1:12 p.m. EDT

MS ORTAGUS: Good afternoon, everybody. So this is going to be a little bit shorter today than the past few days. I am headed out to Europe with the Secretary. I think several of you are with us, and we’ve got to get to Andrews with our suitcases, which are just sitting right outside this door for me. So of course, it was important for me to see all of you before I left, so thank you for having me again. Just one thing that I want to bring to your attention before we get started today. Yesterday Secretary Pompeo spoke at the beginning – excuse me – spoke at the opening of an exciting new exhibit here in the United States Diplomacy Center. This exhibit celebrates the 40-year anniversary of the establishment of the Bureau of Consular Affairs and tells the story of our timeless commitment to serving the American people. Consular officers have served across the globe and through centuries, dating from before the signing of the U.S. constitution down to today.

Consular Affairs carries out one of the department’s most important missions: looking out for the welfare and safety of Americans overseas. They also provide essential passport and visa services to millions of customers every year, facilitating travel and safeguarding our national security. As many of you know – or if you don’t know, you do now – I am a Navy Reserve officer, and I was actually fascinated to learn that the Consular Jack flag on display in the exhibit is carried on every U.S. Navy ship still to this day. It’s a testament to the longstanding partnership between the State Department and our colleagues at Defense. If any of you in the bullpen haven’t seen the exhibit yet, I strongly encourage you to reach out to our consular press team for a chance to tour it. It’s very special. Matt.

QUESTION: When’s it – when’s it go till?

MS ORTAGUS: The end date? Oh, I don’t know. Good question. You better —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS ORTAGUS: You better hurry and check it out just in case, just in case you miss it.

QUESTION: Can I start with – this is a kind of technical question.


QUESTION: But I asked it of you a couple days ago and you didn’t have an answer.

MS ORTAGUS: Which one?

QUESTION: But now Brian – it’s about Iran and the oil sanctions.



MS ORTAGUS: We didn’t get back to you on that?



QUESTION: Well, if someone did, I missed it, which is possible.


QUESTION: But anyway, Brian Hook spoke to this this morning in the telephone briefing that I didn’t know about, but —

MS ORTAGUS: I didn’t either.

QUESTION: But that’s neither here nor there.

MS ORTAGUS: That makes two of us.

QUESTION: He said that – or at least according to reports of this call – he said that China and India and potentially other countries have been allowed to continue to take delivery of oil from Iran after the sanctions waivers were not renewed. So am I – provided, I think, at least according to what I can understand of what he said, is that provided it was paid for before the waivers expired. But isn’t this – and this was my question before – isn’t the taking delivery, the mere act of taking delivery, even if it’s already been paid for, a violation of sanctions? And if it is, why aren’t there any sanctions being imposed?

MS ORTAGUS: So a couple of things. I think to speak directly to what he said, I need to review the transcript and I haven’t yet, so I know that I will see you in Switzerland and I will follow up with you either in person there or —


MS ORTAGUS: — an e-mail before on that. I’d like to read the transcript to make sure that I fully understand what Brian said. But I do know that the Secretary’s policy and the President’s policy is that we’re going to zero, and that of course there are no extensions of these waivers, and that remains our policy, and any technicalities related to that, be happy to read what Brian said and to discuss this with him to make sure that I’m conveying that accurately.

But I think it’s important to note where we were a year ago and even at the beginning of this administration. A lot of people said that unilateral U.S. sanctions would never work. They have. A lot of people said that the world would not comply with our campaign. They have. European businesses have been some of the most aggressive actually in following these, despite what some – and their governments have done – European businesses have been at the forefront – corporations – of getting out. European banks are complying. So we see the compliance with U.S. sanctions regarding Iran writ large to be one of the most successful things that this administration and that this State Department has done.


QUESTION: Does that include Iraq to you?

MS ORTAGUS: What’s the question?

QUESTION: There is no extension including Iraq?

MS ORTAGUS: Are you referring to the electricity waiver that we discussed yesterday?


MS ORTAGUS: As I said yesterday, the Secretary hasn’t made a decision on that, but I’ll let you know when they do.


QUESTION: I was wondering, on that topic, has anybody here talked to India or confirmed reports that India might be trying to skirt the oil sanctions? And is there any kind of comment from the State Department on that? Has it been addressed?

MS ORTAGUS: I think I spoke about that yesterday. I was asked about India specifically yesterday, and of course following up on Matt’s question as well. Our policy remains that everyone has to go to zero. That’s the policy, and we have been working, of course, in speaking with allies around the world. We remain confident that energy markets are well supplied. I didn’t check the price of oil before I came out, but I know it’s consistently been trading at actually a few dollars lower, given the day than before we withdrew from the JCPOA, which is another criticism that ended up being untrue about the maximum pressure campaign.

QUESTION: No, I understand that.


QUESTION: That’s what we did say yesterday. But I was wondering if it is – if you have an inclination that that is the fact? Is that a concern of yours? Have you reached out to – have people here talked to their counterparts in the – in Modi’s government to see if this is, in fact, true? Or is it something that you’re working on or —

MS ORTAGUS: Well, we work with our partners, our allies around the world every single day on a variety of issues. And I think that we say both publicly and privately that we’re going to zero. There are no exemptions. This is the President’s policy; this is the Secretary’s policy. And we can say it publicly, we can say it privately, whatever it takes for people to get it. And we certainly appreciate everyone that’s complying around the world.

Said, how are you?

QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan. Thank you for taking my question.


QUESTION: I have a very quick question for you. In light of the dissolving of the Knesset yesterday —


QUESTION: — do you still think that the Bahrain conference will go on, or should it go on? Is it likely that we’ll have another rollout of the peace plan? Because I remember Secretary Pompeo the last time said we will roll it out after the Israeli elections.

MS ORTAGUS: Right. So of course this conference is led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt at the White House. We are not anticipating any changes. As we discussed yesterday, it’s set for June 25th and 26th, I believe. And so that’s – I don’t know if I’ve fully answered your question, but we anticipate that it’s still going on.

QUESTION: Okay. But there has been no statement on the content or the talks that were held between Mr. Kushner and Mr. Netanyahu this morning.

MS ORTAGUS: So I believe that Jared Kushner made some – well, first, I think I’d refer you to the State – the White House. I think that he made some public comments about his meeting this morning, and they should have readouts. And so we will – I’ll be happy to follow up on that with you, but I believe that – I at least have one statement here from his meeting with Isreali Prime Minister Netanyahu, so I think there are some public things out there for you.


QUESTION: Hi. Yesterday, Ambassador Bolton said Iran was almost certainly behind the sabotage of four ships off the UAE coast and an undisclosed attempt a few days before that to attack the Saudi port of Yanbu. Is that your view as well? And could you provide some details about the attempted attack at Yanbu?

MS ORTAGUS: So what the Secretary has said about this publicly several times is he said that it’s quite possible that Iran is behind these attacks, especially given all of the regional conflicts and threats. We, of course, continue to watch this situation closely, but we don’t have any announcements to make about the outcome of the investigation. We will leave that to the Emiratis and the Saudis.

QUESTION: And related to that, Saudi Arabia’s hosting emergency summits of the Arab and Gulf states today. What’s your view of those meetings?

MS ORTAGUS: Give me one second. Yeah, so I think we talked about – Shaun asked me about this yesterday. We always welcome Saudi Arabia’s initiative to host GCC and the Arab League to discuss Iranian threats to the region. It’s clearly vitally important. And we will continue to say that Gulf unity is essential to confronting Iran, to confronting their influence, to countering terrorism writ large, and of course ensuring a prosperous future for the Gulf.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts —

MS ORTAGUS: Hey, Shaun. That’s – thank you. We’ll move on. Thank you.

QUESTION: Sure. A different topic.


QUESTION: Colombia.


QUESTION: The supreme court of Colombia has issued an order for the release of Jesus Santrich, who is wanted by the United States on allegations of drug trafficking. This is part of the peace process with FARC and its transition to a political party. What does the U.S. make of it? Does it see a finality in the supreme court decision? Does it still want his extradition?

MS ORTAGUS: Well, of course, Colombia is a close partner with us on many areas, especially Venezuela. As many of you know – and Christina was with us and others on the trip that we took to the region I guess a month ago at this point, in which we were there – I was there with the Secretary in Cucuta, and we were watching our aid shipments – our U.S. aid shipments that just remain seated there because Maduro refuses to let them into the country.

So I say that to say that we have a very, very deep relationship with Colombia. And of course, as goes for any thriving democracy like Colombia, we respect the decision of the court. But we did make a statement on this – our embassy in Bogota did – on May 16th, and I just want to refer back to that, but just to remind everyone that we are, of course, fully aware by the decision of the supreme court. This certainly has not escaped our attention, but we do find this decision regrettable.[1] The United States has complied with the requirements for extradition, as established with Colombia, and our request established that the offenses with which Mr. Santrich is charged took place after December 1, 2016. And the charges against him I think you’re well aware are very severe, conspiring to ship over 10,000 kilos of cocaine. So again, we do find this decision regrettable, and we views – we view an appeal as essential and urgent.

Okay. Hi. How are you? I’m sorry. Did someone else have Colombia?

QUESTION: Just on Central America.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Do you – I’ll come right back to you. Thanks.

QUESTION: Can you provide any update on the announcement earlier this year by the State Department that they – that you would cut funding to the Northern Triangle countries, whether or not that money has actually been cut, if anything’s gone ahead.

MS ORTAGUS: I don’t have anything new for that – on you – today. I – what – I think that we released some statements on this earlier this year. And the most recent statement that I can recall came from the Secretary in Colombia. I actually think it was in response to a question by Christina that was probably a month ago. So if you can’t find that transcript, we’ll pull it for you. I think that’s the most recent statement.


QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan.


QUESTION: If I may, I would like to ask a human rights related question.


QUESTION: In China, so this year marks the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.


QUESTION: Where peaceful demonstrators were violently suppressed —

MS ORTAGUS: They were massacred.

QUESTION: — in and around Tiananmen in – on June 4th, 1989. So any reference to the Tiananmen Square crackdown has been systematically censored in China.


QUESTION: Meanwhile, we saw the reports. Human right reports indicate that activists police have detained, placed house arrest.


QUESTION: And they threatened dozens of activists who are seeking to mark the anniversary. Does the State Department have anything on this? This is not just any anniversary.

MS ORTAGUS: Absolutely.

QUESTION: This is a generation, three decades. Thank you.

MS ORTAGUS: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We’ve, of course, seen those reports. It couldn’t be more troubling. I mean, as I said when you started your question, we shouldn’t forget that this was a full-on massacre of peaceful protestors that occurred. We remember the tragic loss of innocent lives, and as we do every year and we will again this year, express our deep sorry – sorrow to the families who are still grieving.

But I think the U.S. has called for and we will continue to call for, as have others in the international community, a full public accounting for those killed, detained, and missing. We want those released who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive and to end the continued harassment and demonstrate – of demonstration participants and their families.

It’s a systematic – the Communist Party in China’s abuse, horrific abuses, and I think it’s one of the more sad, tragic things that we’re seeing going on in the world today. So thank you for bringing it up.


QUESTION: A follow-up?

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MS ORTAGUS: Yes. Sure, stay on China. Let’s stay – if anyone else has a question, let’s keep in Asia for a little bit, and then we can switch. And I only have a few more minutes. I’m sorry, I do have to go to the airport. I don’t want to get left.

QUESTION: Thank you for taking my question. Yesterday you – and also you mentioned Secretary Pompeo’s comments on Huawei.


QUESTION: I’m wondering: How do you respond to the criticism about the actually almost all giant technology companies in the United States have connections with U.S. government, and there is mass surveillance in the United States? How do you reconcile with those arguments? And —

MS ORTAGUS: Well, we comply with the law, of course, right? And unfortunately, Huawei and other technology companies based in China have to comply with their law. And their law, of course, states that they have to turn over their technology. But we – listen, we could go into detail. I think I probably gave too long of an answer yesterday talking about the forced transfer of technology among other violations as it relates to Huawei.

They didn’t get barred or banned in the National Defense Authorization for no reason, right? I mean, they got – they allegedly stole intellectual property. They violated U.S. laws. They negatively impacted our national security. And I think I gave a pretty detailed answer on that, so —

QUESTION: Can you talk, please, to a White House report in 2012, which is after 18-month investigation the White House ordered a report actually saying there is no evidence found, of Huawei spying in the United States.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay, that’s 2012; it’s 2019. Clearly, the world has changed.

QUESTION: But there is another one in 2015, UK —

MS ORTAGUS: The world has changed. Let’s move on.

QUESTION: So I have two questions, one on the Golan Heights and one on Iran. Fadi Mansour, Al Jazeera. So today, I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, said that he received the map from President Trump, signed by President Trump, that shows —

MS ORTAGUS: He received the what? I didn’t hear you, sir.

QUESTION: The map.

MS ORTAGUS: A map. Okay.

QUESTION: Yes. Signed by President Trump that shows the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Did the State Department update the status of the Golan Heights? People who are born there, are they now considered Israeli citizens or part of Israel? What is the latest on the guidelines inside the State Department on Golan Heights?

MS ORTAGUS: I know we have for sure updated the maps. Matt Lee can testify to that because he asked us about it. And let me get back to you on anything additional.


MS ORTAGUS: I’m sorry. What time is it? 1:30? I can take one more from Lesley, and then we’ve got to go. I’m sorry, guys. I’ll be briefing Thursday when I get back, and as you know, I’m trying to make this as often as possible when I’m here. I’ve committed to that to all of you. I think – I think and hope I’m being responsive to all of you over email, whatever you need. So I’m sorry that it’s short today. I’ll take one more, Lesley, but I will be back next week.

QUESTION: Very, very briefly.


QUESTION: On Tuesday the Central Bank of Venezuela released economic data for the first time in nearly four years, which was surprising given that they’ve been pressured by the IMF to release that. Do you have any reading – first of all, have you – is there any assessment of that data that was released by the U.S.? And number two, what is the explanation, possible explanation, for why they would release that at this time?

MS ORTAGUS: I’m aware of that, what you talked about on Tuesday. There may be an assessment; I don’t have it with me. I’ll follow up for you and get that for you by the end of the day. I’ll see you all next Thursday, and thanks to those of you who are coming with us to Europe.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)


[1] The Spokesperson referred in this response to a May 15 decision by the JEP (Colombian Peace Tribunal) Review Section regarding the U.S. extradition request for Jesus Santrich, a decision the United States found regrettable and that is currently under appeal.  The May 29 decision by the Colombian Supreme Court does not affect the U.S. extradition request, but rather applies to Colombia’s domestic prosecution efforts.  The United States respects the decision of the Supreme Court on May 29 and refers to our earlier statement regarding an ongoing appeal within the JEP.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future