Department Press Briefings : Department Press Briefing - October 3, 2017

By Newsroom America Feeds at 3 Oct 2017

Heather Nauert

Spokesperson
Department Press Briefing

Washington, DC

October 3, 2017




Index for Today's Briefing
CUBA IRAQ DEPARTMENT/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DEPARTMENT CUBA IRAN/REGION IRAQ NORTH KOREA/REGION AFGHANISTAN/REGION DEPARTMENT RUSSIA/REGION SPAIN DEPARTMENT MIDDLE EAST PEACE

TRANSCRIPT:

2:39 p.m. EDT

MS NAUERT: Hi. Hi, everybody. How are you today? Good to see you.

Okay, a couple things I want to start out with, and let me thank you all for – many of you for joining us for our call this morning on Cuba. As you know – as most of you by now know – the Department of State informed the Government of Cuba today that it was ordering the departure of 15 of its officials from its embassy in Washington, D.C. That decision was made due to Cuba’s inability to protect our diplomats in Havana, as well as ensure equity in the impact of our respective operations.

On September the 29th, the department ordered the departure of nonemergency personnel assigned to the U.S. embassy in Havana, as well as all of their family members. Until the Government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm.

The decisions do not signal a change of policy or determination of responsibility for the attacks on U.S. Government personnel in Cuba. Investigations into those attacks are still ongoing. Regarding the attacks, there are now 22 people who have been medically confirmed to have experienced health effects due to the attacks on diplomatic personnel in Havana. The Cuban Government has told us it will continue the investigation into the attacks, and we will continue to cooperate with them in this effort. We will also continue our own investigation into the attacks.

As I’ve mentioned before, if those numbers do change in terms of the number of Americans who have been affected, we will certainly bring that to you as soon as we can confirm it.

In addition to that, some news coming out of Iraq today, and want to say how deeply saddened we are, as the U.S. Government, to learn of the death of the former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani. He was a true statesman and a leader for all Iraqis. President Talabani was elected after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and we remember his sincere partnership with the United States during his terms as president from 2005 to 2014. President Talabani is survived by his wife and his two sons. We want to send our sincerest condolences to the family of Mr. Talabani and the people of the Republic of Iraq as they mourn during this time.

In addition to that, something going on here at the State Department today. The State Department is holding the sixth U.S.-Bangladesh Bilateral Security Dialogue. That dialogue reflects our growing security relationship with the Government of Bangladesh and our shared commitment to peace and prosperity in the region. Discussions today will focus on expanding our partnerships in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping, defense, trade, military cooperation, counterterrorism, as well as maritime security and other regional issues. In addition, the two sides will discuss the situation in Burma and the more than 500,000 Rohingya who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The United States is deeply troubled by the violence in Burma, and we applaud the Government of Bangladesh’s generosity in responding to the humanitarian crisis and appreciate its continued efforts to ensure assistance reaches the affected populations.

Now I think it’s an appropriate time to just remind you of the $95 million that the U.S. Government and taxpayers have contributed in the year 2017 to internally and externally displaced people in Burma and in Bangladesh, since they have accepted many of the Rohingya. And we want to just thank them for their support and the Government of Bangladesh.

Finally, something I would like to clear up, and then we’ll get started with your questions. There was a vote at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and we have seen a lot of reporting about that, press releases that have criticized the U.S. Government’s vote at the Human Rights Council on the question of the death penalty. The headlines and much of the reporting that has come out of that has been misleading. As our representative to the Human Rights Council said on Friday, last Friday, the United States is disappointed to have voted against that resolution. We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether. “We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully,” as the United States does. The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.

Okay? I hope that’s clear. With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have a very – extremely brief logistical thing --

MS NAUERT: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and I think I know the answer --

MS NAUERT: On what?

QUESTION: -- which is you’re not going to have a comment on it. I just want to know if the State Department has any response, or the administration more broadly, to the lawsuits that have been filed now against the latest version of the travel ban. And I’m sure you don’t; I just want to get it out of the way --

MS NAUERT: So that would now be a matter of pending litigation, and so --

QUESTION: Just say that.

MS NAUERT: Yeah, there you go. A matter of pending litigation.

QUESTION: So you have no comment?

MS NAUERT: No comment on that. Thanks.

QUESTION: All right. Can I go to Cuba for a second?

MS NAUERT: Certainly.

QUESTION: So I’m still confused about this. On the call, the senior official said, and you have just said, that, quote, “We will need full assurances from the Cuban Government that these attacks will not continue” before we can even contemplate sending people back or allowing them to have their people come back here. Right? That is correct?

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: Is – haven’t the Cubans already given you their full assurances that these attacks won’t happen, that they have nothing to do with them, and that they will – they do everything to protect --

MS NAUERT: I think we have – let me go back to the Vienna Conventions. And the Vienna Conventions calls for the host country – Cuba, in this example – to ensure that our diplomats and our diplomatic community is safe. Cuba is not living up to that. We cannot continue to allow our personnel to serve in Cuba when they are very clearly in harm’s way. We just raised that number, unfortunately, to 22 today. Our folks are in harm’s way; Cuba has a responsibility to protect against that and they are clearly unable to do so.

QUESTION: But, I mean, are you – do – I guess – what makes you think that they are able to offer assurances that will satisfy your concerns?

MS NAUERT: Well, if this kind of activity stopped, if we didn’t have this happening to our community down there, then perhaps the situation would be very, very different.

QUESTION: Well, let me put it this way: Is – I mean, recognizing that this kind of thing hasn’t happened here – here – systematically, I mean, is the U.S. Government in a position to absolutely guarantee the safety and security of every single foreign diplomat on its soil?

MS NAUERT: Look, we do our very best.

QUESTION: Right --

MS NAUERT: And that’s exactly why when we noticed that there was something going on and started to put those pieces together, Secretary Tillerson made the decision to bring our people home.

QUESTION: So the thing is you don’t believe the Cubans are able to --

MS NAUERT: Clearly they’re not able to.

QUESTION: -- or they don’t want --

MS NAUERT: Clearly they are not able to or they will not – I don’t know which it is; that is not a State Department official position – but they are clearly not able or – they’re clearly not able to make sure our people are safe, and that is exactly why we had to bring them home.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: So is Cuba in violation of the Vienna Convention?

MS NAUERT: I think – I would leave that up to the lawyers to make that final determination --

QUESTION: You made the determination.

MS NAUERT: -- but I will just say that they have a responsibility to keep our people safe, and we say very, very often here the safety and security of U.S. personnel, including U.S. citizens abroad, is our top priority.

QUESTION: But your conclusion now – as of now – is that they are in violation of the Vienna Convention.

MS NAUERT: Look, I think that would certainly be something that our lawyers would be looking at. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to delve into that area, but they do have a responsibility and I’ll just leave it at that.

Hi, Michele.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. But a few questions of logic here. If you’re making it clear by taking this action that Cuba can’t guarantee the safety of diplomats but the U.S. still has personnel there, doesn’t that tell everybody that those people are still --

MS NAUERT: Our policy and our policy on Cuba has not changed. We have diplomatic relationships with Cuba. We recognize that at this time there is a need to keep a post open there with a skeleton crew handling emergency type issues down there. Frankly, our folks – our State Department personnel – want to serve in countries all around the world. We have many of them who are serving in very dangerous capacities, and they don’t get enough credit for doing this incredible, amazing work on behalf of U.S. citizens. So we do still have folks down there, certainly, but that is considered the essential personnel, and everyone else we brought home.

QUESTION: Have certain actions been taken by either the U.S. or Cuba or both to change the situation, to make those diplomats now safer than they were, say, a couple of weeks ago?

MS NAUERT: The trouble with that is we don’t know what is causing this. We don’t know who or what is responsible. That has not changed. I’m not going to get into the details of the investigation. Frankly, I don’t have the details of the investigation. That’s something handled out of the FBI, although our Diplomatic Security is certainly very involved in that as well. But that is all ongoing, and we just don’t have enough information yet.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like you’re saying no, that they are still living and working as they were. I mean, there hasn’t been any special --

MS NAUERT: To my understanding – but I’m not going to get into the security posture of our people there – that is the number one issue --

QUESTION: You don’t have to get --

MS NAUERT: -- trying to as much as we can to keep our people safe. There is still an ongoing investigation. We know – and we’ve talked about this – the most recent attack was in the month of August. So we need to keep probing and figuring out what on earth was – has been going on.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m just curious – I mean, without giving away details that would shed too much light on the security posture, have – based on what you know, have you been able to take any action for those diplomats that you feel makes them safer than they were before?

MS NAUERT: I think that’s something that I’m just not going to get into, simply because we don’t want to give up what exactly we may or may not be doing to help protect our people. Safety and security, top priority. This is not something that we wanted to do. We don’t want to have to bring our American personnel home. Frankly, our American people want to serve down there. They believe in their mission there in Cuba. This is not a choice of theirs, necessarily, although we certainly allowed some who wanted to, to come home. But we’re effectively forced to bring people home because we could not ensure their safety and security.

QUESTION: So the ultimate goal of expelling these 15 Cubans is what? Is it – I mean, what’s the goal there? What’s the ultimate objective in having them leave?

MS NAUERT: Well, to reach an area where – we have certainly been harmed in our ability to do our jobs down there, okay, and now Cuba – we have this – not reciprocity but something of similar sorts where they don’t have the ability to conduct their operations just like we --

QUESTION: So it’s a punishment.

MS NAUERT: No, this is not a punishment. This is not a punishment. Cuba we are not going to say is responsible for these attacks. Let me be clear about that, okay? And I think we have. We have consistently said there is an investigation ongoing. The Cuban Government knows that. We’ve made that clear to the Cuban Government. We are not assigning any blame. We don’t know who or what is causing this.

But I am going to say one last time – and I don’t want to take any more questions on this issue – Cuba has a responsibility under the Vienna Convention to ensure the safety and security of our diplomats and our diplomatic families. And let me leave it at that.

Hi.

QUESTION: On Iran --

MS NAUERT: Hold on. Anything else on Cuba?

QUESTION: On Cuba.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Cuba. Okay.

QUESTION: Cuba.

QUESTION: Hey, Heather. You mentioned that the U.S. would consider restoring staffing levels both here from the Cuban Government and in Cuba for the U.S. Government if these attacks stopped. These are fairly intermittent. The last one happened a couple of months ago. Is there a timeframe it would need to stop, since we have so few details on exactly what’s causing this? Could this be a suspension that could be indefinite if it doesn’t happen for six months or more?

MS NAUERT: I think you’re going to know my answer to this: hypothetical. So that’s just a hypothetical. Look, I understand you have to ask that, that you want to know that. We just don’t know yet. The investigation is ongoing. We won’t know until we get further down the road to hopefully figuring out what has caused this, and then we can reassess.

Okay? Anything else on Cuba?

QUESTION: Yes, just --

QUESTION: Yes, please on Cuba, regarding the visas, please.

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay.

QUESTION: Regarding the visas.

MS NAUERT: Regarding the visas for Cuba?

QUESTION: Yes, the visas.

MS NAUERT: Hi, ma’am. What’s your name?

QUESTION: I’m from Radio Marti.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Welcome.

QUESTION: My name is Carmen. Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Hi, Carmen.

QUESTION: You have a reduced staff and you have American – you have Cuban citizens who have applied for visas to the United States.

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You have two categories. You have the cultural exchange, who are people who want to come here and have, obviously, cultural exchange. How will they get their visas? But you also have family members who are trying to reunite with their families here in the United States. How do they apply? The State Department has been linking the possibility of people going online. There is hardly any internet connection in Cuba, much less that people would have computers to access the applications. How will this be handled?

MS NAUERT: Sure, and a legitimate question. Our limited staff down there is able to handle emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Cuba. That has to be our priority, to be able to manage things for U.S. citizens there in Cuba. In terms of the visa processing, we’ve suspended that for now. Some of this is going to be – we’ll have more information for you in the coming days. But the processing in Havana for nonimmigrant visas, they are allowed – they may apply at another U.S. embassy in another country or another consulate overseas. And so that’s the situation for now.

Look, the reality is this is not our preference. We didn’t want to have to bring our folks home. They want to be there, serving U.S. citizens and also the Cuban community and those who want to come here to the United States. But the unfortunate reality is we just can’t take that risk with the safety of our Americans.

QUESTION: I have one --

MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else Cuba-related?

QUESTION: I have a follow-up on Cuba.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So if United States has been unable itself to determine up to this point what is causing this, why would the – are you saying the Cubans are able to do so? What if they’re not able to do so? How can – how could they not look upon these expulsions as punishment if they’re not able to assess what’s been going on either?

MS NAUERT: Well, look, our conversations with the Cuban Government, I imagine, will be ongoing. We still have a diplomatic relationship and we still have a presence there in Cuba. They have a very clear obligation to keep our folks safe. If the situation were reversed and we were here in the United States, I think you all would be asking me a whole lot of questions demanding that we protect the personnel and why on Earth, America, can’t you figure out what’s going on with this other diplomatic community hosted here in the United States.

So let me just leave it at that. Okay, let’s --

QUESTION: Well, do you know what your answer would be to those questions?

MS NAUERT: What do you think it would be?

QUESTION: This is a domestic issue. It’s not a State Department issue, so go ask somewhere else.

MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) Okay. Well, maybe. Maybe that would be the case, but that’s a different situation. Okay. Let’s move on. Let’s move on from Cuba.

QUESTION: Okay. But on my Cuba follow-up is that on the 15 people that you expelled --

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: -- how did you come up with that number and the names that you gave --

MS NAUERT: So we gave the Cuban Government – when our officials spoke with them this morning, we gave the Cuban Government a list of people. Those people have I believe it’s seven days to head home from today. They were picked on just a – I’m not going to get into how exactly these were all picked, but we provided those names and we expect that the Cuban Government will fulfill that. Okay?

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea --

QUESTION: They’re not directly tied to these attacks, are they, in any way?

MS NAUERT: These are people who were here --

QUESTION: I understand. But they’re --

MS NAUERT: Just as --

QUESTION: They were picked at random?

MS NAUERT: Look, Said, let me be clear. We don’t know who or what is responsible for these attacks, okay? This is the final Cuba question. We don’t know who or what is responsible for these attacks. The people serving here in their embassy did what we believe some of the similar jobs as our folks down in the embassy in Cuba. We have a reduced ability to do our work in Cuba because of the attacks on our Americans, okay? They now will have a reduced ability to do their jobs as well.

Okay? Let’s move on to something else.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS NAUERT: Hi. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: On Iran, would you and the State Department say, as Secretary Mattis said today, that staying in the JCPOA would be in the U.S. national interest?

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is this a position you share?

MS NAUERT: So I’m certainly familiar with what Secretary Mattis said on Capitol Hill today. Secretary Mattis, of course, one of many people who is providing expertise and counsel to the President on the issue of Iran and the JCPOA. The President is getting lots of information on that. We have about 12 days or so, I think, to make our determination for the next JCPOA guideline.

The administration looks at JCPOA as – the fault in the JCPOA as not looking at the totality of Iran’s bad behavior. Secretary Tillerson talked about that at length at the UN General Assembly. So did the President as well. We know that Iran is responsible for terror attacks. We know that Iran arms the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which leads to a more miserable failed state, awful situation in Yemen, for example. We know what they’re doing in Syria. Where you find the Iranian Government, you can often find terrible things happening in the world. This administration is very clear about highlighting that and will look at Iran in sort of its totality of all of its bad behaviors, not just the nuclear deal.

I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions that are ongoing with this – within the administration, as it pertains to Iran. The President has said he’s made he’s decision, and so I don’t want to speak on behalf of the President, and he’ll just have to make that determination when he’s ready to do so.

QUESTION: So he gave his position, but you won’t give yours?

MS NAUERT: Pardon me?

QUESTION: He gave his position, but you won’t give the position of the State Department?

MS NAUERT: And Secretary – well, no. Secretary Tillerson believes that we have not looked at the totality of Iranian – of Iran – of Iran’s bad behavior around the world. But the Secretary has talked about that quite extensively. He did at his press conference in New York during the UN, where he talked about how the JCPOA is incomplete, and that’s one of the words he used to describe it.

QUESTION: Can you think of any other countries that that description – where X is present around the world there are bad things happen – can you think of any other countries that might apply to?

MS NAUERT: I think I just – I think I just named a few, yeah.

QUESTION: You just named one.

MS NAUERT: And you can ask the families of our Beirut bombing victims back in 1983 who was responsible for that. I think that they would tell you exactly Iran is responsible for that.

QUESTION: So you’re – is --

MS NAUERT: Another one I would mention, Matt, since we’re deciding to be snarky with this --

QUESTION: Sure. I’m not being snarky. (Laughter.)

MS NAUERT: Iraq. Okay? Ask the families of U.S. military – military enlisted and officers who’ve been killed in Iraq because of Iranian militias.

QUESTION: You missed – you missed the point. I’m not – you’re saying that wherever Iran is present there are often bad things happening.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, there are other countries for which that kind of a statement would apply to too, wouldn’t it? Are there not?

MS NAUERT: I think Iran is a pretty good example of bad things following that regime.

QUESTION: Yes, they are. But they’re not the only – but they’re not the only ones.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: Anyway, on the JCPOA specifically itself --

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and Secretary Mattis’s comments, so are you saying that the JCPOA, in and itself, for the nuclear concerns is okay, but its problem is only that it doesn’t cover the other things?

MS NAUERT: We have certified that in the past.

QUESTION: Right.

MS NAUERT: We have about 12 days or so before that needs to determine --

QUESTION: But purely on the --

MS NAUERT: In the past we have --

QUESTION: Purely on the nuclear issue --

MS NAUERT: We have said in the past --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS NAUERT: -- that they complied and they received their recertification.

QUESTION: Purely on the nuclear matter though, is it okay, in your mind?

MS NAUERT: Well, we did certify the deal. We did certify the deal. And the IAEA is responsible for conducting all its inspections and all that kind of jazz. Okay? Okay.

QUESTION: Except that the Secretary has talked about their violations of the preamble of the JCPOA.

MS NAUERT: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Except the preambles are not subject to enforcement under international law. So --

MS NAUERT: Look, there’s the whole preamble that talks about the international security and stability that Iran is supposed to contribute to, and they’re clearly not doing that. And that’s when we talk about it being in defiance of the spirit of that law.

Okay? But we’ve been over this. You know what? I’m not going to --

QUESTION: The preamble is not enforceable under international law.

MS NAUERT: You know what? I’m not – you’re not a lawyer, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to get into that with you. But we’ve been clear saying this. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on this issue. We’ve talked about this again and again and again, okay?

QUESTION: Why don’t you – if the problem is this other behavior, which is very understandable --

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- why don’t you leave the JCPOA intact to deal with Iran’s nuclear issue and then develop a new set of sanctions for the other behavior?

MS NAUERT: Well, last time I checked, I’m not a national security advisor to the President, so I’m just here working on behalf of the State Department. The President will be the one who gets to make his determination, and we’ll wait for when the President is ready to do that.

QUESTION: Could I follow up with an Iraq question?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Are we – we’re done on that one? Okay. Let’s head over to Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay. John Hannah, who worked in this building and he was later Dick Cheney’s national security advisor, has an article in Foreign Policy, which you may have seen.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: And it says, for those who haven’t seen it, that in key respects you were right about the problems that the Kurdistan independence referendum would cause, but also maybe you’ve made things worse by being so vociferous publicly about that. And he says it’s time to move on; it’s important to deter aggression, prevent crises, and above all, to start negotiations. What would be your comment?

MS NAUERT: I think the last part that you refer to, we would certainly agree with, that we want – we would call against and oppose any type of violence on any side in Iraq. We want a stable, unified, democratic Iraq, and that has not changed. That is not going to change. We don’t want any violence on any sides, whether it’s in the north or whether it’s with the – with the Government of Iraq. We feel that both parties, the Iraqis and the Kurds, should sit down and have a good discussion about this and what they want for the future of their country.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to facilitate that in any way?

MS NAUERT: We have talked about that. We have not been asked. We have not been asked to facilitate any conversations, but if we were asked, we would provide assistance if they wanted us to.

QUESTION: How about supporting French President Emmanuel Macron, who’s indicated he would do such a thing?

MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with what President Macron has offered to do with regard to that, so I just can’t comment on that.

QUESTION: Iraq?

QUESTION: Heather, the --

MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything else? Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yeah, Iraq.

QUESTION: -- the Iraqis laid out --

MS NAUERT: Yeah?

QUESTION: -- a set of – a set of conditions to start negotiations. Among them is to nullify the results of the referendum.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: So would you support that?

MS NAUERT: Well, look, we don’t recognize the referendum there. We called – asked the Government of Iraq[1] to not hold that referendum because it would be destabilizing, and we have certainly --

QUESTION: The government of Kurdistan.

MS NAUERT: We have certainly seen that to be the case. This has been destabilizing. And you can just look at the headlines coming out and some of the threats that that country and the region has now faced. This is without a doubt destabilizing.

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea?

QUESTION: On Russia?

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Anything else on Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS NAUERT: Hi.

QUESTION: Just on President Talabani’s death.

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: The Kurds have announced a seven-day mourning for – a funeral for him, but a lot of his friends and loved ones were abroad and finding difficulties of returning to Kurdistan because of the flight ban. Are you calling on Iraq to at least momentarily resume flights to Kurdistan?

MS NAUERT: That’s a good question, on whether or not those individuals should be able to fly back to observe and be a part of his funeral. I had not thought of that. Let me look into it and see if I can find something for you on that. I’ll do my best certainly, okay?

QUESTION: And just one more question. The statement by Secretary Tillerson --

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- called the referendum illegitimate and the results of the referendum illegitimate. But a lot of people say the United States had no observers – election observers in Kurdistan. How did you come to that conclusion?

MS NAUERT: Well, look, because Iraq has a – Iraq has a constitution. And in Iraq we have consistently called for a stable – stable, unified, democratic Iraq. We want folks in Iraq – and it’s not just the United States. Goodness. I mean, if you look at all of the members of the D-ISIS Coalition, they have called for the same thing. I think there are now 72 members, 68 of – or of so – of that are states or countries – who agree with us on that. This would be a destabilizing activity, to have the referendum at the time. So it’s not just about the United States.

QUESTION: What is the measurement you used to call it illegitimate? Why?

MS NAUERT: Because it was against – against what the Iraqi Government had called for, and the focus needed to stay on defeating ISIS. Now the ball – the eye has been taken off the ball, which is ISIS. Okay? And now we’re seeing all these other headlines, which frankly, we don’t want to see. Okay? Moving on from Iraq.

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea?

MS NAUERT: Hi. North Korea.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on some of the contradictions from the weekend. In his press avail, the Secretary said when envisioning the idea of talks he said the first conversation is around what do you want to talk about. Later you tweeted that diplomatic channels are open for Kim Jong-un now; they won’t be open forever.

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Then the White House spokeswoman said we’ve been clear now is not the time to talk, and the only conversations would be around Americans who have been detained. Now is not the time to have any other conversations. So --

MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm. That is the same thing. When Sarah Sanders said now is not the time to have conversations, that is the same thing that you have heard me say. That is the same thing that you’ve heard Secretary Tillerson, Susan Thornton, and others in this administration say – now is clearly not the time to talk. When they are engaged in ballistic missile testing, when they’re engaged in other types of testing, they are sending us a very clear example, a very clear sign that they are nowhere ready to talk yet.

QUESTION: So but when the Secretary said that he wants to have a conversation with the North Koreans about what do you want to talk about, he’s not actually saying that he wants to have that conversation now, he’s just speaking in hypothetical terms of --

MS NAUERT: And that is consistent with what he has said in the past and what we’ve always said. I mean, yes, at some point of course we would like to sit down and talk with North Korea, but now is not the time to do so.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS NAUERT: They’re doing too many horrible activities to folks in the region and people around the world. This is another example when I say the entire world agrees with us. The entire civilized world agrees with us that the DPRK, that Kim Jong-un’s activities and actions are horrific, they’re destabilizing, they frighten their neighbors, and they frighten the world.

QUESTION: Well, the South – South Korea offered to talk.

QUESTION: Yeah, but so – one more – one more question. One more question.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: So when he – when he says, like --

MS NAUERT: But Michele, to your point, when they’re shooting off – when they’re shooting off weapons, when they’re launching weapons and they’re doing this kind of testing, they are not ready to talk. What country would reward them with a conversation when they’re engaged in those kinds of activities? We certainly wouldn’t.

QUESTION: So – but when he said in that press avail, “Stay tuned,” that they’re – the U.S. is probing --

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- I mean, that was sort of interpreted as --

MS NAUERT: Well, that’s the thing --

QUESTION: -- a somewhat hopeful comment. He’s saying, “Stay tuned.” So we should not interpret that as to stay tuned, there might be something coming down the pike?

MS NAUERT: I think – I think you all are trying to – and I’m not assigning blame here, but trying to – trying to pick apart the word choice entirely too much. Our message hasn’t changed. The policy hasn’t changed. We believe that the sanctions are starting to have an impact. It’s slow. It’s not an overnight thing. We’ve talked about that a lot before. But the sanctions, that when we ratchet up the pressure, are starting to have an impact. We had some news come out earlier this week that Italy decided to – I believe it was kick out North Korea’s ambassador. The Vatican has indicated that they wouldn’t accept the credentials of the person who was set to become the incoming ambassador to the Vatican. Malaysia, we had some news late last week about the same thing.

All of that is starting to have an effect. They’re not huge things in each one, but all added up they’re starting to have an impact, and that’s going to take some time. And I think when the Secretary talks about signals, signs, probing, we’re trying to watch to see what the reaction is going to be. Is less money going into North Korea? Yes. We know that. We know that it is having what we would view as a positive impact, because the less money that goes in, the less money they’re able to use for their nuclear and ballistic missile testing.

QUESTION: And then just the last question.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: You also tweeted “DPRK will not obtain a nuclear capability.” Is it the U.S. belief now that North Korea does not have a nuclear capability?

MS NAUERT: So I think we have been clear all along, and as some of you have probably noticed, tweeting only allows 140 characters. So you can’t always explain everything in as great of detail as perhaps you would like, and many folks were only too happy to have fun with me on that one. But we’ve made it abundantly clear that we will not allow the regime to gain international legitimacy that it tries to seek through its unlawful nuclear and – nuclear weapons programs.

Look, they want to be acknowledged as a nuclear state. That gives them a whole lot of prestige. We try not to give them that prestige that they want. Okay. We’re trying not to – trying not to do that. But it’s clear – and this message hasn’t changed, you’ve heard me say it a million times – we will not accept a nuclearized North Korea. We will not accept it as a nuclear-armed state. We remain firm in our opposition to their pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile weapons. Okay.

QUESTION: So are you saying, then, that Twitter hasn’t upgraded you to the 280 characters?

MS NAUERT: They haven’t updated me to the 280.

QUESTION: And then following on that, does that mean that you think that 140-character tweets are perhaps not the best way to convey foreign policy messages?

MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not --

QUESTION: Not just --

MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to touch that one.

QUESTION: Not just from the spokeswoman of the State Department, but maybe from people who hold elective office --

MS NAUERT: I’m not --

QUESTION: -- or people who are in --

MS NAUERT: I’m not going to touch that one. Thank you. Okay. Anything else on North Korea today?

QUESTION: I have another question for you, Heather.

MS NAUERT: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: In these – in these diplomatic channels where the United States has discussed the three Americans still detained in North Korea, do these diplomatic channels – have they provided access for the protecting power there? Have they been productive? And have the conversations strayed beyond the three Americans detained there?

MS NAUERT: So the answer to your question: We spoke to North Korea regarding Otto Warmbier’s case. And that’s a productive channel. We still have three Americans who are being held in North Korea. We don’t have a diplomatic presence there. We have to rely upon the Swedish Government. They’ve been tremendous in terms of their assistance to us. That channel does exist. That’s certainly not something that we would keep a secret. We will continue to maintain that channel, especially as it pertains to getting information about our Americans being held there.

QUESTION: Has it been productive and has – have discussions moved beyond --

MS NAUERT: Well, I think it’s been productive in that (a) we know we have a line to them if we would have the ability to have a new conversation, a fresh conversation about our Americans. They also know that they have a line to us. But I want to be clear we’re not engaged in any talks beyond Americans being held there. Now is not the time to have a talk with North Korea. I’ve said that all along, the Secretary has said that all along, our experts here have said that along, and that’s been echoed by the White House.

QUESTION: Can we go to Afghanistan?

QUESTION: So we were --

MS NAUERT: Yeah, let’s – one more thing, then Afghanistan.

QUESTION: North Korea, quickly.

MS NAUERT: Hi.

QUESTION: So we were told those channels are for humanitarian purpose.

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: When was the last time it was used? Was that after Otto Warmbier’s release?

MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I would imagine that were the case, but I’d just have to check. I just don’t know offhand. Okay. And some of those would be diplomatic conversations as well, which we wouldn’t divulge.

QUESTION: Are they all in New York?

MS NAUERT: I – that I don’t know. I – we do do some of that out of New York, yes. But beyond that, I’m not aware.

QUESTION: When you say that the – now is not the time to talk because they’re – they’ve done nuclear tests --

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and they’re testing missiles, can we take it that if they were to suspend that behavior, that the United States would then be open to dialogue with the North Koreans?

MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not going to state what our expectations will be at this point --

QUESTION: No, the conditions.

MS NAUERT: At this point, okay, they are clearly not ready to sit down and talk. Okay? Clearly not ready to do so and I have said the same thing here for months and months, so I’m not going to go back and repeat that once again.

Let’s move on to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Can we ask one more --

QUESTION: Is it – it’s still the U.S. position that there needs to be some type of reconciliation between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in order to have peaceful Afghanistan, is that correct?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So when the President announced his new South Central Asia strategy that focused on not just Afghanistan but also India and then also incorporating Pakistan into that as sort of a regional approach, the key element of that is eventually getting Afghans to talk to Afghans, and that would certainly include the Taliban, getting them to talk to one another. We don’t see the long-term solution in Afghanistan as being a military solution. That’s a tool that unfortunately has to be used, but ultimately, the Afghans are going to have to want to come to the peace table.

QUESTION: So then is the U.S. pushing Qatar to close the Taliban office in Doha?

MS NAUERT: So there’s been a lot of talk about this. No decisions have been made. I just want to let you all know something: I was informed today that even though there is talk about an office, that there is not actually an office, that there’s not an office space, but what is – it’s really just a presence, a Taliban presence there. So all of that is under consideration right now.

QUESTION: So when Qatar says that the Taliban presence in Doha is with the full knowledge and consent of the U.S. Government – “consent” being the key word there – is that an accurate statement? You guys have given your consent for the Taliban to have a presence there?

MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of how that was all initially worked out.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS NAUERT: I think that was done quite a few years ago, so I just don’t have the details on that.

QUESTION: But if you still think there needs to be reconciliation, then why would there even be a consideration about asking them to prevent really the one place where the international community is able to come together potentially with the Taliban to discuss some type of reconciliation?

MS NAUERT: So we’ve been now in that war for 16 years. For quite a few years they have had some sort of presence there. Obviously, they have not been able to come to any kind of peace and reconciliation, so just by having folks sit around in Qatar in probably a pretty cozy – pretty cushy life there in Qatar has not demonstrated, has not brought to the table any kind of significant peace efforts.

QUESTION: What’s the difference between an office and a presence?

MS NAUERT: Presence would be like people on the ground, and an office would be an office space.

QUESTION: They had office space --

QUESTION: Well, I know, but – I mean, but they --

QUESTION: They put a flag in front of their building, right?

QUESTION: What is the – an office – a presence is a --

QUESTION: This is the 21st century. You’re not --

QUESTION: -- a room with a table and one chair? And an office has got, like, three or four chairs so you can --

MS NAUERT: I was told today by our experts on this – I have not been there to have inspected it, but I’m told that there is not an actual four walls and an office.

QUESTION: And just one other little issue.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: Senator Cardin has sent a letter to the administration specifically about this email with Jared Kushner’s – this issue with Jared Kushner’s emails, and they want to know basically whether U.S. foreign policy is being conducted on private email, an issue this building is intimately familiar with from recent years, both in terms of Kushner perhaps discussing foreign policy with other countries, but also potentially with people – officials here at the State Department. Can you say what your response is to the letter or what the response is to the substance of those questions?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I can only just say that we’ve received that letter. I don’t know how long ago that letter arrived; it might have just been in the past day or so. So if we have anything further on – for you on that, I’ll just have to update you. Okay?

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: All right. All right. Let’s just – one last question --

QUESTION: To the Palestinian --

MS NAUERT: -- and then we got to go. Somebody had something --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Really, really – Palestinian-Israeli issue?

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Wait, who had – wait.

QUESTION: Russia.

MS NAUERT: Hold on. Hold on. Okay.

QUESTION: Spain. Spain.

QUESTION: On the Spain --

MS NAUERT: Russia. Okay.

QUESTION: Okay, so Russian officials have been repeatedly raising what they call a “break-in” by U.S. officials or the FBI in the San Francisco facility.

MS NAUERT: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Can you just explain what happened there?

MS NAUERT: So October 1st was the day in which we had in fact graciously given the Russian Government – because we learned that they had families who were living in some of these buildings; they had some individuals who were apparently living in this sort of office-type space. Once we learned that, we then offered them extra time there to pack up their items and leave. So we permitted them living in the apartments until October the 1st, and they were – their time was up. So that’s basically what happened, and that’s about it.

QUESTION: Did U.S. officials break locks and --

MS NAUERT: No. No.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS NAUERT: We did not break locks, no FBI involved. This is Diplomatic Security along with the foreign missions office. What they do is they just walk through, look around. The purpose of that is to make sure that people are no longer living there, and they conducted that and they completed it.

QUESTION: What do you think about Russia giving North Korea now another portal to the internet? Do --

MS NAUERT: So I want to stay on Russia and not delve into North Korea, and we’ve got to wrap it up. But we’ve seen that report. We don’t know exactly what exists with that relationship yet. We haven’t confirmed it independently, so I don’t want to comment and say that yes, we know of this channel that is taking place, because we just haven’t investigated it yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS NAUERT: We just learned about it.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS NAUERT: So I just don’t want to speculate beyond that, okay?

QUESTION: Heather, I know you want to get off, but there’s a lot that’s happened since you last briefed, and I know there’s some colleagues of mine from Spain who are eager to ask about Catalonia --

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and your response to the referendum and potentially what – the violence there. So do you have anything to say about that? One. That’s one.

MS NAUERT: We’re all on Matt’s time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, do you have anything to say about the Catalonian referendum?

MS NAUERT: Oh, you weren’t going to give me a list of things?

QUESTION: No, that – well --

MS NAUERT: I felt like you were giving me a honey-do list or something.

QUESTION: -- no, no, I was going to take them one a time. One – I want to take them one at a time.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Okay.

QUESTION: They’re all brief. Don’t worry.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: Regarding the Catalan, do you approve or disapprove the handling of the Spanish Government on last Sunday --

MS NAUERT: Do I – do we what?

QUESTION: Do you approve or disapprove the way the Spanish Government handled the referendum with the heavy crackdown on voters and all that?

MS NAUERT: So I --

QUESTION: And do you accept – do you – would you think would be a good idea an international mediation to try to solve this crisis that is spinning out of control?

MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to comment on any international mediation, all of that, but I will say that we were saddened by reports that we’ve seen and the reports that we’ve heard of the many people who were injured during the events over the weekend. We continue to say – and last week we said this; let me reiterate it once again – we encourage all parties to resolve their political differences nonviolently and in a way that is consistent with Spanish law. Okay?

QUESTION: Great. Number two.

MS NAUERT: Yeah.

QUESTION: On – just on your opening statement about the UN – the Human Rights Council vote --

MS NAUERT: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are you saying – did you mean to say in your – or is the – is it accurate to take what you said that – as a sign that had this resolution simply been about the death penalty for LGBT individuals and people accused of apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, that you would have voted for it? In other words, that you are opposed, as you said, to the imposition of the death penalty for those things --

MS NAUERT: Correct.

QUESTION: -- but that you also – had it not been this broader anti-death penalty resolution, you would vote for – in favor of a resolution that was simply – that was narrowly tailored to those --

MS NAUERT: We would certainly be against – the United States clearly has the death penalty, both at the state and at the federal level. That is why we voted against this. As this vote and as – I don’t have exact language of the --

QUESTION: I can read it to you. I’ve got it right here.

MS NAUERT: I don’t have it in front of me, so – but I can just say that if they wanted to apply the death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, we would absolutely oppose the use of the death penalty in those cases.

QUESTION: Right. And --

MS NAUERT: As Americans, we promote democracy and human rights, and those are a part of our values that we share in our hearts as Americans, and that’s something that we do each and every day here from the State Department in promoting those values.

QUESTION: Okay. I think you’ve answered that, then.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

QUESTION: And the last one: Have you been --

QUESTION: But why not abstain?

QUESTION: Have you been able to find the maps of the West Bank to find out how much of it the administration believes is --

MS NAUERT: No, sir, I haven’t.

QUESTION: Really?

MS NAUERT: I have not.

QUESTION: Do you have an answer to the question how much of the West Bank does the U.S. --

MS NAUERT: I don’t. I don’t. Thanks.

QUESTION: Could I squeeze in a really quick one on --

MS NAUERT: Guys, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to go. Oh.

QUESTION: Very quickly. I mean --

MS NAUERT: We’re done. We wrapped it up. Said, we can talk after.

QUESTION: I’ll come --

MS NAUERT: We can talk after, yeah.

QUESTION: I’ll come in after.

MS NAUERT: Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:15 p.m.)

[1] Kurdistan Regional Government

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