Joint Statement of the Bilateral Counternarcotics Working Group Colombia – United States

25 Sep

Within the framework of the Counternarcotics Working Group, the U.S. and Colombian delegations discussed avenues to further strengthen the bilateral relationship, renewed their commitments to counternarcotics cooperation, highlighted the close collaboration and progress achieved during the Administration of President Iván Duque, and agreed to a broad framework for a new bilateral counternarcotics strategy. The delegations committed to finalize and release more details of the new strategy in the coming months.

The discussions focused on the need for a holistic approach to strengthening our counternarcotics strategy along three pillars: integrated supply reduction, comprehensive rural security and development, and environmental protection. This comprehensive approach will include close coordination of actions to promote greater stability in rural areas, establish an effective and sustainable national government presence, accelerate comprehensive rural development, guarantee the protection of human rights, and strengthen rule of law. The two sides agreed that the new strategy should be first implemented in three prioritized municipalities: Tumaco, Cáceres, and Sardinata.

In addition to programs that expand the presence and the services of the state, the discussions focused on improving citizen security, interrupting drug trafficking supply chains, sustaining coca eradication, and interdicting chemical precursors and cocaine. To reduce money laundering and strengthen asset forfeiture, the two sides also agreed to focus on reducing illicit cash transactions, prioritize arrests, prosecutions, and extraditions of key traffickers and their enablers, and strengthen the judicial system.

Both governments underscored the importance of Colombia’s integrated security and rural development program, as well as the reduction of illicit crops, which combines not only supply reduction, but also the creation of licit opportunities and strengthening of roads and productive infrastructure to contribute to the rural development with an emphasis in the Territorial Development Plans areas (PDETs). Both sides also expressed support for the “Future Zones,” a development and security approach that contains a long-term vision for territorial transformation, a culture of lawfulness, licit economies and advancing rural Colombia’s transition to peace.

The delegations agreed to strengthen efforts to protect the environment from exploitation by criminal groups, reducing drug use and its negative consequences, and improving technical capabilities for detecting coca cultivation and assessing cocaine production. The delegations also discussed plans to establish additional tools and metrics by which they can measure the success of interconnected counternarcotics, security, and development interventions.

The U.S. and Colombian representatives discussed the new Colombian National Police transformation and innovation plan, and agreed the plan’s focus on accountability, transparency, and human rights would strengthen police institutional capacity to counter narcotrafficking and organized crime.

The meeting also advanced preparations for the next High-Level Dialogue between the United States and Colombia, which is the main forum to discuss all aspects of the bilateral partnership. This High-Level Dialogue facilitates coordination on wide-ranging issues, such as economic development, security, reducing drug trafficking, educational exchanges, environmental protection, human rights, and health, among other areas of shared interest.

Both sides reaffirmed the strong counternarcotics partnership, which is critical to disrupting the cocaine supply chain. As the ongoing discussions demonstrate, Colombia and the United States recognize that complex problems, such as drug trafficking, are a shared responsibility that require long-term solutions and a comprehensive, sustained political response.

Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Palauan President Whipps, Jr.

4 Aug

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Palauan President Surangel Whipps, Jr. today in Washington, D.C. Secretary Blinken and President Whipps discussed U.S.-Palau cooperation, building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, and setting an ambitious agenda to combat climate change. The Secretary and the President also reiterated the importance of advancing negotiations related to the U.S.-Palau Compact Review and working with partners for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Counselor Chollet’s Travel to Ukraine and Poland

19 Jul

Counselor of the Department Derek Chollet will travel to Kyiv on July 20-21 and Warsaw on July 21-23 to reinforce the strategic value of the United States’ relationships with Ukraine and Poland.  He will continue our diplomatic conversations with Ukraine and Poland on a range of issues, including our shared concerns about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and energy security more broadly, as well as ongoing reforms.

While in Kyiv, Counselor Chollet will meet with senior government officials to discuss U.S. support for Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russia’s aggression and to further advance economic and anti-corruption reforms.  He will also meet with members of the business community to discuss Ukraine’s economic recovery and opportunities for shared prosperity.

In Warsaw, Counselor Chollet will discuss strategic bilateral and regional issues, as well as our shared commitment to democratic values and institutions, with senior government officials and civil society representatives.  He will also engage with business leaders to strengthen bilateral economic ties.

 

Department Press Briefing – June 30, 2021

30 Jun

2:00 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER:  Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you so much for joining today’s briefing.  I have two quick announcements to make at the top and then we’ll start taking your questions.

As the Secretary announced in a statement today, the department is beginning the process of updating its policies regarding gender markers on U.S. passports and consular reports of birth abroad to better serve all U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender.

Starting today, applicants seeking to change the gender marker on their passport will no longer be required to submit medical certification.  They will self-select their gender, and it does not need to match the gender listed on the applicant’s citizenship and identity documents or prior U.S. passports.

The department has also begun moving towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons, and will be evaluating the best approach to achieve this goal.

The process of adding a gender marker is complex and will take some time for extensive systems updates.  Nonetheless, we are committed to getting this right and express our enduring commitment for the LGBTQI+ community today and every day moving forward.

Next, as you’ve recently seen, the United States International Development Finance Corporation announced financing to support a 600 million euro loan for Aspen Pharma in South Africa.  Together with financing from DEG Germany, Proparco France, and the International Finance Corporation, DFC’s financing will expand capacity for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to Africa.  This financing will help increase capacity to support Aspen’s effort to produce COVID-19 vaccines with Stringent Regulatory Authorization and/or World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing, including the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.   This investment in African ingenuity and resilience is the first announcement of several deals the DFC is pursuing to expand vaccine manufacturing globally.

Today’s announcement is another example of our leadership, in concert with our partners and international institutions, to lead the global response to this pandemic.  This effort also demonstrates U.S. work with partner nations and local manufacturers to create the kind of global vaccine production and manufacturing capacity and capabilities that not only can help the world beat this pandemic, but also help prepare the world to respond to future threats.

And with that, let’s go over to the line of Nike Ching.

QUESTION:  Hello, Jalina.  Thank you so much for the call, briefing.  On Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken has said the U.S. is, quote, “working to make good on our obligations to those who helped us with the Special Immigrant Visa program,” end of quote.  My question:  Can we please have an update on efforts to get Afghan interpreters, drivers, fixers, and others who helped the U.S. out of the country?  Also, on the evacuation and relocation efforts, can we please have a breakdown of evacuating the civilian or military aircraft?  And which third countries at least have agreed to take them in before they obtain the visas to enter into the U.S.?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  Well, let me start off by saying that I certainly support and want to uplift what you mentioned about the Secretary and our commitment to this.  And I’ll just reiterate that we’re actively working on every way possible to make sure that we can help those who have helped us.  We’ve identified a group of SIV applicants who’ve served as interpreters and translators, as well as other individuals who have assisted us and that are at risk.  They and their families will have the option to be relocated outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown by September in order to complete their special immigrant processing.

At this time, we don’t have any further details to share or specific numbers.  We will provide additional information when we’re able to do so.  However, due to security constraints, we’ll be limited on how much we can share in terms of those numbers, locations, and timing of all these operations.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Thank you for the conference call.  I asked you about the French, Saudi, and U.S. meeting yesterday in Italy on Lebanon.  And do you have anything today, any update on this, any readout?

MS PORTER:  Thank you, Michel.  I don’t have any update to share at this time.

Let’s go to Said Arikat.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Jalina.  I hope you can hear me well.  Jalina, there’s been some reports that the PA has given the Biden administration 30 objectives for negotiations with Israel.  So I wonder if you could confirm this or if there are any other discussions that are going underway.  And second, my second issue is that demolition in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan are ongoing, and I wonder if you – have you spoken with the Israelis?  Have you urged them not to demolish Palestinians’ homes and so on, and not to do any evictions?  Thank you, Jalina.

MS PORTER:  So to your first question on the 30 objectives, I’ll just say that we won’t discuss the content of any of our internal diplomatic discussions.  And to your second question, we’ve seen reports that some families made up of approximately 50 Palestinians have been ordered to demolish their homes, and we believe that it’s critical to refrain from any unilateral steps that increase tensions and that would make it more difficult to advance a negotiated two-state solution.  This obviously includes demolitions.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  I really appreciate your availability, so thank you so much for this.  My question is regarding the Kingdom of Eswatini.  What is the U.S. assessment or intelligence on the developments and reports that the government was losing control, that now military are abusing citizens, the internet has been shut down?  Have you got any readout on this absolute monarch, the only last monarch in Africa?  I don’t know, what is your – what is the Biden administration’s assessment of what is going on?

MS PORTER:  Thank you for your question and for calling in today, Pearl.  I’ll just start off by saying that we’re certainly following the situation in Eswatini, of course, where protesters are demanding political reform and they are clashing both with the police and the military.  That said, the situation is fluid and we urge the government to exercise restraint and also maintain the utmost respect for human rights.  Of course, as the situation continues to unfold, the United States urges all stakeholders in this situation to not only remain calm but also remain peaceful.  And it goes without saying that the United States strongly supports freedom of expression as well as freedom of peaceful assembly, and that we know an inclusive and peaceful dialogue is essential to progress moving forward.

Let’s go to Jiha Ham, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Can you hear me?

MS PORTER:  Hey, yes, I can hear you.  How are you?

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I’m good, thanks.  The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday said that some officials there caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis related to COVID-19.  Do you have any comments on this, on the current COVID situation in North Korea?  Also, do you have any plans to share humanitarian assistance, including the vaccines?  We learned yesterday that North Korea is not on the list of countries that would get 80 million doses of vaccines that the U.S. will share globally.  Is there any reason – any reason that the U.S. administration excluded North Korea?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  So to answer your first question, we’re certainly aware of reports of what Kim Jong-un has said, but we don’t have any comment from here.  And to your second question, just to reiterate, the Biden administration has taken a strong leadership position on being the leader with vaccine diplomacy, and we will continue to do so from here on out.

Let’s go to Michele Kelemen.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  I’d like to go back to your answer to Nike’s question at the top about Afghanistan.  You said that you’ve – that the State Department has identified those who will have the option to leave.  Have you informed those people that they have this option?  Do you have commitments from other countries willing to house them temporarily?  And can you confirm that it’s the State Department rather than the Defense Department in charge of this evacuation process?  Thanks.

MS PORTER:  Thanks, Michele.  I’ll just continue to reiterate we don’t have any specific details on numbers or on timing to preview from here, but of course as that information is made available, we’ll certainly share.  And most importantly, due to security restraints, we’re just limited on how much we can share in terms of those numbers and locations at this time.

Let’s go to Missy Ryan, please.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Thanks for taking my question.  I’d like to actually just follow up on Michele’s question regarding the SIV transport and evacuation.  My understanding is that the U.S. military withdrawal is expected to be completed within the next few days barring any additional tasking for the military to be responsible for transporting the SIV applicants outside of Afghanistan.  And can you just address, is it safe to assume, then, that the administration is going to – that the military is not going to be transporting them out of the country, and that they’ll go by a commercial aircraft.  Is it – I mean, one of the confusing things, I think, has been when people are trying to understand what’s going on with the military withdrawal is whether or not the SIV process is going to lengthen the military presence in Afghanistan in these final weeks that they get really close to zero there.  Anything you could provide on that would be helpful, thanks.

MS PORTER:  Specific to the military drawdown, the President has made clear that we will complete that from Afghanistan by early September.  Any other specifics outside of that, I will have to refer you to the DOD.

Let’s go to Hiba Nasr.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) Jalina, thanks for taking my question.  I – first I missed your answer on the demolition of the Palestinian homes, if you can repeat it.  And I want to ask two question, if I may.  First, if you have any comment on the trial of Entisar Al-Hammadi, the Yemeni model.  The trial is carried out by the – is carried by the Houthis.  And on the missile attack by the Houthis on Marib, and it killed three persons, including a child.  And also I have a question on Ethiopia.  Assistant secretary – acting assistant secretary for African Affairs said yesterday that if the government’s – the Ethiopian Government’s – announcement of a cessation of hostilities does not result in improvement in the situation and the situation continues to worsen, Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate further actions.  So are you going to impose more sanctions?  Can you elaborate on that, please?

MS PORTER:  So for that, I don’t have any sanctions to preview from here.  But can you repeat your other question?  I think you mentioned something about the Houthis.

QUESTION:  Yes.  First, if you have any comment on the trial of the Yemeni actress, Entisar Al-Hammadi.  And the missile attack carried by the Houthis on Marib.

MS PORTER:  I don’t have anything for you on that.  We’ll have to take that back from you today, but I believe you also asked me to repeat the question posed by Said.  And I’ll just quickly say that, again, we’ve seen the reports that seven families that are made up of about 50 Palestinians have been ordered for their homes to be demolished.  And we believe it’s critical to refrain from any unilateral steps that would increase tensions or make it more difficult to advance our two-state solution, and that would include demolition.

Let’s go to Abigail Williams.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  Nice to talk to you.  I wanted to follow up on Said’s line of questioning.  Does the State Department have any response to the decision reached on the West Bank outpost of Evyatar?  And are you concerned (inaudible) the confrontations between the Israeli police and demonstrators there that resulted in the death of four protesters?  And more broadly, can you provide the latest guidance on the State Department’s review of the previous administration’s decision to disavow the 1978 memo that described Israeli settlements as inconsistent with international law?

MS PORTER:  Thanks, Abbie.  For your second question, I’ll have to take that back for you.  But just to answer your first, again, I’ll continue to underscore that we believe it’s critical to refrain from any unilateral steps that would exacerbate tensions or undercut efforts to advance equal freedoms, security, and prosperity, as well as a negotiated two-state solution.  And this would include establishing outposts which are illegal even under Israeli law.

Let’s go to Joseph Haboush, please.

OPERATOR:  And Joseph, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, Jalina.  I wanted to ask if you could provide any readout or more details of Secretary Blinken’s meeting yesterday with his Saudi and French counterparts, where he tweeted the need – tweeted about the need for Lebanon’s political leaders to implement overdue reforms.  And is there any – is there continued concern over the situation in Lebanon?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  So we don’t have anything for you today, but happy to take this and answer this offline.

Let’s take one final question from Kristina Anderson.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you for taking my question.  In Afghanistan, there’s an awful lot of worry over the degrading – what some people describe as a degrading situation as the military is withdrawing or retrograding.  Could you talk a little bit, please, about the hopeful situation ahead for diplomacy and political opportunities for peace in the country and reconciliation?  Is there a framework ahead?  Thank you.

MS PORTER:  Thank you for your question.  What I will say is that the United States is committed to our enduring partnership with Afghanistan as well as the Afghan people, and that would include everything from security, civilian, and humanitarian assistance.  And again, we agree that political unity is the way forward and diplomacy is the path of – the way forward.  I wouldn’t want to preview anything else beyond that, but just would underscore that we are committed to not only Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan as well.

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

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

Briefing With a Senior State Administration Official

17 Jun

Geneva, Switzerland

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Great.  Hey, good evening, everyone.  So just a few things at the top, but then we’ll do some questions.

I think that you heard from the President at the press conference that in his view, there is no substitute for face-to-face diplomacy, and I think that bore itself out in the conversations today with President Putin and his colleagues from Russia.  It’s one thing to be trading messages through you all or even on a phone call; it’s another to actually be able to sit down directly and go through the many issues, both the profound differences but also some areas of potential cooperation in the relationship.

And I would say that in the one-on-one or the one-plus-one, I guess, as it was, it was – and I thought the way both – certainly the way President Biden described it and what I heard President Putin say was a very accurate description of the tone of the session, which was very direct, I thought constructive, nonpolemical, and very matter-of-fact.  And I think that is useful in trying to see if – one, in just clarifying the differences, being very clear about how we see those differences, but also exploring whether there are areas where we can actually cooperate because it’s in our mutual interest to do so.

And really, it matches the objectives the President had set for this meeting with President Putin. One, to try to identify areas of practical cooperation that would actually advance our interests, and presumably our mutual interests; to be very clear in communicating directly that we’ll respond when those interests are being threatened or challenged.  And also, in a broader sense, to make – to share directly with President Putin the values that undergird our foreign policy, the President’s approach, by way of at least sharing directly with President Putin why we say the things we say, why we focus on the things that we do.  Doesn’t mean that’s going to convince him at all.  It does mean that by sharing that, communicating it clearly, maybe it lessens a little bit the possibility of miscommunication, misunderstanding.  And I think the President believes very strongly in being – just being very clear and direct, and that was the nature of the meeting.

I’d say that, as you heard the President say, there is some productive movement in a few areas, particularly the launch of a process on strategic stability to see if we can look at additional arms control measures in areas that are not covered by existing agreements – well, existing agreement, singular, since we basically have New START and its extension.  So that is both practical and productive.

Similarly, we agreed on the importance of having our ambassadors return to their respective capitals, and Ambassador Sullivan, who’s here, hopefully has his bag packed and will be getting ready to go back to Moscow, and Ambassador Antonov will come back to Washington.  And more broadly, to look to see if we can work through the challenges that we have in sustaining our diplomatic missions.  So there’s an agreement to work on that.

And then importantly, an agreement to get our experts together to consult on issues of cyber security, particularly when it comes to critical infrastructure and making sure that, as the President said, we should be – we have certain things, and he gave President Putin a list of 16 types of infrastructure that we believe should be out of bounds, off limits to destructive actions, whether it’s coming from a state or coming from an individual group that happens to be harbored in a state.  And we’re going to get our experts together to see if we can pursue something in that area.

At the same time, we are looking to see whether Russia will take action against the – those responsible for the attack on the Colonial Pipeline recently, and the President was clear that he does not ascribe that attack to Russia, but to criminals, criminal organizations that may be resident there.  So I think that was all practical and productive.  As the President made clear in the press conference, this is not flipping a light switch.  It’s going to take some time to see if these areas of potential cooperation actually produce results.  We don’t know, but we can now test that proposition.

Similarly, there were a number of regional issues that that they discussed where our interests overlap at least, and where it was agreed we should see if we could find ways to work together, particularly Afghanistan, also Syria – and there’ll be a test coming up on that with regard to the extension or not of the humanitarian corridor at the United Nations in about a month’s time.  We spent a good deal of time on both Syria and Afghanistan and also Iran and the effort to return to compliance with the JCPOA.  They discussed, again, other areas of potential cooperation: climate – touched on COVID-19, not in any extensive detail, but touched on that – and as well, the Arctic, where Russia is in the chair of the Arctic Council, and where we make clear our determination to preserve the Arctic as a region for peaceful cooperation.  And there was a discussion of that.

They also talked about areas where we have real clear and significant differences, starting with Ukraine, where the President reiterated our commitment to Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty, but also some discussion of whether there might be grounds to actually try to unstick the Minsk process.   We’ll see if there’s any – if there’s any there there.  And Belarus, another area where we’re clearly in a very different place, and, of course, human rights.  And, in fact, the President – what the President said in his press conference on that is – reflects very much what he said directly to President Putin.  I think you heard him talk about how this is part of our DNA, and he couldn’t as an American president not raise these issues and continue to raise them.

So again, like – so let me just stop where I started.  The real purpose is to have this direct engagement to be able to be very clear about what we stand for, why we stand for it, where our concerns are, and where we think there may be opportunities to work together and to bring a little bit more stability and predictability into the relationship.  But as I said, we’re not flipping a light switch.  This is going to be an ongoing process and the ultimate test is whether there are practical results.  And I think we’re not going to know that for some time.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  Is this on background?

MODERATOR:  It’s on background, senior administration official.

QUESTION:  Senior administration official?

MODERATOR:  Senior administration official.

QUESTION:  Could you give us a little more information or detail on the 16 sectors that he talked about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.

QUESTION:  What are those 16 and what was the threatened response?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think it’s actually on our website.

MODERATOR:  Yeah, it’s on state.gov.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s not a state secret. There — there are things that are, for fairly obvious reasons when you take a look, are critical to the life of the nation and that we believe should be out of balance from disruptive cyber actions or otherwise.  And actually, has pulled up the website.  So among other things, the chemical sector, communications sector, critical manufacturing, dams, defense-industrial base, emergency services, the energy sector, financial services sector, food and agriculture.  Anyway, there are 16 of them, and it has as a more detailed description if you go onto the website.

QUESTION:  And he’s more specifically given his list to Putin?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  To President Putin, yes.

QUESTION:  And what would the response be?  Can you detail that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So this is where there was an agreement that we should get our teams together to consult on whether there’s a way forward on this and whether we can start a process to see if we can come to agreement on areas that should be out of bounds, and go from there.  But this is early days.  I think, again, the positive, productive step was an agreement to get teams and experts together, but it – this is going to take a while to see if there’s any real traction.  But at the same time, the President made very clear that if our interests were imperiled, he was very resolute about acting.

MODERATOR:  Jenny.

QUESTION:  Can I ask on the Arctic?

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Go ahead.  Jenny, go ahead and we’ll go to Will.

QUESTION:  , can you tell us why the meetings ended so much earlier than were anticipated?  And then, do you have any more details on the Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed case?  What was the discussion around that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, well, a few things.  They actually didn’t end that much earlier than anticipated in that there were some – in the original schedule there were some breaks that were built in that we didn’t fully take advantage of.  But it’s as the President said:  The amount of ground that the President covered in the – with President Putin in the 1+1 was extensive.  They covered most of the things if not all – virtually all of the things that were on our agenda.  And it goes back to what I was saying at the outset about this was a very – this was a very focused, practical, nonpolemical discussion, and as a result of that it wasn’t people reading talking points at each other or just going on monologues about this or that.  It was very practically focused on these different, very important issues.  And as a result, they covered a lot of ground.  And some of the ground that we anticipated possibly covering with the full teams they actually covered in the 1+1.

As a result, when we got to the larger meetings, they agreed that we had covered a lot of ground; as a result, we could compress the – what had initially – what were initially going to be two sessions with the full teams got compressed into one.  And that allowed us to drill deeper on a few areas that the two presidents had discussed but where we thought it was – the President thought it would be useful to go even deeper.  And then there were a few – there were two or three things that hadn’t come up that we wanted to at least touch on.  So —

MODERATOR:  Will.

QUESTION:  And —

QUESTION:  I just want to ask – oh, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Sorry.  Paul Whelan and Trevor —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Oh, I’m sorry.  And what was the question about them?

QUESTION:  Can you give us more details?  Was there discussion of any sort of swap?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I don’t want to get into any detail other than to say that the President was very clear about the need to resolve these cases and to see them freed.

QUESTION:  Putin seemed pretty upset about the Arctic issue that he brought up.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:  I remember he brought something like this up in Reykjavik.  Is that the – is that a freedom of navigation issue where they’re doing the Northern Sea Route and they’re using these ice walls to restrict what happens there, in addition to the broader (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  There are two things.

QUESTION:  And what was their response to that, and what (inaudible) about it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, there are two things.  I mean, they profess to share our conviction that the Arctic should remain an area of peaceful cooperation.  That’s good.  And they’re in the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and we – I was – I was actually, as you know, the – was there with Foreign Minister Lavrov, among others, and we said we look forward to cooperating and working with them during their chairmanship.

But we have two concerns.  One are steps we see Russia taking that suggest that it is interested in militarizing more the region, and we think that is exactly contrary to our stated desires to ensure that the Arctic remains an area of peaceful cooperation.  And then separate – related but separate is this Northern Sea Route, and because the ice is melting so fast and because the route is now passable for a much longer stretch in the year, that’s going to increase traffic and that has the potential to make accidents, misunderstandings, miscalculations more possible.  And so we think that there’s a real need to make sure that there’s a clear understanding on the rules of the road for traffic there, which is increasing.

The Russians – I don’t want to speak for them, but they clearly have a somewhat different perspective on the militarization question, and we just see that differently.  We have the same stated objective.  We see what’s going on differently.  We’ll have to see whether there are ways both within the Arctic Council and outside the Arctic Council to work through some of these differences.

MODERATOR:  A couple final questions.

QUESTION:  Do you have this issue with – is the issue that they’re claiming sovereignty and regulating their full exclusive economic zone (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  There are issues there too.  They’ve asserted claims that we believe are not consistent with Law of the Sea.  And in fact, in a recent instance at least, a claim that there were asserting they pulled because it was clear that it was inconsistent with Law of the Sea.

MODERATOR:  A couple of final questions.  Humeyra.

QUESTION:  Sir, did you get any – did the President get any commitment from Putin about continue or even expanding the UN cross-border aid operation to Syria?  You said that that was going to be a test.  I have one more.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  No, there was no commitment, but we made clear that this was of significant importance for us.  And if there was going to be any further cooperation on Syria, in the first instance we had to see an extension of the humanitarian crossing.

QUESTION:  And I’m just wondering why you think on this occasion Russia would behave differently, specifically in the cyber area.  There’s been sanctions.  There’s been all sorts of penalties before, but they haven’t changed behavior.  Why do you think that this might be different?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’ll let the President’s words speak for themselves, but I think that we’ve made clear that we will respond.  We’ve already demonstrated that in the case of SolarWinds as well as the election interference and the attempt to murder Mr. Navalny with a chemical weapon.  I think the President was also clear about his determination to respond if – going forward if Russia continues these kinds of actions.  And then also, I think the President was very eloquent this evening about some of the larger risks that Russia faces if it is not seen as a responsible actor in the international community.  And we’re seeing countries come together in very significant ways to stand up against other countries that are taking actions that challenge the rules-based order, that challenge basic norms of behavior and conduct.

And I think coming off of the G7, NATO, and the EU, where there was strong alignment on that – on the basic proposition that we all need to defend these understandings, this order, because the alternative is law of the jungle and chaos, which is in no one’s interest.  I think the President was able to speak with not only his own very strong clarity and conviction, but with knowledge on the part of Russia that we have allies and partners fully with us in making sure that we are working together to defend the rules-based order and to take action when anyone tries to undermine it.

MODERATOR:  Rich.

QUESTION:  Thanks.  , was there any discussion of Havana syndrome, audio attacks?  And on COVID, you said it was a small part of the conversation.  Was that largely based on vaccine distribution or was the origins investigation – any role in that as well?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On COVID, there was a reference on the need for the international community to get to the bottom of what happened if we were going to be effective in trying to prevent a recurrence – not a detailed discussion but the basic point made that it was – this was of real importance.  And with regard to the anonymous health incidents, there was a – I would say a reference to it, but not a discussion.

QUESTION:  Has he changed at all, Putin, since last time you met him, do you think?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.  I’ve been in meetings with him maybe a handful of times, so —

MODERATOR:  Very quick final question from Joel.

QUESTION:  Can I just take a look back at NATO a little bit?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Sure.

QUESTION:  The – NATO and the EU, Brussels generally.  The NATO communique language on China – and there’s a couple paragraphs there, but the communique acknowledged Stoltenberg’s expert (inaudible) report, but it didn’t really (inaudible) recommendations.  There’s not really any specific tasking – or that’s – there’s not really any specific tasking in the communique for the alliance on what’s to go forward.  And some of that seems driven by Western Europe.  Macron said that NATO shouldn’t get confused, China’s not in the North Atlantic – not very much – and the EU is expected to unveil this strategic compass next year during France’s presidency of the – the rotating presidency.

So is there – do you see a strategic divergence there with Western Europe?  And is there a plan to bridge that apparent gap with France or coordinate between NATO and the EU as those different – those strategies are coming together on different timelines?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I’ve got to say quite the opposite.  I see a strategic convergence.  I wouldn’t say it’s total, but it’s actually moving in that direction, not in the opposite direction.  I mean, the G7, the last time the leaders met in 2018, had that in-person meeting, China wasn’t even mentioned in what they did.  And with regard to NATO, we have an agreement, among other things, on the need to revise the strategic concept.  Last time it was put together, in 2010, China was not mentioned; Russia was a partner, I think even a strategic partner.  So there’s clear, I think, understanding in each of these institutions, and with regard to the EU, we just had – we just resumed the U.S.-EU dialogue on China just a couple of weeks ago.

So I think the paragraphs that are in the NATO communique, as well as what was written in the G7 communique, actually reflect a growing convergence on concerns about China.  And whether it is supply chains, whether it’s human rights, whether it’s different activities that seem to pose a challenge to the interests and values of the countries that are part of the G7 or NATO or the EU, I think there’s a growing recognition of that.

And again, I think there’s also – if you look at what was said in these meetings and what’s reflected in the communiques, a recognition, too, that the relationship with China is a complicated one.  It’s not – there’s not a simple bumper sticker that sums it up either, and I think there’s a general convergence around the proposition that for most of our countries, China has – the relationship with China is in parts adversarial, in parts competitive, and also in parts cooperative.  But we’re – in dealing with any of those aspects of the relationship, we’re all going to be much more effective and much stronger if we’re working in common purpose.  And that’s what, I think, you’re seeing.

With regard to the NATO specifics, take a look at paragraph 24 of the communique and the list of things that the Allies agreed we are going to pursue to make sure that NATO is actually adapted to the challenges of today and tomorrow.  There is a very detailed work plan, and the point was not to have resolved all of these issues, it was to set NATO on a course over the next year – between now and the next summit – to work on the details and to make sure that the alliance is resourced appropriately so that it can take on these new responsibilities and new missions.  So I’ve got to say we felt very good about the substance, where we landed, and the forward motion that was launched at this summit and that will carry us to the next one.

But again, as most things, nothing is flipping a light switch.  It’s do you have a clear roadmap, a clear plan, and clear, shared commitments.  I think the answer is yes.

MODERATOR:  Just a quick final data point:  The Under Secretary for Political Affairs along with Eric Green from the NSC tomorrow will travel to Brussels.  They’ll brief our NATO Allies.  They’ll brief the EU, along with the Japanese and the Ukrainians.  Important for us to consult both before and after these types of engagements and that’ll help with that.

Briefing with Senior State Department Official On Recent U.S. Engagement in Vienna Regarding the JCPOA

22 Apr

Via Teleconference

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks very much for joining this call. We wanted to take an opportunity to provide an update on the diplomacy that has been ongoing in Vienna. As a reminder, this call is on background. It is also embargoed until the conclusion of the call. Just for your awareness and not for reporting, our speaker today is . So again, you can refer to him as a senior State Department official, and what you hear will be embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

With that, I will turn it over to our speaker. Go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks, . So for those of you who were on the briefing about a week ago, I want to say something that shouldn’t be surprising, which is that what you’re going to hear today is not radically different from what you heard then. That’s because talks between the P5+1 and Iran have always been a slow process, made all the slower this time by the fact that we’re not talking directly to Iran and because the only thing that’s happened since then has been six days of the second round of what is likely to be a multi-round negotiation.

So we made some progress, but we’re not in a situation that’s radically different from where we were at the conclusion of round one. I’ll make a few points on that.

First, what we did achieve is greater clarification. In other words, I think the United States has a better idea of what it will need to do to come back into full compliance with the JCPOA, and Iran has a better idea of what it will need to do to come back into compliance with the JCPOA.

The next point is that clarification doesn’t necessarily mean consensus. There still are disagreements and, in some cases, pretty important ones on our respective views about what is required to – what is meant by a return to full compliance. And the distance that remains to be traveled is greater than the distance that we’ve traveled so far. So we’re not near the conclusion of these negotiations. The outcome is still uncertain. We’ve made some progress. The talks have been business-like, productive, but with still many differences that would need to be overcome.

Two last points. First, our view remains that if we can come back into a mutual compliance with the JCPOA, we do that, as the President has said many times, as a platform from which we would like to discuss a longer, stronger, broader set of understandings with Iran. And second, as in all of these conversations indirect we have with – indirect conversations we have with Iran, we always insist on the necessity of releasing our four wrongfully detained citizens. That was the case again during this round and it will be true anytime we have contact with the Iranians, whether it’s about the nuclear deal or not.

So with that, I’m happy to take your questions.

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, you may press 1 and then 0 at this time. And one moment for the first question.

MODERATOR: Great. We’ll start with the line of Nick Wadhams, please.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks very much. , could you offer a little more detail on the sanctions you’re prepared to lift? There are reports out there obviously from The Wall Street Journal that you’re willing to lift the terror sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, its national oil and tanker companies. Could you shed some light into that in light of, obviously, your previous remarks that some sanctions were not applied on the nuclear program and, thus, were under review? And also, are you any closer on a sense of sequencing? Could there be a scenario where both sides just re-enter the deal at the exact same time and you forgo the previous demand that Iran come back into compliance before you do? Thanks.

And you may be muted.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sorry. Thanks, Nick. I think there have been many reports and there will be many reports as to who has said what during these talks, and we’re not going to comment on each and every one of them. As I said, it’s already a complicated negotiation enough without adding to the complexity by negotiating it in public.

What I will say, and as I said last time, but this time we have gone into more detail is that we have provided Iran with a number of examples of the kind of sanctions that we believe we would need to lift in order to come back into compliance, and the sanctions that we believe we would not need to lift and we would not lift as part of a return into compliance with the JCPOA.

And then a third category, which are the difficult cases for – difficult cases because this is a complex process, but also because the Trump administration deliberately and avowedly imposed sanctions by invoking labels – terrorism labels and other labels even though it was done purely for the purpose of preventing or hindering a return to the – compliance with the JCPOA. So that has made it more difficult. We have to go through every sanction to make sure whether – to look at whether they were legitimately or not legitimately imposed.

So I’m not going to get into precisely the examples that we gave, but we gave Iran examples of the three categories that I mentioned.

On sequencing, there has not been much of a discussion because we’re still at the – in the process of describing and detailing the steps that each side is going to have to take. We have not gotten into the discussion of sequencing. What we can say is that a sequence in which the U.S. does everything before Iran does nothing is not an acceptable sequence. We made that clear to Iran. And beyond that, we’re prepared and we’re open to different kinds of sequencing which meet our interests, which is to see both sides in full compliance and not us coming into full compliance before Iran has acted.

MODERATOR: Can we go to the line of Farnaz Fassihi?

OPERATOR: What was that name again? I apologize.

MODERATOR: Farnaz Fassihi.

OPERATOR: Okay, your line is now open. Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Hello?

MODERATOR: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. The Iranians were saying that they’re insisting on getting a written guarantee from the U.S. that a future administration will not abandon the deal. How does that look to you and is this negotiable? They’re also insisting on having some time to verify sanctions relief before they decrease enriching uranium or turn the switch off. How does that look? That would – at least the optics of it would seem like the U.S. is returning first.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So thanks, Farnaz. So on the question of a written guarantee, I think it’s clear there is no such thing as a guarantee. This is a political understanding in which – and it was clear at the time of the JCPOA that it is the sovereign right of all participants to decide whether they want to maintain their participation or not. We – I think the Biden administration, if it decides – if it reaches an understanding with Iran and the other P5+1 to come back into compliance with the deal, it would be with the intent of acting in good faith and not of departing the deal for no good – for no good reason. But there is no such thing as a guarantee and I think, again, we have made that clear to Iran that it’s not something that the U.S. can or will give. This is a political understanding that relies on the good faith of all actors. Iran has the experience, and understandably a – not a very pleasant one, of the U.S. withdrawing unilaterally from the deal, but certainly the Biden administration’s intent if it were to come back into compliance would be to act in good faith if Iran did the same. As for verifying the sanctions, I mean, if – as we’ve said, if Iran’s position is that the United States needs to lift all sanctions to come back into compliance, then Iran would verify that only then would Iran take action. That’s not a sequence that we could accept and, frankly, I don’t think it’s a sequence that the other participants in the JCPOA believes is a reasonable one. There are many other forms of sequencing that one could discuss, and we’re open to that, but we’re not going to accept a process in which the U.S. acts first and removes all of the sanctions that it is committed to removing before Iran does anything.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Michele Kelemen.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open, Ms. Kelemen.

QUESTION: Thank you. In your consultations back here, will you be talking to members of Congress about what sanctions are on the table? Are there any plans for small kind of reciprocal gestures, building confidence? Or is the plan – is the conversation just about both sides going back in all at once? And then on – and then you mentioned the detainees. I wonder if you’ve heard – has there been any progress on that topic?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So, Michele, on the on the question of whether there’d be confidence-building steps or full compliance, I think, as you know, several weeks ago, Iran had expressed an interest in first steps that each side could take. That’s no longer on the agenda. At this point, the discussions taking place in Vienna are about full compliance for full compliance, and that’s the discussions that we’re engaged in. So not necessarily going to rule anything out, but I think at this point the discussions that all the participants are engaged in are what the U.S. would need to do to come into full compliance and what Iran would need to do to come into full compliance.

On the detainees, all I will say about that is that we have pressed very hard, we have an indirect channel of communication with the Iranians on it, and we very much hope that we’ll be able to resolve it because it’s an imperative and it is – as we said many times, it is unconscionable that Iran would hold American citizens for no reason other than the fact that they’re American, because they have not done anything wrong and Iran knows that.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Arshad Mohammed.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Two things. One, European diplomats have been talking about their hope to have something concrete in hand by mid-May. And as you know, Iranian officials have also been pushing this, pointing to the expiration of their agreement with the IAEA. One, do you think it is even remotely conceivable that you could have some kind of an agreement in place within a month? And two, do you see any reason to push hard for that given that that deadline or marker is entirely self-imposed by the Iranians, given their legislation and then their deal with the IAEA? And I guess the last thing would be: What can you say about the nature of the pretty significant or pretty important differences that remain?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Arshad, I’d say, on the question of timing, it’s a position that we’ve taken from the outset that we’re not going to drag our feet. As – the moment there’s an understanding between us, Iran, the other P5+1 is the moment that there’ll be an understanding that we – that will be official. But before that time, we’re not going to rush in order to meet a deadline. We will be dictated by whether we think the understandings that have been reached, if they are reached, are satisfactory. And I think that’s the – that’s what we need to do.

There is the IAEA technical understanding with Iran. There are also the Iranian elections. This is something that commentators bring up as reasons to move by mid-May. Again, if we can get it by mid-May – and I’m not – we’re certainly not going to rule that out. If we can make enough progress, we’ll make enough progress by the time it’s made. And it may be within weeks; it may not be within weeks. But our hope is to get it as soon as possible, not at the expense of getting a deal that’s wrong the kind of deal for us. So we’ll keep saying that. We’re not going to (inaudible) anything down. We’ll go as fast as we can. But we’re not going to go fast at the expense of the solidity of the understanding that we’re seeking to reach.

As for the nature of the differences, well, the differences are very simply which sanctions we – both sides believe, Iran and the U.S. believe are going to need to be lifted in order for us to be back in full compliance with (inaudible). And what steps Iran is going to have to take to come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, there certainly is no (inaudible) there either. So we’re hoping that Iran will understand that the goal here is to come back into compliance with the JCPOA, all of the JCPOA, and nothing but the JCPOA, which means that demands that the United States lift sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA should not be part of this conversation. And Iran – if Iran thinks or if Iran hopes that it could do less than come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA, that won’t work either. So we’re prepared to do everything that we need to do to be back in full compliance with the – with the deal, and we hope that Iran will do the same.

MODERATOR: Go to the line of Kylie Atwood.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hello, thank you for doing the call. I am wondering – the Iranians have also said that they must be the ones who are the arbiters to judge and verify if the lifted U.S. sanctions are actually working and benefiting them in the way that they want them to. Does the U.S. accept that that judgment should be made by the Iranians, or is there an outside party that should be judging?

And then my second question is: How long does the U.S. believe it would take to actually lift the sanctions that you guys decide are going to be lifted? I know this is a tricky process, so it can’t happen overnight. Once the decision is made, how long does it take? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So on the first question, I’m not – it’s not entirely clear what that means. We will lift the sanctions and we’ll do our part. We’ll meet our obligation. It’s not a matter of judging whether we’ve lifted the sanctions. We will have lifted the sanctions and Iran will have to then decide if it does not want to – if it doesn’t believe that its needs are being met and it wants to leave the deal, then it will leave the deal and we could do the same. That’s the nature of this understanding. But we will meet our obligation lifting the sanctions as we did in 2016, and we believe that that’s what the JCPOA requires.

How long it will take – it wouldn’t take that long, but I don’t want to get – I can’t get into the details. As you said, it’s complex, but we don’t think this is something that would be very time-consuming. Once we make the decision to lift the sanctions, it’s something we believe we could execute relatively quickly.

MODERATOR: We’ll to Mohammed Elehad.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open, sir.

MODERATOR: Mohammed —

OPERATOR: Mr. Elehad?

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Can you hear me, please?

MODERATOR: Yes, we can.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are some media reports that South Korea released around $30 million to Iran as part of the unfrozen assets there. Do you have any confirmation about that, sir? Thank you so much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So we have not taken any action regarding the South Korean assets. We see reports floating every now and then, but we have not taken any action regarding those assets.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Barak Ravid.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), for doing this.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. Two questions. First, about this third category of sanctions, the sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration on the nuclear deal but under terror designations or human rights, what’s the – in comparison to the two other groups of sanctions, how many of the sanctions are under this group, under the third category?

And second question: Israeli officials are saying that they feel that the U.S. is not transparent enough with them about which sanctions that are non-nuclear-related it’s planning on removing as part of the talks with Iran. What do you say about that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’m not going to give numbers of the kind of sanctions. As I said, the third category is the one that is more ambiguous in terms of our – our – I mean, we have to look into whether we conclude in the end that they are – whether the sanctions will consist – whether lifting the sanctions is necessary in order to come back into the JCPOA or not, and for that we have to consider a number of factors, including the reality that the Trump administration, as I said earlier, professed to be imposing these – this wall of sanctions in order to prevent a return to the JCPOA. So that’s one of the considerations. It’s not the only one, of course, but we are going to looking into – we’re looking into those.

I believe we have had numerous conversations with Israeli officials before and after every round of talks. We certainly will have one again. We believe we’ve been transparent. We’ve been in the process of – as I said, of looking into which sanctions we would – we believe would need to be lifted as part of the return to the JCPOA. But we’ve been very transparent that we believe it’s the – it’s sanctions that we need to lift to be consistent with the – sanctions that are required for a return to the JCPOA and for Iran benefiting from what a return to the JCPOA would mean. And I think we’ve said that explicitly to the Israelis. We’ve discussed it. We’ll discuss it at further length this week and coming out of these talks. So we intend to be as transparent as we can. We know there’s a disagreement with Israel’s perspective and we respect that. We’ll try to be as transparent as we can about how we see things and how we want to go and listen to their perspective as well.

MODERATOR: We’ll take a couple final questions. We’ll go to Nadia Bilbassy.

OPERATOR: Your line is still open.

QUESTION: You know there are worries among your allies in the region that the money that Iran gets from any sanction relief might go actually to support terrorist organizations and cause more havoc in the Middle East. Is there kind of any verification that you can impose to make sure that this money won’t go to people like Hizballah and the like?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So first, thanks for the question, because I wanted to say, obviously, we do consult and discuss with our Israeli allies, but we also are very transparent with our partners as we talk to them regularly, again, both before and sometimes during and after every round of talks, and we intend to continue doing that.

As for your specific question, first of all, our view is that the situation only became worse from their perspective – from our perspective and their perspective during the years of maximum pressure. Those are the years when the activities – Iran’s activities, Iran’s direct activities against some of our Gulf partners, the direct attacks against Saudi Arabia, those grew during the period of maximum pressure. So there’s no direct correlation between lifting of sanctions and Iran’s conduct in the region. I think that’s been proven by simply the experience of the last four and more years.

We do – we certainly intend to continue to pressure Iran and to counter their activities in the region that are destabilizing and that are going after our interests or the interests of our partners. And we also, of course, retain sanctions on Hizballah and other such organizations and the ability to go after any support that is given to them. Those sanctions, of course, will remain in place.

So we understand that what – that lifting sanctions is something that will have to come from a return – lifting of some sanctions will have to come from a return to the JCPOA, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to counter Iranian activities in the region that are destabilizing and that go against our interests or those of our partners or allies in the region.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to the line of Matt Lee.

QUESTION: I wanted to try to dig down a little bit into the three baskets of sanctions, recognizing that you didn’t want to say how many are actually in the third category. But if we look at all three categories – the ones that you would need to lift, the ones that you wouldn’t need to lift, and then this third category – can you give a rough percentage as to – out of 100 percent of the sanctions that would be – like, what percent fall into each category? And even if you can’t do that, is there a rough agreement between you guys, or do you understand that there’s a rough agreement between you and the Iranians on the first two baskets? Or is that still something that needs to be decided?

Secondly, would – forgetting about who was the arbiter of whether the sanctions relief is actually effective or not, is this administration prepared, like the Obama administration was, to go out and do these, for lack of a better word, road shows where you try to encourage other countries and other – and businesses and other countries to do business with Iran? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So Matt, yeah, no, I’m not going to give a percentage, partly because this is still a work in progress, so we are not – we’re not about to give numbers. And we have to be in agreement for what these baskets are. There’s no agreement with Iran on anything at this point, and that’s – I’m not saying that as a measure of pessimism, but it’s the nature of these talks that the parties are not going to agree to anything until they see the full – the full picture. So it’s not a surprise at this point that there’s no agreement on any of the categories at this point. These are discussions in which ideas are being exchanged, but there’s been nothing at this point that I would point to and say, “Here’s something that’s been agreed that we could put to the side.” Nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed. I think that’s clearly the principle behind these talks.

And I’m sorry, I forgot your – oh, your other question about – I’m not going to begin to talk about what we will do if and when we reach an understanding. I think the first step is to get there and we’re not there yet. I mean, we hope we’ll get there, but we – there’s certainly no certainty, and we can then figure out what we will – what steps each side will take to make sure that their commitments are fully implemented.

MODERATOR: We’ll take a final question from Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: Your line is now open.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Thank you, and . I want to just to go a little bit more into the process. When you said that you shared examples of the sanctions that you can lift, the ones that you’d want to lift and the ones that are in between, have you shared the full list of the sanctions that you’re ready to lift and the ones you are not ready to lift or just examples? And also on the second thing, when Jake Sullivan said last Sunday that you won’t lift any sanctions until the U.S. has the assurance that Iran is ready to go back to compliance, is that a fair description of the stance you’re defending in Vienna? I mean not having the compliance but the assurance of this compliance. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I’m going to start with your last question because we’ve had – as you know, I mean, there’s been many questions about sequence and we’re not ready to discuss that yet, whether directly – certainly not – but even indirectly. The sequence has not been the focus of the discussions. The focus of the discussion is on defining the steps that both sides need to take.

So there are many ways of choreographing this. There are many ways that one could do it. We know what we think would be unacceptable for us, which is that we do everything first, and then Iran acts, and we assume that it would be unacceptable for Iran to do everything first and then the U.S. acts. In between, there are many ways and many, many possibilities that we could consider.

As to your first question, which is what we have provided with – what we have provided Iran with, we have given them many examples. I’m not going to get into the details, but I think they have a pretty clear sense at this point of our understanding, of our view about the sanctions that we’re going to have to lift and those that we don’t think we need to – we would not lift. And then as we said, there’s some issues that we’re still working through in our own system because this is, as I said, a very complicated assessment. There’s no – it’s not as if – when the former administration reimposed sanctions, they labeled them: ‘These are sanctions that are consistent with the JCPOA, and these are the kind of sanctions that are not consistent with the JCPOA.’ So it is a much more difficult work that we are doing to try to understand the nature of the sanctions and on what basis they were imposed.

MODERATOR: Well, thanks very much, everyone. Just a reminder, this call is on background to a senior State Department official. And the embargo is now lifted. Thanks for joining.

Sanctions on Russian Entity and a Vessel Engaging in the Construction of Nord Stream 2 

19 Jan

Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on the Russia-based entity KVT-RUS and identifying the vessel FORTUNA as blocked property.  KVT-RUS is being sanctioned pursuant to Section 232 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for knowingly selling, leasing, or providing to the Russian Federation goods, services, technology, information, or support for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines.  The United States will consider further actions in the near term, under CAATSA, and the Protecting European Energy Security Act (PEESA), as amended.

Nord Stream 2, if completed, would give Russia the means to completely bypass Ukraine, depriving Ukraine of vital revenues and opening it up to further Russian aggressive actions, while providing the means to use natural resources as a tool of political pressure and malign influence against western Europe.  Today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States is not afraid to hold accountable those who continue to aid and abet this tool of Russian coercion.

The United States will continue to work with our friends and allies to ensure Europe has a reliable, diversified energy supply network that does not undermine collective security.

Uncategorised

Senior State Department Officials Briefing to Traveling Press

16 Nov

Istanbul, Turkey

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thanks, everyone, for getting together very quickly —

QUESTION:  Thank you for doing this.

MODERATOR:  — to do this, but we wanted to get you guys as much information as we could.  We wanted to kind of keep this short and to the point, do this on background.  Attribution is to two senior State Department officials.

QUESTION:  Or three.

MODERATOR:  And so we’ll lead off with to talk about France.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Great.  So as I mentioned, as you know, the Secretary met with Foreign —

QUESTION:  Can I bother you to —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  — Foreign Minister Le Drian today in Paris.  They talked broadly about counterterrorism and ongoing work there.  The foreign minister noted recent successes that the French have had in the Sahel and that they could not have done without the support of the U.S., highlighted that this is a great example of where we have made such strides in the broad global counterterrorism effort.  Obviously, the French with a particular emphasis on the Sahel and the real progress there.

They talked about Nagorno-Karabakh extensively.  As two co-chairs, they shared the same view that we are – we remain committed to our role as co-chairs in the Minsk Group process, that that’s where it is, recognizing the actions that Russia took which has led to a ceasefire that’s actually held now for about a week, but also acknowledging that there were still a lot of questions that needed clarity from the Russians as to the parameters of that agreement, and that included the role of the Turks.

And so more to be learned from that.  They both noted that the Russians have invited the co-chairs to Moscow for more clarity, and as you probably have seen in the wires, there have been phone calls between and among the co-chairs.  Foreign Minister Le Drian noted that he had spoken to Lavrov, who acknowledged that they were trying to take action to stop what was really an emergency humanitarian situation, but there do remain questions to be discussed about that.

So a lot of talk about Nagorno-Karabakh, the Caucasus, and then broadly also about Turkey and the various areas where we’re – we have some concerns and differences with the Turks – various theaters across the region from the Eastern Med, Libya, Syria, and other parts.  Obviously, the Secretary was on his way here.  And they spoke too about security in Baghdad, keeping in close touch on the issues that we’ve raised there, Foreign Minister Le Drian noting that the French have also done their part to urge the Iraqis to take the appropriate steps necessary to provide security in the Green Zone.  I’ll leave it there.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Why don’t we have —

MODERATOR:  Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  — do a lay of the land for Turkey?

MODERATOR:  , do you want to give us a —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Sure.  Let me address the topic that you all will bring up if I don’t, which is the question of scheduling Istanbul:  No meetings with Turkish officials.  From the very beginning when this trip was initially proposed, this was all presented as a scheduling challenge.  The Secretary, as you know well, has a limited window available.  We made clear that he was open to seeing any Turkish officials who are able to meet with him here in Istanbul, but that it had to be an Istanbul agenda.  We couldn’t do a double stop and fit within the timing of the broader trip, either on the arrival or the departure to Tbilisi.

We have worked closely with Turkish officials.  I saw the foreign minister just a few days ago along with pretty much the panoply of other national security officials, and I can assure you the tone of those meetings was absolutely collegial and positive to try to make this work.  There were moments when we thought it could and would, but then the Turks told us President Erdogan’s schedule had itself changed.  And I attribute to this no political message whatsoever.  It literally was a scheduling issue from the standpoint of the Secretary of State and a scheduling issue from the standpoint of President Erdogan and his own travels.

So this is the be-all and the end-all of this question.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Great.  And lastly, I’d just like to make a couple comments about some of the meetings that the Secretary is going to have here in Istanbul, specifically on the issue of religious freedom.  As you’ll see from the schedule, he’s meeting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.  He’s also meeting the Vatican’s nuncio to Turkey, the Archbishop Paul Russell, who I believe hails from Boston.

As you know, religious freedom has been an important priority of the Trump administration from the very beginning.  No administration has promoted this unalienable right as strongly, consistently, and clearly as this administration has.  These meetings should be viewed in that context.  Happy to answer any questions you have about it.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Super.  Nick.

QUESTION:  Nick Wadhams with Bloomberg.  I just had two quickies, so one on the religious freedom element:  Can you be a little more specific about the message that he wants to send on religious freedom by doing these meetings?  Obviously, I mean, is it trying to send a signal over the Hagia Sophia decision?  There’s a fair amount of tension and a lot of roiling religious issues in Turkey right now, so beyond just a broad message of religious freedom, is there a more specific message where he’s concerned about what the Government of Turkey is doing?

And then second, for both of you, on Turkey – or all three of you – I mean, the issues between the U.S. and Turkey right now are so many.  There’s so many sort of tension points.  It feels like, based on the response that the foreign ministry has given to this visit, saying that – it seems like they’re saying it was a violation of protocol; there are other concerns from the foreign ministry – you’re opening up another front in tension between the two sides.  I mean, is this the right moment to be making a statement like this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I’ll turn to you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Why don’t you answer the broader question?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  You want me to do it?  I was going to say —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  You do the broader one first and —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I’ll turn to you on religious freedoms.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Okay.  Oh, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Hey, look, Nick —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah, and then I’ll fill in on the rest of the —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Yeah.  First of all, I’m not going to speculate on speculation.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  So I’m not going to comment on what officials of Turkey may or may not have said in terms of press —

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, the foreign ministry issued a statement (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  As I’ve said, I think I have something beyond a statement to base my comments to you upon:  direct conversation.  This was a scheduling issue.

QUESTION:  Sure.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Both of us – the Secretary, Turkish officials – Foreign Minister Cavusoglu and I think President Erdogan would have liked to see this all work.  In the end, it couldn’t.  It couldn’t, in the end, because President Erdogan’s schedule shifted and made it impossible to fit the parameters that from the very beginning we had set out for the Secretary’s own visit.

With respect to the broader relationship, of course it is certainly no secret we have significant issues.  Europe has significant issues, both Europe in the collective and individual European states, as noted when he made his readout to you of the Le Drian meeting.

All of these issues are addressed, will continue to be addressed.  And with respect to the particular connotations or judgments that should be drawn from the inability to work the schedule tomorrow or tonight to accommodate those visits, I do not think that the Turkish Government – they can speak for themselves – regard this as a, quote, “new front being opened as a deliberate measure by the administration.”  That’s a little dramatic.

QUESTION:  Sure, I mean, but is it – point taken.  But just to sort of press the point, right, we’re setting aside the issue of scheduling.  The Secretary’s visit here sends a very distinct message given what’s happening internally within Turkey in matters of religion, the decision to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, for example.  I mean, he’s sending a very specific message, and I guess this gets to the question of what that message is.  But this – it feels like whether there’s a scheduling issue or not, this is going to be something that will antagonize Turkey.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I do not believe that the Turkish Government – again, and you can ask that, and they will speak for themselves – feel antagonized by what, in the end, has been a scheduling question.  And on substance, the Turks know very well from the most senior levels of the administration, the President on down, what our views are on those issues where we are at variance.  They also know our views on those areas where we do see cooperation and where we see a valuable strategically important role for Turkey, including in the context of NATO, as well as Europe broadly.  All of that is well understood, and we continue to work those issues where we do not have agreement and which we believe are important for us and for others.

But , I’ll turn to you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  No, I know.  I think that’s right.  There’s nothing antagonizing about speaking about the inalienable right of religious freedom.  And the United States has shown again – multiple times, repeatedly in this administration – that we’ll do so.  And so whether it’s the Uyghur community that’s in exile here that’s fled religious persecution in China, or Christians trying to practice their faith, or the Orthodox Church which recognized Ukraine’s autocephaly, the Secretary has always spoken strongly and forthrightly about the right of every human being to exercise their right to believe or not to believe in anything at all.  And I’m sure that will —

QUESTION:  And do you believe that religious freedom is under threat here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  We have the Religious Freedom Report.  Clearly, there have been issues.  Look at the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson.  Certainly, there are issues to discuss, and I think I’ll leave it at that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Nick, I will make just one comment beyond what said.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Please.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  This is the ecumenical patriarch.  He’s the head of the Orthodox Church.  That is 300 million believers, another 100 million who follow the Russian Church.  But he has a critical global role.  It’s not confined by any means to Turkey, where the number of believers is in the tens of thousands.  It’s globally.  It’s the importance of the ecumenical patriarch’s thinking about how he sees not just his Orthodox community, the broader Christian community, the Church in the greatest sense of the word.  And the Patriarch just came back from Rome, where he had a Sant’Egidio conference which he attended, met as he does frequently with the pope.  This is a global figure whose views on the global situation of religion and freedoms of religion are critical.  That’s why the Secretary has chosen to do this.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Absolutely.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  And a meeting that we, frankly, have been trying to do for a long time.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Absolutely.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  His own travel to the States —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  That’s right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  — which had actually been announced was – the ecumenical patriarch’s travel was postponed because of COVID.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  And he’s met with Orthodox leaders on multiple occasions in Ukraine and Washington, so this is in line with that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Francesco.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  Francesco Fontemaggi for AFP.  Just back to Paris.  I know you weren’t in the Macron meeting, but in the Le Drian were the U.S. election and transition discussed in any way?  Did they ask you —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  No.

QUESTION:  — where you stand, where you are?  You didn’t at all?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  No.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then on the other topics, you didn’t mention Iran.  You explained to them I think there is a lot of interest of what the U.S. administration plans to do on Iran between now and January 20.  And the second part is about I saw Macron make very clear that he didn’t feel France was very much supported on its stance against – well, not against but in favor of the French secularism, laicité.  Did you share that view?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:   Can we – we talked about the focus on terrorism.  The Secretary opened the conversation by expressing again our profound condolences and shock at the attacks in France, the recent ones but noting how much and over a number of years France has suffered at this, which is a reminder of how much work we have to do, at the same time looking at how far we’ve come in many ways through the cooperation we have countering terrorism in many corners of the world.

There was not a lot of specific discussion about Iran, although acknowledging Iran’s role, for instance, I mentioned they did discuss Iraq and the security challenges there, which are directly attributable, of course, to Iran, the Qods Force and our views on that.

QUESTION:  Okay, they weren’t because – they say that they are worried about what the administration can do between now and January 20 that could make it more – even more difficult for whatever Biden wants to —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Whatever they’re saying to you, they’re saying to you.  That was not a conversation – part of our conversation in the meeting today.

QUESTION:  If I may —

MODERATOR:  Yeah.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  If I may follow up – Alex Rega with Fox – do you think specifically that he’s going to bring up the Hagia Sophia in his conversations?  And then, as secondary, what went into the choice of the mosque that he’ll be visiting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I’d have to —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I can answer the latter —

QUESTION:  Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  — in a fashion which will be quite non-dramatic.  The – first, it’s very close by, given the compression of the schedule.  And secondly, it is a gem.  It is a spectacular example in a relatively small physical space of Mimar Sinan’s architectural genius and the Iznik tilework – I can go on like this for an indefinite period – (laughter) – the Iznik tilework which is in the process of restoration, and the restoration itself is a fascinating process.  The Turkish craftspersons from Iznik are engaged in replicating the kind of style and quality of the tiles in the 16th century.  It’s a beauty; that’s why.  Because we could get there quickly, because it’s under restoration, and because it’s a gem.

QUESTION:  And so why no meeting with any Muslim leaders?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  There will be representatives —

QUESTION:  There will be, okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  — from the religious establishment present at the Rustem Ali Pasha mosque.

QUESTION:  Great, got it.

SENIORE STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  I’d also just note that the Secretary talked to the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta, one of the world’s largest Muslim civic organizations, less than a month ago, with tens of millions of members.

MODERATOR:  Yes?

QUESTION:  Not much follow up from me.  Both of you did a pretty good job.  I – my initial – you did – my initial curiosity was with the religious freedom agenda, but more on the macro of it, right.  This is one piece of what you guys have been doing for a while, so , I was specifically curious if you can speak to —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  You mean Senior Official Number Three.

QUESTION:  — yes – if you could speak to how the issue has evolved for the Secretary himself.  The Trump administration has pushed this, but I always got this sense that it was particularly important to the Secretary, that he had a lot invested in it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Well, one of the largest initiatives or most important initiatives the Secretary launched was the Commission on Unalienable Rights to ground our practice of rights in foreign policy in the principles of the American founding.  America was founded by believers.  Religious freedom was integral to the creation of our country.  We were the first nation ever founded on the idea that every individual human being possessed these rights.  He’s been thinking about these issues for many, many years, ever since he was at Harvard Law School, and that commission was an important statement of how to ground rights in our founding.  As for the – how his defense of that has evolved, I mean —

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) question in some ways.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  I can go through the list with you – the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the largest human rights events the State Department has ever held; Sam Brownback has put together a coalition of nations that – to promote and support religious freedom or belief, which is a multilateral initiative that’s been very important, and has held meetings all over the world, from the continent of Africa to Taiwan and elsewhere; there’s just an enormous number of things that we’ve done – the Geneva Declaration, which was just signed with HHS.  I could go on but I’ll just – I’ll stop there.  I don’t – I don’t know, you can go through the record.

MODERATOR:  All right, last question.

QUESTION:  Yeah, I was just curious – Jimmy Quinn from National Review —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Hi, Jimmy.

QUESTION:  — about the conversations that went on regarding China in the meeting with Le Drian.  And I think the readout mentioned something about Xinjiang.  What was the conversation there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I don’t remember any —

QUESTION:  Or maybe I’m mixing it up with the Macron readout.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I think you may be mixing it up.

QUESTION:  Okay.   

QUESTION:  Just wanted to ask you:  Is there any plan for the Secretary to talk on the phone with his counterpart or Erdogan while here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Not at present.  If there is, we’ll let you all know.

QUESTION:  Because you mentioned so many points of differences with Turkey —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  They’ll of course —

QUESTION:  — during the meeting in Paris that it seems (inaudible) assumption that —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  But they’ve got the NATO —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  They have the NATO ministerial coming up, so they’ll meet in that.

QUESTION:  I know, it just seems so weird that they don’t meet.  That’s it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Well as you heard multiple times now, the scheduling – that’s —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Each side —

QUESTION:  No, I understand, but it’s just —

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  They have plenty of ways of communicating, so —

QUESTION:  — the optics, really.

QUESTION:  So is he going to bring up the Hagia Sophia?

QUESTION:  Oh yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  Oh, I can answer.  I can’t speak for the Secretary or for the ecumenical patriarch.  I can only note this is a topic that we’ve discussed with the ecumenical patriarch and he with us on many occasions.

QUESTION:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you so much.

 

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Sandra Smith of America’s Newsroom, FOX News

21 Aug

New York

SECRETARY POMPEO:  “Our message is very, very simple.  The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons.”

QUESTION:  That is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on U.S. efforts to block Iran from getting nuclear weapons, this as key U.S. allies reject the Trump administration’s bid to reinstate sanctions suspended by the Iran nuclear deal.  The UK, France, and Germany all saying the U.S. lacks legal authority to restore those measures since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

Joining us now is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  Mr. Secretary, an honor to have you here this morning.  Thank you for being here.  So you —

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be with you.  Thanks for having me on.

QUESTION:  You are fresh off your trip to New York.  That was your message to the UN Security Council on the world stage yesterday.  How was it received?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, I think that freedom-loving people all around the world know that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been engaged in terror activity around the world now for four decades.  And they ought not be allowed – on October 18th of this year under the foolish deal that was struck by the Obama-Biden administration, they ought not be allowed to buy and sell weapon systems that threaten Europe, that threaten the Middle East, that threaten our good friends in Israel.  We’re not going to let that happen.  We have the capacity to stop it.  We’re going to use every diplomatic tool in our arsenal to prevent it from happening.

QUESTION:  What was the rejection of our demands by our allies – what does that mean for us on the world stage as far as isolation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, Sandra, it’s disappointing, because privately, every world leader, every one of my counterparts tells me that America is doing the right thing.  No one has come to me and advocated for allowing Iran to have these weapon systems.  And so for them not to stand up and tell the world publicly at the United Nations, yep, this is the right thing, it’s incomprehensible to me.  To side with the Russians and the Chinese on this important issue at this important moment in time at the UN, I think, is really dangerous for the world.

But have faith:  The American people should know that President Trump will always do the right thing.  If it means we have to stand alone or lead, we’re always going to do it.  We will make sure that the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have the hundreds of billion dollars that would flow from being able to sell weapon systems to become an arms dealer around the world.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, retired four-star general Jack Keane was on our network a short time ago.  In his words, Iran has doubled down on their bad behavior.  And in the letter that you delivered to the Security Council at the UN yesterday, you wrote that Tehran has repeatedly violated the arms embargo by proliferating weapons to its partners and proxies throughout the Middle East region.

What is the threat that Iran poses not just regionally, but around the world today?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’m going to give you just a couple of simple examples.  This is a country that’s engaged in significant cyber attacks.  They’d be allowed to now buy and sell tools that were connected to their cyber capability.  This threatens not only the region, but the entire world.  Don’t forget there were passengers traveling on a commercial airline that the Iranians shot down flying into their airport killing hundreds of people – people from Canada, people from all across the world.  Know the dangers of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not confined to the harm they inflict on the Iranian people, the risk they present in the Middle East, or even to the dozens of efforts to conduct terror operations inside of Europe in just the last handful of years; they are a danger to the world.  They have been for four decades and they ought not be permitted to buy and sell weapons.

QUESTION:  As far as consequences for those countries that are not on board – Russia and China indicating that they would ignore the U.S. snapback – what will the consequences be?  Are you considering further sanctions on them?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, Sandra, this reminds me of when President Trump made the decision with respect to the silly nuclear deal.  He said we’re not going to comply with it anymore and we put sanctions on – American sanctions in place.  Though people said to us that’ll never work, American sanctions alone will never impact the Islamic Republic of Iran, but of course, we’ve demonstrated over these three and a half years that that’s false.  We have decimated the amount of money that the Islamic Republic of Iran has to conduct terror campaigns.

And when the UN sanctions come back into place, Russia and China can talk a good game today, but I assure you the United States will use every tool in its arsenal to make sure that the Chinese and the Russians are incapable of delivering weapon systems to Iran that threaten us, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that they don’t get the money that comes alongside being a global arms dealer as well.  Our sanctions will work, American efforts will work, and I am confident when that day comes, the world will be alongside of us as well, just as they have been in complying with our sanctions over these last three years.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary of State, we really appreciate you coming on this morning.  Hope we can have you back soon.  The hearing is underway on Capitol Hill.  We’re going to go to the postmaster general.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Appreciate it.  Please come back soon.  Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.

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U.S.-Australia Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue

12 Aug

Washington, DC

Today, the United States of America and Australia convened virtually for the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue to further strengthen cooperation between our world-class scientific communities.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios led the American delegation, which included leaders from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health. The Honorable Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, led the Australian delegation, which included leaders from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Department of Education, Skills and Employment; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; National Measurement Institute; and Geoscience Australia.

The Dialogue was convened under the authority of the Agreement Relating to Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the United States and the Government of Australia, signed in November 2016.  The inclusion of a Frontier Technologies Dialogue follows the September 2019 Leaders’ meeting between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, during which both leaders underscored the importance of science and technology cooperation including advancing frontier technologies.

The United States and Australia have a long and productive history of partnership in areas that are shaping the future. The strong history of science and technology collaboration between the two nations, which was first formally acknowledged in a cooperation agreement signed in 1968, is reflected in vibrant relationships at the researcher-to-researcher level, growing links at institutional levels, and a range of government-to-government activities. In particular, the planned MULTIPLIER (MULTIPlying Impact Leveraging International Expertise in Research Missions) expedition between Australia and NSF will provide a valuable way to identify follow-on research activities in areas of mutual and strategic interest.

The Dialogue undertook a meaningful exchange of views related to artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science (QIS), and oceans exploration and mapping.  Also discussed were approaches to ensure the integrity of the international research enterprise.  Participants highlighted existing and new collaboration as outcomes of the Dialogue.

The United States and Australia prioritize research and development that benefits citizens and is rooted in a shared commitment to foundational scientific values and principles. This includes freedom of inquiry, merit-based competition, accountability, integrity, openness, transparency, reciprocity, and promotes protection of intellectual property, safe and inclusive research environments, rigor and integrity in research, research security, and reducing administrative workload.

The United States and Australia underscore the importance of supporting innovation and adoption of AI that fosters public trust and confidence, and protects privacy, civil liberties, human rights, and democratic values.  Both sides have strategic approaches to further the state of the art in AI research and development, including opportunities for greater collaboration. Together, the United States and Australia further recognize the importance of leadership from democratic nations on the development of emerging technologies to advance innovation and promote applications consistent with our shared values.

To accelerate discovery in quantum information science, the United States and Australia are identifying opportunities to share resources and expertise, including between industry and government stakeholders, for strengthened bilateral cooperation. Further, both countries are exploring ways to leverage existing programs and opportunities to deepen cooperation, realize the transformative potential of QIS, and advance its positive impact on the national security and economic prosperity of both countries.

The United States and Australia continue to fight COVID-19 together and Australia has joined the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which provides COVID-19 researchers worldwide with rapid access to the world’s most powerful high performance computing resources to advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus. Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure and Pawsey Super Computing Centre will partner with the consortium in advancing science and discovery and sharing knowledge.

The United States and Australia are committed to advancing ocean mapping and exploration through bilateral engagement and strong support for research partnerships with non-governmental entities. Both countries recognize the importance of mapping and exploration to support growth of the sustainable blue economy and stimulate economic recovery. The United States and Australia have current and planned ocean initiatives and are identifying opportunities for future collaboration, including opportunities for joint development and testing of innovative tools and systems (e.g., autonomous and robotic technologies, AI and machine learning, cloud computing) to better map, explore, and understand the regional ocean environment. The United States and Australia also recognize the importance of continued science-based coordination in the Pacific Ocean, including to underpin the administration and sustainable management of the marine environment with Pacific Island countries.

Upon its conclusion, the United States and Australia found that the Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Frontier Technologies Dialogue was highly productive and strengthens the already great partnership between the two nations. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue close coordination on science and technology cooperation.

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