Category Archives: International Relations

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 25, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 25, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAN


    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.


    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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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 20, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 20, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing



    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.


    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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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 18, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 18, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAN


    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.)

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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 13, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 13, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAN
  • IRAQ


    2:52 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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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United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for Iraqi People

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Today, the United States announced more than $119 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq. The United States Government has now provided more than $1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance for the Iraq crisis since fiscal year 2014.

United States to Contribute Additional $20 Million for Syria Recovery Trust Fund

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 11, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 11, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAQ


    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.

    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.

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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 —


    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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Press Briefing by USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Robert Jenkins on Food Security in Africa

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Today we are joined by Mr. Robert Jenkins, Acting [corrected title] Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. Mr. Jenkins will discuss U.S. humanitarian aid to fight famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, and in particular, the recent announcement of an additional 639 million dollars in assistance for this effort. Mr. Jenkins is speaking to us from Washington, D.C. We will begin with remarks from Mr. Jenkins, and then we will open it up to your questions.

United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance in Response to Famine Risk, Violence, and Forced Displacement

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Today, 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 Yemen. This additional funding brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to over $1.8 billion for these four crises since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017.

Ashley Bell Named Peace Corps Associate Director for External Affairs

Ashley Bell

Ashley Bell

D.C., July 7, 2017 — The White House has appointed Ashley Bell as the new
Associate Director for External Affairs at Peace Corps. As head of External
Affairs, Bell will oversee Peace Corps’ Offices of Communications, Congressional
Relations, Gifts and Grants Management and Strategic Partnerships and Intergovernmental

“Peace Corps
volunteers represent the best the United States has to offer and I am grateful
for the opportunity to support an agency founded in the American ideal of
serving others,” Bell said. “As head of External Affairs, my hope is to
highlight to the public the vital role Peace Corps plays in irrevocably changing
the lives of both volunteers and the communities they help.”

Bell joins
Peace Corps with a wealth of experience in external affairs and international
relations. Prior to Peace Corps, Bell served as a special advisor in the Public
Affairs Bureau of the Department of State, where he developed strategy around
the Secretary of State’s domestic engagement agenda. During the presidential transition,
Bell served as the communications and intergovernmental affairs lead on the
landing team at the Department of State.

joining the Trump Administration, Bell was a senior strategist for
communications at the Republican National Committee (RNC). As national director
of African American political engagement for the RNC, he managed and provided
strategic direction to over 200 RNC field employees and thousands of
volunteers. He is the founder, chief executive officer and chairman of 20/20
Leaders of America. A lawyer by trade, Ashley began his career as a public
defender, and later became a trial attorney and co-founder of the law firm Bell
& Washington LLP, based in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a graduate of Valdosta
State University and obtained his law degree from Louisiana State University.

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – July 6, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

July 6, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • D-ISIS
  • IRAQ
  • D-ISIS
  • IRAQ


    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.

    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.

    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.


    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.


    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: 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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U.S. Government Provides $150 Million for Iraq Stabilization

Thursday, July 6, 2017

On July 5th, the United States announced its intent to provide an additional $150 million to help stabilize Iraq after liberation of areas held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The funds will be provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The $150 million planned contribution brings the U.S. Government’s total contribution to stabilization in Iraq to $265.3 million since FY2015.

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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – June 29, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

June 29, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • GCC
  • IRAQ


    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.


    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?


    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?


    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.


    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.


    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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