Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at a Press Availability at the Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial Plenary
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
PALACIO SAN MARTIN
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
JULY 19, 2019
FOREIGN MINISTER FAURIE: (Via Interpreter) So first of all, good afternoon to all of you. Basically, we will have a press statement with Secretary Pompeo. I would like to say that today, before coming to start the second conference of the fight against terrorism, we had all the secretary of state of different countries, Secretary Pompeo. So we had a ceremony with the AMIA, when we commemorated the 25th anniversary of something that the Argentines know very well, where 85 of our people died. It was a moment in which not only did we remember, and we try not to forget and have justice. 17 countries signed the honor book, so the commitment is clearly stated.
So during the morning, we had a second session, something that was started in Washington last year. And right now we agreed that we would meet again in Colombia at the anniversary of the terrorist attack in Colombia at the beginning of this year. January 16 and 17 of next year, we will hold this meeting. And we agree that the fight against terrorism calls for coordination. The terrorist threat is something that affects all of us. It doesn’t make any differences what ideology you follow. And we have to work very hard in Latin America to fund the financing that these organizations receive, and we know that there are some terrorist organizations that help recruit people and they look for financing in our area.
The countries of the region agreed, most of us, on the danger of Hizballah to our hemisphere. Hizballah, because of the link which they have with other terrorist organizations, the concern that we share in South America and the ELN in Colombia, and right now within Venezuela. The concern that Peru has regarding the Shining Path resurgence, but the linkage of these groups to Hizballah make this relationship so much deeper because they look for funding and recruit people. That’s why, for President Macri, the fight against terrorism – our security is one of the main issues of his administration. And that’s why yesterday he issued the registry for people and organizations’ links to terrorism, and Hizballah is one of them. And we think that this is a very important step forward.
We all – some minutes ago we had a bilateral meeting, and not only did we thank the Secretary to come here and be with us during this conference and the ceremony at AMIA, we had – we talked about different issues regarding bilateral issues, policy, economic – the concern that we have of issues that we face in this region, and other issues at a global level, and everything that we face these days.
We agreed to renew and to keep a strategic dialogue at the highest level. Personally, I would like to thank you regarding a case that is of concern to Argentina, which is the Saldano case, but we addressed during our dialogue. We are true friends. And Argentina, we see the very, very good support from the U.S. Government and also from President Trump, especially right now that we are facing some financial difficulties.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Foreign Minister Faurie. It is a pleasure to be back here in beautiful Argentina again. Thank you to my fellow foreign ministers who are joining us here today as will.
Under the leadership of President Trump, our administration has made a concerted effort to re-engage with our partners in the hemisphere. Indeed, we believe this is a new era in relationships between the United States and South America. As I said in Santiago in April, we have an enormous opportunity to help each other continue to have prosperity and security.
And the U.S. is backing up those statements with action. So I was excited again – I’m planning to come be part of the second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial. Thank you to my counterparts for hosing this important event. We won’t back down from the challenge of terrorism – not now, not ever.
I was especially moved this morning, the ceremony that we gathered at to remember the 85 victims of the AMIA bombing which occurred 25 years ago yesterday. The memorial was a powerful prologue to today’s ministerial, a reminder that the hemisphere is not immune from the sting of a foreign terror. The AMIA bombing was carried out by Hizballah with the full support of the regime in Tehran. As they announced at the ministerial, the United States Government is taking actions against Salman Raouf Salman, a top Hizballah operative, for his role as the on-the-ground coordinator for that attack. He continues today to conduct terrorism on behalf of Hizballah.
The United States Department of Treasury has designated Salman as a specially designated global terrorist, and we believe this action will deny him all access to the U.S. financial system. We also announced today up to $7 million as a reward for information leading to his identification or location. We want this killer brought to justice.
Of course, the primary focus of our ministerial was on thwarting future attacks. Hizballah maintains a strong presence in South America and in this region. It is determined to retain the ability to attack anyone anywhere, just like it did 25 years ago. It also continued to exploit the hemisphere for fundraising. That’s why I want to commend Argentina for designating Hizballah as a terrorist organization yesterday. We call on countries throughout the world and throughout this hemisphere to follow Argentina’s example.
We also know that Hizballah is not the only foreign-born terror group active in this region. Although we destroyed its physical caliphate, ISIS continues to plot and inspire attacks around the globe. At the same time, al-Qaida is seeking to re-establish itself as the vanguard of global jihadist movement.
To prevent terror attacks, every peace-loving nation in this hemisphere must defend its security interests and work with other nations to do the same. We made strides today towards that very cooperation. Foreign Minister Faurie will announce one new initiative here in just a moment.
Finally, the foreign minister and I also met today to discuss U.S. and Argentina’s great partnership. Even as it works to solve its economic challenges at home, Argentina has revitalized its role on the global stage, impressing the world with its presidency at the G20, its energy vision, and its leadership in the Lima Group, and many, many more ways.
The U.S. wants to be a resource and a friend for this revitalization. That’s why I’m pleased to announce a U.S.-Argentina strategic partnership dialogue, which will allow our two countries to expand our cooperation in areas of security, human rights, democracy, and economic development. Argentina’s commitment to democratic process is also evident in its support for President Juan Guaido and for the people of Venezuela. Argentina and its people have shown great generosity to the more than 150,000 Venezuelan refugees who have fled here. The world admires you for that generosity and so do I.
Venezuela also serves as another reminder of Iran’s willingness to sow destruction and death in our hemisphere. The foreign minister – excuse me, Foreign Minister Zarif recently traveled to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime.
Beyond Venezuela, the U.S. will continue to work with Argentina to condemn the Ortega regime for its campaign of violence and repression, and to continue the long struggle to promote democracy in Cuba.
In closing, the United States is back, and our partnership is here to stay. We look forward to continuing our work with Argentina to advance regional security, expand our economic ties, and address the many challenges that we face in our region. We’ll do so together. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER FAURIE: (Via interpreter) As the Secretary noted, we have a little announcement before our questions. I will invite my colleague from Paraguay and the deputy foreign minister of Brazil to join us here for the announcement regarding the decision all four countries have made – Argentina, Brazil, the U.S., and Paraguay – to establish a regional security mechanism for political and diplomatic coordination of efforts in the fight against illicit activities in the region, as well as possible linkages to transnational crime and the financing of terrorism, in particular.
This mechanism will materialize through semiannual meetings coordinated by all four foreign ministries and with the support of all agencies which in each of our countries are responsible in this field, and the first meeting will be held before the end of this year in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Very good. And now we are willing to take two questions with Secretary Pompeo. These are called one and one.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Natalio Cosoy, France 24 in Spanish, selected journalist on behalf of Argentines.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, after the meeting (inaudible), Latin America have committed to fighting terrorism in the region and have decided to declare Hizballah a terrorist organization following Argentina. Which countries do you feel are not doing enough in the region?
And as you mentioned Venezuela, I want to know, has the situation in Venezuela stalled? What can the U.S. do now after sanctions to seek change in that country?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, and thank you for your questions. Your second question is the easiest. Which countries aren’t doing enough? None of us. We all can do more. We can do more individually. There are still many activities, places we can improve our justice systems, places we can improve information sharing and collection. All of the elements that deliver a counterterrorism campaign that truly takes down networks and increases risk for the people here in Argentina and all around the region – there’s just always so much more that every country can do.
No country has announced that they were going to follow Argentina today, but it’s my every expectation that many will do the same. They will review the risk, they will see the threat, and they will come to their own sovereign conclusion that that’s in their best interest.
And as for Venezuela, Maduro will never govern that country again. It will not happen. He may rule, he may for a moment control its military at some level, but he will never govern those people and he has destroyed their way of life. He has created a humanitarian crisis that is unequaled, and we collectively – the OAS, the Lima Group, our European partners, the United States – 54 countries now have made clear that the Maduro regime is finished. It is only a matter of time before we can all begin to help the Venezuelans restore their democracy and restore their economy.
MS ORTAGUS: Courtney McBride, Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good afternoon. I have a question for each gentleman. To the foreign minister, your country has listed Hizballah as a terrorist organization. Can you just give us a little bit more information on what that entails, perhaps beyond denying them access to the financial system, and what other future steps we might expect?
And to Mr. Secretary, turning to Iran, Iran continues to deny that the U.S. downed its unmanned aerial system over the Strait of Hormuz, and Foreign Minister Zarif has reportedly said he would meet with U.S. lawmakers and is promising to exchange perhaps inspections for sanctions relief. Are these positive steps? Are they plausible?
FOREIGN MINISTER FAURIE: Okay, to the first question —
(Via interpreter) Regarding your first question, our listing will not only allow the freezing of assets or anything linked to the economic and financial activity of the organization or individual included in the list, but we will also be able to order their expulsion, ban their entry depending on the organization or individual involved. This is a comprehensive view of the situation of all persons linked to terrorism, and this information is shared internationally, so it reduces very significantly the ability to act of those included in the list.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So your first question was about the Iranian response to the announcement yesterday that the USS Boxer shot down or took down a UAV in the Strait of Hormuz. It went down, and the fact that Foreign Minister Zarif either didn’t know or lied about it I can’t account for. It happened.
Second, it’s interesting that you focused on Iran as we sit here in Argentina. Today what you saw – the announcement from Argentina, the work that we did – is that we have many nations around the world now speaking the truth about the Islamic Republic of Iran, about its global campaign of terror and the malign activity that it has taken around the world.
So I saw Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments in New York yesterday. I would welcome the chance to get access to the Iranian media in the same way he gets access to the American media. I think that’d be fantastic. I’m looking forward to it, indeed. Zarif – Foreign Minister Zarif has met with American members of Congress for many years, and during those many years, they’ve continued to build out their missile program, conduct terror around the world, and continued to advance their capacity to build out a nuclear weapons program that threatens the world.
So Foreign Minister Zarif can talk to members of Congress. That’s fantastic. In the end, President Trump will make the decision about how to proceed. He’s made clear we’re prepared to conduct negotiations with no preconditions. The Iranians continue to say, well, they’ll talk, but only – if and only if the United States does something. We need them to come to the table. It’s the right way to resolve these challenges.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.