Department Press Briefing – July 27, 2021

27 Jul

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:06 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Tuesday. Thank you for joining today’s department press briefing. I have a few announcements to make at the top, and I’ll proceed with your questions.

The United States has made clear to the highest levels of Government of Guatemala our view that the fight against corruption is essential to our shared goals of strengthening the rule of law, increasing economic opportunity, and addressing the root causes of irregular migration. The message has been delivered consistently, without equivocation, by our ambassador in Guatemala and during recent visits of high-level U.S. Government officials that reaffirmed the partnership of our two nations, including the visit of Vice President Kamala Harris, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras’ July 23rd decision to remove Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, or FECI, Chief Juan Francisco Sandoval fits a pattern of behavior that indicates a lack of commitment to the rule of law and independent judicial and prosecutorial processes. As a result, we have lost confidence in the attorney general and their decision – and intention to cooperate with the U.S. Government and fight corruption in good faith. We understand the removal of the FECI Chief was a decision by a Guatemalan official acting within the official’s authority, but our concern is with the implications with this decision for the rule of law and regional stability.

As a result of the attorney general’s actions, the U.S. Government is temporarily pausing programmatic cooperation with the Public Ministry while it conducts a review of our assistance to activities the attorney general leads. We’re watching closely for additional actions that would undermine the rule of law or judicial independence in Guatemala.

Next, we are deeply concerned about credible reports of attacks by military forces affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Tigrayan militias against Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region, particularly reports of violence in refugee camps.

We call on all armed actors in Tigray to stop attacks and intimidation against Eritrean forces and all refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced by the ongoing violence, as well as against the aid workers attempting to respond to the humanitarian disaster more broadly.

This is not the first time Eritrean populations have been targeted in Tigray. In January, credible reports indicated that Eritrean refugees suffered killings, targeted abductions, and forced returns to Eritrea at the hands of Eritrean forces.

We call on all parties to adhere strictly to their obligations under international humanitarian law, and for those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses to be held accountable through independent and transparent international processes.

And finally, the State Department’s 12th Annual EducationUSA Forum opened yesterday and will run through Friday of this week.

Addressing the open Plenary, Secretary Blinken and Education Secretary Cardona announced a Joint Statement of Principles in support of international education, emphasizing our shared commitment to promoting international education at home and abroad and highlighting the benefit to all Americans.

International education makes critical contributions to U.S. diplomacy, national security, economic prosperity, and leadership in research and innovation.

Held virtually this year, the EducationUSA Forum organized by the Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, or ECA, showcases our global network of over 430 student advising centers in more than 175 countries.

Approximately 2,000 registrants for the Forum represent hundreds of accredited U.S. colleges and universities along with other higher education sector stakeholders. Participation will explore strategies to strengthen the United States’ status as a top study destination for international students from around the globe.

As international students study at U.S. colleges and universities, they participate in a world-class education while enriching their classrooms and communities with diverse perspectives and developing ties with their American peers. These ties form the basis of our country’s success in business and trade, science and innovation, and government relations. International students also contributed over $39 billion to the U.S. economy in 2020, representing a top service sector export, and supporting an estimated 415,000 U.S. jobs. Supporting international education is important to our national effort to achieve a strong, durable economic recovery from the pandemic.

And with that, I will start taking your questions. Let’s go to the line of Pearl Matibe.

OPERATOR: I do apologize. Could you please repeat the name?

MS PORTER: Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Hello, Jalina. Good —

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

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Good morning, Jalina. My question is on Zambia. They have elections in about three weeks, and now we are already seeing that this is going to be an unlevel playing field. And observers from the European Union already have a strong team ahead of the elections, which is great, but there have been criticism of the international community failing to identify manipulation ahead of an election. So I wondered does the U.S. have a close eye on the upcoming Zambian election and if you have anything to share about worries right now. Watch dogs are being silenced and so on, three weeks left to go. Thanks, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Pearl. What I can say more broadly is that the United States certainly supports free and fair elections, and we know that’s the way of upholding democratic institutions not only in Zambia but around the world. I don’t have anything other than that for you. Anything else, we’ll have to take that question back for you.

Casey O’Neill, please.

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

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Jalina. I was wondering if we can turn to Tunisia. So yesterday at the White House press briefing, Jen Psaki was asked about whether or not the U.S. has made a determination on whether or not a coup took place in Tunisia. Jen Psaki stated that the State Department had not made a legal determination. But then yesterday evening, Secretary Blinken, as I’m sure you’re aware, sent out two tweets regarding Tunisia, the first essentially saying that he had a, quote, “good phone call” with President Saied of Tunisia. And then hours later, he appeared to attempt to backpedal on that tweet, outlining essentially a conversation saying he encouraged the president to adhere to the principles of democracy, human rights, et cetera.

So just a couple questions for you. The first: Has the State Department made a legal determination as to whether or not a coup has taken place in Tunisia? And secondly, if not, why did Secretary Blinken tweet out that he had a, quote, “good phone call” with a president who is being investigated, for lack of a better word, for potentially inciting or carrying out a coup in his country? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your questions. Well, I’ll just start off by saying that we are closely monitoring the situation in Tunisia. And we encourage all political actors to comply with the Tunisian constitution, as well as to respect democracy and human rights.

To your questions on the Secretary and his tweets, listen, Secretary Blinken spoke at great length with the Tunisian president, President Saied, yesterday. And the Secretary urged the President Saied to maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people. And I’ll just, again, just reiterate that the events in Tunisia are currently still ongoing, and we are closely monitoring the situation.

Let’s go to Daphne Psaledakis.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on that question on Tunisia. Can you say whether the U.S. is determining whether a military coup has taken place and therefore whether the U.S. Government is required to cut off all assistance to the country other than democracy-related assistance?

And then separately, if I may, there are reports that a swastika was found yesterday etched into the wall of the State Department elevator near the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Can you confirm this? And if so, how is the State Department responding to this? Has Blinken addressed it, and what was his message to staff, if so?

MS PORTER: I’m sorry. Can you repeat your – the first part of your second question on the special envoy?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. There are reports that a swastika was found yesterday etched into the wall of a State Department elevator near the office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Could you confirm that? And what will the State Department – how will the State Department handle this? Has Blinken addressed it?

MS PORTER: So thank you for your question. And yes, unfortunately, late yesterday a swastika was found carved in an elevator in our building here at the State Department. This hateful graffiti has been removed and this incident will be investigated. As the Secretary has shared with a message to all of our employees, this is completely abhorrent. It’s a painful reminder, and anti-Semitism isn’t a relic of the past; it’s still a force that we’re dealing with in the world, and unfortunately, we’re dealing with it close to home. It has to be said that anti-Semitism has no place in the United States and certainly has no place in the State Department. We can and must be relentless in standing up and rejecting this type of hate and hate in all forms.

We also know that from our history and from history of other nations that anti-Semitism often goes hand in hand with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and any other hatred that you can name. None of these ideologies have a place in our workplace and they certainly have no place in the United States.

As far as any personnel updates, we don’t have any specific update to share outside of that Secretary Blinken, when he spoke to members of Congress last month, that we are working very diligently to – on the nomination of a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, and we surely hope that the person is in place soon.

Again, outside of – going back to your first question on Tunisia, I’ll just continue to underscore that the situation in Tunisia is evolving and we’re closely monitoring the situation. We certainly encourage all political actors to comply with the Tunisian constitution and as well as to respect democracy and human rights.

Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.

QUESTION: More on Tunisia. In the mention of the Secretary saying that there should be the adherence to democratic principles, what specifically is he looking for the Tunisian president to do? Does he want him to reverse the decision to suspend parliament, to un-sack, if you will, the prime minister without further conversation? And what pressure points, if any, were listed there in terms of ways to get him to move in that direction?

And secondly, if you don’t mind, North and South Korea. They announced a restoration of communications, of cross-border communications. Do you have any reaction to that? And how does that impact the United States? Does this pave the way at all for dialogue with North Korea potentially? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Shaun. So we did issue a readout of the Secretary’s call with the Tunisian president. I won’t go anything beyond the readout.

And to your second question, I’ll say that the U.S. supports inter-Korean dialogue and engagement, and of course welcomes today’s announcement of restoration of inter-Korean communication lines, and we certainly believe that this is a positive step. I’ll also say that diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving complete denuclearization and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr. Do we have Hiba Nasr?

OPERATOR: Your line is now open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my question. My first question is on Lebanon. Yesterday we had a new prime minister-designate, Najib Mikati. Do you have any comment on that and a new message to the Lebanese leaders?

And my second question, on Iraq. We saw the statement yesterday. And till now, there are many officials that are emphasizing – who are emphasizing that this is a withdrawal, U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Is it a withdrawal or not?

MS PORTER: Thank you, Hiba. I’ll take – start with your first question. We’re certainly aware of the president of Lebanon’s appointment as Lebanon’s prime minister-designate as on June – I’m sorry, on July 26th, the U.S. renews its calls to quickly form a government that’s empowered and a government that’s also committed to implementing critical reforms.

To your question on Iraq, our countries issued a joint communique which outlines our bilateral agreements and outcomes from our fourth strategic dialogue. We also released a fact sheet, if you haven’t seen that – we released that on Friday – which outlines the depth of our partnership. I’d have to refer you to that readout for more details.

Hiba, I’m sorry. If we still have you, I wanted to answer your question about the withdrawal too. Frankly, no, the key point here is that we agreed with the Iraqis that U.S. forces, military forces, will remain in Iraq to focus on training, enabling, and advising our Iraqi partners.

Let’s go to Matt Lee, please.

QUESTION: Happy Tuesday. Two things real quick. One, do you have anything more to say about tomorrow’s strategic talks in Geneva that Deputy Secretary Sherman is leading? By “more to say,” I mean anything more than the announcement of it from Friday, like are you expecting any kind of a significant announcement out of it.

And then secondly, really briefly on this swastika incident, can – the report that this was found near the office of the anti-Semitism envoy is part of the question that I’m interested in getting an answer to, because not to make any kind of light of this, but if it was in an elevator, doesn’t – the proximity of it to any number of offices depending on what floor the elevator is on is a question. So my question is: Is the department treating it at the moment, pending an investigation, as something that was directly related to that office? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Matt. Well, I’ll say again that the situation with the swastika is currently being investigated, and as far as proximity, I mean, anywhere inside or nearby the State Department or inside or nearby – in the United States is just unwelcome, and we will continue to condemn it.

To your first question on the strategic stability dialogue, not much to say outside of what you’ve already seen. Of course, no specific announcements, but for people who may be listening and would like to know that the United States and Russia have agreed to convene a strategic stability dialogue in Geneva on the 28th, so tomorrow. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will lead the U.S. delegation. She’ll also be joined by our newest under secretary, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins, who will provide additional leadership for the delegation.

Let’s go to Laura Kelly.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. Human Rights Watch issued a report today that concludes the Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip in May apparently amount to war crimes and that the Israeli military used U.S.-made GBU-31 precision-guided bombs during at least one particular attack on al-Wehda Street. And the human rights group says that while the Israeli military said it was a legitimate target, Human Rights Watch had not received details to support that claim. Do you have any comment on the Human Rights Watch report and are you concerned about reports of U.S. missiles or bombs being used or being implicated in deaths of civilians?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. I have not seen the report, so I have nothing to share at this time. We’ll have to take that question back for you.

Let’s go to Laura Rozen.

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

QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks for taking this. Do you have a readout of Deputy Secretary Sherman’s trip to Oman? And also, can you say if she’s using her visit there to send messages to Iran, including on detained U.S. citizens in Iran? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Laura. So Deputy Secretary Sherman did meet in – I’m sorry, she met in Oman with Deputy Foreign Minister Khalifa Al Harthy in Muscat. They discussed advancing peace and security in the region as well as our shared commitment to bolstering the U.S.-Oman bilateral relationship, which includes advancing new opportunities for trade and investment. The deputy secretary also thanked the deputy foreign minister for Oman’s role in mediating peace in the region and also underscored the importance of an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire to help bring the war to an end – the war in Yemen to an end.

We’ll take one last question from Muhammad El Ahmed.

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

QUESTION: Hello? Yes, hi. Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I have actually two questions – or actually, three questions.

First, what leverage does the U.S. – sorry, what leverage is the U.S. planning to exercise on President Kais Saied to avoid the Egyptian scenario, and how concerned that any miscalculation in the fragile Tunisia could backfire in the already-hot region, especially in Libya?

My second question, the other question is about Yemen. Today, State Department issued a statement about new trip to – Special Envoy Lenderking to the region. This is, I believe, the first trip there. Is there any updates about the possibilities of reaching an agreement, or it’s just part of regular consultations that the SE is doing there?

And finally, on Deputy Secretary Sherman’s visit to Oman, would her schedule include other meetings with regional players or it would take only two meetings with Omani official? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Muhammad. To the deputy secretary’s meeting in Oman, I would have to refer you to the readout.

To your question on Special Envoy Lenderking, we can confirm that our U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking arrived in Saudi Arabia today and he’ll be meeting with senior officials from Saudi as well – and the Republic of Yemen governments. He will discuss the growing consequences of the Houthi offensive on Marib which is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis as well as triggering instability elsewhere in the country. He’ll also address the need for efforts by the Republic of Yemen Government and Saudi Arabia to stabilize Yemen’s economy, and also to facilitate the timely import of fuel to northern Yemen and the need for the Houthis to end their manipulation of fuel imports and prices inside of Yemen.

To your first question, I believe that was on Tunisia, and any leverage, again, I’ll just repeat that Secretary Blinken spoke, again, at great length with Tunisian President Saied yesterday, and he urged the president – President Saied to maintain an open dialogue with all political prisoners – I’m sorry, political actors and the Tunisian people.

That concludes today’s press briefing. Thank you all for joining. I hope you have a great rest of your day.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:32 p.m.)

 

Department Press Briefing – July 23, 2021

23 Jul

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:05 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Hello and Happy Friday, everyone. Thank you so much for joining today’s department press briefing. I have three updates at the top before I start taking your questions.

To start, Deputy Secretary Sherman continued her travel to Asia today with a second day in Seoul, meeting with Republic of Korea First Vice Minister Choi – or, excuse me, First Vice Foreign Minister Choi. Vice Foreign Minister Choi.

Deputy Secretary Sherman and Vice Foreign Minister Choi emphasized the importance of the U.S.-ROK Alliance promoting peace, security, and prosperity in Northeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific region, and around the world.

The Deputy Secretary and the Vice Foreign Minister discussed bilateral and multilateral cooperation to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, address the climate crisis, provide pandemic relief, and promote post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

They also reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation to address the global challenges of the 21st century following their trilateral meeting in Tokyo earlier this week.

Moving on to some vaccine shipment updates. The Biden administration is making good on its promise to be an arsenal of vaccines to the world.

We shipped a record number of doses to a record number of countries this week, 22 million doses to 23 countries, including: Guatemala, Senegal, Zambia, Niger, Gambia, El Salvador, Honduras, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Panama, Vietnam, Georgia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Benin, Morocco, Tajikistan, Colombia, Madagascar, Liberia, and Eswatini.

Every day, driven by the singular goal of saving lives, we continue to make progress on the global vaccination effort.

And finally, while the Taliban have stated they will not harm former interpreters or others who worked for foreign forces, recent reports of violence and atrocities against interpreters and other Afghans indicate local Taliban forces are showing little regard for human life and human rights on the ground.

We vehemently condemn these targeted attacks, the destruction of vital infrastructure, as well as other attacks against the people of Afghanistan.

The Taliban must go beyond issuing statements denying territorial offensives and targeted attacks. If this is truly not Taliban policy, their leadership should condemn these atrocities and violations of basic rights. They must proactively prevent their forces from carrying out these actions on the ground.

We continue to call for an immediate end to ongoing violence, which is largely driven by the Taliban. We call on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations to determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future that leads to a just and durable settlement. A negotiated settlement between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban is the only way to end 40 years of war,and bring Afghans the peace that they seek and deserve.

The world will not accept the imposition by force of a government in Afghanistan. Legitimacy and assistance for any Afghan government can only be possible if that government has a basic right – basic respect, excuse me, for human rights.

We continue to do all we can to galvanize and support the diplomatic process toward peace. Together, with the international community, we urge all parties to reach a negotiated political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho, VOA.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi Jalina, thank you. I want to ask you about North Korea. Human Rights Watch says at least 1,170 North Koreans are currently detained in China and are facing forced repatriation to North Korea. The group says North Korea recently reopened its borders, increasing the risk of forced repatriation. What is the State Department’s stance on China forcefully returning North Korean refugees back to North Korea?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. Well, at large, I can say that the United States is certainly committed to placing human rights at the center of our foreign policy, and that’s something you’ve heard President Biden say in the past as well as Secretary Blinken. And of course, this would include in the DPRK.

We’ll also continue to prioritize human rights in our overall approach when it comes to the DPRK. Even when we disagree with a regime like the DPRK, we must work to the best of our ability to alleviate the suffering of its people, and we strive to act in a manner that does not harm the North Korean people and continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of critical humanitarian aid in the hope that the DPRK will accept it.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Happy Friday, Jalina. Thank you so much. My question is regarding Zimbabwe. Now I know that in recent past, the relations between the United States and Zimbabwe have always kind of toppled, gone back and forth, and may not have been the best of relations in recent past.

So, the president’s spokesperson has kind of made some outrageous remarks regarding the vaccines that are going out to Africa. And although the embassy has kind of hit back a little bit about those remarks, what I’m wondering is: Are there any steps between both yourselves and the Government of Zimbabwe that you might be taking to better the relationship between the two countries? I’m really interested to find out what is it that can be done. Or are any – are there any maybe backchannel things that you might be doing or anything that you can share at this point as to where you would like to see this relationship, and is there any hope that this relationship will get better? Thanks, Jalina.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. While I don’t have anything specific for you on Zimbabwe today, I’d just like to reiterate that Africa is certainly a priority for the Biden administration, and we certainly intend to engage with African countries in pursuing our shared interests and values. And of course, that would include global health and climate change, freedom and democracy, as well as shared prosperity.

We’ll also continue to reinvigorate and restore our partnerships all along the continent as well as build partnerships with African governments and institutions as well as civil society.

Let’s go to Laura Kelly, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. There’s some breaking news from NBC and Reuters that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has left Haiti after gunshots were heard at the funeral for assassinated President Jovenel Moise. I wonder if you can comment on that. And then if I may just ask a second question.

MS PORTER: All right. Well, to your first question, we definitely can – we’re aware of reports that there was gunfire outside of the funeral of President Moise, and the presidential delegation that was there is safe and accounted for and, of course, en route back to the United States. And of course, the United States is deeply concerned about the unrest in Haiti. And of course, in this critical moment, Haiti’s leaders must come together to chart a united path that reflects the will of the Haitian people.

While we still have you, we’ll take your second question.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. House Democrats are calling for the State Department to establish a special envoy for monitoring and combating Islamophobia and to include anti-Muslim violence per se in next year’s annual human rights reports. Can you offer any reaction to this?

MS PORTER: So, I don’t have any personnel announcements to make at this time, but I’m certainly happy to do so whenever we have that ability. Thank you.

Let’s go to Guita Aryan.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. My question is about Iran and the ongoing demonstrations in the south protesting the lack of water. Michelle Bachelet, the Human Rights – High Commissioner for Human Rights, has had harsh words for the Government of Iran, saying that they should tend to the people’s demands instead of using excessive force, and arresting people and crushing the protests.

I was wondering whether the United States also agrees that the Iranian Government’s reaction has been harsh. And how can the United States and the international community intervene here and have the government in Iran listen and tend to the people’s demands? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. So, we’re certainly following, closely following, the reports on protests in Iran’s Khuzestan’s province, including reports that security forces have opened fire on protesters, which sadly has resulted in multiple deaths. Of course, years of government neglect and a mismanagement of water resources have exacerbated the worst drought Iran has faced in at least 50 years.

The Iranian people have a right to freely voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable. And plainly, we support the rights of Iranians. We support their rights to peacefully assemble, as well as their rights to express themselves freely. And they should be able to do so without fear of violence or arbitrary detention by security forces.

We’re also monitoring reports of government-imposed internet shutdowns in the region, and we urge the Iranian Government to allow its citizens to exercise their universal rights of freedom of expression, as well as freely access internet – excuse me, freely access information online.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

OPERATOR: Thank you, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Jalina. I wanted to follow up on the statement that you guys put out that said the Secretary spoke to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer about the case of American journalist Danny Fenster, who’s jailed in Myanmar. It’s been two months, maybe three months since Danny was detained and he’s being held in Insein Prison, where we understand COVID is rampaging through the population, as it is elsewhere among the population in Myanmar. And it seems, from what he’s said to his family, it sounds like he might be infected himself. I wondered if you could give us an update on what the U.S. officials have been able to learn about Danny’s situation, from consular access or what consular access you have, and what U.S. is doing to try to get him released. And, also, if you have an update on what the administration’s doing towards Myanmar given the broader COVID outbreak there. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. Of course, we remain deeply concerned over the continued detention of Danny Fenster, who of course was working as a journalist in Burma. As far as any updates, Daniel had a virtual hearing on July 15th, which was procedural, and his next hearing is scheduled for July 28th. We’re closely monitoring the progression of Daniel’s case, and we’ll always call for free and independent media as indispensable to building prosperous, resilient, and free societies.

When it comes to the situation – the COVID situation in Burma, of course we’re still deeply troubled by the deteriorating public health situation in Burma, and of course the recent strike – spike in COVID-19 infections. The United States has provided over $20 million in COVID‑related assistance to Burma since the pandemic began, which has helped people protect themselves from infections as well as detecting and clinical care. Since the military coup, regrettably the COVID situation has sharply deteriorated, and we continue to work with international partners to identify ways to effectively respond to the current public health crisis as well as continue to support the people of Burma.

Let’s go to Nadia Bilbassy.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this, and happy Friday. We’re following the Iraq strategic dialogue. Can you tell us if we expect a final communique? If they’re breaking into groups, what are these groups, and high representation on each? And, also, as you know, the security and military cooperation is part of it. Do we expect anything indicating the withdrawal or redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Nadia, if we have you on the line, can you repeat your last question, please? It was hard to (inaudible).

OPERATOR: One moment for that. Nadia, your line is open.

QUESTION: Okay, great. I’m sorry about this. Thank you for doing this. My question was about the Iraq strategic dialogue, and whether to expect a final communique. And if you just put us – give us some information about the meeting today, what kind of groups they were breaking into. And as you know, security and military cooperation was discussed. Do we expect anything indicating talking about withdrawal of troops or deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: So, we did issue a note that’s available on our website at the start of the strategic dialogue, and I suspect we’ll have more to read out about that, the details as well. Thank you.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina, thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on Simon’s question about Danny Fenster. Are you able to say when he was last – or when the embassy was last given consular access to him and whether they’ve been able to confirm whether he has or had COVID‑19? And then separately on Afghanistan, we’re hearing reports among these interpreters that some of them have been disqualified from the SIV process because they failed polygraph tests. They feel that the tests were not fair – were not given out properly. Is the State Department considering changing this policy on polygraphs? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. We’re going to have to take that last question back to – back for you. On your question on Danny, I’ll just reiterate that he had a virtual hearing on the 15th which was procedural and that’s when our consular had access to him. And, of course, his next one is on the 28th. As far as his health, the status of his health, I’m not able to share distinct details at this time.

Let’s take one final question from Barbara Usher.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Your line is open. Barbara, your line is open.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, we can hear you.

QUESTION: You can hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. Yeah, could you please clarify a few points about the funeral in Haiti. Did the U.S. delegation leave early because of the security concerns, the gunshots that you mentioned? And you also said the delegation was on its way back to the U.S. Did it cut short the trip for Haiti or was that part of the plan?

MS PORTER: Thank you, Barbara. So, I’ll just reiterate the same points I made earlier, and is that the presidential delegation that went – they’re all safe and they’re accounted for, and they’re back to the United States. As far as any details on the entirety of their trip, I don’t have anything to preview at this time. But – and that’s all we’ll share on that today unless you have any follow-on questions.

All right. That concludes today’s department press briefing. Thank you so much for joining, and have a great rest of your weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)

 

Department Press Briefing – July 16, 2021

17 Jul

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:03 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday. Thank you for joining today’s department press briefing. I have two updates at the top before I start taking your questions.

We are deeply saddened to hear that Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering fighting in Afghanistan. Mr. Siddiqui was celebrated for his work on some of the world’s most urgent and challenging news stories and for creating striking images that conveyed a wealth of emotion and the face – and the human face behind the headlines. His brilliant reporting on the Rohingya refugee crisis earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Siddiqui’s death is a tremendous loss, not only for Reuters and for his media colleagues, but also for the rest of the world. Far too many journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. We continue to call for an end to the violence. A just and durable peace settlement is the only way forward in Afghanistan.

Next, a quick note here on the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic: The Biden administration continues to send vaccines to countries all around the world. By Monday, we expect to deliver millions of vaccines to Bhutan, Nepal, Moldova, Costa Rica, Haiti, Laos, Sri Lanka, Fiji, the Philippines, Argentina, and Jordan. Additionally, in the partnership with the African Union and COVAX, the United States is proud to announce the donation of 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries. The first shipments, planned for the coming days, will head to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Burkina Faso. We are making progress on this global vaccination effort each day and we will continue to update you as additional doses are shipped.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler to start us off, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for doing this. I was wondering if you could provide us an update on the SIV operation to relocate these Afghans, and whether or not you’re considering expanding that pool out to women and minorities who may be at risk as well. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So our immediate focus are on eligible and interested Afghan nationals and their families – and of course, that would include women and minorities who are vulnerable and at risk – who have supported the United States and our partners in Afghanistan and are in the SIV application pipeline. As it stands, there are approximately 20,000 Afghan principal applicants at some stage of the SIV process, and as of July of 2021, approximately 50 percent of these applicants are at the initial stage of the process and are pending applicant application. And out of that 20,000, approximately 10,000 of these applicants, they would need to take some action before the U.S. Government can begin processing their case.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. First, I want to add my voice to mourning Danish Siddiqui. A tremendous loss, tremendous loss.

And second, two quick questions on the Palestinian issue. It is reported that Mr. Hady Amr has informed the Israelis that there is a tremendous crisis within the Palestinian Authority, especially an economic one, and asked them to help. Can you give us – can you update us on this, and what kind of help is he seeking?

And second, Jalina, very quickly, I mean, 2021 has been a really terrible year for the Palestinians. I mean, so far, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, 474 Palestinian-owned homes and structures have been destroyed, including 150 donor-funded ones, displacing about 656 people, including 259 children. My question is: When will the U.S. say – will say enough is enough on this, time to end it? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Said. To your first question, well, we don’t have – we don’t discuss private diplomatic conversations, so I don’t have anything further to add to you on that.

And to your second question, I’ll just continue to underscore from here that we know for a fact that President Biden, now obviously Secretary Blinken as well, have always said that the U.S. will center our foreign policy on human rights, and that has not changed. And we believe it is critical to refrain from any unilateral steps that increase tensions and make it more difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution, and of course, this includes demolition.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for your comments about our colleague. I wanted to follow up on that, actually, since that’s something that’s happened in Afghanistan and kind of reflects the worsening security situation in the country. I was wondering, given that the U.S. is in the middle of a pullout of troops from the country, I wondered if you could comment on the worsening security situation. And do you – is this what was expected when the pullout happened, that the country would sort of descend into more violence and more chaos? And is that what you expect to continue to happen as this pullout continues? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Well, Simon, I will tell you that we will always call for peace and, of course, an ongoing end to the violence that plagues Afghanistan. We have urged both sides to, of course, engage in serious negotiations when it comes to a just and durable peace settlement, and outside of that I don’t have anything else to preview for you today.

Let’s go to the line of Eunjung Cho, and I apologize if I mispronounced your name.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. That was perfect. My name is Eunjung Cho with the Voice of America. Can you give us an update on Deputy Secretary Sherman’s trip to Asia? There are reports today quoting senior State Department official that her – she may visit China and that she may discuss North Korea with China. Is it in deputy secretary’s plans to discuss North Korea with China during her trip to Asia?

And my second question: The trilateral meeting among the vice foreign ministers of the U.S., South Korea, and Japan are being resumed after being suspended during the Trump administration. What does the State Department hope to achieve with the revival of this trilateral meeting?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. So what I’ll say is that the – Deputy Secretary Sherman will travel to the region. I don’t have anything else to go on beyond what we have in our readouts. I certainly don’t have any travel to announce at this time. If we do, we’ll certainly make those. And I certainly don’t want to get ahead of her meetings for her trip, but that’s all we’ll preview today.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. I wanted to get some more information about the advisory to U.S. businesses about doing any business in Hong Kong with any entities based there and the possible risks to their running afoul of U.S. law. Can you give more context on why the U.S. decided to issue this advisory now, and perhaps just as important, to issue sanctions, secondary sanctions against seven people who work in the office that essentially oversees Hong Kong?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rosiland. I’ll start off by saying that the United States resolutely stands with the people in Hong Kong. And we’re promoting accountability with additional sanctions on officials connected with the undermining of Hong Kong’s autonomy as well as their democratic institutions and freedoms. And we’re also promoting transparency with a business advisory outlining some of the increased risks of doing business in Hong Kong.

And just to your specific question on sanctions, of course, yes, seven officials were sanctioned today for their actions threatening the peace, security, and stability and autonomy of Hong Kong. Anything beyond that will be issued in our statement online.

Let’s go to the line of Endale Getahun.

QUESTION: Yes, Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much for taking my call from KETO.

I just wanted to follow up on your statement earlier regarding the COVID assistance to Africa. I just wanted to just get to the hotspot in Ethiopia. I know Ethiopian Government is using a – whatever in Tigray region. So how are you going to be verifying this assistance will be a benefit to Tigray region, for the COVID assistance?

And also, I have another follow-up, maybe if you can just touch up – do you have any statements from your embassy in Addis Ababa or the others for the Tigrayans (inaudible) in Addis Ababa and some of them have been detained and incarcerated in an undisclosed area with the Ethiopian Government, and at the same time there – another region, also there is a conflict (inaudible). So what’s your statements on the current situation in Ethiopia? Thank you for taking my call.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions. So the United States, of course, is gravely concerned by reports of ongoing hostilities in Tigray, and evidence of escalating military confluence – conflict in Tigray’s western and southern zones. There is, of course, significant risk that such conflict may expand outside of that region. All parties need to end the hostilities and pursue a negotiated ceasefire immediately. Escalating fire will only undermine critical ongoing efforts to deliver much-needed humanitarian relief to the famine-affected populations in Tigray.

Let’s go to Rich Edson.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks, Jalina. I’m just wondering if I can get a response from you on the WHO’s director general saying that there needs to be more access within China to discover the origins of COVID and whether the U.S. views this as sort of the international community – an additional sense of it – pushing more pressure on the Chinese Government.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Rich. I don’t have anything for you on that today, but happy to get back to you with any updates forthcoming.

Let’s go to Guita Aryan.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. My question is about Iran. Demonstrations have snowballed, and starting from demonstrations against past-due salaries and wages to shortage of electricity and now shortage of water. Do you have any comment on that?

And then my second question is about the Vienna talks. At the end of the sixth round it was reported that the Iranians want guarantee from the U.S. that future administrations will not leave the JCPOA should they come to an agreement now. And now I’m seeing reports that they specifically want the agreement – should any future administration want to leave the agreement, that it should be taken up at the UN Security Council. Can you comment on that as well, please? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you. I won’t – I certainly won’t project or comment on any future administrations, but I’ll talk about the one for the time being. Of course, we haven’t gotten to the seventh round of talks yet, but as Secretary Blinken has noted, we are certainly committed to seeking a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by both the United States and Iran. And if we succeed in doing so, we intend to build on that as a part of a comprehensive approach using a variety of policy tools to address nuclear and other issues of concern.

Now, your question on – to your first question, we’ve certainly seen the reports of Iran shortages and resulting protests, and we continue to urge the Iranian Government to support the Iranian people as they exercise their universal rights to freedom of expression as well as freedom of peaceful assembly.

Let’s go to Doug Byun.

QUESTION: Hi. Can you hear?

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

QUESTION: Okay. Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I was just wondering if you have any updates on U.S. overtures to North Korea? I mean, has there been any direct or meaningful response from North Korea since Special Envoy Sung Kim reached out to them saying the United States is ready to meet with them anytime, anywhere? And I also have a short follow-up about the deputy secretary’s trip.

MS PORTER: So I don’t have any updates to your first question, so while I still have you on the line, let’s take your second one, please.

QUESTION: Sure. I was just wondering if Special Envoy Sung Kim would be joining the deputy secretary in Tokyo or Seoul since her trip is going to be somewhat focused on North Korea as well.

MS PORTER: I don’t have any updates to make about her trip. For anything further or for any other specific details, I would have to guide you to her announcement with those details.

Let’s take our final question from Owen Churchill.

QUESTION: Hi, yeah. Thanks so much for taking my question, Jalina. Going back to Hong Kong, a couple of questions on that. First of all, what would be your – what would be the State Department’s measure of success with these new sanctions and the business advisory? Are you anticipating any kind of change in Beijing’s behavior as a result of the actions?

And then secondly, we also understand that there were some calls on the administration from advocacy groups to roll out immigration measures to support those fleeing Hong Kong, like either offering asylum or relaxing immigration processes for those people. Can you give us an update on any – on the deliberations on that front, whether there will be any kind of executive action in that department? Thanks a lot.

MS PORTER: So to answer both of your questions, I’ll just say that we stand with Hong Kongers against the PRC’s egregious policies and their actions as well. PRC and Hong Kong authorities wield the national security law and other legislation to make politically motivated arrests as well as prosecution of journalists, opposition politicians, activists, and peaceful protesters. These authorities have created an atmosphere of fear and censorship among the general populace.

So our measures today are in response to these and other actions by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities to undermine protected rights and freedoms as well as democratic institutions and the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong. We will deliver all options to respond to the PRC’s further undermining of protected freedoms and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. The United States supports the aspirations of people in Hong Kong to sustain the protected freedoms and rights that were promised to them in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a binding international agreement.

That concludes today’s department briefing. Thank you so much for joining us today and have a great weekend ahead.

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

# # #

 

Department Press Briefing – June 29, 2021

29 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining today’s briefing. I have one quick update at the top for you.

The United States is donating 2 million Pfizer vaccine doses to Peru as a part of our ongoing solidarity with the people of Peru as they recover from this devastating pandemic.

The United States has a strong bilateral – is a strong bilateral partner of Peru, and we have stood side by side with the Peruvian people. Since this pandemic began, we have provided lifesaving medical equipment, field hospitals, personal protective equipment, and economic recovery assistance.

In accordance with the President’s previously announced vaccine sharing framework, we will continue donating vaccine doses in the coming months as supplies become available, working with U.S. vaccine manufacturers to increase vaccine supply for the rest of the world, and with partners to create the global vaccine production and manufacturing capacity that will beat the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare the world response to future public health threats.

With that, let’s go to Kristina Anderson.

OPERATOR: And as a reminder, everyone, if you do wish to ask a question, it’s 1 then 0. Ms. Anderson, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking my question. So I was wondering, on the JCPOA we just finished the sixth round of negotiations with our – through our partners. Is there any update? And will there be a seventh round, and when will that be? Is there any look ahead on this? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. So our Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, he is currently in Washington in consultations, of course, after returning back from the sixth round of talks. We haven’t had any announcement for the seventh round of talks; those haven’t been announced. But just to reiterate, as Secretary Blinken has noted, we are committed to seeking a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA by both the United States and Iran.

Let’s go to Michel (inaudible) Ghandour.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Go ahead, your line is – one moment. Your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Thank you, Jalina. Secretary Blinken has met today with the Spanish foreign minister and Saudi foreign minister, and they discussed Lebanon. Do you have any readout for the meeting? Was there any plan or any initiative towards Lebanon?

MS PORTER: I don’t have any readout to share at this time. But if we have any updates, that will come from our website, and we’d be happy to share at that time. Thank you.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

OPERATOR: Go ahead, your line is open.

QUESTION: Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you so much. Jalina, last Thursday there was a brutal murder of a Palestinian activist by the Palestinian security forces. And are you in contact or have you contacted the Palestinian Authority on this to raise your concern or your outrage that journalists and activists need to be protected? And if you have, what was their response?

And second, dozens of settlers and Jewish extremists have been storming the al-Aqsa Mosque lately. I wonder also if you had contacted the Israeli Government to urge them to stop such a storming. Thank you.

MS PORTER: So for your last question, we’ll have to take that back for you. We don’t have any updates to share from here.

But to your first question, I’ll just say that we’re deeply disturbed by the reports that non-uniformed members of the Palestinian Authority security forces both harassed and used force against protesters and journalists over the weekend during public demonstrations that were calling for accountability of the death of activist Nizar Banat.

We strongly urge security forces to conduct themselves in a professional manner and authorities to respect freedom of expression, the work of journalists, as well as the rights of Palestinians to protest peacefully.

We’d also note that the Palestinian Authority announced the establishment of a commission to investigate Mr. Banat’s death. And as previously – as we’ve previously stated, it’s very important that the Palestinian Authority conduct both a thorough and transparent investigation and ensure full accountability in this case.

Let’s go to Luis Rojas’s line.

OPERATOR: One moment. Okay, Mr. Rojas, your line is open. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello? Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. The government of Daniel Ortega has intensified repression against opponents in Nicaragua. Experts anticipate there will be more sanctions for the European Union. There is a (inaudible) or renewal aid for the United States to Latino American on health and immigration matters. What is the attitude the Biden administration in the face of the threat to individual liberty in Central America? Hello?

MS PORTER: Yes. So if I understood part of your question, from what I can hear, the Biden administration certainly supports the freedom of expression of the people of Central America. If you can repeat a portion of your question; I’m afraid I didn’t hear all of it.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Anas Elsabbar.

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

QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this. According to the Italian Le Repubblica newspaper, Secretary Blinken has expected that foreign troops will leave Libya soon. However, he said that the process will take some time. Would you please confirm that the U.S. is in contact with foreign troop sponsors in Libya? And if you can confirm that, has any of the sponsors committed to withdrawing its troops from Libya? And if they did, how and when? Thank you.

Hello?

MS PORTER: We’ll have to take that question back for you today.

And that looks like that’s all we have in the conference line queue today, so that concludes today’s daily press briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – June 24, 2021

25 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:06 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER:  Good afternoon, and thank you for joining today’s daily press briefing.  I have three updates at the top before I start taking your questions.

As you know, the Secretary arrived in Berlin yesterday for a multi-leg European trip that would also take him to Paris, Rome, Bari and Matera.  This trip gives the Secretary a chance to follow up on the President’s successful trip to the region last week and continued discussions with key partners to underscore the U.S. commitment to a strong transatlantic partnership.

Yesterday, the Secretary met with Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas to discuss how we can further strengthen the U.S.-Germany relationship to address common challenges, including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, as well as China and Russia.  The Secretary also participated in the second Berlin conference on Libya which was an opportunity for the international community to support the progress made by the Libyan people and underscore our support for the full implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the October 2020 nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Today, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Maas launched the initial meeting of the U.S.-Germany Dialogue on the Holocaust to highlight our shared commitment to combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and distortion and to find innovative new ways to enhance Holocaust education.  The leaders used this opportunity to emphasize how anti-Semitism is rising around the world and such hatred and prejudice are inimical to U.S. and transatlantic interests and values.

The Secretary departs this evening for Paris where he will continue his discussion with European leaders.

Next, I am pleased to announce that 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Campinas, Brazil tomorrow morning.

This donation is a part of 80 million doses that President Biden announced on May 17th and is the result of close collaboration between the governments of the United States and Brazil toward putting an end to this pandemic.

As President Biden has said, the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts as we have demonstrated right here at home.

We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world into bringing an end to this pandemic.

We’re working to get as many safe and effective vaccine doses to as many people around the world as quickly as possible.

Thanks to the innovation of U.S. companies and the resilience of and commitment of American people, we’re in a position to help others.

The United States congratulates law professor Gay McDougall on her election as an independent expert on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or CERD.  Given her extensive legal and international human rights experience, including two previous terms on the Committee, the United States considers Professor McDougall a highly qualified expert who has made and who will continue to make valuable contributions to the Committee.

Racial justice is at the forefront of our international engagements, as demonstrated by our engagement at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) 46th session where we led a statement addressing systemic racism signed by 158 nations, our nomination of Professor McDougall to the CERD, and submitting overdue report on the CERD on June 2nd.

The United States will continue to engage the international community to find effective means to address systemic racism both at home and around the world.

And finally, leaders from 16 Southern African Development Community nations held a summit in Mozambique Wednesday June 23rd, 2021.  We applaud the Southern African Development Community’s focus on the threat of terrorism in Mozambique, as ISIS is not an isolated problem but rather a regional – a broader regional concern.

The United States is also committed to supporting the Government of Mozambique to counter terrorism and combat violent extremism with a holistic strategy that also includes socio-economic development, community resilience programs, and security assistance, as well as humanitarian aid.  We look forward to learning more of the South African Development Communities – Development Community, excuse me, plan coming out of the summit, and we will underscore the importance of keeping civilian protection and respect for human rights at the forefront of all security assistance.

Let’s go to the line of Jiha Ham.

OPERATOR:  Jiha, your line is now open.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Hi, Jalina.  I have a question related to Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was tortured by North Korea and later sent back home, but died in 2017.  New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and the council members of the city have been endorsing a bill that can change the name of their – one of their streets to Otto Warmbier Way to commemorate Otto Warmbier.  And the street that they want to rename is located right in front of the New York North Korean mission to the UN.  So I’m wondering if you support this idea or whether you have any concerns as the host country of the foreign missions to the UN.  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  Well, I’ll start off by saying that we certainly will continue to express our deepest condolences to the Warmbier family.  With respect to your question on the street naming and where specifically it is in New York City, I’d have to refer you back to the mayor of New York City and all the local officials in New York City for those specific decisions being made.

Let’s go to Said Arikat, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Can you hear me?

MS PORTER:  Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION:  Hello?  Yeah.  Thank you very kindly.  Very quickly, today Palestinian Authority security forces arrested a Palestinian activist and he died in custody.  I wonder if you have a position on this, because this really comes at the heels of many abuses by the Palestinian security forces against Palestinian activists.

And my second question is the fact that Senator Risch is holding $50 million in aid to the Palestinians that was approved by Congress.  Do you have – also have a comment on that?  Thank you, Jalina.

MS PORTER:  Thank you for your question, Said.  So I’m going to start with your second question first.  For that, we simply won’t comment on the holds, and for that I’d have to send you back to Senator Risch’s office for any specific commentary.

To your first question, I’ll just say that we’re deeply disturbed by the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat and the information that has been reported regarding the circumstances surrounding his death.  We certainly also offer our sincere condolences not only to his family but as well as the community who’s been impacted by his death.  We urge the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to also ensure full accountability in this case.  And we also strongly encourage the Palestinian Authority to respect the rights to free expression as well as the work of civil society.

Let’s go to Jen Hansler.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Thanks for doing this.  Can you hear me?

MS PORTER:  Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thank you.  On the SIV issue, I was wondering whether you could tell us anything about the role the State Department is playing in the planning for a potential evacuation to a third country.  Which countries are under consideration for relocating the SIV applicants?  And then is anyone from the State Department meeting with anybody from the Afghan delegation that is in D.C. right now?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  So to your second question, I don’t have anything to announce or report out.  But to your first question, we are identifying SIV applicants who have served as interpreters as well as translators to be relocated outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown by September, in order to safely complete the remainder of the Special Immigrant Visa application process.  These are individuals who are actually already in the SIV pipeline.

Let’s go to Abigail Williams.

QUESTION:  Thanks so much, Jalina.  Following up on Jenny’s question regarding SIVs, I wanted to ask if you have any updated numbers on where you are in the process at looking at the 18,000 applicants.  I know that Secretary Blinken had spoken of 9,000 being towards the beginning process and another 9,000 waiting and face delays.

MS PORTER:  No, I don’t have any specific updates in regards to numbers, but just will continue to underscore that we have said that we’re committed to supporting those who’ve helped the military as well as other government personnel with their duties, of course often at great personal risk, not only to themselves but to their family members.  And we’re continuing to work on every way possible to make sure we can help those who have helped us.

Let’s go to Oskar Gorzynski.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Can you hear me?

MS PORTER:  Yes, I can hear you.  Did I say your name correctly?

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Yeah, that’s pretty much right, as good as it gets.  So I wanted to ask about today’s meeting between German Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier and Secretary Kerry.  Do you have any information that – what are the topics?  And there have – relatedly, this week German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that he expects a deal with the U.S. on Nord Stream 2 by August.  Is that the State Department’s assessment as well, and what would such a deal include?

MS PORTER:  I’ll take your second question first.  We have nothing to announce when it comes to any specific deadlines, but we’ll continue to underscore that the President has made rebuilding our relationship with our allies – and of course that would include Germany administration priority – the strength of these relationships will lay the foundation for many of our foreign policy priorities, such as economic recovery, recovery in combating COVID-19, as well as pushing back on the PRC and authoritarianism around the world.

To your first question, we don’t have anything to announce.  We’ll have to take that back and get back to you on the meeting you mentioned with Secretary Kerry.

Let’s go to Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thanks very much, Jalina.  Just to follow up on the Afghanistan question, do you have a sense for where you may send those folks who worked for the U.S. while they await processing their SIV visas?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  So thank you for your question, Nick.  I don’t have anything to share about specific locations at this time, but I will say that we would take under any relocation in full compliance with all the applicable laws as well as in full coordination with Congress.

Let’s go to Jose Luis Sanz.

QUESTION:  Hi.  So Jalina, can you hear me?

MS PORTER:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Yeah, well a couple of questions about Central America.  First one is about Nicaragua.  The fact that the repression and the detention of opposition leaders or journalists has continued means that the sanctions and the international community and the United States strategy is not working, and how do you expect to continue trying to help to (inaudible) on transpiring election in Nicaragua.

And the second one is about the request to El Salvador for the extradition of MS-13 members.  Can you confirm how many of them has been – already been made by the United States?  I’m talking about the case that is being seen in New York.

MS PORTER:  So to your second question about MS-13 members and El Salvador, I’ll have to refer you to the Department of Justice.  And to your first question about Nicaragua, what I’ll say largely speaking is that, of course, the courage of the Nicaraguan people is admirable.  And we will continue to support them in the United States.  We’ll also continue to use all of our diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support Nicaraguans’ call for greater freedoms as well as accountability.  And of course, that would also include free and fair elections.

Thank you for your questions.  That’s all we have time for today, and I hope you have a great week ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – June 15, 2021

15 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:11 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you so much for joining today’s State Department press briefing. I have two updates at the top before I start taking your questions.

I would like to draw your attention to the joint statement issued by Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas today about the expansion of the Central American Minors, or CAM, program, which provides certain Guatemalan, Honduran, or Salvadoran children access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

As a part of our focus on a responsible, phased approach to humanely managing migration and expanding legal pathways, we continue to reopen cases in our efforts to reunite families. Since we announced CAM’s reopening in March, we have reopened approximately 1,100 cases.

As we continue to develop and expand initiatives that provide a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to dangerous irregular migration, we are announcing today the second phase of the CAM reopening that will expand the ability of tens of thousands of U.S.-based individuals to petition for children to access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through CAM.

Petitioner eligibility will now be extended to legal guardians, in addition to parents, who are lawfully present in the United States.

This expansion will also allow certain parents and legal guardians who have a pending asylum application or a pending U visa petition, filed prior to May 15th, 2021, the ability to reunite with their children.

This is just one component of the President’s multi-pronged approach to address the challenges of irregular migration through and from Central America.

The steps we are taking reflect our values as a nation and represent our continued commitment to ensure that we treat people with dignity and respect, and that we protect the most vulnerable people, especially our children.

And as you might have seen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lisa Peterson is in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, from June 14th through June 16th – I’m sorry, June 18th – representing the United States in the first ever U.S.-DRC bilateral human rights dialogue.

The dialogue is an opportunity to have an open discussion about the most pressing democratic and human rights issues facing the country and how the United States can support the DRC in its efforts to advance respect for democracy and human rights.

This dialogue is focused on promoting accountability for human rights abuses, ongoing Congolese preparations for an on-time, free, and fair election in 2023, continued progress in combating trafficking in persons under President Tshisekedi, and protecting and preserving fundamental freedoms.

With that, we’ll give it a few minutes before we start taking your questions.

Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.

QUESTION: Hello.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Shaun Tandon’s line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Hope you’re well. I was wondering if you had anything to say about the march that’s going ahead today in Jerusalem. Does the State Department have any concerns about it? What’s your assessment of how it’s going, and what’s your message to the two sides on how to handle this?

If you can allow me, just briefly something else as well. The Hungarian parliament passed a law that – it aimed at prohibiting quote-unquote “promotion of homosexuality.” How does the State Department see that? Will this at all affect relations with Prime Minister Orban? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Shaun. To your first question, well, we certainly don’t have an assessment to state from here, but what we can say is we believe that it’s essential for all parties to refrain from any steps that exacerbate tensions.

And to your second question, I’ll just lead with, of course, as you know, the United States is centering our foreign policy around human rights. And of course, that includes the struggle to end discrimination, criminalization, as well as stigma against LGBTQI persons all around the world. And of course, that is essential to the commitment that we have to fundamental freedoms for people who are individuals not only in the United States, but to our partners and allies globally as well.

So we’re certainly aware of the law that passed today, and of course it raises concerns about, again, what I said about freedoms of expression, as well as the restrictions on – which have no place in democratic societies. The United States is actually committed to strengthening our partnership with Hungary, as well as advancing the Biden administration’s support for democratic institutions, human rights, as well as rule of law globally.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham.

OPERATOR: Ms. Ham’s line is open.

QUESTION: Okay. Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. So North Korea yesterday released a statement criticizing Japan because Japan is holding a symposium in the UN over the abduction issue later this month. North Korea claimed that the abduction issue was already resolved. But as you know, not only Japanese but also many South Koreans were taken to North Korea in the past. How do you view this issue? Could you tell us if the new policy on North Korea can handle this abduction issue, along with other critical issues? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha. So to your specific question on North Korea and Japan, I’d have to refer you to those governments. But from our end, our policy on the DPRK has not changed.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

OPERATOR: Simon Lewis’s line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I wanted to see if you have any response to some calls coming out of meeting of Arab states in Qatar today, who are asking for the UN Security Council to discuss and step in over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or the GERD. Does the U.S. – would the U.S. sort of welcome that, and would you like to see that brought up in the Security Council, and is there any specific action that you would advocate for in that forum? Thanks.

MS PORTER: So on that issue, we don’t have any updates or any announcements today. But what I will say, broadly speaking, is that the United States continues to support collaborative as well as constructive efforts by Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in order to reach an arrangement on the GERD. And of course, we understand the importance of the Nile water to all three of those countries, and we’ll continue to encourage resumption of productive dialogue on the GERD. But outside of that, I have nothing to preview at this time.

Let’s go to Tracy Wilkinson.

QUESTION: Hello?

MS PORTER: Hi.

QUESTION: He didn’t say my line was open; I was waiting. Okay. On the Central American Minors Program, can you – so this is going to vastly or largely expand the number of potential petitioners for people who want to bring their kids up. Do you have any estimate, ballpark figures of how many people – how many additional cases and kids we’re talking about could come up, could be – their arrival could be applied for? And I understand all of the processing is going to take place in the home country, so my question – the second question is whether you’ve had – what kind of discussions you’ve had with the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala for their cooperation in this. Thanks.

MS PORTER: So I’ll just say at the top – so in the restart of the CAM Program we’ve identified a little over 3,100 cases – that’d be 3,162 cases to be exact – representing 3,828 individuals. Right now we just can’t speculate on how many may ultimately be resettled as refugees or be admitted via parole status.

Now to your second question on any dialogue, I have nothing to preview at this time.

Let’s go to Laura Kelly.

OPERATOR: Laura Kelly, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my question. The Iranian presidential elections are set to take place this Friday and polling indicates a low turnout of voters. How is the administration viewing the legitimacy of these elections? And if I may, what is the impact that the Iranian presidential elections have on U.S. discussions in Vienna to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

MS PORTER: Well, we’re – I’m certainly not in the position to determine or state from here – to determine the legitimacy of Iran’s elections, and we certainly won’t get ahead of that this Friday. That’s something for the Iranian people to decide for themselves.

And just to your point on the talks in Vienna, as you know our Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley is in his sixth round of talks in Vienna this week, and again, I’ll continue to underscore that meaningful process continues to be made on the language necessary to address nuclear and sanctions-related issues. But of course, there are – outstanding issues remain on both of them, as well. These meetings, of course, have been productive but they’re ongoing, so outside of that I don’t have anything to announce as well.

Let’s go to Jessica Donati.

OPERATOR: Jessica Donati, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. I just wanted to follow up with Tracy’s question. In the opening, you said that this could affect potentially tens of thousands of cases for children, but then later you said that there was just going – you only identified three to four thousand. I was wondering if you could clarify.

MS PORTER: Yeah, my clarification was, again, in the restart of the CAM Program where identified – where we identified over 3,000 cases, which was 3,162 cases representing 3,828 individuals. Beyond that, if you have any other specific questions we’d be happy to take that for you, but that’s all we have to preview for today.

Let’s go to Michele Kelemen.

OPERATOR: Michele Kelemen, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. The new Israeli foreign minister is indicating that he wants to improve relations with Democrats in Washington, restore kind of the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. And I’m wondering, would the State Department help facilitate that, and when might we see a visit by Yair Lapid? I saw that Blinken has – the Secretary has invited Lapid to Washington.

MS PORTER: For now, we don’t have any visits to announce at this time. And when it comes to their relations with Congress, we’ll leave that to members of the House and senators to determine their engagement, but that’s something that we wouldn’t facilitate or do anything like that from here.

Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you.

OPERATOR: Soyoung Kim, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. South Korea’s minister of reunification was supposed to visit the U.S. for the U.S.-South Korea working group meeting to mainly discuss North Korea issues sometime this month, but it was called off with no official details. Do you know the reason why the plan was canceled, and when do you think the next meeting is possible and reschedule?

And just a briefly follow-up question: Is the U.S. still trying to reach out to the North Korea or waiting until there is response from the North? Any update? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So your – the first question you asked, we’re going to have to take back to you. And to your second question on engagement, we don’t have anything to update you on today or any announcements to make.

OPERATOR: Soyoung’s line is open again.

QUESTION: Oh, the first question? Excuse me?

MS PORTER: Thanks. I believe we’ve asked – we’ve answered Soyoung’s questions. Thank you very much.

OPERATOR: Thank you.

MS PORTER: We can go to Doug Byun.

OPERATOR: There is no one by that name in the question queue.

MS PORTER: Okay. We’re going to take our last question from Said.

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

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Jalina, just to follow up on Shaun’s question, it is really getting out of hand with this march. The Israelis are arresting all kinds of Palestinians, including my colleagues, journalists who are covering the event. And it’s a very volatile situation. The Israelis did not heed your call to hold back on this march. So are you not concerned that this may get out of hand and we may end up in a situation that we had in last May? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Said. From here, again, I’ll continue to underscore that we believe it’s essential for all parties to refrain from any steps that would exacerbate tensions.

And with that, thank you all for joining today’s press briefing, and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)

 

Department Press Briefing – June 11, 2021

11 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:00 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and Happy Friday, everyone. Thank you for joining today’s State Department press briefing. I have one quick announcement to make at the top and then we will resume taking your questions.

The United States congratulates Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates on their election as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for the 2022 to 2023 term.

We look forward to a strong and productive partnership with incoming members to address issues fundamental to the maintenance of international peace and security.

And with that, we’ll give it a few minutes to wait for the queue.

Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler.

QUESTION: The embassy in Kabul announced today it was suspending all visa operations as of Sunday, and I was wondering if this applies to Afghan SIV applicants, and if so, whether the State Department will take any special considerations or do anything in order to ensure that these applicants are still processed in an expedient manner. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Jennifer. So due to COVID-19 conditions, the embassy in Kabul will, of course, temporarily be suspending visa interviews effective June 13th. And the team in Washington will actually continue processing applications at the chief-of-mission stage, but we’ll resume processing for qualified SIV applicants in Kabul, of course, as soon as it’s safe to do so. But again, just to continue to underscore, Secretary Blinken has said before, we’re withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, but of course, we’re not withdrawing from Afghanistan. And, of course, while troops are planned to leave there in September, the United States will maintain a robust diplomatic presence throughout the U.S. embassy, and our teams in the consular section in Kabul and Washington will continue to process qualified SIV applications, of course, as expeditiously as possible.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) authority to close down the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee office in Ramallah, and they are predicting from – it could result in some catastrophic situation, especially with the medical situation being as bad as it is in the occupied territories. And just to follow up on yesterday’s Ms. Gayle Smith presentation on the 500 million vaccines, how would you distribute these vaccines if you decide to in a place like Gaza, where you don’t have any relations, it is actually besieged by Israel and Egypt? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Said. I’ll take your second question first. I won’t get into the details of the how with the distribution, but I’ll continue to underscore that U.S. has received requests for vaccines from countries all over the world. And in fact, we’re sharing 25 million vaccine doses with recipients that include Mexico, Canada, the Republic of Korea, West Bank, and Gaza. And, of course, additionally U.S. is also purchasing 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and donating them to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries as well as economies defined by Gavi’s COVAX advanced market commitment, and to eight additional countries in the African Union.

To answer your first questions, we, of course, encourage all sides to refrain from steps that would exacerbate tensions.

Let’s go to Laura Kelly.

QUESTION: Oh, hi. Can you hear me?

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

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Can you talk about some of the most important topics of the meeting between President Biden and President Erdogan on Monday? Will you – how will you address concerns over significant human rights issues in Turkey? And do you have a reaction to the Taliban rejecting Turkey’s offer to provide search security to the Kabul airport?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. So to touch on your last part, so U.S. officials, of course, have been meeting with Turkish officials as a part of our ongoing consultations with our friends in Afghanistan on the withdraw of troops from the U.S., and coalition of troops from the Afghanistan. Of course, we’ll continue to ensure the safety and security of U.S. diplomats and personnel. But to your first question, I have nothing to read out. I won’t get ahead of the President, and would refer you to the White House for that.

Let’s go to Casey O’Neill.

QUESTION: Happy Friday. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes. Happy Friday. I can hear you.

QUESTION: Awesome, thank you. So actually, I wanted to turn, if we could, to Myanmar. So earlier today, actually just a little while ago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet issued a statement essentially warning of the imminent further deterioration of the situation on the ground in Myanmar. And I was just wondering if you could provide us any sense of actions that the Biden administration are taking to one, hold the junta accountable for their various human rights – numerous – excuse me – human rights violations; and two, if there’s a specific point person within the administration that’s dealing with Myanmar. Of course, we’ve seen Ambassador Feltman. He is the point person – the special envoy for the Horn. We’ve seen other special envoys. So just wondering who exactly within the administration – within the State Department is kind of the point person on this crisis. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I’ll take this – your – the second part of your question first. So we don’t have any personnel announcements to make, but what I can say at large is that we remain deeply concerned about the situation on the ground in Burma. And, of course, the military regime has shown no respect for the rule of law or the will of the people of Burma, which we are primarily concerned about. The regime’s actions, such as killing hundreds including dozens of children and unjustly detaining thousands of people, have shown little regard for justice. And again, we will continue to uplift the people of Burma, and the United States, of course, urges all countries to speak in one voice against the regime’s violence as well as the suffering of all of the people.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks, Jalina. I have another follow-up from Gayle Smith’s comments yesterday at the press briefing. So regarding the 500 million Pfizer vaccines that the President has pledged to – from the U.S. – Ms. Smith said that those vaccines – those doses would be bought with already appropriated funds. So that – I’m taking that to mean that that’s coming out of the 4 billion dollars that the administration had already promised to COVAX. Could you just clarify when those original – originally the President announced 2 billion and then another 2 billion that would – U.S. would give to COVAX – sort of the understanding at the time was that was cash that would go to COVAX rather than the value of donated vaccines. So is that a change – has that been kind of recategorized now as $4 billion worth of vaccines basically – or I think the estimate for the vaccine donation is 3.5 billion.

And secondly, related to that, Gayle Smith was talking about aiming for global coverage with these vaccine donations but also focusing on countries where there are surges and also being responsive to other countries’ request. Does that put the U.S. at odds with COVAX stated goals – stated goal of COVAX which is giving vaccines to all countries – giving all countries equal access to vaccines. It seems that you’re focus on targeting countries, with surges and also some strategic partners and neighbors, is at odds with what COVAX is trying to do. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Simon, if you’re still here on the line, I’ll briefly touch on your first one and ask you to clarify your second one. I would kind of reiterate Coordinator Smith’s comments yesterday where she didn’t go into too much detail about the numbers, but then just to kind of reiterate what we said before, I believe, when Said was on the line, is that, of course, the U.S. is purchasing the 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines and, of course, donating them to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries as it stands. But if you’re still on the line, if you could just briefly clarify your second question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yeah, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yeah, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, so the third question was just to clarify that those – the funds to pay for those vaccines is coming out of the already pledged $4 billion to COVAX, right? And the second question is: Is there some difference in the way that the U.S. is – wants to distribute these vaccines from COVAX’s sort of stated goal of giving all countries equal access to vaccines, whereas the U.S. has sort of saying we want to target countries where there are surges and we’re responding to requests from other countries. I guess we’ve seen vaccines go to South Korea and Mexico, so it seems that there are strategic interests at play in the distribution, which – is that at odds with COVAX’s criteria for distributing vaccines?

MS PORTER: Well, I mean what I’ll say to that is that the United States has decided in coordination with COVAX where the vaccines will go. And, of course, like – as I’ve said before too, the 92 COVAX recipients but eight additional African Union Countries. And these countries were actually defined by COVAX due to their limited resources and a limited ability to purchase those vaccines outright. And I will leave it at that, thank you.

Let’s go to Roman Gressier – I apologize if I’m mispronouncing your last name – El Faro.

QUESTION: No, that’s great, thank you. Could you please confirm that the State Department has submitted formal extradition requests for three of the 14 MS-13 leaders that the Justice Department charged with terrorism offenses in January? And if you can, why those three? Will you also submit some more requests, diplomatic requests, for the remaining?

MS PORTER: So for the first part of your question, I’m going to have to refer you to the DOJ. For the second – your second question on diplomatic requests, we’ll actually have to take that back for you.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.

QUESTION: Just a question about North Korea G7 summit. I know there was no planned meetings, but will there be any pull-aside meetings between U.S., South Korea, and Japan to discuss North Korean issues during the G7 Summit?

And my follow-up question is I believe that President Biden will have his first in-person meeting with Russian President Putin next week in Switzerland. As Russia has a closer relationship with North Korea, do you think the two leaders will discuss cooperation for engaging with North Korea? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So to your first question, I certainly won’t get ahead of the summit. And for your second question on leaders of the DPRK and Russia, I’d have to refer you to their governments to answer that.

Let’s go to Yangsoon Kim.

QUESTION: I want to ask about the phone call between the Secretary Blinken and the Chinese Yang. And you guys said that you discussed about the Biden administration’s comprehensive North Korea review. What was the response from the China?

MS PORTER: If I still have you, do you mind repeating your question, please?

QUESTION: Yes. I asked about the discussion between the Blinken and the Chinese Yang that discussed about the North Korean policy review. And what was the Chinese response about the Biden administration’s North Korean policy review?

MS PORTER: So I would point you to our readout on Secretary Blinken’s call. We have that on our website. But just in sum, obviously, what they discussed was our comprehensive DPRK policy review which focused on the need for the United States as well as the PRC to work together for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Let’s go to Elizabeth Hagedorn.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Can you give us an update on whether the indirect talks to bring home Americans detained in Iran are still active? And then given that several G7 member countries have dual citizens held in Iran, is Tehran’s prisoner-taking and a global strategy to deter it something that Secretary Blinken is discussing with leaders at this weekend’s summit? Thanks.

MS PORTER: So to the first part of your question, we continue to call for the return of all U.S. citizens who are unjustly detained – of course, those who are in Iran and those who are unjustly detained in countries all over the world. And if I still have you, do you mind repeating your second question?

QUESTION: Sure. Is the issue of hostage-taking in Iran an issue that Secretary Blinken plans on raising with leaders of the G7?

MS PORTER: So I won’t get ahead of the Secretary’s meetings. And if we obviously have a readout, we will be sure to share the outcome of those meetings as well. Thanks.

We’ll take this last question from Kurdistan 24, Laurie Mylroie. I apologize if I said your last name wrong.

QUESTION: Yes, I do. I’m sorry, I was on mute. I’m muted.

MS PORTER: Do we still have Laurie?

(Interruption.)

QUESTION: This is Laurie Mylroie. Can you hear me now?

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

QUESTION: Okay. My question concerns the Washington Post report that Russia has supplied Iran with advanced satellites that provide better surveillance capabilities. Does that change – how do you regard that and does that change your attitude towards the JCPOA negotiations?

MS PORTER: Laurie, I believe she – I think if you’re still on the line it sounds like you completed your question. So what I’ll say is that we’re aware of and of course following these media reports about Russia potentially providing Iran with an advanced satellite system. Outside of that, we have nothing further to announce at this point. We don’t have any responses or any potential responses, if you will.

Thank you all for joining today. That concludes today’s daily press briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:23 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – June 4, 2021

4 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:06 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and thank you so much for joining today’s briefing. I just have one announcement at the top, and then we will resume taking questions.

As a part of our continued U.S. support for the people of Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken announced today that the United States is providing more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to nearly $3.9 billion since 2002.

For many years, the United States has prioritized support for Afghan returnees, refugees, displaced persons, and other vulnerable populations. This assistance from the American people will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, livelihood opportunities, health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

As the United States withdraws forces from Afghanistan, we will continue to support the peaceful, stable future of – the Afghan people want and deserve, and using our full diplomatic, economic, and assistance toolkit.

We urge the Taliban and Afghan leaders to accelerate progress toward negotiated political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to bring an end to more than 40 years of conflict and create the conditions that will allow refugees to return to their homes safely.

And we’ll start taking your questions in just one minute.

Let’s go to Cindy Saine.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. Thank you so much. My Afghan service colleagues are asking whether this new assistance is brand new or whether it was part of the previously announced $300 million. Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Cindy. This – again, to reiterate the announcement at the top, this is new funding, and this funding, to just be a little bit more specific, includes $157.5 million from USAID and also $109 million from the State Department. So that will bring our total from Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 humanitarian assistance to more than 534 – I’m sorry, $543 million. And again, this totals $3.9 billion since 2002.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

OPERATOR: And your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I have a question on Iran. We’re reporting that the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany are not going to seek a resolution – a Board of Governors’ resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors next week over Iran’s failure to explain uranium traces at three sites. Can you confirm that and tell us why?

And if the Iranians fail to explain these – the Iranians fail to explain these uranium traces, why should you trust them to adhere to the terms of a renewed JCPOA agreement, assuming you can get one? And are you going easy on them over this in hopes of securing a new deal? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So for your first question, I’m not able to comment on that from here and would have to refer you back to the IAEA. But again, as you know, these talks are ongoing, and again, we’ll continue to underscore that to enable a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA commitments, we’d like to build on the meaningful process that we’ve achieved and keep on doing that moving forward. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to announce.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. Very quickly, Jalina, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met today with Palestinian Americans. Can you share with us the topics he discussed with them and what kind of commitment he may have made or reiterated a U.S. commitment to help the Palestinians?

And second, I also wanted to ask about the ongoing sort of horrible situation in Gaza in terms of medicines, in terms of the people leaving or being allowed to leave the strip. Thank you very kindly.

MS PORTER: I think if I still have you, number one, I’ll answer your first question quickly. I can confirm the meeting, but I don’t have any other details to preview on the details of the meeting. But if I still have you, Said, can you repeat your first – your second question? Excuse me.

QUESTION: My second question, the situation has not – and despite there has been a ceasefire for the past, whatever, almost two weeks or close to that, two weeks, yes, in terms of patients who are in need of desperate health care and so on being allowed through the crossings into Israel, and to the West Bank, and to Egypt, and so on. So what is the administration doing in terms of either pressuring Egypt and Israel to allow the Gaza patients in and out? Thank you.

Hello?

MS PORTER: Yes, thank you for holding. So what I would say to that is that we’re certainly not going to get ahead of the process that’s underway. And any other details we have to preview, we’ll be able to share those at a later time.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham.

OPERATOR: And their line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. So the U.S. is sharing 25 million vaccine doses worldwide, but the administration has no plans to share vaccines with the DPRK. I’m wondering if it is because simply there is no such request from North Korea, or it is just because there is a political decision you have made not to share the vaccines with countries like North Korea.

And my second question, if I may, the South Korean Government reiterated its commitment or willingness to resume its tourism project with North Korea. Could you tell us how you view on this? Is tourism between the two Koreas subject to U.S. or international sanctions? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Jiha. So to your – to answer your first question, no specific comment on any asks from the DPRK. But what I will say is that the United States and this administration has been priding itself as being a leader in vaccine diplomacy.

To your second question, we certainly have no comment from here on that either.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.

OPERATOR: And their line is open. And Rosiland Jordan, if you’re on mute —

QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, we can hear you now.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry about that. I see that the Secretary is scheduled to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week to testify about the proposed coming fiscal year budget. Are there particular items in the budget that the Secretary is really going to defend, especially since there is a pronounced anti-foreign aid component among congressional Republicans? And if so, how is he going to make the best case for defending that funding?

MS PORTER: Thank you for the question, Rosiland. So, of course, we can confirm that the Secretary will be testifying on the Hill next week, but we certainly won’t be able to get ahead of his testimony or preview anything from here today.

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I want to ask a question about Lebanon. The start of the trial of the Ayyash case at a special tribunal for Lebanon has been cancelled due to insufficient funding. And the tribunal itself will have to close if it is unable to solve the funding problem. Do you have any comment on that, especially that the U.S. offered $10 million for information on Ayyash?

And I have one more question on Iran: Do we expect anything or a significant announcement before the Iranian election?

MS PORTER: So to your question on Iran, we don’t have any announcements to make at this time. And to your question on Lebanon, we’re going to have to take that one back for you today.

Let’s go to (inaudible). My apologies if I pronounced your name incorrectly.

QUESTION: You did great. Thank you so much, pronouncing (inaudible). Thank you so much for taking my call. I am just going to – regarding – I’m going to ask you regarding the current situation – as you know that Ethiopia – the Ethiopian Government just put out a statement this past weekend – I mean a week ago – for the situation that they going to have a second case for military movements or military action in Tigray. So what’s your assessment of the current situation? Are you still waiting for the Eritreans also to withdraw from Tigray region? And what’s the current situation in term of the overall on your assessment? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: So thank you for your question. So what I can say at a broad level is that of course the United States has concerns about the crisis in the Tigray region, of course, as well as other threats to both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. The people in Tigray continue to suffer human rights violations, various abuses, atrocities, and urgently need humanitarian relief that is being blocked by the Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries as well as other armed actors. And, of course, the parties – despite any significant diplomatic engagement, we call on the parties to the conflict in Tigray that have no meaningful steps or – to end the hostility, to pursue a peaceful resolution to the political crisis.

Let’s take our last question from Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Hello, Jalina, and thank you so much for taking my question. Happy Friday. I’m wondering now that we are almost exactly 30 days or a month away from July 4th, the United States celebrates its independence. And given your foreign policy, looking at your domestic policy that determines your foreign policy, where do you think you are at now this number of days into President Biden’s administration? How can you – how are you assessing – what are the indicators that you are succeeding in this new foreign policy approach? Maybe if you can share something about that.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. So as you noted, we are 30 days away from July 4th, but at the same time President Biden has also already previewed all the accomplishments that our administration has made within the first 100 days, so I would have to guide you back to his remarks that he made to the public that day and any other remarks on the administration at a wider level to the White House.

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

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

# # #

 

Department Press Briefing – June 2, 2021

3 Jun

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:02 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining today’s briefing. I have three updates at the top and then we’ll resume taking your questions. I’d like to start off today by noting the tragic passing of our friend and colleague Tejinder Singh, who was the founder and editor of India America Today. Tejinder covered the State Department for 11 years, participating in many State Department briefings both in person and also calling in every telephonic briefing. We already miss seeing his name in the question queue here today. Tejinder was well-known for being a kind and generous colleague, and also for keeping us on our toes with his questions. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues as we grieve his loss. And I speak for my colleagues here when I say that he was such a pleasure to work with for all of us, and his presence will be sorely missed.

Yesterday the United States began celebrating the first day of Pride Month. Not only do we recognize how far we have come in the fight for the protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons, but we also acknowledge the distance that remains on the path to full equality and equity.

The United States is committed to increasing U.S. engagement on LGBTQI+ issues intersectionally, working to ensure the same-sex spouses for our diplomats assigned abroad are afforded the same privileges and immunities as opposite-sex spouses, and empowering local movements and persons advancing the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. We are proud of our work with local and international partners to build a more inclusive global society for all LGBTQI+ communities.

We seek to increase the visibility of and address the acute challenges faced by particularly marginalized members of these communities, including women and girls, transgender, non-binary, and intersex persons. Although the United States still has work to do, we strive to lead by example in the promotion and protection of human rights for all persons.

And finally, as you know, Secretary Blinken was in Costa Rica yesterday and today, where he met with senior government officials from across the Central American region to discuss how our countries can work together to create a more democratic, prosperous, and secure region. They also worked to deepening the region’s collaborative approach to shared challenges of irregular migration.

Yesterday, the Secretary attended a meeting with foreign ministers and vice ministers from all seven Central American countries, as well as Mexico and the Dominican Republic. They discussed issues essential to the wellbeing of people in this region, including strategies for addressing root causes of migration and managing migration flows in and throughout the region; combating corruption and strengthening democratic institutions; generating inclusive economic growth; recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic; and healthy environmental stewardship.

Secretary Blinken also met yesterday with President Alvarado and Foreign Minister Solano of Costa Rica to discuss the strong partnership between our countries on migration, climate change, and security. In addition, he met with the foreign secretary of Mexico and the foreign ministers of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to discuss vital work to address migration and other challenges within those countries.

This morning, Secretary Blinken visited a pair of joint U.S.-Costa Rican initiatives that show how the United States can successfully partner with the region to help build a better future. He first visited a neighborhood that benefits from “Sembremos Seguridad,” an initiative citizen security program for at-risk youth. He then visited an environmental stewardship initiative that sets a model for efforts to reduce deforestation and fight climate change in the region. He also sat down with a Costa Rican media outlet to communicate with local audiences and demonstrate support for media independence in Central America.

This trip is a part of the administration’s focus on Central America. Vice President Harris will be headed to the region next week to further advance our efforts to improve conditions for people of Central America, which also advances the interests of people in the United States.

And with that, we’ll give it a few minutes before taking your questions.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1, 0 command. If you are using a speaker phone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, you may press 1 then 0 at this time.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Pearl Matibe, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Good afternoon. Hope you’re having a great day today. My question is regarding President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. And I’m just wondering after the sanctions and recent diplomatic tools you’re using regarding Ethiopia, Russia is now preparing to have an Africa summit in 2022. Is Africa going to be part of the agenda between President Biden and President Putin given the fact that Africa over the next decades beyond Biden’s administration will have such a huge population and role to play in the world? Is Africa going to be a significant topic on that agenda, and does the United States anticipate an Africa summit as well? Do you have anything to share? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. Well, what I will say broadly is that Africa is a priority for – the relationship with Africa is a priority for the Biden administration, but I certainly won’t get ahead of any meetings and don’t have anything to share for you at this time.

Let’s go to Casey O’Neill.

QUESTION: Yes, hi, Jalina. Thanks so much for doing this. I – my question is actually on Myanmar. So I know today – earlier today, excuse me – Deputy Secretary Sherman in Bangkok delivered some remarks and spoke about the two American journalists that are detained in Myanmar, Danny Fenster and Nathan Maung. Their – excuse me – Mr. Fenster’s family has also been making the rounds on television and spoke earlier this morning and said that the United States Government has requested consular access, but so far that request has not been addressed by the military junta in Myanmar. So I’m just wondering if you could provide us any update on steps that the U.S. Government is taking to ensure that these two detained journalists are safe and if you have any update on whether or not the embassy personnel have been able to gain consular access to them. Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Casey. Well, I’ll start off by saying that the safety and safe return of U.S. citizens is a priority for the United States. At this time we have nothing to announce or any updates about these two specific cases.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my call. I have two questions. One: The anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre is coming up. Is the U.S. sending a message to Beijing about how its security forces should handle themselves on this anniversary, both in mainland China and in Hong Kong?

And the other question has to do with, one, the sinking of an Iranian oil tanker, the Kharg, in the Gulf of Oman, was – does the U.S. have any more information about whether this was an accident or perhaps an act of sabotage? And connected to that, does the U.S. have any more updates on the travel of two Iranian warships that rumor – that the rumors suggest may be heading to Venezuela? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Rosiland. I’ll start with your first question on Tiananmen, and I’ll start by broadly saying that the United States condemns actions by Hong Kong authorities that prompted organizers to close the June 4th Museum that commemorates the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. As far as your question of sending any particular messages, no, we’re not sending any direct messages at this time, other than saying that Hong Kong and Beijing authorities continue to silence dissenting voices by also attempting to erase the horrific massacre from history.

And to your question on Iran, speaking of the naval ships on the Gulf of Oman, well, we’ve definitely seen the media reports on the Iranian naval vessels that have caught fire and have sank. Other than that, we don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Let’s go to Rich Edson.

QUESTION: Jalina, just looking into the conclusion of the World Health Assembly, there is really no sense of a phase two investigation or commitment to one, Taiwan was excluded from the proceedings, Syria and Belarus are now on the executive committee. I was just wondering if you could provide what the State Department’s assessment of the proceedings were and how the U.S. plans on attempting to follow through with reforms of the World Health Organization.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rich. What I’ll say is to your point about countries that you’ve mentioned. We have grave concerns that Syria and Belarus have been elected for a three-year term by the World Health Assembly Executive Board. Members of the executive board each have a duty to advance public health and likewise are expected to uphold universal values as well as human rights. And, of course, this would include providing access for delivery of lifesaving humanitarian supplies, and that would include medical equipment as well. We don’t believe the actions of either Syria or Belarus demonstrate this, and although the U.S. is not currently part of the executive board, we’ll continue to monitor closely the board’s activities and make clear that – U.S. exemptions that the board members uphold the highest standards of human rights.

Let’s go to Laura Rozen.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the latest round of Iran talks in Vienna, which I think are wrapping up right now.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. So the delegation led by Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley is currently in Vienna, and he’s in Vienna for a fifth round of talks. And any update to share that he actually may come back to Washington for consultations at the end of the week. Outside of that, I’d just underscore that these last few rounds of discussion have actually helped crystallize the choices that need to be made by Iran, and also by us, the United States, in order to achieve a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA.

Let’s go to Soyoung Kim, please.

QUESTION: About North Korea, Deputy Secretary Sherman said today that the U.S. has made its policy known to the DPRK. Can you clarify whether this means the U.S. recently reached out to North Korea again or the separate contact made a few months ago the Department of State had confirmed before? And any response from North Korea?

MS PORTER: Hi, thanks for the question. I won’t get ahead of Deputy Secretary Sherman’s comments, and any other update we’ll be able to preview at a later time but nothing’s going out today.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

OPERATOR: Said’s line has left the queue.

MS PORTER: All right. With that, let’s go to Michel Ghandour, please.

QUESTION: I have two questions on Iran. Sources in Vienna said that the parties reached a draft agreement. Can you confirm that? And any comment on the fire in Tehran’s refinery today?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. Nothing to announce. I’m not able to confirm the reports of a fire in Tehran today, but just to underscore what was mentioned previously, our Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, he’s currently in Vienna for his fifth round of talks and should be coming back to Washington sometime later this week. Anything beyond that and the decisions and the discussions that have been made, I have nothing to announce.

Looks like we have Said Arikat back in the queue. We’ll go to Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Jalina. And I also want to thank you for mentioning my good friend, Tejinder. May God bless his soul. We will miss him dearly. Jalina, I wanted to ask you about two issues: one, if you have any comment on a report by The Washington Post that Israel is preventing cancer patients from leaving Gaza through the Erez Crossing, if you have any comment on that. I also want to ask about the whereabouts of Mr. Hady Amr right now, and what is next on his agenda? What is he doing? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Said. And again, to underscore, we definitely will all miss Tejinder and his spirit, and his vigor and his contributions to not only foreign affairs but journalism as well.

To your first question on cancer, I certainly look forward to these reports and would have to get back to you specifically on that question. And I’d have to do the same for your question on Hady and what he’s doing. We don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Let’s go to Lara Jakes.

OPERATOR: I do not see Lara Jakes’s line in queue.

MS PORTER: Okay. Let’s go to the line of Jennifer Hansler.

OPERATOR: It looks like Jennifer’s line is not in queue either.

MS PORTER: All right. Let’s go to the line of Hiba Nasr.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay. I have one question about Israel. First, we saw during Secretary Blinken’s visit to Israel two weeks ago, he extended an invitation to the Israeli president to visit Washington, and tomorrow that Israeli defense minister is visiting Washington. Did this administration extend an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington? And my second question is on Nord Stream 2; yesterday Republicans in the House sent a letter to Secretary Blinken expressing concern over the decision to – over the decision to apply a waiver to some sanctions. Do you have any comments on that?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Hiba, for your first question on extending an invitation – on invites. We have nothing at all to announce on that. And your second question on NS2, I’ll have to take that one back for you.

Let’s go to Claudia Uceda.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking my questions. I have two questions. First is: How can Costa Rica help stop illegal immigration flow into the U.S.? What is the Secretary looking into specifically? And my second question is about Nicaragua. I would like a reaction to the fact that Nicaraguan prosecutors question and are investigating 16 independent journalists, and they are threatening them with a criminal investigation related to money laundering investigation into Violeta Chamorro, who is a prospective candidate. What’s your reaction to that? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Claudia. So to your first question, I won’t get into specifics on what Costa Rica should be doing when it comes to the fight for regular migration, but I will say that Costa Rica honestly is a top partner of the United States and it has a strong democracy. And we do have shared values as well as shared commitments. And part of that is championing human rights across the board, and that will be integral into fighting that common challenge together. To your second question, I’ll just say broadly speaking that the United States supports the freedom of the press and will continue to champion that not only in Nicaragua but all over the world.

Let’s go to Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) press you a tiny bit more on Iran. In the past, you guys have said that there had been progress in the talks, though a lot of differences remained, and the U.S. and Iran were sort of closer to the start of the talks than they were toward the end of the talks. So do you believe that progress continues to be made? Have those talks stalled? And do you feel that the two sides are gradually inching closer to a resolution? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Well, certainly some progress has been made, and like I said, Rob Malley is in Vienna. He’ll be returning to Washington pretty soon. And again, talks are ongoing. And they will continue at a pace that’s honestly appropriate to address the significance of the issues that are currently on the table being negotiated right now. And I’ll continue to underscore that discussions like this are always thorough. They’re thoughtful. They’re businesslike even though they are indirect. And of course that’s to be expected. This isn’t going to be a quick or easy process.

It looks like we have Jennifer Hansler back on the line, so I’ll take that last question from her.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS PORTER: Hi, Jennifer.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks so much for taking my question. Just a little more on Iran, can you confirm that the indirect talks will resume next week? And then separately, has there been any communication with Russia in the wake of the latest cyber-attack on JBS? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your questions, Jennifer. To your first one, I don’t have anything to announce of any – for any future talks. And the second question, we’ll have to take that one back for you.

And thank you all very much for joining today’s briefing. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

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

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Department Press Briefing – May 14, 2021

14 May

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:09 p.m. EST

MS PORTER: Hello. Good afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us this Friday. I have three quick updates at the top, and then we’ll resume taking of questions.

On behalf of the Department of State, I want to wish Eid greetings to Muslims in the United States and around the world who celebrated Eid al-Fitr which marked the end of Ramadan yesterday. During this holy month of fasting and reflections, many Muslims made special efforts to contribute to the building a safer, more just, and equitable world. Here at the Department, I would like to recognize the contributions of Muslim colleagues advancing a broad range of our national interests both at home and abroad.

I’d like to highlight Mosaic, a new Employee Affinity Group that was recognized this past January. Mosaic fosters community and promotes professional development for department employees who are Muslim or are interested in cultures of traditions of Muslim communities. We look forward to working with Mosaic and other employee affinity groups to realize our collective vision of a 21st Century workforce that draws on our rich diversity of all Americans. Eid Mubarak.

Next, we are deeply troubled by reports that Russian authorities have frozen Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s bank account. This is Russia’s latest attempt to suppress independent media and deny the Russian people access to objective news.

We will continue to unequivocally support RFE/RL, and its affiliates, and to stand up for freedom of expression including members of the press.

The people of Russia deserve access to a wide range of information and opinions and a government that respects freedom of expression and keeping with Russian’s international obligations and OSCE commitments.

Finally, as you’re aware, flags at all U.S. State Departments facilities will be at half-staff on Saturday, May 15, 2021 by presidential proclamation to recognize Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week. We honor the U.S. and partner-nation law enforcement professionals who have died in the line of serving – service protecting American diplomacy all around the world.

Here at the department, we remember four Diplomatic Security service special agents who gave their lives, as well as their 34 host nation law enforcement colleagues from around the globe who have died in service of diplomatic security. They are honored on the Diplomatic Security Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

This Peace Officers Memorial Day, we reflect upon the men and women who protect us and who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their watch may have ended, but our gratitude for their service will not. And with that, I’ll give it a few more minutes for you to file in the queue and start taking your questions.

OPERATOR: And once again on the phone lines, if you do have a question press 1 and then 0. Please do not start your question until I state that your line is open. Once again, you may queue up by pressing 1 and then 0. Please do not start your question until I state your line is open.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Shaun, your line is open.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you. Thanks, Jalina. I’d like to ask you about the latest in the Middle East. To begin with, can you give us an update on Envoy Hady Amr so what he’s doing, when does he expect to have meetings there, and what his goal will be? And give an assessment of where things stand right now. There have been calls for de-escalation. We’ve seen renewed violence. We saw the operation last night in Gaza from the Israelis. Is this consistent with the calls for de-escalation that we’ve seen from the United States? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Let me just start off by saying that we remain deeply concerned about the current violence, and we are working towards achieving a sustainable calm. We are – when it comes to your question about Deputy Assistant Secretary Amr, he is in Israel and the West Bank to engage with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. As you know that Amr has decades of experience in this issue. His trip is a part of an ongoing high level engagements by senior U.S. officials on these critical issues. But while he’s there, he’ll reinforce our message that we have stressed in many senior level engagements with the parties and other stakeholders this past week, which of course namely achieving a sustainable calm.

Let’s go to Michele Kelemen.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Michele, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. I want to go back to something you mentioned at the top about RFE/RL. The actions against RFE/RL happened a day after the Secretary spoke to Lavrov. I wonder if that came up in the conversation. Is the fact that Russia’s continuing this crackdown a sign that U.S.-Russia relations are heading in the wrong direction? And also if you could kind of clarify what’s happening with the situation at the embassy and Russia’s decision to put off but still force you not to have any foreign national employees?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michelle. So as far as your first question on the conversation I have nothing additional to announce or read out from that. And to your second question on – I believe you asked about embassy personnel. At this point, we won’t discuss any internal staffing of our – of individuals who are there, but anything else we will certainly get back to you on.

Let’s go to Laura Kelly.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Laura, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. Happy Friday, Jalina. My question is: Is the State Department concerned about claims by the Armenian Government that Azerbaijan has launched an incursion into their territory? How does this charge impact U.S. military and security assistance to Azerbaijan, and are you considering revoking the waiver of Section 907 and halt security assistance to Azerbaijan?

MS PORTER: I have nothing to announce when it comes to security assistance, but what I can say more broadly is that we’re closely monitoring the situation along the demarked border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Military movements in disputed territories are irresponsible, and they’re also unnecessarily provocative. And of course we’ve seen the reports of some withdrawal and would welcome that, if confirmed, but we expect that Azerbaijan to pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation.

We’ve also urged both sides to approach demarcation issues through discussion as well as negotiation.

Let’s go to Matt Lee.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Matt, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hello. A very Happy Friday to you all. I just have – who has Hady Amr met with so far in Israel and in the West Bank? And secondly, is Rob Malley back or is the (inaudible) delegation still in Vienna? What’s going on there? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So Deputy Assistant Secretary Amr is meeting with senior officials. We have nothing further to announce on the specifics on those engagements. And we’ll have to take that question back on Rob Malley.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.

OPERATOR: One moment. Rosiland, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Jalina. I need to follow up on Matt and Shaun’s questions about DASD Amr’s trip to Israel and the territory. Is his work being buttressed by phone calls, contacts, by the Secretary, or the official in charge of Near Eastern Affairs for the time being? And is this administration concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu may be taking advantage of the current crisis to try to bolster his internal political standing? We’ve already seen the efforts to try to form a government under Yair Lapid called off, and now there is pressure coming from some of the prime minister’s supporters suggesting that perhaps he should be allowed to stay in office because of the existential threat to Israel’s existence.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Rosiland. So to answer your first question, there have been several rounds of engagements, including phone calls from Secretary Blinken to his counterpart, from obviously the President as well. And the fact that Deputy Assistant Secretary Amr is there, he’s there in full support of Secretary Blinken meeting and engaging with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to make sure that we are achieving a sustainable calm.

If you still have Rosiland on the line, operator, can you repeat your second question.

OPERATOR: And Rosiland, you would have to queue up again by pressing 1 and then 0. One moment, please. And Rosiland, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. Yes, Jalina. My second question is: Is the Biden administration worried or concerned or outraged or pick whatever adjective you want that Prime Minister Netanyahu may be using this crisis in order to bolster his domestic political standing? There is no formal government. He’s in essence a prime – a lame duck prime minister right now. The efforts for Yair Lapid to form a government have been suspended because of the violence, and now Naftali Bennett, who is one of the prime minister’s supporters, is suggesting that perhaps Netanyahu should just simply stay in office open ended regardless of the last election’s results because of this existential threat to Israel’s security.

MS PORTER: Well, I don’t have anything to offer specifically on your comment to Prime Minister Netanyahu. But as far as being concerned, I will say that we are deeply concerned about the current violence, and of course are working to achieving a sustainable calm. And this is what we’re encouraging from our side.

Of course, we’ve been very clear that Hamas’s ongoing rocket attacks into civilian areas of Israel are completely unacceptable and that they must cease. Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself from these rocket attacks, and both Israelis and Palestinians – I will just leave it there and kind of just reiterate that we are concerned. It remains that we’re deeply concerned about the violence that’s happening right now.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham.

OPERATOR: One moment. Jiha, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hey, Jalina. Thank you. As the administration now has the completed version of their policy towards North Korea, I have to ask you this question again. Will there be a Secretary announcement of what the detailed North Korean policy will be? If so, when will it be? Also, could you tell us if the State Department has reached out to the North Korean Government through the diplomatic channels as to convey the results of their policy review? If so, was there any response from them? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Jiha. So we won’t disclose any private diplomatic correspondences, and we certainly don’t have a timeline to announce the specifics of a review. But of course we have completed this review in a way that was very through and very rigorous, and of course our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. When we have any updates to share outside of that, we will be certainly – certain to share them through these channels.

Let’s go to Pranshu Verma.

OPERATOR: One moment. And I’m sorry, what was that name again?

MS PORTER: Pranshu Verma.

OPERATOR: All right. Thank you. One moment. And Pranshu, did you still have a question? If so, press 1 and then 0. And right now I’m not seeing Pranshu in queue.

MS PORTER: Okay. Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR: One moment. Kylie, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks. I had a quick question about the Russian diplomats, the Russian officials that the Biden administration expelled last month. The date that the Biden administration announced that they were being expelled was April 15th, so tomorrow would mark the 30 days that they had to leave the country. And I’m wondering if the Biden administration has received confirmation that they have left or if that confirmation will be coming tomorrow? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Kylie. We don’t have any announcements to make on that at this time. But we’ll be happy to take that back for you.

Let’s go to Bryant Harris.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Bryant, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hey, thank you. So are there – is the Biden administration doing anything specifically to discourage Israel from a potential ground invasion in Gaza? And moving to Ethiopia, a few sources on Capitol Hill are saying that the administration is reviewing all options deal with the Tigray crisis. Does that include potential Global Magnitsky sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, if Eritrea continues to refuse to withdraw from Tigray? Thank you.

MS PORTER: I’ll take your first question first. So the United States will continue to remain engaged with senior Israeli officials as well as Palestinian leadership and other partners in the region. And of course, we’re continuing to – continuing at an intensive pace of high-level calls and meetings by senior-level U.S. officials with other senior officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, their partners, as well as other stakeholders. And of course, that includes the visit by our Deputy Assistant Secretary Hady Amr to the region.

And if you’re still on, if you can re-ask your question. I believe it was on Ethiopia.

Okay. I’m not sure if we have him back in the queue. But from what I gathered from his question is we certainly won’t preview sanctions from here, but of course we are – remain concerned about the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region as other reports of any human rights abuses and atrocities. And we are working with international partners to address the crisis in Tigray, and that includes through action with the UN and other relevant bodies.

Let’s go to Rich Edson.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Rich, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. Hi, Jalina. The President said yesterday there was a strong reason to believe that the criminals who carried out the Colonial Pipeline attack are living in Russia. What responsibility does the United States believe the Russian Government has here in punishing the actors or preventing attacks like this from happening?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rich. Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to get ahead of President Biden and would have to direct that question back to our colleagues at the White House.

Let’s go to Nadia Bilbassy.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Nadia, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this. The chief (inaudible) to the Israeli army just said that they have targets to finish in Gaza, actually quoting what he said. And the administration, whether it’s the State Department or the President, who just released a statement saying that he wants to achieve sustainable calm. So would you say that Hady Amr’s visit is mission impossible if he is not able to achieve ceasefire? And what is it exactly that asked to do? What would you call a success of his visit? Is it coming back to Washington and declaring that actually both sides have a ceasefire?

And also, as you know – sorry, it’s a long question – but as you know, Egypt is a mediator with Hamas. So we don’t expect him obviously to speak with Hamas, but why he’s not going to Cairo as well? Is it just enough to talk by phone? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Nadia. So, I mean, we won’t go into specific details from here or say that there’s any specific measure of success. And of course, we’ll underscore that Deputy Assistant Secretary Amr is in the region, of course, at the full confidence of Secretary Blinken. Of course he’s there meeting with senior officials, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, to achieve sustainable calm and to achieve sustainable peace as well. And after that, we have nothing to add from here. But his time in the area is well spent, and we appreciate him being there.

Let’s take this final question from Tejinder Singh.

OPERATOR: One moment. Was that Tenji?

MS PORTER: Tejinder Singh.

OPERATOR: One moment. And Tejinder, your line is open. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I just have a quick follow-up to the ongoing subject of Israel and Palestinians. According to an AP report, an Egyptian diplomatic team is on the ground in Israel, and after meeting Hamas people and then crossing by land route, to explore ceasefire. The question is: Are the U.S. diplomats in touch with them? What’s your take on the Egyptian role and efforts?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. So we are actively engaging Egypt as well as other regional partners to work towards achieving a sustainable calm in the region.

Thank you all for joining today, and that concludes today’s briefing.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:36 p.m.)