Wow. Sorry to drop so much substance into a single news day, but there’s so much going on around the geopolitical world it’s, well, stunning.
[And we still haven’t been able to even catch up with T-Rex’s multi-nation shuttle diplomacy over Qatar yet…. sheesh. –> CLICK HERE FOR QUICKIE LOL]
U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert delivers a press briefing to highlight a great deal of what is going on. Video and Transcript below:
TRANSCRIPT: 2:52 p.m. EDT – MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.
MS NAUERT: How’s everyone?
MS NAUERT: Good trip, Matt Lee?
QUESTION: Yeah, it was. Although if I’d known it was going to be this hot, I might have gone to Kuwait after. (Laughter.)
MS NAUERT: Right. It is awfully hot here. I see you brought the weather back with you, right? All right. Well, welcome back, everybody. Welcome to the State Department. Hope you’re having a good day. We have more guests today. I’m just bringing more and more in. My brother and his girlfriend, so – okay.
A couple orders of business here, and the first is we were very sad to see the passing of Liu Xiaobo in China. As you saw from the statement that the Secretary issued today, we join those in China and around the world in mourning the tragic passing of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died while serving a lengthy prison sentence in China for promoting peaceful democratic reform. Mr. Liu dedicated his life to the betterment of his country and humankind and to the pursuit of justice and liberty. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Liu Xia, and all of his loved ones. We continue to call on the Chinese Government to release her from house arrest and allow her to depart China according to her wishes. In his fight for freedom, equality, and constitutional rule in China, Liu Xiaobo embodied the human spirit that the Nobel Peace Prize rewards. In his death, his has only reaffirmed the Nobel Committee’s selection.
Next thing we have going on here this week at the State Department was the meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Today, the members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the small group, are meeting in Washington to conclude the three-day conference on the next phase of the campaign. The coalition had productive meetings today and in the past few days on the next phase of the campaign. The coalition had held some workshops over the past few days to ensure that we’re maintaining simultaneous pressure on ISIS across the globe.
This morning, Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk announced that the United States would contribute an additional $119 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq. This now brings the total U.S. contribution in humanitarian assistance to more than $1.4 billion for the Iraqi crisis since the Fiscal Year 2014. This is in addition to the $150 million that we announced last week that goes to stabilization efforts in Iraq. With the new assistance, the United States is now providing additional emergency food and nutrition assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, improved sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection for Iraqis who have been displaced.
We commend the significant humanitarian contributions made by coalition members to date and encourage them and other donors to continue supporting humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The fight to defeat ISIS is far from over, and this week’s meetings showed the global coalition remains more determined than ever to ensure that this barbaric enemy is dealt a lasting defeat.
And finally, the Secretary is returning this evening from his trip to the Gulf, where he met with Kuwaiti, Qatari, Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian, and Bahraini leaders. The goal of the Secretary’s visit was to support Kuwaiti mediation efforts and bring what we can to discussions to help both sides more fully understand the concerns of the other and point out possible solutions to the dispute. Based on his meetings, the Secretary believes that getting the parties to talk directly to one another would be an important next step, and we will look forward to that hopefully happening. We hope the parties will agree to do so, and we will continue to support the Emir of Kuwait in his mediation efforts.
And with that, I will gladly take your questions.
QUESTION: Thanks. Starting with this – just with this – something that’s related to the Secretary’s trip but not necessarily about Qatar, on Monday, when he was in Istanbul he talked about efforts with – to building on the ceasefire that you guys negotiated with the Russians in the south. He talked about doing something in the north with the Turks, and then the President in his comments today talked about doing something else – another truce with Russia. Is this the same thing or is this something different?
MS NAUERT: I’m not sure if that would be the same thing or if that’s something different. I know we’re looking to this area in southwestern Syria, where there is the ceasefire that is holding right now – we’re now four days into it or so, I believe – hoping that we can build upon that and broaden that out to other parts of the country. But I’ll check back into that for you if you like.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, related to that, on – you’ve seen – I saw that on Tuesday you were asked about this Amnesty International report on the situation in Mosul.
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you had a chance to look at that and what do you make of its findings?
MS NAUERT: Look, the first thing I would say about the Amnesty International report is that’s something that some people certainly here have seen. I’ve not personally reviewed it myself. In terms of civilian casualties, that’s something that I can say the coalition always takes every effort to try to mitigate against any humanitarian or any civilian casualties. It’s obviously a very complex situation in Iraq, especially in Mosul, where they have been – ISIS has been dug in for quite some time. Folks have raised the issue why did it take so long to achieve some semblance of victory in Mosul, and that’s because ISIS had been dug in so hard. So the coalition takes every effort, as do – as does its partners, to try to mitigate against any kind of civilian casualties.
QUESTION: Well, but do you accept the conclusions of the report?
MS NAUERT: How would you exactly state the conclusions, Matt?
QUESTION: Well, that there’s a civilian catastrophe. It took the Iraqi forces to – and the Peshmerga to task for going after civilians under the aegis, kind of, of the United States.
MS NAUERT: I think what I would say about that is let’s remember the real focus of the humanitarian and civilian casualty situation in Iraq, and that is ISIS. And we talked about this the other day. Were it not for ISIS, were it not for ISIS forcing so many people from their homes – and now through the work of the coalition many people, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to go back to their homes in Mosul alone. And so the real focus, the real reason why there has been misery in Iraq and Syria as well is because of ISIS, not the coalition and not the coalition partners.
QUESTION: Okay. But does that mean that you do not accept the findings of this report? I mean, do you not think that this is a problem, that civilian —
MS NAUERT: Look, I know that if there are —
QUESTION: Obviously – I mean, ISIS aside, civilians – this report says that civilians suffered badly or —
MS NAUERT: The Department of Defense puts together a civilian casualty list at the end of every – I believe it’s at the end of every month, but I know that they do that on a monthly basis. So then I would refer you to that. I know it’s something that we take very seriously. Let me underscore that again. We take civilian casualties very seriously. The United States, its coalition partners, the Department of Defense, all of the folks working on behalf of the United States and the coalition continue to work very hard to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen.
QUESTION: But does that mean that you’re not going to comment on the —
MS NAUERT: Well, look, I do know this: I can tell you that the Department of Defense and other U.S. Government entities were not consulted when it came to looking at that report or weighing into that report. So I think that is indicative that the report wasn’t fully formulated without getting our input as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Well – but – okay. So the reason that I’m asking and the reason I’m asking it like this is that it seems to be – and this is not just something unique to this administration, but for many – over the course of the last four or five administrations – when Amnesty or another human rights group comes out with a report on a country that you don’t like, say like North Korea or Syria, you’re – and they don’t consult those governments when they do those reports, you guys accept it and you even talk about it and praise the reports from the podium and say this is – like the chemical weapons in Syria. But when they come out with a report that is on a country that is an ally, is —
MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m just saying we weren’t consulted on that report. The Department of Defense puts together a very thorough humanitarian – excuse me – a very thorough civilian casualty list every month. I think the United States does a very strong job of trying to ensure that that does not happen. I think that is evident by the fact that we have been backing Iraqi forces and our coalition partners. We have 72 members of the Defeat ISIS Coalition in here right now, including representatives from Iraq. And I think that is indicative of the amount of care and concern that we put into that.
QUESTION: So this is not a case – this is not a situation where you accept reports that you like the results of but do not accept result – reports that you don’t?
MS NAUERT: Matt, I’m not going to characterize that way at all. Okay? I think we’ve been over this enough.
QUESTION: UNICEF issued a report —
MS NAUERT: Hi, Said.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. UNICEF today issued a report that today or last night that upwards of 650,000 children from Mosul had been affected by the war and displaced and so on.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, there seems to be so much —
MS NAUERT: I don’t have those numbers, so I can’t confirm those numbers.
MS NAUERT: But —
QUESTION: But the point beyond just the displacement, there is so much effort – I mean, you talk about the coalition and the fight and the military aspect of it. But there seems to be nothing out there in terms of reconciliation, in terms of getting people back, getting aid, doing all these things. There seems to be a big wall – I mean, you talked about —
MS NAUERT: Let me be clear about this. Nothing could be —
QUESTION: — you talked about —
MS NAUERT: Hold on, Said. Nothing could be further from the truth on that. I was sitting in a meeting earlier today. As I was sitting in the meeting in this building today with members of the international coalition – it included members from Iraq as well – where the primary focus was talking about how you start to bring people back home, into their homes in western Mosul.
By the way – we’ve talked about this here from the podium before – when you look at eastern Mosul, hundreds of thousands of people – and I can look and get the exact number for you or as close to a number as I can for you about the number of people who’ve been brought back into eastern Mosul. And that is an amazing feat. Just think about how ISIS had been entrenched in those areas for years, and now, not long after that area was liberated, you have children going back to school; you have electricity; you have clean, running water; you have all of those things. I just announced at the very top of this humanitarian assistance, new pledges of humanitarian assistance on the part of USAID going into Iraq. That is significant. Perhaps sometimes folks like to look for one place, one situation of misery, and forget to see the progress that is being made. We have been clear here that there is a lot of work that is left to be done; no doubt about that. Western Mosul was just liberated. There are still bad guys in there as the military effort goes back in to try to figure out if anybody was left behind, but we are optimistic about the ability to bring people back into western Mosul. It’s not going to be overnight. This will take some time, but this will eventually happen.
MS NAUERT: Let’s stay on Iraq right now before we go to something else.
QUESTION: Just on —
MS NAUERT: Hi.
MS NAUERT: How are you? Good to see you.
QUESTION: Good to see you too. But I guess one will argue that the crimes committed by ISIS and crimes committed by the Security Forces are different, because ISIS does not represent the civilized world. They stand as a terrorist organization, while the Security Forces in Iraq are supported by the United States, and that’s a difference. So I mean, in this equation, you cannot really say that there is a progress, which there is and everybody acknowledging that, but at the same time you can – you cannot condemn what the Iraqis Security Forces allege to be doing.
MS NAUERT: I can say this: The prime minister of Iraq has – from what I understand, has taken this quite seriously. He has in the past prosecuted people who have been found guilty of any type of humanitarian abuses. The United States would certainly condemn any kind of abuses of that sort, but some of that will be an internal government matter for Iraq.
QUESTION: So did you raise this with the Iraqi Government? And if you did, at what level?
MS NAUERT: I do not know the answer to that. I did not personally raise that matter with the Iraqi Government. I know our Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk has been very involved in all that. He will be here later today to answer your – some of your questions. I understand that will be at 4 o’clock today. So if you have some of the more detailed questions about that, perhaps Brett can answer those this afternoon.
QUESTION: Just one more on —
MS NAUERT: Okay, let’s stick on Iraq.
QUESTION: So like, on the abuse of human rights by Iraqi forces in Mosul, the report, like, talks about that a lot as well. And Iraqi forces, as you know, is a pretty dominantly Shia force. They are provided weapons, U.S. weapons. They have been trained by the Americans. It seems to me as a reader of that report that the United States didn’t have a mechanism in place – a robust one at least – to watch Iraqis to not carry out human rights abuses while using U.S. weapons, while being trained by the United States.
MS NAUERT: I know that the United States takes those allegations very seriously, okay? We have talked about this from this podium before and from this room before. Special Envoy Mr. McGurk will be here later today, and perhaps he can answer some of those questions. Again, we take those allegations seriously. We always have. We do everything that we can to avoid civilian casualties, and we know that Prime Minister Abadi has in the past and continues to do so, to look in and prosecute those who have been found guilty.
QUESTION: So —
MS NAUERT: Okay? Let’s move on from Iraq. Do you have a question about Iraq?
QUESTION: Just briefly —
MS NAUERT: Hi, Michele.
QUESTION: When you say that U.S. entities weren’t consulted in that report, are you disputing then what they found? Are you —
MS NAUERT: I know that the Department of Defense was not consulted about that report, so let me just refer you to the Department of Defense for anything more on that.
QUESTION: Heather, this came up as we were walking to the briefing, so I’m not sure if you have anything on it. There’s a Reuters report that broke that all nations have been asked to provide more travel data to help vet visa applications or potentially face sanctions. Have you seen that or seen anything on that?
MS NAUERT: Are you referring to the Department of Homeland Security and the new executive order? Is that what you mean?
QUESTION: This is a cable that was apparently sent to – to U.S. embassies to provide extensive data from – to ask countries to help provide extensive data to help vet visa applicants and determine whether that traveler poses a terrorist threat.
MS NAUERT: I think what you’re referring to is part of the executive order and the additional information that the United States is able to ask other countries for. Let me get back to you on that. Let me just clarify that we’re talking about the same thing and get back to you later today.
QUESTION: That’s the Section 2 report from DHS, “In consultation with the Secretary.”
MS NAUERT: Okay, okay. Because a lot of that is a DHS matter right now. I know that the United States will be consulting with those countries. I think it’s the – they have 50 days or so. But let me just get back to you on that just to make sure that we’re talking about the exact same thing. Okay?
QUESTION: Can you check if you’re going to sanction countries after 50 days if they —
MS NAUERT: Let me just get back to you. I want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Okay?
QUESTION: And then really quick, in a few days there is another deadline to certify whether Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. What is the status of the administration review on Iran policy?
MS NAUERT: So the review on the Iran policy is still going. That is still underway. I know people have a lot of interest in this. We have said and the administration has said that at least until that review has been completed that we will adhere to the JCPOA. That has not changed. We’ll ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements. So the review is still underway, and then we have a timeline coming up pretty quickly in which a report will – will have to be looked at.
QUESTION: Do you —
QUESTION: What do you think the chances are that the review will be done before Monday?
MS NAUERT: Why would it? If there’s a deadline on Monday, why get ahead? Why get ahead of that?
QUESTION: No, no, I mean the broader policy review of Iran. Do you think that that will be —
MS NAUERT: Oh. I – you know what? I am —
QUESTION: Are the chances high or low that that will be completed by Monday?
MS NAUERT: Matt, I don’t – I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not sure that that’s something that needs to be done until Monday. Okay.
QUESTION: Another Iran question?
MS NAUERT: Hi, yeah.
QUESTION: Hi. Has Secretary Tillerson talked to his Iranian counterpart, Zarif, since he’s been secretary of state, at all?
MS NAUERT: I – let me look into that for you, because I just saw that in some notes here. I do not believe that he has. We certainly have various diplomatic channels, lines of communication that can be used to communicate with the Iranian Government. My understanding is that we have not, but I’m not going to get into any comments or questions about private diplomatic conversations.
QUESTION: And what would the rationale for a new secretary of state not reaching out to his counterpart in Iran be?
MS NAUERT: It’s a hypothetical; I’m just not going to get into that. Thanks.
QUESTION: Well, actually, Secretary Tillerson said, I think at a hearing during the budget hearings, maybe, that he wasn’t opposed to talking to the Iranians, but it wouldn’t just be talk for talk’s sake; there would have to be a reason to talk. So are there certain kind of conditions or actions that Iran would have to take before there could be talk about, for instance, a political solution in Syria, which obviously the U.S. and Iran are both interested parties?
MS NAUERT: That is – that’s not a subject that I’ve brought up with him recently.
MS NAUERT: We’ve been pretty focused on what’s going on in Qatar. We’ve been pretty focused on Russia and on Syria and Iraq as well. So —
QUESTION: Well, he’s – I mean, presumably, he’s very involved in the Iran review.
MS NAUERT: Certainly. I just haven’t asked him. I just haven’t asked him that question. Okay? All right. Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: On Qatar?
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you give us, like, a summation of what’s going? What did the Secretary achieve? What did he not achieve?
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. What did he, what?
QUESTION: What did he accomplish and what is hoped to – to be accomplished?
MS NAUERT: Well, certainly been very hard at work over the past few days in doing his shuttle diplomacy and meeting with a whole lot of people in the region. As you know, his visit was in support of Kuwaiti mediation efforts. We continue to thank Kuwait for the hard work that they have done in trying to bring both sides together on this. I know that the Secretary would like to see this resolved. We’ve seen some progress in that, and we hope that both sides would be willing to sit down sometime in the near future to actually have a conversation about what those grievance are – grievances are.
This all has been a long time coming. You know that these disputes are not brand new. Tensions in the past have been fairly raw, so it’s going to take some time to get these parties together. Just last week, we characterized this as possibly at an impasse. So the mere fact that the Secretary’s been there, talking to both sides of this, and encouraging them to sit down and have a conversation, I would see as subtle progress.
QUESTION: Do you still see it at an impasse?
QUESTION: But you know, the statements that came out —
MS NAUERT: No, I think this is subtle progress. I think the fact that the Secretary was there, talking with both sides, is an important step in the right direction.
QUESTION: Today the —
MS NAUERT: Go ahead, Michele.
QUESTION: If I just follow up very quickly —
MS NAUERT: Said. Let the lady first. C’mon, Said.
QUESTION: Sorry. Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: It’s okay.
MS NAUERT: Michele, go right ahead.
QUESTION: No, no, you.
QUESTION: All right. Anyway, so when you describe it as subtle progress, are you framing that around just the fact that they were talking, or would you say that there is any movement on the side of the quartet?
MS NAUERT: So I’m not going to – I’m not going to characterize what the parties themselves are doing individually at this point, because I think that’s really up for the individual parties to do that. But the fact that they’re having conversations with us, the fact that they’re meeting with the Kuwaitis, I think is a step in the right direction.
QUESTION: So does the Secretary have a framework for what happens next? I mean, has he set up a kind of organized system of here is when we’re going to meet next or speak next, and would you describe this as still an impasse then?
MS NAUERT: I think I answered that with Felicia.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
MS NAUERT: So I wouldn’t describe it that way. We are sort of subtly optimistic about this. But we are also realistic, in that this could take a lot of time. These have been long-simmering tensions, and that certainly hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Heather, has this started to develop —
QUESTION: Can I ask about the —
QUESTION: Is he disappointed? Does he feel like this —
MS NAUERT: I think we’ve made some steps forward. I mean, I think we are hoping that both sides will be willing to sit down and talk with one another. That is something that we would certainly hope for. We hope that they’re willing to do that, but it’s ultimately their choice. We do know – and we can go back to the Riyadh summit and the agreements that all the parties came to at the Riyadh summit, and that was to do more to work together to combat terrorism, to combat counter – or terrorism financing. So we all agreed to that. We expect that the nations will ultimately, in the end, get back to those principles.
QUESTION: Can I ask about this MOU that —
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: — the President – that the Secretary, sorry, signed with the Qataris? First of all, he kind of saluted the Qataris for being the first country to answer the President’s challenge at the Riyadh summit on funding, and it seems as – terrorist funding. And it seems as if he – with this MOU in effect, he was kind of vouching for the Qataris’ commitments that they’re willing to make now, saying, like, I’m signing an agreement with the Qataris and if they don’t make good on their agreement, then the U.S. would be maybe on the hook for that.
MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t characterize it as our country vouching for another country. It’s an arrangement; it’s an understanding. That is something where we anticipate and hope and would expect that the other nation would follow through on the arrangement, on the understanding. There will be sort of benchmarks in place in terms of the details of that. I can’t get too into the details on it. This is something that’s still new and fresh, and the Secretary is on a plane flying back here right now.
So we’ll learn more about this, I would expect, in the coming days. Just how thorough those details are that I’m able to give you, that I just don’t know yet.
QUESTION: You talked a little bit about this the other day, but I just want to go back to some comments made by an aide of the Secretary, saying that nobody’s hands were clean here, and kind of seemed to be pushing in the direction of criticizing the Saudis and the Emiratis and other countries for using this issue as a pretext to crack down on Qatar. I mean, how did the – was the Secretary received after those comments in the region?
MS NAUERT: I think the – there are concerns on all sides. This has obviously been a difficult situation, I think, for all sides to try to resolve. I think the Secretary is welcomed, as are the Kuwaitis, in being member countries that – when I say “member countries,” I mean people who are willing to work together to try to resolve this dispute. So I think that is welcome, and if we can get the sides to come together, then that would certainly be a good thing.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Let’s move on now. Anything else?
MS NAUERT: Nike, go right ahead.
QUESTION: Can we move on to China?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: One last one, one quick one, just very quickly?
MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.
QUESTION: So what’s the difference between —
MS NAUERT: Nike, hold on.
QUESTION: — the MOU that the Qataris signed now and what they actually committed to – and they signed in the Riyadh summit and before even 2014?
MS NAUERT: So in the Riyadh summit, it was a broad-based set of principles that the nations agreed to. This is a little bit more detailed. I don’t have a copy of it in front of me right now, but this is something where there will be regular, high-level consultations between Qatar and the United States. It’s sort of a form of a counterterrorism dialogue. There will be benchmarks in place. There will be ways that we check in with them and that they check in with us. In terms of the details, I hope to be able to give you more in the coming days, but that’s all I have for you right now.
QUESTION: Will you make it public?
MS NAUERT: I don’t know that that will be – because this is an arrangement between nations, I’m not sure that we will be able to make this public. That might fall under diplomatic arrangements and dialogue, so I may not be able to provide that for you. Hopefully, I will know more, though, in the coming days.
Okay. Let’s move on. Go right ahead, Nike.
QUESTION: Sure. Hi. Thank you. So on the unfortunate passing of Liu Xiaobo, what is your assessment of how China handled this case? And separately, as you indicated, Secretary Tillerson has urged China to release his wife, Liu Xia, who has been also under house arrest.
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion to facilitate her to leave the country? Thank you.
MS NAUERT: I know that we’ve been tremendously concerned about his health and his care. The United States had helped to facilitate an American doctor heading over there to examine him, and as you know, there was a German doctor who did that as well. He was really a beacon of hope for so many Chinese who fundamentally believe in their rights, in their human rights, and in freedom and democracy. So while we mourn the passing of this and we hope that his wife will be allowed to leave the country and freed from house arrest, we were saddened by his death, as I think so many other people are around the world.
QUESTION: And then on the funeral arrangement, if you could please shed some light. Will there be any American officials to attend his funeral? If yes, what would the level be?
MS NAUERT: I will look into that and see what we can find out for you. Okay?
MS NAUERT: Anything else on China?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yeah, in Asia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: Hi.
MS NAUERT: Hi, Janne, how are you?
QUESTION: Good to see you. And on North Korea, North Korean human right issue is as much as very serious issue like nuclear issues. What is the United States final destination of North Korean human rights issue? Your —
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, what is our what?
QUESTION: Your final destination of human right North Korea?
MS NAUERT: What is our final designation?
QUESTION: Yeah, destinations of human right.
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you mean by that.
QUESTION: Final decisions of – U.S. final decisions of the North —
MS NAUERT: What is our final decision about the status of human rights in North Korea?
MS NAUERT: Is that the question?
MS NAUERT: Well, that’s something that we have remained extremely concerned about for a very, very long time. We know that China is one of the worst human rights abusers of all nations around the world. I’ve talked about this extensively about the guest workers who are in place in countries around the world. These guest workers, as they go in, they work, and much of their money is confiscated and taken by the government. That is – that is the very least, okay? That’s just one area.
Another area would be the killings, the imprisonment, the labor camps in North Korea. I can go on and on. I think we’ve been really clear about our concerns about North Korean human rights abuses. If there’s something new that you want me to get you, I can certainly look into that.
QUESTION: So one more on South Korea.
MS NAUERT: On South Korea?
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Not North Korea. Different.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: In South Korea, Moon Jae-in government is planning to connect gas pipeline with Russia in North Korea.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: Is it a violation of UN sanctions, or what is your – I mean, U.S. position?
MS NAUERT: Let me look into that and get back to you. I don’t have anything for you on that today.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Anything on DPRK or South Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah, Korea.
MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry, not South Korea.
MS NAUERT: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: But just on the Liu Xiaobo question —
MS NAUERT: Yes.
QUESTION: I think this is really a White House question, but do you know if President Trump and President Xi discussed this case? I’m wondering at how high a level the U.S. Government discussed this with China.
MS NAUERT: I know that we have had a lot of conversations, and the conversations had been ongoing for quite some time. In terms of what the President said, I mean, there was certainly a readout, I believe, of the President’s meeting with him. I don’t have that handy right now, so I’d just have to refer you back to the White House on exactly what was said in that meeting.
QUESTION: Okay. And sorry, the leader of the Nobel committee said that the Chinese Government bears heavy responsibility for Mr. Liu’s death. And I wondered —
MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, who said that?
QUESTION: It’s the leader of the Nobel committee.
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: And does this building share this sentiment?
MS NAUERT: Does the building share the sentiment that China bears responsibility?
QUESTION: That China – right, yeah.
MS NAUERT: Look, I know he is someone who was a beacon of hope and was treated poorly by the Chinese Government – imprisoned repeatedly over the years for promoting democracy, promoting freedom, and promoting human rights. I can’t get into his – he was diagnosed with cancer at some point. I’m not going to draw a conclusion between being diagnosed with cancer and the government’s treatment of him, but we were very concerned with the healthcare that he received by the Chinese. You know that we had called upon them to allow him to be released along with his wife so that he could get treatment where he needed to.
Okay, let’s move on from that.
QUESTION: Stay on China?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right – hi, how are you?
QUESTION: Thanks. Do you have any comment on the reports of new sanctions on small Chinese banks with business ties to North Korea?
MS NAUERT: So that would be something under the Treasury Department. We had announced some new sanctions about a week and a half or so ago. That came under Treasury as well, but I think that would fall under sort of the category of the third-party sanctions. And that’s something that we have talked about a lot, where the United States is asking China, the United States is asking nations around the world, to do more to adhere to not only Security Council resolutions, but the expectation that we have that countries around the world will do their part in not funding or adding to the money that would end up going to North Korea, because we believe that that goes to its weapons program.
Okay. Anything else on DPRK?
QUESTION: Japan? Japan?
MS NAUERT: Okay. Hi.
QUESTION: Bill Hagerty was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to Japan. Do you have a statement, and what are your expectations for his role?
MS NAUERT: We are looking forward to having him join Japan as our next U.S. ambassador. He spent a good deal of time over there. I know he’s steeped in the issues. I don’t have a statement for you just yet on that, but we look forward to having him represent the United States in Japan.
QUESTION: Hi. Do you have any more on what exactly happened with the Afghan girl robotic team and their visa? Why was their visa denied in the first place, and how did they eventually get it?
MS NAUERT: Well, you know what I’m going to say, right, in terms of visas. Visas – anyone’s visa and why a visa is granted or why a visa is denied is always something that is going to be kept confidential. That’s not because I want to keep it confidential, that’s not because the State Department does, but it happens to be U.S. law. So I can’t get into that.
I can say that we are very happy to have these young girls be able to come here to the United States to participate in this robotics competition. I have second-grader, my second-grader does robotics, so I know how much that means, especially as a parent, much less girls coming from Afghanistan. So we’re looking forward to having them come here. We’ll be watching them. We hope that they do well in the competition and are happy to have them here.
There is something called parole authority, so – and that falls under the Department of Homeland Security. This was an issue that the President noticed, that Dina Powell had then addressed yesterday, and so the Department of Homeland Security was able to take a look at this. I’ll let them address this with you, but under this authority, the United States can temporarily grant – based on either humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, a – as I understand it, a short-term ability to come into the United States. So anything beyond that, I’d ask you to talk to DHS.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean parole – the fact that parole had to be used would suggest – and let’s just put it in a – not in this specific context, because you won’t talk about these visas specifically – would suggest that the reason for ineligibility stands, that – in other words, that if parole is the only way a person can get into this country, that the decision made by the consular officers at post stands.
MS NAUERT: The consular officers – as I understand it, under law and the way that they handle visa adjudications, once a visa is denied, that that is not able to be reversed, that that decision is not able to be reversed.
QUESTION: Right. In other words – so the decision that was made at post that these girls or anyone was ineligible for a visa stands. So —
MS NAUERT: I can’t comment – I cannot —
QUESTION: — then one wonders why the immigration law is such that it determines or that someone looking at it determines that a bunch of teenage Afghan girls are somehow a threat to the United States or are somehow a – somehow – or otherwise ineligible for an American visa.
MS NAUERT: I think commenting on that, as much as I would like to be able to share with you more about this – you know I can’t. You know I can’t because it’s a visa confidentiality, but I can tell you that it is not reversible once a consular affairs officer denies someone’s visa. DHS took it up; they have the ability to do so. Anything beyond that, DHS would have to answer that.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean it remains the State Department’s position that someone who can only get into the country on this parole – on parole is ineligible for a visa, correct?
MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t conflate one with the other. That is DHS. That’s a different department. That’s a different kind of program. That’s not a program that we administer here. Okay?
QUESTION: But State Department denied the visas twice before the parole was granted.
MS NAUERT: I can’t comment on that. Again, that would come under visa confidentiality. DHS made its decision, and so we are now glad that the girls are coming to the United States and wish them well.
QUESTION: But would that initial decision be reviewed, then, and whatever —
MS NAUERT: I know that our people at very senior levels in Afghanistan were involved in this, and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?
QUESTION: So if parole – if visa – if visa information is completely confidential and you can’t discuss it, why is parole information available? And then why didn’t you give parole to the —
MS NAUERT: That’s a – you have to talk to DHS about that. Again, that’s a DHS program.
QUESTION: Why wasn’t the Iranian doctor who was stopped in Boston and sent back – why wasn’t he given parole? I mean, it would seem to me that this guy – he’s a cancer researcher. The public benefit to him being in the country might be a little bit more than a bunch of girls going to a robotics competition, as wonderful as that is.
MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with the specifics of the case. I know that this individual you’re referring to was turned away. I think that falls under Customs and Border Protection. I know it seems like people would want to paint the federal government and certain departments here as a bunch of meanies for not letting some people in. There are reasons for this, okay? I know the people who do these jobs, whether it’s here or at – whether it’s at DHS or Customs and Border Protection, take their jobs very, very seriously.
QUESTION: Yeah. But so —
QUESTION: Just a clarification —
QUESTION: — those original decisions, then – are – is the State Department now seeing those as mistakes?
MS NAUERT: I – again, I stand by it. I’m not going to get into talking about the visas and why the visas were denied. I can just tell you our people take these very seriously.
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: Can you talk about the President’s involvement in this? Seems that he kind of heard about the case and asked the State Department and DHS to kind of work together to try and find a solution.
MS NAUERT: So I know that the President, as did a lot of other people, heard about this case and were very interested in it. I know that Ms. Dina Powell took an interest in it as well. I know that others at the White House were asked to take a look at the case and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?
QUESTION: Can I just —
MS NAUERT: Okay.
QUESTION: So – along these same lines, I was told earlier this week that you guys have finally decided on the P-2 – the Iraqi – the refugee —
MS NAUERT: Oh, goodness. Let me see if I can find that for you here. Okay.
QUESTION: — refugee P-2 status for Iraqi – for former Iraqi translators for the U.S. military and that you have determined that working for the U.S. military as a translator in Iraq, as a contractor, is not necessarily a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States. And I would just like to ask, how is that possible? If you were working for the U.S. military, risking your life, how do you not have a bona fide relationship with an entity in the United States? You were paid by the Pentagon. It wasn’t like you were getting paid in cash on the side – well, maybe some people were, but – by a commander to serve as a – I don’t even know what, as kind of a personal servant or something. They were being paid by the U.S. Government. How is it possible that you guys could come to the determination that such an employer-employee relationship is not a bona fide relationship?
MS NAUERT: I’m trying to find it here, Matt, because I knew you would ask me about this. You’re like a dog with a bone. (Laughter.) You never forget.
MS NAUERT: I said you’re like a dog with a bone, you never forget.
MS NAUERT: Hold on one second. Let me continue to try to find this. And then —
QUESTION: Until the bone is all gone.
QUESTION: Well, then you’d take another bone.
QUESTION: Right. (Laughter.)
MS NAUERT: Bear with me here, gang.
QUESTION: And then I also wanted to ask you if you had gotten anything – I also asked last week about the human rights advocate in Bahrain, the —
MS NAUERT: Yeah.
QUESTION: — woman who had been —
MS NAUERT: Yeah. Matt, I hate to punt on the Iraqi P-2 because I know I have information on —
QUESTION: Well, I certainly understand why —
MS NAUERT: No, I know I have information on —
QUESTION: — why you would want to punt —
MS NAUERT: No, no, no. I have – I do have information —
QUESTION: — because it’s a decision that frankly does not make any sense at all.
MS NAUERT: Look, I know that’s your – I know that’s your opinion, and I —
QUESTION: I think it’s the – not an opinion, that it’s – if it is an opinion —
MS NAUERT: Look, I know that’s your opinion, Matt Lee, but I will —
QUESTION: — then it’s an opinion of a lot of other people.
MS NAUERT: Let me look at this. I’ve got this here somewhere for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you —
MS NAUERT: So let me get back to you on that.
QUESTION: All right, fine. About Bahrain?
MS NAUERT: About Bahrain, yes. So the activist that you’ve been asking about, Ebtisam al-Saegh —
MS NAUERT: — she’s now been detained for a second time. She’s been detained without charges. We continue to follow that case. We are now aware of hunger reports or a hunger strike that she’s been on, apparently, since the 11th of July. So one of the things that we continue to do is call upon the authorities in Bahrain to not only ensure she has access to adequate medical care, but also to release her. We’re also aware of some disturbing reports that she was abused, allegedly, during her detention back in May. We continue to urge the Bahraini authorities to investigate those allegations and thoroughly, impartially, and hold anyone who was responsible for that to the appropriate account.
MS NAUERT: Okay. Last question. I’m going to leave it there.
QUESTION: Just to clarify —
MS NAUERT: I know, yes.
QUESTION: — something you said before. You said senior leaders in Afghanistan were involved in the decision?
MS NAUERT: Yes, that’s all I can say about that. I just know that —
QUESTION: The decision to deny the visas or —
MS NAUERT: I know that – well, no, they were – let me rephrase that and thank you —
MS NAUERT: — for catching that. The correct way to characterize that is senior officials working for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan were aware of this and were involved in some capacity in the process. My understanding is that I don’t believe that additional staffers can weigh in on visa adjudications, but I don’t want to get into the – too into the weeds on that one because I don’t want to give you the incorrect information about how exactly visas are adjudicated, but I just can tell you that people were aware of this.
QUESTION: Was it after the fact?
MS NAUERT: No, no. This is something that we’ve paid close attention to over the past few weeks and we’ll leave it at that. Thanks, everybody.
QUESTION: Can I actually ask this, Heather?
MS NAUERT: We have to wrap it up. We’re over and at four o’clock today, we hope you’ll just us for Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS NAUERT: Thank you.