3:04 p.m. EDT
MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.
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?
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.
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 —
MS NAUERT: — beyond this because, literally, this was handed to me just —
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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: 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?
<a name="TURKEYRUSSIA”>QUESTION: Turkey.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 —
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