Department Press Briefing
October 12, 2017
Index for Today's Briefing
DEPARTMENT VENEZUELA DEPARTMENT/TRAVEL PAKISTAN CUBA UNITED NATIONS/ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS RUSSIA IRAQ TURKEY IRAN DEPARTMENT IRAN UAE/NORTH KOREA ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS DEPARTMENT
2:58 p.m. EDT
MS NAUERT: Hi, everyone. So quiet today.
QUESTION: It’s cold.
MS NAUERT: Compared to the White House, too. Did you all watch the briefing there? We’ll get that fixed. Put on a sweater, Andrea. (Laughter.)
Good afternoon. No, it was actually – it was nice to watch the White House briefing today and see General Kelly out there, and I especially appreciated the kind remarks that he made about the State Department and the work that we do here in – that we do here each and every day. So – and then it gave me a greater appreciation for all of you and how calm and respectful we try to keep the briefings here. So wanted to just say thanks to all of you for doing that.
QUESTION: You’re welcome.
MS NAUERT: Start with a couple things today. First, I’d like to talk a little bit about
Venezuela. We’ve not talked as much about Venezuela recently, but as many of you know, there is a gubernatorial election set to take place this Sunday, October the 15th. The United States and the international community are paying close attention to this vote. The United States calls on the regime to hold free and fair elections.
We note with great concern that the regime will not permit the presence of independent, international electoral observers. We call on the Government of Venezuela to permit independent domestic observers to fully monitor the election and the tabulation of its results.
The United States is concerned that a series of actions by the National Electoral Council calls into question the fairness of the electoral process. We continue to support the Venezuelan people as they work toward a democratic, peaceful, and hopefully prosperous future. We continue to
think of them. We know it’s a difficult time, certainly, down there.
In addition to that, I’d like to announce some travel. Our Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will travel to Tokyo and Seoul October 16 through 19. He will be in the region to participate in the October 18 vice foreign minister level U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral meeting, which is hosted by the Republic of Korea in Seoul. The trilateral meeting will focus on strategic coordination related to the urgent threat from the DPRK’s nuclear ballistic missile program. The three leaders will also discuss regional and global areas of cooperation.
The Deputy Secretary will be in Tokyo October 16 and 17 for bilateral meetings there. He will then travel to Seoul October 18 and 19 for bilateral and trilateral meetings. During his visit to both Tokyo and Seoul, the Deputy Secretary will also meet with U.S. embassy staff, members of our U.S. forces, as well as representatives from the business community and civil society as well.
And with that, I will gladly take your questions.
QUESTION: Great. Thanks. I’m going to start with the situation in Pakistan --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and the rescue of the – this family. The Secretary’s statement on this – he made a large reference to the work of the ambassador, Ambassador Hale, and the staff at the Islamabad embassy. And I’m just wondering if you could be a little bit more specific about what their role was. What is it that he is being so appreciative for, specifically?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think one of the things the Secretary likes to do here is to highlight the work that our colleagues at the State Department do each and every day. That work would not be possible without the facilitation of – on the part of our folks on the ground.
In terms of getting too into specifics about who did what when, I’m just not going to be able to provide that today. But we always want to thank our colleagues who were involved in this, involved in helping to facilitate the return of any Americans.
QUESTION: Well, the Pakistani officials say that the family was rescued and flown by helicopter from where it was that they were rescued to the embassy in Islamabad. Can you confirm that?
MS NAUERT: I cannot confirm that. I can say that the Pakistani military, acting on information that we provided, were able to secure the release of this family. We are tremendously happy to have these folks returning, coming home.
That is one of the things that the President had said at the very beginning of this administration. He gave this assignment to Secretary Tillerson and others in the national security community, to say, “Let’s bring our Americans home.” You saw the President do that with the return of Aya Hijazi from Egypt back in April, I believe it was. We saw that happen with Otto Warmbier, sadly, in the condition that he was. But nevertheless, that was a priority the President set in bringing Americans home, and now we’ve seen it with this family of five coming home. We are pleased that Caitlan Coleman and her family have done that. The family has been – her family back here in the United States has been hoping and praying for this for many years now. But I want to be clear on saying how grateful we are to the Government of Pakistan. Without their assistance, this would not have been made possible. It was critical, and we will certainly not forget that.
QUESTION: Okay. And you say – you repeated several times “coming home.” Where exactly is the family now and are they, in fact, coming back to either the U.S. or Canada?
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to be able to confirm any of that for you. I know the family had asked for some privacy at this time, and some of that will be up to the family to be able to explain where they decide to go and when they decide to go there.
QUESTION: Okay. But when you say “coming home” it doesn’t literally --
MS NAUERT: I just mean -- QUESTION: Okay. All right. MS NAUERT: -- out of captivity. QUESTION: Gotcha.
MS NAUERT: I mean, the family, obviously, was in a very dire situation. You all had seen the videos of the family, and they were in distress. So when I say “coming home” it doesn’t mean --
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS NAUERT: -- here necessarily. Andrea, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Question on Cuba. Our colleagues --
MS NAUERT: Let’s – can we stick region first?
MS NAUERT: Then I’ll come back to you on that, certainly.
QUESTION: There are some reports that the couple doesn’t want to go on a U.S. plane, that they have concerns about the future of mainly Joshua Boyle because of his past, being married to a woman who has been held – whose brother has been held in Guantanamo. Is it true? Do you have confirmation of this hesitance?
MS NAUERT: I appreciate that a lot of people will want the details, especially details that sound pretty salacious. I’ve seen some of those media reports, and I can only say that we’re grateful that the family has been released; we’re grateful to the Government of Pakistan as well as the Government of Canada. We’re looking forward to having those folks go home, where
they choose to go. And beyond that, I’m not going to be able to comment on the details.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the --
QUESTION: I’m not sure that --
MS NAUERT: Well, it sounds – I mean, you tell a good story there. It sounds pretty interesting.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the husband declined to board an American --
MS NAUERT: I cannot. I cannot.
QUESTION: And was there an exchange of gunfire or injuries --
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of any of that.
QUESTION: The President said that this action was a sign of respect from the Pakistani Government. Does the administration believe that prior to this the Pakistani Government wasn’t respecting the U.S. and was maybe withholding information about where these Americans – where the family was?
MS NAUERT: What I can tell you is that we are very pleased with the Government of Pakistan’s response. This would not have been possible without the Government of Pakistan. With information that we provided them, they were able to secure their release. So I’m afraid I’m just not going to have a lot beyond that.
A lot of you have asked about our overall relationship with Pakistan. We’ve certainly had points where that relationship has had some challenges. That relationship isn’t going to just turn around overnight, but this is a terrific step in the right direction.
Okay? Anything else on Pakistan? Okay. Andrea, go right ahead.
QUESTION: On Cuba. Matt’s colleagues at AP have obtained an audiotape. We have not been able to independently authenticate it, but in any case, is – are there continuing health issues? Do you – does the State Department – does the United States Government believe that this an acoustic weapon? There have been reports or suggestions of another cause. And General Kelly said that the Government of Cuba could stop it, a view that I think you’ve already expressed here, that the government could stop it if they wanted to. But are we at the stage of accusing the Government of Cuba of being complicit, or of causing it?
MS NAUERT: Here’s where we are, exactly where we are right now. An investigation is still underway. We don’t know who or what is responsible for it. You labeled the attacks a certain way, and I’m just not going to label it that way, because we still don’t know exactly what the cause or what the source is.
General Kelly, when he said we believe that they can stop the attacks, I think what he was referring to was, one, we have the Vienna Convention. And under the Vienna Convention, that government, the Government of Cuba, has a responsibility to ensure the safety of our diplomatic staff. That didn’t happen. But there’s also another well-known fact, and that is that in a small
country like Cuba, where the government is going to know a lot of things that take place within its borders, they may have more information than we are aware of right now.
But I want to be clear: the investigation is still underway. We don’t know what is causing it and we don’t know who is responsible for it.
QUESTION: And have you been able to authenticate anything regarding the audio that has been distributed by the Associated Press?
MS NAUERT: I saw that. I’ve not heard the tape. We cannot authenticate that tape in any way. But an investigation is aggressive and it continues.
QUESTION: And is the investigation presumably into the cause of the medical problem as well as who might have perpetrated it? Is there another government that might be involved?
MS NAUERT: We don’t know. We don’t know who or what is responsible for it?
QUESTION: Is there anyone beyond the numbers that you already gave us who have still been
– who have been affected by this? Is it continuing?
MS NAUERT: The last numbers that I provided – I believe it was 22 – still holds, but I want to be cautious on that and remind you all – and I say this every single time – we continue to investigate. We continue to monitor the health and the health status of our staff. People are still able to avail themselves to testing. We unfortunately cannot rule out that there may be additional people who have been affected. As soon – if that were to happen, if we have additional people, I will certainly bring that to you as soon as I can, but it would have to be medically confirmed.
But right now that number stands at 22.
QUESTION: Heather, has the position of the United States Government changed since it made its most recent announcement on staffing in Cuba? I mean, General Kelly seemed to imply that
– I mean, I know you’re talking about the Vienna Convention and protecting American diplomats there, but it seemed as if he were saying that Cuba has the ability or its government has the ability to stop these attacks, not just protect Americans. Has something changed since the U.S. announcement?
MS NAUERT: Not to my awareness, no. Okay. Anything else on Cuba?
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MS NAUERT: Cuba. All right. Did you have Cuba? Okay.
QUESTION: That sound that the AP released --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- is that still a sound that diplomats who are there are hearing?
MS NAUERT: I would never confirm that sound. I have not heard it. I read a – an article printed out online. I’ve not heard anything. I can’t confirm any kind of sounds that some alleged to take place.
QUESTION: And the existing --
QUESTION: Can you confirm that they’re hearing anything still in --
MS NAUERT: I cannot confirm that, no.
QUESTION: We exist in a multimedia environment now, so you don’t have to just print it out. You can go online and click.
MS NAUERT: At least it wasn’t in an old newspaper. (Laughter.) QUESTION: You can click on the – click on it and listen to it, if you so choose. MS NAUERT: All right. Anything else on Cuba?
QUESTION: Can we go --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead, Michele.
QUESTION: I’m a little confused because Kelly today said that the U.S. believes Cuba can stop these attacks. So the State Department – I mean, is that the State Department’s position as well?
MS NAUERT: Look, there is no space in this administration on this issue of Cuba. We know for a fact that our diplomats were injured. We know for a fact that somebody or something was attempting to hurt our diplomats. The Secretary made the difficult decision to bring our people home even though we have a small staff who still remain there. All of that is the case. This is something we take extremely seriously. The investigation is aggressive. It is underway. It has not stopped. We will continue to look for the source and for the party that is responsible for this, and that’s all I’m going to have on that.
QUESTION: Okay, but you can’t – so if now the U.S. Government is saying we believe Cuba has the ability to stop this, there must be some reason to believe that.
MS NAUERT: I think I addressed that already. Cuba has a responsibility under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomatic staff. That has not changed. It is also a well-known fact that in a small country like Cuba that has the type of regime and government it does, they tend to know things that are going on within its own borders, and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?
QUESTION: Can we move on to --
MS NAUERT: You want to move on? Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah, to the UNESCO --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- withdrawal. I know you sent out a statement and it’s quite clear, but I just wanted to ask you to understand better: Is the reason basically what you call – that it has always had some sort of bias against Israel or the membership of the Palestinians, or are there other reasons? Are there other reasons? Because you cite the organization and so on.
MS NAUERT: Okay. So stepping back about 20 years or so – Said, you and I were teenagers then, right?
QUESTION: Oh, yeah.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I beat by at least 30 years or so.
MS NAUERT: As many of you know, Congress passed a law, and as a part of that law, any UN entity that accepts Palestinians as a member state, the U.S. Government cannot provide funding for it. The U.S. Government has looked at that. This has been a long time that the U.S. Government – that predates this Trump administration – has been taking a look at it. It’s been a long and deliberative process. That decision was finally made. A couple things went into that decision-making. One of them was a look at the cost-benefit analysis. As many of you know, we were in arrears to the tune of $550 million or so. And so the question is do we want to pay that money, and do we want to pay more money going forward, when there is actually a law that says the UN entity that accepts Palestinians as a member state can no longer receive U.S. funding. So that’s part of it financially, okay?
The second part of it is we’d like to see overall UN reform, and as a part of that, I will – I’ll just include this in that. Ambassador Nikki Haley has talked a lot about the importance of reform at
the United Nations and in entities such as this. We’d like to see the politics kept out of it, and we see with this anti-Israel bias that’s long documented on the part of UNESCO that that needs to come to an end. So the United States made the decision after a long, deliberative process to pull out.
QUESTION: But why is – things that are of historical value, things that – like in Hebron and Jericho and places like this that are thousands of years old, why would that be an anti bias to Israel for UNESCO to recognize this as a site or place worthy of recognition?
MS NAUERT: We have seen some political statements of certain sorts made on the part of UNESCO. If UNESCO wants to get back and wants to reform itself and get back to a place where they’re truly promoting culture and education and all of that, perhaps we could take another look at this, but we haven’t seen that taking place. Israel, my understanding, has also
made the decision, but I’ll refer you to the Israeli Government on that, to do the very same thing. And let me just remind you, Bashar al-Assad from Syria was one of the people who was on the Human Rights Committee at UNESCO. I mean, does that seem to make a whole lot of sense to you? Probably not.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I will stick with heritage. But moving forward, will the United States withdraw from every UN organization that the Palestinians can become a member of?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. I only have the information on UNESCO today. Anything else on that?
QUESTION: Heather, as you’re probably aware, the Bush administration – W. Bush – when it rejoined UNESCO in 2003 I think it was, they made the case that having a seat at the table, being present in the debate and discussion would actually be beneficial to Israel and would tamp down some of the anti-Israel bias that you’re talking about here. Does – this administration doesn’t share that belief?
MS NAUERT: Look, all I can say is that this administration and the previous administration had been taking a long look at whether or not the United States should remain a member of UNESCO, and they made the determination that we were going to pull out.
QUESTION: Well, in fact, previous --
MS NAUERT: And previous administrations I just can’t comment on.
QUESTION: Well, the previous – the immediate previous administration was actually looking at ways to work around the congressional mandate on funding.
MS NAUERT: I understand. I understand.
QUESTION: That is something that --
MS NAUERT: But I just want to be clear that this review of sorts --
QUESTION: I – yeah, right.
MS NAUERT: -- has been underway for quite some time.
QUESTION: But it’s – is it fair to say that this current administration is no longer trying to find a way to work around the congressional prohibition on funding?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think we’ve made our determination, and that is to pull out of UNESCO at this time.
QUESTION: Right. So in other words, they’re never going to get their money unless – that you owe unless they reform and you rejoin. Is that --
MS NAUERT: I – I’ll leave it at that. Okay.
QUESTION: Can we go to Russia?
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: Still on UNESCO.
QUESTION: I have one quick follow-up on that.
MS NAUERT: Oh, sure. Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Your statement said that you wanted to be sort of an observer member so that
U.S. views could be – could be included. How does that work? I mean, how – have they agreed to let you --
MS NAUERT: I can put you in touch with some of our UN international organizations experts who could probably do a deeper dive on exactly how that would work as an observer. That I just don’t have the information on.
QUESTION: One follow-up?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.
QUESTION: But why now to pull out? Is it related to the selection of new chief to UNESCO?
MS NAUERT: My understanding is that even though this has been going on for quite – quite a long time, this review, that the review was just finalized.
QUESTION: But it’s not related to the selection of the new chief?
MS NAUERT: Not to my awareness, no. Hi, Arshad. QUESTION: So the Secretary apparently had a -- MS NAUERT: What do you want to talk about?
MS NAUERT: Thank you.
QUESTION: As I said, the Secretary had a conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov apparently. Can you give us a readout on that? And can you address the Russian foreign
ministry’s statement that Lavrov told the Secretary that the removal of the Russian flags from Russian buildings in the United States is inadmissible, is reiterating that they’re planning to file lawsuits against this, and his stating --
MS NAUERT: File lawsuits against the removal of the flag from their facilities?
QUESTION: No, over the seizure of the properties, not over the removal of the flags. Yeah.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Let me back up a little bit and say our actions in – when it comes those facilities we believe is perfectly legal. This is going back a few weeks now. We did this with a lot of thought in place, and we did it in a judicious fashion. When it comes to the flags, and I’ve certainly seen what Russian media has reported and you so clearly listed that out now, the way that the Russian Government and Russian media is reporting this. I can tell you this: the flags at the former Russian consular properties in San Francisco were respectfully lowered. They’re
safely stored within each of the buildings. I think there’s no country in the world that pays greater respect to its own flag and to the flags of other nations. That is something that we take seriously. I can tell you the flag that flew here in Washington, D.C. was also taken down and is safely stored within the building right now. Russian authorities have been told that we would be able to return those flags certainly at their convenience.
QUESTION: And do you regard the respectful lowering and storage of the flags as perfectly legal? I just want to make sure that that’s legal in your eyes. I can’t imagine you would --
MS NAUERT: Taking down a flag from a property that they’ve had to vacate – is that legal or not?
MS NAUERT: That’s a real question?
QUESTION: Yeah, I asked it.
MS NAUERT: I think that’s actually a respectful thing to do, to take down the flag, to fold it up
MS NAUERT: -- to hold on to it for that government and offer it back to them. There are many governments around the world who wouldn’t take that care of another nation’s flag.
QUESTION: And how do you address their – the foreign ministry’s reported contention that Lavrov, they said, conveyed to the Secretary that your, quote, “lawless behavior,” closed quote, runs counter to the United States stated desire for a normal relationship with Russia?
MS NAUERT: I’m a little surprised at this line of questioning because it comes right out of exactly what Russia would say. Okay?
QUESTION: Well, I’m asking you to respond to what Russia said. I think that’s kind of self- evident.
MS NAUERT: I hear you just parroting sort of Russian – Russian talking points. The actions that the United States Government --
QUESTION: I’m asking you a question which is to respond to what the Russians said.
MS NAUERT: The actions that the United States Government has taken with regard to Russian consulates and facilities has been perfectly legal. I want to be clear about that. We’ve talked about this for many months now. There is nothing that was inappropriate or done wrong in any kind of fashion.
QUESTION: So can you just – I mean, why take them down? Why not just leave them there? Do you know? I mean --
MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that’s actually – my understanding is that part of our responsibility is to keep an eye on – and Robert, maybe we can get an answer on this by the end, but I believe our responsibility is to close up the facilities, make sure that they have been vacated, and make sure that the properties are maintained to a certain degree.
MS NAUERT: I believe that’s our responsibility under the Foreign Missions Act. Is that correct?
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, if they --
MS NAUERT: Okay. So that – and so I would consider that – and I can double-check with our experts on this who would know a lot more about it than I would, but that that would be a part of it.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if it is, then that’s the explanation.
MS NAUERT: You’re probably not going to let weeds grow out of the place, you’re probably not --
QUESTION: You’re going to take in the mail, get the newspaper? MS NAUERT: Probably get the mail and get the newspaper -- QUESTION: Take --
MS NAUERT: -- and taking down the flag and --
QUESTION: Right. I just --
MS NAUERT: Guys, beyond that, this --
QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious if that is – no, I know, but I’m just curious --
MS NAUERT: -- conversation is just going to get silly.
QUESTION: -- is that standard – SOP for when something like this happens? Do you remove all, like, ornaments or whatever decorations that may be up?
MS NAUERT: Christmas tree lights or something like that?
QUESTION: Yeah. I just --
MS NAUERT: Matt, I will check on that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Another -- QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq? MS NAUERT: All right. Hi, Laurie. QUESTION: Hi. How are you?
MS NAUERT: I’m well, thanks. How are you?
QUESTION: Good. I have two questions. One is: Do you have any clarification or comment on reports yesterday that the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq and other Iraqi forces were
mobilizing for an attack in the Kirkuk area? That’s my first question.
MS NAUERT: So we’ve seen those reports. We’re certainly monitoring that situation very closely. We have consistently called on the various parties to oppose violence of any sort. We do not want to see any destabilizing activities take place and distract from the fight against ISIS.
We’ve been clear about that all along. We have noted that the Iraqi Government’s prime
minister’s spokesperson has confirmed that the Iraqi Security Forces, in its positions, are only focusing on targeting ISIS. We take them at their word and would certainly hope that no violence would occur beyond going after ISIS. Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you. And my second question has to do with your general policy towards Iraq, Kurdistan in the context of Iran. And you’ve argued that a unified Iraq is a way to contain Iran, but Iran itself is very opposed to Kurdish independence. So how can it be that you and Iran are on the same side of something – you said by keeping the Kurdistan part of Iraq that’s going to contain Iran – when the Iranians evidently feel the opposite?
MS NAUERT: Laurie, I think our continued position on Iraq and a unified, stable, democratic Iraq where the – we need to keep the eye – an eye on ISIS and focusing on ISIS, and that is where our sole focus is right now: taking out ISIS, the group that has been responsible for so many horrific things, and trying to maintain some sense of stability. We were concerned all along about destabilizing activities, and now once the referendum was held, certainly it has proven to be destabilizing. So we call upon all sides to restrain from violence.
QUESTION: So just for clarification, your position as, say, opposed to the White House is not really that this is a way to contain Iran, but it’s a way to fight ISIS?
MS NAUERT: Look, our – our mission in Iraq has been, as a part of the D-ISIS Coalition, to support that coalition and the 72 or 73 members to take out ISIS. And that is why we had opposed the destabilizing activity, which we saw as the referendum in destabilizing the region and destabilizing Iraq. We’d like folks to keep their eye on the ball, and that is ISIS. Okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: All right. Hi.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Quickly, a follow-up on the readout from yesterday, Secretary Tillerson’s phone call with the Turkish foreign minister, where the case of detention of several American citizens were discussed. Could you confirm that if the case of the jailed American pastor was discussed by Secretary? And then – and then secondly, could you give us a number of American citizens being held in connection of last year’s coup attempt by --
MS NAUERT: Oh, goodness. I don’t know if we actually have a number of Americans who’ve
– who have been detained or held at some point on behalf of the Government of Turkey. We know that somewhere close to 200,000 have been rounded up; people who had different types of occupations and all of that. But your question – your first question was what?
QUESTION: The first one -- MS NAUERT: Pastor Brunson? QUESTION: Yes.
MS NAUERT: Okay. So Secretary Tillerson spoke with his counterpart – I think it was just yesterday? Yes, yesterday. And that’s one of the issues that’s consistently brought up, the safety, the welfare, the well-being of the American pastor, Pastor Brunson. I know the President has spoken about this with his Turkish counterpart on numerous occasions. It is something that we’ve followed extremely closely. We would like to see Pastor Brunson brought home. The State Department – or members of our State Department had visited him; the last time was sometime in mid-September. The time before that was in late – late August or so. So we’re continuing to follow that story very closely, that case very closely, and would like to see him brought home.
QUESTION: Very quick follow-up?
QUESTION: Is there any indication that the --
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?
QUESTION: -- diplomatic crisis or tension between Turkey and U.S. being resolved soon?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think we’d certainly hope so. We would certainly like our relationship to improve. This is a – very much tension on our relationship right now, and I think there’s no question about that.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that?
MS NAUERT: Okay, anything else -- QUESTION: Yeah, follow-up on Turkey. MS NAUERT: Turkey?
QUESTION: Turkey? QUESTION: Can we go to Iran? QUESTION: Turkey?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on. QUESTION: I have follow-up. QUESTION: Turkey.
MS NAUERT: Yes, Turkey. Okay. Oh, Ilhan. Hi.
QUESTION: Hi. On Turkey, today Turkish President Erdogan actually talk about Pastor Brunson as well as other stuff from the U.S. consulate. And this is his words – he said, it’s clearly he – they have linked both pastor and a consulate – staff at the consulate have links to FETO, which is the Gulenist organizations. Have you been presented any kind of evidence showing they are linked to this group?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So one of the things that we’ve asked the Government of Turkey do – to do is to provide evidence. So we have two of our locally employed staff in Turkey – we talked about this the other day – who have been detained. We would call upon the Government of Turkey to please provide us that evidence if there is evidence that they were involved in what Turkey alleges, and that is terrorism. Turkey is an important NATO ally of the United States. If they feel that these individuals were involved in that type of activity, we would certainly like to see the evidence of that.
We would also like for these individuals to be able to see their lawyers. We certainly hope that they will be able to be represented by lawyers and visited by lawyers, and we hope that the Turkish Government will fulfill its pledge that it will do so. We’ll keep an eye on that one for sure. Our – the other locally employed staff who had been summoned by the Turkish Government, we’d like to see the evidence on him as well. We have not seen any evidence that the Turkish Government says that it has.
QUESTION: Follow-up on --
QUESTION: Today, again, President Erdogan’s long speech was pretty much about U.S., and he was talking about how U.S. policy has basically made Turkey and put Turkey in a very difficult position, whether in Syria or some of the Turkish nationals arrested in this country.
Have you seen this speech? It’s very aggressive against the U.S. as far as it can --
MS NAUERT: I have not – I’ve not seen the speech. I have heard some of the comments that have come out of it. One of the things that we would like to do is we would hope for some calm, and we would hope that we can have a dialogue with the Government of Turkey. As I
mentioned, the Secretary had spoken with his counterpart just yesterday. We’ve had lots of areas, conversations, and meetings that have gone back and forth between our government and theirs.
But we also have some very real concerns about whether or not Turkey intends to cooperate with the United States in terms of its investigations. The three American – excuse me – the three locally employed staff at our embassy, at our consulates in Turkey, had all been involved in some sort of a law enforcement type role. So we are – we hope that Turkey is not trying to create some distance between us and them in that. We need to have good law enforcement cooperation between our government and theirs. And by detaining our people, that certainly calls into question where they are in this.
QUESTION: My final question: Washington Post had editorial today or yesterday, and basically saying that not all of citizens of Turkey should be punished by visa suspension, but it should be targeted officials from the AKP government or close allies, businessmen of the AKP government. Would you --
MS NAUERT: I’ve not seen that article. I’ve not seen that editorial. I’d just have to say that we don’t take an action like this lightly. It is something we certainly don’t prefer to do. People who have valid visas are still more than welcome to come to the United States. This is a suspension right now until we can further assess exactly what’s going on.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) QUESTION: (Off-mike.) MS NAUERT: Okay? Okay.
QUESTION: Isn’t it true that President Erdogan is increasingly using a more belligerent language towards the United States of America?
MS NAUERT: Is he?
QUESTION: Is he? Yeah, I’m asking you.
MS NAUERT: Well, I haven’t monitored and compared --
QUESTION: I mean, that’s what I’m reading.
MS NAUERT: I haven’t monitored and compared all the language that he’s used now to language that he has used in the past, so I’m not going to get into characterizing that. Okay?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: Sure.
QUESTION: Turkey? Turkey?
MS NAUERT: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. On Iran, the – has the United States communicated its decision to its JCPOA partners?
MS NAUERT: The Secretary has been a busy guy on the phone today. He’s been making a lot of phone calls to many of our European partners to talk a little bit about the decision that the President will announce tomorrow. So I’m not going to be very careful and not give you a whole lot on that, because the President is going to unveil his decision tomorrow.
QUESTION: But not regarding his decision in specific, but regarding the conversation, has – does – has the Secretary communicated the details of that proposal to those partners today?
MS NAUERT: So this is very close-hold at this time, as I’m sure you can imagine. I can tell you who the Secretary has spoken with, at least today. I don't have a lot of information to provide you, but I can tell you in recent days he’s spoken with the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. I know today he spoke with Chinese State Councilor Yang. He also spoke with the French minister of foreign affairs. And he had a call with Sergey Lavrov of Russia. And the calls – I would describe them as listening calls, consulting calls, and having conversations about the overall rollout, if you will, of the plan --
QUESTION: Does he --
MS NAUERT: -- which the President will announce tomorrow.
QUESTION: Did they express their satisfaction?
MS NAUERT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Did they express their satisfaction in the contents of the plan?
MS NAUERT: The Secretary’s literally been on the phone all day long. I know he’s been working about 22 of the last 24 hours, so I’ve not had a chance to ask him all the specifics about those calls.
QUESTION: Can you take a couple of questions on Pakistan?
QUESTION: Do you know if he plans to call the Germans and the EU High Commissioner Mogherini --
MS NAUERT: Oh, I’m --
QUESTION: -- who are also involved in --
MS NAUERT: I believe so, yes.
QUESTION: So in other words, he’s basically talking to everyone who’s party --
MS NAUERT: He’s still --
QUESTION: Everyone who’s a party to the deal, he’s trying to talk to.
MS NAUERT: That is my understanding. Yes, yes. Okay.
QUESTION: Does that include the Iranians themselves?
MS NAUERT: I’m not sure. I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: And can you readout any of his meetings with members of the Senate or the House as well?
MS NAUERT: No I can’t.
QUESTION: You can’t confirm --
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: -- he’s met with anyone?
MS NAUERT: I know that he has had some meetings, as has the White House and other representatives of the Executive Branch, but I just don’t have any specifics on that. Okay?
QUESTION: A follow up on Iran, on the Iran deal.
QUESTION: Can you take a question on Pakistan, please?
MS NAUERT: Wait, wait, wait. Okay. I’m sorry, what, miss?
QUESTION: Yes. I just need a quick clarification, is that after Trump – the President Trump decertifies this deal and if Congress --
MS NAUERT: Well, first I would take issue with --
MS NAUERT: -- the premise of your question, okay? Because the President will announce his strategy --
QUESTION: Yes, I know.
MS NAUERT: -- and announce the overall – our Iran posture tomorrow.
MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to comment on what it contains or what it doesn’t contain, because I’m not going to get ahead of what the President has to say.
QUESTION: This is just kind of a technical thing. I mean, if the Congress just after 60 days’ review decided to – in favor of this deal, does it mean that the President can veto the Congress regulation – the Congress resolutions?
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to jump ahead of what exactly is going to happen tomorrow --
QUESTION: This kind of a --
MS NAUERT: -- and that would be a hypothetical, so I’m just not going to get into a hypothetical. Okay, guys?
QUESTION: Couple of questions on Pakistan, please?
MS NAUERT: We’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Hold on. Wait, wait, wait. This is something you’re going to want to talk about.
MS NAUERT: Yeah?
QUESTION: UAE breaking ties with North Korea. Do you have anything on that?
MS NAUERT: Oh. That – I’m learning that for the first time.
MS NAUERT: Hold on one second. Hold on, everybody. Don’t go anywhere.
QUESTION: And then – and then also, do you have any thoughts on the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation?
MS NAUERT: Yes. So first of all, UAE kicked out their – its ambassador to --
QUESTION: And said they would not hire any more --
MS NAUERT: -- the ambassador to North Korea. Very happy to hear that.
QUESTION: -- North Korean workers.
MS NAUERT: That brings to mind the Government of Italy, which did – just did the same thing about a week ago. There are many countries that are taking those steps that we have asked those countries to take. This is something that is a key part of Secretary Tillerson’s pressure campaign, which General Mattis – excuse me, General Kelly referred to today as well, the diplomacy. The diplomacy that is a huge part of that campaign to try to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. So, thrilled that the UAE has taken that step to do that.
And then your second question was, Matt?
QUESTION: Oh, just if you had anything – thoughts on the Hamas-Fatah latest attempt at reconciliation or (inaudible)?
MS NAUERT: Yes. So we certainly saw that today and we would welcome the effort for the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume responsibilities in Gaza. We see that as potentially an important step into getting the humanitarian aid in to the people who live there.
We’re going to watch those developments very closely. We’ll press forward with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and also international donors to try to get that – improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
QUESTION: Right. And then you mentioned several times here how appreciative you are of General Kelly’s comments over at the White House.
MS NAUERT: We’ll welcome him over here any time.
QUESTION: One of the things that he also said that you didn’t mention is that – when he was asked about the administration placing – what kind of value it placed on diplomacy and the State Department, he said that he agreed with General Mattis and others that if you don’t properly fund the State Department, they’re going to have to buy more bullets.
MS NAUERT: Right.
QUESTION: Do you – does the Secretary agree with that?
MS NAUERT: I caught that. So General Kelly was giving his remarks about 20 minutes or so before I came down here, so I haven’t had the chance to talk to the Secretary about that. But I think it is a budget that we were given and we will work within the budget to the best of our ability, and one of the things we will continue to do is push ahead with diplomacy, push ahead with all the activities that our 75,000 people do around the world. That certainly won’t change.
QUESTION: All right.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Thanks, everybody. (The briefing was concluded at 3:35 p.m.)
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