Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson
2:06 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining today’s briefing. I just have a few announcements at the top, and we’ll resume to taking your questions.
This morning, the Secretary hosted a virtual ministerial with the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. He emphasized our commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Central Asian countries. The Secretary highlighted the importance of a just and durable settlement in Afghanistan for our efforts to support stability, regional growth, and development.
Additionally, the Secretary announced a project supporting women business associations across Central Asia, proposed a future P5+1 meeting on climate change with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry, and discussed a range of issues, including the COVID-19 recovery.
The State Department also announced today that Jeffrey Feltman will serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. This appointment underscores the administration’s commitment to lead an international diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security, and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa. Having held senior positions in both the State Department and the United Nations, Special Envoy Feltman is uniquely suited to bring decades of experience in Africa and the Middle East, multilateral diplomacy, and negotiation and mediation to develop and execute an integrated U.S. strategy to address these complex regional issues. His work will also build on our ongoing effort to address the escalating conflict in Ethiopia and provide opportunities for reform.
I’ll give just a minute of time for you all to filter in the queue before we start taking your questions.
OPERATOR: And as a reminder, to join the Q&A queue, you may press 1 then 0.
MS PORTER: Let’s start with the line of Michael Lavers.
QUESTION: Hi —
OPERATOR: Michael Lavers, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Okay, fantastic. Thank you so much for the call today. I just wanted to see if you had any additional information about the cable that Secretary Blinken sent out regarding pride flags at the U.S. embassies and consulates and if you can confirm any further details about that.
MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Michael. I just want to start off by saying that Secretary Blinken is committed to the rights and prosperity of our LGBTQ+ community, both our employees at State and in all around the world.
When it comes to the cable that you mentioned, of course, the department issues pride guidance to our missions on a regular basis, and pride displays at overseas facilities actually don’t require Washington approval. However, flying a flag over the Foreign Service – from the same flagpole as the U.S. actually doesn’t require approval as well. In prior years, the department has issued a blanket authorization or requested that posts request permission from Washington to fly a pride flag from the same flagpole as the U.S. flag.
Let’s go to the line of Rosiland Jordan.
OPERATOR: Rosiland Jordan, your line’s open.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina, thanks for the call. A couple of questions. First, is there any reaction from the U.S. Government to the news that Aleksey Navalny, on the advice of his doctors, is ending his hunger strike? And what concern has been given to the Russian Government about his continued well-being?
And then in terms of the meeting that the Belarusian President Lukashenko had with Vladimir Putin, what concerns does the U.S. Government have about that meeting, especially in light of rumors that they’re looking at some sort of closer political affiliation, although Putin is rejecting calls that the two countries merge?
And then finally, is there any overall progress in U.S.-Russian discussions on employee staff, the status of the diplomats who have been declared PNG, and so on? Thanks so much.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Rosiland. I’m going to start backwards from forward with your questions, addressing the third one initially, and just say that the Russian Government, as we know, has made an unfortunate decision to announce regarding locally employed staff. These steps prohibit the employment of local staff, community members, and past personnel, as well as the community. We know that our locally employed staff are key members of the workforce all around the world. Their contributions are important not only to our operations but our bilateral missions.
When it comes to your question on Belarus and their meeting with Russia, we have nothing to preview or read out for that at this time.
But when it comes to Mr. Navalny, we’re certainly aware of the report that he is planning to end his weeklong hunger strike, and we remain deeply concerned about his health as well as his safety, and we continue to call for his unconditional and immediate release.
Let’s go to the line of Simon Lewis.
OPERATOR: Simon Lewis, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, I have a question about Myanmar, or Burma. There’s a summit in ASEAN coming up, and the regional countries are trying to – trying to address the coup that’s happened in Myanmar. And there’s been some controversy about them inviting or meeting with the commander-in-chief, so I guess I’m interested in if the U.S. has any take on the regional summit and what you’d like to see there regarding the coup.
And separately, the – there’s a national unity government that’s been formed in opposition to the coup, and they’re sort of calling for them to be recognized as the legitimate government of the country rather than inviting the commander-in-chief to these kind of diplomatic events. I wonder what the U.S. position is on – who do you recognize as the Government of Myanmar, and are you going to extend any form of – formal recognition to this national unity government? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. When it comes to your question about the ASEAN summit as well as when it pertains to a specific government, I mean, we – the United States, again, we maintain our strong support for the people of Burma through and through. We maintain support for them overcoming their crisis as well as them restoring their – Burma’s path to democracy and eventually achieving lasting peace. We’ll continue to commend the steadfast courage demonstrated by the people of Burma in opposition to the military coup. They’ve made their voices heard, quite frankly, in the face of horrific violence and oppression from their military regime.
Let’s go to the line of Tejinder Singh.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Okay, this is more of a request for an update. After the spokesperson yesterday elaborated on the requests from India about raw materials for vaccines, there’s been a big outcry in the Indian media and everywhere. So I just wanted to know if there has been any update in the U.S. position on the raw materials for the vaccine, and any more concrete answer to the requests for the raw materials embargo lifting? Thank you.
MS PORTER: So we don’t have any specific update to raw materials, but we’ll just reiterate that we understand that the COVID situation in India remains a global concern. And as we look to our Indian friends battling this pandemic, we’ll also acknowledge the toll that it’s taking not only on the people of India but as well as all throughout South Asia and, quite frankly, all over the world.
We have continued to work closely with India to facilitate the movement of essential supplies and also address the bottlenecks of their supply chains. But we’ll also continue to collaborate with our partners in India to battle this at the highest level. We know Secretary Blinken spoke to his counterpart on Tuesday, and we remain deeply engaged with India at all levels as we work to combat this crisis of the pandemic together.
Let’s go to the line of Casey O’Neill.
OPERATOR: Casey O’Neill, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thanks so much. Happy Friday, and thanks for doing this, Jalina. Couple of questions for you. Firstly, on Iran. We’ve heard from a lot of officials that the United States continues to raise the issue of arbitrarily detained Americans during the indirect JCPOA negotiations with the Iranians. Just curious as to what, if anything, the Iranians had to say in response to those voiced concerns.
And then second, just quickly on Belarus, there’s been some reporting that Ambassador Fisher is going to be taking up temporary residence in Lithuania. Just wondering if you can confirm that for us. Thank you.
MS PORTER: So I don’t have any updates as – when it pertains to Ambassador Fisher. But I will say to your question on Iran, the State Department takes seriously the health and safety of all those wrongfully detained, especially U.S. citizens, both in Iran and all over the world. When it comes to your question about the Iranians saying anything, we certainly can’t preview or say anything that they have said. But again, we will call – continue to call for the release of all those who were unjustly detained, not only in Iran but, again, all over the world.
Let’s go to the line of Shaun Tandon.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Hope you’re well. Could I ask another question about Russia? Yesterday, Ned mentioned that the United States was looking for action rather than words regarding the pullback of troops near the Ukrainian border. The Russian defense ministry says that that has gone ahead, the pullback. Do you have any further reaction today? Do you see this as a positive sign and easing of tensions in any way? And have there been any discussions with the Russians or, for that matter, with the Ukrainians on this? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Shaun. So we don’t have any specific updates, but I’ll just continue to underscore that we’ve made clear in our engagement with Russia, with their government that they need to restrain – refrain from their aggression and escalatory actions, and they need to immediately cease all of their aggressive activity in and around Ukraine. And that includes their recent military buildup in occupied Crimea as well as along Ukraine’s border.
The United States, of course, reaffirms its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as its territorial integrity, extending to its territorial waters.
Let’s go to the line of Luis Rojas.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Yeah, I have only one question. What is (inaudible) by the United States Government regarding the case of Colombian Alex Saab who is detained in Cabo Verde? Have you a new update, a new information about this?
MS PORTER: We don’t have any new updates to issue about this, but certainly we will make sure that when we do, we’ll either release them on our website or release them through one of our daily press briefings.
Let’s go to the line of Hiba Nasr.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I want to ask about what we are expecting tomorrow about the recognition of the Armenian genocide. What is the position of the State Department? And I read several reports that Secretary Blinken had a call with his Turkish counterpart. Can you confirm that?
MS PORTER: So at this time, we don’t have anything to read out as far as the Secretary’s call with his Turkish counterpart. But when it comes to the Armenian genocide, you can expect an announcement tomorrow, and we would have to refer you to the White House.
Let’s go to the line of Kristina Anderson.
QUESTION: Thank you for taking my call. I wonder if you could speak to some of the top line diplomatic issues between the U.S. and Turkey, just looking forward to the President’s visit next month on the margins of the NATO summit. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Well, what we’ll say is, obviously, that Turkey is a valued and longstanding NATO Ally. And we obviously have shared interests, and those shared interests include, of course, counterterrorism and ending the conflict in Syria as well as deterring any malign influence in the region. We also seek cooperation with Turkey on common priorities such as like engaging in dialogue to address any disagreements. Then at the same time, we’ll always uphold our values, which includes human rights and rule of law and protecting the interests of those while keeping Turkey as well aligned with the transatlantic alliance on all of these critical issues.
Let’s go to the line of Jiha Ham.
OPERATOR: Jiha Ham, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Okay, thank you. Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. My question is about the policy review on North Korea. It’s been more than a month now since the administration officials told reporters that the review would be completed in the coming weeks. So I have to ask you reasons for this delay. And some predict that the administration is going to wait until the South Korean president’s visit at the end of May. So is there any connection between the policy review and the president’s – President Moon’s visit? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. Again, while we don’t have a specific timeline for the review, again, what I’ll say is that the Biden administration is conducting a thorough interagency review of our policy towards North Korea, and that would include implementation of ongoing pressure measures as well as options for future diplomacy. And again, we have nothing to preview since that review is still ongoing.
Let’s go to the line of Janne Pak.
OPERATOR: Janne Pak, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Jalina, for doing this, and Happy Friday. Currently, South Korea is in a difficult situation due to a lack of vaccines. So the South Korean Government is trying to introduce Russian-made vaccines. I think that unproven Russian vaccines are dangerous to the South Korean people. If the U.S. has enough vaccines, can the U.S. cooperate with its ally South Korea to support the vaccines? And when can we expect it to be able to supply U.S. vaccines to South Korea? Thank you very much.
MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions, Janne. So right now, we don’t have anything to announce as far as getting U.S. vaccines to South Korea. I mean, we certainly value South Korea as a strategic partner, and our relationship with South Korea – as you know, Secretary Blinken has traveled to the region and underscored our commitment to the Indo-Pacific, but right now, we have nothing to announce when it comes to vaccines in the region.
I’ll take one last question from Mr. Arshad Mohammed.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Two things, just to follow up on Turkey and Armenia. You said, quote, “At this time, we don’t have anything to read out as far as the Secretary’s call with his Turkish counterpart, but when it comes to the Armenian genocide, you can expect an announcement tomorrow.”
Question one: Are you confirming that the Secretary has indeed had a call with his Turkish counterpart?
And second: Are you – in referring to the events as, quote, the “Armenian genocide,” are you seeking to tell us that that is what the announcement will be tomorrow? I don’t think the department normally refers to those events with those terms.
MS PORTER: Thank you for your questions. Again, when it comes to the previous question raised that you reiterated on Armenia, I have nothing to preview, nothing to announce, and I would have to refer you to the White House.
To your previous question, kind of summarizing what I’ve said before, again, though, I – my words spoke for themselves. I have nothing else to preview at this time.
I’m sorry. We actually have one last question from Said Arikat.
QUESTION: Hi —
MS PORTER: Said, are you there?
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’m here. Can you hear me? Yeah.
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you. Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) thanks for taking my question. I wanted to ask you, for the last three, four nights, throngs of settlers and orthodox – that’s what they call them, that’s what Israel calls them – orthodox adherents and so on – they have been attacking Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. They are calling death to the Arabs and so on. And I know that the embassy in Jerusalem issued the – a statement that is really not very clear. What is your position on this?
MS PORTER: Well, we’re certainly deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem, and that includes the clashes in Old City, which left over 100 people injured, as reported. But again, when it comes to reports of extremist protestors chanting hateful, racist, and violent slogans, they are extremely disturbing, and they must be firmly rejected. We’ll call on the authorities in Jerusalem to take all appropriate steps to – not only to de-escalate the tensions, but also ensure the safety, security, as well as the rights of all of Jerusalem’s residents, as well as call on voices to urge calm and unity in the face of these hateful attacks.
That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you all for joining today. I wish you a safe and productive weekend ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)
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