Department Press Briefing – September 28, 2021

29 Sep

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:06 p.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with Said Arikat, please.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go to Jennifer Hansler.

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

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

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

Let’s go to Kristina Anderson.

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

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

QUESTION: I would appreciate that. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham.

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

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

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

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha.

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

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

Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go to Laura Barros.

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

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

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr, please.

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

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

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

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

MS PORTER: Thank you, Hiba.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Hello?

MS PORTER: Hi.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

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

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

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

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

Department Press Briefing – September 27, 2021

28 Sep

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:39 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s press briefing. I have nothing at the top, but I’m going to give it a few minutes to enter the queue before I start taking your questions.

Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: One moment while we open your line. You may go ahead. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for this. I wanted to ask you if you have a comment on the German elections and whether there is any concern that the negotiations for government could last very long, and for the stability of a key ally.

And also, if I may, I have a question on the ICC prosecutor decision that its probing on Afghanistan was focused now on the Taliban and ISIS-K. Is that a welcome development for the U.S.? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Francesco. I will start with your second question.

What I can say from here is that we are aware of the Office of the Prosecutor’s announcement that it will seek judicial authorization to reopen its Afghanistan investigation prioritizing the alleged atrocity crimes committed by the Taliban and ISIS-K. We’re deeply concerned about the current human rights situation in Afghanistan, and that also includes allegations of atrocities, and certainly welcome efforts to ensure accountability.

We have also consistently emphasized, as has the international community, the importance of respect for human rights as well as fundamental freedoms on the part of any government in Afghanistan. Of course, these rights would include freedom of expression as well as the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls as well as other ethnic and minority religious groups.

To your second question on Germany, we are also aware of the preliminary results and await the outcome of negotiations to form the next German government. We also look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Germany and on many key issues of mutual concern. We’ll also say that the current German government will remain in place until a new government is formed, and we certainly look forward to continuing our engagement with German officials on a range of bilateral issues and global challenges as well.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho.

QUESTION: North Korea said it is willing to consider a summit with South Korea. For a second straight day, North Korea indicated that it wants to improve relations with South Korea. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS PORTER: Thank you. What I can say from here is that we – that the United States certainly supports inter-Korean dialogue as well as engagement and cooperation.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Hello, Jalina. Good morning. Hopefully this will be a slower week for everybody at State Department. My question is regarding the announcement today regarding the data strategy, the Enterprise Data Strategy. Can we speak a little bit about that and what does that mean for, for example, journalists like ourselves when we interact with State Department and for our audiences, maybe perhaps in layman’s terms? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. I’ll start by saying that we did issue a Media Note this morning that details our first-ever Enterprise Data Strategy, but we are excited. Again, this is a new platform for the department, and the goal of this strategy is to basically help us to harness and promote any evidence-based decision making, especially when it comes to our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts, and really throughout the entire department. So this is a new effort. I’m sure we’ll have updates ongoing throughout the year and the rest of our time here, but I also encourage you to view our Media Note as well. Thank you.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Given Ned’s tweet about his COVID diagnosis, I was wondering when the last time Secretary Blinken was tested for COVID, if all the members of the traveling delegation who were at UNGA have tested – have gotten tested, and if anyone else has tested positive since General Assembly week last week. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So, while we typically from here won’t comment of the health status of any individual employees, of course, per the tweet, I can confirm that Spokesperson Price has tested positive for COVID-19. He actually first felt symptomatic only this morning, and he had no previous symptoms before that. He confirmed his diagnosis in coordination with our Medical Unit with a PCR test this morning, and we’ll all follow all relevant protocols and will quarantine for the next 10 days.

To your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken has actually tested negative for COVID-19 as recent as this morning, which is a matter of his routine testing. None of the other members of the traveling party are currently exhibiting symptoms, and all will also continue to follow appropriate protocols.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour.

QUESTION: I have a quick question on Iran. Israeli prime minister has said today that Iran has crossed all redlines in its nuclear program and words do not stop centrifuges from spinning. Do you share his assessment? And do you have any comment on that?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michel. What I can say, broadly speaking from here, is that a mutual return to compliance is in America’s national interest and we believe the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and provide a platform to address Iran’s destabilizing conduct.

Let’s go to Janne Pak, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

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

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I am talking about the end of the war declaration, and I think you know that Kim Jong-un’s sister, she also said that if South Korea satisfies all the conditions for North Korea, then it could go ahead with a declaration of an end to the war or an inter-Korean summit. And China also agreed with the North Korea’s message. Do you think this message goes against the preconditions for the U.S.-North Korea dialogue that the U.S. want? And also, do you think an end to the war declaration is necessary without resolving the North Korean nuclear matter? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Janne. So to start with I think your second question, we are prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. Again, you’ve heard us say this from here, and I think it’s worth underscoring that our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

OPERATOR: Once again, if you wish to ask a question, you may press 1 then 0 at this time.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Carmen Rodriguez.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon, Jalina, thank you. During the past week, President Bukele has sent messages from his Twitter account implying that the United States is not a good friend of El Salvador for pointing out it’s government official as actors of corruption. What repercussion do these statements have on the United States-El Salvador relationship, which is not in a good time?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. We don’t have an official response from here, but it’s certainly something we’ll take back to the team and get back to you after the briefing with.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Jalina. I just want to follow up on I think one of Francesco’s questions about the ICC investigation in Afghanistan. You said you welcomed efforts to ensure accountability. I wonder could you respond specifically to the fact that the U.S. forces and Afghan Government forces – the prior Afghan government forces – are not the subject of this investigation. And is that something that the U.S. specifically welcomes and did the U.S. make any representations to the court for that to be the case? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So what I can say from here is that we’re pleased to see that the ICC prioritized its resources to focus on the greatest of allegations and atrocity crimes. We have also long objected to the ICC’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over nationals of non-state parties such as the United States absent the consent of the state or a UN Security Council referral. And that objection remains unchanged.

Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’d like to follow on North Korea. Are you willing to consider adjusting or easing sanctions for rejoining talks with North Korea? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Again, I’ll just reiterate what I said before. We’re prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and of course, we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach.

Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jalina. Just one more quick question on Ned testing positive for COVID-19. Has the State Department notified all of the countries that Secretary Blinken met with last week given Ned was in most of those meetings? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Kylie. So from here, we’re all following proper CDC and COVID-19 protocols, but I just do want to underscore that Spokesperson Price hasn’t been in contact with any foreign delegations since Thursday, so – which is nearly a hundred hours before he actually started to experience any symptoms. In consultation with the State Department’s Medical Unit, we believe the risk of exposure would have actually started on Saturday, and again, he at that time was not around the Secretary, he wasn’t around any other senior State Department officials or any foreign officials as well.

I’ll take the question from Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much, Jalina. Just to follow up on the judgment that he would not have – risk of exposure would have started on Saturday, as far as I understood, the data so far on COVID-19 suggests that people can be – can transmit the virus even while not symptomatic two to even three days ahead of exhibiting symptoms. So I’m a little unclear on why the State Department in this case is only doing a 24-hour exposure window rather than what appears to be the data-supported notion that it could be up to 72 hours. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I just want to reiterate that Spokesperson Price did not experience any symptoms of COVID-19 until this morning. So, I mean, we reported on this immediately. This wasn’t a 24-hour hold at all. Again, he’s been following all the rules here, as has everyone else who has been to UNGA. And he’ll continue to follow all the COVID – I’m sorry – COVID protocols and will be sure to be quarantining for the next 10 days.

Let’s take our final question from Tomoko Beck.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking my question. So it’s also following up. So can you confirm that Ned was exposed to COVID during the UNGA in New York? And also, is Secretary Blinken also quarantined, as his spokesperson is positive, and I assume he’s a close contact to him? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Yeah, we don’t have any specific details on the where that COVID-19 was contracted by Spokesperson Price, but again, I can reiterate that he is duly and properly quarantining and following all necessary protocols. And then to your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken tested negative for COVID-19 this morning and undergoes regular testing.

Thank you all for joining today’s press briefing. I hope you all have a wonderful afternoon and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)

Department Press Briefing – September 17, 2021

17 Sep

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:00 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s State Department press briefing. I have one item for you at the top, and then I’ll start taking your questions.

Next week, the Secretary of State will attend the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he will continue to advance U.S. interests and promote a healthier, more peaceful, and secure world.

This UNGA High-Level Week is going to look different than others given the ongoing pandemic. The United States delegation will be smaller, and we have worked within the UN, the CDC, and the City of New York to put into place several COVID-19 mitigation measures. The safety of UNGA participants and New Yorkers is a top priority.

I’d like to take a few moments to also give you a sense of the administration’s goals and objectives for this year’s UNGA, which fall into three overarching themes.

It will come as no surprise that sustained action to defeat COVID-19 is the administration’s top priority at UNGA this year.

The U.S. is committed to leading the global response to COVID-19, to galvanizing commitments to bring an end the pandemic, and to financing global health security so the world is better prepared to avert and respond to future outbreaks.

We are building a global coalition to accelerate vaccine production and expand access to lifesaving treatments around the world.

We look forward to working with our international partners at UNGA to end this pandemic and build back better for the future.

The United States will also use UNGA High-Level Week to reinvigorate global communities – a excuse me, commitments to combat the climate crisis.

President Biden committed to rejoining the Paris Agreement on Day 1 of his administration in recognition that climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our world today – and quite simply there is no time to delay.

This year at UNGA, we will urge the international community to make ambitious goals – ambitious global and national commitments to combat climate change in this decisive decade.

Finally, the U.S. will use UNGA High-Level Week to voice support for universal human rights, democratic values, and the rules-based international order.

Defending human rights and democratic values at home and around the world is essential to renewing the United States’ national strength and advancing our interests.

It is incumbent upon democracies, including through action in the UN system, to prove that we can deliver for our people in the face of unprecedented global challenges.

We look forward to a week of bold and energetic engagement with our international partners at UNGA High-Level Week.

Let’s start with Daphne, please.

QUESTION: On Ethiopia, the administration painted the executive order as a warning shot with several officials, promising sanctions would be imposed if a negotiated solution is not reached and humanitarian access is not allowed. How long is the administration willing to give parties to the conflict to make these changes? We’re 10 months into this. Are you looking to wait weeks, months to see if these changes are made before imposing sanctions?

MS PORTER: So we haven’t made any announcements when it comes to sanctions, and we certainly wouldn’t preview that from here. But what I will say in response to the growing conflict as well as the humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, which has quite frankly threatened the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region, President Biden signed an executive order imposing sanctions on certain persons with respect to human rights and human – the humanitarian crisis and human rights in Ethiopia.

This EO provides the Secretary of the Treasury, as well as in consultation with Secretary of State Secretary Blinken, the authority to impose sanctions on persons in connection with the crisis in northern Ethiopia. It also authorizes the imposition of financial sanctions on those who are responsible for threatening peace and also threatening stability, obstructing humanitarian access to progress towards a negotiated ceasefire, or committing serious human rights abuses.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

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

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Excellent. Two quick questions. One, related to the virtual meeting this morning on the one-year anniversary of the normalization accords, the Abraham Accords. Well, the Secretary of State Tony Blinken emphasized time and again the need to achieve a final goal of two-state solution. Yet this administration has done absolutely nothing in that regard over the past eight months. And in fact, his Israeli counterpart didn’t even mention the word Palestinians except maybe in some sort of a economic thing or at one time in his talk. So are there any plans to actually take any steps in that regard?

And the second one is related to where you began at the top at UNGA. Will Secretary Blinken meet with any Palestinian officials in his UNGA meetings? Thank you.

MS PORTER: I’ll start with your second question first. When it comes to UNGA meetings, we don’t have anything to preview specific to the Secretary’s schedule at this moment in time.

In regards to your first question, I will underscore what we’ve said from here before, which is that we believe a negotiated two-state solution is the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And to reiterate what President Biden has said, he believes the United States believes that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy. He has also said that, “My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end.”

Let’s go over to Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Happy Friday, and hope you enjoy your weekend. My question, I guess, is twofold here. I do appreciate that you are not able to preview anything that Secretary of State Blinken will be doing in terms of meeting people on the margins at the United Nations come next week, but I trust that you will keep us closely informed, for example, if he does meet with any African leaders on the margins and so on. So I’d appreciate that.

My question is related to Ethiopia. So I do see that the former president Obasanjo is playing a key role now. I’m wondering: Were all other avenues exhausted before President Biden decided to go the route of sanctions? For example, Kenya played a key role in Sudan’s transition through IGAD. Did they at least try to rope in the Ghanaian president or, for example, President Cyril Ramaphosa from South Africa or Kenya, for example, to try and work together with Obasanjo? So I’m just wondering: Were all other avenues exhausted to try to get President Abiy to cease what’s going on in northern Ethiopia?

Thank you.

MS PORTER: Pearl, I’d want to reiterate about the EO. No sanctions – we’ve announced no sanctions at this time. But when it comes to what I understand that you’re asking is any consultations with former leaders, I certainly wouldn’t be able to preview any diplomatic discussions with current leaders, so I wouldn’t be able to do the former as well. So that’s all I have for you, but if there’s anything else specific, we’d be happy to take that back to the team offline.

Let’s go to Dan Noyes.

QUESTION: Hi Jalina, I appreciate you taking my call. I wonder if you have a readout on the family. There is a three-year-old boy from California who was born in California, a U.S. citizen. His parents worked with the Americans in Kabul, and they were stranded at the airport. I understand that today they’re on a charter flight that was arranged by the State Department. Is there any more information? I wonder what the biggest challenge was and what took three – almost three weeks to get them out. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. So for security and privacy reasons, we are unable to comment on specific and/or individual cases. But our commitment remains there that we are continuing to get people out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our team here has been working on a 24/7 operation, and we’ll continue to do so moving forward.

Let’s go to Cindy Saine.

QUESTION: Yes, hello, Jalina, and thank you. Yeah, my question is also on the tweet by Special Representative Khalilzad that more Americans were able to leave Afghanistan – not on any specific person, but if you could tell us approximately how many, and in general who these people were, any information that you could provide. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. So I can confirm that a flight did depart from Kabul, but all of that, we’ll have information for you later on offline.

Let’s go to Luis Martinez.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. It’s Luis Martinez with ABC News. My question has to do with, I think, the previous question. Can you provide any details about this flight? Was it a Qatari Airways flight? How many individuals? We’ve seen numbers have been – so many as 170 people aboard. And if you can’t talk about it right now, can you tell us in what format you will talk about it offline, as you indicated before? And what are the current numbers that you have for Americans and legal permanent residents who have been able to leave Afghanistan, either through overland routes or through aircraft? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I’ll start off by saying that the situation is very dynamic, and as we have more precise and specific details, we’ll be able to provide those. So excuse me, by mentioning the word “offline” I just mentioned to say that when we have those details we’ll be able to share them when they’re more precise and accurate and available.

Again, I think your first question was verifying the airline. So we can confirm that it was a Qatari Airlines flight, excuse me. And I’ll just underscore, while I have you, that we’ve said repeatedly in the context of Afghanistan that we will always provide accurate and timely information as we have it.

When it comes to the number of U.S. citizens as well as lawful permanent residents aboard the latest flight, we are going to cross-reference those individuals that we believe were on the plane when it departed Kabul International Airport.

To your other question concerning numbers, in total between the charter flights and the overland crossings that we’ve discussed, 36 U.S. citizens and 24 lawful permanent residents have departed Afghanistan with our assistance since August 31st of this year.

Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. I wanted to ask you about UNGA and Iran. Even if you guys haven’t previewed any direct contact with the Iranians while in New York, the President will be addressing the General Assembly virtually and the foreign minister will be there. Do you hope or do you expect to have a better sense at the end of next week about what are – what is the stance of the new Iranian Government towards saving the JCPOA? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I can say broadly from here that our interests with Iran remain that a mutual return to compliance is in the United States’ national interest, and the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program as well as provide a platform for – to address its destabilizing conduct. And again, we – what we’re seeking is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

When it comes to any specific engagement at UNGA, again, we don’t have anything to preview at this time.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I was wondering if State has any update on the flights out of Mazar-e-Sharif. Is there any movement on that front? How many green card holders and American citizens do you estimate are in the area? And then does the State Department support the current Afghan ambassador to the UN keeping that seat for UNGA with – given that the Ghani government has collapsed? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. To your second question, I would have to refer you to colleagues at the UN for their response. The first one we’re actually going to have to take back to the team.

Kristina Anderson, please.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. I was wondering if there’s any update on the human rights group in Belarus that is calling for some action now to raise awareness about their members who have been arrested.

MS PORTER: Well, what I can say broadly from here is that this administration takes a high priority when it comes to human rights, and in fact, we’re centering it around our foreign policy. The United States stands strong in support of the Belarusian people’s aspiration for a democratic, prosperous future that is free and independent.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for the opportunity. I want to ask you about North Korea. North Korea’s state media today issued commentary accusing the United States of double standards over military activities, saying it – U.S. actively shields some countries while antagonizing others. Just to remind you, both South and North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles this week. The North Korean commentary also said unless the United States drops hostile policy on North Korea, negotiations are futile. So what is State Department’s reaction to the commentary from North Korea? And what can you tell us about the latest efforts to restart dialogue with North Korea? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, what I can say from here is that the United States remains committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK, and we also call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue.

Let’s take our final question from Janne Pak.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay. Jalina, thank you for doing this. I have two questions. First question: During a recent visit to South Korea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the relationship between South Korea and China is inseparable. At the same time, he reaffirmed his commitment to a strategic cooperation between South Korea and China. So what is the effect of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s gesture on the ROK-U.S. alliance?

Second question: Will the Secretary Blinken attend the UN General Assembly next week to discuss the North Korean nuclear and missile issue with his counter-partners? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Janne, if I still have you here, to answer your second question, again, we won’t get ahead of the UNGA meetings or preview anything about it from here.

I want to be sure I fully understand your first question, so if we still have you, do you mind re-asking it?

QUESTION: Hello?

MS PORTER: Yes. Can you re-ask your first question?

QUESTION: You want to – yeah, so do you want to repeat the first question or what?

MS PORTER: Yes, please repeat your first question.

QUESTION: Yes. During a recent visit to South Korea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the relationship between South Korea and China is inseparable. At the same time, he reaffirmed his commitment to a strategic cooperation partnership between South Korea and China. What is the effect of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s gesture on the ROK-United States alliance? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, the – our relationship with the ROK is rock solid. That hasn’t changed. I’m not in a position to speak on hypotheticals, but what I will say is that our relationship with the ROK is – centers at the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity, and is integral to a thriving Indo-Pacific region as well as around the world.

QUESTION: All right, thank you.

MS PORTER: That concludes today’s press briefing. Thank you all for joining. I hope you have a safe weekend ahead.

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

Department Press Briefing – September 10, 2021

11 Sep

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:15 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s State Department press briefing. Two updates at the top and then I will start with taking your questions. Today we can confirm that another Qatar Airways charter flight has departed Kabul with 19 U.S. citizens aboard. The department also assisted an additional two U.S. citizens and 11 lawful permanent residents to depart Afghanistan via an online – overland route – excuse me. We have provided guidance to them, worked to facilitate their safe passage, and embassy officials greeted them once they had crossed the border.

While through the course of our regular outreach to Americans in Afghanistan, we offered seats of 44 U.S. citizens which not all of them chose to travel. We are deeply grateful for their continued efforts of Qatar in facilitating limited operations at Kabul International Airport and helping to ensure the safety of these flights. We’re also grateful for the efforts of others who helped facilitate these departures. We continue to work across the U.S. Government to uphold our commitment to assist those to whom we have a special responsibility.

I also have the pleasure today of introducing our new special envoy for Holocaust issues, Ellen Germain. Ellen, who is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this role. Most recently she served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. Established in 1999, the special envoy for Holocaust issues, part of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, works to provide a measure for justice for Holocaust victims and their families by developing and implementing U.S. policy to return Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, ensure that the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated in a historical – a historically accurate manner, and promote Holocaust education and research.

As special envoy, Ellen will contribute to the department’s mission of promoting the rule of law and combating anti-Semitism, working closely with the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Ellen’s assignment underscores the Secretary’s commitment to the importance of resolving historical injustices and remembering the lessons learned from the Holocaust.

With that I’ll give it a few minutes for everyone to join in the call.

OPERATOR: If you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 to go into queue – 1, 0.

MS PORTER: Let’s start with Shaun Tandon.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate him. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks, Jalina. I am sure there are follow-up questions on Afghanistan, but I wanted to ask you two things about Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry is saying that Ambassador Sullivan was summoned regarding what they term to be election interference regarding U.S. tech companies. Do you have any response to that? Do you have any response to the allegations of tech companies in the Russian view doing wrong there?

And related to that or related to Russia, Russia has announced the completion of Nord Stream 2. Does the United States still think there’s a possibility of stopping this from operating? What’s the game plan now? Could there be additional measures in that respect? Thank you.

MS PORTER: I’ll take your first question first, Shaun. So on Friday, September 10th, Ambassador Sullivan did meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov to discuss a range of bilateral manners – matters – excuse me – in support of President Biden’s desire for a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. On your specific question on tech companies, I’m not able to comment any further from here.

Of course, to your second question on Nord Stream 2, we’ve said it before and we’ll continue to say it again: We believe that this is a bad deal, and we continue to oppose this pipeline as a Russian geopolitical project that’s a bad deal for Europe and, of course, that undercuts the energy security for a major part of the Euro-Atlantic community.

QUESTION: Do you mind if I just follow up on the first part if I’m still on the line, whether the – are you saying that the ambassador was not summoned?

MS PORTER: Hey, Shaun, we still have you. So again, I’ll just reiterate what we said before. Ambassador Sullivan had a meeting. He met with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov today, Friday, on the 10th.

OPERATOR: If you wish to ask a question, please press 1, 0.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Said Arikat.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate him. Your line is open. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, we can hear you.

QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you, Jalina. Really two quick questions; they are both – they’re related. It’s about the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The Times of Israel saying that their administration is pressing the PA to withdraw its efforts at the ICC. I wonder if you could confirm or deny that.

And second – the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Naftali Bennett, met with settlers yesterday, and he basically told them that he will not stop, not freeze West Bank settlement construction. I wonder what is your comment on that. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Said, I’ll start with your second question first. On settlements, we’ve said it before and we’ll – it’s worth repeating that we believe it’s critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from any unilateral steps that would exacerbate tensions and also undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. Of course, that includes settlement activity.

To your first question, I’ll say that the United States firmly opposes the ICC investigation into the Palestinian situation. We’ll continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, and that includes by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly. The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter, and Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction. And we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempt to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.

OPERATOR: To ask a question, please press 1, 0.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Simon Lewis.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate him. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. There is a report out that some flights bringing people who were evacuated from Afghanistan have been delayed from coming to the U.S. for unspecified health reasons. I wonder if you could clarify what’s happened there, what flights are affected, and what would the health reasons involve. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Simon. I’m going to have to refer you to the CDC for that response.

OPERATOR: To ask a question, please press 1, 0.

MS PORTER: Let’s go with Laura Kelly.

OPERATOR: Thank you, one moment while I locate her. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Jalina, my question is: Are you hearing about or are you concerned of reports that the Taliban is carrying out ethnic cleansing, where ethnic minorities are being targeted and disappeared in Kabul and ethnic communities are being targeted in the Panjshir Valley? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Laura. So we certainly take any allegations of targeting, especially of ethnic and religious minorities, very seriously, and we’ll certainly work together in concert with our international partners to make sure that any perpetrators are being held accountable.

Let’s go with Conor Finnegan.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate him. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hey, thank you for doing this. Two quick questions. First, to follow up on Simon’s question, there’s a clock ticking on how long you can hold Afghan refugees in Germany and Qatar. So without addressing the specific report, do you have concerns about your ability to get people to the U.S. before that time runs out? And then to follow up on the flight today, how many Americans do you now estimate are left in Afghanistan? And were any Afghan partners offered a seat on this flight? Have you been able to evacuate any since the end of the evacuation operation?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Conor. So I’ll take your second question first. So we estimate that there are about 100 Americans that are still in Afghanistan. And as you know, the situation remains very fluid. If we still have you on the line, if you can repeat your first question. I believe it was, like, length of time in Germany and Qatar?

QUESTION: (No response.)

MS PORTER: Let’s go with Cindy Saine.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Forgive me if I missed this at the beginning, but those who left over land, which country did they go to? And I believe you said they were welcomed by embassy staff members. Could you give any more details on that, please? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Cindy. So for security reasons we are not able to disclose which country that the overland flight went to, and if we still have you here, we’re going to have to take back your second question.

Let’s go to Janne Pak.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate them. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for this and Happy Friday. I have a question about Special Representative for South Korea Sung Kim will visit to Japan next week. What purpose of his visit to Japan? Because he was to visit last month. Why he so – again visit for trilateral talks?

Second – second question: Recently the IAEA has reported on restart of North Korean nuclear reactors. Have you talked with the South Korean Government regarding on this? What is the South Koreans’ reaction on this? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Janne. So to your first question, I’d have to refer you to our travel announcement for details of the trip. To your second question, I can say that we’re aware of the reports that the DPRK staged a military parade on September 9th and, of course, our goal remains clear, that the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is what we’re striving for, and the United States is prepared to engage in diplomacy towards that objective.

Let’s go to Austin Landis.

OPERATOR: One moment while I locate them. Your line is open.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the question asked earlier about Afghan partners, have any of them gotten out on any of these flights? And then what is the outlook for them now that flights are picking up? Are you all reaching out to them, like people in the SIV pipeline, things like that? Or if not yet, then what is the plan to kind of get them on these lists or on these flights?

MS PORTER: So what I can say from here is that the United States will work vigorously with the international community to explore all options to support vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. And, of course, that would include women, children, journalists, persons with disabilities, as well as members of any ethnic and religious minority group, as well as other extremely at-risk populations in additional movements of persons who wish to leave Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this, Jalina. I wanted to ask: Does the U.S. have an estimate of how many American citizens and legal permanent residents remain in Afghanistan at this point? What are your communications like with the LPRs? We’ve heard reports that some may not be hearing very frequently from the State Department. What is the plan for them moving forward? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So we estimate that there are about a hundred American citizens in Afghanistan. Because, again, the situation is very fluid and ongoing, we do have less clarity when it comes to LPRs, but what we can say is that we have assisted LPRs who are wishing to depart Afghanistan throughout this entire effort consistent with all the resources and spaces available.

Let’s go with Ellen Knickmeyer.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi there. This was kind of asked a little bit earlier, but did – I don’t know if I heard an answer. How are the evacuations going at the staging sites overseas? They’ve – they’re running into deadlines or passed deadlines, I believe, from Germany for moving on the Afghan refugees. And is that contributing at all to any hesitation to bring in more evacuees, including Afghan evacuees, from Afghanistan?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. So what I’ll say broadly speaking is that we are working with our allies and partners to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan, and we continue to identify ways to support U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, as well as Afghans who have worked with us and who may choose to depart. Of course, this is not an easy or fluid or rapid situation, but we do also recognize that there are many Afghan citizens at risk who don’t qualify for SIVs. But we continue to assist Afghanistans who are eligible for referral for our U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and at-risk Afghans.

Let’s go to Rosiland Jordan.

OPERATOR: One moment. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I have a non-Afghanistan. The Financial Times is reporting that the administration is considering allowing Taipei to change the name of its office here in D.C. to the Taiwan Representative Office, and that is something that already is angering Beijing. Is such a renaming request on the table? Is the administration seriously considering changing the name? And is this, as one analyst suggested in the FT article, a fight worth picking with Beijing when there are more serious concerns about Beijing’s efforts to extend its hegemony and its treatment of ethnic minorities when those issues are much more important? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Rosiland. I don’t have anything to preview or announce from here when it comes to the name change at all. But what I can say – excuse me – broadly speaking is that our support for Taiwan is rock solid and we remain committed to keeping our ties with Taiwan, which is a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner.

Let’s go to Gabriela Perozo.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I have two questions related to Venezuela. Yesterday we learned about the former spy chief Hugo Carvajal’s detention in Spain. The U.S. was offering a reward of up to $10 million. Has anyone claimed any of the reward? Did DEA participate in the operation? And when will he be able to come to the U.S.?

And another question: Yesterday Jorge Rodriguez sent a message to the U.S. Ambassador Jim Story, saying that it is stupid to think that at this point they will assent to the U.S. pressure. What’s your opinion about that? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Gabriela. Well, I can say something here. I’m actually not aware of the correspondence that you just mentioned in your second question. But to address your first question, I’ll start off by saying that we certainly value our law enforcement cooperation with the Spanish authorities, and further – for further questions about Hugo Carvajal’s arrest we would have to refer you to the Department of Justice.

Let’s go to John Hudson.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks, Jalina. In the remarks at the top you mentioned 44 Americans were offered to facilitate their exit. I didn’t quite catch that. Is that they were offered flights or ground transport? And how many said no, if there were any?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. So just to clarify, there were 44 U.S. citizens who were offered seats, and not all of them chose to travel. I can’t preview that number from here.

Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you. Quick question on the approximate number of a hundred Americans still in Afghanistan. How is that still the number if it seems that over 30 Americans have gotten out this week? Was there a new group of Americans that you guys are in touch with? Can you just help us square that?

And then I just want to follow up on my colleague Conor’s question. It seems that the U.S. has offered more seats on the Qatari Airways plane that took off today than were actually used by the United States. So did you guys try and get Afghans to take those seats if American citizens and LPRs declined to use them?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Kylie. So again, the situation on the ground is really fluid, and 100 is the number that we have for U.S. citizens. As you know, some people decide to change their minds at the last minute, but a hundred is just the latest that we have from here. And I’ll have to take the second question back for you.

Let’s close this out with Oskar Gorzynski, please.

OPERATOR: Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this. So I wanted to ask about travel because as more and more U.S. – EU countries restrict travel for unvaccinated Americans, is there any progress on the process of allowing vaccinated Europeans to come here? And what’s the issue that’s been holding all this up?

MS PORTER: Thank you. So we’re obviously tracking the situation closely, but what I can say is that we certainly look forward to the resumption of transatlantic travel as soon as it’s safe and scientifically advisable, and we certainly appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to combat this pandemic.

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

(The briefing was concluded at 2:47 p.m.)

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.)