Moderator: Thank you. Greetings to everyone from the U.S.-European Media Hub in Brussels. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across the globe, and thank all of you for joining this discussion.
Today’s call will focus on nonproliferation policy. Today’s speaker is the State Department’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson.
Please note that the information provided today is on the record. We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Under Secretary Thompson and then we will turn to your questions.
With that, I will turn it over to Under Secretary Thompson.
U/S Thompson: Thanks, Kathy, and thanks to everyone for making time this afternoon to hear a little bit about nonproliferation and arms control.
I thought it might be useful for maybe some folks that are new to this coverage area to describe my role as the Under Secretary for Arms Control, International Security. I have three bureaus that I oversee. Three Assistant Secretaries. The three bureaus are Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance; we have International Security and Nonproliferation; and Political Military Affairs. So — [sirens and cross talk] – we address arms control agreements, nonproliferation, obviously important always, but obviously more important today at the UN General Assembly, and we can talk foreign military sales and our role in PM, if that’s useful.
But first and foremost, it’s an honor to be able to represent our country at the 73rd UN General Assembly. It’s been an incredibly busy schedule with a series of bilats and meetings and attending key events. For example, this morning’s session with the President, I have a session tomorrow with the Secretary. An engagement with our allies [inaudible].
The top priority for the U.S. at this year’s General Assembly is nonproliferation. The top priority to me and to the State Department every day, but even more so this week up at UN General Assembly.
So with that I’d really like to give more time for the journalists to ask their questions, and we’ll go from there, Kathy.
Moderator: Thank you very much for those remarks. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.
For our first question we will go to Harold Hyman who is calling in from CNEWS TV in France.
Question: Hi, thank you very much. CNEWS is sort of like a CNN kind of channel. Anyway, just so you know. And it’s in French.
So my question is about the extraterritoriality of U.S. sanctions on Iran which means that French companies like Total and Peugeot had to withdraw from their investment plans in Iran, even though at the time they did them they were legal, under the Iran Nuclear Deal. And they were afraid of getting sanctioned because they have holdings in the United States and they use dollars. So this has become a big political whatever, hot potato.
So where do we stand with that, if that’s the way it’s going to go on? Or is there any negotiation on that point? Thank you.
U/S Thompson: Thank you, Harold.
Before Iran I’d like to focus within my portfolio which is really focusing on the full range of Iran’s malign activities — terrorism, proliferation of ballistic missiles, violations of international obligations, human rights abuses, and support for the murderous Assad regimes. For the specifics of the sanctions, that’s really Brian Hook’s lane, my partner at the State Department. But I can assure you that he is deeply engaged as is the Secretary, and I’ll have an opportunity this afternoon to meet with my French counterparts to discuss the importance of our discussions in nonproliferation and other security agreements that we work together with such a key ally.
Moderator: Thank you. For our next question we will turn to Laurence Norman who is calling in from The Wall Street Journal.
Question: Hi there. I hope you can hear me clearly. It sounds from your last answer that you’re probably not going to be able to answer the questions that I have which are also on Iran.
I was going to ask you, Under Secretary, about the barter system that the EU announced on Monday, which I know Secretary Pompeo has addressed, but I wondered what exactly OFAC’s were for anything, for any kind of barter that would keep economic trade going with Iran.
I’m sorry, I have a baby in the background.
It sounds as if you probably won’t answer that, but if you can, that’s great.
But just more generally, can you tell us where discussions are between the United States and Europe on the broader Iran agreements that the U.S. administration has talked about? Our understanding is that they haven’t really advanced far at all. Though there may be some new push after the end of the week.
Can you address where discussions are on that?
U/S Thompson: Thank you for the questions, Laurence, and congratulations on having a little one there. It’s an important part of life. I’m glad he or she can be part of this process.
You know, with the discussions with our European counterparts and specifically the EU initiative on the payment mechanism, I think the Secretary’s comments earlier in the week speak pretty clearly. Obviously we have open lines of dialogue, an important part of negotiations. And again, not to continue too much in Brian Hook’s lane, but with his leadership as we can move ahead on the next steps with Iran and our partners, he’s been in active dialogue on various continents to ensure that we’re sharing that information, that there’s transparency as we work ahead. We’ve had some key meetings this week. And again, you probably heard it this morning in the General Assembly from a range of partners and allies about Iran’s malign activities.
Again, we’ll continue the dialogue and move ahead. Again, as the President said, it’s time for a new deal that’s more encompassing and addresses the violations that we’ve seen in so many different areas.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
Our next question will come to us from Laurie Mylorie who is calling in from Kurdistan24 in Iraq.
Question: My question concerns the danger posed by biological weapons. How do you assess the threat of the biological weapons programs in Russia, Iran and Syria?
And the second part of the question, is there any defense against a sophisticated biological attack, say a genetically engineered biological agent?
U/S Thompson: Thanks for that question, Laurie. I’ve actually been to your part of the world. I served in the U.S. military for 28 years and I’ve served in the Kurdistan region and Northern Iraq twice during my time there. So thanks for that question.
Biological weapons. Again, you’ve heard it not only from the United States but globally that there’s no tolerance for the biological weapons and their use. We continue to have discussions both in my lane with experts’ meetings within the State Department, within DoD and other agencies. And we’re having those discussions here at the UN General Assembly today.
We’ve come to the table, and it’s very similar to the chemical weapons use that cannot be tolerated and the use won’t be tolerated and we’ve got norms of behaviors of responsible nation states and responsible nation states do not proliferate or use those types of weapons. So that’s been very consistent messaging across the global community, and the U.S. is also a leader in that field.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
For our next question we’ll go to Mohamed Ataya from Masrawy.com in Egypt.
Question: Hi I’m Mohamed Ataya from Masrawy, from Egypt. I want to ask about the U.S. President Mr. Donald Trump [inaudible] our new alliance in the Middle East, the new security alliance in the Middle East is going to be against the activities [inaudible]. It is one of the things [inaudible] security in the alliance, and what part is the Egyptian role in this alliance?
U/S Thompson: I apologize, Mohamed. The line was a little bit weak there.
I think you talked about the importance of the alliance in the Middle East with the President’s leadership, but if you could repeat the tail end, I didn’t hear the tail end of the question.
Question: The U.S. President declared a new security alliance in the Middle East, and this alliance, what are the aims, and is this alliance going to face Iran’s activities or not?
U/S Thompson: Again, thanks for the question. The President’s been very vocal on the importance of key partners and allies, and the importance of that region. Had a very successful meeting with your leader, with el-Sisi, and we continue to engage.
In my particular lane, if I can, with the political/military affairs, we’ve got a relationship and as we continue to work in partnership on defense trade, it’s such an important part. As we bring stability in the region, working in coalitions with compatible equipment and so I look forward to continue to work with my Egyptian counterparts as we continue to increase on the defense trade.
Moderator: Thank you.
For our next question we will turn to Jacque Hubert from Les Echos in France.
Question: Yes, if we can come back to Iran. I just wanted to know, where is the proposal of the United States to repair the JCPOA? Do we have any detail or whatsoever? Because I guess that it will be necessary to have some proposal at one point or another. And not just denounce the JCPOA.
U/S Thompson: Thank you, Jacques.
For the JCPOA, again, the President and the Secretary and across the leadership of the administration have been very clear that we’re looking forward and not back. We want to get an agreement and a deal that addresses the full range of Iran’s malign activities. Again, I’ll reiterate because it’s so important, their support for terrorism, number one exporter of terrorism worldwide. Proliferation of the ballistic missiles and additional defense systems. Violations of the international treaties and obligations. Human rights abuses. And I would also encourage, if you haven’t heard or seen the transcript from the Secretary while he was here, there are some other great statements there as well.
So we’ve continued to work with our partner and allies on the way ahead, recognizing that we will have some differences, but the large majority of the folks that we’re speaking with recognize that we need to address the full range of the malign activities and the JCPOA addressed just one small portion of that.
Moderator: Thank you.
Our next question comes to us from Guido Lanfranchi and the Diplomat Magazine in The Netherlands.
Question: Thank you very much for answering our questions.
My question would be on a different subject. You’ve indicated DPRK and Iran,that Iran is under the jurisdiction [inaudible] from the IAEA. But it has been widely condemned by the U.S. administration of late and [inaudible] the Iran nuclear deal. The DPRK hasn’t yet provided concrete evidence of pulling back. [Inaudible] U.S., the negotiations with the DPRK is going much farther.
So how do you account for these differences?
U/S Thompson: Guido, again, I apologize. This line was really, really poor.
I heard DPRK, I heard Iran, and I heard IAEA, but I didn’t hear in between that. If I may, I can address DPRK and hope that hits the touch points of your question. And if, again, Kathy, if you had a better line and can fill in, I just heard bits and pieces of the question there.
With DPRK, again, you’ve heard today what the President’s remarks as he chaired the General Assembly; the Secretary’s remarks; and I raised it with all the key partners and allies that we’re meeting with this week as well.
We’re continuing to work to achieve the final and fully verified denuclearization DPRK and the Korean Peninsula. We’ve reiterated here, in the pulse of the UN, in the heartbeat, that it’s imperative to ensure that all Security Council Resolutions are fully implemented and enforce. We’ve heard that around the table this morning, and we’ll continue to hear it throughout the week. Everyone in that body, again the large majority recognized the importance of adhering to those UN Security Council Resolutions, and we need to continue to keep those in place.
We sincerely believe that pressure is what opened the door for diplomacy with Chairman Kim, and we need to maintain it until the DPRK denuclearizes.
Moderator: Thank you very much. I unfortunately didn’t catch any more of the question either, but thank you for addressing that.
We have another question now from Giannis Symeonidis in Politik Press from Greece.
Question: Hello. My question has to do with the European countries’ stance against the United States concerning the U.S. stance against Iran. Are you worried about the action of the European countries, that they are not supportive of the American stance against Iran right now?
U/S Thompson: Thanks for that question, Giannis.
As I mentioned a little bit earlier, we continue to have dialogue with our European Union and European counterparts. It’s an important part of diplomacy, it’s an important part of the discussion between the administration and key leaders across the Atlantic.
We will differ in some areas, but by and large we agree in most of these points and look forward to continuing to work to come to common ground and again, recognizing the malign activities of Iran and how best to address those collectively.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
We do have a question submitted in advance by Bettina Klein from German Radio.
Question: She asks, how will the U.S. administration react to EU plans for the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle for financial and trade transactions with Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions?
U/S Thompson: Thanks, Bettina for the question.
Again, I met with my German counterparts yesterday and met with them before, back in Washington, DC. At the end of the day I don’t want to project our decisions. We’ll continue to work with our partners and allies, but have full faith and confidence in the administration and in the senior leaders charged with that, and know that we’ll get the best result for the American people and for the security of our nation in the end.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
Under Secretary, I know you have a busy schedule and I know you have other meetings you have to run to so I wanted to give you a chance if you would like to offer any closing comments before we wrap up?
U/S Thompson: Thanks, Kathy.
Again, I just want to thank everyone. I know you’ve got a lot of folks you have a chance to cover and appreciate the opportunity to share some of the actions that are being done here at the UN General Assembly and then at home back at the State Department and globally with our partners and allies.
Again, just to reiterate, the President’s to priority, one of the top priorities for the administration is, at the UN General Assembly, is nonproliferation, but also to echo the fact that it’s an every-day mission for the T family, the Secretary and the State Department. And again, our goal is clear. We’re here to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. WE want to preserve the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and I look forward to continuing that dialogue with our partners and allies for a better secure and prosperous United States, and for the rest of the globe writ large.
So thanks for this opportunity.
Moderator: I want to thank you, Under Secretary Thompson, for joining us, and thank all of you for participating and for your questions.