Excerpts of the Department Press Briefing – February 7, 2019

العربية العربية

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Department Press Briefing
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Briefer: Robert Palladino, Deputy Spokesperson


2:47 p.m. EST

MR PALLADINO:  No, we’re going to – I’ve got a couple toppers and – that I’d like to start with.

And I’m pleased to announce that Lea Gabrielle will be our new special envoy and coordinator of the Global Engagement Center.  Lea will provide the permanent leadership we have needed to bolster the Global Engagement Center’s operations, and she will begin her duties on Monday.  Lea is a former CIA-trained human intelligence operations officer, defense foreign liaison officer, United States Navy program director, Navy F/A-18C fighter pilot, and national television news correspondent and anchor at two different networks.

While serving in the United States Intelligence Community, Lea was a CIA-trained human intelligence operations officer assigned to Defense Intelligence Agency.  She directed and conducted global clandestine strategic intelligence collection operations.  Lea later served as director of the United States Navy Sensitive Intelligence Program.  Before that Lea was a defense foreign liaison officer for the Office of International Engagements at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  She began her public service in the Navy as a fighter pilot flying combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch.  She was on active duty military service for 12 years.

Lea also knows the media.  After serving in the Navy, she became a television news journalist at NBC News and most recently served as a correspondent and frequent anchor for the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.  Lea is a graduate of the Naval Academy, and we’re thrilled to welcome her to the department.

Pleased to announce as well that the Secretary of State will travel to Budapest, Bratislava, Warsaw, Brussels, and Reykjavik from February 11th through 15th.  On February 11th, Secretary Pompeo will arrive in Budapest, Hungary, where he will meet with the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, and civil society leaders; discuss a range of issues in the United States-Hungary bilateral relationship, including defense cooperation, energy, regional security, support for Ukraine, and ways to counter Russian and Chinese influence and to strengthen the Western alliance.

On February 12th he will arrive in Bratislava, Slovakia, where he will meet with the president, prime minister, and foreign minister; discuss United States-Slovak – the United States-Slovak security relationship, Slovakia’s role as the chair-in-office of the OSCE, and regional and global issues.  He will visit the Gate of Freedom Memorial, where more than 400 people died trying to escape from communist Czechoslovakia to freedom in Austria between 1948 and 1989.  He’ll also speak with students about the legacy of Western democratic freedom and its triumph over communism 30 years ago.

Later on February 12th, Secretary Pompeo will travel to Warsaw, Poland, where he will meet with the foreign minister to discuss security and energy issues, building on the strong relations between the United States and Poland.  There the Secretary will participate in the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, jointly hosted by the United States and Poland, from February 13 through 14 in Warsaw.  Countries from across the globe have been invited to participate, and more than 40 will, in fact, be there.

The ministerial will be a forum for countries concerned about instability in the region to share their assessments and other ideas on a better way forward.  Countries will also address a range of critical issues including terrorism and extremism, countering illicit finance, missile development and proliferation, regional crises and their effects on civilians, cyber security, energy threats to the energy sector, maritime trade and security, and threats posed by proxy groups across the region.

On February 15, Secretary Pompeo will travel to Brussels, Belgium, where he’ll meet with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mogherini.  The Secretary and high representative will discuss our shared efforts to restore democracy to Venezuela and support Venezuelan Interim President Guaido and the National Assembly, as well as the importance of strengthening European security and addressing the threats posed by Iran and Russia.

Finally, the Secretary will travel to Reykjavik, Iceland, on February 15th.  In Reykjavik he will meet with the prime minister and foreign minister and discuss security issues in the North Atlantic, Iceland’s upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and growing economic relations.

One other trip announcement:  Secretary Pompeo will deliver the March 18th keynote address for the State Department’s Road to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit Heartland Event in Overland Park, Kansas, which will take place on March 18th and 19th.  The Road to GES Heartland Event will bring together hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, and public and private sector leaders who are building innovated solutions to agriculture, health, and connectivity.  Will also preview the Secretary’s participation in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, which will take place on June 4th and 5th, and both events promote growth and prosperity in the United States and the world, and the Heartland Event will show how American economic strength can shape world affairs to our nation’s benefit.  Road to GES Heartland will also include a delegation of entrepreneurs from the Netherlands, a strong and longstanding partner of the United States.

Finally, I want to start off with a brief update on our efforts towards the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and the second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim.  As the President said during the State of the Union Address, the second summit will occur on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam.  Vietnam is a close friend and partner of the United States, and we thank the Government of Vietnam for its generosity in hosting the second summit.  The history of our two nations reflects the possibilities for peace and prosperity.  We move past conflict and division towards the thriving partnership that we enjoy today.

As you know, negotiations are ongoing.  Currently we have a team on the ground led by the United States Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who is in Pyongyang for – with meetings with his counterpart, Kim Hyok-chol.  These meetings are to prepare for the President’s second summit with Chairman Kim and to make further progress on the commitments that the President and Chairman Kim made at their first summit in Singapore, including complete denuclearization, transformation of the United States-North Korea relations, and building a lasting peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula.

QUESTION:  Quickly on Iran, or – do you have anything on these satellite images and reporting that shows Iran has attempted to launch another satellite into space, and what the U.S.’s comment on that would be?

MR PALLADINO:  I’ve seen the reports, and – failed, correct?  We’re aware of those reports of that launch.  We continue to call upon the Iranian regime to cease immediately all activities that are inconsistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, including space vehicle launches.

QUESTION:  Is there anything that the United States is coordinating with European allies who have been open to further sanctions on Iran and further penalties for Iran on its ballistic missile program?

MR PALLADINO:  Nothing to announce today, but we continue to take the actions that we believe are necessary to impose sufficient pressure on the Iranian regime so that it ceases pursuing these capabilities that could further destabilize the region.

QUESTION:  Next week, it is said that Mr. Kushner is going to brief the leaders that are attending, or the countries that are attending, on where they are – where you are with the peace plan.  Could you share with us what is he going to say to – is he going to sort of reveal the peace plan, the so-called deal of the century?  Is it going to be oral?  Is he going to submit something in writing?  That’s one.

And second, the Israeli prime minister will be attending.  Why have you not sent an invitation to the Palestinian authorities since you’re going to be talking about peace and security?  Or maybe you have, I don’t know.  But could you shed light on these two issues?

MR PALLADINO:  Mr. Kushner will be in attendance, and he will be discussing Middle East peace as part of this overall conference.  And anything further than that, I would – I have to refer you to the White House.  I don’t want to get ahead of what they plan to do.

QUESTION:  Very, very quickly, today the United States blocked a statement at the United Nations Security Council that wanted to express regret for Israel throwing out international observers from the city of Hebron and calling that – for all people to sort of tone down and so on.  Why would you block such a statement?  I mean, the observer mission – you were instrumental in creating that international observer mission in Hebron back in the ‘90s when it was so volatile.

MR PALLADINO:  The 1997 agreement on the temporary international presence in the city of Hebron clearly states that the consent of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is required in order to extend the mandate and presence of the TIPH.  Furthermore, Oslo II and Hebron Protocol of 1997 also stated that the agreement from both sides was necessary for that to continue.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but don’t you like to see some international presence in Hebron because it is a point of conflict and flash point?

MR PALLADINO:  Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the Israeli decision not to renew, it would be inaccurate to accuse Israel of not having the right to make this decision under the 1997 agreement.  This is a sovereign decision and it’s the right of either party to make that agreement.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Could you respond in general terms to President – Turkish President Erdogan’s complaint that the U.S. has been too slow on the security zone and his threats to implement the security zone unilaterally by force by Turkey?  What’s your response to that?

MR PALLADINO:  The United States takes Turkey’s security concerns seriously, and we are actively engaging with Turkey on this matter.  And as President Trump just said, we’re working through the course of various discussions, including senior-level meetings that took place here at the State Department on Tuesday, as recently as that, and we’re trying to promote a stable and secure security relationship for northeast Syria as soon as possible. 

QUESTION:  And you remain committed to ensuring the security of the people that live in northeast Syria?

MR PALLADINO:  We gave been clear on that.  From the President on down, we have spoken at length to counterparts at various levels on how to proceed with the safe withdrawal of our troops from northeast Syria while stabilizing liberated areas, and we’re fully engaged on this, and we’ve been clear that the Syrian Democratic Forces should not be engaged militarily, and that would include the Kurdish component of the SDF.  And we also want to make sure that – and I’ll stop there.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Does this administration intend to meet the deadline tomorrow to Congress to say whether Mohammed bin Salman had anything to do with the Khashoggi murder and whether there will be any sanctions.

MR PALLADINO:  The Department of State shares the deep concern and outrage over the killings of Jamal Khashoggi expressed by members of Congress and we have consulted and corresponded with the Congress regularly since Jamal Khashoggi’s October 2nd killing, including briefings by the Secretary of State.

On November 15th, the Department of Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State and the Department of Justice, imposed Global Magnitsky sanctions on 17 individuals under Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to target perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.  These sanctions blocked and designated individuals’ assets in the United States jurisdiction and generally prohibited all transactions by U.S. persons with them.

We will continue to consult with the Congress and work to hold accountable those that are responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

QUESTION:  What was that?  Are you going to meet the deadline, tomorrow’s deadline, to —

MR PALLADINO:  I would say we continuously engage with members of Congress to provide them with information as appropriate and to hear their concerns and to have dialogue.  I’ll stop there.

This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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