: No. I am not suggesting – I am not suggesting that. I’m just suggesting it’s such an extreme hypothetical to reward someone for not doing something.

    QUESTION: Well, right.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But it’s – oh, okay. So what, in other words, then, do they – must they do affirmatively or positively --

    MS NAUERT: And I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole. I mean, the Secretary has been clear about we will see it – they know what they need to do to get us to come to the negotiating table. We are willing to have talks about this. This is obviously a very serious matter – cookies and children aside, a serious matter. They know what they need to do, and the Secretary has said we’re not going to negotiate our way back to the negotiating table.

    QUESTION: Okay. So just to put the finest point on it possible, you’re not going to go and sit down with them then unless they take steps that they know that they have to do? That’s – just them saying we’re open or we’re not – we’re going to hold off on sending missiles towards Guam is not going to get you interested in having a dialogue; that is correct?

    MS NAUERT: I think they would have to do quite a bit more.

    QUESTION: All right, thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Dave, hey.

    QUESTION: Hi. If they know what they have to do, what’s the problem in us knowing what they have to do?

    MS NAUERT: Some of these would involve private diplomatic conversations that we have with our friends in the region. I think the main point here is that the U.S., along with our partners and allies – we’re all on the same page. We’re talking with a whole lot of countries about this pressure campaign, and nothing has changed.

    QUESTION: So if they know what they have to do and our allies in South Korea and Japan know what they have to do, it’s only the U.S. people and our readers who don’t know what they have to do?

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, Kim Jong-un, we would like to have talks with him when the time is right, when they show that they are serious, serious about an effort to move toward denuclearization. We have not seen that yet. Remember – and let me go back to this again – two nuclear tests last year, two anti – ICBM tests in a month alone. We have not seen that they’ve been serious at this point.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Said.

    QUESTION: If they – hi. If they say that we will no longer launch missiles over Guam or into that area into the Pacific, that would not be enough? I just want to understand you correctly.

    MS NAUERT: I think I answered that question. Again, this can get into --

    QUESTION: Yeah, but --

    MS NAUERT: -- extreme hypothetical situation, and I don’t want to get into that.

    QUESTION: Because they said that --

    MS NAUERT: I understand.

    QUESTION: They were very specific. They said, we’re going to launch a missile on that region or in that area. So if they say we will no longer do that, that is not --

    MS NAUERT: And I think we’re not going to respond to every single threat and every single hypothetical.

    QUESTION: So with everybody assuming that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and some say in fact put a figure on it, like 50 or 56 or something – so do they have to say okay, this is what we have, we want to denuclearize it, before you could talk with them?

    MS NAUERT: They would have to show some serious steps and some serious indications that they would be willing to sit down for talks. Okay? All right.

    QUESTION: One on North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Nice see. Kim Jong-un’s bad behavior has been going on for a long time, so what United waiting for? Why didn’t do anything act to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry? Why what?

    QUESTION: Why didn’t do military actions immediately when they threating U.S. and our --

    MS NAUERT: Why didn’t we undertake military actions to do so? Well, we believe that diplomacy deserves a chance. This is still a new administration, six – actually eight months now into this administration. The Secretary, Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis, penned a joint editorial that ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal in which they talked about that, that they’re on the same page, believe firmly that diplomacy can solve this; however, we’re prepared, as we are in every situation around the globe, to switch to another plan if that is absolutely necessary. That’s a DOD issue so I’m going to stay away from that, but we believe that diplomacy is the solution here.

    QUESTION: Yeah, one more on South Korea. Yesterday, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said that remark that no one can military action on the Korean Peninsula without the South Korean Government permissions. What is U.S. position on this statement?

    MS NAUERT: We have a good relationship, as you know, with the Republic of Korea. We have constant, ongoing conversations with that government. What you propose there is another hypothetical situation which I’m not going to get into, but we continue to have conversations with the Republic of Korea on a near-constant basis.

    QUESTION: What if North Korean Kim Jong-un sudden attack South Korea? Can the United States engage in this military action?

    MS NAUERT: As you know, South Korea is an ally of ours; and as we do with our allies and friends, we pledge to protect them as well. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: But then, that’s a hypothetical. I don’t want to get into that beyond what I’ve said. Okay, anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: On China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, hi. Hold on one sec.

    QUESTION: Right. In the – in your assessment, does the United States see a gradual change of China’s attitude toward North Korea? Do you think they see it, North Korea, more of a liability than asset?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and we saw this about a week – pardon me, a week and a half ago, two weeks ago, when China voted in support of the UN Security Council resolution. We were really pleased to see them take that step. The Secretary and others have had frequent conversations with the Chinese. As you know, President Trump spoke with President Xi over the weekend, and they talked about our mutual agreement that DPRK is up to no good, and that is a security risk, not for the region but the world.

    So we are asking them to do more, as we have. They’re North Korea’s primary trading partner. We believe that they have unique leverage to put pressure on North Korea. And they’ve committed to us that they’re going to follow through with those UN Security Council resolutions and making sure that those are adhered to from their endpoint. And so we look forward to having them hold up their part of the bargain. Okay.

    QUESTION: So do you see their action in the United Nations Security Council as an indication of their gradually, slowly change of action?

    MS NAUERT: I think it’s trending in the right direction. It’s trending in the right direction. And then President Trump and President Xi had a nice conversation over the weekend, discussing that very thing as well.

    QUESTION: And then finally, you just mentioned there’s a lot more North Korea can do to resume the talk. Just for a good sound bite, could you – what else – what allowed work they should do and then not to do?

    MS NAUERT: Well, North Korea would have to take some very serious steps and show us that they are serious about its interest and intent in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. They would have to do a lot more of that. Secretary Tillerson has talked about that extensively. He’s also said: I’m not going to negotiate my way back to the negotiating table, and North Korea knows exactly what it needs to do. Let’s get serious about it.

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: It’s not really a hypothetical. What do your agreements with South Korea say? Do you have to get their permission to launch any sort of strike?

    MS NAUERT: Some of those things are diplomatic conversations and some of those would involve the Department of Defense, so I just don’t want to get into that. Okay.

    QUESTION: But I mean if he says you can’t without his permission, you’re not going to respond to it?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into that. Okay? I’m not a part of that conversation that the U.S. military may be having with South Korea on that part. But they are a valuable ally of ours, as you well know, and we defend our allies.

    QUESTION: Press very --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- very confuse about President Moon remark yesterday, because U.S. and South Korea is alliance. But he not want to be war in Korean Peninsula, but however U.S. supposedly involved with war when the North Korean Kim Jong-un attack the South Korea. But why he discourage it, but --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the last part.

    QUESTION: President Moon doesn’t want a war in the Korean Peninsula, but --

    MS NAUERT: Well, no one does.

    QUESTION: Nobody want it --

    MS NAUERT: No one does. We don’t want that.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: President Moon doesn’t want that. Japan doesn’t want that.

    QUESTION: Exactly, but --

    MS NAUERT: No one wants that. And that is why we are so, pushing hard on this diplomacy campaign. I mean, the number one thing you hear me talk about here, the number one thing you hear Secretary Tillerson talk about, is goals and efforts to try to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, getting Kim Jong-un to give up those illegal weapons, getting him to stop with his destabilizing activities. It’s a priority, obviously, at the United Nations and the UN Security Council, where they had the unanimous vote on that matter. It’s a top issue for our friends and allies and partners around the world.

    QUESTION: But this is not at all between U.S. and North Korea problem. This is – the actually problem is that the South Korea, in fact. But Moon thought this is your guys’ problem. That’s not – how did you think about – this --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Is this our problem?

    QUESTION: I mean --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not understanding the question.

    QUESTION: -- between the U.S. and North Korea problem. Do you think this is between the U.S. and North Korea problem?

    MS NAUERT: Is this issue between the United States and North Korea? No. This is between North Korea – this is between North Korea and the world. It is not the United States standing here alone expressing concern about the activities of Kim Jong-un’s regime.

    And by the way, it’s a good opportunity to remind people what it’s like for North Koreans to live under that regime. Okay. That is not a free and fair country. It is not a country where people have ample food, opportunity. It’s not a country where people can come and go as they please. It’s a country where they’re starving their own people; they’re engaged in forced abortions. Pardon me for talking about that, but that is a very grim reality there, where people are living in labor camps, it’s under horrific situations.

    This is not between the United States and North Korea. It is the world looking at North Korea and condemning North Korea and that Kim Jong-un – this is not about the population there, the regular folks. This is about what Kim Jong-un is doing not only to the world but to his own people.

    QUESTION: Thank you very much.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. All right. Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: There are reports suggesting the rocket engines powering the recent successful ICBM tests in North Korea came from a state-owned Ukrainian factory. Is the State Department aware of that – or those reports? And do you have any comment on it?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. We’re certainly aware of those reports that have come out. That’s an issue that we would take very seriously, if that were to be the case. One of the things I do want to mention about this is that no single country has done more to curtail these ambitions of North Korea than the United States. There have been a lot of UN Security Council resolutions, and they obligate all nations, including Ukraine, to prevent transfers of sensitive technology to the DPRK.

    In the past, I know that Ukraine has prevented the shipments of some sensitive materials to nations that we would be certainly very concerned about. We have a good, solid relationship with Ukraine. As you know, President Poroshenko was over here a couple months ago, meeting with the President, also meeting with Secretary Tillerson. As a general matter, we don’t comment on intelligence reports. Ukraine, though, we have to say has a very strong nonproliferation record and that includes specifically with respect to the DPRK. Okay.

    QUESTION: Just directly a follow-up on that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Ukraine today have confirmed that the rockets did come from the factory, but they say they were made before --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Who confirmed this?

    QUESTION: The Ukrainian Government confirmed it did come from their factory, but before 2001, when they were part of the Soviet Union. And they said those rocket motors were transferred to what is now Russian control. Do you have any --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I don’t have any information about that particular report. I’m not aware of what you said the Ukrainian Government has just said. If I have anything on that for you, I’ll get it to you, but I’m not familiar with that.

    Okay. Anything else on this?

    QUESTION: North Korea.

    QUESTION: China.

    QUESTION: Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stick with North Korea, clean out North Korea, and then we’ll go somewhere else.

    QUESTION: We just --

    MS NAUERT: Meaning, let’s finish that topic before we move on to something else. Okay. I just want to be clear.

    QUESTION: (Laughter.) We just talked about --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Go – hi.

    QUESTION: -- China’s support for the latest UN resolution. China has supported past UN sanctions resolutions on North Korea, but the actual enforcement of those sanctions has been wanting. How much time would the U.S. sort of allow to pass before you kind of reassess whether China is actually serious about this resolution this time, and before you may start to consider secondary sanctions on Chinese companies, which I think Secretary Tillerson has hinted at, Susan Thornton hinted at as well?

    MS NAUERT: Secondary sanctions have been put in place against some Chinese companies, as you’re well aware, and I believe individuals as well. This is going to be an ongoing conversation. It took many, many years to get to this very concerning point with North Korea. It’s going to take some time to try to resolve this as well. We’ll continue the conversations with China.

    Let me read you a little bit about one of the things that Secretary Tillerson said in some meetings in Manila just about a week ago. He said – he talked about China and Russia being helpful on the issue of North Korea. He said, “I know that they are having talks as well with representatives from North Korea. I think that is evidence that they have a very good, open channels of communication to be able to talk with the regime of North Korea, and we hope that they will be encouraging them to stand down their program and abide by UN Security Council resolutions, which both China and Russia have voted for in the past. So I’m hopeful that they will use their influence – and they think they do have influence with the regime – to bring them to the point of dialogue, but with the right expectation of what that dialogue would include.”

    So again, these are ongoing conversations, and I don’t want to put a timeline on it. But we’re having a lot of those conversations.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thanks.

    QUESTION: Stay on North Korea.

    QUESTION: Could I move on?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can we move on?

    MS NAUERT: DPRK.

    QUESTION: One more on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey.

    QUESTION: When North Korea spoke yesterday of watching U.S. behavior, they appeared to point specifically to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. Is there any consideration of making changes of U.S. behavior in that manner?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I think what you’re talking about is some sort of a double freeze, as we look at it here. There is no equivalency between what the DPRK has been engaged in – the ICBM missile tests in July, the two of those, the nuclear testing. Compare that to the legal activity that the U.S. and South Korea is engaged with in terms of its military – joint military exercises. Those joint military exercises have taken place for a very long time. They’re carried out in the spirit of the October 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty. They’re carefully monitored by the international community to ensure full compliance with the armistice agreements. So that so-called double freeze, that’s not going to change. We’re allowed to do it. We’re allowed to do it with our ally, South Korea. We will continue to do that and that’s just not going to change.

    QUESTION: Well, just because you’re allowed to do it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do in a period of very heightened --

    MS NAUERT: There – but there’s – people are --

    QUESTION: I understand your --

    MS NAUERT: There’s no moral equivalency whatsoever --

    QUESTION: I’m not suggesting – I’m not --

    MS NAUERT: -- in the U.S. and South Korea doing joint military exercises.

    QUESTION: I’m not suggesting that there is.

    MS NAUERT: We do these things all around the world – joint military exercises.

    QUESTION: Yeah. But I’m not suggesting that there is any equivalence at all, but it gets back to the earlier question, not doing something – in this case, on your side, you don’t think it’s this – you look at it the same way as --

    MS NAUERT: These have taken place --

    QUESTION: -- the North Koreans not doing --

    MS NAUERT: These have taken place since 1953 --

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: -- or thereabouts. It is an agreement that we have with the Republic of Korea. We remain open to dialogue with the North Koreans, as you well know. We are willing --

    QUESTION: But not on this.

    MS NAUERT: No. Not on this. Thank you. Thank you for asking that for clarification – on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But this – there’s no moral equivalency between our interactions with South Korea and what the DPRK has done. And the international world – the world recognizes what DPRK is doing is unstable, it’s unsafe, and it’s flat-out wrong. Okay?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Are we done with DPRK? I think we should move on. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I move on?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me come back to you because we already got a question. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Hi, good.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, you’ve got – well, let me go to somebody else, Said.

    QUESTION: I did --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t want to read about this online. You already asked one question. Okay. (Laughter.) Hold on. Okay. I’m teasing you. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: So North Korea has said that now is not the time to discuss American detainees. Do you have a response to this? And also, do you have an update on their situation?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we have three Americans who are being held by the DPRK. I know that our Ambassador Yun – Ambassador Joe Yun, when he was there a month or two ago, was able to take a look and meet with our Americans who are being held there. We remain very concerned about their status, about their care. This is another reminder to Americans to not go to the DPRK. It is not safe there, including things that may be considered legal here would not necessarily be considered legal there. So let me just use it as a reminder to please avoid going to North Korea until we get that so-called travel ban in place. When I have updates for you on those Americans who are being held, I’ll be sure to bring them to you, because that is something that we would certainly like to see, our Americans come home.

    QUESTION: And then in that Wall Street Journal op-ed that you mentioned that was penned by Secretary Tillerson --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and Mattis, they said that an indication of good faith would be an immediate cessation of provocatory threats and also a halting of nuclear and missile tests. But what about the returning of American detainees?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think I’m just going to leave it at that – at the point. Okay? Okay. All right. Let’s move on from DPRK.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, Laurie.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, you want to talk about what? Iran?

    QUESTION: Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On Sunday, Iran’s parliament passed legislation to increase spending on its ballistic missile program and on the IRGC, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization. And today, the Iranian president said Iran’s nuclear program could be restarted within hours and it would be more sophisticated than before if there are more sanctions. What’s your response to all that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to respond to that threat or that hypothetical from President Rouhani. The Trump administration remains committed to countering a full range of threats that Iran poses, not just to the region but also to the world, including its ballistic missile development.

    QUESTION: But they said they’re going to spend more money on its ballistic missile program.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I don’t have the intelligence on that, so I’m just not going to comment on that, but that would be a concern of ours.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The administration has – members of the administration from the President on down have said that they believe that Iran is not – violating – is in violation of the JCPOA in spirit.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, the spirit of the JCPOA, yeah.

    QUESTION: Have you – do you still – does the administration still believe that they are adhering to the letter of the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: There’s a full Iran review policy that is still underway, so I don’t want to get ahead of what that review policy is going to be. In terms of where we have stood at this point, the United States has from the IAEA then recertified to Congress, so they know where we stand on that issue. But we still believe that what Iran is doing is destabilizing and that the JCPOA doesn’t fully recognize and comprehend and encompass all those destabilizing activities that Iran is engaged in.

    QUESTION: Right, but you also would acknowledge, though, that the previous administration that negotiated the deal never said that it did encompass those things. Now --

    MS NAUERT: Correct, correct, and that is why we look at that and see the flaws in the JCPOA --

    QUESTION: Right, right. The second --

    MS NAUERT: -- that it should be so much more comprehensive.

    QUESTION: Where I was – where I was going with the first question was: Does the administration believe that it – meaning the U.S. – is in compliance with the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: We certainly are. We believe that we are in compliance --

    QUESTION: Do you believe that --

    MS NAUERT: -- with the JCPOA.

    QUESTION: You – your position is that you are not in – you’re not violating the spirit of it by not encouraging European companies or other companies to do business with Iran?

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have ongoing conversations with many other countries to discuss this. I know that other countries also share our concerns about what I’ll just broadly call the destabilizing activities. We know what they do in the region. We know what they do to some of our U.S. Navy ships. I mean, that’s just one – one example of some of the things that they do.

    QUESTION: So in other words, you – the administration believes that the sanctions relief that it continues to provide to Iran is in keeping with your commitments under the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: And we continue to have some of these conversations with other nations as well and keep an eye on those things.

    QUESTION: No, right. But as far as sanctions relief is concerned, you – the administration believes that it is fully complying with the terms of the agreement?

    MS NAUERT: We don’t believe that they are complying with the spirit of the law --

    QUESTION: No, you. Do you believe that the United States is fully complying?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, are we complying?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, yes, yes, we are complying.

    QUESTION: So in terms of sanctions relief, they’re getting everything that they deserve, nothing less?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to characterize it that way. I’m just going to say that the United States is in compliance with its end of the bargain. Okay?

    QUESTION: Today, the United Nations secretary-general said that we should not walk away from the JCPOA under any condition. Do you agree with that?

    MS NAUERT: It’s not my place to agree or not agree with him.

    Okay? Anything else. Okay, all right. Let’s move on to another subject.

    QUESTION: India?

    MS NAUERT: Who’s got anything else?

    QUESTION: Can we move to the Palestinian-Israeli --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, Said.

    QUESTION: -- peace process or – first of all, could you update us? There is an upcoming visit or a delegation will be going to the region. They will go to the Gulf region then they will go to Israel and Palestine – Mr. Kushner and Mr. Jason Greenblatt. Is the State Department involved in this process?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, we are. We are always involved in that process. What you’re referring to is an upcoming trip. I don’t have an --

    QUESTION: An upcoming trip, but we don’t know exactly the time --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I don’t have an exact date for you on that. When I do have that, I would be more than happy to provide it to you. There was a statement that was put out – my understanding – from the White House about Mr. Greenblatt’s travel. He will be accompanied by Jared Kushner as well as Dina Powell on this trip, so I know we are looking forward to supporting them as we always do on their constant travels over to that region.

    Typically, when they travel to talk about Middle East peace and other issues, we provide backup assistance with them and attend meetings with them. Our ambassador, our charge will also attend those meetings. The State Department helps to set up some of those things, and then upon their return we do a debrief and have conversations about what they learned and where things stand.

    So it’s a close cooperating relationship between the State Department and also the White House on this. We recognize it is a big issue. This has failed a lot of past administrations, and we feel that this is a good new effort, a fresh effort to put forward, to have the White House and the State Department working in concert on this.

    QUESTION: Today, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that – refuting – I mean he was refuting some Israeli reports suggesting that the PA is walking away from its enthusiasm for the Trump initiative, but he’s saying that the U.S. ought to, as preceding – as its predecessor – this administration, as its predecessors, commit to the two-state solution. Has there been any statement by the State Department, by – to the best of your knowledge – by this White House committing to the two-state solution?

    MS NAUERT: One of the things that we have said is that both parties need to be willing and need to be able to agree to something. And if they’re willing to negotiate and agree to that, they are the ones that have to live with that day in and day out, and we will support them in those efforts.

    QUESTION: But the whole Oslo process, which the United States is really the shepherd of, is predicated – premised – on the two-state solution, correct?

    MS NAUERT: Look, both parties have to be willing to live and to work with this, and we will help support them in that. I think that is ultimately up for those parties to decide.

    QUESTION: And I have one last question, I promise --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: -- on this issue. Yesterday – or today, the daughter of the American ambassador to Israel, Talia, immigrated to Israel, and she’s – presumably will be joining the Israeli army. Is that a good practice for the American ambassador to have his daughter join the Israeli army there that is perceived as an occupation army?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware – this report is news to me. I’m not aware of that report, but I’ll certainly look into it. I’m not sure we would have a comment on it, but I can certainly look into it.

    Okay, what else do we have today?

    QUESTION: India?

    QUESTION: Can you go to --

    MS NAUERT: We done?

    QUESTION: -- Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. How are you?

    So a delegation of the Kurdistan Regional Government went to Baghdad yesterday to start a negotiation on a possible breakup from Iraq. Would the United --

    MS NAUERT: On a possible what? I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Breakup from Iraq or declaration of independence. So would the United States support these negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad?

    MS NAUERT: I mean, certainly if Erbil and Baghdad want to sit down and have a conversation with one another, that is certainly fine. As you know, we have expressed very serious concerns about holding a referendum, even a referendum that’s considered to be an unbinding referendum. What we would like to see is a stable, secure, and unified Iraq.

    As we talk about the referendum that the Kurds want to hold in September – late September, I believe it is – we look at that and say we understand what you’re going for, we understand what the goal is, but let’s not take our eye off the ball. Let’s not take our eye off of ISIS. And ISIS is the major serious threat in Iraq right now, and we’re concerned about a referendum at this time that that referendum would be further destabilizing.

    QUESTION: According to the KRG presidency’s website, Mr. – in the phone call between Mr. Tillerson and Barzani, Mr. Tillerson encouraged Erbil to negotiate with Baghdad. Do you – is that the case? What else did Mr. Tillerson think --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a readout of that conversation.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. All right. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Just for clarification --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- your objection is to the timing of the referendum --

    MS NAUERT: We’ve talked about that. Yeah. I think I’ve been clear about the concerns related to the timing of the referendum.

    QUESTION: But it’s not about the referendum itself. It’s the timing?

    MS NAUERT: And ultimately this is going to have to be worked out with the Iraqi people, but I just want to be clear, ISIS is the main fight that Iraqis have been fought – fighting for years now, hoping to get people back into western Mosul as they’ve started to come back in. There are operations taking place up in the north in Tal Afar. We haven’t talked about that a whole lot, but there are a lot of concerning activities on the part of trying to get ISIS out of Iraq. And we see that as the sole focus where we need to stay – where we need to keep the eye on the ball. Okay.

    QUESTION: I have one question on India.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.

    QUESTION: Did the Secretary spoke to the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today? Do you have a readout of it?

    MS NAUERT: I believe – you know what? I’d have to double-check on that. I’d have to double-check on that schedule. I know that we’re celebrating a couple independence days; yesterday with Pakistan and today with India. So I know we’ve put out some comments on that.

    QUESTION: And also there was announcement about a 2+2 meeting between – meeting between India and U.S. – ministerial meeting. Do you know what’s the time and venue for that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information on that to give you at this point. I’m not aware of any scheduling yet.

    QUESTION: I have one more on Afghanistan.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Have you seen the open letter by the Taliban to President Trump asking him to withdraw from Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I certainly have. So I’m not going to comment on any statements put out by the Taliban on that. Let’s not lose focus here, that the – what I’ll – I’ll say this about another country: destabilizing activities. What is going on in Afghanistan is a result of the Taliban. We’ve seen, and there was a report out not that long ago, about the increase in attacks on civilians, which largely included women and children. That is being perpetrated by members of the Taliban. Let’s not lose focus that the Taliban is behind many of those attacks, many of the increase in civilian casualties. That undermines the Afghan population and also the Afghan Government as well, so let’s not lose focus of that.

    I’ve got to leave it there, you guys.

    QUESTION: Withdrawal from Afghanistan is not an option at all?

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Withdrawal from Afghanistan is no option --

    MS NAUERT: That’s not my position. I know that – that is not my place to talk about that whatsoever. I know there are a lot of various options on the table that the U.S. Government is considering as it reviews its Afghan policy. I think it – they will be considering a lot of different options and would never rule out any – absolutely everything. Okay?

    QUESTION: Do you have any updated guidance on the situation with India and China?

    MS NAUERT: Just that we are encouraging both parties to sit down and have direct dialogue.

    QUESTION: There was another round of skirmish and (inaudible) from India and China --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. What?

    QUESTION: There was another round of tension --

    QUESTION: There was an actual skirmish, I think, today, earlier.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

    QUESTION: If you can update us on that, please?

    MS NAUERT: If I have anything new for you, I will be certain to get it for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks, everybody. Good to see you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:26 p.m.)

    DPB # 44


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 10, 2017

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 17:18
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 10, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • NORTH KOREA
  • CHINA/REGION
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • CUBA
  • SYRIA/REGION
  • CHINA/INDIA
  • INDIA
  • AFGHANISTAN

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:34 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Dave.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: Welcome back.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: How was France?

    QUESTION: I’ve just been to Manila.

    MS NAUERT: You’ve been to Manila. Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but before that there was France and Scotland and all --

    MS NAUERT: And all those long European vacations.

    QUESTION: Five weeks was all.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Just five weeks. Hi, everybody. How is everyone doing today? Good.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: A little bit of an echo in the room here. Before we get down to business – and I know you have a lot of questions – I want to point out, we have a group of interns here in the back. You know the summertime, we have a lot of interns who come in to your companies and into the State Department as well, and I just want to recognize them. Thank you all for being here. I understand one of you attends the Naval Academy. Which one? Great, fantastic. Go Navy. Glad to hear it. Got some family there. Anyway, welcome, and I hope you’ve enjoyed your internship and that you’ve been treated well here and that you’ve enjoyed it. That’s all I have for that, so I’ll just take your questions right away.

    Matt, would you like to start?

    QUESTION: (Laughter.) You already – you’re not going to update us on the AGOA Conference in Togo? (Laughter.) I was really hoping you --

    MS NAUERT: You’re going to make some real enemies in Togo, I will have you know.

    QUESTION: I – I love Togo. Let’s start again with North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The President has just come out in New Jersey and said that perhaps his comments of the other day – are you – this is news to you?

    MS NAUERT: Did the President just say this?

    QUESTION: Just – yes.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, no, I’m not aware of that yet.

    QUESTION: He said --

    MS NAUERT: What did the President say?

    QUESTION: Said that his “fire and fury” comment from the other day maybe wasn’t strong enough. I’m just wondering if you have any comment about that, but I understand if you don’t since you just said that you haven’t --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’m not aware of the President’s comments. I have not heard those comments myself. Matt, I trust you. You’re an excellent reporter, you always get it right. I will say this.

    QUESTION: I’m going to remember that.

    MS NAUERT: Our position and our policy and our strategy hasn’t changed --

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: -- one bit.

    QUESTION: So does the Secretary, who you speak for, believe that he is part of the national security team that advises the President on national security issues and contributes to making policy?

    MS NAUERT: I – I’m wondering where you’re going to go with this, but yes, absolutely. Without a doubt. As you know, the Secretary, the President, Secretary Mattis, along with the National Security Council, General McMaster, they meet frequently, they meet often to have conversations about national security issues.

    QUESTION: So – so then I’m curious about your reaction to some comments that an aide to the President made – Dr. Gorka – to the BBC. When he was asked about the apparent differences in tone between various officials, he said, “You should listen to the President. The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical. It is the job of Secretary Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, to talk about the military options, and he has done so unequivocally. That is his mandate, and Secretary Tillerson is the chief diplomat of the United States and it is his portfolio to handle those issues.” Does the Secretary, one, or does this building agree with comments like that, which would seem to suggest that the Secretary is – this is not the Secretary’s lane and that he should kind of – he should butt out and keep his mouth shut on things that relate to the military matters?

    MS NAUERT: Well, the Secretary, as you know, he has a close relationship with Secretary Mattis. Our Secretary, Secretary Tillerson, talks a lot about our diplomatic strategy and our diplomatic policy. That has not changed. The Secretary has been very robust in that, just having returned, as we talked about yesterday, from the ASEAN Conference where he met for three days with a lot of foreign officials. As I was coming out here, I heard about Sebastian Gorka’s comments. I didn’t hear them myself, so I don’t want to comment on exactly what he had to say, but I can say that I speak for Secretary Tillerson and this building. Our Secretary has been very clear, as has Secretary Mattis, that our diplomatic and military means are both strong and capable, and in the face of the threats that we face against the DPRK or other nations.

    QUESTION: Right, but does the Secretary believe that diplomacy – that diplomacy should be combined with the – with military options and that – to produce a successful result, and does he – I take it then he – he would reject the suggestion that he doesn’t have any business talking about this?

    MS NAUERT: I would say that Secretary Mattis oversees the U.S. military, and he and Secretary Tillerson have a good, close, cooperative relationship. And one part of our U.S. Government is, of course, the State Department and we do diplomacy here out of this building. Secretary Tillerson has not spoken about U.S. military capabilities. You all hear me very often from this room when you ask me about U.S. military assets or plans, I refer you to DOD.

    QUESTION: Right, but the suggestion that was made is that the – that basically the Secretary – Secretary Tillerson shouldn’t be involved or shouldn’t be listened to as it relates to policy towards North Korea. Is that a – is that something that you agree with?

    MS NAUERT: I think that everyone has clearly heard what Secretary Tillerson’s forceful comments have been and continue to be on the issue of DPRK and on other countries as well.

    QUESTION: And they should be paid attention to, correct?

    MS NAUERT: I would think so, yes.

    QUESTION: All right, so the idea that --

    MS NAUERT: I mean, he’s a Cabinet Secretary. He’s the fourth in line to the presidency. He carries a big stick.

    QUESTION: And Dr. Gorka is where in that line of succession?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t work with Dr. – with Sebastian Gorka. I have known him from a previous life and a previous career, but I have not spoken to him about the comments that he made.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: And let me just leave it at that. Okay? All right, while we’re on DPRK, let’s stick to that. I’d like to stick to regions if we can today, so any questions on DRPK? Okay. Hi, Rich.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. And this is in the diplomatic lane, talking about China – South China Sea, freedom of navigation. China says that the recent U.S. freedom of navigation operation harms Chinese sovereignty. This is an issue and a response that we’ve seen before. But do issues like freedom of navigation, some of the economic issues – do they make for a more difficult campaign on North Korea with China?

    MS NAUERT: Freedom of navigation operations happen all around the world. They tend to get the most attention when they have been in the South China Sea. They happen off the coast of Canada; they happen in the waters off-shore of our major allies, friends, partners all around the world. That’s why we’re focusing on it right now. That’s why you’re asking me that question, because of the issue of DPRK.

    As you know, Secretary Tillerson coming back from the ASEAN conference, where there was a joint statement that was issued about the South China Sea – we talked about that pretty extensively yesterday. As you all know, U.S. forces will operate in the Asia Pacific region. They do that on a daily basis, including the South China Sea. The operations are conducted in accordance with international law. And the point of that is to demonstrate that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows. It’s true in the South China Sea; it’s true in other places around the world as well.

    QUESTION: And when the U.S. deals with China – negotiates, speaks with China – does it view these issues as compartmentalized or as one big issue?

    MS NAUERT: We have lots of ongoing conversations, as you know. We had the four-way dialogue with China. We’ve had two of the four meetings that are set to take place. I believe the next two are set to take place later this year. We discuss all kinds of issues. Secretary Mattis was over here not too long ago, having spoken with Secretary Tillerson and our Chinese counterparts about many of these issues. Among the issues we talk about with the Chinese – South China Sea, of course, but we also talk about DPRK and other matters as well.

    QUESTION: And so it doesn’t hamper the pressure campaign, you don’t think?

    MS NAUERT: We have – look. You know what happened at the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed the new UN Security Council resolution on the DPRK. China was one of those countries that voted along with that. So that means that China has to enforce its sanctions. They have said that they would. We look forward to and expect them to enforce those sanctions as well.

    Okay?

    QUESTION: A follow-up? A follow-up?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And welcome back.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Congratulations on the UN Security Council sanctions. It has been suggested you could’ve given them longer to bear fruit before threatening “fire and fury.” It – was it – how long do you think it’ll take before we see some – we see North Korea backing down, thanks to these sanctions?

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, I can’t speculate as to what North Korea is going to do. We talked yesterday about our pressure campaign and how the pressure campaign is, in our opinion, working. We’ve had many countries – countries that we are close friends with and countries that we aren’t as close with – help participate in that pressure campaign, and that is because the world recognizes the severe threat that the DPRK faces, not just to the United States but to the entire world.

    QUESTION: An element of the pressure campaign --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- is to seek the diplomatic isolation of North Korea. North Korea obviously attended the ASEAN Regional Forum and has been invited to attend next year’s regional forum by the hosts. Was that a failure in an attempt to isolate them diplomatically, or is there some utility in meeting them again next year?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding, that in terms of invitations like that, the conversations are ongoing. We are not a part of ASEAN so we do not have the ability to extend or rescind an invitation, so we would leave that up to ASEAN itself. But those nations all joined us in a pretty condemning statement of the activities on the part of the DPRK.

    QUESTION: Okay. And is it your understanding that the warning that the President issued about fire and fury being visited on North Korea was if they were to test another missile, perform some kind of provocative action, or simply if they resume their normal belligerent rhetoric?

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to get into any hypotheticals. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: How do you see the pressure campaign worked --

    QUESTION: Actually, it wasn’t a hypothetical.

    QUESTION: -- when yesterday, Kim Jong-un laid out – first, he ridiculed the President of the United States, then he laid out the plans for --

    MS NAUERT: Kim Jong-un is welcome to --

    QUESTION: -- for attacking Guam.

    MS NAUERT: He can certainly say what he chooses. Okay? I can’t affect that in any kind of way. But in terms of the pressure campaign, when we talk about it working, part of that from the UN Security Council resolution that we believe will help remove about a billion dollars’ worth of exports, money that would go into the pockets of the North Korean regime. That money, by the way, does not get used to feed its own people. We know people in that nation – North Koreans are starving. The money there that goes into North Korea does not go to the people; it goes to the government and its very expensive, illegal nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs.

    QUESTION: And on that point, one of the points of the sanctions is to curtail imported labor from North Korea --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- to certain countries and so on. Kuwait, a country that is an ally of the United States, Kuwait, said that it will continue to host North Korean workers and laborers and so on. Do you have any comment or reaction to that?

    MS NAUERT: I do, yeah. What you’re talking about is a Associated Press report that came out – I believe it was overnight – that indicated that Kuwait was going to continue hosting North Korean guest workers. That would obviously be a concern to us. There are North Korean guest workers in place around the world.

    A big part of our pressure campaign, as many of you know, has been saying to those countries through a series of bilateral meetings that Secretary Tillerson here at the State Department has had with many of his counterparts asking other nations to reduce the number of North Korean guest workers. Those guest workers who are working in construction and in other industries and countries around the world are getting that money; that money is going straight back to North Korea into its weapons program; that money does not go to the North Korean individuals themselves; it does not go to the North Korean civilians and citizens and family members.

    What you’re referring to in terms of Kuwait, we are certainly aware of that report. It was brought to our attention. I would have to refer you to the Government of Kuwait for more information on that; however, we understand that the Government of Kuwait will be issuing a statement on those reports and their overall DPRK policy imminently. We are in close contact with the Government of Kuwait. They recognize the serious nature of this issue and the serious nature of that report that did come out.

    The Government of Kuwait will be taking further measures in response to the dangerous and provocative behavior of the DPRK regime within the coming days, we are told. We are, again, told to expect a statement on that matter.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: So do you know when? Because this – I mean, I’m looking at the statement that they sent to us right here, and it’s very straightforward. Two questions. Question one: Did Kuwait stop issuing new working visas to North Koreans last year? Answer: No, the state of Kuwait did not stop issuing working visas to North Korean laborers. And then secondly: How may remaining North Korean laborers work in Kuwait? And does the country have any plans for expelling them? Answer: The number of North Korean laborers in the state of Kuwait is 6,064 and there are no plans --

    MS NAUERT: That’s a lot.

    QUESTION: There are no plans to expel North Korean laborers.

    MS NAUERT: If they have 6,064 North Koreans, that is why it’s an issue that’s been brought to our attention. I can’t get into the details of any possible private diplomatic conversations, but I am told – and I think if you look at the time stamp on whenever they sent that to you – I’m told as of about 40 minutes ago or so that an announcement would be forthcoming.

    QUESTION: Announcement – do you have any reason to believe that the announcement will be the same as what – what I’ve just read to you?

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you that it’s an issue of big concern, and I can’t get into private diplomatic conversations.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: So I hope that helps answer it and clarify it. But look --

    QUESTION: But we’ll look for their statement.

    MS NAUERT: We will look for their statement and we will see what happens on that. Obviously, the export of labor, as I have mentioned, enables the development of the illicit nuclear and missile program. The Government of Kuwait has been a good friend to the United States. You know the emir of Kuwait has been extremely supportive, has been helpful – very helpful – as the moderator and mediator in handling the GCC – the Qatar dispute. We continue to work with that government and work with the emir in that dispute as well.

    Okay. Anything else on this issue?

    QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: On this issue of Kuwait – yes or no?

    QUESTION: No.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, all right. Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead. Hi, miss.

    QUESTION: Yes, about the new UN resolution --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- and also sought resumptions of the Six-Party Talks. So we are just wondering that is the U.S. really preparing for the talks and making some contacts. And the second question is about the China’s proposal of the --

    MS NAUERT: Let me get to your – let me get to your first question first. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Will the United States return to talks with North Korea? And the answer to that is – and the Secretary has talked about this a lot – he has said he’s not going to negotiate his way back to the negotiating table. Okay? He has said that months ago. He has not moved away from that position one bit. There have been headlines that have been inaccurate that have alluded to the opposite of that.

    We would need to know that North Korea is taking serious and literal steps to denuclearizing in order for the United States to even get to that point. Susan Thornton, our acting assistant secretary for East Asian Affairs who has been traveling with the Secretary en route back to Washington at this moment from that ASEAN trip – she’s been very firm at that. She said something along the lines of, look, we are nowhere near close to that point, especially after we’ve had two intercontinental ballistic missile tests within less than a month. They are not showing us – the DPRK is not showing us that they are close to sitting down and talking anytime soon.

    Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. And also about Ms. Thornton, just before the ASEAN trip Thornton just make a connection between the China’s trade with the U.S. and kind of DPRK’s issue. So now China just endorsed or just agree with the UN sanctions on the DPRK, so does it mean that the trade relations between China and U.S. could be kind of okay in the near future?

    MS NAUERT: I would have to refer you on that trade matter to our Trade Representative and other people who actually handle that trade issue. But look, we are pleased with China voting along with the United States and others in that unanimous UN Security Council resolution, and we look forward to China adhering to its commitments on instituting and seeing through those sanctions.

    Okay. Anything – DPRK?

    QUESTION: Is China doing enough on --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Two related North Korea questions. The first one is just to clarify. You said sending the warship to South China Sea is no way – it’s not the way the United States is vent your frustration on not enough progress on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Not at all. Look, what it takes to move U.S. military equipment and ships is a lot. Those things are preplanned, and DOD can really speak to that. But those things have been planned for a long, long time. The United States does these operations – the freedom of navigation operations – all around the world, many times of year. In fact, I probably have some facts and figures for you on that. But this is nothing new. We’ve done it before; we’ll continue to do that.

    QUESTION: But given the timing, as China and ASEAN just reached the frame of code of conduct in South China Sea, isn’t this move counterproductive and actually inflame the tension in South China Sea? And as a matter of fact, the United States just endorsed the frame of code of conduct in South China Sea.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, we did. And we are in compliance and adherence with that. This is a – somewhat of a complex legal matter, so I want to read for you some of this so that there’s no confusion on the part of folks across the world. We have a comprehensive freedom of navigation operations program, under which the U.S. forces challenge excessive maritime claims around the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. All nations – that is guaranteed to the United States and to other nations as well.

    That’s why I mentioned we do these freedom of navigation operations off the coast of Canada, for example, along with many other places. FONOPs, as we refer to it, are not about any one country; they’re not about making a political statement. In 2016 – and here’s the number I referred to – we conducted these challenging excessive maritime claims in 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners as well. So I hope that answers your question.

    Okay. Somebody had something over here about China.

    QUESTION: Is China doing enough on North Korea? Are you satisfied with what they’re doing?

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary has spoken to this issue a lot: Is China doing enough? And one of the things that he’s consistently said is that we see some movement on the part of China but that movement and that engagement can be uneven at times. But look, he had conversations with many partners on his recent trip to ASEAN. We think we’ve made some additional progress in there. They certainly recognize what instability in that region means for their nation. They also jumped on board with that United Nations Security Council resolution, so we’re pleased with that. But we look forward and hope that they will do more.

    QUESTION: You have been saying the pressure is working, but the facts --

    MS NAUERT: That the what?

    QUESTION: You have been saying that the pressure on North Korea is working, but the facts speak otherwise. They have done two ICBM tests in less than a month; they have threatened to now fire missiles in Guam. So what do you say about that?

    MS NAUERT: This --

    QUESTION: It doesn’t seem that pressure is working on them.

    MS NAUERT: Look, this pressure campaign is going to take a while. We’ve always recognized that. It took us many, many years to get to this concerning point where the United States and the world are right now with the DPRK. We can’t expect that this is going to change overnight. This pressure campaign is going to take some time.

    Part of that pressure campaign is removing the money that North Korea gets for its weapons programs. We believe that through time and through talking to other countries about what those countries can do to reduce the number of guest workers, to reduce the size of embassies and missions in Pyongyang and in other places around the DPRK, that that will help remove some of the funding for that.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: But you still believe that you have enough – there is the luxury of some – I don't want to say luxury, but you have time? Because I think what this week has shown us, in terms of the miniaturization report, that there may not be enough time to – for – to let these things play out their course.

    MS NAUERT: That – I want to point out that report that you just mentioned. A lot of people have asked about that. That would be an intelligence matter that I can’t confirm and will have nothing to say from here about that.

    QUESTION: Right. But I’m not asking about the report. I’m just saying that --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, you referenced it, so I just want to make that clear.

    QUESTION: Right, right. But developments over the course of the last couple weeks have made it clear, I think to everyone, that time is not necessarily on your side here, that the things – that the North Koreans are progressing much more quickly than had been anticipated, expected, or theorized. And --

    MS NAUERT: Look, we’re, without a doubt, concerned about that.

    QUESTION: Right. But the – so my question to you is: Are you confident that there is time to allow these sanctions and the pressure campaign to work, that you have the time for that to work before they do something rash?

    MS NAUERT: I think the best thing that I can say about that is referencing something that the Secretary said yesterday, and that is Americans can sleep safely at night.

    QUESTION: Okay. But that’s the thing that Dr. Gorka said not – that was pure nonsense and shouldn’t be listened to. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I would refer you back to Mr. Gorka on that one.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on DPRK? Are we done with DPRK?

    QUESTION: Can we go to Cuba?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I feel like an auctioneer. Are we done with DPRK?

    QUESTION: Yeah, no. Let’s --

    MS NAUERT: Is that a yes? Yes?

    QUESTION: No.

    MS NAUERT: No. Okay. Miss, tell me your name, again.

    QUESTION: Jessica Stone.

    MS NAUERT: Right. Hey, Jessica. Good to see you.

    QUESTION: Good to see you again. Two more questions on DPRK. First of all, Japan is moving missile interceptors in order to be in a position to intercept anything that hits Guam, and they’ve said that they’re willing to defend the U.S. in the context of what’s going – the threats that have been made by the DPRK. Can you give us some insight into whether they’re sort of overstepping their commitments under the mutual defense treaty that they have with the United States? Are they required to go to those lengths? Do you have any insight into that?

    MS NAUERT: I do not. I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t. Got something else? (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: Yes. You sparked something in my head, but – I know there’s been a lot of writing – and maybe you could say ink spilled even – over the sort of dissonance between the messages on DPRK out of this building versus the sort of more synergy we’ve seen from the White House and the Pentagon. Is that strategic, that we’re seeing Tillerson push the diplomatic option and we’re seeing the President and Mattis push military consequences if the diplomatic response does not work?

    MS NAUERT: This is something that we covered yesterday. Our policy across the administration is the same. The policy is: We want a denuclearization of the North Korean – or of the Korean Peninsula. We want, we expect North Korea to denuclearize. We would like them to be able to come to the global world of countries that can cooperate together. They are isolating themselves. It’s something that’s of grave concern to us, and that’s why we continue to push this as the top national security priority for the United States at this time.

    QUESTION: And lastly, do you have a working estimate of how soon you think that the DPRK would collapse? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I do not. That is – that’s quite a hypothetical. I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that.

    Okay. Are we done with DPRK?

    QUESTION: Another one here --

    QUESTION: Cuba?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s go to Cuba.

    QUESTION: All right.

    QUESTION: I have --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: So do you have any update – I know it’s just recent – on the diplomats and the hearing loss issue? But moreover, does the State Department have any plans for reversing the Obama administration’s efforts to diplomatic ties with Cuba? In other words, reversing the --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- restoring them, reversing that action?

    MS NAUERT: So I don’t have any information on that particular part for you. You mentioned particular medical ailments. That is nothing that I can confirm. I’ve certainly seen that report out in the news media. I hope that those reports would not come from any federal officials. We will not confirm the health status of any Americans, whether they’re in Cuba, back here at home, or elsewhere.

    What I can tell you is that these were U.S. Government personnel who were in Cuba, in Havana, on official duty on behalf of the U.S. Government. We consider these to be incidents because we still are trying to work – determine the actual cause of their situation. They have had a variety of physical symptoms. That’s as far as I can go in describing that. We just don’t have the definitive answers yet. This is an active investigation and that investigation is ongoing at this time.

    QUESTION: What about the overall diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the United States? Are there any plans to change what the Obama administration put into place?

    MS NAUERT: There are – this is a situation that we’re still assessing. When I say an active investigation is underway, in part what that means is we don’t know exactly where this came from. Okay? We can’t blame any one individual or a country at this point yet. An investigation is underway. We take that very seriously. This is a U.S. Government investigation that is taking place. We’ve spoken extensively to the Cubans about this.

    As you know, we had two of their Cuban diplomats leave back in late May or so. We do – and the reason that we had them leave is because we said this is the agreement that the United – United States, rather, has with Cuba, and that is that they are responsible for the safety and security of our diplomats while our diplomats are serving in that country. Our Americans were not safe; they were not secure, obviously, because something has happened to them. We take that very seriously. The safety and security of Americans at home and abroad is our top issue. We’ll continue to investigate that.

    QUESTION: Global Affairs Canada --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Global Affairs Canada --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Are you done, ma’am?

    QUESTION: Yes. Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Okay. Global Affairs Canada, as you might know by now, says its diplomats have been experiencing the same unusual symptoms and it’s working with the U.S. and Cuba to investigate. Is the U.S. working with any other country to investigate these incidents?

    MS NAUERT: I won’t comment on anything related to another country. I can’t confirm that. I can only talk about the American piece of it.

    QUESTION: And let me just ask you about Congress. This news seemed to catch several key lawmakers in Congress off guard, that deal with Cuba. And at least one U.S. senator has requested a classified briefing from the State Department. Why hasn’t the State Department, if it cares so much about what’s going on with its diplomats, alerted Congress?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, there have been conversations that have been going on between the interagency, and I assume – and that means Congress as well. So Congress, as certain folks have been – I can’t tell you exactly who. I don’t know off the top of my head – but have been made aware of this. This is not something that certain members of Congress are learning about for the first time.

    QUESTION: Well, let me ask you this: Why are we just learning about this? This – these two Cuban diplomats left on May the 23rd. This has been going on at least eight or nine months, and now we’re just learning about this. Why?

    MS NAUERT: As a reporter, you’re going to ask me that question?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: I mean, goodness, you could have been down there reporting on this. Look, no, the honest question is and the real answer to this is: People started experiencing ailments in late 2016. Okay? And think about it; when you have an ailment you don’t always know exactly what’s causing it. Okay? You have that ailment; you maybe decide to put it off for a while, get medical treatment, maybe not. Okay? Some of these things take time to investigate, in particular ones that are – people aren’t certain what has caused them.

    So this takes time to figure out. That is why I say an investigation is ongoing. We have provided medical care and medical treatment and screening to our Americans who have asked for that. Some people have been brought home as a result. So I kind of take issue with the tone of your question, as though we don’t care about this. I think we’ve been clear in our responsibility and our – let me finish – and our concern about Americans who are serving on behalf of the U.S. Government in other countries.

    QUESTION: Do you think those diplomats that have been experiencing these symptoms are satisfied with the response they’ve gotten from the State Department?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer to that.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I you ask you two semi-related?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: One, without getting into any specific country – names of other countries that might have had diplomats involved, are you aware of – that diplomats from other countries were – had suffered similar --

    QUESTION: Physical --

    QUESTION: -- physical symptoms?

    MS NAUERT: I have seen reports, and that’s all I can say about that.

    QUESTION: Okay, but so you don’t – so you’re unable to say whether or not this was only something that happened to Americans.

    MS NAUERT: I just can’t confirm here from a U.S. Government post that other countries may have or have not had the same issue happen to them. I can only speak to what Americans have faced.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria next?

    QUESTION: One more on Cuba.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, are we – Cuba? Hi, hey.

    QUESTION: You seem to leave open the possibility that another country is involved in some of this --

    MS NAUERT: I didn’t. I didn’t. This guy right here next to you did.

    QUESTION: Sorry, apologies. Not that someone else has been attacked, but that they seem to be – the possibility of a third country being involved in the attacks themselves, as in it might not be the Cubans who are behind the idea. So --

    MS NAUERT: I know people want answers. I appreciate that. Okay? But this is an ongoing investigation. We don’t have all the answers yet. So I appreciate that you want to try to push me to say something. I’m not going to get ahead of the investigators, I’m not going to get ahead of this investigation, I’m not going to create storylines for you that don’t match up with the facts as we know them right now. Okay? So I’m not going to get into that. It is an area that is under investigation that is a major concern of ours.

    QUESTION: Can you say if, going back in research, that this building has seen anything similar to this in the past?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, that’s a good question. I have not --

    QUESTION: Whether it’s in Cuba or anywhere else.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not personally aware of that. I can certainly ask some of our folks who have been around for longer than I have about that and see what I can do for you.

    QUESTION: That would be pretty much everyone in the building. (Laughter.) That’s not the --

    MS NAUERT: I’ve been here three months now. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: -- not to be an insult. And then the last thing on this: You have seen the response or the statement that the Cuban Government put out last night saying that it does not condone any, would not allow any kind of, I don’t know --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: -- interference with foreign diplomats, and that it takes seriously and respects its Vienna Convention obligations. Do you accept that?

    MS NAUERT: I would just say this about what you mentioned: We remain in regular contact with the Cuban Government. They are providing some guidance, some assistance on this investigation as the investigation is underway. We – in that regular contact, we hope to resolve this matter in a satisfactory fashion. And let me just leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Right. But I just want to – I mean, do you take at face value when they – do you accept it that they respect – I mean, you made a big point yesterday of talking about the Vienna Convention and how Cuba has obligations under it to protect foreign diplomats.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. And they talked about that, yeah. But --

    QUESTION: Right. And they say that they do.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But clearly, you don’t think that --

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, I think --

    QUESTION: -- they do.

    MS NAUERT: -- U.S. Government officials have been affected in some way --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- by these incidents. Physically affected by these incidents. It is the Cuban Government’s obligation under the Geneva Convention – excuse me, under --

    QUESTION: Vienna.

    MS NAUERT: Vienna, thank you. Under Vienna Conventions to ensure the safety and protection of our diplomats there.

    QUESTION: But, so you’re – I think what you’re saying is that despite the statement from last night, you’re still not convinced?

    MS NAUERT: They have an obligation to do that, and that obviously did not happen. Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Anything else? Are we done with Cuba?

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Got a tad more on that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Have staffing levels at the mission returned to the levels they were before the incidents came to light?

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you this: that our embassy there in Havana is fully operational, it is fully staffed, they are still involved in business. As a precaution and for concern and the well-being of our embassy staffers there, we’ve allowed a limited number of personnel to curtail their tours of duty, and what that can mean is that some of them can transfer posts, come home if they want, or try to go elsewhere.

    QUESTION: Well, wait a second. If the embassy is fully staffed --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- that means that however many number left that you reciprocated by telling the Cubans they had to take two – they had to get two out, if you’re saying it’s now fully staffed, can’t – can the Cubans bring their two guys back or two diplomats back?

    MS NAUERT: We brought our people home out of care and concern for their medical well-being.

    QUESTION: I understand, but if they had been replaced and you’re now fully staffed and you’re back up at the number of diplomats, they should --

    MS NAUERT: Well, I don’t know that we’re – this is where you guys want to get into the number of people at our embassies, and I’m not going to do that, as you know that. I mean, I don’t know if we’re down one or if we’re up one in terms of our embassy personnel. That --

    QUESTION: Well, when you say “fully staffed,” that suggests that --

    MS NAUERT: “Fully staffed” means we have people doing the jobs.

    QUESTION: Heather, I understand that, but if you told the Cubans they had to lose two diplomats from their embassy here because – in a reciprocal manner because you lost the two from – I mean, you lost the --

    MS NAUERT: I have never – I have never indicated any number.

    QUESTION: -- okay, because you lost the number from there and now you say it’s fully staffed, that would suggest that however many people left from your embassy are now back.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not going to get down this rabbit hole of numbers of people – yeah.

    QUESTION: And that would mean then that it is no longer necessary for the Cuban embassy to be down two staffers.

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to draw that conclusion. We are open for business.

    QUESTION: Well, this is pretty standard diplomacy.

    QUESTION: But is Cuba safe --

    MS NAUERT: We are – we are – hold on. We are open for business. There are people there doing the work. If we’re up one, down one, I’m not going to get into those kinds of details. Okay? But just understand that the work is being done there. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Are we – we’re done with this now. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

    QUESTION: Has the harassment stopped? Has this acoustic harassment stopped?

    MS NAUERT: Some – look, I’m not going to confirm or deny what you’re saying. We’ve had a lot of leading questions here today. This remains an ongoing investigation concern and I’m not going to get into that any further. Okay?

    QUESTION: It’s stopped – it’s stopped, though?

    MS NAUERT: I’m done with Cuba right now.

    QUESTION: Can I go to Syria? Can I go to Syria?

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: I’ve answered all that I can for you. Hold on. I’ve answered all that I can for you on Cuba. I know you still have questions. I’m not able to provide you all of the answers. Okay?

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: On Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Investigation ongoing, period.

    QUESTION: Syria? Can we go to Syria?

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s – fine, let’s go to Syria.

    QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Heather. Yes. First of all, could you update us on what is happening in the battle for Raqqa and what is U.S. involvement? There are talks about the U.S. establishing a base near there and so on. So could you update us on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah --

    QUESTION: And then second --

    MS NAUERT: Look, when you mention any U.S. military facility, that would be a DOD matter, so I would not get into that.

    QUESTION: Okay. All right.

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: Then let me ask you about the ceasefire. Would you characterize that U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria as remaining the same as it was when this thing started out for the ceasefire? And second, the Israelis --

    MS NAUERT: Let me answer that first question --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- then I’ll get to your next one. Okay? So what you’re referring to is the ceasefire that has been underway for about a month now. I think it was the 9th or so of July. We can double-check that. But for about that period of time in southwestern Syria, this is one that was negotiated between the United States, Russia, and other places. And the point of that was to find an area of cooperation where the United States and Russia could find – I mean, we have a low-level relationship with Russia. We all know that. That’s no surprise here.

    But we want to find areas of mutual cooperation where we can work together and this is one area – that ceasefire, to my understanding, is still holding. Okay? We are pleased with that. That provides the United States and the coalition partners with the opportunity to start to get some humanitarian in – that is so badly needed in that area. And so humanitarian aid – and I have a little bit of detail for you on that – we’ve been able to start reaching some of the vulnerable Syrians without the complications of avoiding airstrikes or increases in violence. We’re continuing to work with our international partners to assess the ongoing emergency humanitarian needs throughout Syria and facilitate the delivery of vitally needed supplies.

    I’m also told that people are starting to slowly come back into parts of those areas, which is – which would – we would consider to be a moderate success at this point, and we look forward to that happening eventually.

    QUESTION: And my last question --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- on this very point: It seems that when the ceasefire was negotiated, it was done between the United States, Russia, Jordan, and Israel. And Israel was opposed to the ceasefire. I wonder if you’ve seen these reports. And why would the United States not take into consideration Israel’s concern with this --

    MS NAUERT: I --

    QUESTION: Or did they have real concerns?

    MS NAUERT: I have seen that report. We’re not going to discuss our diplomatic conversations on that or on other matters. We’re committed to regular consultations with our partners in the region and that, of course, includes Israel. We talk with them very often, as you all know. The consultations have been extensive and they are ongoing.

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: Syria? Syria?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan? Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And we have to wrap it up in just a few minutes.

    QUESTION: Syria. Syria.

    QUESTION: I have one on Afghanistan.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah. In light of Erdogan’s public statements on Saturday about the dangers that the YPG, as he sees it, poses to Turkey and the buildup of Turkish forces in the south, are you concerned about a Turkish attack on Kurdish areas in Syria?

    MS NAUERT: So what I want to say about this is, of course, Turkey is an important and valued NATO ally. The United States takes Turkey’s concerns seriously; we have a lot of ongoing conversations with the government of Mr. Erdogan. They have legitimate concerns with the PKK. We understand that. They are concerns about the region overall, and we condemn ongoing attacks committed by the UKK. We – excuse me, the PKK – and we consider that to be a terror organization. Okay.

    QUESTION: But if Turkey were to move on Syria, you would oppose it completely?

    MS NAUERT: I – that’s a hypothetical, and I’m just not going to get into hypothetical, okay?

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead. China.

    QUESTION: Yeah. What is the U.S. position on the ongoing – because the bilateral diplomatic efforts have failed, so what is your position on China, India? This has been seven weeks on the border, the military tensions that are going on. If you have anything --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. It’s a situation that we have certainly followed closely. And as you know, we have relationships with both governments. We continue to encourage both parties to sit down and have conversations about that. And I’ll just leave it at that, sir.

    QUESTION: Okay. Just one more, and that is the Indian prime minister a couple of hours ago tweeted they look forward to Ms. Ivanka Trump presence at Hyderabad. But the point is as the leader of the U.S. delegation, and as you were earlier saying that this is the building that takes care of the diplomatic, so can you give anything about the U.S. delegation and what kind of comprised of --

    MS NAUERT: I do – I hear you. And I’m hearing this for the first time that the prime minister tweeted this. Is that right?

    QUESTION: Yes, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. We have a very good relationship with him and we enjoyed having him here in the United States about a month or so ago. I just don’t have any travel to give you at this time. When I do, I will make that available.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you, sir.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, last question. Afghanistan. Hi.

    QUESTION: What’s your stand on Senator McCain’s Afghan strategy which he unveiled this morning? Have you seen this?

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm. So I’m certainly aware of Senator McCain’s proposal. By the way, it was great to see Senator McCain back here in Washington just a few weeks ago, a very strong and tough man. And as someone whose own father experienced the same illness that he had, I was really proud to see him walk back into Washington.

    That personal note aside, let me just say the Afghan review policy, which I know a lot of people are very curious about, is still under way. There have been a lot of conversations and negotiations with the President’s national security team. Of course, that includes Secretary Tillerson as part of that. We are looking at this as not just a solution to Afghanistan, but also a broader concern that incorporates India and Pakistan as well as a regional solution. We just don’t have that plan. And by the way, the White House will roll out that plan, but we just don’t have that done just yet. It’s still under review, okay?

    QUESTION: So on your personal aside about Senator McCain --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah?

    QUESTION: -- it was great to see him back, you said, in Washington --

    MS NAUERT: I’m so happy to see him back, yeah.

    QUESTION: Right. What did you think of his vote? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Of his vote on healthcare? I’ll leave that to Senator McCain. Thanks, everybody. Good to see you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:16 p.m.)

    DPB # 43


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 9, 2017

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 17:07
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 9, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • NORTH KOREA
  • CUBA
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • IRAN
  • SYRIA/IRAQ/IRAN
  • SOUTH CHINA SEA
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • RUSSIA
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:35 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody. Welcome back. Hope you’re all having a good week. A lot of stuff going on today, certainly.

    I want to talk – start talking about something that’s taking place in Togo this afternoon, and that is a trip that’s been taking place by the U.S. Trade Representative. Today, the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Togolese Prime Minister Komi Klassou welcomed the participants of the 2017 U.S.-Sub-Saharan African Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Togo. The annual forum brings together trade ministers from 38 African nations with U.S. counterparts and participants from the private sector, and also civil society. They intend to lay the foundation for mutual prosperity between nations of Africa and also the United States. We’re focused on building a more robust and reciprocal U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa trade relationship. The United States is working with our African partners at the forum to deepen free, fair, and reciprocal trade. So we welcome them all there, and we are pleased to take part in that.

    And that’s all I have.

    QUESTION: Togo, huh?

    MS NAUERT: In Togo, yes. Important to talk about trade. So with that, I will take your questions. I know we have a lot.

    QUESTION: With that – (laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Would you like to start, Matt?

    QUESTION: Yes. Please. (Laughter.) Understanding the importance of Togo and AGOA in general --

    MS NAUERT: You turn around and you say that to the folks from Togo. They think it’s important. Our folks are there.

    QUESTION: I’m saying it is important.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I’m not taking away from the importance of Togo. I would like to ask about something else.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, sir. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yes. I’ll let you guess what it is. North Korea. Can you explain to the American public and perhaps the rest of the world exactly who they should be listening to in the U.S. Government when it comes to North Korea and what the United States policy and posture is?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think the United States – and some of you may disagree with this, but the United States is on the same page. Whether it’s the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense, we are speaking with one voice. And the world is, in fact, speaking with one voice, and we saw that as it came out of the UN Security Council with the resolution that passed less than a week ago. The United States, along with other nations, condemned North Korea for their destabilizing activities. They’ve continued to take part of that; two ICBM launches in less than a month’s period of time. The world remains very concerned about that.

    QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t think that the President’s comments are at odds with those of the secretaries and other officials, or is this kind of a good cop, bad cop routine that we’re seeing here, trying to coax the maximum you can get out of the North Korean Government?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think we’ve talked about our pressure campaign, the United States pressure campaign that’s backed by many other nations. And we see that pressure campaign, which is a long-term campaign, but that campaign is working. It is ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea. The President spoke about this yesterday; Secretary Tillerson spoke about this by plane back to the United States earlier today. And the Secretary spoke about the President’s words – I think that is what you’re referring to – and he said this: Look, the President is sending a strong message to North Korea in the kind of language that North Korea understands. The Secretary has talked in the past about how the President is a very effective spokesman. People listen to him, and those were the President’s words, sending a message loud and clear to North Korea.

    QUESTION: So does that mean – and this is my last one --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- does that mean that you have come to the determination that you – the only way to get through to Kim Jong-un is with the same kind of bombastic rhetoric that he uses?

    MS NAUERT: There are lots of ways, we believe, to get through to Kim Jong-un and his regime, okay. And our issue is not with the people of the DPRK; it is with the regime itself. And that message has been strongly sent throughout this administration. When the President and Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson agreed that the top security issue for the United States would, in fact, be – well, the safety and security of Americans first, of course, but would, in fact, be DPRK and the destabilizing activities, its illegal nuclear and ballistics weapons programs that continue to take place.

    Okay? I assume you have more questions about this. Rich Edson. Hi, Rich.

    QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. So in the President’s remarks and then in the Secretary’s comments about the President’s remarks, saying that it was the kind of language that North Korea would understand and almost in a way diplomatic speak, is that something – is that an approach that the State Department was involved in that the President took yesterday?

    MS NAUERT: The State Department and the President, the Secretary and the President, have ongoing conversations. They spoke earlier today. This pressure campaign with North Korea is something that we are all in agreement on, folks in the U.S. Government are all in agreement on. So nothing has changed in that regard.

    QUESTION: Sorry, can you just extrapolate? The President and the Secretary spoke today?

    MS NAUERT: They did, mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: This is when he was in Guam or on the plane or --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure where exactly. In transit, though, as he is on his way back to the United States is my understanding. Exactly at what point or at what time, I’m just not sure.

    QUESTION: Can you clarify – earlier today, in which time zone?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. That’s a good question, Andrea. It happened – let me get back to you on the time of that.

    QUESTION: Like, I mean, but it happened while he was en route back to --

    MS NAUERT: I believe it was --

    QUESTION: It wasn’t like last week or anything?

    MS NAUERT: I believe it was on – no, no, no, no, no. It was --

    QUESTION: We’re talking about --

    MS NAUERT: It was within the last 24 hours.

    QUESTION: And do you have any idea how long it was?

    MS NAUERT: They spoke for about an hour.

    QUESTION: Okay. So that means two calls in the last – since Monday?

    MS NAUERT: I --

    QUESTION: Correct?

    MS NAUERT: I’d have to check with you on the first call that you’re referring to. I’m not certain of that. I don’t want to call that.

    QUESTION: White House announced a call of an hour with Secretary – with General Kelly and the President and the Secretary on Monday morning.

    QUESTION: Monday.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Monday morning East Coast time.

    QUESTION: Okay. Right.

    MS NAUERT: There you go.

    QUESTION: But I mean, so – okay, so we have two calls now. All right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Andrea, hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. Could I follow up? The Secretary’s call was, though, well after the “fire and fury” language. Senator McCain and others – Republicans and Democrats – have complained that it was, quote, “bombastic” in Senator Feinstein’s view, “not helpful” said Senator McCain, that no other president – not Eisenhower, not Reagan – no other president that he knew of would have used such language. And the implication from all of the critics is that the President’s language implied the use of nuclear force. Is that the way the Secretary read it? And did the Secretary have any early warning from his earlier phone call that this was going to happen? Or did he only speak to the President in the aftermath of it?

    MS NAUERT: He spoke to the President after the fact, after the President made his announcement. As people look at this, and some consider comments to have been alarming, I would have to go back to this: Let’s consider what is alarming. What is alarming: two ICBM tests in less than a month, two nuclear tests that took place last year. As a matter of fact, when there’s an earthquake in China, I get many emails and calls from all of you asking, “Was it another nuclear test?” That is how big of a deal this is, what is going on.

    QUESTION: But --

    MS NAUERT: Let me – let --

    QUESTION: Let me just follow up.

    MS NAUERT: Let me finish. Okay, please.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: That it is a big deal what is going on; it is a concern to the world, not just the United States. Those are alarming actions. They are provocative actions on the part of North Korea.

    QUESTION: My question is: Given those provocations from North Korea, which has been belligerent in the extreme – granted, stipulated – is it helpful or unhelpful for the President to use the kind of language that we have seen previously coming from Kim Jong-un, not from presidents of the United States?

    MS NAUERT: Look.

    QUESTION: Is he exacerbating the problem?

    MS NAUERT: The President spoke to him, to Kim Jong-un, in a language that Secretary Tillerson has said – and said this morning – in the kind of language that Kim Jong-un will understand. We would like to see results. The pressure campaign – we see that working. The international community is in agreement with the United States and many of our partners and allies on putting additional pressure on North Korea. The Secretary happens to be coming back from the ASEAN conference, where they had tremendous success. It was a good week for diplomacy. I know you all want to obsess over statements and all of that, and try to – want to make a lot of noise out of that, but what is important to keep in mind is that this diplomatic pressure at ASEAN, at the meeting of the 10 Asian nations along with the United States, came to a joint agreement and a joint statement and put out a very strong condemnation of North Korea. We are all singing from the same hymn book.

    QUESTION: A lot of us have reported on the success of that effort at the UN and in ensuing days. That doesn’t take away from that question: the lack of a national security interagency process – in this instance with a presidential statement – that has perhaps undercut the previous success.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that I would agree with you on that.

    Okay, next question.

    QUESTION: So by saying that – by walking away from saying all options on the table, which has been really the traditional kind of response in the past, is that a new kind of policy? It used to be that the United States would say we have the privilege or the right to use whatever options available to us, including, presumably, aggressive military action.

    MS NAUERT: We’ve had a few statements that have come out today. Secretary Mattis addressed this very issue in a pretty strong statement that he issued earlier today. I’ll just read a little bit of it to you in case you have missed it. “The United States and our allies have demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack. Kim Jong-un should take heed of the UN Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over who agree the DPRK poses a threat to the global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and it goes on. I think the United States is all – talking with one voice.

    QUESTION: Can I just take issue --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- with the – your choice of the word “obsess”? I mean, we’re not obsessing about this. This is the President of the United States threatening a nuclear-armed country, whether you want to accept it or not, a country that is armed with nuclear weapons, with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen. I don’t think that it’s obsessing to want to know what the – to have a further clarification of exactly what that means and whether or not it means that you’re preparing to send fire and fury raining down on the North Korean regime.

    MS NAUERT: And I’ll let the President’s statement stand for itself.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: But, I mean, it’s not obsessing to want to know more about what that means.

    MS NAUERT: You know what? I see a packed room of journalists here, and normally there aren’t half as many as there are here today. So that shows a greater indication of your level of interest.

    QUESTION: Oh, Heather, they’re all here for you, not the --

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) They’re here for you, Matt Lee. Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hi. And sir, your name is?

    QUESTION: Yeah, Steve Dorsey from CBS News.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Steve.

    QUESTION: Hi. Just a quick change in topic.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Can you tell us about the incidents that have been going on in Havana affecting U.S. Government workers there?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So we are certainly aware of what has happened there. Give me one second here. And that’s why we got a little bit of a late start getting some recent updates for you on this.

    So some U.S. Government personnel who were working at our embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duties – so they were there working on behalf of the U.S. embassy there – they’ve reported some incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms. I’m not going to be able to give you a ton of information about this today, but I’ll tell you what we do have that we can provide so far.

    We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents. We can tell you that on May 23rd, the State Department took further action. We asked two officials who were accredited at the Embassy of Cuba in the United States to depart the United States. Those two individuals have departed the United States. We take this situation very seriously. One of the things we talk about here often is that the safety and security of American citizens at home and abroad is our top priority. We’re taking that situation seriously and it’s under investigation right now.

    QUESTION: If the U.S. doesn’t have a definitive answer on the cause or source of the incidents, why did it ask those two Cuban embassy officials to depart the U.S.?

    MS NAUERT: Look, our – some of our people have had the option of leaving Cuba as a result for medical reasons.

    QUESTION: And how many?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t tell you the exact number of that, but I can --

    QUESTION: But was it in the tens, dozens?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to characterize it. I do not believe it was that large, certainly not that large, but we had to bring some Americans home or some Americans chose to go home – come home as a result of that. And as a result of that, we’ve asked two Cubans to leave the United States and they have.

    QUESTION: In other words, this is a reciprocity thing, right? You’re --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to call it as such, but we asked two people to go home.

    QUESTION: And how long has this been going on for?

    MS NAUERT: So we first heard about these incidents back in late 2016.

    QUESTION: And who is leading the investigation?

    MS NAUERT: The U.S. Government is investigating this. I’m just – I’m not going to get into it prior to that.

    QUESTION: What agency?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to – going to get into it. You know which law enforcement agencies we have that would be concerned about this. The State Department is involved, but you could check with others as well.

    QUESTION: And just real quickly, was it just State Department employees or other employees from other government agencies?

    MS NAUERT: So these were – my understanding is that it has only affected State Department employees. This has not affected any private U.S. citizens down there. We take this very seriously. Look --

    QUESTION: What is “this?”

    MS NAUERT: This incident. This incident.

    QUESTION: But what is the incident?

    MS NAUERT: And that’s what – and that’s what we’re calling it. We don’t know exactly what --

    QUESTION: This has been going on since 2016 and you don’t know what this incident is?

    MS NAUERT: What this requires is providing medical examinations to these people. Initially, when they started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing. So we’re monitoring it. We provide medical care and concern to those who believe that they have been affected by it, and we take this extremely seriously.

    QUESTION: So do you – just getting back to my question on reciprocity, and I know you don’t want to use the word, but is it – did you – did – were the two Cubans told or asked to leave because of a similar or proportional drawdown in the U.S. staff in Havana because of these symptoms?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to characterize it that way at all. I can just – I can only tell you the two were asked to leave and they did.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re --

    MS NAUERT: Because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to draw an equivalency. You’re trying to say two guys were asked to go home and therefore X number of Americans were brought home, and I’m not – just not going to make that comparison.

    QUESTION: But actually I’m – well, I’m not saying there’s a direct proportion, although maybe the Russians might disagree on that. But the reason that the two left is because you had to reduce your staff, or have the people who left Havana been replaced?

    MS NAUERT: Some – I’m not sure if our people who have left Havana have been replaced. I know that we’ve given our employees there a chance to come home if they would like to, and they have jobs here.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Let me just mention one other thing about this. The Cuban Government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva[1] Convention to protect our diplomats, so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours, why we take this so seriously, and in addition to the protection and security of Americans. I hope I’ve answered your question.

    QUESTION: Can I have – question on Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Any – hold on. Anything else on Cuba?

    QUESTION: Can you just give us a sense of are these medical problems ongoing or was this a short-term thing?

    MS NAUERT: And you’ve heard me say this here before: When we talk about medical issues about Americans, we don’t get into it. So I can just tell you that it was – it is a cause of great concern for us, it’s caused a variety of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S. Government. We take those incidents very seriously and there is an investigation currently underway.

    QUESTION: I mean, can you say are they life-threatening? I mean, the physical symptom is – wasn’t death, was it?

    MS NAUERT: No, it was not. It was not, not life --

    QUESTION: And – but not life-threatening?

    MS NAUERT: Not life-threatening, and I’ll leave it at that. Anything else on Cuba?

    QUESTION: Can we go back to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Cuba?

    QUESTION: On North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: We’re done with Cuba, correct? Okay. Let’s go to North Korea. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. North Korea reportedly released Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim after two and a half years in detention, and so do you have a response? And then on the American detainees that are still in North Korea, what are the status of negotiations to release them?

    MS NAUERT: I’m glad you asked about that. I had mentioned just a short while ago regarding Cuba that the safety and security of Americans is our top issue and top concern. As you know, we now have a travel ban that takes effect, I believe, it’s September 1 for Americans who would wish to travel to North Korea. We continue to have a travel warning, and I just say this because it’s a good opportunity to remind people we have a travel warning regarding North Korea to anyone who should attempt to go there right now.

    Putting all of that aside, we know that there are three Americans who are being held in North Korea. Our Ambassador Yun was over there back in June and that is when he was able to bring home Otto Warmbier, as you all well recall. At that time, he was able to meet with and put eyes on our Americans who are being held over there, who are being detained over there. I don’t have any updates for you on their status. We work through our protecting power, Sweden, to gain access to Americans who are being held over there, and I just know it’s an ongoing – obviously, an ongoing area of major, major concern to us. Okay.

    QUESTION: Have there been any contacts since Ambassador Yun’s visit?

    MS NAUERT: Not that I’m aware of. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can we stay in Korea?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything – let’s stay with – hold on, let’s stay with DPRK before we move on. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. I just want to go back to the Mattis statement that you brought up. So in the last sentence, it says that the regime would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates. Does that mean first strike is off the table now?

    MS NAUERT: That would – I think that would be a DOD question.

    QUESTION: And then just one more.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, go ahead.

    QUESTION: As far as a South Korean ambassador, still one has not even been nominated. There are certainly rumors, but you would think amongst all this diplomatic talk that an ambassador would help. So is there any updates as far as a nomination?

    MS NAUERT: So a nomination would have to come out of the White House because it’s – the President has that right to be able to nominate someone. So I’d have to refer you to the White House on that. I can, however, tell you that we have a charge d’affaires who’s currently serving there. Mark Knapper is his name. He’s a senior Foreign Service officer. He has a ton of experience in Korea. He’s served at the embassy in Seoul since 2015. He has served other tours of duty in Korea as well at our embassy in Seoul. I’ve talked to people around the building about him. They love him. They say he is fantastic. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him or speak with him yet, but he’s on the ground, and so I’m confident that it is in good, solid hands until the President nominates somebody for that position.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Forgive me for not knowing this, but is the ambassador to Japan who was confirmed and sworn in --

    MS NAUERT: Bill Hagerty, Ambassador Hagerty.

    QUESTION: Is he there? He’s in Tokyo now?

    MS NAUERT: I believe he is. He was sworn in – confirmed, sworn in. I believe he’s there now. We can double-check and get that, but – and I’m not sure where he is at this moment today, but --

    QUESTION: No, no, no, I mean is he is in --

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that he is on the job, but we’ll check and get that to you before the end of this briefing.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I change topics, please?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, are – wait, let’s finish up with DPRK. Anything else on that?

    QUESTION: Korea.

    QUESTION: One more.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: There’s a term coined by the South Korean media, which is “Korea passing,” and --

    MS NAUERT: Which is what?

    QUESTION: “Korea passing” --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- which reflects concerns that the U.S. is bypassing South Korea in dealing with North Korea by mainly talking to China, Russia, Japan. So these are actually concerns that have persisted, and I just wanted to ask what the State Department’s response to those concerns would be, especially given that South Koreans would be the biggest victims if there were to be a conflict on the peninsula.

    MS NAUERT: As you know, we have a very good and strong relationship with the Republic of Korea. Secretary Tillerson just met with Foreign Minister Kang a few days ago in a bilat on the margins of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Our nation and the Republic of Korea have a very strong relationship. That is something that has not changed. We are alliance partners; that has not changed. We have constant dialogue. I know Foreign Minister Kang was here maybe about a month or so ago sitting down with Secretary Tillerson and had a very good conversation. Those conversations are ongoing.

    Okay, anything else on DPRK? Up here. Sir, hi.

    QUESTION: Thank you. I believe you characterize it as a pressure campaign --

    MS NAUERT: Pressure campaign, yes.

    QUESTION: Pressure campaign, which means also that all options are on the table, and I’m assuming that also means diplomatic pressure as well.

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s why we’re here at the State Department.

    QUESTION: Yes, exactly.

    MS NAUERT: So we focus on that diplomatic pressure, yes.

    QUESTION: I’d like to bring up two dimensions to that, and I wonder if you can elaborate. The first one is that the United Kingdom has never really signed the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, and the United States has been a strong proponent of making sure that nuclear weapons are confined. Having said that, also, the pressure tactics or the pressure campaign, as you say – it makes the JCPO that much more important – the nuclear deal with Iran, that is. Now, does this mean --

    MS NAUERT: Well, let me first clear up if there’s a misperception here about what the pressure campaign is, and to our folks who are here all the time, I’m sorry if we’ve been over this a few times again. But what that pressure campaign includes – and we saw some success at ASEAN over in Asia over the past few days – that pressure campaign consists of talking with nations around the world, asking them to do more to put pressure on North Korea. And one of the ways that those nations are putting pressure on North Korea is by kicking out their diplomats, in some instances; shrinking the size of business operations, sometimes kicking them out altogether. That will basically remove some of the funding that North Korea gets and that they funnel into their illegal weapons programs.

    So by starving them, if you will, of that money, that puts pressure on North Korea, and we’re having a lot of success with that. Australia, the Republic of Korea – miss, you were asking me earlier about the Republic of Korea and our relationship, our strong relationship with them – they took steps. Japan took steps. We’ve seen lots of countries take steps to institute either their own sanctions or to use our campaign as a jumping-off point. So that’s what I mean by “pressure campaign.” I just want to make sure you have a good understanding of that.

    QUESTION: I appreciate it, yes, again. My question really concerning the JCPO, the entire nuclear deal with Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The administration has been clear about trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Is this still the perception or is this still the position of the United States, that it ought to be scrapped in view of the North Korean --

    MS NAUERT: We have not – we have not said that. We have not said that. We believe that Iran is in default of the spirit of the agreement. The agreement calls for – to contribute to international peace and security. We believe that the deal has not contributed to that kind of international peace and security. In terms of the overall JCPOA, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are some gaps in that, and that is a concern of ours because it does not take into account the destabilizing activities of Iran. And when I talk about destabilizing activities, I mean all of the work that they are doing in that region of the world to cause additional unrest, killings, attacks, and things of this nature.

    QUESTION: It’s a multilateral agreement; it’s not a bilateral.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, I’m not going to get into debate you – something that – I know a lot of people have a lot of other questions. If you want to talk about that more another time, I’m certainly happy to.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: Can we move on?

    QUESTION: Iran?

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Sorry, go ahead, go ahead. Iraq.

    QUESTION: Yeah. On Iraq and Iran --

    MS NAUERT: And by the way, may I say it’s great to see you back.

    QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much.

    MS NAUERT: I know you were out for a while and not feeling too well. You look well – well, you look well-rested.

    QUESTION: (Laughter.) Well, thank you. An Iraqi Shia militia claimed that the U.S. attacked it on the border – it was on the border with Iraq and Syria, and that it killed dozens of its fighters, as well as seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards, including a commander. And then ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and the U.S. has denied it – the Pentagon at least.

    Can you explain to us what happened there?

    MS NAUERT: So we don’t know exactly what happened there, but I can tell you this: The reports that you reference are false. The United States had nothing to do with this. The United States coalition did not conduct any strikes in that area on the date and that time of the alleged attack. ISIS we know claimed responsibility for that attack, and we had nothing to do with it. The assertion that the coalition is conducting operations with ISIS is simply preposterous. And I hope that answers the question.

    QUESTION: So part of this is an implication that you are saying is false, but the implication is somehow coordination between the U.S. and ISIS?

    MS NAUERT: Is without a doubt false. ISIS is the enemy of the United States and the enemy of the world.

    QUESTION: Sometimes the Iranians try and suggest that.

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me?

    QUESTION: Sometimes the Iranians try to suggest that.

    MS NAUERT: Suggest what?

    QUESTION: That the United States is collaborating with ISIS.

    MS NAUERT: If you want to go ahead and believe the Iranian Government --

    QUESTION: I don’t.

    MS NAUERT: -- you go right ahead, but the United States and ISIS have nothing to do with one another other than that they are a target of ours.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    QUESTION: Heather, can we move to --

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Miss, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Before Secretary Tillerson’s trip to ASEAN, Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton said South China Sea is also a topic. I wonder since the framework of the code of conduct of South China Sea has adopted and also finalized, what’s your latest assessment of this framework?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me just give you a little bit of information on that. Today I’ve sort of been steeped in DPRK, so forgive me if I’m not answering your entire question here. I can certainly get back with you about that.

    You bring up the issue of the South China Sea. That was another major issue that was talked about at the ASEAN forum. So the ASEAN foreign ministers’ joint communique, which came out at the end of the forum, contains language on the South China Sea, and that reflects ASEAN’s important role in strengthening the rules-based order that benefits all nations both large and small. We welcome the ministers’ reaffirmation of the importance of freedom of navigation. We share their concerns over developments that we consider to be unconducive to regional stability, such as land reclamation. ASEAN also stressed the importance of exercising self-restraint, including refraining from militarization of features in the South China Sea. The communique also emphasized the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, such as the July 2016 decision of the tribunal, which is binding on China and the Philippines as provided in – and I want to just get the language right, so bear with me here – as is provided in the Law of the Sea Convention. ASEAN was under tremendous pressure, but still held on to its principles.

    Okay? Anything beyond that, I can get you later.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    QUESTION: Can we – can we move on, please? Thank you. Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue for a second?

    MS NAUERT: We can certainly try.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that the Israelis stripping Jerusalemites of their residency is tantamount to a war crime. I wonder if you’ve read the report and if you are aware of the – of all that governs such a forced evection, if it happened.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So Said, nice to see you. You know I always call on you.

    QUESTION: I know you do.

    MS NAUERT: I know, yes. Seems that when I – when you haven’t been called on in the past, you’ve chosen to vent that in public.

    QUESTION: Well, okay.

    MS NAUERT: Our reporters typically don’t do that.

    QUESTION: That’s okay.

    MS NAUERT: And I want to point out that I’m calling you – on you again today.

    QUESTION: I did not vent in public. (Laughter.) That’s all right, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, thank you for asking that question. I’ve certainly seen those reports. We’ve seen those reports and are aware of them. On this, as any judicial case, I’m not going to weigh on that in particular from the podium. I just have to refer you to the Government of Israel for specifics about those cases.

    QUESTION: But you do have a position, if this happens, if the – if stripping 15,000 Jerusalemites of their right to reside in their own hometown and forcing them out – that would be tantamount to forced displacement, correct?

    MS NAUERT: I would just have to say we’re aware of that report. We’ll continue to monitor that, but I’m not going to weigh in on every case from here.

    QUESTION: Okay. And one last follow-up: The king of Jordan, who is a great friend of the United States, an ally, was just in Ramallah meeting with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and they called on the Trump administration to state publicly that it is for a two-state solution. Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: I do not, no.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: You don’t have any comment on --

    MS NAUERT: On what the king of Jordan called for, I don’t --

    QUESTION: Right, but does that – but is the administration in favor of a two-state solution?

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to weigh in – I’m just not going to weigh in on every world leader and what he or she has said about any particular situation. As a general matter, as I’m sure you know and we’ve talked about this here before, regarding a two-state solution, the President has talked about this very clearly. He’s made this a high priority and that Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt have done a lot of travel over the region to talk about these types of issues, and we have long said that what – at least in this administration, that whatever solution both parties can agree to, they both have to be willing to live with and adhere to.

    QUESTION: Okay. That’s all the question was --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: -- asking – looking for that kind of an answer. But the king of Jordan isn’t just like some guy.

    MS NAUERT: Of course not, no.

    QUESTION: He is – (laughter) --

    MS NAUERT: He’s a very valuable – a very valuable partner and friend.

    QUESTION: Well, when you say you’re not going to respond to every – every leader, I mean --

    MS NAUERT: Well, no, I want to make that clear as a set of principles here. And you all know this, that there are lots of people around the world, some of our – some are friends, others we don’t have as great of relationships with, but I’m not going to comment on everything that everybody says, okay?

    Yes.

    QUESTION: I have a question on India --

    QUESTION: On Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On Russia, Secretary Rex --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, your name is?

    QUESTION: My name’s Shirley Wei from China Central Television.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: Secretary Rex Tillerson said he’s going to respond to Russia expelled U.S. diplomats by September 1st. Why United States set this time, date, deadline to respond? And does that mean United States waiting for Russia to change in attitudes, or will this action or respond will save U.S.-Russia relationship?

    MS NAUERT: We have talked about this a lot here as well, and that is the U.S. relationship with Russia is certainly at a low point. That is no surprise to anybody who sits in this room and comes here often. The Secretary had a meeting with his counterpart, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, overseas on this last trip. That low level of trust still exists. The Secretary, after the meeting with Mr. Lavrov – which took place in Manila, by the way – agreed that they should continue to find places of agreement where our two nations can work together. One of the places where we can work together is in southwest Syria in a ceasefire. That may not seem like a lot to some folks around here, but it’s an area in which we can work together, try to build trust, and try to find areas of mutual cooperation. In the areas where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will continue to advocate for its principles and its policies with Russia and, frankly, the rest of the world.

    In terms of the expulsions of our U.S. diplomats and other citizens who are working over there at our embassy, we consider that to be a regrettable step. We’ve been very clear about that. Limiting our diplomatic presence there calls into question Russia’s seriousness about trying to create a better relationship with the United States. We would like to pursue better relations. You know that. We’ve had the channel with our Under Secretary Tom Shannon and his counterpart as well. We would like to have a better relationship with that country, but there’s a lot of suspicion on the part of – certainly of Americans.

    Okay? All right.

    QUESTION: So she asked about the September 1 deadline.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Isn’t that the deadline that the Russians gave you to reduce your staff? So that’s --

    MS NAUERT: Look, that is a number that that nation threw out there, and the Secretary said we’ll have a response by that time.

    QUESTION: Right, but that’s the reason that he said – he said you’d have a response by September 1st --

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- because that is when the Russians said you had to, right?

    MS NAUERT: I’m aware of that, yes.

    QUESTION: No, no, I just want to make sure that that is correct, and that --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, he had said that --

    QUESTION: -- he didn’t pick it arbitrarily as --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe that that was picked arbitrarily, okay? Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: On India?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: India.

    MS NAUERT: Russia, Russia, Russia? Nothing. Okay, I guess we’re done then today.

    QUESTION: India.

    MS NAUERT: All right.

    QUESTION: India.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: India.

    MS NAUERT: Oh.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Are you Goyal?

    QUESTION: Yes, sir – yes, madam.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, Goyal.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: You’re in trouble with me – (laughter) – okay? Misstating some things that we talked about here at the podium, but go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yes, madam. My question is before going to India, can I have – can I go back on the sanctions, please, quickly?

    MS NAUERT: Sanctions on which?

    QUESTION: UN – UN sanctions on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: On North Korea, yes.

    QUESTION: Of course, Ambassador Nikki --

    MS NAUERT: We’ve been doing too much skipping around from region to region today. Let’s try to – let’s try to --

    QUESTION: Of course --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, get all our DPRK questions out of the way, move on to other places instead of jumping all around, okay? And this is going to be the final question. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yes, madam. Thank you. Of course, Ambassador Nikki Haley did a great job by bringing all the 15 members of the UN Security Councils on sanctions, but how much can we trust China, because some experts are saying, including on the television even the security and from the Pentagon, that North Korea is baby of China and it’s – it will be difficult by China to impose or enforce all these sanctions against North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: So here’s what I’ll say to that: China and Russia as well went along with the UN Security Council resolutions. China has said that it will adhere to implying – excuse me, to enforcing rather, those sanctions. And so we look forward to China keeping its commitment on that, and I’ll leave it at that. Thanks, everybody. Great to see you all.

    QUESTION: Can you just talk about one thing --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: When you said in – on North Korea you said everyone’s singing from the same hymn book --

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Well, can you assure us that they’re all singing the same hymn because – (laughter) – some hymn books are pretty big and the hymns can have very different --

    QUESTION: Tones.

    QUESTION: -- interpretations and tones --

    MS NAUERT: I appreciate – I appreciate your point.

    QUESTION: Are they singing the same hymn?

    MS NAUERT: The facts stay the same --

    QUESTION: Or are they out of tune?

    MS NAUERT: -- that the United – the United States and the other countries are first and foremost concerned about North Korea and the threat that it poses right now.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:11 p.m.)

    [1] Vienna


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - August 3, 2017

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 17:18
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 3, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • KENYA/ETHIOPIA/REGION/DEPARTMENT
  • VENEZUELA
  • NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA/REGION
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • JAPAN
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE/DEPARTMENT
  • IRAQ/REGION
  • INDIA/PAKISTAN/REGION
  • TURKEY/REGION

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:45 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

    QUESTION: Good afternoon.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, welcome. So this is your first briefing at the State Department, right? I hope you enjoy it.

    QUESTION: I’m sure I will.

    MS NAUERT: We will miss Nicolas, but welcome you here.

    QUESTION: I will, too.

    MS NAUERT: All right. Hi, everybody. How are you doing today?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: A couple pieces of news I want to bring you first, and that is an announcement that’s come out of USAID today, and that is that the United States has now announced $169 million in humanitarian assistance to support the people of Ethiopia and Kenya, two countries that are now experiencing a severe and prolonged drought. With the new funding, we’re providing vital emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, and health services to millions of Ethiopians and Kenyans in the worst drought-affected areas.

    The additional aid comes at a critical moment for Ethiopia and Kenya as the threat of hunger, malnutrition, and dehydration are reaching alarming levels right now. The drought is especially severe in Ethiopia, where an estimated 7.8 million people now require urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re also closely monitoring food and security in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, where conflict – and in Somalia, drought – have created near-famine conditions that require large humanitarian responses.

    This fiscal year, the United States has provided nearly $2 billion in response to these crises. The United States is the world’s largest humanitarian donor and we remain committed to saving lives and supporting the most vulnerable people. We also strongly encourage additional contributions from governments of Ethiopia and Kenya and other humanitarian donors to address the growing needs of people who are affected by that drought.

    And then a related piece of news – and we are very, very happy to tell you about this today, hopefully I’m bringing this to you for the first time – hi, Elise – that for USAID Andrew Green was confirmed today by the Senate. We would like to welcome today’s Senate confirmation of Mark Andrew Green as the new administrator for the USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development. We look forward to his accomplishments as he assumes leadership of USAID and working closely with him to achieve the President’s national security and development goals.

    Now, I know many of you know Ambassador Green from his previous work as having served as ambassador to Tanzania, as the president of the International Republican Institute – they do a lot of good work around the globe in promoting free and fair elections. Perhaps most importantly, I’d say, he’s a Wisconsin Badger. So we’d like to welcome Mark Green to the State Department and USAID and look forward to working with him.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions. Who would like to start today?

    QUESTION: Can I?

    MS NAUERT: All right. Hi.

    QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. Can we start with Venezuela?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: So the company that provided the software for this election that you urged Maduro’s government not to hold says that the votes were manipulated to try to make it look like more people had participated. Does the U.S. share that assessment that the vote was not a legitimate, straightforward vote?

    MS NAUERT: So you may recall here on Tuesday we talked about this and we called it an illegitimate election. That’s something also that Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, had called it an illegitimate election as well. That remains a concern of ours. We stand in support with the Venezuelan people who support democracy, who are tremendously concerned about what President Maduro has done to his country. Much of the devastation and the terrible situation there is a result of his regime and from the greed that they have shown.

    QUESTION: But are you calling it illegitimate because the fact that they were holding the vote in the first place was illegitimate, as you had said prior, or that the actual veracity of the tabulation is in question?

    MS NAUERT: So we have not been able to take a look at the actual tabulation of the vote. So if we get anything for you on that, if there’s something that I’m perhaps not aware of, I’ll get you an answer on that. But the election itself is something that we view as illegitimate. We recognize the national assembly as being the free and fair party and not the constituent assembly.

    QUESTION: And Maduro’s government is accusing this company – it’s called, I think, Smartmatic – of bowing to U.S. pressure by issuing these doubts about the veracity of the vote. Can you say whether the State Department or other parts of the U.S. Government was in contact with Smartmatic, whether there was any pressure put on them to question the outcome of this vote?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any calls or correspondence between the United States and the company that you just mentioned. We have, for a very long period of time, expressed our severe concerns about the situation in Venezuela – not just the humanitarian situation, but also what we see as an eroding of the democracy in that country. And that’s why I continue to say we stand with the people of Venezuela. We view that as an illegitimate election and we stand by the national assembly.

    QUESTION: And just lastly on this one, the swift and strong economic steps that you had threatened if this took place, should we assume that for the time being, that the sanctions that were announced on Maduro himself are that response? Or should we be seeing potentially additional economic steps specifically in retaliation for that election?

    MS NAUERT: We have long said that, first, we’re not going to sort of preview what steps the United States Government may take. That may be an area that we are looking at right now. We saw some strong sanctions go down earlier this week and last week as a result on Maduro himself and others in his – in his so-called party. But in terms of what we might do in the future, I’m not going to look ahead at that. But all – those types of options are certainly on the table.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: May I take a follow-up to that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, sure.

    QUESTION: So the Secretary said on Tuesday that he or the U.S. wanted to create the conditions that would convince Maduro it was a good idea to leave. I mean, I’m paraphrasing. Is that what he’s talking about – sanctions, or is there something else he’s talking about?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we wouldn’t forecast the sanctions, so those would most likely be coming out of the Department of the Treasury, so I would refer all that to the Treasury when they are ready to talk about it, if there are additional sanctions coming into play. But the Secretary is paying very close attention to it. You know this is an area of the world that we care about very deeply. We promote democracy here. We support democracies here. And what President Maduro has done has been a disaster for democracy, so the United States will continue to take a look at that and express our concerns.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Venezuela? Venezuela?

    QUESTION: When you’re finished, North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s move on. Okay, hi. North Korea. How are you?

    QUESTION: Heather, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Good to see you.

    QUESTION: One in South Korea and another one for North Korea, two questions.

    MS NAUERT: Sorry? You want to start where?

    QUESTION: One is South Korean issues.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: One is the North Korean issues. The United States ambassador to South Korea has not – has not yet been appointed. Reason why so delay?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of who the nominee is on South Korea, so I’m sorry, apologies to that person if there is one. If I have something for you, I’ll get back to you on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: North Korea. The dialogue with North Korea that United – U.S. wants is a preconditions, but the dialogue with North Korea that South Korea wants is the unconditionals. What is different? Why? How does it looks different?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we have long said that North Korea has a long way to go before the United States would consider having talks with them, negotiations with them. The Secretary addressed this the other day where – and I’ll paraphrase here, and then I’d like to read you a quote of his just to make sure that we are very clear on this. They have a long way to go. They need to take steps to show us, show the United States – and the world for that matter – that they are serious about their attempts to denuclearize. We have not seen that. We just saw two ICBM tests within a period of less than a month. They’re not showing signs that they are committed to doing that at this point.

    So let me just read for you a couple things that the Secretary has said, because I’ve seen a lot of misreporting in the news about some of the Secretary’s comments and what we will or would not be willing to do. The Secretary said this here from this podium. He said, “We want to first seek peaceful pressure on the regime in North Korea to have them develop a willingness to sit and talk with us and others but with an understanding that a condition of those talks there is no future where North Korea holds nuclear weapons or the ability to deliver those nuclear weapons to anyone in the region much less in the homeland.”

    He goes on then to say, and let me just finish this, “We don’t think having a dialogue where North Koreans come to the table assuming that they are going to maintain their nuclear weapons is productive.” That’s what the Secretary said.

    Susan Thornton – and many of you joined us on that call with the acting assistant secretary for near – for East Asia Pacific – said, “We are seeking to exert pressure on the North Korean regime in order to change their calculus…the abandonment of their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” She then went on to say, “Bringing the regime in Pyongyang to the realization that they are not worth keeping and they would enter into a serious discussion with the international community about how to abandon and what the process would be for giving up those weapons, and what could they expect to gain from that decision.” She went on to say, “But it is, as I mentioned, it’s in the future. As of right now, we don’t see any indication that the North Koreans are willing to enter into such a serious discussion with us.”

    QUESTION: So yes, without the North Korea to give up – without to give up their nuclear weapons, no way to talk with North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: They have to start taking some serious steps, showing us some steps. Susan referred to that, the Secretary referred to that, and others have as well. I think they’ve been --

    QUESTION: So yesterday --

    MS NAUERT: They have been very clear.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, Vice President Pence said that there will be no direct talk with North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: The Vice President said – among other things, he said this, “I think President Trump is taking a different approach. He really believes that leveraging our allies in the region and China to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea will ultimately be more productive.” We are all on the same page here. North Korea has a long way to go. They know what they need to do. We’ve been clear on our expectations of that government. The world, in fact, has been clear about what we expect North Korea to do, what we will encourage them to do. The pressure campaign – still in its early stages, where we are asking countries around the world to do more to put leverage – to use their leverage on North Korea.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you very much.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hey, Elise.

    QUESTION: On Susan – what Susan Thornton said.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: She also talked about a diplomatic isolation of North Korea, not just – Secretary Tillerson has talked about that before and what you’re looking for countries to do around the world, but specifically at ASEAN, is there an effort to marginalize him? I know he’ll be there and you can’t do anything about that. But is there an effort to marginalize him from specific meetings at ASEAN? Will he be invited to all of the meetings that other members --

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not aware of the entire meeting schedule and who’s invited to what meetings or included in certain meetings. Susan Thornton, our acting assistant secretary, spoke to this just yesterday.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I know.

    MS NAUERT: She talked about that pressure campaign.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: And this is perhaps another version of a pressure campaign, and that is talking with the ASEAN and the Regional Forum members about whether or not North Korea is in compliance. ASEAN is a program that focuses on security, and perhaps North Korea is out of sync with the principles of that organization and entity. She said something along the lines of it’s too late to do something about it this year, but that’s something that’s a conversation that she expects to be underway next year.

    QUESTION: So are you looking to suspend North Korea’s membership from ASEAN?

    MS NAUERT: I don't know that that would be the United States decision to begin with. I just --

    QUESTION: Well, I think as a member that you can propose.

    MS NAUERT: I just can’t speak to that, exactly what the plan will be. I know that we’ll be talking with other countries while we’re there about what to do about the North Korea problem. Of course, that’s not just a regional problem; it’s a worldwide problem.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I ask a quick follow-up to that?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah. Hi.

    QUESTION: So you just said the pressure campaign is in its early days, and the Secretary has also talked about it needing a lot of work, but he also said there isn’t that much time. So how do you square that circle, if you’ve got a strategy that takes time when there isn’t time? And also, off the back of the two --

    MS NAUERT: This is – hold on. This isn’t just our strategy. It’s a strategy that many countries around the world have agreed to. We’ve been activity at the United Nations as well. So this isn’t just the United States campaign of concern about North Korea and all the destabilizing activities that it’s engaged with. We recognize that this cannot be achieved overnight. It took years and years to get to this point. But when I say it’s in the early stages that means we’re six months into this new administration, six months into this new campaign, and we’re driving it. We’re working this one hard, and a lot of other countries care about it just as much as we do.

    QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

    QUESTION: Afghan --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hey, James.

    QUESTION: Hi. The idea that the U.S. would seek to enlist regional partners in the effort to constrain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions is hardly new, as you know. The whole premise of the Six-Party Talks was the idea that there would be regional buy-in, and it wouldn’t just be the U.S. that was making demands with North Korea in some bilateral way. And so what’s really new here?

    MS NAUERT: What is new here is a lot. One, the pace of this campaign – increasingly putting pressure on many of these nations to – and I’ve talked about this here with this group before – when countries have North Korean guest workers, for example, and this is just one example, have North Korean guest workers working in that nation, we know that those guest workers do not take home 100 percent of the money they earn. Much of that money, in some instances I understand all of that money, will not go to that individual doing the hard work, but rather goes back to the North Korean regime. What we are saying is, “Countries, cut your guest worker programs.” We have seen some success with that in the past and in recent months as well.

    Another initiative is asking countries that are looking to open up North Korean diplomatic missions in their countries to not do that. There are some specific countries – I cannot name them for security reasons right now, but there are some specific countries that have chosen not to open embassies or consulates for North Korea because of this very reason and because of this campaign. So just two quick examples of some of the things that we are doing, ways that we believe the pressure campaign is working, because we are seeing success. We are seeing some of these countries adhere to what we’re asking them to do. And these are countries all around the world, in places that you would not expect would have North Korean workers. The Washington Post wrote about North Korean workers in some African nations not long ago. And that’s the same type of thing. And cutting the number of those workers to help keep that money from going into North Korea’s illegal weapons program.

    QUESTION: The one move over the last 10 or so years that seemed to have the greatest impact in affecting the calculus of the North Koreans was what we sort of referred to generically as Banco Delta Asia, right, which was an effort to cut off the North Korean Government from the international financial system. And that’s what is generally seen as having provoked them or prodded them to make whatever measure – take whatever measures they have to date to fall in line with international expectations and their own commitments. Where do you see – how would you characterize the state of North Korea’s current engagement with the international financial system, and is that a pressure point that is still open to this administration to pursue?

    MS NAUERT: I think this is something I get to punt to Treasury. (Laughter.) I’m not aware of what exactly we are doing with regard to the banking system in North Korea. I can see if I can get an answer for you on that; I’m not sure that that would fall under the purview of the State Department, but I’ll look into it for you, okay?

    QUESTION: But when you’re looking at sanctioning, whether it’s China or other countries, is the effort to punish those countries – is the measure to punish those countries, or is it directed at trying to stop the illicit flow of money to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, you say it’s “countries.” When you’re talking --

    QUESTION: Secondary sanctions.

    MS NAUERT: -- yeah – when you’re talking about secondary sanctions, third-party – that type of thing, as a general matter, it’s not necessarily focused on a country. Sometimes it could be an entity or an individual. So part of that is to take a look at the people who are doing the things that we’re asking them not to do. In some instances, it’s an individual; for some – in some situations, it’s saying to that country, “Hey, we’re aware of what’s going on, and we’re not – this is not okay.”

    QUESTION: Follow on that?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: Wait --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Sorry.

    QUESTION: Where have you had success? Who’s kicked out guest worker programs?

    MS NAUERT: Those I cannot say.

    QUESTION: Why?

    MS NAUERT: Well, for a couple – for a few reasons here. One, because it can discourage other countries from doing it. And I’ve seen it, and this has been a subject of some bilateral conversations – a lot of this information is classified – where there have been countries that have kicked out guest workers, who have shrunk the number of guest workers who are there. We want to keep giving other countries the flexibility to be able to work with us in stalling these types of programs. So I can’t – I’m afraid I just can’t say too much about that.

    QUESTION: See, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because if you’re up there praising these countries for helping in this international effort, why would that discourage other countries from doing it?

    MS NAUERT: Because other countries may have better relationships with North Korea, and they don’t want to lose out altogether. Look, I’ve been in these – I’ve sat in these meetings; I’ve heard some of these conversations as they have taken place that this is a project that is underway. It’s a big part of our campaign, and we see it working. I’m sorry I just can’t give you all the information.

    QUESTION: Can you characterize the basic numbers? A few hundreds, a few thousands?

    MS NAUERT: No, I can’t. Sorry.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On North Korea? One more.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: One of the President’s advisors, Sebastian Gorka, said today that, when asked whether – what more the United States could do to encourage China to apply leverage to North Korea, he said, “We have the President’s Twitter” account. Do – does Secretary Tillerson agree that presidential tweets going after China for not doing enough are helpful here?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary has talked about the use of social media, and one of the things he’s said is that the President’s an effective communicator, and that’s a tool that the President certainly is welcome to continue using. He’s the President of the United States. He knows how to effectively communicate with people around the world, including Americans. And if he wants to send out messages about any particular topic, he can certainly do so. Anything beyond that, I’d refer you to the White House.

    Okay? Should we move on?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Nazil – let’s talk about Afghanistan.

    QUESTION: Nazira Azim Karimi, independent Afghan journalist. Heather, as you know, NBC News had a report regarding recent President Trump’s meeting, that he was a little mad, and he proposed to General Mattis to fire General John Nicholson, high official general in Afghanistan, because of the newest strategies of U.S. in Afghanistan. That’s why it’s not announced yet. Do you think that that based off – full of experience of General Nicholson, is it fair to propose to President Trump? And what do you think generally about Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, so --

    QUESTION: Any update about new U.S. strategy toward Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Well, a lot going on, certainly, in Afghanistan. And as you know, our administration’s policy review is still underway at this point. That review has not been finalized. It is an important region of the world to the United States and many other places. Our NATO partners certainly serve there in addition to the 9,000 or so U.S. forces who serve in Afghanistan. In terms of what you just mentioned, that report, I’m not going to comment on that report because it’s an alleged report with anonymous leaked conversations. So I’m just not going to get into that. General Nicholson is a good man, he’s certainly served his country well, and we care a lot about Afghanistan and what happens there, and that will continue to be a focus of ours. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks.

    QUESTION: Japan?

    MS NAUERT: Hi. What do you want to – sorry.

    QUESTION: Japan.

    MS NAUERT: Japan. Okay.

    QUESTION: So Japan has announced in a cabinet reshuffle that Taro Kono will replace Fumio Kishida as foreign minister, and Itsunori Onodera will replace Tomomi Inada as defense minister. How will this affect ongoing conversations on issues such as North Korea with Japan? And also, will this affect plans to schedule a 2+2 meeting with Japan later this month?

    MS NAUERT: Well, first let me say, as you know and many of you know, we have an ironclad relationship with Japan. That will not change. We are certainly aware of the cabinet reshuffling or changes, if you will. Whoever is in that cabinet will continue to work with the United States. We will continue looking forward to working with those individuals. Our relationship will not change.

    As for the meetings that you mentioned, I don’t believe we have a date that’s scheduled for those meetings to be held just yet. But when those do happen, we certainly look forward to it.

    QUESTION: And do you have an idea of when the Secretary will be reaching out to the new foreign minister in Japan?

    MS NAUERT: I do not, no. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Turkey?

    QUESTION: Will they touch base in Manila perhaps?

    MS NAUERT: If I have anything for you, I’ll certainly give it to you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Turkey?

    QUESTION: Iraq? Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Are we – wait, wait, hold on a second. Are we done with Afghanistan and Japan?

    QUESTION: South Asia? South Asia?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: We’re done with Afghanistan and Japan? Okay.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, James.

    QUESTION: U.S.-Russian relations, if you would. And I’m sure you had an opportunity to see the rather lengthy and blistering Facebook post from Prime Minister Medvedev, and there are several aspects of it I wanted to pursue with you if I could. One is that he announces the end of any hope for improvement between the two countries under the present U.S. administration. Is it?

    MS NAUERT: Is it what?

    QUESTION: The end?

    MS NAUERT: Is it the end? Look, we are two nuclear superpowers.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: I think many folks around the world agree that the United States and Russia should be able to work together in areas of mutual cooperation. If you look at the ceasefire in southwest Syria, that has now taken hold and, for the most part, succeeded for nearly a month now. So that is an --

    QUESTION: But to be clear --

    MS NAUERT: That is an example of good U.S.-Russian cooperation. Certainly our relationship is at a low point, but we have to find areas of mutual cooperation.

    QUESTION: So he didn’t say that it is the end of cooperation; he said it is the end of any hope for improvement. Is it the end of any hope for improvement?

    MS NAUERT: Look, there’s always hope for improvement. We know that people say extreme things, especially at heated times. I’m just not going to get into the specifics of that, but we have areas where we can work together and will work together.

    QUESTION: He stated that the sanctions measure that the President signed is an economic declaration of war against the Russian Federation. Is it?

    MS NAUERT: Is it an economic declaration of – again, I’m not going to get into characterizing what he said. We have seen – we --

    QUESTION: If we had declared war, I think you’d be prepared to tell us so.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I – we have seen a lot of leaders, a lot of countries say provocative things, and we may just need to settle things down a little bit.

    QUESTION: I’m just trying to establish the record. Was it an economic declaration of war on the Russian Federation?

    MS NAUERT: I – if that is what Russia is saying, Russia is certainly entitled to say that, and that’s as far as I’m going to go. I’m not going to – I’m not going to take the bait on that.

    QUESTION: Lastly – last question about it. The statement seemed, at numerous times, calculated to try to --

    MS NAUERT: Whose statement?

    QUESTION: The Medvedev Facebook post, at various times, seemed to be calculated to play on what the Russians perceive to be President Trump’s own vanity or sensitivity to insult. So at various points, the statement described his dealings with the Congress on this issue, the sanctions measure, as a humiliation for him and telegraphing weakness and so forth. Is it the assessment of this building that this was an intent of the Medvedev statement?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to assume what Medvedev said about anything. So if you want to ask for greater clarification on that, I would refer you to him. I’m not going to characterize what he said, okay?

    QUESTION: On the sanctions, Heather.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Anything else? Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Yeah, on Russia.

    QUESTION: South Asia?

    QUESTION: Yeah, on Russia.

    QUESTION: Russia.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Whoa, whoa. Okay, all right.

    QUESTION: South Asia.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, everybody. Let’s take it down a notch. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: So along those lines, I had a few questions on the funding of the Global Engagement Center.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, okay.

    QUESTION: So far the State Department has not requested any of the $80 million that was allocated last December by Congress specifically for the funding of the center. Is there a reason why they haven’t made that request, and can you respond to some of the reporting that it’s because of a desire not to upset Moscow or to --

    MS NAUERT: So I have seen that report. I want you to know I was just over at the Global Engagement Center a short while ago, and the place is busy. It’s buzzing, people packed in their cubicles working on anti-ISIS propaganda – to counter ISIS propaganda, that is. Russia is also an area of interest to them as well. So their work is well underway; their people are busy. I met with the head of their program a couple weeks ago to talk about these two very issues. That has not changed. They are still operating, hard at work. Our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan has talked about the GEC and talked about how that is an important part of the State Department’s mission.

    Now, when the Secretary comes in and we have a bunch of money that we can look at spending, the Secretary as a businessman is going to come in and look at how is this money being spent, is this money being spent effectively, which programs is this money going to. So the Secretary is merely doing what he was brought in to do, and that is take a look at our priorities and our budgeting priorities. The program is staying. The program’s not going away. Those folks are hard at work, and it’s something that we care about and that’s not going to change.

    QUESTION: So following up on that, there’s $250 million that was set aside in the recent Russia sanctions bill specifically citing the Global Engagement Center and efforts, again, to counter propaganda by state actors such as Russia. Will the State Department be utilizing the $250 million with funds set aside in that bill?

    MS NAUERT: So – a bill was just signed into law by the President. Exactly how that money will be spent and where it will go, we’re not certain about that just yet. We want to thank the Congress for providing that money. They are clearly recognizing the importance of the work that our people at the GEC do and we don’t see that changing. We welcome that support. When I have something more for you, I’ll bring it to you, okay?

    Okay, anything more on the Global Engagement Center?

    QUESTION: Can I get one on the bill itself?

    QUESTION: On Ukraine. On Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: The President’s signing statement – he said that parts of the legislation were clearly unconstitutional. Is it the department’s intent to carry out the bill in its full effect despite the fact that parts of it are, quote-unquote, “unconstitutional?”

    MS NAUERT: I think we have to follow the law, and the President signing in – into law is something that we certainly will follow. The President and the Secretary had both expressed concerns, as have past administrations – both Republican and Democrat administrations have expressed concern about Congress getting involved in certain sanctioning activities because it can hamstring the Secretary, the President from being able to dial up and dial back sanctions activity as they need to do it. So the belief is that administrations – again, Democrats supported this too – need to have that flexibility to tighten things down on a country and then also be able to pull back a little bit when a country starts to cooperate.

    QUESTION: Well, but if I might, one of the reasons that lawmakers on both sides obviously said that they felt compelled to do that is because they were concerned that this White House would too precipitously lift sanctions on Russia in an effort to improve the relationship as opposed to as a result of increased cooperation or improved behavior. So, I mean, I think it was more an indictment – it was less an indictment on giving the Executive – but more of an indictment on this particular president and his attitude towards Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Well, then that is something I could refer you to Congress on. I know the Secretary --

    QUESTION: Well, I mean, they’ve said it out loud, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s fine. If they want to say that in our country – the right to free speech and to believe and promote whatever kind of legislative activity that they want to. We know that the American public is concerned about Russian meddling in our election and that’s reflected in that vote in Congress. Nobody’s trying to hide that or skirt that in any kind of way. Congress’s vote in favor of the legislation was an expression of the will of the American public, and the Secretary talked about that over the weekend in his statement.

    QUESTION: Heather --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But Heather, on that point --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- I mean, the flipside of that is you say in response to James’ question that we’re trying to communicate to the Russians that we want to have a collaborative relationship with them. The Russians hate these sanctions. The President has – says he doesn’t like --

    MS NAUERT: Well, of course they do.

    QUESTION: This President agrees with them that this is bad piece of legislation. The Secretary also --

    MS NAUERT: Well, hold on one second. Hold on one second. And I’ll refer to the White House on this one. However, the President’s concerns were about his constitutional authority and the ability to dial up and dial back pressure on Russia. There are other – I mean, the President signed the bill, after all. The President signed the legislation.

    QUESTION: Precisely. So how does the President and Secretary Tillerson then go about trying to tell the Russians, including Foreign Minister Lavrov this – this coming days, we want to work with you in good faith, when the administration is moving forward with a sanctions package that even the administration says is misguided.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s remember what got us to this point, and what got us to this point was a whole host of issues. And I – let me just start to go through them. Ukraine, a very serious issue. We will continue to hold Russia accountable to that. We just appointed Kurt Volker to go out and deal with part of that issue. You know how important that is to us to try to maintain or try to get back Ukraine’s integrity and territorial sovereignty. That is something that we are passionate about. That is a direct effect because of Russian activities and some of the things that they have done. Just because we want to find areas of cooperation and to improve the relationship in – with Russia where we can because they are also a nuclear superpower does not mean that we will turn a blind eye to some of the bad acts that they are involved with, such as Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Well, while we’re on Ukraine since you brought it up --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I know --

    QUESTION: Can I – can I just jump in on that very quickly, though?

    MS NAUERT: What --

    QUESTION: Just a quick question because --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So are you saying that Russia is to blame for the lull in relations right now?

    MS NAUERT: Look, Russia has been involved in a lot of activities; a lot of activities that are very concerning, I know, to many of you and to many Americans, whether it is election-related activities or their activities in Ukraine. They’ve also harassed U.S. diplomats. I mean, there – a whole host of things.

    QUESTION: So why did the President say you can thank Congress in a tweet?

    MS NAUERT: I would have to refer you to the President on that. He authored that. I was not sitting there by him asking him what he meant when he put that together.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But you’re open to that if he’s --

    MS NAUERT: If – you know what, if the President wants to call me and chat about it, I would love to hear the backstory. Josh, go ahead.

    QUESTION: So on the Ukraine thing, I realize there hasn’t been a final decision on this question of whether we’re going to provide lethal weaponry described as defensive weapons to Ukraine, but can you at least say that a plan to entertain doing so has at this point gone from this building and the Pentagon to the White House?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, so I can’t confirm that. I can certainly say, though, that we have not provided defensive weapons nor have we ruled out the option to do so. So that’s an option that remains on the table, and that’s as far as I can go with that. Okay.

    QUESTION: On the diplomats being expelled --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- are we in the midst of formulating some proportionate response to that?

    MS NAUERT: I know – proportionate is a key word, okay. So that would be the way you would describe it. We are looking at our options, what we want to do from here on out. As you all know – perhaps you know, many of the people who work in our missions, in our embassies overseas, are locally-employed staff, so what Russia intends to do is kick out some of our workers, some of our employees, some of our diplomats. However, let me be clear and point out that Russians will suffer as a result of this, because many of the people who currently work there are Russian citizens. The economy is already hurting there in Russia. This will hurt more of their citizens. That is a decision that Russia has chosen to make. We’re sorry to see them make that decision, but they’re hurting their own people.

    QUESTION: So you’re studying the response, correct?

    MS NAUERT: Of course.

    QUESTION: From this current period with Russia, this new low in relations that everyone seems to agree really is a new low, is it the view of this department that the United States needs an exit plan or are we content to stay with this as the status quo because it suits our interest to do so?

    MS NAUERT: An exit plan from what?

    QUESTION: From this new nadir in our relations with the – with Russia.

    MS NAUERT: We – when this administration first came in, we knew that our relationship was at a low point. Various U.S. officials have talked about that extensively, about just how strained that relationship is right now. We’re not giving up on it, we certainly are going to look for areas of mutual cooperation, but it is at a tense point right now. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I just confirm that there will be a response? There – the U.S. will take a response --

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know we are talking about various options and what our plan will be, and we’re just not ready to go there yet. Okay?

    QUESTION: Well, is it --

    QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

    QUESTION: Do you see this as a response to the Obama administration? You know what I mean, like, can you really see this in a --

    QUESTION: Tillerson called it symmetrical, didn’t he?

    MS NAUERT: I – I --

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) symmetrical.

    MS NAUERT: I can’t get into anything with the previous administration and how they characterized things.

    QUESTION: No, but what I’m saying is you say you’re – you say you’re kind of considering a response, but --

    MS NAUERT: Well, the administration is considering a response, yeah.

    QUESTION: No, I understand, but what this was was a response to a previous administration’s actions that actually President Trump had said – had thanked and praised President Putin for holding off and delaying. So this is – this is more like a kind of tit for tat. Do you think that if you initiate a response to their response, that this is just going to continue to cycle and spiral downwards?

    MS NAUERT: It’s a hypothetical. I’m just not going to get into that and predicting what could or might not happen in the future. Sorry.

    Okay. Just – let’s just get a couple – a couple more regions, okay? Hey.

    QUESTION: South Asia?

    QUESTION: On Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Today is the third anniversary of the Yezidi genocide. I don’t know if you have a statement on that. But also a question on the minorities, that they are concerned about their future, even after ISIS, what’s going to happen to them – the Yezidis themselves and also the Christians. So what is the United States plan to protect the Yezidis and also the other minorities in Iraq as we are going through the stabilizing phase of Iraq? So what are your plan to protect them from further genocide or aggressions in the future?

    MS NAUERT: And remind me, you’re from Iraq, right?

    QUESTION: Yeah. I’m from NRT from Kurdistan, yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Good. And thank you for being here. I always love it when our foreign journalists come in, and you all have such – some – in some cases difficult stories, in other cases very rich stories, and so I thank you for being here. It’s a good representative of what your country represents, and I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. (Inaudible) certainly been through a lot.

    Today is the third anniversary of the – what happened to the Yezidis, Christians, and some Shia Muslims in Iraq. We honor and mourn those who lost their lives, who died at the hands of ISIS. It was brutal. So many of us remember the coverage of that, the video of that, the pictures, and the absolutely horrific stories of what those people were put through. We want to offer our respect for those who survived those horrors, our sympathy and prayers to those who lost their lives. Many people, as we’ve read about in the stories, still struggle with the scars of what happened to Yezidis. So I just want to say on behalf of the U.S. Government how deeply sorry we are about that and how we have not forgotten what happened to those individuals there.

    We’ve talked about this, I think it was last week. We talked about the Secretary of State’s position. And his judgment is that ISIS is responsible for genocide taking place against those groups in Iraq. That includes the Yezidis. That includes Christians. That also includes Shia Muslims. Secretary Tillerson spoke about this a little bit in his confirmation hearing. I know that it is his personal opinion and is deeply regretful and sorry for what happened to those people.

    There have been more than 40 mass graves that have been found in the areas around Sinjar. Just try to imagine that. We know that children, young people, old people, were massacred as a result. There were 550,000 who lived in the region pre-ISIS, and now about 360,000 or so have been displaced.

    You asked me the question about what the United States Government is doing about that. We are providing some money to the Iraqi Government. Let me see if I can find the specifics on the dollar amount of that. But we’ve provided $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable, displaced, and conflict-affected Iraqis in Iraq and in the region. We’ve provided funding to the Iraqi Government to help document those atrocities for future prosecution. I know the United Nations is involved in a certain part of this. For more specifics, I’d have to get that from the United Nations. The UK is also involved in this as well. They have a proposed investigative mechanism. They see that as one way to expand Iraq’s capacity for accountability.

    So it’s something that we care about. It’s something that we have certainly funded. That and the loss of the Iraqi people is not something that we’ll forget.

    QUESTION: Sorry. The money was 1.4 billion?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, 1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance since Fiscal Year 2014. And USAID and State have provided more than 100 million in assistance for Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority communities, and then we’ve also led an international initiative to highlight the plight of these minority communities.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: So thank you for asking about that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Madam? Madam, I have –

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Do we have anything else on Iraq?

    QUESTION: On India?

    MS NAUERT: Sir, we’ll go with India. How are you?

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much. Two questions on South --

    MS NAUERT: And then we have to wrap it up and go.

    QUESTION: Yes, madam.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Two questions on South Asia, please. As far as U.S.-India relations are concerned after Prime Minister Modi’s visit, as far as diplomacy is concerned, one issue he raised in the White House and also here that India should get, the United States, Security Council membership. So our ambassador there, Nikki Haley, she is doing a great job, of course. Is she going to raise the issue at the United Nations?

    MS NAUERT: I believe she is. I would have to double-check with her office. I can certainly do that and get back with you. I know we had a lovely visit with Mr. Modi. It was certainly wonderful to have him here in the United States. I know the President enjoyed hosting him, as did the Secretary as well. So --

    QUESTION: And, madam, second question on Pakistan, quickly. Opposition leader Imran Khan had a nationwide campaign against corruption against Nawaz Sharif. Now the Pakistan supreme court dismissed him already, of course. But my question is that now Pakistan has a new prime minister, and of course from the same party, so where do we stand as far as U.S.-Pakistan relations are concerned? And finally, after his dismissal, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, sorry, I’m not going to be able to keep track of all of these.

    QUESTION: Yes, madam. Nawaz Sharif – he was addressing his parliamentary party, where he said that President Clinton offered him $5 billion during Kargil War with India, and at the same time he said that China’s President Xiaoping offered him $3 billion as a gift. So where do we stand?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m not aware of any of that money and what you’re referring to from quite a few administrations ago. I can say that we’re certainly aware of the elections that India[i] will hold in 2018. We want to congratulate Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi on his election by the national assembly. We will certainly look forward to working with him on areas of mutual cooperation. As you all know, we have very strong people-to-people ties with the Government of India.[ii] We’ll look forward to working with – excuse me, with Pakistan, and we’ll look forward to working with him as well.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Final question on Turkey, okay?

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    QUESTION: Thank you, madam.

    QUESTION: So the Turkish Government has arrested a few individuals who worked for the YPG, the Kurdish militia group in – the Kurdish rebel group in Syria, which is part – a main part of SDF and you’re supporting that group. So what’s your --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information on that, on those arrests.

    QUESTION: One of them is a French journalist. He was --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Sir, without any information on that report you’re referencing, I’m not going to answer any questions about that, okay?

    QUESTION: Can you see if you have a statement on that? Because one of them is a journalist.

    MS NAUERT: You can give us more information about it and I’ll see what I can get for you, if we can get anything. Again, I’m not aware of that report at all. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:27 p.m.)

    [i] Pakistan

    [ii] Pakistan


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 27, 2017

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 18:26
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 27, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • REPUBLIC OF KOREA
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • DPRK
  • JAPAN
  • CHINA
  • REPUBLIC OF KOREA / DPRK
  • YEMEN
  • IRAN
  • QATAR
  • DEPARTMENT
  • DPRK
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • TURKEY
  • SYRIA
  • MEXICO
  • VENEZUELA

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:51 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Hi, everybody. How are you?

    QUESTION: In a supposedly good mood --

    MS NAUERT: You may be wondering why you all have cookies today. And I can assure you if I were trying to bribe a bunch of journalists, I would bring booze and cigarettes. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: Money. Money is fine.

    MS NAUERT: Or money. You all probably make enough money, though. So today is – for historians in the room, anyone know what today is?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: It’s the State Department’s 228th birthday. So Happy Birthday, State Department. And that’s where I’m going to begin today, with a little history lesson.

    In 1789, the first Congress established the Department of Foreign Affairs on this day. It succeeded the department that had existed under the Articles of Confederation. The name of the department was changed to the Department of State in September of that year, in recognition of the domestic duties assigned to the department which have been reallocated over the succeeding years. Our mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world, and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.

    Two hundred and twenty-eight years the department remains strong and relevant and dedicated to U.S. national security, economic prosperity, and the safety and security of our citizens as it has ever been.

    Earlier this year, the Secretary asked all employees of the department to share their opinions of the department and its activities with him. The report compiled from the listening tour survey showed that the department employees – more than 36,000 of them who responded – view their work as a calling, a duty, and an obligation to represent what is best about America to the world. Department employees experience their work with great pride, with honor, and a calling on behalf of our country.

    I can tell you that that has been my experience as I’ve gotten to know my colleagues from every part of the building and the world over the last few months. I’m personally honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join them here every day and speak on their behalf at this podium.

    So Happy 228th Birthday to the Department of State, and I hope you like the cookies.

    Okay, now a little bit of news for you. The Secretary spoke with the foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, Foreign Minister Kang, earlier today to reaffirm the strength of the U.S. and ROK alliance. The Secretary told Foreign Minister Kang that the United States remains firmly and fully committed to the defense of the ROK and other allies in the region. The leaders agreed to continue our close coordination in response to North Korea’s destabilizing violations of UN Security Council resolutions and hold North Korea accountable for its unlawful actions. The two pledged to work closely together to strengthen U.S.-ROK cooperation, and they reaffirmed our joint commitment to a stable, peaceful, and denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions.

    QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Josh.

    QUESTION: Why don’t we start with the developments over the last 24 hours or so in Jerusalem --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- with the Temple Mount. I wanted to get your take on the latest outbreak of violence and what you think might be behind that. And also, specifically on this decision to remove the cameras that had been put up, does the U.S. support that decision to take down those cameras as the Muslim worshipers had wanted?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, let me start out by mentioning to you that our special presidential envoy, Jason Greenblatt, still remains in the region. He is there today as he continues to conduct meetings with people from both sides on this issue. We continue to monitor that situation very closely. I’m going to again be cautious in what I say. Our firm position is that we don’t want to do or say anything that would escalate tensions in the region. We all know that it’s a fragile part of the world, and we want to be very careful and cautious about that.

    Israel’s security is our top priority – among our top priorities. We would never pressure Israel, to get to your question, into making a security decision for political purposes. So the Trump administration has been and will remain engaged in that situation as Mr. Greenblatt, Mr. Kushner, backed by our State Department folks, will remain involved. And we also recognize that it’s going to take some space and some time to get this to a better place.

    QUESTION: So are you saying that they did make that decision for political purposes?

    MS NAUERT: No, did not. We would not – we would not do that for – we would not get involved in a decision like that. It’s their decision. We recognize that the sides have to be willing to work together on this.

    QUESTION: So how is that working out for you? I mean, for the last few weeks or so, the U.S. has really been trying to keep some distance from the situation, and it doesn’t seem like us giving them room to do that is leading to this resolving in any more effective of a way. Is there any consideration about the U.S. trying to --

    MS NAUERT: I think we have all seen in this part of the world that there have been ebbs and flows, developments where there has been more tension and where there have been periods of less tension. So we’re taking the long view on this and recognizing that it’s going to take some time for both sides to be able to work together to start to rebuild trust in perhaps a smaller fashion, and then try to build upon that. And that’s what Mr. Greenblatt is there for, so that he could help facilitate that.

    Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Certainly. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Okay. But you do adhere to your own principle that the status quo must be maintained. So you will push for that, without – without applying any political pressure.

    MS NAUERT: We have not --

    QUESTION: What position is that, the status quo must remain the same?

    MS NAUERT: We have not changed our position on that.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: And that the status quo must be maintained.

    QUESTION: Now, a quick follow-up also on Mr. Greenblatt’s meeting. Now, today it is – the Israeli press is saying – or the 10th Channel on Israeli television – saying that Mr. Netanyahu informed Mr. Greenblatt that they want to keep all the settlements on the West Bank in exchange for the Wadi Ara. I don’t know if you know the area, but in exchange for Wadi Ara. Is that something that you can confirm or refute or deny?

    MS NAUERT: I cannot. I have not spoken to Mr. Greenblatt. Again, he’s in the region. If I have anything for you from those meetings, I’ll certainly bring it to you if I can.

    QUESTION: So your position remains on the settlements that these settlements are illegal and they should be taken down?

    MS NAUERT: I think I’ve been clear about our position on settlements and the administration’s position on the settlements, so I don’t want to get into that all over again, okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Can you comment on the --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, good to see you.

    QUESTION: Fine, thanks. So to go back to the – to Aqsa Mosque, is the mediation to de-escalate limited between you as the State Department and the Israelis and the Palestinians, or is it expanding to other Arab countries like Jordan, for example, or Saudi Arabia? Has it been in contact with you trying to de-escalate the situation?

    MS NAUERT: So I know that other nations have been in contact with us. I know we’ve spoken to some other countries. In terms of the specifics of those countries and the exact words that were exchanged in those calls and meetings, I can’t get into those specifically. But I know there have been a lot of countries that have expressed their concern, and we’ve expressed our concern as well.

    QUESTION: Were there any specific demands, especially to remove these gates from the --

    MS NAUERT: I just can’t get into that right now. Okay? Thank you.

    Hey, Oren.

    QUESTION: Can you comment on the tactics that were employed by, I guess, the crowds in this particular incident? There have been a lot of – like hundreds of thousands of people have – hundreds and thousands of people have shown up to pray in the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem using basically nonviolent tactics, and it seems to me like this may have been the first. And is this the first time that those kinds of tactics were effective in changing an Israeli policy?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure about that. That’s a good question. I’m going to, again, be cautious about this against – cautious about weighing really in on too much on that matter. We want to keep things as calm as possible.

    QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the tactics in general, though?

    MS NAUERT: I do not, no. Anything else on Israel right now?

    QUESTION: But you’re not opposed to protesting and so on at --

    MS NAUERT: Sorry?

    QUESTION: You are not opposed to people protesting what they perceive to be a grievance, correct?

    MS NAUERT: In terms of --

    QUESTION: I mean, they have – people have a right to protest --

    MS NAUERT: We --

    QUESTION: -- any kind of grievance that is perceived.

    MS NAUERT: As the American Government long recognizes the power of peaceful protest, and we would not back away from something like that. But again, I’m going to be cautious. Our priority is not escalating tensions. We want both sides to be able to work together, all parties to be able to work together on this and come to some sort of eventual agreement and some sort of peaceful situation.

    Anything else on Israel?

    QUESTION: Nothing.

    MS NAUERT: No?

    QUESTION: On North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, all right. Shall we go to North Korea? Okay. Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Thank you, Heather. North Korea threatened to destroy United States with merciless missile strikes this morning. The comment come after CIA Director Michael Pompeo said Kim Jong-un needs to be separated from his weapons. What is your comment?

    MS NAUERT: Well, that would combine two things that we wouldn’t comment on. And one would be threats, and the other would be potential intelligence. I’ll leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: So how did you respond to his threatening with that weapons, like their new ICBM missile test?

    MS NAUERT: That’s an intelligence matter. If that were to be the case – and I’m just not going to get into that – but it’s, again, a hypothetical and a threat, and we just aren’t going to get into that.

    Okay? Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: On North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: During – yes, thank you. So during the meeting this morning between Secretary Tillerson and his counterpart from Korea, was this addressed, the potential ICBM test, this afternoon? I mean it’s – the source – information saying that it could be done around 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Again, that would be an – and I know you all have a lot of questions about this type of thing. That would be a matter for – two issues – one, intelligence; and then that would be considered just a private diplomatic conversation, and some of those I’m not going to comment on. Okay?

    QUESTION: Is it still the position --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Carol.

    QUESTION: -- at least of the – hi. Is it still the position of the State Department that the United States does not seek regime change in North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: The United States seeks – and this is the top thing that we look for there – a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is a priority that the United States shares not only with our regional partners such as the Republic of North – excuse me, the Republic of Korea in that phone call today, but also people from around the globe – other nations that understand the importance of trying to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and get North Korea to a place where we could potentially have some kind of a better situation with them.

    QUESTION: What did he say about regime change?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to comment on that, okay?

    Hi.

    QUESTION: Has the geographical travel restriction gone to the Federal Register yet?

    MS NAUERT: So, yeah, I know a lot of people are very curious about that. And that’s something we’ve given our guidance to the – to prepare for the Federal Register. That then goes to OMB. It’s a legal process. It takes a little bit of time to get from here to there and get all the paperwork and everything in order. So I don't have an exact date for you as to when that will be delivered. I know a lot of people were expecting that soon – today, in fact, some were. But I don't know that that’s going to happen today, but it will happen soon.

    QUESTION: And can you give us any more details on the humanitarian or special purposes, other purposes, that Americans could use as a reason to travel there?

    MS NAUERT: I know we touched on that a little bit. Again, this is still new. Some of this stuff is still being worked out. People have the ability to apply for waivers to be able to travel to North Korea once this new system or the travel restriction is put in place. That will – journalists can apply, for example; certain people under humanitarian – on humanitarian grounds can apply as well. Again, we don’t encourage you to go to North Korea. That is the reason that we have this travel ban that is going into effect. But we also recognize that journalists need to get the ground and need to be able to report the facts on the ground. But we certainly caution you. It’s not considered a safe country to go to.

    Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: Staying in the region?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, go ahead.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: There’s been media reports that State Department officials are removing the word “genocide” in documents --

    MS NAUERT: Let me get back to you on that. I mean, ask me that later. Let’s stick on North Korea for now, and I’ll get back --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- I’ll call on you again for that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So Japanese Defense Minister Inada announced her resignation earlier. And there’s been a U.S.-Japan 2+2 dialogues that has been expected to take place this summer or fall, a major topic of which is supposed to be North Korea. Are you concerned that her resignation is going to impact the timing of the dialogue or more generally discussions over North Korea with Japan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Regarding that, as you know, we have a close relationship with Japan and we have talked about having meetings. And I just don’t have any meetings or any travel to read out for you at this time. When I do, I will let you know though. But I can’t see that our relationship with Japan would change based on the political change there.

    Okay. Anything else on DPRK? Hi. How are you? Good to see you.

    QUESTION: So on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton said the secondary sanction on Chinese company will be coming very soon. Are you still talking to China so they can avoid this announcement coming? Or are you going to announce anyway?

    MS NAUERT: So we regularly have conversations with the Chinese and other countries about secondary sanctions. Susan has the ability to speak more to those things than I do. We don’t forecast sanctions, but we retain the right and the ability to impose sanctions, whether it’s secondary sanctions or primary sanctions. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Just quickly out of curiosity --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- did they talk about the possibility of talks between North and South Korea on the call today? And if so, can you give a sense of what input the Secretary gave?

    MS NAUERT: So in terms of the call today, what I provided you as the readout is what I can give you right now. My understanding is that when the Republic of North Korea[1] said that it would be potentially willing to meet with the DPRK, my understanding is that the DPRK has not gotten back to South Korea at this point. But that question would have to be answered between those two nations.

    QUESTION: Just a quick clarification on what you said.

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: You don’t forecast sanctions. Does that mean you don’t expect them or that you don’t expect them to be implemented?

    MS NAUERT: Good – we don’t look ahead and predict sanctions, and we usually don’t talk about sanctions, if it’s something on the horizon or if it’s not something on the horizon. That’s what I mean.

    QUESTION: So you just don’t talk about them?

    MS NAUERT: That’s what I mean by that. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah. Sure.

    QUESTION: Okay. There are some reports that Yemen is facing problems, the worst humanitarian disaster right at the present time, and it seems to be completely off your radar screen. What is your position on Yemen? What should be done? What are you doing in terms to end the violence in Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: So, Said, you know that we have talked about Yemen. We’ve talked about food insecurity in African nations here in this briefing room and elsewhere. That is something that is a top priority for USAID. I’ve recently talked about the amount of money that the United States and its taxpayers have provided in humanitarian assistance to Yemen. So I would disagree with your characterization that it is off our radar. If more of you want to ask me about Yemen or any of the other countries affected by food insecurity, I’d be more than happy to answer those questions. I’m glad that you brought it to our attention today. So again, it is not off our radar, as you well know.

    Since you asked, let me just give you a little bit of updated information on that matter. Yemen is facing the world’s largest cholera outbreak at this time. The recent resurgence of disease has now resulted in nearly 1,900 deaths since April 27th of this year alone – 409,000 suspected cases of cholera. The UN estimates that more than 75 percent of Yemen’s entire population is in need of aid. Children are also falling victim to the cholera. The rates of malnutrition in children under five are rising throughout that country; 1.8 million children are now experiencing acute malnutrition, 400,000 experience severe, acute malnutrition. That’s according to UNICEF.

    The United States so far has provided more than $467 million to date this fiscal year to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and in the region. And if we have any updates on those numbers – I believe those numbers are the most up to date, but if any of our USAID folks write in and say that they have a more recent update, please do let me know during the briefing.

    QUESTION: Are there any diplomatic efforts by the State Department, by Secretary Tillerson himself, to see that somehow the situation ends up – it’s not a political solution?

    MS NAUERT: So Said, what I can tell you – without getting too much into some of the diplomatic conversations, I can say that I’ve been in the room with the Secretary when he’s spoken with other foreign ministers about the importance of that issue there. It’s something that he consistently raises with other foreign ministers around the world. Among the issues there – not just cholera, but also food insecurity. And part of the problem with that is not for any weather-related reason, but rather the military situation, the fighting on the ground there. And being able to get food and aid in and out of the port there has been a major issue. That’s something that the Secretary has talked about a lot.

    Anything else related to Yemen?

    QUESTION: Go to Iran?

    MS NAUERT: Iran. We can go to Iran.

    QUESTION: So the Iranians say they launched a satellite into space on a rocket. Does the U.S. consider that long-range rocket to be essentially an ICBM that would violate UN resolutions prohibiting such activity by the Iranians?

    MS NAUERT: So we would consider that a violation of UNSCR 2231. We would consider it that. We saw the reports that Iran launched a rocket into space early this morning Eastern Time. So we’re looking into the nature of those reports; some of the specifics I’m not going to be able to confirm or address with you here today. Perhaps in the future, but as of right now, this is still considered sort of a developing situation, but we consider that a violation of a UN Security Council resolution.

    QUESTION: So it’s just about (inaudible)? So you consider what took place this morning a violation of that resolution, or if it turns out that it is what it’s purported to be, then it would be a violation?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Good point. We consider that to be continued ballistic missile development. We’re – also remain very concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism. We consider this to be a provocative action, and a provocative action that undermines the security, the prosperity of those in the region and around the world as well.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Iran?

    QUESTION: Just real quick on Iran. Is the administration entering a new phase on the JCPOA where it’s asking for stricter enforcement of the JCPOA? And in the larger context of the Iran review, is the administration taking action on – even though the review’s not completed yet, is the administration moving in a different direction than, let’s say, the previous administration?

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to get ahead of the President and the overall review of that, so I’m going to be careful on that matter. Again, we believe that what happened overnight and in the early morning hours here in Washington is inconsistent with the Security Council resolutions.

    You mentioned the JCPOA. Even though the JCPOA was put together to address nuclear issues, not necessarily ballistic missiles, we believe that what happened overnight and into the morning is in violation of the spirit of the JCPOA. So that hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: But separately – separately from the launch, just in general with the JCPOA, is the U.S. looking for stronger enforcement of – within the current framework?

    MS NAUERT: We have a lot of respect and regard for the IAEA, and the IAEA has done a terrific job of working toward inspections. And we value what they have done in that fashion. So we respect what they have; I’m just not going to forecast where we’re going from there. Okay.

    QUESTION: No, but the suggestion from the White House is that more inspections are needed, so beyond, I guess, what is the amount of inspections that are taking place now.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. On that matter, I would just refer you to the White House on that. Okay? Anything else on Iran? Okay. Let’s --

    QUESTION: Can I ask about Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Yesterday the Secretary met with the foreign minister of Qatar, and was not much in the statement that we saw.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Are we – is this any development in terms of mediation of ending this crisis? Is there any point of view that the Qataris has brought to you? And is any new contact with the other four countries?

    MS NAUERT: Let me just mention, sometimes when we provide information on the meetings, there isn’t always a ton of detail in that, and that’s largely because these are private conversations and we don’t want to – we just don’t want to provide too much because they’re private, sensitive diplomatic conversations.

    The Secretary met with the foreign minister yesterday. They talked a lot about the situation as it unfolds there. We believe now that the dispute is at a standstill. We’ve gone between periods where we have said that it is at an impasse at one point and then there was some movement; well, now it appears to be at a standstill. So that naturally concerns us. We are urging direct talks between all of the parties because we believe that in order for the situation to be resolved – and it does need to be resolved – but they have to sit down together and have some direct dialogue about it. We are willing to help as they have called upon us for our advice and counsel. We support the emir of Kuwait and his efforts at a mediation and resolution. We’re thankful to him for doing that and taking that on, and we’re just hoping that those countries will get together and start having conversations.

    QUESTION: So in other words, are you frustrated by the lack of progress?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t use the word “frustrated.” We would like to see this come to a resolution. We believe that all of these nations working together are going to be a lot more effective at what is one of our top priorities, and that is defeating terrorism and defeating ISIS. So we hope that they’ll come together and work this out. It may take some time. We’re hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to get it done.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    QUESTION: Is there a difference between a standstill and an impasse?

    MS NAUERT: Well – (laughter) – a standstill and an impasse. I don’t know. Let’s look that up and see if the definition is actually different.

    QUESTION: I guess what I’m saying is do you see this as at more of an intractable place than you did a few weeks ago when you said it was at an impasse.

    MS NAUERT: I think a few weeks ago it was so incredibly tense – not to say that it is not tense right now, but I think the parties are getting – and we’re hoping – getting closer to working together on this. We asked them to do it. We hope that they will do it. A few weeks ago we didn’t have Kuwait involved in the mediation efforts. This is a – not a new development, but they’ve taken a strong role. The Secretary did his trips over there in his – the shuttle, which many of you were along for as well, so we’re hoping that they will get to a point of resolution on that.

    QUESTION: Is the U.S. ready to play any role in those direct talks, Heather, like --

    MS NAUERT: I haven’t asked the Secretary about that. I know that we have said to the parties we’re willing to help out in pretty much whatever way they might need, but it has to work for them, and the ultimate resolution has to be able to work for all of those parties.

    Okay, anything else on Qatar?

    QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, one more, please.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, hi.

    QUESTION: Do you urge – I mean, you urging both parties to have a private conversation, but based on what? Did you propose any framework for the – based on what?

    MS NAUERT: There have been different ideas proposed, and I’m not going to outline what exactly those are.

    QUESTION: Yesterday?

    MS NAUERT: No, no, no, no. I’m not saying that at all. In – since this first started six weeks ago or so, there have been different proposals that have gone back and forth. Where that exactly stands now, I’m just not going to characterize that.

    Okay, anything else on Qatar?

    QUESTION: Russia and Ukraine?

    QUESTION: Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Okay, go right ahead to your question, ma’am.

    QUESTION: Someone --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, your name is?

    QUESTION: I’m Penny Starr.

    MS NAUERT: Hi Penny, how are you?

    QUESTION: Hi, nice to meet you.

    MS NAUERT: And you’re from?

    QUESTION: Breitbart.

    MS NAUERT: Breitbart. Welcome.

    QUESTION: Thanks. There’s been media reports that State Department officials are removing the word “genocide” from documents. There’s been – human rights activists have spoken out about it. Can you address that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I can tell you I have seen an article that indicates that the United States has allegedly taken that word – the State Department, in fact, an article said, has taken that word “genocide” out of some documents, and I can tell you that that is categorically false. We have looked through documents ourselves. The word “genocide” is in fact in there. That has not been removed. When we look at Iraq and we look at what has happened to some of the Yezidis, some of the Christians, we – the Secretary believes and he firmly believes that that was genocide, okay, and I’m – that’s all I’m going to have to say about that, okay? I hope I’ve been clear.

    QUESTION: Okay, yeah. Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, thank you. Anything else on that matter? While we’re on it, anything else on Iraq?

    QUESTION: I have something kind of related.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: This is a birthday question.

    MS NAUERT: How you doing? Oh, a birthday question, okay.

    QUESTION: Some former diplomats are expressing concern about the possible impact on morale of budget cuts and some offices, such as the global war crimes office, reportedly slated for closing. Could you comment on that and what is the status of that?

    MS NAUERT: So I do have some information for you on that, so let me go to this, okay? A lot of people have asked about what is going to happen with our reorganization. As you all know, that is still under review right now. It’s something that when our note went out to our employees – 75,000 or so employees – I think it’s 40-some percent participated in this, which is a really good figure for people to have participated. And you all work in the private sector; I’ve worked in the private sector. I have never once been asked to fill out a survey at any job that I have had where my company has asked how do you feel about this, how do you feel about your position, where do you think we could cut the fat. And so what the State Department did is really incredible. I mean, you’ve never heard of a government agency, I’m willing to bet, that has actually asked its employees how it feels about their mission, how it feels about their job, and where there might be waste, or where there might be positive areas. So first, I want to start out by saying this is a really incredible feat that we undertook and that our employees were involved with.

    You ask about the Global Criminal Justice Office, and that office will remain – the functions of that office will remain here at the State Department. They continue to operate and handle issues related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and as you brought up, Penny, genocide as well. So that function is not going away. I have a little more information for you on that if you’d like me to give it to you. We have a special coordinator, Todd Buchwald. His detail to the Global Criminal Justice one will soon come to an end, but it doesn’t mean that that won’t – that function won’t be carried on by somebody else. It will. The Department remains committed to working closely with other governments, international institutions, and nongovernmental organizations, including domestic and criminal prosecutions, on all of that. So it’s important to us. That is not going to change. Okay?

    QUESTION: So his position will stay?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that he will – he will no longer be a part of that, but the position will remain. Now, whether – and we talked about this the other day – whether the office remains or not – and guys, step in if I’m misspeaking or anything – but whether the actual office – I think that is all still under review, as are many of our envoys in some of those special offices. But those functions will still remain here at the State Department. That will not change.

    QUESTION: But he – so when you said the envoys are under review, that – his envoy-ship would also be under review or could it be divided up into other areas? That’s what I’m asking.

    MS NAUERT: Well, some of the envoys are congressionally mandated. Others have come in over the years.

    QUESTION: That’s my – I mean, my question is: There will be another person appointed to his position is what you’re saying?

    MS NAUERT: I am – I am not sure, and maybe we can check on this before we finish up because I want to get you the correct information on this. The function will still remain. Whether or not that actual title will remain, I’m not sure at this moment. If I can get you anything more on this before the end of our briefing or right after, I will let you know. Okay?

    Anything else on this matter?

    QUESTION: A related question?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    QUESTION: Yeah, a related question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hey.

    QUESTION: Last night, the White House announced the administration’s intent to nominate Governor Brownback as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. But that comes, as you said, as a lot of these other positions are either vacant or filled by someone in an acting capacity, including really important policy ones, including the assistant secretaries of state, Diplomatic Security. Why fill that role and leave these other roles empty?

    MS NAUERT: This is all a work in progress. So there are a lot of people who are in the pipeline for assistant secretary positions. That all takes some time. As you know, they have to go through the various security screenings and Office of Government Ethics and financial disclosure forms, all of that. And then it goes to Congress and the Senate deals with those actual appointments and the hearings and all that. That takes – that takes some time.

    QUESTION: So was he named first months ago internally and that’s why his name has come out first?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure about that because the White House announced his name. I can tell you that I know we’re looking forward to having him on board. He will be involved with our Religious Freedom Report and that, we anticipate, will be coming out sometime soon. I don’t have an exact date for you at this point, but we’re looking forward to having him on board.

    QUESTION: What would you say to critics saying – who say it shows a lack of urgency on these other issues, whether it’s policy on different bureaus or Diplomatic Security?

    MS NAUERT: I’d say we can walk and chew gum at the same time. I mean, we have the ability to have somebody fulfilling the duties of that role while we work to get other people coming in in other roles. So it’s not mutually exclusive. Okay?

    QUESTION: On that Religious Freedom Report --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- I believe that was due to Congress several months ago.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Do you know what the reason for that delay is?

    MS NAUERT: I do not. I do not. I can tell you that it’s an important matter to us. We recently had the trafficking report. My understanding is that sometimes these reports don’t get to Congress on the – on a certain date, that they sometimes take a little extra time with that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    QUESTION: Can I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on. Hey. I’m sorry, just one second.

    QUESTION: Can I just clarify? Back to North Korea briefly, I was just thinking that since the Secretary had prior indicated that he was not seeking or not interested in regime change in North Korea, why no comment now?

    MS NAUERT: If the Secretary had previously said that, I just didn’t have his words right in front of me. So if the Secretary has previously said that, I would just refer you to those statements.

    QUESTION: Okay. So it doesn’t indicate a change in --

    MS NAUERT: No, I just – I just don’t have his words right in front of me --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- and so I don’t want to misstate something --

    QUESTION: That’s okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- or misquote the Secretary on that. I hope you understand.

    QUESTION: Just making sure. And do you mind if we switch to Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Sure. Hold on with – let’s go to Afghanistan first and then we’ll go to Russia.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, do you have – yeah, do you have anything on reports that the United States is considering efforts to capitalize minerals in Afghanistan and is sending envoys to meet with the mineral officials over there.

    MS NAUERT: So I’ve seen the report that you are talking about, and as you know – we’ve talked about this before – the Afghan review process is still underway. So what exactly will take place in Afghanistan, the final decisions that will be made, I’m not going to get ahead of that. I’m not going to get ahead of the President. The President is still in consultations with the National Security Council as well as Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis. They’ll come to a conclusion about that, and when they do, I’ll bring you whatever I have on that, okay?

    QUESTION: What is U.S. position regarding capitalizing Afghans’ natural resources?

    MS NAUERT: Again, that is an issue – anything related to Afghanistan would be under review at this time, and so I’m just going to hold off until they come to a decision on that, okay?

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Ilhan. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. On Turkey, Heather, tomorrow there will be interim verdict – some kind of verdict for journalists who have been tried since Monday. These journalists from Cumhuriyet daily have been behind bars over nine months now and accused of different charges. Across the world, human right groups and press institutions have been condemning the indictment and what has been happening. I am wondering whether the U.S. Government is following the case and if – do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’ve got a bit for you on this here today. The United States remains seriously concerned about the widespread arrest and pretrial detention that’s taking place of individuals in Turkey who have been critical of that government. You mentioned the trial of 17 newspaper reporters. I know you are very familiar with this case, and many of us here have followed those cases as well. We continue to urge the Government of Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to also release the journalists and others who we believe are being held arbitrarily under the government’s state of emergency.

    I spoke today with our ambassador, our Ambassador Bass, who serves in Turkey, and he’s done a wonderful, wonderful job over there. He tells me that our embassy personnel have joined colleagues from other missions to observe some of those trial proceedings. Ambassador Bass has previously visited the newspaper – I don’t want to mispronounce it – Cumhuriyet? Is that how I say --

    QUESTION: Cumhuriyet. Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Cumhuriyet. Thank you. He’s gone there, and that really shows our level of concern, the fact that he has gone there to express his support for journalists there, his support for our belief in freedom of expression, including freedom of expression that other governments and other individuals might find uncomfortable. So he continues to underscore our support for free, independent media, important work that they do in democratic societies. If I have anything more on you – on that for you, I will certainly bring it to you, but we are following the cases of those individuals.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. Okay. Anything else on Turkey?

    QUESTION: Can I get a follow-up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Tell me your name, please.

    QUESTION: Cansu Camlibel from Hurriyet in Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, welcome.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks.

    QUESTION: So on the same case, you said Ambassador Bass went to the newspaper headquarters before, and some personnel from the embassy, I understand, followed the court case this week.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: I remember last year in a similar court case, some other diplomats, European diplomats, because they’d been to the courtroom, were personally attacked by the Turkish president. So since you said that you had a conversation with Ambassador Bass, does he have concerns that he might be subject to that kind of reaction from the Turkish Government because he – because of the U.S. mission’s close interest in the matter?

    MS NAUERT: I can certainly check with him. I’m not sure I would have anything for you on that. It’s kind of a hypothetical question, and so we typically don’t get into hypotheticals. But I know that he remains committed to the ideals of freedom of speech and also democracy.

    Okay. I think we’re about done.

    QUESTION: No.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Let me ask about Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. You want to ask about Syria? Okay.

    QUESTION: Could you update us on the situation --

    MS NAUERT: Last thing and then we’ve got to go.

    QUESTION: -- on Syria? I know there has been a statement by your allies, the Democratic Syria forces, that they have liberated half of Raqqa so far. Could you update us? What is the situation and how are you coordinating with the Russians on the ground?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So some of that would be a DOD matter, so I’m not going to get too much into how much ground has been taken. We know overall that the progress continues in Raqqa by the Syrian Democratic Forces backed by the U.S. and its coalition partners in that. That is an area where we know that ISIS has been heavily dug in. For folks who don’t follow this that closely, that is basically one of the areas where – well, it’s not basically; it is an area where ISIS had planned some of its plots – Nice, for example; Brussels. So ISIS was dug in there. They used that location in which to come up with those plots and activate those plots from that area.

    So our coalition allies have been hard at work in trying to get ISIS out of there, contain it. They have left a lot of explosive material behind. One of our missions will certainly have to be to work with our partners to de-mine some of those areas and get those explosives out so that eventually some of the civilians can come back in. Beyond that, I’d have to refer you to DOD.

    QUESTION: If the – this disarming or taking out these explosives required more American technical teams and so on, would the U.S. be willing to send in more teams?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure exactly who is on the ground doing that. I know that that is part of our humanitarian support for that area so that people can get back in.

    Okay, guys, we’re going to have to --

    QUESTION: Can you just speak quickly to --

    QUESTION: Russia-Ukraine.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, sure.

    QUESTION: And in regard to the new safety security assessment that you guys put out, is the U.S. Government or the State Department investigating any of these cases?

    MS NAUERT: So the cases that you’re referring to – and I know Michele has asked some questions about this regarding Mexico and concerns about tainted alcohol – we’ve put an update on our website about that because we have seen the media reports and concerns that people have about tainted alcohol at some resorts and clubs and things of that sort in Mexico.

    So the United States wouldn’t be involved in an investigation. That would be an internal matter for the Government of Mexico. They have a regulatory body that, from my understanding, that they are involved in in looking into some of this.

    QUESTION: Can you say whether you – the U.S. Government consulted the Mexican Government before it changed the language, or is it just because of the media reports?

    MS NAUERT: Well, this is because of – because of media reports, that is in part how we learned about it. I know it remains something that we’re watching carefully, but I’m just not going to get ahead of anything on that.

    QUESTION: So you can’t --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The U.S. Government hasn’t verified any of the reports? It’s just the fact that they’re out there?

    MS NAUERT: We have simply – one of the things we do is we will update our website just so visitors have information that they need just so they can be aware. This isn’t an increase in any kind of travel warnings, because you know that’s actually a technical thing, a travel warning. We’re not increasing that level as a result of this, but we want people to be able to have information that this is an issue. We’re aware of that through the media reports. It is an issue, so we just want our citizens and others to be aware of that and be careful.

    Okay? All right.

    QUESTION: Just one more on the region, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Just real quick before the expected vote in Venezuela on Sunday --

    MS NAUERT: Oh yeah, I’m so glad you asked. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Just Secretary watching – the United States earlier and the Trump Administration earlier had warned against holding that vote. Before that occurs on Sunday, is there any change in position?

    MS NAUERT: In terms of --

    QUESTION: From the – from the U.S. or otherwise.

    MS NAUERT: No, not at all. I mean, in fact, we had a really big news day yesterday, as you know, about the Treasury Department and sanctioning 13 Venezuelan individuals directly implicated in the political, economic, and also the social crises that are currently unfolding in Venezuela.

    We are prepared to continue taking strong and swift economic actions if the Government of Venezuela insists on holding those July 30th constituent assembly elections. It’s an area of major concern of ours. We have asked them not to do it. They have a constitution that is in place. The United States has consistently asked the Government of Venezuela to uphold its constitution and not hold the constituent elections, because we see these constituent elections as just a way to further the Maduro regime, and we’ve seen what has happened to the people of Venezuela. We have seen food shortages. We’ve seen children and families not being able to get the medical care and attention that they need. And we’re very concerned about the situation there. Venezuela crumbles and we don’t – is crumbling right now, and we don’t want to see that happening.

    Okay. Nikki Haley has also spoken out about this, as you all are very well aware, and one of the things that she has said and Secretary Tillerson has said as well, that we’ll keep our promise to the people of Venezuela, sanctions on individuals who are associated with corruption and violence against the Venezuelan people.

    Okay, all right. Gotta go.

    QUESTION: Russia?

    MS NAUERT: We’re – I’m done with Russia. We’re done with that for today. Thank you, everybody, and Happy Birthday to State Department.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:33 p.m.)

    DPB # 40

    [1] Republic of Korea


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 25, 2017

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 18:39
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 25, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • DEPARTMENT
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
  • IRAN
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
  • AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN
  • NORTH KOREA
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • DEPARTMENT
  • MEXICO

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:30 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody. How are you? Hi, Said. Good to see you. One second.

    Okay, good to be back with you. Happy Tuesday. Hope you’re all having a great day.

    QUESTION: It’s like 20 degrees in here. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Usually it’s a little high. It’s under the lights it gets hot, so it feels nice to have it a little cooler.

    QUESTION: Brisk.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I want to start out by telling you sort of a theme week that the administration is having, and they’re calling it “American Heroes Week.” And so I wanted to take this opportunity to talk with you a little bit about the terrific work that so many of our colleagues are doing here at the State Department, and also USAID. So bear with me here; it’s a little lengthy.

    American Heroes Week – the administration is bringing attention to the work that so many Americans are doing to help others around the world. In my time at the State Department, I’ve been impressed by the hard work and the service of Foreign Service officers and civil servants at the State Department and also USAID, and I want to highlight some of that work for you.

    Around the world, the Department of State and USAID are leading efforts to fight disease, feed the hungry, and reduce instability, all of which makes us safer here at home. America’s proactive and decisive leadership is saving lives by mitigating public health crises such as the spread of Ebola and Zika viruses, and staving off famine as the world faces the worst food security crisis since World War II.

    When I was a reporter, I saw firsthand the dedication of USAID staffers and its pride that they felt when I visited Sudan in 2004. I remember the pride that I felt when I first saw the slogan “From the American People” stamped on a bag of wheat that was distributed in South Sudan and also Darfur.

    The United States also remember – remains a leader in global health, working daily to drive advances in the prevention, the care, and the treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculous, and malaria, while saving millions of preventable diseases like cholera and polio. In the last 15 years, our government-funded interventions have contributed to a 45 percent decrease in maternal deaths and a 51 percent decrease in deaths of children under five.

    We also support U.S. citizens abroad. In the past eight months, we’ve provided emergency assistance to or helped coordinate travel to safe locations for U.S. citizens who are in South Sudan, in Russia, in Belgium, Peru, New Zealand, and other places in the wake of natural disasters or civil unrest. In 2016, we assisted 5,461 international adoptions – I know how happy those families are to have those little babies – and we enrolled 3,821 children in a program that’s aimed at preventing international parental child abduction.

    We support the security of U.S. borders while also facilitating legitimate travel. In fiscal 2016, we issued non-immigrant visas to more than 10 million foreign nationals to study, visit, and do business in the United States. International visitors contribute more than $240 billion to the U.S. economy, supporting more than 1 million U.S. jobs.

    As many people will note during the summer travel season, we help Americans see the world. Since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, we’ve issued 15.6 million passports for U.S. citizens and nationals in order to travel abroad. If a storm could disrupt your vacation plans or if you get sick from drinking the water or anything else, we alert you to our Travel Warnings, the alerts, and country-specific information. That is always a good reminder that regardless of wherever you’re traveling, go to our State Department website and let us know where you will be. In the case of an emergency, we’ll be able to reach you, and you can reach us.

    Lifesaving and tireless work of our diplomats and aid workers embodies America’s dedication to creating a safer and more prosperous world. Our assistance abroad is a testament to the generosity and the goodwill of the American people, and I’d like to thank my colleagues here at the State Department for doing such incredible work around the world.

    And with that, I will gladly take your questions.

    QUESTION: Thanks. Can I just ask, though, this American Heroes Week and the sentiments that you just expressed --

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, yeah.

    QUESTION: -- are an administration-wide – this is an administration-held sentiment?

    MS NAUERT: That is correct.

    QUESTION: So if the State Department and its employees do so much good work, why does the administration want to slash the budget by a third and cut thousands of jobs?

    MS NAUERT: The administration believes that it has to do more with less, and that is part of it. We’re striving to become more efficient. Part of that is taking a look at the reorganization. But when all of this is said and done, we will still remain the largest and most generous leader in humanitarian response around the world, and that will not change.

    QUESTION: Okay. I guess if you say so. The – I think that there are probably people in this building and elsewhere who disagree with you. But anyway, let’s move on to --

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think everybody can agree we will still remain --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- the most generous donor of any country around the world.

    QUESTION: Can I ask you just a – very briefly two things about the Secretary?

    MS NAUERT: Of course, yeah. Sure.

    QUESTION: One, is it – is it true or false that he’s thinking about resigning or leaving the administration early?

    MS NAUERT: That is false.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: We have spoken with the Secretary. The Secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at the State Department. We have a lot of work that is left to be done ahead of us. He recognizes that. He’s deeply engaged in that work. We have meetings scheduled. He has meetings scheduled for the rest of the week here in Washington. He does, however, serve at the pleasure of the President, just as any cabinet official would.

    QUESTION: Okay. And so that means you spoke to him today? Because this seems to be gaining new life every hour.

    MS NAUERT: Well – well, I know everyone loves --

    QUESTION: So have – was it recent that --

    MS NAUERT: Everyone loves to report on palace intrigue stories. The Secretary is committed to staying, and I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Right. But you talked to him today? Because --

    MS NAUERT: I have not seen him today. The Secretary is out for travel for a few days.

    QUESTION: Yeah. No, no, I understand that. But I’m just wondering, that leads into my second question, which is, if you did speak to him today or someone did, did he have any thoughts about the speech that the President made to the Boy Scouts last – yesterday?

    MS NAUERT: So the Secretary, as you well know, was very involved in the Boy Scouts, and he was out there on Friday speaking to the group. The Secretary is aware of the President’s comments. I think when all is said and done, those Boy Scouts, what they will remember from the Jamboree in West Virginia is that the President showed up, and that’s a pretty incredible thing that the President went there. Other presidents have as well, but for the President to show up, that’s a big honor for these young boys. And if anyone has any questions or concerns about the President’s remarks, I would leave it for the parents to characterize those remarks, not me from the State Department.

    QUESTION: No, I’m not asking you to characterize them at all.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But the Secretary didn’t have an issue, a problem with it, given his – given his past experience with the Boy Scouts?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that the Secretary had invited the President out himself personally --

    QUESTION: To the Jamboree?

    MS NAUERT: To the Jamboree.

    QUESTION: Knowing that he wasn’t going to be there? That the Secretary wasn’t going --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t see that as being an issue.

    QUESTION: No, no, no, no, I’m just curious.

    MS NAUERT: I mean, the Secretary went when he was able to go, and the President went when he was able to go.

    QUESTION: Okay. But he --

    MS NAUERT: And that’s – I think that’s the takeaway.

    QUESTION: But he did not – the Secretary did not express any opinion one way or another on the – what the President said?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Could I just follow up on --

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on that issue?

    QUESTION: -- on the Secretary?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, before we go to Israel-Palestinian stuff, let’s clear this --

    QUESTION: No, no. On the Secretary. I want to ask you about the Secretary.

    MS NAUERT: You have a question about this?

    QUESTION: Of course.

    MS NAUERT: All right, Said. Let’s go.

    QUESTION: Well, according to --

    QUESTION: He’s a man of many interests.

    QUESTION: I mean, it’s related.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: I ask about everything. So it is related. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the Zionist Organization of America called on the Secretary to resign because of the Human Rights report, because there is a passage in the report --

    QUESTION: Terrorism report.

    QUESTION: On the – I’m sorry. The terrorism report. Thank you, Matt. On the terrorism report of last week, because they say there is a passage where the Secretary was – or the report says that exacerbating the situation in the past, that the Palestinians have no hope, that there is increased of settlements, and so on. And in fact, they called the report that – they quote, “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating, and error-ridden.” Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So what you’re referring to is the counter terror report that the State Department puts out.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: This is something that State Department puts out every year --

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: -- as mandated by Congress, and then that gets delivered to Congress.

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: So in that report we consistently highlight terror attacks perpetuated against Israelis – and I’m just talking about the Israel portion – because this is a worldwide report. Those terror attacks that are perpetuated against Israelis by Hamas and others. There is no justification – and we will say that time and time again – there is no justification for any acts of terrorism. The Secretary of State is staying here, he will remain here, and that will not change.

    QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t really have a comment on an organization calling for his resignation?

    MS NAUERT: I – look, there are --

    QUESTION: Has he been --

    MS NAUERT: There are --

    QUESTION: Has he been made aware of this?

    MS NAUERT: There are organizations around the world who will take issue with certain things that the State Department does.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: And so I’m not going to get into commenting or characterizing every single one of them.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Can I get back to the beginning? How are you? It’s Michele.

    MS NAUERT: Hi. How are you? Nice to see you, Michele.

    QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the reform plan, since you’ve said he’s – he’s here to work on the reform plans? There’s been a lot of rumors out there from moving consular services to DHS to closing the war crimes office --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, let me stop you right there.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Because Consular Affairs, which is a huge part of what we do here – as you know, they help adjudicate visas. It’s an important part of the work, and that’s one of the things that the Secretary has said, that he believes the State Department is the rightful home for Consular Affairs. There’s been some inaccurate reporting on that, that it would move to the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary intends to have it stay here.

    QUESTION: Okay. Are there other – there’s a lot of rumors out there around a lot of different offices.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. No, no, and that’s why I want to correct them.

    QUESTION: Can you give us --

    MS NAUERT: So let me just say, in any case when you have questions about a story, you don’t need to go ahead and just report it without check – and I’m not speaking to you personally. Just as a general matter, please feel free to email us, to call us, so that we can try to set the record straight and make sure that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information. I’m seeing too many stories out there these days that are inconsistent with that, but go right ahead.

    QUESTION: And can you give us – so can you give us an update on when he expects to have this reorg done and some timing of that and how many jobs or offices he’s expecting to close down? Is there any --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So overall, the reorganization is – the redesign – reorganization, redesign, whatever you want to call it – is underway. We’re looking at a lot of different departments. There are a lot of functions that are handled here at the State Department. My understanding is that September 15th, I believe it is – correct me if I’m wrong, guys – September 15th we have to provide a report to the Office of Management and Budget. And there will be some information that will be submitted to them. And again, jump in if I’m wrong here, because we haven’t talked about this in a few days. But that is something that OMB will then have an opportunity to take a look at.

    There are steering committees that have been put together here at the State Department that head up five different components or five different areas. Let me try to find what exactly each one is for you. Okay. So they’re working groups, actually. Overseas operations is one; foreign assistance operations is number two; human capital planning is another; IT platforms; and also administrative services. So we have asked our employees, not just here in Washington but around the world, to take part in that. We’ve put together some working groups. People can provide us information and we’ll figure out best practices and how we should change things to alter the State Department, to keep it in line with the 21st century.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on that, Michele?

    QUESTION: That’s okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Sure.

    QUESTION: So my understanding is that there are about a dozen people working in each of those working groups. So is it their full time job now to be working on the restructure of the State Department? And if so, who’s filling their daily – what they were doing daily before that?

    MS NAUERT: Let me get back to you on that. I don't believe that that is the case. I believe that they are also involved in their existing projects as well. But let me get back to you, okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on our redesign here?

    QUESTION: On Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on redesign?

    QUESTION: Russia?

    QUESTION: Slightly – slightly related to the Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: Just hold on. Just raise your hand if you have anything else on the redesign. We’ll move on.

    QUESTION: -- to Matt’s questions about the Secretary though?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: You said he was traveling today.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: His public schedule said no available appointments today. It said the same thing yesterday. Last Thursday, it listed nothing, and we know he was on Capitol Hill briefing the House. He was at the Pentagon with the President. Can you say why we’re not being told where he is?

    MS NAUERT: Well, he does have the ability to go away for a few days on his own.

    QUESTION: So he’s just on vacation right now?

    MS NAUERT: Just taking a little time off. He’s got a lot of work. He just came back from that mega-trip overseas, as you all well know. Many of you were there with the G-20 and his other travel as well. So he’s entitled to take a few days himself.

    QUESTION: Of course. I don't think anyone is arguing against that. But why not just say he’s on vacation then?

    MS NAUERT: I don't know what is standard for secretaries of state, how they actually list private days. I can check to see what the prior arrangements were. Matt Lee probably knows, as our State Department historian. But that I’m not aware of.

    QUESTION: That’s pretty standard.

    MS NAUERT: That’s pretty standard? Okay.

    QUESTION: But a public event like on Friday, as we’ve discussed, is not.

    MS NAUERT: Understood. Understood. Okay.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s move on there. Hi, there.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. So Secretary Tillerson said of the Senate bill that he had concerns about limiting his flexibility, the Russia sanctions bill.

    MS NAUERT: You’re talking about Russia sanctions?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The administration has kind of signaled that it’s supportive, I guess, of the House version. What is the Secretary’s position on the House bill?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’ll say this again, and I’m sorry to disappoint you with something I’ve said many times.

    QUESTION: Right, but he has commented on the Senate.

    MS NAUERT: Pending legislation – and so that would be considered pending legislation. It’s something that has not – that is still in draft form, is my understanding. So I’m not going to get ahead of that and I’m also not going to comment on any pending legislation. But the Secretary, I think, has been firm about sanctions on Russia. We’ve talked a lot here about the issues facing Ukraine, how we expect and we intend, fully intend, those sanctions to remain in place until Russia stops the provocative actions that caused those sanctions to be placed in the first place in Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Do his comments about the Senate bill that he made a month ago still stand?

    MS NAUERT: I think that’s for the Secretary to speak to himself. I don't want to get ahead of the Secretary on that. I know he has remained concerned; he has followed the situation in Ukraine very closely and feels that Russia needs to do a lot more before we’re going to – if we were to ever change something related to that.

    QUESTION: And then just very quickly on Russia saying yesterday or earlier today that it – almost telegraphing that it wants to get involved in the GCC issue. Is it something the U.S. welcomes?

    MS NAUERT: I think – first what I would say about GCC is that we hope that all the sides will get together and have a meeting and sit down face-to-face. We’re still waiting for that to happen, and think that that could help advance the prospects for a resolution. That has not happened yet. We hope that that will happen sometime soon. If Russia can play a role – and by the way, Kuwait is still the technical mediator of sorts holding that – if Russia can play a role in helping to bring the sides to the table, I think we would welcome that. We might be skeptical of whether they’d be able to do that or not, but we would certainly welcome that if anyone were – be able to help bring those sides together.

    QUESTION: On the Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- there has been reports that the President has taken the Secretary out of the Iran deal certification process. Do you have any comment on those reports?

    MS NAUERT: We have been incredibly, as you all know --

    QUESTION: Right, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: -- very, very involved throughout --

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: -- that entire process.

    QUESTION: It has been a State Department thing, but now, it seems that --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. And that has not changed.

    QUESTION: -- the President wants to change policy --

    MS NAUERT: Well, this has --

    QUESTION: -- and he --

    MS NAUERT: This has not changed.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: The State Department will remain just as involved as it always has in the Iran situation.

    QUESTION: Right. So do you expect that in three months, the Secretary of State will either certify or not certify --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going --

    QUESTION: -- that the Iranians are doing --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of what may happen over the next three months. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: But what if we just --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Michele.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: I mean, I think his question kind of went back to what we had been asking before about the Secretary’s role vis-a-vis the White House. Is he happy with the amount of freedom he has to make the decisions that he wants to make at this point?

    MS NAUERT: So I would say that this is a deliberative process. The Secretary, as do all other Cabinet officials, meets with the President and the President’s National Security advisors and Cabinet members. That is something that’s normal, that’s customary. They sit down; they have a healthy dialogue and conversations about the heaviest and the weightiest foreign policy issues. Sometimes, people may – and I’m not saying this as it pertains to Iran, but in general – they may agree, they may not agree on different situations. And that is what’s healthy in a democracy, to have those conversations. Ultimately, the President is in charge of this country. He decides. He’s the boss. And I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Okay. And since we’re on Russia, if you don’t mind, in talking about sanctions you always – or I would say you generally specify that the Secretary is committed to these sanctions over Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Correct.

    QUESTION: What about his stance on the penalties on Russia over meddling in the U.S. election?

    MS NAUERT: To my knowledge, nothing has changed on that, in terms of that. I think the Secretary has been clear in his position that Russia meddled in the election. I know you’ve asked me a lot about that particular issue, and we continue to have concerns about it.

    So anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: But one of those --

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Yeah. One of those penalties is the --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- is – was the seizure of the two compounds --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- and that is up for negotiation with the Russians to actually return them.

    MS NAUERT: Well, that actually would not be considered a sanction.

    QUESTION: Well, I said penalties.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, okay. So regarding the dachas – and everyone is so obsessed with the dachas – but regarding that, those conversations are ongoing. As you know, Mr. Shannon here – Tom Shannon – has been engaged in conversations with his counterpart. No decisions have been made on that whatsoever. And so I can’t get ahead of what’s going to happen, but we do know that they were involved in some nefarious activities here in the United States. And we had the right and the ability to – Russia still owns them, by the way; I want to be clear about that – but we had the ability to have people leave from that facility and contain those facilities because of activities that were taking place there.

    QUESTION: You know who is the most obsessed about the dachas?

    MS NAUERT: Who?

    QUESTION: The Russians.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, of course they are. I mean, when you talk to the Russians --

    QUESTION: Exactly.

    MS NAUERT: -- and they have conversations, you --

    QUESTION: But it’s not us.

    MS NAUERT: No, no, no. Yeah, well that --

    QUESTION: Not us who are obsessed about it.

    MS NAUERT: You’re – that is a fair point, Matt. But when you talk to the Russians about things like civilian deaths in Syria, it seems that they often want to talk about dachas more.

    Okay. Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan? Afghanistan?

    QUESTION: The Ukraine?

    QUESTION: One on Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hold on, Nazira. Let me come back to you. The Ukraine. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So --

    MS NAUERT: How you doing, Josh?

    QUESTION: Good. How are you? So Ambassador Volker was in eastern Ukraine on his first trip to that region. He gave some interviews to international media while he was there. Do you have any details on what was accomplished during his visit and any kind of timeframe for a decision on whether to provide lethal weaponry to the rivals there?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, okay. So regarding the dachas – and everyone is so obsessed with the dachas – but regarding that, those conversations are ongoing. As you know, Mr. Shannon here – Tom Shannon – has been engaged in conversations with his counterpart. No decisions have been made on that whatsoever. And so I can’t get ahead of what’s going to happen, but we do know that they were involved in some nefarious activities here in the United States. And we had the right and the ability to – Russia still owns them, by the way; I want to be clear about that – but we had the ability to have people leave from that facility and contain those facilities because of activities that were taking place there.

    QUESTION: You know who is the most obsessed about the dachas?

    MS NAUERT: Who?

    QUESTION: The Russians.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, of course they are. I mean, when you talk to the Russians --

    QUESTION: Exactly.

    MS NAUERT: -- and they have conversations, you --

    QUESTION: But it’s not us.

    MS NAUERT: No, no, no. Yeah, well that --

    QUESTION: Not us who are obsessed about it.

    MS NAUERT: You’re – that is a fair point, Matt. But when you talk to the Russians about things like civilian deaths in Syria, it seems that they often want to talk about dachas more.

    Okay. Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan? Afghanistan?

    QUESTION: The Ukraine?

    QUESTION: One on Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hold on, Nazira. Let me come back to you. The Ukraine. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So --

    MS NAUERT: How you doing, Josh?

    QUESTION: Good. How are you? So Ambassador Volker was in eastern Ukraine on his first trip to that region. He gave some interviews to international media while he was there. Do you have any details on what was accomplished during his visit and any kind of timeframe for a decision on whether to provide lethal weaponry to the rivals there?

    MS NAUERT: So Special Representative Volker – I’m not sure where he is at this hour, right now, but – spent time in the eastern part of Ukraine. As many of you know, that’s considered a fairly dangerous area. We’ve seen a real uptick in violence recently. Thirteen or more Ukrainian soldiers have been killed as a result of that Russian-led attacks on those soldiers.

    One of the things that our special representative did, he went out with the OSCE monitors. They are the people on the ground who are monitoring the situation. We have continued to have very serious concerns. We have talked about this from the podium about the monitors’ ability to do their jobs. They are the eyes and ears on the ground to be able to assess and give us good reporting about the situation there.

    So he went out with the OSCE monitors to see, unfortunately, just how dangerous their job is right now. I know that’s one of the things that he was doing. He wanted to start to get the ground truth. His job will be trying to bring the parties from the Normandy format back to trying to negotiate something so that we could get closer to adhering to the Minsk accords. I don’t have any readouts for particular meetings with you, but when Mr. Volker comes back, I’ll see if I can get him back in here to give you all a good – a better debrief.

    QUESTION: And on the arms for Ukraine?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So there was a BBC report headline. Sometimes the headline writers – you all would know this – will get ahead of the story. So there was a headline that implied that we were in the process of doing what you just described. We are not there yet. Let me take out the word “yet.” We are not there. The United States has not provided defensive weapons nor have we ruled it out to provide to the Ukrainians.

    Okay. All right. Anything else on Ukraine?

    QUESTION: On Russia?

    QUESTION: On Russia?

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s talk Afghanistan.

    QUESTION: As we are approaching the end of July, do you have any update on the policy review? Why is it delayed?

    MS NAUERT: This is something – gosh, we’ve been in Afghanistan for 16 years now. It’s something that I know the administration cares deeply about. I know General McMaster, General Mattis, and others care deeply about this matter. It is a complicated situation in Afghanistan. The policy review is still underway. It will be underway until they make a determination for the best way forward.

    There are other reviews we’ve talked about that are still underway as well, including Pakistan and others, and so I don’t want to get ahead of that. I’m not going to say when this is going to happen. It could happen soon, but it may take longer as well.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan --

    QUESTION: What tools does the Secretary envision to turn around the conflict in Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think one of the things that the Secretary feels very strongly about is trying to develop – get to a place where we can have some sort of a peace process. And that means actually sitting down and talking with members of the Taliban and starting to facilitate that kind of dialogue.

    Ultimately, like in many situations in many other countries, military options or our military strategy is not necessarily going to win those countries and put peace back together. It’s part of it. It’s part of it. But in the long run, you have to bring both sides to the table or multiple sides to the table together to determine their future.

    QUESTION: So am I reading correctly he’s not pro the military option?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not – I mean, that’s a piece of it. Of course, the military option is a piece of it. But the Secretary of State is not going to advocate or is not going to work on General – on Mr. McMaster’s behalf or on General Mattis’s behalf. That is their piece of it to decide at the Department of Defense and as the National Security Advisor. Our piece of it to work on is more from the diplomacy standpoint and humanitarian assistance.

    QUESTION: And a follow-up on --

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: On the Korean Peninsula --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Nazira. Hi, nice to see you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: She’s our Afghan journalist. So welcome back.

    QUESTION: Thank you very much. Nazira Azim Karimi. Now I’m working as a independent journalist.

    You might know about yesterday’s – yesterday big attack in Afghanistan, so many people has been killed and injured, and Taliban took the responsibility. On the other side, Defense Secretary General Mattis also not satisfied about Pakistan pressure toward the Haqqani Network and Taliban. And also, Pentagon spokesman said that $50 million will not deliver to Pakistan; Pakistan supposed to bring more pressure to Taliban and Haqqani Network.

    Do you have any comment about it?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Well, first, let me start out by talking about the attack in Kabul --

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: -- July 24th, took place yesterday, that killed at least 35 people and wounded many, many more. We want to send our condolences to the family of – the families of those who were killed and also those who were injured. Afghanistan is a good friend of the United States. That is something – you all have experienced some terrible, terrible terror attacks in your country, and our hearts go out to you and your people. I know your family has been affected by this as well --

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- and that is something we care deeply about.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: The latest attack targeted civilians and public servants. My understanding is that one of our guards, a local Afghan, was killed in the blast as well, so our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family. We’re aware that members of the Taliban have claimed responsibility. We know that the Taliban has become more dangerous and more deadly and has been involved in the kinds of attacks that perhaps previously they have not been involved with, and that remains a major concern of ours.

    QUESTION: So you’re optimistic about peace process with the Taliban, although they show every day negative --

    MS NAUERT: I think it’s premature to say that, but when we can get to the point where we might be able to help facilitate along with Afghanistan to get people to sit down and talk together, then that would certainly be a step in the right direction. Until then, we will continue to support our Afghan partners.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Israel-Palestine regarding the --

    MS NAUERT: Sure. Okay. Wait, you have one on Afghanistan?

    QUESTION: Yeah. What do you say to critics who say you don’t have enough people working in the State Department to even pursue a peace process?

    MS NAUERT: So we – we have a wonderful lady, Ambassador Alice Wells, who has come over to lead for the time being. And I think a fault of ours here from this podium is that we’ve not done enough to talk about the people we’ve put in place to do the good work. And some of that has kind of gotten pushed by the sidelines because we’ve had so much going on with the DPRK and Russia and all of that. Alice Wells – we were thrilled to have her come back here at the State Department. She had previously served as U.S. ambassador to Jordan and numerous other places. So she has remained very engaged in the process. She’s a terrific leader. We’re looking forward to having her a part of that. She has taken on for – at least for the time being the duties of the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    And so these issues – these will still be addressed. We still have a team of people. I met with three or four of our Afghan-related people today to talk about some of the policy issues, and so they’re engaged and they’re working hard at it. It’s something they care passionately about. It’s something I know they’re very invested in, so that has not gone away. That won’t go away.

    QUESTION: Even --

    QUESTION: So the office – the office is still there and has not been disbanded? And if it hasn’t been, why would the previous holder of that job do a on-the-record interview with – and say that the entire office has been closed down?

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, we believe in free speech. You’re referring to Laurel Miller. I’ve met with Laurel and she did some fantastic work here. She’s entitled to go out and talk to reporters about her time and concerns and all that --

    QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re saying that what she said was flat-out wrong.

    MS NAUERT: Well, no. We have Alice Wells, who’s in position. She’s in the position to handle the SRAP duties for now and for handling that bureau.

    QUESTION: If I walk downstairs to the --

    MS NAUERT: I haven’t walked down there lately. I don’t know what the status is of that office.

    QUESTION: -- and knock on the door, will someone answer?

    MS NAUERT: Here is what is important, and I know people are obsessed with --

    QUESTION: Or are there movers in there?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. I know people are obsessed with, “Are you shutting down this bureau? Are you shutting down that bureau? Are you shutting down the global office of whatever, whatever?” All of those functions will still remain here at the State Department. That is not changing. A different person may handle it. In some instances, it may get combined with an existing bureau. That doesn’t mean that the priority goes away and that doesn’t mean that the functions of that job or its duties will go away. I want to be very clear about that. There’s been a lot of reporting on that. Those functions will still remain here at the State Department, okay, and that’s all I’m going to have for you on that. Okay.

    QUESTION: Will the – those who’ve been the staff work for the ambassador now?

    QUESTION: Given the fact --

    QUESTION: Does Laurel’s staff now work for the ambassador? Is the staff still there?

    MS NAUERT: I – let me get back to you on that. I know maybe there have been a couple departures, but for the most part, the people I see every day handling Afghanistan and Pakistan and India issues are all the same.

    QUESTION: Given the fact that Alice Wells is both the acting special rep for the office of Afghanistan SRAP and she’s also acting for the SCA, what is the – in the future, will the office reporting to SCA bureau?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, what was the last part? In the future --

    QUESTION: Yeah. What is the plan? Would the special – SRAP be reporting to the bureau of SCA?

    MS NAUERT: So my understanding is that she will be working on both issues right now. She’s hard at work. She was here when the Afghan girls arrived to meet them at the airport – just one small example. She remains very passionate and engaged in these issues. Where that title of special representative goes in the long term, I’m not sure just yet. We have 70-some special representatives here at the State Department. Some are congressionally mandated; others are not. But what I can tell you is that every single function of a special representative of this or that, all of those issues will still be addressed. We’re not going to stop caring about Afghanistan, for example, if there’s not a special representative. The functions will still be done. I don’t think I can say that more strongly or more clearly than that.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: North Korea.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, hi.

    QUESTION: Thank you very much, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s talk about North Korea. Hi.

    QUESTION: Couple more on Afghanistan.

    QUESTION: North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: North Korea – on the North Korean travel ban --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- and that if you violated the travel prohibition to the North Korea, what are the specific details of penalties?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t want to get ahead of that just yet. Let me get back with you on what the exact penalties will be. The travel ban will go into effect 30 days after it is listed in the Federal Register. We’ve talked a lot here about the dangers of traveling to North Korea. I saw in one major newspaper today where people were talking about, oh, there are neat experiences in North Korea, which makes it sound like it’s a fantastic place to go. Let me use this as an opportunity to remind people: It is not safe for Americans to go to North Korea. Let me remind you, we still have Americans who are being detained in North Korea. We don’t want to see any more people go to North Korea and be detained, and that is why we put that travel ban in place. That travel ban had been under consideration for quite some time.

    Important to note – Matt, I know you had this question earlier – people will be able to apply to go to North Korea. Journalists may be able to apply, for example, some --

    QUESTION: May, or will?

    MS NAUERT: Well, you certainly can. You certainly can.

    QUESTION: So you have --

    MS NAUERT: And it’s adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. You know all of that, so if you have important work to do there that is really necessary – and the work that journalists do is important, to have that on-the-ground, accurate information; we certainly value that – you’ll still be able to apply for that kind of thing.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: Let me get back to you, though, with the specifics on what the penalties would be for Americans to travel there, okay?

    QUESTION: On Pakistan?

    QUESTION: North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. We’re going to stay in Asia now.

    QUESTION: Yeah, Korea?

    QUESTION: Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: So yeah, I was just – I was curious about the humanitarian classification as well. Like, how many U.S. citizen --

    MS NAUERT: On North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: How many U.S. citizens actually go to North Korea for those kinds of purposes?

    MS NAUERT: I wish we knew that number, but that’s not a kind of government number that – it’s not a number that we would track.

    QUESTION: Not yet. It will be soon.

    MS NAUERT: You think so?

    QUESTION: So you --

    QUESTION: In – once this takes effect, they’re going to have to get special permission, so then you’ll know.

    MS NAUERT: So we don’t keep track of that.

    QUESTION: Okay. And --

    MS NAUERT: And nor do we keep track of the number of Americans who – the government doesn’t keep track of the number of Americans who travel to the UK or Australia or any other place. We just don’t track in that fashion.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay, anything else on Asia?

    QUESTION: Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Asia? (Inaudible.)

    QUESTION: Yeah, Korea question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But first, I actually want to follow-up from last Thursday. Is there now a statement or is there a statement yet about the Secretary’s relationship to the allegations against ExxonMobil regarding Russia sanctions?

    MS NAUERT: Are there – what’s the first part of your question?

    QUESTION: Has the Secretary had the opportunity to put together a statement regarding his tenure at ExxonMobil during the period where these allegations of sanctions violations took place?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. We’re not in Asia any longer --

    QUESTION: No, but I – my follow-up is about Asia.

    MS NAUERT: Your follow-up is Asia, okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: So I think I was clear on Thursday, and I’m not going to have a ton for you on this.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: Treasury and its Office of Foreign Assets Control was clear, I think, in their – in laying out their case. The Secretary went through great effort to not only resign from his company, retire from his company, but also recuse himself from anything related to ExxonMobil. So the Secretary has firmly remained – taken – continued to have that position. He’s not going to weigh in on all of that. You could talk to Exxon or you could talk to Treasury if you want more information.

    QUESTION: Sure. And that makes sense with regards to the Russia sanctions, but --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- my question regarding North Korea: Does it at all undermine the department’s ability to urge China to adhere to DPRK sanctions when it’s still not clear about the Secretary’s involvement in sanctions violations during his tenure at Exxon?

    MS NAUERT: Not at all. I mean, look, China and countries all around the world recognize the threat of North Korea. They recognize a threat when they see an ICBM fired on July the 4th, when they see actions from that regime advancing nuclear weapons and testing. So it’s not just in the United States’ interest to try to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula; it’s in the interest of the world. And the world recognizes that. And one good way to try to encourage Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles program is to apply the pressure campaign, and that was one of the top priorities for the administration when Secretary Tillerson came in. And I’ve sat there in the meetings and I’ve listened to him as he’s talked with countries around the world about the importance of that pressure campaign and keeping up that pressure campaign to try to remove the money that is enabling North Korea to keep going with its program.

    QUESTION: Sure, but still, doesn’t – doesn’t that pressure become somewhat undermined if the messenger has a sort of conflict?

    MS NAUERT: Not at all, because this isn’t about the United States. The Secretary remains firmly committed to pressuring countries and remains fully committed to the sanctions. And every country around the world, for the most part, that we’ve spoken to is in agreement with us on that and the dangers of North Korea. And you could talk to any of our allies and they would agree on that.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Could you get to Anne’s question on --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- Israel-Palestinians?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: There was a time that that would have led the briefing, but --

    QUESTION: Right.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, Anne. What happened to your question earlier?

    QUESTION: We went to Korea. So --

    MS NAUERT: How did – how did we do that? Okay, okay. Sorry.

    QUESTION: So – well, a couple things: Has the Secretary been directly involved in any of the outreach to any of the parties – Israel, Palestinians, Jordanians? Could you detail any of that for us and then walk us through what Ambassador Friedman is doing? I know he’s been making a lot of calls and moving around.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So Ambassador Freeman and – Friedman, excuse me, and also the President’s Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt have spent a lot of time on this. This is an issue we care deeply about. Mr. Greenblatt is over there right now. On Sunday, and as we watched the tensions escalate over the weekend and the past few days, Mr. Greenblatt jumped on a plane and he went over there. And he has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he went to Israel, he’s also spending time in Jordan, and he’s working very hard to try to de-escalate the tensions there, and that’s really our priority – talking to both sides to de-escalate those tensions.

    This is something – an initiative, if you will – that is backed by the State Department. The Secretary of State, along with so many of my colleagues here, are involved in this process. When Mr. Greenblatt and Mr. Friedman go to meetings, they’re backed by our staff members, and when they return, they debrief us. I met with Mr. Greenblatt about a week or so ago and we talked – this was before some of this had occurred – but we talked about the importance of that, the importance of that rule, and I think there’s very close cooperation between the State Department and the White House on that matter.

    QUESTION: Was there any direct U.S. engagement in helping the Jordanians get to a place where the diplomatic standoff in Amman could be resolved, which was followed pretty quickly by removal of the metal detectors?

    MS NAUERT: Specific to the issue of Amman, I’m not aware if we were involved personally. I think that would be an issue between Jordan and Israel. As it pertains to this situation in Israel itself, that’s something that we have been involved with in trying to de-escalate those tensions, and Mr. Greenblatt was directly involved in that.

    QUESTION: And the Secretary, did he make any of these calls?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I don’t have any calls for you – to read out for you right now, but if I have anything for you on that, I’ll let you know.

    QUESTION: Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Can you guys – we talked a little about this last week, although I was unable to pry an answer from you.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, okay.

    QUESTION: Maybe I can now --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I think I know where you’re going.

    QUESTION: -- and that has to do with the metal detectors and their replacement.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah.

    QUESTION: So did you guys think that it was a – or do you think that it is a good idea for the Israelis to remove the metal detectors?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and I’m going to repeat this again – anything that serves to de-escalate tensions --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- and pave the road for the two sides to come together and have conversations not only about this, but also about the peace process moving forward, we would certainly support that. As you know, we support the maintenance of the status quo at that site and we welcome all sides and their commitment to the status quo.

    QUESTION: Well, right. So the Israelis say that they’re going to take the metal detectors away but replace them with these --

    QUESTION: Cameras.

    QUESTION: -- high-tech, high-definition, high-resolution cameras. This is something that I spent hours with your predecessor, because the previous secretary of state got an agreement between the Jordanians and the Israelis for cameras similar to this that never were put in place because the Palestinians objected.

    Do you think that this new arrangement with cameras is a step in the right direction --

    MS NAUERT: Well --

    QUESTION: -- and does it change the status quo?

    MS NAUERT: I think that we would leave it to those parties to determine what works for them. Ultimately – and as it goes with the peace process, ultimately, it’s their decision to make. Both parties have to be able to live with it and be able to work with it. We are merely here as a supporter, a facilitator of peace, and that’s not going to change, but they have to be able to work together.

    QUESTION: So this isn’t something that you would advocate? You would not – this administration would not say to the Jordanians, the Palestinians, and the Israelis, look, we think that these high-tech cameras are the way to go?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that conversation taking place. What I do know is that tensions seem to be lessening a little bit. We’re pleased with that. It looks like it’s going in the right direction right now. Obviously, a very fragile region, so I don’t want to add to anything there that could potentially heighten concern. We’re happy that Mr. Greenblatt’s there, and let me just leave that at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Very quickly --

    QUESTION: One last very brief thing --

    MS NAUERT: And then we have to go.

    QUESTION: -- on Israel.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: And this has to do with – I don’t know if you’re aware of this, I’ve pointed it out earlier, but the – a small group of pro-Palestinian activists were prevented from getting on a flight to Israel in – at Dulles because they said that they were – the airline said that they had a letter from the Israeli Government saying that they would not be admitted to the country. This is under their new law, the Israelis’ new law, which allows them to bar supporters of the BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement – from entering. These people were American citizens. Do you guys have any issue with them being denied the plane ride?

    MS NAUERT: We’re certainly familiar with that report. We’re aware of that. We have a strong opposition to the boycotts and sanctions against Israel. I think we’ve made that position very well known. As a matter of general principle, as many of us know as Americans – I know not everybody here in this room is an American – but we value freedom of expression, and that’s something that is very important to us, even in cases where we don’t agree with the political views of others. But for more information on that, I’d ask you to talk to the Israeli Government about that decision.

    QUESTION: Well, but is this something that you would raise with the Israeli Government as a – to say, hey, look, we have a problem with this or we don’t have a problem with this?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of whether or not we will bring that up with the Israelis. I think our focus right now will be on de-escalating tensions in the Middle East. If this does come up and if it’s something that I can discuss with you, I certainly will.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: Can I go --

    QUESTION: A quick follow-up on Friedman.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. We’re going to have to go, guys. I’m really sorry.

    QUESTION: A quick follow-up on Ambassador Friedman.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Just really quick.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Last one, because --

    QUESTION: Because I know he was active behind the scenes and so on. Was he freelancing or was he coordinating with the Secretary of State?

    MS NAUERT: Freelancing?

    QUESTION: I mean, was he doing it on his own?

    MS NAUERT: There’s no freelancing in – (laughter) --

    QUESTION: Okay. So he was coordinating --

    MS NAUERT: There is no freelancers.

    QUESTION: Was he coordinating all his efforts with the Secretary of State, his boss?

    MS NAUERT: The efforts that the White House is engaged with as it pertains --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- to Israel and all of this, we are aware of those efforts. We stay in close contact. I was speaking with Mr. Greenblatt’s colleagues earlier today. My other colleagues have spoken with Mr. Friedman’s folks. So we remain in close contact with all this. There’s no freelancing going on, okay?

    QUESTION: If I could just clarify what you said earlier --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- you said that the Secretary was taking a little time off.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Was that something that has been planned for a while, or was that time he’s taking off in response to the speculation of his future?

    MS NAUERT: No. I’m glad you asked that question. This is – my understanding is that this was time that he had planned for quite some time. Okay? Thanks, everybody.

    QUESTION: Is the State Department alarmed by these reports out of Mexico, all these allegations that the tourists down there have been drugged or – I mean, there have been these incidents where they’re getting injured or worse, and it seems like it’s either poor quality alcohol or druggings or something. I mean, it’s a mystery. Is that something that you’re alarmed about or watching?

    MS NAUERT: I think – let me get back to you with that in particular. But I know that we are concerned with travelers. We give travelers warnings about places that they might go, and we do that in Mexico as well as other countries. So if I have anything more for you, I’ll let you know.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:15 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 20, 2017

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 16:45
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 20, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • UKRAINE
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA/DEPARTMENT
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • SYRIA/REGION
  • NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN/REGION
  • POLAND
  • EGYPT
  • INDIA/CHINA/REGION
  • TURKEY/GERMANY

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:20 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everyone.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: Good to see you all today.

    QUESTION: Is it?

    MS NAUERT: It is. It’s always good to see you. I do enjoy this.

    QUESTION: Let’s see how long that lasts.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) All right. Ask me in a few weeks.

    QUESTION: How about a couple minutes?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Hey, now. Okay. I got a couple things I want to start out with today, and – one second. You know what I don’t have? I don’t have our news on our top thing we’re talking about.

    QUESTION: No topper?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a topper. Give me just a second, everybody. Sorry about that.

    QUESTION: Show tunes?

    MS NAUERT: You don’t want to hear me sing and dance. How’s everybody? Good? Good. Sorry about this.

    QUESTION: Can you do the second thing first?

    MS NAUERT: What’s the second thing first? Questions?

    QUESTION: I don’t know.

    MS NAUERT: We don’t have any guests today. I have that to announce. Hey, I mean you, but you’re our regulars. You’re our peeps. Thank you so much. Sorry about that. Okay. Ah, Ukraine.

    So I have one announcement at the top, and you’ve probably followed some of the news coming out of Ukraine recently. The United States says it wants to condemn the latest violence in eastern Ukraine. The last 24 hours were considered the deadliest one-day period in 2017. In this time period, eight Ukrainian soldiers have now been killed, including five deaths in an attack which appears to have been initiated by Russian-led forces. We call again on Russia and the forces that it arms, trains, and leads in the east to immediately observe the ceasefire. To comply with the Minsk agreements, those forces must withdraw all heavy weapons, disengage from the line of contact, and allow full, safe, and unfettered access to the OSCE monitors to the international border.

    I also want to take the opportunity to mark a sad anniversary. One year ago today, Ukrayinska Pravda journalist Pavel Sheremet – pardon me – was killed in a car bombing in Kyiv. Regrettably, no one has been accountable for his murder. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends and urge the Government of Ukraine to use all available resources to bring those responsible to justice. The United States commends the efforts of the courageous journalists like him who expose corruption and promote a free and open exchange of ideas. We underscore the importance of protecting journalists and ensuring that the perpetrators of this murder face justice.

    And I’ll start with your questions. I know we have a lot today.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Matt, where would you like to begin?

    QUESTION: Well, let’s stay with Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I find it a little interesting that you chose to top with that given other events of the day. So just to get the legal stuff out of the way first, the Secretary, when he became Secretary, pledged to recuse himself from any kind of – anything having to do with Exxon --

    MS NAUERT: That’s correct.

    QUESTION: -- and the government. I presume that is the case with Treasury and the OFAC announcement today? He had nothing --

    MS NAUERT: That is correct.

    QUESTION: -- nothing to do with --

    MS NAUERT: The State Department was not involved with the announcement --

    QUESTION: At all?

    MS NAUERT: -- from Treasury, correct.

    QUESTION: So not anyone – not even anyone lower was --

    MS NAUERT: That --

    QUESTION: -- consulted or was involved in this decision?

    MS NAUERT: No. This was a – this was simply a Treasury action.

    QUESTION: Do you – well, does he – what does he think about this?

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary – we’re not going to have any comments today for you on some of the alleged facts or the facts underlying the enforcement action. Treasury is going to have to answer a lot of these questions for you. I’m not going to have a lot for you on this today. The Treasury Department was involved in this. They were the ones who spearheaded this. And so for a lot of your questions, I’m going to have to refer you to Treasury.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, this is a question specifically related to him.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, yes.

    QUESTION: And you’re going to refer me to Treasury?

    MS NAUERT: Well, Treasury has a lot of the details, but beyond this --

    QUESTION: Well, I want to know what he thinks.

    MS NAUERT: Yes. I’m not going to comment on that at this time. The Secretary recused himself from his dealings with ExxonMobil at the time that he became Secretary of State. This all predates his time here at the Department of State, and so --

    QUESTION: I understand that.

    MS NAUERT: -- I’m going to refrain from giving any comment on that at this time.

    QUESTION: I understand this predates his time as Secretary of State, but now he is in a position in which he is part of a team that is supposed to enforce sanctions, not violate them or allow others to violate them. So I think it’s relevant to know what he thinks about this decision today.

    MS NAUERT: I think I will say this: The Secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities. The action was taken by the Department of State – excuse me, the Department of the Treasury, and State was not involved in this.

    QUESTION: Right. Well, Exxon seems to – well, not seems to; Exxon says in its statement that it thinks that it’s being treated unfairly by OFAC and that it was led to believe that there was a difference between dealing with Mr. Sechin in a professional rather than a personal manner – in other words, that dealing with him professionally was okay; dealing with him personally was not. Does the – clearly --

    MS NAUERT: You mentioned OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

    QUESTION: Clearly – clearly the Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: That is under Treasury, so I can’t comment on anything from that.

    QUESTION: Clearly the Secretary, who was the CEO of Exxon at the time, would have known that, and in fact, OFAC in its ruling says that Exxon’s senior-most executives knew of Sechin’s status as an SDN when they did – went ahead and did these deals anyway. So that suggests – or it doesn’t suggest, it says that Exxon didn’t think – Exxon knew he was a sanctioned person, but didn’t think that what it was doing was a violation. Does the Secretary still think that?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I hear your question. I’m not going to have any comment on the specifics that have come out of Treasury at this point. Exxon could perhaps best answer some of those questions, and Treasury can answer them as well.

    QUESTION: Your – okay. Your opening statement about the Ukraine and the deteriorating situation there --

    MS NAUERT: Correct.

    QUESTION: -- the OFAC announcement says that ExxonMobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives by engaging in this by signing not one, two, three, four, but eight different contracts – or its subsidiary did. Is the Secretary committed to the sanctions program --

    MS NAUERT: I think --

    QUESTION: -- and the objectives of the sanctions programs?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary has been very clear not only about his support for the Government of Ukraine, the support for the president, Mr. Poroshenko. I think that’s incredibly evident by the fact that he just recently traveled over there. The Secretary had appointed Ambassador Kurt Volker to be a special envoy to handle Minsk and to handle the situation in eastern Ukraine. That’s something that’s extremely important to this building, the Secretary, Ambassador Volker as well --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- and the overall administration.

    QUESTION: But if --

    MS NAUERT: So I think our support of the Ukrainian Government is clear. We had a good series of meetings as the President Poroshenko was here in Washington not that long ago, and had a really good series of meetings when they were in Kyiv.

    QUESTION: Right. And all of what you just said is true, which makes it all the more surprising that something like this would happen. I mean, did he not support the objectives of the U.S. Government when he was the chairman --

    MS NAUERT: Again --

    QUESTION: -- of Exxon?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t speak to that.

    QUESTION: And can you assure us that he does now?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t speak to that in particular. I can tell you, additional questions you can speak with ExxonMobil; they would best address them. The Secretary has recused himself. He’s living up to his ethical commitments that he agreed to when he took this position as Secretary of State. I know some of these answers may not be satisfying to you, but that’s what I can give you right now.

    QUESTION: And does – can you tell us if the Secretary believes in the objectives of the Ukraine-related sanctions programs?

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have remained very concerned about maintaining sanctions. That will continue. We’ve been clear that sanctions will continue until Russia does what Russia needs to do.

    QUESTION: Right, he said that.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: But I want to make – but he said that while he was in Ukraine. It was a very powerful statement.

    MS NAUERT: We have – we have no --

    QUESTION: Which is why something like this is all the more surprising.

    MS NAUERT: We have no change in policy.

    QUESTION: So you can assure us that he remains committed to the objectives of the sanctions program?

    MS NAUERT: Pertaining to Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, that is correct.

    QUESTION: All right. Okay.

    MS NAUERT: That is correct.

    QUESTION: Heather, (inaudible) --

    QUESTION: Just to follow up --

    QUESTION: Can we move on?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on, let – hold on, hold on. Let’s continue on this issue, if anybody has any questions, and we’ll move on to something else. Carol.

    QUESTION: For the record, will he come down and talk with us --

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m sorry, who --

    QUESTION: -- talk about this? Just for the record, will he come down and talk about this to us himself?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m here to speak on his behalf and on behalf of the building. There’s not a whole lot that we can say about this right now. Again, you can talk to Treasury or to Exxon about this. Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, did --

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: In his confirmation hearing, under questioning, he was asked what he would do in situations where – I believe it was referring to an Iran deal that had been signed between an Exxon subsidiary. But he was asked what he would do in a situation like that as Secretary of State, and he said, “I would certainly be open to having the folks at the State Department contact companies and inquire as to whether they’re aware of the actions that they’re taking in the State Department’s view.” So has he, as Secretary of State, been in touch with Exxon to caution them about their actions?

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary has been – not to my knowledge. I can tell you this, that he has been extremely clear in his recusal of anything having to do with Exxon. When this information come to us here at the State Department, it did not come to the Secretary himself. It came to the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. The Secretary has taken this very seriously, that Exxon-related activities are not something that he is involved with here as Secretary of State.

    QUESTION: So is the deputy secretary involved in some way? Is he communicating with Exxon, or does he plan to?

    MS NAUERT: He – I don’t know if he’s communicating with Exxon. I just know that we were informed of that decision. I believe it came from the Treasury Department.

    Okay?

    QUESTION: Was the Secretary aware that this guy was on the sanctions list and that he was signing it --

    MS NAUERT: Carol, I can’t answer that question for you right now. Okay.

    QUESTION: Regarding the violence --

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: -- is there – are there any new proposals before the, I guess the State Department and the White to provide more lethal aid to Ukraine? And does this violence that happened, is that more under consideration now because of what’s been happening there?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t answer that for you at this point. I know that violence was concerning enough that it was brought to everyone’s attention here. We had conversations about that. That’s why I wanted to alert you all to it and underscore the importance and the level of concern that we have regarding that. Ambassador Kurt Volker will remain very engaged in the activities, trying to push both parties and also other countries who are involved in working on the Minsk accords to try to get Russia to fulfill what we’ve asked them to fulfill.

    Okay? Is that it?

    QUESTION: Yeah, but the violence has turned more lethal --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: Just given that the Secretary and Exxon violated these sanctions, is there any consideration that he would recuse himself --

    MS NAUERT: I think that’s an unfair way of phrasing it. You say that he did that. This involves the company, and that’s why the company will have to speak to that, not --

    QUESTION: And the senior-most executives in that company.

    MS NAUERT: We don’t know who was involved in that. At least I don’t know who was involved in that at the time. Again, I’m not going to have a lot of information for you. Exxon could best answer that or Treasury Department.

    QUESTION: Hold up.

    QUESTION: But – go ahead.

    QUESTION: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: No, I was just going to say just last week the Secretary, speaking to reporters who were lucky enough to be on his plane with him, said that his life as Secretary is a lot different than being CEO of Exxon because, quote, “I was the ultimate decision maker.” It seems to me that if the company was aware that this guy, Mr. Sechin, was an SDN and decided to go ahead with the deals anyway because it thought that dealing with him professionally as opposed to personally was okay, that that would go to the ultimate decision maker of the company.

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I think that’s a hypothetical, a hypothetical type question. You are assuming that he was involved with that decision making. I don’t know if that was the case or not.

    QUESTION: Well, either he was the ultimate decision maker at Exxon or he wasn’t.

    MS NAUERT: If one says that one is the ultimate decision maker, that would be like me saying that in my household. I’m the ultimate decision maker, implying that other people --

    QUESTION: I have no doubt that you are. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Implying that other people in my family don’t make decisions as well. You know that that is the case, that people share in things, so --

    QUESTION: Right. But one thing that --

    QUESTION: I mean, in that interview --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- the idea was that the buck stops with him.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not going to split hairs or parse words with what he said in that. I mean, it’s obviously different being the CEO of a company than being the Secretary of State, and I’m just going to leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Well, I mean, he’s basically saying there that the buck stops with him, and now you’re sort of saying that, okay, well, this is not an issue --

    MS NAUERT: I’m just saying I don’t have a whole lot for you on this. Treasury and Exxon can best answer your questions about it. Okay?

    QUESTION: Have you asked him for his personal thoughts on this, and he has said that he doesn’t want to say anything?

    MS NAUERT: We have had these conversations, and it’s been made very clear that this is something best for Exxon to handle. So I’m just going to leave it at that.

    QUESTION: But as it relates to his current role as Secretary of State and his commitment to the sanctions program, the objectives of the sanctions programs, could someone please ask or have him come down here and tell us whether or not he’s completely committed to them?

    MS NAUERT: I think his visits and his meetings with President Poroshenko – he made those commitments extremely clear. The fact that one of the very first envoys that he appointed or asked to take on this role, I think it’s notable that it was over the issue of Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Right. Which is why, again, I’ve got to say it’s so surprising that he, as CEO of Exxon, would have countenanced or would have not been involved in a decision that – to go ahead and do this kind of business, given the damage that Treasury says it costs – caused to the sanctions regime objectives.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: That’s --

    MS NAUERT: Perhaps Treasury can do – I want to finish Conor’s question. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Sorry.

    QUESTION: No, no. That’s okay. The first one just – is there any thought for the Secretary to recuse himself from any decision involving sanctions then?

    MS NAUERT: Sanctions in general?

    QUESTION: With these Ukraine sanctions in particular, given that there was a violation.

    MS NAUERT: Oh. The sanctions are in place. We are not backing away from those sanctions. And subsequent conversations that may come down the pike, I’m not going to get ahead of what those might be. Okay?

    QUESTION: So he’ll be involved in them.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. We haven’t had that conversation just yet. Our focus today has been on the news that has come out of this. I’ll keep you posted if I have anything for you on this, okay?

    QUESTION: You said the Russian-led separatists in Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: So does that imply that there are Russian military advisors who are actually leading these forces and particularly on the battlefield?

    MS NAUERT: It does. It does. We’ve talked about this, and I underscored this a few weeks back, that we believe that they are so-called separatists. They’re not genuine separatists who are out there fighting on their own regard and their own behalf. These are Russian-led and Russian-backed. Okay?

    QUESTION: So – but just to clarify that Russian military advisors --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: Is it the Russian military who are leading the --

    MS NAUERT: Russian-led --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Russian-advised.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, hi, hi.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Can we move on?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’re going to – and then we’re going to move on. Michele, I’ll take your last question.

    QUESTION: I understand that the technical side of this is with Treasury and you’re referring all of that to them. But as spokesperson for the State Department, can you say why the American public should trust that the Secretary is committed to these sanctions on Russia, when the company he led obviously did not take them seriously?

    MS NAUERT: Michele, I wouldn’t go that far. This is early on in this process. We were just alerted to this yesterday. So this is all new. It’s developing right now. Treasury will have more for you, and perhaps Exxon as well. And I’m just going to --

    QUESTION: Well, it’s not early on in the – the process is over, isn’t it?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’re just all learning about it. We’re all just learning about this.

    QUESTION: But then his company, the company he led, violated the sanctions scheme. So how can the American people trust that he is committed to continuing with this --

    MS NAUERT: I think he was very clear with President Poroshenko. The United States, this administration, the President, have all been very clear about our support for the Ukrainian Government, for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. And I’m going to leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move on. Said, hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. I appreciate it. Can we go to the situation in Jerusalem?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Because it seems that the Israelis are deploying maybe thousands of troops for tomorrow, tomorrow’s prayer. And there are maybe hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are marching on to Jerusalem, because despite your best efforts, it seems that the Israelis are sticking to their decisions to have these metal detectors and so on. Do you have any comment on that? Are you in conversation with the Israeli Government on this issue?

    MS NAUERT: First, let me say we all know that this is an extremely sensitive matter. This is something we are watching very closely here, so I’m going to be very cautious and careful in my words, because we don’t want to do anything that would potentially escalate tensions. We support the status quo and we welcome all sides continuing their commitment to maintaining the status quo. On this matter, I’m not going to have a lot for you. We have been clear and we’ve – about our encouragement of all sides to take measures to not escalate the situation there.

    QUESTION: But the status quo does not include metal detectors. So you are opposed to the installation of metal detectors and having worshipers go through these metal detectors?

    MS NAUERT: What – as far as I’m going to go on this is to say we support the – excuse me – we support the maintenance of the status quo.

    QUESTION: Okay. Just one last question. Are you in any conversation with the Jordanians, with the Israelis, on this issue to sort of mitigate the tensions and so on, urging the Israelis perhaps not to deploy such a huge force, military force?

    MS NAUERT: We are encouraging both sides to not take any actions that would potentially escalate tensions. And let me just leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I just ask though --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- is there no answer to the question of whether or not the status quo is currently being maintained?

    MS NAUERT: We --

    QUESTION: Or whether it – the status quo has somehow shifted over the course of the last week?

    QUESTION: (Sneeze.)

    MS NAUERT: Bless you. We talked about this the other day. The status quo is --

    QUESTION: Yeah. You didn’t answer it then.

    MS NAUERT: No. No, no. Look, this is a tense situation.

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: We recognize that, and we don’t want to do anything that would potentially escalate tensions.

    QUESTION: Right. But one way --

    MS NAUERT: We continue to speak with the governments in the region to try to encourage a peace process. That peace process is supported by this State Department, also Mr. Greenblatt, Mr. Kushner, and we’d just encourage both sides to maintain the status quo.

    QUESTION: Right, I – I get that, but one of the ways to keep tensions from rising is to call out one side or the other if and when they do something that changes the status quo that you want to preserve so badly. So the question is: Does the introduction of these metal detectors for Muslim worshipers change the status quo in some way? Would you like to see the Israelis remove them or – not – unplug them or something, or --

    MS NAUERT: We would like to see – and let me just be clear on this once again – we would like to see both parties take measures to not escalate the situation there, and I’m just going to leave it at that.

    QUESTION: So you can’t give any example of what measure that might be?

    MS NAUERT: I’m going to leave it at that, okay? Thanks. Hey, Barbara. How are you?

    QUESTION: Can I go to Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Certainly.

    QUESTION: So just a question about the decision to drop support for the rebels. Why is that decision being made now given that there’s no political settlement or the political process is continuing? Because that seems – the U.S. is giving up at least the tiny bit of leverage that it might have had.

    MS NAUERT: So – hold on. The premise of your question is in the affirmative, as though that is being done, okay? I get what you’re trying to do here. Okay, let me just say this is an intelligence matter. I’d have to refer you to the intelligence committee on that. I don’t have any information on I think one of the stories that you’re asking me about.

    QUESTION: You can’t say anything about it?

    MS NAUERT: It’s an intelligence matter.

    QUESTION: Do you have a comment --

    QUESTION: Does – but given that the Secretary said again during his trip that the – Assad has to go, would he support something like this?

    MS NAUERT: I think we have been very clear in this building that we do not see a long-term future for Bashar al-Assad or his family to legitimately lead that country. Okay?

    QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the killing of 28 Syrian soldiers today, ambushed by I think elements of Jabhat al-Nusrah? Would you consider that to be an act of terrorism or genocide?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have – I’m afraid I don’t have anything for you on that. I’m sorry.

    Okay. Hey, John.

    QUESTION: Just related to Barbara’s question --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- the President as a candidate said multiple times that we don’t know who the rebels are and we shouldn’t be supporting them. So is – what she’s referring to, is that reflective of his position and him following through on his promises on the campaign trail?

    MS NAUERT: I think what you’d have to do is speak to the White House on that. I think they have a briefing going on right about now.

    QUESTION: Okay, but in terms of a future and U.S. policy towards Syria, is supplying arms to the rebels part of that solution that the State Department and the --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s not forget why the United States is in Syria. The United States is in Syria to defeat ISIS, and we remain committed to that. We do not think – separate from that, we do not think that Bashar al-Assad has a long-term future in that country. Okay?

    Okay, anything else on Syria?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    QUESTION: Korea.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can you just clarify, then, which of these moderate rebel groups the U.S. continues to support, if you’re saying that you can’t confirm the CIA story and --

    MS NAUERT: Well, of course I can’t confirm an intelligence matter story, okay, so perhaps --

    QUESTION: Of course, but can you confirm to them – those fighters on the ground that the U.S. has been working with – that we – which ones you are still behind?

    MS NAUERT: I think this would – I mean, it’s no secret that we support – the United States Government does – and back, along with the coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces. Beyond that, I’m going to have to refer you to the Department of Defense. They can best answer the questions about which various groups they might be working with.

    QUESTION: And just to follow up on the ceasefire in southwest Syria, there are reports that there are Russian forces on the ground there now. Can you confirm that there are Russian forces --

    MS NAUERT: I have not seen that report. Without having seen that report, I don’t want to comment on it, okay?

    QUESTION: And so there’s no one actually monitoring yet? You have no update for us?

    MS NAUERT: I cannot say that no one is monitoring it. We have lots of sources that can keep an eye on situations, and I’m just going to leave it at that, okay?

    QUESTION: Do you know, on the ceasefire, whether or not the Secretary or deputy or – and someone – any people have talked to the Israelis in – since Sunday, maybe it was, I think, that they --

    MS NAUERT: Well – yeah, I know the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

    QUESTION: But since then, you --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if he’s had any calls with him at this point --

    QUESTION: Different subject?

    MS NAUERT: -- since that. Okay. Okay, hold on. Are we done with Syria?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Syria-related.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Okay. Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: North Korea --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, thanks.

    QUESTION: Thank you, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: I’ll come back to you.

    QUESTION: Thank you, Heather. On the list --

    MS NAUERT: You said North Korea, right?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But we’re still on Syria.

    QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday, State Department released on the list of the terrorism countries. Why did the list exclude the North Korea from sponsor of terrorism?

    MS NAUERT: The question is why is North Korea not on the --

    QUESTION: Not on the list, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: -- state sponsor of terror?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: And thank you to any of you who joined our call yesterday on that matter. So as I understand it, as a matter of law, for any country to be designated as a state sponsor of terror, the Secretary of State has to determine that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. The designations are made after careful review of all available evidence to determine if a country meets the statutory criteria for that designation, so that was the assessment.

    QUESTION: But Heather, do you know that Kim Jong-un killed his brother? Is not this terrorism?

    MS NAUERT: We – that was --

    QUESTION: That’s an excellent question.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah.

    QUESTION: Why isn’t assassination terrorism?

    QUESTION: Yes, that’s an issue.

    MS NAUERT: Let me look into that to see if we have an official position on that, and I’ll get back with you, okay?

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Hi, yeah. Yeah, just staying with Korea, yesterday the South Korean Government said that it will designate a national day to commemorate the victims of Japanese sexual slavery. Can you comment on that plan? And also, do you have any updates on either U.S. or UN sanctions against North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: So I’ve – as – folks who are here a lot know that I’m not going to preview any potential upcoming sanctions. I know the United Nations and the UN, the Security Council, that is something that people are discussing up there. So I’m just going to hold off on commenting on that. In terms of your other question, I was not aware of the fact that they were talking about making a – tell me – explain that again. It was an international --

    QUESTION: A national day commemorating the victims of sexual slavery.

    MS NAUERT: And that is something that we, by and large, condemn. We’ve talked – I mean, we very clearly condemn that, and we’ve talked about that matter before. It’s an area of major concern of ours, and I’ll just – I’ll leave at that. I know it’s a very sensitive issue for the matter.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Quick follow-up, again, North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Sorry?

    QUESTION: Do you have any information on North Korea preparing to another ICBM test?

    MS NAUERT: So I’ve seen that report, and I’m just not going to comment on that at this time, okay?

    QUESTION: Did you --

    MS NAUERT: That’s an intelligence matter and an area of concern would be an intelligence leak.

    QUESTION: Well, we have to know that.

    MS NAUERT: Well, and – well, hold on a second. There are people who work for the government who take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. When that is done – I did it myself – I stand in front of an American flag, you put your hand up, and you take that oath to protect the Constitution. Leaking classified intelligence information harms our national security and harms our Constitution. And let me leave that at that.

    QUESTION: Egypt?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Hold on. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah?

    QUESTION: How does – there – what about authorized leaks of classified information? There are times when this administration, previous administrations, have authorized officials to – or to give information that otherwise would be classified --

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not familiar with the release of – an authorized release of intelligence information at this point that’s classified, okay?

    QUESTION: You’re not, ever?

    QUESTION: Egypt?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of anything, okay? Thanks.

    QUESTION: Hold on.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Just one question about --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go right ahead. We’ll stay in Asia.

    QUESTION: So on the U.S.-Japan-Korea trilateral policy planning dialogue yesterday, can you give us any readout? And also, was the proposal for North-South Korea talks discussed then?

    MS NAUERT: And what was the second part of the question?

    QUESTION: Was the proposal for inner-Korean talks discussed as a part of that trilateral?

    MS NAUERT: So we don’t have a fulsome readout of that meeting, but I know that Brian Hook, our head of policy planning, was in that meeting – that trilateral meeting that took place here yesterday. The issue of North Korea certainly did come up – concerns about all working together to work to the eventual goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and that was one of the topics of conversation, along with South China Sea and other matters.

    QUESTION: Egypt.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead. Go right ahead, sir.

    QUESTION: So when we asked about the South and North Korean talks on Tuesday, we were referred to talk to the South Korean Government. And now it’s arguable that the talks are even going to happen, but I’m just wondering why the reluctance to comment on that.

    MS NAUERT: Well, we would never comment on another country’s correspondence or meetings. If South Korea and North Korea want to sit down and meet, they will work out those meeting arrangements together. We wouldn’t be involved in that process; therefore, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the State Department to speak about meetings that could potentially happen between two nations. Does that --

    QUESTION: You consider that a domestic issue, then?

    MS NAUERT: That – we don’t, by and large, comment on conversations that take place between two separate nations. You could ask me a lot – about a lot of regions of the world, and I would give you that very same answer.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay. Hi. (Inaudible), how are you? Nice to see you.

    QUESTION: Hi. Heather, are you at all watching the recent developments in Poland around or surrounding judiciary? And if so, what is your comment?

    MS NAUERT: Give me just a second here. The – we have followed that issue very closely about what’s happening with the parliament there, and let me try to find my information here today. Give me just a second. Tricky book sometimes.

    QUESTION: Under P.

    MS NAUERT: No, it’s not under P. Not every country has its own tab, which I’m sure will cause a lot of questions.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Don’t blame me for that. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to blame you for it whatsoever. Could somebody help me find this?

    STAFF: EUR 1.

    MS NAUERT: And where is EUR 1? Here we go. Very sorry. Yes, okay.

    So the question was about the Polish parliament. They recently passed a law that fundamentally changed the way that the supreme court justices are appointed. As you know, the President and the Secretary of State not long ago – or rather, the President – was in Poland. One of the things that is important to us is our relationship with the people of Poland. Poland is a fellow democracy and a close ally of the United States. We care deeply about that nation and the people there. We are concerned about Polish Government’s continued pursuit of legislation that appears to limit the judiciary and potentially weaken the rule of law in Poland. So we continue to watch that situation very carefully. We continue to have conversations at the highest level with the Government of Poland and express our concerns about that.

    QUESTION: Will you be asking the president of Poland to veto the bill?

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware if we will ask him to do that. But I can’t get too much into what some of the private diplomatic conversations are, so let me just leave it as we are concerned about that legislation.

    QUESTION: But you are in touch with the Polish authorities, right?

    MS NAUERT: We have good relationships with the Poles. I know we have been in close contact with them over a lot of issues, and I imagine this would certainly be one of them.

    QUESTION: Egypt, please.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Egypt.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can you talk to us a little bit --

    MS NAUERT: Miss, hi. What’s your name?

    QUESTION: I’m Rana and I’m with Al-Hurra TV. I’m subbing for Michel. You probably know Michel, but yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Nice to meet you. Welcome.

    QUESTION: Nice to meet you. So I am – I want to ask about the Travel Warning that you issued about traveling to Egypt, basically. Do you have more to say about that, and did you get any info about the dissatisfaction of the Egyptian Government regarding this decision?

    MS NAUERT: Let me see what I have. Let me get back to you on that, okay?

    QUESTION: Not now?

    MS NAUERT: Not now. I’m sorry. Let me get back to you. Okay.

    QUESTION: Did you --

    QUESTION: There is more in Egypt.

    QUESTION: Do you have anything – did you get any call from the Egyptian Government today regarding this decision? Because that’s what the government is saying, that they contacted the State Department.

    MS NAUERT: I see. Not that I’m aware of. I can look into that and get back to you. Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: Did you share the information with the Egyptian authorities?

    MS NAUERT: Again, I’m not aware of any calls that have taken place with the Egyptian Government. I’ll look into both of – both of those items for you, okay? Thank you.

    Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: I have few India and related questions.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: There was election of a new Indian president. Do you have anything on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. We were very pleased to see and want to welcome him on his election to the presidency – or the president-elect, now that he is. Your election was just today, right?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Were you able to get in and vote?

    QUESTION: It’s not for us. It’s for the member of parliament and assemblymen to vote for that. It’s indirect elections for the president, not a direct election.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, it’s an indirect, okay. Pardon me. So we want to congratulate the President-elect Ram Nath Kovind – I hope I’m saying that correctly – on his victory in India’s presidential elections that was held today. The United States and India have a deep and growing strategic partnership. We look forward to working with the president-elect on regional and global issues. That partnership is obviously underpinned by our very close people-to-people contact with the Indian Government and our shared democratic values.

    We got to go, gang. Thanks.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: I want to ask you on China – India-China border standoff. It has been more than a month now. Media reports say that Chinese foreign ministry briefed diplomats in Beijing. Was the U.S. briefed on this issue by the Beijing?

    MS NAUERT: We – this is something we’ve been following. We spoke to this – I believe it was on Tuesday this week. This is a situation that we are following closely and carefully. I’d have to refer you to the governments of India and China for more information on that. See, there we go. I’m not --

    QUESTION: I have one more on China.

    MS NAUERT: They’re talking those issues. They’re going to talk to one another. We would encourage them to direct – engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions.

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: Have you spoken to Indians and Chinese on this?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if we have or not. Okay. Thank you.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Guys, we got to go. We --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Wait, wait. Why do you have to go?

    QUESTION: One more on China, on the --

    MS NAUERT: We have to go today.

    QUESTION: I need to ask you about two of your NATO allies, Turkey and Germany, who are at each other’s throats. Do you have any concerns about that?

    MS NAUERT: I – Matt, I’m going to have to get back to you on that, okay?

    QUESTION: Just one more on China – U.S.-China --

    MS NAUERT: Sorry. I’m sorry, guys. We got to go.

    (The briefing was concluded at 2:54 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 18, 2017

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 18:18
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 18, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • TURKEY
  • IRAN
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • SOUTH KOREA/NORTH KOREA
  • RUSSIA/REGION
  • UKRAINE
  • RUSSIA
  • INDIA
  • PAKISTAN
  • RUSSIA/SYRIA
  • YEMEN
  • INDIA/CHINA

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:23 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Good afternoon, everybody. This is a full room today. Is everyone back and rested from their trips overseas? Yes? Not all at once.

    QUESTION: I was here.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, you were here. Okay. Well, good to see you this morning.

    A couple things going on today, and first, I want to welcome – we have a more packed room than usual – we have some very special guests here, and they are joining us from Iraq, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in the back of the room. They work for the Iraqi Government, and they’ve been here visiting the United States, learning more about journalism, but also the work of a spokesperson. And that’s what they do for their government: work as spokespeople and media directors. Twelve of you are here. We’d like to thank you for coming to the United States. You’ve made a long trip, especially after a very difficult time and a hard-fought battle in Mosul. So we welcome you here. Thank you.

    As part of their trip here, I want to mention that they were at the D-ISIS meetings that took place here at the State Department last week. Our Iraqi friends toured the Department of Defense’s Defense Media Activity Center at Fort Meade, and yesterday they had some briefings here at the State Department. And they’ve done some press along the way, so perhaps you might pepper them with some questions so they can see what U.S. journalists are really like. But I ask you to be nice – be nice to our guests. They also did a joint press briefing with the coalition spokesperson, Colonel Ryan Dillon, and we are honored to have our Iraqi partners and friends here, especially so soon after that Mosul victory. So welcome to the State Department.

    Second thing: I know that a lot of you have asked a lot of questions about Middle East peace and the State Department’s cooperation and coordination with the White House, specifically the President’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and also Mr. Kushner. Yesterday, a team from here, myself included, we went over to the White House and sat down with Mr. Greenblatt and his team and learned a little bit more about what they are doing from our point of view and from their point of view. So we want to thank them for inviting us over to the White House for that meeting. He provided us with a short readout on the meeting that he held – the meetings that he held last week in Israel, so let me just go over a little bit of that with you.

    Mr. Greenblatt continued efforts to advance President Trump’s goal of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. I don’t have any additional travel to read out for you at this time, but Mr. Greenblatt provides – plans to provide regular visits to the region and coordinate with the Department of State and also the National Security Council. At the conclusion of Mr. Greenblatt’s visit, it coincided with the terror attack that took place at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif that left two Israeli police officers dead and one wounded, and that dominated the news cycle while he was there. The horrific attack should not detract from the push for peace, but rather remind us all that – more that – more so that there is a need for peace.

    We can’t let the actions of a few undermine the prospects for both Israelis and Palestinians to secure a more peaceful and prosperous future. To that end, last week, Mr. Greenblatt helped senior Israeli and Palestinian officials reach important agreements on key issues of water and electricity that will make the lives of both people materially better. We continue to urge the parties to undertake efforts to promote an environment that is conducive to advancing peace and that the two agreements are another indication that mutually beneficial arrangements can be made. We hope they’re a harbinger of things to come and we’ll keep you apprised of future progress and also travel for Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt.

    And then finally, a third thing I’d like to bring to your attention: You may have seen what took place in Turkey in recent days, and the United States strongly condemns the arrest of six respected human rights activists and calls for their immediate release. This includes Amnesty International’s director in Turkey, Idil Eser, and several foreign nationals. Prosecutions like these with little evidence or transparency undermine Turkey’s rule of law and the country’s obligations to respect individual rights. We urge Turkish authorities to drop the charges, release those who have been detained, and remove the provisions of the state of emergency that allow indiscriminate prosecution of individuals. So we will continue to keep an eye on that.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions. Matt, do you want to start?

    QUESTION: Thanks. I’m sure we’ll get back to Middle East and Turkey --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but I want to start with Iran and the – yesterday’s certification.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, yes.

    QUESTION: Can you put this into very plain English? Does the administration believe, yes or no, that Iran is complying with the terms of the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: So we had sent the notes up to Congress certifying that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. However, the United States firmly believes that it is in violation of the spirit of the law[1] with regard to an important part of it. And part of what the JCPOA agreement says is it’s supposed to contribute to regional and international peace and security, and we believe that some of the actions that the Iranian Government has been involved with undermines that stated goal of regional and international peace and security.

    Iran remains – and we all know this – one of the most dangerous threats to the United States – not only our interests here, around the world, but also to regional stability. And I’ve got a whole list of things that we can go over here that Iran is responsible for. Their full range of activities extend far beyond the nuclear threat, and I think we are all full aware of that: ballistic missile development and proliferation; support to terrorism and militancy; it’s complicit in the Assad regime’s atrocities against its own people; unrelenting hostility to Israel that continues and has continued for quite some time; they have consistently threatened freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf; cyberattacks on the United States, and I can go on. I mean, these are no surprise, and this is something that this administration wants to get Iran to try to adhere to the spirit of that agreement, the regional, international peace and security.

    QUESTION: Okay. But the – when you said – I just want to clarify one thing you said – that the spirit – they’re violating the spirit of the law first time, you mean agreement, not law?

    MS NAUERT: The agreement, yes.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then this is not related to that, but it’s Iran. Is there any update on the Chinese American who was sentenced?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Mr. Xiuye Wang. So we are aware of the reports that Mr. Xiuye Wang, a U.S. citizen, has been detained in Iran. For privacy reasons, we can’t really get too much into the specific details of that case. As you all know, one of the things we consistently say here is that the safety and security of U.S. citizens remains a top priority for this administration, and I would think for all administrations here in the United States. We continue to use all means at our disposal to advocate for U.S. citizens who need our assistance overseas, especially for the release of any unjustly detained U.S. citizens who are held overseas.

    Mr. Xiuye Wang is a United States citizen. We remain very concerned about his case, continue to keep an eye on that. As you all know, we don’t have folks on the ground there; we work with the Swiss foreign interest section. They are considered to be our protecting power in Iran, and they have granted consular access to Mr. Wang. So we’ve regularly sought that consular access to him, and the Swiss have visited him now four times.

    QUESTION: So do you know when you guys were informed of his arrest?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Because it’s not – it’s almost, I would say, rare for Iran to allow consular access, since they don’t recognize dual citizens, usually when they’re Iranian Americans. Is it your understanding that because he’s Chinese American and not Iranian, that’s why they’re letting the Swiss --

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that he’s American American. He’s not a dual citizen of China and the United States.

    QUESTION: Gotcha. All right.

    MS NAUERT: He’s an American.

    QUESTION: And do you know when it was that you found out, were notified about his initial arrest?

    MS NAUERT: I can check into that for you. I don’t have an exact date in front of me.

    QUESTION: Great. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Iran? Hi, Carol.

    QUESTION: Can we go to where you started?

    QUESTION: About the prisoners. In the statement this morning, you said – you specifically mentioned Mr. Wang, the Namazis, you said, and all other U.S. citizens who are detained wrongfully in Iran. Could you tell the American people how many other U.S. citizens are detained, beyond those three?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t at this time. The United States cautions American citizens against travel there. There are certain nations where if an individual is a dual nationality, dual citizenship, that Iran does not – like other countries sometimes does not – acknowledge that and accept that somebody is a dual national. They think of them as a full national of their country. We caution people to avoid that country and for the obvious reasons.

    QUESTION: Well, why won’t you give a number? I understand you can’t, for privacy reasons, give names. But why can’t you give a number, or a rough number? More than a dozen?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t give any kind of an estimate at all. If I have something specific for you that I can give to you, I certainly will.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Thanks. Let’s stay on Iran.

    QUESTION: Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, Said.

    QUESTION: Can we go to where you started?

    MS NAUERT: One second. Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Can we go where you started, on the Middle East peace topic?

    MS NAUERT: Let’s come back to that. Let’s stick with Iran first, please. Hi.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.) So can you say – you certified the compliance last night, but did the administration also sign a round of sanction waivers to keep the deal in place as well?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So sanction waivers – there are some that are in place right now. I can definitely confirm that.

    QUESTION: So was there a signing last night though? I know there’s a deadline, I think, today.

    MS NAUERT: Well, we were – we are in compliance with our end of the deal. We had until I believe it was midnight to certify that and then provide the information to Capitol Hill, and that was all done.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the last time the Secretary signed a round of sanction waivers he said that the administration was beginning a 90-day review of all Iran policy. That would be ending today. Is that review ongoing? Has the deadline been pushed back?

    MS NAUERT: The overall review – like we have a lot of policy reviews, on Afghanistan for example, Pakistan for example – Iran is one of them where we have an ongoing policy review that is taking place. We believe that while they – while Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, that there are still a lot of things that Iran is doing that is very troubling to this administration. And so we’re going to try to push on that – on the Iranian regime to stop its destabilizing activities.

    QUESTION: One last question. When the Secretary signed the certification last time, he also said that – he criticized the deal, saying that it kicked the can down the road of a non-nuclear Iran. So is it the position of the administration then that Iran should never be allowed to have any nuclear energy whatsoever?

    MS NAUERT: I think nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are different matters. I’m not an expert in that area in particular, but they are separate matters.

    QUESTION: So you would accept a nuclear-powered Iran, but not one that had a --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of what the policy review is going to contain; that has people at the White House and people here at the State Department and others all involved in that. So I just don’t want to get ahead of anything that they’re going to do.

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Iran?

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi.

    QUESTION: When it comes to the Secretary’s engagement with European partners who are also part of the JCPOA, the administration was talking about how it wanted to get stronger enforcement and perhaps, in a sense, almost an addendum to the current agreement when it came to some of the sunsets. Does the administration believe it has willing partners in European allies? I mean, they’ve got some businesses who are doing business in Iran right now and it’s profitable. Has the administration or the Secretary gotten pushback? And what have his engagements been like on that front?

    MS NAUERT: It’s interesting, because some would think that our European allies and our partners and our friends would only be interested in adhering to the JCPOA, but that’s not our experience at all. Our experience is that they remain just as concerned, as the United States does, about the destabilizing activities that Iran remains involved with, whether it’s supporting terrorism or other things as well. So this does not just affect the United States and the United States interests, but it affects other countries as well.

    QUESTION: And a willingness to go further, as the U.S. has laid out?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into commenting on what other countries are going to do. But I know we have those conversations and those conversations are ongoing.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Michele.

    QUESTION: Around about noon yesterday the President was seriously considering not certifying this. Shortly after that, he met with the Secretary.

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. There were meetings underway at the White House yesterday. And those meetings took place for a period of time, and the Secretary and the President and everyone else had conversations. And we ultimately ended up sending the letters up to the Hill and informing the Hill that Iran was in compliance.

    QUESTION: Did Secretary Tillerson need to convince the President and spell this out and --

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t put it that way at all. I mean, they had a series of conversations, as they have about a lot of other issues.

    QUESTION: Did he make that argument though? Was that part of what he wanted to do while he was there at the White House?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary and the President are in line with one another.

    Okay. Anything else on Iran?

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Iran? Okay. We’re done with Iran. Okay. You want to go to --

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: -- Middle East peace. Let’s see what we can do to solve it, huh?

    QUESTION: Yeah, exactly. So this – is this your first time meeting with Mr. Greenblatt on this very issue?

    MS NAUERT: Myself, personally.

    QUESTION: No, I mean from the department.

    MS NAUERT: No. No, I know other people from the State Department have had a series of conversations with him and discussions with him. He has been in meetings in Israel with our ambassador there and others as well. So there are a whole lots – lot of those conversations and dialogues taking place. It was just my first time having the opportunity to go over there and hear firsthand about some of the activities.

    QUESTION: Okay. So are we likely to see a more active State Department in the Middle East peace process, as we have seen in the past?

    MS NAUERT: Well, the State Department has been active. We’ve been accompanying Mr. Greenblatt and also Mr. Kushner on a lot of these trips. We help facilitate that. We help provide some additional expertise and backup. And they’re very generous. They like to work with us; we like to work with them. And he’s extremely hospitable, so he invited our team over and we just went over to say hi and learn more about what he’s going to be doing.

    QUESTION: Okay. I have just a couple more.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the French president that he’s skeptical about the Trump administration peace efforts and peace process. Do you have any comment on that? He does not – I mean, it is not like that kind of engagement from the administration.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of the prime minister’s comments. This is the first I’m hearing of them. But I know that we have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we have – this administration has talked a lot about the importance of promoting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

    QUESTION: And finally, I want to ask you about al-Aqsa closure, if you have any comment on that, because this is a clash – a flash point. It’s a very volatile situation and so on. Are you calling on the Israelis to sort of stand down with the measures that they have taken such as the metal detectors and the closing off the area for Palestinian prayers and Muslim prayers?

    MS NAUERT: I think first what I would want to say about that is the White House had issued a statement on that very matter that you are addressing.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: And we continue to condemn terror attacks that take place on individuals.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: That occurred on Friday. That occurred at the end of – let me finish here. That occurred at the end of Mr. Greenblatt’s meetings. Always – I want to say this – when these types of events occur, we want to express our condolences to the families of those who have been affected. Hold on, Said. I’m not done yet.

    Zero tolerance for terrorism. And that is something that we believe very strongly in. We would urge all sides to take steps to reduce tensions. We support the maintenance of the status quo and expect both sides to fulfill their commitments to that.

    QUESTION: But I just want to remind you that the attackers are Israeli citizens. They come from a town up north. They came all the way down to Jerusalem to assault the --

    MS NAUERT: We are promoting – Said, we --

    QUESTION: Why punish the Jerusalemites? Why are they being punished?

    MS NAUERT: We are promoting peace. And that’s something that is one of the top issues for this administration, and we’ll continue to talk about that. And things like this, when they happen, it has the ability, it has the ability, to de-escalate – or excuse me, has the ability to put things on a bad path. So we would encourage that to certainly not happen. Okay?

    QUESTION: Two --

    QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Two brief things on this. One, you said you support the maintenance of the status quo. Do you believe that the status quo is being maintained? Or has – have the Israelis, in putting the metal detectors up, changed the status quo?

    MS NAUERT: We have – we have been clear with the Israelis in our conversations about this, and I just don’t want to get into any possible diplomatic conversations.

    QUESTION: Right. But do you – but forget about a conversation. Does the administration think that the status quo is being maintained right now?

    MS NAUERT: The Israeli Government has pledged that they will maintain the status quo, and we would hope and expect them to do that.

    QUESTION: But are they?

    MS NAUERT: Again --

    QUESTION: Do you think – what’s your – I mean, you look at the situation. Can you say that the status quo is being maintained? Because the Jordanians, who are in charge of the – that – for the area are very concerned that the status quo isn’t being maintained.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So what’s – can we get an answer for that?

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware of the Secretary having spoken with the Jordanians about this matter in particular. They were just in town last week, as you all know.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: But if I have anything more for you, I can get back to you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing is did you ever get an answer to the question I had the other week about whether this administration draws a difference between housing that’s built in East Jerusalem for Israelis as opposed to West Bank? Do you consider East Jerusalem housing to be settlements?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure that I do. You know what? I don’t think I do, but let me look into that for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: All right, thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Any – pardon.

    QUESTION: You might want to know that 600 more or 700 more housing units were declared today. I wonder if you have a statement on that.

    MS NAUERT: I do not. Not on that today. Thank you. Hi.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Hi, nice meeting you. (Laughter.) Okay, on South Korea, two questions for the South Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Recently, South Korean Government proposed military talks with North Korea. Can you confirm that the South Korean Government informed the U.S. in advance this issue?

    MS NAUERT: So, I can’t confirm any diplomatic conversations that took place on that matter. As you know, we had a terrific visit from President Moon not long ago who visited with our President, and also Secretary Tillerson was able to sit down with his counterpart here. We had a terrific meeting with them. They are an important partner with the United States, and that continues to be the case.

    In terms of the proposal that you just mentioned, I would have to refer you back to the Government of the Republic of Korea. But overall, I would say we share the very same goal, and that is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We’ve both remained very concerned about the activities of the DPRK, the launching of the intercontinental ballistic missile, for example, and we want to see a complete and verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula.

    Okay, yes.

    QUESTION: One more on the FTA issues. Regarding in the FTA renegotiations that the U.S. wants from South Korea, does it means a revision negotiation or full renegotiations?

    MS NAUERT: Does it mean food negotiations?

    QUESTION: Yeah. Or revisit.

    MS NAUERT: Let me look into that. I don’t have anything for you that’s recent on that, but let me check. Okay?

    QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Mike. Right? Mike?

    QUESTION: I have one more on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Right?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Right. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi, nice to --

    MS NAUERT: We haven’t met before, but yes.

    QUESTION: Michael Lavers from the Washington Blade.

    MS NAUERT: Yes, yes. Good to see you.

    QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have any comment on the most recent comments that the president of Chechnya made about the ongoing crackdown against gays and lesbians in Chechnya?

    And then, second, as a follow-up to that, can you explain why the Secretary has not publicly commented on this situation as of yet? I know the State Department has, but not the Secretary specifically. Any reason why?

    MS NAUERT: So first, let me say we are certainly aware of those comments that were made. Those comments on the part of the Chechen president were very concerning and also upsetting to us. The United States and we here at the State Department have spoken a lot about concerns about the treatment of LGBTI people in Chechnya. Some, as the person you had mentioned, went so far as to – well, I’m not even going to – I’m not going to repeat some of the things that he said because it was so horrific.

    We have called on Russia to hold a federal investigation into that matter, and we have those conversations at the highest levels. Human rights is something that’s very important to us. We continue to speak about that from this position here at the podium, and part of my job is speaking on behalf of Secretary Tillerson and speaking on behalf of this department, and let me just reassure you that that is something that’s very important to us.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. Hi.

    QUESTION: Okay, thanks. So the meeting yesterday, afterwards we’re still hearing Russia making the threats about retaliation. Does the State Department feel that that’s imminent now that there isn’t a deal on these properties?

    MS NAUERT: Well, these deals, so to speak, are going to take some time. The under secretary, Tom Shannon, had the meeting yesterday – it went on for quite some time – with Mr. Ryabkov. We were happy to have him come here to Washington to sit down with us to talk about those – some of those so-called irritants.

    The conversation – we put out a readout this morning – was what – one that we considered – and this is what Mr. Shannon said himself – is that it was a forthright, tough, and deliberate conversation that reflected concerns on both of our parts, but also our commitment to a resolution.

    So nothing is coming together anytime soon. I don’t have a timeline for you or anything, but those conversations will be continuing.

    QUESTION: Well, so are you calling their bluff, in essence? They’ve been threatening to do the same to the U.S. for months?

    MS NAUERT: It’s a hypothetical. I know that they have threatened a lot of things, and so I’m just not going to get into the various threats that people from around the world make.

    QUESTION: So to wrap this up, how would you characterize the Secretary’s feeling on these properties? Is he – he’s open to giving them back with some conditions, or how would you describe it?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t characterize it that way, and --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: And look, one of the priorities here is – or the priority here is to get the United States and Russia to a place where they can have a good, decent, solid relationship so we can work together on areas of mutual cooperation, areas that are mutually important to both of our countries. One of them is Syria, for example, in that particular area in the southwest where there has been the ceasefire. That’s a smaller area of mutual cooperation. From that, we can build upon that and start to work toward other goals on other matters.

    These conversations between Mr. Shannon and Mr. Ryabkov will continue. We’ve got a lot of stuff to talk about with that government, and so that’ll continue.

    QUESTION: So did the U.S. present conditions?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t get into the – all the details about what went on in that conversation, but I can say we’re continuing those conversations.

    QUESTION: But just to be clear, is the Secretary open to giving them back?

    MS NAUERT: That I don’t know. There are a lot of meetings that are taking place and those meetings will continue. We’re just not sure.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: So a growing number of lawmakers are saying that the administration should not return these properties, at least until the investigation into the meddling in the presidential election is completed. There are some members of Congress who are calling for even more punitive measures to be enacted. So I’m just wondering, is that something – is that advice that you guys are willing to take on, or do you see that there is a possibility of this specific issue of these two properties being returned before there is a conclusion to the investigation?

    MS NAUERT: In terms of a timeline, I’m just not aware of any kind of specific timeline that we have. We don’t, in fact, have any kind of timeline. I know that members of Congress have sent letters to the Secretary and other people here in this building, and so we just gather those letters, take a look at them, and that’s then between the Secretary and those members of Congress.

    QUESTION: But you don’t know if he has a position that is the same as those members of Congress? In other words, you don’t know if he is saying yes, a resolution ultimately will involve the Russians getting back the properties, but that’s not going to happen until --

    MS NAUERT: As you know, we have hundreds of members of Congress who all have very different opinions on subject matters.

    QUESTION: I don’t know of any member of Congress who’s actually saying give them back right now. Are they?

    MS NAUERT: Well, my point is a lot of members of Congress all have different opinions, and so I’m not going to say that the Secretary shares the opinion of any one over the other.

    QUESTION: Well, forget about, then, opinion. How about – the question then would be: Does the Secretary think that it would be inappropriate to return these two properties before the investigation into the election interference is over?

    MS NAUERT: Again, that’s something that is in part taking place on Capitol Hill. I think the Secretary is stepping back and taking a look at this issue separately. One of the bigger overarching issues is we need to be able to get our relationship on a better path. As the Secretary talked about, it’s at a low point.

    QUESTION: Last one: Do you know, have the Russians asked to go and visit or take a look at their properties to see --

    MS NAUERT: Because it’s nice out, they want to get outside, they want to get out of D.C. and New York?

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. I was going to ask you to a briefing out there. I’m just wondering, have they asked to inspect these properties?

    MS NAUERT: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.

    QUESTION: But if we could --

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: -- if I could clarify this, please, the administration – the White House made an argument only days ago for why they’re open to giving these properties back. They laid out this argument. So by not going back to that argument, are you saying that the Secretary isn’t aligned --

    MS NAUERT: I think our goal – and as you all can understand, diplomatic conversations can be sensitive matters, and sometimes I’m not able to give you and other people in the building aren’t able to give you all the details and information that you want. We want to preserve the ability to go back and speak with the Russians and do what we need to do to get our relationship on a better track, and part of that means looking for additional areas of cooperation. Part of that means trying to smooth out the differences in terms of some of the so-called irritants that we have with other nations.

    QUESTION: But does the – so is the Secretary in agreement with the White House on that argument or not?

    MS NAUERT: Michele, I think I’ve covered it, so let me just leave it there, okay? Okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Hi.

    QUESTION: On Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Russian-backed rebels in east Ukraine have proclaimed the creation of a new state, and I’m not going to attempt to say it, but “Little Russia,” translated. Could you comment?

    MS NAUERT: So here’s what we had heard: that the so-called separatists – and notice I call them “so-called separatists” – want to see a new state. That new state would be in place of Ukraine. That is something that’s certainly an area of concern to us, but I just don’t – beyond that, I don’t want to dignify it with a response.

    QUESTION: Syria? Can we go to Syria?

    QUESTION: And so, but you’re not dismissing it out of hand? You don’t think that that’s a good idea.

    MS NAUERT: Pardon? I --

    QUESTION: What if they wanted to call it, say, Centerville?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) I mean --

    QUESTION: Can we go to China?

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: Can we go back to (inaudible) just for a second?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Hi, Dmitri.

    QUESTION: Just for a second longer. It’s a slightly different subject.

    MS NAUERT: Dmitri wants to know about Russia. Welcome back, Dmitri.

    QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask you something about your guidance, your readout of the meeting.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Why was it necessary to mention the – their intent to convene a new bilateral consultative commission on the New START? Up until very recently, both sides were stressing that the implementation of the New START was going on perfectly or very well despite all the differences and whatnot. Has any new problems arisen? Why was it necessary – why is it necessary to convene a commission? That’s part one.

    And part two --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let me answer your first question first --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- because I’m not so good with multiple five-part questions here. So in terms of that, I know that Mr. Under Secretary Shannon looks forward to speaking with his Russian counterparts on possible areas of interest in other meetings coming up. I don’t have any specific meetings or dates or anything to announce at that time, but that’s one area where they could come up with additional talks to have.

    Okay, second part.

    QUESTION: Okay, and the other part was the strategic stability talks. That dialogue took place --

    MS NAUERT: That would be – I would give you the same answer on that. I don’t have any specific meetings or dates or anything to provide you at that time, but we’re just going to keep an eye on that, and that’s something that I know we’re willing to have conversations about.

    QUESTION: Is it like – is it on a regular basis or --

    MS NAUERT: That I can’t comment on. I don’t want to get ahead of any possible conversations.

    QUESTION: Can you take one on China/India?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, sir. Hi, sir.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: Tell me your name again?

    QUESTION: Ali.

    MS NAUERT: Ali, right. Sorry, thanks.

    QUESTION: Ali from ARY News TV. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed grave concern on the situation of religious freedom and human rights in India, and especially about the killing of minorities for eating beef and Indian forces’ brutalities in held Kashmir. So they wanted to go to India, the U.S. commission – a panel of U.S. commission – but the Indian High Commission here denied their visa and said they wouldn’t – they won’t allow U.S. commission to go to India to monitor the actual situation there. So do you have anything to say on that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of the specific subject that you are bringing out – up about people getting in trouble for eating beef, so let me look into that and get back to you.

    QUESTION: I sent this question to your press team like day before yesterday.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, perhaps you did. Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: That doesn’t necessarily mean that I see everything that comes into our press team.

    QUESTION: I have one more question about --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, last question. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I have one more question. Thank you so much. There are so – many media reports in Pakistan about Dr. Afridi, the release of Dr. Afridi. So what kind of efforts and what kind of discussion with the Pakistan --

    MS NAUERT: I haven’t had that conversation recently with the people who – our people here internally who have handled Pakistan. I’m certainly aware and familiar with Dr. Afridi’s case, and if we have anything new to bring you, I will certainly bring that to you, okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you very much.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Israel?

    QUESTION: Can we stay on India?

    QUESTION: Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Can we stay on India?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, hi.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Hi. Yulia Olhovskaya, Channel One Russia. Can I go back for one second to yesterday meeting of Ryabkov and Shannon? Do the U.S. have any conditions for return diplomatic property? (Inaudible.)

    MS NAUERT: I think I’ve covered this. We’ve talked a lot about that and we have a lot of other people here with questions about the region, so let me just leave it at that. I know that Mr. Shannon looks forward to continuing those conversations.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Sir, hi.

    QUESTION: Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: With the beard.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, how are you? What’s your name?

    QUESTION: My name is Grigory Dubovitsky. I’m from Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

    MS NAUERT: How – wait, let’s just do a show of hands here. How many folks do we have from Russian media?

    QUESTION: I guess three.

    MS NAUERT: One, two, three. Okay, got it. All right.

    QUESTION: So the a question about Syria.

    MS NAUERT: See? Freedom of the press. (Laughter.) It’s a good thing, isn’t it?

    QUESTION: Yes, it is.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: We love that. So welcome.

    QUESTION: Okay. So my question is about Syria, that Mr. Ryabkov confirmed us that Russia and the United States may hold talks on a second ceasefires agreement for Syria.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, say that again.

    QUESTION: Mr. Ryabkov said that Russia and the United States may hold talks on a second ceasefire agreement for Syria, so can you confirm it and provide more details if you have?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t – I cannot confirm that that is something that’s a discussion that is underway. I know one of the priorities for the U.S. Government, in addition to coalition partners in Syria, is trying to obtain ceasefires and trying to get stability in the region, in certain parts of it where we think that that can take hold. Part of the reason we want to do that is to be able to get humanitarian assistance in that is so desperately needed by folks there. So we are working to do that. We are pleased so far with how the ceasefire has been working in southwestern Syria, and at some point hope, if and when the time is right, that that’s something that could potentially expand elsewhere. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Follow-up on Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, sir.

    QUESTION: Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: Yes?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Tell me your name, please?

    QUESTION: Jafar Jafari with Al Mayadeen TV. I’m not with the Russian --

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) You’re from India, sir? You’re from India? Yes, thank you.

    QUESTION: A UN jet was carrying a team of journalists into Yemen, and they were prevented from entry by the Saudi coalition.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who was bringing journalists into Yemen?

    QUESTION: United Nations.

    MS NAUERT: The UN was, okay.

    QUESTION: Yes. The journalists were – they couldn’t enter. Does the U.S. have a policy of denying journalists access to troubled areas?

    MS NAUERT: Certainly – as a general matter, certainly not. We --

    QUESTION: Well, in this particular case.

    MS NAUERT: The United States is incredibly open --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- to the media. As you know, we’ve had media embed with our U.S. forces around the globe, in other places. I’m not familiar with the particular example that you brought up. I don’t know if these were U.S. reporters going into Yemen. That would be the Government of Yemen’s decision, I would think, whether or not to allow certain people in. But I’m just – I’m just not aware of that, so I don’t want to comment on that particular question, because I just don’t have all the details. Okay, thank you, sir.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Sir.

    QUESTION: Syria? Syria?

    QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the – just the general situation in Yemen right now, particularly as it relates to cholera and famine?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Goodness, we announced quite a bit of money that went out from USAID to Yemen to help with cholera and also food scarcity of resources, and that’s been another major concern of ours. I don’t have the cholera numbers in front of me, but there have been far too many deaths as a result of cholera. One of the problems in a country like Yemen is not so much where they don’t have food, but rather it’s because so much of that food and aid is prevented from getting to the people there because of the fighting on the ground. So one of the things that we do is we try to push for greater access to be able to get the Yemeni people the food that they – the food and supplies and healthcare that they need. And that would also include clean water, and that’s – kind of loops in cholera, but I can get – try to get you the latest numbers on those – on those unfortunate deaths if you’d like.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: Can we go to Syria, please?

    QUESTION: India?

    QUESTION: Syria, please?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. I’m going to have to do last question.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

    MS NAUERT: We got a lot of India questions today.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I am the first person who met you and gave you my card when you came and sat there as an observer.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the – China yesterday briefed a lot of diplomats about the condition – the border conditions with India, and including the U.S. diplomat. What did they share with you, if you can say, or what is the U.S. position now on the tense situation on the border between India and China? Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I know that that – thank you for your question and thank you for your kind welcome when I first came on board here. I know that the United States is concerned about the ongoing situation there. I know we believe that both parties, both sides should work together to try to come up with some better sort of arrangement for peace. And I’ll just leave it at that right now.

    We got to go, guys. Thank you so much. Please take a moment to welcome our Iraqi friends. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming to the United States. (Applause.) And my step mom is here in the audience, so lots of friends here.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:05 p.m.)

    DPB # 37

    [1] agreement


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 13, 2017

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 18:20
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 13, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • ISIS/IRAQ/REGION
  • IRAN
  • QATAR/KUWAIT/REGION
  • CHINA
  • NORTH KOREA
  • SOUTH KOREA/NORTH KOREA
  • CHINA
  • JAPAN
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • IRAQ
  • BAHRAIN
  • AFGHANISTAN

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:52 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: How’s everyone?

    QUESTION: Fine.

    MS NAUERT: Good trip, Matt Lee?

    QUESTION: Yeah, it was. Although if I’d known it was going to be this hot, I might have gone to Kuwait after. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Right. It is awfully hot here. I see you brought the weather back with you, right? All right. Well, welcome back, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. Hope you’re having a good day. We have more guests today. I’m just bringing more and more in. My brother and his girlfriend, so – okay.

    A couple orders of business here, and the first is we were very sad to see the passing of Liu Xiaobo in China. As you saw from the statement that the Secretary issued today, we join those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform. Mr. Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind and to the pursuit of justice and liberty. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Liu Xia, and all of his loved ones. We continue to call on the Chinese Government to release her from house arrest and allow her to depart China according to her wishes. In his fight for freedom, equality, and constitutional rule in China, Liu Xiaobo embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Peace Prize rewards. In his death, his has only reaffirmed the Nobel Committee’s selection.

    Next thing we have going on here this week at the State Department was the meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Today, the members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the small group, are meeting in Washington to conclude the three-day conference on the next phase of the campaign. The coalition had productive meetings today and in the past few days on the next phase of the campaign. The coalition had held some workshops over the past few days to ensure that we’re maintaining simultaneous pressure on ISIS across the globe.

    This morning, Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk announced that the United States would contribute an additional $119 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq. This now brings the total U.S. contribution in humanitarian assistance to more than $1.4 billion for the Iraqi crisis since the Fiscal Year 2014. This is in addition to the $150 million that we announced last week that goes to stabilization efforts in Iraq. With the new assistance, the United States is now providing additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, improved sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection for Iraqis who have been displaced.

    We commend the significant humanitarian contributions made by coalition members to date and encourage them and other donors to continue supporting humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The fight to defeat ISIS is far from over, and this week’s meetings showed the global coalition remains more determined than ever to ensure that this barbaric enemy is dealt a lasting defeat.

    And finally, the Secretary is returning this evening from his trip to the Gulf, where he met with Kuwaiti, Qatari, Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian, and Bahraini leaders. The goal of the Secretary’s visit was to support Kuwaiti mediation efforts and bring what we can to discussions to help both sides more fully understand the concerns of the other and point out possible solutions to the dispute. Based on his meetings, the Secretary believes that getting the parties to talk directly to one another would be an important next step, and we will look forward to that hopefully happening. We hope the parties will agree to do so, and we will continue to support the Emir of Kuwait in his mediation efforts.

    And with that, I will gladly take your questions.

    QUESTION: Thanks. Starting with this – just with this – something that’s related to the Secretary’s trip but not necessarily about Qatar, on Monday, when he was in Istanbul he talked about efforts with – to building on the ceasefire that you guys negotiated with the Russians in the south. He talked about doing something in the north with the Turks, and then the President in his comments today talked about doing something else – another truce with Russia. Is this the same thing or is this something different?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure if that would be the same thing or if that’s something different. I know we’re looking to this area in southwestern Syria, where there is the ceasefire that is holding right now – we’re now four days into it or so, I believe – hoping that we can build upon that and broaden that out to other parts of the country. But I’ll check back into that for you if you like.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then, related to that, on – you’ve seen – I saw that on Tuesday you were asked about this Amnesty International report on the situation in Mosul.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Have you had a chance to look at that and what do you make of its findings?

    MS NAUERT: Look, the first thing I would say about the Amnesty International report is that’s something that some people certainly here have seen. I’ve not personally reviewed it myself. In terms of civilian casualties, that’s something that I can say the coalition always takes every effort to try to mitigate against any humanitarian or any civilian casualties. It’s obviously a very complex situation in Iraq, especially in Mosul, where they have been – ISIS has been dug in for quite some time. Folks have raised the issue why did it take so long to achieve some semblance of victory in Mosul, and that’s because ISIS had been dug in so hard. So the coalition takes every effort, as do – as does its partners, to try to mitigate against any kind of civilian casualties.

    QUESTION: Well, but do you accept the conclusions of the report?

    MS NAUERT: How would you exactly state the conclusions, Matt?

    QUESTION: Well, that there’s a civilian catastrophe. It took the Iraqi forces to – and the Peshmerga to task for going after civilians under the aegis, kind of, of the United States.

    MS NAUERT: I think what I would say about that is let’s remember the real focus of the humanitarian and civilian casualty situation in Iraq, and that is ISIS. And we talked about this the other day. Were it not for ISIS, were it not for ISIS forcing so many people from their homes – and now through the work of the coalition many people, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to go back to their homes in Mosul alone. And so the real focus, the real reason why there has been misery in Iraq and Syria as well is because of ISIS, not the coalition and not the coalition partners.

    QUESTION: Okay. But does that mean that you do not accept the findings of this report? I mean, do you not think that this is a problem, that civilian --

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know that if there are --

    QUESTION: Obviously – I mean, ISIS aside, civilians – this report says that civilians suffered badly or --

    MS NAUERT: The Department of Defense puts together a civilian casualty list at the end of every – I believe it’s at the end of every month, but I know that they do that on a monthly basis. So then I would refer you to that. I know it’s something that we take very seriously. Let me underscore that again. We take civilian casualties very seriously. The United States, its coalition partners, the Department of Defense, all of the folks working on behalf of the United States and the coalition continue to work very hard to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen.

    QUESTION: But does that mean that you’re not going to comment on the --

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, I do know this: I can tell you that the Department of Defense and other U.S. Government entities were not consulted when it came to looking at that report or weighing into that report. So I think that is indicative that the report wasn’t fully formulated without getting our input as well.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well – but – okay. So the reason that I’m asking and the reason I’m asking it like this is that it seems to be – and this is not just something unique to this administration, but for many – over the course of the last four or five administrations – when Amnesty or another human rights group comes out with a report on a country that you don’t like, say like North Korea or Syria, you’re – and they don’t consult those governments when they do those reports, you guys accept it and you even talk about it and praise the reports from the podium and say this is – like the chemical weapons in Syria. But when they come out with a report that is on a country that is an ally, is --

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m just saying we weren’t consulted on that report. The Department of Defense puts together a very thorough humanitarian – excuse me – a very thorough civilian casualty list every month. I think the United States does a very strong job of trying to ensure that that does not happen. I think that is evident by the fact that we have been backing Iraqi forces and our coalition partners. We have 72 members of the Defeat ISIS Coalition in here right now, including representatives from Iraq. And I think that is indicative of the amount of care and concern that we put into that.

    QUESTION: So this is not a case – this is not a situation where you accept reports that you like the results of but do not accept result – reports that you don’t?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to characterize that way at all. Okay? I think we’ve been over this enough.

    Go ahead.

    QUESTION: UNICEF issued a report --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Said.

    QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. UNICEF today issued a report that today or last night that upwards of 650,000 children from Mosul had been affected by the war and displaced and so on.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I mean, there seems to be so much --

    MS NAUERT: I don't have those numbers, so I can’t confirm those numbers.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: But --

    QUESTION: But the point beyond just the displacement, there is so much effort – I mean, you talk about the coalition and the fight and the military aspect of it. But there seems to be nothing out there in terms of reconciliation, in terms of getting people back, getting aid, doing all these things. There seems to be a big wall – I mean, you talked about --

    MS NAUERT: Let me be clear about this. Nothing could be --

    QUESTION: -- you talked about --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, Said. Nothing could be further from the truth on that. I was sitting in a meeting earlier today. As I was sitting in the meeting in this building today with members of the international coalition – it included members from Iraq as well – where the primary focus was talking about how you start to bring people back home, into their homes in western Mosul.

    By the way – we’ve talked about this here from the podium before – when you look at eastern Mosul, hundreds of thousands of people – and I can look and get the exact number for you or as close to a number as I can for you about the number of people who’ve been brought back into eastern Mosul. And that is an amazing feat. Just think about how ISIS had been entrenched in those areas for years, and now, not long after that area was liberated, you have children going back to school; you have electricity; you have clean, running water; you have all of those things. I just announced at the very top of this humanitarian assistance, new pledges of humanitarian assistance on the part of USAID going into Iraq. That is significant. Perhaps sometimes folks like to look for one place, one situation of misery, and forget to see the progress that is being made. We have been clear here that there is a lot of work that is left to be done; no doubt about that. Western Mosul was just liberated. There are still bad guys in there as the military effort goes back in to try to figure out if anybody was left behind, but we are optimistic about the ability to bring people back into western Mosul. It’s not going to be overnight. This will take some time, but this will eventually happen.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Let’s stay on Iraq right now before we go to something else.

    QUESTION: Just on --

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: How are you? Good to see you.

    QUESTION: Good to see you too. But I guess one will argue that the crimes committed by ISIS and crimes committed by the Security Forces are different, because ISIS does not represent the civilized world. They stand as a terrorist organization, while the Security Forces in Iraq are supported by the United States, and that’s a difference. So I mean, in this equation, you cannot really say that there is a progress, which there is and everybody acknowledging that, but at the same time you can – you cannot condemn what the Iraqis Security Forces allege to be doing.

    MS NAUERT: I can say this: The prime minister of Iraq has – from what I understand, has taken this quite seriously. He has in the past prosecuted people who have been found guilty of any type of humanitarian abuses. The United States would certainly condemn any kind of abuses of that sort, but some of that will be an internal government matter for Iraq.

    QUESTION: So did you raise this with the Iraqi Government? And if you did, at what level?

    MS NAUERT: I do not know the answer to that. I did not personally raise that matter with the Iraqi Government. I know our Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk has been very involved in all that. He will be here later today to answer your – some of your questions. I understand that will be at 4 o’clock today. So if you have some of the more detailed questions about that, perhaps Brett can answer those this afternoon.

    QUESTION: Just one more on --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s stick on Iraq.

    QUESTION: So like, on the abuse of human rights by Iraqi forces in Mosul, the report, like, talks about that a lot as well. And Iraqi forces, as you know, is a pretty dominantly Shia force. They are provided weapons, U.S. weapons. They have been trained by the Americans. It seems to me as a reader of that report that the United States didn’t have a mechanism in place – a robust one at least – to watch Iraqis to not carry out human rights abuses while using U.S. weapons, while being trained by the United States.

    MS NAUERT: I know that the United States takes those allegations very seriously, okay? We have talked about this from this podium before and from this room before. Special Envoy Mr. McGurk will be here later today, and perhaps he can answer some of those questions. Again, we take those allegations seriously. We always have. We do everything that we can to avoid civilian casualties, and we know that Prime Minister Abadi has in the past and continues to do so, to look in and prosecute those who have been found guilty.

    QUESTION: So --

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Let’s move on from Iraq. Do you have a question about Iraq?

    QUESTION: Just briefly --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Michele.

    QUESTION: When you say that U.S. entities weren’t consulted in that report, are you disputing then what they found? Are you --

    MS NAUERT: I know that the Department of Defense was not consulted about that report, so let me just refer you to the Department of Defense for anything more on that.

    Hi.

    QUESTION: Heather, this came up as we were walking to the briefing, so I’m not sure if you have anything on it. There’s a Reuters report that broke that all nations have been asked to provide more travel data to help vet visa applications or potentially face sanctions. Have you seen that or seen anything on that?

    MS NAUERT: Are you referring to the Department of Homeland Security and the new executive order? Is that what you mean?

    QUESTION: This is a cable that was apparently sent to – to U.S. embassies to provide extensive data from – to ask countries to help provide extensive data to help vet visa applicants and determine whether that traveler poses a terrorist threat.

    MS NAUERT: I think what you’re referring to is part of the executive order and the additional information that the United States is able to ask other countries for. Let me get back to you on that. Let me just clarify that we’re talking about the same thing and get back to you later today.

    QUESTION: That’s the Section 2 report from DHS, “In consultation with the Secretary.”

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Because a lot of that is a DHS matter right now. I know that the United States will be consulting with those countries. I think it’s the – they have 50 days or so. But let me just get back to you on that just to make sure that we’re talking about the exact same thing. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can you check if you’re going to sanction countries after 50 days if they --

    MS NAUERT: Let me just get back to you. I want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Okay?

    QUESTION: And then really quick, in a few days there is another deadline to certify whether Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. What is the status of the administration review on Iran policy?

    MS NAUERT: So the review on the Iran policy is still going. That is still underway. I know people have a lot of interest in this. We have said and the administration has said that at least until that review has been completed that we will adhere to the JCPOA. That has not changed. We’ll ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements. So the review is still underway, and then we have a timeline coming up pretty quickly in which a report will – will have to be looked at.

    QUESTION: Do you --

    QUESTION: What do you think the chances are that the review will be done before Monday?

    MS NAUERT: Why would it? If there’s a deadline on Monday, why get ahead? Why get ahead of that?

    QUESTION: No, no, I mean the broader policy review of Iran. Do you think that that will be --

    MS NAUERT: Oh. I – you know what? I am --

    QUESTION: Are the chances high or low that that will be completed by Monday?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I don’t – I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not sure that that’s something that needs to be done until Monday. Okay.

    QUESTION: Another Iran question?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, yeah.

    QUESTION: Hi. Has Secretary Tillerson talked to his Iranian counterpart, Zarif, since he’s been secretary of state, at all?

    MS NAUERT: I – let me look into that for you, because I just saw that in some notes here. I do not believe that he has. We certainly have various diplomatic channels, lines of communication that can be used to communicate with the Iranian Government. My understanding is that we have not, but I’m not going to get into any comments or questions about private diplomatic conversations.

    QUESTION: And what would the rationale for a new secretary of state not reaching out to his counterpart in Iran be?

    MS NAUERT: It’s a hypothetical; I’m just not going to get into that. Thanks.

    QUESTION: Well, actually, Secretary Tillerson said, I think at a hearing during the budget hearings, maybe, that he wasn’t opposed to talking to the Iranians, but it wouldn’t just be talk for talk’s sake; there would have to be a reason to talk. So are there certain kind of conditions or actions that Iran would have to take before there could be talk about, for instance, a political solution in Syria, which obviously the U.S. and Iran are both interested parties?

    MS NAUERT: That is – that’s not a subject that I’ve brought up with him recently.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: We’ve been pretty focused on what’s going on in Qatar. We’ve been pretty focused on Russia and on Syria and Iraq as well. So --

    QUESTION: Well, he’s – I mean, presumably, he’s very involved in the Iran review.

    MS NAUERT: Certainly. I just haven’t asked him. I just haven’t asked him that question. Okay? All right. Anything else on Iran?

    QUESTION: On Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Could you give us, like, a summation of what’s going? What did the Secretary achieve? What did he not achieve?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. What did he, what?

    QUESTION: What did he accomplish and what is hoped to – to be accomplished?

    MS NAUERT: Well, certainly been very hard at work over the past few days in doing his shuttle diplomacy and meeting with a whole lot of people in the region. As you know, his visit was in support of Kuwaiti mediation efforts. We continue to thank Kuwait for the hard work that they have done in trying to bring both sides together on this. I know that the Secretary would like to see this resolved. We’ve seen some progress in that, and we hope that both sides would be willing to sit down sometime in the near future to actually have a conversation about what those grievance are – grievances are.

    This all has been a long time coming. You know that these disputes are not brand new. Tensions in the past have been fairly raw, so it’s going to take some time to get these parties together. Just last week, we characterized this as possibly at an impasse. So the mere fact that the Secretary’s been there, talking to both sides of this, and encouraging them to sit down and have a conversation, I would see as subtle progress.

    QUESTION: Do you still see it at an impasse?

    QUESTION: But you know, the statements that came out --

    MS NAUERT: No, I think this is subtle progress. I think the fact that the Secretary was there, talking with both sides, is an important step in the right direction.

    QUESTION: Today the --

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead, Michele.

    QUESTION: If I just follow up very quickly --

    MS NAUERT: Said. Let the lady first. C’mon, Said.

    QUESTION: Sorry. Go ahead, please.

    QUESTION: It’s okay.

    MS NAUERT: Michele, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: No, no, you.

    QUESTION: All right. Anyway, so when you describe it as subtle progress, are you framing that around just the fact that they were talking, or would you say that there is any movement on the side of the quartet?

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to – I’m not going to characterize what the parties themselves are doing individually at this point, because I think that’s really up for the individual parties to do that. But the fact that they’re having conversations with us, the fact that they’re meeting with the Kuwaitis, I think is a step in the right direction.

    QUESTION: So does the Secretary have a framework for what happens next? I mean, has he set up a kind of organized system of here is when we’re going to meet next or speak next, and would you describe this as still an impasse then?

    MS NAUERT: I think I answered that with Felicia.

    QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

    MS NAUERT: So I wouldn’t describe it that way. We are sort of subtly optimistic about this. But we are also realistic, in that this could take a lot of time. These have been long-simmering tensions, and that certainly hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: Heather, has this started to develop --

    QUESTION: Can I ask about the --

    QUESTION: Is he disappointed? Does he feel like this --

    MS NAUERT: I think we’ve made some steps forward. I mean, I think we are hoping that both sides will be willing to sit down and talk with one another. That is something that we would certainly hope for. We hope that they’re willing to do that, but it’s ultimately their choice. We do know – and we can go back to the Riyadh summit and the agreements that all the parties came to at the Riyadh summit, and that was to do more to work together to combat terrorism, to combat counter – or terrorism financing. So we all agreed to that. We expect that the nations will ultimately, in the end, get back to those principles.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Can I ask about this MOU that --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: -- the President – that the Secretary, sorry, signed with the Qataris? First of all, he kind of saluted the Qataris for being the first country to answer the President’s challenge at the Riyadh summit on funding, and it seems as – terrorist funding. And it seems as if he – with this MOU in effect, he was kind of vouching for the Qataris’ commitments that they’re willing to make now, saying, like, I’m signing an agreement with the Qataris and if they don’t make good on their agreement, then the U.S. would be maybe on the hook for that.

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t characterize it as our country vouching for another country. It’s an arrangement; it’s an understanding. That is something where we anticipate and hope and would expect that the other nation would follow through on the arrangement, on the understanding. There will be sort of benchmarks in place in terms of the details of that. I can’t get too into the details on it. This is something that’s still new and fresh, and the Secretary is on a plane flying back here right now.

    So we’ll learn more about this, I would expect, in the coming days. Just how thorough those details are that I’m able to give you, that I just don’t know yet.

    QUESTION: You talked a little bit about this the other day, but I just want to go back to some comments made by an aide of the Secretary, saying that nobody’s hands were clean here, and kind of seemed to be pushing in the direction of criticizing the Saudis and the Emiratis and other countries for using this issue as a pretext to crack down on Qatar. I mean, how did the – was the Secretary received after those comments in the region?

    MS NAUERT: I think the – there are concerns on all sides. This has obviously been a difficult situation, I think, for all sides to try to resolve. I think the Secretary is welcomed, as are the Kuwaitis, in being member countries that – when I say “member countries,” I mean people who are willing to work together to try to resolve this dispute. So I think that is welcome, and if we can get the sides to come together, then that would certainly be a good thing.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s move on now. Anything else?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Nike, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Can we move on to China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: One last one, one quick one, just very quickly?

    MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: So what’s the difference between --

    MS NAUERT: Nike, hold on.

    QUESTION: -- the MOU that the Qataris signed now and what they actually committed to – and they signed in the Riyadh summit and before even 2014?

    MS NAUERT: So in the Riyadh summit, it was a broad-based set of principles that the nations agreed to. This is a little bit more detailed. I don’t have a copy of it in front of me right now, but this is something where there will be regular, high-level consultations between Qatar and the United States. It’s sort of a form of a counterterrorism dialogue. There will be benchmarks in place. There will be ways that we check in with them and that they check in with us. In terms of the details, I hope to be able to give you more in the coming days, but that’s all I have for you right now.

    QUESTION: Will you make it public?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that will be – because this is an arrangement between nations, I’m not sure that we will be able to make this public. That might fall under diplomatic arrangements and dialogue, so I may not be able to provide that for you. Hopefully, I will know more, though, in the coming days.

    Okay. Let’s move on. Go right ahead, Nike.

    QUESTION: Sure. Hi. Thank you. So on the unfortunate passing of Liu Xiaobo, what is your assessment of how China handled this case? And separately, as you indicated, Secretary Tillerson has urged China to release his wife, Liu Xia, who has been also under house arrest.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Is there any discussion to facilitate her to leave the country? Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: I know that we’ve been tremendously concerned about his health and his care. The United States had helped to facilitate an American doctor heading over there to examine him, and as you know, there was a German doctor who did that as well. He was really a beacon of hope for so many Chinese who fundamentally believe in their rights, in their human rights, and in freedom and democracy. So while we mourn the passing of this and we hope that his wife will be allowed to leave the country and freed from house arrest, we were saddened by his death, as I think so many other people are around the world.

    QUESTION: And then on the funeral arrangement, if you could please shed some light. Will there be any American officials to attend his funeral? If yes, what would the level be?

    MS NAUERT: I will look into that and see what we can find out for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on China?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: China.

    QUESTION: Yeah, in Asia.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne, how are you?

    QUESTION: Good to see you. And on North Korea, North Korean human right issue is as much as very serious issue like nuclear issues. What is the United States final destination of North Korean human rights issue? Your --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, what is our what?

    QUESTION: Your final destination of human right North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: What is our final designation?

    QUESTION: Yeah, destinations of human right.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you mean by that.

    QUESTION: Final decisions of – U.S. final decisions of the North --

    MS NAUERT: What is our final decision about the status of human rights in North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Is that the question?

    QUESTION: Mm-hm.

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s something that we have remained extremely concerned about for a very, very long time. We know that China[1] is one of the worst human rights abusers of all nations around the world. I’ve talked about this extensively about the guest workers who are in place in countries around the world. These guest workers, as they go in, they work, and much of their money is confiscated and taken by the government. That is – that is the very least, okay? That’s just one area.

    Another area would be the killings, the imprisonment, the labor camps in North Korea. I can go on and on. I think we’ve been really clear about our concerns about North Korean human rights abuses. If there’s something new that you want me to get you, I can certainly look into that.

    QUESTION: So one more on South Korea.

    MS NAUERT: On South Korea?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Not North Korea. Different.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: In South Korea, Moon Jae-in government is planning to connect gas pipeline with Russia in North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Is it a violation of UN sanctions, or what is your – I mean, U.S. position?

    MS NAUERT: Let me look into that and get back to you. I don’t have anything for you on that today.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything on DPRK or South Korea?

    QUESTION: Yeah, Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Sorry, not South Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead.

    QUESTION: But just on the Liu Xiaobo question --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: I think this is really a White House question, but do you know if President Trump and President Xi discussed this case? I’m wondering at how high a level the U.S. Government discussed this with China.

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have had a lot of conversations, and the conversations had been ongoing for quite some time. In terms of what the President said, I mean, there was certainly a readout, I believe, of the President’s meeting with him. I don’t have that handy right now, so I’d just have to refer you back to the White House on exactly what was said in that meeting.

    QUESTION: Okay. And sorry, the leader of the Nobel committee said that the Chinese Government bears heavy responsibility for Mr. Liu’s death. And I wondered --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who said that?

    QUESTION: It’s the leader of the Nobel committee.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And does this building share this sentiment?

    MS NAUERT: Does the building share the sentiment that China bears responsibility?

    QUESTION: That China – right, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know he is someone who was a beacon of hope and was treated poorly by the Chinese Government – imprisoned repeatedly over the years for promoting democracy, promoting freedom, and promoting human rights. I can’t get into his – he was diagnosed with cancer at some point. I’m not going to draw a conclusion between being diagnosed with cancer and the government’s treatment of him, but we were very concerned with the healthcare that he received by the Chinese. You know that we had called upon them to allow him to be released along with his wife so that he could get treatment where he needed to.

    Okay, let’s move on from that.

    QUESTION: Stay on China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right – hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Thanks. Do you have any comment on the reports of new sanctions on small Chinese banks with business ties to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: So that would be something under the Treasury Department. We had announced some new sanctions about a week and a half or so ago. That came under Treasury as well, but I think that would fall under sort of the category of the third-party sanctions. And that’s something that we have talked about a lot, where the United States is asking China, the United States is asking nations around the world, to do more to adhere to not only Security Council resolutions, but the expectation that we have that countries around the world will do their part in not funding or adding to the money that would end up going to North Korea, because we believe that that goes to its weapons program.

    Okay. Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Japan? Japan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Bill Hagerty was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to Japan. Do you have a statement, and what are your expectations for his role?

    MS NAUERT: We are looking forward to having him join Japan as our next U.S. ambassador. He spent a good deal of time over there. I know he’s steeped in the issues. I don’t have a statement for you just yet on that, but we look forward to having him represent the United States in Japan.

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. Do you have any more on what exactly happened with the Afghan girl robotic team and their visa? Why was their visa denied in the first place, and how did they eventually get it?

    MS NAUERT: Well, you know what I’m going to say, right, in terms of visas. Visas – anyone’s visa and why a visa is granted or why a visa is denied is always something that is going to be kept confidential. That’s not because I want to keep it confidential, that’s not because the State Department does, but it happens to be U.S. law. So I can’t get into that.

    I can say that we are very happy to have these young girls be able to come here to the United States to participate in this robotics competition. I have second-grader, my second-grader does robotics, so I know how much that means, especially as a parent, much less girls coming from Afghanistan. So we’re looking forward to having them come here. We’ll be watching them. We hope that they do well in the competition and are happy to have them here.

    There is something called parole authority, so – and that falls under the Department of Homeland Security. This was an issue that the President noticed, that Dina Powell had then addressed yesterday, and so the Department of Homeland Security was able to take a look at this. I’ll let them address this with you, but under this authority, the United States can temporarily grant – based on either humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, a – as I understand it, a short-term ability to come into the United States. So anything beyond that, I’d ask you to talk to DHS.

    QUESTION: Well, does that mean parole – the fact that parole had to be used would suggest – and let’s just put it in a – not in this specific context, because you won’t talk about these visas specifically – would suggest that the reason for ineligibility stands, that – in other words, that if parole is the only way a person can get into this country, that the decision made by the consular officers at post stands.

    MS NAUERT: The consular officers – as I understand it, under law and the way that they handle visa adjudications, once a visa is denied, that that is not able to be reversed, that that decision is not able to be reversed.

    QUESTION: Right. In other words – so the decision that was made at post that these girls or anyone was ineligible for a visa stands. So --

    MS NAUERT: I can’t comment – I cannot --

    QUESTION: -- then one wonders why the immigration law is such that it determines or that someone looking at it determines that a bunch of teenage Afghan girls are somehow a threat to the United States or are somehow a – somehow – or otherwise ineligible for an American visa.

    MS NAUERT: I think commenting on that, as much as I would like to be able to share with you more about this – you know I can’t. You know I can’t because it’s a visa confidentiality, but I can tell you that it is not reversible once a consular affairs officer denies someone’s visa. DHS took it up; they have the ability to do so. Anything beyond that, DHS would have to answer that.

    QUESTION: Right. But I mean it remains the State Department’s position that someone who can only get into the country on this parole – on parole is ineligible for a visa, correct?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t conflate one with the other. That is DHS. That’s a different department. That’s a different kind of program. That’s not a program that we administer here. Okay?

    QUESTION: But State Department denied the visas twice before the parole was granted.

    MS NAUERT: I can’t comment on that. Again, that would come under visa confidentiality. DHS made its decision, and so we are now glad that the girls are coming to the United States and wish them well.

    QUESTION: But would that initial decision be reviewed, then, and whatever --

    MS NAUERT: I know that our people at very senior levels in Afghanistan were involved in this, and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: So if parole – if visa – if visa information is completely confidential and you can’t discuss it, why is parole information available? And then why didn’t you give parole to the --

    MS NAUERT: That’s a – you have to talk to DHS about that. Again, that’s a DHS program.

    QUESTION: Why wasn’t the Iranian doctor who was stopped in Boston and sent back – why wasn’t he given parole? I mean, it would seem to me that this guy – he’s a cancer researcher. The public benefit to him being in the country might be a little bit more than a bunch of girls going to a robotics competition, as wonderful as that is.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with the specifics of the case. I know that this individual you’re referring to was turned away. I think that falls under Customs and Border Protection. I know it seems like people would want to paint the federal government and certain departments here as a bunch of meanies for not letting some people in. There are reasons for this, okay? I know the people who do these jobs, whether it’s here or at – whether it’s at DHS or Customs and Border Protection, take their jobs very, very seriously.

    QUESTION: Clearly.

    QUESTION: Yeah. But so --

    QUESTION: Just a clarification --

    QUESTION: -- those original decisions, then – are – is the State Department now seeing those as mistakes?

    MS NAUERT: I – again, I stand by it. I’m not going to get into talking about the visas and why the visas were denied. I can just tell you our people take these very seriously.

    QUESTION: So --

    QUESTION: Can you talk about the President’s involvement in this? Seems that he kind of heard about the case and asked the State Department and DHS to kind of work together to try and find a solution.

    MS NAUERT: So I know that the President, as did a lot of other people, heard about this case and were very interested in it. I know that Ms. Dina Powell took an interest in it as well. I know that others at the White House were asked to take a look at the case and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I just --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So – along these same lines, I was told earlier this week that you guys have finally decided on the P-2 – the Iraqi – the refugee --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, goodness. Let me see if I can find that for you here. Okay.

    QUESTION: -- refugee P-2 status for Iraqi – for former Iraqi translators for the U.S. military and that you have determined that working for the U.S. military as a translator in Iraq, as a contractor, is not necessarily a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States. And I would just like to ask, how is that possible? If you were working for the U.S. military, risking your life, how do you not have a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States? You were paid by the Pentagon. It wasn’t like you were getting paid in cash on the side – well, maybe some people were, but – by a commander to serve as a – I don’t even know what, as kind of a personal servant or something. They were being paid by the U.S. Government. How is it possible that you guys could come to the determination that such an employer-employee relationship is not a bona fide relationship?

    MS NAUERT: I’m trying to find it here, Matt, because I knew you would ask me about this. You’re like a dog with a bone. (Laughter.) You never forget.

    QUESTION: Huh?

    MS NAUERT: I said you’re like a dog with a bone, you never forget.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on one second. Let me continue to try to find this. And then --

    QUESTION: Until the bone is all gone.

    QUESTION: Well, then you’d take another bone.

    QUESTION: Right. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Bear with me here, gang.

    QUESTION: And then I also wanted to ask you if you had gotten anything – I also asked last week about the human rights advocate in Bahrain, the --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- woman who had been --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Matt, I hate to punt on the Iraqi P-2 because I know I have information on --

    QUESTION: Well, I certainly understand why --

    MS NAUERT: No, I know I have information on --

    QUESTION: -- why you would want to punt --

    MS NAUERT: No, no, no. I have – I do have information --

    QUESTION: -- because it’s a decision that frankly does not make any sense at all.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know that’s your – I know that’s your opinion, and I --

    QUESTION: I think it’s the – not an opinion, that it’s – if it is an opinion --

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know that’s your opinion, Matt Lee, but I will --

    QUESTION: -- then it’s an opinion of a lot of other people.

    MS NAUERT: Let me look at this. I’ve got this here somewhere for you.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you --

    MS NAUERT: So let me get back to you on that.

    QUESTION: All right, fine. About Bahrain?

    MS NAUERT: About Bahrain, yes. So the activist that you’ve been asking about, Ebtisam al-Saegh --

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: -- she’s now been detained for a second time. She’s been detained without charges. We continue to follow that case. We are now aware of hunger reports or a hunger strike that she’s been on, apparently, since the 11th of July. So one of the things that we continue to do is call upon the authorities in Bahrain to not only ensure she has access to adequate medical care, but also to release her. We’re also aware of some disturbing reports that she was abused, allegedly, during her detention back in May. We continue to urge the Bahraini authorities to investigate those allegations and thoroughly, impartially, and hold anyone who was responsible for that to the appropriate account.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Last question. I’m going to leave it there.

    QUESTION: Just to clarify --

    MS NAUERT: I know, yes.

    QUESTION: -- something you said before. You said senior leaders in Afghanistan were involved in the decision?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, that’s all I can say about that. I just know that --

    QUESTION: The decision to deny the visas or --

    MS NAUERT: I know that – well, no, they were – let me rephrase that and thank you --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- for catching that. The correct way to characterize that is senior officials working for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan were aware of this and were involved in some capacity in the process. My understanding is that I don’t believe that additional staffers can weigh in on visa adjudications, but I don’t want to get into the – too into the weeds on that one because I don’t want to give you the incorrect information about how exactly visas are adjudicated, but I just can tell you that people were aware of this.

    QUESTION: Was it after the fact?

    MS NAUERT: No, no. This is something that we’ve paid close attention to over the past few weeks and we’ll leave it at that. Thanks, everybody.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Can I actually ask this, Heather?

    MS NAUERT: We have to wrap it up. We’re over and at four o’clock today, we hope you’ll just us for Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:34 p.m.)

    DPB # 36

    [1] North Korea


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 11, 2017

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 18:16
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 11, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
  • CHINA
  • ISIS/IRAQ/SYRIA
  • QATAR/REGION
  • SYRIA
  • RUSSIA
  • IRAQ
  • RUSSIA
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • CHINA/REGION
  • INDIA/REGION
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • TURKEY

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:45 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the State Department. Who’s back from the G20? All right. Well, welcome back. I hope you had a good trip over there.

    I would like to welcome some students that we have in the back row. So, again, keep it clean when we have guests. They’re from Georgetown Day School. So welcome to the State Department, great to have you here today. And they’re studying international affairs. So thank you for coming.

    I’ve got a few pieces of business to address first today, and the first is an announcement that we made over the weekend, but we’re really pleased with it, so I wanted to highlight it for you again. We’ve talked a lot about the four famines in Africa, and so I wanted to tell you about a USAID big chunk of change that has gone to that effect.

    On Saturday, the United States announced nearly $639 million in additional humanitarian assistance to the millions of people affected by food insecurity and violence in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and also Yemen. With the new assistance, the United States is providing additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, life-saving medical care, improved sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection for civilians who have been affected by conflict, including those displaced internally, and also refugees.

    The United States is also providing safe drinking water and supporting hygiene and health programs to treat and prevent disease outbreaks for all the four crises, including in Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest cholera outbreak. The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance around the world. The aid we provide represents the best of America’s generosity and its goodwill.

    Today marks – actually, Sunday marked the two-year anniversary of the launch of China’s government nationwide campaign of intimidation against defense lawyers and also rights defenders. The State Department remains deeply concerned about the continued detention of at least seven defense lawyers and rights defenders and reports of their alleged torture and denial of access to independent legal counsel. We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release those still in detention and drop the charges, and also allow them to reunite with their families. We urge the Chinese authorities to view lawyers and rights defenders as partners in strengthening Chinese society through the development of the rule of law.

    ISIS" name="ISIS">And finally, I would like to announce something that’s taking place here at the State Department, a busier place than usual today. There is a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS that’s underway this week. Today, members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS are in Washington for the first of three days of meetings on the next phase of the campaign. The meetings come at a key moment in the fight against ISIS, just as Mosul has been liberated. The coalition’s working groups on stabilization, support, counter-finance, foreign terror fighters, and counter-messaging are convening to evaluate the progress and also discuss how to build upon momentum that are achieved in each of those areas.

    Tomorrow, representatives of the 72-member coalition will participate in a day of workshops to share the best practices to ensure that we maintain simultaneous pressure on ISIS across the globe. On Thursday, senior diplomats at the coalition’s small group will meet to build on the work of the previous day’s meetings. They’ll also talk about future priorities, coordinate efforts to continue setting ISIS on an irreversible path to defeat. Just as ISIS is working to survive, we are dedicated and committed to defeating ISIS.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions.

    QATAR" name="QATAR">QUESTION: Can we go to Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: Sure, let’s start at Qatar. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can you update us on the latest efforts by Secretary Tillerson? And I know we saw the statement that was issued, and he basically said – quoted to have said that the Qataris’ position is reasonable. Could you elaborate on that?

    MS NAUERT: So the Secretary was in – I’m sorry, UAE – no, he was in – he’s based in Kuwait and has had a few series of trips. He went to Doha today to talk to the leaders there. And he will travel to Saudi Arabia tomorrow, and that’s where he’ll meet with the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Egyptians, and also the Bahraini officials.

    An important piece of news to announce is that we worked out an arrangement with the Qataris separate from the Qatar feud, if you will. And this is something we’re pretty proud of, and this is something that the President has made a major initiative of his that was worked out at the Riyadh conference. And that is the Qataris and the United States have signed a memo of understanding between the United States and Qatar on counterterrorism financing. So some of the details I understand are still being worked out at this hour; the Secretary was pleased to be able to announce that piece of work today.

    QUESTION: Do you see this as paving the way for Qatar to go back into the good stead of the other four countries that cut off relations with it?

    MS NAUERT: We certainly hope so. We know that all of those countries, as we talked about in Riyadh, share the concern about ISIS, the global terror network, and they recognize that we are all stronger when we are working together and coordinating in the fight against ISIS. So we believe that this memo of agreement between the United States and Qatar is a good first start to get that underway.

    Hey, Michelle.

    QUESTION: Initially in this, what we heard from the Saudis was kind of take or leave it, here are our demands. So how would you say that through the course of the Secretary’s meetings the willingness level has changed, or hasn’t, among the other countries besides Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: So I know that the countries and the Secretary are committed to trying to work this through and come to a resolution. It’s been more than a month now. We’ve continued to ask them to do that. I think those nations all understand the concern and the importance to work together to come to a resolution on this.

    QUESTION: And Tillerson’s spokesperson during part of this trip had said, when he was talking to reporters, that there are no clean hands here. Was he talking about Saudi Arabia or what? Can you clarify that?

    MS NAUERT: I think – I know what you’re referring to. I think when he referred to no clean hands what he was talking about – and I wasn’t there for this, but I think what he was talking about is that all parties can do a lot more to work together, that all of the nations have issues that they need to address and work together on. And I think that this new counterterrorism financing and funding initiative that the Secretary was able to announce today with the – his foreign – the foreign minister of Qatar is a good first place to start.

    QUESTION: And when he said that some of those demands were just completely untenable but some could be workable, can you give a little more detail on what he was talking about?

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to characterize any of the specific demands, but we know overall from taking a look at the initial lists and subsequent lists that some of the things would be harder for certain nations to do than others. Some of them would, frankly, not be workable for some of those nations. I’m not going to point out specifics. That’s for each of those nations to look at and highlight themselves. But we’re hoping that they will come to an agreement on this.

    Hi.

    QUESTION: Heather, State and Qatar have described this agreement that they signed today as a separate agreement to the process that had begun in Riyadh before this blockade began. But given that the most cited grievance that these countries have against Qatar is – has to do with terrorist financing, and this is a terrorist financing agreement, could you characterize this as linked or as a breakthrough to try to end this impasse?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think to highlight that the United States and Qatar have this agreement on terror financing sends a really good message to all of the nations that, hey look, we can get to this agreement on this, we can get to an agreement that terror financing is a major issue and a major concern. So I think that helps set a good example for the other nations that we hope that they will come to the table with us as well.

    QUESTION: And there’s an expectation or a hope that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, these other nations, will sign similar agreements with the United States?

    MS NAUERT: That I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of the Secretary’s discussions because he has a lot of meetings ahead of him and a lot of hard work ahead as well.

    Okay. Hi, Kel.

    QUESTION: Hey, does Secretary – just to clarify – want other nations to sign onto it, considering that the Qatari foreign minister said that they are the first nation to sign onto this memorandum?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not certain if this memorandum is going to be extended to the other nations. There could potentially be, but I don’t want to get ahead of the Secretary. I suppose there could be separate memorandums that would come of these conversations. But again, I just don’t want to get ahead of what those discussions might look like.

    QUESTION: And when will we be getting the details of what was in this memorandum? It seems like it’s a bit unclear right now.

    MS NAUERT: Well, this is all fresh. It’s all new. The President had asked the Secretary to go over there and personally handle this. So we’re just going to keep an eye on it, keep an eye on the situation, because it’s still developing.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: On Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Qatar?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: No, let’s stay with Qatar. Are we done with Qatar?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s move on.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Josh. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. Is there going to be – is there any clarity so far on the monitoring of the Syrian ceasefire? Obviously, Lavrov said yesterday that it was going to be done with the United States and Jordan from a center in Amman. Do you have any more details on that?

    MS NAUERT: Mr. Lavrov likes to talk a lot and get out ahead, I think, of some of the negotiations that are underway. That is all still being worked out. We are a little over two days into the ceasefire in that part of Syria. We’re pleased with that. We think it’s holding fairly well at this point. In terms of who is doing what, when, where, how, some of those details are still being worked out.

    QUESTION: Is there a level of urgency in working that out? Because it seems like if you don’t have a monitoring or an enforcement mechanism of a ceasefire it sort of incentivizes people to break it, because who’s monitoring?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think the first objective was – and this is no small feat that the United States, that Jordan and Russia, were all able to work out an agreement to bring in a ceasefire in a separate, new area. This is aside from the Astana process which had the other zones. This is the de-escalation zone that is a fifth and separate region. So I think it’s a terrific feat that they were able to identify this region and call – agree to a ceasefire and allow that ceasefire, for the most part, to take hold.

    So this is something that I know is important to get to the position where there are monitors, and who those monitors will be I don’t know at this point. I know we have folks in the region. I know that our special envoy to Syria is actively engaged in these conversations, so I anticipate we’ll get that information in the in the near future.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Do you think you might be able to provide a map or an outline of the specifics of the region, or just give more clarity on what we’re talking --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure that we’ll be able to. That may be classified at this point. I can certainly look into that.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: And is there any assessment about – there was some flashpoints that happened in the last 24 hours in parts of the area that might have been considered the ceasefire or might not have --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- a regime offensive in Suwayda or – on the outskirts?

    MS NAUERT: So my understanding is that is actually outside of the area where the ceasefire has been called or has been identified. Again, for the most part, this seems to be holding right now. I’m not going to say that there aren’t going to be skirmishes or things here and there, but so far, this is holding, and a pretty incredible feat that the United States, Russia, and Jordan were able to come to this.

    Okay. Anything else on Syria?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah. I got a quick follow-up. Are you concerned that this ceasefire would allow extremists from ISIS, from other groups – especially Jabhat al-Nusrah – to be funneled – to make all the way up to Idlib and even coming out of Mosul and Raqqa and going there, where they are going to congregate? Is that still --

    MS NAUERT: I think --

    QUESTION: Are these groups are still free targets? They don’t fall under the ceasefire?

    MS NAUERT: This is still a fresh agreement, so we’re going to wait a little bit and let this agreement play out. We have a lot of folks who are in the region, a lot of coalition partners who care about trying to keep this ceasefire holding at this point, and then we’ll try to build on it from there.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: Are you skeptical of Russia’s intentions here at this point, or would you say that the situation seems better than that this time?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think the Secretary and the President have talked about our difficulties in our relationship with Russia, that we remain at a low point but we’re looking for areas of agreement. I think when you find areas of agreement that you can work on, you start to build from somewhat of a point of confidence and comfort level. If we can get that initial building block in place, perhaps we could work on some – on the next step. I know one of the commitments we share at this point is not just this ceasefire but also allowing humanitarian access to get in. That’s badly needed. And so the hope is that we can get in humanitarian access and help the folks there in that area.

    QUESTION: Would you say that the State Department stance at this point is optimistic, or is it not at that point yet?

    MS NAUERT: I think optimism in a country that has seen a brutal regime, that has seen so much misery over six years – I think optimism is perhaps too strong of a word, but I think it is promising, in a certain sense, that we’ve been able to get this ceasefire underway. And for the most part it’s been able to hold so far, and we’ll keep building to do more.

    Okay. Anything else left on Syria?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Who had Syria?

    QUESTION: Here.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Is the deal sustainable without Iranian buy-in, and do you know if the negotiators are in contact at all with Iran?

    MS NAUERT: I have no information on that whatsoever. Okay?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Syria. Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Miss, did you have something on Syria?

    QUESTION: Yeah, a follow-up on Syria. I’m Tatiana Kalykova. I’m correspondent for Russian news agency Ria Novosti. I want to go back to previous statement of Mr. Tillerson on proposal to establish joint mechanism, and specifically that includes establishing no-fly zones in Syria. Is that something that we are going to see in the near future? Are you working on that with Russian counterparts, or for now it’s like just a proposal?

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to get ahead of any of our diplomatic conversations that could be had. I think the focus today is on this ceasefire. We’re pleased to see that. We also have had some movement on – from the standpoint of meeting with the Russians, and that’s something I wanted to announce today, that Under Secretary Shannon will be meeting with the Russians, with his counterpart, here in Washington on Monday. So that was something that the Russians – we had had on the schedule with him previously and Russia had canceled that meeting, as you all know, in Saint Petersburg. Under Secretary Shannon has been hard at work, as we have been trying to find areas that we could deal with some of these so-called irritants, and that meeting’s set to happen here in Washington on Monday.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Is that meeting an outgrowth of the discussions?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. This is something, I believe, that – I know that Under Secretary Shannon – excuse me, that Mr. Shannon had had this conversation about a week and a half or so go, and I – so I think this is sort of as a result of that.

    QUESTION: Is he meeting Ryabkov? Is Ryabkov coming over, or is it somebody else?

    MS NAUERT: I believe it’s Ryabkov coming here to Washington.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Syria?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the Shannon meeting?

    QUESTION: On Russia.

    QUESTION: Iraq.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s go on over to Iraq. Hi, sir.

    QUESTION: Okay. So the Pentagon issued a statement, which resonated what other U.S. officials from the State Department have said about the liberation of Mosul. It said we have to – we need to address the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq. So I want to know whether the United States mission from now on will be to address those conditions in Iraq and what are those conditions.

    MS NAUERT: I think our mission in Iraq – we’ll do what we can to support the Iraqi Government and the people of Iraq. We are not going to unilaterally decide what’s best for the Iraqi Government. We have had close cooperation with them and we are very, very pleased to see the liberation of Mosul. Let’s not forget it was not that long ago where the most horrific things on the part of ISIS were taking place in Mosul, where we saw the beheadings of civilians, where we saw the crucifixion of Christians, where in various parts of Iraq and Syria we’ve seen people burned in cages, we’ve seen people drown. So I think it’s a real welcome sight – not that the fight is over, but a welcome sight that Mosul has been liberated. Again, a tough fight ahead for the Iraqi Government, other governments in the area, coalition partners. That’s something that we’re addressing here in Washington. But we remain committed to that and also to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government.

    QUESTION: One more question on the Amnesty International report. They have made some accusations against the coalition and the Iraqi forces, arguing that they might – war crimes might have been committed by the coalition and Iraqi forces in Mosul because --

    MS NAUERT: I’m familiar with the Amnesty International report. And some would say let’s take a step back and take a look at this. The coalition and its forces do everything that they can to avoid civilian causalities. That’s something as Americans and I know the coalition as a whole takes very, very seriously. Let’s remember why we are engaged in this fight against ISIS. Let me remind you of something I just said – the beheadings of civilians, the beheadings of children, the crucifixion of Christians, the burning of the Jordanian pilot in the cage. All of these things – I can go on and on about the atrocities that have taken place in that region over a few numbers of years. So we will continue to take that fight to ISIS and continue to allow Iraqi civilians to come home. The United States, coalition partners, have had that win, if you will, but we know that it’s not over yet.

    QUESTION: Have you looked at the findings, Amnesty’s findings?

    MS NAUERT: I have not seen those findings myself. I know that they did not contact the Department of Defense or our coalition partners in putting together that report.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Let me go to that. Hi.

    QUESTION: ISIS could not have controlled Mosul without support from at least some local elements. So my question is anyone – perhaps the Iraqis, perhaps you would know something about this – is anyone planning on establishing a mechanism for the victims of ISIS to seek justice, to hold accountable those who were involved in the terrible crimes that you’ve just described?

    MS NAUERT: I know that the United States has continued to offer Iraq our support in doing what is needed to help them, to not only help stabilize the country but to help provide additional assistance. I believe that’s something that the Iraqi Government – I cannot speak for the Iraqi Government – could potentially be looking into themselves. But I think that’s something for the Iraqi Government to decide.

    QUESTION: Would you be encouraging them to look into it?

    MS NAUERT: Again, I’m not part of the diplomatic conversations that are underway. I’m not aware of any that are taking place about that specific issue. But I know just historically we would certainly support the government in what it needs to do to bring people to justice.

    Okay. Anything else on Iraq? Iraq? Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Let’s – hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: So can you provide any sort of update on the cyber framework that Secretary Tillerson announced on Friday? The President had described it as a cyber security unit, but the Secretary had used the term framework. So just sort of any details you can provide and whether or not it is happening.

    MS NAUERT: So I know a lot of people like to pick apart the exact words that are used. Sarah Huckabee Sanders over at the White House addressed this issue yesterday, in which she gave a little bit more color about this. One of the things she said is that we recognize Russia as a cyber threat. We also recognize the need to have a conversation with our adversaries. And I think that sort of formulates what – part of what the President’s discussion was. She went on to say that the discussions may still take place over that particular issue that you mention, but that’s as far as we can really look ahead right now.

    QUESTION: So it won’t be part of, for example, Under Secretary Shannon’s meeting next Monday?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. I know that this was a meeting that the under secretary has been trying to get on the books for quite some time. Again, it was canceled, as you all know, about three weeks ago or so, and so we’re pleased to have that meeting on the books.

    QUESTION: And can you say – the Secretary was saying after that meeting as well that both presidents agreed, rightly, in his opinion, that we needed to move on from this issue of a cyber intrusion. Does that mean that there will be no sort of repercussions for Russia because of the meddling in the U.S. election?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to speak for the White House or the President, but I think Secretary Tillerson has been very clear about that, about – and that’s part of the reason that the Russian Government was asked to leave its dachas here in the United States --

    QUESTION: So no --

    MS NAUERT: -- because we knew that there were some activities taking place in those dachas that were not permitted under U.S. law.

    QUESTION: But no further repercussions by this administration?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t speak to what the White House could potentially be working on or not working on at that point.

    QUESTION: So any support for the – I know you don’t want to comment on legislation --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but the sanctions bill, I know at least one senior administration official had expressed support for it. Is that the position now of the State Department?

    MS NAUERT: Again, it’s – I don’t know which particular member of Congress you’re speaking about.

    QUESTION: No, it was, I believe, Marc Lotter with the White House that said the administration would support it.

    MS NAUERT: I see. Okay. Let me just refer you back to the White House on that one.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: On that same issue?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: Different --

    MS NAUERT: Dmitri, go ahead.

    QUESTION: A couple on dachas.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: I know you must be so excited to talk about that. It’s summertime, you want your place back on the eastern shore of Maryland and New York. It’s hot here in D.C.

    QUESTION: To be completely honest with you, I don’t want to touch that at all, but I have to.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: I’m afraid I have to. The Russians essentially warned that they are prepared to retaliate. They still view it as a tit-for-tat situation. Thirty-five of Russian diplomats were thrown out last year, those two dachas were shut down, so they’re saying guys, we’re basically at the deadline, you need to make a decision, and we’re – I think we’re racing to go on a downward spiral again. Do you have a response to that?

    MS NAUERT: What was – about – a downward spiral about what?

    QUESTION: Yes, because the Russians are threatening to take – mirror similar --

    MS NAUERT: I see what you mean, okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: -- to retaliate.

    MS NAUERT: I think – and I don’t mean to be cute in saying this, but we’re used to certain officials from the Russian Government making a lot of comments. So I’m not going to comment on any or speculate on any specific Russian actions, any specific Russian threats. It’s a hypothetical at this point. I just know that the under secretary is looking forward to sitting down with his counterpart and we’ll see where it goes from there.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Was that issue – the Russians have been making threats for, what, two months now about retaliating for the seizure of property. So to what extent was that discussed in the meeting with Putin?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I’m not aware whether or not that came up. I can certainly look into it for you, though, and I’m – but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get an answer.

    QUESTION: Okay. And when you were just asked about any potential repercussions or more punishment for Russia’s cyber-meddling, you mentioned the dachas and the expulsions. Are you saying that Secretary Tillerson feels that that is an adequate response to what Russia did in the election?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that I would characterize it that way. I think the Secretary has been clear --

    QUESTION: I’m not sure if he has.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Okay. I’ll disagree with you there politely --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- but I think the Secretary has been clear on his concerns about that, and we’ll leave it for Mr. Shannon and Mr. Ryabkov to have those conversations on Monday, and I’m not going to get ahead of those.

    QUESTION: All right, thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Turkey, (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: Let’s switch regions now.

    QUESTION: Turkey, (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s go over to North Korea now.

    QUESTION: Thank you very much, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: How are you? How are you?

    QUESTION: Yeah. Does the U.S. have any update – sanctions against the North Korean such as secondary boycott?

    MS NAUERT: Such as what?

    QUESTION: Secondary boycott, like --

    MS NAUERT: Ah, okay. One of the things Secretary Tillerson has talked about is we would be willing to – and I don’t say a lot about sanctions but I can say this because it is a general matter – we are willing to look at third-party sanctions and look at other nations and sanction them if they are involved in activities that help give money to the DPRK. A couple recent examples: There were sanctions issued against some Chinese entities last week. There was also – there were also some sanctions issued against – I believe it was a Russian corporation a week or 10 days ago or so. So the United States continues to look at those as ways to try to shut down the money that is illegally going to North Korea that we believe, we firmly believe that it goes to fund its illegal weapons programs and also – and that.

    QUESTION: Do you have any information on the Six-Party representative talks in Singapore – U.S., South Korea, and Japan?

    MS NAUERT: We announced last week that our Ambassador Yun was heading over there. I believe those talks are still underway at this point. I don’t have any additional information for you at this time.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Can we go to India, please?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Anything else on Asia?

    QUESTION: Yes, follow-up --

    MS NAUERT: Are you on Asia?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: Same topic. The U.S., there have been reports, is circulating a draft resolution at the UN Security Council for additional sanctions on the DPRK. Do you have an update on how those discussions are going? And also, was it discussed in the meeting with President Xi and President Trump?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. A couple things in terms of potential sanctions at the United Nations. I know that that is something that is a hot topic. A lot of people are talking about that right now. The sanctions are – I know it’s something that Ambassador Nikki Haley has touched on briefly about that. She has said any new potential sanctions or resolutions, I should say, should be proportionate to the new escalation that has been faced as a result of North Korea’s actions.

    I hate to say this again, but I don’t want to get ahead of some of those diplomatic conversations that are going to take place at the United Nations. We’re going to be talking with the nations there and the members of the UN Security Council to see what is the best move yet. One thing I think is clear and that is the world is very concerned about the escalation in terms of the threat that the DPRK faces, not just with regard to the region, but with regard to the world.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: And then also one more on Liu Xiaobo’s condition. There have been reports that he is in critical condition. Are you concerned for his health, and also is the U.S. ready to accept him into the country to receive medical treatment?

    MS NAUERT: So Liu Xiaobo, we’ve been following that case very closely. You’ve heard me talk about it here for the past few weeks. We continue to call on the Chinese authorities for his full parole and also for the release of his wife. At China’s invitation – and we were pleased to see this take place – U.S. and German medical experts were able to come and visit him and also visit his family. I understand that his wife, who had been under house arrest, was able to be with him at the hospital. We’re happy about that, however, we continue to call on China to release him so that he can receive medical treatment wherever he desires. If it’s in the United States, I think we would certainly welcome that. The State Department was involved in helping to get a U.S. doctor from MD Anderson to China to be able to take a look at him. I know the German – there was also a German doctor that was in attendance too. We would like for Mr. Liu to be able to make his own health choices about where he would like to go.

    Okay. Anything else on China?

    QUESTION: China?

    QUESTION: One more question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah, so I was wondering if you have a reaction to your counterpart at the Chinese foreign ministry. Spokesperson Geng rejected the idea that China has a responsibility for mitigating the North Korean nuclear crisis.

    MS NAUERT: Hm. Okay, I’m not aware of those comments, but I know that we have been very clear that China has a unique kind of leverage with North Korea. About 90 percent or so of the trade that North Korea does is done with China. We’ve continued to have conversations with Chinese Government officials at all levels, at the highest levels, and we continue to say, “Thanks for what you’ve done, but we expect and we want you to do a whole lot more.” So we’ll continue to have those conversations.

    QUESTION: Great, thank you. Would you mind just taking the question so you actually have a chance to read through the statement that he made? Could you follow up --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: Could you follow up – once you actually have a chance to look at the statement, would you mind following up on that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, which – at which statement?

    QUESTION: The Chinese spokesperson’s statement.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I mean, I can certainly see what I can do, but --

    QUESTION: Sure. Well, you said you haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.

    MS NAUERT: -- as I’m sure you’ve heard me here say before say --

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: -- every statement that comes out from every person around the globe, whether it’s a spokesperson or a foreign minister, I’m not going to comment on those things, okay?

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: All right. Anything left on --

    QUESTION: Change topic?

    MS NAUERT: -- China or DPRK?

    QUESTION: On India?

    QUESTION: Can we --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, we’ll go to India. Hi, sir. How are you?

    QUESTION: Fine, thank you. Are you aware about the – do you know about the terrorist attack in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir where seven pilgrims were killed – shot dead by terrorists yesterday?

    MS NAUERT: That took place on July the 10th.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: That is what you’re referring to?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: And yes, we are aware of that. We’re familiar with it, but the – we consider it to have been a terrorist attack in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in which seven religious pilgrims were killed. That’s of great concern to us. These were civilians, they were killed as they were exercising their right to worship, and that is in large part what makes this so reprehensible. That is a great concern to us. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those people and to their families as well. Our prayers are with the victims and those who were injured.

    QUESTION: And do you know who were behind these attacks? The state police is saying the Lashkar-e Tayyiba from Pakistan were behind this attack.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, I’m not aware of who may have been responsible or may not have been responsible for that.

    QUESTION: Is there any cooperation between India and the U.S. on this terrorist attack?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, thank you. Hi, sir.

    QUESTION: Thank you. This is Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV Pakistan. I just want to ask a question about some Afghanistan. As we all know that you are going to announce, the current administration is going to announce, the new Afghan policy. So what kind of designation you are giving to the Afghan Taliban in that policy, because the Obama administration, in this last two or three tenure, they stopped calling Afghan Taliban as terrorists. So what kind of designation you are giving to the Taliban in the new Afghan policy?

    MS NAUERT: Well, our Afghan policy review is still underway. That has not been announced just yet. So they are looking at – our officials who are involved in that Afghan policy review, which goes from the State Department to the Department of Defense to the National Security Advisor and his team, and plenty others, I’m sure, that I’m just not mentioning right now. So that review is underway. That review continues. I’m not going to get ahead of what’s in that review. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes out of it.

    QUESTION: But are they terrorists or not – the Afghan Taliban?

    MS NAUERT: Sir, we’re going to wait for that review to take place, okay? Okay. Sir, I --

    QUESTION: Is there any update on kidnapped American citizens in Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: And who exactly are you referring to?

    QUESTION: Reffing to? I don’t understand what you’re saying.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So you asked me about – about who kidnapped?

    QUESTION: Yeah, American citizens kidnapped in Afghanistan. Is there any update on that?

    MS NAUERT: Let me get back with you on that and let me see what I have, okay?

    QUESTION: Can we go to Turkey?

    QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I have a few more question if you allow me.

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me, sir?

    QUESTION: I have --

    MS NAUERT: Let me move on. We have a lot of other people, and so we’ve got a lot of questions. Okay?

    QUESTION: A quick question on the Palestinian-Israeli issue really quick?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Today there was a high-level meeting in Jerusalem between Mr. Jason Greenblatt and the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, and also present was Ambassador David Friedman along with General Consul Donald Blome. Now, in the past, the meetings with the Palestinians did not include the American ambassador to Israel. It’s been like a protocol. Has there been, in your view, a downgrading of your view of the Palestinian Authority, or is this just something – because it has not been done since, like the ’90s?

    MS NAUERT: So I would say it’s, in fact, the opposite, not a downgrading but perhaps even an upgrading.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: The fact that our U.S. ambassador would be included in this meeting and that the Palestinians, as I understand it, would welcome him into this meeting --

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: -- shows a step forward in terms of our cooperation.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: We’re very pleased to have the ambassador’s expertise in this. And I think it raises the level and indicates just how important it is for this administration to try to come to some sort of peace agreement. As I’ve said many times before --

    QUESTION: Right. Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- and I’ll just throw this out one more time --

    QUESTION: I --

    MS NAUERT: -- we know that that process is not going to be easy.

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: We know the process is going to be difficult. We know that both sides are going to have to compromise. But I think this is a good step and that we’ll continue to have additional meetings.

    QUESTION: Because in the past there was the consul general who basically behaved as or conducted himself as an ambassador to the Palestinians. So is this changing now?

    MS NAUERT: Said, I don’t know why you want to get into the bureaucracy and the diplo-speak of all of this, but I see it as a positive thing that the ambassador is there. It does – I don’t really think it matters if that position had not been there at the meetings. What matters is the Palestinians, as I understand it, they welcomed him --

    QUESTION: Right, right. Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: -- and that he was a part of that meeting, and I think that really underscores the importance that this administration is putting on that issue.

    We’re still hopeful, okay? We’re not giving up yet.

    QUESTION: Palestinian follow-up questions?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Last one.

    QUESTION: Last week, AP asked a question about the difference between restrained and unrestrained settlements, and the AP reporter specifically asked about whether the location of the settlement differentiated between restrained, which would be somewhat acceptable, versus unstrained, unacceptable. So my question is you said you’d follow up on that.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Do you believe that settlements on the Palestinian side of the barrier, that would be unrestrained, and on its – and within the settlement blocs that would be restrained? Or how do you differentiate in terms of location?

    MS NAUERT: I think that’s something that is still under review. As you know, Mr. Greenblatt in the region, Mr. Kushner has made many trips there. And so I’m just going to defer to them on that issue for right now. Okay?

    QUESTION: Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Last thing. Turkey, yes.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Yesterday, Washington Post had an editorial titled “Mr. Tillerson’s betrayal of democratic ideals” with regards to Turkey visit, and basically argued that Mr. Tillerson went there but did not mention any of the human right issues, including press freedom and all the other issues. And this is the second time Mr. Tillerson went to Turkey and did not meet again with the opposition figures. What’s your comment on this criticism?

    MS NAUERT: Well, first – first regarding the Secretary’s schedule, he has had an absolute whirlwind of a week from the G20 to then heading over to Ukraine in Kyiv to address the ongoing issues there, and then to Turkey for a short stop, in which he was very busy on that stop, and then now handling the GCC and the Qatar resolution of that dispute. So he’s had an awful lot going on.

    We have continued, from this podium and through our statements and elsewhere and in conversations at the highest level, to have expressed our concerns with what we see as certain areas of concern – human rights violations for example, mass imprisonment of people in Turkey. We continue to raise those concerns with the Government of Turkey, and that has simply not changed. Okay?

    QUESTION: So you are saying that if there was more days, Mr. Tillerson would have met with the opposition figures? It is not a policy issue, but it was there was no time for that meeting?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the Secretary’s schedule in front of me, but I know it was a tight schedule. I know that he has had an awful lot on his plate. I would go back to our previous statements where we have expressed, in Turkey as well as other nations around the world, expressed our great concerns about human rights and so forth. And so that has not changed. The Secretary has been clear about that.

    Guys, we have to leave it there. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Did he mention those concerns in his conversation with the president?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a readout of that meeting. But if I can get something for you, I will.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: Great.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks, guys.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:24 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - July 6, 2017

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 17:27
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 6, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SECRETARY TRAVEL/GERMANY/TURKEY/UKRAINE
  • D-ISIS
  • IRAQ
  • AZERBAIJAN
  • SYRIA/RUSSIA
  • RUSSIA
  • D-ISIS
  • SYRIA/TURKEY
  • DPRK/REGION
  • QATAR/REGION
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
  • UKRAINE
  • REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGAM
  • IRAQ
  • BAHRAIN

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:15 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: How’s everyone?

    QUESTION: Good.

    QUESTION: Okay. And you?

    MS NAUERT: I’m doing very well, thank you. Great to be back with all of you. Let me start by introducing you first to the new director of our press operations, Robert Greenan, right here. He joins us from post in Austria, and he’s been many places around the world, and so he will be a valuable asset and resource to all of you.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: He’s done a terrific job already, and so this is his first briefing with me. So Robert, thank you.

    QUESTION: So the floor is yours now.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, now you have to take over. (Laughter.) And Mark Stroh will continue to be on, and Mark has been incredible in helping me to get up to speed, so thank you.

    All right. A lot of stuff going on today, so let me start out with a few toppers that I have. First, let’s start with the Secretary’s travel. Secretary Tillerson is in Hamburg, Germany today, and he is accompanying President Trump in meetings surrounding the G20. He will also participate in a series of bilateral meetings tomorrow. That schedule is still being finalized. I know you have a lot of questions about that. We’ll announce those hopefully later today.

    The Secretary will then travel to Kyiv, Ukraine on July the 9th to meet with a group of key activists pushing for reforms and meeting with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Secretary and President Poroshenko will host a joint media availability after their meeting. The Secretary will also meet with the staff and families of our embassy there.

    The Secretary will then depart Kyiv in the afternoon on July the 9th and travel to Istanbul, Turkey. On July the 10th, the Secretary will participate in bilateral meetings, including the meeting with members of the Turkish Government. The Secretary will also meet with our staff and families of the U.S. mission in Turkey, and I know he looks forward to doing that.

    The second thing that we have going on is Brett McGurk, our special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, will host members of the coalition for a series of meetings in Washington, D.C. next week. This will be an opportunity for members to discuss the efforts to defeat ISIS, including maximizing pressure on its branches, on its affiliates, and on its networks. The coalition will discuss all aspects of our campaign, including stabilization support, counter-finance, foreign terror fighters, counter-messaging, among other things. The meetings are taking place at a key moment in the fight against ISIS. Just as ISIS is trying to stay alive, we remain dedicated in committing to defeating them. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the coalition has a strong and proven strategy committed to the total destruction of ISIS while in parallel preparing for the day after.

    IRAQ" name="IRAQ">Another thing – and this is related to Iraq – and we are pleased to announce this: On July the 5th, Ambassador Silliman, our U.S. ambassador to Iraq, announced the U.S. Government’s intent to provide $150 million to the United Nations Development Program to support the Government of Iraq-identified stabilization priorities in the areas of Iraq that have been liberated from ISIS. The funds will support efforts to establish basic security, re-establish essential services, restore local economies, stabilize communities, and allow Iraqis to finally return home. This brings the United States commitment to stabilization programming in Iraq to more than $265 million over the past two years. The funds will be provided through USAID.

    And then finally, one last thing: The United States remains deeply concerned over Tuesday’s violations of the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that resulted in multiple civilian casualties, including possibly a two-year-old child. This happened near the line of contact. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those victims. Along with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, we call upon the sides to cease military action and return to the negotiating table. Our policy remains clear in that region: The only solution to this conflict is a negotiated settlement based on international law that includes adherence to the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions. Matt Lee, would you like to start?

    QUESTION: Thanks. Let’s start with Syria/Iraq and the Secretary’s statement from last night --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- which was – made note of the fact that the situation in Syria in particular would be a subject of discussion when President Trump meets President Putin tomorrow, and it talked about, as you know, cooperation between the United States and Russia, including in the military front, setting up – and it specifically mentioned no-fly zones. And the reason I’m asking about this is because it has been the position of – in the past of the Pentagon that a no-fly zone – that no-fly zones, setting them up in Syria would be very – if not unworkable, extremely difficult and very expensive to do.

    Has there been a shift in position on that? And is this a serious offer? Because this administration and the previous administration wanted to – had proposed suggestions of cooperation with the Russians and – like this, and it never bore any fruit.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Or they never bore any fruit.

    MS NAUERT: So, understood, and thank you for that question. The Secretary’s statement from yesterday – and I know a lot of you are very interested in that – it describes how our interactions with Russia on Syria are at the moment.

    We are continuing to have conversations with the Russians about how things will play out in Syria. Our overall policy has not changed on that matter. The United States is looking to explore the possibility of establishing what we would consider to be joint mechanisms for ensuring stability with Russia and in Syria. If our two countries can establish stability on the ground, we believe that that will lay a foundation for progress on the political settlement of Syria’s future. The policy has not changed. Some of the words and some of the phrasing may have changed at this point, but overall, it’s just one of a series of options that the United States will now consider.

    QUESTION: So, no-fly zones?

    MS NAUERT: The United States is considering a lot of things. The Secretary – and I don’t want to get ahead of any of those conversations that are being had or will be had this week, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

    QUESTION: So, all right, but are you – when you say joint mechanisms for securing Syria, particularly places that have been liberated from ISIS, that goes beyond the de-conflict – the current de-confliction, right? I mean, it’s something in --

    MS NAUERT: We are exploring a lot of options. Syria continues well into its sixth year now. We believe that Russia has a special responsibility. They have unique leverage over the Syrian regime and so we’re going to continue to put pressure on them and ask them to do more, and we will continue to work with them as this dialogue unfolds this week.

    QUESTION: All right.

    QUESTION: Can I pick up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Elise.

    QUESTION: Can you – so given that he said, even in the beginning of the statement, that he was kind of putting this out there because he knew that the President, the two leaders, would talk about this – so these discussions have been going on with the Pentagon and also with Russian officials for weeks now. So would you see this – kind of following up on what Matt was saying, is this a kind of an opening offer, if you will, that the two presidents are going to see that as a kind of jump-off point for the beginning? Not necessarily that they would have the negotiations in this meeting, but he laid out certain conditions under which the Russians – under which you would consider that if the Russians were to accept their responsibility, if they – so, I mean, I’m just – we’re just trying to --

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t say that at all. There are a lot of options on the table. The overall goal – and let’s stay focused on the overall goal – the overall goal is to eventually bring peace and stability and try to grow some of the de-escalation zones, which we’ve had some progress with, certainly not enough, but we’ve seen a slowdown in terms of the some of the attacks taking place. So the goal would be to advance numerous options to have conversations with the Russians.

    QUESTION: So where do you see this as – in terms of a jump-off point for the presidents? Do you consider that they’ll just have a kind of general discussion of the idea or --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of the President and the White House conversations, but I know that the Secretary will be very engaged in that and the President will as well.

    QUESTION: Because it was really the most specific thing that we’ve heard in terms of --

    QUESTION: Yes, exactly.

    QUESTION: -- anything that would be discussed in this meeting.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, from me, you’re not going to hear from me getting into what exactly is going to be discussed in those meetings. I don’t – I just don’t want to get ahead of those, so I hope you can understand that.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Just to add to that – just to add to --

    QUESTION: On the – on the no-fly zones --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on, hold on. Barbara, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah, it’s – if you’re saying you’re throwing out options that could be discussed, he was – very specifically mentioned something that’s been a point of controversy for a couple of years, so it doesn’t sound like he’d just say, “Oh, well, maybe we’ll do a no-fly zone, but we’ll see.” It seems to have been a shift.

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you that we’ve been talking with the NSC, we’ve been talking with the Department of Defense. There have been lots of parties involved with these conversations. The conversations will be had this week. They will continue for the time – for the future. And that’s all I’m going to give you on that. Okay.

    QUESTION: Not to belabor the point, but --

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Hi, Said.

    QUESTION: -- a no-fly zone --

    MS NAUERT: But I will. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: All right, then, I will.

    QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, because it’s --

    MS NAUERT: That’s okay.

    QUESTION: -- it’s really a big deal. It is something that was time and again stated by the Pentagon, by generals, by the former secretary of defense and so on that it’s a very difficult thing to impose and enforce, as a matter of fact. So is this something that would likely create some sort of problem with coordination with Russia? After all, the statement itself, the Secretary’s statement is quite positive about Russia’s role.

    MS NAUERT: I think we are looking forward to continuing conversations with the Government of Russia to see what we can do with them, in concert, to try to resolve this situation in Syria.

    QUESTION: Now, just a quick follow-up on Syria. In the south, in the – in the south of the country, in Dara’a, with the Jordanian border, things have – a ceasefire has been taking place, and it seems to be holding. Do you have any position on the ceasefires that are taking place in various areas of Syria?

    MS NAUERT: I know that that is --

    QUESTION: -- and how are you coordinating --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I – I --

    QUESTION: -- with both the Russians and the Syrian Government --

    MS NAUERT: I can’t get into the de-confliction lines. That would be a matter for DOD. I know that we are pleased when a ceasefire can take effect and take hold and allow for the humanitarian assistance to come in. That is something that we continue to push for and hope that we will continue to see progress. We’ve seen some limited progress in terms of the ceasefires. We hope that that will continue.

    Okay, yes. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can we stay on those proposed joint mechanisms? No-fly zone was only one of those. There are several others mentioned in the Secretary’s statement. And it – I wanted to ask if it is something – if those nuts and bolts are something that’s being discussed right now, or this is sort of a dangling somewhere in the distant future, that something that might be discussed or might not? Because the previous administration, and it is well known, came very close to actually striking a deal with Russia. And as Secretary Kerry put it, it was sort of blocked by the Pentagon.

    MS NAUERT: I think your question would fall under the realm of some of the diplomatic conversations that will be had presumably this week and for the near – in the near future, so I’m just not going to get into that part, okay? Thank you.

    Barbara, go ahead.

    QUESTION: And just one clarification: When he says “on the ground ceasefire observers” or observation, does that open the door to American troops doing that or – I don’t – what does that mean exactly?

    MS NAUERT: That would be – that would be a DOD matter. So I’m going to leave the Secretary’s statement at that. When we start to talk about forces on the ground, that’s just something that they would have to cover. Okay, anything else on Syria?

    QUESTION: Yes, please.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    QUESTION: On Russia --

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me, okay. Go ahead, yeah.

    QUESTION: Did – I just wanted to know if there was any – in the meeting that Tom Shannon had with the Russian ambassador the other day, did they make – was there any progress on --

    MS NAUERT: You have such a good memory. You really do, Matt.

    QUESTION: It was only Monday.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Was that Monday? Dog years in this job. It feels like it was longer ago than that.

    QUESTION: I just wanted to know if there was any more progress in getting the Ryabkov channel --

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So Mr. Shannon and Ryabkov did have a conversation.

    QUESTION: No, Kislyak.

    MS NAUERT: Kislyak – excuse me – did have a conversation – thank you – about trying to re-start those meetings --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- that the Russians had canceled a couple weeks ago. No meeting has actually been set at this point, but I know they had that conversation about that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But they’re trying to set a meeting for next month, aren’t they?

    MS NAUERT: Elise, I don’t have any timetable or any exact meetings to give you, but I know that they’re talking about that.

    QUESTION: Yeah, on the --

    MS NAUERT: Are you on – Laurie, are you on Syria or Russia right now?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On the meetings for the global coalition that will be held next week, are the Syrian Democratic Forces going to be invited?

    MS NAUERT: They will not. This is a meeting of the actual members of the coalition. I believe there are about 72 members of the coalition – countries as well as entities such as NATO, for example. SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is not a part of that. Okay?

    QUESTION: What about the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I can check for you on that.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Just one more question --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: In Syria there was a large demonstration protest yesterday in the city – the Kurdish city of Afrin against attacks from Turkish-backed forces in that city. Do you have a statement on that? Are you --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – I don’t believe I do. I know that that’s something that we’ve been following, following carefully, but let me see what I can get for you on that. Okay?

    Okay. Anything else on Russia or Syria?

    QUESTION: Different. North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. You want to go to North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    DPRK" name="DPRK">QUESTION: Okay. On North – recently ICBM launch by North Koreans. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to United Nations, she said that the U.S. has the strongest military power. We could use if we do want. That means U.S. take any military action to the North Korea or --

    MS NAUERT: I know that Ambassador Haley, as she was – as she pulled together that UN emergency meeting earlier this week – it’s obviously a huge concern to not just the United States but Japan and South Korea as well. They’re looking at doing some Security Council resolutions sometime in the near future. As it pertains to military action, that’s not something that we can speak to here from the State Department regarding that.

    QUESTION: But this is the additional sanctions against the North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: But Russia and China still not agree with these sanctions. How you going to convince this?

    MS NAUERT: I think that would be an Ambassador Haley question. I know that she’ll be speaking with her counterparts very closely. She’s been a very effective spokesperson here as ambassador to the USUN, and I know that’s going to be something that we just continue to have that conversation to be able to put additional pressure on the DPRK.

    QUESTION: But Kim Jong-un announced yesterday – he said North Korea will not put nuclear and military – I’m sorry – missile issues on the negotiation table. He doesn’t want a negotiation table these issues.

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: Are you going to accept this, or --

    MS NAUERT: It sounds like he wants to keep his nuclear and ballistic missile program. That is something that the United States and the world is against. We’ve had multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. What they are doing there is not only a threat to the region, but we view that as a threat to the world, and I think the world community is really coming around on that and understanding through what they watched happen here on our Fourth of July and what a huge concern that is to the world. And I think the world will increasingly get behind the United States and our other partners and call out – not only call out North Korea, but continue to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea.

    QUESTION: Can we change topics?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Rich, hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. Is the U.S. beginning to lose patience with China on this issue?

    MS NAUERT: I think we view it as there’s a lot of work left to be done. We’re still somewhat early on in the overall pressure campaign against North Korea. We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea. We continue those conversations with China, as you saw – I believe it was just last week that the Treasury Department put additional sanctions on Chinese companies that were doing business in North Korea. So I would anticipate we would look to continue to put pressure on North Korea in that kind of fashion, but in terms of sanctions that are in the future, I’m just not going to broadcast or get ahead of what we might do.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up, though? But the President has kind of – like about a month or two ago and when the Chinese president came here, he was saying that we’re working together, seemed like it was more of a partnership. And in the recent weeks he’s kind of seemed to indicate that oh well, that was a lost cause, we tried. And now it seems as if it’s yes, you still want China to help on North Korea, but it’s more of a pressure tactic with China as opposed to working as partners.

    MS NAUERT: I think what we’re seeing here is just overall diplomacy. We’re seeing Secretary Tillerson and many of our counterparts here at the State Department reach out to not just China but other nations to address the issue in North Korea. The President is doing it in his own fashion as well, and I think we’re just watching our democratic process play out and watching it play out – the pressures that we’re continuing to put on North Korea.

    QUESTION: But do you see China as a kind of partner in this endeavor to pressure North Korea or more like a hostile witness type of situation?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t describe it either way, Elise. I think it’s we just continue to work with China and talk to China, as we do all nations, about using what leverage they have, and China has unique leverage with North Korea because of that strong trade relationship that they do have and also borders and so forth. So we continue to put pressure on China. We expect and ask them to do more and we’ll continue to do that.

    Okay --

    QUESTION: Was the sanctioning of the bank last week the thin edge of the wedge? Are there other Chinese entities in the pipeline ready to go if China doesn’t do anything itself?

    MS NAUERT: That would be a Treasury matter. I can’t imagine that they’re going to get ahead of any sanctions. If you start announcing sanctions, then those people or entities that would be sanctioned then have a heads-up, so we’re not going to get ahead and start broadcasting sanctions.

    QUESTION: But Heather, on that point --

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: -- this – with this latest rocket launch or ballistic missile launch, China now is releasing a joint statement with Russia proposing something that your predecessor had said was a non-starter for the U.S., this idea of a freeze for freeze. So are you actually losing China’s cooperation on this issue?

    MS NAUERT: I think that doesn’t really matter. We see it as there is no equivalency between the United States and its activities and actions that it undertakes with its allies, including South Korea and also Japan. These are something that are lawful. It’s longstanding that we do, whether it’s military exercises or basing over there – these are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change, and I think that’s the important thing, that we are standing up for our allies and our men and women who are on the ground serving in the region.

    QUESTION: But the fact China is now again calling for us to either halt or bring down the military exercises a little bit, and they’re doing so now with Russia, who has increased trade with North Korea over the last couple months – is that not a sign that we’re losing their cooperation?

    MS NAUERT: We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position.

    QUESTION: Do you see a increased stance with those two countries – I know at the UN Security Council meeting yesterday both countries also made a point to criticize the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who criticized that?

    QUESTION: Both Russia and China. Do you see them working closely together on this issue against U.S. interests?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that really matters. That is not going to change where we stand on the issue. We had a very productive meeting with Mr. Moon when he came over here – I believe it was last week. We have had – I know the Secretary met with his counterpart, the foreign minister, here that same week and they had lots of discussions about the importance of THAAD, the alliance decision that was made, and the reason that those decisions were made to deploy THAAD in the first place. And that is the safety and the defense of our partners over there, as well as the safety and defense of our U.S. forces over there. I just can’t see that changing.

    Okay. Anything else on DPRK, South Korea?

    QUESTION: North Korea.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: So given especially what the President said about China’s trade with North Korea increasing, I think, up close to 40 percent, would the administration – some of the most effective sanctions against Iran were actually congressional – congressionally-imposed secondary sanctions that were kind of imposed over a number of years in various pieces of legislation. Would the administration support that sort of legislation or sanctions of that kind against North Korea more broadly – so-called secondary sanctions?

    MS NAUERT: I think that’s something if Congress chooses to employ – announce sanctions and to vote on sanctions – that would be a congressional matter, so I’m not going to weigh in from here on anything that’s taking place or that may take place in Congress, but we’d certainly keep an eye on that.

    Okay. Anything else DPRK, South Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Michelle.

    QUESTION: Hi.

    MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Now that the U.S. has put the entire world on notice, from the State Department’s perspective, what does “on notice” mean?

    MS NAUERT: The entire world on notice regarding what?

    QUESTION: North Korea at this point.

    MS NAUERT: Regarding North Korea.

    QUESTION: Yeah, the --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, so we’ve continued to talk about this from here and I can’t underscore enough the importance of the message that the Secretary and I believe the President also has delivered to nations around the world.

    Let me assure you that when they have meetings with countries you may not even imagine that I can’t get into unfortunately, because they’re private diplomatic conversations, but we’ve continued to reach out to many countries that have citizens from North Korea working in those countries, we’ve called on those countries to cut the business that they do with North Korea. We have said, “If you have guest workers in your country from North Korea, eliminate those guest workers.” And by that, I mean send them home. We have said to them, “If you have 10 guest workers, cut that to five. If you are doing business with North Korea that is $2 million worth” – for example, a lot of countries will say, “Oh, it’s not much money.” This Secretary and other folks in this administration have come back, and they say, “Cut that in half.” That is the kind of economic and diplomatic pressure that we continue to put on countries around the world and many of them are taking notice and starting to do things about that.

    Some of them have done things about that for a while, but that pressure campaign we believe is continuing to work. One example that I can give you is in Germany – you all may recall it was a couple months ago that there was a German – there was a North Korean, I believe it was a hotel – I can double check the facts, this is just off the top of my head – but there were North Korean workers. And we had concerns that they would – those workers would collect the money and then be forced to give it back to their government. We believe, as we’ve looked at this model, that that money ends up going to the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. So we continue to look at those countries, pressure different countries to shut that stuff down.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: So does “on notice” mean “We see you,” or does “on notice” mean “We’re going to do something to you unless you change?”

    MS NAUERT: We’re in the diplomatic phase of this right now, and that is why the Secretary and others continue to ask countries to do more to change.

    QUESTION: Can I – are you – does that mean, when you just said – I want to make sure that you were just saying this as a generality --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but are you looking for all countries that have guest workers or investments with North Korea to cut them in half?

    MS NAUERT: No, I – half was just really --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- just an example. That’s just something we’ve --

    QUESTION: I mean, this came up – the White House said that it came up in the President’s call with President Sisi of Egypt --

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- and there’s – there are a lot of countries, yes, and a lot of them that you might not expect who do have North Korean guest workers.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: But the half is not something that you’re running around --

    MS NAUERT: Half is not a literal number, no.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I’m just saying for example. Some countries may say, “Oh, we don’t do a lot of business with North Korea. We only do $2 million worth.” And we’ll say, “Make that a lot less.”

    QUESTION: Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Because – I mean, what everybody seemed to agree on yesterday in the Security Council was that nothing has been working. So when you hear Russia suggest well, why don’t we try dialogue first and foremost without preconditions, is that anything that the U.S. would consider at this point?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into what Russia’s plan is right now and comment on that. Okay.

    QUESTION: But would the U.S. consider trying to talk to Kim Jong-un without --

    MS NAUERT: Without preconditions?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: I think it’s clear to the world that he wants to stick to his illegal nuclear weapons – or nuclear program and also his ballistic missile weapons program. I think his actions that he took earlier this week are very clear. I can’t – I’m not going to get ahead of what could happen down the road, but I just can’t anticipate that taking place. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I just go back to the guest workers and such?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson at that meeting at the UN – I don’t even know how long ago that was – I think in --

    MS NAUERT: Oh gosh, the one back in March or so?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Was it then?

    QUESTION: It was April, actually.

    QUESTION: April? Whenever.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Good memory.

    QUESTION: Kind of brought this up in terms of the U.S. wanting the international community to do this. Nikki Haley brought it up yesterday. Is this something that perhaps you would want to put into a UN Security Council resolution to mandate UN – because, I mean, I think the last resolution called for members to consider thinking about getting rid of their guest workers or something, but it’s not --

    MS NAUERT: They’re all supposed --

    QUESTION: -- mandated by international law at all --

    MS NAUERT: They’re all supposed to stick to their resolutions. We hope that those countries will take responsibility and adhere to sanctions under various resolutions, but I’m not going to forecast --

    QUESTION: But they were voluntary – but what I’m saying is they were --

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to forecast what might be in a UN Security Council resolution.

    QUESTION: No, I understand, but they’re voluntary – those were – it was kind of like you urged them, and in these resolutions that’s more of a voluntary decision. And I’m wondering, beyond, like, Secretary Tillerson saying, the U.S. wants you to do that, is there consideration to making this illegal under international law?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t – I just can’t comment on that at this time.

    QUESTION: But he is going beyond UN resolutions with the way he’s pressuring on guest workers, no? Because, as Elise was saying --

    MS NAUERT: Barbara, I think this is a good thing. We see North Korea as a nation that --

    QUESTION: We didn’t say it was a bad thing.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, no, no, I just want to make this clear. We see North Korea as a nation that starves its people, that treats its people horrifically. We see a leader who is taking actions against the entire civilized world by continuing with this program, and so I think we will continue to look at various options to try to hold that country responsible and hopefully change their behavior.

    QUESTION: It was just a technical question --

    QUESTION: Can I switch --

    QUESTION: Can I – can I go to Qatar real quick?

    QUESTION: Can I change topics?

    MS NAUERT: Do we have anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: DPRK.

    QUESTION: Can I change --

    QUESTION: Yes, one I’d like to ask.

    MS NAUERT: How are you?

    QUESTION: Hi. Good. So another option that the United States is taking is denying the landing rights of the national airline of North Korea, Air Koryo. Could you please give us a update of the progress and status on that front? And then would this be addressed in next week’s – I believe it’s on Monday – the aviation meeting here at the State Department?

    MS NAUERT: The aviation meeting at the State Department? Okay, I’ll look into that one. (Laughter.) I have to say I was unaware of the aviation meeting. I am familiar with this, that that is one of the areas that we have been looking for governments to try to narrow. You bring up the issue of the state-run airline in North Korea. I know some of the flight route options have been curtailed. That is something that we are pleased with and that is another example of the kinds of ways that we are asking other countries, North Korea included, to try to put pressure on them.

    QUESTION: Can I change topics?

    QUESTION: Can we go to Kiev?

    QUESTION: Can I change --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay, hold on. Are we done with DPRK?

    QUESTION: No, no, no, one last --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: We’ll never be done with --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I think so.

    QUESTION: The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov is in town. He met with Ambassador Yun today. Do you by any chance have a readout?

    And secondly, Ambassador Yun is going over to Singapore to take part – as the State Department has announced, to take part in the so-called Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, I think this thing – the thing is called. Supposedly North Korea is a part to this – to that informal club. Do you expect --

    MS NAUERT: So the meeting that you’re talking about that Ambassador Yun is attending – my understanding is that they will be talking about regional issues. I know a lot of people are interested in Ambassador Yun and his travels because he was key to bringing home Otto Warmbier, so I know a lot of people take interest in his schedule. My understanding is that he has no meetings with the North Koreans; if anything changes on that, I – and if I can share it with you, I certainly will.

    QUESTION: And Morgulov? And Morgulov?

    QUESTION: Just one more on – about this meeting?

    QUESTION: There was a meeting here today --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- and the Russian foreign ministry actually posted photos from the conference room. I don’t know what floor it was on, but it was in this building.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So if you could find out, a brief readout --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information on that. I don’t have a readout on that meeting. If I can get anything with you, I certainly will.

    QUESTION: Can I change topics, Heather, if I may?

    QUESTION: But just one more on this Northeast Asian --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- is he planning to talk to any North Korean officials because they’re members of this --

    MS NAUERT: No, no. My understanding is that the North Koreans will not be attending. That’s what I was told --

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: -- and he will not be meeting with them, so that’s all.

    QUESTION: Heather, on Qatar really quickly?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, hi. Sure.

    QUESTION: The four Arab nations were commenting on Qatar’s rejection of their demands. How much of this crisis will occupy the Secretary’s time while he travels? And as it has been going on for a month now, is there consideration here at State of changing approaches?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, so it’s now, I think as of today been a month and a day. We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation involving Qatar and GCC countries. We’ve become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks; it could drag on for months; it could possibly even intensify. The Secretary will remain engaged. He’s been very engaged and has made himself available to all sides of this matter. We continue to stay in close contact with all of them and will continue to do so. The Kuwaitis have done yeoman’s work on trying to mediate the dispute, and we continue to thank them for their efforts in doing that. It certainly has not been – it has not been easy. We believe overall that the fight against terrorism was something – is something that will bring all these countries together eventually, because we still have that shared fight and I think all the nations recognize that.

    QUESTION: Can I change topics, please?

    QUESTION: On Ukraine?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stay with Qatar if anybody has any questions on that.

    QUESTION: Well, I have a – kind of a question kind of related to Qatar, but it can wait.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: It’s not about Qatar; it’s about one of the countries involved.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, got it. All right, let’s move on then from Qatar.

    QUESTION: Can I --

    QUESTION: Iran?

    QUESTION: Yeah, can I --

    QUESTION: On Iran --

    QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, okay.

    QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if you have any comment on the announcement by the Israeli Government about new settlements in East Jerusalem.

    MS NAUERT: If --

    QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that? There has been an announcement on the 3rd and 4th --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- of this month that --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, so I think the President has been very clear about this, and our message on that has not changed. The continuation of unrestrained settlement activity we view as something that gets in the way of what we hope will be an eventual peace process. This administration has made that a priority with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt just having made a trip over there, one in what we believe will be a series of trips over that – over there, but our position on the settlement activity has not changed.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) a follow-up.

    QUESTION: But in the past, every time there was new settlement activities, the State Department would either issue a statement or say something and so on in particular to that particular building project and so on. Are you prepared to issue any kind of a statement on this?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a statement that is currently in the works on that issue right now, but our position, again, has not changed that our – that settlement activity, we believe, can be an obstacle to peace and we continue to make that a priority.

    QUESTION: So just a --

    QUESTION: To make sure I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead, Matt.

    QUESTION: -- under – I know that you’re not probably super, super familiar with all the granular, Talmudic details of this. Does the administration make a distinction between settlements in the West Bank and housing in East Jerusalem?

    MS NAUERT: That is a good question, Matt. I’m not sure. Let me dig into that for you and see what I can get for you, okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks.

    QUESTION: Ukraine?

    QUESTION: A follow-up?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: A follow-up on Israel?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, anything else on Israel?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, sir. Tell me your name. I don’t think we’ve met.

    QUESTION: Aaron Magid with Jewish Insider.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Aaron.

    QUESTION: Hi, nice to meet you.

    MS NAUERT: How are you? Nice to meet you.

    QUESTION: So there seems to be a differentiation in the administration between restrained and unrestrained settlement construction because there – and frequently the administration has said that previous settlement freezes have not advanced the prospects for peace while at the same time saying unrestrained settlements have also not. So my question is are these 800 buildings in East Jerusalem, is this part of the restrained settlement construction that’s kind of okay or is this an unrestrained, which is not okay?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a map. I love maps, but I don’t have a map in front of me that indicates exactly where these settlements are, so I just can’t tell you if this is considered to be restrained or unrestrained. But I can tell you, our position remains the same, that the settlement activity and pushing that is an area of concern for us. Ultimately, we want peace. That’s something that the United States cares deeply about.

    QUESTION: But how are the Israelis supposed to know if it’s restrained or unrestrained if you won’t even say it?

    MS NAUERT: It’s not that I won’t, I just don’t have a map in front of me that indicates exactly where these places are, so I --

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Where restrained is on the map and unrestrained?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter) yes, exactly, exactly.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Ukraine?

    QUESTION: Ukraine?

    MS NAUERT: Let’s go to Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Just want to get on-camera comments. So yesterday, a senior official said that the U.S. has no intent or desire to work exclusively with Russia. Can we be assured that the – Washington is not going to cut a deal with Moscow over Ukraine, particularly after President Trump’s meeting with Putin tomorrow?

    MS NAUERT: So as you may recall, President Poroshenko from the Ukraine – from Ukraine, rather – came over here not long ago. He had a series of very productive, very friendly and warm meetings with the President and also with the Secretary of State. We have a good relationship with that nation. The Secretary, as you know, will be headed to Ukraine in a few days and that is something that we view as an important relationship. We continue to be concerned about the situation in Crimea and in the eastern part of Ukraine, and we continue to work toward pushing parties to follow through on the Minsk agreements, but I cannot anticipate that there will be any changes. That is an important country to us and I think that that hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: Can we be assured that the U.S. is not going to cut a deal with Moscow over Kyiv?

    MS NAUERT: In doing what?

    QUESTION: In cut a bilateral agreement, and then sell out.

    MS NAUERT: And sell out the Ukrainians?

    QUESTION: Can we be assured? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: We have continued --

    QUESTION: If you admit to that --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, right. (Laughter.) We have continued to call upon the Russians and the Ukrainians to come together. We’ve remained very concerned about the security situation in the Donbas. You know that. We have talked a lot about how we believe that the so-called rebels are Russian-backed, Russian-financed, and are responsible for the deaths of Ukrainians. I don’t imagine that we will be backing away from our concerns on that.

    Okay, last question. Please, sir. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, can you give, please, a little bit more details about the future meeting with Tillerson and Poroshenko? Which topic they will discuss, besides of the Minsk agreement, of course? And secondly, will Secretary discuss the future supply of the arms to Ukraine in (inaudible) Kyiv? Because when President Poroshenko was here in Washington, D.C., he told he found a common language with the U.S. officials.

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to get ahead of the Secretary’s meeting. You’ll find me saying that a lot when the Secretary is getting ready to meet with a world leader. I know that we look forward to going over there. We have a lot of areas of mutual interest that will be discussed, including the security situation in Ukraine, but I’m not going to get ahead of the Secretary’s conversations.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, sure.

    QUESTION: -- just get to two things very briefly? And I’ll do – be very limited follow-ups, if any.

    One, on the refugee – suspension of the refugee program --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- we’ve been told by resettlement agencies that you guys have now told them to schedule – continue to schedule previously vetted and accepted refugees through the 12th. Originally, when – after the Supreme Court decision came out, it was the 6th.

    MS NAUERT: Well, let me be clear about that, okay? At the time I said – and this was the guidance that we were getting from the Department of Justice and others – on or about. Remember the limit is 50,000 --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- and we estimated that that number would be reached within a few weeks, and I think I said a week or two.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: So there was never any particular date that was set out.

    QUESTION: I’m not trying to --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, okay. I just want to make sure we’re clear.

    QUESTION: Well, no. I mean, they did set out a date. They said anyone who’s planning – was planning to come until the 6th should be scheduled, but that --

    MS NAUERT: Actually, it was until we reached the number of 50,000.

    QUESTION: Okay. Is the 12th now the new – or the date at which you expect the 50,000 to be hit?

    MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to name a date, but I will tell you this: We have not reached that number of 50,000 refugees just yet. When we do reach that number of 50,000 refugees, whatever date that falls on, that will be the time.

    QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then has there been any clarification to the Iraqi translators? The initial guidance had been that it was going to – they were going to be done on a case-by-case basis, whether or not they would have to go through the vetting all over again.

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: But it was my understanding – and maybe I was wrongly thinking this – that that was being revisited and it was still being discussed.

    MS NAUERT: So I know you and I talked about this not too long ago, and that was a question that I just asked our folks about today.

    QUESTION: But are you aware, has that been resolved finally?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- of whether or not that has been resolved, but let me just continue to look into that for you. My apologies.

    QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing is Bahrain, which was the country that was semi-related to Qatar.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: But this doesn’t have anything to do with Qatar; it has to do with human rights. And this has been a perpetual concern, or a longstanding concern of this building, and it – in general, and that is the – two cases. One, Nabeel Rajab, whose trial was postponed again, but is now expected to – on the 10th to be --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- a final verdict. And I’m wondering if you have had any discussions with the Bahrainis in this case. You previously called for his release. And then secondly --

    MS NAUERT: We have, yes.

    QUESTION: And then --

    MS NAUERT: And I know last time that members from our embassy were present at his trial.

    QUESTION: Okay. Do you expect that to be happening again?

    MS NAUERT: I – that I do not know. I know we continue to be very concerned about that. We continue to be concerned about freedom of expression. Matt, as you probably know, as many journalists probably do, there was a closure of a newspaper, a news outlet not too long ago. That, freedom of speech, human rights remains a concern of ours, and we continue to bring it up with the Bahrainis at the highest level.

    QUESTION: Okay, and then are you familiar – overnight, as we were all preparing for fireworks and parades and things like that, a human rights – a woman, a female human rights defender was rousted from her home by Bahraini security agents and arrested. She is accused of cooperating with the UN special rapporteurs.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And I’m wondering if you’re aware of that case.

    MS NAUERT: Do you have her name, Matt? Let me take a look at that for you.

    QUESTION: Yeah, it’s Ebtisam al-Saegh. I’ll give you a spelling afterwards.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, and I’ll look into it.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you, everybody. Thanks for coming. We’ll see you soon.

    (The briefing was concluded at 2:55 p.m.)


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - June 29, 2017

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 18:16
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 29, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • CHINA
  • VENEZUELA
  • VIETNAM
  • VENEZUELA
  • DEPARTMENT
  • SOUTH KOREA/NORTH KOREA
  • CHINA
  • CHINA/TAIWAN
  • NORTH KOREA
  • SOUTH KOREA
  • SYRIA
  • TURKEY
  • RUSSIA
  • GCC
  • IRAQ

    TRANSCRIPT:

    3:31 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon.

    QUESTION: Afternoon?

    MS NAUERT: Yes, it is.

    QUESTION: It’s almost evening.

    MS NAUERT: We have had a lot of stuff going on today, so thank you for your patience. We wanted to make sure that we were able to get you all on that call today with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and also State on the executive order resulting from the Supreme Court announcement earlier this week. And also you probably saw what took place at the White House, and that was the announcement of sanctions on some Chinese entities. So thank you for your patience. We wanted to get you all that information before we got up today.

    A couple things I want to start with. And first, tomorrow is an important day. It’ll mark one year since U.S. citizen Josh Holt was detained by Venezuelan authorities. Medical and consular access to Mr. Holt has continued to be slow and grudging since February. We’ve made multiple calls for the Venezuelan Government to release him on humanitarian grounds. The protracted delays in providing him even a preliminary hearing and filing formal charges cast serious doubts on the merit of and the lawfulness of his detention. His detention has been made all the more difficult and painful due to ongoing medical ailments, which have worsened by delays and denials of proper care.

    Through private discussions, dozens of diplomatic notes, and public statements, we’ve repeatedly raised concerns about his health and his conditions of his detention and his treatment with Venezuelan authorities. His case has been raised at the highest levels of the Venezuelan Government by numerous U.S. officials. With the anniversary of his detention tomorrow, we again call on the Government of Venezuela to immediately release him on humanitarian grounds so that he can return to the United States.

    Second thing I wanted to bring up before we get started with questions today is something that has taken place in Vietnam. And we want to say that we are deeply concerned about the Vietnamese course and its conviction of the 2017 International Woman of Courage awardee and peaceful blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh. She’s also known as “Mother Mushroom.” She was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the vague charge of conducting propaganda against the state. You are probably, many of you, familiar with her story. She was here at the State Department, and that’s where the First Lady, Melania Trump, presented her with the 2017 International Woman of Courage Award.

    The United States calls on Vietnam to release Mother Mushroom and all other prisoners of conscience immediately and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution. We’ve seen some positive steps on human rights in Vietnam over the past few years. However, the trend of increased arrests and convictions of peaceful protests since early 2016 is deeply troubling. Progress on human rights will allow the U.S.-Vietnam partnership to reach its fullest potential.

    And with that, I’ll take your questions.

    QUESTION: I’m not trying to make light of the – Mother – I missed the ceremony the other day. Her name – her real name is --

    MS NAUERT: This was a couple months ago.

    QUESTION: -- Mother Mushroom?

    MS NAUERT: That is what she is popularly known as in Vietnam. Her given name is Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh.

    QUESTION: Okay. Okay.

    MS NAUERT: And she was presented with the International Women of Courage Award.

    QUESTION: Got it. And then just one other very small item before we get into something else. You just – you opened by discussing the medical condition of Josh Holt. And I just want to point out that not three weeks ago, two weeks ago --

    MS NAUERT: I knew you would go there. Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- you said you never discuss the health conditions of any Americans --

    MS NAUERT: Let me preempt you there --

    QUESTION: Now, I realize that there’s --

    MS NAUERT: -- Mr. Matt Lee --

    QUESTION: I realize there’s a Privacy Act waiver issue here --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- but it is not true that you never discuss the health of Americans held abroad, right?

    MS NAUERT: If you want --

    QUESTION: You do in certain cases.

    MS NAUERT: If you want to get into an issue of semantics, we are calling for his release on humanitarian grounds. You will not hear me get into the specifics of one’s medical condition. You will not hear me characterize one’s medical condition. However, we are able to say, on humanitarian grounds, we are calling for the Venezuelan Government to release him immediately, so that he could get medical care back here at home.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. Now, on the Supreme Court order and the guidance that went out to embassies last night, I know that there was the call earlier, but I didn’t get a chance to ask this. I don’t really expect you to have the answer, but I want to put it out there --

    MS NAUERT: I will do my best.

    QUESTION: -- just to make sure it’s on-the-record. And that is the fate of Iraqis who worked for or with the U.S. military in – and the status of the P-2 refugee admissions, because they are not at all addressed in the guidance. And there are questions now about whether or not they would be – even though Iraq is not in the – it’s not among the six countries – these people would be refugees. And once the 50,000 cap has hit, all refugees have to do this – get the – show a bona fide relationship. The reason I’m asking this is because one would presume that working for the U.S. military would be a bona fide relationship with an American entity. But I’m – no one will – I can’t get anyone to say that. People say, “It’s a case-by-case basis, and it’s speculation.” So --

    MS NAUERT: So, this --

    QUESTION: -- is there an answer to this question about the --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have an answer to that question.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: It’s a good question; it’s a valid question. I know lots of Iraqis, and particularly those who have worked alongside the United States, will have questions about that. This is all very new. We were in a rush to pull this call together today with our experts so that we could get you all the answers that you want and that you deserve. That one, I’m going to have to get back with you on. And anybody needs – has any questions on that --

    QUESTION: Okay. Please do. That’s it for me.

    MS NAUERT: -- I would just ask you to hold, please.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stay with the executive order first before we go onto something else. Hi, Michele.

    QUESTION: Okay, so – thank you. On the refugee issue, as to what would be some scenarios where they would have a relationship with an entity – I know that there was no guidance given on that, but we were told on the call that the guidance was coming. So I don’t understand why that isn’t better spelled out. They referred to the ruling itself, but obviously in a ruling that doesn’t give guidance specifically there’s room for interpretation. So why hasn’t that been interpreted to include something like a resettlement agency? And when will the guidance be coming. It seems like it’s pretty necessary.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So there are a couple components to this. There are the visa applicants under this executive order and then there are also the refugees and that component of it. In terms of the refugees, some of that we do have a little bit of extra time to do that. That is until we reach the cap of 50,000. So we have a little bit more time in order to fully dig into this.

    And in the coming days, we’ll be able to provide additional guidance. As you all know, this is very new; it’s 72 hours old. The worker – or the lawyers here at State, Justice, and DHS have been working nonstop to try to get all the information and the understanding and the legalese all put forward. So we’re going to work in the coming days to provide additional guidance. We do still have a little bit of time left.

    QUESTION: And one more quick question on that. At the beginning of the call it was emphasized again that safety of the country is the number one issue here. But when you parse out the allowances, you could have a scenario where someone who doesn’t really have close ties to anyone in the country but is basically an adult who is attending a university here, that’s okay to come in, but someone who is a three-year-old grandchild of somebody else – n =ot allowed. Do you see how this, in the end, might not equal greater safety for the United States? And do you agree that there’s an arbitrary element to this?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to define – I’m not going to characterize your view as arbitrary in any way. This has been one of the President’s top issues. He has talked consistently about how he believes the United States needs to do more to enhance our screening procedures and to take a better look at people who will be coming into the United States because the safety and security of Americans comes first. Some of this enhanced screening – there are review procedures that are taking place. Some of those started just a week ago; some of those will have 120 days to be reviewed and all of that.

    I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about different family variations and whether or not they should be coming into the United States. I think you’re talking about the bona fide relationship, and the bona fide relationship and who falls under that category. I think it’s fairly broad. But I’m not going to get into grandparents and all of that.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on the EO?

    QUESTION: Just a point of clarification on that.

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: You said that there’s a little bit of time with the refugee cases because you haven’t fit the 50,000 cap yet.

    MS NAUERT: Correct.

    QUESTION: But there’s still the 120-day suspension. So does that not kick in until the 50,000 cap is met?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that until we reach that 50,000 cap that we still have time – I was talking with some of our lawyers and folks upstairs about this very thing – that we still have time to get all of the details in place.

    Hey.

    QUESTION: On the bona fide relationships --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- can you explain exactly what – how is the State Department and U.S. Government I guess interpreting this bona fide relationship language? And what exactly – how does somebody establish that?

    MS NAUERT: You mean in terms of paperwork?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, what – yeah.

    MS NAUERT: So a lot of that will be determined by the consular officers when they actually do their visa interviews for that. I can tell you a little bit more about what’s considered to be a bona fide relationship. I know a lot of Americans, a lot of folks overseas, will have questions about that. It’s considered a close familial relationship. It covers a parent; it covers an in-law, a mother-in-law, a father-in-law; a spouse; a child; adult son, daughter; son and daughter-in-law; a sibling, a whole or a half, including step relationships. Those are considered to be bona fide relationships, close familial relationships. And one of the things that we talked about a little bit on the call is that is under the Immigration and Nationality Act. And that’s where we took that definition of that.

    QUESTION: What about – because it also said entities, not – I believe it also said entities, not just families. So does it refer to, for instance, students in universities and people who have been invited by jobs or by some kind of organization?

    MS NAUERT: Those very examples it would include: someone coming over here to study at a university – this is my understanding – and also people who have been offered jobs in the United States.

    Okay. Anything on the EO?

    QUESTION: Can we stay on it?

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: So just on the vetting. I mean, there was a fair amount of criticism about the need for review of the vetting on refugees, especially given that there have been reports showing that of 780,000 or so refugees brought into the United States since 2001 there have been three people arrested on allegations of potential terrorist attacks. So what is the current State Department view on the vetting procedures for refugees? Is this an acknowledgment that those vetting procedures are not thorough enough?

    MS NAUERT: I know that we are always looking for additional ways to enhance our screening, whether it be for visa applicants or if it’s for refugees. Refugees are vetted pretty significantly, among the highest, in terms of people who are vetted to come into the United States.

    One thing we haven’t talked a lot about right here is the memorandum that went along with the executive order, and that puts into effect enhanced screening and vetting applications – vetting requirements for visa applicants. And that’s a really – actually an interesting angle, because that’s something that folks worldwide would apply to potentially anyone in any country around the world, and that is where we, in the past, have asked for information, for example, five years of travel history, family relationships, that type of thing.

    And now our consular affairs officers – again, in every country, it could apply to any person – if our consular officers want to get additional information because they think that they would need more information to better screen someone, then they have the ability to ask certain questions and get that kind of information. And that’s, again, something we haven’t talked about a whole lot, but I have a form here in front of me if anyone’s interested in that, and that’s the DS-5535 and additional forms.

    So that is just one example of how we’re constantly looking at ways of improving our screening to be able to make sure that Americans here at home are safe and we’re allowing in the kinds of folks who don’t want to do us harm.

    QUESTION: So --

    QUESTION: So just to follow up on that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I mean, the President and the State Department have both said that these are based on efforts to improve national security, and that’s the top priority, but you’ve never given us direct evidence that refugees coming into the United States pose a threat to national security. So does the U.S. have evidence that refugees pose a threat to national security?

    MS NAUERT: I think that would be more of a Department of Homeland Security issue, on that.

    QUESTION: Can I just ask --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Sure.

    QUESTION: -- if you already have – and I raised this in the call – but if you already have these enhanced – this enhanced ability to do extra vetting for anyone in any country applying for any visa, why do you need this?

    MS NAUERT: I think this is a matter in which the United States is always looking for ways to continue to enhance, alter, and improve its security procedures.

    QUESTION: Yeah. But --

    QUESTION: Heather, so is the 120-day clock started already or is it going to start on July 6th? And why do you guys need a 120-day clock to examine the vetting procedures and the refugees? Couldn’t you have started that in January or February, even when the EO was suspended?

    MS NAUERT: I believe – and I’m going to do my best to try to answer this for you.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I believe the part that you were talking about with this enhanced screening, those review procedures started about a week ago. One hundred and twenty days and how that timeframe was selected was part – my understanding is – a part of the executive order. If I can – I can put you in touch with somebody who could probably better answer that question than I can. That – some of that predates me. So I wasn’t involved in the process then, but if you want any more on that I can try to get that for you.

    QUESTION: But just so the – so are – I just want to make sure which questions you’re not answering. Is it --

    MS NAUERT: Gardiner, come on.

    QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I just told you. I’m --

    QUESTION: I want --

    MS NAUERT: I’m doing my best.

    QUESTION: I am too. I am too.

    MS NAUERT: This is all new. This is a part of the executive order. Why 120 days was selected, that I don’t know off the top of my head.

    QUESTION: No, I’m not asking that, but --

    MS NAUERT: If you want me to try to get you an expert who can answer that question for you --

    QUESTION: I’d love that.

    MS NAUERT: -- I can.

    QUESTION: But I just want to know, do you have any notion (a) about when that clock starts? Is that now or July 6th?

    MS NAUERT: My understanding is that it started about a week ago – the review process for enhanced screening.

    QUESTION: Oh, before the executive order was even lifted by the Supreme Court then?

    MS NAUERT: Some of this review procedure that was required under the executive order --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- my understanding is that it started about a week ago because that – and I don’t know why that was – that timeframe was selected. Let me --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Let me just get you somebody on that who can best answer that, okay?

    QUESTION: He’s asking you about the 120-day suspension of the refugee program, which begins once you hit the cap.

    QUESTION: Don’t know --

    QUESTION: Or does it?

    QUESTION: That’s true. That’s what I’m asking. When does the time clock start? Does it start when you hit the cap?

    MS NAUERT: So you weren’t asking then about the review procedures?

    QUESTION: Well, so in the executive order, it lists that there is a 120-day suspension of refugee entries while the administration examines the program in its entirety, right?

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: And so I think this is separate from the enhanced – my understanding – I’m not talking about the enhanced vetting procedures that you guys have already done. I’m simply talking about in the refugee program you’re supposed, to under the executive order, suspend all refugee entries. And of course this is complicated by the fact that the Supreme Court has said, well, that’s true but we’re going to let you – we’re going to let some people in who have a bona fide relationships; you guys have defined what that is. I’m just sort of – I – so I’m puzzled about when the 120-day suspension of the entire refugee program would go into effect and why you would need that if you have already had five and some-odd months to sort of look at the program.

    MS NAUERT: Well, with the refugee program there’s a cap on the number of refugees, and that’s a cap at 50,000 and we’re very close to reaching that cap. We’re about 800 or so, 900 or so, away. And that’s why when I was talking earlier about how we have a little bit more time in order to get that definition completely tied down.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on the executive order?

    QUESTION: But (inaudible) 120 days in the original executive order. So are you saying that when the cap is met, that’s when the 120-day suspension kicks in? They’re not concurrent?

    MS NAUERT: Let --

    QUESTION: Or is it tonight at 8:00 p.m. when (inaudible) --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Guys, instead of everybody chiming in about what they think this might mean, let me please get back with you with one of our lawyers who’s been working with DHS and DOJ to best answer that question. Okay? So let me just take the bulk of that question and get back with you. And any folks watching on TV, they’re probably like, “What on Earth are you guys talking about?” So let me get back to you with a good, concrete answer on that one. Okay?

    Anything else on the EO that’s not related to the 120 days?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: On the EO question, I think we’ve all gotten sort of into the legal nuances a lot.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But we’ve still, like this press corps, the American public, have not really been given a clear answer as to why these six countries and people from those six countries presents a real threat to the United States. That call today started off saying that we want to prevent mayhem and terror in the United States. People from these six countries have not carried out those attacks in the United States. It just hasn’t happened. There’s – some countries you could say maybe, if you want to argue for a travel ban in some form, should belong on that list. Some don’t. But it – the policy as it is hasn’t really been fully explained.

    And then if you want to get into the grandparents, grandchildren, I mean, what percentage of terrorist attacks have been carried out by grandparents from these six countries? I think that is something that we deserve an answer to that hasn’t really been – and other than saying – and that was asked today on the call, and the official just pointed to President Trump’s comments about this. That’s not really an answer.

    MS NAUERT: Well, there were people on that call from State, White House, DOJ, and also DHS.

    QUESTION: And they couldn’t justify the policy.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that I would agree with that. You all had the opportunity to ask the lawyers and ask folks more – the experts who were involved in putting this together – more questions about that. And I really didn’t hear too many questions about that very topic.

    QUESTION: We were – we asked. Reuters asked what is the danger of a grandparent from one of these six countries coming into the United States. And the answer was --

    MS NAUERT: And we’re talking about the definition.

    QUESTION: -- this is the guidance --

    MS NAUERT: And the definition --

    QUESTION: The answer was this is the guidance we’ve been given by the President. That’s not an answer as to how that individual harms the United States or presents a terrorist threat to the United States.

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m sorry that you’re not pleased with that answer. That’s the answer that the experts gave you. I can tell you that we received the family definition from federal law, and we received the family definition. And for whatever reason it doesn’t include grandparents, but we were just going along with what federal law states.

    Okay, next question.

    QUESTION: Was there any sort of risk assessment in deciding what bona fide relationships are, or was it strictly a legal interpretation of past law like the INA?

    MS NAUERT: There have been three days to get through this and to try to put that together, so I’m not sure that anyone was able to do a risk assessment, as you suggest, about grandparents. But the lawyers have been putting together --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: -- putting this together and working on it for the past few days.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on the executive order?

    QUESTION: On her question, her point, though, that it is true that there was, shall we say, not a lot of enthusiasm on the call from the officials, except for one official who was from the White House, for this. And when asked what specifically this would do to improve security, all of the – all of the officials, four of the five officials who were on the call, basically said we’re doing this because the court has told us to and did not offer an explanation of how it does make it safer.

    MS NAUERT: Look --

    QUESTION: So if there is an answer --

    MS NAUERT: Their jobs --

    QUESTION: I know.

    MS NAUERT: -- is to implement.

    QUESTION: Their job is to carry out – exactly.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Their job is not to be a person who will come out and advocate for or against something in this fashion. It wouldn’t be appropriate for them to do so. These are civil servants and Foreign Service officers. You know they’re not going to get into the politics of this kind of thing. Their job is to execute and implement, and they were given the – some direction by the Department of Justice. They all worked together to come up with this, and they professionally put something together and gave you the answers. You’re saying that there wasn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm. That’s your opinion. But these folks have been hard at work doing their jobs.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: But can you offer just a justification for it? I mean, you are a political appointee. I mean, this is your administration. So can you tell us why this country is safer having this executive order and banning people from these countries that have never committed attacks on the United States previously except in, what was it, the --

    MS NAUERT: Gardiner, as far as I’m going to go is saying that with some of these countries – and we would take issue certainly with the Government of Iran and some other nations – that there can be concerns. And the American public could have legitimate concerns about their safety when we open our doors. And we want to open our doors to people who are willing to go through proper screening measures and who want to be here and want to be productive members of our society. I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: The people of Iran are very pro-American people (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: I know that. That’s why I said we take issue with the Government of Iran, not the people of Iran, certainly. Okay?

    QUESTION: But the people are the ones that are banned.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I know you guys want to push me to say something about this.

    QUESTION: To defend the policy. That’s it.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Okay.

    QUESTION: I’m not trying to – it’s not a gotcha question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on the executive order?

    QUESTION: No.

    MS NAUERT: No. Okay.

    QUESTION: Okay, China and North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Okay. Today Secretary of the Treasury talking about sanctions on China. And these – regarding these – will the United States ask to South Korea for support these sanctions? Did you – U.S. ask to – ask to Moon Jae-in – tomorrow summit will the U.S. ask for --

    MS NAUERT: Will we ask for South Korean support on sanctions against North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have asked a lot of countries to do more. A lot of countries have influence, a great deal of influence, especially their neighbors, with the DPRK, so we continue to ask nations to do more to try to ratchet up the pressure on the DPRK.

    You referenced the sanctions that were announced at 2 o’clock today by the Treasury Secretary and taking a look at some Chinese entities. We believe that those entities have a role in getting money to the North Koreans, and that money doesn’t go into the pockets of normal, regular North Korean citizens. That money goes into the pocket, we believe, of their illegal ballistic weapons programs and also its illegal nuclear weapons program, so that – or nuclear program.

    So that is a big concern of ours. And that is one of the reasons that the Treasury Department chose to sanction those Chinese entities, and that is something that we have continuously, especially with regard to the Chinese, to put the pressure on them to do that. Secretary Tillerson has talked about that, where the Chinese have done a notable job, but he has characterized it as uneven, so we’d like to see them do more.

    Anything else on DPRK? Hi.

    QUESTION: So with this announcement, are you sending the message to China that U.S. will move forward on North Korea issues without Chinese cooperation?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, say that again?

    QUESTION: So are you sending a message to China that United States will work on North Korea issues without Chinese cooperation?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I didn’t say that the Chinese weren’t cooperating. I said that they – it’s been uneven. We’d like to see them do more, and they know that. We’ve had conversations about that in the past at the highest levels. And so we’d just like to continue to call upon them to do more. Okay.

    QUESTION: So even with this (inaudible) --

    MS NAUERT: Anything else DPRK?

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: DPRK?

    QUESTION: China?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I’ve got a brief one on China, but --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead. Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. So I wanted to ask about Liu Xiaobo, the human rights activist. And Ambassador Branstad said that he would like to help Mr. Liu to get cancer treatment overseas, and we are wondering whether the United States supports that. Are you talking to the Beijing government about it?

    MS NAUERT: So one of the things we’ve done is, as I’ve said in other instances, that we have conversations at the highest levels of government with government officials on areas where we have a great deal of concern. Among those would be human rights issues, this one for Liu Xiaobo, who’s a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a writer as well – he unfortunately is battling cancer at this time. We would like to see him – get additional information about how he is doing.

    He’s not a U.S. citizen, he’s a Chinese national, but we’d like him to have access to international medical specialists if he chooses to do so. One of the important things we see is give him the opportunity, if he wants to seek medical treatment elsewhere, to be able to seek medical treatment elsewhere.

    You referenced something Ambassador Branstad said, and along with that he said our heart goes out to him and to his wife, and we’d like to see him have the opportunity for treatment elsewhere if that would be of assistance to him.

    QUESTION: This is related to China --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but it’ll be extremely brief. You guys today notified Congress of a rather large arms sale to Taiwan.

    MS NAUERT: To Taiwan, yeah.

    QUESTION: Can you talk about that a little bit?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So let me just get all the details here because I want to get everything straight. But we – normally we wouldn’t talk about this into – until it is submitted to Congress, and Congress was notified today about that. Give me just a minute, please. Okay.

    QUESTION: Is the book getting bigger?

    MS NAUERT: Kind of like a messy former journalist. You keep a lot of papers around.

    So the administration had formally notified Congress of seven proposed defense sales for Taiwan. It’s now valued about 1.42 billion. The notifications are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. There is no change, I should point out, to our longstanding “one China” policy, which is based, as you all know, on three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. There is continuity here; the United States has been doing defense sales with Taiwan for 50 years or so, so nothing has changed.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    QUESTION: On Syria?

    QUESTION: One more on DPRK?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on the Asian region that anyone wants to talk about?

    QUESTION: Yes. So you said that we’d like to – the State Department, the United States – would like the – to see China do more.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hm.

    QUESTION: Are they even doing what they said they would do regarding – because they said that they would – that they were going to limit the coal, I guess, buying – buys from North Korea and fuel shipments to North Korea. Is that even happening?

    MS NAUERT: So some of this is classified, so some of that I cannot talk about. I do have a list of something that is public. I don’t have it at my fingertips right now, but some of the things that we have been asking other nations, including China, to do and some of the ways that we have seen those countries take steps in the right direction.

    I’ve talked a little bit here about guest worker programs and how there are North Korean guest workers in many countries around the world. We have asked many of those other countries to limit the number of North Korean workers that can work in their countries. The reason why: we see the money not going into their pockets, but it goes – the government confiscates it, and it goes into the pockets of the Government of the DPRK. And we believe that that money is then being used to fund its illegal weapons program and also its nuclear program.

    So we continue to talk to all of these nations about sort of putting the squeeze, if you will, on North Korea, and that would be one example of it.

    Okay. Anything else on Asia?

    QUESTION: South Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I wondered if you had a readout for the Secretary’s meeting yesterday with the Korean foreign minister.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have an actual readout for you on that meeting. I was in that meeting, and I would just describe as it was a pleasant meeting. We had a lot of areas of agreement. I know that the President and the Secretary look forward to hosting President Moon here in Washington, certainly. Among the things that they talked about was the threat from North Korea and the alliance that we have with South Korea, and the importance of that.

    QUESTION: Quick follow-up.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: North Korean human rights issue been discussed at the meeting yesterday – Kang and Secretary Tillerson?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not – beyond what I just told you about that meeting, I’m not going to be able to get into any additional specifics.

    Okay, so let’s move on from Asia. What do we have now?

    QUESTION: One on Syria.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s go to Syria then.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, I’m sorry, tell me your name.

    QUESTION: I’m Caleb with RT. Caleb Maupin.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, right. Caleb, hi.

    QUESTION: So this recent statement from the White House alleging that the Syrian Government was planning an upcoming chemical attack, are you concerned that that could have created an opening for terrorist groups to carry out a chemical attack?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: You’re not concerned even though al-Nusrah, al-Qaida groups, have been using chemical weapons in Syria that’s documented?

    MS NAUERT: No. Next question on Syria.

    QUESTION: Just um – well, I mean, they could carry out a chemical attack, and then with the White House saying, “Oh, Assad was going to do it,” that would create a cover for them to do such a thing.

    MS NAUERT: Do I have to do this again? We know that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people, and he’s done that repeatedly including --

    QUESTION: Well, hasn’t the United States convinced the world that that --

    MS NAUERT: Including women and children --

    QUESTION: -- Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

    MS NAUERT: -- and we have all seen that. We have all seen the video, and there is no debate about that. Okay? I’m going to --

    QUESTION: So didn’t Assad give up his chemical weapons in 2013?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: Didn’t that happen?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: That didn’t happen? So the --

    MS NAUERT: Hayvi.

    QUESTION: The OPCW is not being --

    MS NAUERT: Hayvi, let’s go over to you.

    QUESTION: Thank you. So we know that ISIS is almost defeated in Mosul, maybe even similar situation in Raqqa. We know that phase two is Deir ez-Zor. The Assad regime forces, along with the militias, Iranian proxies and militias in Syria, are trying to go to Deir ez-Zor and have backups, basically confronting the United States efforts with its – with their allies to defeat ISIS and Deir ez-Zor, maybe have some sort of partnership or trying to just impose themselves being there in a strong position. What do you expect or what we are going to be seeing from the United States confronting the Iranian militias, the Assad regime, the same way we saw in Tanf, which is in the northern – sorry, in the southern, eastern part of Syria?

    MS NAUERT: So let me try to give folks an update on where things from our viewpoint – I’m not going to get into defense, DOD related issues, but in terms of Raqqa and what we can talk about.

    The first piece of news I have is that our Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk was in Syria. He was in Syria for the past couple days, I believe, and he talked with some of the local partners of the global campaign and the coalition to defeat ISIS. He – and we’re very proud to say that he was able to witness some of the humanitarian and stabilization work and assistance that’s now underway in the liberated areas north of Raqqa. And think about this: in the past – a few weeks ago, we were on the outskirts – when I say “we,” I mean coalition partners backed by the United States in an advise-and-assist capacity were outside of Raqqa. And now, we’re already getting into that portion where we can do some humanitarian and stabilization efforts, so we’re proud of that.

    One of the things that Special Envoy McGurk has talked about is that once Raqqa is liberated, that we believe it’s critical for local officials from the area to take over responsibility and take over responsibility for post-liberation security, but most importantly, governance down the road. This campaign is trending in a positive direction. We are pleased with that. But it’s certainly not over and will take a lot of work in order to tie it up.

    QUESTION: Are we going to see Assad regime forces go into Raqqa or try to govern and take these areas?

    MS NAUERT: We would certainly hope not, and that is an area that is of great discussion, because the United States wants to be able to stabilize these areas, eventually be able to bring the Syrian people – whether it’s in Syria or whether it’s in Mosul in Iraq, we want to be able to bring our – those folks back in their communities. That’s where they want to live. Conditions are not ripe for that just yet. There is a lot of demining work that has to be done – electricity, water, all of those things, so we are – folks are a long way off from seeing that just yet, and that’s one of the reasons we talk about local control of those communities that is handled by a governance that is agreed to by the local people there. And so that will be one of the priorities that we would be working toward.

    QUESTION: Just to clarify --

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Syria?

    QUESTION: Just to clarify --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- what you said before, are you saying that al-Qaida has not used chemical weapons?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into this conversation with you about this because --

    QUESTION: Well, this is a concern.

    MS NAUERT: No, no, no, no. You want to have a debate, okay, about a hypothetical, okay, and I’m not going to get into a debate.

    QUESTION: If you announce that there’s a pending chemical attack --

    MS NAUERT: I am not going to get into a debate --

    QUESTION: -- and it’s going to be done by the government --

    MS NAUERT: -- about a hypothetical, but what the --

    QUESTION: -- if you announce that, then they could carry out an attack and it would look like the government did it. I mean, isn’t that a real possibility?

    MS NAUERT: If you want to try to make excuses for the Assad regime, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I’m not talking about Assad.

    MS NAUERT: You’ve got a lot of cameras on you right now, okay?

    QUESTION: I’m talking about terrorist groups. I’m talking about al-Qaida and al-Nusrah.

    MS NAUERT: And I’m not going to spend all our folks’ time having that conversation. We all know here in this room that Bashar al-Assad is responsible for chemical attacks on his own people, including women and children.

    QUESTION: And isn’t al-Qaida --

    MS NAUERT: We are not going to debate it --

    QUESTION: Isn’t al-Qaida responsible for such things?

    MS NAUERT: -- beyond that. Al-Qaida horrible too, but --

    QUESTION: Uses chemical weapons.

    MS NAUERT: -- what we’re talking about right now is Assad and Syria.

    QUESTION: Well, I asked you about al-Qaida.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Next question.

    QUESTION: That’s what I was asking for a clarification on.

    MS NAUERT: Something else on Syria?

    QUESTION: Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s go to Russia.

    QUESTION: Okay, so --

    MS NAUERT: All right.

    QUESTION: Why not?

    QUESTION: One more question on Syria, sorry.

    QUESTION: So – sorry.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Michele, just hold on one second.

    QUESTION: Yeah, sure.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: So the Turkish forces have announced that they attacked U.S. partners SDF, especially YPG in Syria, and they threatened they would do so in Afrin. Are you concerned about this new Turkish bombardment of your partners in Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Our – the reason that the United States is involved in Syria is to take out ISIS. That’s why we care and that’s why we are there. Our focus is on liberating Raqqa right now. Our forces aren’t operating in the area that you’re talking about. I don’t want to get into DOD territory. That is theirs. But our focus is on another part of Syria right now.

    Okay. Michelle, you had something on Russia.

    QUESTION: I wanted to ask this one at the top. Just one last thing about Syria that’s --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s just talk about it after because we’ve got to wrap it up and I know we have some other questions from other regions.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I’ll be really quick. With the meetings that are coming up now, does the Secretary of State --

    MS NAUERT: You’re referring to the G20?

    QUESTION: Yeah, with Russia.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Does the Secretary of State expect and want the President to bring up continued Russian cyber meddling in the United States during this meeting? And will Tillerson bring that up with Lavrov?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. That’s a good question and that’s a valid question that a lot of Americans will want to know the answer to. We’ve not had deep discussions about specifically what might happen in any given meeting. I know that General H.R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor, announced that the President would be meeting with – with Vladimir Putin, thank you – at that meeting coming up, but I don’t have any meetings or any schedules to go into beyond that.

    QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary would like him to bring up that issue?

    MS NAUERT: That I don’t know.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: That I don’t know. I haven’t – we’ve been talking so much about other things lately that that one hasn’t come up.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, how are you?

    QUESTION: The Secretary said earlier today he’d like to see staffing approval move at a faster rate at the White House --

    QUESTION: Excuse me, can we stay on Russia?

    QUESTION: Actually, let me finish my question, please.

    MS NAUERT: Wait, hold on. Let her finish this one, yeah.

    QUESTION: Thanks. The Secretary said on camera today that he would like to see approvals of his staff positions go more quickly, frustrated that they haven’t been at the White House. Has he received any assurance that they will?

    MS NAUERT: Well, part of this is a bureaucratic process, and I know everyone would like to see this go faster, from the Secretary down to regular folks here at the State Department. That is something the Secretary has – as you heard, he spoke about earlier today. One of the issues is certainly the paperwork, and I know I went through some of that paperwork myself, including over at the Office of Government Ethics, and it takes time. It takes time to do that. It takes time to go through lots of resumes and people’s applications and all of that.

    So I know that the Secretary is very engaged in it. I know that the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan is very focused on this as well and trying to – in trying to speed things along. And so we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to do that now that we have more people in place.

    QUESTION: But without an assistant secretary of state for Asia, for Europe to handle these Russia issues – I mean, has that impacted diplomacy? The Secretary made clear he knows who he wants.

    MS NAUERT: I have seen some fantastic people here in this building who are what some would deride as holdovers, and they’re terrific. I mean, they really are. They’re committed to their jobs. They’re professional every day. You all know a lot of them. They have just dove into the issues, stayed engaged in the issues. Even those who are retiring have stayed as engaged as I understand that they were even a couple years ago. So I’m tremendously impressed with what a terrific job that they’re doing, and frankly hope some of them will stick around because they’re a real attribute to this building and have worked hard on behalf of the Secretary and the folks here at the State Department.

    QUESTION: So you’re saying no damage to diplomacy that you can detect?

    MS NAUERT: Me personally, that I can detect, I – look, I think the Secretary and his words speak for themselves that he would like to see things moving along at a faster pace. Sure, we’d like to be able to fill those positions, and that is happening, and anticipate that it will happen at a faster pace. But the people who have been doing those jobs in the meantime have done a fantastic job, and I’ve had the good fortune of being able to work with a lot of them so far.

    QUESTION: One quick question.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Henry Kissinger is meeting with Vladimir Putin today ahead of the upcoming U.S. meetings. He was in the Oval Office after Russia’s top diplomats were meeting with the President. Is he playing any diplomatic role with this administration, either with the Secretary or in some other role?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have an answer to that. I believe they know one another, but I can try to look into that and see what I can get for you. Okay.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you. I just wanted to clarify if the Secretary and the foreign minister will have a full-scale meeting or just pull-aside at the G20. Point one. And point two, is there any movement over the dachas issue?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Because the Russians --

    MS NAUERT: To your first point, and as you all know, the Secretary will be traveling over to the G20 summit. We had a meeting that had been scheduled with our Under Secretary Tom Shannon, and that was canceled by the Russians. The topic that was on the agenda were some of those smaller issues, such as the dachas that I know are very important to the Russian Government. That meeting was canceled. I know that we are certainly open to having that meeting rescheduled and would look forward to that to get some of these so-called irritants out of the way and deal with some of those things.

    In terms of any meetings at the G20 with regard to the Secretary’s schedule, I just don’t have any meetings or any information to give you on – at this time.

    Okay?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Last question.

    QUESTION: The Secretary spent a lot of time on the GCC crisis this week.

    MS NAUERT: That’s right.

    QUESTION: Did he make any progress?

    MS NAUERT: So yeah, that was a big topic of conversation around here, certainly. I know that we continue to urge all of the parties to work together and resolve this issue. The United States continues to stand by and say we will help you in a manner in which you need. The Kuwaitis have done a terrific job of taking the lead as mediators. As you know, the Kuwaitis were here earlier this week. The Secretary met with them and talked with them about the importance. Everybody gets it. I think everybody gets it that this needs to be resolved. When it will be resolved, we’re not certain of that at this time, but we’re hoping that the parties will all agree to work together and recognize that there’s going to be a negotiation that needs to be had.

    QUESTION: Well, they’re saying – especially the Saudis are saying – no negotiations. So where is the process if no one is negotiating?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I think I’d have to refer you to those governments to talk specifically about that, but the Kuwaitis remain what I would consider to be sort of the lead mediator, and we’re standing by ready to help and advise, if and when we can.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Just one question on Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you. The Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, yesterday had an op-ed published in The Washington Post making the case for Kurdish independence. He said the referendum is binding, contrary to previous media reports. He also said that it will not be a unilateral step by the Kurds; it will be a result of a negotiated settlement with Baghdad. So my question is: Would the United States support it if the Iraqis, like, do it in a negotiated settlement among themselves?

    MS NAUERT: I think what we would continue to say about that is that the fight against ISIS is on and that would be the top U.S. concern and probably the top Iraqi concern, I would imagine, at this time. We support our partnership with the Government of Iraq. We continue to support that. We want to see the sole focus stay on ISIS. You’ve had far too many Iraqis who have had to leave their homes because of ISIS and the horrific things that they have done in that country. So we would like to see ISIS out and then, once Iraq has stabilized and people can go back to their homes, a referendum if Iraq decides to do that, if the Kurds decide to do that. That would be an internal Iraqi matter.

    We’ve got to go, folks. Thanks a lot.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 4:14 p.m.)

    DPB # 33


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - June 27, 2017

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 18:11
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 27, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • INDIA
  • DEPARTMENT
  • RUSSIA/SYRIA
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
  • QATAR/KUWAIT
  • IRAQ
  • DEPARTMENT

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:18 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: And if anyone has any additional follow-up questions regarding the TIP Report, we can try to collect those and get back with you – more information.

    Good afternoon again. The – I want to start with a little bit about the Indian prime minister and the visit here yesterday. The Indian Prime Minister Modi departed Washington last night after a successful trip to Washington. He went to the White House, as you all know, at the invitation of President Trump. The President said yesterday, quote, “The relationship between India and the United State has never been stronger and has never been better.”

    Secretary Tillerson met with Prime Minister Modi yesterday morning. The two talked about ways to further strengthen our cooperation, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism, defense, and also trade. The Secretary reaffirmed the administration’s support for India’s role in – as the leading security provider in the Indo-Pacific region. He also noted that he looks forward to working even more closely with India on shared regional and global priorities, including North Korea. So we thank Prime Minister Modi for coming to Washington.

    With that, I’ll take your questions.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Matt.

    QUESTION: Let’s start with the Supreme Court order from yesterday.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I realize that you have 72 hours to actually implement it, and we’re only just a little over 24 hours into it, and so I presume that there’s still – people are still working on --

    MS NAUERT: Good math for a reporter.

    QUESTION: -- implementation. Yeah. But I couldn’t subtract – I couldn’t tell you --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I don’t know how many hours are left. (Laughter.) But what is your understanding of what – is the department going to set out a list of criteria for what constitutes a bona fide relationship with an American entity or person, as the court has said?

    MS NAUERT: So a lot of talk and a lot of questions about this term “bona fide,” and that was something that actually came from this Supreme Court. So as you mention – as you correctly mention, we have a couple days still to work this out and get more information. So we will be looking to the Department of Justice to get more clarification on what a bona fide relationship will be.

    QUESTION: Right. But do you expect that you will lay – that you, in your guidance to visa-issuing posts, will be laying out, okay, like a second cousin twice removed is not bona fide or is bona fide, or a hotel reservation is a bona fide --

    MS NAUERT: I would anticipate that we would have to give, certainly, some degree of explanation and a definition to our folks who are handling this overseas. Exactly what that terminology will look like, that we don’t know yet, so that’s why we’ll continue to chat with the Department of Justice and our folks over there. People here are hard at work with Department of Justice and also I believe Homeland Security to try to figure out exactly what this term “bona fide” should mean and will mean, and then we’ll get that information out to our folks across the world.

    QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any idea of the time? I mean, could – I realize you have until Thursday.

    MS NAURT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But could it come earlier? I mean --

    MS NAUERT: This is obviously an important matter a big matter, and everybody wants to get this right. They want to see this implemented in an orderly fashion, and so in doing that I think they’ll probably take their time – as much time as they have – to make sure they get it right so that we can get that information and then get that out to our folks overseas. And we know that our people at the State Department have a lot of questions about this as well, legitimate questions, just as all of you do too.

    QUESTION: So who’s --

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: I mean, at the point of entry, how is it enforced? Because the first time around it caused a great deal of chaos, if you remember. Now how is it going to be enforced? Is it left to the discretion of the customs officer or the immigration officer at the point of entry?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think some of that we just don’t know yet. We need additional guidance from the Department of Justice. So some of these questions – important questions that you all have – I’m just not going to be able to answer today, because this is all still in flux and the lawyers are going through it. And lawyers get involved and they like to go through all the language and all the words, so some of that I’m just going to have to wait until they can give us greater guidance on that.

    Hi, Felicia. Hi.

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: And let’s stay on this – the executive order before we go over to other --

    QUESTION: Oh. Then – okay, then come back to me later.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Hi, Michele.

    QUESTION: So I don’t know how – what the scope is of what you do know, but in terms of refugees coming in and this relationship, if they’ve had contact with a resettlement agency or a church group or something, are you prepared to treat that as a bona fide relationship? Like – or is that one of the things you haven’t hashed out yet?

    MS NAUERT: So a couple things. Bona fide relationship – we don’t have a definition here at the State Department for that yet. None of the agencies has that definition just yet. That we will be working to get; that I anticipate will take a couple days to get that. However, I can tell you in terms of refugees who are already slated to be coming here, we have been in touch with them. By that I mean we have advised our refugee resettlement partners overseas that they should currently proceed with the resettlement of refugees who are scheduled to travel to the United States through July the 6th. Beyond July the 6th, we are not totally certain how that will work because, again, this is in flux, this is in progress, this is a new development as the Supreme Court just spoke to this yesterday.

    There is a number of 50,000, as you all know – that is the 50,000 cap. We expect to reach that cap within the next week or so. We are somewhere in the neighborhood of close to 49,000 – not exactly 49,000 but something close to that, so --

    QUESTION: You know that the ruling addresses that cap and says that it – for certain people with that relationship, it would go beyond 50,000.

    MS NAUERT: Correct. So refugees with bona fide ties – which we’re still working on that definition – will not be subject to that cap, but I just wanted to mention that and lay that out about the 50,000 arrivals.

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: I believe the number – I think you just hit – you have hit 49,000 just in – like in the last two hours.

    MS NAUERT: In the last couple – okay. Good, Matt. (Laughter.)

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: When you do define sort of what a bona fide relationship is, is that something --

    MS NAUERT: Again, that won’t be our definition. We’ll be working with the Department of Justice. They’ll make that designation and determination, and then we’ll follow through with it.

    QUESTION: Sure. In terms of, like, informing the consular officers that, of course, we would be – we’d expect that not to happen, but in terms of also publicizing to potential immigrants, people who are applying for visas, is that something that you plan to make public so that they don’t kind of spend the money or whatever it might be to make the application?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. One thing I think that the State Department is good at doing is putting up lots of stuff on the website, but also just getting information out to the general public. We want travelers or prospective travelers to know exactly what they may or may not be facing, so we’ll get that information out.

    QUESTION: So does the State Department share the concerns of three justices that this could be a burden and a problem for the State Department?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. Okay. Anything else on this matter?

    Laurie, do you have something on the EO? We’re done with EO. Okay. Let’s go on to something else then. Okay.

    QUESTION: Syria?

    QUESTION: Qatar?

    RUSSIA" name="RUSSIA">MS NAUERT: Sure. Let’s go on to Syria.

    QUESTION: So the Russians put out a readout of a call yesterday between Secretary Tillerson and Foreign Minister Lavrov. In the Russian version of the call it says that they discussed deterring the use of chemical weapons. Did the Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: Their discuss – the what?

    QUESTION: Deterring the use of chemical weapons --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- in Syria. Did the Secretary share the information that was shared with us last night, that they had – that the U.S. had detected preparations at the site? And did the Secretary warn Foreign Minister Lavrov about that or ask them to press the Syrians not to do that?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I can confirm that Secretary Tillerson spoke yesterday with his counterpart, with Mr. Lavrov, the foreign minister there. As you know, they talk about things regularly. They began their dialogue in Moscow and I believe it was March. They met here about a month ago or so. And then, of course, they’ve had subsequent phone conversations, such as the one last evening.

    Secretary Tillerson is not putting out a full play-by-play of that conversation. We know that the Russians have put out what they consider to be their version, so I’m not going to get into a tit for tat about what we think they said or what they claim they said – claim was said in that conversation. But the Secretary has made his concerns clear in the past and continues to do so with regard to Russia.

    QUESTION: In light of the statement that the White House put out last night, it seems like a fair question to ask if --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, I’m not – you can ask me anything you want. I’m not saying it’s not – (laughter) --

    QUESTION: But you’re not going to say anything specifically about chemical weapons?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: There’s a sparrow carrying a one-pound coconut. Did you --

    MS NAUERT: What? (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: Are you saying that you – are you saying that you dispute the Russian characterization?

    MS NAUERT: No. I’m just – I’m not going to get into a tit for tat. The Russians will often put out information, and they tend to mischaracterize things sometimes, and so I’m not going to get into going back and forth with them about what was said in this conversation. Secretary Tillerson is always clear with the Russians about how we feel about certain things, and the Secretary prefers to conduct a lot of his diplomacy in private in those conversations, because he believes that we can be most effective that way.

    Okay, John.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I --

    QUESTION: There were some reports that the White House statement about the Syria chemical weapons attack took some policy experts at the State Department by surprise. Is that true? Was the State Department fully read in on this?

    MS NAUERT: So the Secretary, as you know, was at the White House yesterday. He met with the President, also a group meeting with the President’s national security team, and that’s when this conversation was all had about that statement. So they were all informed and aware of that statement. In terms of who exactly that filtered down to at the State Department, I’m not going to get into our internal conversations. But the Secretary was aware of it; folks here were aware of it, and that’s what’s important and that’s what matters.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: So the sequence of time, that the Tillerson-Lavrov call came before the statement made by the White House, right?

    MS NAUERT: I believe – that’s a good question. I believe the Secretary’s call with Foreign Minister Lavrov was in the morning. I can double check on that and get back with you, but yes – okay. Yeah, it was in the morning.

    QUESTION: So the warning may not have come as a result of that conversation.

    MS NAUERT: Again, I just don’t know, but the call was – I’m getting the nod over here – it was, in fact, in the morning.

    Sir, hi. How are you? Yes.

    QUESTION: There is clearly a difference of opinion or – I don’t know – strong disagreement, whatever you might want to call that, between Russia and the United States over this matter. The Syrians themselves claim that there is no preparation underway for any chemical weapons attack. Russia seems to be agreeing with them.

    MS NAUERT: Wait. Hold on. Are we supposed to buy what the Syrians are saying, that there are no chemical weapons preparations underway --

    QUESTION: This is not my question.

    MS NAUERT: -- because in the past, we know that they have killed their own people, which include women and children. So if they say that they’re not making any preparations, I’m not certain that we’re going to buy that. But go ahead.

    QUESTION: Well, there is no agreement on that either. There --

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: There is no agreement on that either. There was no --

    QUESTION: Get to your question.

    QUESTION: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: Just what’s the question?

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead, sir. Please.

    QUESTION: I wanted to ask you something else.

    MS NAUERT: Yes. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I wanted to ask you if there is a follow – if there is an intent to follow up on that between Secretary --

    MS NAUERT: On which? I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: On the discussion on Syria and the alleged plans for chemical attack between Secretary Tillerson and Minister Lavrov.

    MS NAUERT: You mean – are – do you mean that when the statement was put out last evening, that the United States is concerned about Syria and preparations that we believe are underway for a chemical weapons attack? Your question is will there be additional conversations about that?

    QUESTION: Yeah, something like that.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any additional calls or any information to read out. This is something that the United States Government remains very concerned about. I’m just not aware of any subsequent conversations that are scheduled just yet.

    QUESTION: Can you – did – I know you don’t want to get into the details, but is there any effort to get the Shannon-Ryabkov meetings channel back open again? And is that something that --

    MS NAUERT: We would regard that conversation as a very important conversation to be had. You all have heard it here that our relationship with the Russian Government is at a low point right now and we would like to fix that so we can find areas of common interests, such as the fight against ISIS, so that we can find those areas of common interest and work on those fully together. I know we would like to resume those conversations with the Russians about that. I don’t have any meetings or any trips to read out about that, but I’ll let you know.

    QUESTION: No, I’m just wondering if there’s something the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov about, if there’s something that – among the menu of agenda that they have, if –

    MS NAUERT: I know we talked about a lot of mutual areas of concern. Regarding rescheduling that meeting, that I just don’t know. Sorry.

    Anything else on Russia right now? Syria/Russia?

    QUESTION: Iraq.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Russia/Syria?

    QUESTION: Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Hi. How are you?

    QUESTION: Do you guys have any evidence to share with us about this potential preparation for the use of chemical weapons? Because that wasn’t actually laid out.

    MS NAUERT: Right, and nor would that be laid out, because that would be considered an intelligence matter. So as you all are aware, there are a lot of these things that will pop up sometimes that we just can’t get into the details about this, but this has obviously gotten the attention of the United States Government at the highest level.

    QUESTION: So could the activity have perhaps been for some other reason than a chemical weapons attack preparation?

    MS NAUERT: Such as?

    QUESTION: Something that they do at the base or – I mean, is that a possibility?

    MS NAUERT: I would say that that’s a hypothetical question. We know from past experience that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on its own people, so that obviously remains a very large concern for us in the future.

    QUESTION: I just want to make a point of clarification.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: When you guys believe that it’s in your interests, you do put out what you say is evidence or proof of things that involve intelligence, and it happened from this podium not that long ago with the crematorium that you guys said was being built at the prison.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So it’s not a blanket “we never discuss intelligence,” right?

    MS NAUERT: Matt Lee, I’m not going to – I’m not going to get into that one with you, but this is a very serious and grave matter, and when you have the President involved and his national security team and the Secretary involved as well, I’d say that’s a serious issue.

    Okay, anything else on this? Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: Just a quick clarifying question.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: (Inaudible), like is it 24 hours?

    QUESTION: Go ahead. Let him go ahead.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: The preparation, the preparation. Is it like 24-hour preparation, maybe 48 hours, and then they stand back or something --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the answer to that question. The White House may be able to give you more on that, or perhaps the Department of Defense or another agency, but – or department, rather – but I just can’t get into that and I don’t have the answer to that question.

    QUESTION: Just to clarify, Mr. Assad was also seen photographed with the top Russian general in Syria within the last 24 hours or so. Do you know if the Russians – are we aware if the Russians were aware about these preparations as well?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: We don’t have any intel saying one way or another?

    MS NAUERT: I just can’t get into any of the intelligence, but I’m not personally aware of that.

    Okay. Anything else on Russia/Syria?

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Russia/Syria?

    QUESTION: Here.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, who’s got it? Sir, in the back.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So Ambassador Haley said today that they would blame Iran, Russia, and Syria if chemical weapons were again – what does it mean to blame these countries? How would the U.S. hold them accountable in the event of another strike?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Does the U.S. intend on militarily striking Iran or Russia in the event of a chemical weapons attack?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Your third question I can’t answer; that’s a Department of Defense matter, and then that’s also a hypothetical. In terms of the first question, which is why would we – why would we look to Syria and Iran? Was that the part?

    QUESTION: How – what does it mean to blame them?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve seen – all we have to do is look to the past, right, and we have seen as the Syrian regime back in 2015 was on the verge of collapsing – who came in to help save the Syrian regime? Who came in? Russia came in. And that is exactly why we are today – we, meaning the world – in the place that Syria is. Russia came in, helped bolster up Syrian forces, and we have seen the death, the devastation, the destruction that has taken place ever since.

    So when we say Russia would be held responsible, we believe that they play a role in this as well. They have a lot of influence with the Assad regime, and we have consistently called upon them to use their influence with the Assad regime to stop this kind of activity.

    QUESTION: Just on the --

    MS NAUERT: John, hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but her remarks that any attacks on the Syrian people will be blamed on the – Assad and the Russians.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Why not wait to find out? This is obviously a complex war --

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: -- with a number of actors --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, you’re right.

    QUESTION: -- including ISIS. It seems like a rather un-nuanced comment. Wouldn’t you find out who exactly was responsible before blaming?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t get too much into what Ambassador Haley said on the Hill today. I don’t have all of her comments in front of me, so I’d just have to refer you to the USUN for additional clarification on what she meant.

    QUESTION: Well, she actually said that last night in a tweet.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: As well as saying it again on the Hill.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can you not – are you --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Wouldn’t – I mean, the State Department would and the United States Government would look to find out and make sure it had evidence of who was exactly responsible, right, before issuing a blanket blame for attacks on the Syrian people, right?

    MS NAUERT: I think her comments stand for themselves, okay?

    QUESTION: Sorry, does that mean that you’re not going to answer any questions about what she said on the Hill today? Because I got one.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, I know you do. I know you do. Go right ahead. Why don’t you ask that question? I’m going to do my level best because --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- I was not aware of – and I know what you’re getting at – well, I’ll let you go ahead and ask and we’ll go there – from there. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: So Ambassador Haley said that it was a matter of U.S. policy to oppose Palestinians for UN positions, and she did this in answering questions about the reason that you guys blocked Salam Fayyad from becoming the representative for Libya. Is that correct? Because if it’s true, it sounds as though it’s discriminatory.

    MS NAUERT: I am working to get Ambassador Haley’s full comments in front of me. I just learned of those comments as I was walking into the briefing room, so didn’t have a full amount of time to be able to look into exactly what she said and what was intended by that. So some of this, as you all know, is developing. And when it’s developing, I know you want answers right away. I understand that. I’m not always going to be able to give you answers. I’d rather be right than be fast. We will take a close look at her comments. We will work to determine exactly what Ambassador Haley meant.

    But I can tell you this: Ambassador Haley talked about this back in February when the United States expressed its objection to the appointment of Mr. Fayyad as the UN’s envoy to Libya. That’s what we’re talking about. We expressed that – she expressed that again in her Hill testimony, and she’s talked about this a lot. She believes that the United Nations and many believe that the United Nations needs to be reformed, that for far too long the United Nations has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel. I know that’s a concern of hers. She’s talked about that a lot. She’s talked about reforming the United Nations. But in terms of her comments, I’m just going to need a little bit of time to take a closer look.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me just add one on there.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: First of all, I don’t understand how this is in any way biased against Israel to appoint a well-known, respected financial guy and diplomat to be the envoy to Libya. I don’t see how that has anything to do with bias against Israel at all.

    But secondly, I mean, she said that until Palestine is a state that this is the policy. So I’m just curious, do you have – if this is a policy, does it also apply to the Vatican? Because the Palestinians right now have the same status at the UN as the Vatican does. So if you’re going to be consistent about this, then you would oppose any representative of the Holy See taking a UN position (inaudible), so that’s --

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m just not going to get into – again, to characterizing that right now. I understand your question. I understand your concerns. Let me get some additional information. And anybody who has questions, I will do my level best to get you the answers, okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Can we --

    QUESTION: About Qatar?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And a couple on the Palestinians.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, just a couple more questions. Go ahead. Wait --

    QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, Said.

    QUESTION: By Israeli press accounts, the meeting between Mr. Kushner and Mahmoud Abbas went --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- did not go very well. And they’re saying that, basically, the administration is going to pull out of any ongoing process or potential process. Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: I do. This is something that I was involved with and on the phone with – I was not there, but on the phone with over the weekend, hearing from some of the folks who had been traveling with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt as well. And that’s just false. The President has made Israeli-Palestinian peace one of his top priorities. You know that. We’ve talked about that.

    We understand and recognize that this is not going to be a one-shot deal. It’s not going to be handled in one meeting or one trip. It is no surprise also that some meetings and conversations may be a little bit more difficult than others. Some will be more challenging. The President has said himself that it is not going to be an easy process, that both sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – will have to give a bit in order to be able to get to a peaceful arrangement, which we hope to see. But we are not pulling out in any way, shape, or form of this as being one of our priorities. Okay?

    Qatar, okay.

    QUESTION: Okay. So about a week ago, you said we’re left with a simple question: Were the actions of the other countries versus Qatar really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between them and the GCC countries? So now that you’ve seen the list of demands --

    MS NAUERT: I can’t believe that was only a week ago. Doesn’t that feel like it was a month ago? (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: I guess.

    MS NAUERT: It does, yeah.

    QUESTION: So now that you’ve seen the list of demands, do you have any more light on what the answer to that question is?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. The only thing I can say about the exact demands – because I don’t want to characterize the demands – but some of them will be difficult for Qatar to incorporate and to try to adhere to. That’s as far as I’m going to go in saying that. We --

    QUESTION: Can you say which ones?

    MS NAUERT: No, I can’t. But some of them – some of them will be challenging for that country.

    QUESTION: So what would you say the goal is of the meetings today?

    MS NAUERT: So the Secretary will have two meetings today. I’m not sure if you’re aware of both of them. But he’ll meet with the foreign minister of Qatar and then he’ll meet with the foreign minister of Kuwait.[1] And Kuwait has really done a lot of hard work in terms of trying to bring the nations together so that they can come to an – so that they can come to some sort of agreement.

    We continue to call on those countries to work together and work this out, and this process is not over yet. They will be having these conversations, we certainly know, for the rest of the week, if not longer than that. And we will – we stand by in order to help facilitate some of these conversations.

    QUESTION: But there’s not a set goal, a specific goal for the meetings today, especially with Qatar, like to finalize a response or something like that?

    MS NAUERT: Not that I am aware of. This meeting starts in 20-some minutes, and so I’m going to have to head up there so I can go into that bilateral meeting. But if there’s something that I can share with you, I certainly will.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: I get that you don’t want to characterize the demands as – but when you say that you realize that some of them will be difficult for Qatar to meet, that implies that you think that they should meet them.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t think so.

    QUESTION: No?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: So you think that there’s a way – there’s some kind of middle ground, there’s room for negotiation – not with you guys, but between the parties – so that maybe some or parts of some are completed and maybe other parts are not?

    MS NAUERT: These nations are going to have to work out their disagreements. I mean, we’ve talked about how a lot of these are long-simmering tensions. We believe that they’re going to have to work them out. They’re best worked out with the countries themselves. We are pleased and happy that Kuwait has stepped in to help be a mediator of sorts, and we’re happy to stand by and assist as we can. But we still feel that they can work them out themselves.

    QUESTION: But you don’t necessarily think that they have to be – all of them have to be met as was delivered in that statement?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, that’s for the countries to work out. That’s not for me to say, and I don’t know that that’s for the State Department to weigh in at that level, because ultimately, these parties have to live with the decisions and the agreements that they make.

    Okay, last question. Laurie.

    QUESTION: Here. Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi announced that ISIS defeat was close at hand. And so what are your plans – how is the liberation of Mosul – once it’s liberated, which will be soon – how is that going to change what you’re doing in Iraq? What are your plans for the future of that area?

    MS NAUERT: Well, they wouldn’t be our plans for the future of the area; it would be the Iraqi Government’s plans. There is a Government of Iraq, so the Government of Iraq can decide how they want to govern themselves and what will take place in – certainly in certain areas. Our focus right now is on the liberation of Mosul. The Iraqi prime minister talked about how he believes that this will be done sooner rather than later. I’m not going to characterize a timeline. Our U.S. forces and coalition partners and the Iraqi Government are out there hard at work to try to get ISIS out of the remaining parts of Mosul. There is a lot of work left to be done, there’s also – we have also had some successes – and when I say “we,” I mean the Iraqis, coalition, and the United States Government – in bringing a lot of people back to Mosul in the safer parts where we’ve gotten ISIS out, and now some of those people have been able to come back in. I think the latest numbers are somewhere around 300,000, but Matt can probably --

    QUESTION: Nope, I don’t know that one.

    MS NAUERT: Matt can probably chime in better on those numbers. So the priorities in those areas, working with the Government of Iraq to do de-mining – that is one of the major priorities that the U.S. Government is involved with, as are coalition partners – to bring water, food, electricity. Some schools are back now in session in eastern Mosul – we’re not talking in the tougher parts where ISIS has really dug in in western Mosul, but in eastern Mosul. And that’s really a success story as we see it, because if you have children who are able to go back to school right now, not long after ISIS had – was really dug into that area, that is a success and a real testament to the hard work that the Iraqis and our coalition partners have done as well.

    QUESTION: Do you have any suggestions for political changes in the area, political reforms?

    MS NAUERT: We wouldn’t have any – I don’t think we would have any suggestions for that. There is a Government of Iraq, and the Government of Iraq can best decide. Okay.

    All right, last question.

    QUESTION: And just one on – one more on Qatar?

    QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is Ambassador Coppedge staying in her role? And is that an important role that needs to be filled at this department? You’ve got 67-odd special envoys and representatives that this department – or this administration in particular has said needs to be whittled down substantially, if not entirely eliminated. She got a job at – next month? And if so – and if not, is somebody else going to fill that role?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer to that. Ambassador Coppedge and I talked, spent some time together last week and spent some time together today, and our focus was really solely on the TIP Report and getting that out, and getting the information out. So I didn’t have a chance to ask her what her career plans are, but if I can find out for you and let you know, I certainly will. But she did a terrific job in putting this together.

    QUESTION: Is it an important role to fill at this department, even if it’s not her?

    MS NAUERT: This – the TIP Report has been ongoing for – what is it? How many – you all have been covering the State Department for a long time. 18 years? 18 years? 17 years, there we go. So I would see that as an important matter, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    Okay, last question. Right here.

    QUESTION: Senator Corker sent a letter yesterday to Secretary Tillerson threatening to block future arms sales to Gulf nations. How does that affect the negotiation process? Does it help or hurt?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t characterize it either way. We’re aware of that letter. That letter came here into the department and there is a lot that’s going to happen this week, I think. There are a lot of conversations left to be had. I’m about to step into one right now, so I just don’t want to get ahead of some of those conversations.

    Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks. Peter, Gage, do you want to ask a question? Do you guys have a question?

    QUESTION: What’s for dinner?

    QUESTION: Ask about Trump’s tweets. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: All right. My boys don’t have a question. That’s the first time they’re speechless. Thank you, everybody. We’ll see you again on Thursday. Looking forward to it.

    (The briefing was concluded at 2:48 p.m.)

    [1]

    Kuwaiti Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information


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Categories: News Pit Feeds

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - June 22, 2017

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 17:55
Heather Nauert
Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 22, 2017


Index for Today's Briefing
  • UKRAINE
  • IRAQ
  • UKRAINE
  • RUSSIA
  • SYRIA
  • IRAQ
  • QATAR
  • INDIA
  • AFGHANISTAN
  • NORTH KOREA/REGION
  • SUDAN
  • YEMEN
  • TURKEY
  • SOUTH KOREA/REGION
  • VENEZUELA
  • DEPARTMENT

    TRANSCRIPT:

    2:52 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hey, everybody.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: How’s everyone today?

    QUESTION: It’s Thursday, so --

    MS NAUERT: Thursday, I know. I know. I hope you all have been having a good week. A couple things I want to start out with today. Two issues of great interest to us. The first is about Ukraine and the second is about Iraq.

    The United States is deeply concerned about an alarming pattern of violence and harassment by Russia-led separatists in eastern Ukraine, directed at unarmed civilian members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. The latest in a series of threatening and intimidating incidents involved harassment, threats, and ultimately shots being fired at retreating mission vehicles on June the 20th. This follows the tragic death in April of a U.S. citizen who was serving as a paramedic with monitors when his vehicle struck an explosive in separatist-controlled territory.

    The incidents are part of a broader effort to keep the international community from seeing what is happening in eastern Ukraine. We call on Russia to use its influence to end this campaign of intimidation and honor its commitment to allow free, full, and safe access to the OSCE monitors. More broadly, a lasting and durable ceasefire is urgently needed to relieve human suffering and create space for progress on Minsk implementation. That is the first issue.

    Second, Iraq. As I’m sure you all saw yesterday, the destruction of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque yesterday is further evidence of the depravity and the desperation of ISIS and their so-called caliphate, which is rapidly evaporating. We strongly condemn this crime against the people of Mosul, which only further proves that ISIS has no respect for Iraq’s identity, culture, or its religions. For nearly 800 years, the al-Nuri Mosque, with its distinct leaning minaret, al-Hadba, stood as a testament to the faith and unity of Mosul’s residents. ISIS used the historic mosque, an edifice of a great religion, to publicly justify its criminal campaign of genocide, mass rape, institutionalized slavery, child murder, and aggressive territorial conquest.

    Yesterday, Iraqi Security Forces pushed forward to liberate Iraqi civilians who are still trapped in Mosul. ISIS destroyed the mosque and the minaret. The despicable act is a crime not only against the people of Mosul in Iraq, but the world. The world has, yet again, lost an important part of our shared heritage at the hands of ISIS.

    The Iraqi Security Forces, with the support of the coalition, have now liberated 70 percent of the territory that ISIS once controlled and has now freed 2.7 million Iraqis from ISIS’s brutal rule. Together, we’re accelerating the global campaign against ISIS, taking ISIS leaders off the battlefield, and depriving the group of its resources. The United States remains committed to helping Iraq drive ISIS from every inch of the Iraqi soil and ensure that the terror group cannot return. The United States and the international community supports the Government of Iraq’s efforts to support communities suffering from the effects of the brutal occupation of ISIS. The American people stand with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi people in their efforts to build a future that is filled with peace and prosperity for all Iraqis.

    With that, I’ll take your questions, please.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Matt, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I just want to start, because of your Ukraine OSCE statement --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- I just want to make sure this is right. Are you saying that this is a broader effort by the separatists to prevent the public from seeing what’s going on and --

    MS NAUERT: We believe that. The information from the OSCE monitors is really one of the reliable ways that we and the world can see what is going on and the devastation that’s taking place in that part of Ukraine.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: And we believe that these monitors – it’s a repeated history now of harassment against these monitors, we think to try to prevent them from doing their jobs.

    QUESTION: So the administration likes transparency when it comes to --

    MS NAUERT: I think the world wants to see these OSCE monitors be able to report fairly and accurately the reality of the situation on the ground.

    QUESTION: Right. I just wanted to make sure that was what I was getting at.

    QUESTION: Did you say --

    QUESTION: And – hold on --

    QUESTION: -- Russian-led separatists? Did you – Russian-led?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Or Russian-supported separatists?

    MS NAUERT: Both.

    QUESTION: You think they are Russian-led?

    MS NAUERT: Russian – we believe they’re Russian-led, Russian-funded, Russian-trained separatists – so-called separatists.

    QUESTION: Now, the Russians say that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Tillerson spoke by phone today.

    MS NAUERT: They did.

    QUESTION: Did this come up or was it mainly focused on U.S.-Russia?

    MS NAUERT: They talked about a lot of issues, among them Syria. That remains a major issue. But I can’t get into the specifics of that conversation that took place today.

    QUESTION: Okay. Well, would it be fair to – I don't want to assume, because we all know what that does. But would it be fair to say that the cancellation of the Tom Shannon-Ryabkov meeting was a point of discussion?

    MS NAUERT: I would imagine that that was something that was discussed. I mean, we have said to Russia and we say here today that we were disappointed. This was a channel that was set up by the Secretary and also Foreign Minister Lavrov back in – I believe it was April when they were in Russia together. And they set up this separate channel, so to speak, to have these conversations to be able to go over more minor issues – irritants. And that was something that Secretary Shannon was prepared to do – to go there, have a good-faith conversation. The Secretary has talked about how we have a low-level relationship at this point with Russia, and we would like to try to find areas of cooperation to work together, and it’s difficult to find areas of cooperation to work together while there are some of these irritants that keep coming up at some of the bigger meetings. So this was a separate channel set up to try to address those things. Russia canceled it, so Russia can best explain why they chose to cancel it, but we’re disappointed in that.

    QUESTION: But do you know if there are discussions going on to try and reschedule? And --

    MS NAUERT: That I don’t know. That I don’t know.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the other – the last thing on this is that the Russians also say that Foreign Minister Lavrov complained about the military strikes in Syria as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty, and also complained about the sanctions, which is what they said was the – or the latest maintenance of sanctions that – which is what they said was the reason for canceling the Shannon thing.

    MS NAUERT: So the issue of sanctions was never on the table for this meeting that was canceled. This meeting was about more minor issues. Sanctions can be dealt with a very separate way. Russia knows exactly why sanctions are placed on that country, and it’s directly as a result of their actions in Crimea and their actions in the eastern part of Ukraine. If they want those sanctions removed, they have to address those issues. They have to live up to the Minsk accords.

    QUESTION: And on the – this violation of Syria’s sovereignty, you guys obviously reject that charge, yes?

    MS NAUERT: Those are – those were defensive actions that the United States took, and the only reason that the United States is in Syria is to address ISIS.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: And I think Russia knows that.

    Okay. Hi, Dave. Yeah, yeah.

    QUESTION: Just to follow up on that one directly, so this – the Shannon-Ryabkov channel was to discuss the minor irritants, and even that was canceled, so what kind of situation are we in in terms of U.S.-Russia ties now?

    MS NAUERT: I mean --

    QUESTION: It’s already very low. Now what is it?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to characterize it exactly, but I certainly can say that we’re disappointed in that, that we wanted to have this dialogue so that we could clear the table, clear the air, so to speak, of some of these smaller issues. This is something that we wanted to see happen, so Russia can best explain why it was canceled. They know why. They know why they canceled it.

    QUESTION: Can we stay on Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Okay. Two things – two quick things. First of all, the French president, Macron, said that Assad was not – it is not a precondition for Assad to go, that Assad --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, say that again. The French president said what?

    QUESTION: Said that Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria – they don’t condition the end of the civil war in Syria with the removal of Bashar al-Assad as president of Syria. Do you agree with this or do you see it as a major --

    MS NAUERT: Eventually that would be up for the people of Syria to decide.

    QUESTION: Right. But – so do you think that France is sort of shifting its position?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to comment on the position that France has taken on this.

    QUESTION: And second, the Turkish defense minister, Fikri Isik, said that he was assured by Secretary Mattis that once the – that once ISIS is defeated, they will – that the United States will retrieve the arms that they have given to the YPG. Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: So that would be a DOD matter, and you could certainly speak to the Department of Defense about that. That’s all I have.

    QUESTION: Another Syria --

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, let’s stick with Syria for a bit. Sir, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: James Bays from Al Jazeera.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, James.

    QUESTION: Earlier on this week, the chairman of the joint chiefs was asked about Raqqa after it has been freed of ISIL. He said the State Department had a plan for governance. I wonder if you could expand on that plan. Who do you plan to put in charge of Raqqa? Does it become a safe zone? Will you protect it from the air as a no-fly zone?

    MS NAUERT: So we aren’t completely there yet. The fight for Raqqa is still underway and still taking place. The United States will never determine who will take control or take charge in terms of its government. That will be up for the Syrian people to decide.

    QUESTION: They’ll fight it out?

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Fight it out or --

    MS NAUERT: No, that will be up for the Syrian people to decide. To answer your --

    QUESTION: So there will be an election or --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, hold on, hold on – for the Syrian people to decide who will ultimately end up leading individual areas. And we have talked about that. We’ve talked about that here at the State Department, that it should be locally led, and that’s something that we’ve not moved away from.

    Syria. Anything else?

    QUESTION: A follow-up if I can. Sorry, I don’t come here very often, but I cover Syria a lot.

    MS NAUERT: Well, welcome.

    QUESTION: And I still – you’re nearly six months into this administration. I still don’t quite understand the administration’s overall strategy with regard to Syria. I understand ISIL entirely and the fight against ISIL, and I understand they’re brutal and abhorrent, but most of the deaths in Syria haven’t come from ISIL. What’s your overall strategy in ending the war and in terms of governance in Syria in the future? I can’t – I’m not even clear from reading everything that this administration has put out as whether you support the continued rule of President Assad, for example. Could you --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, anything with regard to the military would have to be a DOD --

    QUESTION: No, I’m asking about the final political solution.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on – could you just hold on for a second, please? Okay. DOD can handle the military issues, okay? In terms of the future for Syria, we continue to support a UN-backed system. We – the UN – Staffan de Mistura has been very involved in this process. We support something that would bring eventual peace to the people of Syria. This is going to be a long campaign, a long effort, and it’s not going to be resolved overnight, certainly.

    QUESTION: But the specific part of my question about whether Assad can be part of that final settlement in Syria?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that is going to be the future of Syria. I think the Syrian people will end up figuring that out. Assad has been responsible for horrific crimes against his own people. We know that. We have all talked a lot about that, and that remains a major concern. But this is something that the Syrian people ultimately, once there is peace brought to that area, will have to decide.

    QUESTION: How will they decide it?

    MS NAUERT: Sir, I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If you want those kinds of answers, it’s going to take some time to get there.

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On North Korea.

    QUESTION: Syria. Sorry, just one more. So former ambassador for Syria, Robert Ford, has said some, like, remarkable stuff about what the United States, he believes, is going to do in Syria. He says the United – Assad is winning, the United States is going to abandon its partners, especially SDF. Do you have anything to say about your former ambassador?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of his comments. I do know that the United States, backing its coalition partners, has taken back a significant amount of territory from ISIS. I believe it’s 40 or 50 percent at this point. So that is something that we find to be encouraging. Again, this is going to be a long process. It’s not going to happen overnight.

    QUESTION: But do you – are you willing to reassure your partners, especially SDF, that the U