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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 14, 2017

ven, 09/15/2017 - 01:04
Heather Nauert
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 14, 2017

Index for Today's Briefing
  • IRAQ
  • IRAN
  • IRAQ
  • CUBA


    2:51 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Well, hello. Nice to see you. Hi, everybody. How are you today?

    QUESTION: One day away from Friday.

    MS NAUERT: One day away from Friday. Can’t wait. And then we’re all going to be together next week, or at least a lot of us will, right? Looking forward to that.

    I’d like to start out today by mentioning the terror attack that took place – got a little bit of an echo in here – terror attack that took place in Iraq, and we’d like to condemn that in the strongest possible terms, the barbaric attacks that took place in Nasiriyah, Iraq. They’ve been claimed by ISIS – the attacks have. The brutal attacks demonstrate, once again, the savagery of the enemy that so many of our nations face. We want to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a speedy recovery for those who’ve been wounded. The attacks are a reminder that all Iraqis must remain focused on defeating ISIS. The U.S. reaffirms its commitment to support the government and the people of Iraq in their struggle against ISIS.

    The second thing I’d like to announce is the democracy – Community of Democracies ministerial, which will take place here in Washington tomorrow. I know there was a little bit of reporting on that earlier in the year, but that will, in fact, happen. Secretary Tillerson will host the ninth Community of Democracies Governing Council Ministerial here at the Department of State tomorrow. The United States is hosting this ministerial as we complete our two-year presidency of the Community of Democracies and will bring together more than 90 governments and more than 50 representatives from civil society groups around the world.

    The ministerial will focus on current challenges and the enduring connection between democratic principles and economic development. Participants will also discuss strategies to counter authoritarian actions by countries, including North Korea and Iran, and will seek to condemn the ongoing human rights abuses in Venezuela. They will also consider ways to support civil society that is under threat around the world and share lessons learned in countering terrorism while still protecting human rights.

    In hosting the ministerial, the United State affirms that standing up for human rights and democracy is both a moral imperative, grounded in the best traditions of our country, and a strategic priority vital to our national interests. We will continue to work with members of civil society and our partners worldwide to strengthen democratic governance, promote the rule of law, and defend individual liberty for all.

    QUESTION: This is the Community of Democracies that Secretary Tillerson didn’t want to have, right?

    MS NAUERT: This is the Community of Democracies that some reporters wrote about that wasn’t happening, and it is certainly happening. We’ve got it going. It’s not as long as it has been in years past, but we have it, and we’re proud to host that.

    A couple more things I’d like to address before I get to your questions. The U.S. State Department is pleased to announce a groundbreaking $25 million award to the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. It’s a transformational three-year program with a goal to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery, human trafficking in specific countries or regions around the world. The State Department would like to thank Congress for its support and in particular the leadership of Senator Bob Corker, who’s championed this effort.

    The initiative reflects the United States broad and bipartisan commitment to increase U.S. and global funding to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery globally. Its goal is to leverage U.S. funds to build a significant resource base with contributions from other governments and private donors and develop a global platform of data, analysis, and lessons learned to inform and improve global efforts to combat modern slavery.

    Reducing the prevalence of human trafficking globally should be a joint effort with other governments and civil society around the world. The initiative will seek to raise commitments of $1.5 billion in support from other donors. The funds will be used to combat all forms of modern slavery that align with the three Ps of the global anti-trafficking framework: prosecution, protection, and prevention. At the same time, the program will ensure that survivor voices are integrated throughout the project design and implementation.

    And then finally, a note about the UN General Assembly next week. As you know, it will be high-level week for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. It opened on Tuesday, and I’d like to start off by letting you know that Secretary Tillerson and the department have identified a few key goals for our engagement with the international community. We have five overarching priorities this year. The first is taking bold steps on UN reform; the second, broadening multilateral and counterterrorism efforts to defeat ISIS and other terror organizations; humanitarian assistance, in particular for refugees and the communities that host them; de-escalating the Syrian conflict; and finally, addressing the threat to global peace and security posed by North Korea.

    The State delegation will be led by Secretary Tillerson. He will be joining the President and other senior leadership from the White House, the State Department, and USAID Administrator Mark Green will join us, as will participants from other agencies. On the larger question related to the President’s schedule and high-level events during the week, I will ask you to hold off on some of your additional questions for the White House. They will be announcing part of the schedule in conjunction with Ambassador Haley and also National Security Advisor McMaster. They will talk about that at the White House tomorrow.

    And with that, I will take your questions.

    QUESTION: Right. Speaking of the White House, since they have not yet, and apparently may not now, put their names to the sanctions waiver extension that were – extensions that were granted to Iran today, could you talk about that?

    MS NAUERT: Sure. So the Secretary in London today – and he made an announcement a couple hours ago in which he started talking about that. So I want to first, in case you missed it, cover some of what the Secretary had to say. And he laid that out saying – reminding us that, first of all, the Iran policy review is still underway. So while that is ongoing, we had a deadline. That was today.

    “The Trump administration is continuing to review and develop its policy on Iran,” said the Secretary. It is still underway. There have been several discussions internally among the NSC, the White House, and also the State Department, but no decisions have been made just yet. He said, “I think it’s worth noting that...the administration continues” to review the JCPOA and that President Trump has “made...clear to those of us who are helping him develop this policy that we must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran’s nuclear capabilities; that is one piece of our posture toward Iran.” And I think if one revisits the preface to the JCPOA, the preface needs – reads this – and we have talked about this here a lot – that Iran would need to contribute positively to international peace and security.

    So the Secretary spoke to that a short while ago. Overall – in terms of the overall administration, we did a lot today. The administration enacted tough new Treasury sanctions against 11 entities and individuals, some of whom – or some of those entities were responsible for cyber attacks on U.S. financial institutions. The Department of Treasury has more information about those specific sanctions.

    But the point is that we continue to look at some of the reckless, malign behavior of the Iranian regime. I want to continue to point that out. That’s one of the reasons that we are here talking about this. We consider it to be reckless. We consider it to be dangerous. And I think it’s always worth reminding folks just how bad that government can be – not the people, the government.

    A full range of their malign activities – let’s remember what it includes: ballistic missile development; material and financial support for terrorism and also extremism, not just within their own country but around the globe; complicity in the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people; an unrelenting hostility to Israel; consistently threatening freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf – we have seen that, as our – have – have our U.S. Navy sailors; cyber attacks against the United States, ergo the sanctions today; human rights abuses; arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens. The Iran policy from this administration will address the totality of what the Iranian regime is doing.

    I mentioned the 11 new entities that were sanctioned. In addition to that – and I know that this is what you’re most interested in perhaps, Matt – the administration did approve waivers in order to maintain some flexibility as we support on Capitol Hill and among allies and partners to address the flaws in the JCPOA and additional time to develop our policy to address the full range of Iranian malign behavior.

    Now, waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the JCPOA, nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior. Again, no decisions have been made on the final JCPOA. We still have some time for that.

    QUESTION: That’s all very nice, and it was – what was that, about a five-minute response?

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me.

    QUESTION: No, it’s all right. But I’m just wondering why you feel the need or the obligation to go through the litany of complaints before getting to the – getting to the actual answer and the interesting – the most interesting news of the day?

    MS NAUERT: I think it’s always important to remind the world --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And we’ve talked here quite a bit. The JCPOA covers a certain section --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Of activities that Iran is responsible for, and that is to try to contain its nuclear program. If I may finish. There are a lot of things that the JCPOA does not handle, does not mention, and that is a concern of this administration that we feel is important to highlight. There have been many years in the past in which you didn’t hear a lot about the bad things that Iran has done. Many would argue that since the JCPOA was signed – and I’m not making the JCPOA responsible for this – but Iran has upped its bad behavior in many instances. We’ve seen the harassment of our sailors. We’ve seen what they’ve done in Syria. We’ve seen Hizballah going into Syria causing more problems. We’ve seen Iran continuing to supply weapons to other fighting forces.

    They are doing a whole lot of bad things, and I think it’s also worth reminding the American public, folks watching, folks listening, folks who read your newspapers and publications, exactly why we are here at this point, exactly why there are concerns about the JCPOA, and why we’re looking at our Iran policy in totality. Because the fact of the matter is Iran is about a lot more – the Iranian Government, I should say, is about a lot more than this nuclear program. They’re doing a lot of bad things, and we want to address and highlight those things.

    QUESTION: Heather, just to be clear on one thing. May I follow up? You talked about how we waived some sanctions. Can you be precise? Are the sanctions that were waived today the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 Section 1245 sanctions? And were there any others other than those?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: So you’re not aware of what?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if there were any others.

    QUESTION: But it was those?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – I don’t have that information in front of me right now.

    QUESTION: So you don’t know what sanctions were waived?

    MS NAUERT: I know that some sanctions were waived. I don’t have that specific information in front of me at this time.

    QUESTION: Can you take that and put it out for everybody so that everybody knows what sanctions were waived?

    MS NAUERT: I will look. I will see if I – I will look and I will see if I can get that for you.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Thanks.

    QUESTION: I understand what you’re saying about Iran’s other behavior being – needed to be highlighted, but what do you say to those who charge that you’re moving the goal posts on the actual criteria for Iran to be in technical compliance of the actual JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t think that’s the case at all. I mean, in the preface to the JCPOA it talks about what Iran’s responsibilities are for that. And that’s why when we look at this, we say that Iran is not in compliance – not in compliance with the spirit of the law. And we’ve talked about that extensively.

    QUESTION: Heather, can I --

    QUESTION: Can I ask about the --

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hold on. Settle --

    QUESTION: Well, but does the --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: Does the deal itself --

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead.

    QUESTION: Does the deal itself call for Iran to be in compliance of the spirit or the letter?

    MS NAUERT: We have talked about how we believe that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the law. Okay.

    QUESTION: No, I understand that.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But in terms of, like, certifying or not certifying, so, in fact, do you feel that you could certify that Iran is not in compliance because of the spirit as opposed to the legal letter of the law?

    MS NAUERT: Last I checked, we have until October the 15th to handle that.

    QUESTION: Well, you’re certainly kind of – between now and then, like, it does seem as if --

    MS NAUERT: Well, look – and I’m not going to get ahead of that. I’m just not going to get ahead of where we end up. All of this is under review. I think the Secretary was clear about that today. The administration has spoken about this. It’s all under review, and so I’m not going to get ahead of what – of what’s going to happen in the end in that review.

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: Heather, Heather, my publication --

    QUESTION: Can I ask --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and others have reported today that there’s a U.S. --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, you’re with --

    QUESTION: Betsy Woodruff with The Daily Beast.

    MS NAUERT: Hi to you. Hi, Betsy.

    QUESTION: Nice to see you. Thanks for a first-time – a first-time visit.

    MS NAUERT: Oh. Well, welcome.

    QUESTION: I’ve been a longtime viewer.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: My publication and others have reported today that there’s a U.S. citizen who was recently apprehended, in custody of U.S. troops, who was fighting alongside ISIS.

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

    MS NAUERT: Betsy, we’re going to stay with Iran first, and then we’ll move on to that. Okay? Thank you.

    QUESTION: Can I just ask --

    QUESTION: Heather, how about --

    QUESTION: You made a --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on.

    QUESTION: You made an allusion to or a reference to the fact that you – that over the course of the past couple of years there hasn’t been much talk about Iran’s bad behavior.

    MS NAUERT: I think in the view of many in this administration that we haven’t highlighted as a U.S. Government – if you were to ask anyone in our U.S. military, I’m pretty sure that they would agree with this as well. All of the bad things that Iran has done – think of the U.S. forces, the U.S. troops that have been killed in Iraq by Iranian-led militia. Think of that. We haven’t talked about that. We haven’t addressed that a lot as a U.S. Government. And now, under this administration, that’s something we want to put a focus on some of the bad things that Iran has done, and not just keep our relationship or our conversations about Iran related to the nuclear activities. They’re responsible for a whole lot more bad activity around the world.

    QUESTION: I get that. But the suggestion was that the previous administration didn’t call out Iran for ballistic missile tests or its anti-Israel stance or support for Hizballah --

    MS NAUERT: I think --

    QUESTION: -- or support for Assad.

    MS NAUERT: I think many in this administration would view that the previous administration – and I don’t talk about that a lot, but the previous administration did not do enough to highlight and make the American public and folks around the world aware of just how bad the Iranian regime is and the horrible things that they’ve done to people, including our U.S. military.

    QUESTION: Okay. Because I and others have sat in here over the course of the last eight years – in some cases even longer – and that’s – many in the administration might not think that the previous one was talking about Iran’s behavior, but you can go back and look at transcripts of your predecessors talking about malign Iranian behavior outside of the nuclear arena. So I just want to – just because many people in this current administration don’t think that the previous administration talked about it, that’s not entirely the case.

    MS NAUERT: Well, perhaps next time I bring it up then, Matt, you won’t kind of turn up your nose at it, because it is an important fact that --

    QUESTION: I’m not turning my nose up at it. I just think that --

    MS NAUERT: -- that people need to be made aware of. Okay. A few more --

    QUESTION: Heather --

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: A few more questions on Iran, and then we’ll move on.

    QUESTION: Related to the preface --

    QUESTION: -- on Iran, guys? I just – I got one --

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead. Said, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Thank you. The list that you laid out is really a long list. Is it conceivable that Iran can actually adjust to these demands without having a total regime change?

    MS NAUERT: Our issue is with – our --

    QUESTION: I understand. I understand --

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary addressed --

    QUESTION: -- your issue is with the government and not the people. And that’s what I’m saying.

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary addressed the election, his re-election, and one of the things he said about that is that we have a new opportunity. And if he chooses to change the way that he handles some of the activities of his government, we would certainly welcome that. It’s a new opportunity.

    QUESTION: Can I ask about --

    QUESTION: Will the Secretary meet on the margins of the General Assembly with the Foreign Minister Zarif?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a schedule for the Secretary’s --

    QUESTION: Could it happen?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have a schedule for the Secretary’s sideline meetings. One-on-one meetings – that is highly doubtful. I’m not aware of anything like that that would occur. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I ask you --

    MS NAUERT: Hey.

    QUESTION: -- in London earlier today, the Secretary said that Iran was clearly in default of the preface – he quoted the preface of the JCPOA. So, I mean, you also were saying that the administration has not made a decision yet. Can you clear that up? Does the State Department believe that being in default of the preface of the JCPOA does not constitute being in default of the JCPOA?

    MS NAUERT: Look, the JCPOA – and the deadline for that is October 15th, okay.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: So we have that time, okay. I’m not going to get ahead of where we’re going to end up standing on the JCPOA at this time. The Secretary talked about, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. I think we’ve been clear that we believe that they’re in default of – excuse me – that they are not in compliance with the spirit of that, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Can I ask --

    QUESTION: But I mean, just one quick follow-up. I mean, it’s --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Not asking you to get ahead of it --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- but he did say in that – in those remarks that they are in default of the sentence of the preface, the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: So how does that not constitute a determination that they’re in default?

    MS NAUERT: I think he said not in default of these expectations, and he said that immediately after he spoke about how, under the JCPOA, Iran is supposed to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Saying that they are in default of that, because of all of the other things that they’re doing, is not inconsistent.

    QUESTION: So can I ask about the --

    QUESTION: Can we go to that --

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me. Mr. Arshad in the first row, could you just hold on please? Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Can we go to – it’s on the preface, though.

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me. I’m taking --

    QUESTION: By all means.

    MS NAUERT: -- The Guardian’s question first. Okay?

    QUESTION: By all means, by all means.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s wait our turn, please.

    Go right ahead, sir.

    QUESTION: Yeah. In the preamble, it says that the signatories anticipate that the deal would contribute to the peace and security of the regime, not that the individual signatories would do it. So it was an expectation doing the deal would make things better. How can it be said that Iran – that that somehow, Iran is in default of the spirit of that? I don’t understand.

    MS NAUERT: I think the malign activities speak for themselves. Okay.

    Now I would be happy to take your question. Hi, how are you?

    QUESTION: My question is very similar. I mean, the language actually says “they anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.” They say nothing about Iran committing to contributing to international peace and security; they just say that the full implementation, they expect, will generally – so I don’t even see how Iran is in – not in compliance with that. You’re saying that – all that’s said in the preface is that carrying out the deal will help lead to peace and security.

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have the full quote of the – of that deal in front of me, and I can look and bring in that next time.

    QUESTION: Well, I just read it to you.

    QUESTION: Just one --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s move on from Iran onto something else.

    QUESTION: Can I have just --

    MS NAUERT: Elise, last question on Iran. Thank you.

    QUESTION: Super quick one. Are you looking to have a meeting of the JCPOA countries, signatories in New York next week? And has Iran agreed to such a meeting?

    MS NAUERT: So there is a ministerial that’s under discussion at this time. We don’t have any meetings set on that, but as soon as we do – if that were to happen, that would be – actually be an EU meeting, so they would have to confirm any of that. But I know that is one of the things that is under discussion.

    QUESTION: And would you like or prefer that Iran is not part of that meeting?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have an answer to that. I just – I’m not aware.

    Okay. We’re moving on. Who wants --

    QUESTION: North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: We’re moving from Iran now. I think we’ve covered it sufficiently.

    QUESTION: Korea?

    QUESTION: Heather, can I ask about --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: -- can I ask an ISIS question?

    QUESTION: So do you have a readout of Ambassador Yun’s meetings in Moscow? And how – if – how receptive were the Russians to U.S. efforts to put pressure on North Korea? And is he back in the U.S. now?

    MS NAUERT: Let me check for you on Ambassador Yun’s schedule. He was in Moscow I believe it was for two days. I’m not sure if he’s just back in the United States right now or not. I believe he will be back at least by tomorrow.

    I don’t have a readout to provide you from that meeting that he had with some of his counterparts in Moscow, but the agenda was to talk about the DPRK. And we were very happy and pleased that Russia signed on to the UN Security Council resolution this time once again, as they did to the UN Security Council resolution last month. We think that that is a step in the right direction. The fact that we were able to sit down and speak with some of Ambassador Yun’s Russian counterparts and have this conversation and recognize the activities that the DPRK is involved with and that it’s a threat to international and regional security I think is a terrific step in the right direction.

    QUESTION: And are there plans for a ministerial or meeting on DPRK? How big of a focus will this play at the UN General Assembly?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I think when the Secretary came in and became Secretary of State, when the President brought him in to do that, the President said to him, “Top issue I’d like you to work on is North Korea.” And the Secretary has taken that on in a very robust fashion. There is not a meeting – there’s virtually not a meeting that he has with his overseas counterparts where he does not discuss the issue of North Korea, not only its destabilizing activities, not only its provocative actions, but – we’ve talked about this a lot – the number of guest workers that they have, the money that’s taken from those guest workers that goes back into the pockets of the Kim Jong-un regime, not to its people, that gets used for its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs. So we are very concerned about that and that’s why it is such a top priority. Of the issues – and there are so many important issues that they’re going to be speaking about at UNGA – DPRK, I can assure you, will be the top if not – the top.

    QUESTION: Heather, follow-up on --

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Hi. South Korea – today, South Korean Government announced that it would give North Korea $8 million in aid to North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: South Korea said that it would give --

    QUESTION: $8 million.

    MS NAUERT: $8 million.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, I’m unaware of this. Okay.

    QUESTION: Oh yeah. How can this affect sanctions against North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I haven’t seen that report, so I just – I don’t want to comment on it since I haven’t seen it.

    QUESTION: They reported it this morning.

    MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

    QUESTION: They – South Korea reported this morning, so – yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I just have not seen that myself, so I don’t want to comment on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: But this money going to nuclear development for the – I mean, Kim Jong-un’s --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I – look, I don’t know – I don’t know if that’s – I believe you if you say it, but I haven’t seen it myself, so I just don’t want to comment on it. Okay?

    Hi, Rich.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Hi, Heather. On the lack of an oil embargo in the UN Security Council resolution, the Secretary said this morning that he’s hopeful that China will take it upon themselves to disrupt North Korean oil supplies. Is there an expectation that China will do that?

    MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary was clear in what he said, that he hopes that they will. We’re not going to – we can’t force the Chinese to do anything, certainly, but I think that that would be a strong show of support if they were to do that. I mean, we’re happy with their vote in the UN Security Council. This vote, the last vote, they’ve been taking some steps in the right direction. That would be another step that they could take. We will continue to use all available options on the table if we were to impose additional unilateral sanctions, but we’ll keep having conversations with the Chinese and other nations about that.

    QUESTION: And you expect this will be a central part of those conversations?

    MS NAUERT: It certainly could be, but I don’t want to get ahead of any additional conversations.

    QUESTION: Does that line, we can’t force the Chinese to do it – does that apply to other countries and other issues or is it just on China and North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: We’re just talking about China right here.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Thanks.

    Okay, anything else on North Korea?

    QUESTION: Kim Jong-un did not accept UN sanctions against North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Does that surprise you? That doesn’t surprise me.

    QUESTION: Well, that’s what we’re always --

    MS NAUERT: Of course not. Of course not.

    Okay, let’s move on. Betsy, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah. My publication, Daily Beast, and others, including Fox News, have reported that there’s a U.S. citizen who traveled to Syria, was fighting there along ISIS – alongside ISIS – when he was apprehended by the Kurds and handed over to the U.S. military. My question is: Is he currently in Syria or Iraq, and has the Red Cross had access to him? Do you have any information about just where he is?

    MS NAUERT: So I don’t have a lot for you. I can tell you that we’re aware of that report that a U.S. citizen was detained. Beyond that, I just don’t have any specifics on that. Let me check to see if I have anything additional, but I don’t. This is early on. We just learned about this issue a couple hours ago – to my awareness, at least – and I believe that that is all we have.

    QUESTION: Well, it seems that he surrendered to Kurdish elements of the SDF in Syria.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Are you saying you don’t know, or you can’t say because of privacy --

    MS NAUERT: Look, we don’t have a lot of information on that. That is what is being reported; that is what somebody said. I just can’t – I can’t confirm that.

    Go ahead.

    QUESTION: But the DOD statement that they initially gave us said that we needed to ask the Government of Iraq about it. Is there – do you have any information on who --

    MS NAUERT: That who would ask the Government of Iraq about it?

    QUESTION: That our publication, when we were reporting this out --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: We reached out to CENTCOM and they said we – they said they were deferring to the DOJ and the Government of Iraq. Just from your post at the State Department, do you have any sense of why the Government of Iraq could be involved in this issue with a U.S. citizen fighting with ISIS in Syria?

    MS NAUERT: I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. Look, perhaps the Government of Iraq – I mean, this is a hypothetical in a sense, in that perhaps the Government of Iraq has him. I don’t know where this man is. I can only tell you that we are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was fighting for some sort of a terror group. Whether it was ISIS or not, I do not know.

    It serves as a good reminder that in a nation of 330-some million people, some people will be dumb enough to go to Iraq and Syria to try to fight for ISIS. We encourage people not to do that. As the U.S. Government, we say don’t go do that. I mean, you can’t be very bright if you’re going to go over there and do that. Beyond that, I just have no information. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I – just one more thing on this? The CENTCOM statement, the most recent one, says, “The coalition defers questions pertaining to captured ISIS fighters to their relative nations’ departments of state or equivalent agencies.” And --

    MS NAUERT: I’d say thanks, DOD.

    QUESTION: Yeah. And they’ve been --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information for you.

    QUESTION: And in fact – and in fact, the Pentagon – it’s not just CENTCOM in Baghdad or wherever.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: It’s also the Pentagon.

    MS NAUERT: Look.

    QUESTION: Everyone’s throwing this to you guys and --

    MS NAUERT: We don’t have any information on this.

    QUESTION: Well, then call them out right now and say, “Stop referring questions to the State Department.”

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Thanks, DOD. Stop referring questions --

    QUESTION: There we go, okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- to the State Department when we don’t have any information --

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: -- about who this person was. But it is a good opportunity to remind American citizens, do not go to Iraq or Syria. It is not safe. And if you go there to Iraq and Syria, very bad things could happen to you. Leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Can we stay with Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on that?

    QUESTION: Just because you don’t have any information on it, does that lead us to believe that --

    MS NAUERT: Guys --

    QUESTION: -- the U.S. Government doesn’t actually have this person in custody and that --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know. Look, I don’t have any information about this. Okay? This is getting to be a bit much now. When I tell you I don’t have any information about it, I am telling you I don’t have any information about it.

    QUESTION: But I’m just asking if – if you did have someone, would Consular Affairs make us aware, or is that something that you guys wouldn’t necessarily --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the answer to that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I’d have to check on that.

    QUESTION: Stay on Iraq?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Today, the president’s office of the northern – the KRG, the --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- the Kurdistan Region – issued a statement that he’s looking at alternatives as a result of his meeting with Mr. McGurk and a high-level UK person.

    MS NAUERT: He’s looking at alternatives to what?

    QUESTION: To the – to the referendum that is scheduled for the 25 of this month.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Okay. So I would – could you share with us if you have any idea as to what that alternative might be to the referendum which would conceivably result in an independent Kurdistan?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’m not aware of that. I believe that Brett McGurk is still over there in the region, and I’m just not aware of what meetings he had and what came up in those conversations. But the U.S. Government, as we have told you, we don’t support the planned Kurdish referendum on September 25th because we feel that that takes the eye off the ball of ISIS and that we should all remain focused on ISIS. And when I topped at the beginning of this briefing with that most recent attack that took place in Nineveh province, that’s a good reminder why we can’t take our eye off the ball, which is ISIS.

    QUESTION: Well, the Kurds are hoping that even if they have a referendum and you are --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- opposed to it, once they go ahead with statehood that you’ll be the first to recognize them. Could you give us – I mean, is your position firm on this non-support of --

    MS NAUERT: Our position is firm that we don’t support this referendum at this time. We do not support the referendum on Kurdish independence at the time because of ISIS. Okay.

    QUESTION: Moving away from Iraq, if that’s okay?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: Can we talk about Cuba?

    MS NAUERT: Sure.

    QUESTION: I don’t know if you have any new information to give us. I know sometimes you randomly have new details, new totals, or something. But any response to the report from the Associated Press that includes some of the details of these attacks, including that for some people, they could hear a noise and feel an attack in certain parts of a room but not others?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I certainly read the article with great interest, as did a lot of us. There’s not going to be a lot that I’m going to be able to confirm about that report. I think all of this underscores that we are, at the State Department, very deeply concerned about what has taken place and what has happened to our American personnel who have been serving at our embassy in Cuba. It’s a good reminder of the work that our people do each and every day to represent the United States in – all across the world and sometimes in very difficult situations, and this has certainly turned out to be a difficult situation for some of our people.

    I don’t have any change in numbers to provide you at this time. We can certainly say that 21 people have been affected by this. We hope that that number will not increase. We certainly can’t count that out. We are having our people medically tested. We have a full-time medical officer who is there in Cuba. But as you know, and we’ve talked about this before, our staff is also able to get medical treatment and tests and everything here on what I’ll just call the mainland. They continue to undergo tests. Our folks are able to leave Havana, leave Cuba, and return back home if they wish to do so, if they wish to – I think we call it compassionate curtailment or something like that – where they’re able to switch out a job. So if they’re serving there in Cuba, they want to come home and do something else, they are certainly welcome to do so. The investigation into all of this is still underway. It is an aggressive investigation that continues, and we will continue doing this until we find out who or what is responsible for this.

    QUESTION: So --

    QUESTION: Does the number keep climbing because there have been new incidents or because more people have seen medical professionals and gotten diagnoses?

    MS NAUERT: I think – so the last reported incident we have remains the same as what I told you before a few weeks ago, which was late August. We are not aware of anything that has taken place since that time, but our people continue to undergo tests. The symptoms – and I’ll be vague about this, but can be different in different people. And I’m not going to get into any specifics beyond that. But our people are continuing to be tested.

    QUESTION: One more follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The incident at the end of August, you prior to that had said that there hadn’t been any incidents since the spring.

    MS NAUERT: That’s correct.

    QUESTION: Were there any then in between that you didn’t know about until more recently?

    MS NAUERT: Not that – not that I am aware of. Not that I am aware of at this time.

    QUESTION: And because more information, obviously, keeps coming in on this and the details have changed as more people have come forward – I know at one point the phrase “health attack” was used, then we’ve gone to “incident” – is there any reason to use the word “attack” at this point based on whatever new information you have or --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. The Secretary said in – back in August that our personnel in Cuba have been subject to health attacks. We have medically confirmed that our personnel’s health was affected by these incidents. So I’ve been a little bit more broad. I’ve used the terms “incidents,” but as we have learned more, the Secretary has referred to it as such.

    QUESTION: So wait – well, the Secretary referred to it at that time, so --

    MS NAUERT: Correct.

    QUESTION: -- is it appropriate to call these “attacks?”

    MS NAUERT: The Secretary called them health attacks; he certainly did. They are – the health of Americans was, in fact, affected by it.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but it’s the word “attack” that is the issue here, so --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I understand, I understand.

    QUESTION: I mean, is it --

    MS NAUERT: Look, the reality is we don’t know who or what has caused this, and that’s why the investigation is underway.

    QUESTION: Okay, so for the people who remain there, because nobody really knows what’s going on here, is there any kind of precaution that has been taken? I mean, I don’t know what that would be, but can you say whether they’ve been able to --

    MS NAUERT: I --

    QUESTION: -- identify things that they could do to --

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: -- try to avoid this?

    MS NAUERT: I know that we have – certainly our Diplomatic Security and others have been able to look through people’s rooms and do searches and things of that nature. But we still don’t know who or what is causing this, and so it’s hard to do a lot – a lot more when you don’t know who or what is causing something.

    QUESTION: But there’s some extra security at some of the – isn’t there? The Cubans --

    MS NAUERT: I’m --

    QUESTION: -- have provided extra security now?

    MS NAUERT: If there is, I’m not aware of that, but we can look into it.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    QUESTION: Have they changed anything about the living arrangements or the furnishings, or I mean, have they moved things out of the residences?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I can look into that and see what I can get for you.

    QUESTION: Heather, beyond compassionate curtailment --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- has there been any consideration at the State Department of maybe reducing staff of those who have not been affected, as it appears, whether it’s a health attack or incident or whatever, that this is a dangerous situation and the U.S. isn’t sure what’s causing it?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, look, it obviously is a dangerous situation when our people have been affected. We are tremendously concerned about that. We still have work that needs to be done. Our folks can come back to the United States if they wish to do so. It shows the bravery, the hard work and the dedication of Americans, whether they are serving in Cuba or whether they are serving anywhere across the world. We have folks who are in – down in the Irma territories right now. We have folks in Iraq and in Syria, all across the world doing difficult jobs, and I want to recognize them and let them know that we care, we certainly have not forgotten about them, and that this investigation is aggressive. It’s a multiagency investigation and that investigation will continue till we figure out what’s going on.


    QUESTION: Can I just, like, clarify one thing?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: When you – in the answer – your answer to the first question said you weren’t able to confirm the detail – any of the details that were in the report, but you’re not disputing anything in the report, are you?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not confirming – I’m not confirming anything in the report. That wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do so, because some of what was reported was very detailed and it would certainly go beyond anything that we would be able to comment on.

    QUESTION: I understand that, but you’re not taking issue with any, like, specific parts of the story, are you? No?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to confirm, I’m not going to deny pieces of the story. It just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that because then that is akin to the State Department saying, “Yes, this happened. No, this happened,” certain things about that.

    QUESTION: Have residences been changed at all?

    MS NAUERT: I – Michelle, not that I’m aware of, but I will certainly look into that for you. I think that that is a good question. It’s a question that deserves to be asked, and I will be sure to follow up with our Diplomatic Security folks about that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Is Cuba still cooperating with the U.S. investigation?

    MS NAUERT: Last I heard, yes, they have been.

    Okay. All right.

    QUESTION: Madam --

    QUESTION: Burma.

    MS NAUERT: Anything – okay. Let’s talk Burma.

    QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple of quick questions. The timing of summoning the ambassador.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Was there anything that that hinged upon? I mean, why this week as opposed to last week?

    MS NAUERT: So let me clarify one thing about that. And I know you had reported that the ambassador to Burma was brought in here to the State Department yesterday to have a conversation with our Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Murphy. Patrick Murphy is the one who – well, has been very active and very engaged on this. Deputy Assistant Secretary Murphy will be heading to Burma sometime this weekend for a trip next week, and that’s when he’ll be meeting with government officials. Among the things that he will be pressing for will be additional humanitarian access, reporter access, and expressing concern about the state of the Rohingya.

    I just want to clarify though, so we’re clear, we didn’t call him in as in the official call-in. They agreed to a meeting. The ambassador came here and then they had what was described to me as a tough conversation, obviously, about a tough situation.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    QUESTION: And did --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on.

    QUESTION: -- that ambassador deliver any kind of – I mean, did they come in prepared to deliver any assurances or --

    MS NAUERT: If they --

    QUESTION: -- what did they give towards --

    MS NAUERT: If they did, I am not aware of that. But I think it’s a good sign that we have had a very highly engaged dialogue with the government there, between the ambassador – our U.S. ambassador who is serving in Burma – he’s had a lot of conversations with representatives of the government there. Our deputy assistant secretary has as well. This is an issue we are very passionate about and we continue to work on it.

    QUESTION: And some senators want to not expand military-to-military cooperation anymore with Burma. Does the Secretary feel that that’s a good idea? Or is he one who thinks more engagement is better?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of what those members of Congress are asking us to do or not to do, so I would just have to refer you back to those members of Congress. I have not asked the Secretary that specific question.

    QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Burma?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Just a follow-up, quick follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.

    QUESTION: Is he also planning to go to Bangladesh because of the Rohingyas refugees are there?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if he’s going to Bangladesh. I know for a fact he’s going to Burma. We have been pretty clear in thanking the Government of Bangladesh for accepting so many of the Rohingya into their country to provide them at least a safer place. The United States has provided $63 million or so to internally displaced people as well as externally displaced people. I know that the country has received some of that money themselves in that assistance. But I don't know if he’s traveling beyond Burma.

    QUESTION: And also, has Secretary spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi on this issue?

    MS NAUERT: Not at this point.

    QUESTION: And next week at UNGA, the Bangladeshi prime minister is coming. Does the Secretary have any plans to meet her?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that on his schedule. Okay?

    Hey, Elise.

    QUESTION: The Secretary was pretty forceful today in his comments --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- about the situation there. And he kind of gave a nod to comments by other officials that have called it ethnic cleansing. And what is the position of the State Department? I know it’s a very, like, legal term.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. It’s a very technical thing.

    QUESTION: Is there a review going on with the State Department lawyers in terms of trying to determine whether this constitutes any type of effort towards genocide or ethnic cleansing?

    MS NAUERT: I can only say that we are assessing the situation on the ground. There is still – I mean, despite the horrific pictures that you’ve seen and the reporting and some of the harrowing details that you’ve read about, there’s still not a lot of information that, as a government, we’ve been able to independently verify, in terms of from our own people being able to ask those questions and getting enough good answers, solid answers that are verifiable.

    In addition to that, we’ve been working with a lot of partners on the ground. But as you know –well know – the humanitarian situation has been difficult. While there are some people there, there are certainly not enough. We work with a lot of those humanitarian organizations on the ground to try to get additional information, but we just don’t have enough just yet. But I know that that is all being assessed and reviewed.

    QUESTION: So – okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.


    QUESTION: Yeah. I’m struggling with this. The government – the Trump administration keeps saying “if” ethnic cleansing or “if” this sort of catastrophe is unfolding. 250,000 people – are they all lying? I mean, you have satellites; you have intelligence. How this many days, this many weeks later do you not know what’s going on?

    MS NAUERT: I think we want to make sure that we are right in that assessment. As Elise mentioned, it is a technical issue. When it comes to assessing that, there are a lot of things that need to be met. It’s not as simple as you want to make it right now, but I can tell you it’s under review. We are passionate about this issue; we care about this issue. We have had folks engaged in this for many years. This has not just started all of a sudden. This has been unfolding for decades now. But we are certainly focused on it now, as we were before, and we’ll continue to work on this, okay.

    QUESTION: So if you find it’s ethnic cleansing, what is the responsibility that the U.S. has in that situation?

    MS NAUERT: I – it’s a – that’s a hypothetical. I’m just not going to get into that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Well, no, no, no. I mean, it’s actually --

    MS NAUERT: She said – just said “if.” That’s a – it’s a hypothetical.

    QUESTION: Well, but --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into that.

    QUESTION: I understand, but if you’re trying to assess --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah?


    QUESTION: -- whether – well --

    MS NAUERT: What?


    QUESTION: The practice of trying to assess whether ethnic cleansing took place, when there is a determination, that definitely triggers a policy response --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- and you’re making an effort to assess that.

    MS NAUERT: We are making an effort to assess this, okay. And that --

    QUESTION: So not as it – not as it applies to Myanmar --

    MS NAUERT: Look --

    QUESTION: -- what does the State Department do in situations where ethnic cleansing has been found?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think you’ve seen our action in the past. I think you’ve seen how much we care about issues such as that in the past. It’s under review, and that’s all I can say about it, okay.

    QUESTION: How long do you think the review will take?

    MS NAUERT: I will never preview how long a review will take. You could ask me that about the previous Afghan review; you could ask me that about our Pakistan review; you could ask me that about our Iran review.

    QUESTION: Well --

    MS NAUERT: I’m never going to give you a timeline on how long a review will take. We will do a review until we have sufficient information and until we can provide good solid information with evidence – that is backed by evidence. Okay?

    Thank you, everybody.

    QUESTION: Before you walk away could I ask you two really brief and very disparate things?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: One, on the latest escalation – or what appears to be escalation in your ongoing diplomatic spat with the Russians – they seem to have removed some of your parking spaces. (Laughter.) Are you guys going to retaliate? What’s next here? Are you going to be forcing Russian diplomats in Washington to ride bicycles, or what’s the deal?

    MS NAUERT: A lot of people around here ride bicycles. That’s not --

    QUESTION: I know.

    MS NAUERT: -- such a bad idea. Someone was lobbying me on that in the garage the other day. We can confirm that the parking spaces that were previously designated for our consulate personnel in Russia were recently removed, so we can confirm that that happened. We will plan to raise that issue with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss that with them.

    But I don’t want to characterize that as any sort of retaliation. I think we want to forge ahead with our relationship with the Government of Russia. And we had a good meeting. Under Secretary Shannon had a positive meeting with Mr. Ryabkov, and we’ll go from there in our relationship.

    QUESTION: All right. But so in other words, you don’t intend – there doesn’t – you don’t intend to respond to this. Has it --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information to provide on that. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Okay. Do you know – just offhand, do you know if it has caused major inconvenience for people in Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know the answer to that.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: We have fewer people there, so --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: -- maybe a few --

    QUESTION: And then lastly at – I mean, to – I understand that the administration’s thinking on the Taylor Force Act and that – and Palestinian aid has evolved. What’s the latest? Is the administration prepared to support the Taylor Force Act now, which as you know, would cut off aid to --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- the Palestinians if they don’t stop payments to the families of --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? This was something that was just brought to my attention as I was walking out here, and I didn’t get a chance to go through it all. So I just don’t have any – an update --

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: -- for you on that right now, but I can get that for you in just a little bit.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? Thank you, everybody.

    QUESTION: Just a small one on the UN --

    MS NAUERT: We got to go.

    QUESTION: Just a practical one. You – do you have a rough estimate for how much smaller your footprint will be at UNGA this year than in past years?

    MS NAUERT: So what I can tell you is that we have a very robust agenda. We have our diplomats and folks who are on their way up there. The Secretary heads up there on Friday, as I mentioned. We have a full schedule of meetings that we are still working out right now.

    Some folks like to focus on the overall size of the footprint, and I can tell you that diplomats are still going. We are still doing all of the work that is necessary and important to the State Department. In terms of a smaller footprint, there will be some support staff who will not be going this year, because we recognize that there is this thing called technology. There’s this thing called email, which some people are able to provide support staffing to our colleagues who will be in New York by emailing information in.

    So we don’t feel that this year we need the bodies that we have had in years past. The Secretary firmly believes, coming out of the private sector, that he needs to – and that we all need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And by not having as large of a footprint in New York the week of UNGA – by the way, have you checked hotel rates?

    QUESTION: I --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’ve --

    QUESTION: -- have for many years. Yes.

    MS NAUERT: I found a hotel right down the street – and it’s not a great hotel, by the way – it’s $1,400 a night.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: So I mean, the hotel rates alone are ridiculously expensive. So by cutting back and cutting back the number of support staff going, we feel like we’ll still be able to do our job. We’ll still be able to conduct diplomacy, but some of our folks will be back here in Washington --

    QUESTION: Sure. Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- or working from elsewhere.

    QUESTION: And do you have an estimate on the savings?

    MS NAUERT: I’m – I do not. Nope. Thanks, everybody.

    QUESTION: Were you quoting – that’s the government rate? $1,400?

    MS NAUERT: That was just the regular rate. I don’t know what the government rate is.

    QUESTION: Be careful about extolling the virtues of email from this podium.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, right? Oh my gosh. Good point.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:39 p.m.)

    DPB # 50

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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 12, 2017

mer, 09/13/2017 - 02:23
Heather Nauert
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 12, 2017

Index for Today's Briefing
  • IRAN
  • IRAN


    3:04 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

    QUESTION: Hello.

    MS NAUERT: How are you today? We were holding out for the White House to finish, but I know you all have a lot of stories to file. So here we are. We’re going to get going anyway.

    Let me start out by talking a little bit about Hurricane Irma. And we want to express and extend our condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones and to the communities who have been affected by Hurricane Irma. We’d like to thank our international partners in the region for working with us to deliver disaster assistance and humanitarian relief to those affected by the storm. Since Friday, more than 2,000 individuals have been evacuated from Sint Maarten, including more than 300 people evacuated by Royal Caribbean cruise line and 1,700 by U.S. military air transport. We’re grateful to our colleagues at the Department of Defense for their nonstop support in this effort.

    Evacuation flights from Sint Maarten resume today to San Juan, Puerto Rico. And we are also planning an evacuation flight from Tortola, that’s British Virgin Isles, the Beef Island Airport, to San Juan later today. We’ve used email, phone calls, social media, radio announcements and the warden system to get the word out. And I’d like to thank all of you for helping us to get the word out. We’ve gotten the word out – you all have as well – to Americans who have been traveling overseas and have assisted them through that in helping to get transportation back here to the United States. So I just wanted to extend our thanks for that.

    Our embassies in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Barbados, as well as the United States Consulate General in Curacao are now open. Many staff from the posts are involved in Hurricane Irma relief efforts, so our routine consular services are limited at this time. The U.S. Embassy in Havana and the surrounding area suffered extensive flood damage. U.S. citizens in Cuba in need of assistance should contact our embassy by telephone. Our staff is providing emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

    As we help U.S. citizens, USAID has teams on the ground in hard-hit areas of St. Martin, in Antigua, Barbuda, the Bahamas, leading the United States disaster response efforts. Some of the areas have limited access to safe drinking water, and homes have been destroyed following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. The supplies USAID will provide will help prevent the spread of disease through hygiene kits and will provide shelter and blankets to the affected communities.

    In addition, one more point on Hurricane Irma I want to mention to you: Flights for Wednesday, September the 13th out of Sint Maarten, on the Dutch side I’m referring to, will be limited. We do not anticipate U.S. Government flights after Wednesday. That is important to note. We don’t anticipate any flights after Wednesday. Flights will be boarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. U.S. citizens are advised to arrive at the airport as early as is safe to do so. We discourage U.S. citizens from traveling in the dark. Please do bring your passport and travel documents to the airport if you have them. U.S. citizens may still proceed to the airport for processing if you no longer have your documents.

    Thanks for listening to that and thanks for helping us get out that information. With that, I’ll take your questions. Where do you want to start today?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: Matt.

    QUESTION: I’ve got two brief housekeeping things.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: First is: Maybe I missed it, and please forgive me if I did, but was there ever an official announcement of the 243(d) visa limits?

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: There was?

    MS NAUERT: I believe so. Hold on one second. I have something for you on that.

    QUESTION: Because – well, the reason I am asking is because the embassies in Guinea and Eritrea put out announcements saying that they had halted issuing most nonimmigrant visas as of tomorrow.

    MS NAUERT: Right.

    QUESTION: But they – the other two countries that had been talked about – Cambodia and Sierra Leone – had not made such announcements. So I’m just --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Give me a second here, because I do have some information on that. And it’ll take me a sec to find it.

    QUESTION: All right. Well, it’s not that huge, so I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I mean, I do want the answer, but you can do it at the very end if you want.

    MS NAUERT: Why, thank you.

    QUESTION: And then I was wondering if you had any readout of the Shannon-Ryabkov meeting.

    MS NAUERT: I have a little bit of something for you on that. Of course, what Matt is referring to is our Under Secretary Tom Shannon is in Helsinki, Finland today, and that is where he is meeting with his counterpart, Mr. Ryabkov, there. I have a somewhat limited readout of that meeting. This, of course, is the third meeting that they’ve had this year alone. They had one in April, they had one in July, and this is the most recent one since July. That program, or channel, if you will, was set up in order to address some of the smaller issues so that the rest of the department could focus, so the Secretary could focus, on some of the larger issues with his counterpart.

    Give me one second just to find what I have for you on this readout. Okay.

    The United States and Russian Federation held a meeting on strategic stability issues in Helsinki, Finland on September the 12th. That’s today. The U.S. delegation was led by Under Secretary Tom Shannon, Jr., and the Russian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The discussions provided both sides with an opportunity to raise questions and concerns related to strategic stability and also to clarify their positions on that matter.

    So I don’t have a whole lot for you, but that’s what I can provide you.

    QUESTION: That’s all you have?

    MS NAUERT: That’s all I have for you, yep.

    QUESTION: So you can’t say if anything was resolved or if anything got worse, or if they agreed that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov would meet next week in New York, or if – anything else?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any more for you on this. Our schedule is still developing. I know a lot of you will have questions about our scheduling at the United Nations next week. We’re still working on developing that schedule. So we anticipate to have a fuller readout about the UNGA schedule on Thursday.

    QUESTION: Last meeting, the readout was that they’d agreed to – both sides wanted to set a schedule for the resumption of strategic stability dialogue on major issues. Has there been any progress on that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any kind of schedule for you. That meeting just took place today. As you know, Helsinki a bit ahead of us, so I have not talked to Mr. Shannon. But as soon as I get some information on that, I’d be happy to bring it to you. At least what I can.

    So let’s stick with this issue. Does anybody have any questions about this?

    QUESTION: Very quickly --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- on the new Russian Ambassador Antonov. Has there been a meeting between him and anyone in this building? He called today for – to sort of scale back or de-escalate this tit-for-tat and so on. I wonder what your comment would be.

    MS NAUERT: Well, and that’s – that’s exactly what we want. We want our relationship to have already reached its low point. Both of our nations are going forward with the goal to try to improve our relationship and look for areas of mutual cooperation. So we start from here, and hopefully things will only get better. Okay.

    Hey, Michele.

    QUESTION: Hi. Sorry, thanks. Still on Russia. On this Buzzfeed report that there was this document presented to the State Department, as well as the White House, on Russia wanting to immediately heal the relationship and get back on track, can you talk about this meeting in which this was presented? Can you tell us a little more about that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with any particular meeting that you’re referring to. I just saw this article that you’re referring to as I was walking out here, so trying to scramble to get up to speed on that. Essentially, allegedly talks about resetting our relations. That’s what we want also, so I’m really happy to hear that we’re all on the same page. We want to improve relations; two world nuclear powers need to be able to work together on areas of mutual cooperation.

    QUESTION: Well, what was the immediate U.S. response to that plan that was put together, according to this report and according to this document?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not aware of that. It would be considered a private diplomatic conversation that I just can’t confirm any of the details of that. But the Secretary has talked about it, our relationship, a lot, saying that we take a pragmatic approach to our relations with Russia and we have to have areas that we can work together. Where we don’t see eye to eye, we will certainly uphold American values, we will speak about American values and things that are important to our nation, but we want to work together with them as well.

    QUESTION: Okay. If this was – if this was – no one has disputed the authenticity of this document.

    MS NAUERT: I haven’t seen it. I just haven’t seen it.

    QUESTION: Okay. Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: I’ve only seen the news report, and so I don’t want to get --

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: -- beyond this because, literally, this was handed to me just --

    QUESTION: Understood.

    MS NAUERT: -- just moments ago. And so --

    QUESTION: That’s why my question is just going to be a general one.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: That if Russia was looking for an immediate reset, basically, on – that was clearly not going to happen; am I right? I mean --

    MS NAUERT: I just – that I just don’t know. I can’t comment on that in particular. I just can tell you that I know we look forward to trying to improve our relationship with that. A very good indication of that is – one thing – Mr. Shannon meeting in Helsinki with his counterpart. Another example of that will be other meetings that we have going forward. Nothing to announce at this time, but as we have those I’ll let you know. Okay.

    QUESTION: One of the anonymous officials cited in responding to the report --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry? The what?

    QUESTION: One of the anonymous officials who was cited in the report that you’ve only just seen said that the route to a reset goes through Ukraine, and he confirmed generally that you have to resolve the crisis in Ukraine before you can warm up talks.

    MS NAUERT: I’m not going to stand here and make policy for us. That is an issue --

    QUESTION: Can you comment on the exiting policy? Is it the policy that the Ukraine crisis has to be resolved?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I know we have to resolve that crisis. And part of the reason that we put Kurt Volker in the place to manage the ongoing issue with Ukraine is because the Secretary views that as something that’s tremendously important. That has been a sore spot between the United States and Russia. We believe in Ukrainian territorial integrity. That certainly has not changed. But anything more on this news report, I just can’t comment on it, can refer you back to the Russian Government if they want to comment on this report. Okay.

    QUESTION: So there have been indications, I believe, that the Russians may be prepared to demand that the United States pare its staffing in Moscow in its embassy even further. How will that reflect on your – on the Secretary’s push for better relations?

    MS NAUERT: Look, I don’t want to speculate on any kind of hypothetical, and I’m not going to take the bait on another nation supposedly coming out with what could be perceived as a threat. I think the Secretary believes that no further escalatory action is necessary at this point, and we look forward to trying to forge ahead.

    Okay. Anything else on Russia? Okay, we’re done with Russia.

    QUESTION: China-North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hey.

    QUESTION: Hey.

    MS NAUERT: Hey, Rich Edson. How are you?

    QUESTION: Very well today, thank you. Today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Marshall Billingsley testified that he cannot assure the committee that they’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to shut down North Korean revenue flows, expunge North Korean illicit actors from the banking system, expel middlemen and brokers who are establishing webs and front companies; it urgently needs to take demonstrable public steps to eliminate North Korea’s trade and financial access.

    You’ve said last week that China needs to do more, but there is – there is movement behind the scenes, though this seems to be a little bit more of an indictment on China not – needing to do a lot more. Is there a difference between Treasury and State’s assessment of China cracking down on North Korea, and what is the latest assessment that State has on that?

    MS NAUERT: I think we have all said this, whether it’s coming out of the White House, whether it’s coming out of Treasury or here, China can do more. We know that they can do more. We know that 90 percent of the trade goes through China, so we expect them to do more. They just backed the UN Security Council resolution yesterday. They backed the one the month before. That’s significant.

    China has repeatedly said that they do not believe in a nuclearized Korean Peninsula. They are working with us, we are working with them, to try to get to that goal. Can China do more? Yes, of course. All nations can do more. The Secretary has a meeting with the state councilor later this afternoon. I don’t want to preview that meeting. I don’t want to get ahead of those meetings that the Secretary will have, but when I have more for you I’ll certainly bring it to you.

    QUESTION: And in the sanctions that the Security Council cleared yesterday, is the administration satisfied with the outcome? There was – the U.S. and its allies had pushed a stronger version. China and Russia – China – Russia is now saying that it got everything it wanted out of this.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So is the U.S. satisfied with --

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think we’re in a really good spot. We have had two unanimous votes, UN Security Council resolutions, within a period of about a month. That shows that the world is acting together, that the world is acting together and worried and tremendously concerned about the destabilizing activities of North Korea. I can’t be any stronger on that than that. I mean, we are happy with that. We are pleased with that. Some people want to pick it apart and say, wow, you didn’t get enough. This is significant. These are tremendously significant.

    QUESTION: You’ve also mentioned from here, though, that sanctions take a long time to have a real effect.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: These sanctions are clearly significant based on what everyone who spoke yesterday said, but does the world have time to wait for them to – if they’re going to change North Korea’s behavior for --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I mean, look, this is a three-pronged approach: We have Treasury Department, we have the Department of Defense, and we also have the State Department. So we’re continuing to push forward with what we are doing with the diplomacy, and that’s our piece of it. This is the strongest set of sanctions that have been passed by the UN Security Council on DPRK. The strongest set of sanctions; that’s significant. There were times when we in the building last week were talking about, “Gosh, will China and will Russia vote for this?” They, in fact, did. So we are --

    QUESTION: But today – oh, I’m sorry.

    MS NAUERT: We are pleased, and I think that reflects the attitude, the shared attitude, of the world.

    QUESTION: But the President today said that the sanctions were not a big deal and nothing compared to what needs to be done. That seems like the complete opposite of what you just said.

    MS NAUERT: I think what the President is talking about is that more can be done. We are – that is not – we are not at the ceiling when it comes to sanctions against the DPRK. We’re sort of at the floor at this point. There’s a lot more that we can do --

    QUESTION: Floor? On the floor?

    MS NAUERT: The floor.

    QUESTION: Really?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Not the ceiling, the floor. Okay.

    QUESTION: I get it.

    MS NAUERT: Maybe a step above the floor.

    QUESTION: I don’t know. It seems like you’re pretty close to the ceiling.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, well, okay. Ceiling, floor, wall --

    QUESTION: I mean, there’s not that much more to the sanctions.

    MS NAUERT: Wall, whatever you want to – however you want to look at it, we are not at the – we’re not at the ceiling. And I think that’s what the President was saying.

    QUESTION: So do --

    QUESTION: So are they a – are the sanctions a big deal, or are they not a big deal?

    MS NAUERT: Look – (laughter.)

    QUESTION: (Laughter.) Because I’ve heard two --

    MS NAUERT: I think the --

    QUESTION: -- really different things in one day.

    MS NAUERT: I think the sanctions – and I’m not going to go against the President, but I think the sanctions are significant. I think the President is more looking at that there is more that can be done and recognizing that the world has a lot more work that can be done. Okay.

    QUESTION: Shortly before the vote, the Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted that this vote that was coming up when she sent the tweet was a result of North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test.

    MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Has the administration made a definitive determination that this was, in fact, a hydrogen bomb, or was she getting a little too far forward on her tweets?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and let me look for her exact quote here, because I have it somewhere. I think what she was doing is referring to – she said it was – she referred to the September 3rd test as a “claimed hydrogen bomb.”

    QUESTION: Not in the tweet she didn’t.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, well, in her remarks yesterday at the Security Council she said that. So North Korea claims it was a hydrogen bomb, and I believe that what she was – that’s what she was referencing.

    QUESTION: Okay, so this is a case of Twitter, perhaps, not being the best --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, look, it’s --

    QUESTION: -- way to --

    MS NAUERT: It’s obviously very serious what happened. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Palestine-Israel.

    QUESTION: Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, hi.

    QUESTION: On the – on the marine --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. Sir, tell me your name again.

    QUESTION: Julian Borger from The Guardian.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, right. Hi.

    QUESTION: On the marine interdiction part of the sanctions --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- will that be backed up by any resources to carry that out? Because it – does it imply much more naval patrolling, more attempted interdictions of --

    MS NAUERT: Well, a lot of that would be a DOD issue.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: There’s a little bit I can try to give you on that, and then I would just refer you to DOD for all of the specifics on how exactly that gets done.

    The resolution provides UN member-states with new tools to stop high seas smuggling of prohibited products. If a flag state or a vessel does not cooperate with inspections, then the vessel can be designated for asset freeze, denied port access, it could be de-registered, and it could suffer other penalties. That’s all we have here at the State Department on that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Heather? Heather?

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on DPRK?

    QUESTION: Heather?


    QUESTION: On DPRK. On the --

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Hi, Jaehne.

    QUESTION: On North Korea and DPRK. Thank you. If North Korea does not dismantle its nuclear weapons, then South Korea want tactical nuclear relocation into Korean Peninsula for nuclear battles in Korean Peninsula. What is the U.S. position on this?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I’ve certainly seen those reports about that. I’m not going to comment or get ahead of any discussions that could be happening or may not be happening. I’m not aware of any conversations that are being had with the State Department on that matter. Okay?

    QUESTION: But does the – does the U.S. considering about this issue?

    MS NAUERT: I think that would be a DOD issue, and I’m not prepared to talk about that.

    QUESTION: But that’s not a DOD issue. This is a U.S. issue.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah. I don’t have anything for you on that. Okay? Okay.

    QUESTION: One more. Joseph Yun, special representative for the Korea – North Korea policy, he visit Russia and meeting with the Six-Party delegations up there.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Do you know any purpose of these meetings?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. I have just a little bit of information. I can confirm that our Ambassador Yun – and many of you know Ambassador Yun – he is in Moscow today, and that is where he is meeting with some Russian officials. Among the topics that he’s talking about – and this is – when you all ask me, “Is the world on the same page,” goodness, here is an area of mutual cooperation with Russia, and that is that Ambassador Yun traveled to Moscow to meet with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to talk about cooperation on the DPRK. It’s an example of our ongoing discussions with the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK. So we’re pleased that he’s there and that those conversations are ongoing.

    QUESTION: Because last week, President Moon of South Korea, he visit Russia and he have a meeting with Putin. Putin doesn’t want to ask – help with these sanctions – UN sanctions regarding pressure North Koreans.

    MS NAUERT: I would say this: Russia voted for the sanctions yesterday at the UN Security Council.

    QUESTION: But this is not --

    MS NAUERT: They voted for the last round of sanctions and I think those actions speak very loudly, and we look forward to Russia adhering to its commitments. Okay?

    QUESTION: But this is not strong enough sanctions.

    MS NAUERT: Look, we are taking steps. I think the world is happy and the world is pleased with what took place yesterday. The world is working together, okay, working together to hold Kim Jong-un and his regime to account. Okay?

    QUESTION: Do you know if Ambassador Yun made any stops before Moscow --

    MS NAUERT: I am not aware of any.

    QUESTION: -- to like Switzerland, perhaps?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. Okay. Anything else on Russia today?

    QUESTION: Can I go to Palestine-Israel? Can I --

    QUESTION: Palestine?

    QUESTION: On Russia, and also on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Can you respond to The Washington Post report this morning that Russia is actually not cooperating and has been undermining sanctions by increasing trade, smuggling with North Korea?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I saw that report and here’s what I can say to that: Russia supported the UN Security Council resolutions yesterday. They support the overall goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. That has not changed. They supported the resolutions. They supported the resolutions a little over a month ago. So we anticipate and hope that they will follow through on their agreements.

    QUESTION: Do you have any evidence? Does the U.S. Government have any evidence --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have any – I don’t have any information beyond that.

    QUESTION: -- that they’re – that they are increasing trade, even?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that, if that’s the case. Okay? Anything else on Russia?

    QUESTION: Can I move on, please?

    QUESTION: Yes, I had a follow-up on the --

    QUESTION: Can I move on? Can I move on?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Can I move on --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: I want to go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: The President has issued a --

    QUESTION: I had one more on North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Go ahead. Sure.

    MS NAUERT: Abbie.

    QUESTION: Please. I’ll wait. Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Go ahead, Abbie.

    QUESTION: I didn’t mean to interrupt.

    QUESTION: No, that’s okay. No problem. Go ahead.

    MS NAUERT: Apologize to Said. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: Please. Go ahead, yeah. No problem.

    MS NAUERT: It’s quite all right. Go right ahead.

    QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on what Conor asked. The Assistant Secretary of Treasury testified today about deceptive practices used by North Korea, specifically looking at that port of Vladivostok, Russia, and the switching of flags. Do you feel like the recent sanctions specifically allowing for the checking of ships, they’re – when they’re trying to smuggle will prevent that sort of thing from happening? And is that something specifically that the U.S. is talking to Russia about --

    MS NAUERT: Well --

    QUESTION: -- stopping?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t – in talking to Russia about where?

    QUESTION: About stopping their practice where they’re using Vladivostok, Russia as a port in order to offload coal.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So with the interdiction that we talked about, that would be a goal of that – to be able to prevent things from happening of that nature. Beyond that, I can’t tell you anything about what’s happening in those meetings right now. I just don’t want to get ahead of some of those meetings. Okay? All right. Said.

    QUESTION: Very quickly, I just wanted to ask if there are any plans for Secretary Tillerson to meet with either the Palestinian and Israeli leaders either with the President when he meets with them or separately. Do you have – is there anything that you can share with us?

    MS NAUERT: So I don’t have anything for you on the Secretary’s schedule today at the UN General Assembly. That’s what you’re referring to, right?

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. So we’ll have some scheduled meetings to be able to tell you about Thursday, as you all know, that these things develop, and they’re late developing sometimes. So that’s where we are right now with the meetings. I can tell you, though, that the President is planning to sit down with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and I know that the President’s looking forward to doing that.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Any --

    QUESTION: Can you explain what’s going on with this $75 million that the State Department allegedly or Secretary Tillerson allegedly wants to remove from the additional money to the MOU? Is this a thing or not?

    MS NAUERT: So I can tell you this: Israel is an important, trusted ally of the United States. That hasn’t changed and that won’t change. We have a strong relationship with Israel. I just mentioned that the President looks down – looks forward to sitting down with the Israeli prime minister next week at the UN General Assembly. When I have the Secretary’s schedule for you, I’d be happy to bring that to you.

    In terms of the memo of understanding – that’s one of the things you’re referring to – I know we support the memo of understanding. I know that Israel is in the position to be able to get that funding and that is something that we support.

    QUESTION: So there is no attempt or desire on the part of this building or the Secretary to have the Israelis return it or to not give it the extra above and beyond what was in the MOU, the money that Congress – the 75 million extra that Congress appropriated?

    MS NAUERT: What I can tell you is Israel is an important, trusted ally. I know that we support Israel strongly. The President obviously has a very strong relationship with the nation of Israel, and that certainly won’t change, and I know the President is looking forward to seeing him.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but that doesn’t answer the question about the 75 million.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, they’re going to get the money.

    QUESTION: They are?

    MS NAUERT: They’re going to get the money, yeah.

    QUESTION: So this is not an issue, then? Okay.

    QUESTION: Just very quickly, if I could follow up.

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to a conference via video --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- in a settlement in Israel. It’s a conference of a political party that is calling for removal of the Palestinians. He, in fact, said to them that they came to this land when it was barren and they have the right to settle (inaudible). Do you have any comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m --

    QUESTION: I mean, he’s basically advocating ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I wonder if you would have a statement on that.

    MS NAUERT: Said, I’m not aware of what the prime minister allegedly said today, so I’m hesitant to comment on anything that I haven’t seen myself.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else on Israel today?


    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Turkey.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Turkey. The Turkish Government is going to buy the S-400 air defense system from Russia. Obviously, the details of the system we’ll try and get from DOD, but from a diplomatic point of view, this is a bit of a slap in the face for NATO, isn’t it?

    MS NAUERT: Well, one of the things that we want is it’s important for NATO countries to have military equipment that’s considered interoperable with the NATO systems, with the systems that NATO nations currently have. A Russian system, if Turkey were to buy these S-400s, as is being reported, that would not meet that standard, so that would of course be a concern of ours. It would be inconsistent with the statement – the commitments made by allies at the Warsaw Summit that is supposed to enhance resilience by working to address existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment through some of our national efforts.

    QUESTION: So it would be a breach of these agreements in spirit, or is there some NATO rule that’s being broken here?

    MS NAUERT: I would have to check with NATO on that if there is a rule that’s being broken. That I just don’t know offhand.

    QUESTION: And you’re not prepared to discuss any repercussions if Turkey goes through with this?

    MS NAUERT: Not at this point.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: Turkey, same issue? Turkey?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah, hi. Hi, Ilhan. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you so much.

    MS NAUERT: We had a Turkish journalist in here yesterday who was here visiting the State Department with --

    QUESTION: Oh, I didn’t see.

    MS NAUERT: -- with another team. Yes.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: So we were happy to have her.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, a Turkish administration official – actually, spokesman – Minister Bekir Bozdag was talking about the probe here in New York South District indicting ex-minister, and Turkish administration now calls it as a coup or repetition of coup against Turkish Government, accusing U.S. Government to using a judicial process to overthrow Turkish Government. And this is coming from the spokesman of the government. I was wondering, what’s your reaction to that?

    MS NAUERT: I’m going to say three words: That is ridiculous. That’s it.

    QUESTION: Okay. That’s it.

    MS NAUERT: Anything else on Turkey?

    QUESTION: Do you have some comments on the alleged meeting between --

    QUESTION: Yes, I have a question. I have a question.

    MS NAUERT: Sir, go ahead. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, Michael Ignatiou from MEGA TV, Greece. On the question of the missiles, since the system is not compatible with NATO and U.S.A., are you going to stop this deal? Are you going to ask the Turks not to go ahead and buy the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any conversations we’re having about that, but if I learn anything about it, I can certainly try to let you know.

    QUESTION: But you are against this sale, correct?

    MS NAUERT: Look, we want – and under the Warsaw agreement, these pieces of equipment are supposed to be interoperable with NATO nations, and this would not be interoperable, so that’s a concern of ours.

    Okay, anything else on Turkey today?

    QUESTION: Hurricane Irma?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s move on then. I thought we were done with Irma. Okay, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I just had very – two quick questions about Hurricane Irma. In the past few days, we can see the Hurricane Irma has caused widespread destruction across the Caribbean and some American citizens were stranded there. So how do you make sure these American people can evacuate in a very short time? Because according to the CBS News, some current State Department employees say the lack of leadership is one reason that evacuation has been so --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? That narrative – and no offense to our friend here in the audience – that narrative, as far as I could know – as far as I could see, was reported by one news outlet. One news outlet with unnamed former administration officials wrote a story claiming that the State Department wasn’t doing enough, and the State Department was too slow to act. What I can tell you is about 2,000 people have been evacuated from Sint Maarten, and we did that in a quick period of time as a storm was bearing down on us and another storm was immediately running behind. Our staff, backed by the Department of Defense, went through incredible efforts to help people get home, to help evacuate people, and they’re still engaged in doing that. We have a task force that started more than a week ago – let’s say a week ago Friday, so it would now be about 10 days ago – that has been planning for this, how would we respond to this as a U.S. Government. We have not only been evacuating people but also providing supplies, clean water, assistance. We have our disaster recovery assistance teams, our DART teams from USAID, who flew there to many of these countries before the storm even hit just so they could be prepared to help out – not just helping with American citizens, but helping with those countries.

    The United States is the most generous nation around the globe. We continue to do that. We’ve been on top of this. I spent time yesterday thanking the folks at our task force. We had about 80 people working on this task force at various periods of time, and this is the Irma task force that was run out of our Operations Center upstairs. And if you go up there and you see it, we’ve got maps all over the place; you have people on the phone talking to Americans here at home who are reporting, “My cousin Billy was last seen at this hotel on St. Martin. Can you help put us in touch?” And our folks were involved in doing that.

    So herculean efforts on the part of our staff, and in fact, even during the worst times of the storm, our embassies, while closed, were still able to provide somewhat limited services to American citizens on the ground. So I don’t think that anyone, outside of one news organization, would say that the United States didn’t do a bang-up job in helping people get home.

    QUESTION: So all these 2,000 people are back in the United States?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know where they are right now. Some of them would be in Puerto Rico, which of course is the United States. I don’t know where everybody is right now, but we did that, and other nations certainly look to us to help out too and we have been able to provide some support for other nations. Americans come first when it comes to getting on these planes. We saw Royal Caribbean – I mean, they just did it on their own, started bringing some people home as well. So this is what we do as Americans. We take care of our people.

    Okay. Any other questions on Irma?

    QUESTION: Can I just clarify one thing?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: You just said that the task force started 10 days ago?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: So it didn’t start Friday officially?

    MS NAUERT: The task force started prior to last Friday. I was just up speaking with our task force director – Robert, you were with me; we can double-check that – yesterday morning, and she told me about that and said, “Hey, sorry, we didn’t get all the information out.” Does that help? Does that answer your question?

    QUESTION: Kind of, but, I mean, multiple sources at the State Department said that it started last Friday.

    MS NAUERT: Look, the task force was meeting. They were having conversations. They were --

    QUESTION: So it officially started 10 days ago?

    MS NAUERT: That is what I was told yesterday, that it started then and that they were meeting, having conversations. I mean, were there a bunch of people hovering around in a building when there was no storm? No, of course not. But were they having meetings and planning for a hurricane that was on its way prior to last Friday? Absolutely. I was on the phone days and days ago before the hurricane hit, talking to folks internally here about what was going on. Okay?

    QUESTION: Move on?

    Okay. Yeah.

    QUESTION: I just – there are a couple of deadlines that are fast approaching on Iran --

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- on the nuclear deal. First, the sanctions waiver needs to be expired – needs to be extended or eliminated this week, and then in October there’s another decision about certification of the deal.

    And I am curious: The last administration when it presented the deal to Congress, it included the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and identified it as a related document. And there is an argument that is being made now that because the previous administration which negotiated the deal linked the two – in other words, the JCPOA and the UN Security Council resolution – you could – the administration could find Iran to be not in compliance with the JCPOA if it is violating the UN Security Council resolution. Is that this administration’s position? Is that an argument that the administration is sympathetic to?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not aware of the – I’m not aware of the linkage of that, so I’m going to hesitate to speak to that because that just – I’m not aware of it.

    What I can tell you: We’re continuing to conduct a full review of our Iran policy. That has certainly not changed. I know a lot of you are very interested in what’s going on and what’s going to come out of that. During the course of the review – and I’ll say this again – that we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its malign activities. We all know some of the nefarious activities Iran is involved with in many parts of the world, destabilizing activities, and that unfortunately has not changed, but we will continue to try to counter that.

    We will continue to look to the IAEA to conduct inspections, to continue to monitor and verify all of Iran’s nuclear commitments to make sure that they are adhering to those nuclear commitments. We also note Iran’s continued activities. We believe that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the JCPOA, because the JCPOA’s agreement calls for regional and international peace and security. We don’t believe that Iran is in compliance with that. We are – we certainly believe that they are in default of the spirit. We’ve discussed that before. The review is though – however, still underway, so I don’t want to get ahead of what that review might hold.

    QUESTION: And then I will be quiet after this, but --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- just before you call it a day, the answer to the 20 – 243(d) visa stuff --

    MS NAUERT: Are you running? Are you running off?

    QUESTION: No, no.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

    QUESTION: But I’m just going to --

    MR GREENAN: There’s a visa section in the white book.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Do you want to go over it now?

    QUESTION: Other people can go first.

    MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. All right.

    QUESTION: Just real quick on Iran.

    QUESTION: Really quick on Iran.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Just that the IAEA found yesterday that Iran is implementing its nuclear commitments. The administration confident in that assessment?

    MS NAUERT: So it’s a report that is still confidential at this point. So I’m not going to comment on a report that’s still confidential at this point. We typically don’t discuss the details of something before it is officially released, so I’m going to adhere to that policy. I can say we appreciate the efforts of the IAEA to – as they work to verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA. We remain fully committed – and this has not changed – to ensuring that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. I want to be firm on that one. We continue to review and to monitor Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA in order to ensure that Iran continues to strictly meet all of its commitments.

    QUESTION: And the U.S. has confidence in the IAEA?

    MS NAUERT: They have done a good job of doing its work. We thank them for that. As you know, we’ve had visits with them, as has Mr. Shannon, over at the IAEA to have conversations about this, and so we stand by their work.

    QUESTION: Mr. Amano said – Amano said that Iran was --

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who?

    QUESTION: The head of the AIEA --

    MS NAUERT: Uh-huh?

    QUESTION: -- said that Iran was playing by the rules. So if they come and say, “Iran is playing by the rules,” will you still say that they are not complying?

    MS NAUERT: Look, I think I was clear that the --

    QUESTION: Heather, I understand the spirit --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on. The administration believes that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the law.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: The Iran review is still ongoing. We will continue to follow the letter of the law, but we believe that Iran is in violation of the spirit of the law, and I’m not going to get ahead of what that review will contain and I’m not going to forecast it either.

    QUESTION: So there’s been suggestion that there is going to be some sort of a new deal or a new renegotiation of this deal --

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not --

    QUESTION: -- as suggested by --

    MS NAUERT: Said, I’m just not going to speculate. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move on. You had a lot of questions today.

    QUESTION: I have a lot.

    MS NAUERT: You certainly do. Hey, Gardiner. How you doing?

    QUESTION: Hey, Heather. So there was unusually fierce criticism of the Secretary and the administration of this department in the last several days on Capitol Hill – bipartisan criticism in both your Appropriations Committee and your Authorizing Committee. In the Appropriations, they obviously largely rejected your proposed budget. Senator Lindsey Graham talked about not needing to stay on the battlefield during very tough times. In your nominating hearing today there was a chorus of senators criticizing this department for, for instance, not sharing anything about the ongoing efforts for reorganization.

    I’m just wondering if you can answer some of those criticisms, but also help us understand why it is that there is so much concern on Capitol Hill about the management of this department right now.

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think a couple things. One, what we are looking at is the appropriations process. And this is exactly how the appropriations process works. We look forward to working with Congress. Congress may choose to give us more money, but we work with the budget that we are given. I remember Secretary Rumsfeld once years ago saying, “You go to war with the army you have,” right. We work with what we are given. Our people are no less – no less dedicated as a result of the budget that we are anticipating. We are still working full force, full steam ahead, and that has not changed one bit.

    Congress can express its concerns. They are fully – that is fully appropriate for them to do that. We look forward to working with Congress and to engaging with them. I know we’ve got a lot of members on the Hill over the next few days. It would be very difficult to keep track of everything that every one of our folks has testified to on Capitol Hill. So I think that’s the first part of your question.

    The second part of your question was?

    QUESTION: I mean, it seems that there is an unusual amount of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans about the way this administration is administering the State Department. Do you agree with that assessment? And if so, why do you think that might be?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to speculate as to why members of Congress have opinions. We all know that the politicians have their opinions about how things should be run, and they’re right to have those opinions, and frankly, that’s a democracy. It’s okay for them to ask questions, and to ask tough questions. We deserve it, to be asked those questions, and we will answer those questions to the best of our ability.

    In terms of the overall redesign, this week we provided some information to the Office of Management and Budget. As you all know, when we put together – when Secretary Tillerson spearheaded the redesign, it had a few phases to it – three phases, in fact: one, two, and three. We’re now through phase two. We are at the point where we are sending information up to the OMB – I believe it’s sometime today – where we’re giving them some of our information, and then OMB will take a look at that, and then we’ll end up going from there.

    When we look at the redesign, this is really a very unique program, and I know a lot of people like to try to make fun of the redesign, but look, one of the things that’s incredibly unique about it is that employees were asked what they want, how they want to see the State Department redefined for the future. And I’ve worked in the private sector, I’ve only worked in government for a few months, but I can tell you no private sector company that I worked for ever asked my opinion about what the future of that company should look like. And so that’s pretty incredible that the State Department did that, from the top levels down to the newbies starting here, ask them to weigh in – not only in the listening tour, but in the survey. And then we have these working groups that were broken out with people from each of the departments and bureaus who could help provide their advice and suggestions about best practices going forward.

    So as we get more information on what the redesign holds, I’d be happy to bring that to you. But OMB’s getting something; I believe it’s today.

    QUESTION: Will you make that report that went to the OMB today public?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if that’ll be public at this point; I’m not sure if that’s something that OMB – if that’s in the agreement. I’m just not aware of that. Okay.

    QUESTION: When you say information, what kind of information did you send them?

    MS NAUERT: We sent them a letter, I think, along with our report. Whatever it was that was required under the budget and the redesign, right?

    MR GREENAN: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: Looking at Robert.

    QUESTION: You have to share that with Congress by the 15th, don’t you?

    QUESTION: Yeah. That’s – Friday’s the deadline.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: All right. So it’s --

    MS NAUERT: So we give it to OMB first, and my understanding is that they preview it, and then Congress gets it.

    QUESTION: By Friday?

    MS NAUERT: I believe so, yeah. We’re on track. We’re on track. Okay.

    All right, guys, we got to wrap it up. Let me give you one last question.

    QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to bring you back to the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: By the way, our new guy from Reuters.

    QUESTION: That’s right.

    MS NAUERT: Welcome.

    QUESTION: Not so new. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Well, an old guy, but he’s new to us, right?

    QUESTION: An old guy who’s new, right. (Laughter.) Just remind, did you just say that the administration has no position yet on the report, the latest IAEA report? Because there was a statement made by the U.S. rep to the IAEA today welcoming that report, and praising the IAEA for its work on the JCPOA.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m not aware of that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? All right, guys. Got to leave.

    QUESTION: Wait, can you get to my --

    MS NAUERT: Oh, your last one. Visa. Hold on. This was – so suspenseful. Do you remember where this is, Robert?

    MR GREENAN: Under the visa tab.

    MS NAUERT: Visa tab.

    MR GREENAN: Back there. In the white book, in the back.

    MS NAUERT: Ah, see. It’s hiding. Okay.

    QUESTION: So first of all, was it ever officially announced that these four countries were going to be hit by this – by the restrictions?

    MS NAUERT: Did we communicate with those countries?

    QUESTION: No. Did you communicate publicly? I don’t know, I was away for some part of last month after the initial reports out of DHS and here, but I don’t know that it ever was formally announced that this was going to happen under 243(d) of the INA.

    MS NAUERT: I was away the same period of time that you were, so we – it may have come out, and may have slipped my attention.

    QUESTION: Well, anyway --

    MS NAUERT: Here’s what I can tell you about 243(d), and this is basically countries that weren’t taking back some of its people who had been convicted and served their time – criminal offenses. The Secretary of State has ordered consular officers in Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and also Cambodia to implement visa restrictions effective September 13, 2017. That’s tomorrow. The Secretary determined the categories of visa applicants subject to these restrictions on a country-by-country basis. Consular operations at the U.S. embassy will continue. The visa restrictions do not affect other consular services provided, including adjudication of applications from individuals not covered by the suspension. State received notification under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act from the Department of Homeland Security for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. According to that section of the law, when a country denies or unreasonably delays accepting one of its nationals, the Secretary of Homeland Security may notify the Secretary of State. The Secretary must then order consular officers in that country to discontinue issuance of any or all visas. The Secretary determines the categories of applicants subject to the visa restrictions, and the categories differ slightly country by country.

    QUESTION: Do they in this case?

    MS NAUERT: They do. Do you want to go over them?

    QUESTION: Yes, please.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. If anybody has to go, go right ahead.

    QUESTION: And also, do they only – does it only apply to government officials and their families or is it --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t believe so. Let me just – I want to – I want to make sure that we get everything absolutely correct. Obviously, a sensitive situation, so I’m just going to read straight from the book. Cambodia: The U.S. embassy in Cambodia has discontinued the issuance of B visas – those are considered temporary visas – for visitors for business or pleasure. The Cambodian ministry of foreign affairs employees with the rank of director general and above and their families – that is who it affects in Cambodia.

    In Eritrea, as of September 13, the U.S. embassy in Eritrea has discontinued the issuance of all B visas, which are temporary visitor visas for business or pleasure. So that’s for all – different from Cambodia.

    In Guinea, as of September 13, the United States --

    QUESTION: Hold on. So that means it applies to everyone, not just --

    MS NAUERT: All B visas.

    QUESTION: But for all Eritreans, not just government officials?

    MS NAUERT: Correct. Let me just go back and read this for you again.

    QUESTION: Sure.

    MS NAUERT: As of September 13, the U.S. embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, has discontinued the issuance of all B visas. Those are temporary visitor visas for business or pleasure. Okay?

    Guinea: As of September 13, the United States embassy in Conkary, Guinea --

    QUESTION: Conakry.

    MS NAUERT: -- Conakry, thank you – has discontinued the issuance of B visas, temporary visitor for business or pleasure, and F, J, and M – like Mary – visas, temporary visitors for student and exchange programs to government officials – hold on – and their immediate family members. So that just applies to government officials then in Guinea.

    And then for Sierra Leone, as of September 13, the United States embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has discontinued the issuance of B visas – temporary visitors for business or pleasure – to ministry of foreign affairs officials and immigration officials.

    Now, the State Department may change the covered visa categories at any time. Visa suspensions may include any category of visa applicants as determined by the department on a country-by-country basis.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Okay? All right. Thanks, everybody. Great to see you.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:51 p.m.)

    DPB # 49

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Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - September 7, 2017

ven, 09/08/2017 - 01:37
Heather Nauert
Department Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 7, 2017

Index for Today's Briefing


    3:07 p.m. EDT

    MS NAUERT: I think they fixed the air conditioning. How about that? Hi, everybody. How is everyone?

    QUESTION: Welcome back.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. It’s good to see you. Good to be back.

    Okay. So we have a lot going on today, certainly. And I want to start out talking a little bit about Hurricane Irma. And the first thing I want to say about that is that our condolences are certainly with those who have lost so much, including their loved ones, from the destruction of Hurricane Irma. We are continuing to monitor the path and also the impact of Hurricane Irma as the situation continues to evolve. We have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens who are overseas. We’ve said that many times from this podium, and today would be no more of a perfect moment than now to mention that again.

    Since Tuesday, our embassies have issued security messages and also travel warnings for the affected countries to inform U.S. citizens of the storm and to recommend that they begin making preparations to either depart or to shelter in place. The State Department has regular contact with our embassies to ensure that we have the latest information on our operations, U.S. citizen needs, and disaster assistance plans. We are communicating also with foreign authorities.

    In terms of our embassy operations and travel warnings, we continue to update information for U.S. citizens on the Hurricane Irma page at travel.state.gov and also through our emergency and security messages. The Department of State has authorized non-emergency U.S. Government employees and family members to depart the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and also Cuba. We have ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency U.S. Government employees from the Bahamas. As the storm passes through the region, our embassies will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

    In terms of emergency contact information – and this is important for folks who have family members, loved ones, and friends who are traveling in the Caribbean. If you are in the United States and are worried about a family member traveling there – again, this is in a foreign country, not in the United States – you can inform the Department of State about U.S. citizens affected by the hurricane who require emergency assistance through our website. You can go to travel.state.gov or you can call us at the following number: 1-888-407-4747. That’s from the U.S. and Canada. If you’re calling from overseas that number is 202-501-4444.

    In addition to that, our sister agency, USAID is providing some important information and some important teams on the ground, and they’ll have some additional information for you on that coming forward. We are committed to working with partners in the region to provide life-saving assistance as our neighbors in the Caribbean respond to the disaster. USAID officially activated a disaster assistance response team – many of you know that as DART – as Irma continues its destructive pass – path across the Caribbean. Disaster experts on DART were deployed to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Barbados, and also the Bahamas ahead of the storm, and they’re now coordinating with local authorities and humanitarian organizations on the ground to deliver vital assistance as soon as conditions allow.

    I’d like to recognize those brave Americans who are willing to go in what is potentially harm’s way in order to save or assist others. DART is comprised of experienced disaster response officials who are conducting damage and needs assessment. They’re working with local authorities and our humanitarian partners to coordinate distribution of emergency food assistance and relief supplies. USAID will have more information on this in – sometime later today.

    In addition to that, there’s a matter we’ve got a lot of questions from you recently on, and it’s something that we care about deeply here, and that is the situation taking place in Burma. I’d like to talk about this as a follow-on to the two statements that have recently been released from both the State Department and the USUN since the violence erupted there in late August.

    We are deeply concerned by the troubling situation in Burma’s northern Rakhine State. There has been a significant displacement of local populations, following serious allegations of human rights abuses, including mass burnings of Rohingya villages and violence conducted by security forces and also armed civilians. We, again, condemn deadly attacks on Burmese security forces, but join the international community in calling on those forces to prevent further violence and protect local populations in ways that are consistent with the rule of law and with full respect for human rights. We urge all in Burma, including in the Rakhine State, to avoid actions that exacerbate tensions there.

    We welcome the Government of Burma’s acknowledgement of the need to protect all communities and its pledge to implement recommendations of the Advisory Commission on the Rakhine State aimed at addressing long-standing challenges that predate the country’s democratic transition. We call on authorities to facilitate immediate access to affected communities that are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

    The United States is working through the United Nations and other international organizations to assist tens of thousands of civilians who have fled to southeastern Bangladesh since August the 25th. We are also communicating with Burma’s neighbors and other concerned international partners on efforts to end the violence and assist affected communities there.

    I would be happy to take your questions on that, but first I have one final thing. And I’d like to say we are very pleased to host the leaders of the state of Kuwait here in Washington this week. We got a late start today, as you well know, because we wanted, of course, the President and the emir of Kuwait to finish up their meetings and their press conference at the White House.

    As you know, the President just met with His Highness Emir al-Sabah at the White House. And tomorrow, here at the State Department, we will host the second annual United States-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, which is co-hosted by Secretary Tillerson and the first deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Kuwait. Kuwait is a strong regional partner, and we look forward to tomorrow’s meeting on education, trade, investment, homeland security, and also military cooperation. We also want to continue to thank Kuwait for its strong diplomatic efforts in trying to resolve the ongoing Gulf dispute.

    And with that, I would be happy to take your questions. Who’d like to start today?

    QUESTION: So why don’t we go right back to Myanmar? You said in your statement just now that the U.S. welcomes the call from the Government of Burma for the need to protect all different communities. That certainly hasn’t been the predominant message from Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in the last several weeks. Do you – does the U.S. have confidence or faith at this point in the efforts or desire of the Government of Myanmar to protect the Rohingya community?

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think there are a few things going on there. As you all as journalists who are passionate about foreign affairs well know, that it is a difficult place to get information from. It’s difficult to get access to. We’d like to certainly call on the Government of Burma to allow better, greater access for reporters and journalists to be able to enter that country and be able to provide accurate information about what’s going on on the ground. There also remains a humanitarian situation, where it is very difficult for humanitarian aid groups to be able to get in and provide the supplies and the support that is necessary. We are continuing to have conversations with the government, not only about the violence there, but also about those issues of journalists and also, perhaps more importantly, the humanitarian aid situation.

    Our ambassador over there, he and I – Ambassador Scot Marciel – exchanged emails earlier today to talk a little bit about the situation. He’s been on a plane and has met numerous times with the government – three times, in fact – in I believe it was just this week alone. So we remain very engaged in that.

    QUESTION: So the U.S. does have tools at your disposal. Obviously, we had a pretty broad sanctions regime against Myanmar; some of that has been lifted in recent years. Is the U.S. considering putting back sanctions or adding new sanctions to try to push back on these allegations of human rights violations that you were just describing?

    MS NAUERT: I think – and I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the issue of sanctions, but it’s something that we don’t want to get ahead of the conversations that we’re having. We’re having diplomatic conversations at this point; any potential sanctions are just not something that I could comment on this time. Either – assuming that they might happen, or might not happen.

    QUESTION: Heather, the leader --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s stay on this issue before we switch to the next one.

    QUESTION: Yeah, on Burma.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: The leader claims, Aung San Suu Kyi – she claims that this started by fake news. Is --

    MS NAUERT: She – say that again? She what?

    QUESTION: This whole crisis --

    MS NAUERT: Yes.

    QUESTION: -- is stoked by fake news and the trading of fake news and so on. Now, the U.S. – has the U.S. been able to authenticate the calamity that is taking place and the size of it on its own?

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s exactly why I mention how difficult it is. I mean, there – it is a difficult country to get into. It is a difficult country to get around. It doesn’t have the roads and infrastructure that many other countries do have. So it’s a difficult terrain in order to be able to get the facts on the ground that are accurate. That’s why we certainly call on that country to help facilitate journalists being able to come in, aid groups to be able to come in. We work with those organizations, the aid groups, very closely and carefully in order to try to best assess the situation. It’s a complicated situation. It’s a complicated country and the situation going on there. We don’t want to do anything that would inflame tensions. But we hope that we can get more solid information from the ground there.

    Okay. Hey, Michelle.

    QUESTION: Hi. What kind of engagement has Secretary Tillerson himself had on this issue in the last two weeks? Have there been phone calls? How has he been involved?

    MS NAUERT: This is something that I know the Secretary cares about. This is something where we have phone calls and diplomatic conversations that have certainly been had at various levels. I don’t have any calls to read out for you right now. But as we do, I will certainly let you know. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can I follow up?

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Elise.

    QUESTION: Hi. It seems as if – we haven’t really heard from Secretary Tillerson about any diplomatic efforts going on. Is that because you don’t feel like you want to discuss them right now, or is that because the administration is leading with more of a kind of deterrent message on the North --

    MS NAUERT: On this specific issue, you’re talking about Burma?

    QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

    MS NAUERT: Are you talking about Burma, or are we moving on to North Korea?

    QUESTION: Sorry. We’re moving on to North Korea.

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Okay. Elise, wake up this morning.

    QUESTION: Sorry. (Laughter.)

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stick with Burma before we move on to something else, please. Anybody else on Burma? Hi there.

    QUESTION: So are you saying the Secretary hasn’t spoken to anyone on --

    MS NAUERT: No, I just don’t have any calls to read out for you at this time. This is a subject that has come up a lot. A lot of people are talking about this here at the State Department. You all are focusing on this now. Our ambassador has made three trips to the capital this week alone. And so it’s something that we just continue to focus on, and we will continue to monitor it.

    QUESTION: Do you have any – do you think Aung San Suu Kyi is doing enough to prevent the violence?

    MS NAUERT: Look, there is access – very, very limited, if any, access to humanitarian needs and equipment and supplies. That would be one of our top concerns. We’re concerned about the violence there – that includes allegations of violence conducted by both security forces and civilians. We would like all sides to try to calm the tensions. What we’ve seen there has been very concerning to the U.S. Government as we care about what is happening to the population there. The U.S. Embassy is following the developments very closely. And let me just again mention that it’s very difficult to verify some of the reports in light of the security situation there. I’ll just – I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Obviously, we all would like to have more access for journalists in Myanmar, but you guys have an embassy in Nay Pyi Taw. You’re not saying that the U.S. can’t determine whether or not the allegations are fake news unless there’s more --

    MS NAUERT: There – some of these areas are areas of open conflict, which we can’t necessarily get out there and get on the ground as State Department employees when there is open conflict there.

    QUESTION: Have American diplomats been in Rakhine State to try to look at this?

    MS NAUERT: I can look into that for you. I don’t know if we’ve had anybody exactly right there.

    Okay, let’s move on to – let’s move on to something else.

    QUESTION: Do you have anything to say on whether you think Aung San Suu Kyi should keep her Nobel Peace Prize?

    MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t have anything to comment on that. That would be up for the prize – yes.

    QUESTION: Do you urge Bangladesh authority to allow Rohingya refugees in their country as thousands of Rohingya refugees in the border to get into Bangladesh?

    MS NAUERT: I know it is a difficult situation for Bangladesh, as it is for any country, to absorb refugees. We have provided – I believe it’s about $55 million this year in – to Burmese refugees not only in Burma, but I believe also in Bangladesh. If I have anything more for you on that, I’ll get that to you.

    Hi there.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne.

    QUESTION: Nice to see you. On North Korea, do you have any detail on new sanctions on North Korea? Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: You know I’m going to say this. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: We’re never going to forecast sanctions. I think what you’re referring to is what many are talking about at the United Nations, and that is a situation I’m just not going to forecast right now.

    QUESTION: They’re not talking about it. It’s a draft resolution that’s been released to the council for a vote.

    MS NAUERT: So that is a detail of a draft resolution, and that’s something – we don’t go into the details of a draft resolution on current diplomatic conversations. But you’ve all read the news, you’ve seen the reports, and so I’ll just leave you with that.

    QUESTION: What about Russia’s --

    MS NAUERT: Hold on, we’re not going to Russia just yet.

    QUESTION: No, no, no, Russia’s comment pre-emptively opposing any type of sanctions against North Korea or additional --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Look, we have had Russia’s cooperation at the U.N. Security Council in the past. What the DPRK has done and its – we all know what happened on Sunday night. We all have not yet been together since those activities occurred.

    QUESTION: You mean the nuclear tests?

    MS NAUERT: I’m talking about the testing that took place, yes. What I want to say about that is that this is not just a security situation for the United States. It’s not just a security problem for the United States. This is a security problem for the world. China recognizes that. I think Russia recognizes that. We’re getting different levels of cooperation. We were certainly happy when Russia backed the last round of U.N. Security Council resolutions. China did certainly as well.

    QUESTION: What is the administration assessment of the pressure campaign given that you’ve had the intelligence assessment come public that they’ve miniaturized a warhead, you’ve had a missile fly over Japan, and you’ve had a hydrogen test. Is it working?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah, that’s a fair question. I mean, a lot of people look at the recent events that have occurred, especially on Sunday night, and ask: Is the pressure campaign, is your diplomatic campaign working? It’s a legitimate question. It is what we do here at the State Department. We look at pushing and continuing the conversation about the pressure campaign and putting pressure on the DPRK to denuclearize. China shares that concern with us. They also support denuclearization, as does virtually every country across the globe. It is an important issue for us, and it’s an important issue for them.

    Yes, I can say that the pressure campaign is working. Now, when you see a test that took place on Sunday, you may think, goodness, that is not working. But that is not the case, and here’s why. It can take a long, long time for sanctions to work. It can take a long time for a pressure campaign to work. It is not an overnight thing. It’s not a big, sexy military operation. This is handled very, very differently.

    We will continue to push forward with this campaign. We are having success. One of the best areas of success that we can point to are all of the countries that we’ve had diplomatic conversations with where we have asked those countries and discussed with those countries, and they frankly support it as well, closing down the size of – or excuse me, not closing down the size – limiting the size of DPRK missions in their own countries, limiting the number of guest workers. We’ve seen some recent success in Spain, in Peru, also Kuwait, with regard to that, just to name a few. There are also the independent sanctions that other countries have been willing to do. We’ve seen that with Australia and many other partners in the region as well.

    This all will take time. It will take time to help remove that money that the DPRK is getting and we believe is going to its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It’ll take time to get that money out to really force that regime to come around.

    QUESTION: And just real quick --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- when you said China shares the U.S. concerns, is it concerned enough?

    MS NAUERT: We’ve always said this: China has – China can certainly do more. It’s also a country that is willing to do some things behind the scenes, and we’re happy with that. We don’t need to be so public; we don’t need to take the credit; we don’t need countries to thump their chests in order to show exactly what’s going on. This is what diplomacy is. Sometimes it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s not so fun for people who are covering it because you may not have much to publicly point to. But there are things going on behind the scenes, I can assure you, that is giving us cause to be hopeful for the future. Again, this is something that will take quite some time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that’s what we do here. We’ll keep pushing forward.

    QUESTION: Can I --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Isn’t it, though, like – isn’t it a little bit of a race against time? Because if you’re saying that it’ll “take a long, long time,” in your words, and some of the commanders have estimated that by the end of the – in a year – in less than a year’s time, North Korea not only could have – they’ve already demonstrated the ICBM --

    MS NAUERT: Well, I think, Elise, that’s --

    QUESTION: -- but also married it and so --

    MS NAUERT: That’s why I think we have – this U.S. Government has a multipronged approach. Diplomacy is just one part of that. You heard Secretary Mattis talking about the military piece of it. You’ve heard Secretary Mnuchin talk about the Treasury portion of it. We have Ambassador Haley who’s talking about the UN Security Council portion of it. So we’re all working in concert together. I’m just speaking to our one piece of it, and we’re plowing ahead. We’re moving forward.

    QUESTION: But I mean, if you’re hoping for a diplomatic solution, I mean, can you --

    MS NAUERT: Well, that’s always the preferred --

    QUESTION: Do you have the – I know. I understand.

    MS NAUERT: That’s always the preferred approach.

    QUESTION: I understand. Yeah, exactly.

    MS NAUERT: The diplomatic solution.

    QUESTION: So are – do you think you have enough time? If the sanctions are going to take a really long time, do you think you have enough time to let a diplomatic solution play out?

    MS NAUERT: We are going ahead with the diplomatic solution. We are asking countries, our allies, our friends, our neighbors, you name it – anybody we’ll sit down and talk with, we are asking them to assist us. And it’s not just assisting the United States. It’s not, hey, help the United States here. It’s help the world. Because the world has joined in condemning the United Nations – excuse me, the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, all of these nations and entities are coming together condemning DPRK for its activities. So it’s not just us. We’re all helping out one another.

    QUESTION: Just one last one. The President didn’t answer when asked today whether part of a solution would be accepting North Korea’s nuclear status. What does the administration, and particularly Secretary Tillerson --

    MS NAUERT: Our administration’s view has not changed. We have long called for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    QUESTION: I understand.

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: But if you – part of the problem is that even before this administration, North Korea’s program has grown considerably, as you can see (inaudible).

    MS NAUERT: Well, let’s point out it’s taken many, many years to get here. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Well, I understand, but at some point, do you have a choice but to accept them as a nuclear state?

    MS NAUERT: Our position has not changed.

    QUESTION: Which is?

    MS NAUERT: We want the denuclearization of North Korea. That is what we want; that is what we are pushing for. We will not accept, as Secretary Tillerson has said, a nuclearized North Korea.

    QUESTION: Heather, what if the diplomatic solution did not work?

    MS NAUERT: What if it doesn’t work?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS NAUERT: Well, we have a – we have the whole-of-government approach.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: We have the Department of Defense. We have the Treasury Department. We have the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council. And we have our piece here at the State Department. So we’re just going to keep pushing forward. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but we’re going to keep pushing forward and that will not change. We are committed to this. When this President first came into office, his top national security priority, he said, is this, the DPRK, and put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in charge of that, and that’s what we are pushing forward with.

    QUESTION: So the U.S.A. has all options on the table, so you --

    MS NAUERT: All options are still on the table. That’s why we have this multipronged government approach.

    Okay, I think we’ve exhausted this. Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: One more on that?

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: I understand that you won’t talk about the draft resolution --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- at the UN, but is there any way you can discuss how the State Department feels in terms of cutting off oil to North Korea? Is that something that you guys think is imperative? Where does that fall on the list of diplomatic pressure?

    MS NAUERT: It could be something that would be potentially a very big deal if that were to happen, and that’s all I will say about that.


    QUESTION: Is Tillerson making calls to other countries specifically on that topic?

    MS NAUERT: He’s made a lot of calls. I don’t have a readout or a list of all the calls that he has made recently, but he has been on the phone a lot since Sunday night, as he – well, he always is, as a matter of fact.

    QUESTION: And talking about oil?

    MS NAUERT: Well, talking specifically about the DPRK. Whether it’s been oil in that, that I’m not aware of, but we continue to have a full, robust approach to our – to what we’re looking at with the DPRK.

    Okay, let’s move on to something else.

    QUESTION: I have one.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.

    QUESTION: Yeah, China is saying that sanctions can only be part of the package with some kind of dialogue. So is some dialogue, direct talks with North Korea still a goal for you after the latest test?

    MS NAUERT: Well, it certainly – we would always like to be able to sit down and talk, but North Korea is showing the world that it is not serious and it is nowhere near the point where it wants to talk. What they did over the weekend and what they’ve done recently is a tremendous security concern to the world. When they’re willing to show us that they are serious about sitting down and having conversations, we will know it. We think we will be watching for the signals, and we’ll just go from there.

    QUESTION: What did they do over the weekend? Was it a hydrogen test?

    MS NAUERT: I believe there’s a very specific term that we want to call it, and I think it’s an advanced nuclear test. I think that’s what we’re referring to it as the U.S. Government. Okay? Yeah.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) anything like North Korea another nuclear test soon or missile test?

    MS NAUERT: That, I’m not going to forecast into what could or could not happen in the future. Okay, let’s move on from North Korea.

    Said, hello. How are you?

    QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome back.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Very quick questions, first pertaining to press freedom. The Palestinian Authority arrested a Palestinian peace activist. Twenty-five members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson --

    MS NAUERT: Say the last part again about --

    QUESTION: Twenty-five members of Congress sent a letter.

    MS NAUERT: Ah, yes. Okay.

    QUESTION: To Secretary Tillerson. Are you aware of that letter calling on him to use leverage so to have this person released today? Nine more members of Congress sent a letter to President Abbas. So do you --

    MS NAUERT: I’m aware of that letter that was sent to Secretary Tillerson, and we’ve certainly seen the reports of the arrest that you mentioned. In general, and I’ll say this again, it’s important that governments protect the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, and be able to create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.

    QUESTION: And my other question pertaining to Ambassador David Friedman, he gave us an interview to the Jerusalem Post last week, last Friday.

    MS NAUERT: Okay.

    QUESTION: And he termed the Palestinian territories as allegedly occupied. Has there been any departure from the standard U.S. position that these territories are occupied?

    MS NAUERT: Our position on that hasn’t changed. The comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy.

    QUESTION: Okay. But he is the ambassador of the United States of America.

    MS NAUERT: His comment does not represent a shift in U.S. policy. Okay?

    QUESTION: Can we just go back to the journalist that was jailed for a second?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Matt.

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS NAUERT: What are you doing over there? You two are confusing me. You switched sides.

    QUESTION: Well, I had to finish up writing about the Kuwait press conference, so I was late.

    MS NAUERT: Got it, okay. You may be excused.

    QUESTION: Just you are talking about Issa Amro, right?

    QUESTION: Right.

    QUESTION: That’s who --

    MS NAUERT: Yes, yes.

    QUESTION: And do you take a position on the extended detention that a judge ordered today and the fact that this likely means that – I mean, he was supposed to come to the United States later this – I believe later this month. And it’s – so if you have anything more to say about --

    MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of the announcement of an extended detention. If we have anything for that, I can see what I can find out for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: All right, let’s move on to something else. Hi.

    QUESTION: Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s --

    QUESTION: Russia President Putin says Russia reserves right to out more U.S. diplomats. So if U.S. and Russia talked about full parity, it’s not 455 U.S. diplomats in Moscow but minus 155. Do you have any comments about that?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t want to speculate on any potential Russian actions. We have talked for some time here about how our relationship with Russia is at a low point. We would like that relationship to improve. We don’t want to continue this kind of diplomatic tit-for-tat. There are far too many areas where we can, we hope we can, cooperate with Russia. One of them would be Syria, for example, where that ceasefire is now – what are we at, two months now? Six weeks? Something like that. But we’re pleased with that.

    So my point is I’m not going to speculate. I’m not going to get into forecasting any potential Russian reaction to that. But we hope that the relationship can improve, and we hope we’ve hit the low point and can just improve things from here on up.

    QUESTION: At the same time, we can see Russian-released video showing U.S. law enforcement agencies conducting unknown activities inside a building of Russia consul generals.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry? You work for?

    QUESTION: I work for China Central Television.

    MS NAUERT: Oh, CCTV. Okay, got it.

    QUESTION: Yeah. The thing is, this kind of issue arouse lots of attention at the moment. Do you have any explanation?

    MS NAUERT: So I think what you’re talking about is when our officials went through some of the facilities with the Russians. There were two places – first of all, let me just say that Russian officials were invited to come along with us as we toured those facilities last weekend. They chose not to accompany us on the New York walkthrough for whatever reason. I simply do not know. It is certainly in our authority to be able to look around, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: So wait a second. You --

    QUESTION: I’m just curious --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: You describe these as a tour?

    MS NAUERT: Well, what do you want? What do you call it? What would you call it? A search?

    QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. Did they open closets? Did they --

    MS NAUERT: I would assume they opened closets, but I haven’t talked to any of the people who did that.

    QUESTION: Well, that’s not really a tour. A tour sounds like it’s like a sightseeing thing, like you walk in and say oh, look at that, there’s a nice painting. There’s – this is – there was a search?

    MS NAUERT: This is a very serious activity.

    QUESTION: Right. No, but there was --

    MS NAUERT: It was a very serious activity.

    QUESTION: There was a search, right?

    MS NAUERT: And if I used the word “tour” and that seemed too light in fitting of the activity that took place, then pardon me for that.

    QUESTION: But – well, Heather --

    QUESTION: What part of --

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on.

    QUESTION: Is this normal protocol? Is this normal diplomatic protocol?

    MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, sir? What’s your name?

    QUESTION: Bill Jones with Executive Intelligence Review.

    MS NAUERT: Hi, Bill.

    QUESTION: Is this normal diplomatic protocol when you ask a country to leave? They usually can gather their stuff, destroy whatever they have which is sensitive, and leave. The FBI doesn’t barge in and look at everything they’ve got, and it seems in the case of the trade mission this is exactly what they did. President Putin said he would take a suit, a lawsuit, against it.

    MS NAUERT: I’m sure – I’m sure he did. Welcome to the American legal system.

    QUESTION: Is it normal for the (inaudible) --

    MS NAUERT: Mr. Putin has apparently met the legal system, then, in the United States. Look, I don’t know exactly what is the FBI’s protocol, but I do know that our inspections, whatever you want to call it, going through the properties was something that we conducted lawfully.

    QUESTION: And the searches in --

    QUESTION: So according to – according --

    QUESTION: The searches in the other cities, San Francisco and D.C., the Russians did accompany the Americans on those?

    MS NAUERT: Yes. They only chose not to accompany us on the New York walkthrough.

    QUESTION: And on those two that they did accompany, did they complain or did they protest it when the agents or whoever it was, the U.S. security, went through closets and cupboards and --

    MS NAUERT: Not that I’m aware of. I can try to find out from our folks who were along for the ride, but --

    QUESTION: I mean – I mean, was this like a police search? Did they rip open mattresses and, like, upholstery off chairs or something?

    MS NAUERT: Matt, not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.

    QUESTION: All right. Then the other thing just having to do with Russia is President Putin has expressed some --

    QUESTION: Regret?

    QUESTION: -- disappointment or regret at having awarded now-Secretary Tillerson the Order of Friendship. I’m wondering, what does the Secretary think of that, if you know? Is he willing to perhaps return the award since --

    MS NAUERT: I have not asked him that question. Very interesting comment from President Vladimir Putin. The – I’m just going to leave it at that, interesting comment. The Secretary has good friends. As America, we’re welcome – we certainly welcome our many friends and partners from Canada to Spain to our many, many friends around the world and would gladly stand up our friends to Vladimir Putin’s friends.

    QUESTION: Well, is it something that he has on, like, display in his office? Is it something that he would like to now cover up and --

    MS NAUERT: Did you take your silly pills today? What’s gotten into you?

    QUESTION: No, I’m just – I’m just wondering. I mean, is this a big deal to him that President Putin --

    MS NAUERT: I – honestly, Matt, I have not asked. I have not asked him that question.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS NAUERT: We know that there are leaders around the world who will say sometimes humorous, sometimes sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks, and I’ll just leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Is Secretary Tillerson --

    QUESTION: Do you see it – I mean, do you see it as sarcastic and off-the-cuff, or do you see it as President Putin kind of saying that, like, well, when he worked with Exxon he was more friendlier than when he’s the Secretary of State?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know what Vladimir Putin was thinking. I just – I don’t – I can’t get into his head. I don’t know. Let’s move on. Let’s move on to something else.

    MR GREENAN: I just want to clarify something.

    QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    MR GREENAN: The searches were not carried out by the FBI, and they were not --

    MS NAUERT: Oh.

    MR GREENAN: They were inspections and it was with Diplomatic Security. I don’t know if that came through clearly.

    MS NAUERT: Thank you. Okay. Let’s just make that clear for everybody. Robert, our press operations director, Foreign Service officer – he’s been here many years – thank you for clarifying that. So the FBI was not involved – contrary, sir, to what you had said – not involved in those searches. Okay. That was --

    QUESTION: But what was the legal basis --

    MS NAUERT: Excuse me, that was Diplomatic Security agents. They are a part of the State Department. They’re trained federal agents. Okay.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but excuse me, what was the legal basis for entering Russian property without Russia’s consent? How can you explain this?

    MS NAUERT: Ma’am, this is something that we – the Russian Government said that it wanted to get to parity. Russian Government said it wanted to get to parity. And now, our missions, this – a number of our buildings are closer to parity. Okay. And I’m just going to leave it at that. Okay.

    QUESTION: I mean --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move on.

    QUESTION: Okay. On Russia as well?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on. Go ahead. Hi.

    QUESTION: On Russia, can you update on the status of visa processing at the mission in Russia? Is it still no longer going on?

    MS NAUERT: No.

    QUESTION: What level --

    MS NAUERT: That visa processing resumed – I believe it was September 1st. Let me double-check on that. That is – yeah, that’s correct; visa processing resumed on September 1st. We still do not have the number of Consular Affairs or regular staff for that member – for that matter working in our embassy, so we’re not able to process visa applications as quickly. We know lots of Russians want to visit the United States. This is a great place to come. We support all kinds of freedoms, including freedom of – freedom of speech, free press, and all of those things. So we certainly understand that a lot of people would want to come here to visit, and we’re working on processing those through. Okay.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on something --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- you just said about – about parity? What does the U.S. searching Russian property have to do with parity?

    MS NAUERT: We – okay, first of all, and I guess you guys find this funny, but --

    QUESTION: No, I don’t find it funny. I’m not laughing.

    MS NAUERT: Some chuckles in the back here. I just want to point that out, that the whole reason --

    QUESTION: No, I understand. I understand.

    MS NAUERT: -- the whole reason that this occurred was because the Government of Russia said that they wanted parity.

    QUESTION: Understood.

    MS NAUERT: They asked a lot of our members to leave from our properties in the – in Russia.

    QUESTION: Right, right.

    MS NAUERT: And so here, we’re trying to get back to parity.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS NAUERT: Okay. And these are – all of this was conducted in accordance to the Foreign Missions Act. It was all conducted in accordance with the Vienna Conventions.


    QUESTION: Well, but I’m just curious, like, do you still consider that sovereign Russian property or were those properties searched because there was a concern that they were being used for intelligence purposes, which would be, like, a different issue than parity? Because the Russians kind of closed some --

    MS NAUERT: Elise, I’m not going to get into that right now. Okay?

    QUESTION: Why?

    MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to get into that.

    QUESTION: Well, no. But I --

    MS NAUERT: Let’s move – let’s move – let’s move on to something else right now.

    QUESTION: No, I want to know what – whether it’s because a concern about the property itself, because I’m not sure that an issue of parity --

    MS NAUERT: Some of these matters I’m not going to get into and debate with you here from the podium. When I can give you additional information, I certainly will be happy to.

    QUESTION: Could you take a question, though, maybe, perhaps, or consider taking a question? Are you aware of, in Russia or any other country where U.S. missions that have been vacated, have been searched by the host government, whether it’s their version of the FBI or their version of Diplomatic Security or --

    MS NAUERT: You know what? I don’t know if you all are working for RT today or what, but --

    QUESTION: Seriously?

    MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Come on.

    QUESTION: No, no, no, no. (Inaudible.)

    MS NAUERT: See I can be funny too, Matt. Come on. You’re joking around. No, look.

    QUESTION: No, but I mean there’s a broader – there’s a broader issue here.

    MS NAUERT: I will ask that question. I don’t know. I’ve been here four months. I don’t know the normal process.

    QUESTION: Right. That’s why I’m --

    MS NAUERT: Thank you for asking. I don’t know the normal process for going through those facilities, but I will look into that. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    QUESTION: But specifically about the Russian property – about the U.S. properties in Russia that you had to close because of the parity issue. Were they searched by Russia?

    MS NAUERT: Elise, I don’t know the answer to that question. I will look into it and see what I can get for you. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    MS NAUERT: Does anybody have anything else on other issues?

    QUESTION: On Syria?

    MS NAUERT: Hi. Syria.

    QUESTION: On Syria, really quick, the Israelis bombed a target in Syria, saying that it was a factory for chemical weapons. But apparently the message that is being sent – one to the Russians and one to the Syrians and Iran and a third one to the United States of America – because it seems that they have been left out of the process that you spoke about, the ceasefire that took place a couple of months ago. Is that how you see it? Have you spoken to them about the reason for this attack and whether it is actually – the message is that they should not be left out of any agreement?

    MS NAUERT: I don’t have anything for you on that. Okay. I’m aware of the report. I just don’t have anything for you on that.

    Hey, Michele.

    QUESTION: Hey, Heather, I’m in the back. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill today to add $10 billion back into the State operations budget.

    MS NAUERT: I saw that. Yeah.

    QUESTION: What does this Secretary think about that?

    MS NAUERT: It’s a situation where we are in the process – or the Senate, I should say, is in the appropriations process. I certainly saw that that number would take – that number was suggested. We certainly look forward to continuing to answer questions from members of the Senate and also the House. We have two officials who are testifying. Our Ambassador for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales I believe is before the House Foreign Relations Committee today. Is that right? He’s House Foreign --

    QUESTION: Sales is at --

    MS NAUERT: Where – yeah, he’s at House Foreign – yeah, where he’s testifying on the budget. And Ambassador Alice Wells, who is the acting assistant secretary of SCA, she is – she’s on the Hill testifying on the budget as well. So we’ll just wait as that appropriations process works its way through.

    QUESTION: What should we expect? Because next week, I guess, is the deadline, the 15th, for the redesign. Or is that – are we going to see the whole redesign by then, or are you still in the process?

    MS NAUERT: I’m not sure where that stands today. Okay?

    QUESTION: Pakistan?

    MS NAUERT: Okay. One more question.

    QUESTION: Just on the budget, one --

    MS NAUERT: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Aside from the numbers, the comments made by, in particular, Senator Graham but also a Democratic senator who I – name escapes me at the moment – are a pretty stark repudiation of not just the White House, the budget director, his earlier comments on this, but also the President and the Secretary’s own comments about the utility of soft power, in other words, diplomacy. Do you guys have anything to say about the fact that the lawmakers seem to hold it in higher regard than the current occupants or the current leadership of the --

    MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that’s really the case, Matt.

    QUESTION: No? Okay.

    MS NAUERT: I mean, we take our job here and our mission here very seriously, as does Secretary Tillerson. The President asked Secretary Tillerson to do this job many months ago because he felt that he was the best person for this job. So just because a budget reflects a smaller number on the part of the administration does not mean that diplomacy is not important. This administration values that. We all value that. The 75,000 people who work here each and every day here and around the world value that, and we keep pushing forward with it. Okay?

    QUESTION: Thanks.

    MS NAUERT: All right, guys. Leave it there. Got to go. We’ve got to go.

    QUESTION: Heather, can you give any more information on that (inaudible) incident that happened last (inaudible)?

    MS NAUERT: I cannot, other than to say the investigation is ongoing. We anticipate that whenever we have new information on that and we can bring it to you, we certainly will. Okay. Thanks, everybody.

    (The briefing was concluded at 3:44 p.m.)

    DPB # 48

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