Department Press Briefing - April 11, 2019
Index for Today's Briefing:
Department Press Briefing
MR PALLADINO: Earlier today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had the honor of swearing in the new United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan S. Carr. As special envoy, he will advise the Secretary of State and lead United States policies and projects aimed at countering anti-Semitism throughout the world.
Prior to joining the department, Special Envoy Carr was a criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles prosecuting violent gang members, murderers, and child molesters. He’s an officer in the United States Army Reserve and has given two decades of service to the United States military, including in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Mr. Carr has also played a central role in opposing the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement on college campuses across the world. It’s my pleasure to introduce you today to Special Envoy Elan Carr who has a few words to say at the top and then he’d be happy to take some questions. Please.
MR CARR: Thank you, Robert. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It was a great honor to be sworn in this morning by the Secretary and an even greater honor to work on this issue as part of an administration committed in unprecedented fashion to the fight against anti-Semitism, to the protection of the Jewish people throughout the world, and to the support for the Jewish state. And our priorities as we go forward will be to address the growing attacks against Jewish communities that we’re seeing throughout many parts of the world. A recent survey shows that nearly 80 percent of the Jews of Europe regard anti-Semitism as a growing problem in their country and are afraid for their safety.
So our concern is going to be, first of all, to reduce the feelings of insecurity among Jewish communities throughout the world. Second of all, we’re going to be looking at the indoctrination of anti-Semitic hate in the next generation. So in those countries and in those regions where textbooks are purveying anti-Semitic hate to children, that’s going to be a top focus as we go forward.
And then lastly, we are going to focus relentlessly on eradicating this false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The Secretary could not have been clearer. He stood before 18,000 activists at the AIPAC Policy Conference just two weeks ago and he declared, I quote, “Let me go on [the] record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” That will be our rallying cry as we go forward to fight this ancient scourge that sadly is on the rise today and must be combated, and we’re very proud that this department and this administration is focused in unprecedented fashion on doing that.
Thank you. Should I call on them.
MR PALLADINO: I can help. Let’s just go Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome aboard.
MR CARR: Thank you.
QUESTION: Given what Robert said and what you just said about BDS, I’m wondering – and I’ll have a specific question to Robert about this in the briefing afterwards because I realize that consular affairs is not your area, but you will have seen that the – one of the founders of the BDS movement has said that he was denied entry into the United States. He was supposed to arrive.
I presume, but I want to ask you, is this something that you support? Do you equate the BDS movement with anti-Semitism, not just as – and regard it as something more than criticism or an attempt to change the policies of the Government of Israel?
MR CARR: So an individual has a right to buy or not buy what they please. However, if there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is anti-Semitic, and the administration has gone on the record for – as being opposed unequivocally to the BDS m ovement and the idea that somehow there can be movements organized to deny Israel its legitimacy and not to allow Israel to participate in economic commerce in the world – sure, that is. Hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people, and that’s something that’s very clear and that is our policy.
QUESTION: Well, but – so you’re convinced that BDS is actually hatred of the Jewish state and not just opposition to the government of the Jewish state’s policies?
MR CARR: So like I said, a person can decide what they want to buy, but if there is a movement that is dedicated to strangling the Jewish state out of existence, that is anti-Semitism.
QUESTION: Okay. Last one, just – so it’s okay for one person to decide that he doesn’t – he or she doesn’t want to buy, but if two people talk about it together, that’s a – or more, that’s a conspiracy and that’s bad and that --
MR CARR: Well, look --
QUESTION: -- and then it’s no – then it becomes anti-Semitic?
MR CARR: Well, the BDS movement is well known. This isn’t a ragtag group. I mean, there are international organizations, there are websites, it’s organized, and the stated goals are clear, and the stated goals on the website of the BDS movement is to deny the state of Israel economic prosperity and to deny legitimacy. And that is anti-Semitism.
MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to Al Arabiya, Nadia Bilbassy.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Matt’s question, do you make a distinction between boycotting Israel per se and boycotting products that are produced in the settlements that’s considered illegal under international law?
MR CARR: So refusing to buy products made by Jewish communities and wanting to buy products made by Arab communities that live next door to each other seems to me to be discriminatory. That seems pretty clear to me.
QUESTION: But this is settlements. Settlements under international law is illegal. So I’m just – I’m trying to figure out, from a legal point of view, do you see that – okay, is it considered --
MR CARR: Like I said, if two communities are living side-by-side and one refuses to buy from Jews and one wants to buy from non-Jews, I think that’s pretty clear what that is.
QUESTION: Do you have time for me to follow up, Robert?
MR PALLADINO: Okay. Al Quds Daily.
QUESTION: Yeah. Very quickly, on Omar Barghouti, he was denied entry into the United States yesterday. Now, he’s been here many times before. He was invited by NYU, was invited by American groups. He was coming to attend his daughter’s wedding here in the United States of America. Was that a decision that is taken on the spot? Because Amnesty International went after Israel and the Israelis finally allowed him entry and exit and so on. But suddenly when he got on the plane, you guys disallowed him coming in saying that his visa was canceled. Why was it canceled?
MR PALLADINO: This is beyond the special representative’s portfolio.
QUESTION: But – but --
MR PALLADINO: We’ll handle this during the briefing proper.
QUESTION: But Mr. – but – okay, I understand, but Mr. Barghouti is the head of BDS.
MR PALLADINO: This is not something within – okay.
QUESTION: I am certain you probably know who he is.
MR PALLADINO: He is not familiar with the consular application.
QUESTION: Okay, then we’ll follow up with you. Thank you.
MR PALLADINO: We’ll follow up. Please, let’s go to Los Angeles Times. Tracy.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’m a little bewildered at how you don’t see a distinction between Jewish settlements and Arab villages in the West Bank. There was a – those are different communities, and the Israeli one is there illegally under international law.
I’m going to try to go at the same question my colleagues have been asking in a different way: Do you not see a distinction between anti-Semitism and the criticism of and opposition to policies of the Israeli Government?
MR CARR: So that’s a very different question. And yes, absolutely, criticism of a country –
QUESTION: That's exactly what I asked.
MR PALLADINO: Let him answer. Let him answer.
MR CARR: May I answer?
QUESTION: That’s exactly what I asked.
MR PALLADINO: Please.
MR CARR: Criticism of the policies of any country, whether it’s the state of Israel or of the United States, is entirely proper and can’t be regarded as being inappropriate. However, as you may know, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism gives as a specific example the application of double standards to the state of Israel. And so if Israel is criticized in a way that no other country in a similar circumstance is criticized, yes, that is anti-Semitism.
Now, by the way, we’re not talking about censorship here. We’re talking about calling it what it is. Nobody is suggesting that simply because something is anti-Semitic people don’t have a right to say it. Sometimes people have a right to say – depending on context, depending on place – sometimes people have a right to express hate speech. Right, the Nazis marched in Skokie. But we have to call it what it is. And if it is anti-Semitism, then it’s anti-Semitism. And we are going to be unequivocal in calling it what it is when we see it. Because you can’t fight something unless you’re willing to define it and to call it out for it, and we’re going to be calling it out wherever we see it.
MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to BBC.
QUESTION: Again, off the back of my colleagues’ questions, just to clarify: So the legal element about where Jewish settlements stand in international law as opposed to Arab villages makes no difference to you whatsoever?
MR CARR: Well, as you know, there is a peace plan being worked on currently, hasn’t been unveiled. The United States has long cared about this issue and on resolving the issues between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors in a way that’s fair for everybody. Resolution of those issues is not going to come about by attempting to strangle the Jews out of existence in their communities. That’s not how you’re going to get peace. And so I want to thank the administration for focusing on this issue, and all the work the White House is doing to try to really promote a plan that would finally have – get us to an agreement where the Israelis and the Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace.
MR PALLADINO: Let’s go to Laurie.
QUESTION: There’s another source of anti-Semitism; you mentioned the Nazis in Skokie. And it’s this white nationalism, or white supremacism. Are you also going – is that – would you – are you also going to be focused on that? Is that also a growing problem when you talk about growing anti-Semitism? Could you discuss that a little bit, how it fits into your portfolio?
MR CARR: Certainly. It is a growing problem. And in fact, while some of the attacks on Jews in the world are coming from the left or from radical Islam, many are coming from the extreme right as well. And we’re seeing that, by the way, here in this country, and we’re seeing that elsewhere. Of course, we just had a despicable massacre of worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and that was from someone who came from a place of, one can say, supremacism.
Look, Jew hatred is Jew hatred, and it doesn’t matter if it’s clothed in the language of the left or clothed in the language of the right. We’re going to be calling it out for what it is, and we’re going to be fighting it. And we’re going to be fighting it fairly and in equal measure, regardless of the ideological spectrum from which it comes.
QUESTION: Do you see them in some ways, this extreme left and extreme right, as kind of mirror images of each other?
MR CARR: I think every kind of anti-Semitic manifestation is different. There is also anti-Semitism among radical Islam. They’re all different. But what they have in common is they threaten the safety and the survival of the Jewish people, and that is unacceptable from the standpoint of the United States.
MR PALLADINO: Last question. Washington Post, did you have one? You’re good?
QUESTION: I have one. Someone else can go.
MR PALLADINO: Last one. Let’s give another chance. Please, right there. Go ahead, yes.
QUESTION: Having covered the Israeli-Palestinian issues for – like many other people in this room – for a very, very long time, we know that U.S. former President Jimmy Carter did refer to Israel as an apartheid state, that it’s more of a human rights issue, especially with – in terms of policy. And a lot of things that the Trump administration has done – moving the U.S. embassy, recognizing the sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights – as not recognized under the international community.
Can you tell me why you think Israeli settlements and a boycott, which was reminiscent of sort of South African sanctions issues and divestment, is an anti-Semitic issue specifically and not really one of more of a human rights or two peoples that need to get along?
MR CARR: I think any comparison between the state of Israel and apartheid is offensive to its core, and anyone who makes that comparison needs to check their facts. Israel is an exemplar of a democracy with democratic values, where all citizens of Israel not only vote but have representation in the Knesset, including, by the way, in the election we saw just yesterday. And so any notion that the state of Israel, which is a shining example of a democracy and a shining example of an American ally, one of our best allies – any suggestion that the state of Israel in any way, even remotely, reflects apartheid is offensive.
QUESTION: One more?
MR PALLADINO: We’re done. Thanks for now.
MR CARR: Thank you.
MR PALLADINO: We’re done. Thanks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) non-Israel question?
MR PALLADINO: Thanks.
MR CARR: Thanks. Robert, thanks so much.
MR PALLADINO: Excellent. Special Envoy Carr, thank you. You are a --
MR CARR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
MR PALLADINO: All right. Perfect. I want my water.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) hear from – hear him answer questions about what are you going to do about European communities.
MR PALLADINO: I’m going to move on.
MR PALLADINO: Sudan. We can talk about Sudan.
QUESTION: We can speak --
QUESTION: Well, no. No, no, no, no, no. (Laughter.) We’re not going to start with --
MR PALLADINO: You don’t have to start with Sudan, but if Michel wants to ask about Sudan --
QUESTION: Why? Why not (inaudible)?
MR PALLADINO: Because I have a couple things for the top is why we will not, but we can, of course.
Next week, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Green will travel to Africa for the first international trip since the United States’ launch of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, the WGDP. President Trump, as you know, signed a national security policy memorandum in the Oval Office last February establishing WGDP as the first-ever whole-of-government approach to global women’s economic empowerment with the goal of empowering 50 million women in the developing world by 2025.
USAID oversees the WGDP fund, which was established to support the scale-up and scale up innovative programs that advance women’s economic empowerment in support of the initiative. The delegation will make their first stop in Ethiopia and will be accompanied by OPIC Acting President and CEO David Bohigian to announce a new OPIC 2X initiative and host a women’s economic empowerment dialogue.
Ethiopia’s leadership has led critical democratic reforms and is seeking to advance women’s economic empowerment. Half of the appointed cabinet in Ethiopia is female, and President Sahle-Work Zewde is the only female head of state in Africa. With Ethiopia as the third largest diplomatic country in the world, the delegation will have key dialogues with the United Nations and the African Union commissioners to work on pillar three of the WGDP’s mission to break down legal and cultural barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential in their local economies.
The delegation will then go to Cote d’Ivoire to announce a new USAID initiative to catalyze private sector support for women entrepreneurs in the cocoa industry and headline the Women Entrepreneur Financing Initiative, WEFI. This is the first regional summit on women’s economic empowerment with West African leaders.
Throughout the trip, the leaders will announce new WGDP deliverables, conduct site visits, and host bilateral meetings to promote the three core pillars aimed at driving global women’s economic empowerment throughout Africa. If you want more information you can go to the WGDP website, which is wgdp.gov. And in the --
QUESTION: How appropriate.
MR PALLADINO: Well, sometimes we make sense. Look at that.
QUESTION: Sometimes. (Laughter.)
MR PALLADINO: Now, today Secretary Pompeo will – as you know, will travel to South America to highlight our partnerships with Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Colombia. He will hold bilateral meetings to strengthen cooperation in promoting democracy, economic growth, and peace and security. The trip is an opportunity to showcase the transformation that is happening for the great majority of South American nations, where likeminded democracies are coming together to solve regional challenges.
Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Cucuta, Colombia will also provide an opportunity for him to assess personally how the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is affecting its neighbors. The Secretary’s visit will also signal our support to the people of Cuba and Nicaragua, all of whom suffer under corrupt and oppressive regimes.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will also be promoting United States engagement in the Western Hemisphere to keep all of the Americas safe and prosperous. Specifically, he’s traveling today to the United States Southern Command, headquarters in Miami, Florida, where he will be hosting the April 12th ministerial with Caribbean leaders launching the United States-Caribbean Resilience Partnership, a new collaborative effort to build regional capacity to confront disaster response and promote resilience. Senior leaders from 18 Caribbean countries will be participating, as well as senior officials from U.S. agencies.
And with that, I’d be happy to take some questions.
QUESTION: So before – I’ll let others ask about Sudan, which I know is very important, but I want to start with the arrest of Julian Assange in London. And the reason I’m asking this – I know you probably are not going to have a lot to say about it – but because the State Department was one of the quote/unquote first victims of WikiLeaks, in terms of the dump, does this building have anything, other than what other agencies of this administration, like the Justice Department, have to say about this?
MR PALLADINO: I mean, not anything in addition.
QUESTION: Is it still the case that the building believes that severe damage was done to the U.S. diplomacy and its national security through the release of the – in particular, the diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks published?
MR PALLADINO: You’ve seen the press announcement from the Department of Justice this morning and --
QUESTION: No, I’m not asking about that. I’m asking if this building still --
MR PALLADINO: Correct. But it does detail the facts on the indictment and the underlying charges --
QUESTION: Right, which don’t include anything --
MR PALLADINO: -- and the nature of the underlying --
QUESTION: Which don’t include anything about damage to diplomacy or national security from – they talk – this charge is specifically about hacking. So I’m wondering does this building still believe that the release of these documents caused irreparable or reparable harm to national security and the conduct of diplomacy? And if it is that – if it is still your position, can you remind us of what exactly that damage was? Thanks.
MR PALLADINO: All previous assessments of the actions that took place still stand. And I have nothing to add beyond that, at this point today.
QUESTION: Robert --
MR PALLADINO: Sudan.
MR PALLADINO: Sudan? Sudan.
QUESTION: Can I go?
MR PALLADINO: Sudan. Go ahead. Okay.
QUESTION: So I wanted to know what the U.S. position on the coup – military coup to brought down President Bashir, which whom the U.S. have been engaging quite consistently in the last years after a more tense period.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah. The United States strongly supports a peaceful and democratic Sudan. As events unfold, the United States continues to call on transitional authorities to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government. We commend the people of Sudan for their resiliency and their commitment to nonviolence as they express their legitimate demand for inclusive and representative government that respects and protects human rights.
We are coordinating with our international partners as we monitor how best to respond to this evolving situation, and of course, a big focus for the United States right now is the safety and welfare of our embassy team on the ground as well as private citizens, American citizens in Sudan. So I’ll stop there.
QUESTION: So you just --
MR PALLADINO: Go – please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, you just asked to allow space for civilians in the transitional authorities. You agree that the military will lead this transitional authority? You’re ready to recognize a military transitional power in Sudan for two years?
MR PALLADINO: The Sudanese people should determine who leads them and their future. The Sudanese people have been clear that they are demanding a civilian-led transition. They should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.
QUESTION: So how do you consider what’s happening? Is it a transition or a coup?
MR PALLADINO: As we mentioned earlier this week in our Troika statement, if you saw that, that the Sudanese people are demanding a transition to a political system that is inclusive and has greater legitimacy. The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition. What we’ve seen in Khartoum is certainly a historic moment for the people of Sudan. People have clearly voiced their opinion on wanting a new, inclusive, and representative government.
QUESTION: He – but the leader, he’s still in your OFAC list. Today the State Department confirmed that for me, State Department spokesperson, so are you going to deal with him?
MR PALLADINO: I’m sorry, what is your question?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) defense minister who’s – he’s sanctioned by – that’s (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Yes, the OFAC list.
MR PALLADINO: Well, what I would --
MR PALLADINO: Excuse me?
MR PALLADINO: Right, okay. We are suspending upcoming phase two meetings. However, we remain open to engagement that would support meaningful progress in key areas of mutual interest with leaders who are willing to address the Sudanese people’s legitimate demands. And as far as how we go – we are continually assessing how best to respond and support the rights of those in Sudan as they express their legitimate grievances.
QUESTION: When was the – when was the next phase two meeting?
QUESTION: Just to clarify, are you saying that the U.S. backs a civilian-led transitional government, as the protesters are demanding?
MR PALLADINO: What I said is the Sudanese people should determine who leads them in their future, and the Sudanese people have been clear and are demanding a civilian-led tradition. And the United States position is the Sudanese people should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.
QUESTION: When was the phase two meeting that you’re suspending?
MR PALLADINO: I don’t have the exact dates on when those next meetings were scheduled for.
QUESTION: Robert, Robert --
QUESTION: The U.S. don’t – doesn’t support the two years’ military transition that has been announced today?
MR PALLADINO: Should be done sooner than two years, correct.
Please, go ahead, Reuters. Lesley.
QUESTION: Can you please explain to me what the phase two meetings are, number one? And number two, can you explain what do you believe should happen to Bashir? Previous administrations have called for him to face the ICC for atrocities in Darfur and others. Would this administration support the same?
MR PALLADINO: Start with your second question. We have been consistent on that question in the past, and we believe that the victims of Darfur deserve justice and that accountability is essential for achieving a stable and lasting peace in Darfur. And the United States continues to call for those responsible for the horrific crimes that were committed in Darfur to be held accountable for those actions.
QUESTION: Held accountable by the ICC?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to get into specifics on how accountability is held today, but we continue to call for accountability. Please.
QUESTION: And then on the first one, I didn’t understand. What are the phase two? Are they to do with military discussions, diplomatic?
MR PALLADINO: Phase two had – as I understand them – have to do with the overall relations and include both those subsets, but I can get more detail on what they --
QUESTION: Don’t they also have to do with them making – the Sudanese Government making reforms enough so they can get off the state sponsor of terrorism list?
MR PALLADINO: Thank you, Matt. That is correct. And it has to do with evaluation of government actions, et cetera. Yes.
QUESTION: Robert, do you consider what happened as a coup d’etat in Sudan?
MR PALLADINO: It’s a historic moment for the people of Sudan. The Sudanese people --
QUESTION: We know that, but do you consider it as a coup?
MR PALLADINO: -- have clearly voiced their opinion, and we continue to monitor the situation there. It remains fluid. At this time, we don’t have a final assessment on that situation. As facts become more clear, then we may be able to make an assessment.
QUESTION: And will you deal with the minister of defense as the head of the executive branch now?
MR PALLADINO: I don’t have anything on specific individuals to share at this time, Michel. All right.
QUESTION: Robert --
QUESTION: And will you – one more, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) too long, so you’re ready to accept a shorter military-led transition?
MR PALLADINO: We are – we’d like to see the will of the Sudanese people come to fruition as quickly as possible. Please.
QUESTION: Robert, one more on the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.
MR PALLADINO: Right.
QUESTION: Will you keep the U.S. embassy open there?
MR PALLADINO: Well, of course, looking – we always have to look very carefully and evaluate the security situation for United States missions overseas. We do this on a regular basis, and what’s going on in Khartoum, of course, is no different. It’s something that we’ll continue to look at closely and evaluate. I’ve got nothing to announce at this time.
And the other part of that, of course, are the American citizens that are there as well, and they’re – for us, the Department of State and our embassies and our consulates abroad, we have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of those facilities and to American citizens overseas. And we’ve put out an alert today to American citizens there. We’re asking, at this time, for U.S. citizens to shelter in place. The most recent alert specifically asked for citizens to avoid the areas of the demonstrations, advised for them to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid crowds, to keep a low profile, and to monitor for updates. You can be sure that we will be offering regular updates, consular emergency updates to American citizens in the area, and I’ll stop there.
QUESTION: So you’re not asking them to leave, Robert?
QUESTION: Do you have any benchmarks for how – benchmarks for determining as you go forward how you’re going to throw your support behind this? Because you say it should reflect the will of the people, but you’re not speaking about individuals, including the individual who says he’s running the country. So what are your benchmarks for determining how you support this (inaudible)?
MR PALLADINO: We’re continuing to monitor the situation. I’ve got nothing to announce today. The situation is fluid, and we’ll be watching it closely.
MR PALLADINO: Is there – okay, last one on Sudan, okay?
MR PALLADINO: Not – are we off of Sudan?
MR PALLADINO: Okay, go ahead, Nadia. Last one.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify, so is Mr. Awad Ibn Auf, who is the current defense minister, is he under American sanctions as we speak now? Is he on the list?
MR PALLADINO: I’m checking; it’s a long list.
QUESTION: It gets longer every day.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah. I’ll take that question. I don’t have anything specific on that, Nadia.
QUESTION: Please, I need to confirm that. And second --
QUESTION: The answer is yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, the answer is yes. 2007.
QUESTION: -- you have called – hold on, guys – you have called for the Security Council to convene tomorrow, along with your European allies. What exactly do you hope to achieve or to discuss? What’s on the agenda? Is it – are you concerned about the security situation or about the military taking over? What exactly that’s on the agenda?
MR PALLADINO: I think we’ve – I spoken about what our aspirations are for the Sudanese people and Sudan and the current position of the United States. We’re looking at this very fluid situation. We will be talking with our partners on the best way forward.
QUESTION: Robert, Robert, could I change topics?
MR PALLADINO: We have another Africa question. Let’s try one more Africa question. Sure.
QUESTION: Sure. With respect to the situation in Somalia, the administration this week declared an extension on the emergency there, citing, quote, an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” We’ve also seen, as you know, in recent weeks airstrikes in that country. What can the State Department say about the nature of this unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy?
MR PALLADINO: That statement came from the White House, as I understand it. I don’t have anything specific on that. And it’s not – I’m sure we have information on that. I just don’t want to misspeak, so I’ll be happy to take it.
MR PALLADINO: Go ahead, Laurie. Go ahead, Laurie.
QUESTION: President – on Turkey, President Erdogan seems to be ignoring you on the S-400. He was just in Moscow and he said not only that the delivery is going ahead but it could be accelerated. So so far you’ve said Turkey will lose the F-35. You’ve warned about CAATSA sanctions. What is your comment now? And in particular, is Turkey putting its position in NATO at risk?
MR PALLADINO: I think we’ve been pretty clear from here, from the Department of Defense, that there are risks associated with the acquisition of the S-400. We’ve talked about them often. I mean, number one, pending a Turkish decision to unequivocally forgo delivery of the S-400, immediate impact is that deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of the F-35’s operational capabilities, they’ve been suspended.
Secondly, as the Vice President said in Munich recently, quote, “We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries,” end quote. We have clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the S-400 will result in a reassessment of the F-35 program.
Third, we have spoken often that this also increases the risk – could lead to potential actions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. That involves any entity engaged in such a significant transaction.
And finally, we have looked at the risk – if Turkey were to acquire the S-400, it runs the risk of not receiving the Patriot air and missile defense systems. So these are clear risks that we’ve discussed at length and continue to exist.
QUESTION: What about NATO?
MR PALLADINO: I’ve got nothing further at this point.
Sure. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Robert. Robert, two days back to back, on Tuesday and Wednesday, yesterday – Secretary Pompeo at the Senate hearings first did not comment or refused to comment on how would the United States react to the annexation of parts of the West Bank or all the West Bank or the settlements, as the Israeli prime minister announced last Saturday. So – and today he – I mean, yesterday he also would not respond to your position on the two-state solution.
So I’d like to ask you on both issues. One, what is your position on the statement made by the Israeli prime minister, who just won reelection, that he intends to annex parts of the West Bank? Do you have a position on that? And second, do you still stand by the two-state solution?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not going to respond to questions about future hypotheticals.
MR PALLADINO: As far as I understand, the Government of Israel has put forward no formal proposal. And I’m not going to comment on something that I have not seen.
QUESTION: Yeah. If I recall, I asked this question last Thursday, but then on Saturday the prime minister himself came out and said we’re going to do this. So do you have – in the event that he does, comes through on his promise, do you have a position on the annexations of any part of the West Bank?
MR PALLADINO: Yeah, I’m not going to speculate on --
QUESTION: It’s not --
MR PALLADINO: -- about what steps Israel may or may not take. From the United States perspective, we have developed a vision that offers both Israelis and Palestinians a brighter future.
QUESTION: What is it? Tell us.
MR PALLADINO: Ah. We intend to present that vision --
QUESTION: How do you know if you haven’t seen it? How do you know that that’s true?
MR PALLADINO: -- when we believe it has the best chance of success.
QUESTION: How do you know?
MR PALLADINO: We are in close coordination on this vision, of course. This is being led – as you all know, we’ve spoken about it a lot. This is something we’ve been working very hard on, and when the time is right it will be revealed.
QUESTION: If you allow me just one more and my friend would indulge me, because I just want to understand, because it is not speculative. I mean, it’s speculative when I asked it last week. It is no longer speculative. The prime minister of the state of Israel, who just won reelection and about to form another government, and you are going to share this peace plan with him, he said that he is going to annex parts of the West Bank. So that is clear. That is not speculative. If he said that, what is your response to him? Do you say you better not do that, don’t do that, or go ahead, we’ll give you a green light as we did with the Golan Heights? It’s very simple. It’s not speculative.
MR PALLADINO: It is. It is still speculative. There’s been no formal proposal on the table. The administration’s position is we are committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and that’s all I have on that today.
MR PALLADINO: Please, go ahead right here.
QUESTION: Thank you. On the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, who is leading the official U.S. delegation to Taiwan, and what is the vision for the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations?
MR PALLADINO: So let me start by saying that our “one China” policy, based upon the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, that’s not changed. But the United States considers Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world. To celebrate 40 years of friendship and partnership between the United States and Taiwan since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act, the American Institute in Taiwan is holding a yearlong campaign in 2019, and it’s called AIT@40. Next week, as part of that yearlong celebration, commemoration, we’ll be moving into our new facility there. And there is a delegation that’s going to be headed that way, and it is led by former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan.
QUESTION: Robert, can we go back to the Barghouti visa – or barring entry question that I thought Said was going to do, but he didn’t?
MR PALLADINO: Sure.
QUESTION: So can you explain why exactly he has been denied entry with – while he has a visa that’s – that he says is valid until 2021?
MR PALLADINO: Matt, as you know, visa records are confidential under United States law, so I can’t discuss the details of individual visa cases.
QUESTION: Less than a week ago, Robert, this building – I’m reading, quote, from prepared guidance when the prosecutor of the ICC had her visa revoked – “In this case” – quote, this is the State Department – “In this case, where Prosecutor Bensouda has publicly stated that her visa has been revoked, we confirm that the prosecutor’s visa to the United States has been revoked.” Mr. Barghouti says that his visa has been revoked, or that he was denied entry. What is there a double – why is it not consistent? And I knew that you were going to get in trouble with this; I just didn’t think that it was going to be less than – literally less than a week after you confirmed someone else’s visa revocation.
MR PALLADINO: The visa revocation of last week, as I understand it, was – that – we put out a statement, is that what we did? I can’t recall.
QUESTION: It was an answer that was provided – email. It wasn’t a – I don’t know if it was a formal statement, but it was --
MR PALLADINO: Right.
QUESTION: -- official, cleared guidance.
MR PALLADINO: But I don’t think we put out any information on the underlying visa application, for example, or the underlying --
QUESTION: No. Has this guy’s visa been revoked or not?
MR PALLADINO: Right.
QUESTION: Has he been denied entry under some other – for some other reason?
MR PALLADINO: We --
QUESTION: Because he has a valid visa.
MR PALLADINO: We can’t speculate.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate.
MR PALLADINO: Well, we can’t speculate --
QUESTION: I’m asking you to tell me what happened.
MR PALLADINO: All right.
QUESTION: Why didn’t he get – why wasn’t he allowed to get on the plane?
MR PALLADINO: I can’t tell you why he may or may not have been eligible for a visa. Whenever a --
QUESTION: He has a visa.
MR PALLADINO: When – because I can’t – whenever someone applies for a visa, the consular officer reviews the facts, determines whether that applicant is eligible for the visa, based upon United States law. So what I can say is this: This kind of gets at your question, I think. U.S. law does not authorize the refusal of visas based solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States, no matter – and I’ll stop there.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, but how’s does the ICC prosecutor --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the plane? I mean --
QUESTION: Hold on. First of all, Mr. Barghouti has a – or had a visa that was already valid and already valid until 2021, so that explanation doesn’t make sense, unless you didn’t revoke the visa; he was barred from getting on the plane for some other reason. But we need to know – the question is then: What was that reason and why? Because as we just heard from the anti-Semitism envoy that it’s not necessarily illegal – it’s objectionable to the administration, but it’s not illegal to not buy – or to be supportive of the goals of BDS practices.
Anyway, so – but based on that, that it is not legal to deny a visa to someone for speech or views that would be legal inside the United States, exactly what did the prosecutor of the ICC do that – presumably, it is legal in the United States to question alleged criminal conduct by members of the military. So what exactly – what’s the – and I don’t expect you to answer this now, because I want an answer now, and that is on the Golan. But please take that question. I’d like to know what the prosecutor general of the ICC did to have her visa revoked, other than --
MR PALLADINO: Okay.
QUESTION: So – and on the Golan, less than – just last month, the President signed a proclamation on the Golan recognizing --
MR PALLADINO: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Israeli sovereignty over – did that have any legal authority? And the reason I ask is because I was happening to be looking through the Foreign Affairs Manual not too long ago, like a couple hours ago. And in it, it says specifically – and this is the current one – it says U.S. policy recognizes that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory.
So if the President’s proclamation had any legal weight, why does the Foreign Affairs Manual still say that U.S. policy recognizes the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and that final status must be determined by negotiations? Can you answer that? You can get back to me if you --
MR PALLADINO: I’ll be honest, Matt. I’m not prepared to talk about international law today, not something that I was prepared --
QUESTION: Are you ever? (Laughter.)
MR PALLADINO: Well, if you give me a heads-up, then I’d be happy to work on that just a little bit.
QUESTION: I’m done. Okay.
MR PALLADINO: But thanks. All right.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah.
MR PALLADINO: All right. We’re going to go to the – Rich. Go ahead, Rich, please.
QUESTION: Robert, the junior senator from Florida, Rick Scott, says that sanctions alone are not stopping the Maduro regime. Does the State Department agree with that sentiment?
MR PALLADINO: We have a full – we are focused on many, many areas to stop the regime and to put pressure on this regime. And sanctions are a large part of that. Our economic and diplomatic pressure, both from the United States, what Interim President Guaido is leading, and what many in the hemisphere are working on with us – this is something we’re going to continue to pursue. So we’re pushing.
QUESTION: And the senator is also pushing the U.S. and the administration to consider the use of military assets to bring aid to the Venezuelan people. Is that something that the administration is considering, is ruling out?
MR PALLADINO: I mean, I don’t have any comments on the senator’s remarks, but the United States Government is continuing to coordinate in the region, with governments in the region and with humanitarian organizations, very much so on the logistics of safely and efficiently providing aid to the people of Venezuela. You saw it yesterday, the Vice President – during a United Nations Security Council session, the Vice President announced that the United States would be providing an additional 61 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans, and that now brings the total 213 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans, and that’s 16 countries throughout the region, and the United States remains the largest donor to the Venezuelan humanitarian response. And something we’re going – we’re – so important. We’re going to continue to push. It’s something that Secretary Pompeo will be talking about and highlighting during his current trip to --
MR PALLADINO: Please, go ahead. CNN.
QUESTION: Two Americans were found dead in the Dominican Republic, and there’s been major inconsistencies on the timing of their death and the cause of death. Are there U.S. officials investigating down there right now?
MR PALLADINO: I can confirm the death of an American citizen, Portia Ravenelle, in the Dominican Republic, which took place on April 4th. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss and we are closely – the United States is closely monitoring the local authorities’ investigation into the cause of the death.
QUESTION: So there are no U.S. officials being involved in that investigation?
MR PALLADINO: We are closely monitoring it. We have no greater responsibility here at the State Department than the protection of American citizens overseas, but beyond that, at this time, I don’t have anything further to --
QUESTION: Would the State Department support an FBI investigation, as a couple of lawmakers have called for?
MR PALLADINO: I don’t want to preview what we may or may not do at this time. There’s an ongoing investigation being conducted down there, and the best source of information for that investigation would be the local authorities.
Okay, last question.
MR PALLADINO: I can – please, go ahead, Janne. There’s not much I’m going to be able to add to – we’ve already had – okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. I think you know already what this --
MR PALLADINO: Okay. I do.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR PALLADINO: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: We need a third (inaudible). Anyway, so this morning Secretary Pompeo met with South Korean President Moon. Are there any different viewpoint between Secretary Pompeo and Moon Jae-in, President Moon?
MR PALLADINO: As you point out, this morning Secretary Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton met with the Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. That happened over at the Blair House. This – the United States and Republic of Korea sides both affirmed, reaffirmed their commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Bolton praised the enduring strength of the United States-Republic of Korea alliance, and they vowed to continue our close coordination with the Republic of Korea on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other regional issues.
QUESTION: In Egypt --
QUESTION: Do you think President Moon is very helpful or President Moon is not help at all?
MR PALLADINO: We have – the President has spoken today on just how helpful the Republic of Korea is and essential to this, and we coordinate so closely with them regularly and the relationship is just – it’s ironclad.
And with – thank you all very much, and we’ll stop there. All right.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:38 p.m.)