Department Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
3:03 p.m. EST
Briefer: Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino
QUESTION: One more follow-up. Another American, an ISIS fighter from Alabama named Hoda Muthana, is being held in a Kurdish detention camps and is being asked to return to the United States to face justice. CBP has referred to State. I wonder if you have any comment on that.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah, I would say that the situation of American citizens or possible American citizens in Syria is by definition extremely complicated, and we’re looking into these cases to better understand the details. But I’m not going to be able to public – to comment publicly any further on that at this point due to privacy and security – for security reasons.
QUESTION: When you say you’re looking into the cases, what are the possibilities that you’re considering? Would you want her to receive jail time, send her to Guantanamo Bay or something like that?
MR PALLADINO: I’m not speaking about any individual here. I’m not speaking about any individual case. I can speak generically about the situation in which American citizens or potential American citizens or alleged American citizens could find themself in such a situation. And our policy in this regard would be to repatriate them, and it’s what we call on all countries to do who have FTF fighters in Syria too. So our position for other countries is the same as for our own, and we would – and that’s a possibility. As far as Guantanamo goes, your question, the United States Government is considering various alternative disposition options for foreign terrorist fighters who cannot be repatriated.
QUESTION: So the —
QUESTION: Non-U.S. citizens —
MR PALLADINO: Go ahead, go ahead.
QUESTION: Non-U.S. citizens, you’re saying?
MR PALLADINO: For – right. Correct, correct.
QUESTION: And then just broadly speaking, not on her case individually, but for women who joined ISIS who may not have been fighters, would they also face criminal procedures back in the U.S.? Would you want them to repatriate to this country?
MR PALLADINO: We’ve been clear on this and we’ve spoken on this publicly recently. Repatriating these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin, ensuring that they are prosecuted and detained – that’s the best solution to preventing them from returning to the battlefield. We view these fighters as a global threat and we seek global cooperation to resolve that threat.
QUESTION: So what is the State Department’s take on the British decision to strip citizenship from the other ISIS wife?
MR PALLADINO: I have nothing for you on that today.
QUESTION: Robert —
MR PALLADINO: Please, let’s go to Said. Please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Robert. A couple questions on the Palestinian issue. On the 17th, the Israeli army removed a Palestinian family from their home in East Jerusalem, in the Old City, and they immediately replaced them by settlers. Does that bother you? I mean, your ally the UK issued a statement condemning this action. And at what point does it become ethnic cleansing? When there’s 10 homes or 20 homes or 30 homes? In your view.
MR PALLADINO: I’m aware of that report but I don’t have any further details on it, so I would refer you to the Government of Israel on that.
QUESTION: Well, let me – one more issue. The Israelis also deducted close to $140 million from Palestinian taxes. They’re saying that concurs with the amount that the Palestinians pay to the families of prisoners and fighters and so on. Do you agree with that or is that considered some sort of a piracy by the Israelis?
MR PALLADINO: I —
QUESTION: How do you term that?
MR PALLADINO: I would refer you to the Government of Israel for information regarding their transfer of customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority. That’s something for them to respond to. But I would say we condemn the abhorrent practice of Palestinian Authority payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of terrorists.
QUESTION: And lastly, on the 4th of March the U.S consulate in East Jerusalem will close its doors after 175 years. The Palestinians, who have always gone to the consulate over these 175 years to get visas, to do their affairs to emigrate to America, look after things and so on, will no longer be able to do that. Do you have any comment on that?
MR PALLADINO: Well, we have an embassy —
QUESTION: Breaking a strong and deeply rooted American tradition.
MR PALLADINO: We have an embassy in Jerusalem, as you know, and we have active involvement in all of Israel from our embassy.
MR PALLADINO: Please, Laurie, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Could you explain what the latest is regarding the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria? Have other countries stepped in and said they’ll help out and replace the U.S. troops?
MR PALLADINO: As President Trump has stated from the outset, the United States is withdrawing its forces from Syria in a manner that is deliberate and coordinated, and we’re going to continue to work together to fight ISIS, and – but that’s something that’s going to continue. We have no timelines to discuss at the current time, but our new plan, Secretary Pompeo has spoken to this several times. The withdrawal of troops is a tactical change but not a change in our mission. And our mission very much remains the same and our commitment to ISIS’s enduring defeat is – both in the region and globally, that’s not changing at all. We are – that mission set has not changed.
As far as – what was your second part of the question, Laurie?
QUESTION: It has to deal with the – there’s going to be a security – you’re planning a security zone or a safe zone.
MR PALLADINO: Okay.
QUESTION: There were many reports about that.
MR PALLADINO: Right. We are – we are actively engaging with Turkey on this, and that is part of our efforts to ensure a safe withdrawal of United States forces and a stabilized northeast Syria. It’s also we take Turkey’s legitimate security concerns seriously. We take them into account in our activities and we are – we have ongoing coordination. We’re not going to discuss specifics on these talks, but they continue.
QUESTION: And are you still contemplating international observers or some others?
MR PALLADINO: I have nothing – I’m not going to go into details on the discussions that we’re currently having.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Syria, Russian foreign minister has said that the U.S. plan in Syria is to split the country and to divide it. Do you have any – any reaction?
MR PALLADINO: Yeah, let me —
QUESTION: And what’s the U.S. plan in Syria?
MR PALLADINO: I think we spoke about that earlier, but I would say about the foreign minister’s comments that that’s a misrepresentation of United States policy. We support the unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and we’ve been clear that the only path in Syria is a political solution that’s led by the United Nations process in Geneva, and that includes constitutional reform, United Nations-supervised elections, and that it’s done in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. We’ve also been clear that – I’ll stop there. That – I’ll stop there.
QUESTION: That means there is no plan to divide Syria or to split Syria?
MR PALLADINO: Absolutely not. We have been clear that we support a political solution under United Nations auspices, and that’s something we’re going to continue to do. Yeah.