2:10 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining today’s briefing. I have three updates at the top, and then we’ll resume taking your questions.
Today, I’m happy to highlight the appointment of the new U.S. Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle Richard Zúñiga. Special Envoy Zúñiga is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with extensive experience in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, at the National Security Council, and at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
The special envoy will advise the Secretary and acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, coordinate closely with the National Security Council, and oversee the department’s comprehensive efforts to manage regional migration and address root causes of migration.
The special envoy will engage with regional governments, including but not limited to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, on a range of issues and will hold government actors accountable for their commitments to address root causes of migration and to address the increase of – in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border. He will also keep Congress apprised of our efforts. This is one of our highest priorities.
Next, the United States welcomes Saudi Arabia and Republic of Yemen Government’s commitment to a ceasefire and political process in Yemen. U.S. Special Envoy Tim Lenderking has been extensively engaged with the UN, Saudi Arabia, the Yemeni Government, Oman, and other regional partners to reach a ceasefire and ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. Discussions in support of peace efforts are ongoing. We call on all parties to commit seriously to a ceasefire immediately and engage in negotiations under the auspices of the UN.
And finally, on Syria, the United States strongly condemns reported Assad regime artillery and Russian airstrikes that killed civilians in western Aleppo and Idlib yesterday, including the Al-Atareb Hospital.
Civilians, including civilian medical personnel and facilities, must never be the target of military action. This violence must stop. We reiterate our call for a nationwide ceasefire.
And we’ll give a few minutes for those coming into the queue before we start taking your questions. Let’s go to the line of Matt Lee, please.
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Hi, Matt. Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Thanks. On the Yemen thing, I’m just wondering – it’s been a month, month and a half now since you guys lifted the FTO designation on the Houthis and removed the three leaders from the terrorism part of the SDGT list and the situation has gotten worse, not better, by all demonstrable means. So I’m just wondering is this something, this Saudi proposal, Saudi/Yemen Government proposal for a ceasefire something that you guys have been encouraging? Do you have any hope that it might improve either the humanitarian situation or the situation with Houthi attacks on Saudi soil? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Matt. I’ll just reiterate what we said at the top, which was that the United States certainly welcomes Saudi Arabia as well as the Republic of Yemen’s Government commitment to a ceasefire and political process in Yemen. And as you know, Special Envoy Tim Lenderking has been engaged with the UN and Saudi Arabia as well as the Yemeni Government and other regional partners to reach this ceasefire, and again, just end the suffering of the Yemeni people. The discussions are – in support of peace are ongoing, and we call on all parties to seriously commit to a ceasefire immediately and engage in negotiations under auspices of the UN.
OPERATOR: We will now go to Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thank you, Jalina, for doing this. Just to follow up on Yemen again, you’re saying that you welcome the Saudi proposal to end the war, and you call on all parties to come back. But I mean, part of this is the Yemeni Government and the Saudis, they already committed to a ceasefire. So why you’re not calling the Houthis by name? And what kind of leverage you have on them to bring them to the negotiation table now that everybody on the same page? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Nadia. And again, I – we just can’t underscore enough that we call on all parties to seriously commit to a ceasefire and engage in negotiations under UN auspices, which were in conjunction with U.S. Special Envoy Tim Lenderking. And that’s something that we’ll continue to do from here on out.
Let’s go to the line of Lara Jakes.
QUESTION: The Houthi spokesman is saying in the region that the Houthis will not agree to discuss a ceasefire until Saudi Arabia first lifts its blockade, so this doesn’t portend for any progress on this particular new initiative. I’m wondering what is new about it that might have any kind of influence or convince the Houthis otherwise to agree to a ceasefire. As you know, there have been several attempts, all of which have been unsuccessful, over the last six years. Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Lara. As we’ve said before, negotiations are ongoing, but again, this new step in the process with the announcement of Saudi Arabia committing to the ceasefire – again, this is one step in the right direction, and again, the U.S. welcomes Saudi Arabia as well as the republic of – Yemeni Government’s commitment to this ceasefire and the political process in Yemen.
Let’s go to the line of Simon Lewis, please.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks, Jalina. I wanted to ask about the sanctions that were announced earlier with – on actors in Xinjiang and also some on Myanmar. I was wondering to what extent were these coordinated with the Europeans and the Canadians. And can you talk a bit about that coordination and how you think that will – what do you think this is going to achieve? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thank you. I will start with your question on sanctions in Xinjiang. So the United States, in unity with our partners, imposed sanctions under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program in connection with serious human rights abuses against members in the region’s ethnic and religious minority groups. Despite growing international condemnation, the PRC continues to commit atrocities in Xinjiang, and the United States reiterates its call on the PRC to bring an end to the suffering of the Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, including by releasing all those who are arbitrarily detained in internment camps or detention facilities, and other abuses as well.
And to you question on Burma, I know we issued a statement earlier today. I can reiterate that a little bit, but I’d have to direct you to that as well. Again, today’s sanctions against the Burma chief of police, special operations commander, as well as two army units underscore the United States commitment to promote accountability for those responsible for the violence against people in Burma, which we continue to condemn.
Let’s go to the line of Conor Finnegan.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Triangle and the announcement today of a special envoy. In your announcement, you mentioned that he will help coordinate the $4 billion plan by the President for the region. Will any of that money go to President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s administration given the accusations against him by U.S. prosecutors?
MS PORTER: Hi, Conor. So to answer your second question first, we don’t have any update to the trip. If there is a readout, we will be sure to make sure that you receive that. And to your first question, specific to money in the region, we’ll have to get back to you on that.
Let’s go to the line of Michel Ghandour.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Saudi announcement. And on Lebanon, the Lebanese, the political leaders are still fighting. And the situation, the economic and financial situation, is deteriorating. Do you have any comment on that?
MS PORTER: So I didn’t hear the first part of your question, so I’ll answer your question on Lebanon and just say that we’re concerned by the developments in Lebanon and apparent inaction of the country’s leadership in faces of the multiple ongoing crises. Lebanon’s political leaders need to put aside their partisan brinkmanship and form a government that will quickly implement critical and long-needed reform, restore investor confidence, and rescue the country’s economy.
MS PORTER: I’m sorry, I only heard “Yemen” and the ambassador part. It looks – it sounds like you were cutting out. So if you want to email us directly offline, we’d be happy to take that. Thank you.
Let’s go to the line of Will Mauldin, please.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I just wanted to follow up on the earlier question specifically about coordination of the China and other sanctions that we’ve seen. Is that fair to say that that’s a pattern of this administration? What benefits or drawbacks, if any, does it have? Is it different from the past administration to coordinate sanctions and release them simultaneously with other countries? And should we expect it in the future with China? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Will. Well, I certainly won’t comment on actions made by the previous administration. We just will underscore that we’ve taken this action today in solidarity with partners in the UK, Canada, and the European Union. And again, our partners are making sure that these atrocities in Xinjiang and other countries are coming to an end. And we’re doing this to demonstrate our ongoing commitment in working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights in shining a light on those in the PRC who are – and hold responsible for these atrocities.
Let’s go to the line of Casey O’Neil, please.
QUESTION: So this weekend the AP broke a story on threats that Iran had made against Fort McNair and against the army’s vice chief of staff. Just wondering if you have any comment from the State Department on this and what this may mean for future negotiations with the Iranians. Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thank you for that question. For this specifically, I’d have to refer you to the Department of Defense.
Let’s go to the line of Nick Wadhams, please.
QUESTION: Thanks, Jalina. Foreign Policy had a story thing that the administration intends to point an envoy for the Horn of Africa, and that it’s likely to be Jeffrey Feltman. I’m wondering if you can confirm that that’s the case. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you for the question. I’ll start by saying that the Department of State hasn’t appointed anyone to this position, first, but we will continue to engage with (inaudible) partners on a range of issues, pursuing our shared interests and values. Again, consistent with our senior-level —
MS PORTER: Excuse me, I think someone is not on mute.
MS PORTER: If we could all put ourselves on mute, thank you. I’m sorry about that, I’ll just reiterate again that the Department of State hasn’t appointed anyone for this position yet.
Let’s go to the line of Al Deron.
MS PORTER: Let’s go the line of Jiha Ham, please.
QUESTION: Hi Jalina, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Hi. Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. So the North Korean national Mun Chol Myong is now in the U.S. facing a trial for his money-laundering activities. We understand this is an action taken by the Justice Department. Even so, do you have any concerns that this could cause or create difficulties with North Korea – I mean, for the State Department’s effort to engage with North Korea? Thank you.
MS PORTER: So I’ll just reiterate that the United States remains committed to denuclearizing North Korea, and any other details I would have to refer back.
Let’s go to the line of Jose Sanz.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. I have two questions related with the special envoy announcement. The first one is the fact that Nicaragua was not included in the special envoy priority countries. Is that the focus for the United States, with the immigration and not democracy in the region?
And the second one, will Zúñiga participate in the inauguration of (inaudible), or make decisions on sanctions to the Central American officials?
MS PORTER: Thank you for your question. To your last one, we certainly don’t preview sanctions. And when it comes to this administration’s commitment in the region, we’re definitely committed to safe and humane migration and democracy overall. We can’t underscore that enough. And again, we certainly welcome the announcement of U.S. Special Envoy Zúñiga and look forward to his work.
We’ll take one final question from Ryo Nakamura. Can we go to the line of Ryo Nakamura, please?
OPERATOR: That person is not in the Q&A queue. One moment. Your line is now open.
QUESTION: Okay, can you hear me now?
MS PORTER: Hi. Yes, I can hear you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Okay, and thank you. Thank you for taking my question. I want to follow up about today’s sanctions on China. According to Secretary Blinken’s statement, today’s action is taken in solidarity with the UK, Canada, and EU. But the statement does not mention Japan, the other member of the G7.
Do you think Japan should take a similar action to show solidarity against China’s violation of human rights? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Well, let me just start off by saying that the U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. But we certainly won’t make recommendations or legislate what Japan decides to do on their own.
Again, I will point you to the statement that went out earlier today on the impetus of what we did with these sanctions, and essentially that’s promoting accountability for the ongoing human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Thank you all for joining today’s briefing. I appreciate you taking the time, and we’ll be back here at the same time tomorrow.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:34 p.m.)