Press Availability With Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz

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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
February 14, 2019
Warsaw, Poland


SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good afternoon.  I don’t want to repeat what the foreign minister has said about the accomplishments today.  We can certainly talk more in the Q&A about that.  I agree with each of them.

We were so happy to be able to partner with you and with your country.  Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Czaputowicz, for your personal commitment to this all along.  This first Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, I think, will have lasting value to our two countries’ security and to the security of Europe and to those people who are living in the Middle East as well.  Our two countries now celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations.  You have been an outstanding partner on this initiative and a true ally across many fields.

We had over 60 countries here.  This is the first time we’ve done this ministerial.  That’s, in its own right, quite an accomplishment.  We had NATO represented and the EU represented as well.  I think they all came because they understood this was an important place to be to deal with the challenges to peace and security in the Middle East.  We all know that those challenges, those threats, don’t stay in the Middle East; they travel.  They travel around the world to Europe and to the United States, and I think that’s why people showed up and participated vigorously.

We’re urging every country to take new steps to defend their people against these existing threats, whether it’s Syria or Yemen or proliferation.  We talked a good deal about the peace process between Israel and Palestine – the Palestinians.  We talked about terrorism; we talked about Iran and cyber security, humanitarian crises.  They have massive security implications for each of our countries and for the American people.  These things do not resolve themselves magically.  They’re resolved by nations of goodwill coming together to find real solutions.

We also were intent on doing this in a different way, to find different ways to address the current problems.  We’re deeply aware that not every nation shares the same viewpoint and comes to the same conclusions on process and how to move forward, and that’s fine.  We certainly heard that in this meeting as well.  I will say, too, the reason this was instigated is because we wanted to illustrate in – with real action President Trump’s diplomatic commitment to building new coalitions that tackle the greatest threats of our time.  We backed up what I said in Cairo just a few weeks ago:  We will continue to lead in the Middle East as a force for good.

To that end, I do want to point out what the foreign minister said.  It was a truly historic gathering.  At the dinner last night, Arab and Israeli leaders gathered in the same room to talk about deeply common and shared interest.  It’s undeniable that Iran’s aggression in the region has brought Israel and Arab states closer together.  What I think was even more remarkable is that it didn’t feel all that historic.  It felt right, it felt normal, because we were working on a common problem.

Let me close here by saying the United States wants to thank every country that participated for their contributions.  The future of our cooperation on Middle East security can only get brighter from here.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, and thank you, both of you, for holding this press conference.  Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you, Vice President Pence today at the luncheon issued a very stark criticism of three of your closest allies – the French, the Germans, and the British.  He said they were attempting “to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime” and that they must now stand with us and abandon the nuclear agreement, the way President Trump did.  Could you tell us what the consequence will be for them if they don’t follow the Vice President’s advice?

And tell us a little bit about how we should think about the Iran agreement, as you head into the North Korea negotiations in just two weeks.  Is it your view, since the Vice President was so critical, as the President has been, that you need to get more out of the North Koreans, either at this session or soon thereafter, than the Obama administration got out of Iran?  In other words, you need to ship out more than 97 percent of the fuel, that you need to have an agreement that freezes their production for more than the 15 years that you’ve said had been too short?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  David, you have asked me that second question multiple times before.  I’m going to give you the same answer.  But let me – and I appreciate it.  You’re welcome to ask the 58th time too.  If I’m any good, I’ll give you same answer the 58th time as well.

With respect to the first question, look, we make no bones about it.  We think that we need more sanctions, more pressure on Iran.  We think that gives the Iranian people the opportunity to get what it is they so richly deserve.  We think that denies the Iranian kleptocracy, the clerical leaders there, the wealth and resources they need to create so much destruction that we heard about from countries all across the world in these two days.  We think that’s desperately important.  We think that’s the thing which will drive the outcomes which ultimately get us to the place where we have one of these ministerials and Iran isn’t part of the conversation.  It’s not creating risk in Syria; it’s not creating humanitarian crisis in Yemen; it’s not funding Hizballah; it’s not in Iraq, creating mischief there as well; it’s not funding Hizballah in South America; it’s not conducting assassination campaigns throughout Europe.  We’ve been unmistakable about our desire to put economic pressure on the leadership in Iran.

I think what you heard the Vice President today was exactly in that vein.  And as President Trump’s been very clear, we respect the sovereignty of every nation.  They get to make their own decisions about the way forward.  But the United States is determined to convince all nations of the world that it is in our collective best interest to deny the ayatollah and President Rouhani and Qasem Soleimani the money that they need to fuel the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.  It’s no difference there.

With respect to the comparison between Iran and North Korea, very different situations presented to ourself.  We are aiming to get as far down the road as we can in what’s now a couple weeks.  That’s not just along the denuclearization pillar of what they agreed to in Singapore, what the two leaders agreed to in Singapore.  We’ll certainly talk about how we foster reduced tension, reduced military risk, take down that risk so that we can get peace and security on the peninsula as well.  We’ll also work on communicating how it is we can create the brighter future that we hope for the North Korean people.  And so yes, it’s absolutely our intent.  We’ve made unmistakably clear our goal, the full and final denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a verifiable manner.  I hope that in a couple weeks we can make real progress along the way.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, let me just add this.  You reminded me, Mr. Foreign Minister, of something.  There have been lots of places the Europeans and the Americans have worked together against Iran recently, right?  The Germans have denied Mahan Air the right to fly there.  Many of these countries have called out assassination attempts in their own country in a way that they weren’t doing before the Trump administration.  There have been lots of places where we have been able to work together against —

QUESTION:  And missiles are one of those?


QUESTION:  You stated the missile cooperation?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, still more work to do, but yes.  And I hope we can continue to work on that.  2231 is very clear: The Iranians are in clear violation of the UN Security Council resolution relating to missiles.  We hope we get the whole world to unite around that.

QUESTION:  Was there progress on that today in the meeting?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It was talked about a lot.  Yeah, I’d say there’s progress.  But of course, until you’re across the line, no victory is to be claimed.  And we’re not quite there yet.

QUESTION: (In English) And the second part of the question for Secretary Pompeo, if I may.  I would like to refer to the the words you’ve said two days ago while meeting Minister Czaputowicz.  You have said, quote, “I urge my Polish counterparts to move forward with the property restitution issue.”  Could you please elaborate what exactly have you meant by saying this?  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You bet.  So I don’t have anything to add to my statement with respect to your second question, so we will leave it at that.  We’ve had a number of conversations about that with our Polish friends.

Your first question that you asked, my counterpart is funny because you said the statement didn’t say anything about it.  But, but, but the statement didn’t say anything about it because this conference was about so many things broader and deeper than that.  I’ll say two other things that are very consistent with what Foreign Minister Czaputowicz just said.

First, there was not a defender of Iran in the room.  No country, no country spoke out and denied any of the basic facts that we all had laid out about Iran – the threat it poses, the nature of the regime.  It was unanimous.  Countries from Europe, countries from Asia, countries from all across the world – no one spoke up saying that the data set about the threat that Iran poses in the Middle East is any way wrong or overhyped.  Everyone acknowledges that it is very difficult to talk about the problems in Lebanon without talking about Hizballah, that it is very difficult to talk about the problems in Yemen without talking about the Houthis, it’s very difficult to talk about challenges to Iraqi sovereignty without talking about the Shia militias, it’s very difficult to talk about the challenges today in Syria without talking about the Qods Force infantry that’s still there.  Every one of those is underwritten and supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and there was no dispute as to that.

The methods, the ways about which we ought to push back against that, there were many ideas, many of them good, that we’ll go work on together.  But I think it’s important to note that there is complete agreement, there is a global agreement, about the threat that Iran poses.

Your question was about whether this conference targeted any one country.  Indeed, what it targeted was stability and peace and prosperity in the Middle East.  It was our objective.  It’s why we came together to put this group assembled here in Warsaw today, and I think it’s what we accomplished as well.

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