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.

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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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AUSMIN 2020 Health Security Statement

28 Jul

The text of the following statement is released by the Governments of the United States of America and Australia regarding progress towards health security cooperation to be discussed at the 2020 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) to be held on 28 July.

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At no other time in recent history has collaboration been more critical to prevent, prepare and respond to the collective threat posed by infectious diseases and pandemics. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of the United States and Australia are taking joint action to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, including those of zoonotic (animal) origin particularly the Indo-Pacific region. COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population The bilateral partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) remains vital to preventing the risks of future infectious diseases outbreaks and pandemics and their devastating health, economic and social costs.

Recognising that much pivotal work remains to be done to strengthen and accelerate capacity building for health security in the Indo-Pacific, the United States and Australia remain deeply committed to transparency, accountability and collaboration in this area. This includes commitment to a One Health approach that fosters cooperation between environmental conservation and human health, animal health and plant health.

On the occasion of AUSMIN 2020, and in support of the goals of the United States Global Health Security Strategy and Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, our two governments reaffirm our strong partnership, and welcome strengthened cooperation throughout 2021 and beyond, by way of a joint plan of activities including:

  • Virtually co-convening a second Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in 2020;
  • Exploring opportunities to collaboratively build Indo-Pacific partner capacity in biosecurity, biosafety, and bio-surveillance to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks caused by especially dangerous pathogens, through laboratory placements for participants from the Greater Mekong Subregion in Australian research institutions, as well as joint biosafety training;
  • Working together in third party countries to improve hygiene conditions, stop the selling of high risk wildlife in ‘wet markets’, and immediately encourage the enforcement of laws addressing the sale of illegal wildlife in all markets. This includes support to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop a targeted risk assessment and mitigation plan for identified wet markets in Indonesia to reduce risks of zoonotic disease spillover events;
  • Exploring collaboration between the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS)’s implementing partners and the upcoming USAID Strategies to Prevent (STOP) Spillover program as well as an upcoming USAID private sector engagement program to identify and help partner governments mitigate zoonotic disease spillover risks with pandemic potential in the region, including through support for market solutions in the prevention of zoonosis and antimicrobial resistance along the livestock value chain;
  • Extending collaborative support for a three-year program to strengthen community pandemic preparedness in Indonesia through the Red Cross in Indonesia, which builds on the U.S.-supported Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3);
  • Extending the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program to the Indo-Pacific region, particularly in Papua New Guinea;
  • Supporting the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap and exploring ways to strengthen the secretariat role of the Task Force for Global Health, further building on a CHS-supported high-level workshop in Geneva in February 2019 that brought together key players for this task;
  • Strengthening public health emergency operations centers and conducting simulation exercises in selected partner countries including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar;
  • Working with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve access to new and under-used vaccines for the most vulnerable children and cohorts in the world’s poorest countries;
  • The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening a series of webinars for counterpart agencies on Health Security in the Pacific with a focus on Pacific Island countries, and culminating in an in-person Pacific Regional Health Security Workshop in 2021;
  • The ADF and US Indo-Pacific Command co-convening Military Health Security Summit 2021 in Sydney, Australia, building on the outcomes of the successful Australia Defence Forces-USINDOPACOM co-hosted Military Health Security Summit in June 2019.

These activities will continue to expand Indo-Pacific health security engagement and capacity building and build the significant progress achieved under this bilateral multi-sectoral partnership over the last two years. We welcome in particular the focus on the Pacific where, in response to the vulnerabilities of Pacific Island countries, Australia and the United States have successfully collaborated to:

  • Co-procure, along with other partners, nearly 100,000 GeneXpert cartridges and testing machines to enable in-country COVID-19 testing;
  • Coordinate contributions to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assisting on the ground in countries in their COVID-19 response;
  • Coordinate ventilator and oxygen supply donations to match needs;
  • Provide complementary support for the establishment of air transport and logistics services for the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway, which will assist the Pacific Islands Forum with the delivery of humanitarian and critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment, within the region, and;
  • Coordinate support efforts through participation in regular US-Affiliated Pacific Islands teleconferences.

Australia and the United States have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and accountability in global health security over the past twelve months by:

  • Conducting regular interagency health security dialogues to share information, policy perspectives, and best practice from our respective health security investments, with the engagement of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
  • Commencing staff exchanges, with Australia’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS) hosting a U.S. Government Science Fellow for three months in 2019 from DTRA;
  • Conducting consultations between CHS and U.S. government country teams and other in-country experts to support DFAT’s 2018 Health Security Scoping Missions in the Indo-Pacific;
  • Providing joint leadership within the Steering Group of the multilateral Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA 2024; including through Australia’s Secretariat role and rotating membership of the Steering Group from 1 January 2019 and the U.S. government’s permanent membership), supporting the GHSA 2024 health security capacity improvement target and furthering the objectives of the GHSA Action Packages for Antimicrobial Resistance, Biosecurity and Biosafety, Sustainable Financing for Preparedness, and Workforce Development;
  • Coordinating support for One Health capacity building through multilateral partners to enhance understanding of emerging zoonotic disease and antimicrobial resistance risk, and enable targeted risk-based mitigation along animal value chains and in live animal markets in the Greater Mekong sub-region;
  • Aligning U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) Oceania and Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Medical Command Strategies, including executing joint health workforce development activities and collaborating on a regional health security forum at the inaugural Global Health Security Conference in Sydney in June 2019;
  • Co-convening the first-ever Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting in September 2019, involving the Australian government, the U.K. government, multilateral organisations and six U.S. government agencies;
  • Developing an Indo-Pacific Collaborative Engagement Plan for DTRA’s Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and CHS, which may extend to other agencies in the future.

The United States and Australia look forward to continuing to work together bilaterally, and regionally including in relevant regional organizations, and in international forums, to promote an Indo-Pacific region that is safe and secure from the threats posed by infectious diseases and to reduce the risks of future pandemics. There has never been a more vital time to strengthen global health security.

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