Department Press Briefing - September 20, 2018
Index for Today's Briefing:
3:22 p.m. EDT
MS NAUERT: Good afternoon, everyone. Hope you’re well today. I’d like to start off with telling you a little bit about who we welcomed here at the State Department today. Today Secretary Pompeo met with the Georgian prime minister and reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Georgia bilateral relationship. Ten years ago, Russia invaded Georgia and continues to occupy the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In spite of Russians’ occupation of 20 percent of its territory, and in spite of deaths, kidnappings, and other abuses that have occurred under Russia’s ongoing occupation, Georgia continues to reform its democratic institutions and develop its economy.
The United States stands with Georgia; U.S. and Georgian soldiers serve side by side in Afghanistan, where Georgia is the largest per-capita contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, and we look forward to one day welcoming Georgia into NATO. The United States continues to support Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and the United States will continue to support Georgia’s efforts to enhance the rule of law and accountable government.
Next, I’d like to thank the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their votes earlier this week where they approved several of our outstanding ambassadorial nominees. This helps fill vacancies in American embassies all over the world and to advance American interests. We still have far too many vacancies here at the State Department, from ambassadors to regular folks here serving at the assistant secretary level, also the under secretary level.
So today we call on the Senate to help us get the finest diplomatic team on the field and get to work on behalf of the American people. A diverse group of more than 55 nominations still await the Senate’s approval. As we head to the United Nations General Assembly, it is more crucial than ever that the world’s diplomatic corps see an American team ready to execute on our foreign policy. Today we implore the Senate to act so that these candidates may take their place along the finest – alongside the finest of diplomats.
Lastly, I’d like to mention a little bit about the schedule in the coming days, as many of you will be joining us at the United Nations General Assembly. The Secretary arrives in New York on Sunday the 23rd for the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly. The White House will be issuing the President’s schedule. Ambassador Haley, you may have seen a short while ago, just concluded a press conference highlighting some of the events that we can expect at the High-Level Week.
I thought I’d take a few moments to give you a sense of the administration’s priorities for this year’s UNGA, and they fall within five overarching themes. First among the priorities is addressing the global threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. That includes the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic missiles. The President intends to chair a UN Security Council meeting on that issue, and you can expect considerable discussion of North Korea, Iran, and Syria in this category throughout High-Level Week and beyond.
The United States will use UNGA High-Level Week to highlight humanitarian crises around the world and to encourage all nations to do more to support humanitarian response and also food security. The United States believes UN member-states can do more to address threats to peace and security, in particular the world drug problem. That’s something that the President, the First Lady, and the Secretary and others will certainly be highlighting in the early part of the week.
The United States will continue to emphasize also global initiatives to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terror groups that threaten America and its interests. We will reinforce last year’s call for member-states to support meaningful and lasting reform to ensure that the UN is serving the interests of its membership effectively, efficiently, and accountably.
Regarding Secretary Pompeo’s schedule: On Monday, Secretary Pompeo will join the President’s Global Call to Action on the world drug problem. On Tuesday, Secretary Pompeo will speak out against Iran’s proliferation in an event hosted by the United – United Against Nuclear Iran. On Tuesday, Secretary Pompeo looks forward to hosting the annual Transatlantic Dinner. He’s excited about that. We know many of our European friends are looking forward to joining that as well. On Wednesday, Secretary Pompeo will participate in an African Union meeting regarding the peace process for South Sudan. On Thursday, he’ll join the P5 foreign ministers to address some of the world’s most pressing global issues. Then on Friday, the Secretary will meet with some of our Middle East partners to address shared security goals.
Some of the other senior officials who will be in New York next week include our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Under Secretary David Hale, Under Secretary Andrea Thompson, our Director of Policy Planning Kiron Skinner, our Special Representative Steve Biegun, and Special Representative Brian Hook, among many others from the State Department.
The United States seeks a strong, sovereign, and independent partnership with countries that control their own destinies, and the United Nations General Assembly provides an excellent platform to advance our American interests. And I look forward to seeing you all in New York and talking with you nonstop, I am sure.
I’d be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Probably more than you want.
MS NAUERT: (Laughter.) And I imagine we’ll be having a few drinks together as well. So looking forward to that.
QUESTION: Shh. What was Thursday again? I’m sorry, you were going very fast and I can’t --
MS NAUERT: Let me go back to that. Bear with me one second. And we will provide updates to the schedules. As you know, with bilateral meetings, there is a lot of shifting in the schedules, and so we will provide you with the schedule in the evening and then any revised schedules in the morning.
Let’s see, Monday – bear with me.
QUESTION: No, no, Thursday is what I missed. Sorry, everyone.
MS NAUERT: Can anyone else help out Matt? Can the class help?
QUESTION: Well, we can --
MS NAUERT: Ah, excuse me. On Thursday he’ll join the P5 foreign ministers to talk about global challenges.
QUESTION: Global challenges.
MS NAUERT: More specific details, we’ll provide that for you.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Are there any specifically on Syria?
MS NAUERT: I – look, you’re all going to have a lot of questions, I understand, about a lot of these things. Syria will, of course, come up under proliferation, but any side meetings related to that, I just don’t have that for you today.
QUESTION: So --
MS NAUERT: Some of these things are still being developed, and we’ll provide you updates to the schedule on a daily basis.
QUESTION: All right, okay. Well, so I was trying to come up before this with something very profound to ask, but I failed miserably.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: So do you know --
MS NAUERT: I’ve bored you to tears.
QUESTION: I realize that you don’t have his exact schedule for bilats yet, but yesterday in his statement he said he had asked the North Korean foreign minister to meet with him at some point next week. Do you know, has that – is that going to happen, or is it still not going – I’m not asking for a time or a venue or a place.
MS NAUERT: I understand. So an invitation went out. I don’t have any updates for you on that. We certainly stand by ready to meet if they are able to.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the same goes for Special Representative Biegun. Do you know, has a date for the Vienna – proposed Vienna meeting --
MS NAUERT: So that --
QUESTION: Clearly, it won’t be next week if he’s going to be in New York.
QUESTION: Steve Biegun will be in New York with us and I am sure looks forward to meeting a lot of you in the coming days and weeks ahead. We don’t have anything specific on his schedule with regard to any travel to Vienna, but he stands by ready to travel.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
QUESTION: The meeting with the Middle Eastern partners, is that on Wednesday? Is that what you said? Wednesday or Friday?
MS NAUERT: I put it away. Now I have to go back and look.
QUESTION: It was on Friday.
QUESTION: Friday. Yes, okay.
QUESTION: Have any bilats been set yet?
MS NAUERT: Oh, yes, we do. But as you know, these things are shifting a lot.
QUESTION: Well, that’s fine.
MS NAUERT:So we’re not ready to announce all the specifics just yet, but we will on a daily basis get you all the information that you need so that you can plan your schedules. Okay? And Said, I’ll get back with you on that answer to that question.
QUESTION: And then I had one other logistical question.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: And that is the Tuesday thing, the Iran, United Against Nuclear Iran event, that is part – that’s a nongovernmental group that was very opposed to the Iran deal. I’m presuming that that is not – do you know what the venue is for that?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know where that is being held offhand.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Lesley, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Can I have – yeah, can I have a follow-up? So what does – can you give us some kind of insight into what the Secretary is thinking about this next meeting with the North Koreans? Does he feel – I mean, does he want to get a list of all the North Korean nuclear facilities from the foreign minister? Where does he – where does he want to take it? Can you give us some kind of --
MS NAUERT: So I think the first thing that we want to do is get a very fulsome readout that resulted from the meeting between North Korea and South Korea. We have received a preliminary readout – as you know, we coordinate very closely with the South Koreans – but have obviously have yet to meet with them face-to-face to fully flesh out the negotiations and the conversations and how those went in North Korea. So that’s the first step.
The Secretary looks forward to speaking with them in the days to come. The President, along with – our President, along with President Moon, will have an opportunity to chat, I believe in person, in the early part of the week. So that will be the first step, having those conversations to learn in a more granular level how those conversations went.
We are open to meeting, certainly, as you well know. The Secretary put out a statement yesterday congratulating President Moon on a successful series of meetings in North Korea. We welcome the reaffirmation of the elements that were agreed to in the Singapore summit, the joint agreement, and we also welcome Chairman Kim’s decision to complete the previously announced dismantlement of various sites.
So all of that is good news. We see that as progress, and we’re prepared to engage immediately in negotiations if and when they’re ready.
QUESTION:So there’s a lot of focus on the date, the 2021. What exactly is the goal for denuclearization by that time?
MS NAUERT: Well, this is something that the Secretary has spoken to before. I think when we were in Seoul, I think you and I were sitting right there with the Secretary, Francesco, as he talked about this and highlighted the fact that we get this done pretty quickly when or as North Korea cooperates. The intention is to get this done by the time the – at the end of the President’s first term. So this is not something new. It’s somehow been interpreted as something new, but this is something that the Secretary has said before.
QUESTION: You didn’t mention the Secretary chairing a UNSC meeting on North Korea on Thursday. Is this still happening?
MS NAUERT: As far as I know. Let me have my colleagues double-check. Yes, it is. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. And then on – yesterday in his statement, the Secretary didn’t mention the fact that Chairman Kim, Kim Jong-un, is asking for corresponding measures to dismantle its nuclear complex. Are you ready to corresponding measures, which would mean a phased, step-by-step, reciprocal process?
MS NAUERT: I think I’d go back to something that Chairman Moon has often said, and that we have to have --
QUESTION: Chairman Moon?
MS NAUERT: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Chairman Moon or President Moon or Chairman Kim?
MS NAUERT: You know I always do this, right? I get tired at the end of the day and people start marrying up like that, so --
QUESTION: This is just the beginning. (Laughter.)
MS NAUERT: I think I’d just go back to what I’ve said about that very issue before, and that nothing can happen in the absence of denuclearization. Denuclearization has to come first, okay.
QUESTION: So no corresponding measure to – for the dismantlement of the site?
MS NAUERT: Look, I don’t have any guidance on that beyond what I’ve just told you, that denuclearization is something that has to come.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. North Koreans said that if United States take steps first, they will destroy or shut down Yongbyon reactors. Do you think this is successfully – Moon say that is – I don't think so – Moon does make any successful denuclearizations meeting with Kim Jong-un.
MS NAUERT: Look, I think any time that we have our government sitting down and talking with their government, that we have President Moon talking with Chairman Kim, it is a step in the right direction – a step in the right direction to start to have regular dialogue. This is something we had talked about a couple months ago, and I said these things will become regular, where it’s not such a surprise when the U.S. is having conversations, trading emails, phone calls, whatever you want to call it, having meetings with North Korea. And I think it’s just another step in that direction, okay.
QUESTION: But should North Korea not develop future nuclear weapons or should not all nuclear weapons be destroy? So what do you want? What United States want? They want a future nuclear weapons or --
MS NAUERT: Well, we’d like to see a brighter future for the North Korean people and for the North Korean Government. We hope that they would like to see the same thing. That is something that Chairman Kim had indicated to the President, that he shared that vision to have a brighter future for North Korea. That means a denuclearized North Korea. That’s something that the United States doesn’t just believe in, but many other countries have joined us in this overall mission to achieve denuclearization of North Korea, okay.
MS NAUERT: I understand that the Afghan Government will have representation at the UN General Assembly. I don’t have any specific meetings to read out for you, especially on behalf of the President, so we’ll just have to wait for the White House to put out that – their meeting readout schedule.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Can we go back to North Korea?
MS NAUERT: We’ll come back to that. Hey, Abbie.
QUESTION: Hey. My apologies if I missed some of this at the top, but were you asked whether or not Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with any member of the Palestinian delegation, if there’s an attempt to be meeting with a Palestinian while he’s there? And separately, given the general feeling that often the U.S. is ganged up on on this issue, do you anticipate any sort of blowback from recent U.S. decisions to not fund UNRWA and take funding away from the East Jerusalem Hospitals?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I’m not aware of any meetings taking place. Again, I don’t have the full schedule, but I’m not tracking any meetings between the Secretary and the Palestinians at next week’s UN General Assembly.
To the hospital issue – and I know some of you have asked questions about that in the past, so I’ll just address that right off the bat, and you all know the news that was made there. The United States Government does not believe that it is responsible for paying for the hospital bills. Now, that may shock some people to hear that. The Palestinian Authority is the one that actually incurs these bills on behalf of Palestinian citizens and others who seek treatment at that hospital. The Palestinian Authority is solely responsible for paying for the treatment of Palestinians in those hospitals.
Historically, they have neglected to pay the bills at their hospital of those individuals and other bills related to the hospital. Our funding in the past has generously shored them up. The PA, though – we have seen the Palestinian Authority is prioritizing paying its debts – has failed to prioritize paying its debts and has instead put money into funding things like payment to families of terrorists and payment to – as you all are well aware of the Taylor Force Act – and payment to families of those who have been imprisoned. We think that that is a wrong decision, that the Palestinians should be funding the care of their own people in the hospitals and that it should not be the responsibility of the United States Government to pay those bills when the Palestinians have that money that they could choose to use on their own people, as opposed to funding the families of terrorists and those who are serving in prison.
QUESTION: Sorry, wait a second, Heather. Are you saying that the Palestinian Authority takes money that it would otherwise be using to pay for medical treatment for Palestinians in the East Jerusalem Hospital Network and instead pays – gives that money to the relatives of prisoners and people who have committed anti-Israel acts or killed --
MS NAUERT: Three words to answer that question: Money is fungible, and that is the money that we provide to different entities and groups throughout the Palestinian Authority can be used for other things. So we see that. We hope that the Palestinians will choose – the Palestinian Authority will choose to spend money on its own people at the hospital, and the United States should no longer be forced to shoulder that bill.
QUESTION: Well – but forced?
QUESTION: The United States was never forced to pay Palestinian hospital --
MS NAUERT: Encouraged. The United States should no longer pick up that tab. Okay?
QUESTION: You – but you did it --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- keep these hospitals funded because you are, as you consistently say, the most generous country on Earth.
MS NAUERT: And we --
QUESTION:So your argument is that this is not – it is not ungenerous to take away money that could be used --
MS NAUERT: No, Matt, that the Palestinian Authority could pay these bills on their own.
QUESTION: Could it? I mean, do you have the numbers to know?
MS NAUERT: Could pay these bills on their own, but you know what, they’re choosing to spend money that goes to the families of terrorists. Under the Taylor Force Act, that is something that is now established into law, and so --
QUESTION: Has someone crunched those numbers? Because the Palestinian Authority doesn’t – I mean, it takes in some money, but a lot of money is supposed to be transferred to it by Israel, and that money has been in the past withheld from it. So has someone done the numbers to show that they could actually pick up the – pick up the money that you cut from the hospital network?
MS NAUERT: I’m not sure it’s our responsibility to crunch the numbers to figure out whether or not they have enough money --
QUESTION: Well, it kind of is if you’re saying that --
MS NAUERT: -- to share in – to pay for those hospital bills. The United States has shored them up in the past. The United States Government has made the decision at this point to no longer do that.
Said, I’m sure you have some questions about this.
QUESTION: Yeah, I just have a couple of follow-up. Even in your report on terrorism yesterday, you mentioned that this agreement with Israel, paying the prisoners, goes way back to 1965. So the Israelis have agreed to this a long, long time ago. You mentioned that in your report.
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, the Israelis have agreed to what?
QUESTION: I’m saying the payment to prisoners and so on was something that was agreed through international bodies with the Israelis even before the ’67 war. Another thing is that, on these hospitals, the funding predates the PA. It goes way back before the PA on these particular hospitals.
And my question to you is actually on settlement. It’s not a topic that you address frequently, but in fact, I know your position --
MS NAUERT: Let me – before we go on to settlements --
QUESTION: Okay. Fine.
MS NAUERT: -- and I’d be happy to address that – I just want to highlight something, in that we have heard reports the Palestinian Authority has said that it will pay money to the family of the man who murdered an American citizen, Ari Fuld. We’ve heard that report. We are looking into that. While I’m at it, because we’ve not talked about it at this briefing, let me add that we are deeply saddened by the loss of this American citizen and our condolences go out to his family and also his friends. I want to make clear that we condemn the Palestinian Authority payments to the families of prisoners, of convicted terrorists, and deceased Palestinians, and we strongly oppose any program that incentivizes those acts of violence and terror. And let me remind folks that that law, the Taylor Force Act, became law and was a bipartisan law, and that is something we continue to stand behind. Okay?
QUESTION: No, we understand this --
QUESTION: Just --
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: You just said that you’ve seen reports and you’re looking into it, that they will pay this – the perpetrator, the killer of this guy, but both Ambassador Friedman and Jason Greenblatt have said that they have condemned this payment, as if it was confirmed and had already happened. So are you trying to walk that confirmation back at all?
MS NAUERT: Not in the least. I just haven’t seen their tweets. I’m sorry. I just haven’t seen that today. Okay, in terms of settlements, your question.
QUESTION: Yeah, let me ask you on the settlements, because this is an issue that can be discussed at length, the payments and so on, because they’re paying the families. They’re not paying the person, the perpetrators. A lot of them have children and so on that they have nothing to do with that decision. But I – but that’s something for you --
MS NAUERT: You don’t see that happening in the United States. That’s not a normal thing to do.
QUESTION: I understand. Okay, but --
MS NAUERT: It’s not a normal – it’s not a right thing to do to pay the families of those who have murdered innocent people. I mean, that’s something that the United States Government on a bipartisan level passed a law against. It has bipartisan support.
QUESTION: They did -- I mean, I understand your condemnation.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: I understand your feelings. But the day before, two Palestinian children, one 12 and one 14, were gunned down in Gaza. Were you aware of that?
MS NAUERT: I was not aware of that. I don’t have any information on that for you.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
I wanted to ask you about the settlements. I know it is not a topic that we discuss often because you guys say, “Our position on the settlements is well known.” But I want to bring your attention to the fact that this administration has not in any way expressed outrage on the settlement activities that is just going crazy every day. There’s not a day that goes by without expropriating land, without throwing Palestinians out of their land, without taking land and so on, establishing outposts and so on. You don’t even express any outrage or you don’t call on the Israelis to stop. Are you planning to, as a show of goodwill, considering this is the time of high tensions between Palestinians and Americans, to show that America does stand by its principles and does consider these settlements to be illegal?
MS NAUERT: Said, I’ll say it one more time, and that is that the Israelis have assured the President that they will take his considerations – his concerns into consideration regarding settlements. They’ve assured the President of that. Unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospects for peace. We’ve been clear about that. Peace will not be easy. We all know that very well. And it will take some time, but we’re ready to sit down and help facilitate those talks when the parties are ready.
Okay. Hey, Laurie.
QUESTION: Heather, hi. Britain’s ambassador to Iraq tweeted that he had met with the Iranian ambassador about forming the next government, the next Iraqi government. And Baghdad responded with a mild statement that it was surprised. What is your view of meeting with the Iranian ambassador on the next Iraqi government.
MS NAUERT: Yeah, I can’t confirm that that meeting took place, so I’d have to refer you both to the British Government and to the Iraqi Government about that alleged meeting. But I can tell you overall we wouldn’t have any comment on that without having heard more from them.
QUESTION: I’ll send you his tweet.
MS NAUERT: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: And another question: The KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center has issued an urgent appeal for refugee support. There are still one and a half million refugees in Kurdistan. The promised aid hasn’t arrived and refugees returning to the region outnumber those going home. I know we discussed U.S. aid to Iraq, we discussed the U.S. aid to the Palestinians, but given that UNGA is next week and given this urgent appeal and the burden of the refugees being supported by the Kurdistan region, would you consider doing more to help out this – in this problem of refugee support, or at least pressing your allies to do so?
MS NAUERT: I think we’ve demonstrated very well our commitment to the Iraqi people. I can’t forecast anything that may or may not happen in the future or what decisions or policy decisions might be made. But we’ve given more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian aid since 2014 to the Iraqi – to the Iraqi people through various programs there, but I just don’t have any information about that specific program that you are asking about. I’m not even sure if the United States Government funds the program that you’re referring to.
QUESTION: The refugees are – tend to concentrate in the Kurdistan region because it is a more hospitable environment because the fighting’s been up there.
MS NAUERT: Understood.
QUESTION: And this is 1.5 million out of an indigenous population of six million. It’s a quarter of – a 25 percent increase in the normal population. They really – they’re saying we can’t cope with this anymore.
MS NAUERT: Laurie, I’ll take a look at it and see if there’s anything additional that could be in the works, and I’ll let you know if I do have something for you.
QUESTION: Can we go back to North Korea?
MS NAUERT: Wait, let me just get in some other people. Hold on.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Iraq?
MS NAUERT: With Iraq? Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Actually I have also a follow-up on the Palestinian, but on – in Iraq there are some reports in the Arab media circulating that actually the State Department has informed the Iraqi Government that it will be held responsible for an attack by Shiite militias in Iraq on any American targets. Can you confirm that?
MS NAUERT: I can’t confirm that. I can tell you that we have said that we will hold the Iranian regime responsible --
QUESTION: That was (inaudible).
MS NAUERT: -- for attacks on our facilities. As the Secretary had talked about last week, we’ve seen Katyusha rockets fired at our facility in Basra, something also happening to our embassy in Baghdad, and as Laurie can probably attest to, weapons being fired at Kurdish facilities in the north.
We recognize that Iran continues to be a destabilizing element in the region. They continue to try to attack other governments and individuals through their proxy militias. We will hold them responsible for any loss of American life. I just want to be clear about that.
QUESTION: Sure, but the difference is already you spoke to that, and there is a congressional bill actually to support that. But I’m talking specifically about if there’s any warning to the Iraqi Government, not to the Iranian – not to the --
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, if any what?
QUESTION: Any warning to the Iraqi Government that --
MS NAUERT: Ah, to the Iraqi Government.
QUESTION: -- they will be held responsible and therefore --
MS NAUERT: We closely coordinate with the Iraqi Government.
QUESTION: -- subjected to sanctions.
MS NAUERT: We have a terrific relationship with the Iraqi Government. I don’t have anything specific for you on that particular issue. Whether or not we’ve had any conversations with them in that regard, I just don’t have any information on that.
MS NAUERT: I think I’d as the Palestinian Authority that question.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I’m just saying to you now because I’m asking you, not the Palestinian Authority, that they don’t – if they don’t – if you don’t have the number, and you have the number for how much money they spent on hospitals, which reaches to the millions, where my understanding that the money that’s spent to – on the Palestinian Authority to the families in the thousands, is this – how do you respond to accusation that was the decision was politically motivated to pressure the Palestinian Authority to accept any deal because this has been paid for during many administrations before, and it’s only now you decided to take this action?
MS NAUERT: Yes, it has been paid by administrations before, and this is a relatively new administration that has the right to look at U.S. policy and also where the United States chooses to spend its money and where its resources can best be used. And this was one of the situations where the United States Government took a look at that money, how that money was being sent – spent. And I know some of you disagree with the decision, but we felt that the money could be better spent elsewhere and the Palestinian Authority should pick up the tab for its own folks at a hospital – at the hospital there. Okay?
QUESTION: Heather, it’s not for us to agree or disagree with our – with the decision of the government. It’s for us to report on what the decision is.
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, yeah.
QUESTION: So where is the money being better spent? Where is that money for the hospitals with the budget --
MS NAUERT: Other regional priorities, Matt.
QUESTION: Like? Like what, for example?
MS NAUERT: Other regional priorities.
QUESTION: Like what?
MS NAUERT: We’re taking a look at some of the things that --
QUESTION: Just in general.
MS NAUERT: Well, geez, Matt, I can think there are a lot of important things going on in that region.
QUESTION: Well, it’s not being spent on Syrian stabilization. That would be an important project, wouldn’t it?
MS NAUERT: You know what? It has been spent on Syria stabilization.
QUESTION: It has?
MS NAUERT: As you well know, the United States Government, through humanitarian aid and stabilization, has put in a – billions and billions of dollars into Syria. And it’s not such a bad thing that we’ve been able to call on other countries in the region to put in more, to contribute more in their neighbor’s own backyard than the United States Government had even intended to.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the --
MS NAUERT: It’s as though some folks here think that we can never spend – we, the United States Government, can never spend enough money. We can never spend enough money to satisfy some critics’ concerns.
QUESTION: Wait, wait a second. So the --
MS NAUERT: And the United States Government has to take a look at what money we have, the taxpayer dollar, and what is the best use of our taxpayer money.
QUESTION: I get it. So you’re saying for the money for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network has been reprogrammed into Syria stabilization?
MS NAUERT: No, I did not say it has been reprogrammed into Syria stabilization.
QUESTION: I thought that’s what – is that exactly what you said, I think.
MS NAUERT: I said to you that we had spent money on Syria stabilization.
QUESTION: Oh. Well, what has the money from --
MS NAUERT: We have spent money on Syria – humanitarian aid in Syria. We continue to spend money on the fight that we have taken to ISIS --
MS NAUERT: -- in the northeastern part of Syria and elsewhere, but that money will be aligned with other regional priorities.
QUESTION: Okay. Look, when you find out where the money for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network --
MS NAUERT: Okay. Lalit, go right ahead.
QUESTION: -- is going, can you tell us?
QUESTION: I had two questions.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: One, at the start of the briefing, you said there are a lot of – a number of State Department nominations pending before the Senate.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: But there are quite a few posts, important position at the State Department which has not been filled up, like there’s still secretary of state for South and Central Asia. It’s the longest period of time you don’t have that position being filled up.
MS NAUERT: I know.
QUESTION: Why has the Secretary been – not been able to fill up this position?
MS NAUERT: Well, we have a lot of terrific candidates. Some people have been pending; their nominations have been pending. Off the top of my head, I don’t know if we have a candidate for that role, but I imagine the Secretary is looking at and talking to quite a few qualified people. When we have a nomination – that would be announced by the White House – I’ll let you know. But what we would like to see done first is have the people who are already pending, who’ve already had their background checks gone through the system and are now pending in the Senate, have the Senate ask them the questions and then vote them out, and hopefully they’ll be joining us here soon, okay.
QUESTION: And secondly, there’s news about resumption of talks between India and Pakistan. The foreign minister of the two countries are planning to meet in New York sometime later this month. How do you see this development as?
MS NAUERT: Yeah, we saw that. I think that’s terrific news for the Indians and Pakistanis to be able to sit down and have a conversation together. We saw the reports about the positive messages being exchanged between Prime Minister Khan and also Prime Minister Modi, and we hope that the conditions will be set for a good, strong relationship, a good, strong bilateral relationship in the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi, Ben. Hi.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a point of clarification on yesterday’s statement. Secretary Pompeo said that the – he welcomed Chairman Kim’s decision to allow U.S. and IAEA inspectors in this dismantlement, but I don’t think that was specifically in the joint statement. So could you clarify if North Korea has given any guarantees that U.S. inspectors would be allowed to inspect?
MS NAUERT:So President Moon and also Chairman Kim did talk about inspectors, of course. Having IAEA inspectors and United States inspectors be a part of anything is really just a shared understanding. Anytime you have a nuclear situation like this, where there is a dismantlement, the expectation is that IAEA inspectors would be a part of that. So that would just be normal course of doing business. We have that shared understanding with the countries.
QUESTION: But what about the U.S.?
QUESTION: But it wasn’t specifically in the document that President Moon and Kim Jong-un signed, and the Secretary said it was.
MS NAUERT: We have had conversations with that government, with the Government of North Korea, and that is our mutual understanding. That is also the understanding between the Republic of Korea and North Korea, and that was one of the things that was discussed, according to my understanding of it, over the past few days. Again, we look forward to getting a more formal, thorough readout from the Republic of Korea as soon as we can sit down with them face to face.
Okay? Go ahead. I can do one more question. I got to go.
QUESTION: One more, yeah.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. So Secretary Pompeo asked to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. Does State Department still strongly believe about sanctions implementation about North Korea?
MS NAUERT: What about sanctions implementation?
QUESTION: About the need for stronger sanctions implementation on North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Without a doubt.
QUESTION: At a time when --
MS NAUERT: And it’s not just the United States that wants to see strong sanctions enforcement. Sanctions must continue to be enforced. That is something that the Secretary and Ambassador Haley addressed about two months ago when they were in New York together. It’s something Ambassador Haley addressed just earlier this week, and there are certain governments that are trying to skirt sanctions, and they should not be doing that. In order to get to the denuclearization of North Korea, sanctions must be enforced. We cannot let our foot off the gas.
Okay. Hi, how are you?
QUESTION: Hi, Heather. A question about Egypt as we’re going into the GA: Mahmoud Hussein, an Al Jazeera journalist, continues to be detained in Egypt without trial. Abdullah Elshamy was sentenced in absentia to 15 years a few days ago. And that’s just part of a larger picture of human and press rights in Egypt as decried by human rights and press freedom organizations. How prominently does the issue of press freedom and human rights in Egypt – how prominently does it feature on your radar as you go into talks at the UN?
MS NAUERT: Well, human rights issues and press freedoms are always something that we raise, not only in our bilateral relationship with many governments around the world but also in our human rights reports. And so that is something that is documented there. We’ve followed the case of your colleague, your journalist, who has been sentenced. We remain deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Egypt, including restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and also peaceful assembly. We’ve raised and we will continue to raise that issue with the Government of Egypt as we seek to highlight the importance of press freedom and human rights in many countries, including Egypt. We call on the Egyptian Government to ensure due process and to protect the fundamental human rights of all detainees. Okay?
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up, if I may.
MS NAUERT: Yes. And this – final one, then I have to run.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Mr. Pompeo announced the release of $1.2 billion in aid to the Egyptians on the 7th of September. On the 8th of September, hundreds of people were sentenced in Egypt, dozens to capital punishment. How concerned were you, and maybe still are concerned, about the time proximity between the two events?
MS NAUERT: That is not something that I have any information on for you today in terms of the events and the timeline of that. If I have anything more for you I’ll let you know. Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: An American citizen was among the --
MS NAUERT: Oh, sorry.
QUESTION: Can I have one question please?
MS NAUERT: Go ahead, yeah.
QUESTION: An American citizen was among the 700 who were sentenced on that day.
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: He’s been on hunger strike now for over a week. He’s a diabetic without access to insulin and his family says that his health is failing. Do you have anything on his condition and whether or not there are any efforts to have the Egyptian Government free him?
MS NAUERT: Yeah. As you know, we don’t comment on people’s particular medical cases in any kind of detailed level. I can tell you this American citizen’s case is one that we are following very carefully and very closely. It’s been raised repeatedly with the Government of Egypt and we remain in communication with Mr. Kassem and also his attorney about his particular case. We remain deeply concerned about the conviction and the sentencing of our American citizen and we’ll continue to follow that case very closely.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:58p.m.)