2:18 p.m. EDT
MS ORTAGUS: Good afternoon, everybody. The Department of State’s 230th anniversary is this Saturday, and the State Department will reach an exciting milestone. A full 230 years ago, on July 27th, 1789, our founding fathers approved legislation establishing the Department of State as our nation’s first Executive Branch department. Today, our great team continues to work tirelessly to lead American diplomacy and to protect American citizens worldwide. Here, at the Harry S. Truman Building, we will celebrate this anniversary on Monday, July 29th. In addition to remarks by Secretary Pompeo in the Dean Acheson Auditorium, we are honored to be joined by former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, who will share his remembrances and conversation with his official biographer, Dr. Niall Ferguson. As we celebrate 230 years since our founding, we look forward to continuing our proud legacy of service to this great nation in the centuries ahead.
I am also pleased to announce that the Secretary of State will travel to Bangkok, Thailand; Australia; and the Federated States of Micronesia July 30th through August 6th to deepen our longstanding alliances and vibrant bilateral relations with these countries, and to reaffirm our commitment to ASEAN, which is central to our vision for the Indo-Pacific region.
On August 1st, Secretary Pompeo will arrive in Bangkok, where he will co-chair the U.S. Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN – ministerial at the Lower Mekong Initiative ministerial. The next day, August 2nd, Secretary Pompeo will deliver remarks at the Siam Society on America’s economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region. The Secretary will then participate in the East Asia Summit ministerial, the ASEAN Regional Forum ministerial, and will hold a bilateral meeting with Thai foreign minister to discuss ways to further strengthen the U.S.-Thai alliance.
On August 3rd, the Secretary will travel from Thailand to Australia. On August 4th, Secretary Pompeo, along with Secretary of Defense Esper, will lead the U.S. delegation to the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, AUSMIN. As a part of his AUSMIN engagement, the Secretary will participate in dialogues aimed at strengthening the alliance, working shoulder to shoulder with Australia to meet global and transnational challenges, and safeguarding sovereignty in the Pacific Island countries and in Southeast Asia. The Secretary will also deliver remarks on the U.S.-Australia relationship at the State Library of New South Wales. Finally, the Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Morrison to discuss continued collaboration on advancing our shared set of values, principles, and overlapping interest.
On August 5th, Secretary Pompeo will meet with the consulate general staff and family members, and then depart for the Federated States of Micronesia to reaffirm our special partnership with this Pacific Island country under our Compact of Free Association. The Secretary’s visit to the Federated States of Micronesia marks the first ever visit by a secretary of state to Micronesia. On this visit, Secretary Pompeo will meet with leaders of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. The Secretary will also meet with staff and family members of the U.S. embassy. Secretary Pompeo will finish his visit by paying his respect and laying a wreath to honor the service of the citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia and the U.S. Armed Forces.
New today, the United States congratulates Boris Johnson on his appointment as the new UK prime minister. As the President said on his visit to the UK in June, the U.S.-UK special relationship “is grounded in common history, value, customs, culture, language, and laws.” This foundation gives strength to our enduring partnership as we face together emerging challenges in the world. We look forward to continuing this critical work with Prime Minister Johnson’s government, and we remain committed to our shared global agenda and special relationship.
On that note, the Secretary actually just got off the phone with newly appointed UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. I’m just going to read this out to all of you, and of course you’ll have a copy in your email as well: “Secretary Michael R. Pompeo spoke with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today to discuss key global priorities, including countering Iran’s attempts to expand its nuclear program, and strengthening the NATO alliance.”
Just a few more things for you. Today, we offer our deepest condolences to the people of Tunisia on the passing of President Beji Caid Essebsi. President Essebsi was the first democratically elected president of Tunisia after its 2011 revolution. Throughout his long career, he distinguished himself as an advocate for the freedom and equality of the Tunisian people. As president, he was a close friend and valued partner of the United States. He will be remembered for his efforts to strengthen Tunisian democracy and for promoting peace and stability throughout the region.
And finally, in response to the alarming trajectory of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID announced yesterday that it is providing more than $38 million in assistance, including 15 million in new funding for the World Health Organization. This brings the total USAID funding for this response to more than 136 million since the beginning of the outbreak in August 2018. We appreciate the work of all outbreak responders led by the DRC Government with support from the UN, WHO, and NGOs to contain this outbreak. USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, comprising of disaster and health experts from USAID and the CDC, have been on the ground since September 2018 working with the U.S. embassy on our response efforts.
Ending this Ebola outbreak remains a priority for the U.S. Government. The United States is currently the largest single country donor to the Ebola response, and we call on other international donors to provide robust financial and technical support to the response, including through the DRC and WHO strategic response plan. The end.
QUESTION: The end?
MS ORTAGUS: I could find one more for you, I’m sure.
QUESTION: I’ve got to say, the teleprompter experiment is interesting, but I’ve got – now got a headache from trying to read upside down and backwards.
MS ORTAGUS: You know I’m going to say it all. You could just wait.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a very minor logistical question before moving to North Korea? And the – this is about the media note that you guys put out a little while ago about the call that Pompeo had – Secretary Pompeo had with President Ghani of Afghanistan. Just two things about it. One, it says it’s a joint statement. Who – is this a joint U.S.-Afghan —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah. This is the call from yesterday, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, joint U.S.-Afghan statement.
MS ORTAGUS: Yes sir.
QUESTION: Okay. And the other thing – it says that President Pompeo informed President – Secretary Pompeo, sorry —
MS ORTAGUS: Freudian.
QUESTION: Getting ahead – informed President Ghani that he had dispatched Joint Chiefs Dunford and – does that mean that Secretary Pompeo called up General Dunford and said, “You go,” or does he – does the “he” in that sentence refer to President Trump?
MS ORTAGUS: I’m pretty sure it does refer to President Trump.
MS ORTAGUS: The Secretary has conversations with his counterparts on a daily basis, so we can parse that out for you if that – if you need it.
QUESTION: Got you, right. Now on to – no, no, I’m just curious because there was some question about – anyway, on North Korea, what do you guys make of these latest missile or projectile launches? Will they have any impact on your efforts to get things started again, and is – what’s the North Korea component of the Secretary’s travel that you announced?
MS ORTAGUS: There’s no —
QUESTION: Not that there’s – he’s going there, but —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah. There’s no component to announce on the trip as it relates to North Korea. The NSC – the White House issued a statement last night that you all should have a copy of. If not, our team will be happy to get it to you, and I don’t think we’re really going to go beyond that statement. We’re of course aware of the reports, but I think what the President has said and what the President has stressed – and the Secretary as well – is that this is – is that we want to have diplomatic engagement with the North Koreans and we continue to urge the North Koreans to resolve all of the things that the President and that Chairman Kim have talked about through diplomacy. We urge no more provocations and to – that all parties should abide by our obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: But does that mean that you regard these launches as provocations or that you’re – are you reserving judgment on what they are?
MS ORTAGUS: I mean, listen, what we’re hoping is that after the historic visit that the President had at the DMZ with Kim Jong-un and many members of both teams, including the Secretary and Steve Biegun, is that we can continue to move forward on the commitments made in Vietnam. And this administration is committed to diplomatic engagement with the North Koreans and we continue to press and hope for these working-level negotiations to move forward.
QUESTION: I’ll drop it after this, but I just want to —
MS ORTAGUS: Great.
QUESTION: You urged them not to – “we urge no more provocations” is what you said. But do you consider launches like this to be provocations or no?
MS ORTAGUS: What’s – what would be most productive is for Chairman Kim and his staff and for President Trump and all of his staff to continue upon the path that was laid out for us both in Vietnam and at the DMZ, and that is a diplomatic resolution and the end of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. I mean, that’s what we have stated as our goal this entire time, and clearly, as we often state every time we talk about it, sanctions will remain in effect until we believe – all parties believe that we have reached that goal.
QUESTION: Follow-up on North Korea.
QUESTION: You were hopeful after the visit to DMZ to resume these talking-level negotiations by mid-July or July. Do you still plan them to start in the coming weeks? And I will follow up: Is there anything, any meeting on North Korea planned during the trip in Asia?
MS ORTAGUS: So we don’t have any announcements about meetings with North Koreans, nor do we – nor do I ever anticipate to read out individual talks, meetings, communications. When there is a status update, we will be more than happy to give it to you, but I think that the statement from the NSC speaks for itself, and I think we’ve been pretty consistent on how we —
QUESTION: But you’re still hopeful that the —
MS ORTAGUS: Of course, yeah.
QUESTION: — working-level talks will resume soon?
MS ORTAGUS: Diplomacy doesn’t happen overnight. I wish it did, although I might be out of a job if it did, so maybe not.
MS ORTAGUS: Hi, Lesley.
QUESTION: Hello. What contacts has the Secretary made here, what calls has he made today regarding this? Has he spoken to counterparts in China, in Seoul? And what do you make of the North Korean foreign minister canceling his trip to Bangkok, which would’ve been the opportunity that Mr. Pompeo would have had to talk to him?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I saw that media press report, and we don’t – I don’t comment or speculate on, as far as I read, an unnamed source saying that. So that’s not something that we would comment on. And in terms of the Secretary’s schedule of whom he’s spoken with today, I have the readout for you from the new UK foreign minister, of course, and I don’t have anything else beyond that for today.
QUESTION: And that’s included talks on North Korea? They would —
MS ORTAGUS: No, no, no, I’m just talking about his public calls.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS ORTAGUS: Calls with foreign counterparts today.
QUESTION: So as far as – so no calls on specific —
MS ORTAGUS: I’m not saying no calls. I’m just saying that I don’t have anything to read out.
QUESTION: You don’t have anything. Okay. Yeah.
MS ORTAGUS: Hi. Yeah, go ahead. Hi.
QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan. North Korea.
MS ORTAGUS: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Recently, Secretary Pompeo interviewed with radio stations. He said that he would give North Korea security guarantees if North Korea denuclearizations. What is the U.S.’s specific security guarantees for the North Korea?
MS ORTAGUS: Well, I don’t want to go beyond what the Secretary said there, but again, if you look at this from a 30,000-foot level and what we continue to stress, that is our hope and our goal – our goal in these negotiations is a denuclearized North Korea, of course. But also, something that the Secretary has said often and the President has said as well, is that we do want Chairman Kim and the people of North Korea to see a brighter future for them. It could be a future without sanctions. It could be a future of economic cooperation where they could be brought into the fold, into the international community.
And that is the – that is the bright future that we’re aiming for here. But I’m not going to get into any more. So we can keep talking about North Korea, guys, but I’m not going to have anything else. So —
QUESTION: Can I have a quick follow-up?
MS ORTAGUS: Yes.
QUESTION: So has the working-level dialogue been affected at all by North Korea’s behavior?
MS ORTAGUS: I think I was just asked and answered.
QUESTION: Yeah, me?
MS ORTAGUS: We’ll go second row then third. How about that?
MS ORTAGUS: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have other countries joined it, and how is it going to work with the European force?
MS ORTAGUS: So the DOD just released a statement on a meeting that they had today, and so I would refer you to their statement. Again, you can get it from them, or our team will be more than happy to provide updates on this.
There is not a specific update. This is something that Brian Hook and the Secretary are working quite closely with our partners and allies around the world. I mean, the goal here is, of course, for security in the Straits of Hormuz. We’re focused on navigational rights, freedom of the seas in the straits, and this is a security initiative that we think no matter what your policy position is with the U.S., we think that our allies and friends can welcome this initiative as something that’s region-wide.
I promised you next. Yes.
QUESTION: Follow-up? Follow-up?
MS ORTAGUS: No, I promised her next.
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Morgan, there is two things. So many things, actually. Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Washington. Afghan people are —
MS ORTAGUS: Did you say Prime Minister Khan? Is that what you said?
QUESTION: Khan, Imran Khan.
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, yeah, okay.
MS ORTAGUS: Afghan people had a very high expectation that they will solve the problem and President Trump will discuss very seriously Afghanistan issue. Instead of they get happy, they are unhappy. The last statement of Donald Trump was – show a lot of —
MS ORTAGUS: Who is unhappy? Who are you —
QUESTION: Afghan people, Afghan people.
MS ORTAGUS: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: They are not satisfied.
MS ORTAGUS: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And also, the last statement of President Trump make Afghan people unhappy. They are very disappointed for ending of war in Afghanistan. And Dr. – Ambassador Khalilzad also went to Afghanistan to continue peace process. Do you have any comment? Because Afghan people, they are very disappointed and very unhappy for the latest statement from Donald Trump.
MS ORTAGUS: I would remind the Afghan people the countless number of thousands, of tens of thousands of lives that – American lives and lives of our NATO allies and our European allies that have been lost fighting in Afghanistan for the people of Afghanistan to have a right to choose their own future. Not just the number of lives lost but the billions of dollars that have spent there. You could probably look at most of the people in this room that serve here at the State Department, and we have either served ourselves or we have had family members that have served. I have someone on my staff who has been – is serving there right now.
So I think that the people of Afghanistan should know that for almost 20 years, Americans have lost their lives and have spent their hard-earned taxpayer money to see the people of Afghanistan have a choice for their own future. And that commitment has not been a small commitment. That has been a vast and sweeping commitment by the American people.
I promised you next.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Afghanistan?
MS ORTAGUS: What is your name?
QUESTION: Afghanistan. Voice of America.
MS ORTAGUS: If you guys – don’t do that. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Following up on Laurie’s question regarding the maritime security initiative —
MS ORTAGUS: Sure.
QUESTION: — the Islamic Republic of Iran has finally been able to shake the Europeans with seizing the British tanker in the Persian Gulf, and now they’re thinking of their own maybe initiative or at least —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: They’re trying to maybe create an alliance for escorting ships or providing their security anyways. And it seems like they want to do it independent of the United States. Does the administration think that this is a good idea to have two separate lines of initiatives and attempts —
MS ORTAGUS: Sure.
QUESTION: — to do that?
MS ORTAGUS: And remind me what publication you’re with. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Voice of America Persian Service.
MS ORTAGUS: Oh, you’re with Voice of America. That’s right. Sorry, apologize. I’m still trying to remember everyone’s names.
So no, we welcome any effort by the Europeans, by our allies, by our partners. We started this press conference off by talking about – by congratulating the new prime minister. And as I just said just literally minutes ago, Secretary Pompeo had a conversation with the new foreign minister in the UK, and of course, I’ve been a part of many conversations and many meetings that the Secretary has had with his British counterparts.
So we think that we have a strong, enduring relationship. We work incredibly closely with the British and with the Europeans on a number of issues. We don’t see daylight between our two countries, but I think it’s important to note that the prime minister, the new prime minister, is forming his government, just named his foreign minister, and we want to give them the opportunity to articulate how they feel about any British policies, not just this one. So I think we’ll give them the space to comment further.
QUESTION: It’s the British, the French, the Danes. They’re all thinking about —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah. We’re very supportive. Yeah.
QUESTION: On Turkey?
MS ORTAGUS: Sure. Can you say your name and who you’re with?
QUESTION: Namo Abdulla with Rudaw from Kurdistan.
MS ORTAGUS: Thank you, appreciate it.
QUESTION: Okay. So —
MS ORTAGUS: Which – your question is on Turkey?
QUESTION: Yes. U.S., after special envoy James Jeffrey’s meetings in Ankara —
MS ORTAGUS: Yes.
QUESTION: — the U.S. embassy put out a statement —
MS ORTAGUS: Yes.
QUESTION: — describing it as forthright, positive, and productive. But the Turkish foreign minister, following that statement, he said that Turkey was rejecting the U.S. offer on Syria. We don’t really know what was the offer. If you can give us more detail, that would be most appreciated.
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I don’t think that I’m going to go beyond the readout that the embassy put out. I will say that clearly this is not an easy issue. This is one of the more challenging issues that Ambassador Jeffrey has in his portfolio. And the President’s goals in Syria, the Secretary’s goals in Syria, are, of course, to prevent a security vacuum that destabilizes the area, and we want to do that by addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and by also protecting our partners in the fight against ISIS.
So we certainly appreciate the efforts of the ambassador, and we hope that – and we can – we believe these talks will continue, that it was – they did not end.
QUESTION: Do we have any updates on the S-400 sanctions, and can you tell us what is taking so long? Is there a chance that there will be no sanctions? Will there be sanctions? What’s going on with all the CAATSA?
MS ORTAGUS: Well, yes, I would point you to – first of all, to the President’s statements about the F-35, and I – that is certainly not insignificant. That was something that the President took and the Department of Defense took very, very seriously. I mean, that’s a very, very heavy action.
As it relates to CAATSA, there is no timetable in the legislation. We continue, of course, to talk to the Turks about this and to reiterate our concern. And so I don’t think that – we don’t have anything new to announce today, but I would certainly point you to the President’s comments last week about where we are in terms of the F-35 program. But nothing new to announce today on sanctions.
QUESTION: Could you give us any guidance, though, as to why it’s taking so long? Because I mean, we’ve known this was coming for a very long time. The F-35 announcement was ready to go as soon as the delivery – well, it was delayed a little bit, but fairly recent – fairly quickly after the announcement. I would imagine that your staff or the staff here was prepared for this, so why didn’t they have this ready to go when they took delivery of the S-400?
MS ORTAGUS: I think that, again, there is no timetable on the President making a decision with the consultation of the Secretary, and I want to give the President and the Secretary the space to do that. I think it’s important to remember that Turkey is, of course, a NATO ally, and the actions that we’ve taken thus far are significant. And one of the things that we always do here at the State Department is we always try to preserve diplomacy; we always try to preserve relationships.
Turkey has worked with us incredibly hard on the fight against ISIS in Syria, and they have many of their own accomplishments to point to there. So sanctioning a NATO ally is a very, very serious action, and when the President and the Secretary are ready to make a determination under CAATSA, I will be more than happy to tell you all of that.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MS ORTAGUS: A follow-up?
QUESTION: Yes, on Turkey. Today, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met with Turkish generals, and he stated we expect U.S. to review our proposals and give answers. “We… cannot tolerate a delay, and we will take the initiative necessary.” He was talking about the —
MS ORTAGUS: Who said this?
QUESTION: The Turkish defense minister, Hulusi Akar.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay.
QUESTION: He was talking about the possible intervention in northeastern Syria. Turkish forces are massing there. What is your view about the possible Turkish intervention in northeastern Syria?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, this is – again, this is an issue that Ambassador Jeffrey is working very, very closely on, of course, in the discussions with the safe zone in Turkey that we just talked about. So I don’t think I’m going to go beyond that readout. As I said, this is an incredibly sensitive situation. We have American troops present as well, and we’re going to be continue – we’re going to continue to work closely with Turkey on this issue. Yeah.
QUESTION: What is the U.S. reaction to the admission by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit at an event at U.S. Institute of Peace that Pakistan still has around 30,000 to 40,000 militants who are – who fought and are trained in Afghanistan, Kashmir? So how do you see the U.S-Pakistan relations and Indo-Pak relationship progressing with this kind of an admission?
MS ORTAGUS: Sure. So I mean, this was an initial meeting. This meeting, of course, gave the chance for the President and the Secretary to meet with Prime Minister Khan, to build a personal connection and rapport. And now we think it’s time to make progress on the success of this first meeting. I would note one of the things that the prime minister says that he vowed to urge the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan Government. We are committed to peace in Afghanistan. We think that was an important step. And there was a number of issues that were discussed not only in the President’s meeting but with the Secretary’s meeting as well, and now is the time to build upon that meeting and to build upon those commitments.
QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan. Very quickly, this week, Israel demolished about a hundred housing units, Palestinian housing units, displacing about a thousand people. But you did not issue any statements. I mean, your ally – this is of course contrary to international law on —
MS ORTAGUS: Are you referring to Wadi Hummus?
QUESTION: Yes, yes. So I wonder if you would comment on that, on the – it’s in East Jerusalem —
MS ORTAGUS: Sure.
QUESTION: You didn’t issue any statement. What is your position on the demolition?
MS ORTAGUS: So we’re aware of them, obviously, as you and I just spoke about, and we understand that there has been also a very legal – excuse me, lengthy legal process here. But we’re going to refer you to the Government of Israel for more information because this is theirs. I would just say we talk a lot about – you and I do, Said – about some of these individual issues, but what we think is important, the President has stated that he thinks that it’s important for these two parties to get to the table, to work, to talk, to negotiate. And again, as we talked about North Korea earlier, it’s easy to get into the individual discussions on a daily basis, but again, if we pull back and we look at this from the 30,000-foot level, we would urge both sides to come together to talk and to negotiate, and that’s why we have so many people who are committed to this in our government.
QUESTION: I understand, but this is on land and area (a) which you helped negotiate. I mean, this was an agreement that was sponsored by the U.S., negotiated by the U.S. So you have no position on the demolition of home and displacement of Palestinians in their own land? I mean, on their side of the wall that, to begin with, was taken from that land – you don’t have a position on it?
MS ORTAGUS: I think you would be a good negotiator for them, Said. Listen, we’re aware of them, Said, and as we’ve said, we’ve noted that there also has been a very, very lengthy legal process that you and I can’t get into here from the podium. But we would refer you to the Government of Israel for anything further.
QUESTION: And one last one on – Mr. Greenblatt gave a speech at the UN – Mr. Greenblatt, on Tuesday —
MS ORTAGUS: Yes.
QUESTION: — in which he dismissed international resolutions and laws when it comes to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue. And my question to you: Are you still committed to the resolution that you are party to? Or is that gone to like 242, 336, 487, I could name —
MS ORTAGUS: I don’t think —
QUESTION: — many, many resolutions to which you are a sponsor.
MS ORTAGUS: I need to go back and look at his comments. I don’t know that I agree with how you’re characterizing his comments.
QUESTION: He said that —
MS ORTAGUS: So let me look at them and get back to you.
MS ORTAGUS: But his – but – go ahead.
QUESTION: I appreciate that.
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah.
MS ORTAGUS: Sure.
QUESTION: So the Pakistani prime minister said that there would be good news on U.S. hostages in the next 48 hours. That was Monday night, so it’s already past 48 hours. Do you have any update on that?
MS ORTAGUS: Well, this administration has a very strong record, actually, on getting American hostages returned. We take human lives incredibly seriously, and we will use every means available at our disposal to secure and to see the secure and safe return of American citizens who are held hostage abroad. The prime minister did say that. We are, of course, working closely with the Pakistanis on recovering them. We think his statements were helpful and we’re of course hopeful that there will be some action proceeding those statements.
QUESTION: So we didn’t fail to deliver on a promise, it’s just still in works?
MS ORTAGUS: Yes. That’s fair, that’s accurate.
QUESTION: Okay, and then on Afghanistan, the readout between Ghani and Secretary Pompeo said that now is the time to accelerate efforts to reach a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan. Why now? I mean, if there is indeed a condition-based strategy for the U.S., how are the conditions on the ground in a place where now should be the time for peace to be negotiated at a faster —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. That’s a fair question, and I think that we will always continue to assess the situation on the ground, and the Secretary has always been committed to that, certainly in his public testimony when he’s talked to Congress about this. But as I opened up I think in one of the first or second questions that I answered, we talked about the number of American lives and NATO lives, the billions of dollars that American taxpayers have spent, and so I don’t think that there is any doubt of the American commitment for almost two decades to Afghanistan – one in which, as I said, many of these people in the room, myself included, have sent our loved ones off to Afghanistan because of Americans’ commitment, the American government commitment to see the Afghan people be able to choose their own future, to choose their leaders. And I think that’s something, as an American and as a Department of State employee, that I’m incredibly proud of.
QUESTION: And do you have any comment on the back-to-back explosions in Kabul just this week, one of which was claimed by the Taliban?
MS ORTAGUS: Any comment? No. I think that – I need to double check – I think that we might have put some – put a statement out on that from our SCA bureau, so I’ll get that statement for you. I don’t – I want to look at that and see exactly what it said.
QUESTION: I had two questions on Afghanistan and the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, guys, I think I’ve answered it a lot, so —
QUESTION: This is another issue.
MS ORTAGUS: — I don’t know that I have much more to say beyond what I’ve already said.
QUESTION: Okay, I’ll try a second time.
MS ORTAGUS: So if you can be creative and ask me something I haven’t been asked, kudos to you. If not —
QUESTION: Yeah. So my first question is there are reports that U.S. is looking for a deadline of September 1 to reach an agreement with the Taliban. Is that true?
MS ORTAGUS: We’re not putting – we’re going through those negotiations. Ambassador Khalilzad travels quite a bit. As you know, we’ve often talk about his travels here from the podium, and so I don’t think that you can – I don’t think that we’re putting a specific date in terms of peace, but obviously, that’s something that the President has said since his campaign days it’s something that he’s committed to.
QUESTION: And Prime Minister Imran Khan comments on terrorists – he said that there are 30 to 40 terrorist organizations still —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, somebody already said that. Yeah.
QUESTION: So did you ask him to act strongly against those terrorist groups? Are you satisfied that he’ll take steps this time?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I’m not going to go beyond the readout that we’ve given – that the White House gave of the President’s meeting and of course the President spoke to it, and the meeting, of course, that we – I think all of you should have our readout from the Secretary’s meeting. But again, let me just say holistically that when it comes to fighting terrorism, you have a Secretary of State who’s been committed to this his entire career, and that’s something that he is always going to raise with allies and friends and whomever comes to the table. I mean, whether it was his time in the Army or his time as director of the CIA, I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone more committed to fighting terrorism and to fighting injustice, and that’s, again, something holistically that he’s always fought for in his career.
MS ORTAGUS: Oh, are you referring to the President’s statement?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I don’t have anything to say beyond the President’s statement.
Hi, Barb. How are you?
QUESTION: Hi. Just to follow – good, thank you. Just to follow up Said’s question, I have Mr. Greenblatt’s comments here, and he said international law – “This conflict is not going to be resolved by reference to ‘international law’ when such law is inconclusive… we will not get to the bottom of whose interpretation of ‘international law’ is correct on this conflict.” It’s a “tricky subject… this conflict will not be resolved by constantly referencing the hundreds of UN resolutions on the issue.” So I just wondered if you could – again, that question, does that mean that the U.S. still sticks by the commitments it made to – under these UN resolutions previously, or is Mr. Greenblatt saying we can’t really reference this body of work that we’ve agreed to in the past because it’s actually inconclusive and won’t help to solve the conflict?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I don’t want to get ahead of the Secretary on this, so let me just take a further look at that and get back to you.
QUESTION: I would really appreciate an answer at some point.
MS ORTAGUS: Sure, we’ll get it to you today, no problem.
MS ORTAGUS: On the arms sales?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, okay. He did.
QUESTION: That would have blocked certain arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This caused some members of Congress to say that the administration is not treating them as a co-equal branch. Is the Secretary concerned about that perception?
MS ORTAGUS: Well, the Congress voted. They sent legislation to the President. He vetoed it. Ain’t democracy grand? Next.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that?
MS ORTAGUS: Sure.
MS ORTAGUS: We would have to get into a specific discussion about the type of – I mean, we’d have to get into a weapons discussion that probably goes beyond the State Department podium. We can get a much more lengthy and detailed discussion to you, but I don’t think we can – we would have to go through every weapon that’s in the thing in order to accurately answer that.
MS ORTAGUS: Hold on. Can I – okay, Said.
QUESTION: I know it just happened. The —
MS ORTAGUS: I’m trying to give everyone a chance, Said.
QUESTION: No, no, I understand. It just happened —
MS ORTAGUS: If something just happened, I probably don’t know, because I’m standing right here.
QUESTION: Well, it seems that the president of the Palestinian Authority just announced that he’s suspending all agreements with Israel. I wonder if you would have – or take – he just announced —
MS ORTAGUS: He announced this right now?
QUESTION: — just now that —
MS ORTAGUS: I mean, Said —
QUESTION: I wonder if you would take that and —
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah. If it happened when I was standing here, I’m not going to have a comment, but we’ll —
QUESTION: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you. Sorry.
MS ORTAGUS: We will get you one by the end of the day.
QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan, and forgive me if I missed it, but on the Secretary’s travel to Bangkok, you only mentioned one bilateral meeting with Thailand. Will the Secretary have any time to meet with Seoul or Tokyo, maybe on a pull-aside, to talk about North Korea? And will Steve Biegun – does he have any plans to attend any ASEAN meetings?
MS ORTAGUS: So I’m not going to announce the individuals on the trip. I don’t think that we do that here from the podium. In terms of his schedule in Thailand – I only said one meeting? I need to double check to see if there’s any – we’ll have – for all the reporters coming on the trip, we’ll have – they’ll have the full public schedule and whatever press avails that we have, and they’ll certainly have the opportunity to ask questions, so that won’t be a problem. We’ll make sure that the public portions of the schedule are available to you. So (inaudible).
QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Biegun’s attending ASEAN meetings?
MS ORTAGUS: We’re not going to talk about individuals who are – who will be on the trip right now, but thank you.
In the pink.
MS ORTAGUS: Al Arabiya?
MS ORTAGUS: Okay.
QUESTION: I have a question about Qatar. There was an article in The New York Times this week that referenced a audio recording between a Qatari ambassador to Somalia and a Somali businessman talking about a terror attack and kind of referencing perhaps a Qatari role in the terrorist attack. Are you —
MS ORTAGUS: Oh, I think I know the article that you’re talking about.
QUESTION: Is there – is the U.S. either looking into this or concerned about it or has a statement about this?
MS ORTAGUS: I remember the – I remember reading the article that you talked about. I mean, I don’t think we would normally have official comments on articles like those that have accusations, but I’ll be happy to check into it and look into it with the team. I did read that article, but to my knowledge, the Secretary nor NEA, which is a part of that bureau, has made any sort of public comment on those allegations.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, Nike, last one.
MS ORTAGUS: Well – I mean, the Japanese might have issue with you saying that, but yes.
QUESTION: Yes. And what – do you have —
MS ORTAGUS: What’s your question about it?
QUESTION: Yeah, you have – what is your official comment for this?
MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, I mean, we’re aware of those reports. I think the White House has put out comments on that as well as soon as it happened, and we obviously consider those sorts of – and actually, now that I think about it, Secretary Esper spoke about it late yesterday, so I would also point you back to his comments as well. We think that those sorts of actions are certainly provocative. It’s not something that we’re supportive of, and we would hope that the Russians would not continue to do that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:54 p.m.)
# # #