Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
En Route to Shannon, Ireland
March 18, 2019
SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me just say a couple things, and then happy to take a few questions. Had a great visit; it was fun to go back home. I think it really set up what we’ll do on the 4th and 5th in the Netherlands to be a very successful event for any American entrepreneurs and for American businesses, and I think it was a good message, and so it was a – that was a fun day.
Now to Kuwait, and then to Israel, and then to Lebanon – multiple missions, different in each place for sure, but Kuwait’s been a longtime partner of the United States. We all know the history of the first Gulf War. We’ll go back and make sure that we reconnect with them, talk to them about what we’re doing with the Middle East Strategic Alliance, some energy issues, and also of course talk about things we talk about with all the states in the Gulf region: the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Israel – a long-planned trip. We will spend a lot of time talking about Syria, the challenges that are presented there. That’s my first chance to see the new embassy since it moved as well. I’m personally looking forward to that and to get a chance to talk to our team there. And then we’ll also talk about issues and how we’re jointly going to work against the terror threats they face with Hamas, and Hizballah, and Iran of course as well.
And then on to Lebanon, where we’ll spend a lot of time talking with the Lebanese Government about how we can help them disconnect from the threat that Iran and Hizballah present to them. Financial, economic, all the assistance we have provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces, talk to them about those serious issues. And meet with some of the religious leadership of the country as well.
So I’m looking forward to all three stops, and then heading back home. With that, happy to take a few questions.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Thank you for coming back. You going in Israel in the middle of quite tense election, you can imagine that it can be seen a support to Netanyahu. Is it part of the message, or not at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there’s always an election. We’ve got an election a year away, they’ve got one that’s less than a month away. I’m going to Israel because of the important relationship we have. Our relationship is between the United States and Israel the same way that theirs is between Israel and the United States. Leaders will change in both countries over time; that relationship matters no matter who the leaders are, and we’re going to go talk about the strategic issues we work on together, and talk about a whole bunch of things that matter to each of our two countries. That’s the mission set.
QUESTION: What would be the basis for meeting with Palestinians (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry --
QUESTION: Is there any basis for reopening talks with Palestinians?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they’d have to want to talk to us. That’d be a good start. Look, we desperately want a good solution. Mr. Kushner’s working on the Middle East peace plan. There’ll be a right time when we will introduce bigger pieces of that. The Palestinians will definitely have to be a part of that, right. This is, as we’ve always said, Israel and the Palestinians are going to have to work this thing through. We hope that they will, we hope we’ll be able to engage with them at the right time so that they can solve this decades-on problem.
QUESTION: On the issue of military organizations related to Iran, do you have any plans to designate the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization, or any other militias in the region, in Iraq or elsewhere, to be FTOs? I know you did one earlier this month.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Right. We did HAN. There are others that we’re taking a look at. Our mission set there is pretty clear in Iraq. We’re trying to help Iraq become an independent, sovereign state disconnected from any other country. We want them to stand on their own two feet and to be that truly independent, strong Iraq that they had been as a historical matter – that is, they have great capacity for that. They can be the linchpin in the Middle East, and we’re trying to build that out. And to the extent there’s a terror group that is operating outside of that, we’re going to make sure that we protect the American people. And so there may well be other organizations that we designate.
I don’t want to talk about any particular one or the others that you mention, the IRGC or the IRGC Quds Force. We’re certainly looking at all of those. Our campaign to convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to change its way continues. We’ve put a lot of pressure to date, but there’s more to follow.
QUESTION: With all of the headlines with anti-Semitism here in the United States, how much will you bring that up with the prime minister – or excuse me, Benjamin Netanyahu?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, we have so many things to talk about. And certainly that’ll be among them. And it’s certainly something I know they must be thinking about; I know Jewish people all across America are thinking about that, so I’m sure it’ll be part of our conversation, where we have lots of issues – security issues, economic ties, too. I’m going to have a meeting when I first arrive with the Greeks, the Cypriots, and the Israelis talking about energy and energy opportunities. We’ll do that on the first night there. There’ll be a meeting of the four countries. There’s some real opportunities for energy to flow into places they – it hasn’t before, which takes down leverage from some of the other countries in the region as well – an important economic and national security issue.
So I’m sure it’ll come up, among many issues.
QUESTION: On Lebanon, you mention disentangling Hizballah from --
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: And yet you’re going to meet with President Aoun and I think the foreign minister as well, and they facilitated Hizballah’s arrive to power. So how do you sort all of that out?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In my business we talk to a lot of people that we’re hoping to change their way.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. (Laughter.)
MR PALLADINO: One more, sir?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, has the State Department – the State Department has essentially dropped the word “occupied” from its reports when it talks about the West Bank and the Golan. Was that an accident, or is that deliberate to sort of de-emphasize that word in describing the territory that (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope there were no words in the Human Rights Report that were accidental. We – I hope that they were all thoughtful and intentional. Our mission set with that, with that Human Rights Report, is to lay out facts, right. This isn’t a policy document. It is to document and lay out facts that surround human rights abuses all across the globe. It’s the case that we do our best to call those facts like we see them. That language reflects the facts as we understand them.
So it was an attempt to factually indicate what we believe is actually happening, whether that was what we described in North Korea, what we talked about in Syria – all the places. That includes the statements we made about Israel and the West Bank as well.
QUESTION: So just to clarify, you no longer see the territory as occupied, then? You talked about referring to it as facts --
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think this is a – this was a factual statement about how we observe the situation. And we think it’s very accurate, and we stand behind it.
QUESTION: Have you – just a quick question. Mr. Netanyahu has been using comments by Mr. Trump for his election adverts. Have you asked him not to include you in any of his election adverts?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m going to talk about the relationship between our two countries. That’s what we’ll do.
MR PALLADINO: We’ll keep it there. All right.
QUESTION: Can I ask you on Syria?
QUESTION: Just to follow up on his question --
MR PALLADINO: Let’s wrap it up there.
QUESTION: Will there be a designation on this trip, an additional designation of one those groups, Quds Force or --
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’d rather not get in front of what we’re planning in terms of designations. As you know, they’re sensitive issues, and so I want to make sure we got it all locked down before I make an announcement. So stay tuned.
MR PALLADINO: All right, great.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, all.
MR PALLADINO: Okay, thank you all.