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US Department of State

Department Press Briefing – April 2, 2021

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 2, 2021

Article Index

2:01 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Good afternoon and thank you for joining today's press briefing this Friday. I have two quick announcements at the top, and we'll start with your question and answers.

First, we are deeply saddened by the loss of life and casualties from the train derailment in Taiwan on April 2nd, 2021. We extend our deepest condolences to all those affected and stand ready to offer all possible assistance.

We are working closely with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens were affected. We wish Taiwan peace and comfort during this difficult time.

Next, this weekend marks 2,000 days since Iran arrested Siamak Namazi for being a U.S. citizen. Siamak Namazi was a businessman living in Tehran when he was arrested in October of 2015. When his father, 84-year-old Baquer Namazi, traveled to Iran to help free his son, the Iranian Government arrested him too.

Both Siamak and Baquer were arrested, were sentenced to 10 years in prison on baseless charges. As a result, the Namazi family has suffered for five and a half years while the Iranian Government continues to treat their husband, father, son, and brother as political pawns. This terrible milestone should offend all who believe in the rule of law.

We call on Iran to immediately and safely release all U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including the Namazis, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, who is a U.K. citizen. Iran must also account for the fate of Robert Levinson and other U.S. citizens who are missing or abducted in Iran. The abhorrent act of unjust detentions for political gain must cease immediately – whether in Iran or anywhere around the world.

And with that, we'll give it a few minutes before we start taking your questions.

Let's go to the line of Carmen Rodriguez, please.

OPERATOR: One moment. Carmen Rodriguez, your line is open. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for this conference. My question is regarding what's going on right now in El Salvador. You may see there is an – a confronted attitude from the president of El Salvador regarding all the Biden administration's plans to fight against immigrations, or fight to combat the roots of immigrations. What will be the U.S. position in this matter, if this attitude continues and if there is no way that President Bukele sits with the U.S. to work against immigration?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Carmen. I'll first start off by saying that the President is serious about working and discovering the root causes of migration and working through those challenges in a way that requires systemic change and political will from government leaders. And we'll also say the United States stands ready to partner up with governments as well as the private sector and members of civil society who are ready and willing to rise to the situation at hand in El Salvador.

I'll also say that the United States, we're focused on working towards a more democratic, fair, and prosperous El Salvador, of course, where the people of El Salvador can thrive. And of course, we look forward to continuing to work with El Salvador to achieve these goals in the future.

Let's go to the line of Janne Pak, please.

OPERATOR: And Janne Pak, your line is open.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much. I have two questions for you. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Yes. As you know, the China is inviting foreign ministers from four ASEAN countries to talks at the same time as the U.S., South Korea, and Japan trilateral dialogue are held. The South Korean foreign minister and Chinese minister of foreign affairs talked – also talked today. I'm wondering why at this point the foreign minister of South Korea should go to China to talk with the Chinese foreign minister. Do you have any comment on this?

And secondly, what are the difference of view between South Korea and the United States in North Korea policy? And will the difference of view be reduced in this trilateral talk? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions. I'll start with your first one, Janne, and to say that we – we aren't in a position to comment on the foreign minister's – of Korea's decision to engage in discussions with China. But to your second question, as you're probably already apprised of, NSA Jake Sullivan is again welcoming National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura as well as National Security Advisor Hoon of Republic of Korea today in Annapolis, Maryland at the Naval Academy for these trilateral talks. And as you are well aware that our – the talks are ongoing, but it'll – will be drawn to a conclusion soon. We don't have any other announcements at this time other than that we remain committed to denuclearization of North Korea.

Please go to the line of Laura Kelly.

OPERATOR: Laura Kelly, your line's open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for taking my question. I wonder if you can give more details on the meeting next week in Vienna with signatories to the Iran nuclear deal, what U.S. officials are going to be at the meeting, and what type of sanctions relief may be proposed for Iran to take steps to reverse its breaches of the agreement. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for the question. We don't have any specific announcements to make about details of who will participate from the U.S. in that meeting. And just as a reminder, this is a healthy first step forward, and we kind of – we definitely want to underscore that. And obviously, when it comes to issues that are discussed, we're going to talk about nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to a compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. And we won't preview any specific sanctions, but we'll definitely say that sanction relief steps that the U.S. would need to take in order to return to that compliance as well will be up for discussion.

Let's go to the line of Shaun Tandon, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Can I just follow up on Iran? What exactly do you think will be the – what you're looking for there? I know you mentioned actions by Iran. There's been some talk by the EU of having some synchronized action. Is that something that you are going to look to do there in Vienna, to try to coordinate the action?

And if you don't mind, could I also ask you the latest on Burma? There was an announcement yesterday by the junta of shutting down all internet connections, all internet service. Do you have any reaction to that? Is there any way to circumvent that? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you. To your first question on talks in Vienna, I won't get ahead of the meeting, but I will underscore that obviously the goal is a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA.

When it comes to internet shutdowns, unfortunate internet shutdowns in Burma, we certainly condemn all that's going on when it comes to internet shutdowns. This actually poses a serious security and health issue. As you know, using platforms as they've used before like Facebook and Twitter have been really crucial for the people of Burma to get what they need, and without access to internet they're not able to get access to programs when it comes to health relief. We certainly condemn the use of military-imposed internet shutdowns, and again, we hope this won't silence the voices of the people of Burma. But we will continue to encourage the military regime to push forward for Burma's path of democracy.

Let's go to the line of Jennifer Hansler.

OPERATOR: Ms. Hansler, you're open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much, and apologies if this was already asked. I had to drop off for a second. Can you confirm whether Rob Malley will be representing the U.S. at the talks in Vienna?

And then separately, given that the U.S. is vaccinating a lot of folks and there are these new CDC travel guidelines about folks who are vaccinated, are there any talks with the governments of Canada or Mexico about lifting some of the border restrictions for nonessential travelers? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Again, to your first question, I want to underscore that we don't have any announcements to make at this time as far as U.S. representation or personnel at the talks in Vienna. When it comes to lifted restrictions on travel restrictions for coronavirus, I would have to direct you to the CDC.

Let's go to the line of Ellen Knickmeyer.

OPERATOR: Ms. Knickmeyer —

QUESTION: Ready.

OPERATOR: — your line is open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. I unfortunately joined a couple minutes into the call and heard you finishing a statement about the detainees. I don't know if – about detainees held by Iran. I was wondering if it's possible to get the substance of that again. And along those lines, are there – are issues like American citizens held in Iran or Iran's intervention in the countries around it and other complaints against Iran going to be included in any talks next week and going forward in the Iran nuclear deal?

MS PORTER: Thanks for your questions. I'll take your first one, and I'll start off by saying that the safe return of all U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained, whether they're in Iran or anywhere in the world, is a top priority of the United States. And just because you missed the last portion of it, what we were discussing is this weekend marking the 2,000th day since Iran arrested Siamak Namazi for being a U.S. citizen as well as his father who came to try to help him and were imprisoned for 10 years simply on baseless causes. Again, we won't underscore enough that we call on Iran to immediately and safely release all U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran. And Iran must also take into account the fate of Robert Levinson and all other U.S. citizens who were actually abducted in the country.

Let's go to the line of Joel Gehrke.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. I have two very different questions. I'll start with the Russia and Ukraine. One, I just – I saw of course that President Biden spoke to President Zelenskyy and there's been a lot of focus on the military movements around the borders of Ukraine. I wonder, do you think that the Russian military is staging the kinds of forces that would be used in any kind of imminent – imminent invasion into Ukraine? Is that – is that your assessment right now?

MS PORTER: Well, I mean, I won't make a firm assessment, but I'll definitely say that we're aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troops' movements around their borders. And we're discussing our concerns about this increased tension and a ceasefire violation as well as regional tensions with NATO allies. And again, we remain concerned about these recent escalations of Russian aggression and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine. And you had a second question?

QUESTION: Yeah, I wondered since we're talking about Bob Levinson today – I wonder if you're aware of his name has come up in – of course in the context of a controversy involving Congressman Matt Gaetz, who claims that he's being extorted as part of a – as part of some kind of shadowy initiative to – where the people who approached him said they could – they could also help with the freeing of Robert Levinson. Have you heard anything about these allegations that would seem to implicate some of your equities if somebody were doing this? Is there any kind of – is there any kind of conversation underway to see what – what's going on there, if anything?

MS PORTER: I can't confirm that we've had any conversations when it comes to Mr. Levinson and Congressman Gaetz. And that being the case, I would have to refer you to the – either the campaign or the congressional office of Congressman Gaetz.

Let's go to the line of Jiha Ham.

OPERATOR: Okay, Jiha, your line is open. I apologize for the delay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said on Wednesday that he looks forward to seeing Washington to consider more positively on the idea of an end to the Korean War – so-called an end-of-war declaration. So what's the State Department's or this administration's position on this idea?

Also, could you give us an update or tell us more details on the meeting of the three national security advisors? I know you mentioned about this earlier, but I'm wondering if you could share with us more. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions. As far as meeting details from the trilateral meeting, I'll have to refer you to the White House. I'm sure they'll have a readout that they will publish after the meeting. And as far as your first question, we'll have to take that back for you.

Let's go to the line of Pranshu Verma.

OPERATOR: And Pranshu, your line is open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) confirm whether the Biden administration is going to reverse the executive order allowing – that President Trump passed authorizing sanctions on ICC personnel?

MS PORTER: We don't have anything to announce at this time on the ICC, but I suspect we'll actually have an announcement later today that will be published. Thanks.

Let's go to the line of Mouhamed Elahmed.

OPERATOR: Mouhamed, you're all open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for doing this. (Inaudible.)

MS PORTER: Hi, I'm having trouble – I'm having trouble hearing you, Mouhamed.

QUESTION: Hello?

MS PORTER: Okay, I can hear you now.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you for doing this. I have a question about Afghanistan. I'm wondering if you have any update about special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad's meetings and consultations in Doha. And also, how are the consultations and the preparations for the upcoming meeting in Istanbul going so far? Thank you so much.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Mouhamed. And as a matter of correction, yes, Ambassador Khalilzad is currently in Doha and he is currently meeting with both the Islamic Republic and Taliban negotiating teams to push for further progress and a reduction in violence. And of course he's meeting with other international partners to explore how the community can both help both sides accelerate the peace process.

Now, when it comes to the meeting, upcoming meeting in Turkey, Special Representative Khalilzad recently traveled to meet with Turkish counterparts on the upcoming conference on the Afghanistan peace process held in Istanbul. And we're encouraged by the international community's interest in accelerating the peace process. But for further details when it comes to Turkey specifically, I would have to refer you to the Turkish Government.

Let's go to the line of Muath Alamri.

QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Happy Friday. Thank you for doing this and allow me to ask. My question is about Iran. Since the U.S. and Iran agreed to talk to each other indirectly, who is going to be the mediator, your back channel here? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you. This definitely seems to be a common question today, but I'll just underscore that we don't have any announcements today on who will serve as U.S. representation in that meeting. We'll certainly share that when we do have those details.

Let's go to the line of Soyoung Kim, please.

QUESTION: Oh, hello.

OPERATOR: Soyoung, you're open. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I was actually going to ask you a similar question regarding the trilateral meeting today, and then you answered. But if I could just make one – you said that the review of North Korea policy is complete soon. So when can we actually expect to see the result? And then, will there be, like, a report or a press briefing on this? So what kind of form that we are going to see the review. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. We don't have a specific timeline on when the review will be complete. But of course, when we do have an update to that, I'm sure obviously through our channels at the State Department as well as the White House we will be releasing that through specific statements. But we don't have all those details ironed out at this time.

We'll take one final caller from Joseph Haboush.

OPERATOR: Mr. Haboush, your line is open. Go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to ask if the U.S. consulted with its allies in the Gulf and in Israel ahead of next week's talks. And secondly, will you guys be carrying any of their concerns into the talks next week? Thank you.

MS PORTER: So we certainly won't preview any private diplomatic discussions. But again, I'll reiterate what was shared earlier in that the issues that will be discussed are nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to compliance with the terms of the JCPOA as well as the sanction relief steps that the United States would need to take in order to return to the compliance as well.

This concludes today's briefing. Thank you all so much for joining today, and I hope you have a nice weekend ahead.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)

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