Department Press Briefing – May 6, 2022

6 May

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you so much for joining today’s briefing. I have two elements at the top and then I will take your questions.

I want to reiterate that we vehemently condemn the terrorist attack in Elad, Israel, which killed at least three and wounded many others. This was a horrific attack targeting innocent men and women and was particularly heinous coming as Israel celebrated its Independence Day. Our hearts are with the victims and loved ones of those killed, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery. We remain in close contact with our Israeli friends and partners and stand firmly with them in the face of this attack.

Separately, we understand that Israel announced a meeting to advance new West Bank settlements for – West Bank settlement units for May 12. The Biden administration has been clear from the outset. We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements which exacerbates tensions and undermines trust between the parties. Israel’s program of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution.

Let’s go to the line of Ron Kampeas, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking the call. What if anything will be the repercussions for Israel’s announcement of approvals for 4,000 more units? I know that you’re saying that you – you’re condemning this, but will there be any repercussions, particularly related to President Biden’s visit next month?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. I’ll just say from here that we have been clear about the need to avoid unilateral steps that would exacerbate tensions and make it more difficult to preserve the viability of a two-state solution. I have nothing to comment about the President’s upcoming trip.

Let’s go to Endale Getahun.

QUESTION: Yes. Good morning, Jalina. Can you hear me? This is Endale.

MS PORTER: Good afternoon. I can hear you, thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. I have two questions.

One is – will be on the statement that was made by our Secretary Blinken on April 29 regarding Tigrayan for Ethiopia. I think the statement was – I hope you have seen it, I believe. But on the statement was given, it says Ethiopia’s conflict since like most of the statement was given, it says conflict. But 10 months ago, when he appears in front the lawmakers to make a statement, he did mention by saying ethnic cleansing. But when it says conflict, it seems to make the situation in east Africa and even Tigray and the whole – seems to – not a conflict but as an actual war. So I was wondering why the word was lowered from ethnic cleansing to conflict. It seems to most Tigrayans and around the world was asked – made in statements on Twitter. So that’s the comment that was on Twitter that was based on the Secretary of State made the statement there is a piece that the coming – direction is going. But has anyone spoke to the Tigray region? Have he visited, just like he visited Ukraine? Has anyone – has a State Department official visited in Tigray region, as has only visited in Addis Ababa?

The second question I have is regarding the Tigrayan general, former general commander, which he used to be an African Union mission in Somalia, which he has worked with U.S. African Command, which is AFRICOM. He just passed away in the custody of Ethiopian Government. As you know, al-Shabaab was a threat to U.S. security. So this commander has worked shoulder to shoulder with American officials and service folks, and so have you heard or are you going to ask the death – the cause of the death? Because some said that he was poisoned or so, but I’m not ready to confirm that, but I just wanted to make sure if you know about from the general commander government, Fikadu. It’s is spelled G-e-b-r-e-m-e-d-h-i-n. Last name is F-i-k-a-d-u, Fikadu. Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Endale. To your most recent question on the cause of death, I’m actually just learning of these reports. So if we have anything to share, we’ll certainly update you and get back to you.

To your first question regarding the conflict in Ethiopia, I certainly don’t have any travel to announce for the Secretary. But what I would underscore from here is what we’ve said previously, in that we’re encouraged that the Government of Ethiopia as well as regional authorities in Tigray and Afar have taken steps to enable the delivery of desperately needed food and aid in the war-affected communities. And we also urge parties to accelerate, uphold, and expand these efforts to ensure, as President Biden has said, the immediate, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Ethiopians who are impacted by this conflict.

Let’s go to Shannon Crawford.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for briefing. I just wanted to ask: Are there any updates on the Victory Day show of support for Ukraine from the U.S. and its allies that Ned previewed yesterday? Specifically, can we expect that announcement to come from the State Department or the White House?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Shannon. We don’t have anything to share at the moment, but I imagine you’ll be hearing something pretty soon. Thank you.

Let’s go over to Eunjung Cho.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Eunjung.

QUESTION: Thank you. The CNN reports quoting three U.S. officials that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies assess that North Korea could be ready to conduct a nuclear test by the end of this month. Does the State Department hold the same assessment that North Korea could be ready for a nuclear test by the end of this month?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Eunjung. The United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh test. This assessment is consistent with the DPRK’s own recent public statements.

We’ve shared this information with allies and partners, and we’ll continue closely coordinating with them as well. We’ll also build on this close coordination when the President travels to the Republic of Korea and Japan later this month to strengthen our alliances and demonstrate our commitment to their security is ironclad.

I’ll have the operator repeat the instructions on if anyone wants to get in the Q&A queue.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.

MS PORTER: Let’s go over to Rosiland Jordan.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. I wanted to get an update on the Secretary’s health, what he’s been doing today. Has he had any engagements on Ukraine or on Russia?

And separately, is there any update on the status of Brittney Griner and other Americans being held in Russia? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Ros. The Secretary continues to experience mild symptoms, but we don’t have anything to read out from today.

And on to your question about Brittney Griner and others who are detained in Russia, what we’ve said and will continue to say from here is that we have no other priority than the safety and security of the United States citizens who are overseas, and we continue to insist that the Government of Russia allow for consistent and timely consular access to all U.S. citizens – U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pretrial detention – in compliance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and bilateral consular convention with the United States. Our requests for access are consistently delayed or denied, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia.

Let’s go to Matt Lee.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. I’m sorry, I’m on my cell phone and it cut out like three quarters of your response to that question on North Korea. I just want to – could you repeat that, your answer?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Matt. I think you’re referring to Eunjung’s question. What we said before is that the United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh test. This assessment is also consistent with the DPRK’s own recent public statements. We’ve shared this information with allies and partners and will continue to closely coordinate with them, and we’ll also build on this close coordination when the President travels to the Republic of Korea and Japan later this month to strengthen our alliances and demonstrate that our commitment to their security is ironclad.

Let’s go over to Paulina Smolinski.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking my question. I just wanted to follow up on the Brittney Griner statement. Do you guys have any (inaudible), any comment on former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson helping out with this?

MS PORTER: If we still have you, Paulina, do you mind repeating your question a tad bit louder, please?

QUESTION: Sorry. Do you have any comment on reports that former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson is helping with Brittney Griner’s case?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Paulina. We don’t have any updates to share on her specific case. We continue to be in contact with her legal team, and, of course, we continue to press again for fair treatment for not only her, but all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia.

Let’s go back over to Shannon Crawford.

QUESTION: Thanks again. I just wanted to ask about those sanctions on the cryptocurrency Blender – cryptocurrency mixer Blender, excuse me. Do you – does the State Department think that is going to be effective, and is it pushing for more proactive measures to stop this illicit financial activity before it takes place?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Shannon. We don’t have anything further to announce, but I would say as a result of today’s action, all property and interest in the property of the entity of Blender.io that’s in the United States or in possession or control of U.S. persons is blocked and must be reported to OFAC, or the Office of Foreign Asset Control. In addition, any entities that are owned directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.

We’ll take the final question back to Rosiland Jordan.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks again. Completely different topic: The U.S. Government, as do many other governments, use social media in order to connect with its citizens. In light of Elon Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter, there is a lot of discussion about how much control one private citizen should have over what is a de facto public space. Is there that concern within the State Department that a private citizen, no matter who it is, could decide who has access to this platform, could possibly interfere with the communication between a government and its citizens? And is the State Department looking at alternatives to using Twitter should this purchase go through? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Ros. We use a range of platforms from the State Department, which would include Twitter and other social media platforms, not only to connect with Americans but to connect with the global community abroad. I don’t have anything to share from here. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share whether that would change or whether we would interfere in a platform as large as Twitter, but we certainly appreciate that we do have that platform and are able to connect not only with other governments, but the American people and the global community.

Thank you all for joining today. That concludes today’s briefing. I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)

# # #

 

Department Press Briefing – April 29, 2022

29 Apr

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

MS PORTER: Good afternoon. Thank you so much for joining today’s press briefing. I just have two updates at the top, and then I will start with taking your questions.

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC. For a quarter century, the United States has worked with its allies and partners to help rid the world of chemical weapons and also deter their use by anyone, anywhere, and under any circumstances.

In recent years the world has witnessed chemical weapons use that challenges the CWC’s core prohibitions: by the Assad regime and ISIS in Syria; by Russian Government operatives against the Skripals in the UK and Aleksey Navalny in Russia; and by the DPRK against Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia.

Syria remains in non-compliance with the CWC, and we will continue to work to hold the Assad regime accountable for its repeated use of chemical weapons against its own people.

We will also continue our efforts to hold the Kremlin accountable for its non-compliance with the CWC, repeated use of chemical weapons, and ongoing efforts to shield the Assad regime from accountability for its chemical weapons use. Furthermore, we will continue to closely monitor for the possible use of chemical munitions by Russian forces in Ukraine.

On this anniversary we renew our commitment to upholding the CWC, and also note the convention’s important role in contributing to U.S. national security.

And I’ll take a point of personal privilege to just acknowledge our State Department reporter colleague, Conor Finnegan of ABC. Conor, if you’re on, or even if you aren’t, I hope you get this message. We know this is your last day. I just want to take a moment to say thank you for all of your contributions, for your insightful and fair and consistent reporting. We certainly will miss you here, and wish you the very best on your next chapter.

Let’s start with Cindy Saine.

QUESTION: Could you please confirm a report that American citizen and former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel was killed in Ukraine, fighting along Ukrainian forces? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Cindy. Well, we are aware of these reports, and certainly stand ready to provide all possible consular assistance to the family. However, out of respect to the family during this very difficult time, we don’t have anything further to announce.

We also do want to reiterate that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine during this active armed conflict. It is a very dangerous situation – and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian Government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately, if it is safe to do so using commercial or privately available ground transportation options.

Let’s go to Matt Lee, please.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi, Matt. Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hey. Okay. I got two things, both brief. Yesterday, the Secretary when he was on the Hill was asked about this Chinese memory chip company, YMTC, and whether it is violating laws that provide the – laws against providing technology to Huawei and others. He did not have an answer. I’m wondering if you guys have looked into it and do have an answer now and, if you do, what that is.

And the second thing is are you aware of an incident in Nepal recently, where you – in relation to a custody – child custody case. U.S. Embassy guards or officials were assaulted. I believe this happened on the 16th. Anyway, are you – this involves a child who was apparently abducted to Nepal by one of her parents. And anyway, I know that you probably won’t be able to talk about that because of privacy, but I want to know if you have anything on the assault on embassy officials. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks. I’ll start with your second question. So the State Department is aware of reports of an alleged child abduction case in Nepal involving a U.S. citizen, and we are providing all appropriate consular assistance.

To your point on assaults on staff, I am just now learning about that in real time, so I don’t have anything to offer. But what I will say is what we continue to underscore from here, that one of the department’s highest priorities is the welfare of U.S. citizens overseas, and we also recognize that international parental child abduction cases are, by nature, extremely difficult. They’re also extremely complex, and we’re committed to doing everything that we can to assist in resolving these challenging cases.

To your first question, we don’t have anything to offer, but we’re certainly happy to take that back to the team and get you any updates as soon as possible.

Let’s go to the line of Laura Kelly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for taking my question. I hope you can hear me.

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Laura.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Have any State Department officials met with Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili while she’s here in Washington? And is the State Department concerned that Russian threats to Georgia pose a risk to the U.S. interests in the region? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. I don’t have any meetings to read out at this time, but what I can say from here on Georgia: from the beginning, the American people have stood in solidarity with the people of Georgia and their desire to be a free and sovereign country. Over the years we’ve also developed into strategic partners working together towards our shared vision of Georgia fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations, and as a part of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Let’s go over to Conor Finnegan, please.

QUESTION: Jalina, thank you for your generous words. It’s been a privilege to be a part of this press corps.

Two questions for you. First, Secretary Blinken said yesterday, I think, during – or maybe on Tuesday, during his Senate testimony, that the upside for Afghan women is that the country has become relatively safer and more stable. We’ve seen yet another bombing in Kabul today. I’m wondering if you have any response to that bombing, and whether or not he stands by that statement.

And then second, if you can provide any update on the effort to return U.S. diplomats to Ukraine. Are they now overnighting in Lviv yet, and does the strike yesterday on Kyiv change that calculus at all? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Conor. So first I’m going to let the Secretary’s comments at his hearing speak for themselves, but what I’ll say from here is that we offer our sincere condolences to the families as well as the loved ones who were killed in these cowardly attacks. The United States condemns these attacks in what appears to be the targeting of members of minority groups in the strongest terms. The United States is also committed to supporting the ability of all Afghans, including members of religious minority groups, to practice their religion freely, without fear of violence against them. We are also extremely concerned about the rise of attacks in Afghanistan and call for an end to these cowardly attacks and for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

As far as your second question on diplomats in Ukraine, I would say that earlier this week our deputy chief of mission as well as members of our embassy team traveled to Lviv to continue our close collaboration with key partners, and that would include our ministry of foreign affairs of Ukraine. Our diplomats are returning to Ukraine this week on a temporary basis, and we envision more regular travel in the immediate future. Planning is also underway to resume Embassy Kyiv operations as soon as possible.

And then, Conor, if we still have you, just in response to the strike, we’re closely following the reports of yesterday’s strike, and we are also very sad to hear that the strike killed Vera Gyrych of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a Ukrainian Service journalist, and we express our most heartfelt condolences to her family as well as her colleagues. The Kremlin’s war continues to wreak havoc on Ukraine and its people, with dire consequences for those who continue to stand for justice and tell the truth about its brutality.

Let’s go over to Hiba Nasr.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the secretary general of Hizballah, Hassan Nasrallah, said, that – threatened that that Iran could attack Israel directly and not through proxies. Do you have concerns over that, or how do you comment on this?

MS PORTER: Hiba, if we still have you, can you please repeat your question? The first part of your question was cut off.

QUESTION: Yes. Today the secretary general of Hizballah, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a speech that Iran could attack Israel directly and not through proxies. Do you have any comment on that? Do you have concerns also?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Hiba. We don’t have any particular response at this time. But if we have one soon, we’ll be sure to follow up.

Let’s go over to Mariana Sanchez.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my questions. Can you hear me well?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Mariana.

QUESTION: Perfect. So this last week there was this high level with State Department visit in Brazil, and on that I would like to ask some questions. Could you confirm that Brazilian authorities requested help from the Americans with the American nuclear submarine technology, and what the U.S. officials answered concerning this matter?

And the second question, the U.S. authorities said that they are following the electoral process in Brazil and they trust the institutions there. Two days ago the Brazilian president said that the military should be directly involved in counting the votes for the next presidential election. Is the U.S. following these new events, and would the State Department provide any comments on that?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Mariana. So I won’t get into too much of the specifics of the discussions, but I will reiterate that we did have principals recently in the region, our Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and our Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Jose Fernandez.

What I will say from here is that shared goals were discussed to protect the environment, mitigation of effects of climate change, recovery from COVID-19, and ways to build supply chain resilience. We also reinforced our cooperation in security and defense, and promoting peace and the rule of law, as well as our appreciation for the vibrant partnership that the United States does share with Brazil.

And as far as your second question on elections, we have nothing specific to offer on – at that time.

Let’s go to the line of Endale Getahun.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Jalina. Happy Friday to you. I hope you can hear me.

MS PORTER: Yes, thank you. Happy Friday to you as well.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thanks so much. I was just wondering if you have read the statement that was made by the Congress Bradley Sherman regarding – based on his tweet that said that he was waiting for the Secretary of State’s promise that he would probably publicly come up and determine for the – regarding the genocide take place in Tigray, Ethiopia or any statement that would be – because said he’s waiting, that the Secretary promised but so far has not made that publicly yet. And so do you have any comment on that?

My also second questions: Do you have any reaction to the Eritrean Government, which has still occupied the western Tigray, including the neighboring Amhara troops or groups in western Tigray? But Eritreans-appointed officials has visited Russia. Possibly there is a negotiation for new military arms for Eritrea and possibly also, according to sources, that the Russians, possibly a warship, could be docked in Red Sea close to Eritrea. As you know, Eritrea is still occupied with Ethiopian authorities and Amhara regime in western Tigray. What’s your reaction on that and if you have those – those are two questions that I have, and thank you so much.

MS PORTER: So Endale, to your second question, I just don’t have anything to offer on that.

What I would say to your first question on the determination, on the atrocity determination, our position hasn’t changed and we are following the situation in Tigray as well as across northern Ethiopia very closely. We’re also deeply concerned by reported human rights abuses and violations.

In response to these credible reports, we regularly issue statements condemning these incidents and also call for accountability. The Secretary acknowledged to Congressman Sherman on Thursday that the State Department, by law, has the prerogative to issue atrocity determinations and, as a matter of policy, will issue one if and when appropriate.

Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you hear me, Jalina?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much. I wanted to follow up both on Conor and Cindy’s questions.

On Conor’s, can you just confirm how many trips the embassy staff has taken into Ukraine this week? Has it just been the one-day trip or have there been multiple, and are they overnighting at this point yet?

And then I know the State Department doesn’t track the number of Americans who are abroad, but do you have a rough estimate of how many Americans have gone to Ukraine to fight on behalf of the Ukrainian forces there? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So we don’t have an exact number to preview as far as the trips to Ukraine and overnight. We’ll be happy to share that whenever we do.

And as far as Americans fighting in Ukraine, we don’t have anything to share today on that as well.

Let’s go to Eunjong Cho.

QUESTION: Hi Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Wonderful. I have two questions today.

South Korean NGO launched one million leaflets into North Korea by balloon this week, and South Korean Government said it will enforce the anti-leaflet law which bans sending leaflets across the border. What is the State Department’s position on South Korean NGO’s efforts to send leaflets into North Korea?

And then my second question: U.S. think tanks this week released analysis that North Korea is continuing work to restore its nuclear test site. What is State Department’s reaction to North Korea’s continued preparations for a nuclear test? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So we are aware of reports that the DPRK may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test in the coming months. And such an action not only would be dangerous but it would also be deeply destabilizing to the region. It would blatantly violate international law as set out in multiple resolutions of the UN Security Council. It would also undermine the global nonproliferation regime.

The DPRK has already launched 13 ballistic missiles this year, including at least three ICBMs, and we urge the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing activity and instead choose to engage in serious and sustained dialogue.

As far as leaflets, we don’t have anything to share at this time.

Let’s go to Alex Raufoglu.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina, and Happy Friday. Couple of questions here, and let me start with the – your early statement on fallen journalist Vira Hyrych, who worked for a U.S.-backed outlet. Will the State Department be willing to lead the investigation around her death, as well as the deaths of other reporters during this war – be investigated as a war crime?

And my second question is about November G20 summit, whose hosts received confirmation today that President Putin plans to attend. Do you have anything on how Washington will approach that event?

And lastly, any result on meetings at the State Department with Belarus president elect Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Alex, to your first question, broadly speaking, so evidence of criminality is mounting, and those who have unleashed, perpetrated, and ordered crimes must be held to account. We strongly condemn apparent atrocities by the Kremlin forces across Ukraine. And we’ve assessed that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes, and we continue to monitor atrocities being committed in Ukraine.

To your second question on the G20, the United States continues to believe that it can’t be business as usual with regards to Russia’s participation with the international community or international institutions. The G20 president, Indonesia, is responsible for all the invitations, and outside of that we don’t have anything further to announce.

To your last question, we have issued a readout that’s found on our website.

We’ll take our last question from Hyejun So.

QUESTION: I’m not sure if you called my name, but did you call me? Hyejun So?

MS PORTER: Yes. Hyejun So.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. My question is very similar to the previous one from our colleague on North Korea, but it’s a – I saw a report that South Korean military authorities are closely monitoring North Korean military movement, judging from the assessment that there is a high chance of another test firing of missiles, possibly one of the ones that North Korea showed off at their military parade on the 25th. And I’m wondering if this kind of discussion or this kind of South Korean military authority assessment was discussed with U.S. in advance. Thank you.

MS PORTER: What I would say from here is that we continue to closely monitor the situation on the Korean peninsula, and I’ll just underscore that we urge the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing activity and instead choose to engage in serious and sustained dialogue.

That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you so much for joining. I hope you have a great weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:29 p.m.)

# # #

Department Press Briefing – April 8, 2022

8 Apr

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:02 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday, everyone. I have one update at the top, and then I’ll start with taking your questions. I would like to start off by addressing the missile strike by Russia’s forces that reportedly killed at least 50 civilians and injured many more at the Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine, where thousands of civilians were on a platform waiting to be evacuated. I want to express our deep condolences to the families of those killed or injured, and to the people of Ukraine who continue to suffer terribly from the Russian Government’s unprovoked, unjustified, and brutal war.

We are horrified by this latest atrocity, but we can no longer be surprised by the Kremlin’s repugnant disregard for human life. This is just yet another example of the Russian Government’s unjustified, brutal war sowing senseless death and destruction in Ukraine, and unraveling the fabric of normal life on schools, on homes, on hospitals, and on workplaces. Civilians are killed when they stay in their homes, and they’re killed when they tried to leave. Actions like these demonstrate why Russia did not belong on the UN Human Rights Council, and they also reinforced the U.S. assessment that members of Russian – Russia’s forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine.

This tragedy has also further increased our resolve to do everything we can to assist those investigating potential war crimes, see those responsible held accountable for atrocities, and support the people of Ukraine in their just cause: the defense of their country, their democracy, and their free and sovereign future.

Let’s first go to the line of Cindy Saine, please.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Jalina, Prime Minister – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan just spoke to the nation, and he has renewed allegations that the U.S. encouraged the no-confidence vote, saying that he has a cable to prove it. Could you please comment? And thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. Let me just say very bluntly there is absolutely no truth to these allegations. Of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and rule of law. But again, these allegations are absolutely not true.

OPERATOR: And next we’ll go to the line of Endale Getahun with KETO FM International. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Good morning. Good morning, everyone, and a Happy Friday. Thank you for taking my call. I am asking regarding the situation, as you know, that’s in East Africa, Ethiopia. I don’t know if you know, but there was – a meeting took place between the second in command on Ethiopian military and Eritrean. And so do you know any information or have you heard on – or do you want to comment on regarding the general who visited Eritrea with the state – given the statements on state media and Ethiopian TV that they are preparing to do a second phase there to invade Tigray, as we speak? Do you have any comment on that?

The second one I have: Have you seen the Human Rights and Amnesty International released about the (inaudible) was taken based on their statements, ethnic cleansing and what have you, on – for the neighboring state, for Amhara militants or vigilantes, and they were – and western Tigray, which is still occupied by Eritreans and by the – with the Amhara? So what is your comments on that statement and also on the general, the second in command in Ethiopia, that made the statements on they are heading to the second phase, even as there’s a ceasefire according to Ethiopian Government, and also on the human – that was my question, but if you have any comments on World Food Program. They’re still having issues for delivering food. Only 26 trucks head on to Tigray. What’s your comment on that too? And thank you so much, appreciate it.

MS PORTER: Thank you for all of those robust questions. I’ll do my best to give you an overview of what we have from here. I’ll just start off by saying that we certainly welcome the humanitarian truce in Tigray.

Second, to your question on the joint Human Rights report and Amnesty International report, we’re certainly aware of these reports on ethnically motivated atrocities committed by Amhara authorities in the western Tigray and in Ethiopia, and we also reiterate our grave concerns over findings in this report, which we will carefully review. In fact, we have some principals in the building, including Under Secretary Zeya, who is our Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, along with our Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, and a couple other principals in our department are actually meeting with representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International today to hear more about this report.

I’ll also say that the U.S. has consistently called out human rights abuses by all armed actors in this conflict, and we will continue to do this. Victims deserve justice, and those responsible for these abuses must be held accountable through transparent and inclusive processes.

Let’s please go to Laura Kelly.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. Secretary Blinken on I believe it was March 23rd said that the State Department determined the Russians had committed war crimes in Ukraine. When do you intend to release those assessments of specific determinations of war crimes?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. Well, we certainly don’t have a timeline for this. But I’ll say that we continue to investigate Russia’s ongoing and unprovoked, unjustified war against Ukraine. But we have no – nothing to preview as far as timelines.

Let’s go to Eunjong Cho, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Great. The nominee for ambassador to South Korea, Ambassador Phillip Goldberg, at the Senate nomination hearing yesterday said comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization are goals in – when it comes to North Korea. So is comprehensible, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization the Biden administration’s official term for describing the goal in negotiations with North Korea? Is the Biden administration officially replacing “complete” with “comprehensive” in defining this goal?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Eunjong. We have no change – the Biden-Harris administration has no change in our policy, and we continue to urge the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing activities and of course instead choose to engage in serious and sustained dialogue.

Let’s go over to Jenny Hansler.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for calling on me. The Ukrainian foreign minister just called for Russia to be expelled from the OSCE, saying that if the OSCE lacks an appropriate suspension mechanism, then they should set up a process to get them out. Does the U.S. support suspending Russia from the OSCE or creating a mechanism to do so?

And then secondly, do you have an update on the American citizens detained in Russia? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. To your first question on the OSCE, I’m learning about that in real time so we don’t have anything to respond to at the moment.

But what I will say about – to your second question, of course, is our top priority is and has always been the safety and the security of Americans overseas, and we continue to engage the Russian Government on cases of Americans who are currently detained.

Let’s go over to Conor Finnegan.

QUESTION: Hey, Jalina. Two questions on – just following up on what you said at the top about the strike on the train station in Kramatorsk. First, you said it reinforces the assessment that Russia is committing war crimes. Are you calling this strike a war crime?

And then second, you attributed it to Russia. The Kremlin has obviously denied responsibility. Just wondering if you will respond to their denial. Any more information you can provide on why you are attributing it to them? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Conor. I’ll say, to your question on the war crime question, assessing individual criminal liability in specific cases is the responsibility of courts as well as other investigatory bodies. But as the Secretary, Secretary Blinken, has said, those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine will be held to account. We won’t make any public comments on our war crimes assessment of specific acts or reports, nor discuss any information that’s reviewed at this time.

And then to your second question on a response – yeah, we just don’t have a response to give at this time.

Let’s go over to Joseph Akbush.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for this. Two questions. One, is there any comment on the two attacks which targeted U.S. servicemembers in Syria and Iraq over the last two days, I guess? And on that note, any updates to the Vienna talks?

And then my second question is on Ukraine. And are there still – is the U.S. still concerned about China providing military support to Russia or circumventing international sanctions? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Joseph. So for your first question, I would have to refer you to the DOD. To your second question on any updates in – on the status of talks and Iran, we don’t have any updates to share at this time other than it’s obviously been a significant process, but an agreement is neither imminent nor certain at this time.

And to your last question on Chinese military to assist the Russians, I think we’ve been pretty clear on our stance when it comes to any support in this activity, and that hasn’t changed at this time.

Let’s take our last question from Elizabeth Hagedorn.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. One follow-up for you on Iran. Can you say whether the Biden administration shares General Milley’s view that the IRGC’s Qods Force specifically should remain on the U.S. list of terror organizations?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Elizabeth. I’d say that the President shares the chairman’s view that IRGC Qods Forces are terrorists, and beyond that we aren’t going to comment on any of the topics in the nuclear talks. But what I would say is out of the 107 Biden administration designations in relation to Iran, 86 have specifically targeted the IRGC-related persons as well as affiliates.

Thank you all so much for joining today. That concludes today’s press briefing, and I hope you have a good weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)

 

Department Press Briefing – March 18, 2022

18 Mar

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday, everyone. Thank you for joining today’s daily press briefing. I have one update at the top and then I will start with taking your questions.

Let me first start off with dispelling some recent false news. There is wide reporting that there were three U.S. soldiers who were killed in Donbas, which is patently false and a deliberate fabrication. There are no U.S. soldiers in Ukraine. The imagery used is – on this false reporting is from 2018, and those depicted in the picture returned safely to their home the next year in 2019. They are accounted for, safe, and not, as the article erroneously states, U.S. mercenaries killed in Donetsk.

As the Secretary said yesterday in reference to Putin’s war of choice, those responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine will be held to account. The Kremlin’s heinous acts against Ukraine affects us all, and they strike at the core of our common humanity. This is why we will continue to work in conjunction with the international efforts to investigate and document war crimes and bring all those responsible to justice. Moscow attempts to deny responsibility by telling the world that Ukraine is purposely targeting its own civilians. This is nonsense and reveals the depths of Moscow’s cynicism and contempt for the truth.

We see new and heartbreaking images every day of Ukraine’s schools, homes, hospitals, bread lines, and civilians, including children, being hit by the Russian Federation’s missiles and shelling. The senseless death and destruction are escalating from Putin’s brutal war of choice. As the Secretary has said, reports that the Russian Federation is intentionally targeting civilians are very credible. Targeting civilians is considered a war crime.

Yesterday you heard the Secretary confirm the death of an American citizen in Ukraine. We send our most heartfelt condolences to his loved ones, and we also reiterate while we all feel this loss, we know that every loss, every victim of the Kremlin’s senseless aggression, leaves every family heartbroken and those loved ones heartbroken as well.

The Kremlin’s cold-blooded tactics and utter disregard for human life are appalling. International organizations are unable to deliver humanitarian aid to those in Mariupol. According to one humanitarian organization, without aid, the people in Mariupol are being suffocated. These are just the latest examples of the Kremlin’s disregard for human life.

The Kremlin has a long track record of accusing the West of being – of very horrific acts to (inaudible) it is actually perpetrating. Over the past months, we’ve seen the Kremlin intensify this tactic in an obvious ploy to justify Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attacks on Ukraine. We believe that Moscow may be setting the stage to use chemical or biological weapons and then falsely blame Ukraine to justify escalating its attack on civilians. Creating a false narrative to justify escalatory use of military force is yet another Kremlin tactic.

The world is watching, and we are documenting everything we see. We’re supporting a range of mechanisms to document and pursue accountability for potential war crimes as well as other atrocities in Ukraine. This includes efforts by Ukraine’s authorities, international accountability mechanisms, and the important work of human rights defenders in Ukraine. We’ve long said that if Putin invades Ukraine, we would help Ukraine defend itself and uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity while imposing costs on the aggressor, the Russian Federation, as well as all its enablers.

Let me also take a minute to address the people of Russia. You are not our enemy. We know you did not choose this war. You have a right to know about the human costs of this war, not just about the deaths of Ukrainians, but also of your own sons who are dying needlessly by the thousands. We and our allies and partners will continue working to keep civilians safe, respond to the needs of refugees and those displaced inside Ukraine, and provide critical life-saving supplies. Through it all, we have not lost sight on who is responsible. We’re holding Vladimir Putin and his enablers accountable.

We call for an immediate end to this senseless war and the growing human suffering it’s influencing every single day. We stand with the people of Ukraine and we stand with Ukraine.

Let’s take our first question from Said Arikat, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Before asking your question, please wait until your line is addressed. Said, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you hear me? Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, Said. I can —

QUESTION: Yeah – hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this. Very quickly, not pertaining to Ukraine or Russia, I wanted to ask a question about the Palestinian-Israeli issue, if I may, very quickly, statements that were made by Ambassador Nides. He said that – when he talks about equality, he gave a lengthy interview, although he spoke before the Peace Now movement in Israel and talked that – suggested that equality means, like, G4 technology, maybe some improvement in the economic situation for the Palestinians. Did not really speak about the state of (inaudible). He did condemn the settlements, or he spoke very negatively of the settlements and said that there were obstacles to any prospect of the two-state solution. My question to you: Is that the position? And why – how do you explain what he said about that he is not able to undo any single settlement? Is the United States not able to undo the settlements? Thank you, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Said. I’ll start off by first saying that Ambassador Nides couldn’t have been any more clear that the Biden-Harris administration believes that there should be a viable and democratic Palestinian state living in peace alongside a Jewish and democratic state. We believe that a negotiated two-state solution is the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the administration has also made clear on numerous occasions that Israelis and Palestinians alike equally deserve to live in security, prosperity, and freedom.

On equality, we’ve said this before that advancing equal measures of freedom and dignity is important in its own right and as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution. We’ll continue to focus our efforts on an affirmative and practical approach that is constructive, positive steps that help us keep the possibility of a negotiated two state solution alive.

Let’s go to Endale Getahun.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Endale, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks so much. Good morning. My name is Endale, and I thank you for taking my question, Deputy Spokesperson Porter. It’s my first time asking you since I’ve been covering this office for – since 1998, and I’m so glad to ask you a question. I would like to ask a question regarding, as you know, today, the 500 days of the decision and war taken place at the East Africa in Ethiopia and Tigray region.

As you know, this morning there were – demonstrating in front of your office from Tigrayan Americans and others. What is your response on the situation, especially as you just gave a statement right now about Ukraine within 26 days now that the United States Government has taken a very swift action on Russia? But when it comes to the African – most Africans are concerned about the – action was taken by the United States is – only seems to be lip service by saying only: we’re concerned, we’re concerned. So what is your response to that regarding the situation in Tigray?

As you speak, also, your ambassador’s also visited the Amhara region just past week. But in the response to the concern they have regarding – the support that was given to Ukraine is kind of swift, but when it comes to the Africans, to the black Africans, (inaudible) are very – was asking – the action was taken by the Secretary himself to call it genocide. What’s your response on that regarding – especially with the African concern regarding – some like I can refer by locally, there wasn’t – doesn’t say this morning – referring to no African life matter. Because if they’re Ukraine are Europeans, but the African continent, the Tigray regions, especially today that are 500 days since the siege. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Endale. Let me just first start off by saying that the United States, the Biden-Harris administration as well as our Secretary, first and foremost values all African lives, black Africans just as much as they do the lives of Ukrainians who are experiencing a war right now.

I would also say, at the same time, these are two separate situations, and I wouldn’t want to conflate either one of them. But we certainly have a high regard and are certainly concerned about what’s going on in Tigray.

I would also say that the United States is committed to the unity, sovereignty, as well as the territorial integrity of Ethiopia, and seeks peace and stability in Ethiopia to build on the longstanding, strong partnerships that we have been our governments, and that we have between our peoples.

I would also note that, again, in echoing the fact that the Biden-Harris administration is very firm on putting human rights in the center of our foreign policy, that the United States has consistently called out human rights abuses by all armed actors in this conflict, and we will continue doing so. We also believe that victims of these abuses deserve justice, and those responsible must be held accountable through a transparent and inclusive process.

Now, when it comes to the conflict and the length of time that you mentioned, again, we are not letting our foot off the gas on this. We definitely call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, as well as unhindered humanitarian access, transparent investigations into human rights abuses, and we certainly seek a resolution to this conflict in Ethiopia.

Let’s please go to Kristina Anderson.

OPERATOR: Kristina, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking my question. I’m wondering if you would like to speak to any updates regarding the tensions in the Indo-Pacific, and what that might mean looking forward. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Hi, Kristina. If we have you still on the line, can you be a little bit more explicit on what you mean by tensions in the Indo-Pacific?

QUESTION: Yes, along the border between China and India, as well as Taiwan, and the concerns that Japan has had, also, about Chinese aggression in the straits there, and overflights. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you. As far as your first question, on the first dispute, we don’t have anything when it comes to Taiwan. I would just reiterate what we have shared before and that our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.

I think, as you well know, we are definitely committed to the Indo-Pacific as a region. Of course, as President Biden has said time and time over, that America is a part of that region, and we are certainly committed to strengthening ties, as is outlined in our Indo-Pacific Strategy, which I would be happy to refer you to the White House for that document.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Simon, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I hope you’re having a good Friday. I just wanted to follow up on something that Secretary Blinken said yesterday in his remarks to the press, and in light of the call this morning between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Secretary Blinken said that one of the messages that was being passed to the Chinese is the U.S. will not hesitate to impose costs on Beijing if they are supporting – if they are supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine. So I wondered if you could sort of lay out for us a little bit – in a little bit more detail, is there a specific red line or specific action by the Chinese that you’re looking for that would trigger those costs? And would those costs include sanctions of the kind that we’ve seen against Russia? What kind of sanctions would that be? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. I’ll let the Secretary’s remarks speak for themselves, and I wouldn’t want to get into any hypotheticals, and we certainly don’t preview sanctions. But again, what we have done is we’ve encouraged our allies and partners in the international community to band together to condemn this senseless war that Russia has gotten itself into. Anything outside of that, I have nothing else to share at this time.

Let’s go to Camilla Schick, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Camilla, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. Also following up on something that the Secretary said yesterday, he said we believe Russia will bring its mercenaries from private military groups and foreign countries to Ukraine, so he’s using the future tense there. Today we also had General McKenzie mention that there’s little evidence of Russia recruiting from Syria, foreign fighters from Syria. So I was wondering if you could comment on the timeframe that the Secretary was referring to, whether he was referring to something that’s going to happen soon, and whether you could give any more detail on what makes the State Department believe that the Russians will indeed be recruiting mercenaries from places like the Middle East. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Camilla. To your question about a timeline, I’m certainly not able to predict or share a timeline in reference to the Secretary’s remarks yesterday, but what I will say is that we have been consistent from day one, before this war started, in calling out what Russia’s playbook – their playbook and ploys, and unfortunately we’ve been proven right on what they’ve been doing. Outside of that, I don’t have any more to share.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Rosiland, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday.

MS PORTER: Happy Friday.

QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on the recent meetings between U.S. and Venezuelan officials. Have there been any additional contacts, discussions on – have there been any progress – has there been any progress on getting the rest of the Americans released from Venezuelan custody? And is there any progress on discussions about accessing Venezuelan oil for the U.S. market? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Ros. I’ll start off by saying that U.S. officials’ visit to Venezuela focused on securing the release of the U.S. wrongful detainees, and urging the Maduro regime to return to the negotiating table in Mexico with the democratic opposition, the Unitary Platform, to restore democracy in Venezuela.

The visit also reinforced the U.S.’s support for Interim President Juan Guaidó’s call for a negotiated solution through the Mexico process.

Let’s go to Guita Aryan.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Guita, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Jalina. I have a question about the nuclear talks with Iran. The U.S. is saying that it is waiting for these political decisions by Iran, and Iran is basically saying the same thing, that the ball is in the U.S. court. I was wondering if, here in D.C., there’s any discussion going on with regards to a possible deal, the deal itself, and what’s involved in it. Or the U.S. has kind of closed the case and is just waiting to hear from Iran? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Guita. Well, I certainly wouldn’t make the assessment that this is a closed case for the U.S. I’ll say that Special Envoy Malley and his interagency delegation are in Washington and they’re actively still working on these issues. Of course, there are a number of complex negotiations and we continue to work through them, and there are a number of difficult ones at that that I won’t be able to preview from here. Outside of that, I don’t have any further information to share about their schedule moving forward.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Jennifer, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. Do you have any updates on Brittney Griner’s case? Has she been granted consular access yet? And does the U.S. see the extension of her detention as retaliation for sanctions that were placed on Russia for its war on Ukraine? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. What I’ll say from here is that we are closely engaged on this case and are in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team. And we’ve actually said this many times before, but we have no higher priority than the safety and security and health of the – of our U.S. citizens. Whenever a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we provide all appropriate consular services and we take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously. And we consistently press for fair and transparent treatment.

Let’s go to Paul Handley, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Paul, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, I had the same question, but – on Brittney Griner. I’m wondering if you can tell us what you know of her condition and why we aren’t getting more information about her. What is the problem there?

MS PORTER: Thank you for the question. Well, we don’t have too much on those specifics at this time, but what I will say is that Embassy Moscow continues to press, thus far unsuccessfully so, for consular access under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the bilateral consular convention to U.S. detainees in Russia. For all detainees, and that includes Ms. Griner, we’re deeply concerned about our inability to access any of these U.S. citizens in recent months.

Let’s take a final question from Eunjung Cho, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Eunjung, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi, Eunjung. I can hear you.

QUESTION: Great, great. So I have a North Korea question. North Korea is escalating its missile provocations starting with short-range missiles in the – earlier in the year to ICBM range in recent weeks. Are the U.S. efforts also intensifying proportionately, whether it be pressure or diplomacy? And is it North Korea’s miscalculation that the war in Ukraine presents an opportunity for North Korea to pursue its weapons development?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Eunjung. So as we have said before and North Korean officials including Kim Jong-un have publicly noted, we seek to – continue to seek diplomacy and we’re prepared to meet without preconditions. President Biden himself has also made clear that he’s open to meeting with Kim Jong-un where there is a serious agreement on the table which we need to be on the basis of working-level negotiations, because as we’ve seen in the past administrations, leader-level summits alone are no guarantee of progress. The DPRK continues to not respond.

And the DPRK’s decision to pursue escalating tests of ballistic missiles risks raising tensions, and they are destabilizing to the Indo-Pacific. And, of course, while the door remains open to diplomacy, the United States will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and that of our allies.

Thank you for joining today’s daily press briefing. I hope you have a good weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:34 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – February 8, 2022

8 Feb

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining today’s press briefing. I don’t have any elements at the top, but I’ll give it a few extra minutes to have some more reporters filter in the queue before I start taking your questions.

So, let’s start off with the line of Cindy Spang, please.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. Good afternoon. I have a question about Jamshid Sharmahd, a German Iranian dissident and longtime California resident who was abducted by Iran and went on trial Sunday and could face the death penalty. Would you have any comment or reaction to that, please? And thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. We’re certainly aware of the reports regarding Jamshid Sharmahd’s detention, but we’re going to have to refer you to the Government of Germany for any further inquiries.

Let’s please go to Janne Pak.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS PORTER: Hello.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you, Janne. Great to hear from you.

QUESTION: Yeah, because very hard to – this signal here. So, I have two questions for you. And it is an important time for the U.S. and ROK-Japan trilateral alliance to respond to North Korea’s successive provocations. Will there be any discussion about the South Korea’s ascension to the Quad at the three-party foreign ministers meeting in Hawaii?

Second question: It is reported that the North Korea is operating on ICBM bases on the border between North Korea and China. My question is: Do you have any specific information about this? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Janne. I’ll start with your first question first. And just broadly speaking, I’d like to say that the Quad is an essential multilateral grouping that convenes four like-minded democracies. Of course, that’s the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India. And the purpose, of course, is to make tangible progress on pressing challenges within the Indo Pacific. It’s also based on our shared values and capability. Each Quad member shares collective commitments to democracy, peace, security, and prosperity in the region.

To answer your questions about South Korea’s ascension into the Quad, I certainly don’t have any details to share other than what we issued in our readout – that was our travel announcement, excuse me, that was issued last Friday.

But what I would say is that we continue to consult closely with the Republic of Korea, Japan, as well as other allies and partners on how to best engage the DPRK. The United States condemned the DPRK’s missile launches, and of course the DPRK wants to normalize illicit weapons testing, but we’re taking a calibrated approach, as we’ve said previously, to these provocations based on the degree of threat to the United States as well as to our allies.

Of course, as it can’t be understated, a number times, that our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that we have no hostile intent towards the DPRK and remain open to meeting the DPRK without preconditions. Of course, however, we also have an obligation to address the DPRK’s recent provocations and enforce UNSCRs that are already in place.

To your second question, on the ICBM base on the border with China, I would say that our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK constitutes a threat to international peace and security and the global nonproliferation regime. It’s – the United States has a vital interest in deterring the DPRK. That includes defending against its provocations or uses of force, limiting the reach of its most dangerous weapons programs, and above all keeping the American people, our deployed forces, and our allies safe.

Let’s please go to the line of Daphne Psaledakis, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this. How has the resumption of Iran talks in Vienna gone today? Has any progress been made? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Daphne. Special Envoy Malley has actually just recently returned to Vienna. He returned yesterday for the eighth round of talks that resumed today. I don’t have anything to read out from there. Of course, he continues to meet on the sidelines with our partners in Vienna. He also continues to brief Congress virtually, but outside of that I don’t have anything else to say, and I certainly wouldn’t want to get ahead of the talks. Of course, if we do have updates, we’ll be certain to share them with you as soon as we have them.

Let’s go to the line of Michel Ghandour, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for the call. I have a question on Iran talks, but since you have no update, I will ask you about Lebanon and Senior Advisor Hochstein who’s in Beirut today. Is he bringing any U.S. plan or offer to solve the maritime dispute between Lebanon and Israel? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michel. So, what I would say at the top is that the maritime boundary is a decision for both Israel and Lebanon to make. And of course, the U.S. stands ready to facilitate negotiations on the maritime boundary between both Lebanon and Israel, and we support efforts to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Let’s go to the line of Conor Finnegan, please.

QUESTION: Hey, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi. Yes, Conor, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hey. Hey, Jalina. Two questions for you. On Ukraine first, any response to the talks between Presidents Macron and Putin, now that we’ve heard a bit more about them from both sides? Macron specifically said today that Putin told him Russia wouldn’t initiate an escalation. I’m wondering if you believe that’s true.

And then a second question on Honduras. The information that was declassified and publicized last night that former President Hernández was included on the list of corrupt and undemocratic actors – why was this information declassified now, and does it send the wrong message that heads of government would only face repercussions like this once they leave power? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So, Conor, I will start with your first question. On Macron, I would just say that we are engaged in intensive diplomacy with our allies and partners, but I’m – I just can’t get into detail about private meetings. But one of the messages that we’ve tried to send very clearly to Russia is that the West is united, and the fact is that there’s still more than 100,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine. Russia continues to surge troops and equipment to the borders of Ukraine, and we believe that they are in a position where they can invade at any time.

Of course, we just can’t control what Russia will do next, but what we can do is make clear with our allies and partners that there will be massive consequences to Russia should Putin choose to further invade Ukraine. And if Russia does invade, it will end up in a weaker position over time, and the NATO Alliance will be stronger and more united.

To your second question on Honduras, we’re declassifying and publicizing the inclusion of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández in the Corrupt Undemocratic Actors List under Section 353 of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhancement Engagement Act. The department included Hernández on this list effective July 1st on – in 2021.

According to multiple credible media outlets, Juan Orlando Hernández has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narcotrafficking and using proceeds of illicit activity to facilitate political campaigns.

I would say in addition Hernández was identified by name in a sworn witness testimony in a U.S. Federal criminal proceeding as having received narcotrafficking proceeds as a part of his campaign funding. And pursuant to Section 353 of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhancement Engagement Act, individuals identified through this list are generally ineligible for visas to travel to the United States.

I would also add that the United States encourages the fight against corruption as a core national security priority. And of course, we’re engaged in a careful, thorough effort to combat corruption in Honduras as well as across the region and as well as around the world.

Let’s please go to the line of Matt Lee.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hey Matt, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay, I have two brief ones on Iran. I realize you don’t have a readout from Vienna, but I’m just wondering: Can you say if Rob Malley and the team has at least begun to have meetings – the indirect meetings – with the Europeans, or are they just kind of waiting for – to have – to begin those contacts tomorrow or later today?

And then secondly, you guys have made the case that the sanctions waivers that were signed on Friday by the Secretary do not invoke or do not require the provisions of INARA to be followed because it’s not a quid pro quo or part of a – part of an agreement. But you probably will have seen a letter that has been sent by, I think, 33 Republican senators that says that it does actually, and, also, more – perhaps more importantly that they will block or move to block any kind of an agreement that you do – that you may reach with Iran if it is not submitted to Congress first.

And so, part – and so without getting into congressional correspondence, I’m just wondering if you can assure members of Congress now that you will be submitting any agreement that you get in Vienna to Congress for its approval. And then also very briefly, just to remind you of the first one, have the actual meetings with the U.S. team begun? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Hey Matt, I think I want to go back to your first question. I thought you asked initially had meetings with Special Envoy Malley started with the Europeans yet. And if that’s correct, I don’t have anything to share or read out at the moment.

But to your second question on Congress, I’d reiterate at the top what I shared on the – with one of the questions of your colleagues, which is that Special Envoy Malley continues to brief members of Congress even remotely. But what I’ll say more specifically is that the administration will carefully consider the facts as well as the circumstances of any U.S. return to the JCPOA to determine the legal implications, which would include under INARA. We’re committed to ensuring the requirements of INARA are satisfied.

And the President believes that a bipartisan approach to Iran is the strongest way to safeguard U.S. interests for the long term. And the administration officials have reached out at all levels to members of Congress as well as their staff to discuss our approach to Iran. Special Envoy Malley remains deeply committed to continued close engagement with Congress in a bipartisan manner as Iran policy continues to develop.

Let’s please go to the line of Luis Rojas.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. I have only one question today. Do you have any update on the possible retabulation of remittance to Cuba or on the sending of diplomatic personnel to the United States Embassy in Havana, please?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Luis. To your second question, I don’t have any announcements or any updates to make about personnel issues, but I’d just reiterate what we have shared in the past to your first question, which was: following the July 2021 protest the administration created a remittance working group to explore options to facilitate remittances to Cuba that would go to maximally benefit the Cuban people, and that would also include by allowing Cuban families to support each other and also minimize or eliminate benefits to the Cuban regime and its military.

Also, in August of 2021, the remittance working group shared its analysis that includes potential options with other members of the administration, and the administration continues to consider these options and explore innovative solutions such as digital payment. Outside of that, we don’t have any specific timetables for a decision or any other updates to share, at this time.

Let’s please go to the line of Will Mauldin.

QUESTION: Thanks so much, Jalina. I just wanted to follow up on Conor’s question about the French diplomacy in Russia and Ukraine, and was wondering if Secretary Blinken – I know he’s traveling, but he has a pretty good telephone set on board – or any of the other senior members of the department, Under Secretary Nuland or Deputy Secretary Sherman, had been in touch with the French or were expected to, or other people in the administration. And if they – and what was the general view on that? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Will. I don’t have anything much else to add from what I shared with Conor in that we are – we continue to be in close consultation and coordination with our allies and partners, and we continue to be in alliance with them as well.

Let’s go to the line of Jiha Ham, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon. I have two questions for you today. Yesterday, VOA reported that a North Korean defector, who is a military officer, who is also known as a cryptocurrency expert, was arrested by Russia and now imprisoned in a North Korean consulate in Vladivostok. Some expect that he will be sent back to North Korea. Do you have any concerns that this may be another forced repatriation case that we have seen in China many times? Some human rights experts suggest that the State Department should ask Russia to free this person. So, what’s your position on this?

And my second question is about China’s remark yesterday at the Security Council. The Chinese ambassador said that there have been serious humanitarian consequences in North Korea and the import of humanitarian livelihood goods have been severely restricted because of the sanctions on North Korea. But in fact, there are many aid groups who have received sanctions exemptions, and quite many of them are ready to send those important items, but the problem is North Korea’s border closure. So, do you have any response or comment on this? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha. I’ll start with your second question. The United States has led efforts to streamline the process for humanitarian sanctions exemptions at the UN and it has also committed to reviewing such applications as quickly as possible. We’ve also maintained broad exemptions and authorizations across many of the sanctions programs, including the DPRK program, aimed at ensuring that U.S. sanctions don’t hamper the transfer and delivery of humanitarian aid.

And to your first question, I would have to refer you to colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security.

Let’s go to the line of Albert Hong, please.

QUESTION: One more North Korean issue. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it had never committed a cyber crime. North Korea also accused the United States for cyber crime. What is the State Department’s position of that?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. While I haven’t seen those reports before your question, I would just say that U.S. diplomats work with countries around the world to promote the stability in cyberspace and also reduce the risk of conflict. They coordinate with partners and allies to call out and impose consequences on states that use cyber capabilities irresponsibly. They also implement programs to enhance the capacity of partner countries to implement effective cyber policies, respond to cyber threats, which would include cyber crime, and also participate in international conversations on cyber issues.

Let’s take a final question from Anas Elsabbar.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. My question regarding the designation of Houthis as a terrorist group. I don’t know if you have any update on this. And also, there were news about designating some Houthis’ top leaders and sanctioning them in the near future. I don’t know if you have any update on that as well.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Anas. I, actually, don’t have any updates on either to share at this time, but certainly happy to share them as soon as we do.

Now, before I close today’s briefing I just – I thought this might have come up, but since it didn’t, I just wanted to take a moment to address something very specific that has been in our news cycle. Following the Secretary’s hearing in Congress last week on Afghanistan, there has been renewed reflection on events from last year as well as interest in our Afghan relocation efforts.

There was a media report today recounting internal discussions and deliberations from a Department of Defense internal report related to the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan from last summer. Cherry-picked comments do not reflect the months of work that were already underway or the whole picture of what the U.S. diplomats undertook to facilitate the evacuation and relocation of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and allies – Afghan allies from Afghanistan. Some of the claims allegedly included in the report regarding State Department personnel and plans are outright false and shamefully so.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the career Foreign Service officers who were in Afghanistan, who demonstrated immense bravery, professionalism, and dedication to doing the mission during extraordinarily difficult circumstances. They put their lives at risk, standing shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces at gates to the airport, and in the end helping 124,000 Americans, foreigners, Afghan allies and their families leave Kabul.

Of course, this mission continues today. Many of these courageous colleagues have volunteered to be part of the team at State Department leading our ongoing Afghan relocation efforts. And this Department is proud of their service and their sacrifice, and I am personally honored to serve with them.

That ends today’s press briefing. I hope you have a wonderful day, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:29 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – December 17, 2021

17 Dec

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

2:02 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, and happy Friday, everyone. Thank you so much for joining today’s press briefing. I have a couple of rounds of updates at the top, and then I will resume with taking your questions.

Secretary Blinken is back in Washington today after a very productive trip to the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Secretary decided to return to Washington early out of an abundance of caution after a member of the traveling party tested positive for COVID-19.

While still in the region, the Secretary spoke with Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to express his regret for not being able to visit Bangkok this week. The Secretary invited the deputy prime minister to visit Washington and looks forward to traveling to Thailand as soon as possible to further strengthen the U.S.-Thai alliance.

In Jakarta, the Secretary delivered remarks on the significance of the Indo-Pacific, outlining our shared vision for the region and how we will work with our allies and partners to make this vision a reality. As the Secretary noted in his address, the United States has long been, is, and always will be an Indo-Pacific nation. And what happens in the Indo-Pacific, more than any other region, will shape the trajectory of the world in the 21st century.

In Indonesia, the Secretary also met with President Joko Widodo, his good friend Foreign Minister Retno, and ministers who deal with education and technology, maritime and investment, as well as trade. Underscoring the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Partnership, he also signed three separate memoranda of understanding to strengthen our bilateral cooperation on maritime issues, education, and renew the Peace Corps program. While the Secretary was on the ground in Jakarta, the United States delivered another batch of vaccines to the country, bringing our total donations to Indonesia to more than 25 million.

In Malaysia, the Secretary met with Prime Minister Sabri, Foreign Minister Saifuddin, and Energy Minister Takiyuddin. In all of his engagements, he reinforced the United States commitment to strengthening our important political, economic, and cultural ties with Malaysia.

One of the Secretary’s main goals for this trip was to reinforce ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture by building on the success of the October U.S.-ASEAN Summit. The Secretary also announced that the U.S. will host another ASEAN leaders’ summit early next year, and the details are still being worked on.

Next, we welcome the news that the remaining 12 individuals, including 11 U.S. citizens, kidnapped on October 16th in Haiti are free, and we thank our partners in the Haitian National Police, international organizations, as well as the U.S. interagency who worked tirelessly for their release.

To address the security, political, and economic challenges in Haiti, this morning the United States convened a senior-level virtual international partners meeting chaired by Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols, with participation from Assistant Secretary Todd Robinson of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, as well as USAID’s acting administrator – excuse me, Acting Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean Bureau Peter Natiello. This meeting also included the Haitian foreign minister, Jean Geneus, as well as a broad group of governments and international organizations with experience in supporting Haiti. We hope this meeting will bring the international community closer to a unified approach to assist Haiti in restoring its democratic institutions.

And finally, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Dr. Karen Donfried returns today from her trip to Kyiv, Moscow, and Brussels. This trip was productive and an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitments to Ukraine, encourage Russia to de-escalate and pursue the diplomatic path, and to closely coordinate with our NATO Allies and EU partners.

While in Kyiv, Assistant Secretary Donfried met with the Head of Presidential Office Andriy Yermak, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Deputy Head of Delegation for Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group Andriy Kostin. Dr. Donfried reaffirmed the United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and she also reconfirmed President Biden’s commitment to the principle of no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine.

In Moscow, Dr. Donfried met with Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. During these meetings, she had a frank and straightforward discussion with Russian counterparts. She expressed strong concern regarding Russia’s military buildup, reinforced our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also emphasized that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would result in severe consequences. She underscored President Biden’s commitment to finding a diplomatic path to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including through implementation of the Minsk agreements and support of the Normandy format.

Finally, Assistant Secretary Donfried concluded the trip in Brussels, where she consulted with our NATO Allies and EU partners. She provided a readout of her meetings, consulted with them on next steps, and also reaffirmed our commitment to close coordination. She noted that our unity with allies and partners is our greatest strength and that we will not make any decisions related to their security without them.

And I’m just going to give it a few minutes before I start taking your questions.

OPERATOR: And ladies, again – ladies and gentlemen, once again, if you do have a question on today’s call, you may press 1 and then 0.

MS PORTER: Let’s start things off with Shaun Tandon, please.

QUESTION: Poland. The Polish parliament today went ahead and voted in a media ownership law that is widely seen as silencing TVN24, an independent news channel. I know there’s a reaction at the – from the embassy there. Was wondering a little bit in terms of U.S. diplomacy on this, how you see this affecting the relationship with Poland, what are you looking for Poland to do now, how much will this factor into the relationship.

And if I could ask you something completely different, in – at the UN, the current ambassador from Afghanistan has resigned. I know the United States doesn’t want the Taliban to take the seat, but the current arrangement was predicated on the current ambassador staying there, if I understand it correctly. What’s the U.S. looking at for now in terms of the seat of Afghanistan in the United Nations? Do you – are you looking for somebody to fill it? What’s your stance in terms of what should be done with that seat now? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your questions, Shaun. I’ll start with your first question on Poland. We are certainly aware of these reports, and I can say that the United States is troubled by the passage in Poland today of a law that would gravely weaken media freedom in that country. We also encourage President Duda to reaffirm his past statements in support of freedom of expression, the sanctity of contracts, and the shared values that underpin our relationship. We also strongly encourage him to act on these values in regards to this legislation that, if it does become law in its current form, could severely impact media freedom as well as the foreign investment climate.

To your second question on the UN role, this is something that we are looking into, but I don’t have anything further to announce at this point for you.

Let’s go to Said Arikat, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) my question. I have a couple quick ones on the Palestinian issue. First on the consulate, the opening of the consulate in Jerusalem, there seems to be a great deal of confusion. It’s on, it’s off; the Israeli press is claiming that it’s been shelved. Even the Palestinian press is claiming that. So could you clarify this? I mean, I know you don’t have a date for reopening, but at least could you clarify the commitment to reopening the consulate? That’s one.

Second, the Israeli police have busted very brutally, very forcefully a demonstration in solidarity with the Salem family in Sheikh Jarrah who are slated to be evicted by the end of the month. Will you state – will you issue a statement or anything, call on the Israelis not to evict the Salem family? Thank you, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Said. So we are closely following the Sheikh Jarrah case and all of its complexity, and we remain concerned about potential eviction of Palestinian families, of course, we know many of whom have lived in those homes for generations.

On your first question about the consulate, we don’t have anything new to announce at this time.

Let’s go to Abigail Williams, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) report that came out earlier today that there are 60,000 Afghan SIV applicants that still remain in Afghanistan and that there are 33,000 Afghans who’ve already been vetted and are eligible for immediate evacuation. Do you have any update on the Americans that still wish to be evacuated that remain? And can you provide total numbers on who has been evacuated thus far?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Abigail. I want to pull apart your two questions and start off with the figure that you just shared. The Department doesn’t have any comment on that specific reporting. And I just have to refer you to the media note that we released on Monday for the latest on Afghan resettlement, as well as our relocation efforts. As you know, our CARE team, which is our Coordinator for Afghan Relocation team, engages in periodic public and congressional updates. And of course, when we have something further, we will be sure to share it with you.

And then the second part of your question was asking about American citizens remaining. Right now we’re working with fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens as well as their families who we’ve identified as prepared to depart and have the necessary travel documents. Of course, that number continues to fluctuate daily, because people’s plans change as they continue to assess their personal situations moving forward. But I would just say and then kind of underscore that, since the end of August, that the United States has directly assisted 479 American citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents to depart Afghanistan, to relocate to the U.S., and of course, where we continue to be in touch with U.S. citizens who want to leave and obviously are prepared to do so. Thank you.

Let’s go to Michael Schneider, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) me?

MS PORTER: Hello?

QUESTION: Hi. Hi. Can you hear me. If I may —

MS PORTER: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for this opportunity to ask a question. I would like to follow up on the question regarding the new Polish media law. If I could kindly ask you please to elaborate perhaps a little bit more regarding what kind of options are on the table. What comes next? Should this bill become a law? Should the Polish president sign it? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, thank you for your question. I mean, it’s not for me from here to dictate what comes next. But I will say that the United States definitely stands in support of media freedoms. And of course, I’ll continue to underscore that we’re deeply troubled by the passage of this law if it were to take place. It remains clear that we continue to encourage President Duda to reaffirm his statements that are also in support of media freedoms, including freedom of expression as well as the sanctity of contracts, and also the shared values that underpin our relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you. Let’s go to the line of Laura Kelly, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) taking my question. A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday sent a letter to Secretary Blinken about the economic crisis in Afghanistan and outlined five actions that they would support the administration taking. Did you receive this letter, and do you have a response to them?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Laura. I’ll just say from here that we don’t – we’re not going to comment on congressional correspondence from here.

Let’s go to Daphne Psaledakis, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) he was due to come back on Wednesday from visits to the UAE and Turkey. Could you give us a readout of his meetings and how they went, what was discussed? And additionally, on Iran, do you have any expectation that talks will resume before the end of the year? Thanks so much.

MS POERTER: If I can keep you on the line, the first part of your question was cut out. Can I have you repeat that please?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Can you still hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can still hear you. Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay, great. It – I was asking about Special Envoy Feltman’s travel to the UAE and Turkey. I think he was due back on Wednesday. Can you give a readout on how the visits went, what was discussed, who he met with?

MS PORTER: Thanks. Thank you. We don’t have a readout at this time. But we’ll certainly share when we do have one. And then you had a second question, I believe.

QUESTION: Yes, on Iran, if you have any expectation that talks will resume before the end of the year.

MS PORTER: Well, the end of the year is quite near, as we know of, but what I can say is that the seventh round of talks in Vienna did pause today, and Special Envoy Malley and his interagency delegations will return to Washington over the weekend. But yet, I can’t preview when they will resume, but what I can say is that our priority remains the constructive resumption of talks with all parties seeking to reach and implement a rapid mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA. And again, it’s too soon to tell whether Iran has returned with a more constructive approach.

Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hey, yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks, Jalina. Could you tell us whether anyone else from the Secretary’s trip has tested positive from COVID beyond the one member of the traveling press? Is the Secretary quarantining right now given that this was likely a close contact? And then separately, the Venezuelan government is suggesting the U.S. was behind a quote/unquote “attack” on their electoral system, and I was wondering if you have any response to that.

MS PORTER: Thank, Jenny. We’re going to take your second question back because I don’t have a response for you at this time.

To your first question, as you know, of course the health and safety of the State Department traveling party, including the Secretary, the Department staff, as well as the press corps, is a top priority. Of course, to that end, we’ve had very stringent protocols during travel that far exceeded what was recommended by the CDC.

We’ve taken extensive measures to identify any positive cases, and I’ll just share with you what some of those measures are. Of course, every member of the State traveling party, including the press, took a pre-travel PCR test.

Of course, every member of the traveling party was required to take at least eight COVID tests over the span of the seven-day trip. Every member of the traveling party, whether they were deemed a close contact or not, is requested to take part in a post-travel PCR test.

And of course, we require all travelers to be fully masked during all flights, and that includes specifically with N-95 masks.

Of course, there was limitation of in-flight food service on flights after the identification of a positive case.

And of course, with identification of this case, we conducted rapid and thorough contact tracing, notifying close contacts of their exposure within hours. We’ve also provided additional vehicles and limited movements so as to be able to increase social distancing following the identification of the positive case.

Regarding the disclosure, as is standard with contact tracing in accordance with the CDC guidelines, we inform close contacts of positive cases. Upon informing members of the media that they were deemed to be close contacts, they requested a reputable public statement, and that’s something that we have provided. However, throughout the trip we far exceeded CDC guidelines in terms of our testing and mitigation measures. And that’s all I can provide from here. Thank you.

Let’s go to Marcin Wrona.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for calling on me. I wanted to follow the questions by Shaun and Michael about the new media law in Poland. This media law will effectively push Discovery, Inc., out of Poland, and Discovery is the largest American investment in Poland, worth $1 billion, and it’s the owner of numerous news channels and other cable channels and a broadcast channel. And it looks like the authorities in Poland are basically ignoring statements coming from the United States. There was a strong statement by Secretary Blinken in August, and they seem to be ignoring everything. So what do you have on the table? What are you planning to do now? What steps are you planning to take?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. And I hope I pronounced your name correctly. I used to have a colleague by the name of Marcin Gortat you may know. But back to your questions. Again, I’ll just underscore that we will continue to encourage President Duda to reaffirm his past statements in support of freedom of expression as well as the sanctity of contracts and the shared values that underpin our relationship. Anything beyond that I’m not able to preview, but just generally speaking, I mean, the Biden administration has been very firm on putting human rights at the center of foreign policy. And of course, at the crux of that means freedom of expression. It means media freedom. It means, of course, valuing our Fourth Estate. And so we will continue to stand by that and we will continue to encourage President Duda to do the same.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I have two questions on North Korea today.

So today marks 10 years since Kim Jong-un assumed power in North Korea. Does the State Department have any comment on this occasion?

And the second question is: What is the State Department’s reaction to the UN General Assembly’s adopting of the North Korean human rights resolution for the seventh straight year yesterday? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Eunjung. We don’t have any comment to your first question, and the second question we’re going to have to take back to the team.

Let’s go to Nicole Gauoette.

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi, Nicole. I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Just to follow up on Jenny’s question, did anyone else on the Secretary’s trip test positive for COVID apart from the member of the press?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Nicole. We have nothing further to announce at this time.

Let’s go to Christina Anderson.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking my question. I’m wondering if during the Secretary’s travel did any – during the conversations that he had with allies, was there any mention perhaps of trade with Taiwan or exchange of scientific information, these kinds of partnerships that can happen and the benefits from them that are there when people work together across – allies work together across their – across these different institutions within their economies and their scientific and educational institutions? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Christina. The Secretary had several meetings during his trip, but I’d have to refer you back to our statement online for your question.

We’ll take the final question from Nadia Bilbassy.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question and happy Friday.

I’m wondering if the administration is detecting any quarrel or disagreements or conflicts between Iran and the Houthis considering the report that emerged talking about the Houthis wanted the Iranian ambassador out of Yemen, and whether this will present an opportunity perhaps for inviting the Houthis to come back to the negotiation table. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Hi, Nadia. I wouldn’t have anything to say about any potential quarrel or disagreement between Iran and the Houthis. But again, what I can underscore from here is that our priority is constructive resumption of the talks with all parties seeking to reach and implement a rapid mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

Thank you for joining today’s daily press briefing. I hope you have a good weekend and a good holiday season ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – December 13, 2021

13 Dec

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:02 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and happy Monday. Thank you for joining today’s daily press briefing. I have one update at the top, and then I will resume taking your questions.

As you all know, Secretary Blinken arrived in Jakarta today for the second leg of his trip that will also take him to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Honolulu. This comes off the heels of the Secretary’s first stop in Liverpool, where he attended the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers Meeting.

In Liverpool, we had productive discussions with our partners and allies on a range of issues, including geopolitical and security matters; the buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border; development infrastructure through the Build Back Better World, or B3W initiative; COVID-19 vaccines and global health security; and growth in the Indo-Pacific region.

His visits in Southeast Asia will further reaffirm our alliances and partnerships in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges.

Earlier today, the Secretary met with the Indonesian president to discuss how the United States and Indonesia can work together to preserve security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, as well as thank him for Indonesia’s work on issues including the climate crisis and COVID-19.

While in Jakarta, the Secretary will meet with government officials, civil society leaders, business stakeholders, and U.S. embassy personnel and address these topics as well as other issues of mutual concern, including the ongoing crisis in Burma.

The Secretary will also deliver remarks on the significance of the Indo-Pacific region and underscore the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Partnership.

We invite you to tune in tonight via state.gov to Secretary Blinken’s speech on the United States approach to the Indo Pacific at 9:30 Eastern. And I’ll just give it a few minutes for others to join the queue.

Let’s start things with Shaun Tandon, please.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran. Over the weekend, Iran’s chief negotiator said that there’s been progress in the talks in Vienna, saying that there has been agreement at least on the agenda. Can you give your assessment of where talks are? Do you similarly – you meaning the United States – see similarly an optimistic trend line with this?

And can I also ask you about something last week with India and Russia? India has signed on for a major military contract with Russia. Obviously, this invited sanctions with Turkey. Does the United States have any comment on India’s deliveries from Russia? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Shaun. I’m going to have to take that second question back to the team and get back to you on that.

But to your first question, I won’t preview any certain assessment, but Special Envoy Malley and, of course, his interagency delegation joined the talks just yesterday. But I will say is that our priority is the constructive resumption of these talks with all parties seeking to reach and implement a rapid and mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. It’s just too soon to tell whether Iran has returned to a more constructive approach at this moment.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hey, yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks, Jalina. Can you confirm whether Assistant Secretary Donfried has arrived in Kyiv or Moscow yet? Do you have any more detailed readouts of who she’ll meet with on those stops and how the trip is going so far? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Hi, Jenny. Assistant Secretary Donfried is in Kyiv. I don’t have anything to preview, but you can expect that we will have a readout after both of her stops. And that’s all I can say from here.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe, please.

QUESTION: Hello Jalina, and happy holidays in case I don’t get to speak to you before then. My question is on South Africa. Yesterday, Jalina, unfortunately, President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for COVID-19 after a funeral for Deputy President FW de Klerk in Cape Town, and so he is currently being treated for COVID-19. What I’m wondering is: Has Secretary Blinken – I know he’s on travel – had an opportunity to pick up the phone and call his counterpart, perhaps International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor, to find out about President Ramaphosa’s health?

Traditionally, diplomacy has been from government to government, but following the travel restrictions I was wondering perhaps if the State Department is planning on some kind of direct interaction or some kind of show of compassion to the South African general public, as the president is not well at the moment.

MS PORTER: First of all, happy holidays to you, Pearl. I definitely appreciate your holiday cheer. When it comes to your question on the Secretary, I don’t have any calls to read out, but we certainly wish President Ramaphosa a speedy recovery. And again, we, from President Biden and those of us here at State Department, we, again, have been committed on fighting the COVID-19 virus. Of course, none of us are safe until all of us are safe, and we certainly, again, wish him a speedy recovery.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I have two questions. President Moon Jae-in said South Korea is not considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Will Seoul’s decision have any impact on U.S.-ROK alliance?

And my second question is: President Moon also said that U.S., China, and North Korea agreed on fundamental and principal levels to declare a formal end to the Korean War. President Moon added because North Korea is demanding withdrawal of the so-called “hostile policy,” the countries have not been able to enter talks. Do you agree with President Moon’s assessment of where things are with the end-of-war declaration negotiations?

MS PORTER: Thank you, Eunjung. So, I’m going to start with your second question, first. And what I’ll just say is that we remain committed to achieving a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK. And to that end, of course, we’ll seek to engage with the DPRK as a part of a calibrated and practical approach in order to make more tangible progress that increases the security of not only the United States but as well as our allies and our deployed forces.

We certainly have no hostile intent towards the DPRK. And we’re certainly prepared to meet without preconditions, and we hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. We’ll continue to consult closely with the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other allies and partners about the best way to engage with the DPRK.

To your first question, we have certainly consulted with our allies and partners about the best-informed decision, but I can’t speak for them at this time. And we’ve also made this decision based on the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we’ve also consulted with and informed our allies and partners of this decision, and that’s how this process has worked.

Let’s go to Nadia Bilbassy, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you so much for taking my question. I want to ask you about Libya. There have been talks that the election might be postponed till January. Do you support a delay of the election? If you believe, if the administration believe that it will be the interest of fair and free election to get all the candidates in the right place and have international observers, or do you believe that it is time to have the election in December on time? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Nadia. On the elections being delayed, I would just say that that’s not a decision for the United States to make. It’s clear that the Libyan people support elections, as demonstrated by the high voter registration numbers. So, we believe that Libyan leaders should work towards making that goal. But what I will say, too, is that United States supports holding peaceful elections and elections that are free and fair, of course, starting on December 24th, that will pave a way for a more stable future for Libya. We’ll also continue to work with Libyan institutions, such as the High National Elections Commission, to make sure that those elections will happen.

Let’s go to Conor Finnegan, please.

QUESTION: Hey, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hey, yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hey, Jalina. Hey, so just two questions. First, the UK announced that Anne Sacoolas will face criminal proceedings for the death of – excuse me, Harry Dunn, from her dangerous driving accident. Is there any response to that, any change in the U.S. refusal to extradite her? And then secondly, if you just would respond to the Taliban – their foreign minister told the AP that they want good relations with the U.S. and urge the release of frozen funds. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Conor, just so I understand your second question correctly – if we still have you on the line – are you referring to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund? If we can get Conor back on the line, please.

QUESTION: Hello?

OPERATOR: Mr. Finnegan, your line is now open again.

QUESTION: Hey, can you hear me now?

MS PORTER: Yes, thank you.

QUESTION: Hey, sorry. No, just the general – yes, the funds that have been frozen for the –that were for the former Afghan government that the Taliban have been calling on the U.S. Government to unfreeze.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Conor. So, to your first question, we don’t have anything new to announce at this time, and the second question we’ll just have to take back for you. Thanks.

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr this year.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my question. I want to ask you about – I don’t know if somebody asked the question because I joined later. And the question is about the – what Washington Post reported earlier today about the Israeli, the airstrike in Syria that targeted chemical weapons operating on June 8th this year. First, are you aware of this report? Can you confirm it? And what’s the U.S. reaction since Syria denied that it was developing chemical weapons again?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Nadia. So, we’ve certainly seen reports of the airstrikes, but we – we’re not able to comment any further on that today. Thank you.

Let’s go to Christina Anderson, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Jalina. Season’s greetings. Thank you for taking my question. There’s – there are always concerns about security in the Baltic, but I wonder if in recent conversations the Secretary has had expressed to him any additional or more intense concerns about security in the Baltic region, Baltic Sea in particular. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Christina. So, we certainly care about the security of our NATO Allies, but I have nothing further to announce for you from here today.

Let’s go to Seong-min Lee.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you for taking my question. Can you tell me any update of appointing U.S. special envoy for North Korea human right and then U.S. ambassador to South Korea?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Seong-min. We don’t have any personnel announcements to make at this time today.

Let’s go to Janne Pak.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I have a question about the Olympics in China. As you know, during a visit to Australia, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he’s not considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and is concentrating on participating in the Chinese Olympics. What is the U.S. comment on this? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Janne. What I would say is that the South Korean president’s decision on their participation in the Olympics is theirs to make. It’s not for the U.S. or any other government to make for themselves. I mean, of course, we made our own decision and we’ve consulted with our allies and partners before the White House announced our decision, and we stand based on that. And of course, anything else beyond that – of course we’re treating these games as business as usual, but of course, we’re doing this in the face of PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang. Thank you.

Let’s take our final question from Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. I’m glad you’re taking my question. And happy holidays. I wanted to ask you if you have any comment on the completion of the iron fence around Gaza? It turns it into a real open-air prison. What is your comment on this? I mean, half of the population in Gaza are children, and to be incarcerated with iron walls and electric walls and all these things without any sort of exit or entry, I wonder if you have any comment on this or the – have you issued any statement on this? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Said. So, we have not issued a statement on this, but what I can say broadly speaking is that, of course, advancing equal measures of freedom and dignity is certainly important to the United States, and of course as a means to negotiating a two-state solution.

That concludes today’s daily press briefing. Thank you all for joining. I hope you have a great week ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:25 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – November 29, 2021

30 Nov

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

2:02 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining today’s State Department press briefing. I only have one update at the top, and then will continue taking your questions. But I’d like to start off by taking a moment to say Happy Hanukkah to those around the world who may be celebrating. And with that, we’ll just give it a few minutes for folks to chime in the queue.

On the advice of the President’s chief medical advisor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administration will restrict travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe starting today, November 29th, 2021. The policy does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and certain other categories of travelers. These measures apply to foreign national travelers regardless of nationality based on the traveler’s physical presence in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe. Current U.S. visa holders who have been present in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe, including for transit during the 14 days prior to entry or attempted entry to the United States, will be subject to these entry restrictions.

This proclamation does not dictate whether commercial airlines should or should not continue. Any flight changes are dependent upon commercial airlines’ individual decisions. U.S. citizens can continue to travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to the United States, and foreign nationals from these eight countries can continue returning to these eight countries from the United States. Cargo shipments on passenger flights and cargo-specific flights may also continue.

President Biden has promised to take every measure necessary to keep Americans safe and defeat the pandemic, and this is a step recommended by U.S. Government medical experts and the COVID-19 response team. We are in close contact with public health officials in southern Africa and are working closely with them to understand more about the Omicron variant. We value our longstanding public health cooperation with South Africa, and we also praise South Africa’s skilled scientists for the quick identification of this variant and South Africa’s Government for its transparency in sharing this information, which can also serve as a model for the rest of the world.

Let’s go with Jenny Hansler.

OPERATOR: We go to Jennifer Hansler with CNN. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. There is a report that Israel shared intelligence with the U.S. suggesting Iran is taking steps to enrich uranium to 90 percent purity. I was wondering if you had any comment on that report. Can you confirm it? Is it the U.S. assessment that Iran is taking these steps to enrich uranium at this purity level? And then do you have any sort of readout from the Vienna talks that kick off today? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. I don’t have anything to preview or read out from the Vienna talks that started today. I suspect we’ll have more to come. But to your first question, I’ll just say that we’ve made clear that Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are unconstructive. They’re also inconsistent with what’s stated with the goal of returning to a mutual compliance with the JCPOA. It won’t provide Iran any negotiation – any negotiating leverage as we return to the talks.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

OPERATOR: Simon Lewis of Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I hope you had a good holiday weekend. Also on Iran. After the talks in Vienna, the indirect talks in Vienna today, the European impression and Iranian diplomats all sort of sounded upbeat and seems to be some sort of optimism coming out of the talks. But I wonder, given Iran – that Iran is still insisting that all U.S. and EU sanctions have to be lifted, is there reason for optimism from the talks?

And just secondly, I wanted to see if you could respond to some comments by Ali Bagheri Kani, the Iranian top negotiator, who said, “It’s a major achievement that all parties in the meeting accepted Iran’s demand that, first, the situation of illegal and unjust U.S. sanctions should be cleared.” It continued a bit after that. But yeah, basically the Iranians are saying that there’s a – there seems to be agreement from – obviously, they’re indirect talks and you guys aren’t in the room. But is that something that the other parties in the talks agreed upon, and is the U.S. okay with that? Thank you.

(Pause.)

OPERATOR: I’m sorry. Did you want me to go to the next person?

MS PORTER: No, no. Simon, hi, this is Jalina. We’re back here. Simon, I won’t get into the specific details on the talks as they’re imminent right now, but I can just underscore that the talks, of course, will remain indirect, which is at Iran’s request, and the United States has not participated in any of these meetings directly with Iran. And from the top, the Biden administration has been consistent, and we’ve also been sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and also to address our full range of concerns with Iran.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham, please.

OPERATOR: Jiha Ham with Voice of America, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Jalina. Thanks for taking my questions. I have two questions today.

Recently, there was a news report that Canada has spotted dozens of vessels doing ship-to-ship transfers in the East China Sea. Those were possible activities that are related to North Korea. I mean, they’re violating sanctions on North Korea. Do you have any concerns? Do you have any messages to any countries that may be involved in these kinds of activities?

And my second question is from one of my colleagues. I would like to know if you have any updates on the appointments of some positions related to the Korean Peninsula, a new ambassador to the Republic of Korea and the special envoy for North Korea’s human rights. So do you have anything to share on these? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha. I’ll start with your first question first.

It’s important for the international community to send a strong message and also a unified message that the DPRK must halt provocations, abide by its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions, and also engage in sustained and intensive negotiations with the U.S. The UN Security Council resolutions regarding the DPRK remain in effect, and we also urge all UN member-states to fulfill their obligations under those regulations.

To your second question, I’m going to have to take that back to the team.

Let’s go to Conor Finnegan, please.

OPERATOR: Next we go to the line of Conor Finnegan with ABC. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes. Hey, how are you? Can hear you.

QUESTION: I’m good. Great, I just wanted to press you on your topper there about the new travel restrictions. Some of the countries that you’ve banned travel from have not yet confirmed any cases of this new variant, and then obviously there are some other countries that have confirmed cases that are not facing these restrictions. So can you explain why some of these African countries are facing restrictions, speak to the criticism that you’re disincentivizing countries from coming forward and sharing their data, and then respond to the World Health Organization and the UN secretary general, among others, who say that these countries shouldn’t be penalized for sharing information? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Conor. Well, I’ll just start off by saying that President Biden has made a steadfast promise to keep Americans safe and defeat the pandemic, and this was a step that was recommended by U.S. Government medical experts as well as the COVID-19 Response Team.

We are in close contact with public health officials in Africa, and we continue to work closely with them to understand more about this Omicron variant. And we certainly value our longstanding public health cooperation with South Africa, and we praise South Africa’s skilled scientists for the quick identification of this variant.

To your other point, more than a dozen other countries have taken similar action, which includes the UK, Canada, Australia, as well as some other European countries. As well as over the past 10 months, the United States has worked closely with southern African states and others impacted – other impacted nations to help them vaccinate their populations and try to combat the impacts of COVID-19.

Let’s go to Michele Kelemen.

OPERATOR: Next we’ll go to the line of Michele Kelemen with NPR. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question about Russia. Russia’s ambassador says that 27 of his colleagues and their family members have to leave the U.S. by January 30th. Why is that? Are they being expelled? And do you expect the Russians to retaliate on that?

And then secondly, do you have any update on Thomas West’s meetings in Doha with the Taliban? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michele. I’ll just start off by saying just as the Russian Federation grants our diplomats with an initial three-way stay in Russia, the U.S. also informed Russia about a year ago that its diplomats would be subject to the same three-year assignments, which is not abnormal.

The diplomats that the Russian ambassador references will have been in the United States at – for at least more than three years, and they also have been informed that they will need to depart when their assignments end. The U.S. approaches – approach creates greater parity with our diplomatic missions, as both will rotate their staff with some level of frequency, and we will continue to discuss this matter with Russia.

To your second question on Special Representative West, he departed to Doha on November 27th for two days of meetings with Taliban leaders on November 29th and November 30th. The United States continues to pursue the priorities in Afghanistan, which includes counterterrorism, respect for human rights, as well as safe passage for U.S. citizens and our Afghan allies to whom we have a special commitment. These goals – the goals of these meetings, of course, is to advance our interests in Afghanistan through candid dialogue with Taliban representatives.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour.

OPERATOR: Next we’ll go to the line of Michel Ghandour with MBN. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for the call. I want to go back to Iran. Is the U.S. ready to lift all the sanctions imposed since the withdrawal from the JCPOA, as Iran requests?

MS PORTER: Thanks for that. I won’t get into the details or any hypotheticals from here, but I’ll just focus on the goal, which is a mutual return to compliance. And of course, as you know, that’s in America’s national interest, and we believe it’s the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and also provide a platform to address Iran’s destabilizing conduct. If Iran demands more or offers less than a mutual return to compliance, these negotiations will not succeed.

Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR: Go to Kylie Atwood with CNN. Please, go ahead

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing the call. Just wanted to follow up quickly on the Russian diplomatic question from Michele. Could you just clarify: The Russian diplomats are going to have to leave because of the three-year visa. Russia is allowed to backfill those diplomats – is that correct – they just have to apply for visas here to the United States?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Kylie. So just to double down on the question from both you and Michele, so what’s happening is not an expulsion. The Russian Government has been informed, of course, and it can replace those who are departing by finding other members of its diplomatic corps to the positions. These new procedures are not punitive, but they’ve been introduced to enable greater parity between the U.S. and Russian bilateral mission.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe, please.

OPERATOR: Pearl Matibe with Power FM 98.7, please, go ahead.

MS PORTER: Thank you. Happy Monday, and hopefully you had a good Thanksgiving, Jalina. At the top I just want to let you know – in a prior briefing I had mentioned that a friend and cabinet minister in president – in Prime Minister Hamdok’s team had been arrested and I feared he had been killed. I just want to correct that on the 26th I found out that he has in fact been released – that’s Khaled Omar – he has in fact been released. I just wanted to alert you on that one.

So moving on from Sudan, I would like to go to Southern Africa. Jalina, I have three – a three-part question for you. Last night, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed his citizens of South Africa, and the language that he used in his address – he talked of being deeply disappointed and he talked about discrimination he felt was made against South Africa. I’d like to find out from you: Does the Biden administration have anything beyond that’s something maybe that you can assuage the remarks that Cyril Ramaphosa made in his address yesterday?

The second part of my question is: Do you have any comment at this point? I know that investigating the variant, the Omicron variant, will take a couple of weeks, but is there anything that the United States Government can do in terms of the IP waiver that President Cyril Ramaphosa has been talking about and trying to lead on for a few months now? So maybe if you can comment on that.

And my last part of my question is really to speak to our audiences – these are the general people, Main Street Southern Africa – not to the leaders, not to the elderly people, to the young people, the families who, going into the Christmas period, they have this culture in Southern Africa which is generally called the Christmas Box. This is a period where they are – these long-suffering Southern Africans, this is like the one time in the year that they can feel happy. Right now there’s a general frustration towards the United States because the United States does lead on the global stage. Can you maybe speak to them about – they’re going into this period without these travel where they might look to their diaspora who might be coming home, bringing things, but – and coming back here but cannot travel. Could you speak to Main Street Southern Africa in view of – of course today FOCAC is starting today in Senegal – where they might feel the disappointment towards the West, they may lean East. Maybe if you could comment on that – I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Pearl. I’ll start with your last question and try to get through all of them as best as possible. I want to repeat something I said at the top about what’s going on with the travel restrictions and just underscore that the reason we have them in place is to keep people safe. So I hope that when your audience hears this they know it’s in good faith to make sure that their family members are being kept safe not only where they are now, but with any travel or anything they’re trying to do over the holidays. So again, these measures that are in place apply to foreign national travelers regardless of nationality, based on the travelers’ physical presence – excuse me – in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe. So current U.S. visa holders who have been present in those key countries, including for transit during 14 days prior to entry or attempted entry into the United States, will be restricted to entry with these restrictions. And again, the overall goal is to beat the pandemic and keep everyone – our partners and allies and friends all over the globe – as safe as possible.

To your second question, I won’t speak about ongoing investigations from here. If we have anything more to share with you, we will at a later time. To your first question, the Secretary spoke with his South African counterpart and we do have a readout to point from the website for that, but I just want to underscore from here that the administration views African countries as our partners in pursuing shared interests, which obviously include global health, climate, inclusive economic growth, democracy, peace, and prosperity. We also value a strong U.S.-African relationship that also enables – will address the shared challenges that we face across the globe.

Let’s go to Mike Crowley.

OPERATOR: Go to Michael Crowley with New York Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. Question on the variants: Has the variants’ emergence caused the administration to reassess or consider updating its international vaccine distribution policies, both in terms of vaccine donations and any efforts involved in – related to getting vaccines from shipment into people’s arms?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Mike. I don’t have any policy changes to announce from here, but what I will say is that the Biden administration has been committed to being the leader in vaccine diplomacy, in getting shots in arms, and, of course, that includes keeping Americans safe and everyone safe around the world. If we have something to share with you later, we will, but for that I actually would refer to my colleagues at the White House.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan, please.

OPERATOR: Rosiland Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing the call. I want to come back to the Iran enrichment story. Two questions: One, does the U.S. believe that Iran has any equipment in which it could use highly enriched uranium as a weapon? Alternatively, is the thinking in the U.S. Government that Iran might be enriching the uranium in order to sell it to some other party in order to bring in cash?

And then the larger question in light of this week’s talks in Vienna: If the U.S. and its allies believe that Iran has in fact enriched uranium beyond the terms allowed in the JCPOA, does the JCPOA need to be updated before the U.S. can actually become a party to it again? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rosiland. To your second question, I’ll just say that right now we’re focused – hyperfocused – on the negotiations. And to your first question, I’d say that we’re just not going to comment on some of the information that’s being shared here, and the enrichment to 90 percent obviously would be a provocative act. And I’ll just underscore that we’ve made clear that Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are unconstructive and they’re also inconsistent with what’s stated in the goal of returning to a mutual compliance with the JCPOA. Of course, they won’t provide Iran any negotiating leverage as we are in the talks.

Let’s go to the line of Alejandra Arredondo.

OPERATOR: Alejandra Arredondo with Voice of America, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. Can you hear me well? Thank you so much for doing this. My question is regarding the recent elections in Honduras. I want to know if State can comment on how Xiomara Castro seems to be the candidate that is heading – ahead in the election’s results, and how – and also State’s comments on how the elections were developed and what happened during the weekend. Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Alejandra. So we are following the election proceedings in Honduras very closely. We urge patience and calm as the National Electoral Council carries out its role in counting the vote. In the run-up to the election and on election day, the United States supports the conditions for the peaceful conduct of free and fair elections in Honduras, and we also call on all parties to commit themselves to this objective. We also congratulate the Honduran people for the high turnout as well as the active civil society participation in the election just yesterday. They made clear that their aspirations are for progress, and the United States renews its commitment to accompany that progress with the next government of Honduras.

As we’ve said during the campaign period, of course, the decision of who will lead Honduras is for the Honduran citizens to decide for themselves. The United States supports the democratic process but, of course, not any candidate in particular. Throughout the election cycle we have been a part of an international effort to support the peaceful and transparent conduct of free and fair elections.

Let’s take the final question from Nadia Bilbassy, please.

OPERATOR: Final question from Nadia Bilbassy with Arabiya. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Actually, my question was about Iran but all my colleagues asked all my questions. Let me try one last attempt. Is this administration understanding that the Iranians insisting on lifting the sanctions without compliance before entering this seventh round – do you know this in advance before you sent your envoy to Vienna? And if this is the case, how do you expect the talks to go ahead? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Nadia. What I’ll say is that it’s no secret that sanctions relief issues have been a priority for Iran throughout the entire negotiation process, but we won’t negotiate in the press or comment on specific claims about those negotiations. The precise nature and sequence of the sanctions-related steps that the U.S. would need to take to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is a subject of the talks. A mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA is the best option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and also provide a platform to address its destabilizing conduct. And, of course, if Iran demands more or happens to offer less, these negotiations will not succeed.

That concludes today’s daily press briefing. Thank you all for joining, and I hope you have a great rest of your week ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – November 5, 2021

5 Nov

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

2:02 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Hello and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s press briefing, and Happy Friday. I don’t have any announcements to make up at the top, so I’ll just give it a few minutes for those to filter in the queue before I start taking your questions.

Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi, please.

OPERATOR: Francesco, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. I have two questions. The first one is on Sudan, since the Secretary spoke yesterday with General Burhan. Did he sense any opening from him on a return to the status quo ante? And is there any opening for Special Envoy Feltman to travel from Ethiopia to Sudan when he’s done in Addis Ababa to go on with the consultations with the military?

And then on Ethiopia, there was an announcement here in Washington, D.C. today of an alliance of nine rebel groups against the government of Prime Minister Abiy. What do you have to say to that, which happens while Special Envoy Feltman is in Addis Ababa calling for a peaceful solution? Many thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. I’ll take the first part first. On Special Envoy Feltman’s travel, we don’t have anything to announce, but I can underscore that yesterday Secretary Blinken did speak to Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok and General Burhan. And in both of those calls, he underscored the United States’ strong commitment for the Sudanese people who repeatedly made clear their aspirations for democracy. In those calls, he also called for an immediate restoration of the civilian-led transition to democracy, and he also urged the dialogue for – that returns Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian members of the transitional government to their original positions.

In addition to that, we reiterated our urgent call for the Sudanese military to immediately release all those who are detained in connection to the recent events that were amplified by – in the statement with Quad members, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the UK. Outside of that, I can refer you to our readouts that are on our website.

To your second question, we are certainly aware of the reports that indicated nine antigovernment factions will form an alliance to push for a political transition in Ethiopia. And that’s all I have on that for you today.

Let’s go over to Jenny Hansler, please.

OPERATOR: Once again, please, hold your question until your line is open. Jenny Hansler, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on Francesco’s questions. Do you have any readout of Ambassador Feltman’s meetings today in Ethiopia? Do you sense that there was any progress in those meetings? Did he meet with any TPLF representatives while he was there?

And then separately on Russia and Ukraine, how much concern is there in this building about the buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. I’ll take the first part of your question. So we don’t have any specific readouts to provide at this time. But what I’ll say broadly speaking is that we remain gravely concerned about the escalating violence, the expansion of fighting throughout the country, and also the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state. As you know and as we continue to underscore, the safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and the security of our facilities remains our highest priority.

Just taking it back to Special Envoy Feltman, he’s in Ethiopia. And while there, he’s continuing to press all parties to de-escalate the conflict and negotiate a ceasefire. He also continues to raise concerns about the risk of intercommunal violence and we continue to work with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, and that includes through action at the UN, the AU, and other relevant bodies as well.

If you are still on the line, I need to – if you can repeat your second question. I apologize for that.

Jenny, I don’t know if we have you, but I think you asked about Russia-Ukraine buildup of troops. If that’s the case, I’ll just underscore that we have made clear in the past that any escalatory or any aggressive type of actions would be of great concern to United States, and we’re certainly concerned with any public reports of unusual Russian military activity near the Ukraine – excuse me, near Ukraine.

Let’s please go over to Lara Jakes.

OPERATOR: Lara Jakes, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks, Jalina. Just to follow up on Francesco’s question about this coalition of the nine rebel groups, do you – does the State Department see this coalition as legitimate? They asked for American and Biden administration support. They call themselves the true stewards of democracy in Ethiopia. As you know, Prime Minister Abiy has said the same about his political party. So there’s a question of legitimacy here and I’m wondering, again, if you have any comment about whether the State Department considers this coalition as legitimate.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Lara. I don’t have anything for you on your question to labels of legitimacy – excuse me. But what I will say is that we continue to urge all parties to the conflict to end hostilities immediately, and we also call on the Ethiopian Government and the TPLF to enter negotiations without preconditions towards a sustainable ceasefire and for Eritrean forces to withdraw immediately and permanently from Ethiopia.

Let’s go over to Pearl Matibe.

OPERATOR: Pearl Matibe, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Happy Friday, Jalina. I have two questions for you. Question one is on Ethiopia. I’m wondering, because there’s been this call by President Abiy for citizens to pick up arms to defend the capital, do you have anything that you might want to share in terms of arms sales, resupply? How would citizens – where might these arms be coming from? There’s reports that maybe they’re from foreign powers or governments or other state – other actors. Maybe if you could provide some comment on that.

My second question is regarding Cabo Verde. I know Secretary Blinken had a call with the newly elected leader there. Could you comment maybe on the extradition of Alex Saab? Did that come up on the call? I’m wondering if maybe corruption or democracy issues came up on that call regarding that Cabo Verde’s been regarded as a model for the rest of Africa.

Thanks, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Pearl. I will try to answer both of your questions as thoroughly as possible. To your first point, on arms sales, we don’t have anything for you on arms sales at this time. Where our focus is, is ending the conflict in Ethiopia. What we know now is that we continue to call on parties to end the fighting and to also allow unhindered humanitarian assistance to reach the millions across Ethiopia who are in dire need at this time.

To your second question, on Cabo Verde, I had nothing for you on extraditions, but what I can say broadly speaking is that we value our strong relationship with Cabo Verde, which is one of the strongest democratic partners in Africa, and we certainly welcoming – welcome our deepening partnership. As you may know, President Biden today announced the designation of a presidential delegation to Cabo Verde to attend the inauguration of President-elect José Maria Neves on November 9th, 2021, in Praia, Cabo Verde. Again, this is going to be one of the highest-ranking – he’s sending one of the highest-ranking U.S. delegations ever to Praia, which continues to underscore our support for Cabo Verde’s commitment to the path of democracy as well as good government – good governance and our interest in strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Let’s go over to Cindy Saine, please.

OPERATOR: Cindy, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Did Special Envoy Feltman have the chance to meet with Prime Minister Abiy? And can you give us any details? Was he invited by the Ethiopian Government? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. We don’t have any additional information on meetings for Special Envoy Feltman at this time, but we can talk about why he’s there, and he’s there to continue to urgently press the parties to de-escalate the conflict in Ethiopia and also negotiate a ceasefire. And again, he continues to raise our concerns about the risk of inter-communal violence, and we continue to work with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia. That includes with action in the UN, the AU, and other partners and bodies as well.

Let’s go over to Luis Felipe Rojas, please.

OPERATOR: Luis Felipe, your line is open. Please, go ahead. Once again, Luis Felipe, your line is open. You may proceed with your question.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Hi Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Yes, yeah. We want to know if State Department has any comment or any update about the RENACER Act in Nicaragua or any comment about the Nicaraguan situation in face the next election on 7 – November 7. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Luis. What I would say is that the United States calls on the Ortega-Murillo government to cease its repression and allow Nicaraguans to exercise their rights of peaceful assembly as well as their rights for freedom of expression. We will continue to use the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support Nicaraguans’ call for greater freedom as well as their accountability and free and fair elections.

The United States also calls on President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and the Nicaraguan Government to immediately and unconditionally release imprisoned presidential contenders, political activists, journalists, students, and other members of civil society and the business community arrested in the current wave of the repression. President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and those complicit in these actions are responsible for the detainees’ safety and well-being.

Let’s take the final question from Eunjung Cho.

OPERATOR: Eunjung, your line is open. Please, proceed.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I have a question on North Korea. The European Union tabled draft resolution on North Korean human rights to the UN Third Committee late October. The draft resolution lists 35 co-sponsoring countries, and the U.S. is not among them. Does the U.S. plan to co-sponsor this resolution as it did every year, and what is State Department’s position on the human rights situation in North Korea?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Eunjung. We’re going to have to take that question back to the team to make sure we have all the up-to-date information that you need for reporting today.

That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you all so much for joining, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – September 28, 2021

29 Sep

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:06 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and happy Tuesday. Thank you for joining today’s press briefing from the State Department. I have two quick announcements at the top and I will start taking your questions.

Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols and National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez will travel to Miami, Florida and Port-au-Prince, Haiti from September 29th through October 1st. While in Miami on September 29th, they will meet with Cuban-American and Haitian-American stakeholders. While in Haiti from September 30th through October 1st, they will meet with civil society groups, political stakeholders, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Foreign Minister Claude Joseph to discuss a Haitian-led process charting the path to democratic elections in Haiti, the Haitian migration response, security, and support for and recovery from the August 14th earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next, we are pleased that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated Croatia as the 40th country for entry into the Visa Waiver Program.

Our rock-solid relationship with Croatia is built upon shared values, shared security, as well as shared prosperity. Its designation into the Visa Waiver Program is a pivotal milestone in our partnership and also a testament to Croatia’s hard work in meeting the strict program requirements.

Croatia’s participation in the Visa Waiver Program will facilitate travel between our nations while increasing security. We recognize the importance of business and tourist travel to both our countries and our shared interest in making travel more secure as we continue to expand our economic and people-to-people ties.

Participant countries must meet strict criteria to join the Visa Waiver Program. We applaud the Croatian Government for successfully meeting all Visa Waiver Program requirements.

The Department of Homeland Security will announce the date when Croatian citizens planning travel for business or tourism, including B-1 and B-2 visas, and all who meet the other requirements can apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, also known as ESTA.

We expect that Croatians will be able to apply for ESTA by December 1st of 2021.

Croatia is a trusted partner and NATO Ally, and travel between our countries both increases and deepens our strong ties.

With that, I’m going to give it just two minutes and we’ll start taking your questions.

Let’s start with Said Arikat, please.

QUESTION: I have two quick questions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The prime minister of Israel, the Prime Minister Bennett, he said his government rejects the reopening of the Jerusalem – the American consulate in Jerusalem. I wonder if you have any comment on that or have there been any concessions made in that regard?

And my other question – there were no meetings whatsoever between American and Palestinian officials on the periphery of UNGA. Are there anything ongoing in that regard, perhaps behind closed doors? Thank you, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Said. To your first question, I believe the Secretary actually shared with us earlier this year that the U.S. will move forward with the process to reopening the consulate in Jerusalem. At this time, I don’t have anything to share beyond that as far as specific dates.

But when it comes to your second question on interactions between American officials and Palestinian officials in UNGA, I won’t get too deep into the weeds of some of those discussions, but I can say that our U.S. deputy representative to the UN, Ambassador Mills, did engage with Palestinian officials, but again, these engagements were informal. But they were very much strategic and just the same as our U.S. representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield – any time that we engage on issues of – surrounding Palestine they are strategic, but again, I won’t get into the details of those conversations. But what I will say is that our interest remains in supporting peace and stability. And, of course, that certainly requires having constructive engagement around this issue.

As we’ve said before, we believe that a negotiated two-state solution is the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And this administration has made clear on a number of occasions that the Israelis and Palestinians both equally deserve to live in security, prosperity, and freedom.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for the call. I have a couple of questions. First, do you have any comment on Jordan decision to resume commercial travel and reopen main crossing with Syria this week?

Second, any comment on the suspension of the investigation into Beirut explosion and the threats that Hizballah made to the investigator?

And third, on the French president comment on the U.S. and that Europe should rely on itself in defending itself, not on the United States?

MS PORTER: Thank you, Michel. Well, I’ll let the French president’s words speak for themselves. We don’t have any comment from here.

And to your question on the investigation in Beirut, we’re going to have to take that back to you.

When it comes to commercial travel and Jordan, we certainly welcome this announcement.

Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.

QUESTION: Wanted to follow up on what you said on Haiti. Can you say a little bit more about what the message will be of Mr. Nichols and Mr. Gonzalez in Port-au-Prince, particularly regarding migration? Are they going to look for ways to stop migration, as has been said by some here in Washington, looking for a more humane way? What’s the message on that?

And also related to Haiti, it seems that the elections have been postponed indefinitely. The U.S. has been calling for elections this year. Does the U.S. have any reaction to that?

And finally, are there any plans for a new special envoy in Haiti? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Shaun. To your question on a new special envoy in Haiti, we don’t have anything to announce at this time.

To your question on the elections, these – reports are imminent, but we are just seeing these reports. What we can state from here is that we do support a Haitian-led process that would chart Haiti’s path to free and fair elections. Obviously we know that this a very, very challenging time for the people of Haiti and we know that it’s crucial for Haiti’s government, their political parties, civil society, as well as the private sector that they lead and work together during this process and that they do what’s best for the interests of the Haitian people.

To your question at the top regarding the meetings, well, I won’t get ahead of those meetings, but again, those meetings are to serve as a conduit to meet with civil society, both with Haitian-American equities as well as Cuban-American equities, to find viable solutions to the problems that are going on right now.

Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler.

QUESTION: Jalina, thanks for doing this. Secretary Austin just said that the U.S. got an additional 21 American citizens and their family members out of Afghanistan today and I was hoping you could give us a little more detail about how they were taken out of the country and whether any permanent residents or SIVs were also involved in those evacuation efforts today.

And then separately, has the State Department or the U.S. Government been in touch with the family and the surviving members of those killed in the drone strike in Kabul? Will they be offered resettlement in the United States? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So we aren’t in a position from here to confirm additional departures for security reasons. Anything from Secretary Austin I would have to refer you back to the DOD.

Let’s go to Kristina Anderson.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) taking my question. SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, has released a report on the World Food Program activities in Lebanon, and there in the report, which is quite detailed and lengthy, they do find that the program is a source of stability in the country at this point. Would you like to comment on the situation in Lebanon, and if – I don’t know if you’ve read the report – on the report, perhaps, and the work of SIPRI? Thank you.

MS PORTER: I actually have not read the report or seen the report at this time, and so I’m not in the position to make a comment on the situation in Lebanon. But if that’s something that you need, we’d be happy to take it offline and get you something for later today.

QUESTION: I would appreciate that. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my questions. I have two questions today.

Yesterday, the State Department said that North Korea’s missile launch yesterday was in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. As you know, if it was a ballistic missile, then it is a clear violation, of course. But we still don’t know whether it was a ballistic missile or not, so I’m wondering if you are assessing this missile as a ballistic one. And is this why you said it was in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions?

Also yesterday, Kim Song, the North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, said that the U.S. should give up its hostile policy, the joint military exercises with the ROK, and all kind of strategic weapons deployment if the U.S. wants to see the Korean War come to an end. So what’s your reaction to that? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha.

I won’t from here do any specific classifications, but I can lead you to the statement that we did release yesterday on this, and I will just reiterate that the U.S. condemns the DPRK’s missile launch. Again, this launch is in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and it also poses a threat to DPRK’s neighbors and the international community. We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK, and we also call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue.

To your second question, we don’t have anything to announce from here.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you.

Just firstly, I wanted to clarify something I think in response to one of the questions earlier about Jordan and Syria. You – I think you said that the U.S. welcomes the resumption of commercial flights. Could you just clarify that? You don’t have diplomatic relations with Syria and there previously hasn’t been relations between the two – between Jordan and Syria. So are you – is the U.S. supporting a rapprochement between the two countries, and does this sort of change your – the status of your relations with Syria, if you say you’re welcoming that move? I wonder if you want to clarify that.

And secondly, there’s some reporting about the – some new Havana syndrome cases, specifically in The Wall Street Journal talking about CIA officers. But I wonder if there’s any update you can give us on State Department officials, any new cases or numbers of cases that you can tell us about, and if there’s an update on the progress of sort of ongoing investigation and work on that that you announced earlier. Thank you.

MS PORTER: So to your first question, I have nothing to announce as far as the status of the relationship or any change in policy. What I can say is that we’re certainly reviewing the announcement.

To your second question, what I can say from here is that, in close coordination with our partners across the U.S. Government, we are vigorously investigating the reports of possible anomalous health incidents wherever they have been reported, and the State Department is taking this extremely seriously. We have been doing everything possible to ensure that employees who have reported any of these incidents have received immediate and appropriate attention and care.

More broadly, these incidents have been a top priority for Secretary Blinken, who has also set clear goals for the Health Incidents Response Task Force to strengthen the department’s communications with our workforce and also provide care for affected employees as well as their family members.

Let’s go to Laura Barros.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking my question. I would like to know if you have any details about the meeting today between Secretary Blinken and Dominican Republic Minister Roberto Alvarez. Have – you have any details? Have they talk about the Haiti situation, for example? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. So we don’t have anything to read out from the meeting. I know that we did produce the remarks that were at the top of the meeting on our website just from – Secretary Blinken welcoming the – Foreign Minister Alvarez to the State Department and that he is appreciative of the leadership of the Dominican Republic. Outside of that, I don’t have anything to share at this time.

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for taking my question. If I may, I have three questions.

First, I want to follow up on Said’s question when he asked about the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. I understood that the Secretary made it clear that he will move on with the process to open a consulate in Jerusalem, that media quoted Israeli PM saying that this won’t happen. How do you respond to this?

And on Lebanon, as we know, the Beirut explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion, so – and the U.S. called for a transparent investigation. Another judge was dismissed, was suspended yesterday. Don’t you have any message to the Lebanese leaders, to them?

And on the reopening of the main crossing border between Syria and Jordan – sorry – were you not notified in advance? Because this is not isolated. There are many things happening at the same time. We saw the meetings between the Syrian foreign minister and other foreign ministers and – on the sidelines of UNGA. So can you comment on that? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Hiba.

So to your first question, I’ll just have to reiterate what I’ve already told Said is that, again, we don’t have a deadline, unfortunately, to announce today, but again, we will move forward with a process to reopen the consulate.

To your second question on the explosions in Lebanon, we’re just seeing these reports and don’t have anything to share at this time.

And your last question we’re going to have to take back. Thank you.

We’ll take a final question from Hye Jun Seo.

QUESTION: Hello?

MS PORTER: Hi.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking my question. So I have a similar question on North Korea. So on the DPRK ambassador Song Kim – Kim Song saying that U.S. has a hostile policy and that U.S. should show it by actions not by words, what is the State Department’s comment on this? How will State Department engage in dialogue with North Korea?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. We have said this from here before and I think it’s worth repeating that we are committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK, and again, we call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue.

That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you so much for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:29 p.m.)