Indian Independence Day

15 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America and the American people, I extend greetings and best wishes to the people of India on your Independence Day.

The United States and India have shared close bonds of friendship and democratic traditions since India gained its independence seventy-three years ago.  Over the years, our relationship has grown into a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, involving ever closer cooperation on issues vital to global security and prosperity in the 21st century.  The United States and India work together on defense, counterterrorism, trade, investment, energy, the environment, healthcare, agriculture, science and technology, education, space, the oceans, and much more.

As I remarked earlier this year, the United States and India see each other as great pluralist democracies, global powers, and good friends.  I wish the people of India a happy Independence Day.


On the Security Council’s Failure to Hold Iran Accountable

15 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United Nations Security Council is charged with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. It failed today to uphold its fundamental mission set. It rejected a reasonable resolution to extend the 13-year old arms embargo on Iran and paved the way for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell conventional weapons without specific UN restrictions in place for the first time in over a decade. The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.

The Security Council rejected direct appeals to extend the arms embargo from numerous countries in the Middle East endangered by Iran’s violence. Arab nations and Israel strongly supported extending the embargo. Last weekend, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council came together to ask the Security Council to extend the embargo. Israel also asked the Council to do the same to prevent Iran from expanding and modernizing its arsenal. These countries know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires, but the Security Council chose to ignore them.

The United States will never abandon our friends in the region who expected more from the Security Council.  We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.


Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Andreas Pfeifer of ORF TV

14 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Belvedere Palace

Vienna, Austria

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, both countries, the U.S. and Austria, are willing to make a new deal, a new partnership. What kind of partnership could that be – there are obstacles. Austria is dealing with Huawei, is interested in a deal with Nord Stream 2, and this is all against your advice. Didn’t you convince Mr. Schallenberg?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Okay. So there’s lots of places that we – we’re likely to find ourselves disagreeing, but at the end, the core relationship, the things that we work on together, far outweigh any of these tactical differences.

Look, Austria is an important strategic partner of ours. They provide forces all over the world, right. Right after us, they’re the largest member of the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. These are important places, important projects. We’re talking a lot about the Western Balkans. These are places where our value set way overrides any tactical difference we have on a particular policy. We’ll debate those. We’ll debate those with Austria and other members of the EU. In the end, the transatlantic alliance is enormously valuable, and Austria sits at the center and is an important partner in that.

QUESTION: So the deal with Huawei is not a problem for this relationship?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well we think of Huawei not as a bilateral issue. We think of Huawei as presenting risk. So our mission set is just to make sure everybody understands that Huawei is a element of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s deeply connected to the military. They have access to all of the information that goes across Huawei systems. That data, Austrian people’s private data on Chinese telecommunications infrastructure, is a bad idea, we believe, for anyone. We think that includes the Austrian people who want to preserve their information. And so we urge every country to make sure that their data flows only across trusted networks. It’s what we’re working our way towards in the United States. We now have 30 countries who have joined the coalition to have Clean Networks. We hope every country will come to see – to do this not because the United States asked them to, but because it’s the right thing for their people.

QUESTION: Okay. Some experts say that you’re in troubles with Germany, the big partner, so that’s why you’re looking for new friends because the world change (inaudible) Austria. Some people say that Sebastian Kurz, our chancellor, is the better alternative to Angela Merkel. What do you say?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We have a great relationship with Austria. It has nothing to do with us trying to find a – I guess the theory would be a back door to have a relationship. That’s silly. We have a great relationship with Austria because it is an important partner. It sits right here in the heart of Europe. They’ve been great partners in so many things that we’ve done alongside them. I know they’ll continue to do it. It’s the reason I’m here today.

Austria sometimes doesn’t see itself the same way we see it. We see it as important in the geostrategic group, we see it as having real capacity to influence not only the rest of Europe but the rest of the world. We count on them to do that and I wanted to come here today to talk to them about things that matter to the American people, the things that we can work on together and – to try to find our way through those prickly issues where we don’t quite see eye to eye.

QUESTION: Okay. This is the place – Vienna is the place where the Iran nuclear deal was signed and celebrated. You left the deal and you’re going to renew the arms embargo as well. So did Mr. Schallenberg convince you that this is not the right way, maximum pressure is maybe the wrong way?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We think we’ve made real progress at restricting the capacity for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror to wreak havoc across the world. They can no longer provide as much money to Hizballah. They can no longer provide as much money to the terrorist networks throughout Iraq and Syria. We’ve made the world safer as a direct result of the decision the President made not to comply with the JCPOA.

We now have an arms embargo on a nation that has no business selling the most complex, sophisticated weapon systems around the world, and purchasing those weapons. Those weapons will end up in places like Beirut in the hands of Hizballah. This isn’t about the JCPOA. This is about making sure that – since 2007, the UN has had an arms embargo applied against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and there’s – this is not the time – they have not demonstrated their capacity to allow that arms embargo to expire. We think it’s in Austria’s best interest, we think it’s in Europe’s best interest, and the world’s best interest to extend this arms embargo.

QUESTION: As every country in the world, you have to fight to deal with the corona pandemic. Some say that maybe the U.S. is suffering more than other countries because of a lack of leadership, because of late and false decisions by the Trump administration. Did anything go wrong in your country?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. This came from Wuhan, China, and the Chinese had every opportunity to act in a way that would have prevented this virus from causing hundreds of thousands of lives all across the world and trillions of dollars in economic damage. I was with a group of Austrian business leaders today. Every one of them has had their business adversely impacted; not only their bottom lines, but their ability to continue to hire Austrians and to invest around the world. This challenge falls squarely at the feet of what – they had the capacity. They knew. They stopped the travel out of Hubei Province but allowed people to continue to fly to Milan. This is how the virus got into places like Austria. It’s how it got into Europe. It’s how it got into the United States of America as well. The world needs to hold accountable those responsible for this global pandemic.

We think we have done a good job in the United States of America. We continue to work diligently to underwrite all the nations around the world who continue to need assistance. No one has provided as much humanitarian assistance as a result of COVID as the United States of America. It’s not remotely close. And we are on the cusp of having a really good set of outcomes related not only to therapeutics, but we hope with respect to the vaccine as well.

QUESTION: So no mistakes by Mr. Trump?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We think we’ve got it right.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re a diplomat; the President is maybe not. He called, for example, the running mate of Mr. Biden, Kamala Harris, “mean” and “madwoman.” So what are we supposed to expect for the campaign until November 3rd?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. There are those who don’t think I’m much of a diplomat either, because I speak my mind as well. Look, I don’t get involved in U.S. domestic politics. I am very confident that the actions that this administration has taken for three and a half years have made the world a safer place.

You saw what happened yesterday: the announcement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, a historic peace deal, normalization between those two. That’s the result of President Trump’s hard work. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in the three and half years. We’re confident the American people will make a good decision in November as well.

QUESTION: Opinion polls tell us that Mr. Biden is ahead, at least maybe.

SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s what they said – what they said last time.

QUESTION: Is it fake news?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s what they said last time, too.

QUESTION: Is it fake news?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s what they said last time, too.

QUESTION: So Biden —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Right about this same time, I remember where Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers were.

QUESTION: So Mr. Trump does deserve a second term?


QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: I would add something else if it’s possible, maybe if you, if you want to mention it, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, go ahead. Here we go.

QUESTION: Last night, you announced a major step in Middle East politics, the recent agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Are there more countries to follow?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We certainly hope that we can continue to work to increase Middle East stability and peace. President Trump did great work. I give great credit to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. They did remarkable work as well, deciding that this was in the best interest of each of their two people.

We continue to work with countries all across the region. We hope there will be more to follow who will make a similar decision that recognizes Israel’s place in the world and that they’re going to be here, and that the best interest of their people is to do business with them and normalize relationships. We’ll keep working at it, and I know that there are many countries in the region who have come to understand this. I hope we have more announcements in the not-too-distant future.

QUESTION: Oman, maybe?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It is – I can’t get ahead of it. Each of these happens on its own timeline when the time is right for their people. We hope that they will see it that way before too long.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Have a great day.

QUESTION: You too.


QUESTION: Thank you.


Sen. Stabenow, Roosevelt, Wisconsin Senior: Trump’s Threats to Social Security Are ‘Cruel’

14 Aug

On the 85th anniversary of the Social Security Act, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); James Roosevelt, former associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration and President Roosevelt’s grandson; and Sarah Conklin, a Wisconsinite and Social Security recipient, joined a call hosted by the DNC War Room to discuss Trump’s cruel threats to Social Security.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):

“Social Security has in fact been the most important poverty-fighting program in our nation’s history, lifting millions and millions of seniors in Michigan and across the country out of poverty … We’re going to do everything possible to protect and strengthen Social Security even though President Trump is trying right now to strangle it … I’m a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee and I can tell you, he repeatedly tried to cut Social Security in his budget — about $24 billion this year.

“Now, as we know, he put together an executive order that jeopardizes Social Security’s future. And he’s threatened nearly a dozen times now to eliminate the main source of funding for Social Security if he wins in November … Seniors in Michigan and across the country are rejecting President Trump and his disastrous policies and folks know that this is very serious, he’s threatening their health and well being, and now their ability to retire with dignity.”

James Roosevelt, former associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration:

“We may take it for granted now, but passing Social Security was a herculean task in 1935. President Roosevelt fought for it because he knew it would provide desperately needed economic security to American seniors. At that time, more than half of America’s seniors lived in poverty … It worked, lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty … And the program remains the bedrock of the middle class to this day.

“Doing what [Trump’s] planning to do would devastate Social Security and Medicare, and that thereby threatens the economic stability for countless Americans. Trump’s failed coronavirus response hit seniors very hard … Now he’s going after the programs that seniors depend on … He’s going to further jeopardize the health and well being of vulnerable Americans by attacking the most important program of the New Deal, Social Security.”

Sarah Conklin, a Wisconsinite and Social Security recipient:

“The only way I’m able to afford my medications and treatments are with Medicare and Social Security … His cruel commitment to cutting Social Security is a threat to me, and so many others, especially the innumerable amount of citizens who only have Social Security as their only source of income.

“One of these people is very near and dear to us, is one of my older sisters and her husband. They do not have the benefit of a 401(k), a pension, or any savings. Social Security is what they live on. And very sadly, just on Wednesday, two days ago, their mobile home caught fire and was totally destroyed, along with everything they own. Literally the roof over their head was taken away in a very short time. For them, and many like them, if Social Security is taken away they will again have lost everything and again have no roof over their head. I trust Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to ensure this does not happen.”

The post Sen. Stabenow, Roosevelt, Wisconsin Senior: Trump’s Threats to Social Security Are ‘Cruel’ appeared first on Democrats.

On U.S. Seizure of Iranian Gasoline Intended for the Illegitimate Maduro Regime

14 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Today, the Department of Justice announced the successful seizure of over one million barrels of Iranian gasoline intended for the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela. The proceeds from these shipments would have allegedly benefitted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Our diplomacy, led by Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, was able to both halt these shipments and assist the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in executing a U.S. seizure order for the gasoline cargo issued on July 2, 2020. We note that the proceeds from the Iranian gasoline, if successfully forfeited in U.S. courts, could now support the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund instead of those engaging in terrorism, like the IRGC.

We are seeing more and more global shipping fleets avoiding the Iran-Venezuela trade due to our sanctions implementation and enforcement efforts. The United States remains committed to our maximum pressure campaigns against the Iranian and Maduro regimes.



Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dendias

14 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Vienna, Austria.  Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Dendias discussed the strong U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship and the urgent need to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.



Secretary Michael R. Pompeo And Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg At a Press Availability

14 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Vienna, Austria

Belvedere Palace

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you to the press conference in the Belvedere on the occasion of the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Vienna.  Following the statement of the two ministers, there will be an opportunity to ask two questions.  I would now like to ask Foreign Minister Schallenberg to give his remarks.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHALLENBERG:  Ladies and gentlemen, dear Secretary of State, dear Mike, it is an enormous pleasure to welcome you here in Vienna in this historical palace, the Belvedere.  When I visited you in Washington in February, last February, I brought us a little bit – a little gesture of a little gift, a booklet, “Austria: A Soldier’s Guide,” for Austria which the GIs had in 1945 when they liberated Austria.  And I think it’s very fitting because 10 years later, thanks also to the U.S. contribution, we were able to sign in this very room the state treaty which gave Austria full sovereignty again.  And I think it’s a very fitting time that 65 years later we are again in this room in this building, which is a sign of not only our very strong historical ties which unite us but of a strong strategic partnership which brings us together today.  And again, welcome to Vienna.  It’s a great pleasure having you here.

United States are and remain an indispensable partner, not only economically but also politically and culturally, and I cannot underline this enough.  We share a common way of life, a way of life based on common values such as checks and balances that actually the United States invented, the rule of law, democracy, human rights.  And we have to be aware that, globally seen, these values, this way of life, is being more and more challenged.  If we look at the UN family of states, 193 states, only a quarter of these are abiding and committed to the same values and rules as we are, so I believe all the more we are called upon to stand together in this more and more complex and hostile world, and I’d say in order to defend our common values.

We are faced now with a common crisis, a common challenge, which is COVID-19.  And here again, I believe that we are called upon to work together to stand side by side and to use any means bilaterally and multilaterally in order to advance in our fight against this pandemic.  Be it the OSCE, the UN family, or other international organizations, I believe our endeavors should be to use them in most efficient way to further our common struggle against the pandemic.

And this sends a – all the more welcome the fact that the strategic talks between the United States and Russia are taking place and are taking place here in Vienna, and we obviously hope that they will lead to a positive conclusion, and we urge all other nuclear weapons states to joint these efforts led by the United States in order to make our world a little bit safer.  And I can assure you, Mr. Secretary of State, that Austria will do its utmost and anything to make these talks as fruitful as possible here and to offer the framework you need for a successful continuation of them.

It is no secret that obviously any friendship doesn’t mean that you are – you agree 100 percent on every topic, and there are issues where we do not agree and we have different approaches.  One, for instance, is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.  We deeply regret, obviously, the extraterritorial sanctions imposed by the United States and would rather endeavor on or pursue the way of bilateral talks to find a solution, a common solution on this ground, on this matter.  But I believe that it is a sign of our friendship that we can actually very openly talk about these issues and address them together.

It is hard to say what we touched upon in our discussions because we went from Libya to the Eastern Mediterranean, developments in the eastern edge of the – in the Western Balkans, the wider the Middle East.  But let me start by congratulating you on the breakthrough concerning the agreement on full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.  I believe this is a very encouraging message coming out of the region which has been poor in encouraging messages in the last months and years, and we hope that more positive messages will follow.

On the Western Balkans, an issue which we will again address this evening because we have a further discussion planned over dinner, we consider the United States an indispensable partner for us to keep the region stable and to enable the region to have an economic fruitful development.  And we very much welcome the continued U.S. engagement, and I’ve just heard the beginning of September there will be new talks, Pristina-Belgrade in the U.S. in Washington.  So this is something that we have seen that the European Union and Americans together have to stand side by side in order to get this very European region closer to the European Union.

One issue which we discussed in particular was the development in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Turkey.  I have to say that Austria is very concerned about the dangerous and alarming situation which we believe could easily escalate, and we will have a discussion this afternoon among the foreign ministers of the European Union.  And I know that my Greek colleague Nikos Dendias is here in Vienna too.  He will meet you and I will meet him just after this press conference.  This is a topic of high urgency and high importance for everybody and especially for the European Union.  I believe that the actions taken by certain states in the Mediterranean from Libya, Syria, to north Iraq – even the reclassification of a world-renowned monument, the Hagia Sophia, as a new mosque – should lead the European Union to re-evaluate its relations with Turkey.

Last but not least, one issue I would like to raise is the situation in Belarus.  Austria and the European Union over the last couple of years have made it the task to reach out to Belarus, to extend a hand to Minsk.  And that’s why the situation and the development we are seeing in the last couple of days is so disappointing.  It’s a huge step backwards, and I am deeply worried about the events unfolding in Minsk and in other cities.  I call upon the state authorities in Belarussia to immediately stop the violence and the arbitrary detentions of peaceful demonstrators and journalists, and to release – the release of the prisoners, the first – is a first step, but it is not sufficient.  Further steps are needed.  And I believe the one thing this country needs most is a start of a meaningful, comprehensive national dialogue.

With these points, the Secretary of State, Mike, welcome again in Vienna.  Thanks that you responded positively to my invitation last June, and I am very thankful with really good and open exchange of views we had.  I’m very much looking forward to the common dinner we are having.  Welcome in Vienna and the floor is yours.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary, you have the floor.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, Foreign Minister Schallenberg.  I greatly appreciate you and Chancellor Kurz hosting me here.  It’s pretty nice, pretty nice digs.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  I had a wonderful lunch with your team as well.  I appreciated that very much.

Thanks for making this day possible.  It’s important.  Austria is a trusted partner and a great friend, importantly, with the United States, and perhaps equally importantly a true force for democratic ideals – free enterprise and stability – in the heart of Europe.

I met with business leaders this morning, many of whom have invested and created jobs in the United States and are growing their business from both sides of the Atlantic together, an important part of what we all do because of the nature of our two countries.

Our relationship has only grown stronger since Chancellor Kurz’s visit to the White House in February of last year.  I had the pleasure of inaugurating the Friendship Tram this morning that highlighted many of our very ties which stretch more than a century now.  It was truly a lot of fun and special.  I met some young Austrian entrepreneurs as well, which was special.  I know they’ll do great things here.

Thanks for your kind words about the agreement that President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed reached yesterday.  It was an important step forward for Middle East stability, something President Trump has put at the top of his agenda.  I know we talk with our European counterparts often about how to do this.  It was a good moment for the world and its security.

We talked about a whole broad range of issues.  Look, right here in Vienna at the OSCE, our team is fighting hard to hold Russia and many other participating states accountable to the international commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms.  We hope to hold the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting this year consistent with health requirements, and we ask all members to support us in that effort.  We look forward to working with Austria and the EU to find strong, competent new leadership for the OSCE’s top position as well, something we’ve chatted about.

Critically too, we talked with our Austrian counterparts this morning on our support for IAEA Director General Grossi’s critical mission to ensure that all countries comply with their international nuclear safeguard requirements.  That mission is all the more important given the Islamic Republic of Iran’s failure to address the IAEA’s questions about its nuclear activities.  The international community must speak with a single voice.  Iran must provide full, transparent, and immediate cooperation with the IAEA.

So too, we ask nations to urge the UN Security Council to renew the arms embargo on Tehran.  We can’t allow the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons.  I mean, that’s just nuts.  We talked about Communist China too.  It’s been a subject of our talks.  It’s been visibly absent from these nuclear arms discussions that we have been having, the strategic conversations here in Vienna that the Austrian people have been so wonderful in supporting.

I want to thank you personally, Minister Schallenberg, for all the help you have given and your host – your country has given as host for these talks.  I urge Beijing to come be part of this important conversation for the world’s safety to reduce the risk from the world’s most dangerous weapons.

We also spent some time talking about those trade and investments opportunities, the ties between our two countries, and our objectives regarding Israel, Venezuela, and multiple peacekeeping missions which Austria greatly contributes.  Our relationship – in spite of what the media will say sometimes, our relationship is built upon a set of values, and the things that we agree on and work on together far outweigh the things where we have different views.

I have one more great treat this morning.  I want to announce that the Department of Defense has now approved Austria for the State Partnership Program, a program through which the United States National Guard and military forces ally with partner nations around the world.  Welcome.  This will be a great addition to our relationship.  I want to give special thanks to Defense Minister Tanner for his support in this, working to get that off the ground.

Foreign Minister, thank you for inviting me here.  It was a great conversation and I’ve had a wonderful visit so far, and I know the rest of the day will prove important as well.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHALLENBERG:  You’re more than welcome.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  We now have time for two questions now, and I would like to call on Judith Egger, Austrian Press Agency.

QUESTION:  Hello.  I would like to ask:  In recent months, we heard from Washington several times.  Washington expressed criticism of Germany, but we do not hear similar criticisms towards Austria even though they share a common positioning on important issues like Nord Stream, 5G, cyber security, or Iran.  Could you explain this fact?

And secondly, I wanted to ask both of you if you could tell me if Austria is doing enough to tackle the concerns of the United States about the possible influence of China and Russia on cyber security, for example, and energy.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You want me – shall I go first?

So there are places that we simply disagree.  Nord Stream 2 is one of them.  I think the foreign minister mentioned that in his remarks.  He certainly spoke about it with me earlier.  We just have a different view for the security threats that it poses to the region and therefore for the important transatlantic security relationship as well.  We’ll work on it.  We’ll work our way through it.  We may end up agreeing to disagree on that as well.  But friends can do that.  Nations that have a deep strategic relationship will always have tactical places where they disagree.

Your second question related to the second part of your first one as well, talking about telecommunications infrastructure and the risks that are presented by the Chinese Communist Party.  The Austrians have been great in taking onboard and understanding that as well.  I think the whole world can plainly see now that the Chinese Communist Party is intent on using this telecommunications infrastructure for purposes that no other – no other telecom system in the world does, right?  They’re using it as deeply tied to their national security apparatus, to their intelligence community, to their military forces – all the data.  I know Austrians care deeply about the security of their own citizens’ data, private information.  You all – everybody wants to keep their own information to themselves.  Permitting untrusted vendors to participate in networks creates enormous risk.

And so we’ve been clear about our expectation that everyone will come to understand this threat in the same way, and we have watched countries all across the world come to a common understanding and begin to move their nations forward with a set of trusted vendors from whatever source – whether they’re European – European country – companies, like Ericsson and Nokia, we just want to make sure that these are trusted vendors that are protecting this information from the threats that the Chinese Communist Party poses.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHALLENBERG:  I mean, the whole issue of 5G and cyber we are very much aware of the situation because, as you might know, the Austrian Foreign Ministry has been a target of a very strong attack, cyber attack, beginning of this year.  So this is something which is very high up on our agenda.

On the issue of 5G and cybersecurity, we have adopted a common position within the European Union.  It’s called the EU toolbox.  And now what we’re doing here in Austria, we are implementing this EU toolbox.  As a result, we’re not – we’re not a – our approach is not to ban in general one competitor, one provider, but to establish a clear list of criteria to avoid high-risk providers.  This is something which we’re trying to implement now in national law in Austria and this would be our approach based on the EU toolbox which has been developed two months ago in Brussels.

MODERATOR:  Nike Ching, Voice of America.

QUESTION:  Foreign Minister Schallenberg, Belarus – as EU foreign ministers are meeting today to discuss sanctions over disputed Belarus election, do you support new sanctions on Belarus?  Have you coordinated with the United States on possible new sanctions?

And Mr. Secretary, if I may on Iran, as the U.S. is pushing to extend arms embargo on Iran, given the likely veto from Russia and China and given European diplomats are searching to find the middle course to save the Iran nuclear deal, is the United States willing to compromise its demands for an indefinite extension of the Iran arms embargo, or will they immediately seek the snapback sanctions on Iran?  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHALLENBERG:  May I start with Belarus?  We are not discussing this afternoon sanctions, we are discussing the situation in Belarus.  I believe that what is needed now is a clear, common line for the European Union.  And as I said at the beginning, we are extremely worried about the situation we’re seeing there.  Europe and the European Union, and especially Austria has been among them reaching out to them.  We don’t want to push them back into the Russian hemisphere, and they have been helpful, for instance, on issues such as Ukraine in the past.  So we would like to see a Belarus which moves our way in far – as far as standards and values are concerned.

We all agree that this vote and this election was anything but fair and free, but what we want now – and that’s what my expectation is of this afternoon – the video conferences that we will have among the EU foreign ministers – is a clear call on Minsk to end immediately all the violence, the arbitrary detentions.  Release the remaining prisoners.  They did start today, but more has to follow.  But the most important demand would be to start a meaningful national dialogue.  And in case these demands are not followed or Minsk even takes another approach, then I believe the European Union should not exclude sanctions.  That should be the signal from my perspective.  Not adopt them or implement them, but not excluding them either.

I’m sorry to say this room is made for balls and waltzing.  (Laughter.)  It’s not made for press conferences, according to the echo.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No worries.  We actually spent a fair amount of time talking about Belarus today.  I traveled there not too long ago, again, trying to work with the Belarusian people with very good outcomes, to put them in a better place.  Our views are the same about what has transpired, and I think the world collectively will respond to this in a way that I hope leads to better outcomes for the Belarusian people.

Look, we’ve been at this issue on this UN arms embargo for coming on two years, since December of 2018 – was the first time I spoke publicly about it.  It makes no sense to permit the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to purchase and sell weapons systems.  It doesn’t make sense for the European people either, in our view, and we think anybody that’s within missile range will be at greater risk because of the air defense systems, for example, that the Iranians will be able to purchase if this arms embargo expires on October 18th.

And so we’re urging the whole world to join us, to just make the simple statement this isn’t about the JCPOA; this is about whether the world is going to permit Iran to buy and sell weapons systems.  Again, it’s that clear, it’s that simple.  We think the time is not right.  We don’t think Iran has given any indication that it is in a place remotely where the world sell Iran and China – to sell them high-end weapons systems.  So we’re going to do everything that we can within our diplomatic toolset to ensure that that arms embargo doesn’t expire.  We hope that – the voting will be within the next handful of hours; we hope it will be successful.  When we see the results of that, we’ll make the decision about how to move forward.  We have been unambiguous, however, about the fact that we have no intention of allowing this arms embargo to expire.  None whatsoever.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, ministers.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us here today.  Have a great day.

FOREIGN MINISTER SCHALLENGBERG:  Sorry again about the echo.  (Laughter.)


U.S. and Concerned Nations Stand Together for Democratic Change in Venezuela

14 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today the United States joins democracies around the world to reiterate our support for Venezuela’s democratic forces as they defend the rights of the Venezuelan people.  The joint declaration calls for a transitional government that will hold free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.

Amidst flagrant human rights abuses and violent coercive tactics, the illegitimate Maduro regime is attempting systematically to destroy Venezuela’s ability to conduct free elections.  International standards for free and fair elections are not even close to being met.

This joint declaration demonstrates we are not alone in our resolve to strengthen support for a transitional government in Venezuela and an end to the Maduro dictatorship.  We are joined by members of the Lima Group, the International Contact Group, the European Union, and many other countries committed to the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.  The following parties have joined, and we welcome other countries that are considering it:  Albania, Australia, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

It is time for a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela.  The United States and the international community share an obligation to demonstrate and provide support for the Venezuelan people as they strive to reclaim their democracy.



DNC on Social Security Anniversary

14 Aug

DNC Chair Tom Perez and DNC Seniors Council Chair Steve Regenstreif released the following statement celebrating the anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act of 1935  into law:

“Democrats are proud to be the party that created Social Security – the bedrock of the middle class. For 85 years, this critical program has allowed Americans to retire with independence and dignity, and provided a financial lifeline to millions of disabled workers, survivors, and children. And yet, in the same month we celebrate this historic anniversary, Donald Trump has launched an all-out assault on the way Social Security is funded.

“As our nation faces the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans should be able to count on these benefits. Social Security has never missed a payment, and Democrats are committed to ensuring that it never will. For decades, we have fought to protect Social Security from those who want to privatize it, cut its benefits, erect barriers to coverage for disabled workers, and raise the age of retiree eligibility. And we aren’t stopping now.

“Under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s leadership, we will increase benefits and provide more accurate cost-of-living adjustments that reflect the high costs facing older Americans. We will make sure that those who take time out of the workforce to care for loved ones aren’t penalized when it comes to Social Security benefits. And we will keep Social Security strong for today’s workers and retirees, and for generations to come.

“Democrats are committed to improving retirement security for all Americans. We enacted Social Security, and we are the party that will ensure its future.”

The post DNC on Social Security Anniversary appeared first on Democrats.

Joint Declaration of Support for Democratic Change in Venezuela

14 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

The text of the following declaration was released by several members of the Lima Group, the International Contact Group, the European Union, the United States, and others.

Begin text:

We, a group of concerned countries including members of the Lima Group, the International Contact Group, the European Union, the United States, and others, call upon all Venezuelans, of all ideological tendencies and party affiliations, whether civilian or military, to put the interests of Venezuela above politics and engage urgently in support of a process shaped and driven by Venezuelans to establish an inclusive transitional government that will lead the country into free and fair presidential elections, sooner not later. National Assembly elections alone do not present a political solution and instead may further polarize an already divided society.

We call upon all institutions of the Venezuelan state to participate in such a process. Venezuelans and the international community have put proposals on the table towards this goal. Such a process should include the ability of the National Assembly to fully carry out its functions and the restoration of the independence and of the Supreme Court and National Electoral Council. The discussions and progress made in the Norwegian-led talks in Barbados should also inform the way forward.

We reiterate the willingness of all those countries maintaining economic sanctions to discuss sanctions relief in the context of political progress.

The humanitarian, social and political situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, underlining the need for a peaceful and inclusive political process that will restore democracy and set the country on course for recovery. The current pandemic and Venezuela’s overwhelmed public health care system have added urgency to the need to end the status quo. We are committed to continue our efforts to assist Venezuelans facing the pandemic and the previously existing humanitarian crisis on the basis of need, not political affiliation.

We call for an end to all political persecution and acts of repression. Human rights defenders, humanitarian actors, health workers, journalists, members of Venezuela’s indigenous communities, members of the National Assembly under the leadership of Juan Guaido, and the Venezuelan population at large have all faced increased repression in Venezuela.

We call on all political parties and institutions in Venezuela to engage promptly in, or in support of, a process that will establish a broadly acceptable transitional government that will administer free and fair presidential elections soon and begin to set the country on a pathway to recovery. For a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the crisis, a transitional government is needed to administer presidential elections, so that no candidate has an improper advantage over others.

A swift and peaceful transition to democracy is the most effective and sustainable route to stability, recovery and prosperity in Venezuela. We remain committed to helping the Venezuelan people achieve a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.

End text.