Europe and Eurasia: Kosovo National Day

Press Statement

Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Washington, DC
February 17, 2019

On behalf of the United States government and the American people, I congratulate Kosovo as you celebrate your eleventh anniversary as a sovereign, independent nation.

The United States remains committed to helping Kosovo open the doors to a more prosperous, stable, and secure future in your second decade of independence. Comprehensive normalization of relations with Serbia, with mutual recognition as its centerpiece, will be essential to Kosovo’s success. Securing this vision also demands continued strides to strengthen your democratic institutions. We want to keep building on our bilateral partnership, based on shared values and priorities, helping Kosovo pave its way to further Western integration.

The United States values the strong bond between our people and will support the steps of those working to unleash Kosovo’s great potential.

Europe and Eurasia: Lithuania National Day

Press Statement

Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Washington, DC
February 16, 2019

On behalf of the people of the United States and our government, I wish to congratulate all Lithuanians on the 101st anniversary of restoration of your independence. Sveikiname!

Together, over the course of the past year, we have celebrated your centennial anniversary and all that you have achieved since your declaration of independence in 1918. We were proud to host President Grybauskaite at the White House in April 2018, along with the presidents of Estonia and Latvia, for the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit and the U.S. Baltic Business Forum. In honor of the Baltic centennial anniversaries, we also hosted over 100 youth from across the region to the United States on U.S. government exchange programs.

Throughout 2018, we amplified our close partnership as Allies, including through major NATO exercises like Saber Strike and BALTOPS in June 2018. We commend and thank Lithuania for its significant contributions to security and stability in the region and beyond, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, and note that Lithuania is already dedicating two percent of its GDP on defense spending. In 2019, Lithuania will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its accession to NATO and we are grateful to have such a steadfast Ally.

In 2019, we commemorate 30 years since the 1989 revolutions including the fall of the Berlin Wall and democratic milestones like the Baltic Way, which ushered in an era of unprecedented freedom and prosperity for the region and for our transatlantic community. The United States is proud to partner with Lithuania in that community. May the next 101 years continue to deepen the strong ties between the United States and Lithuania.

Europe and Eurasia: Press Availability With Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson

Press Availability

Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Harpa Concert Hall
Reykjavik, Iceland
February 15, 2019

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, and Secretary of State – Secretary of State of the United States of America Mr. Mike Pompeo.

Minister Thordarson, please.

FOREIGN MINISTER THORDARSON: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for coming to this press conference on the occasion of the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Welcome.

Iceland and the United States have for decades enjoyed a very close relationship, a true friendship. Seventy-five years ago, in 1944, the United States was the first country to recognize the Republic of Iceland, which meant a lot during times of war, and we are still grateful. In fact, the United States entered the front line of World War II in Iceland six months prior to Pearl Harbor. Our countries are bound together by common heritage, but also principles and values, which continue to be tested as we talk together to face different regional and global threats, values that we need to uphold and protect.

The ocean also connects us, and today we discussed our continued good cooperation in the Arctic, as Iceland assumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May. The sustainable development on ocean affairs (inaudible). As geographic changes in the high north of the Arctic becomes more accessible through alternative transportation routes, we need to enhance our cooperation even further – for example, in fields like search and rescue.

Iceland and the United States share strategic interests, and today we talked about the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting in Washington in April, where we will celebrate 70 years of successful transatlantic cooperation. Our bilateral defense cooperation, which is based on our 1951 defense agreement, also stands on strong footing and continues to play both a security (inaudible). The decades-long presence of U.S. Armed Forces in Iceland left a lasting cultural legacy. People sometimes ask me if Iceland is a European state. I guess the academic answer is yes, but when you really think about it, we literally belong to Europe and North America as the continental divide runs straight through our country, and I believe that this continental divide is reflected in the nation’s heart and soul. We are more American than other Europeans.

In a sense, we are a transatlantic nation, which brings me to trade and our people-to-people connections. The United States is Iceland’s largest bilateral trading partner. The U.S. travelers are the single largest group of visitors to Iceland. Last year, some 700,000 U.S. tourists visited Iceland, or twice the size of our population, reflecting the relationship and frequent-flier connections between our countries.

There is, however, still unrealized potential for trade in our commercial relationship, and today we decided to establish an economic dialogue between Iceland and the United States to advance our bilateral economic cooperation further. The economic dialogue will include bilateral discussions between government officials, but also private sector, with the goal of boosting bilateral trade, investment, and importantly, private sector ties.

Mr. Secretary, dear Mike, thank you for a fruitful meeting and visiting Iceland. I look forward to the continued cooperation and friendship between Iceland and the United States.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank Prime Minister Jakobsdottir and Foreign Minister Thordarson for hosting me today. I greatly appreciate it. It was a great working lunch. We had a wonderful conversation. We recounted some of the remarkable history between our two countries, and I look forward to seeing the prime minister here in just a little bit. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to come to Iceland, but it feels very familiar. Many of you won’t know this, but before my time in government service, I founded a small business in Kansas, so I have a special appreciation for entrepreneurs and people like those here, and for people who strive to be, as Icelanders like to say, best i heimi. Our two nations do share just a wonderful and important history, and our people should never forget that. Your explorers ventured across the centuries before we were even a country. Now tens of thousands of more – our adventurous tourists love to come here and visit. I saw them on my drive in. The flow of people is now going the other way; we’re coming here.

During World War II, this nation granted our American convoys aid to help Britain access to your ports, and our Apollo astronauts trained here. We’re proud to be the first country that recognized Iceland diplomatically, now 75 years ago. I congratulate you on 75 years of full independence. As a founding member of NATO, Iceland makes important contributions. We were delighted you hosted the successful first phase of the Trident Juncture exercise this past fall in October, and we certainly appreciate the key role that you play in securing sea lines of communications both between Europe and North America.

And the economic relationship between our two countries remains strong. We definitely hope we can make it stronger. The United States recently became Iceland’s largest single trading partner, and as you’d spoken about, we have now established an economic dialogue between our two nations which I think will bear fruit quickly next year but in the years and decades ahead as well. It will strengthen the bilateral ties between our two countries by connecting government and private sector stakeholders from both countries.

There will always be challenges. We can’t take any aspect of our relationship for granted. There hasn’t been a U.S. secretary of state come here since 2008. I just spent four days in Central and Eastern Europe visiting capitals that had been neglected under the prior administration as well. No more. No more will we take our friends, our true allies, our partners for granted. We simply can’t afford to neglect them. Our economies are too closely tied.

We also seek a real partnership with you on the Arctic, a region that is increasingly strategically important, and we look forward to working with you on Arctic issues as you assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this coming May.

We know that when America retreats, nations like China and Russia will fill the vacuum. It’s inevitable if we are not there. In 1986, you hosted the pivotal summit between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev that was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Today we remain proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iceland in a strong transatlantic community that we have now built. We’re old friends facing new challenges, and I am confident we’ll tackle them together. And I’m delighted to be here too and to take questions. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Now we have time for two questions from the journalists, one from an Icelandic reporter and another from traveling press. The first question goes to Stefan Rafn Sigurbjoernsson from Channel 2 News, Stod 2, in Iceland. Stefan, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome to Iceland, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION: My question is for both the Secretary and the minister. It’s about Icelandic-U.S. relations in terms of trade and defense. Could you please elaborate further on the economic dialogue and what it means for the future? Is this a first step toward something like a free trade partnership? Do you see any obstacles like EU regulations, for example, if that were a possibility in the future? And in terms of security, how do you see U.S. role in the Arctic with the ever-increasing military presence of Russia in the region? Do you see a more active role including Iceland? Do you see more military deployment or maybe reopening of bases? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So, if I may – may I tackle it first?


SECRETARY POMPEO: First with respect to the economic dialogues, we think they’re important for multiple reasons. The first is it is always important to get private sector actors talking to each other to educate them about opportunities there are to trade with other nations. And so that will be a central part of what we try to accomplish, making sure that American businesses understand the opportunities that exist here and companies from this country seeing markets and opportunities in the United States as well.

But second, and you mentioned this, we think also that better understanding puts us in a better place to come to even more cooperative trade relations between our two countries. And whether they’ll ultimately be fulfilled through a formal trade agreement – which, if we can accomplish, would be a really good outcome – or whether they simply come from a set of common understandings where we reduce cost, reduce friction, reduce barriers to entry for our companies to work inside the other countries, that will be a good thing as well.

As for the security issues, the United States deeply understands the strategic – geostrategic challenges that exist in the Arctic, the risks that are there. And we’ve watched America’s adversaries begin to deploy assets in a way that they believe will strategically disadvantage not only the United States but Iceland and the European countries as well.

And so what the form of that effort will take I think remains to be determined, but I am very confident that America and Iceland working together will achieve outcomes. And I look forward to being part of this as Iceland takes over the Arctic Council of determining how and where best to deploy assets – not simply military assets but all of the assets, the enormous advantages that we have by being democracies, rule-of-law countries, all of the things that have made us strong for all these years – to ensure that the Arctic doesn’t become a threat to those very values.

FOREIGN MINISTER THORDARSON: Thank you. First, when you talk about trade relations, of course they are good, but we can always, always improve. And I think that we take the best things when it comes to the European cooperation. We are part of EEA and being part of EEA means that we are not a part of the customs union. So it means that we can make a free trade deal with every nations or which we want, and we have done so.

We also look at free trade as a very important thing and want to look in a constructive way, but you were mentioning the technical barriers, which is, of course, a threat to free trade. But we – I think we need to look into it in a constructive way. We are a pure example – Iceland – of the importance of free trade. We are probably one of the poorest nations in Western Europe a hundred years ago. Now we are one of the richest.

The reason – one of the reasons – and we would never be where we are if we wouldn’t have access to other markets and our markets wouldn’t be open. So that’s the basic idea, and I am very pleased that we have today the words of the Secretary and also that we are excited to take this important step. And I think it’s right that we should try to do it as quickly as possible because, at the end, it’s a really – it’s a rather simple thing if you have – if you look at it in a constructive way. But I think it’s important that we start the dialogue, we start the work, and then we will see the outcome. But of course, we would like to see closer trade relations with the U.S., and a free trade deal, of course, is something that we are looking for.

When it comes to the Arctic and the security and defense, that we have a very clear strategy – Iceland – when it comes to the Arctic. We want to see it sustainable not only when it comes to the environment but also economically and socially. There are 4 million people who live in the Arctic, and we have to think about their needs and their will when it comes to the area. And also it’s very important that we see Arctic in the near and distant future as a peaceful, low-tension area. So that’s what we are aiming for, that’s what we will be discussing, and that’s what we will work with the U.S. and other partners to see that it will happen.

And also, because you mentioned Russia, that’s another among the nations that we have worked very closely together on when it comes to the Arctic. And Arctic has been so far, and hopefully in the near and distant future, an area which every partner who are involved, especially in the Arctic Council, agree on the importance of seeing the Arctic as a low-tension, peaceful area where you have the rule of law. And long may it continue, and we will do everything we can to achieve that.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Another question from the international media. Lesley Wroughton from Reuters, please.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, or is it afternoon? I can’t remember. Just to get to some news of the day, please, Mr. Secretary, Venezuela’s Maduro has invited Elliott Abrams, the special envoy, to Caracas for talks. Do you think this is a signal to the U.S. that he is looking for a way out? And will you, in fact, send Special Envoy Abrams to Caracas? First question.

The second one is: You spoke earlier about increased presence of China and Russia in the Arctic region. How does the U.S. hope to counter that? And also, what does the U.S. hope to gain from being back in operation at the airbase, the Reykjavik airbase? Why is it important to the U.S. and to Iceland to have a U.S. presence there?

SECRETARY POMPEO: As for Venezuela, Lesley, you’ve traveled with me before. You’re asking me to comment on something we’re going to do in the future, and I have steadfastly and consistently refused to tell anyone what our strategy is with respect to achieving our end-state goal for Venezuela, which is getting the outcome for the Venezuelan people that they so richly deserve, while this man, Maduro, has created a humanitarian crisis that is unequaled in a nation where there was no armed conflict. And we as soon as this weekend will continue to deliver massive humanitarian assistance. We hope that Mr. Maduro will allow that into his country.

The fact that he has publicly said he wants to talk with the United States is not new, but I think it demonstrates his increasing understanding that the Venezuelan people are rejecting him and his model of governance and that the interim president, Mr. Guaido, is both constitutionally the leader of that country and, importantly, will lead Venezuela and the Venezuelan people towards free and fair elections which will determine a way forward for Venezuela which will put the Venezuelan people in a much better place and on a path towards economic recovery that they so richly deserve.

Your second question about how do you counter China and Russia, one of the first things you do is you find friends and allies who are in the region, and you work alongside them, and you show up, and you have serious discussions with them about how best to approach it. We have laid out in the National Security Strategy how the United States thinks about it during this administration, and there are multiple elements to it, not the least of which is working with our allies inside of the Arctic Council to develop precisely the right strategy so that, as the foreign minister said, a peaceful, low-tension environment exists. And we’re prepared to devote American resources to achieving that.

And then your third question was about the American presence. We welcome the invitation to be here to do what is important work that our military is doing here. It is aimed squarely at the very mission that your previous question referred to, ensuring that safe transit, open rule-of-law of waterways continue to exist in this very important, very central, geostrategically central location that I’m standing in today.

FOREIGN MINISTER THORDARSON: Well, thank you. When it comes to Venezuela, then you all know about the situation. I think what we are hoping – and I think it’s very good that like-minded nations have put pressure on Maduro to hold democratic elections, which, of course, is very important. I think I don’t need to describe to Mr. Secretary (inaudible) a few years – a few words about the situation. This is, of course, really, really serious, and I hope that this is a sign of good things, but to be honest, I don’t know.

When it comes to bilateral relations on defense and security and our membership in NATO, it’s always the same – or same aim: We want to see peace, especially in this part of the world, and of course, in the world as a whole. That’s the reason we joined NATO in the first place. That’s the reason we made the bilateral agreement between us and the U.S. And lower tension means that we don’t need to do as much, but unfortunately, things have changed a bit since 2014, as we all know, and – but we will hope that we will see change in another direction in the future. But as we speak, then the situation is as it is.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Minister Thordarson. I would also like to thank you all for your questions.

Europe and Eurasia: Serbia National Day

Press Statement

Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Washington, DC
February 15, 2019

On behalf of the United States government and the American people, I am pleased to extend our congratulations to the people of Serbia as you celebrate your national day.

The United States remains committed to supporting Serbia’s goal of further Western integration. Normalizing relations with Kosovo, with mutual recognition as its foundation, is essential to the pursuit of this goal. It will take courage and leadership to unlock stability and prosperity for Serbia for generations to come and ensure your country realizes its full potential.

On your national day, we reflect on our historically strong friendship and look ahead to building an even deeper bilateral relationship between our countries.

Europe and Eurasia: Interview With Bret Baier of Fox News


Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Sheraton Hotel
Warsaw, Poland
February 14, 2019

QUESTION: Earlier today, I asked the secretary about efforts by some European allies to help Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, we have made clear since our withdrawal from the JCPOA that we thought it was a horrible deal and one that was not good not only for America but good for the Europeans as well. We’ve encouraged them to leave the deal since the very day that we did. The Europeans have chosen something different, and we’ve urged them too not to disrupt the sanctions regime that’s out there. They’ve now come up with this thing called the SPV. I’m very hopeful that it’ll be what they say it is and no more, where – a place where unsanctioned goods, humanitarian aid, can move through. If that’s the case, it’ll have nearly no impact on the important deliverable from our sanctions, which is to deny Qasem Soleimani and his terrorist regime the resources to inflict so much terror and tragedy all around the world.

QUESTION: So what beyond sanctions does the U.S. want Europe to do on Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, they’ve actually over the last month, done more than they had done in all the previous time before. We’ve began to – begun to have good discussions around the missile program and how we might deny Iran the capability to develop their missiles. The Germans shut down Mahan Air from traveling; it’s an airline that is connected to the Qods Force, the Iranian Qods Force, the terror element of the Iranian army. Other European countries have called out the Iranians for their assassination campaign that continues to take place throughout Europe. These are things that the Europeans had been disinclined to do before and now they’re doing.

I must say, this ministerial that we had with 60-plus countries, we talked about Iran a fair amount, and not a single country objected to the fact base. They all understood the threat that we collectively face throughout the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran and were committed to jointly figuring out the best ways to push back against it and reduce that risk.

QUESTION: Is one of the ways to try to sabotage Iran’s missile program?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t talk about lots of the activities that countries may take covertly. But make no mistake about it, America is using all of its levers of power to reduce the capacity for Iran to build out a missile program. Look, we see what happens when countries join up a nuclear program with the capacity to deliver those nuclear warheads at long range, whether it’s through an ICBM missile or one of even shorter range. We are – we’re doing everything we can to slow down Iran’s capacity to build out those missiles, and we’ve done it with the blessing of the UN Security Council under 2231, the UN resolution. It’s very clear that Iran is violating that by building out its missiles, and we’re working to stop it.

QUESTION: Yeah, because some of those, a lot of those rocket launches, are failing lately.

Why did the Trump administration wait until yesterday to talk about this former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist defecting to Iran in 2013?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll have to defer to the Department of Justice on that. It’s a criminal prosecution, and I just don’t have anything I can add for you there, Bret.

QUESTION: Do you have a sense of Iranian spies working this way inside the U.S.?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Make no mistake about it, the Iranian intelligence service – both the IRGC’s intelligence service and their main MOIS, their main intelligence service – are working actively not only against the United States but working against European countries, working against Arab states. They are a powerful intelligence service and one that our intelligence service, that I used to have the privilege to run, is working hard to make sure does no damage to the United States of America.

QUESTION: I know you can’t get into specifics, but I mean, is there a broad estimate how much – how many spies Iran has inside the U.S.?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, if there’s one, there’s too many.

QUESTION: I want to talk to you about a couple more things. One is North Korea. We’re nearly six months after Singapore, obviously heading towards Vietnam. The Vice President acknowledged the U.S. is still waiting on North Korea to take concrete steps to dismantle its weapons. What does the U.S. need to see from North Korea to say there’s progress here on that front?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think the Vice President summed it up pretty well, Bret. We’ve had some good things that followed from the Singapore summit. We haven’t had a missile test; there haven’t been the testing of nuclear explosive devices. Those are good things. But the ultimate objective, the complete and final denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, there’s still a lot of work to do. And we hope – I guess it’s only two weeks off now. We hope when the two leaders get together again they can make substantial progress along that objective, which I think the entire world shares.

QUESTION: How much does the formal ending of the Korean War factor in?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, it’s something we’ve had a lot of talks about. In fact, my team will redeploy to Asia here in a day or two to continue conversations around all elements that were discussed back in Singapore. Remember we not only discussed denuclearization, but we talked about creating security mechanisms, peace mechanisms on the Korean Peninsula. I hope the two leaders have a chance to talk about that as well. I fully expect that they will. We also talked about a brighter future for the North Korean people, if we can successfully get the result that Chairman Kim promised President Trump. Remember he made that commitment that they would denuclearize. And so we hope to make real progress along each of those elements of what the two leaders agreed to back in June.

QUESTION: But there is a time or something on the calendar that says we’re going to wait this long, and if Kim does nothing on denuclearization, we’re going back to maximum pressure. Is that still in the cards?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Bret, one of the core principles of the Trump doctrine is we don’t tell our adversaries what we’re going to do. And so we’ve had lots of conversations about how we hope this proceeds, but I just don’t have anything I can say about a deadline like you’re supposing.

QUESTION: The President is going to say that almost all of the ISIS caliphate in Syria is gone, we’re hearing. What happens to the foreign fighters in Syria whose countries refuse to take them back in?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s a real challenge. It’s one of the reasons my team’s been working now for weeks to get each of those countries to agree to take back the foreign terrorist fighters that traveled to Syria from their nation. And so we’re continuing to work. We’ve had some successes. We’ve already had some returns. We need to make sure that we have a solution, and there are many options on the table. I don't want to discuss them further here, but there’s many options on the table about how we might address it.

But the most important thing, Bret, we’ve got soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that did good work to take these terrorists from the battlefield. We cannot let them out. We can’t let their children have to recapture these folks. It’s unacceptable. It presents real risk to the United States, and the Trump administration is determined to prevent that from happening.

QUESTION: Afghanistan. How long are you prepared to sit at the peace table with the Taliban?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve made real progress, not just with the Taliban but with other Afghans as well. I think they all have a view that 17 years of death and misery is not in the best interest of their nation. I will say that other countries around the world too see that that’s not in their best interest. And so Ambassador Khalilzad, under my direction and the direction of President Trump, is actively engaged to see if we can’t find a means by which we can get a political resolution in Afghanistan that provides the security elements that are so richly needed and a political solution that can ultimately take down the risk that Afghanistan has presented to the United States for now 17-odd years.

QUESTION: Last thing, Mr. Secretary. Up on Capitol Hill there’s been some recent votes, including by Senate Republicans, on Saudi Arabia and Yemen, on war powers, on Russia sanctions, at some points undercutting the President’s foreign policy. Is this a growing trend, and what do you think about it?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I must say the conversations I have on Capitol Hill are, in most cases, supportive of what the administration is doing. There’s places that various senators disagree. You highlighted a couple. But the policy on Venezuela is – goodness – nearly unanimously accepted as being a good policy. The threat that China poses to the United States is widely recognized as making sense. I think President Trump has real support for most of the foreign policy objectives that we’ve laid out over these first two years.

On those others, we’ll continue to work with members of Congress. On Yemen, I must say I’m surprised. To the extent we prohibit things taking place in Yemen, we’re only benefiting the Iranians. They’re the ones that have caused all the strife. The humanitarian crisis is a direct responsibility of Iranian bad behavior. And I think as we continue to inform members on Capitol Hill of that fact, they’ll come to see it the way that President Trump does.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your time. Safe travels.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Bret. We’ll see you before too long. So long.

Europe and Eurasia: Interview With Michel Ghandour of Al Hurra


Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Sheraton Hotel
Warsaw, Poland
February 14, 2019

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time first.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. How would this Warsaw conference help counter Iran malign activity in the Middle East and push the peace and the prosperity and the security of the region?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So you had a historic gathering of 60-plus nations. We saw for one of the first times in recent history the Israelis and the Arabs sitting together talking about how to deliver Middle East peace and security in the future. That’s a wonderful advance and real progress.

We certainly talked about all the issues, whether it’s Yemen or Syria, and we talked about the threat Iran poses. There was complete unanimity among – there were no objections from any country that didn’t understand the real risk that the Islamic Republic of Iran presents to the Middle East and the greater world, and there was a real commitment to help every nation push back against that security threat.

QUESTION: And Mr. Secretary, do you consider Warsaw conference as a major step towards normalization between Israel and the Arab countries?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It was a remarkable thing to watch these leaders meet and gather and have conversations. It seemed – what was great about it is it didn’t seem, feel historic. It felt right – nations coming together to work against a set of risks that present real risk to their own people, every country there to protect its own sovereign interest. And whether they were Arab or Israeli or European or from Asia, these countries all recognized the threat and made real commitments to come together to figure out the best way to address each of these security issues.

QUESTION: And what do you think about Palestinians boycotting the conference?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I regret it. I wish they had been here to be part of the conversation. There were many different voices here. There was lots of places where countries disagreed, and they voiced those concerns. I think we each learned from them, and it was cumulative, additive. It was better because there were different voices. I regret that the Palestinians rejected the invitation that was extended to them. I wish they had come here. I think the Palestinian people are a little worse off because their leaders chose not to participate.

QUESTION: And have you discussed the deal of the century in details and when you will be able to present it to the region and to the parties?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So Mr. Kushner was here along with Mr. Greenblatt. They shared a little bit of the outlines of the deal, really the central tenets of what we’re hoping to achieve. And we hope we are able to roll out the full plan, all of the details of that plan, in the weeks ahead.

QUESTION: On Iran, Mr. Secretary, critics say that your Iran strategy is not working. You also expected that Iran’s economy will fall into recession by spring. Is that still your expectation, and how will the recession affect the Iranian regime behavior?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, on the economic front, the one that you’ve focused on in that question, our objective is simple. We want to ensure that Qasem Soleimani has as few dollars as possible to create death and destruction throughout the world. And so we are attempting to choke off the regime’s money that is going towards terrorism. That’s the objective.

We have a second objective in our plan. It’s to support the Iranian people. We have humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions so that food and medicine can get to them, and we want that. We want the Iranian people to have their voices heard. These are our objectives. Look, we brook no ill will towards the Iranian people, indeed just the opposite. We care more about the Iranian people than many of Iranian leaders – the Iranian leaders have demonstrated. We want them to be successful. We want them to thrive. And to do that you can’t squander resources, money, all around the Middle East conducting terror campaigns.

QUESTION: But is the strategy working, Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We think it’s working.

QUESTION: It’s working.

SECRETARY POMPEO: And we think it will continue to work in the future as well.

QUESTION: On Syria, what kind of progress have you made with the Turkish – or with Turkey regarding the security zone in Syria? And who will fill the vacuum in northeastern Syria after the U.S. withdrawal?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Remember President Trump’s commitment to the destruction of ISIS/Daesh is real and it is continuing. The decision to withdraw our 2,000 U.S. uniformed personnel from northeast Syria remains. We’re going to do that. This is a change in tactics, not a change in our mission. Our mission was the destruction of the caliphate, and that’s almost complete. And then we have a continuing obligation to make sure that ISIS or other radical Islamist terror groups can’t conduct a resurgence, can’t retake that real estate. We remain committed to achieving that goal as well.

We’re in discussions – ones that you referred to – about how we will manage that. We’re in discussions with the Kurdish forces. We’re in discussion with the Turks. We are hopeful that that political process under UN Security Council Resolution 2254 will begin to yield results before too long.

QUESTION: But it will take time after the U.S. withdrawal. Meanwhile, who will replace the Americans?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I am confident that the mission remains unchanged and that the United States will continue to do all that it takes on the mission we are set about – the complete destruction of the caliphate and making sure that the threat from ISIS remains mitigated.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Lebanon. Lebanon has a new government that decided to boycott the Warsaw conference. How do you assess that? And Hizballah is more powerful now in Beirut.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yep, Hizballah is definitely more powerful than they were four or five years ago. I think that’s a true statement, and I regret that. In the same way, I regret that the Lebanese leadership didn’t come here today to express their views, their objectives. We want good things for the country of Lebanon. We want it to be unified and we want Iran out. And the fact that they are in Lebanon under the guise of Hizballah is plain to the world. It was plain for all 60-plus countries here to see today. We talked a great deal in one of the subgroups about how we would contain Hizballah illicit finance and push back against their money laundering, some of which takes place through Lebanese financial institutions. We are partners with Lebanon to achieve a good outcome for the people of Lebanon.

QUESTION: On the GCC, Mr. Secretary, to what extent is the reconciliation between Gulf states essential to launch the Middle East Strategic Alliance, and when should we expect the launch?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I don’t know when the launch will be. We’re working towards it. We’re making progress. I think there was a little more progress made during this ministerial as well, although it wasn’t the primary focus of the gathering. There’s no doubt that the GCC rift makes that a little more difficult, but I am confident too that as we work on this process – we call it MESA – as we work on this strategic alliance, this fundamental reframing about security in the Middle East, that that effort as well will lead towards reducing some of the tensions that’s created by the rift. At least we’re hopeful that that will be the case.

QUESTION: My last question will be on Sudan, Mr. Secretary. Demonstrations are still going on asking for regime change there. What’s your assessment?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, much like I talked about in other places, it’s very difficult for the Sudanese people today. We’re hopeful that their voices will be heard and that the transition, if there is one, will be led by them and not by outside influences.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate your time.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.

Europe and Eurasia: Interview With Niusha Boghrati of Radio Farda


Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Sheraton Hotel
Warsaw, Poland
February 14, 2019

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, so let’s begin with what has happened right here, right now: an effort by U.S. administration in order to form a broad and international coalition against the Islamic Republic, as was reflected in Vice President Pence’s remarks. Now, my question is that how feasible do you think that is, given the fact that EU countries seem to be sticking to their end of the deal when it comes to JCPOA? You know that recently they’ve put in place a tool in order to facilitate the trade with Iran.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So the gathering was aimed at creating peace and stability throughout the Middle East. That’s what 60-plus countries came together to talk about, to work on solutions to what have been intractable problems – problems in Yemen, problems in Syria, the security risks associated with the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. Each of those topics, that’s what we came together for. It’s the case that when you talk about Hizballah, you have to talk about Iran. When you talk about the Houthis’ mischief in Yemen, you have to talk about Iran. Iran was certainly one of the things that was discussed.

But I will tell you that the coalition is strong. Not a single person, not a single country, denied that this threat from Iran is real, whether they were Arab countries or countries that were here from Asia or from South America or from the Middle East itself. All understood the threat that the Islamic Republic of Iran presents to their citizens. And so we worked on that.

There’s clearly differences on how to attack the problem. The Europeans are wedded to the JCPOA. We’ve made a very different decision. We think any money that goes to the Islamic Republic of Iran will end up in the hands of Qasem Soleimani and be used for mischief and, most importantly, will be used to create real hardship for the Iranian people. And so we are determined to make sure that the Iranian people’s voices are heard. We gathered people here today, we made our case, and I am confident that we came out of here today more collectively able to deal with all of the threats that exist throughout all of the Middle East.

QUESTION: But going back to Iran, how those threats that you’re mentioning are going to be dealt with? This conference is viewed by many as part of an ongoing effort on Washington’s side in order to pave the way for a regime change in Iran. What do you think about that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I have to say this was historic. You had the Israelis and the Arabs sitting together having a conversation about the threat that Iran poses. This wasn’t a Washington-driven effort. We certainly have made clear our concerns about the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we have devoted substantial resources towards reducing those risks. We’ll keep at that because we ultimately want the Iranian people to have their voices heard.

We want a change in the regime’s behavior. We want them to act like a normal country. Back in May, I laid out 12 core things that the Islamic Republic of Iran needed to do to rejoin the community of nations. We are driving every day a set of policies that we hope will achieve that, and when we do, the entire Middle East and indeed the world will be a safer place.

QUESTION: About those conditions, the preconditions and the changing of behavior which has been mentioned numerous times by you and other figures in the administration, the thing is that the behavior that you have in mind is so integral with the identity of the Islamic Republic that changing them will basically be a sort of a regime change. I mean, if Iran would just abandon every single behavior that it has got throughout the Middle East, throughout the world, towards the people of Iran, then nothing is left of the Islamic Republic.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Ultimately, the how – how these behaviors will be changed – will be dealt with by the Iranian people. They’ll make their voices heard. They’ll assert their power. These are smart people, capable people, with a deep and rich history. They are entirely capable of managing the affairs of their nation. And so these behavioral changes that we are seeking are aimed at creating security throughout the Middle East and creating better lives for the Iranian people, and we are doing everything we can to support those Iranian voices inside of their country so that they can get a life that is the one that they want and one that doesn’t pose a threat and a risk to people throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you’re aware that on Wednesday, a deadly attack happened in Iran against a bus which belonged to IRGC, killing 27 people. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, wrote in a tweet, and I quote, that, “Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that,” quote/unquote, “Warsaw Circus begins?” Your reaction to that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, well, the Americans had nothing to do with this at all. I’ll say this: Many countries, including European countries, meet with this man Zarif. He is actually headed to Munich, where many European countries will meet with him. I would ask those countries when they meet with Mr. Zarif to ask him why he would say such an outrageous thing. Sometimes he is posited to be a moderate. It’s not moderate to accuse the Israelis and the Americans of murder. That’s not moderate. I think it shows the signs that Mr. Zarif and Mr. Rouhani are revolutionaries in the same way that the other leaders inside of Iran are as well.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you for your time today.

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.)

Europe and Eurasia: Interview With Roxana Saberi of CBS News


Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Sheraton Warsaw Hotel
Warsaw, Poland
February 13, 2019

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you.

QUESTION: You said one focus of this conference is Iran. The U.S. has been applying a lot of pressure to Iran, withdrawing from the nuclear deal last year, also re-imposing sanctions. Have you seen any sign that this pressure is pushing Iran to negotiate with the U.S.?

SECRETARY POMPEO: What we’ve seen is that our effort to get Iran to behave like a normal country – to stop supporting the Houthis, to stop supporting Hamas, to stop supporting Hizballah, to stop supporting the Iraqi militias, the Shia militias in Iraq, their efforts in Syria – all of these things are destabilizing in the Middle East. That’s why we’ve gathered 60 countries-plus here today for a discussion about this. Their behavior hasn’t changed materially. They’re weaker. Their economy is a wreck. The Iranian people are very frustrated. Forty years on, forty years after the revolution, things are much worse for the Iranian people, and we’re convinced that will lead the Iranian people to rise up and change the behavior of the regime.

QUESTION: So that’s what you’re hoping, that these sanctions are going to help push the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and overthrow it?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The sanctions are designed to deny the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani and his mischief makers who are killing people in Europe, conducting assassination campaigns in Europe – it’s to deny them the wealth and resources they need to continue to create havoc throughout the Middle East and, frankly, throughout the world.

Hizballah still receives funding from Iran, is operating in Venezuela today. And this is a global problem. That’s why we’ve convened a global ministerial. We have countries from – every country save for Antarctica coming here together to figure out how to get Middle East stability, and pushing against Iran is one component of creating that stability in the Middle East that the world so desperately needs.

QUESTION: You’ve mentioned Iran’s activities in the Middle East. In some conditions that you introduced last year, you said Iran needs to meet these —


QUESTION: Yes. Iran needs to meet 12 conditions before it will – before the U.S. would be willing to negotiate a new nuclear deal. Why are there no preconditions for North Korea?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve made very clear that these situations are very different. We take each of them where we find them. North Korea today has weapons, nuclear weapons, capable of reaching the United States of America. This is a threat that President Trump said we needed to take on now and take on immediately. The President’s chosen to meet with Chairman Kim. I’ve now met with him several times myself. We’re very hopeful that we can push them back. Remember too, North Korea behaves very differently. They’re not destabilizing Yemen. They’re not destabilizing Syria. They’re not conducting enormous assassination campaigns. These countries’ behaviors are different, therefore, the way America is approaching resolving this.

Our goal isn’t to punish the North Korean people. Our goal is not to punish the Iranian people. Our goal, indeed, is just the opposite: It’s to create security, safety, and frankly, prosperity for the people of each of those two countries.

QUESTION: And yet, in North Korea, you do see human rights violations such as —


QUESTION: — labor camps, forced labor.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Are those not issues of concern?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: So what should be done about that, those – there’s no precondition —

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re – we – we talk about them with great frequency, the same way we talk about human rights violations in every country in which we find them. We have lots of goals. They’re complex; they compete. We try to achieve them all.

QUESTION: What are you hoping from the summit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: You mean the summit that will be held in Hanoi. Well, look, we hope that we will make a substantial step on each of the four pillars the two nations committed– Chairman Kim and President Trump committed to four primary pillars. We hope to make substantial steps on each one of them: security and peace on the peninsula, denuclearization, the effort to create a brighter future for North Korean people. It’s our intent to make real progress on each of those pillars, and the two leaders are hoping they do that as well.

QUESTION: What kind of tangible progress do you need to see?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’m not going – I’m not going to talk about specifics. We’ve been engaged in lots of negotiations, not all of them have been public. Many of them more recently have, in fact, been public. You can see the work that’s being done by our two teams. We have a team leaving again this weekend to travel to Asia to continue to prepare for the summit. I’m not going to talk about what it is we hope to achieve, but I’m very hopeful that we’ll get a good outcome.

QUESTION: The commander of U.S. Forces Korea has just said that – he said last week he hasn’t seen a change in North Korea’s military capabilities since the last summit that President Trump held with North Korea. How confident are you that North Korea is committed to complete denuclearization?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Chairman Kim’s told us that repeatedly. And we’ve also said: trust but verify. We’re going to have to see that he does this. We’re going to have to be able to verify that he does it. And until such time as we do that, the economic sanctions that the whole world has put in place – not American sanctions, not European sanctions, but U.N. Security Council resolutions that every nation in the world supported save for North Korea – every nation saw that this was in the world’s best interest, and it’s our full intention of getting a good outcome in exchange for relieving those sanctions. I’m very hopeful that we can do that. It will be up to Chairman Kim to make this decision. He’s told us that he will, and now it’s time for him to deliver.

QUESTION: So first complete denuclearization, verification of complete denuclearization, and then removal of sanctions?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Remember, you have to go back to first principles, right? For years the United States has conducted negotiations with the North Koreans, and what we’ve done is we’ve taken a pig in a poke. We’ve said we’ll do something and then we handed them a whole bunch of money or agreed to build them a light water reactor, and the North Koreans didn’t come through on that.

President Trump engaged. He’s gotten missile tests stopped. There haven’t been nuclear testing in a substantial period of time. We have the beginning of the effort to return all of the remains. I’ve had a chance to talk to some of those families; it’s been a remarkably good outcome. Now it’s time for us to begin the effort to take the step on denuclearization, and I’m hopeful that this summit will deliver that.

QUESTION: I want to go back to – all right. So here’s a quick question I’m just learning about. What can you tell us about this Air Force officer who has just been indicted for sharing information with Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t have anything to discuss with you about that.

QUESTION: I just heard about it right now. Going back to the region, the Middle East, we were talking about human rights violations by Iran. The Trump administration has been very critical about human rights violations in Iran, but when it comes to America’s allies such as Saudi Arabia, it seems that the U.S. is less critical. For example, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, is believed by the CIA to have been involved in the killing of American resident Jamal Khashoggi. Do you believe the CIA’s assessment?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Roxana, that’s a ridiculous question.

QUESTION: Why is that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s a ridiculous question. The United States calls out human rights violations each place that we find them, whether it’s the Chinese holding Muslim Uighurs inside of their country in detention camps, the activities in North Korea, anyplace else we find them. We call them out and we do our best within the powers that we have to identify them, to encourage others to change their behavior. There is no nation that acts against violations of human rights in the way the American nation does, and President Trump has been at the forefront of doing that as well.

QUESTION: And yet President Trump has been more hesitant to criticize Mohammed bin Salman, particularly in regards to the killing of —

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ve called – Roxana, Roxana, you and the media keep —

QUESTION: — Khashoggi.

SECRETARY POMPEO: You and the media just keep repeating this. We’ve talked about this. This is an unacceptable murder. Make no mistake about it. The American people understand that; the Trump administration understands that too. We also know that we have an important relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we are determined to make that a successful relationship. It’s in the national security interest to keep Americans safe, and so we’re going to do that. But we’ve made clear as the facts are developed, as we learn more, we will hold everyone responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, just in the same way we do when the Iranians murder journalists or hold journalists in jail. America is at the forefront. We’ll never change that, Roxana. So when you suggest otherwise by your question, you’re really doing America a disservice.

QUESTION: So are you saying that the assessment by the CIA is not enough evidence to prove that Mohammed bin Salman was involved?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Roxana, you can ask this question 57 times 57 different ways.

QUESTION: Was the investigation still —

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to – I’m going to give you the same answer. President Trump and this administration are committed to holding each individual accountable as we develop fact sets that permit us to do it. We’ve already applied sanctions to a number of people who were involved in it that we had a fact set that support it – an American fact set that supported it. We’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: So more action is possible?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Of course. We’ve said that repeatedly.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about Syria. CBS News has a crew in Syria and they say that every commander with the Syrian Defense Force, Syrian – sorry, let me say that again. CBS News has a crew in Syria and they say that every commander with the SDF, our partners on the ground, has told them that the job is only half done and that they need U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, not next door in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, to continue to counter ISIS. So why is the U.S. planning to withdraw troops from Syria now?

SECRETARY POMPEO: President Trump has led the most successful campaign against a radical Islamic terrorist organization that held real estate in the history of the world. We have taken down now – your crew is there reporting it – taken down all but the last square feet of real estate in Syria. President Trump has also said very clearly that the effort to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, whether it’s ISIS in Syria, al-Qaida around the world – there are many groups – we’re determined to continue to keep that pressure on, and we’ll do that. We’ll make decisions about whether the most appropriate way to do that is with U.S. forces. Other places we’ll just share American intelligence with others so that they can complete that mission and we’ll build out coalitions, much like the coalition you’re seeing here assembled today. Here today there are 60 countries working on Middle East stability. Last week we held a Defeat-ISIS ministerial in Washington, D.C., and had over 80 countries working on this problem.

So we share the view this challenge continues and the Trump administration will remain in the fight.

QUESTION: Did any of America’s partners in the coalition to fight ISIS whom you met with last week commit to sending more troops to Syria or to keeping their troops there once the U.S. withdraws?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not going to talk about commitments that may or may not have been made.

QUESTION: Will there be a concrete plan before the U.S. begins withdrawal of its troops?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, we have a plan and we’re working closely – we’re working closely with all the parties involved, including the SDF about which you speak, to develop a plan which will ensure that the threat from ISIS, their opportunity to retake that real estate, is diminished.

QUESTION: Are you able to share anything about that map?

SECRETARY POMPEO: No. When we have it ready to go, we’ll let everybody know.

QUESTION: All right. One question about prisoners in Iran, which is of course close to my heart.


QUESTION: You have said bringing prisoners back – you have said bringing American prisoners back from Iran, securing their release, is a top priority for you. When I was in prison there were reports that the U.S. Government handed Iranian officials a letter calling for my release and the release of other prisoners in Iran. Does the U.S. now have any direct channel of communication with Iran over the issue of American prisoners there?

SECRETARY POMPEO: This administration has delivered unequal efforts – unequaled, unparalleled efforts – to free every American held anywhere in the world. That certainly includes the more than half-dozen folks who are today held in prisons like Evin, the place that you were held. I think about this every day. It weighs on my mind, whether they’re held in Iran or the Americans held in Syria or those held in Afghanistan. We think about them. We work on them. We’ve now had the glory of bring home three from North Korea. We brought back Mr. Holt from Venezuela. I was in the Oval Office when Pastor Brunson returned to the United States from Turkey. The American people should know that this administration is determined to bring back each and every one of them. And as for Iran, they have – make no mistake, they know exactly what our demands are.

QUESTION: To free the American prisoners who are there?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, they know exactly what we’re asking for. We want them back.

QUESTION: In return for?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We want them back. In return for America beginning to consider whether they can eventually return to the community of nations. Look, I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen where people wrote big checks to get folks back. It only encourages other Americans like yourself to be held hostage. It creates an incentive for hostage-taking. That’s not how President Trump and this administration behave. Each of the detainees we’ve returned to date has come back because we have demanded it and we’ve made the case for why it was in that country’s best interest to do so. Rest assured that we’ve done that with Iran as well. We’ve made clear that it’s in their best interest to return these Americans to their families back here in the United States.

QUESTION: Without a payment and without a prisoner swap?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The same way we’ve gotten everyone back so far.

QUESTION: I’ve spoken to some families who have their loved ones in prison in Iran and they wonder why was the Trump administration able to speak to the governments of North Korea, Egypt, and Turkey to secure the release of Americans in those countries, but the Trump administration is not having a direct dialogue with Iran over Americans imprisoned there.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re doing everything we can everywhere there’s any American held to get them back, and we’re having conversations with all the people that have the ability to help get them back. Each of those families should know that.

QUESTION: Including direct dialogue?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Each of those families should know we’re doing everything we can to get their loved ones home.

QUESTION: Quick question about Venezuela.

MR PALLADINO: No, no, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to go.

PARTICIPANT: Last question?

QUESTION: Okay. That’s it then.

MR PALLADINO: He’s got to go. Sorry. Yeah, got to go.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Secretary.


Europe and Eurasia: Remarks With Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East


Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

Warsaw, Poland
February 14, 2019

FOREIGN MINISTER CZAPUTOWICZ: Prime ministers, ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to welcome you at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. The right time has come now to give a new impetus to the questions of peace and security in the region. The Middle East is a special place on the world map, the place where three great religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – were born; a place from which the Indo-European civilization originated; a very rich area both culturally and economically; but too often plagued with numerous conflicts resulting in negative consequences such as refugee crisis, economic crisis, or, in some instances, crisis of statehood.

Stabilization of the Middle East, termination of ongoing conflicts, promoting cultural coexistence, and building inclusive societies – these are all great challenges. It is a task for the international community to effectively support these efforts to safeguard stabilization and durable peace. There are multiple sources of conflicts in the Middle East. They may originate from wish of some leaders to keep power at all costs, or from religious fundamentalism and lack of tolerance, or from systemic factors such as imbalance of power and geopolitical rivalry of external actors. They can also stem from interference of regional powers.

The European Union and the United States share the conviction about the role of Iran could and should play in the Middle East and in the wider world, but we are concerned about possible results of Iran’s nuclear program as well as the unconstructive role of the country in the region. We univocally condemn intolerable actions of Iran beyond its own territory, including Europe, which met with additional EU sanctions.

The differences between us may be about methods. The European Union believes that maintaining the peaceful character of the Iranian nuclear program calls for keeping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, in place. The United States abandoned this agreement and imposed sanctions. But in our opinion, in the opinion of Poland, it is only through joint actions in the framework of trans-Atlantic community or, more broadly, the global community of democratic states that we can effectively limit negative trends in the Middle East.

Ladies and gentlemen, many of you can ask the question: Why Poland together with the United States organizes this conference in Warsaw? We believe that Poland has a special right to serve the international community as a place for dialogue. We serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and by that virtue, a special responsibility rests upon us to contribute to actions aimed at preserving peace. We are the country where the Solidarity movement was born and where a peaceful, bloodless political transformation to democracy took place. This example was followed by other countries of our region, leading to a spectacular end of the Cold War. We will soon celebrate the 30th anniversary of those memorable events. We believe that our experience can be of great value for other regions as well, and we are ready to share our experience.

Poland has never turned a blind eye to the necessities of the societies living in the Middle East. The Polish armed forces participated in the liberation of Kuwait in 1990. Our servicemen helped bring peace and stabilization in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. We participated for many years in the peacekeeping missions in the Golan Heights, Sinai, and south Lebanon. Poland has been supporting the fight against ISIS as a member of Global Coalition; we discussed about that issue last week in Washington.

Ladies, gentlemen, yesterday we had an opportunity to listen to the representatives of the region who remind us of the challenges the Middle East is currently facing. Today we are going to continue the discussion on the methods of resolution of existing conflicts, especially the conflict in Syria and Yemen, which show us clearly, due to their complicated nature, how easily societies can fall prey to confrontational ideologies. We will also reflect on the current status and prospect for the peace process. These and other issues will be tackled during the opening plenary.

The working lunch will be followed and will be devoted to humanitarian and refugee challenges. We will discuss the methods the international community can use to improve the situation in this area. So we will look – we would like to look at this region also in a positive way, look how we can contribute to peace, to stabilization. In the afternoon we will discuss the ways to limit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region, as well as cybersecurity, new challenges to energy security, and illegal financing of terrorism.

These three very concrete questions have a long history of international deliberations and creating legal regimes. Much has been done, but we are convinced that the Middle East deserves a special attention. Following this conference, specialized working groups should be established. We would like to start the process – we can call it Warsaw process, maybe – to create a special multilateral platform for dialogue which will be of permanent character and will lead to a stronger institutionalization of cooperation in the Middle East.

Ladies, gentlemen, our conference starts a week after the historic visit of Pope Francis in the Middle East. We want to be guided by the same spirit of optimism that the Pope always shows. If we manage to achieve that at that conference, its aim will be fulfilled. Thank you very much for your attention, and I am giving the floor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, co-host of the conference.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, Foreign Minister Czaputowicz. (Applause.) Thank you. Good morning. Welcome to everyone. It’s wonderful to see such a big group that the far end strains my old-man’s vision to see you. We’re so pleased to host the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. Thank you for co-hosting. Our two countries now are celebrating 100 years of diplomatic relations and our joint efforts reflect the strength of the bonds between our two countries.

My personal affection for Poland has always been great; it became even greater when President Duda spoke of my alma mater at West Point back in 2017. It was there he made one of – frankly, one of the most important statements of our time. He said, “Go Army, beat Navy.” (Laughter.)

Look, we’re delighted to see so many countries here. NATO, the European Union – thank you for joining us as well. It’s a historic gathering of a very diverse set of countries. It’s a broad cross-section of participants that shows the magnitude of the challenges we face, but also the commitment that each of our nations has made to tackling these challenges together. As a testament to our seriousness of purpose, I want to reflect on the historic dinner that took place last night. Arab and Israeli leaders were in the same room, sharing a meal and exchanging views. They all came together for a single reason: to discuss the real threats to our respective peoples emanating from the Middle East. The United States seeks a new era of cooperation between all of our countries on how to confront these issues. It’s why we’ve organized this ministerial.

The composition of that dinner reflects President Trump’s diplomatic commitment to bring nations together in new ways to solve old problems. That’s our mission today, and I hope each of us will take it seriously. Both the United States and Poland understand that every country attending this ministerial will have different perspectives. At times, such views may even conflict with those of the United States. We see this as a value-added proposition. We want to bring together countries with an interest in stability to share their views and break out of traditional thinking.

I’d like to put out some thoughts and guidelines for our engagement. No one country will dominate the discussion today nor will any one issue dominate our talks. Everyone should speak thoughtfully and honestly and each country should respect the voice of all others. Our hope that this engagement – our hope is that this engagement will entail true back-and-forth dialogue, not just a chance to do what I’m doing now: read a prepared statement. Please – I’ll do this too when I complete these remarks – leave your notecards and speeches in your briefcase or your purse. Let’s have a candid conversation.

Look, in terms of the agenda, we’ll lead off with a discussion on Yemen led by Foreign Minister al-Yamani. I will then detail the Trump administration’s next steps on Syria and our continuing efforts to achieve our strategic goals, which haven’t changed. And after that Senior Advisor to the President Mr. Kushner will discuss the administration’s efforts to advance a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There’ll be lots of opportunity for questions, comments on all of these topics. And then at lunch Vice President Pence and the prime minister will offer remarks, as will seven other foreign ministers. And a little later we’ll hear from my co-host as he leads a working lunch with a group of nations on addressing humanitarian and refugee challenges, which are all too real. Then we’ll have a series of action planning sessions on curbing missile development and proliferation, combating cyber and emerging threats, and countering terrorism and illicit finance. Representatives from an array of countries will contribute their thoughts as panelists in each one of those sessions.

Our talks are important today, but this conference won’t be the end. It can’t be. We need action. Syria, Yemen, proliferation, the peace process, terrorism, Iran, cybersecurity, the humanitarian crises – none of the region’s challenges will solve themselves. We must work together for security. No country can afford to remain on the sidelines, so allow today to be the start of our conversation.

As I said in Cairo a few weeks ago, the United States will continue to lead on Middle East security issues. We will continue to be a force for good in the region, and today is proof of that commitment. We hope new partnerships emerge from today’s talks. We need to be bound – we need not be bound by the past when a bright future demands new cooperation. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister.