Department Press Briefing – September 27, 2021

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Department Press Briefing – September 27, 2021

Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson

2:39 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s press briefing. I have nothing at the top, but I’m going to give it a few minutes to enter the queue before I start taking your questions.

Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: One moment while we open your line. You may go ahead. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for this. I wanted to ask you if you have a comment on the German elections and whether there is any concern that the negotiations for government could last very long, and for the stability of a key ally.

And also, if I may, I have a question on the ICC prosecutor decision that its probing on Afghanistan was focused now on the Taliban and ISIS-K. Is that a welcome development for the U.S.? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Francesco. I will start with your second question.

What I can say from here is that we are aware of the Office of the Prosecutor’s announcement that it will seek judicial authorization to reopen its Afghanistan investigation prioritizing the alleged atrocity crimes committed by the Taliban and ISIS-K. We’re deeply concerned about the current human rights situation in Afghanistan, and that also includes allegations of atrocities, and certainly welcome efforts to ensure accountability.

We have also consistently emphasized, as has the international community, the importance of respect for human rights as well as fundamental freedoms on the part of any government in Afghanistan. Of course, these rights would include freedom of expression as well as the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls as well as other ethnic and minority religious groups.

To your second question on Germany, we are also aware of the preliminary results and await the outcome of negotiations to form the next German government. We also look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Germany and on many key issues of mutual concern. We’ll also say that the current German government will remain in place until a new government is formed, and we certainly look forward to continuing our engagement with German officials on a range of bilateral issues and global challenges as well.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho.

QUESTION: North Korea said it is willing to consider a summit with South Korea. For a second straight day, North Korea indicated that it wants to improve relations with South Korea. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS PORTER: Thank you. What I can say from here is that we – that the United States certainly supports inter-Korean dialogue as well as engagement and cooperation.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Hello, Jalina. Good morning. Hopefully this will be a slower week for everybody at State Department. My question is regarding the announcement today regarding the data strategy, the Enterprise Data Strategy. Can we speak a little bit about that and what does that mean for, for example, journalists like ourselves when we interact with State Department and for our audiences, maybe perhaps in layman’s terms? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. I’ll start by saying that we did issue a Media Note this morning that details our first-ever Enterprise Data Strategy, but we are excited. Again, this is a new platform for the department, and the goal of this strategy is to basically help us to harness and promote any evidence-based decision making, especially when it comes to our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts, and really throughout the entire department. So this is a new effort. I’m sure we’ll have updates ongoing throughout the year and the rest of our time here, but I also encourage you to view our Media Note as well. Thank you.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Given Ned’s tweet about his COVID diagnosis, I was wondering when the last time Secretary Blinken was tested for COVID, if all the members of the traveling delegation who were at UNGA have tested – have gotten tested, and if anyone else has tested positive since General Assembly week last week. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So, while we typically from here won’t comment of the health status of any individual employees, of course, per the tweet, I can confirm that Spokesperson Price has tested positive for COVID-19. He actually first felt symptomatic only this morning, and he had no previous symptoms before that. He confirmed his diagnosis in coordination with our Medical Unit with a PCR test this morning, and we’ll all follow all relevant protocols and will quarantine for the next 10 days.

To your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken has actually tested negative for COVID-19 as recent as this morning, which is a matter of his routine testing. None of the other members of the traveling party are currently exhibiting symptoms, and all will also continue to follow appropriate protocols.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour.

QUESTION: I have a quick question on Iran. Israeli prime minister has said today that Iran has crossed all redlines in its nuclear program and words do not stop centrifuges from spinning. Do you share his assessment? And do you have any comment on that?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michel. What I can say, broadly speaking from here, is that a mutual return to compliance is in America’s national interest and we believe the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and provide a platform to address Iran’s destabilizing conduct.

Let’s go to Janne Pak, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi. Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I am talking about the end of the war declaration, and I think you know that Kim Jong-un’s sister, she also said that if South Korea satisfies all the conditions for North Korea, then it could go ahead with a declaration of an end to the war or an inter-Korean summit. And China also agreed with the North Korea’s message. Do you think this message goes against the preconditions for the U.S.-North Korea dialogue that the U.S. want? And also, do you think an end to the war declaration is necessary without resolving the North Korean nuclear matter? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Janne. So to start with I think your second question, we are prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. Again, you’ve heard us say this from here, and I think it’s worth underscoring that our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

OPERATOR: Once again, if you wish to ask a question, you may press 1 then 0 at this time.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Carmen Rodriguez.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon, Jalina, thank you. During the past week, President Bukele has sent messages from his Twitter account implying that the United States is not a good friend of El Salvador for pointing out it’s government official as actors of corruption. What repercussion do these statements have on the United States-El Salvador relationship, which is not in a good time?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. We don’t have an official response from here, but it’s certainly something we’ll take back to the team and get back to you after the briefing with.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Jalina. I just want to follow up on I think one of Francesco’s questions about the ICC investigation in Afghanistan. You said you welcomed efforts to ensure accountability. I wonder could you respond specifically to the fact that the U.S. forces and Afghan Government forces – the prior Afghan government forces – are not the subject of this investigation. And is that something that the U.S. specifically welcomes and did the U.S. make any representations to the court for that to be the case? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So what I can say from here is that we’re pleased to see that the ICC prioritized its resources to focus on the greatest of allegations and atrocity crimes. We have also long objected to the ICC’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over nationals of non-state parties such as the United States absent the consent of the state or a UN Security Council referral. And that objection remains unchanged.

Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’d like to follow on North Korea. Are you willing to consider adjusting or easing sanctions for rejoining talks with North Korea? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Again, I’ll just reiterate what I said before. We’re prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and of course, we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach.

Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jalina. Just one more quick question on Ned testing positive for COVID-19. Has the State Department notified all of the countries that Secretary Blinken met with last week given Ned was in most of those meetings? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Kylie. So from here, we’re all following proper CDC and COVID-19 protocols, but I just do want to underscore that Spokesperson Price hasn’t been in contact with any foreign delegations since Thursday, so – which is nearly a hundred hours before he actually started to experience any symptoms. In consultation with the State Department’s Medical Unit, we believe the risk of exposure would have actually started on Saturday, and again, he at that time was not around the Secretary, he wasn’t around any other senior State Department officials or any foreign officials as well.

I’ll take the question from Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much, Jalina. Just to follow up on the judgment that he would not have – risk of exposure would have started on Saturday, as far as I understood, the data so far on COVID-19 suggests that people can be – can transmit the virus even while not symptomatic two to even three days ahead of exhibiting symptoms. So I’m a little unclear on why the State Department in this case is only doing a 24-hour exposure window rather than what appears to be the data-supported notion that it could be up to 72 hours. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I just want to reiterate that Spokesperson Price did not experience any symptoms of COVID-19 until this morning. So, I mean, we reported on this immediately. This wasn’t a 24-hour hold at all. Again, he’s been following all the rules here, as has everyone else who has been to UNGA. And he’ll continue to follow all the COVID – I’m sorry – COVID protocols and will be sure to be quarantining for the next 10 days.

Let’s take our final question from Tomoko Beck.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking my question. So it’s also following up. So can you confirm that Ned was exposed to COVID during the UNGA in New York? And also, is Secretary Blinken also quarantined, as his spokesperson is positive, and I assume he’s a close contact to him? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Yeah, we don’t have any specific details on the where that COVID-19 was contracted by Spokesperson Price, but again, I can reiterate that he is duly and properly quarantining and following all necessary protocols. And then to your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken tested negative for COVID-19 this morning and undergoes regular testing.

Thank you all for joining today’s press briefing. I hope you all have a wonderful afternoon and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)

2:39 p.m. EDT

MS PORTER: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s press briefing. I have nothing at the top, but I’m going to give it a few minutes to enter the queue before I start taking your questions.

Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi.

OPERATOR: One moment while we open your line. You may go ahead. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thank you for this. I wanted to ask you if you have a comment on the German elections and whether there is any concern that the negotiations for government could last very long, and for the stability of a key ally.

And also, if I may, I have a question on the ICC prosecutor decision that its probing on Afghanistan was focused now on the Taliban and ISIS-K. Is that a welcome development for the U.S.? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Francesco. I will start with your second question.

What I can say from here is that we are aware of the Office of the Prosecutor’s announcement that it will seek judicial authorization to reopen its Afghanistan investigation prioritizing the alleged atrocity crimes committed by the Taliban and ISIS-K. We’re deeply concerned about the current human rights situation in Afghanistan, and that also includes allegations of atrocities, and certainly welcome efforts to ensure accountability.

We have also consistently emphasized, as has the international community, the importance of respect for human rights as well as fundamental freedoms on the part of any government in Afghanistan. Of course, these rights would include freedom of expression as well as the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls as well as other ethnic and minority religious groups.

To your second question on Germany, we are also aware of the preliminary results and await the outcome of negotiations to form the next German government. We also look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Germany and on many key issues of mutual concern. We’ll also say that the current German government will remain in place until a new government is formed, and we certainly look forward to continuing our engagement with German officials on a range of bilateral issues and global challenges as well.

Let’s go to Eunjung Cho.

QUESTION: North Korea said it is willing to consider a summit with South Korea. For a second straight day, North Korea indicated that it wants to improve relations with South Korea. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS PORTER: Thank you. What I can say from here is that we – that the United States certainly supports inter-Korean dialogue as well as engagement and cooperation.

Let’s go to Pearl Matibe.

QUESTION: Hello, Jalina. Good morning. Hopefully this will be a slower week for everybody at State Department. My question is regarding the announcement today regarding the data strategy, the Enterprise Data Strategy. Can we speak a little bit about that and what does that mean for, for example, journalists like ourselves when we interact with State Department and for our audiences, maybe perhaps in layman’s terms? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Pearl. I’ll start by saying that we did issue a Media Note this morning that details our first-ever Enterprise Data Strategy, but we are excited. Again, this is a new platform for the department, and the goal of this strategy is to basically help us to harness and promote any evidence-based decision making, especially when it comes to our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts, and really throughout the entire department. So this is a new effort. I’m sure we’ll have updates ongoing throughout the year and the rest of our time here, but I also encourage you to view our Media Note as well. Thank you.

Let’s go to Jenny Hansler, please.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Given Ned’s tweet about his COVID diagnosis, I was wondering when the last time Secretary Blinken was tested for COVID, if all the members of the traveling delegation who were at UNGA have tested – have gotten tested, and if anyone else has tested positive since General Assembly week last week. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. So, while we typically from here won’t comment of the health status of any individual employees, of course, per the tweet, I can confirm that Spokesperson Price has tested positive for COVID-19. He actually first felt symptomatic only this morning, and he had no previous symptoms before that. He confirmed his diagnosis in coordination with our Medical Unit with a PCR test this morning, and we’ll all follow all relevant protocols and will quarantine for the next 10 days.

To your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken has actually tested negative for COVID-19 as recent as this morning, which is a matter of his routine testing. None of the other members of the traveling party are currently exhibiting symptoms, and all will also continue to follow appropriate protocols.

Let’s go to Michel Ghandour.

QUESTION: I have a quick question on Iran. Israeli prime minister has said today that Iran has crossed all redlines in its nuclear program and words do not stop centrifuges from spinning. Do you share his assessment? And do you have any comment on that?

MS PORTER: Thanks, Michel. What I can say, broadly speaking from here, is that a mutual return to compliance is in America’s national interest and we believe the best available option to restrict Iran’s nuclear program and provide a platform to address Iran’s destabilizing conduct.

Let’s go to Janne Pak, please.

QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Can you hear me?

MS PORTER: Hi. Yes, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I am talking about the end of the war declaration, and I think you know that Kim Jong-un’s sister, she also said that if South Korea satisfies all the conditions for North Korea, then it could go ahead with a declaration of an end to the war or an inter-Korean summit. And China also agreed with the North Korea’s message. Do you think this message goes against the preconditions for the U.S.-North Korea dialogue that the U.S. want? And also, do you think an end to the war declaration is necessary without resolving the North Korean nuclear matter? Thank you very much.

MS PORTER: Thank you, Janne. So to start with I think your second question, we are prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach. Again, you’ve heard us say this from here, and I think it’s worth underscoring that our goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

OPERATOR: Once again, if you wish to ask a question, you may press 1 then 0 at this time.

MS PORTER: Let’s go to Carmen Rodriguez.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon, Jalina, thank you. During the past week, President Bukele has sent messages from his Twitter account implying that the United States is not a good friend of El Salvador for pointing out it’s government official as actors of corruption. What repercussion do these statements have on the United States-El Salvador relationship, which is not in a good time?

MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. We don’t have an official response from here, but it’s certainly something we’ll take back to the team and get back to you after the briefing with.

Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Jalina. I just want to follow up on I think one of Francesco’s questions about the ICC investigation in Afghanistan. You said you welcomed efforts to ensure accountability. I wonder could you respond specifically to the fact that the U.S. forces and Afghan Government forces – the prior Afghan government forces – are not the subject of this investigation. And is that something that the U.S. specifically welcomes and did the U.S. make any representations to the court for that to be the case? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Thanks, Simon. So what I can say from here is that we’re pleased to see that the ICC prioritized its resources to focus on the greatest of allegations and atrocity crimes. We have also long objected to the ICC’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over nationals of non-state parties such as the United States absent the consent of the state or a UN Security Council referral. And that objection remains unchanged.

Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’d like to follow on North Korea. Are you willing to consider adjusting or easing sanctions for rejoining talks with North Korea? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Again, I’ll just reiterate what I said before. We’re prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions, and of course, we certainly hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach.

Let’s go to Kylie Atwood.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jalina. Just one more quick question on Ned testing positive for COVID-19. Has the State Department notified all of the countries that Secretary Blinken met with last week given Ned was in most of those meetings? Thanks.

MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Kylie. So from here, we’re all following proper CDC and COVID-19 protocols, but I just do want to underscore that Spokesperson Price hasn’t been in contact with any foreign delegations since Thursday, so – which is nearly a hundred hours before he actually started to experience any symptoms. In consultation with the State Department’s Medical Unit, we believe the risk of exposure would have actually started on Saturday, and again, he at that time was not around the Secretary, he wasn’t around any other senior State Department officials or any foreign officials as well.

I’ll take the question from Nick Wadhams.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much, Jalina. Just to follow up on the judgment that he would not have – risk of exposure would have started on Saturday, as far as I understood, the data so far on COVID-19 suggests that people can be – can transmit the virus even while not symptomatic two to even three days ahead of exhibiting symptoms. So I’m a little unclear on why the State Department in this case is only doing a 24-hour exposure window rather than what appears to be the data-supported notion that it could be up to 72 hours. Thank you.

MS PORTER: Well, I just want to reiterate that Spokesperson Price did not experience any symptoms of COVID-19 until this morning. So, I mean, we reported on this immediately. This wasn’t a 24-hour hold at all. Again, he’s been following all the rules here, as has everyone else who has been to UNGA. And he’ll continue to follow all the COVID – I’m sorry – COVID protocols and will be sure to be quarantining for the next 10 days.

Let’s take our final question from Tomoko Beck.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking my question. So it’s also following up. So can you confirm that Ned was exposed to COVID during the UNGA in New York? And also, is Secretary Blinken also quarantined, as his spokesperson is positive, and I assume he’s a close contact to him? Thank you.

MS PORTER: Yeah, we don’t have any specific details on the where that COVID-19 was contracted by Spokesperson Price, but again, I can reiterate that he is duly and properly quarantining and following all necessary protocols. And then to your question on Secretary Blinken, Secretary Blinken tested negative for COVID-19 this morning and undergoes regular testing.

Thank you all for joining today’s press briefing. I hope you all have a wonderful afternoon and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)