U.S. Department Of State
Office of the Spokesperson
May 31, 2019
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) Dear Mike – dear Mike, a very warm welcome on the occasion of your first visit to Berlin as foreign minister, as foreign secretary. We are delighted to have you here.
The very close contacts between Europe and the United States of America is not only in our mutual interest, I think it is also the expression of a deep-rooted friendship, which is based on shared values above all. This is why our agenda has been rich in topics, and we had a whole host of issues. Many of the conflicts and challenges we are facing can only be tackled in close coordination and cooperation with our American friends, and it is our intention to do that.
This is true with regard to Ukraine. Yesterday I visited Kyiv together with my French counterpart, and I was very clear in my expressions and statements that the new president, that the new government deserves our full support in continuing the reform course in Ukraine, but we are also working amongst the G7 partners towards that objective. It’s a very important point to follow the developments in the Ukraine. This is equally true for the Minsk process. We need progress here. We have to overcome the impasse here, and we want to work at different levels as quickly as possible, be that the Normandy Format or other levels. And I’m pleased about the fact that in the exchange we had yesterday with President Zelensky, he made it clear that for him, the Minsk agreements were the basis of the negotiations and that he was also willing to accept the Normandy Format as the format. It is clear that we urgently need constructive steps on the part of Russia – not only with regard to Ukraine, but above all with regard to Ukraine.
We agreed yesterday in that we have clear expectations here of Russia, and if I may add, we also have a great interest in a functioning dialogue with Russia in order to allow us to solve and find solutions for international conflicts.
We also talked about China today. Mike and I – the country is not only an important trading partner for Germany with which we need to have a reasonable relationship, it is also a country with a great history and that has a place within the international order.
With the Americans, we share – as free societies believing in the principles of democracy, we share certain concerns with regard to China. In our exchanges today, I stressed that it is for us of great importance that the international rules of the games are being – of the game are being adhered to also by China. We want China to play a constructive role on the international scene, reciprocity being the word of the day. We both, I believe, thus have a great interest in a closed European-American exchange with an eye to approach towards China.
Iran figured also on our agenda today, the present situation in the region, but also the nuclear agreement with Iran, the JCPOA. We agree on that we have to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. It’s no secret that we have differences with regard to the right approach to pursue. I explained today why, from the European standpoint, the nuclear agreement increases international security and why we believe it to be important to maintain it as long as Iran complies with the agreement – complies with the agreement. We continue to engage on this and to stay in close touch on this issue. Irrespective of the differences in approaches may be – we are in agreement on the objective.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Heiko, thank you. It’s my great pleasure to be with you here today in Berlin at this beautiful place. I want to especially thank you and the German Government for your understanding that I had to reschedule this trip. My apologies. I had to tend to an urgent matter in Baghdad. Thank you for allowing me to get here so quickly after that. I am deeply appreciative.
It is – it’s special to be here as we commemorate one of the 20th century’s great triumphs of freedom: the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many of you know I was a young tank commander stationed here. I patrolled, as part of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the then-East German-West German boundary. I remember it so well. It will be remarkable when I come back in the fall to stand here 30 years later, a little bit grayer than I was when I was a young lieutenant, and celebrate with the people of Germany.
The German people continue to show just how much they prize security and how much they prize freedom for their own people, indeed for the world. Germany has set an example for every civilized nation by welcoming Chinese dissidents and calling attention to the more than one million Chinese Muslims and other minorities detained in Xinjiang. We hope, too, that Germany will also lead in taking action against Chinese corruption, espionage, and unfair trade practices that help underwrite that very repression.
We also had conversations today about other elements of China. We’ve been pretty clear about how we view the risks connected to Huawei and 5G infrastructure. The internet of the future must have Western values embedded within it.
As Heiko said, we talked about Iran. We’re grateful for Germany’s decision to ban Mahan Air from landing in the country. It has been a courier for the Iranian regime and its cargo – fighters and weapons – are bound for Middle East battlefields that put Europeans and Americans and others all around the world at risk. And with Germany currently holding a seat on the UN Security Council, it’s time to take the next step so that we can stop the Iranian torrent of destruction. In particular, I’d like to highlight Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile activities, which are in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
We’re also hoping to get Germany’s help – and we talked about this today – in recognizing Hizballah as a unified entity and banning it from Germany as our ally, the United Kingdom, did this year. And then additionally, Iran has also utterly failed to meet its commitments under the Financial Action Task Force action plan that it had agreed to, that Iran had agreed to back in 2016. As part of that plan, Iran committed to ratify both the UN Palermo Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Terrorism Finance Convention, but, as we might expect from the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, they’ve chosen not to do that yet. Today I call on Iran to ratify both treaties without delay and to do so without reservation.
On Russia, we’ve appreciated Germany’s cooperation on sanctions to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and its use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom. And in light of Russia’s pattern of military aggression, we hope the German Government will take steps to which it agreed under the Wales Pledge to strengthen its commitment to NATO.
Heiko and I also had the chance to talk about Venezuela. We agree on the objective, the mission, and we are hopeful that we can continue to make progress to have duly-elected leader Juan Guaido and the democracy that the Venezuelan people so richly deserve returned to them.
Lastly, our two countries are both combating rising anti-Semitism. We applaud the decision by the German parliament to condemn the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement as anti-Semitic. We were concerned to see Jews discouraged from wearing the yarmulke in public out of safety concerns. None of us should shrink in the face of prejudice.
Foreign Minister Maas, thank you again for our very productive discussion, and I look forward to covering much of this ground with Chancellor Merkel in my conversation later today. Thank you, sir.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We have time for a couple of questions. And Daniel Brossler, Suddeutsche Zeitung.
QUESTION: (Off-mike) the German – the efforts Germany is undertaking with other countries to install a trade mechanism with Iran, INSTEX, as a provocation? Is – will the United States fight this mechanism, and if yes, how?
(Via interpreter) Can you assure Iran that, Minister, that you will make that mechanism functioning even if the Americans are against it? And have you been successful in describing your plan for a period in time once Iran has left the JCPOA?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve been pretty clear about trade with Iran. There are items that are sanctioned and there are items that are not. Those items that are subject to sanctions, we will do our best to enforce the American sanctions regime that is put in – has been put in place. But for those that aren’t – for humanitarian goods, things that are permitted to move, whether they move through INSTEX or through another mechanism – those are lawful and appropriate and are permitted to continue under the sanctions laws that we’ve put in place. And so when we think about INSTEX, if it is aimed at facilitating the movement of goods that are authorized to move, it’s unproblematic.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) That is indeed the purpose of INSTEX, which we have initiated. It is about organizing payment transactions for business activities and commercial deals that are legal – medicine and other vital goods that have not been subjected to sanctions. And so far I think it does not create any problems. We will of course also have to face up to the question how we proceed in the medium and long term. Strategic questions with regard to Iran need to be tackled. At the end of the day, we are working towards the same objective: we want to make sure that Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons; we also want to make sure that Iran responds to our claims that it does play a negative part in the region, and also we want to talk about the ballistic program of Iran. We may be pursuing different approaches towards that objective, but as far as the objectives are concerned, it has always remained the same. We’ve always been working towards the same objective and we hope we will be successful in achieving those goals.
MS ORTAGUS: Francesco, AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you. First, Mr. Secretary, a quick question on those reports saying that several key North Korean negotiators, including Mr. Biegun and your own counterparts, have been executed or sent to labor camps after the Hanoi summit. Do you have any confirmation or comment about that? Are you concerned about those reports?
And then to both of you on Iran, has Germany offered or been asked to facilitate some kind of dialogue, of preliminary discussions between Tehran and the U.S.? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: With respect to your first question, we’ve seen the reporting to which you’re referring. We’re doing our best to check it out. I don’t have anything else to add to that today. And I also am not going to share private conversations that we’ve had about how negotiations may or may not proceed. I’ll let Heiko address it if he’d like to.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) As regards Iran and the questions that come up in this context, we are in close coordination – we talk on the phone, we met a couple of days ago in Brussels, and of course we exchange information and we also talk about how we can best ensure that we achieve the objectives that we are pursuing together. By the way, we are also cooperating closely with our other partners in the European Union.
I believe that it is good that we have that kind of dialogue and that we benefit from that kind of dialogue in order to make sure that in a very tense situation in the region at large, we can perhaps in that way also contribute in some way towards reducing tensions step by step.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) The next question goes to Michael Fischer. Michael Fischer from DPA.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Michael Fischer, DPA. Mr. Secretary, if I may ask you first on Syria. We have received media reports according to which the United States are planning to set up a buffer zone to protect the Kurds, and that you are asking for or would wish to see Germany support you in that military effort. How concrete are those plans of yours and what kind of support would you wish to get from Germany? Are you only thinking about the Tornados that are already stationed in Jordan, reconnaissance aircraft, or do you have other expectations?
And a question to Minister Maas: Would Germany on a general note be willing to comply with those requests or do you stand by what you have decided, to withdraw the Tornados in October this year because the mandate is to expire by then?
And a second question to Secretary Pompeo: On NordStream II, do you plan to take sanctions – sanctioned – do you think that sanctions on German companies that engage in NordStream continue to be an option or have you already taken such measures?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll take your second question first. We never discuss sanctions before we roll them out, and so I don’t have anything to add there.
With respect to our efforts, so our efforts in Syria are aimed at a political resolution of the conflict in Syria. So UN Security Resolution 2254 is the guidepost. The effort to get the constitutional assembly put together is something that we collectively have been working on for some time, and we hope to make progress. There is another element to our effort, which is to reduce risk of violence. You’ve seen the work that we’ve done with the Turks in Manbij, west of the Euphrates River, and we are attempting to set up a system – something akin to that, call it a buffer zone, call it what you will – that will reduce risk of terrorists attacking from Syria into Turkey and reduce risks that Turkey will come south and disrupt Kurdish activity inside of Syria. That’s the effort that’s underway.
The United States is committed – we’ve committed our forces there to work towards that political resolution and we have asked our European partners to assist us as we develop the plans, we see what the force requirements will actually look like. We will turn it over to our Department of Defense and the ministry of defense in Germany will be engaged to figure out exactly what the right nature of those forces will need to look like to support that political outcome in that northern part of eastern Syria.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) In the past weeks and months we’ve been in close touch and contact regarding developments in Syria, not only as far as the political process is concerned, the objective of which is to create peace for the country, but also with regard to the right approach towards that objective. And we strongly welcome – we very much welcome the fact that the United States have decided to continue to be present on the ground even though they may have changed the way in which they’re present there and the volume that they’re present. We support the Americans on – as of – we already support them air-to-air refueling, in-air refueling, but also our reconnaissance aircraft flights there. By October, as I said – until October we can provide that kind of assistance. The mandate will expire then and it’s then for the Bundestag to decide how we continue. But I would very much welcome that given the discussions that have taken place now also with our partners in Europe that we continue to support the United States, and we welcome that the Americans are willing to extend their presence. And we do have an interest in accompanying that approach. We do that and we can do so because, as I said, we have a mandate to do so. And as for the rest, we will have to take it up with the Bundestag at the given point in time.
MS ORTAGUS: Guy Taylor, Washington Times.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. For Secretary Pompeo, broadly, could you tell us the extent to which you see the challenges posed by rising Chinese economic influence as really an opportunity for real common ground with Germany at this moment of disagreement on several other fronts? And more specifically, are you satisfied that Germany will stand with the U.S. in taking measures to block or slow the proliferation of 5G Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei even if those measures trigger outrage and possibly even World Trade Organization challenges from Beijing?
Finally, for Minister Maas, we understand this is really an issue not yet fully deliberated in the Bund, but could you please tell us outright whether the Merkel government will push to restrict Chinese 5G companies such as Huawei? And on an entirely separate front, with regard to your Ukraine visit, to what extent did NordStream II discussions come up during your visit, and can you tell us what assurances you were really able to convey to the Ukrainian leadership that they won’t be left out in the cold as Germany speeds ahead with this Russian gas pipeline? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Guy, the U.S. National Security Strategy lays out our policy with respect to China pretty clearly. Enormously interconnected economically with the United States, but also presenting risk, national security risk to the United States of America, and we think to Europe and Western democracies around the world. And so we are laying out underneath that strategy a series of courses of action. One of them you’ve seen is our effort to ensure that the networks in which American information flows are trusted, that we understand where that information is going, who has – who’s the end user, and wanting to make sure that the information doesn’t end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s pretty straightforward.
And so from our perspective, our task has been to make sure we do that well – do that well for U.S. systems, trusted networks inside our own country. You saw the decision the President made now two, two and a half weeks back with respect to Huawei in particular, but the challenge is broader than that. There’s a second mission, which is to make sure that we educate our friends about these risks as well, that we talk to them plainly, openly. They’ll make their own sovereign decisions. I’ll let Foreign Minister Maas speak to you of how Germany’s thinking about it, but speak to them openly about the risks we see, how we think they could be mitigated, and in the case of Huawei, our concern that it is not possible to mitigate those anywhere inside of a 5G network and continue to view that as a trusted network, and then share with them, too, the very real challenge that we have for our close partners where there’s American information on their systems or we’re co-located with their systems, the risk that we’ll have to change our behavior in light of the fact that we can’t permit private citizen data from the United States or national security data from the United States to go across networks that we don’t have confidence, that we don’t view as trusted networks. That’s how we’re thinking about that.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAAS: (Via interpreter) As concerns China and Huawei, you may be aware of the fact that the German Government has taken the decision to clearly define security requirements when it comes to the 5G licenses. We are not going to be ready and willing to allow companies to participate who are not willing to comply with these requirements irrespective of the company in question. We are following the debate on Huawei very closely. We have concerns here and everyone who – every company that participates in these bidding procedures has to comply with the security requirements, otherwise they don’t stand a chance of being granted a license.
We be of – we are of the belief, as are our European Union partners, that we need to reform the WTO, especially with an eye to China, because the WTO works on the basis of market economic principles which are contradicted by the structures in China. So we need to reform the WTO. I spoke about that with Mr. Lighthizer when I was in the United States, and the European Union is in agreement on that we have to strongly urge a – for a reform agenda towards China in that regard.
Now, NordStream II. In my talks with President Zelensky in Kyiv yesterday that did not figure prominently. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Okay.