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  • MS NAUERT: Hi, everybody.

  • How are you today?

  • And why are so many of you showing up on an August afternoon?

  • You're supposed to all be on vacation or something, but I notice a few empty seats.

  • But Gardiner's back from vacation.

  • Gardiner, welcome.

  • QUESTION: Thank you.

  • MS NAUERT: How've you been?

  • QUESTION: I've been good.

  • MS NAUERT: Good.

  • A couple announcements to start before we get started with your questions today.

  • First, I would like to express our condolences to the victims of the recent earthquakes and

  • also the aftershocks in Indonesia.

  • The United States has experts and partner organizations on the ground.

  • We're consulting with the Government of Indonesia at this time.

  • We're closely monitoring the situation, and we stand ready to provide additional aid

  • to the Government of Indonesia.

  • Our U.S. consulate personnel are assisting affected U.S. citizens.

  • At this time, we do not have any reports of U.S. citizen casualties associated with the

  • earthquakes.

  • Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Indonesian people.

  • As many of you know, we were recently on the ground in Indonesia and had some terrific

  • meetings with government officials there.

  • Next, I have some staffing news to bring you now.

  • And I'm really excited about this one, because it affects our Bureau of Public Affairs and

  • specifically the folks that you will working with.

  • Today I'd like to announce that Robert Palladino will be joining our press team as the State

  • Department's deputy spokesperson.

  • Robert is a career Foreign Service officer and I believe known well to some of you or

  • perhaps many of you.

  • Over the past year, Robert has served as director of press and acting National Security Council

  • spokesperson.

  • In that role he's helped to prepare Sarah Sanders for her briefings at the White House.

  • He was also a spokesperson to the White House press corps and worked as NSC communications

  • lead for both Asia and Europe.

  • Robert's Foreign Service career has included postings in Washington, where he worked for

  • our Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Office of the Under Secretary for

  • Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, and also on Capitol Hill.

  • Overseas, he's worked in Milan, Italy; Guangzhou, China; and also Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

  • Prior to joining the State Department, he practiced law in Asia and Europe in the Army

  • JAG Corps.

  • His service included deployment to Rwanda.

  • He is a graduate of Notre Dame University, Washington and Lee School of Law, the U.S.

  • Army War College, and he also speaks Chinese and Italian.

  • Pretty impressive.

  • We are delighted that he is coming back to the State Department from the White House.

  • I know you will enjoy working with him.

  • For those of you who have not met him, he is a terrific guy.

  • We've worked closely together for the past year or so.

  • I asked him what his children thought, because he has two young girls – I asked him what

  • they thought of his job, and I love these quotes.

  • His youngest daughter said, “I'm proud of America and I'm proud of you, Dad, but

  • it sounds really boring.”

  • And then his older daughter said thisand you'll appreciate it – “But wait a minute,

  • everybody yells questions and they're angry.

  • That's the worst job in the world.”

  • That actually might be the White House press corps, not you all.

  • But we look forward to welcoming Robert when he joins us on the 20th of August.

  • But try not to bug him between now and then; he's on vacation with his family.

  • So another addition to our press family.

  • And that's it.

  • With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.

  • QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

  • We'll try not to be so angry.

  • MS NAUERT: I said not you all.

  • QUESTION: Let's – me, yes me.

  • I just wanted to ask you briefly before I ask you about Yemen.

  • I noticed the statement that you guys put out about Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe elections

  • and the Zambian decision to deport the opposition leader.

  • MS NAUERT: Right.

  • QUESTION: And in that statement it said that you are reviewing certain aspects of your

  • cooperation with the Zambian Government.

  • Can you be a little bit more specific?

  • What aspects of --

  • MS NAUERT: Some of those will be conversations that will be had privately with both governments.

  • But my understanding is that there are certain agreements in which that government was taking

  • steps that the Zimbabweans weren't completely familiar with and weren't supportive of,

  • and there were some concerns related to that.

  • But let's just --

  • QUESTION: No, I understand, but I was just --

  • MS NAUERT: But let's just back up a couple steps for folks who've not been following

  • this perhaps as closely as you have.

  • Elections on July the 30ththose were promising, very promising.

  • We thought it was a historic chance to sort of move beyond the political and economic

  • crises of the past and toward a more democratic change and better dialogue in that country.

  • People turned out massively in those elections.

  • We put out a statement just after those elections complimenting them on those elections.

  • However, the success in delivering an election day that was peaceful and open to international

  • observers was then marred by violence, which we've been seeing and has been heavily reported,

  • at least in the international press, over the past about week and a half.

  • We've seen a disproportionate use of deadly force against protestors by the security forces,

  • which is a great concern of ours.

  • We're concerned by those numerous reports of human rights violations since the elections

  • had taken place about a week and a half or two ago.

  • We have received credible allegations of detentions, of beatings, and other abuses of the people

  • of Zimbabwe, particularly targeting opposition activists.

  • Now, the latest news today is the foreignexcuse me, the former minister of finance

  • had left to go to Zambia.

  • Zambia returned him to Zimbabwe, we understand.

  • And some of this is still fresh so we don't have all the details at this point.

  • But I understand he was detained and possibly let go.

  • So I'm going to pause there because some of this is still unfolding, and I don't

  • want to give you any inaccurate information since it's still developing.

  • QUESTION: I get that.

  • I just wanted to know is this a threat to withhold or suspend some aid to Zambia when

  • you say you're reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation?

  • MS NAUERT: Matt, I'm not going to get into that at this point, but we're watching the

  • situation carefully.

  • QUESTION: All right.

  • Let me ask you about this airstrike in Yemen, which appears to have killed dozens of children.

  • The Saudis obviously are the ones who conducted this, but they do that with weapons supplied

  • by the U.S., with training supplied by the U.S., and with targeting information, targeting

  • data, supplied by the U.S.

  • How can something like this happen?

  • MS NAUERT: How can something like that report happen?

  • QUESTION: Yeah.

  • MS NAUERT: Well, I think we would start by saying --

  • QUESTION: It's more than a report.

  • I mean, it's – they admitted that it happened.

  • MS NAUERT: Yeah.

  • How can situations like this happen?

  • We don't have the full details about what happened on the ground.

  • We've certainly seen the news reports of what has been reported happened, okay?

  • I can't confirm all the details because we are not there on the ground.

  • We can say that we're certainly concerned about these reports that resultedthat

  • there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians.

  • We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into

  • the incident.

  • We take all credible accounts of civilian casualties very seriously.

  • We call on the parties to take appropriate measures to protect civilians in accordance

  • with international law and urge all parties to investigate all reported incidents of civilian

  • casualties.

  • QUESTION: Okay.

  • Well, they sayalready the coalition says that they acted in accordance with international

  • law.

  • But if you look at the photographs, the video that come from the scene, it doesn't look

  • like that's a reallythat that's a credible answer.

  • So are you okay with the coalition on its own doing an investigation, or would you like

  • to see some kind of an international component to it or an international investigation?

  • MS NAUERT: Well, I think I just answered that and we said that we would call upon the Saudi

  • Government --

  • QUESTION: So you're --

  • MS NAUERT: -- to do a full and thorough investigation, as we always do.

  • And we call upon all parties in any kind of situation like this to take appropriate measures

  • to try to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties.

  • QUESTION: So you don't think --

  • MS NAUERT: DOD and other entities put out reports on this after the fact as they all

  • start to investigate, and so we will look forward to any information on that.

  • QUESTION: Right.

  • But my question is you don't see a need for there to be something other than a coalition

  • investigation, you don't see a need for an independent --

  • MS NAUERT: Matt, I'm not going to getthis is something that is fresh, that just happened,

  • so I'm not going to get ahead of any kind of investigation that may take place.

  • Okay?

  • QUESTION: It's only the latest in a huge number of civilians killed during these operations

  • though.

  • MS NAUERT: I would encourage you to take a lookand that is we regret any loss of

  • civilian life.

  • That is something that the United States Governmentin particular, any time you talk to the

  • Department of Defense about civilian casualties, they will say the same thing --

  • QUESTION: Well --

  • MS NAUERT: -- that – I'm not finished, okay?

  • And they will say the exact same thing, that all parties take very strong responsibility

  • and measures to try to protect against the loss of civilian life.

  • As we have seenand you all very rarely ask about the issue that has been unfolding

  • and the devastation that has taken place in Yemenlet's look at some of the things

  • that have been happening in Yemen.

  • You have the Houthi rebels who continue to attack Saudi Arabia.

  • They continue to do that with Iranian weapons, missiles, and rockets.

  • They continue to try to attack civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, for example, and that is

  • part of the reason why these actions are being taken.

  • Let me go back and remind you what I just said a moment ago, and that is we call for

  • an investigation and we anticipate that a thorough investigation will be done.

  • I don't have anything more for you on that.

  • QUESTION: The Secretary isn't planning on having a conversation with --

  • MS NAUERT: I don't have any information for you on that.

  • Okay.

  • Hi, Nick.

  • QUESTION: Is thishey, Heather.

  • Is this latest incident or the previous incidents causing the U.S. to re-evaluate in any way

  • the role that it's playing in the situation, in terms of its relationship with Saudi Arabia?

  • MS NAUERT: Look, we provide a tremendous amount of humanitarian assistance in Yemen to try

  • to support civilians in Yemen and try to mitigate against the devastation that's taken place

  • there in that country.

  • I don't have anything more for you on that.

  • QUESTION: But you also supply a tremendous amount of weaponry and the data for targeting

  • to the Saudis.

  • MS NAUERT: Well, thensorry.

  • QUESTION: Right?

  • No?

  • QUESTION: No.

  • QUESTION: Am I wrong?

  • Is that wrong?

  • QUESTION: That's not wrong.

  • MS NAUERT: Sorry, these ladies over here are laughing.

  • On that I would refer you to the Department of Defense that is involved with that, but

  • as you know, Saudi Arabia is an important strategic partner in the region to the United

  • States.

  • Okay.

  • Hi, Gardiner.

  • QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that.

  • Hey.

  • So obviously, there's growing concerns in Congress about the toll this war is taking

  • within Yemen.

  • It's the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet.

  • Aren't you concerned that incidents like this will further erode congressional support

  • and lead to further support for legislation that could cut off Saudi Arabia from arms

  • sales and the rest?

  • MS NAUERT: I mean, I think that is an entirely hypothetical question and we don't comment

  • on congressional proposals in any event, but I would askall of you have been very

  • silent on the issue of Yemen, and times --

  • QUESTION: Well --

  • MS NAUERT: Although Said has asked.

  • You've been the one reporter who's asked a lot about Yemen and the situation there.

  • QUESTION: Well I would suggest that if you had more than two briefings a week and they

  • lasted for longer than a half an hour or 40 minutes that you might get questions about

  • something other than the actual main topic of the day.

  • MS NAUERT: Matt, I think you and I talk every single day.

  • QUESTION: Yes, we do.

  • MS NAUERT: You have my phone number.

  • You have all my numbers, and anytime you want to talk about Yemen, I'd be more than happy

  • to answer your questions and provide you additional expert briefings --

  • QUESTION: Okay.

  • MS NAUERT: -- on Yemen anytime anyone is interested, but I have not seen a major level of interest

  • on the part of our press corps, with the exception of Said, on the issue of Yemen.

  • Yeah.

  • QUESTION: Why does that matter, though?

  • There's news today, so --

  • MS NAUERT: Yeah.

  • QUESTION: Can you request an expert on Yemen?

  • MS NAUERT: Yeah, certainly, I'd be happy to.

  • Yeah.

  • QUESTION: Wait, so first of all, I think that when there have been attacks against Saudi

  • installations or missiles and stuff, I think you've seen that there have been just as

  • vigorous of reporting.

  • MS NAUERT: I don't – I disagree, but --

  • QUESTION: Well, I mean, that's – it's not our job to, like, sit here and go back

  • and forth on that.

  • We're asking today.

  • The U.S. has tried to increase its target training withto try and improve the targeting

  • of the Saudi coalition.

  • Is that still continuing?

  • MS NAUERT: Elise, I think that would be a DOD