Europe and Eurasia: Press Availability With Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz

Press Availability

Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Warsaw, Poland
February 14, 2019

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I would like to welcome you very warmly to the press conference of Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and Secretary of State of the United States Mr. Mike Pompeo. A few words by way of introduction. Would you please make sure that your telephones are on the mute mode? We will invite both gentlemen to produce their statements. Then we will take two questions from the floor. We do apologize. Our time is very much limited.

May I hand it over to Minister Jacek Czaputowicz for his statement?

FOREIGN MINISTER CZAPUTOWICZ: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Just a moment ago we completed our deliberations during the ministerial meeting devoted to building peace and security in the Middle East. We are very happy to have been able to house in Warsaw representatives of so many countries to jointly discuss the future of the region whose stability will be crucial for ensuring security globally worldwide and also security in Europe and in the European Union.

Yesterday, by way of introduction, we listened to keynote addresses of President Andrzej Duda and Vice President Mike Pence. And we also hosted a debate of representatives of Arab states and the state of Israel, which probably ushers in a new chapter in the relations in the Middle East. We would very much like that to happen, since those parties should be talking to one another. This is a precondition for lasting peace and security in the region.

Today, we discussed regional security with a special respect regards to Yemen and Syria and the international commitment to bring ongoing conflicts to their end. The basic tenets of the American peace plan for Israel and Palestine have been also presented to us. And in the course of discussion we could see that these are problems of crucial value to security. They require commitment on the part of the whole international community.

The address of Vice President of the United States Mr. Mike Pence and the ensuing discussion showed that the European Union and the United States share the same diagnosis of the situation. They have a similar perspective of problems in the Middle East, and also – let’s be open – the negative role played by Iran. Iran was not the main topic of our deliberations, but looking at various horizontal problems, the role of this country was also mentioned. This is also the position of European Union; Poland is a member state of European Union and subscribes to this point of view. However, the European Union and the United States differ in terms of modus operandi, especially via evaluation of JCPOA or Special Purpose Vehicle and their possible impacts. In the course of discussion, representatives of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom indicated the positive role played by this deal.

We also spoke about humanitarian situation. The participants of the conference were jointly considering how to effectively support humanitarian effort in the region. I do hope that today’s conference will usher in a whole process – maybe Warsaw process, if you like. In the statement of co-chairs, we had the pleasure of informing you about the establishment of working groups on combating terror and financing of (inaudible), on nonproliferation of ballistic missiles, cybersecurity, secure air, and maritime security, and also positive aspects that is humanitarian issues and issues related to refugees and respect of human rights in the region.

The purpose of far-reaching efforts will be to work out a positive vision for the whole region. I do hope that the results of working group deliberations will be the starting point for following meetings to discuss Middle East and of the Warsaw process.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, ministry. (Inaudible) take the floor, please.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. I don’t want to repeat what the foreign minister has said about the accomplishments today. We can certainly talk more in the Q&A about that. I agree with each of them.

We were so happy to be able to partner with you and with your country. Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Czaputowicz, for your personal commitment to this all along. This first Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, I think, will have lasting value to our two countries’ security and to the security of Europe and to those people who are living in the Middle East as well. Our two countries now celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations. You have been an outstanding partner on this initiative and a true ally across many fields.

We had over 60 countries here. This is the first time we’ve done this ministerial. That’s, in its own right, quite an accomplishment. We had NATO represented and the EU represented as well. I think they all came because they understood this was an important place to be to deal with the challenges to peace and security in the Middle East. We all know that those challenges, those threats, don’t stay in the Middle East; they travel. They travel around the world to Europe and to the United States, and I think that’s why people showed up and participated vigorously.

We’re urging every country to take new steps to defend their people against these existing threats, whether it’s Syria or Yemen or proliferation. We talked a good deal about the peace process between Israel and Palestine – the Palestinians. We talked about terrorism; we talked about Iran and cyber security, humanitarian crises. They have massive security implications for each of our countries and for the American people. These things do not resolve themselves magically. They’re resolved by nations of goodwill coming together to find real solutions.

We also were intent on doing this in a different way, to find different ways to address the current problems. We’re deeply aware that not every nation shares the same viewpoint and comes to the same conclusions on process and how to move forward, and that’s fine. We certainly heard that in this meeting as well. I will say, too, the reason this was instigated is because we wanted to illustrate in – with real action President Trump’s diplomatic commitment to building new coalitions that tackle the greatest threats of our time. We backed up what I said in Cairo just a few weeks ago: We will continue to lead in the Middle East as a force for good.

To that end, I do want to point out what the foreign minister said. It was a truly historic gathering. At the dinner last night, Arab and Israeli leaders gathered in the same room to talk about deeply common and shared interest. It’s undeniable that Iran’s aggression in the region has brought Israel and Arab states closer together. What I think was even more remarkable is that it didn’t feel all that historic. It felt right, it felt normal, because we were working on a common problem.

Let me close here by saying the United States wants to thank every country that participated for their contributions. The future of our cooperation on Middle East security can only get brighter from here. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Secretary Pompeo, thank you very much. (Via interpreter) Due to time limitations, we will only take two questions. I kindly invite David Sanger from New York Times to ask the question. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, and thank you, both of you, for holding this press conference. Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you, Vice President Pence today at the luncheon issued a very stark criticism of three of your closest allies – the French, the Germans, and the British. He said they were attempting “to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime” and that they must now stand with us and abandon the nuclear agreement, the way President Trump did. Could you tell us what the consequence will be for them if they don’t follow the Vice President’s advice?

And tell us a little bit about how we should think about the Iran agreement, as you head into the North Korea negotiations in just two weeks. Is it your view, since the Vice President was so critical, as the President has been, that you need to get more out of the North Koreans, either at this session or soon thereafter, than the Obama administration got out of Iran? In other words, you need to ship out more than 97 percent of the fuel, that you need to have an agreement that freezes their production for more than the 15 years that you’ve said had been too short?

SECRETARY POMPEO: David, you have asked me that second question multiple times before. I’m going to give you the same answer. But let me – and I appreciate it. You’re welcome to ask the 58th time too. If I’m any good, I’ll give you same answer the 58th time as well.

With respect to the first question, look, we make no bones about it. We think that we need more sanctions, more pressure on Iran. We think that gives the Iranian people the opportunity to get what it is they so richly deserve. We think that denies the Iranian kleptocracy, the clerical leaders there, the wealth and resources they need to create so much destruction that we heard about from countries all across the world in these two days. We think that’s desperately important. We think that’s the thing which will drive the outcomes which ultimately get us to the place where we have one of these ministerials and Iran isn’t part of the conversation. It’s not creating risk in Syria; it’s not creating humanitarian crisis in Yemen; it’s not funding Hizballah; it’s not in Iraq, creating mischief there as well; it’s not funding Hizballah in South America; it’s not conducting assassination campaigns throughout Europe. We’ve been unmistakable about our desire to put economic pressure on the leadership in Iran.

I think what you heard the Vice President today was exactly in that vein. And as President Trump’s been very clear, we respect the sovereignty of every nation. They get to make their own decisions about the way forward. But the United States is determined to convince all nations of the world that it is in our collective best interest to deny the ayatollah and President Rouhani and Qasem Soleimani the money that they need to fuel the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. It’s no difference there.

With respect to the comparison between Iran and North Korea, very different situations presented to ourself. We are aiming to get as far down the road as we can in what’s now a couple weeks. That’s not just along the denuclearization pillar of what they agreed to in Singapore, what the two leaders agreed to in Singapore. We’ll certainly talk about how we foster reduced tension, reduced military risk, take down that risk so that we can get peace and security on the peninsula as well. We’ll also work on communicating how it is we can create the brighter future that we hope for the North Korean people. And so yes, it’s absolutely our intent. We’ve made unmistakably clear our goal, the full and final denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a verifiable manner. I hope that in a couple weeks we can make real progress along the way.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Pompeo. (In Polish.)

FOREIGN MINISTER CZAPUTOWICZ: (Via interpreter) Mr. Minister, I would only like to add that the policy policy towards Iran, policy on Iran, is often subjected to discussion on the forum of foreign ministers of the European Union. As I was noting during my opening remarks, there is a conviction where the JCPOA in the long run plays a positive role. However, as Poland, we can see with our own eyes that the problem of Middle East is so complex that the European Union alone singlehanded has not enough of political force to help to resolve it. Only through transatlantic relations – alliance with the United States, Canada, the democratic world – will help us. If we stand together and act in a united manner, we can come closer to resolving security problems in the Middle East.

From the EU perspective, such instruments as special purpose vehicle, the mechanism which allows to preserve in certain areas some commerce and trade with Iran, well, it may play a positive role. But it is of symbolic value because most of companies, while confronted with real risk of sanctions from the United States, they decided to opt out and to withdraw from Iran. If this is an instrument of humanitarian relief, humanitarian aid, because it is only limited to trade in pharmaceuticals and agricultural produce, it may be a positive instrument. So here this difference from our perspective is a subtle difference, and it is a basis for future joint cooperation and joint policy.

That’s why we decided to have this conference in Warsaw, even if Poland is together with other European countries like-minded in their assessment of JCPOA. Nevertheless, cooperation amongst us all will be very much needed in the future. We’ll need to follow closely the developments in Iran and try to foster democracy.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, let me just add this. You reminded me, Mr. Foreign Minister, of something. There have been lots of places the Europeans and the Americans have worked together against Iran recently, right? The Germans have denied Mahan Air the right to fly there. Many of these countries have called out assassination attempts in their own country in a way that they weren’t doing before the Trump administration. There have been lots of places where we have been able to work together against —

QUESTION: And missiles are one of those?


QUESTION: You stated the missile cooperation?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, still more work to do, but yes. And I hope we can continue to work on that. 2231 is very clear: The Iranians are in clear violation of the UN Security Council resolution relating to missiles. We hope we get the whole world to unite around that.

QUESTION: Was there progress on that today in the meeting?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It was talked about a lot. Yeah, I’d say there’s progress. But of course, until you’re across the line, no victory is to be claimed. And we’re not quite there yet.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Thank you very much. I now we invite Mr. Cegielski from the Polish Radio to ask the final question.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio. Minister Czaputowicz, the following question to you: Just before the conference, you were saying that the conference is not targeting any country, Iran or any other country. However, from today’s declaration, the closing declaration, while we cannot see any reference to any specific country, but listening the media statements of Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, many very sharp words of criticism were uttered towards Iran that were broadcast. So would you maintain your view that this conference was not against any particular country, and how would you comment the statements that were already made by the American partners that Iran is the largest sponsor of terror in the world?

(In English) And the second part of the question for Secretary Pompeo, if I may. I would like to refer to the the words you’ve said two days ago while meeting Minister Czaputowicz. You have said, quote, “I urge my Polish counterparts to move forward with the property restitution issue.” Could you please elaborate what exactly have you meant by saying this? Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Mr. Minister, would you like to address this question?

FOREIGN MINISTER CZAPUTOWICZ: (Via interpreter) If I may, in my opening remarks I hinted the subject. The conference and its main topic have been devised in such a way so as to focus on horizontal issues like humanitarian aid, terror, proliferation of weapons. Of course, in many contexts we have seen Iran as one of actors, and honestly it was presented in a bad light not only by the United States – and this is quite curious and interesting. I may have not expected this before, but the states of the region were quite unanimous saying that Iran is the destabilizing factor in the region. If we want to concentrate on problems and not states, it doesn’t preclude us from noting the threats as they stand.

An important part of the discussion is a discussion on the Middle East process. This was just an initial discussion. In a few months’ time, the United States and Mr. Jared Kushner himself with come up with certain suggestions. We can see also certain joined and shared perceptions from some Arab states and the state of Israel. I think that we should take a holistic perspective of the Middle East and its problems. If we speak about Yemen and Syria, of course, Iran – Iran’s impacts are very negative. We promise not to be focusing on difficult problems in Iran, but this is not to say that Iran will be excluded from the spectrum of our discussion. Of course, it was not invited for this conference due to their stance, their attitude, but we do hope that there will be a change of conducts and that there will be a way for discussion. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, minister. Secretary Pompeo, please, take the floor.

SECRETARY POMPEO: You bet. So I don’t have anything to add to my statement with respect to your second question, so we will leave it at that. We’ve had a number of conversations about that with our Polish friends.

Your first question that you asked, my counterpart is funny because you said the statement didn’t say anything about it. But, but, but the statement didn’t say anything about it because this conference was about so many things broader and deeper than that. I’ll say two other things that are very consistent with what Foreign Minister Czaputowicz just said.

First, there was not a defender of Iran in the room. No country, no country spoke out and denied any of the basic facts that we all had laid out about Iran – the threat it poses, the nature of the regime. It was unanimous. Countries from Europe, countries from Asia, countries from all across the world – no one spoke up saying that the data set about the threat that Iran poses in the Middle East is any way wrong or overhyped. Everyone acknowledges that it is very difficult to talk about the problems in Lebanon without talking about Hizballah, that it is very difficult to talk about the problems in Yemen without talking about the Houthis, it’s very difficult to talk about challenges to Iraqi sovereignty without talking about the Shia militias, it’s very difficult to talk about the challenges today in Syria without talking about the Qods Force infantry that’s still there. Every one of those is underwritten and supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and there was no dispute as to that.

The methods, the ways about which we ought to push back against that, there were many ideas, many of them good, that we’ll go work on together. But I think it’s important to note that there is complete agreement, there is a global agreement, about the threat that Iran poses.

Your question was about whether this conference targeted any one country. Indeed, what it targeted was stability and peace and prosperity in the Middle East. It was our objective. It’s why we came together to put this group assembled here in Warsaw today, and I think it’s what we accomplished as well.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: (In Polish.)