Department Press Briefing - October 4, 2017
Index for Today's Briefing:
MS NAUERT: We are here after all. Hi, everybody. How are you today? We’ve had a busy day here at the State Department once again. That’s what we do – keep you all busy. Let me start off today talking with you a little bit about the U.S.-China dialogue that’s taking place here at the State Department.
Earlier today Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan hosted the inaugural U.S.-China Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting Secretary for Homeland Security Elaine Duke co-chaired the dialogue along with the Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun. This is the last of the four dialogues that were launched by President Trump and President Xi at Mar-a-Lago in April. Its aim is to increase mutual understanding between the two nations. Consistent with the results-oriented approach of this administration’s policy toward China, the dialogue facilitated forthright and detailed discussions and resulted in bilateral cooperation on priority issues including immigration, counter-narcotics, terrorism – counterterrorism rather, and also cybersecurity.
Secondly, I wanted to give you an update on the U.S. efforts to bring the World’s Fair to Minnesota in 2023. Tomorrow on October the 5th, the United States will bring together the Bureau of International Expositions member states in Paris for a day-long symposium to discuss our bid to host the 2023 Expo in Minnesota. The bid joins – enjoys strong bipartisan support at the national, the state, and the local level. With a population of 323 million people and the largest economy in the world, the United States is an ideal expo platform to promote trade between businesses, to reach consumers, and to advance people-to-people ties.
In addition to “Minnesota Nice,” we are also focusing on “Minnesota Healthy.” The U.S. bid centers on the theme of “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” Minnesota as a world leader in healthcare and as a great platform for promoting health and wellness and showcasing new technology.
The day-long symposium will highlight how member-states can use the power of an expo to improve the health and wellness of all. The proposed expo theme touches on all lives, all governments, and all communities. The Bureau of International Expositions General Assembly will select the host city in a vote in Paris on November the 15th, and I encourage you to check in with my in-laws when you’re there because it’s a nice place to visit.
Finally, one last thing about today. And I wanted to say this to you: Secretary Tillerson, along with the rest of us, woke up this morning to some news reports. There were news reports that caused many of us, including the Secretary, concern. You’ve all seen it. You all know what I’m talking about. It’s a report that the Secretary said just a few hours ago is clearly erroneous. The Secretary addressed that a few hours ago with all of you, and many of you had the opportunity to ask the Secretary a few questions yourselves. The Secretary chose to speak to the media. He was not asked to do this. He knew it was the right thing to do.
As a man, he is clear, he is direct, and he pulls no punches. He is not a politician who seeks the spotlight, and many in foreign policy and media circles simply don’t understand that. They think, why would somebody not want to be in front of television cameras all the time? That is not who this person is. Secretary Tillerson came to Washington to do a job. He came to Washington to serve his country. He came to Washington to serve the Trump administration. He came here to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. And he also came here, as we’ve seen this week, to keep Americans safe. I’m referring to the news what happened in Cuba and the decision to bring home our Americans who were serving down there. That is the Secretary’s top priority.
The Secretary has never considered resigning from his post. And for those who want him to do so, go ahead and keep pushing, because that will only strengthen his resolve. In my family’s part of the country, we would call that a tough old bird. Some people may not get that, but where I’m from that’s what we call it. In other circles it might be called battle hardened. Regardless, the Secretary is committed to staying here at the State Department and doing that job. I think he was very clear about that today.
I spoke with him a short while ago and I wanted to update you on one thing in particular. He spoke with the President after the Secretary’s press comments to all of you earlier today, and he told me that “Heather, it was,” quote, “a good conversation” and that they are all good. I take the Secretary at his word.
With that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.
MS NAUERT: Hi, Josh.
QUESTION: Sticking with that topic – hi.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: I know that you called that report erroneous. The Secretary did not – declined several opportunities this morning to dispute one particular part of that report which is the idea that he called the President a moron. And I want to know whether you are comfortable with the fact that the widespread perception is that he did not dispute that part of the report because it’s true.
MS NAUERT: Well, let me – let me clarify that. The Secretary does not use that type of language. That Secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the President of the United States. He does not use that language to speak about anyone. So I hope that that clarifies it.
QUESTION: So he never said that?
MS NAUERT: He did not say that.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: In addition to that and the notion that he did not – or the fact is you’re laying it out that he did not consider resigning, are there other specific facts in that report that you are disputing?
MS NAUERT: Look, I – the Secretary spoke that – to that today. I’m going to give you some of the high-level right now, which is what I think I’ve done, and I’m not going to have a lot for you beyond that.
QUESTION: Did the President – did the Secretary speak – has he spoken to Ambassador Haley about this?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware if he’s spoken with Ambassador Haley. The Secretary, after finishing up here, spent some time over at the White House and then went up to Walter Reed, which I believe he’s on his way back from now for a speech later today.
QUESTION: Can I --
MS NAUERT: Okay, hold on.
QUESTION: How do you know he didn’t use that language?
MS NAUERT: Because I take the Secretary at his word. I spoke with the Secretary about that. The Secretary doesn’t speak that way. I know he holds a very high standard when it comes to how people behave, how people speak. The Secretary is a man who frequently talks about integrity.
QUESTION: So he --
MS NAUERT: Integrity is something that is important to him. I take him at his word. And when he tells me, Heather, he did not use that, I believe him.
QUESTION: So he told you in this conversation --
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: -- he did not say the word “moron” or --
MS NAUERT: The Secretary told me that he does not use that language. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you know, then, why, when he was asked about it at least twice, do you know why he chose not to say, “I just didn’t say that”?
MS NAUERT: Look, I think I’m speaking on behalf of the Secretary right now. The Secretary had an extremely busy morning. The Secretary provided his comments to all of you. He’s not someone who’s ever going to love being in front of the television cameras. He is not a politician. He isn’t. And some people just don’t seem to get that just yet. I’m okay with that. I’m okay standing behind a man, working for a man who wants to keep his nose to the grindstone, wants to promote U.S. foreign policy goals, and cares first and foremost about that and less about television cameras.
QUESTION: Can I talk --
MS NAUERT: Hi, Elise.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you a couple questions about that particular angle?
MS NAUERT: Sure.
QUESTION: You made reference several times to television cameras and the media.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that – I mean, are you suggesting that the media is making this up or that --
MS NAUERT: No.
QUESTION: Because when you speak about people --
MS NAUERT: Elise, what I’m talking about is I’m trying to convey a sense of who this person is, okay? He came here to do a job. He loves this country. To let you all know just what he said today and to amplify that, that he is staying here. He intends to do so. But a lot of folks just don’t seem to understand why he’s not out there more. So I just wanted to make that clear. That’s it.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you think that – I mean, when you say that he’s not resigning and there are people that are wanting him to kind of bring it, are you acknowledging --
MS NAUERT: Look, I’m not challenging that, okay?
QUESTION: No, but what I’m saying is --
MS NAUERT: But look --
QUESTION: I’m saying it’s not – he’s not going to be deterred by that. Do you think that there are some in this administration that kind of have it out for him and are leaking these type of reports to --
MS NAUERT: I’m not going to speak to that. I’m not aware of that. I’m here to do a job; he’s there to do a job.
QUESTION: Do --
MS NAUERT: He’s – one of the things he talked about today is not sowing dissension, and there are people who will try to find fissures, splits in an administration, in policy, and all of that.
QUESTION: Well, you’re --
MS NAUERT: I’m just not going to contribute to that.
QUESTION: But back to the media angle, you’re saying that people are trying to find them. What about the people in the administration that are trying to sow them, as you said that he – he said he doesn’t want to do it. But I mean I don’t think it’s the media that’s sowing it. I think it’s people that are leaking it to the media that are trying to sow it.
MS NAUERT: Okay. If somebody is – if somebody is --
QUESTION: I mean, isn’t there a difference?
MS NAUERT: If someone is doing that, I’m not aware of it. I don’t have names or numbers or information from people who are trying to do that, okay?
QUESTION: Just one more. You talk about him, like, not being interested in the television cameras and everything, and we understand --
MS NAUERT: I didn’t say interested. Not being somebody who loves to do that kind of thing.
QUESTION: I understand he doesn’t love to do it, but, I mean, there has been some – and this is not necessarily – you’re bringing it up, so that’s why I’m bringing it up. I don’t necessarily think it’s germane to the story, but you brought it up. That being the top American diplomat is the face of America and is the face and voice of American foreign policy, wouldn’t you --
MS NAUERT: And you heard him and saw him today. You heard him, and heard him speak, to that today. He’s done that recently. He speaks to the press a fair amount. I’m just trying to explain to you that he’s not the kind of person who’s going to just show up in front of every television camera. Some have done that in the past. The Secretary doesn’t find that necessarily to be effective.
QUESTION: But because --
QUESTION: To follow up on this, on this point.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Isn’t it crucial for the Secretary of State of the United States of America, with all the foreign policy issues and the (inaudible) to be out there more frequently --
QUESTION: All very briefly.
MS NAUERT: -- with the Pakistani foreign minister. So he does that. I’m just trying to explain to you the man who’s not craving to be in the spotlight, who’s not a politician, and that’s it. I’ll leave it at that.
Conor, go ahead.
QUESTION: But because he’s not the kind of person who does seek the spotlight and have remarks like this often, the fact that he escalated this story and had remarks about it – why make the decision to so publicly come out and say – and refute the report?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think the Secretary saw it and was concerned, and said to himself, I need to get out there and I need to set the story – set the record straight. And he did that. He’s a forthright person who will say what he thinks and speak his mind. He speaks directly and clearly, and he did that this morning.
QUESTION: But I have to go back, Heather, to the idea that, like, if he’s saying that he didn’t say that, and then he’s saying that he never was planning on resigning and never had a conversation with Mike Pence about resigning, and all the things that he said he didn’t or through you is saying that he didn’t say, then I have to go back to the idea that there are some – I mean, clearly there are people that are saying that he did. And, like, what’s going on here in terms of why are people trying to paint a picture of him that you’re saying doesn’t exist?
MS NAUERT: Let’s see. I’m not going to speculate about why people may be saying certain things. These are unnamed sources in Washington. Elise, you know the drill; you know the game. So I can’t comment on some of the things that some people are saying or ascribe any motivations to some things that some anonymous person may or may not be saying. Okay?
QUESTION: Heather --
QUESTION: Did he apologize to the President for anything that either he or his staff might have done?
MS NAUERT: So they had a good conversation. The Secretary did not offer an apology; one was not needed. It was a good conversation. Okay?
QUESTION: But amid the claims of fake news coming from the President, your denial about the language that was used, Tillerson’s denial about another part of the story, Tillerson’s own spokesperson came out and walked back information that he had given to that story that apparently wasn’t accurate. And he said that he spoke out of line about conversations that he was not privy to. So that seems to me that he contributed inaccurate information to that story. On another occasion he denied conversations had happened between the State Department and the White House that multiple sources told us did happen, including a White House source. So how can we believe what the State Department says did or did not happen when Tillerson’s own spokesperson seems to be putting information out there that is not necessarily accurate?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, I understand your question. Honesty, being forthright, integrity is something that the Secretary has spoken to often. That is a value that he holds very close and very dear. What I can tell you about my colleague’s comments in certain media reports today, the Vice President’s office addressed that. And let me read to you a bit about what the Vice President’s office issued.
“The Vice President can confirm that…the Secretary of State made clear, at no time did he and the Secretary ever discuss the prospect of the Secretary’s resignation from the administration. Any reporting to the contrary is categorically false. In addition, any statements that the Vice President questioned Ambassador Nikki Haley’s value to the Trump administration is also categorically false.” Let me finish. “The Vice President has also known Ambassador Nikki Haley for many years, holds her in the highest regard, and appreciates her strong service to this administration at the United Nations.”
My colleague issued some tweets in response to that. I think I certainly share his sentiment in that he regrets those. His statement say that he spoke out of line about conversations he wasn’t privy to.
QUESTION: But if he’s giving information to a reporter that is categorically false on what seems to be now two occasions, how does the Secretary feel about his own spokesperson?
MS NAUERT: I have not asked the Secretary that question.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.
QUESTION: Heather, just quickly on the relationship with Vice President Pence. It was also reported in this story that the Vice President counseled the Secretary on how to ease tensions with the administration. Is that true?
MS NAUERT: No. It is not true. The Vice President and Secretary Tillerson have a good working relationship. I would call it a close relationship. That conversation has not happened. I’ve been in touch with the Vice President’s staff and also spoken to the Secretary about that. That did not occur. Okay?
QUESTION: One more question.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Aside from anonymous sources, Senator Bob Corker on the Hill just moments ago said that Secretary Tillerson is “not being supported in a way that I hope a Secretary of State would be supported” by the rest of the administration.
MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m not – I’m not aware of who he is referring to, Senator Corker. I’ve not seen that myself, but wouldn’t comment on it anyway, because I don’t know exactly what he was referring to.
QUESTION: And that’s not a sentiment that the Secretary shares?
MS NAUERT: Look, the Secretary was on the phone with the President just a short while ago. The Secretary regularly has phone calls with Senator Corker, with other Hill leaders, with Speaker Paul Ryan; is in constant communication with Secretary Mattis, with the chief of staff, General Kelly, and others. He has a close working relationship with this administration, and as the fourth person in line to the President, who spends a lot of time traveling and an awful lot of time on the phone with overseas leaders, he is committed to doing this job and I think he’s receiving the support that he hopes to and have – and does have.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MS NAUERT: Certainly.
QUESTION: No, hold on.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Heather, clearly --
MS NAUERT: One last question on this, then let’s move on, because I’m not going to have anything more for you on this. Hi, Carol.
QUESTION: Clearly a lot of these stories are being --
MS NAUERT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Clearly a lot of these stories are coming from the White House, and I wondered if you could talk at all about how concerned the Secretary is that some of these reports are coming from people who ostensibly are on the same side --
QUESTION: -- and – who are on the same side as he is and that he’s being stabbed in the back by people in the same administration he’s a part of.
MS NAUERT: I think the Secretary spoke to just sort of the idea of strife in Washington today. So I’m not going to accept your premise, but he spoke about that in general, just sort of the Washington way of doing business. And one of the things he said and one of the things I really appreciate about him as a man and as a leader of this department is that he doesn’t sow dissension. He’s not going to sow dissension. He doesn’t do that. He is here in Washington to do his job, and that is to lead foreign policy. That is to promote the interests of America, the interests of this administration, and to keep Americans safe. He’s not going to get involved in that kind of political tit for tat. That’s not who he is as a person; that’s not what he’s here to do. Okay? Let’s move on to some of the issues now.
QUESTION: Can we go to Pakistan?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead.
MS NAUERT: Sure. Yeah, Said, let’s talk about that.
MS NAUERT: At the United Nations? Okay.
QUESTION: -- on UNGA that Mr. Netanyahu is being more difficult and – to get the peace process going. Do you agree with that assessment, that Mr. Netanyahu is obfuscating or nullifying any effort to go – to move forward --
MS NAUERT: Well, I can tell you this, that that is one of the President’s --
MS NAUERT: -- top foreign policy goals. That’s exactly why he put Mr. Greenblatt and also his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in part, at the top of our goals to try to bring Middle East peace that has failed so many previous administrations.
QUESTION: Right, so --
MS NAUERT: The – excuse me, the President had very productive conversations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also with Mr. Abbas up in New York.
QUESTION: Right, but he --
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of those comments. I’ve not seen them myself, just what you’re telling me.
QUESTION: Do you agree with that assessment?
MS NAUERT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Do you agree with that assessment that Mr. Netanyahu’s being difficult to get things going?
MS NAUERT: I have not heard that.
QUESTION: I have just a couple more questions, if you bear with me. Also on the Palestinian reconciliation, I know that you issued a statement the other day and you said that you want all to renounce violence and things like this and recognize each other, but the Palestinians have recognized the state of Israel time and time and time again. In fact, during negotiations that were sponsored by the United States in Oslo and other places and so on, they have recognized the state of Israel. Conversely, Israel has not. So what is it that you want?
MS NAUERT: Okay, I think a few more things probably need to be done on that Said, so let me just make our position on this matter very clear in terms of possible reconciliation between the two. We would certainly welcome efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities in Gaza. Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, the recognition of the state of Israel, the acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and also commitment to peaceful negotiations. We will continue to watch the developments closely. We hope this will bear fruit.
QUESTION: Okay, just to clear up something that you just said. So the Palestinian Authority has done all this. Now, if Hamas comes in into the new government, do you want them in particular as a group to do all that stuff that you said?
MS NAUERT: I think as a group, all --
QUESTION: As a group or as part of the government.
MS NAUERT: As a group, we – and let me be clear: Our position on Hamas has not changed. The United States has designated Hamas as a foreign terror organization, okay. If there’s some sort of reconciliation down the road, that is something that has to be done – unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence and all the other things that I just mentioned, okay? Thank you.
QUESTION: The President had asked for a pause on settlements. Netanyahu’s just announced even more settlements. Your reaction to that?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, so President Trump has spoken a lot about the issue of settlements. He’s outlined those views and the possible impact on peace efforts. One of the things that he’s said about that is that unrestrained settlement activity does not increase the prospects for peace, and so that hasn’t changed. Our position on that hasn’t changed. The President is focused on helping the parties forge a historic peace deal. That’s one of the reasons that his representatives at the State Department have been so engaged in that.
QUESTION: But he’s being ignored, so are you prepared to put any consequences behind that request?
MS NAUERT: Look, I’m just going – that’s all I’m going to say about the issue of settlements, okay? The President has made his position clear.
Anything else on Israel today? Okay, let’s move on. Hi, yes.
QUESTION: Yes, hi, Heather, thank you so much.
MS NAUERT: Nice to see you.
MS NAUERT: The last part --
MS NAUERT: -- can we expect an agreement on what?
QUESTION: The fugitive repatriation.
MS NAUERT: Ah. So I think what you’re starting to refer to are the talks taking place here at the State Department today. The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are really spearheading those talks, so for specific questions about what comes out of it I’d have to refer you to them, even though our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan is a part of it, but it’s really being spearheaded out of that.
In terms of the individual you were asking me about – bear with me, I’m just going to have to look up – look that up and get back to you on that, okay?
QUESTION: Can you put it on-camera?
MS NAUERT: I – yeah, I will see what I can do. Yes. Thank you. Okay, anything else on China?
QUESTION: And the separate – you mentioned that it’s a frank discussion. Is there any disagreement between Washington and Beijing on which fugitive should be returned?
MS NAUERT: Let me get back to you on that. Okay? Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Yes.
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You in your briefing yesterday said that the U.S. holds Cuba responsible to protect diplomats under – on its soil under the Vienna conventions --
MS NAUERT: Right.
QUESTION: -- although the U.S. has not laid out any specific steps that you feel Cuba has put – could, but has not taken to do that. Foreign Minister Rodriguez in his appearance in Havana laid out some very specific things that Cuba has asked for that would help it do exactly what you have asked them to do, namely put a stop to this, such as immediate notification when there is an attack so they can go look for whoever’s done it, access to the victims and their doctors so they can figure out what the symptoms are, and technical data about what weapon might have been involved so they know what weapon to look for, and that none of those have really been given to them. So I’m wondering if the U.S. is going to keep Cuba in the dark about the investigation, how would you expect them to solve it?
MS NAUERT: Well, first and foremost, when we are engaged in an investigation, we, as Americans, need to keep a tight hold on a lot of information. We don’t want that information to leak. You all know about leaks. That information could potentially leak to other parties who are involved – who may or may not be involved. Okay? So providing information on the investigation could tip off what I’ll just call the bad guys who are responsible for this. We don’t know who or what is responsible. So one, we wouldn’t want to tip off the bad guys to any information that we have on the investigation. Again, I’m not calling the Cubans – saying that about the Cubans in general, but we wouldn’t want this type of information to leak.
Secondly, the investigation is ongoing. The investigation has not yet been resolved, so there is limited information that we can provide at this point.
QUESTION: But – but how do you respond to their claim that you’re asking them to solve this crime and prevent it while tying one hand behind their back?
MS NAUERT: We are not asking them to solve this crime. We are down there with our investigators who are looking into this as well. If the Cubans have information that they would like to provide us, we would certainly welcome it.
QUESTION: Who’s leading the investigation --
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the State Department or other agencies?
MS NAUERT: Well, we talked about this before.
QUESTION: Right. Yeah.
MS NAUERT: The FBI is leading the investigation; we have our diplomatic security corps and they’re involved as well. Beyond that, I don’t know. Okay?
Anything else on Cuba? All right. Let’s move on. Hi, how are you?
MS NAUERT: Bear with me one second because I think I have a little bit for you on that. Okay. The Secretary met with the foreign minister – the minister of foreign affairs in Washington. They talked about the importance of partnering together to establish peace and prosperity in the region. They talked about their mutual commitment to advancing a multifaceted relationship between the United States and Pakistan based on our shared interest in a secure, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan. The foreign minister and the Secretary talked about the President’s South Asia strategy and what – that was announced back in August. They also exchanged ideas about how our countries can work together to help stabilize Afghanistan.
QUESTION: And in response to a question at this stakeout earlier --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: He said he expressed concern about the future of Government of Pakistan. What did he mean by that?
MS NAUERT: I’m not – I’m --
QUESTION: Why he’s concerned about --
MS NAUERT: That was not a question I had a chance to ask him. Okay. I’m not aware. Okay?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Anyone else have anything on Pakistan?
QUESTION: Pakistan, please.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead.
QUESTION: So when the new strategy on Afghanistan was unveiled, the language regarding U.S.-Pakistani relations and the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations was much harsher than what we just heard. We were hearing comments from senior administration officials about how Pakistan is going to have to start getting tougher on the arrests and pursuit of extremists and the Taliban, there is a possibility of further cuts in aid, there was discussions about the possibility that Pakistani officials with ties to known extremists could be put on – could be sanctioned. Was none of that discussed with the Pakistani foreign minister?
MS NAUERT: We typically don’t provide the fulsome types of readouts, we don’t do a play-by-play, a blow-by-blow of everything that happens in our private diplomatic conversations. What I just read to you, that’s what I can provide to you from the meeting. I know our conversations with the Pakistani Government continue to be frank.
Okay. Let’s move on from Pakistan.
QUESTION: On India?
MS NAUERT: Okay. India.
QUESTION: The first shipment of U.S. oil arrived in India day before yesterday. What does it mean for India-U.S. relationship? And do you think this will help in balance of trade between the two countries?
MS NAUERT: So yesterday – actually, November – October the 2nd – sorry, I’m off by a month.
MS NAUERT: October the 2nd was the first of a series of new shipments of crude oil from the United States. It arrived in the Indian state of Oshida earlier this week. We consider the increased Indian purchases of U.S. crude oil to be a direct outcome of the June visit of the prime minister, Modi, to the White House. The leaders at that point talked about expanding and elevating our bilateral energy cooperation through a Strategic Energy Partnership. And so we look at that – at that event as marking a significant milestone in the growing partnership between the United States and India. And by the way, I’m looking forward to visiting India next month. So, yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. What are the dates?
MS NAUERT: I’ll let you know about that trip. Okay. Let’s move on to something else.
QUESTION: Heather, on to Spain?
MS NAUERT: Hi, Rich. Yeah.
MS NAUERT: So we spoke about this yesterday, so I really don’t have much new to provide you and I don’t have any phone conversations to read out for you or any meetings with the Spanish Government at this time. I think the President made it clear, and we’ve long said this, that we support a strong, united – a strong and united Spain. We support the right to free assembly. That is consistent with Spanish law. There were, of course, many reports about people who were injured. That saddens us as Americans and as a U.S. Government. We encourage all the parties to resolve their political differences consistent with Spanish law, and I think that’s the thing to underscore: consistent with Spanish law. We saw that as not being consistent with Spanish law. That concerned us.
QUESTION: Heather, can we move on? Today, the King of Saudi Arabia went to Moscow, and at the same time, the president of Turkey went to Tehran, to Iran. Both are U.S. allies, strong U.S. allies. Do you feel that U.S. allies are sort of moving away from the United States of America and going elsewhere, maybe forming new alliances?
MS NAUERT: Last time I checked, foreign ministers and leaders from other parts of the world are allowed to get on airplanes and go meet with their counterparts in other countries. It’s called diplomacy. We do a lot of that, they do a lot of that. I don’t see our relationships with any of the major countries changing.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that such a solid ally such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that the monarch goes to Moscow – that does not concern you? Or when you see the Turkish president going to Tehran and forming new alliances --
MS NAUERT: I think it’s --
QUESTION: -- perhaps regional?
MS NAUERT: Again, I think it’s called diplomacy. That’s all I have to say about that. Okay?
Hi, Jessica. How are you?
QUESTION: Heather, thanks. Can we go to North Korea for a moment?
MS NAUERT: Sure.
QUESTION: So – and this kind of goes back to what the Secretary said about the three lines of communication between Pyongyang and Washington. The White House weighed in on that earlier this week saying they were just to basically get detained Americans back into the country. I just want to have you clarify from – again, from the State Department perspective, what are those lines of communication for? Are they to allow the Secretary and any diplomats on the American side to probe Pyongyang for their readiness to come back to the negotiating table?
MS NAUERT: So we covered this extensively yesterday at our press briefing, so what I’m going to say to you today is not – is not very different from what I said yesterday.
MS NAUERT: We have the ability to make contact with North Korea about the issues of Americans who are being held there. We did that when it came to trying to bring Otto Warmbier home. We have a relationship with Sweden, our protecting power in Pyongyang, because we do not have a diplomatic relationship with that country and with that government. So we rely upon them for information on Americans who are being held in that country.
Channels that exist are used for communication on occasion when it comes to the safety and security of Americans who are being held. In terms of talks with North Korea, that is not – we are not at a place where we are willing to talk with them or where they have shown an interest in speaking with us. When they continue to launch ballistic missiles, when they continue to do nuclear testing, they are not indicating to the United States or frankly any other country in the world that they are interested in engaging in serious conversations or any kind of dialogue. Okay? So that --
MS NAUERT: Sort of a hypothetical. I don’t want to get ahead of all of that because it’s still – my understanding is it’s still going on.
QUESTION: My understanding was it ended at 2:00, so I wasn’t sure --
MS NAUERT: Pardon me?
QUESTION: My understanding was it ended at 2:00, so that’s why I asked --
MS NAUERT: Okay. I was actually busy with some other things --
QUESTION: I bet you were.
MS NAUERT: -- just before 2:00, so my focus wasn’t on the – that dialogue.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay? All right. Guys, we’re going to have to wrap it up in just a few minutes. Any last questions?
MS NAUERT: I am.
QUESTION: Did you suggest that Secretary Tillerson will be traveling to India next month?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of whether or not he’s traveling on that. I just know I’m going.
MS NAUERT: That’s all I got.
QUESTION: Well, good for you.
MS NAUERT: That’s all I got.
QUESTION: Very nice.
MS NAUERT: And by the way, I found your notes about the – Guo Wengui, right? That’s who you were asking about earlier? Okay. Not very exciting for you, but Justice and Homeland Security have the lead on that one.
QUESTION: But it did come up in the discussion?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know if it came up in the discussion, but I just know that they would have to provide with the information on that.
QUESTION: Given the fact that you mentioned his name, did it – is that an indication that it did come up in the discussion?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know. Listen, what I put together in this big, fat briefing book is information from all over the world. Things that often you all never ask about are in this book, and so we have a lot of backup things just in case it’s needed. Okay? All right --
QUESTION: I do have one last question on Syria.
MS NAUERT: All right, Said. What is it? Yes.
MS NAUERT: Creating what?
QUESTION: Creating like a new reality on the ground, a new status quo on the ground where maybe – will you be involved in it? Put it this way: Are you going to be involved in any kind of peace process between the combatants and Syria – the government on the one hand and the opposition on the other --
MS NAUERT: Well --
QUESTION: -- as much as the envoy of the UN?
MS NAUERT: Our position on this hasn’t changed. Down the road – and we really look forward to this, and this is something that the Secretary spoke about at length in – at the United Nations and the like-minded nations regarding talks about Syria, and also in the D-ISIS coalition meetings. We continue to support a UN-led process that would eventually be a political process where Syrians can form their own government, but this is way down the road. We hope to get to that point. We look forward to getting to that point hopefully, but there’s a lot of work that has to be done between now and then. There are teams on the ground who miraculously are involved in de-mining, aid getting in to some of the various places where aid was not able to go in. In some places some Syrians are actually starting to come home because some places have started – I want to be cautious about this – to become more safe. We certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to return home before it was safe, but the good news is that is starting to happen in certain pockets. There’s the ceasefire that was brokered by the United States, Jordan, and also the Russians. That is still holding. That’s been holding since about the fourth of July or so, so – maybe it’s been August 1st. I’ll have to double check that, but it’s been about two months --
QUESTION: So --
MS NAUERT: So we’re seeing incremental progress there, but I want to caution it’s not going to be overnight. It certainly isn’t. We have a long way to go. The United States backed by the D-ISIS coalition is still focused on fighting ISIS; that’s why we’re there. That’s exactly what we’re doing. It’s going to continue to be a long battle, but we’re seeing progress. All right?
QUESTION: It’s an accepting of the fact that Assad is not going anywhere any time soon.
MS NAUERT: We’re still fighting ISIS. We’re still fighting ISIS and we’re going to fight ISIS until ISIS is dead. Thanks, everybody. Great to see you today.
QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:48 p.m.)