Category Archives: International Relations

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – November 17, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 17, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAQ


    2:54 p.m. EST

    MS NAUERT: Hello. Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Hi, everybody. How are you doing?

    QUESTION: Good.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: Good to see you. How’s everyone doing? Hi, hi. Okay. A couple things, pieces of news I want to start out with before we get going on your questions – and I know you have a lot of them today.

    Let’s start with this: This week, the State Department partnered with experts in the Texas Department of Public Safety to train Guatemalan transnational anti-gang unit. The training, which was organized by the department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, took place in Florence, Texas. In Central America, gangs perpetrate – perpetuate violence and foster conditions that drive people to leave their homes, often traveling through Mexico toward the United States. The goal of the partnership is to combat the gangs that threaten both of our countries through training and firearms proficiency, operational tactics, and personal defensive measures.

    The State Department works with federal, state, and local entities in the fight against violent gangs. The Texas Department of Public Safety is sharing its expertise with Guatemala in an innovative partnership to fight criminal threats to the U.S. and Central American security.

    Second thing, I’d like to talk about Cambodia a little bit – we’ve – it’s a topic we’ve covered a lot – and our concerns about the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. We are gravely concerned that the Cambodian Government’s decision to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the CNRP – not only does that set back Cambodia’s democratic development, it unnecessarily damages Cambodia’s relationship with the United States and others in the international community, it weakens Cambodia’s economic growth and prosperity, and isolates the country further from democracies in the region.

    Freedom and multiparty democracies are enshrined in the Paris Peace Accords and in Cambodia’s constitution. The Cambodian Government’s decision marks a sharp reversal of those ideals. The supreme court’s announcement follows other disturbing actions by the Department[1] of Cambodia, including its crackdown on the free press by shutting down The Cambodia Daily, launching a politicized tax investigation again The Voice of America-Radio Free Asia, and others as well.

    Legitimate elections require genuine competition. The act removes the meaningful competition from the 2018 national elections. For the 2018 elections to have international legitimacy, the Government of Cambodia should undo its dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, release the imprisoned leader Kem Sokha, and allow opposition parties, civil society, and media to maintain their legitimate activities.

    QUESTION: Can I just ask you one thing about that?

    MS NAUERT: I have one more thing. Can we come back to that?

    QUESTION: Okay. Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And then finally, today Secretary Tillerson is hosting foreign ministers from across the African continent and the African Union Commission Chairman Faki for open discussions on trade, investment, security, and also good governance.

    Another key issue of importance at the AF ministerial today is the issue of Zimbabwe. The Secretary said in his opening remarks that we should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in accordance with Zimbabwe’s constitution. He also highlighted that Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path, one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

    In addition to that, our Deputy Secretary State John Sullivan is currently in Africa today. He arrived yesterday in Sudan and met with the Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, the Prime Minister Bakri Saleh, and other government ministers and civil society members. After meeting with the deputy secretary, Foreign Minister Ghandour publicly announced that Sudan is committed to ending all military and trade ties with North Korea, an action that we strongly support.

    Deputy Secretary Sullivan and Foreign Minister Ghandour also discussed ways to build on cooperation in other areas, including counterterrorism, humanitarian access, human rights, and also religious freedom. The deputy secretary also delivered remarks in Khartoum to an audience of human rights activists, religious leaders, and other stakeholders. He encouraged Sudan to improve its record on human rights and also religious freedom. The transcript of his speech is available on

    The Deputy Secretary then traveled to Tunisia, where he met with the president, the prime minister, and also the foreign minister. They discussed economic reforms and measures to consolidate democracy that the Tunisian Government is implementing along with its mutual security cooperation with the United States.

    Tomorrow, he will meet with Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq of the Libya National Government – or the Libyan Government of National Accord, rather. They will discuss U.S. support for the UN-facilitated political process to resolve the political conflict in Libya and help advance its stabilization.

    On Monday, the deputy secretary will travel to Nigeria and that is where he will participate in the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission, the BNC. It is a annual high-level dialogue between the U.S. Government and the Government of Nigeria.

    Okay. And with that, I’ll take your questions. You want to start in Cambodia?

    QUESTION: Just – well, very quickly before I defer to Michele —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — who needs a quick sound bite.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: On the air, something you can appreciate, I think.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Just on Cambodia, your statement, you said that this action further distances Cambodia from democracies in the region?

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: What countries exactly are you referring to in the region? None of Cambodia’s neighbors would say – Thailand, which is under a junta right now; Vietnam, which is a one-party state; Laos, which is a one-party state; and Burma, which is not really the most democratic model. So what countries are you referring to?

    MS NAUERT: I would say that there are democracies in the region. Bangladesh would be an example. Democracies in the region that would have greater concerns about the movement away from press freedoms and other freedoms.

    QUESTION: Okay, but I just would make the point that Cambodia’s immediate neighbors – it seems to be going in the same direction as them, not distancing themselves, because they’re not really democracies. Anyway.

    MS NAUERT: I think we’ve said not only does it set back Cambodia’s democratic development, it damages their relationship with the United States and others in the international community.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: Michele. Sorry.

    MS NAUERT: All right.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Michele. Remind me, where are we starting today? Where are we going to start?

    QUESTION: We’re starting on the state of the State Department.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: There have been lots of letters from Capitol Hill about this. McCain and Shaheen are urging the Secretary to end a hiring freeze and to resume promotions. Murphy is asking Tillerson to rethink this buyout procedure. Can you reassure any of these members that (a) their concerns will be taken into consideration and that Tillerson’s not gutting the department?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, a couple things to that matter. First, let me start addressing them in pieces, if you’ll allow me that. First, let’s talk about the redesign. The redesign is an effort that continues to take place. You may recall back in September, we sent a note or our update to OMB. It sits with OMB right now. It is a process that is – we are continuing to work on. We don’t have all of the answers to provide people right now. Admittedly, the department could do a better job of communicating every single step along the way of the redesign process.

    I was just in Burma, where we got questions from our own staff about where things are with the redesign. And I said to them, and I think we’ve been clear in this building, we would like to be able to share more. The process has not been completed just yet.

    I can tell you that we have some very high-level career Foreign Service officers who are involved in the top levels of the redesign. I can discuss with you some of those people, and I think that will at least help reassure some of our folks in the building who have a lot of questions about the future of the State Department and what the State Department will look like. I want to make it clear that the people who are implementing the redesign, the people who are deciding the future of the redesign, it’s not coming from a brand-new political appointee like myself. It’s coming from people who have worked for the State Department for many years, in some cases decades and decades.

    This process has involved a cross-section of the entire department. It’s included some junior, some mid-level, mid-career staff members, and also senior members of the Foreign Service. You may recall that 35,000 members of our community weighed in when they were asked to fill out that questionnaire regarding the redesign. Three hundred interviews have been conducted so far as a part of the redesign process. It’s been an inclusive process. Many of you work in the private sector; I would ask, have your companies ever asked what you think should be the future of your corporation? I’m pretty confident in saying that answer is probably no.

    So this department regards the overall redesign as being an employee-led, employee-driven process. And I will again go out and say, admittedly, there has not been enough communication, and I think the department recognizes that. I would like to share with you some of the people who are involved in some of the phases of the process because that has not previously, to my knowledge, been discussed just yet, and I think it’ll make people feel perhaps a little bit better about it.

    The executive steering committee has been chaired by Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. It also includes USAID Administrator Mark Green, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, acting Management and Director-General Ambassador Bill Todd, and also the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat.

    Now, the ambassador, Ambassador Bernicat, I was just with her about a week and a half ago in Bangladesh, and I didn’t realize that she was a part of the steering committee for the redesign. And she said to me that she was extremely supportive of the redesign efforts and she was proud to be a part of this. And I said to her, “Ambassador, you’re on this redesign team? Let’s let folks know that you are a part of this.”

    And so with that in mind, I think the department recognizes that we need to say more. So hopefully our folks who are listening or are watching around the world who work for the State Department will feel more reassured that people who love this building, who are a part of this institution, who believe so firmly in what the State Department does, are the key people who are involved in seeing this process through.

    QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t answer the problem of – the question of lots of departures in high-ranking places —

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah. So I wanted to get this —

    QUESTION: — and thinning out and the hiring freeze and the —

    MS NAUERT: I wanted to get to this in pieces. So I think we’ve covered the overall redesign. Okay, so that is a work in process.

    Let’s talk about – let’s about the American Foreign Service Association letter, and I think that’s one of the things you’re getting to right now. And I’m glad you brought that up because we didn’t get a chance to fully address it last week. There were articles and there’s been some information that has come out that I think has been misrepresented or misconstrued. I want to go over some figures and I want to just be – go through this kind of slowly so that we get it clear and on the record.

    The number of Foreign Service officers as of October the 31st, 2017, is 985. Those are Senior Foreign Service officers. Sixty-three are waiting for Congress to approve their promotion. Once those promotions are granted, there will be 1,048 – there will be 1,048 Senior Foreign Service officers. Now, that number is nearly identical to the 1,058 Senior Foreign Service officers at the same point in 2016. So we have virtually the same number of Senior Foreign Service officers who will be serving after Congress approves their promotion as were serving last year at this time. The difference is only 10, according to the numbers I’ve been given.

    From February the 1st to September the 30th of this year, 244 Foreign Service officers and Foreign Service specialists have retired. Two hundred and forty-nine retired in the same period in 2016. That’s a difference of just five. So, so far, these numbers are within five or 10 of last year.

    The State Department has virtually the same number of Foreign Service employees today, at 13,873, as it did in the year 2016. That number of 13,980. Let me repeat those numbers: 13,7 – excuse me, 13,873 today compared with last year 13,980. It’s pretty similar.

    The reported 60 percent reduction in career ambassadors is a misleading description. When Secretary Tillerson was sworn in, there were six career ambassadors serving. Two have since retired and today two now serve with this rank. That is within the historical norms of one to seven who have been serving at any time since 1980. Since 1955, Congress has only approved 58 people for that distinction.

    In terms of the number of people taking the Foreign Service exam, that number fluctuates with the health of the economy. Remember when the economy tanked in 2008 and a lot of people decided to go to graduate school as opposed to looking for jobs in the workforce? We see as the economy has improved fewer people are applying to take the Foreign Service exam. As the economy does better, fewer people choose to take the Foreign Service exam. I want to – that’s funny? Yeah?

    QUESTION: Well, I’d say yes, if they have other options, they don’t go into the Foreign Service.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, perhaps they do. Perhaps they’d like to do other things. And that’s okay; it’s a free country. Our people are free to choose the careers and the professional paths that they wish to take.

    As the economy does better, few people choose to take this exam, just as fewer people choose to go to graduate school, Laurie, when the economy is doing better. In 2008, 8,889 people took the Foreign Service exam. In 2012, 20,481 took it. In 2016, 14,580 took the Foreign Service exam. And in 2017, 9,519 did. So as the economy does better, fewer people are taking that.

    QUESTION: The Secretary is committed to the buyout plans and reduction of staff of – to 8 percent or something, right?

    MS NAUERT: So let’s talk about the buyout, and I want to be very clear about this. The buyout is separate from the redesign. Every federal agency and department was required to do, under OMB, to engage in this workforce reduction plan. That was in response to OMB’s budget memorandum M17-22. The Department of State is offering voluntary buyouts and also early retirement incentives as an element of that department’s – of the department’s plan. Our goal is to meet our workforce reduction targets. That is something that didn’t come out of the State Department. That was something that came out of OMB. We are doing that through voluntary measures such as buyouts rather than involuntary measures such as layoffs, reductions in force.

    A key objective to doing that is what they consider to be organization layering at the supervisory level. That sounds like a whole lot of bureaucratic talk, but essentially the department will require 641 employee departures above its normal attrition levels by the end of the calendar year 2018 in order to achieve its goal of the 8 percent reduction in workforce.

    Okay? Anything else on redesign, buyout, any of that?

    QUESTION: I don’t understand the argument that when the economy does better, fewer people would want to join the Foreign Service.

    MS NAUERT: Typically they find —

    QUESTION: You think that they make more money elsewhere?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to sort of make —

    QUESTION: It would seem to me that when the economy does —

    MS NAUERT: When the economy —

    QUESTION: I mean —

    MS NAUERT: Historically – and this is something that you can check with some of our departments in here – when the economy does better, more people are tending to go out in the workforce. When the economy tanks, more people choose to go into what’s perceived to be safer positions, whether it’s going in to graduate school or perhaps applying for the Foreign Service.

    Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: I understand that the tax bill before Congress now will severely penalize graduate students. Do you hope that will lead to an uptick in recruitment?

    MS NAUERT: Not my domain. Okay.

    QUESTION: One more question?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The frustrations from Congress are that there hasn’t been any kind of specifics given behind that. So you gave us some of the leadership that’s leading this —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — but what are – do you have any more specifics on the redesign that you can offer, and a timeline perhaps? Because we thought it was going to be done by this fall; now it’s December, now we’re coming into next year. Anything —

    MS NAUERT: So I know that the Secretary will be making an announcement on this at some point. I don’t want to get ahead of what he is set to announce. Some of this work is still in progress; I know that he had hoped to speak with employees not too long ago to share with them an update on the process. That was changed because of some travel additions that were added to his schedule. But I’m not going to be able to provide you any specific details about what has happened just yet. But we fully hear and understand Congress’s concerns.

    QUESTION: Can I ask —

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Elise.

    QUESTION: Hi, welcome back. So I understand that you said that AFSA is misrepresentative of the numbers in terms of career Foreign Service. But what do you say to just the general perception of career officers that may not be at, like, the top career ambassador level, because there’re so few, but, like, in those lower few ranks that are just saying, like, you know what, I’m not getting a new post, I’m not welcome here anymore, I’m getting the signal that I should leave because there’s no more work for me to do here, that I’m not appreciated, and those are the people that may not be at the top level, but there are —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — a lot of people at that kind of upper range still that are just leaving because they feel like they’re not welcome here anymore.

    MS NAUERT: So that’s sort of anecdotal in nature. I can only speak to —

    QUESTION: It’s anecdotal, but we’ve all spoken to those type of people.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, we’ve all heard that. I have not had the chance to speak to people who have said that to me. I have spoken with people who after many years have made the personal decision to retire, people who have been fantastic and have done so much good work for this building. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and most recently on two recent trips work with some of our Foreign Service officers who are in the field. They – and you’ve covered this building for many years, know how terrific they are, know how transparent they are, know that regardless of policies that may be – that they may have to carry out, that they may not support, they would not necessarily express those opinions. I have never worked with a more professional – and I mean this, from the bottom of my heart – I have never worked with a more professional group of people than our Foreign Service officers. They have the utmost respect from me.

    I hope, and I know this doesn’t offer a lot, but if I can convey in any way their professionalism, the level of respect that I have and that others have in this building for the work that they do, I hope they won’t give up. I know that times may seem tough right now; I know that the headlines coming out of the State Department do not look good, do not look promising. We have a lot of work to do here at the State Department. From the crises that unfold in Burma right now to what is going on in Iraq and the good defeating of ISIS that we are doing – we have so much work that has left to be done – to what is happening in Cambodia right now. Their work, I can just say from a personal point of view, is valued, is needed. We need the Foreign Service officers to keep doing what they have committed their lives to do. I hope that they will stay on. It breaks my heart to hear that some feel that they aren’t wanted or aren’t needed or aren’t appreciated. If I can get somebody else to convey that more convincingly than I can, I would love to do that. But I can just speak for myself right now and say how fantastic they are.

    QUESTION: That’s a very impassioned statement. Do you think it would help if maybe the Secretary would address the employees of the building and kind of worldwide and tell them? Because I think they’re looking for that type of leadership. I guess that’s what I think all of the criticism has been written about.

    MS NAUERT: I know – sure, I – of course, I understand that. And I think when he does go to post – and he had the opportunity to speak to our colleagues in London not long ago, he spoke to some of our folks in Burma, he was at some of our embassies in Asia, for example – I know he conveys that. I know he says that he values their work. Could we do more? Sure, I think we could always do more.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I follow on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I think some folks in the building were taken aback when the Secretary gave an interview to one of our colleagues from Bloomberg, I believe, that said that if people – if there’s low morale, that he’s not seeing it, that he walks the hallways and people smile at him. He’s, of course, the boss, and the Secretary of State. So I’m wondering, the facts of it aside and taking you at your word that everyone here really, truly values the work these people are doing, does he get that there is a perception, at least, that that’s not the case? I mean, does he understand that, the facts aside, people feel a deficit there?

    MS NAUERT: I have spoken with Under Secretary Tom Shannon about this. I have spoken with the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan about this very matter. They are extremely involved in this process. I know that they feel that we could do more to talk to our people. I think they understand and appreciate that there may be a morale issue in this building. I have seen and have talked to people, and will be frank that, sure, there is a morale issue in this building, and that’s why I say, folks, hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don’t give up. Don’t give up on this building. Don’t give up on what America is doing. Don’t give up on the importance of this job and this career.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, anything else?

    QUESTION: Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi.

    QUESTION: Thank you (inaudible). Recently, a North Korean defector soldier —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — was shot down by the North Korean army at the JSA – Joint Security Area in Panmunjom. Do you have any comment on this incident?

    MS NAUERT: So I think this man – and forgive me, because I may have missed some of the headlines in travel over the past week or so – but I think this man was trying to cross into North Korea from South Korea and he’s been detained by the South Koreans. I think that is where it stands right now. He’s an American citizen. As you know, we can’t say a whole lot about that. If I have anything more for you, I will certainly give it to you if I can, but you know we’re limited in terms of the things that we can say about Americans.

    QUESTION: So what is the Joint – I mean Joint Security Area is target for the U.S. Army? I mean command —

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

    QUESTION: Commander-in-chief in U.S. Army, and they have the responsibility at this area for —

    MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with exactly where he was, when he was – when this man was taken into custody. I mean, I know he was in South Korea, but I’m not exactly certain where within South Korea he was taken. Is that what you’re asking, whether he was within the DMZ or —

    QUESTION: DMZ incident —

    MS NAUERT: Okay —

    QUESTION: — North Korean defector’s shooting by the North Korean army. That incident. You don’t know that incident —

    MS NAUERT: I’m – let me get back to you on that, okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: One more question.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Hold on. Okay.

    QUESTION: This is the state sponsor terrorism issues.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Do you think the President has decided the North Korea – to reassign the North Korea as a state sponsor terrorist?

    MS NAUERT: Well, if a decision has been made, it hasn’t been announced just yet, so I’m not going to get ahead of anything that the Secretary is about to announce on North Korea.

    QUESTION: Optimistic or pessimistic —

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Is State more optimistic —

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to characterize it. I’m just not going to get ahead of the Secretary or the White House on this issue. Just going to hold off until that matter is ready to be decided and announced.

    Okay. Sir, what’s your name?

    QUESTION: Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Ah, okay. Okay, hold on. We’re going to stick on North Korea.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: We’ll get to Ukraine. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. So you’ve been pushing countries all over the world to cut their diplomatic ties to North Korea. We talked about that with Africa. The North Korean Government through their state-run news today announced that their foreign minister has just left on an official delegation to Cuba. Do you have any message to the Cubans about the advisability of them entertaining official delegations from North Korea right now?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t. I’m not aware of that. This is the first I’m hearing of that, so let me just give it some thought and get back to you, okay?

    Anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey, how are you?

    QUESTION: Good. How are you?

    MS NAUERT: Good.

    QUESTION: Do you have any readout of Ambassador Yun’s meetings in South Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on one second. So I know he was – I don’t think I have a readout of his meetings, but I can confirm that he did have some meetings in South Korea. But I don’t believe I have specifics on who he met with. Hold on. I don’t think we do. Robert, do we have anything on that? We don’t. Okay. Yeah, no, I’m sorry, I don’t, other than just to confirm that he was there.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: Could you get one for us?

    MS NAUERT: I will certainly ask, yes. Okay. Hey.

    QUESTION: Follow-up on that: The Chinese sent a delegation or a senior envoy to North Korea at exactly the same time. Was that something discussed while Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson were in China?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, sorry. Okay, North Korea.

    QUESTION: And otherwise that just – and you may be able to address this when you release the readout, but he was quoted by Yonhap as saying that the Chinese envoy being sent had “very significant meaning considering the current situation.” Just wonder if that sentiment is shared by the Secretary.

    MS NAUERT: That he had what?

    QUESTION: He was commenting on the Chinese envoy going to Pyongyang, and he said that that had, quote, “a very significant meaning considering the current situation.” Did – I’m just wondering if you have some sentiment from this building on what you’re hoping to see out of the meeting that the Chinese envoy is having and if you agree —

    MS NAUERT: Well, I wouldn’t want to get ahead of that, but overall I can say China has been – and the President spoke to this in his travel overseas – that China has been helpful. We always look at all countries and say that there’s more that they can do to help on the matter of the DPRK. China has been taking steps in the right direction and we feel positively about that.

    Okay, anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: Yes, North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: It seems there’s a disagreement between the U.S. and Chinese over the idea of a freeze for freeze. The President had come out earlier suggesting that China and the U.S. were on the same page and did not support the idea of a freeze for freeze, and now the Chinese are saying that’s one of the things under discussion with North Korea. You have any response to the —

    MS NAUERT: Well, I know that some countries would like to see a freeze for freeze. I’ll come back to something that I’ve said before: There is no moral equivalency between the actions on the part of the DPRK, and by that I mean missile launches, advanced nuclear tests – there’s no moral equivalency between that and our legal, justified activities when we take part in freedom of navigation operations, for example. One does not – is not equal to the other.

    Our activities between the U.S. and South Korea, for example, are lawful, they’re longstanding, they’ve taken place since I believe it was the 1950s or so, they’re defense-oriented military exercises. What the DPRK has done has been unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs and testing. President Xi himself from China recognizes that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat. A lot of countries like to talk about this idea for a freeze for freeze, but that’s just not going to work. We’ve done these freedom of navigation operations and other things for many, many years. They’re lawful, it’s enshrined under international law, it’s – and that’s not going to change. Okay?

    QUESTION: Was the U.S. caught off guard by the fact that they seem to be coming out in favor of the freeze for freeze after previously suggesting —

    MS NAUERT: Not that I am aware of. It doesn’t surprise me, because Janne, I know you’ve asked about this one a lot. At different points, different countries have raised that idea – oh, maybe this would make North Korea stop. No, I don’t think so. A freeze for freeze would not make – would not likely make North Korea stop its actions or activities.

    Okay. We done on North Korea? Let’s move on. Okay.

    QUESTION: To Iraq?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s go to Iraq. Hi.

    QUESTION: Hi. The Kurdish government has repeatedly endorsed the calls that you and others, like the European Union, have made for Erbil and Baghdad having a dialogue. And the KRG has done various things to facilitate that dialogue, including endorsing the decision of Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court, which ruled against secession. So they essentially said we’re not looking for independence. Yet there is no diplomatic dialogue, the Iraqi air blockade on the Kurdistan region remains in place, there’s a huge Iraqi military force mobilized against the Kurdistan region, which implicitly threatens another attack. Is Baghdad doing enough, in your view, to accommodate your own policy objectives?

    MS NAUERT: So Laurie, you said there is no dialogue and I would have to disagree with you about that, because Prime Minister Abadi has met with the government of Erbil and they have had direct military-to-military talks to try to de-escalate tensions. So there are steps that are taking place, there are meetings, and there are conversations that are being had. That’s a positive step. I feel like we’re having this conversation – the same conversation that we had about a week ago. They are having dialogue between various officials at that level, and we feel that that is a good thing and continue to support the continued dialogue between —

    QUESTION: But Mattis has said no diplomatic or political dialogue and it – between the two parties, and that’s what you are calling for and Baghdad has not been forthcoming.

    MS NAUERT: I know that they have had conversations. The United States will continue to work with and have conversations with Erbil and also with Baghdad.

    QUESTION: Special Envoy – Presidential Envoy McGurk was in Baghdad, he was in Erbil. Did he receive any commitments from the Baghdad Government on starting a political dialogue?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information about his latest travel or when he was there, so I just don’t have anything to provide you on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Ukraine.

    MS NAUERT: Hey. Hold on one second.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about Syria.

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s about – okay.

    QUESTION: Since we’re in the area. With the —

    MS NAUERT: All right, guys. Let’s talk about Syria. Hold on.

    QUESTION: With the Russian veto yesterday in the United Nations of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about what the United States is looking at to replace that so you can continue to keep an eye on the use of chemical weapons —

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: — and who is responsible in Syria.

    MS NAUERT: So Carol, you’re talking about the Joint Investigative Mechanism. We’ve talked about this a few times over the past couple months or so. We were extremely disappointed that the Security Council did not renew the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism. What is so important about this Joint Investigative Mechanism is that that entity, if you will, determines culpability for chemical weapons use. Okay? That is important to know. Not just that chemical weapons were used, but who actually deployed them; which country, which entity has deployed them.

    We see this, the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, as critically important to holding people, individuals, militaries, responsible parties accountable for the use of chemical weapons. We know that Russia once again prioritized protecting the Assad regime. We know that Russia has helped the Assad regime in the past. When they were on the verge of crumbling, its military was, Russia came in and helped them out, and helped strengthen the Assad regime. So we were very disappointed by the vote at the UN Security Council. But – and some of this I want to leave for the United – USUN to handle themselves since they’re the ones who are up there handling this, but Japan has put forward a new resolution to try to extend the Joint Investigative Mechanism mandate. That would be for a month – one month’s period so that members of the Security Council could actually have additional time to consult on the structure of it and also its methods – methodology. And so we want to thank the Government of Japan for doing that and we hope that that will pass.

    QUESTION: Are you looking at any alternatives? That’s what Ambassador Haley seemed to suggest – that there were other entities, other bodies that might be able to do similar work, and if not, there’s always what happened last April.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. That may be the case. I don’t want to speak on behalf of Ambassador Haley’s office, so I’d just have to refer you to her office on that front, but they may be looking at other options as well.

    QUESTION: We have —

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: We are hearing at the United Nations that the Russians are actually maybe putting their foot down on that particular resolution.

    MS NAUERT: On the —

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: On the Japan one?

    QUESTION: Yep, and —

    MS NAUERT: That would be – that would be —

    QUESTION: — are you hearing the same down in this building?

    MS NAUERT: — very, very disappointing if they did that.

    QUESTION: Sorry?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And Lavrov says —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — you’re engaging in fake diplomacy. What do you —

    MS NAUERT: Who is?

    QUESTION: — have to say about that? Foreign Minister Lavrov said —

    MS NAUERT: Fake diplomacy on what?

    QUESTION: On the version of – the U.S. version of Russia not being involved in the draft that Ambassador Haley was talking about.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, that I’d have to refer you to —

    QUESTION: He says that’s just fake diplomacy. Any response?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, and this is another matter where a world leader, a top official, will say something that’s outrageous, ridiculous, and try to get us to comment on it, and I’m not going to comment on that. But I think the Joint Investigative Mechanism is something that’s respected, something that’s valued, a body that takes its work very seriously. They attributed some chemical weapons use to the Government of Syria. Russia obviously doesn’t want to hold Syria to account for some of those activities. Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, on this new meeting of the —

    QUESTION: Yes?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, hold on. Okay.

    QUESTION: During the Asia trip, there was a joint statement issued by U.S. and Russia —

    MS NAUERT: There was a what?

    QUESTION: A joint statement —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — issued by the U.S. and Russia recommitting to the Geneva process —

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: — and there was a suggestion that there was some common ground had been reached on the Syria issue.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Does what’s happened at the UN put that in difficulty?

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, I – we’ve said this a lot. There are a lot of areas where we don’t see eye to eye with Russia, but there are some areas where we do see eye to eye. And it may seem odd because it’s actually in the same country – we’re talking about Syria – where we don’t see eye to eye with the Russians on how they’re handling the Joint Investigative Mechanism. But we do see eye to eye with them on the defeat of ISIS, and that’s the whole reason that the U.S. is engaged along with the coalition allies in Syria to begin with.

    And where we do see eye to eye, as the President and as Vladimir Putin and Secretary Tillerson have discussed, is in trying to create another ceasefire zone. There’s the one – and I talk about it all the time because I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in holding a ceasefire – since July the 9th, I believe it was, of this year in southwestern Syria. So the Secretary and the President and Mr. Lavrov and Vladimir Putin had agreed to trying to put together another one. If we can do that together and find this area of agreement and could potentially bring in more aid and save lives and try to get Syria more stable, try to get it back to a place where people can eventually return to their homes, that would certainly be a good thing. I hope we can get there.

    QUESTION: That’s the ceasefire, but what about the Geneva process?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, the Geneva process. That’s something that we are completely supportive of. We have talked about that for a long time. I know up at the United Nations, as the Secretary met with the likeminded countries on Syria and also with the D-ISIS coalition members separately, that was one of the things that we recommitted ourselves to – the Geneva process. So that hasn’t changed.

    QUESTION: Is Russia your partner in that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I know that we continue to support the Geneva talks. I don’t want to – Russia had agreed to join the Geneva talks. We see that as the longstanding and best road to peace and stability. I hope they will stand behind that and won’t back away from that.


    QUESTION: But yesterday, Ambassador Haley said that Russia cannot be trusted or credible after this —

    MS NAUERT: She said that what?

    QUESTION: Russia cannot be trusted or credible after this veto. What would this – how would it affect the agreement, this?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I don’t want to speak on behalf of Ambassador Haley. She has very, very capable spokespeople who represent her on this behalf. I’ve not seen her exact comments so I don’t want to comment on those. Okay.

    QUESTION: But you said yourself that Russia always prioritize supporting, protecting the Assad regime —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — and this is all – what a political solution is all about. So how would you trust the Russians on seeking a political solution if they always prioritize protecting Assad?

    MS NAUERT: Look, that’s a concern. That’s a concern of ours. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to stop working on it. Okay?

    All right. Move away. What do you want to talk about?

    QUESTION: Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, the Secretary, I believe earlier this week, seemed to express some concern about the corruption investigations and arrests in Saudi Arabia. Has the State Department since then received satisfactory information about how those prosecutions are taking place?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any calls that have taken place between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. We obviously have a good relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia and have lots of various relationships at different levels with Saudi Arabia.

    In terms of the arrests and the proceedings, I’d just have to refer you to the Saudi Government on that matter. They’re a strong partner. We continue to encourage that government to have transparent and fair judicial proceedings and hope that they will do so.

    QUESTION: And there’s also the Lebanese prime minister is reportedly returning to Lebanon. Is this a move the United States supports?

    MS NAUERT: I’d have to refer you to his government and also – I understand he may be going to France – the Government of France on that.


    QUESTION: And one more also. There is a report out of the United Kingdom that there will be a transfer of power in Saudi Arabia to the crown prince next week. Is that something the United States is hearing at all or —

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware of that. I don’t have anything for you on that.

    QUESTION: Hold on.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The second-to-last question was does the United States support Prime Minister Hariri going back to Lebanon, and you referred him —

    MS NAUERT: Oh, I thought you said going back to France.

    QUESTION: He was going back to Lebanon, but he is going via France.

    MS NAUERT: But going via France.

    QUESTION: But you referred us to the Government of Lebanon and the Government of France for what the U.S. Government thinks about —

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? I don’t have anything. I thought he said him going to France. I didn’t hear the Lebanon part. My apologies.

    Okay. I know you’re dying to talk about Ukraine. How are you?

    QUESTION: I want to stay on Saudi, please.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, okay. Hold on. I promise we’ll get to you. Let’s go to – let’s finish up with Saudi first.

    QUESTION: Does the United States have reason to believe the Saudis’ assertions that Iranian missiles are coming in to the Houthis via the port of Hodeidah? First, there are reports that Mr. Hariri – what does the United States have to say about reports that Mr. Hariri is going to Paris? And do you believe that he will stay there in exile or would you want the French to ensure that he goes back to Beirut?

    MS NAUERT: I think we have no idea on that. That one is the one I would refer you to him and also to the Government of France.

    QUESTION: And on the missiles?

    MS NAUERT: In terms of the missiles going in, potentially, that some would say go into Yemen – is that what you’re referring to?

    QUESTION: Are the – does the United States —

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: — have reason to believe the Saudis’ assertions or do you support their assertions that these missiles are going through the port of Hodeidah?

    MS NAUERT: That would be, I think, an intelligence matter so I’m not going to be able to comment on anything related to intelligence. As it relates to ports and also any land bridges or flights in terms of getting aid into Yemen, that is something we are strongly supportive of, we encourage that to take place, for the opening of those. We’ve long called for that so that people can get the aid and the humanitarian help that they need in Yemen.

    QUESTION: So you’re – the United States believes that not all of the ports are open to Saudi – to humanitarian supplies at this time?

    MS NAUERT: We know that there has been an issue with that for months.

    Okay. All right. We’ll talk about Ukraine now.

    QUESTION: Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: And you’re – tell me, you’re with who again?

    QUESTION: Ukrinform news agency.

    MS NAUERT: Ukrainian what?

    QUESTION: Ukrinform news agency.

    MS NAUERT: Inform news agency. Okay. Nice to see you. Yeah.

    QUESTION: So I actually have two questions about Ukraine, two questions. The first one is about today’s news that a journalist of the Ukrainian radio, Pavlo Sharoiko, was arrested in Minsk, Belarus. He was detained last month, in October, but the Belarussian KGB and the government of this country have been keeping silence on that. The other Ukrainian journalist, Roman Sushchenko, has been detained in jail in Moscow for more than one year. We also know other Ukrainian journalists who were persecuted by KGB/FSB. Do you have any comments on the situation?

    MS NAUERT: Sir, I’m sorry I don’t have any information on that. I’d like to look into that and get back to you.

    QUESTION: In general about the detention of Ukrainian journalists outside, in Belarus and Russia?

    MS NAUERT: One of the things that you will hear, and I know we haven’t had a chance to work together very often, but I’m really passionate about the rights of journalists, about the importance of free speech, about the work that reporters do in dangerous conditions all over the world. We firmly believe here at the State Department that in other countries, more voices – more voices contribute to a better, democratic, and more fair society. So if there are journalists who are true journalists who are being detained, that would be a concern of ours, but the specific cases that you’re talking about, I’m afraid I just don’t have any information for you on those cases, but I’d like to look into it for you and see what I can get.

    QUESTION: Okay. And the other question is about the visit of Assistant Secretary of State Mr. Mitchell and his meeting with President Petro Poroshenko and other senior government. Do you have any official remarks, and in general could you comment how do you assess the level of and the cooperation with Ukrainian Government?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, a couple things. So our new Assistant Secretary Mitchell – I don’t believe you all have met him yet, have you? Okay, I’d like to bring him down to the bullpen and introduce you all to him someday soon. I think you will enjoy him.

    I have a little bit of information about the trip that he just returned from. I believe he’s now back in Washington. He went to Belgium, France, UK, Germany, Poland, and also Ukraine, and I’ve got a bit of a readout on some of his meetings, if I can go through this for you.

    In the UK, Wess Mitchell had constructive meetings in London on November the 9th at the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices and Her Majesty’s Treasury. He discussed a wide range of topics with UK officials and emphasized the United States’ commitment to continue building on the strong relationship between our two countries.

    In Germany, he had meetings with senior government officials in Berlin. Assistant Secretary Mitchell reinforced the importance of transatlantic relations and our close continued cooperation with Germany on international issues of mutual concern, including Iran, Russia, and the DPRK.

    In Poland, he visited there November 11th through 14th. He took part in independence day observances and other civic and cultural events. He had frank and positive exchanges of views with Polish Government and opposition members, and had the opportunity to discuss concerns with representatives of the American business community and of Polish civil society.

    And then in Ukraine, as you asked about, November 14th to the 16th, Assistant Secretary Mitchell met with senior government officials in Kyiv, included President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Groysman, and parliamentary leaders. He reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and encouraged Ukraine to continue implementing crucial reforms, critical reforms. He also met with business leaders and reformers from civil society to urge them to redouble their efforts to transform the country into a prosperous, secure, and democratic European state.

    Thank you.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I go back to Zimbabwe for a second?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Sure.

    QUESTION: So the Secretary in his comments this morning on Zimbabwe said that he, or the United States and others, would like to see a return to civilian rule in Zimbabwe. That is language that suggests that you believe that a coup d’etat has happened. Is that the case? Is that what you guys think?

    MS NAUERT: So we certainly wouldn’t use that word. That word has a very specific meaning. We continue to monitor the situation there. It remains fluid. We don’t have a final assessment of that situation; and as facts become more clear, then we may be able to make an assessment.

    QUESTION: Well, does he – does the U.S. believe that Zimbabwe right now is not under civilian rule? He talked about the return – a return to civilian rule.

    MS NAUERT: I think I would just say we have concerns about the situation and we are continuing to monitor it.

    QUESTION: All right. And then related to Zimbabwe, you opened up with a little thing about Guatemala and INL.

    MS NAUERT: A little thing? A little thing.

    QUESTION: A little opening thing. I wasn’t – it wasn’t intended to be a —

    MS NAUERT: You make it sound so cute, Matt.

    QUESTION: About INL doing work in Guatemala.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Well, INL – there’s an office within INL that you might be aware of, which is a wildlife trafficking office. Okay? And this is related to Zimbabwe.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: This office within INL works very closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service to combat wildlife trafficking. As you are probably aware, the Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to start licensing the taking of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. And Chairman Royce of the House of Foreign Affairs – Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has come out with a statement within the last couple hours vehemently opposing this, saying that not only is it questionable on conservation grounds because of the inability of the Zimbabwean Government or questions about the Zimbabwean Government’s abilities in that area, but it also will spark trafficking in wildlife parts and trophies, which he says and other say, including in this building, it goes – the funds from that finance terrorism.

    So I want to know, one, did the Fish and Wildlife Service communicate at all with the office – with the State Department office which deals with wildlife trafficking on its decision? And if it did, or even if it didn’t, what does this building think about that decision to allow the licensing of elephant trophies?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me look into whether or not Fish and Wildlife under the Department of Interior was in touch with us. I don’t have the answer to that.

    I can tell you that the State Department recently released a new report – some of you may be familiar with this – it’s called the END Wildlife Trafficking Act. It was a report to Congress. The – and this is what I can share with you about that, that the State Department worked with other agencies on a task force to put together this wildlife trafficking report. There were countries included on this list. Our government – I believe Zimbabwe was – was or was not on that list? Was not on that – was not on that list.

    This is something that was put together as a sort of an interagency process. I know this is different than what you are asking me about. You’re asking me about the decision on the part of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. I’ll just have to get back to you on whether or not they consulted us.

    QUESTION: All right. And then unrelated to that completely, does the administration have any comment on the legislation that was introduced earlier this week by Congresswoman McCollum and others regarding Palestinian children – protection of Palestinian children?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that. I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: And if not, could you look into that? And then, last one.

    MS NAUERT: Have you got that one – Palestinian children? Okay.

    QUESTION: I have been asking for some time about this case in Bahrain —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — about Sayed Alwadaei. Do you have any updates on that, on the situation with that court case?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have much new on this. So a couple things on this. Sayed Alwadaei, he’s a London-based activist who’s been very critical of the Government of Bahrain. He alleges that three of his family members were convicted because of his outspoken voice and because of his activism in calling out the Government of Bahrain.

    So we understand that three of his family members were sentenced – at least two of his family members were sentenced to three years in prison by Bahrain court on October the 30th for terrorism-related offenses, so very serious offenses, and that another family member of his was sentenced on a lesser charge in Bahrain.

    So that’s a situation that we’re monitoring. We’re concerned by those allegations. We have heard that their confessions were obtained under duress. That would certainly be a major concern of ours. We’re following the cases closely, and that’s all that I have for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay. So you have been in touch with – with the Bahrainis about this, or not?

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you that we were not at the – we were not at the trials in Bahrain. We try to be at sort of high-profile trials, as we have been in other countries. I don’t know why we weren’t able to join that one. But I can tell you we continue – we always continue to raise issues of human rights concerns with the government.

    QUESTION: When you say that you’re concerned by the allegations, you mean you’re concerned by the allegations against his family members, or you are concerned by the way in which they have been treated in the judicial system?

    MS NAUERT: We are – we’re concerned – we’re concerned about the detainment of these people. We’re concerned about allegations that they would potentially, if this were to be the case, be sentenced because of the actions of a family member, because a family member criticized the government. If would concern us if those family members of his were detained.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: And the confessions under duress, I presume, would be as well?

    MS NAUERT: Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

    QUESTION: All right, thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Yes.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Can I just turn to Zimbabwe for —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: The Secretary said that there would be an opportunity to – for Zimbabwe to move towards democratic rule. So if it works out that way, could this military takeover have been a good thing?

    MS NAUERT: I’m just – I’m not going to – I’m not going to go there on that one. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: It’s our understanding that South Africa and China were informed in advance. Was the United States informed in advance of the military’s plans?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the answer to that. Okay, all right, guys. We’ve got to wrap it up. I got to go.

    QUESTION: The Secretary also said it was a chance to talk about concrete actions that the African ministers and the – presumably the U.S. could take to help this transition. Do you have anything to say about what concrete actions that might be?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t. Sorry. Thank you. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:47 p.m.)

    [1] Government

    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

Statement by Spokesperson Clayton M. McCleskey on the Dissolution of the Principal Opposition Party in the Kingdom of Cambodia

Friday, November 17, 2017

The U.S. Agency for International Development expresses its gravest concern at the decision of the Supreme Court of Cambodia to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).  The action is politically motivated, and represents a deliberate attempt by the Government of Cambodia to deny Cambodia’s second largest party – which received 44 percent of the vote in the June 2017 commune elections – the right to participate in the country’s 2018 National Elections.  The Cambodian government’s disenfranchisement of millions of its citizens undermines fundamental principles of democracy and rule of law, and endangers Cambodia’s economic prosperity and international standing.

USAID Administrator Green’s Meeting With Chief Executive Officer For The Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

Thursday, November 16, 2017

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green met Wednesday with the Chief Executive Officer for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, to discuss USAID’s civilian assistance programs in Afghanistan, and the on-going implementation of the Administration’s broader South Asia strategy. Administrator Green reaffirmed USAID’s partnership with the people of Afghanistan to invest in their secure and prosperous future.

A Day in the Life of a CIA Cartographer

Featured Story: The CIA’s Directorate of Analysis (DA) provides the president and senior policymakers with written intelligence assessments on national security issues. The DA is relying increasingly on cartographers to help analysts visually communicate complex intelligence stories. DA cartographers produce reference maps and map folios, thematic maps that illustrate intelligence stories, and interactive multimedia products for intelligence assessments that go to policymakers. Here is the story of a cartographer who found his dream job at CIA.

USAID Administrator Mark Green’s Remarks at U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Today, I’m announcing that we are expanding the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation from its initial pilot roster of four countries to 20, and we’re especially excited because we believe that the new Alliance focus countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Sri Lanka — they represent some of the most exciting opportunities and some of the most important emerging export markets worldwide.

This is good for business, but we believe it’s just as good for development. Nothing attacks poverty, nothing lifts lives, nothing pushes back against hopelessness and despair, nothing better than inclusive economic growth. So, I hope the crux of my message is clear. The future of international development is enterprise-driven, and we at USAID, working with all of you, we will embrace it.

USAID Announces $18.4 Million in Support of Cutting Edge Innovation

Monday, November 13, 2017

Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program announced $18.4 million in support of 18 new grantees. The grantee organizations — the majority of which are new USAID partners — span seven sectors and nine different countries, from Brazil to Zambia. 


Since 2010, USAID-supported DIV innovations have collectively benefited 25 million people living in poverty. For every U.S. taxpayer dollar spent, we have generated $4 in funding from outside investors, lenders, and philanthropists. The new grantees include:

USAID Administrator Mark Green to Deliver Remarks at Corporate Citizenship Conference

Monday, November 13, 2017

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green will address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference on November 14 at 9:30 a.m.

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – November 9, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 9, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • IRAQ


    3:01 p.m. EST

    MS NAUERT: Okay, good afternoon. Thanks, everybody, for coming today.

    A couple announcements that I’d like to make at the top, and let’s start in Venezuela right now. The Maduro regime’s stranglehold on democracy tightens daily. Yesterday the illegitimate Constituent Assembly launched its newest tool to suppress freedom of expression in Venezuela, including for the press, with its passage of a new law designed to suppress dissenting voices. The regime put the law into effect immediately. As long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as a dictatorship, we will continue to bring the full weight of the American economic and diplomatic power to bear in support of the Venezuelan people. This is why the United States today announced targeted sanctions against Venezuelan Government officials involved in ongoing efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela.

    They have committed acts of fraud, censorship, and corruption designed to silence the opposition and secure victory for regime candidates. As a result of today’s actions, the assets of these individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them. The United States will maintain sanctions on designated Venezuelan Government officials until they break from Maduro’s dictatorial regime and support the restoration of democracy and constitutional order. We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to destroy Venezuela’s democracy and rob the Venezuelan people of the prosperous future that they deserve.

    Something that happened in Greece today that concerned us tremendously, and that is Greece released a convicted terrorist from the group November 17. We would like to condemn the release of the convicted terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas, who was set loose on a two-day furlough from a Greek prison. He’s been convicted of multiple murders, including those of William Nordeen, a defense attache at the U.S. embassy, and also United States Air Force Sergeant Ronald Stewart. Our embassy in Athens has conveyed our serious concerns about this decision to the Government of Greece, and that is Dimitris Koufodinas. In the past when some of these November 17th people who have been convicted of murder have been let out on furlough in the past, they’ve disappeared, so we obviously have some concerns about that.

    QUESTION: Just on that, your understanding is that it was just two days and then he’s supposed to report back?

    MS NAUERT: That is our understanding; but based on previous experience, we’re concerned that he won’t return.

    Next I’d like to mention an entrepreneurship program for some young people. We had the pleasure of hosting nearly 250 business and social entrepreneurs from 36 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean here at the State Department yesterday for the Closing Forum of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellows Program, or YLAI. Over the past five weeks, the young entrepreneurs have been placed in American businesses and organizations in 24 cities across the country. They had a chance to see how we do business and share our own best practices, and they did with us as well. The results from that experience are new partnerships and networks that will serve to strengthen economic ties between our countries and exchange best practices for the benefit both of the fellows and their host organizations.

    A couple examples I’d like to provide you. Dominican Republic’s Roniel Toribio has a maker’s space where he supplies everything from 3D printers to sewing machines for client use. Fuse Integration and FabLabs in San Diego hosted Roniel and helped him develop his project and process management skills.

    Now, in keeping with the administration’s support of women entrepreneurs, 53 percent of this year’s YLAI fellows are women. In Uruguay, Veronica Rodriguez is developing a collaborative winery with the aim of producing exceptional wines. First Colony Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia hosted Veronica as she developed her skills and production processes and improved her business model. We expect that they’ll return home to their countries and be able to bring some of their newly learned knowledge back home.

    And then finally, a lot of us aren’t going to be here tomorrow, right? Veterans Day. And so I just want to take a moment to recognize the veterans who serve in the State Department and those in the Armed Forces who protect our embassies in the U.S. Marine Corps overseas. The Department of State is proud to honor Veterans Day this year and the contribution of our military veterans, including nearly 7,000 veterans of the State Department’s workforce. Veterans serving at the State Department represent all military services and serve across the spectrum of our workforce, including the Civil Service and the Foreign Service around the world. We value the diversity of our veterans that they bring to the department, including their unique skillset, backgrounds, leadership, and esprit de corps.

    This week the department held two events to honor our veterans, including the 15th Annual Roll Call, where we invited employee veterans and veteran supporters to state their military affiliation, whether it be their own military service or acknowledging military service in their families, and a Veterans Day commemoration event to highlight the theme of veteran resiliency. That’s where our Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan delivered remarks recognizing the countless contributions of our veterans and the valuable experience and expertise that they bring to the State Department.

    On my way down here in the elevator there was a man who introduced himself to me, and he said he was a part of this Roll Call yesterday. And so I asked him which branch of the service he had served in. He said he was in the Air Force in 1967, I think to 1970. And I said, “What are you doing tomorrow on Veterans Day?” He said, “I’m working.” Somebody here has to keep the building in order. So, sir, thank you for your service. And to all our veterans who serve at the State Department here and around the world, we thank you for your service. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to the men and women who have served in our United States military and who continue that legacy of service today.

    And with that I’d be happy to take your questions.


    QUESTION: Thanks. Hi. Let’s start with the Middle East and things Saudi-related.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Has the Secretary had a chance to speak with any Saudi officials? And if he has, what is the message that the administration, through him at least, is trying to send to them?

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary —

    QUESTION: On the various situations that we have going on – the domestic situation in Saudi, the Yemen situation, and the Lebanon situation.

    MS NAUERT: Understood. Let me start here. Secretary Tillerson spoke with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir yesterday. Let’s see – wait, no, I’m sorry. It was Tuesday. He spoke with him on Tuesday. I’m not going to be able to provide a whole lot about that conversation for you. I know that’ll be to the frustration of a lot of you in the room.

    I can tell you part of the conversation included our recognition that Saudi Arabia is a strong partner of the United States. We continue to encourage the Government of Saudi Arabia to pursue prosecution of corruption in a fair and transparent manner. That’s something that we stress not only with Saudis but with other governments as well. In terms of whether – how these prosecutions may be going in the future, the Government of Saudi Arabia would have to address that.

    As you know, Secretary Mattis spoke with his counterpart, the President spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia a few days ago, so we’re in constant communication with the government.

    QUESTION: On Yemen?

    MS NAUERT: In terms of Yemen, one of the issues that the Secretary has followed closely is the humanitarian situation in Yemen. We’ve seen tremendous food shortages in Yemen. We’ve talked about how this is really a man-made situation there. We’ve seen the cholera problem as well. The announcement that the ports were being closed down or limited in terms of some of the supplies is an area that’s of concern to us, because the Yemeni people are not the ones at fault for their situation. We would like to see food aid, medical equipment, and all of that be able to be brought into the ports. That is a key area where that – the supplies and the food aid are able to get in. We would like to see that open so that people are not suffering any more.

    QUESTION: Well, is it fair to say that you have made that – or that the Secretary or others have made that clear to the Saudis?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think this is something – that’s a part of a series of ongoing conversations. We have often had conversations with people in the region in addition with the Saudis about our concerns about the humanitarian situation. The United States has contributed a lot of money to the humanitarian situation there, so we’d like to see that opened up so people can get their supplies.

    QUESTION: But this isn’t —

    QUESTION: Just to follow up on this point —

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: Just to follow up on this point —

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: — on Yemen.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I mean, it’s not only the ports but also the airspace, the borders – the complete closure.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So we can understand what you said clearly —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I don’t know the percentages of what comes through in terms of the ports versus —

    QUESTION: Okay. But you are calling on the Saudis to open the borders and open the ports so the Yemeni people can receive these humanitarian aid and so on?

    MS NAUERT: We believe that there should be unimpeded access.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Unimpeded access for commercial and humanitarian goods to get into Yemen.

    QUESTION: And you’d like to see this happen immediately?

    MS NAUERT: That hasn’t changed. I mean, we called for that months ago, and we would call for that again today.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Just to clarify, do you —

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Barbara.

    QUESTION: Hi there. So do you support the call by the UN yesterday to open the borders immediately for humanitarian aid?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the UN comments in front of me, so I’m not going to comment on those.

    QUESTION: They called for the airspace and the ports to be opened immediately; otherwise there would be a famine greater than seen in many decades.

    MS NAUERT: Look, that has been a concern of ours, that this could —

    QUESTION: I’m just – do you support the call?

    MS NAUERT: — hold on – that this could develop into a famine. It’s close. There is tremendous food insecurity in Yemen right now. Some have said that this could be the top humanitarian disaster in the world. I don’t know that we’ve assessed that personally and can actually make that designation, but I have certainly heard that.

    I think what you’re saying, that has come out of the UN, is consistent with our overall concerns, our overall concerns about getting humanitarian aid and also medical supplies into the people of Yemen.

    Okay. Anybody else on Yemen?

    QUESTION: On Lebanon.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Saudi —

    MS NAUERT: Wait, hold on.

    QUESTION: Staying on Saudi —

    MS NAUERT: Yemen – okay. We’re done with Yemen.

    QUESTION: Saudi, Lebanon, go ahead.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, on Lebanon and Saudi. Did Secretary Tillerson spoke with the – his counterpart about the situation in Lebanon? The status of Prime Minister Hariri – have his – has he got assurances about he’s free to go back to Lebanon or not? And did you – do you plan to take some warnings to your U.S. citizens about going or staying in Lebanon, since Saudi Arabia asked them – their citizens to go back?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, let me take that last part first. I believe we have a Travel Warning – and I want to double-check this, but I believe we do have a Travel Warning that is in effect right now for Lebanon, as we do many countries around the world. Robert and Catherine, if you would be kind of enough – Frankie – to double-check on that one?

    QUESTION: I think there was one issued in September. I don’t believe that it —

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay, we’ll just double-check. I just want to make sure.

    QUESTION: Okay. So there has been nothing new as of now?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe there is anything new on that, but there are many countries that we have Travel Warnings for. So these guys are going to double-check on it while we continue our conversation, and I’ll get back to you on that before we go.

    QUESTION: Yes —

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Wait, I didn’t finish answering the question.

    QUESTION: The situation in Lebanon and —

    MS NAUERT: The overall situation in Lebanon.

    QUESTION: And the prime minister.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So I addressed the part of U.S. citizens who may be there. I want to mention that our charge d’affaires, who’s serving in Saudi Arabia – his name is Chris Henzel – he met with Prime Minister Hariri yesterday, so had a chance to speak with him. I cannot provide you with a readout of that conversation or any specifics of it, but we have seen him. In terms of the conditions of him being held or the conversations between Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister Hariri, I would have to refer you to the Government of Saudi Arabia and also to Mr. Hariri’s office.

    QUESTION: Sorry. You said the conditions of him being held. Is he in detention?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to put that word – I’m not going to associate that word with it. But where he is right now —

    QUESTION: Where is he? Does he have a nice room at the Ritz Carlton? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I can’t – I don’t know personally where he is.

    QUESTION: Or is he at another —

    MS NAUERT: I’ve heard different reports; I can’t confirm where he is. But where he is right now —

    QUESTION: Well, where did the charge meet him?

    MS NAUERT: He met him – I don’t think I’m —

    QUESTION: Don’t say he —

    MS NAUERT: I don’t think I’m permitted to say that, but I will double-check on that.

    Okay. Yeah, hold on.

    QUESTION: So in your view, is he free to leave? Is he free to go back to Lebanon, submit his resignation?

    MS NAUERT: For that – listen, I have not had a chance to talk to our charge about that meeting. A lot of this is going to be under sensitive, private, diplomatic conversations right now because it’s a sensitive time, as I’m sure you can understand. So they had a meeting. I can just confirm that meeting; I don’t have the details to provide you, and I will see if I can double-check and find out where exactly that may —

    QUESTION: Do you see his —

    QUESTION: But was it brought up in Secretary Tillerson conversation with his counterpart, Saudi counterpart?

    MS NAUERT: The issue was brought up, yes.

    QUESTION: Do you feel that – do you feel that —

    MS NAUERT: Okay? But that’s all I have.

    QUESTION: Heather, does the U.S. —

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: Do you feel that his resignation —

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Guys, guys, guys hold on.

    QUESTION: I’m sorry. On Lebanon. Do you feel that his resignation and this heightened rhetoric may lead to a war, or is war inevitable against Hizballah and in Lebanon? And what would be the American advice in this —

    MS NAUERT: Said, I’m not going to go there. These are all very sensitive matters, and we’re not going to get into hypotheticals at this time right now. Yeah, okay.

    QUESTION: So what —

    MS NAUERT: Did you have something on Lebanon?

    QUESTION: Just quickly on that. Does the United States have a comment or support the decision to resign by the prime minister?

    MS NAUERT: That is something – an internal matter that we wouldn’t comment on.

    QUESTION: So you can’t comment on comments to Reuters by two cabinet members of Lebanon who say that Mr. Hariri is being held against his will?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to – look, I’ve not seen the comments on the part of those two Lebanese cabinet members. We have government officials from all around the world who are always giving press statements and quotes that we’re not necessarily going to comment on.

    QUESTION: So stay – but staying on Lebanon, there is a Travel Warning. Do you know if there are any preparations to update it, to modify it, to issue a new one?

    MS NAUERT: Not that I’m aware of, but I’m having my colleagues check on that. There is a Travel Warning. It has been in effect since February 2017.

    QUESTION: Right. I understand that.

    MS NAUERT: In terms of whether there is something else in the works —

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: — that I don’t know. If there is something, we’ll bring it to you, okay?

    QUESTION: And Heather, also on Lebanon, is – the French President Emmanuel Macron is traveling to meet with the Saudi crown prince. Is that something that the United States is coordinating with the French? Does the U.S. believe there needs to be greater international coordination with everything that’s happening within and surrounding?

    MS NAUERT: That I’m not aware of.

    QUESTION: Question on also —

    QUESTION: More follow-up, also on Lebanon.

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government considering changing how it deals with the Lebanese Government, given that Mr. Hariri says that he was threatened by Hizballah and the government, and the Saudis have – no longer see the distinction between Hizballah and the rest of the government? Is there any discussion about whether the U.S. will change its stance to the Lebanese Government?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe there is. I don’t believe there is.

    QUESTION: No discussion?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Lebanon?

    QUESTION: Yeah. Me.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: One question, please.

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: Heather, several country in the region, among them Kuwait, called their people to leave Lebanon, and that happened today after Saudi Arabia did so, the same. Speculation in the region that there is something coming up in terms of fighting war in Lebanon. Are you concerned – first, do you have any comment on that speedy development in calling other people to leave?

    MS NAUERT: Sure. I – we would just say we’re monitoring the situation very closely. Our – we have a good relationship with Prime Minister Hariri, with the Government of Lebanon. As you all know, he was here earlier this year, where he met with the President, and Secretary Tillerson was a part of that. I do not anticipate that our relationship will change as a result. We’ve watched the news and seen the news that some countries are making the decision to encourage their citizens to leave the country. That is something that a country has the right to do. We often will do that with our citizens, whether it’s —

    QUESTION: But are you concerned?

    MS NAUERT: — through travel alerts, travel warnings, or asking them to leave a country. Countries have the right to do that to protect their citizens, if that’s why they would choose to make that —

    QUESTION: Yeah. But that concern you under the circumstances?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, look, we would call for no kind of escalation of any sort of threats or something in that arena. But we also recognize that a government has the right to communicate with its own citizens. That’s about sovereignty. They have a right to be able to suggest that their citizens leave if they do not feel that their citizens should be there.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I get a follow-up on the Secretary’s conversation with the Saudi foreign minister? Did they discuss the intelligence that they have showing that they believe the missile that was launched into Riyadh was an Iranian missile? Was the Secretary at all moved in his position as to still evaluating? Is there any progress on that?

    MS NAUERT: I – that would be an intelligence matter, so we’re just not going to get into it, okay? I’m sorry.

    Okay. Let’s move to another place.

    QUESTION: One more Saudi question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I do one more Saudi question?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Sure.

    QUESTION: Okay. So last year, the U.S. started working with the minister of justice in Saudi Arabia, trying to kind of like basically revamp, transform their judicial system. Is that something that’s still going on now? Or has it been impacted by what’s happened recently?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, so some of the – some things that predate my time that are so into the nitty gritty, I’m just not aware of whether or not —

    QUESTION: I guess there’s no reason it would have been curtailed though?

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you this. Concerns about corruption in the Saudi Government, within members of the government, is not something that’s new. We have followed that closely. We continue to follow that matter, but in terms of whether or not that is still taking place, what you just mentioned, I’m not aware of it.

    QUESTION: Can you look into it though?

    MS NAUERT: Certainly.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Let’s move on. Laurie, let me guess: Iraq.

    QUESTION: Oh, you got it. Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: All right.

    QUESTION: Last week, the Iraqi parliament approved in principle a law that would allow child marriages for girls as young as nine years old and that would impose Shiite jurisprudence on all Iraqis. Today, an MP in the Kurdistan region parliament rejected it, saying that it’s unenforceable in the Kurdistan region because the Kurdistan region has its own laws. What’s your comment on the Iraqi draft law?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So often we don’t comment on draft legislation; often we don’t comment on other country’s legislation. But we are completely against and oppose the idea of children marrying adults. And let’s remember, it was not that long ago that we called out the depravity of ISIS for taking child prisoners, child brides, and the sort. Some of this will be an internal Iraqi matter, but we remain firmly opposed to the idea that any adult would attempt to marry a child in that fashion. A child is a child.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Iraq again? Iraq?

    QUESTION: One more question. The Iraqi Central Bank has said that all Iraqi banks operating in the Kurdistan Region have to halt their operations. What is your comment? This seems like a form of economic warfare, like sanctions on Venezuela, which you just announced. So what is your comment on a decision like that?

    MS NAUERT: I saw a report on that earlier today. We can’t confirm that report just yet, so at this point it’s simply a report. I’d have to refer you to the Kurdistan Regional Government and also the Iraqi Government on that. Sorry, I don’t have anything more for you on that.

    QUESTION: Back on this child marriage thing.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Do you know, have your – has your opposition to this legislation been made clear to the Iraqi Government and parliament?

    MS NAUERT: We have a lot of conversations with the Iraqi Government. I would imagine that our view on this is well known. I know our ambassador over there meets with them a lot. Our primary conversations taking place with Iraq right now concern the territorial integrity and democracy of Iraq. But whether or not this has been brought up, that I just don’t know. I know that this issue has come up in its parliament before and it’s had – it’s failed in the past. So I’m not going to speculate where this is going to go.

    QUESTION: Iraq again?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: What – hi. What is your position on the ongoing crisis between Baghdad and Erbil, now that Baghdad is still unwilling to sit with the KRG officials after they freeze the results of the elections and Barzani stepped down?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I know they’ve been talking, so I’m not sure —

    QUESTION: That was the —

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure that I —

    QUESTION: — their security —

    MS NAUERT: — would agree with the premise of your question. I know they’ve been talking. We certainly see dialogue as a good thing, a good thing to get Iraq sort of back together again and have a peaceful resolution and a peaceful situation so that we can go back – all of us, including the members of the coalition – to the fight against ISIS.

    QUESTION: The talking is between the Peshmerga commanders and the Iraqi Security Forces. It’s not on the level of the two governments, between KRG and Baghdad.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m sorry. I don’t have anything for you on the particular militaries having conversations.

    QUESTION: Are you doing any sort of mediations between Baghdad and Erbil in —

    MS NAUERT: We’ve had a lot of conversations. I can refer you back to a lot of days of our press briefings here, where we’ve talked about and covered the conversations taking place between Erbil and Baghdad, and the U.S. worked to help support that. I know our Secretary Tillerson has had conversations in the past, with the Barzanis in the recent past, and also with Prime Minister Abadi. Our ambassador is doing that virtually every single day, if not every day, and there are lots of people who are engaged in this.

    Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Afghanistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, Nazira. How are you?

    QUESTION: Hey, how are you? Yes, any comment about Brussels conference, and also NATO has plan to send —

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, the first part was what?

    QUESTION: Brussels conference. We call Bruxelle. NATO conference. NATO has plan to sending 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Do you think that this amount is useful and solves the problem?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m sorry I’m not going to have an answer for you on that, because when it comes to troop issues and bringing additional troops to Afghanistan, that would fall under the Department of Defense. Overall, we recognize that – and remain very concerned about the security situation in Afghanistan. We talked about this the other day, where two reporters – I don’t know if you knew them; let me express our condolences to you for that, because you are from Afghanistan, you are a reporter – two of those reporters who were killed working for the television station there in Afghanistan.

    The security situation there is very, very challenging. We recognize that more needs to be done to help bring peace to Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs to be committed to a peaceful resolution, but in the long term, this government doesn’t believe that a military situation is what is going to resolve the peace issue there, and that’s going to have to be between the government and various negotiations and conversations.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. Okay. Hey, Cindy.

    QUESTION: Hi. With Turkey’s prime minister here – and the White House put out a statement saying that Vice President Pence expressed concern about American prisoners in Turkey, and I know that the Turkish prime minister before had said about Turkish citizens here who are – there are court cases and things like that. Do you have any updates on the discussions and what came out of that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So first let me say the Vice President has done such a terrific job, and I mean that in the most respectful way, of highlighting some of the issues that are so important not just to Americans but to fundamental democracy, human rights, and also religious liberties. I know that the Vice President was pleased to have welcomed the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

    I have a readout; many of you have seen it. If you will, just indulge me and I’m going to read it out for those folks overseas who may be reading a transcript later so that they have it, because they may not have access to what you have access to. So here we go:

    At the White House today, Vice President Mike Pence met with the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to reaffirm the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Turkey. The leaders expressed hope that their meeting would help usher in a new chapter in U.S.-Turkey relations and agreed on the need for constructive dialogue as friends and allies on bilateral challenges. They highlighted the United States’ and Turkey’s mutual interest in stability and security in the Middle East and agreed to further intergovernmental consultations toward that end.

    The Vice President also thanked the prime minister for Turkey’s contributions to global security in the fight to defeat ISIS, and he underscored the U.S. commitment to stand with Turkey against the PKK and other terrorist threats. The Vice President expressed deep concern over the arrests of American citizens, our Mission Turkey local staff who worked for our embassy there – or who still do work, journalists, and also members of civil society under the state of emergency, and urged transparency and due process in the resolution of their cases.

    I was not in that meeting so I can’t provide you any more than this readout, but I do know the Vice President is very passionate about the cases of Americans who are being detained in Turkey. That would include Pastor Brunson; I know that’s an issue he’s brought up in the past. I don’t know whether or not that was brought up today. I certainly imagine it would have been, though.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Turkey? Okay. Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: Can we move on to the Palestinian-Israeli issue —

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: — for a little bit? The Israelis have closed many Palestinian media outlets, harassed journalists, arrested – took licenses and so on. I wonder if you have any comment, because you do consistently express your support for freedom of expression and you urge not to violate that freedom.

    MS NAUERT: Well, thank you. Thank you for mentioning that. It’s an important thing to me and I think to all of you as well. We’re certainly aware of the reports and aware of what has taken place there. I’m going to have to refer you to the Government of Israel for specific questions about that.

    But as an overall matter, as you referenced, we put out a statement the other day about protecting the rights of a free press and journalists. We believe that more voices rather than fewer voices contribute to the overall health of a society and a country, whether it’s a democracy or not. We prefer those voices being heard. But beyond that, I’d just have to refer you to the Government of Israel.

    QUESTION: And I have one more question.

    MS NAUERT: Certainly.

    QUESTION: The Israeli Channel 10 said that former Secretary of State John Kerry has put the blame on the Israeli Government and on Prime Minister Netanyahu for not reaching a peace settlement with the Palestinians when he was secretary of state, that the Palestinians on their part tried all they could. And I wonder if you have any comment on that or whether the current Secretary Tillerson has spoken with his predecessor on this matter.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not aware if Secretary Tillerson has spoken with former Secretary Kerry on this matter or any other matter for that matter. It is – Israeli-Palestinian peace is an extremely important issue to this President and to this administration. I know the President, through Mr. Kushner and also through Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, are trying to forge something there. They are flying over there a lot and having an awful lot of meetings to try to bring both sides to the table to try to forge for – forge ahead with some sort of peace agreement. Okay.

    QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So this current State Department does not have any comment on the conduct of the former State Department?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Look —

    QUESTION: Or you won’t say?

    MS NAUERT: It has bedeviled many secretaries of state – the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Lots of secretaries, lots of administrations have wanted to get this done and have not been able to do so. I know this President is very – is reinvigorated by the idea of trying to accomplish this in his administration. I know he’s optimistic. If he were not passionate about it, he would not have put his son-in-law and also Special Envoy Greenblatt in charge of this. They are spending a lot of time there.

    I can just tell you that they are optimistic about the overall chances to get something resolved. It’s obviously a delicate matter. Both sides have to be willing to come to the table; both sides need to be willing to make some sacrifices. That’s what it’s like when you’re going through negotiations. So we remain hopeful, and we’ll keep working on it.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay?

    QUESTION: So this building and the Secretary is comfortable with the White House having delegated the entire effort —

    MS NAUERT: No, they haven’t —

    QUESTION: — for Middle East peace —

    MS NAUERT: They haven’t —

    QUESTION: — to the President’s son-in-law —

    MS NAUERT: They haven’t – okay, I will say – I will say a couple things.

    QUESTION: Well, I – that’s what you just said, right?

    MS NAUERT: Well, the State Department – no, I said putting them on this matter. The State Department always backs people in their meetings. When we have members of Congress who are headed on a CODEL going to any given place, the State Department backs them on those meetings, meaning we brief them ahead of time, we attend those meetings, we debrief them, we’re engaged in every step of the way.

    There are more than enough world events going around, there’s enough to share. I wish there weren’t enough to share. I wish it were something that we could – that we could accomplish right here in this building, but there’s a lot of stuff going on. So we’re happy to have other people help with the work. Okay?

    Hey, Carol.

    QUESTION: Hey. So in recent days, several senior officials in Russia’s national security and military establishment have called for President Putin to order the reopening of military bases in Cuba and Vietnam. What do you think of that?

    MS NAUERT: Who has called for this?

    QUESTION: Several officials in Russia in – both in – senators and a couple of the defense ministry officials as well.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I – this is – I’m hearing this for the first time. I have not had a chance to ask any of our folks about that. It wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Why wouldn’t it surprise you?

    MS NAUERT: That’s just my personal opinion. I mean, that they would want to – well, that they would want to – I’m not going to speculate. Okay? I’ll leave it at that. (Laughter.)

    Okay, hi.

    QUESTION: On North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: There’s a report out today suggesting a diplomatic negotiation between the U.S. and North Korea, suggesting that there might be the opportunity for a dialogue if there is no military action taken within 60 days. Do you have any response to that report?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, so I certainly saw that report, some comments made by – allegedly made in an off-the-record session. We certainly hope that our people could have the freedom to speak in an off-the-record fashion, but I think overall, the President and the Secretary have been very clear about where we stand on the issue of North Korea. We support the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We do not seek regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime. We do not seek the accelerated reunification of the Korean Peninsula. And we don’t seek an excuse to bring our people north of the 38th Parallel. Those things are all very clear.

    In terms of talks, the President and the Secretary I think have been very clear on this matter that now is not the time for talks. At some point, if North Korea is showing that it is serious in its interest to denuclearize, perhaps we could look at doing that, but they’re still not showing any sign of seriousness on that matter.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    QUESTION: There hasn’t been any progress necessarily in that direction?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think there’s – I think there has been progress in terms of the sanctions. The Secretary spoke to this, I believe the President touched on this last night as well, that we’re starting to see the maximum pressure campaign work. We’re starting to see that sort of squeeze on the North Korean economy. Those things can take time. We just saw some additional sanctions announced on the part of the Republic of Korea and also Japan. We’re pleased with that. We continue to ask more countries to do more to try to choke off that money supply that goes to North Korea, so we’re hopeful that that will keep working. The President in his meetings with President Xi was given some assurances that they are adhering to UN Security Council resolutions and that they’ll fully implement them. So we expect them to adhere to that, we think that they have taken some positive steps in the right direction – China has – but of course, countries can always do more on that.

    But in terms of your overall question about talks, we’re not there yet. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS NAUERT: Hey.

    QUESTION: In August, after a 25-day window where North Korea hadn’t fired any missiles, the Secretary said he was encouraged; he praised North Korea and he said it looked like they were showing restraint.

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: We’re now in a window of 56 days, I think it is —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — where they haven’t fired any ballistic missiles, conducted any nuclear test. Do you see that as a sign of restraint? Do you think that that’s a – there’s an opening in there?

    MS NAUERT: Gosh, I’d go back to something I think of when I’m at home. When my son Peter doesn’t hit my son Gage, I don’t praise him for exercising restraint in not hitting his brother. Matt before gave the cookie jar example. This one is actually a better example. I’m not going to praise one for not hitting the other.

    Look, we’ve got a long way to go on this. The Secretary has even said himself when he acknowledged that North Korea – and I don’t recall the exact word he used, but when he acknowledged that North Korea hadn’t shot off any missiles for a certain period of time, that he was perhaps being overly optimistic at the time. He’s acknowledged that publicly and certainly here at the department as well. We hope North Korea won’t do it. We hope they won’t take any escalatory actions. We would like to see more of a period of quiet. That’s all I’m going to have on that. We just – we hope that this will continue, that this period will continue.

    QUESTION: Is there – previously he said we’ll know – we’ll see – we’ll know it when we see it.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Is that – does that still stand, or is there a barometer of how long?

    MS NAUERT: I think since we first talked about knowing it when we see it, North Korea has in the recent past taken more escalatory actions. So I think I’ll just go back to what we’ve said, and now is not the time to sit down and have talks. We’d like to at some point if the time is right, but the time’s not right yet.


    QUESTION: When did Peter and Gage acquire nuclear weapons? (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: I feel like my kids have nuclear weapons, yes. I feel like they do sometimes.

    QUESTION: Okay. Because perhaps this – I mean, has there been some escalation between the two kids that is —

    MS NAUERT: Between the children?

    QUESTION: — that is somehow equivalent to what’s been going on between —

    MS NAUERT: Matt, let me just say you are so lucky that you have a daughter, because we spend a lot of time in the emergency room. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: So maybe you should praise them for not hitting each other.

    MS NAUERT: Maybe I should praise them. I’ve got the parenting thing all wrong. I’ll take my cues from North Korea. (Laughter.) Okay.

    QUESTION: Syria. We haven’t talked about Syria for —

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: — for the —

    MS NAUERT: By the way, they’re coming tonight. Anybody want to babysit? No? Said, you’re a grandfather. Come on.

    QUESTION: I’d be a great grandpa.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So anyway —

    MS NAUERT: Sorry, guys. We can have fun here once in a while, right? Okay.

    QUESTION: You talk about Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Today the Syrian army has cleared the last – the last hurdle in the fight against ISIS in the Bukamal area, which is on the Iraqi-Syrian border. It’s Tal Afar on the Iraqi side; it’s the same town. So update us on your efforts and your activities. There’s also political engagement with Astana, and there is a prelude to Geneva, so just sort of —

    MS NAUERT: Sort of overall? Overall where are we?

    QUESTION: The overall situation, where we are.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Starting from today, let me just mention Brett McGurk is in the region. I don’t know if we have sent out any information from – on that. We have. Okay. So he is in Brussels today meeting with Secretary of Defense Secretary Mattis and their counterparts to talk about the overall global coalition’s contributions to the contributors in the D-ISIS coalition, which now is 73 governments and also various entities that take place in that.

    So let me just give you a little bit of information on that meeting. That is taking place on the sidelines of a NATO meeting. Brett McGurk will brief defense leaders on the civilian lines of effort that are part of our overall campaign to defeat ISIS, including the post-liberation – pardon me – stabilization. We expect that he will return to Washington tomorrow.

    So that – that’s a little bit of information to give you right now. Overall in the fight against ISIS, Raqqa has been the big campaign that we have been engaged in. Ninety percent, we assess, of the territory that ISIS held in Raqqa has now been – excuse me, pardon me. With Mosul plus Raqqa, combining Iraq and Syria, 90 percent of the territory that ISIS once held has now been liberated, which is a tremendous, tremendous feat. We still have a long way to go.

    A lot of people have been asking questions about Secretary Tillerson and the President and whether or not they will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So let me just mention to you that if they were to – and we don’t have any meetings to announce, because that was not a part of the official schedule – an issue that we are interested in having conversations about is looking for new ceasefire zones.

    I continue to go back to the success we’ve had, the coalition has had, with the ceasefire zone that’s held since July – a tremendous success. If we can get to another ceasefire zone, that helps get us closer to the Geneva process. We are not a party to the Astana process. We support the Geneva talks led by Staffan de Mistura. We believe that the Geneva process is the right way to go under the UN Security Council resolutions and that ultimately the people of Syria will decide who is going to lead that country. But go back to saying, once again – unfortunately, it’s a long way off, but we’re getting a little bit closer to that point. The fight is not over; the fight is still going to take quite a bit of time. Caution everybody on patience on that, but we’re plowing ahead with it.

    QUESTION: Follow up?

    MS NAUERT: Laurie, Sure.

    QUESTION: Yeah. Said’s question about Albu Kamal, on the – on the Syrian side it was Syrian forces, the Syrian army. On the Iraqi side, because it was also liberated from the other side, it was Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, headed by Qais al-Khazali, who was in prison – I meant to ask about him last time. I apologize. You were right; I asked about the wrong person. He was imprisoned in Camp Cropper for killing Americans.

    MS NAUERT: I know, I know. I know.

    QUESTION: The House has legislation designating him and his organization as Iranians’ proxies and terrorist organizations. What is your comment about the involvement of such a group? It’s very prominent in the Hashd al-Shaabi, the popular mobilization units. What is your comment about such a group doing such a thing, which is important to the Iranians in terms of creating that land bridge to the Mediterranean and to Lebanon?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. We certainly recognize the destabilizing influence of Iran. We recognize this, Israel recognizes this, Saudi Arabia recognizes it – a lot of countries do. And if you talk to some of our friends in the Middle East, they will be among our staunchest advocates in saying – in agreeing with the United States that Iran is a real problem and Iran brings with it – the government does – some pretty bad things to follow. Iraq has a – an agreement that militia units should serve under the prime minister, under the Iraqi central government. That is supposed to be the law. We certainly hope that Iraq would continue to maintain that.

    QUESTION: Do you think it was in effect when Qais al-Khazali took Albu Kamal from the Iraqi side, that the prime minister was enforcing his writ?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t want to comment on that. I mean, that would – some of that would just be in Department of Defense’s lane. Okay.

    QUESTION: Follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: All right, guys. We’ve got to wrap it up.

    QUESTION: Syria. What is your reaction to threats made by the regime, the Assad regime, to attack positions of U.S. partners, SDF?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. We are in Syria to go after ISIS. The United States supports the Syrian Democratic Forces as being a key unit or units that are battle-tested, comprised of locals – Arabs, Christian, Turkmen, all of that. We support the Syrian Democratic Forces, and they’ve done a tremendous job in liberating Raqqa. And that’s all I have for you on that.

    Okay, folks. We’ve got to go. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:43 p.m.)

    DPB # 63

    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

USAID Administrator Mark Green Travels to Delaware to Participate in USGLC Conference

Thursday, November 9, 2017

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green will travel to Wilmington, Delaware on November 13 to participate in the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Conference Closing Session entitled “America’s Role in the World: Why Leading Globally Matters Locally” with Senator Chris Coons.

November 10, 1997: Killer of CIA Officers at HQs Convicted

Blog Post: On November 10, 1997, a jury in Fairfax County, Virginia, found Pakistani national Aimal Kasi guilty on one count of capital murder, one count of first degree murder, and three counts of malicious wounding—charges that stemmed from his shooting rampage at the entrance to CIA Headquarters in 1993. For many CIA officers, however, a more satisfying moment had come several months earlier when DCI George Tenet informed them that Kasi had been apprehended after a four-and-a-half-year manhunt and returned to Virginia to face justice for murdering and maiming their colleagues.

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – November 7, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

November 7, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • CUBA


    3:11 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: I’ve got a couple pieces of news I want to bring in, then I’d be happy to take your questions. First I want to start out with a Millennial Challenge Corporation announcement and say we are pleased to announce today that our Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Stephanie Sullivan joined the Millennium Challenge Corporation Acting CEO Jonathan Nash and the President of the Cote d’Ivoire as they signed the $525 million MCC compact. It’s a five-year grant with Cote d’Ivoire. It is a major economic, political, and cultural hub in West Africa and one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and a strong U.S. security partner in the region. Cote d’Ivoire exemplifies the MCC effect, MCC’s ability to spur reforms before a dollar of U.S. taxpayer money is spent. After passing only five of 20 policy indicators in 2013, the government adopted MCC scorecard and its roadmap for reform.

    In Fiscal Year 2017 the nation passed 14 of the indicators. MCC’s Cote d’Ivoire compact is designed to spur private investment and economic growth, to reduce poverty, and support stability in West Africa. MCC’s investments will support building workforce capacity by expanding access to secondary education and training and improving the transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate trade and open new markets for goods. The MCC is an innovative U.S. Government agency created to fight global poverty in select poor countries with a demonstrated commitment to good governance. Reducing global poverty creates a more stable, secure world with more opportunities for economic growth both at home and abroad.

    Secondly, I’d like to announce something pretty neat that our embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan is doing in conjunction with the city of Austin, Texas. They are now developing a platform for collaboration between entrepreneurs and startup incubators in Austin and in Pakistan. The primary goal of this program is to help incubators collaborate on projects that will strengthen and enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystems in their communities. Through a series of mentoring and networking events in Austin, Texas, U.S. and Pakistani entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to U.S. investors and venture capitalists.

    As a result of the events, Austin-based venture capital firm 1839 Ventures committed $20 million venture capital fund to continue work with participating incubators. The $20 million venture capital fund will allow partnerships with U.S. incubators to continue to grow and provide U.S. investors and venture capitalists with a unique opportunity to expand into untapped markets for funding growth-stage investment in Pakistani businesses. It’s one example of how the United States is committed to working with countries to foster entrepreneurship and innovation worldwide. We’re looking forward to furthering this goal at the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India, and that takes place later this month.

    Two more announcements to make, and then I will be happy to take your questions. Next, I’d like to go to Ukraine, where in eastern Ukraine two water filtration plants have been subjected to shelling in recent days. It is considered especially dangerous because some shells have fallen as close to as 50 meters from chlorine gas storage tanks at the facilities. A hit on the tanks would cause a major catastrophe, gassing people at the plant, possibly even those in nearby towns, as well as disrupting the supply of clean drinking water in the area.

    The Minsk agreements call for a full ceasefire along the line of contact, a ceasefire that Russian-led forces have never fully respected. We call on the Russian-led forces to implement a genuine ceasefire and especially to cease shelling around the filtration plant and withdraw heavy weapons to the agreed-upon lines. We also urge Ukraine to show restraint and to do everything within its power to implement the Minsk agreements.

    And finally, you know I like it when we have visitors in the room. We have some young ladies in the back of the room today, and they’re from the Girl Scouts. So I’d like to welcome the group of Ambassador Girl Scouts from McLean High School – they’re in Virginia. They join us at the briefing today. They are studying public policy, and I understand you’ll get a badge at the end of the day; you’ll get a public policy badge for cooperating, for participating? Great.

    QUESTION: We don’t get a badge.

    MS NAUERT: I know.

    QUESTION: For staying awake. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) For staying awake. Oh, Matt. Is it that boring?

    QUESTION: No. It was a joke.

    MS NAUERT: Goodness gracious. Well, ladies, we’re so happy to have you here. You’re welcome any time. Okay. So I’ll go ahead, take your questions, and we’ll see if we can keep Matt Lee awake today. By the way, you are a big celebrity in Bangladesh. I got lots of questions about you.

    QUESTION: I am?

    MS NAUERT: You are.

    QUESTION: Well —

    MS NAUERT: The rest of you, sorry, not so much.

    QUESTION: — I’m sure not as big a celebrity as you are.

    QUESTION: You get a badge today.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Where would you like to start today?

    QUESTION: I would like to start in Saudi Arabia.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: What is your understanding of what is going on there? Has the Secretary made any calls to find out what is going on there? Precisely, does the State Department agree with what appears to be the President’s full-throated endorsement of what’s going on?

    MS NAUERT: Let me start with the situation over there. We continue to encourage Saudi authorities to pursue the prosecution of people they believe to have been corrupt officials. We expect them to do it in a fair and transparent manner. We call on the Government of Saudi Arabia to do that. I’m not going to have a lot for you on this matter. In terms of the President’s comments, I would just have to refer you to the White House and to the President for his comments on that. And that’s about all I’m going to have for you.

    QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch with the foreign minister or anyone else?

    MS NAUERT: I will check on that for you. I just returned last evening from my trip, so I will check on whether or not the Secretary has been in contact with his Saudi counterparts.

    QUESTION: But many of those, they have had long relationships with the State Department, with —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — in fact, with Secretary Tillerson before he was Secretary Tillerson. So how does that impact him in any way? I mean —

    MS NAUERT: I guess I would just say that we have a good relationship with many Saudi officials. We have a close cooperation with the Saudi Government. As you know, Secretary Tillerson and the President were in Riyadh earlier this year. We had a lot of areas of agreement. Among the things that the Secretary and the President were pleased to announce was the counterterrorism center, the more moderate sort of type of Islam center that was set up in Saudi Arabia. So we have lots of things that we can work on together. We encourage them – and I just want to say this one more time – to pursue any possible prosecution or corruption cases in a fair and transparent manner.

    QUESTION: Does the increased rhetoric that we hear from Saudi Arabia and Iran – does it concern you that maybe we’re headed towards some sort of confrontation between the two powers in the region?

    MS NAUERT: I think I would just have to refer you back to the White House for that portion of it. We’re watching the situation very closely, very carefully. We’ve had a longstanding good relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia.

    QUESTION: And my last one, I promise. There has been a news item that President Hadi of Yemen has been placed under house arrest with his sons and so on in Saudi Arabia. Are you aware of that?

    MS NAUERT: I have not seen that report.

    Okay. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Are the Saudis pursuing this in a fair and transparent manner?

    MS NAUERT: Go – just hold on. Michelle. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Are you still with Saudi?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yeah. So did the U.S. get any heads-up on this?

    MS NAUERT: We did not.

    QUESTION: Even though Jared Kushner was on his trip there recently? I mean, did he have any discussion about this?

    MS NAUERT: I have not spoken with Mr. Kushner, nor have I spoken with his office to ask that question. I know we did not have a heads-up that that was going to happen, though.

    QUESTION: Okay. And I know that – so we’ve heard the support from the President on the corruption. We’ve heard his support in the past even on the situation towards Qatar. But now when we hear Saudi say that they’re going to treat Lebanon as if it’s declaring war and they’re going to see this Houthi missile as potentially an act of war by Iran, what is the U.S.’s stance on those kinds of statements?

    MS NAUERT: Well, in terms of what happened, in terms of a launch into Saudi Arabia, that is a situation that we’re continuing to assess right now. We don’t have a full determination on who is responsible for that.

    QUESTION: So the State Department is not in agreement with your – the UN ambassador, or —

    MS NAUERT: Let me pull up Nikki Haley’s quote here, because – Ambassador Haley’s quote, pardon me – because she didn’t ascribe full responsibility. She said the one that was shot down over Riyadh on November 4th “may also be of Iranian origin.” In that comment she was referring to a earlier Iranian missile that was shot back in July of 2017. We’re just not there yet, and she didn’t say that either. We just don’t know who is responsible for that yet.

    QUESTION: Well, if it is – I mean, and there are some who believe that it definitely was based on the evidence that’s there —

    MS NAUERT: Sure. It very well may be.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: We’re not there yet. We haven’t made that determination.

    QUESTION: But if it was an Iranian missile, for Saudi Arabia to be saying that this was an act of military aggression on the part of Iran and that it could be an act of war, what – how does the State Department view this? I mean, would you support —

    MS NAUERT: I think I would go back to what I frequently say about hypotheticals, and it’s a hypothetical, so I’m just not going to get into that at this point. But we’ll keep watching this. As we learn more information, we’ll have more for you on it.

    Okay. Arshad, go right ahead. Do you have something on this?

    QUESTION: Yeah. Is – does the State Department regard – does the State Department believe that Saudi Arabia is pursuing its anticorruption actions, including those – the detentions over the weekend, in a fair and transparent manner?

    MS NAUERT: I think if they choose to go ahead and prosecute these cases, we expect – we certainly anticipate that they would do it in a fair, just, and transparent manner.

    QUESTION: But are – but is the detention of these people in and of itself, leaving aside the question of subsequent prosecution – is the detention of these people being handled in a fair and transparent manner?

    MS NAUERT: I can only go back to what the Saudi Government has said, and the Saudi Government – and I can’t speak on their behalf, but they have laid out a case that these officials were guilty of corruption of – alleged corruption of some sort. So I’m not going to go beyond what the Saudi Government has said. We’re not there on the ground to assess the cases of these individuals, so I’m not going to have any more for you on that.

    QUESTION: But you are there on the ground. I mean, you have an embassy; you have contacts with this. Can I finish?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we certainly do, but we’re not there involved with those cases, Arshad. So I’m not going to have a lot for you on this.

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: We are continuing to monitor the situation. They have assured us[1] that any prosecutions that take place will be done in a fair and transparent manner, and we hope that they will hold up to that.

    QUESTION: And then following up on Michelle’s question, is it helpful for the Government of Saudi Arabia to assert that it regards actions by two different —

    MS NAUERT: Sorry, actions by —

    QUESTION: — by two different countries or players in two different countries as acts of war – is that helpful? Is it helpful for it to say that it regards unspecified actions by Hizballah as acts of war, and similarly, to regard the missile as an act of aggression? Does that help?

    MS NAUERT: Well, look, I think we have to look at the region in which they live. When we talk about concerns about terrorism and destabilizing forces in the region, there’s no one that knows that better than some of the countries in that backyard. And so I think it’s natural. I mean, imagine this: There was a missile shot into Saudi Arabia. The believed target was the airport or somewhere close by the airport. Imagine if that had happened here in the United States. It’s shocking. I don’t think it should surprise any of us that the government would consider that to be a potential act of terrorism. But beyond that, I don’t have anything more for you, okay?

    QUESTION: My question, though, is about whether it’s helpful. Let’s take the case of Lebanon. Is it helpful for the Saudis to say they regard unspecified actions by Hizballah as acts of war from – you talk about the region; it’s a region with a lot of ferment. Is that helpful, from the U.S. Government’s point of view, to hear that rhetoric?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think we also know the kinds of activities that Hizballah has been responsible for. I mean, as Americans – and we have talked about this here before – the Marine barracks bombing, responsible for killing hundreds of Americans. Our Vice President went out to one of our Marine barracks here not too long ago to honor those that were killed. So it should be no surprise that Hizballah is a terror organization. It should be no surprise that Saudi Arabia is upset when a missile gets launched into its territory. That’s all I have for you on that, okay?

    QUESTION: If Hizballah is a terrorist organization, what about Kata’ib Hizballah in Iraq, headed by a man who the U.S. authorities had imprisoned at Camp Cropper for killing Americans? Isn’t that also a terror organization?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, Laurie, I know. You and I, we covered this about a week and a half ago. I’d just have to refer you to back to what we said at that time, okay? I don’t have anything new for you on that.

    QUESTION: Sorry, Heather, you – in one of your responses to Arshad —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — you said “they have assured us” that they will handle these cases in a fair and transparent manner.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Who did they – when did they give you this assurance and who offered it?

    MS NAUERT: I have been told – I don’t know who, but I’ve been told that that has been their pledge.

    QUESTION: So there has been some kind of contact at a senior level or some level since —

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know at which level, but I know that there have been conversations that have —

    QUESTION: — since the arrests or since the detentions.

    MS NAUERT: I know that there have been conversations. Conversations have taken place.

    QUESTION: All right. And then just last one: Do you have any thoughts at all about the rather interesting location of detention that these people are being held?

    MS NAUERT: No, I have nothing for you on that.

    QUESTION: One of the —

    QUESTION: Heather, on —

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, on —

    MS NAUERT: Shall we move on? Hi.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Just on Saudi Arabia really quick —

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: — when it comes to the internal problems going on or the – or whatever is going on in Saudi Arabia on top of Yemen, Lebanon, with Iran, does this Secretary, the State Department believe that this provides a greater incentive or bolster the case for the issue with Qatar to be settled, for —

    MS NAUERT: Well —

    QUESTION: — Saudi Arabia to come to the negotiating table?

    MS NAUERT: — I certainly think it – I think it – certainly think it brings home to many players in the region that there are some very serious issues that they’re dealing with, that we’re dealing with. We have followed the GCC dispute since – when did it first begin, May or so? How many months has this gone on? We still call upon all the parties to sit down and work out some sort of an arrangement because we see that if they’re not fully cooperating and working together, that the region can become further destabilized. So perhaps what is going on now will be sort of a wakeup call for the nations to work together and come to sort of a —

    QUESTION: And (inaudible) —

    MS NAUERT: — get some sort of resolution.

    QUESTION: And the Secretary made it seem like it was up to Saudi Arabia to come to the table and discuss, that Qatar was a willing party and the others were not.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Look, Qatar has said that it’s willing to sit down and start negotiations. I don’t recall where the Saudis are on this for that matter, but I can check with our folks to see if there are any updates for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Heather, were you surprised by the resignation of —

    QUESTION: But given – given the Saudi role in that —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — and given the Saudi role in the war in Yemen, does the State Department not have some concerns that the current Saudi policies are themselves contributing to destabilization?

    MS NAUERT: I think we know exactly where the responsibility lies in the region for much of the destabilization, and we’ve seen the activities of Iran. We’ve seen the activities of Iran in Yemen. We’ve seen the hand of Iran in Syria. We’ve seen the hand of Iran elsewhere. Where Iran – where Iran’s government – and I should be clear about saying that because we don’t take issue with the Iranian people. We take issue with the government of Tehran. Where they show up, trouble tends to follow. Okay.

    QUESTION: This sounds like full support for everything Saudi is doing.

    MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying let’s recognize the region that they are in. Let’s recognize the destabilizing factors that are in that region.

    Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Would you comment on the resignation of the Lebanese prime minister from Riyadh?

    MS NAUERT: With what?

    QUESTION: Would you comment on the resignation of Saad Hariri, the —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — Lebanese prime minister, and doing it from the venue in which he did, which is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia?

    MS NAUERT: Oh, in Riyadh, you said.

    QUESTION: In Riyadh, yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay, apologies. Look, we have had a good relationship with the Government of Lebanon. As you may recall, the prime minister was here meeting with the President. It was – I believe it was in the month of June[2] that he visited the White House and did, I believe, a press conference with the President. Our relationship with the government will not change. We’ll continue to just follow and monitor the situation there. Okay.

    QUESTION: Well, many of your allies would like to see a government or a future government of Lebanon that does not include Hizballah, but in fact, the facts on the ground would dictate otherwise because they represent a large portion of the Lebanese population, and in fact, they keep that formula on balance, so to speak. So what is your – what is your position on that, on —

    MS NAUERT: Well, they certainly have some representation on the ground there in Lebanon. Lebanon overall is a strong partner of the United States. They have strong national state institutions in the war on terror. The United States strongly supports the legitimate institutions in the Lebanese state. We expect all members of the international community to respect fully those institutions and the sovereignty and the political independence of Lebanon.

    QUESTION: Does that —

    QUESTION: So you would not insist on a future government of Lebanon that excludes Hizballah?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – we strongly support the Government of Lebanon, and we do regard, as you well know, Hizballah to be a terror organization. Okay.

    QUESTION: Does that statement of support mean that there is no consideration, given the current uncertainty, of any kind of reduction or pause in assistance to the Lebanese army?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any changes, but you could ask DOD if there’s something more on that.

    QUESTION: Do you believe —

    QUESTION: Were you guys given a heads-up on —

    MS NAUERT: Hi.

    QUESTION: — the resignation?

    MS NAUERT: I do not believe that we were. Let me double-check that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay. All right.

    QUESTION: Do you believe —

    MS NAUERT: Shall we move on?

    QUESTION: Just to follow up —

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.

    QUESTION: — on Saad Hariri and the – actually, on that question, it overlaps a bit. As you said, he was here in June, he met with the Secretary, he met with the President; warm words were said about him in public. He has now stepped down apparently because Saudi Arabia felt that he was – that his government was a front for Hizballah and Iranian influence.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not —

    QUESTION: Do you think you were being taken in by this?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not – I’m not going to be characterized – I’m not going to characterize why this decision was made. I could refer you to him and refer you to his government to answer that question, but I’m just not going to —

    QUESTION: Are you disappointed that he didn’t give you a heads-up or the Saudis didn’t give you a heads-up?

    MS NAUERT: All I can say – and I’m just checking my notes here to answer your question – no, we were not aware that he was going to resign beforehand.

    Okay? Let’s move on. Laurie. Hi, what do you want to —

    QUESTION: Do you believe that by supporting Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq that that is a way to contain Iranian influence in the region?

    MS NAUERT: I think there are numerous ways to contain Iranian influence in the region, and one of them is a step that Prime Minister Abadi has recently taken, and if you look at the relationship, they’re strengthening the relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia. That’s a real step in the right direction. They’re all Arabs there. You’ve seen Saudi Arabia reopen the land crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia that had been closed for many years. They’re taking steps. They’re taking steps in a positive direction. When we were at the United Nations, the Government of Saudi Arabia and others talked about helping to finance some of the big, major reconstruction projects in Iraq. We just saw a report that came out – I think it was in the news earlier today – about the level of devastation in Iraq, understandably so, because there’s been the big battle fought against ISIS over the past few years.

    So there’s going to be a lot of money that’s required to rebuild Iraq, and the fact that some of those nations are willing to take that on is pretty incredible. It was just not that long ago that the United States was paying for all those big reconstruction projects. Times have really changed. We’re helping out, certainly, but governments in the area are stepping up and they’re helping.

    QUESTION: Do you see the Saudis as your partner in containing Iranian influence in Iraq through things like paying for reconstruction?

    MS NAUERT: I think we have – we have some shared interests, and we have some shared interests in terms of terrorism, and fighting terrorism, and recognizing the malign influence of Iran in the region and around the world and other terror groups. We would like to see peace and stability in Iraq. We’d like to see peace and stability in Syria and elsewhere. And I think to the extent that we can work together with Saudi Arabia and with other nations, then we’re better off as a result.


    QUESTION: Okay, if I could just follow up then. The – on the stability in Iraq. The Iraqi – the KR – the Kurdish Regional Government has warned about – that Iraq is deploying heavy weapons, including U.S. weapons, to the front lines with Kurdish forces while the talks are continuing, and it doesn’t really look like Baghdad is so interested in a peaceful settlement. What is your – what is your comment on the deployment of weapons against the —

    MS NAUERT: Laurie, I would disagree with your assertion, first of all, okay? Last time we were here together was – I think it was a week ago today. And think about the change that has come in the past week alone, where you have had the Kurds and the Iraqi central government sitting down and actually having conversations together. It was not that long ago that they were firing weapons at one another. So the fact that they’re willing to sit down and have a dialogue – something that we have been encouraging for weeks now – I think is a step in the right direction. We applaud those steps. We look forward to more conversations between them so that they can try to come to some sort of an arrangement where they can adhere to the constitution. We have had our ambassador, Ambassador Silliman – he was recently up meeting with Mr. Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, in – just a few – I believe it was just a few days ago up in Erbil.

    So I think some positive steps are being made.


    QUESTION: Okay. What —

    MS NAUERT: All right, Laurie, this is not the Laurie show today, okay? Some days it’s a Matt Lee show, some days it’s Laurie’s show —

    QUESTION: Change of subject?

    MS NAUERT: — but let’s move on. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Can we go to South Asia?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. So —

    QUESTION: There was another terrorist attack in Afghanistan, on a news channel.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Do you think the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, the South Asia policy is no longer working?

    MS NAUERT: First, I want to say the South – the South Asia policy is new. We are optimistic that we can make some progress. I mean, think about the number of years that U.S. and coalition forces have now been in Afghanistan. Think of all the lives that were lost, the blood that has been shed, the money that has been spent in Afghanistan. We are committed to trying to find a peaceful solution to Afghanistan, but recognize that the Government of Afghanistan will have to play a big part in that.

    Secretary Tillerson, as have our military officials, talked about how over the past 16 years there have been 16 one-year plans, and now we see this, instead of one-year plans changing every single year, as being a solid, fortified plan to push forward in the future. So we’re optimistic about that.

    Now, you asked about today’s attack in Kabul. For those of you who are not aware of it, it was an attack on a television station that was called Shamshad. It took place in Kabul. We believe a couple of its employees were killed there. This is not the first time that journalists have been attacked in Kabul.

    Folks, as reporters yourselves, as a former reporter myself, we deplore any acts of violence on the media. I know some like to get snarky in here and talk about – not in this room, but in the press, The Washington Post in particular – about my support for the work that you do, my support for the First Amendment, the support that we put out for journalists across the world who are doing difficult jobs under very difficult conditions. We are so lucky here in the United States that reporters, by and large, do not face death threats; that you can write whatever you want to write even though the government may not like it. But that is not the case in many parts of the world, and we’ve seen that here in Afghanistan once again.

    Remember, we saw a woman in Turkey whose throat was slashed. She had been a reporter in Syria. We don’t know who’s responsible for that, but it’s pretty clear that that was terrorism. It is disgusting; it is wrong. And we will continue from this room – I will continue to advocate for the rights of journalists, whether it’s in Afghanistan, whether it’s in Syria, or whether it’s in Turkey. So I’m glad that you asked that question about that today. Our commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering and our thoughts and our prayers go out to those who were – who lost their lives in Afghanistan just trying to do the work of putting the word out there.

    QUESTION: Well, what was the snark that you’re – I mean, we can tell – tell us —

    MS NAUERT: Someone in The Washington Post wrote a snarky article about how I defend reporters – free press, how I report the free press.

    QUESTION: I have —

    MS NAUERT: That was basically it. And I think, you know what, that is what we do here at the State Department. We support and advocate for freedom of speech.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: And if somebody wants to make fun of me for that, have at it.

    QUESTION: I missed it.

    MS NAUERT: But that’s what we do right here. That’s what we care about. The work that you do, I value it; my colleagues value it. And that’s something that we value across the world.

    QUESTION: I have another South Asia-related question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Afghanistan today?

    QUESTION: Another South Asia terrorism-related question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Last week China blocked at the UN Security Council a U.S., Britain, and France-sponsored resolution to designate a Pakistan-based terrorist, Azhar Masood, as a terrorist. What do you have to say on that? And what’s the next step U.S. is trying to follow on it?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Remind me, this is a – he’s a Pakistani, correct?

    QUESTION: Terrorist – yes, yes. China blocked that, 1267.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you. We’ve got a lot of countries involved there, so somewhere – sometimes I’m not always sure where exactly to look for my notes. Here we go.

    QUESTION: Under for B for “bad guys.”

    MS NAUERT: B for “bad guys,” there we go. Okay. So you were talking about the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar, is that correct?

    QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. We are aware of this matter. We certainly think that he is a bad guy. We would like to have him on that list. There are some committee discussions that are underway over whether to add him or the entity to the sanctions list. That list is confidential under the United Nations, so unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to comment on the deliberations at the United Nations under that. I’d have to refer you to the Chinese Government to explain why they voted the way they did, but we certainly think that this guy is a bad guy. We consider the organization to be a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Heather, on immigration really quick.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Sure.

    QUESTION: So the administration’s decision to end protections for Nicaraguans in the country and extend those to those from Honduras – how much of a role did the State Department play in this, and why end protections for one and extend for another?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So a lot of this is under Department of Homeland Security. The State Department does have an – play an interagency role in this matter, so the State Department, other agencies all work together, but this is largely a Department of Homeland Security program. I can tell you that our Acting Assistant Secretary Elaine Duke announced on November the 6th – that was yesterday, right?

    QUESTION: Acting secretary.

    MS NAUERT: Acting, thank you.

    QUESTION: No, no, acting secretary, not assistant secretary.

    MS NAUERT: I’m used to saying assistant secretary, so pardon me. Thank you. She announced yesterday her decision to terminate the temporary protected status designation for Nicaragua. People from Nicaragua here in the United States have a year to be able to work out their situation. She concluded that additional time is necessary to assess the country of Honduras, so I’d have to refer you to her office as to why that determination was made.

    Overall, I can tell you the name itself explains a lot of it: temporary protected status. This was put in place 20-some years ago as a result of some naturally – natural occurrences that took place in Nicaragua and Honduras and other places – flooding, hurricanes, that type of thing. So I believe the government looked at the situation there on the ground and assessed that it is no longer unsafe in that way and that people should be allowed to head back home. So beyond that, I’d just have to refer you to the acting secretary’s office for that.

    QUESTION: And just really quickly, is this the type of situation that Secretary Tillerson himself participates in? Does this rise to the Secretary’s level?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’m not sure, but beyond that, just in terms of the interagency stuff, I’m just not going to be able to comment on some of those deliberations. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I —

    QUESTION: Could I ask a follow-up on that, just —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: So I know you may not be able to answer this, but was the acting secretary’s determination consistent with what the State Department recommended?

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


    QUESTION: Can I move on —

    MS NAUERT: Said, let me —

    QUESTION: — to the Palestinian-Israeli issue? Very quickly.

    MS NAUERT: Let me call on some other people, okay?

    QUESTION: Sure. Go ahead.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Because it’s not the Said show, either. (Laughter.) Come on, I like you.

    QUESTION: That’s all right.

    MS NAUERT: All right. All right, we’ll do it. Let’s go. Go on.

    QUESTION: Really very quickly, last week the Israelis denied entry to a Palestinian American —

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: — who works with Amnesty International, under the pretext that he is – he does advocacy against – are you concerned that Israel may be using two different scales in terms of treating Americans? Should – do they treat all Americans the same when they enter into the country?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve certainly seen that report about the Amnesty International person who was stopped at a crossing last week. We are always concerned about the safety and security of Americans. My understanding is that he is a U.S. citizen. Beyond that, I’d just have to refer you to the Government of Israel for any information.

    QUESTION: Right. But you would expect Israel to treat all Americans the same way, right?

    MS NAUERT: Would I expect – I would expect Israel to treat Americans in —

    QUESTION: All Americans who travel there, at least, anyway.

    MS NAUERT: — accordance with the law, certainly. Okay? All right.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    QUESTION: On climate and Paris Agreement.

    MS NAUERT: On climate. Okay.

    QUESTION: Government from France said today they have invited 100 head of states and government to their conference summit in December in Paris, but not President Trump.

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

    QUESTION: And the same day, we learn that even Syria is to join the Paris Agreement. So do you think that United States and their President should be present at such an event? And don’t you fear that America is more and more alone on this topic?

    MS NAUERT: Well, first of all, I find it ironic that the Government of Syria, okay, would say that it wants to be involved and that it cares so much in climate and things like CO2 gases. If the Government of Syria cared so much about what was put in the air, then it wouldn’t be gassing its own people.

    As some of you may know, our Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon will be joining a meeting later this month in Bonn, Germany, in which we will – right, in Bonn? Is it this week? Okay. Sorry, I’m off on my dates a few – a little bit. But he’ll be joining that meeting, representing the U.S. delegation in Bonn. And – pardon me?

    MR GREENAN: Next week, sorry.

    MS NAUERT: Next week. Okay, okay. So I’m not totally crazy on my time. That is the Conference of Parties, the COP 23, at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Under Secretary Tom Shannon is leading the U.S. delegation on that.

    In terms of our overall position on the Paris Agreement, as you may well know, nothing has changed in our position. We will still follow the President’s decision on that matter. The United States looks at that, and we intend to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as we’re eligible to do so, unless the President – and he’s been very clear about saying this – unless he’s able to identify terms of engagement that he feels are more favorable to American businesses, workers, and taxpayers.

    QUESTION: Do you know – is that something that Under Secretary Shannon is going to be exploring while he is leading the U.S. delegation?

    MS NAUERT: I don't know. I haven’t asked him. I saw him – he was in Bangladesh. We spent a little time together there, but we did not talk about this issue.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: I can certainly see if I have something on that.

    QUESTION: And because he’s leading the U.S. delegation, so this is a State Department delegation, essentially. I mean, are there other agencies represented?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’ll find out.

    QUESTION: Because I’m just curious, because not only did the Syrians say that they would join, and whether or not you think it’s ironic or ridiculous, whatever, but —

    MS NAUERT: I mean, seriously, come on. Syria joining? Syria really cares?

    QUESTION: Well, it is another indication of America First being America alone, is it not?

    MS NAUERT: No, Matt. No.

    QUESTION: You had a vote in the UN last – two weeks ago. It was —

    MS NAUERT: I mean, if you want to put in some kind of moral equivalency between Syria and the United States, that’s just —

    QUESTION: It’s not a – okay.

    MS NAUERT: — frankly, laughable.

    QUESTION: No, no, no.

    MS NAUERT: And I’m not even going to go there.

    QUESTION: It’s not that it’s Syria that happened to be the last country, other than the U.S., to join it. It’s – it could be – it could have been any country. The point of the matter is – the fact of the matter is, you’re the only country that’s not in it anymore.

    MS NAUERT: Look, the President has said that he is going to assess this situation.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: If we could get a more favorable deal for American businesses, American workers and taxpayers, then we will look at that. But we can – we continue to go forward with the plan of pulling out of the Paris accords. But there are other accords that we may still remain in.

    QUESTION: Okay. Can you explain why exactly the administration thought it would be appropriate to host an event promoting coal use at the Conference of Parties meeting?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. There may be people who do not like coal, but the reality is that coal powers about 30 percent or so of the electricity and the power here in the United States. Coal is a reality. Whether people like it or not, it is a reality. It heats our homes. It – as electricity —

    QUESTION: It also – some argue that it heats the planet as well, so —

    MS NAUERT: Okay. But the fact is coal is a reality.

    QUESTION: — you’re – but you’re going —

    MS NAUERT: Whether people like it or not, it’s a reality.

    QUESTION: But you’re going out —

    MS NAUERT: And so it’s a reality that we have to deal with. And so the United States is holding some conversations in which the United States will talk about coal. The United States will also talk about nuclear power. That is a reality. Some countries don’t like it, but it is reality. And we’re dealing with that right now.

    QUESTION: So you went after the Syrian Government for allegedly caring about CO2 emissions. And yet, this country – your – the United States is hosting this event that promotes the use of coal, which produces CO2 —

    MS NAUERT: So now you’re comparing coal to gassing civilians in Syria.

    QUESTION: You – no. That’s not at all, and I don't think anyone in this room thinks that’s what I’m doing.

    MS NAUERT: Well, then —

    QUESTION: You talked about CO2 emissions and Syria.

    MS NAUERT: I’m saying, look, if Syria cares so much about the environment – I mean, this is a ridiculous conversation, Matt. But – Syria cares so much about its environment, it’s not gassing and killing innocent civilians, including women and children, okay? Let’s move on from there.

    QUESTION: I – this – you’ll have to take this, I think. It’s very quick. It’s on Bahrain.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay.

    QUESTION: I asked you about these people who were arrested. It was your last briefing.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Since – in between then and now, there’s been some letters that have been written on their behalf to the Secretary and the department.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Can you – I know that you probably don’t, and I forgot to ask earlier —

    MS NAUERT: I do not have anything new for you on that.

    QUESTION: Can you check?

    MS NAUERT: I can check in a follow-up, okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Ilhan, hi.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Hi. On Turkey, visa situation – yesterday it seemed like there was some progress on the visa. And the U.S. statement came out from your office that the U.S. received some high-level assurances from Turkey, then the Turkish embassy here in Washington issued another statement and basically said that they denied and said that Turkish Government cannot provide any assurances and also your statement does not reflect the real – do not reflect the truth and consider it odd. So what is the truth?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So where – what is the situation right now?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: I think that’s the question. So we were able to announce – I believe it was just yesterday – that a limited number of appointments are now being taken for all nonimmigrant visa classes. So people who want to obtain visas are now able to do so in both Istanbul and Ankara. That is based on what we consider to be improved security conditions at our U.S. Mission in Turkey.

    We are prioritizing – we’re only able to do this on a limited basis right now, but we are prioritizing medical, humanitarian, and also student visas in those cases. We’ve had a series of what I would describe as fairly positive conversations with the Government of Turkey. This is certainly a step in the right direction. It’s a positive step. We have received limited assurances that if something should happen with our staff, if Turkey wants to detain our staff, that we will be given a heads-up. That’s among the things that we were assured. We were told that they wouldn’t arrest our people simply for doing their jobs.

    We still have two of our locally employed staff members who have been detained. In terms of Turkeys’ questioning of our previous statements, I can just show you – I can tell you that the safety and security of our folks is a top issue. The people who were detained as a natural course of their business had to engage with law enforcement, with the Turkish Government. That is something that is an appropriate part of their job. It is a part of their job description. And for Turkey to put people in jail and claim that they are involved in activities when they’re simply doing their jobs we think is incorrect. But nevertheless, we’ve taken – they’ve taken some steps in the right direction, and we’ve taken some steps in the right direction.

    QUESTION: So limited services means students, just three —

    MS NAUERT: We are prioritizing certain types of visas because it’s still somewhat limited: medical, humanitarian, and also student visas for now.

    Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: That’s not – there’s not a quantity, like a number or —

    MS NAUERT: No, there’s not a number. It’s just we have limited people who are able to work on that, and so we’re pushing forward.

    Okay, we’re going to have to wrap it up, so I’ll take – I’ll take one last question.

    QUESTION: Cuba?

    QUESTION: On Cuba?

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Look, I’ve already – so hey. Yeah, okay.

    QUESTION: So last week Cuban foreign minister just held a press conference here in Washington and claiming that there was not at all any attacks just in the U.S. embassy in Havana. So what is your response to that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have his comments directly in front of me, so I hesitate to comment on something that I have not seen myself. I’m sorry.

    Okay, go ahead.

    QUESTION: And please, regarding again the situation with the visas, has there been any change given the difficulty for Cubans to travel abroad, like to Bogota to access their visas to come to the United States?

    MS NAUERT: Last I’ve heard, that’s where we’re still processing visas for people who want to come to the United States.

    QUESTION: One last thing, please.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: The Cuban Government said that Cuban Americans can now travel if they wish to Cuba to dock in tourist areas with recreational vessels. How does the State Department see this?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, so I’m sorry; I don’t have an answer for you on that.

    Okay, thanks, guys. We’ve got to go.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay, yeah.

    QUESTION: There are three American college basketball players at UCLA who were arrested in China.

    MS NAUERT: From where?

    QUESTION: From UCLA who were arrested in China.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Have you confirmed that? Have you been in touch with Chinese authorities?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. Did that – did that just happen?

    QUESTION: It happened, I think, overnight then – today.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I don’t have any information on that, but I can look into it for you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks. Thanks, everybody.

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

    DPB # 62


    [1] The Spokesperson mischaracterized here. We encourage the Saudis to prosecute all cases in a fair and transparent manner.

    [2] July

    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.

USAID Administrator Mark Green’s Remarks at Milwaukee Startup Week as Part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit Series

Monday, November 6, 2017

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: As Tom mentioned, I am Wisconsin through and through. I will also point out that Tom and I served together in the House of Representatives. Our little part of the Longworth Building had Tom, myself, and Paul Ryan. Tammy was just, I think, a floor below. We were known as “cheesehead central” throughout the House of Representatives.

USAID Administrator Mark Green Travels to Milwaukee for Road to GES

Thursday, November 2, 2017

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 6 to participate in Milwaukee Startup Week, as part of the Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

Pupdate: Training the Handlers

Blog Post: The pups have finished their imprint training and have officially been paired with their human handlers. As the pups continue to refine their skills, the handlers take advanced classes on subjects like firearms and explosives, as well as emergency veterinary care for dogs.

Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer Hanna Huntley

Washington, D.C., November 1, 2017 – Acting Peace Corps Director Sheila Crowley is saddened to confirm the death of Peace Corps volunteer Hanna Huntley of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Hanna, 23, died from an automobile accident in Armenia on October 31, 2017.

“Hanna had a gift for languages and a passion for helping women and children. As a college student, she tutored children in Washington, D.C., and later cared for orphans in Romania,” Acting Director Crowley said. “I was privileged to meet Hanna during her swearing-in ceremony in Armenia in June. We are devastated that her promising life was cut short. Our hearts go out to Hanna’s family and friends during this profoundly difficult time.”

Hanna served as a Community Youth Development volunteer in Armenia. She worked at the Sevan Youth Club, a non-governmental agency in Sevan, Armenia, and made notable contributions, participating in the opening of the community’s first artistic teahouse and helping to organize a summer music festival. She also started an English club and was developing initiatives aimed at encouraging young community members to fully develop their potential.

Before beginning her Peace Corps service, Hanna wrote that serving in Armenia would be “… a dream come true.” Having taught English as a second language since she was 18, she looked forward to learning Armenian and using her cross-cultural skills to improve the lives of women and children.

Hanna received her undergraduate degree in international relations in 2016 from American University. While there, she tutored elementary school students at DC Reads and was active in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and the AU Independent Arts Collective. Fluent in Hungarian, Spanish, and Russian, she taught English in Hungary and Slovakia; she also lived in Romania for several months, caring for young orphans and teaching them English.

She is survived by her parents, Krista and COL Peter D. Huntley, her brothers, Max and LT Peter Oscar Huntley, and friend Franny Valour.

USAID Assistant to the Administrator Beth Dunford Travels to Italy for Global Nutrition Summit

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future Dr. Beth Dunford, will travel to Florence, Italy November 1-3 and Milan, Italy November 4-5. 

USAID Administrator Mark Green’s Opening Statement Before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

As former foreign policy and defense leaders have often said, and as was cited in the opening remarks, in a world as complex as ours, with our national security under greater threat than perhaps ever before, we need to be able to deploy the entirety of our statecraft toolbox.  This must include our most sophisticated development and humanitarian tools.  At USAID we embrace this mission. 

Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing – October 31, 2017

Heather Nauert


Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

October 31, 2017

Index for Today’s Briefing

  • CUBA
  • CUBA


    2:23 p.m. EDT

    <a name="BURMANAT”>MS NAUERT: Hope you all are doing well today. I hope that all of you had a nice trip, some of you who went with the Secretary on his most recent trip overseas. And I know some of you are getting ready to go on the next trip, so hopefully you’re well rested and that none of you will be too grumpy to turn off the lights and not answer the door for trick-or-treaters tonight. (Laughter.) Because those folks are never fun, the ones who pretend they’re not home.

    In any event, I’d like to start with a couple things today. First is the issue of Burma and I want to announce some travel that is underway right now. Simon Henshaw, who’s our Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, is currently leading a U.S. delegation to Burma and Bangladesh to discuss the humanitarian and human rights concerns stemming from the Rakhine State crisis. The delegation is close to completing the first leg of its trip in Burma. They have met with Rohingya and Rakhine State community leaders, including a visit to a camp for those who’ve been internally displaced, as well as holding meetings with government and civil society members.

    The delegation will next travel to Bangladesh, where they will have the chance to visit affected communities in Cox’s Bazar. Cox’s Bazar, for those of you who do not know, is an enormous refugee camp that is serving as temporary home, we certainly hope – to somewhere between 800,000 and a million refugees. About 600,000 of them have come from Burma alone, so it is an enormous place.

    The Acting Assistant Secretary Henshaw is accompanied by the bureau – excuse me – by the Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby of the Bureau of Democracy, Human rights, and Labor. Those of you who were here last week had the chance to hear from Mr. Busby, who spoke about the DPRK and human rights abuses there. Also joined – they are joined by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Vajda of the Bureau of SCA and Office Director Patricia Mahoney of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

    Secondly, I want to talk about Cuba for a second. As many of you are probably aware, tomorrow is the annual Cuba embargo resolution vote at the United Nations. For 26 years, Cuba has introduced a resolution for the General Assembly, calling for the end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. We’ve historically voted against that resolution. Last year the United States abstained. And Matt, if I’m not mistaken, you and the AP broke that story last year.

    QUESTION: We – I think so, yeah.

    MS NAUERT: You think so. So many you can’t remember. (Laughter.) Okay. Well, a little bit of news for you on that front. Ambassador Haley will be reversing last year’s abstention and will vote against the resolution this year. It will be the first vote since President Trump announced our new Cuba policy. We plan to vote against the resolution to underscore this new approach to Cuba. The Trump administration policy gives greater emphasis in advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba, while maintaining engagement that serves U.S. national interests, maintains engagement on areas of U.S. national interest, ensures U.S. engagement benefits the Cuban people, and ensures compliance with the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.

    And lastly, I’d like to mention something that was incredibly important to many people who serve here at the State Department. Yesterday, as many of you are aware, the White House announced the arrest of Mustafa al-Imam, one of the perpetrators of the September 11, 2012 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including two of our State Department colleagues. The two State Department colleagues, of course, were Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and also Sean Smith.

    Many of you here know, as you walk into the foyer of our building, you will see the names of those who served the State Department who died in service of the State Department and the American people. Those who’ve not been to this building in Washington before, it is an incredible sight to see the names of those who have died in service of our country.

    On behalf of the State Department, we would like to express our gratitude to the U.S. military, to law enforcement, to the Intelligence Community for their relentless efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of those attacks. Today, I spoke with some of my colleagues who served with these men. They described the news of the arrest as, quote, “emotional,” saying that it marked an important day. They told me that the memory of Ambassador Stevens and the other men drives them and provides an ongoing tribute to the work that they are still engaged in in Libya and around the issues involving Libya today.

    I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just before I took this position. He said to me about Ambassador Stevens, that he died doing exactly what an ambassador should be doing – serving in the field, working with locals in places that are not always safe. And I’ve never forgotten what Admiral Mullen said to me. It is a good reminder that the 75,000 people who work for the State Department around the world often serve in dangerous locations and they make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our country. We continue to mourn the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods, and we will spare no effort to ensure that justice is served for these dedicated Americans and public servants. Our colleagues today continue the work that they started not only in the same spirit, but also in their honor.

    Thank you. I’d be happy to take your questions.

    QUESTION: Thanks, Heather. Let’s start with the Cuba vote. The Secretary and other senior members of this administration have repeatedly said that the Trump administration’s slogan, “American First,” does not mean America alone. I’m sure you’re aware of the previous years’ votes in the UN General Assembly on the Cuba Embargo Resolution. It’s 191 to 2, you and Israel being the only ones to vote against it, or, as in the case last year, you both abstained. You lost the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau in 2012 to 2013. How is this not America alone?

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think when we talk about America First, this is a global issue where we’re putting Americans first and the concerns and interests and the safety of secure – and security of American people first. I think this administration regard – would regard that for far too long Cuba has engaged in human rights abuses, human rights abuses that perhaps past administrations have turned and looked the other way, and this administration continues to call upon Cuba to improve – to improve in terms of human rights, and also open up to where they would have better media access, better access to the things that we enjoy here.

    QUESTION: Do you – does this decision have anything to do with the attacks that have happened on – that you guys have talked about?

    MS NAUERT: No, no. Look, we undertook – this administration undertook a very broad Cuba policy review, something that the President outlined and underlined and underscored earlier this year. So I’d just refer you back to what – the President’s comments on that, but that is where things stand.

    QUESTION: No, but I mean, the decision on this – the decision to vote against this resolution doesn’t have anything to do with those —

    MS NAUERT: No. That would be a separate matter altogether.

    QUESTION: All right. And then just lastly, have you talked to the Israelis? Are they going to vote with you again?

    MS NAUERT: I have not spoken to the Israeli Government about this.

    QUESTION: Well, do you know if any – anyone has?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that answer offhand.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then just the last thing on this. Does it – the United States’ position as well as Israel’s position on boycotts of countries is that they are – particularly when it comes to Israel, is that they are opposed to them. Is it still the administration’s policy that boycotting countries such as the BDS movement is something that you oppose?

    MS NAUERT: Do we oppose —

    QUESTION: Boycotts of Israel?

    MS NAUERT: Boycotts of Israel. Yeah. I mean —

    QUESTION: I’m just trying to figure out if you see —

    MS NAUERT: Look, we’ve —

    QUESTION: If you see that there’s a —

    MS NAUERT: We’ve had an example where there have been blacklists that have put – been put together of companies —

    QUESTION: Right. I just want to —

    MS NAUERT: — that have been working in what some would consider to be disputed areas. We tend to think that that is not a good idea.

    QUESTION: Right. I just want to make sure that I understand correctly. The administration does not see it as inconsistent to support its embargo on Cuba, which is opposed by every other country in the world with the exception of one, and its opposition to embargoes or boycotts of Israel? That’s not inconsistent, right?

    MS NAUERT: We look at the Cuban Government and some of the activities that it’s done, some of the things that it’s done to its very own people, and see that as problematic. The President believes very firmly in focusing on human rights issues in Cuba among any other things, and I think that that is a testament to the tremendous value that we place on human rights and dignity. And other countries don’t want to call out nations like Cuba for that kind of activity, but we do.

    QUESTION: I get it. But you don’t think that – you don’t see an inconsistency in the position?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t. No.

    QUESTION: Okay. All right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: All right. Where would we like to go? Good afternoon. Laurie, do you want to start with Iraq today?

    QUESTION: Iraq. Iraq. Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And I have several questions. The Iraqi Government seems to have a campaign against journalists. A Kurdistan TV reporter, Arkan Sharif, was killed yesterday in Kirkuk apparently by hostile Shaabi. Today, the prime minister said Kurdish channels were guilty of war crimes just by reporting on the fighting, and Kurdistan 24 and other Kurdish channels have been banned in areas of Iraq that are controlled by Baghdad. And an Arab journalist – so it’s not just Kurds – Samir Obeid, who was critical of Abadi, was arrested. What’s your comment on all that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I have not heard of all of that, Laurie. I’m aware of the murder that took place of the journalist in Kirkuk. We’ve seen that story. Some of this information is just coming in to us, so I can’t confirm all of these stories that you’re mentioning. We are certainly aware of media reports based in the – based on the government having issues with the central government of Iraq. And media issues overall – I mean, our position has not changed. We support freedom of the press. We believe that more voices, not fewer voices, is good for democracy, is good for people of various countries. We would mourn the arrest – I mean, excuse me. We would mourn the death of any journalist covering this, trying to bring additional information to the people of Iraq.

    QUESTION: The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned this. Do you expect if these things continue you will also be condemning this?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I think that’s just – that’s a hypothetical, so I don’t want to get ahead of anything. But certainly, that would be a concern of ours if there are attempts to squash the voices of those who are trying to just bring more information to the people.

    QUESTION: My next question has to – is a continuation of our discussion last time, when you Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was a terrorist. There’s another Hashd al-Shaabi commander, Qais al-Khazali, a prominent figure who was detained at Camp Cropper for killing U.S. troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom. And the Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji, has longstanding ties to the IRGC, whom you just named as a terrorist organization, and he was also detained by the U.S. during OIF. What is your comment on these people? Are they terrorists, in your view?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, Laurie, I don’t want to get too much into that because our focus is on trying to get Iraqis, the Kurds to come together and have some sort of dialogue. I fully understand and appreciate your question. I know well who those men are that you speak of. We are very familiar, as the United States Government is, in the acts that they are believed to be responsible for. And that, of course, is a tremendous concern to us.

    You mention Mr. Muhandis. He was designated by the Department of Treasury back in 2009 for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and also the Government of Iraq. We are well aware of that, but I just don’t want to get too into the details of what you’re asking.

    QUESTION: Let me give you a softball question then. The Iraqi parliament —

    QUESTION: You can’t get better than that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, right. Thanks.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: The Iraqi parliament voted today to criminalize the display of the Israeli flag and what it called other Zionist symbols inside Iraq. What is your comment on that one?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, look, you know very well that we have a close relationship with the Government of Israel. That, however, would be an internal Iraqi matter.

    QUESTION: You’re not going to condemn this sort of thing?

    MS NAUERT: Look, if they choose to do that, that is certainly their place to do that. That would be an internal Iraqi matter. But I think the Israelis very well know how much we support them and what a strong relationship we have with the Government of Israel. Okay?

    QUESTION: New topic?

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: New topic. On the KRG, Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Right. Just a follow-up on some of the Kurdish question. We saw the statement yesterday regarding Barzani’s announcement to step down. Now, as Washington is encouraging the reconciliation process between the Iraqis and Kurds, what role does the United States play in the negotiation process? As a facilitator, or does the U.S. play any role at all? Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve had a series of conversations previously with Mr. Barzani, as well with Prime Minister Abadi. The Secretary has had conversations with both men. Our ambassador has been extremely engaged not only with the Kurds, but with the Iraqi regional government. Our ambassador has had lots of conversations with people on the ground. As you know, we have a lot of people who are serving there as well.

    So those conversations continue. We would like both parties to sit down and have a dialogue together, and we’re hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to work it out.

    QUESTION: Now, does the United States still consider the Kurds as a good ally in the fight against ISIS in Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Absolutely, without a doubt. I mean, we are grateful for the hard work and the bravery of the Kurdish Peshmerga. That has not changed. We’ve always believed that, and we will still consider them to be a strong fighting force. Okay?

    QUESTION: And finally, could you please address some of the questions from the Kurdish people that some heavy weapons provided by the United States are used by the Iraqi armies to use against the Kurds?

    MS NAUERT: So as you all know, we have provided weapons to the Iraqi Government – let me see where – pardon me one second. Yeah, I mean, we’ve certainly trained, as you well know, alongside and with the Kurds and the Iraqi regional government. We don’t provide – perhaps there’s been some questions about this. We don’t provide support to groups or forces that are designated terror organizations – I think we’ve been very clear about that – some believed to be responsible for gross violations of human rights that do not fall under the government – under the control of the Government Iraq. Okay?

    QUESTION: Is it a violation of U.S. regulations if a – an entity that to whom you have provided weapons transfers those weapons to a terrorist organization?

    MS NAUERT: I know there’s something called the end-use law, I believe it is, which regulates what different parties are allowed to or not allowed to do with weapons that the U.S. provides that. Some of that is a DOD – in DOD’s lane, so I don’t want to get too much into that, because I’m not an expert on the matter, but I know that there are those guidelines that are put into effect.

    QUESTION: Maybe that’s something we could pursue either here or at the State Department or with the Department of Defense?

    MS NAUERT: You’re certainly welcome to ask the – I’ve seen you over at the Department of Defense in the Pentagon briefings before.

    QUESTION: Yes (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: You’re certainly welcome to ask them that question. I can see if we can get anything more for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

    QUESTION: Question on the Sahel?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Would you like to move on now?

    QUESTION: The Sahel?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Sorry?

    QUESTION: The Sahel?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: The Secretary announced yesterday $60 million for this new G5 force.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Can you explain a little bit about what that money is going to go to? And is that – is the U.S. cutting back on kind of aid to that area, with the big cutbacks of this administration?

    MS NAUERT: The dollar amount that was announced yesterday, a total of $60 million for the G5 countries – those G5 countries include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger – the point for that money is to try to create a joint force and also recognize that they are making progress toward operating better military and counterterrorism operating capability. Of the $60 million, not all of it comes from the State Department; $45 million comes from the State Department, 15 million comes from DOD. That, added up, is $60 million. That is being given through peacekeeping operations, so it’s not going through the United Nations; it’s going from the State Department directly to some of them. So I know the Secretary was pleased to be able to announce that kind of level of cooperation.

    Okay. Anything else on that?

    QUESTION: There were existing DOD programs in that area. Is this entire 60 million new funding? Obviously, there’s been train-and-assist missions in there for several years. Do you know whether this —

    MS NAUERT: Well, I can’t —

    QUESTION: — replaces anything, or whether it’s 60 million on top of existing bilateral figures?

    MS NAUERT: I can’t speak to the DOD’s $15 million contribution to this. I believe that this is a new pocket, or a new pot of money that is going to them, but I can double check on that. Okay?

    Anything else on this issue? Okay.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Iran.

    MS NAUERT: What do you got? Iran, okay.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. Thanks. Iran’s supreme leader says that he is going to put a limit on the ballistic missile program in his country to 2,000 kilometers. Does the United States view that as a concession? Does that change U.S. policy or posture at all towards —

    MS NAUERT: Well, 2,000 kilometers is actually pretty far. That would certainly put other countries that are allies of ours in the range. I’m not going to comment on every statement that comes out from an Iranian official, nor any other government official from around the world, for that matter. We all know, as do our partners in the region – they know, certainly, that Iran’s ballistic missiles threaten not only the United States but our partners in the region, including many Arab countries. They recognize that. We have plenty of conversations with those governments and those countries about their concerns for Iran’s destabilizing activity. So it’s not just the United States that considers Iran to be a threat in that regard; it’s our partner nations as well.

    Those Iranian-made rockets have too long been used to exacerbate some of the – and inflame conflicts in the region. And as you well know, it’s in violation, ballistic missiles are, of the UN Security Council resolutions.

    QUESTION: Despite the range, the U.S. wants to see a range of zero, I assume, then, still?

    MS NAUERT: We would like to see them come into compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions, and would see these in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions.

    QUESTION: (Sneeze.)

    QUESTION: Bless you.

    MS NAUERT: Bless you. Okay. Where would we like to go now?

    QUESTION: Iran?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So administration officials have confirmed that Tillerson floated the idea of top U.S. Government officials meeting with Iranian Government officials during the UN General Assembly meetings. Can you give us some more details on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I know that that was something that the Secretary had floated. The country – the Iranian officials said no, and that was the end of it.

    QUESTION: Well, wait a second. The Secretary is the most senior-ranking cabinet agency chief in this government. He met with the Iranian foreign minister. You’re talking about something other than that?

    MS NAUERT: Well, they had the meeting in New York, which was a part of —

    QUESTION: I know, and they sat in a room alone with their delegations for several minutes.

    MS NAUERT: Which was a part of – the countries that are part of the signatory to the JCPOA. And they had a lengthy conversation, and the Secretary certainly called out, as many of you have probably read, the Iranian Government for its destabilizing activities that date back 40-plus years.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I’m not – my question is – her question was: Did he raise the idea of senior officials meeting with Iranian officials? And you’re saying —

    MS NAUERT: I think I just answered that.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but he himself met with a senior Iranian official.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Are you talking about he floated the idea of other administration officials meeting with the same Iranian official he met or even more senior Iranian officials?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of exactly who it was, who in the Iranian delegation would have been included in that, but I know that that idea was floated.

    QUESTION: And floated with whom? With Zarif?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure exactly.

    QUESTION: And so was Tehran correct in saying that Iran had turned down the offer for a meeting with the President Trump?

    MS NAUERT: They did.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: They did turn down a meeting with the President?

    MS NAUERT: They did turn down a meeting, yes, with U.S. officials.

    QUESTION: With —

    MS NAUERT: I believe —

    QUESTION: With President Trump.

    MS NAUERT: I believe the United – I believe that the White House commented on this yesterday —

    QUESTION: Did they? Okay.

    MS NAUERT: — so I’d refer you back to the White House for some of that, okay?

    QUESTION: They did?

    MS NAUERT: I believe they did.

    QUESTION: I wasn’t aware there were any questions —

    QUESTION: I don’t think that they did.

    QUESTION: — at the briefing other than certain legal activity that’s going on.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Then you should’ve been over there talking about other things.

    Okay, shall we move on?

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay, yeah.

    QUESTION: North Korea?

    QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on that.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: When you said that the delegation has met with government officials, does that include military officials?

    MS NAUERT: Not to my awareness. I can only speak on behalf of the State Department, the State Department with our various bureaus – democracy, labor, human rights; EAP, East —

    QUESTION: Burmese military officials.

    MS NAUERT: Will we be meeting with Burmese military officials? I don’t believe so. Let me just check my notes. I know that the Secretary has had conversations with the–General Min from Burma. I don’t have a conversation to read out to you, but we have certainly had conversations with them, as we have Aung San Suu Kyi and many others in the government as well, so —

    QUESTION: Can you take the question, I guess, whether —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Let me just try to find – see what information I have for you that I can provide.

    QUESTION: Just while we’re on Burma, Myanmar, you said he’d been able to meet with – the envoy has managed to meet with the Rohingya. Has he been able to go everywhere in the country he’d like – would have liked to have done? I know before there was —

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, what did you say?

    QUESTION: Has he been able to travel wherever within Burma he wanted to go? I know there’s been restrictions in the past on access.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So let me give you a little bit of information on where he’s at – and Conor, I’m just finding it right now. So our delegation traveled to Sittwe, to Rangoon, and also to Naypyidaw.

    QUESTION: Naypyidaw.

    MS NAUERT: Naypyidaw. Thank you, Matt. They – the diplomatic mission’s primary purpose was to work with the government and other actors – I know we’ve been speaking with various aid groups in the area to learn about their experiences in trying to get equipment, material, and other humanitarian-type programs to the people of Burma who are suffering. There have been, as many of you know, more than 600,000 Rohingya who have been forced to leave their areas. Many of them have wound up in the neighboring Bangladesh, and I believe it’s tomorrow or the following day where Acting Assistant Secretary Henshaw will be in Bangladesh to take a look at – meet with some people in conjunction with their time in Bangladesh. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I just ask one more question?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Is it the administration’s view that it’s better to work with the Burmese Government to help solve the crisis as opposed to beginning to put some pressure on the government?

    MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve certainly put pressure on the government, without a doubt. I mean, many of you saw the sanctions that were released late last week. It was pretty lengthy. So I think we view this as a multi-pronged approach. Part of that is talking with the government, having conversations, but also recognizing that the government is a fledgling democracy, that they need help. Certainly, we have been very clear about expressing our severe concerns. You are all aware of the conversations that we’re having internally about the situation that has befallen the Rohingya. You also know about many travels that our team has made to the region to meet with people and get more information on the ground there. Okay?

    QUESTION: So additional sanctions would be —

    MS NAUERT: You know I’m not going to forecast any potential additional sanctions.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: But that – those things are always an option. Okay?

    Hey, Laura.

    QUESTION: Hey. Could we go to North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Is the State Department going to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism?

    MS NAUERT: So our Bureau of Legislative Affairs talked with us a little bit earlier today about the deadline that we have for that. There’s a congressionally mandated deadline. We’ve been working under the deadline of November the 2nd. That is something that we are certainly looking at. We’ve been looking at this for quite some time, but I just don’t have anything to announce for you today.

    QUESTION: Why November 2nd instead of today?

    MS NAUERT: I’m getting that from our leg. affairs people. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Heather, real quickly —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — has anybody at State spoken to the family of Otto Warmbier about this?

    MS NAUERT: I know we’ve spoken with their family in the past. I’m not sure if we’ve spoken with them in recent days.

    QUESTION: About this specifically?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware that we have. Okay?

    QUESTION: Heather.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, hi.

    QUESTION: You want to go —

    QUESTION: The same issue, South – North Korea —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, DPRK?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: South Korea abstained from a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s nuclear test. In this regard, South Korea rejected these issues. It seems to be not helpful for the UN sanctions against North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, Janne. Could you start that question over again, please?

    QUESTION: South Korea abstained from —

    MS NAUERT: South Korea abstained?

    QUESTION: Yes – the UN resolution condemning North Korea’s nuclear test recently – last week, I think, that happened – United Nations.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. I’m not aware of that UN resolution vote, so I would have to refer you, then, to our —

    QUESTION: Condemning North Korea’s nuclear test (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that vote having taken place. I’d just have to refer you to our USUN staff on that.

    QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can I ask a related – somewhat related question? Yes? Or —

    MS NAUERT: Sure, yeah, yeah.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. What’s your understanding of China’s position on the deployment of THAAD in South Korea right now?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think that China recognizes, they certainly do – well, first of all, let me start by saying we certainly welcome that China and the Republic of Korea would have a closer relationship. We tend to think that that is a good thing for the region and especially the regional instability and the worldwide instability that the DPRK poses, the threat that they pose.

    In terms of THAAD, nothing has changed from our position on that. It is a – was an alliance decision on the part of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, something that we came to together. As you well know, it’s a defensive mechanism; it’s not something that’s offensive. One of our priorities is not only keeping our own people safe, but keeping our allies safe.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but that’s – I know why —

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: — what your position on THAAD is.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, okay.

    QUESTION: I’m wondering what your position is on China’s position on it.

    MS NAUERT: Our position —

    QUESTION: Are you pleased – are you pleased that the Chinese seem to have kind of overcome their just absolute complete hostility toward – to it to the point where they’re ready to start high-level contacts again with the South Koreans and ease the tensions between the two?

    MS NAUERT: And Matt, that’s just what I said. We would certainly welcome and we’re pleased to hear that the Republic of Korea, that our Korean friends and also the Chinese are forging a closer relationship. We see that as providing better stability, greater stability for a region that desperately needs it because of North Korea.

    QUESTION: Is it your understanding that some of that – the rapprochement between the two is somewhat related to the Chinese dropping their extreme objection to THAAD?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I can’t answer that.

    QUESTION: Heather —

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: — just to follow up, do you see this as an indication that China’s recognizing that North Korea is a strategic liability and not an asset?

    MS NAUERT: I think that China is coming even closer to recognizing that North Korea is a thorn in its side, and a thorn in the side of many nations. Obviously, they have a lot of trade that goes through, flows through North Korea. But it is not without significance that the Chinese backed two UN Security Council resolutions calling out North Korea for its destabilizing activities. So China, I think, is certainly coming around and recognizing the threat that the DPRK poses. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up? So while the United States is asking for cooperation on North Korea issue – but Secretary Tillerson last week gives a speech which he envisioned the U.S.-India relation for the next century, and in that speech he criticized China on many fronts like South China Sea and economic expansion. So many experts see this as a China containment strategy. Could you please clarify on it? Is it a China containment strategy?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary and what he said in his speech about China, in his speech about India, was something that the Secretary has said with China privately before. So some of those in the past have been private conversations, and now they’re just becoming more public conversations. But let me just say I know that the President is very much looking forward to his trip to China. It is going to be a lengthy trip, a robust trip, and one of the top issues that will be discussed with China is certainly the DPRK.

    QUESTION: But if the United States —

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: — values a strong India-United States relation, why India is not included in the first – President Trump’s first Asia trip?

    MS NAUERT: I think that that would be a different kind of trip for the President, tagging India on – along to that trip. He’s got a pretty hefty schedule, but I don’t want to speak on behalf of the White House.

    QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up (inaudible)?

    QUESTION: Well, does that mean Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Trump – Secretary Tillerson and President Trump think differently on India strategy?

    MS NAUERT: No. I mean, they have the same position on that, the same – the same concerns, the same foreign policy goals and all of that, but I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s trip and why certain countries are on his schedule and why others are not. That would be under the White House’s purview. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yes. And just in Tillerson’s speech, he also talked about more involvement of the United States for the infrastructure investment in the Asia Pacific and more connectivities for that region. So can we say that this is kind of a U.S. substitution for China’s Belt and Road Initiative? Or – he also talked about an agreement between the U.S. and Nepal. Is there any other agreements or – or the negotiations that is going on you could just – you could just tell us?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I can’t forecast any agreements or negotiations, especially nothing before a trip.

    QUESTION: And about the Thousand Girls Initiative, do you think that’s a U.S. version of that, so there’s a competition?

    MS NAUERT: I can tell you – I can tell you that we have a close relationship with India, that we have a lot of areas of common interest including we’re both democracies, we’re both large countries. They are an enormous country. India can bring so much not only to the region but to the world. In addition, many American jobs through greater trade and cooperation with that country, and I’m just not going to get beyond that. The Secretary gave a very lengthy speech on India and I can just refer you back to the text of that speech. Okay? All right.

    Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question on Syria. Yesterday Secretary Tillerson, he said, quote, that, “We are working on establishing additional de-escalation zones in Syria.” So what are the areas, and are they, like, the de-escalation zone that was established in July with Russia and Jordan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So we’ve talked about this here before, that there is an area where the United States and Russia have had an area of mutual interest, and that is to try to bring some peace and some stability to parts of Syria. The goal would be to build upon that, to create some better trust between our countries, and to be able to develop other areas where we could have a ceasefire.

    The ceasefire that you’re talking about, in other words de-escalation zone, has been in effect since July the 9th. That’s held pretty well, and that has been successful. We’ve been successful in being able to help get humanitarian aid and other supplies into that area. If we can build upon that in other regions, then that would be a move that we would very much support. In terms of the Secretary’s conversations in particular about that within the past few days, I don’t have anything for you on that.

    QUESTION: Work is going on now according to Secretary Tillerson.

    MS NAUERT: I can’t confirm that that work is going on, but I know that that remains a shared goal, at least on the part of our administration, that we would like to see that, because ultimately we’d like to see peace and stability, and we’d like to see so many Syrians be able to come back home. Okay? We’re going other have to wrap it up, guys.

    QUESTION: All right, Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I have two very brief ones, both on the Middle East. First on Bahrain.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, a Bahraini court sentenced three relatives of a U.K. British-based human rights activist to three years in prison for various insults. Both – this was condemned by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which is not surprising, but I’m just wondering if you guys have any comment on it as well since you’ve been quite outspoken on other Bahraini – other cases in Bahrain about this.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So you’re referring to Bahraini activist Mr. Sayed Nazar Alwadaei. So we understand and we’re certainly aware that he was sentenced to three years in prison along with some family members who are living in Bahrain, but he’s based in London, according to my understanding. He alleges that the convictions on the part of the Bahraini Government were reprisals for his activities in London. That I can’t – I can’t personally confirm that. But we understand that there are also allegations that he confessed under duress.

    We always will say this, that we urge the Bahraini authorities to investigate allegations thoroughly and also impartially. And I just don’t have anything more for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay. And then lastly, and I’ll do this because Said is not here.

    MS NAUERT: Where is Said?

    QUESTION: It wouldn’t be a question – it wouldn’t be a briefing if there wasn’t an Israel-Palestinian question.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided not to have a vote on annexing some of these settlements to the city of Jerusalem, and the reason that he gave was that the U.S. may be presenting a peace plan and he doesn’t want to do anything without consulting the – in terms of this law without consulting the U.S. What’s he talking about?

    MS NAUERT: I think we would certainly like to see a peace plan.

    QUESTION: Yes. But are you getting ready to propose one?

    MS NAUERT: Our people have been – our people have been very hard at work with a lot of trips over to the region. As we have said many times before, there will be a lot of trips. There will be a lot of trips to the region, a lot of meetings, and all of that, but ultimately, for any kind of peace agreement to work, both sides have to be willing to agree to it. It can’t be something that we impose; both sides have to be willing to – and able to live with it.

    QUESTION: Right. But he seemed to suggest that something might be imminent. Are you aware of anything that —

    MS NAUERT: I’m not. I don’t have any – I don’t have anything to announce.

    QUESTION: All right, thank you.

    MS NAUERT: All right, thanks everybody. I’ll see you later.

    (The briefing was concluded at 2:59 p.m.)

    The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.
    External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.