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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

State Department Briefing for Foreign Media

Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson

The Washington Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
September 13, 2017

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for waiting. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. My name is Benjamin Weber. I’m the director of the center. And I’m very pleased to welcome our spokesperson, Heather Nauert, who will get up here quickly because those things she’s carrying are very, very heavy. Very briefly, we’ll go about 30 minutes, there is no embargo, and we’ll take questions after she’s done her opening remarks. Thank you very much.

MS NAUERT: Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s great to be back here and to see a lot of familiar faces, so I look forward to taking your questions and having a little party with you afterwards.

So a couple things I want to start out with today before we begin with questions: First, I would like to reiterate the United States condolences with all of the countries that have been affected by Hurricane Irma, including the Franco-Dutch island Saint Maarten, where there have been at least 14 fatalities that we are aware of at this point. Much of the island’s infrastructure has been destroyed including a critical water treatment plant.

USAID, the U.S. Government’s lead in disaster response, has experts in St. Martin helping assess the needs and the support of the government’s response efforts. USAID will begin conducting aerial damage assessments of Barbuda as soon as today and continues to coordinate response efforts with local authorities. USAID is also supporting the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross to distribute locally purchased relief supplies to approximately 1,000 people and is preparing to airlift additional commodities onto the islands as soon as conditions will allow.

A team of USAID disaster experts remain in the hard-hit southern Bahamas and they are now coordinating with local authorities to assess the damage and also humanitarian needs. USAID is also providing assistance to the Bahamas Red Cross to distribute relief supplies and basic household items to approximately 3,000 people. We’d like to thank our international partners in the region for working with us to deliver disaster assistance and humanitarian relief to those who have been affected by the storm.

Now, since Friday, September the 8th, more than 2,300 individuals, including some non-U.S. citizens, have been evacuated from Sint Maarten. This includes more than 300 people evacuated by Royal Caribbean and approximately 2,000 by U.S.-provided air evacuations. We are grateful to our colleagues at the Department of Defense for their nonstop efforts in this area. Evacuation flights are planned today for Sint Maarten and also Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We have more than 25 consular officers drawn from across the United States and our posts in the Caribbean who are now working on the ground in St. Martin, Tortola, San Juan, Puerto Rico to assist in evacuation efforts.

Just a few more words on this matter: U.S. citizens should be aware that they need to bring their passports and travel documents to the airport if they have them. If not, they may still proceed to the airport for processing. For all evacuation flights, passengers should expect long wait times. There’s no running water at the airports and very limited shelter. Passengers may be allowed one small carry-on bag, and medications and other essential items should be carried on your person.

Our embassies in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Barbados as well as many – the U.S. consulate in Curacao are now open. Many staff from those posts involved in Hurricane Irma relief efforts, so our consular services are limited at this time.

That’s the first bit of news I’d like to bring you. The second is – and you may notice this beautiful poster right here behind us – has anyone been to Minnesota in the United States? Okay. We have a lady back here and she’s been to Minnesota, you’ve been to Minnesota, you’ve been to Minnesota. Okay. We want to bring all of you to Minnesota. Okay? (Laughter.) It is a fantastic country. I can tell you my in-laws are from there. I’m from the midwestern part of our country. It is not only beautiful, but the people there are extremely friendly and healthy, and that’s one of the themes as the U.S. hopes to have the World’s Fair in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2023. The theme of that is “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” to focus on health and wellness. So it’s a perfect place for it and I’ve been there many, many times.

We are currently seeking the support of 170 member-countries of the Bureau of International Expositions who will convene the general assembly on November the 15th in Paris, France. If you haven’t already, I would invite you to check out Minnesota Expo 2013 display just outside the Foreign Press Center briefing room to learn more about the United States bid to host the World Fair. If the U.S. bid is successful, it would be the first World’s Fair to take place in the United States in almost four decades. Folks, what are we waiting for? Come on. There’s a term called Minnesota nice and that’s often used in referring to people from Minnesota because they’re so nice, it’s referred to as Minnesota nice, so we hope you’ll get a chance to meet them. It’s also a very diverse state despite its far-north geography. Cold in the winter, but beautiful in the summer.

The United States has been host to several World’s Fairs in the past. There was the World’s Fair in New York in ’39 and 1964; in Seattle in 1962, which gave us Seattle’s iconic Space Needle; and then in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1982. Minnesota is ready and prepared to host the world at the Twin Cities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. As some of you may know, it’s home to some of the world’s most respected companies. Seventeen Fortune 500 companies and 15 of the Forbes Global 2000 firms have headquarters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Minnesota’s also a global center of excellence in medicine, wellness, and health care. Nine Fortune 500 companies operating in health, nutrition, medical technology, and wellness sectors are based in Minnesota. There are more than 250,000 workers in the health care sector alone. It also has an NFL team which just beat the Saints, I believe it was last night.

So before you leave today, don’t forget to visit the Minnesota Expo display, and we’d be happy to take any questions that you have about that.

Oh, wait a – hold on one second. One more thing I do want to mention – (laughter) – okay, and that is Secretary Tillerson is en route to London today, so I wanted to announce a bit about this travel. In London, he’ll be hosting a bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister Theresa May, and after that he will meet with the National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill.

In addition, the Secretary will travel to our U.S. embassy in London to meet with our staff at the U.S. embassy and also their family members. I know that’s always a fun event for kids and family members to get to the meet Secretary and hear his comments on that.

In addition, the Secretary will meet with British – the UK and France on North Korea and some of those issues. Also, the French Deputy Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne in London. They will meet as well.

And then tomorrow the Secretary will hold a session on Libya, and they will talk with – British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will hold a joint press availability with – excuse me, Secretary Tillerson will hold that with Boris Johnson in London immediately following.

Now, I’ll take your questions and --

MODERATOR: Okay. Please, as is typical, we’d ask you to wait for a microphone, and when you get the microphone to please identify yourself by name and outlet. And we’ll be going by topics as we do over at the main briefing.


MS NAUERT: Okay. And Benjamin’s going to start out with (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Hi, Heather.

MS NAUERT: Hi. Where do you want to start today?

QUESTION: Yes, about DPRK.


QUESTION: Yeah. After the sanctions and after the DPRK’s response yesterday, so I think it’s quite natural for us to expect another ballistic missiles maybe just in the near future. So I just want to ask that – is the U.S. preparing for that? And will you consider about unilateral sanctions after that missile launch? And second is that after the sanctions, what are the signs you are expecting before you say that it is almost the time for us to start a dialogue? Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much for your question. First, I don’t want to anticipate that anything could potentially happen. If something were to happen, an attack or something of that nature to take place, another test, we feel that we would be – we are fully prepared to respond to that, respond and protect our allies as well. So that’s first and foremost.

When it comes to sanctions, I don’t want to forecast any sanctions ahead. As you well know, a very, very strong round of sanctions was just voted on this week and unanimously agreed to by the UN Security Council and we’re happy with that. We are pleased with that. That is a step in the right direction, the strongest sanctions taken on the DPRK yet.

And to have had a unanimous vote with China and also Russia supporting that, as they did last time just a about a month ago, we feel that we’re in a strong position to keep pushing forward with what we call our peaceful pressure campaign to move ahead, to try to encourage the DPRK, the regime of Kim Jong-un, to understand that not only has he been ostracized and has he been pushed aside and isolated by the world – it’s not just the United States, it’s the entire world – that shares our concern about the destabilizing activities on the Korean Peninsula. And we have – stand by our position, and this has not changed, that we want the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

MODERATOR: Okay. Still with DPRK? Other DPRK questions?

QUESTION: Thank you. Donghui Yu with China Review News Agency of Hong Kong.

MS NAUERT: Hi, sir.

QUESTION: In the context of North Korea nuclear crisis, does the Trump administration consider deploying tactics – so-called tactics – a nuclear weapon – in Japan, South Korea, or even Taiwan? What’s the U.S. position on this issue?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. We have started to get some questions about that. That would be a Department of Defense-related issue. I can tell you, though, that Secretary Mattis, our Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have a very close working relationship.

All of this, everything that the U.S. Government is doing at this place, is a whole-of-government approach, where you have the department that I work for, the State Department, pushing forward with diplomacy. Diplomacy we will not give up on. That is still first and foremost, that’s the preferred approach. If that were to fail – and we don’t think it will; we’re optimistic. I mean, we’re realistic, but we’re also optimistic. This is what we do. This is what we do, and keeping pushing forward with this program.

But we also do have other departments, such as our Treasury Department, which can work on sanctions, unilateral sanctions that the U.S. could start to deploy. We’ve had some of those so far, as you well know. But in addition to that, we have the Department of Defense. And so they have their portfolio of things that they can certainly do, and as you well know, we have a very strong relationship with the Republic of Korea as well as Japan, and we intend to stand by that. They have been very strong allies of ours for many years, and that certainly won’t change.



MODERATOR: This gentleman here, please. In glasses.

QUESTION: Keep your glasses on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Got it. My question is not related to --

MODERATOR: Oh, okay.

MS NAUERT: They both have glasses.

MODERATOR: DPRK only, please. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, Heather.

MS NAUERT: Hi, sir. Good to see you here.

QUESTION: Good to see you. Justin, Yomiuri Shimbun. So quick question. It seems as trade starts winding down with China, the North Koreans have been trading with Russia a bit more, especially between Vladivostok and Rajin. Is the Trump administration considering any sort of sanctions on Russian entities, secondary sanctions on them in response to this?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I’ve seen that report, which is a fascinating one, and I would like to note that Russia was one of the countries behind, and supportive, and voted for this last UN Security Council resolution. So Russia is onboard with the sanctions, and I would say the same to the Chinese Government as I would say to the Russian Government: We look forward to those nations implementing those agreements, to fully pressing ahead with those sanctions, and we expect that they will.

In terms of trade, we certainly hope that that will not be the case, what you were referring to, in terms of looking at sanctions in the future. I just don’t want to forecast any sanctions activities that could eventually – could potentially take place at some point.

MODERATOR: Okay. DPRK? Okay. We’ll give one more to DPRK and then we’ll switch topics, please.

QUESTION: On DPRK and China. Hi.


QUESTION: Thank you. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Could you please tell us if Secretary Tillerson and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi have discussed North Korea yesterday, if you have a readout? And also, if you can confirm that the two leaders actually talked about the preparation for President Trump’s state visit to China, and what role is State Department playing for this trip? Because it was reported that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, they cancelled their trip to China this month. So what role is State --

MS NAUERT: Okay. I’m not aware of that report, so I have not seen that latest report that you were referring to, but I can tell you that the President has a strong and close relationship with the Chinese president. The first ladies have a terrific relationship. That is one of the subjects that came up yesterday when the state councilor was meeting with Secretary Tillerson. I was in that meeting, so was able to listen in on a part of that, and it was wonderful to have heard more about the growing, closer relationship between our two countries, because there’s a lot of work that has to be done. Certainly, a lot of work on the DPRK. And China recognizes that. They recognize the importance of that. It’s 90 percent of the trade to the DPRK has flown through – excuse me, flowed through China, and China has taken steps, certainly, in the right direction to try to restrict that.

They also recognize and agree with the United States and, frankly, the world that a nuclearized Korean Peninsula in the hands of the Kim Jong-un regime is dangerous for the world. It’s dangerous for the region, it’s dangerous around the entire globe. And as we talk about our pressure campaign and we look at many of the countries that you all represent or are from originally are involved in this pressure campaign, and I don’t want to name all of them, but you certainly see some of the African nations, you see some Middle Eastern nations, European nations who are kicking out Korean guest workers, who are limiting the size of North Korean embassies. And all of that is so important in keeping the money from going back to the North Korean regime, which we believe that that money – and frankly, your countries do as well – believe that that money goes into the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile testing programs.

So the more that the world can act to take away that money from the Kim Jong-un regime – it doesn’t take money away from the people; it takes money away from those weapons programs that are a danger to all of us. Okay.

Oh, and sorry, in terms of your last question. Yes, the President plans to travel to China this fall. I know the President looks forward to that meeting. I don’t have any specific dates to provide you just yet, but one of the things that was agreed to in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year – I believe that was in March or so; it predates my time here – was a series of four meetings with the Chinese Government, and I believe we’ve had two of those four meetings, and we look forward to carrying out the rest just as soon as possible, and I know the President and the First Lady look forward to their trip to China.

MODERATOR: We’ll go here and then back.

QUESTION: Gustau Alegret, NTN24.

MS NAUERT: Hi there.

QUESTION: When President Trump was a candidate and he visited Scotland, he was in favor of the referendum of the Scottish people. Today – well, this October 1st, the people of Catalonia want to hold a referendum, and the government of Catalonia is pushing for this referendum. Would the U.S. accept the result of this referendum?

MS NAUERT: Well, I think the referendum from the U.S. point of view would be something that’s an internal matter. We wouldn’t want to interfere in that internal matter, so we’re – we’ll let the government there and the people there work it out, and we will work with whatever government or entity comes out of that.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MS NAUERT: Yes, certainly.

QUESTION: How do you – the Government of Spain is using the judiciary, the police in order to block in any way this referendum. How do you analyze or what’s your analysis of this behavior of the Spanish Government?

MS NAUERT: Yeah, I’m not personally familiar with what you just mentioned right there, so I would hesitate to talk about anything that I’m just not familiar with that part of it. But overall, we see that as an internal government matter in terms of a referendum.

MODERATOR: The lady in the back in the blue and red, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Zena Ibrahim, Al Mayadeen TV. I also have another referendum question --


QUESTION: -- regarding the independence of Kurdistan referendum, the 25th.


QUESTION: I would like to know what is the U.S. position and what is the steps U.S. will take in order to prevent it from happening? Thank you.

MS NAUERT: May I ask, are you from Iraq?

QUESTION: I am from Iraq, yes.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Your family’s still there?

QUESTION: No, my close family is here, but relatives in Iraq.

MS NAUERT: Okay, good. Well, I hope your relatives are all okay.

QUESTION: They are. They are. Thank you for asking.

MS NAUERT: Certainly a tough time in recent years, to say the least.

QUESTION: Thank you for asking.

MS NAUERT: So thank you for your question about a referendum on Kurdish independence. As you know, Iraq is a very close ally and friend of the United States. We have so many service members who have spent time there; many, many who have lost their lives. I’ve been there personally as a reporter in the past, covering the war there, and has been – and I’ve been to the north as well.

All of that being said, we do not support the planned September 25th Kurdish referendum on independence. And the reason for that is simple. I know that that can frustrate some folks, but the reason is we’d like to keep the focus on ISIS. Your country has been through so much; your people have lost so much as a result of ISIS. We want to keep our eye on the ball. And the eye on the ball is taking out ISIS and making sure that they will never again retake territory that has been taken back from them. That territory belongs to the people of Iraq, the people of that government, not ISIS, and the United States and the coalition stands behind the Government of Iraq to do that.

We would like to have further dialogue between Erbil and also Baghdad, and encourage the parties to discuss areas of mutual concern, including their future relationship. In terms of our government’s position on what Iraq looks like, we would support a unified, federal, prosperous, and democratic Iraq.


MODERATOR: More on this topic?

QUESTION: Actually, a follow-up.

MS NAUERT: Yeah, okay. Go right ahead.

QUESTION: So what if they would actually do the referendum? What positions, steps U.S. will take?

MS NAUERT: Well, we have expressed our concern about this to the Government of Iraq. Our – Brett McGurk, who is our president – special presidential envoy handling ISIS, is there right now. I believe he’s actually in Baghdad today, and that’s one of the messages that he is bringing to the government there, to not hold the referendum at this time so we can keep our eye on the ball. And when I say we, I mean the coalition. I mean the United States backing Iraq and its partners and other coalition in taking on ISIS.

Thank you. Anything else on Iraq?



MODERATOR: Turkey or --

MS NAUERT: Neighboring. (Laughter.) Go right ahead.

MODERATOR: Okay, sir. Turkey.

MS NAUERT: Sir, go right ahead.

QUESTION: I am with the Armenian TV. My name is Haykaram Nahapetyan. Thank you for this opportunity.

MS NAUERT: Thank you, sir, for coming.

QUESTION: The mayor of Ankara made a tweet calling his followers to pray that more disasters similar to Irma and Harvey hurricanes will take place again, and --

MS NAUERT: He was praying for more disasters to take place?

QUESTION: He calls his followers to pray for more disasters to happen.


QUESTION: And he also mentioned that United States suffered financial losses, I think $290 billion, and he calls his followers to pray so United States or enemies of Turkey, as he says --

MS NAUERT: Well, if I may pause you there --

QUESTION: You are familiar?

MS NAUERT: I’m a woman of faith myself and I hope his prayers fall on deaf ears, because I cannot imagine praying for tragedy for any nation, really.

QUESTION: Is this a typical thing for a mayor of NATO member country? No, obviously, right? To make --

MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with those comments, so I just don’t want to – I don’t want to comment beyond that. I --

QUESTION: Have you noticed that it is not the first time that Ankara’s mayor, who is a member of ruling party, makes such anti-America tweets?

MS NAUERT: I’m not – sir, I’m just not aware of that. Okay? Thank you.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MODERATOR: I think maybe we’ll move on to a different topic. I wanted to go here, please, and then we’ll go back.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Carlos Franganillo from the Television of Spain. I would like to go back to political affairs in Spain. Prime Minister Rajoy is coming to Washington. He’s having a meeting with President Trump. And two years ago, the King of Spain was also here, and the President of the United States Barack Obama gave clear support of the unity of Spain as a partner, as a whole country. I don’t know, because of what’s happening in Spain in Catalonia, can we expect a message like that one?

MS NAUERT: I’m not familiar with what President Obama had said to the Spanish Government at the time, so I just don’t want to – and I don’t want to forecast anything that – any conversations or meetings that could be had. So I’m sorry I’m not giving you the answer that you’re looking for, but I’m just not familiar with what President Obama had said and I don’t have any of the details of an upcoming meeting.

MODERATOR: Okay. To Mr. Ghosh. Please.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you.


QUESTION: Nirmal Ghosh from The Straits Times. A couple of days ago, DAS Patrick Murphy talking about Burma --


QUESTION: -- had said that the U.S. Government was in touch with individuals in the Burmese Government --


QUESTION: -- who understood the need to move forward and resolve the Rakhine State crisis. Could you update us on that a bit? And also, how concerned are you about the wider regional implications of this crisis and instability in Burma in general? Thank you.

MS NAUERT: We’ve recently gotten a lot of reporter questions about the crisis and the violence in Burma, and sometimes that gives the perception that this is something new to us and new to that nation. In fact, at the State Department we’ve been following this very closely for many years, and we know that the violence has been decades in the making.

We have been tremendously concerned about the level of violence there. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Murphy held a media briefing call last Friday in which he was able to answer some reporters’ questions.

A new bit of news that we’ve not reported yet, but that is that Deputy Assistant Secretary Murphy had called in the ambassador, the ambassador to Burma, here in Washington, and they had a meeting earlier this week.

QUESTION: From Burma?

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The ambassador from Burma.

MS NAUERT: Excuse me. Yes, the ambassador from Burma. They had a meeting here in Washington where they were able to talk about the situation.

There are now a reported 379,000 Rohingya who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh – a huge number. The United States has provided – I believe it’s about $63 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to help with both internally and externally displaced people. Some of them fled to Bangladesh. And I want to make clear to the nations who have accepted some of the refugees, thank you, thank you for doing that, thank you for giving them a safe spot to go, at least safer than the area in which they fled. And I know that that’s sometimes a relative thing.

I want to just express our level of concern, our high level of concern, that so many people have fled, have been forced to fled, following allegations of serious human rights abuses in the Rakhine State. There have been violent attacks, mass burnings of villages. Recently, the Government of Burma has started to facilitate human aid getting in. We understand that there is a channel, a pathway for that starting to get in, and we are grateful for that and we’re asking for that to continue because that is something that is very desperately needed.

In addition, we want to express our gratitude for journalists being able to get into the area. I’ve not been there. Perhaps some of you have. Everyone who has been there tells me that it’s extremely difficult to get to the northern Rakhine State. Infrastructure there is not good. Also, it’s not necessarily safe, as we well know.

So we just want to continue to try to talk to the government, express our concerns to the government. The White House had put out a statement about this fact earlier this week. So when I say this has the highest concern on the part of the U.S. Government, I mean that. It truly does.

MODERATOR: On this topic, anything else?

MS NAUERT: Anything else on this?



MS NAUERT: Okay, but hold on. Anything else on Burma?


MS NAUERT: Nothing? Nothing else – sir, you have a question on Burma?


MS NAUERT: Okay. Go right ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Safvan Allahverdi working for Anadolu News Agency. According to United Nations definition of genocide, the Government of Myanmar is carrying out a genocide against 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, as you said, by mass killings, tortures, disappearance, and all that. Are you or is the State Department considering it a genocide?

MS NAUERT: So I just want to reiterate we have certainly seen the repeated human rights abuses and violations by security forces and also civilians as well. They have been disturbing. We are upset by what has taken place. We are continuing to watch the situation extremely closely. We’ve had lots of conversations with the government. Our conversations will continue to be ongoing. I don’t want to get ahead of any of those conversations at this point, but I want to assure you that this is something that we care about. We are very focused on this issue and that focus will not go away.

QUESTION: So we say no, not yet?

MS NAUERT: Sir, I’m not going to characterize it that way. We are having many discussions with the government at many levels, from our folks on the ground there who are in Burma to our officials here in Washington to the President of the United States. So I’m not going to go out and try to get ahead of some of those private diplomatic conversations. As many of you know – probably know – there are certain instances in which we can have conversations and be more effective when we’re not being so public about things. Some people may look at this and say, “Why isn’t the U.S. Government saying more about this issue or that issue?” Sometimes we just can’t say things – certain things – publicly, and sometimes we can be most effective when we have conversations in private.

MODERATOR: Okay. Any more on this? On Burma? On Burma, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS NAUERT: Hi, sir.

QUESTION: You stressed about your concern, and I was wondering if you --

MODERATOR: Sir, can you give your name and your outlet, please?

QUESTION: Of course. Mohammed Kinesary (ph) with Anadolu. I was wondering if you contacted Myanmar Government about your concern, and do you condemn the violence against the civilians? Because State Department or White House never used the word “condemned” in – for Myanmar case.

MS NAUERT: I mean, look, to your – we are assessing the situation on the ground. We would condemn violence at all levels in that situation. I just – I can’t be stronger on it than that. There has been longstanding severe discrimination against the Rohingya population. There have been reports of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, the burning of Rohingya villages by security forces and also non-Rohingya civilians. All of that is particularly troubling to the United States.

MR GREENAN: Can I just point out on August 25th, your statement said the United States strongly condemns deadly attacks on security forces in Burma’s northern Rakhine. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Thank you.

MR GREENAN: Later on the 28th we had a similar statement on the civilian, and the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has equally condemned it.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Sir, I don’t know if you caught that, but my colleague here was just reiterating if you’re looking for whether or not we have used the word “condemn,” yes, we have used the word “condemn” in official statements from my department, Public Affairs, at the State Department, okay?

QUESTION: I remember the statement, and it was a condemnation on the security forces. It was not condemnation on the civilians.

MS NAUERT: Sir, we can get --

MR GREENAN: On August 31, Ambassador Haley on the situation in Burma: “The United States supports democracy for the Burmese people, and we condemn attacks by militant groups in Rakhine State.” And we go on and she welcomes Burma’s endorsement of the Annan Commission’s recommendations, which of course talks about the Rakhine --


QUESTION: And I was wondering if State Department can also condemn on this podium on me – to me and my government.

MS NAUERT: Sir, we can get you copies of all of the statements that the U.S. has put out, in addition to a readout of our Deputy Assistant Secretary Murphy’s media call in which he addressed many of these things in greater detail. Okay.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more.


MODERATOR: Do you want the same topic or move on?

MS NAUERT: No, let’s move on to something else.

MODERATOR: Okay. Simon.


QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: My name is Simon Ateba from Simon Ateba News Africa.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Nice to --

QUESTION: Last week Amnesty International submit that Boko Haram has killed almost 400 people in Nigeria and Cameroon. I want to know if the Trump administration considers Boko Haram and terrorism in West Africa a real concern.

And last question: President Obama visited Africa twice and he was condemn – he was criticized for not visiting Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Is President Trump thinking about visiting Africa, and do you have – do you know when? Thank you.

MS NAUERT: I don’t have any trips or anything to provide to you at this time for the President, but I’m glad you asked this question. And you’re from where again? You’re --

QUESTION: I’m from Cameroon.

MS NAUERT: You’re from Cameroon. Okay. Thank you. It’s nice to have you here today. Were you by any chance over at the Institute for Peace earlier?


MS NAUERT: No? You missed it. Okay. Our Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon – Ambassador Tom Shannon, who had spent years in South Africa working there as a diplomat, was one of the hosts of a – of an event held over at the U.S. Institute for Peace specific to issues of concern to African nations today. So I was over there just this morning meeting some folks from your country and many others.

In terms of Africa, a couple things I want to mention to you: President Trump, Secretary Tillerson, and our National Security team are engaging with our African partners on a very consistent basis. As we look at our relationship with African nations – and I’m just going to kind of broadly talk about it like that for a few minutes – we have four pillars of the relationship with those separate – with all the countries there.

The first is advancing peace and security, and there some important things going on in that front. We are working to build the capacity of regional peacekeepers. The numbers continue to increase in Africa. In the past year, the United States has helped provide training to peacekeepers from more than 20 African nations who are actively engaged in UN and also African Union peacekeeping operations. That’s the first pillar.

Let me talk about the second pillar, and then I’ll address your questions on Boko Haram and terrorism as well.

The second pillar of this is countering terrorism. The administration seeks to partner with African allies to confront and counter terrorism in Africa, which includes defeating Boko Haram, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and also in ISIS in West Africa. The progress that we’ve made in counterterrorism efforts – and when I say “we,” that’s the United States backing those nations – that will be undone – and I want to be clear about this – that would be undone by abusive and illegal behavior if that were to take place by any security forces. That is something that we want to keep people and hold any countries that we work with and any troops that we train to the highest standards.

The fourth pillar of that is increasing economic growth and investment in African nations, and the final part is promoting democracy and good governance. We have seen the African – many African nations become world leaders in trade and in many other things. And the United States respects and values the partnerships that we have with many of those nations.

When you talk about how we approach Africa, Under Secretary Shannon laid out our relationship with many of those nations. The United States is the single-largest donor of humanitarian assistance in responding to ongoing crises in Sudan, in the Horn of Africa, and in the Lake Chad Basin.

Our new USAID administrator – and USAID is our – it’s kind of a sister entity to the State Department. They provide a lot of food and clean water and assistance around the world. They do a lot of work in Africa, certainly. Our new administrator, Mark Green, on his very first trip chose to go to South Sudan and Somalia. And one of the things that he intended to do was highlight the situation there, not only food scarcity, which is manmade, but also political instability there.

So the United States looks forward to working with many of the nations there to provide greater security, but also global trade opportunities.

I might also add that we were very pleased that quite a few nations – I think it was – hold on, I have it right here – joined our D-ISIS coalition, recognizing that terrorism is a problem, certainly in some nations, and that it is something that could fester. So many of these countries had joined our D-ISIS coalition. Here in Washington we had a ministerial meeting. I believe it was in July or so. Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, Tunisia – they all joined together to help work together to combat terrorism. Okay? Thank you for your question.

Want to take one more?

QUESTION: Question on Pakistan?

MODERATOR: Okay. Gentleman in the black.


QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Iaroslov Dovgopol. I am working with Ukrainian news agency Ukraine 4.

MS NAUERT: Hi, sir.

QUESTION: So last week, you made a statement about the UN peacekeeping mission to Ukraine, and thank you for that. And question is: What will be the position of the United States in the current session of the UN General Assembly? Are you going to discuss it with other members of UN Security Council, and are you ready to support the Ukraine – Ukraine’s initiative? Thank you.

MS NAUERT: And Ukraine initiative to do what?

QUESTION: To – about the UN peacekeeping mission in the eastern part.

MS NAUERT: Ah, okay. The Russian proposal for a UN peacekeeping --

QUESTION: And the Ukrainian proposal then.

MS NAUERT: Okay, okay, okay. Got it. So I want to make this clear and I don’t want to jump ahead of anything that would happen at the UN General Assembly. We are still working out our meetings at the United Nations. We don’t have a full set – we don’t have all of our meetings just set. I expect to be able to provide a rundown of the meetings that we have scheduled hopefully tomorrow, and then the White House will issue theirs at some point too.

In terms of peacekeepers and that idea that you bring up, we support the Normandy partners. That has not changed. They have an effort to try to implement the Minsk agreements. That is something that we stand firmly behind. That is indicative in the fact that we brought back Ambassador Kurt Volker to help facilitate that.

The second thing I want to mention: We believe the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force for eastern Ukraine is certainly an idea that is worth exploring. I think that’s something that I touched on last week. We consider that a possible means of protecting Ukrainian citizens regardless of their ethnicity, their nationality. We see it potentially as a pathway to restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and also territorial – excuse me – integrity.

However, I want to be clear about this, and that is any such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied territory of Ukraine up to and including the border with Russia in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine. Other nations, European nations – Germany is one example – agrees with us on this matter. Our goal is simple. We would like to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and also protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion is, no matter what their ethnicity is, or their language.

And if I may, I also want to mention that we believe it’s important to improve the security situation as a first step. We’ve called repeatedly for Russia to ensure a real and durable ceasefire. We would like them to disengage along the line of contact, withdraw heavy weapons, and allow full, unfettered, and safe access to the international monitors, including the international border.

I might also add that we lost an American, who was one of the OSCE monitors, earlier this year in Ukraine, and we want to express our condolences again to his family and make sure that monitors who can provide full, fair information in the field have the ability to operate in a dangerous environment safely. And we think that that is important. Okay.

QUESTION: Question on Pakistan?

MODERATOR: I think we’ll call it there. Thank you very much.

MS NAUERT: We’re going to have to end, and you have a party to get started, okay? Thank you so much for your time here. We really appreciate you joining us and hope we got to answer some of your questions. We’ll see you again. Thank you. (Applause.)