Remarks to Traveling Press

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Brussels International Airport
Brussels, Belgium
October 17, 2018

SECRETARY POMPEO: So let me just try and give you a summary of the short stay in Ankara.

Had a good, constructive conversation with President Erdogan. The fact that Pastor Brunson has now made his way back to the United States I think opens up lots of opportunities. We talked about half a dozen topics. We talked about Iran, how we have Iran sanctions taking place November 4th. We are working with the Turks to make sure that we get to the right place. They buy Iranian crude oil; we’d like them to buy less. And there are a whole handful of issues around that that we have working groups engaged in, and I think we made a little bit of progress on that this morning as well. We talked about the work that we’re doing together in Syria, and I think Ambassador Jeffrey had a chance to talk with you all about that, so I won’t spend a lot of time on that. But President Erdogan is fully engaged in ensuring that Idlib Province remain inside the agreement that he struck, and we are hopeful that that will remain the case as well.

We talked about the Khashoggi incident as well. He made clear that the Saudis had cooperated with the investigation that the Turks are engaged in, and that they’re going to share information that they learned with the Saudis as well. There’s been a couple of delays, but they seemed pretty confident that the Saudis were going to permit them to do the things that they needed to do to complete their thorough and complete investigation as well.

QUESTION: Sanctions on – Brunson-related sanctions, are you ready to lift those?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ll have a decision on that shortly. But there were – some of the sanctions that were put in place were directly connected to Pastor Brunson, and there’s a logic to now removing those as well. But no final decision has been made. I need to talk to the President about that.

But we did talk – we talked about that set of sanctions. We talked about work that we were doing in other places together as well.

QUESTION: Did you learn anything concrete about what they learned about – anything new they learned about Khashoggi?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No. They want to complete their investigation, and that they will have a process. I’m sure they will have their own prosecutors looking at this as well since it took place in their country, albeit on consulate property.

QUESTION: Have you heard or asked to hear the alleged audio on the actual murder?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t have anything to say about that.

QUESTION: Do you believe that there actually was an incident that took place in the consulate after your talks here in Turkey?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Mr. Khashoggi is missing.

QUESTION: And do we think he’s missing from the consulate? Is that --

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not going to get ahead of – we have two countries conducting investigations. They’ll do that, and the world will get a chance to see the facts that they turn up through their investigations.

QUESTION: How high up do you think this goes? I mean, MBS told you guys that he didn’t --

SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re going to do their investigation. I know you all are going to ask questions. I’m going to be very consistent: We’re going to give them the space to complete their investigations of this incident, and when they issue their reports, we’ll form our judgment about thoroughness, depth, and the decisions they make about accountability connected to that.

QUESTION: But the Saudis lied initially saying that he left the building. I mean, that’s obviously clearly not --

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll see what the investigation shows.

MS NAUERT: Just a couple more questions; we’re going to have to get ready.

QUESTION: Sir, when – what we saw in public looks like business as usual. Could you talk a little bit about how the tenor of your private conversations being a bit different?

SECRETARY POMPEO: You mean with the Turks today?

QUESTION: With the – with the Saudis.

QUESTION: With the Saudis, excuse me.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I think I’ve said all I’m going to say about the conversation with the Saudis. Look, we had very direct conversations about this, the seriousness of this, how serious President Trump is taking this, how seriously the United States will take this. No one should mistake that we’re looking to see the results of these investigations, too, that we think it’s important that they get them right, and we’re hopeful it’ll happen quickly as well. But as for responses that the United States will take, we need to know the facts before we can begin to formulate what the appropriate response for this would be.

I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships – financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world – efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran. The Saudis have been great partners in working alongside us on those issues. I could go on about places where the Saudis and the Americans are working together. Those are important elements of the U.S. national policy that are for – are in Americans’ best interests. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States Government will take when we learn all of the facts associated with whatever may have taken place.

QUESTION: But if it’s found that they actually killed a journalist, is that in America’s best interests in terms of values to be working with the Saudis as closely?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not going to speculate. Obviously, if someone – if a country engages in an activity that is unlawful, it’s unacceptable. No one is going to defend activity of that nature. We’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: There has been some criticism that if you take off the table at the beginning that the relationship, this long-term relationship is not going to be harmed, that there’s less reason for the Saudis to take you seriously on this issue. What do you – how do you address that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m convinced that the Saudis understand that America is taking this seriously and I am hopeful that the Saudis take this as seriously as they indicated to me yesterday that they would. Time will certainly tell; we’ll get to see the investigation and we’ll see the results of it. But I think they understand the serious nature of the work that they’re doing and the accusations that have been lodged against them as well.

QUESTION: Did you talk about Fethullah Gulen with the Turks?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We did. We did talk about Fethullah Gulen and we talked about the set of issues surrounding that organization as well. It’s something that the Turks remind us of often, and we’re mindful of places that we can work with them to make sure that we all have a shared set of facts as well.

SECRETARY POMPEO: But it’s mostly not a State Department issue; it’s mostly a Justice Department issue. So better for the Justice Department to answer questions about that than me.

MS NAUERT: Last one.


MS NAUERT: Go ahead. You haven’t asked a question yet. Go right ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. My – I guess my question is with the Saudis and everything we’ve seen so far, do you trust them? What gives – why do you – you keep saying the investigation. We keep seeing a lot of stuff that’s just sort of with information coming out with they painted over, they painted the consulate, the – Senator Corker didn’t believe it when he talked to the Saudi ambassador to America when they said – and they talked about they didn’t have tapes of people coming in and out of their consulate. So why give them so much benefit of the doubt right now with their investigation to see where it comes?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I keep hearing that we’re giving them some benefit of the doubt. They’re going to do an investigation, and when the investigation is done we’ll evaluate it. It’s not about benefit of the doubt. It’s that it is --

QUESTION: More about patience?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it so they get it right, so that it’s thorough and complete, and that’s what they – that’s what they’ve indicated they need and I’m hopeful they – and then we’ll get to see it. We’ll evaluate this on a factual, straight-up basis.

MS NAUERT: We’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Just, well, you said a handful of days. Is that actually the timeframe that you’re thinking of?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Sooner is better than later. Yes. For everyone involved in this – for the family. I had a chance to speak to Jamal’s fiance. Sooner is better than later for everyone.

MS NAUERT: Okay, we’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Anything with the Turks on the S-300s or S-400s?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No, nothing to add. We talked about – we talked about issues related to our strategic cooperation on systems like that, but nothing to add in terms of where we’ll go from here.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Thanks, guys.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.