Department Press Briefing - July 6, 2017
Index for Today's Briefing:
MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.
MS NAUERT: How’s everyone?
QUESTION: Okay. And you?
MS NAUERT: I’m doing very well, thank you. Great to be back with all of you. Let me start by introducing you first to the new director of our press operations, Robert Greenan, right here. He joins us from post in Austria, and he’s been many places around the world, and so he will be a valuable asset and resource to all of you.
MS NAUERT: He’s done a terrific job already, and so this is his first briefing with me. So Robert, thank you.
QUESTION: So the floor is yours now.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, now you have to take over. (Laughter.) And Mark Stroh will continue to be on, and Mark has been incredible in helping me to get up to speed, so thank you.
All right. A lot of stuff going on today, so let me start out with a few toppers that I have. First, let’s start with the Secretary’s travel. Secretary Tillerson is in Hamburg, Germany today, and he is accompanying President Trump in meetings surrounding the G20. He will also participate in a series of bilateral meetings tomorrow. That schedule is still being finalized. I know you have a lot of questions about that. We’ll announce those hopefully later today.
The Secretary will then travel to Kyiv, Ukraine on July the 9th to meet with a group of key activists pushing for reforms and meeting with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Secretary and President Poroshenko will host a joint media availability after their meeting. The Secretary will also meet with the staff and families of our embassy there.
The Secretary will then depart Kyiv in the afternoon on July the 9th and travel to Istanbul, Turkey. On July the 10th, the Secretary will participate in bilateral meetings, including the meeting with members of the Turkish Government. The Secretary will also meet with our staff and families of the U.S. mission in Turkey, and I know he looks forward to doing that.
The second thing that we have going on is Brett McGurk, our special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, will host members of the coalition for a series of meetings in Washington, D.C. next week. This will be an opportunity for members to discuss the efforts to defeat ISIS, including maximizing pressure on its branches, on its affiliates, and on its networks. The coalition will discuss all aspects of our campaign, including stabilization support, counter-finance, foreign terror fighters, counter-messaging, among other things. The meetings are taking place at a key moment in the fight against ISIS. Just as ISIS is trying to stay alive, we remain dedicated in committing to defeating them. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the coalition has a strong and proven strategy committed to the total destruction of ISIS while in parallel preparing for the day after.
Another thing – and this is related to Iraq – and we are pleased to announce this: On July the 5th, Ambassador Silliman, our U.S. ambassador to Iraq, announced the U.S. Government’s intent to provide $150 million to the United Nations Development Program to support the Government of Iraq-identified stabilization priorities in the areas of Iraq that have been liberated from ISIS. The funds will support efforts to establish basic security, re-establish essential services, restore local economies, stabilize communities, and allow Iraqis to finally return home. This brings the United States commitment to stabilization programming in Iraq to more than $265 million over the past two years. The funds will be provided through USAID.
And then finally, one last thing: The United States remains deeply concerned over Tuesday’s violations of the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that resulted in multiple civilian casualties, including possibly a two-year-old child. This happened near the line of contact. We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those victims. Along with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, we call upon the sides to cease military action and return to the negotiating table. Our policy remains clear in that region: The only solution to this conflict is a negotiated settlement based on international law that includes adherence to the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity, and self-determination.
And with that, I’ll take your questions. Matt Lee, would you like to start?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- which was – made note of the fact that the situation in Syria in particular would be a subject of discussion when President Trump meets President Putin tomorrow, and it talked about, as you know, cooperation between the United States and Russia, including in the military front, setting up – and it specifically mentioned no-fly zones. And the reason I’m asking about this is because it has been the position of – in the past of the Pentagon that a no-fly zone – that no-fly zones, setting them up in Syria would be very – if not unworkable, extremely difficult and very expensive to do.
Has there been a shift in position on that? And is this a serious offer? Because this administration and the previous administration wanted to – had proposed suggestions of cooperation with the Russians and – like this, and it never bore any fruit.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Or they never bore any fruit.
MS NAUERT: So, understood, and thank you for that question. The Secretary’s statement from yesterday – and I know a lot of you are very interested in that – it describes how our interactions with Russia on Syria are at the moment.
We are continuing to have conversations with the Russians about how things will play out in Syria. Our overall policy has not changed on that matter. The United States is looking to explore the possibility of establishing what we would consider to be joint mechanisms for ensuring stability with Russia and in Syria. If our two countries can establish stability on the ground, we believe that that will lay a foundation for progress on the political settlement of Syria’s future. The policy has not changed. Some of the words and some of the phrasing may have changed at this point, but overall, it’s just one of a series of options that the United States will now consider.
QUESTION: So, no-fly zones?
MS NAUERT: The United States is considering a lot of things. The Secretary – and I don’t want to get ahead of any of those conversations that are being had or will be had this week, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: So, all right, but are you – when you say joint mechanisms for securing Syria, particularly places that have been liberated from ISIS, that goes beyond the de-conflict – the current de-confliction, right? I mean, it’s something in --
MS NAUERT: We are exploring a lot of options. Syria continues well into its sixth year now. We believe that Russia has a special responsibility. They have unique leverage over the Syrian regime and so we’re going to continue to put pressure on them and ask them to do more, and we will continue to work with them as this dialogue unfolds this week.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Can I pick up on that?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Hi, Elise.
QUESTION: Can you – so given that he said, even in the beginning of the statement, that he was kind of putting this out there because he knew that the President, the two leaders, would talk about this – so these discussions have been going on with the Pentagon and also with Russian officials for weeks now. So would you see this – kind of following up on what Matt was saying, is this a kind of an opening offer, if you will, that the two presidents are going to see that as a kind of jump-off point for the beginning? Not necessarily that they would have the negotiations in this meeting, but he laid out certain conditions under which the Russians – under which you would consider that if the Russians were to accept their responsibility, if they – so, I mean, I’m just – we’re just trying to --
MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t say that at all. There are a lot of options on the table. The overall goal – and let’s stay focused on the overall goal – the overall goal is to eventually bring peace and stability and try to grow some of the de-escalation zones, which we’ve had some progress with, certainly not enough, but we’ve seen a slowdown in terms of the some of the attacks taking place. So the goal would be to advance numerous options to have conversations with the Russians.
QUESTION: So where do you see this as – in terms of a jump-off point for the presidents? Do you consider that they’ll just have a kind of general discussion of the idea or --
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get ahead of the President and the White House conversations, but I know that the Secretary will be very engaged in that and the President will as well.
QUESTION: Because it was really the most specific thing that we’ve heard in terms of --
QUESTION: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: -- anything that would be discussed in this meeting.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Well, from me, you’re not going to hear from me getting into what exactly is going to be discussed in those meetings. I don’t – I just don’t want to get ahead of those, so I hope you can understand that.
QUESTION: Just to add to that – just to add to --
QUESTION: On the – on the no-fly zones --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hold on, hold on. Barbara, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s – if you’re saying you’re throwing out options that could be discussed, he was – very specifically mentioned something that’s been a point of controversy for a couple of years, so it doesn’t sound like he’d just say, “Oh, well, maybe we’ll do a no-fly zone, but we’ll see.” It seems to have been a shift.
MS NAUERT: I can tell you that we’ve been talking with the NSC, we’ve been talking with the Department of Defense. There have been lots of parties involved with these conversations. The conversations will be had this week. They will continue for the time – for the future. And that’s all I’m going to give you on that. Okay.
QUESTION: Not to belabor the point, but --
MS NAUERT: Yes. Hi, Said.
QUESTION: -- a no-fly zone --
MS NAUERT: But I will. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right, then, I will.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, because it’s --
MS NAUERT: That’s okay.
QUESTION: -- it’s really a big deal. It is something that was time and again stated by the Pentagon, by generals, by the former secretary of defense and so on that it’s a very difficult thing to impose and enforce, as a matter of fact. So is this something that would likely create some sort of problem with coordination with Russia? After all, the statement itself, the Secretary’s statement is quite positive about Russia’s role.
MS NAUERT: I think we are looking forward to continuing conversations with the Government of Russia to see what we can do with them, in concert, to try to resolve this situation in Syria.
QUESTION: Now, just a quick follow-up on Syria. In the south, in the – in the south of the country, in Dara’a, with the Jordanian border, things have – a ceasefire has been taking place, and it seems to be holding. Do you have any position on the ceasefires that are taking place in various areas of Syria?
MS NAUERT: I know that that is --
QUESTION: -- and how are you coordinating --
MS NAUERT: Yeah, I – I --
QUESTION: -- with both the Russians and the Syrian Government --
MS NAUERT: I can’t get into the de-confliction lines. That would be a matter for DOD. I know that we are pleased when a ceasefire can take effect and take hold and allow for the humanitarian assistance to come in. That is something that we continue to push for and hope that we will continue to see progress. We’ve seen some limited progress in terms of the ceasefires. We hope that that will continue.
Okay, yes. Hi.
QUESTION: Can we stay on those proposed joint mechanisms? No-fly zone was only one of those. There are several others mentioned in the Secretary’s statement. And it – I wanted to ask if it is something – if those nuts and bolts are something that’s being discussed right now, or this is sort of a dangling somewhere in the distant future, that something that might be discussed or might not? Because the previous administration, and it is well known, came very close to actually striking a deal with Russia. And as Secretary Kerry put it, it was sort of blocked by the Pentagon.
MS NAUERT: I think your question would fall under the realm of some of the diplomatic conversations that will be had presumably this week and for the near – in the near future, so I’m just not going to get into that part, okay? Thank you.
Barbara, go ahead.
QUESTION: And just one clarification: When he says “on the ground ceasefire observers” or observation, does that open the door to American troops doing that or – I don’t – what does that mean exactly?
MS NAUERT: That would be – that would be a DOD matter. So I’m going to leave the Secretary’s statement at that. When we start to talk about forces on the ground, that’s just something that they would have to cover. Okay, anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: On Russia --
MS NAUERT: Excuse me, okay. Go ahead, yeah.
MS NAUERT: You have such a good memory. You really do, Matt.
QUESTION: It was only Monday.
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Was that Monday? Dog years in this job. It feels like it was longer ago than that.
QUESTION: I just wanted to know if there was any more progress in getting the Ryabkov channel --
MS NAUERT: Yes. So Mr. Shannon and Ryabkov did have a conversation.
QUESTION: No, Kislyak.
MS NAUERT: Kislyak – excuse me – did have a conversation – thank you – about trying to re-start those meetings --
MS NAUERT: -- that the Russians had canceled a couple weeks ago. No meeting has actually been set at this point, but I know they had that conversation about that.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: But they’re trying to set a meeting for next month, aren’t they?
MS NAUERT: Elise, I don’t have any timetable or any exact meetings to give you, but I know that they’re talking about that.
QUESTION: Yeah, on the --
MS NAUERT: Are you on – Laurie, are you on Syria or Russia right now?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: They will not. This is a meeting of the actual members of the coalition. I believe there are about 72 members of the coalition – countries as well as entities such as NATO, for example. SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is not a part of that. Okay?
QUESTION: What about the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know. I can check for you on that.
QUESTION: Just one more question --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: In Syria there was a large demonstration protest yesterday in the city – the Kurdish city of Afrin against attacks from Turkish-backed forces in that city. Do you have a statement on that? Are you --
MS NAUERT: I don’t – I don’t believe I do. I know that that’s something that we’ve been following, following carefully, but let me see what I can get for you on that. Okay?
Okay. Anything else on Russia or Syria?
QUESTION: Different. North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Okay. You want to go to North Korea?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. On North – recently ICBM launch by North Koreans. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to United Nations, she said that the U.S. has the strongest military power. We could use if we do want. That means U.S. take any military action to the North Korea or --
MS NAUERT: I know that Ambassador Haley, as she was – as she pulled together that UN emergency meeting earlier this week – it’s obviously a huge concern to not just the United States but Japan and South Korea as well. They’re looking at doing some Security Council resolutions sometime in the near future. As it pertains to military action, that’s not something that we can speak to here from the State Department regarding that.
QUESTION: But this is the additional sanctions against the North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: But Russia and China still not agree with these sanctions. How you going to convince this?
MS NAUERT: I think that would be an Ambassador Haley question. I know that she’ll be speaking with her counterparts very closely. She’s been a very effective spokesperson here as ambassador to the USUN, and I know that’s going to be something that we just continue to have that conversation to be able to put additional pressure on the DPRK.
QUESTION: But Kim Jong-un announced yesterday – he said North Korea will not put nuclear and military – I’m sorry – missile issues on the negotiation table. He doesn’t want a negotiation table these issues.
MS NAUERT: Right.
QUESTION: Are you going to accept this, or --
MS NAUERT: It sounds like he wants to keep his nuclear and ballistic missile program. That is something that the United States and the world is against. We’ve had multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. What they are doing there is not only a threat to the region, but we view that as a threat to the world, and I think the world community is really coming around on that and understanding through what they watched happen here on our Fourth of July and what a huge concern that is to the world. And I think the world will increasingly get behind the United States and our other partners and call out – not only call out North Korea, but continue to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS NAUERT: Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Rich, hi.
QUESTION: Hi. Is the U.S. beginning to lose patience with China on this issue?
MS NAUERT: I think we view it as there’s a lot of work left to be done. We’re still somewhat early on in the overall pressure campaign against North Korea. We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea. We continue those conversations with China, as you saw – I believe it was just last week that the Treasury Department put additional sanctions on Chinese companies that were doing business in North Korea. So I would anticipate we would look to continue to put pressure on North Korea in that kind of fashion, but in terms of sanctions that are in the future, I’m just not going to broadcast or get ahead of what we might do.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, though? But the President has kind of – like about a month or two ago and when the Chinese president came here, he was saying that we’re working together, seemed like it was more of a partnership. And in the recent weeks he’s kind of seemed to indicate that oh well, that was a lost cause, we tried. And now it seems as if it’s yes, you still want China to help on North Korea, but it’s more of a pressure tactic with China as opposed to working as partners.
MS NAUERT: I think what we’re seeing here is just overall diplomacy. We’re seeing Secretary Tillerson and many of our counterparts here at the State Department reach out to not just China but other nations to address the issue in North Korea. The President is doing it in his own fashion as well, and I think we’re just watching our democratic process play out and watching it play out – the pressures that we’re continuing to put on North Korea.
QUESTION: But do you see China as a kind of partner in this endeavor to pressure North Korea or more like a hostile witness type of situation?
MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t describe it either way, Elise. I think it’s we just continue to work with China and talk to China, as we do all nations, about using what leverage they have, and China has unique leverage with North Korea because of that strong trade relationship that they do have and also borders and so forth. So we continue to put pressure on China. We expect and ask them to do more and we’ll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Was the sanctioning of the bank last week the thin edge of the wedge? Are there other Chinese entities in the pipeline ready to go if China doesn’t do anything itself?
MS NAUERT: That would be a Treasury matter. I can’t imagine that they’re going to get ahead of any sanctions. If you start announcing sanctions, then those people or entities that would be sanctioned then have a heads-up, so we’re not going to get ahead and start broadcasting sanctions.
QUESTION: But Heather, on that point --
MS NAUERT: Hi.
QUESTION: -- this – with this latest rocket launch or ballistic missile launch, China now is releasing a joint statement with Russia proposing something that your predecessor had said was a non-starter for the U.S., this idea of a freeze for freeze. So are you actually losing China’s cooperation on this issue?
MS NAUERT: I think that doesn’t really matter. We see it as there is no equivalency between the United States and its activities and actions that it undertakes with its allies, including South Korea and also Japan. These are something that are lawful. It’s longstanding that we do, whether it’s military exercises or basing over there – these are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change, and I think that’s the important thing, that we are standing up for our allies and our men and women who are on the ground serving in the region.
QUESTION: But the fact China is now again calling for us to either halt or bring down the military exercises a little bit, and they’re doing so now with Russia, who has increased trade with North Korea over the last couple months – is that not a sign that we’re losing their cooperation?
MS NAUERT: We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position.
QUESTION: Do you see a increased stance with those two countries – I know at the UN Security Council meeting yesterday both countries also made a point to criticize the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who criticized that?
QUESTION: Both Russia and China. Do you see them working closely together on this issue against U.S. interests?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that really matters. That is not going to change where we stand on the issue. We had a very productive meeting with Mr. Moon when he came over here – I believe it was last week. We have had – I know the Secretary met with his counterpart, the foreign minister, here that same week and they had lots of discussions about the importance of THAAD, the alliance decision that was made, and the reason that those decisions were made to deploy THAAD in the first place. And that is the safety and the defense of our partners over there, as well as the safety and defense of our U.S. forces over there. I just can’t see that changing.
Okay. Anything else on DPRK, South Korea?
QUESTION: North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Hi.
QUESTION: So given especially what the President said about China’s trade with North Korea increasing, I think, up close to 40 percent, would the administration – some of the most effective sanctions against Iran were actually congressional – congressionally-imposed secondary sanctions that were kind of imposed over a number of years in various pieces of legislation. Would the administration support that sort of legislation or sanctions of that kind against North Korea more broadly – so-called secondary sanctions?
MS NAUERT: I think that’s something if Congress chooses to employ – announce sanctions and to vote on sanctions – that would be a congressional matter, so I’m not going to weigh in from here on anything that’s taking place or that may take place in Congress, but we’d certainly keep an eye on that.
Okay. Anything else DPRK, South Korea?
MS NAUERT: Hey, Michelle.
MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Now that the U.S. has put the entire world on notice, from the State Department’s perspective, what does “on notice” mean?
MS NAUERT: The entire world on notice regarding what?
QUESTION: North Korea at this point.
MS NAUERT: Regarding North Korea.
QUESTION: Yeah, the --
MS NAUERT: Okay, so we’ve continued to talk about this from here and I can’t underscore enough the importance of the message that the Secretary and I believe the President also has delivered to nations around the world.
Let me assure you that when they have meetings with countries you may not even imagine that I can’t get into unfortunately, because they’re private diplomatic conversations, but we’ve continued to reach out to many countries that have citizens from North Korea working in those countries, we’ve called on those countries to cut the business that they do with North Korea. We have said, “If you have guest workers in your country from North Korea, eliminate those guest workers.” And by that, I mean send them home. We have said to them, “If you have 10 guest workers, cut that to five. If you are doing business with North Korea that is $2 million worth” – for example, a lot of countries will say, “Oh, it’s not much money.” This Secretary and other folks in this administration have come back, and they say, “Cut that in half.” That is the kind of economic and diplomatic pressure that we continue to put on countries around the world and many of them are taking notice and starting to do things about that.
Some of them have done things about that for a while, but that pressure campaign we believe is continuing to work. One example that I can give you is in Germany – you all may recall it was a couple months ago that there was a German – there was a North Korean, I believe it was a hotel – I can double check the facts, this is just off the top of my head – but there were North Korean workers. And we had concerns that they would – those workers would collect the money and then be forced to give it back to their government. We believe, as we’ve looked at this model, that that money ends up going to the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs. So we continue to look at those countries, pressure different countries to shut that stuff down.
QUESTION: So does “on notice” mean “We see you,” or does “on notice” mean “We’re going to do something to you unless you change?”
MS NAUERT: We’re in the diplomatic phase of this right now, and that is why the Secretary and others continue to ask countries to do more to change.
QUESTION: Can I – are you – does that mean, when you just said – I want to make sure that you were just saying this as a generality --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but are you looking for all countries that have guest workers or investments with North Korea to cut them in half?
MS NAUERT: No, I – half was just really --
MS NAUERT: -- just an example. That’s just something we’ve --
QUESTION: I mean, this came up – the White House said that it came up in the President’s call with President Sisi of Egypt --
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and there’s – there are a lot of countries, yes, and a lot of them that you might not expect who do have North Korean guest workers.
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But the half is not something that you’re running around --
MS NAUERT: Half is not a literal number, no.
MS NAUERT: I’m just saying for example. Some countries may say, “Oh, we don’t do a lot of business with North Korea. We only do $2 million worth.” And we’ll say, “Make that a lot less.”
QUESTION: Secretary --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Because – I mean, what everybody seemed to agree on yesterday in the Security Council was that nothing has been working. So when you hear Russia suggest well, why don’t we try dialogue first and foremost without preconditions, is that anything that the U.S. would consider at this point?
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to get into what Russia’s plan is right now and comment on that. Okay.
QUESTION: But would the U.S. consider trying to talk to Kim Jong-un without --
MS NAUERT: Without preconditions?
MS NAUERT: I think it’s clear to the world that he wants to stick to his illegal nuclear weapons – or nuclear program and also his ballistic missile weapons program. I think his actions that he took earlier this week are very clear. I can’t – I’m not going to get ahead of what could happen down the road, but I just can’t anticipate that taking place. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the guest workers and such?
MS NAUERT: Sure.
QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson at that meeting at the UN – I don’t even know how long ago that was – I think in --
MS NAUERT: Oh gosh, the one back in March or so?
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Was it then?
QUESTION: It was April, actually.
QUESTION: April? Whenever.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Good memory.
QUESTION: Kind of brought this up in terms of the U.S. wanting the international community to do this. Nikki Haley brought it up yesterday. Is this something that perhaps you would want to put into a UN Security Council resolution to mandate UN – because, I mean, I think the last resolution called for members to consider thinking about getting rid of their guest workers or something, but it’s not --
MS NAUERT: They’re all supposed --
QUESTION: -- mandated by international law at all --
MS NAUERT: They’re all supposed to stick to their resolutions. We hope that those countries will take responsibility and adhere to sanctions under various resolutions, but I’m not going to forecast --
QUESTION: But they were voluntary – but what I’m saying is they were --
MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to forecast what might be in a UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: No, I understand, but they’re voluntary – those were – it was kind of like you urged them, and in these resolutions that’s more of a voluntary decision. And I’m wondering, beyond, like, Secretary Tillerson saying, the U.S. wants you to do that, is there consideration to making this illegal under international law?
MS NAUERT: I can’t – I just can’t comment on that at this time.
QUESTION: But he is going beyond UN resolutions with the way he’s pressuring on guest workers, no? Because, as Elise was saying --
MS NAUERT: Barbara, I think this is a good thing. We see North Korea as a nation that --
QUESTION: We didn’t say it was a bad thing.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, no, no, I just want to make this clear. We see North Korea as a nation that starves its people, that treats its people horrifically. We see a leader who is taking actions against the entire civilized world by continuing with this program, and so I think we will continue to look at various options to try to hold that country responsible and hopefully change their behavior.
QUESTION: It was just a technical question --
QUESTION: Can I switch --
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MS NAUERT: Do we have anything else on DPRK?
QUESTION: Can I change --
QUESTION: Yes, one I’d like to ask.
MS NAUERT: How are you?
QUESTION: Hi. Good. So another option that the United States is taking is denying the landing rights of the national airline of North Korea, Air Koryo. Could you please give us a update of the progress and status on that front? And then would this be addressed in next week’s – I believe it’s on Monday – the aviation meeting here at the State Department?
MS NAUERT: The aviation meeting at the State Department? Okay, I’ll look into that one. (Laughter.) I have to say I was unaware of the aviation meeting. I am familiar with this, that that is one of the areas that we have been looking for governments to try to narrow. You bring up the issue of the state-run airline in North Korea. I know some of the flight route options have been curtailed. That is something that we are pleased with and that is another example of the kinds of ways that we are asking other countries, North Korea included, to try to put pressure on them.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
QUESTION: Can we go to Kiev?
QUESTION: Can I change --
MS NAUERT: Okay, okay, hold on. Are we done with DPRK?
QUESTION: No, no, no, one last --
MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: We’ll never be done with --
MS NAUERT: Yeah, I think so.
QUESTION: The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov is in town. He met with Ambassador Yun today. Do you by any chance have a readout?
And secondly, Ambassador Yun is going over to Singapore to take part – as the State Department has announced, to take part in the so-called Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, I think this thing – the thing is called. Supposedly North Korea is a part to this – to that informal club. Do you expect --
MS NAUERT: So the meeting that you’re talking about that Ambassador Yun is attending – my understanding is that they will be talking about regional issues. I know a lot of people are interested in Ambassador Yun and his travels because he was key to bringing home Otto Warmbier, so I know a lot of people take interest in his schedule. My understanding is that he has no meetings with the North Koreans; if anything changes on that, I – and if I can share it with you, I certainly will.
QUESTION: And Morgulov? And Morgulov?
QUESTION: Just one more on – about this meeting?
QUESTION: There was a meeting here today --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and the Russian foreign ministry actually posted photos from the conference room. I don’t know what floor it was on, but it was in this building.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: So if you could find out, a brief readout --
MS NAUERT: I don’t have any information on that. I don’t have a readout on that meeting. If I can get anything with you, I certainly will.
QUESTION: Can I change topics, Heather, if I may?
QUESTION: But just one more on this Northeast Asian --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- is he planning to talk to any North Korean officials because they’re members of this --
MS NAUERT: No, no. My understanding is that the North Koreans will not be attending. That’s what I was told --
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS NAUERT: -- and he will not be meeting with them, so that’s all.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, hi. Sure.
QUESTION: The four Arab nations were commenting on Qatar’s rejection of their demands. How much of this crisis will occupy the Secretary’s time while he travels? And as it has been going on for a month now, is there consideration here at State of changing approaches?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, so it’s now, I think as of today been a month and a day. We remain very concerned about that ongoing situation involving Qatar and GCC countries. We’ve become increasingly concerned that that dispute is at an impasse at this point. We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks; it could drag on for months; it could possibly even intensify. The Secretary will remain engaged. He’s been very engaged and has made himself available to all sides of this matter. We continue to stay in close contact with all of them and will continue to do so. The Kuwaitis have done yeoman’s work on trying to mediate the dispute, and we continue to thank them for their efforts in doing that. It certainly has not been – it has not been easy. We believe overall that the fight against terrorism was something – is something that will bring all these countries together eventually, because we still have that shared fight and I think all the nations recognize that.
QUESTION: Can I change topics, please?
QUESTION: On Ukraine?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s stay with Qatar if anybody has any questions on that.
QUESTION: Well, I have a – kind of a question kind of related to Qatar, but it can wait.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: It’s not about Qatar; it’s about one of the countries involved.
MS NAUERT: Okay, got it. All right, let’s move on then from Qatar.
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: Yeah, can I --
QUESTION: On Iran --
QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly?
MS NAUERT: Yes, okay.
MS NAUERT: If --
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that? There has been an announcement on the 3rd and 4th --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- of this month that --
MS NAUERT: Yeah, so I think the President has been very clear about this, and our message on that has not changed. The continuation of unrestrained settlement activity we view as something that gets in the way of what we hope will be an eventual peace process. This administration has made that a priority with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt just having made a trip over there, one in what we believe will be a series of trips over that – over there, but our position on the settlement activity has not changed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a follow-up.
QUESTION: But in the past, every time there was new settlement activities, the State Department would either issue a statement or say something and so on in particular to that particular building project and so on. Are you prepared to issue any kind of a statement on this?
MS NAUERT: I don’t have a statement that is currently in the works on that issue right now, but our position, again, has not changed that our – that settlement activity, we believe, can be an obstacle to peace and we continue to make that a priority.
QUESTION: So just a --
QUESTION: To make sure I --
MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: -- under – I know that you’re not probably super, super familiar with all the granular, Talmudic details of this. Does the administration make a distinction between settlements in the West Bank and housing in East Jerusalem?
MS NAUERT: That is a good question, Matt. I’m not sure. Let me dig into that for you and see what I can get for you, okay?
MS NAUERT: Thanks.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Israel?
MS NAUERT: Okay, anything else on Israel?
MS NAUERT: Hi, sir. Tell me your name. I don’t think we’ve met.
QUESTION: Aaron Magid with Jewish Insider.
MS NAUERT: Hi, Aaron.
QUESTION: Hi, nice to meet you.
MS NAUERT: How are you? Nice to meet you.
QUESTION: So there seems to be a differentiation in the administration between restrained and unrestrained settlement construction because there – and frequently the administration has said that previous settlement freezes have not advanced the prospects for peace while at the same time saying unrestrained settlements have also not. So my question is are these 800 buildings in East Jerusalem, is this part of the restrained settlement construction that’s kind of okay or is this an unrestrained, which is not okay?
MS NAUERT: I don’t have a map. I love maps, but I don’t have a map in front of me that indicates exactly where these settlements are, so I just can’t tell you if this is considered to be restrained or unrestrained. But I can tell you, our position remains the same, that the settlement activity and pushing that is an area of concern for us. Ultimately, we want peace. That’s something that the United States cares deeply about.
QUESTION: But how are the Israelis supposed to know if it’s restrained or unrestrained if you won’t even say it?
MS NAUERT: It’s not that I won’t, I just don’t have a map in front of me that indicates exactly where these places are, so I --
QUESTION: Where restrained is on the map and unrestrained?
MS NAUERT: (Laughter) yes, exactly, exactly.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: Let’s go to Ukraine.
QUESTION: Just want to get on-camera comments. So yesterday, a senior official said that the U.S. has no intent or desire to work exclusively with Russia. Can we be assured that the – Washington is not going to cut a deal with Moscow over Ukraine, particularly after President Trump’s meeting with Putin tomorrow?
MS NAUERT: So as you may recall, President Poroshenko from the Ukraine – from Ukraine, rather – came over here not long ago. He had a series of very productive, very friendly and warm meetings with the President and also with the Secretary of State. We have a good relationship with that nation. The Secretary, as you know, will be headed to Ukraine in a few days and that is something that we view as an important relationship. We continue to be concerned about the situation in Crimea and in the eastern part of Ukraine, and we continue to work toward pushing parties to follow through on the Minsk agreements, but I cannot anticipate that there will be any changes. That is an important country to us and I think that that hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Can we be assured that the U.S. is not going to cut a deal with Moscow over Kyiv?
MS NAUERT: In doing what?
QUESTION: In cut a bilateral agreement, and then sell out.
MS NAUERT: And sell out the Ukrainians?
QUESTION: Can we be assured? (Laughter.)
MS NAUERT: We have continued --
QUESTION: If you admit to that --
MS NAUERT: Yeah, right. (Laughter.) We have continued to call upon the Russians and the Ukrainians to come together. We’ve remained very concerned about the security situation in the Donbas. You know that. We have talked a lot about how we believe that the so-called rebels are Russian-backed, Russian-financed, and are responsible for the deaths of Ukrainians. I don’t imagine that we will be backing away from our concerns on that.
Okay, last question. Please, sir. Hi.
QUESTION: Yeah, can you give, please, a little bit more details about the future meeting with Tillerson and Poroshenko? Which topic they will discuss, besides of the Minsk agreement, of course? And secondly, will Secretary discuss the future supply of the arms to Ukraine in (inaudible) Kyiv? Because when President Poroshenko was here in Washington, D.C., he told he found a common language with the U.S. officials.
MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to get ahead of the Secretary’s meeting. You’ll find me saying that a lot when the Secretary is getting ready to meet with a world leader. I know that we look forward to going over there. We have a lot of areas of mutual interest that will be discussed, including the security situation in Ukraine, but I’m not going to get ahead of the Secretary’s conversations.
QUESTION: Heather, can I --
MS NAUERT: Okay, sure.
QUESTION: -- just get to two things very briefly? And I’ll do – be very limited follow-ups, if any.
One, on the refugee – suspension of the refugee program --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- we’ve been told by resettlement agencies that you guys have now told them to schedule – continue to schedule previously vetted and accepted refugees through the 12th. Originally, when – after the Supreme Court decision came out, it was the 6th.
MS NAUERT: Well, let me be clear about that, okay? At the time I said – and this was the guidance that we were getting from the Department of Justice and others – on or about. Remember the limit is 50,000 --
MS NAUERT: -- and we estimated that that number would be reached within a few weeks, and I think I said a week or two.
MS NAUERT: So there was never any particular date that was set out.
QUESTION: I’m not trying to --
MS NAUERT: Oh, okay. I just want to make sure we’re clear.
QUESTION: Well, no. I mean, they did set out a date. They said anyone who’s planning – was planning to come until the 6th should be scheduled, but that --
MS NAUERT: Actually, it was until we reached the number of 50,000.
QUESTION: Okay. Is the 12th now the new – or the date at which you expect the 50,000 to be hit?
MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to name a date, but I will tell you this: We have not reached that number of 50,000 refugees just yet. When we do reach that number of 50,000 refugees, whatever date that falls on, that will be the time.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then has there been any clarification to the Iraqi translators? The initial guidance had been that it was going to – they were going to be done on a case-by-case basis, whether or not they would have to go through the vetting all over again.
MS NAUERT: Right.
QUESTION: But it was my understanding – and maybe I was wrongly thinking this – that that was being revisited and it was still being discussed.
MS NAUERT: So I know you and I talked about this not too long ago, and that was a question that I just asked our folks about today.
QUESTION: But are you aware, has that been resolved finally?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware --
MS NAUERT: -- of whether or not that has been resolved, but let me just continue to look into that for you. My apologies.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: But this doesn’t have anything to do with Qatar; it has to do with human rights. And this has been a perpetual concern, or a longstanding concern of this building, and it – in general, and that is the – two cases. One, Nabeel Rajab, whose trial was postponed again, but is now expected to – on the 10th to be --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- a final verdict. And I’m wondering if you have had any discussions with the Bahrainis in this case. You previously called for his release. And then secondly --
MS NAUERT: We have, yes.
QUESTION: And then --
MS NAUERT: And I know last time that members from our embassy were present at his trial.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you expect that to be happening again?
MS NAUERT: I – that I do not know. I know we continue to be very concerned about that. We continue to be concerned about freedom of expression. Matt, as you probably know, as many journalists probably do, there was a closure of a newspaper, a news outlet not too long ago. That, freedom of speech, human rights remains a concern of ours, and we continue to bring it up with the Bahrainis at the highest level.
QUESTION: Okay, and then are you familiar – overnight, as we were all preparing for fireworks and parades and things like that, a human rights – a woman, a female human rights defender was rousted from her home by Bahraini security agents and arrested. She is accused of cooperating with the UN special rapporteurs.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: And I’m wondering if you’re aware of that case.
MS NAUERT: Do you have her name, Matt? Let me take a look at that for you.
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s Ebtisam al-Saegh. I’ll give you a spelling afterwards.
MS NAUERT: Okay, and I’ll look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you, everybody. Thanks for coming. We’ll see you soon.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:55 p.m.)