Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 6, 2019
MR. SCHLACHTER: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you for joining us this morning for a briefing on the December Security Council Program of Work. My name is Mark Schlachter. I’m very honored to be a member of Ambassador Kelly Craft’s outstanding team at USUN. As president of the Council for a month, Ambassador Craft has been deeply involved in shaping the month’s activities, as you can imagine. She’ll make a statement outlining her objectives for the month. The ambassador does have an important event in the ECOSOC Chamber in an hour, so we will take as many questions as possible before she has to run out. Thank you very much. Ambassador Craft.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I think it’s good to see you guys; I’ll let you know after this is over. I’m really excited to have the chance today to share a little bit more about our vision for the U.S. presidency of the Security Council, and look forward to answering some of your questions about the December activities.
First of all, my thanks and congratulations to Ambassador Karen Pierce and her team for her leadership of the November presidency. Ambassador Pierce is not one who wears shoes that are too small, and I’m going to do my best to follow in her footsteps of the month of November to continue the dialogue that she established and the comfortableness – the unity of the Council that we had in the month of November.
I’m also glad to be joined by my two co-anchors here, Senior Advisor Michael Barkin, and communications advisor Mark Schlachter, who are on hand to assist me with details of the agenda. And as you know, I’ve been in New York now for exactly three months – just in time for high-level week, Thanksgiving with eight grandchildren, and the December presidency. Just yesterday, we hosted the Security Council at lunch at the White House with the President. And they had their first private tour of the White House Christmas. There was lots of selfies taken, lots of oohs and aahs, and it was a beautiful way to start the day with the President for lunch in the Cabinet Room. They all enjoyed conversation and dialogue. It was a very relaxed lunch with important dialogue with the President, and I’m sure that you probably saw the first 10 minutes, but it went over by an hour, the lunch did. It was just really a very constructive dialogue. I think the Council members were very open. They were very impressed that the President actually asked them to be engaged, and he was a very attentive listener, and the feedback we’ve received has just been tremendous as far as that starting the unity of the Council and the respect they have for President Trump.
As you can see on the program, it’s a very busy three weeks, and one of my themes was – stealing a little line from Perry Como – that there’s no place like home for the holidays. And so to end my presidency, I’ve promised them that we will be finished by December 20th, that we would be celebrating our end of presidency Christmas party on the 20th.
So I feel like it’s really important to provide a complete picture of the Council’s activities and objectives for the month. I have stressed to the other members of the Council that when they are speaking in the chamber, to those cameras, that they’re speaking not only to one another but we’re speaking to the world. And it’s really important that they speak from their heart, and we speak less from a script.
So in that spirit, this morning I’m going to walk us through a number of key elements of this month’s Program of Work as well as the events that are occurring outside the Council during the month of December. And I hope after this briefing, you’ll have a clearer sense as to what we’ll be addressing this month, and what we’re hoping to achieve.
So first I’m going to offer a few guiding principles of our efforts this month. This December, we’re focused on the theme of a credible Council – one that sets and meets clear goals and measureable goals, and that welcomes the assessment of our own performance. We are going to hold one another accountable. We are asking for the entire UN to hold each other accountable, because the Security Council’s only as effective as we can be held accountable by the UN other member-states. And as those of you who know who cover the briefings and the debates, there’s too many times when the Council just repeats conversations than taking concrete steps forward. Most of you have been at the UN much longer than I have, and I don’t envy anyone who has had to sit through the identical briefings on Israel and the Middle East, or the situation in Syria, or in Kosovo. At times, it’s got to be hard to see how it’s a good use of anybody’s time. And a credibility gap has implications for public support, and one of the areas that I’m really trying to stress are private-public partnership. And when we don’t show that we are credible, then we’re going to lose a lot of our support for the public, therefore losing a lot of the public-private opportunities that we have as a Council to play a global role.
So this December, in our Council meetings, my goal is to change the narrative about the Security Council, what we’re doing, why it matters, and what we need to do to change.
So there are three ways that I’m planning on doing this. First, I’m going to incorporate realistic assessments of the past 11 months. This means we’re going to ask ourselves where have we been the past 11 months, what have we seen that we can either eliminate, take assessment of, look – move forward with this, change the trajectory. I think we have to take an honest look at the last 11 months and where we are, and where we need to go forward, and to do better on certain topics.
I think we need to speak more clearly about where peacekeeping missions and other mandates should be a year from now. This means identifying areas of consensus and determining what successes are possible. It’s much like the resolutions we’re all going to make on December the 31st going into January 1st of 2020.
And finally, we’re going to pair these assessments with a positive, ambitious, and morally grounded vision for our work. We’re going to set our sights higher and we’re going to ask more for ourselves and more from each other. That means reaffirming our common vision for the Council’s work that places human dignity at its center, consistently reminding ourselves of our moral responsibility to work on behalf of those in need and emphasizing that we have the power to effect positive change.
Through this assessment and this resolution, we hope to launch the Security Council into a successful and effective 2020 in which – we know this – we’re going into our 75th anniversary. And I think it’s really more important because the eyes of the world will be on the Council, and we hope to highlight the fact that this is our – going into our 75th year. And this is really, to me, an opportunity to show the world that this Council is very credible.
Now, I’d like to turn over to the Program of Work and spend a few moments on several of this month’s important meetings, outlining their purposes, and I’m looking forward to what we hope to see from individual, political, and peacekeeping missions over the next 12 months. In other words, I want to be clear about what we mean when we say this presidency is about credibility through assessment and resolution.
As always, the program dates are provisional, but as of this morning, you have my most up-to-date calendar, and I’ll make sure that if there’s any change, that we’ll let people know in a timely manner. Just this Tuesday, we met for what was a serious and constructive dialogue of the UN Special Political Mission in Iraq. It is at a crossroads, and UNAMI is playing a critical role in making certain that they protect human rights, the government institutions, and promoting constructive dialogue, and much, much more. And it is really up to the Iraqi leaders to make certain that they hold good governance, and that we hold accountable the institution of the government.
The Council had already met once to discuss Syria, and we’re going to do so again on the 19th and the 20th. There is no issue to me that has proven more damaging to the Council’s credibility than the conflict in Syria. There is no question that this is a difficult, complex, and often frustrating issue. But I look at that as a way that we can gain even more from reflecting back on the 11 months and what we have done right this past year, and what we need to set our sights on achieving for Syria in the next 12 months. The humanitarian aid in Syria, which we will discuss on the 19th, provides a similar opportunity for us to make immeasurable progress on behalf of the Syrian people. Over the next 12 months, the Council’s best efforts should be directed toward keeping the entry points through which the humanitarian aid is delivered. This is essential in creating the peace for the people in Syria.
Regarding the political situation in Syria, which we will discuss on the 20th, the work of the Council has been responsible for a notable step in the past year. This is the result of the Constitutional Committee and the careful and committed leadership of the special envoy, Geir Pedersen, and a reminder that we must support him in his political, rather than military, solution to this conflict in Syria.
Returning to my calendar, later today, we will briefing UNOCA, the UN Special Political Mission to Central Africa, tasked with preventing conflict in the region, which we have been working on with the 2019 peace agreement in the Central African Republic. I think that it’s very important that we really stress the conversation and the dialogue within Cameroon. And on December the 12th, we’re going to turn our attention to Yemen, which has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis amid the ongoing conflict. Millions of Yemeni women, children, and men depend on humanitarian assistance specially facilitated by the World Food Program. And it is really important that we recognize that without the Saudi-led coalition – and we need to be very, very cognitive of the fact that Iran is once again backing the Houthi rebels which are not allowing the World Food Program to have access to the very people that we’re trying to help. And I am encouraged by the Riyadh Agreement in November, and we hope that that’s going to take us one step closer to this UN talks on political solution to the conflict. On the morning of 16th, we’ll be holding a special Council briefing on peace and security in Africa, working closely with Cote d’Ivoire and building on its experience from – emerging from their conflict and crisis.
Then, on the afternoon of December 16th, the Council will meet for a briefing on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. What my focus is in Afghanistan is going to be making certain that the women, that we do not take any steps back – backward on the women when hey do facilitate this peace process. It’s really important because I think economically the women have taken leadership roles. And they also need to be able to be – have the best tools with how to educate them on best practices for the economy. They play a – really a critical role in establishing the communities with women and children, and as business leaders.
On December the 17th, we’re going to hold our monthly meeting on South Sudan. This is an issue the Council and I are following closely after the Council’s trip to Juba in October. Being there firsthand, I can tell you that it is a political mess and a humanitarian crisis. And I’ve just – just want to stop and talk personally about South Sudan. I saw the UN at work there. It was my first trip that I chose to go on as a member of the Security Council and as the representative of the United States to the United Nations. I actually couldn’t believe what I saw after meeting with President Kier and the opposition leader Riek Machar. Speaking to both of them, following up with President Kier once I came back to New York – it is inexcusable.
The fact that the Security Council landed in South Sudan gave so much hope to the people there that are suffering. I stayed back an additional day and traveled to Malakal, which used to be the second-largest city there. Now it’s a city that is – it is really where all of the displaced people are staying in the camps. I was absolutely astounded at the level of fear in the women and the children there. We met with a group of women, some of which had walked three hours to five hours just to meet with me just to share what we would say were secrets to us, but were truths to them, that they entrusted me with: “Can you please help? We have hope because the Security Council is here.” And more importantly, what really touched me is the fact that they would say, “We have hope because an American is here to listen to us.” And when I left there, I realized that the danger of being there and the importance of having the blue helmets and the importance of knowing that they were there to assess my security and my safety – and going back to the peacekeeping part of this, their situation, the peacekeeping troops, are not in the best situation. I mean, they’re there with bare necessities. And it’s really important just from seeing this particular peacekeeping mission that we give them the tools they need to be successful, because if we don’t, and we don’t hold them accountable, then there will be sexual exploitations; there will be bad actors in every group. And I think that’s more important that we highlight the peacekeeping missions and hold them accountable and remember that they, too, need our help more than just being held accountable, but giving them the tools to be successful.
As you all know, we are Kentucky basketball fans, and on my way back from Malakal I had asked to attend one of Luol Deng’s basketball camps, and I had to tell my husband – he did go to Duke, but nevertheless, he does have a very important camp there. And what was – gave me a lot of hope were the youth that attended the basketball camp that had to walk to the camp. This is a camp that is the bare necessities. They have hope. These are youth that are really intelligent; they’re driven; they go to school; then they come from school and they go to basketball practice. These are young adults that I just explained to them that you are not only doing better for yourselves, but you’re giving the kids in your community, even your own siblings, hope that they, too, can achieve. So I think it’s really important the sports diplomacy within the United Nations and that we really uplift all of the youth. And it – just from visiting the schools in Juba to visiting the basketball camp, it really held me accountable that when I got on that airplane to come back home to New York, my journey didn’t stop, it just started, because I have to come back and I now have a responsibility to each and every person that I met in South Sudan. And I think we are at 76 days today, and I’m going to keep counting, and we are going to hold them accountable. And I think the president and the opposition leader Machar, they understand the importance. I can’t say what’s going to happen because we’re not at the end of the 100 days, but what I can say are there are a lot of tools that we will use in order to implement both sides coming to some sort of an agreement or at least facilitating the beginnings of an agreement. And I’m sure you’ve seen on my Twitter feed – I mean, I’m not going to stop at this, saying we are going to continue to count down every single day.
Starting on the morning of December the 18th, the Council will gather for its monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East. As I have made clear in several sets of my remarks, the U.S. is committed to encouraging both sides to finding a peaceful solution that promotes and protects the prosperity and security of the Israelis and Palestinians alike. I have stated in many of my remarks that the U.S. has stood with Israel in the past; we are standing with them today; we will stand with them tomorrow. And there is no better friend than Kelly Craft, and I will continue to say this every opportunity that I have. We are – we are all about a mutually agreed solution. However, when it comes to Council meetings, I’m not going to accept the status quo where Israel is a subject of relentless and one-sided criticism. That is not okay with me.
Finally, on December 19th, the Council will meet for a briefing focused on the nonproliferation challenges posed by Iran. This will be an important opportunity for the Council to demonstrate its commitment to enforcing Resolution 2231, especially given Iran’s continued action and direct violations of the terms of this resolution. And as we all know, in any area where there has been a lot of conflict and strife, whether it’s in Yemen, in Syria, in all the areas, Iran is right there – in Iraq. We must hold them accountable. They are bad actors. We have not seen any movement that they are trying to change their behavior. And not for one second will we – is this acceptable to us, especially when you look in Yemen and you look at this humanitarian crisis and how they are continuingly to back up the Houthi rebels and preventing the very people that we are there to protect.
And just this Tuesday, the U.S. observed International Day of Persons with Disabilities with an event on the importance of the Security Council Resolution 2475 and how we can better implement. This is a very groundbreaking solution which was adopted last year at a call for the protection for individuals with disabilities in conflict areas, and it demonstrates real aspirations on the part of the Council. I was really delighted to be able to co-host this event with Poland, and it was a real thrill to meet the Paralympian Gold Medalist Mallory Weggemann and to – actually, she pulled out her gold medal, and to hold the gold medal and to touch it and to hear her emotions when she said how awesome it was to be on that stage and hear the National Anthem and accept that gold medal. And I just – I could just feel it through her, and I – it just made me so proud that we were able to co-host this event and be part of such a groundbreaking resolution within the UN.
And today, immediately following this briefing, we’re going to be hosting a high-level event on peacekeeping performance in the ECOSOC Chamber. In this event, we’re going to be focused on how we can improve peacekeeping performance by more effectively combating sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. And this is another area that we can just reflect back on South Sudan. And just as I’ve said, every troop is different. Ambassador Haley was – has really implemented the fact that we hold them accountable. And when there are bad actors within the peacekeeping troops, they are sent back to their country. And I think what she did was following up with the country to make sure that they are legally going through their system and held accountable, and that is something that I plan on following through with, with what she had started.
On December the 9th, I will be hosting the secretary-general and the Council for lunch at Emma’s Torch. Emma’s Torch is a Brooklyn-based restaurant that has been founded by Chef Alex Harris and it provides refugees and victims of human trafficking a really safe and welcoming environment to be able to learn culinary skills, and I’m really excited to – I have not been there yet and I’m really excited to visit and just talk with the refugees and just hear about their stories and just be able to support them in any way we can, and I think that’s really important for the Security Council also. We’re going to be – instead of me talking there, I’m going to be highlighting the refugees and having each of them share their story with us.
And this just – this particular Emma’s Torch just reminds me of my recent trip to Bogota, Colombia, and the areas where public-private partnerships are making a difference. And the Tent Foundation is just changing so many lives in Bogota, and they’ve got – there’s Sierra Nevada, which is a hamburger joint where they are employing refugees that are coming in from Venezuela. And to hear these young adults and to hear their stories of days that they walked from Venezuela into Bogota, and now they have an opportunity to make a difference, to be employed, and there is nothing better than feeling that you’re important and that you’re needed, and it’s all about human dignity. And it’s exactly what Sierra Nevada and the Sunshine florists are providing in Colombia.
And building on this lunch, we’re going to be hosting an event on the issue of trafficking in persons on December 17th, giving us all a chance to raise awareness about this appalling practice that harms the lives of so many, and as soon as I have more details, we will be sharing them with you.
On December the 18th, we’re going to be hosting an event highlighting the Trump administration’s efforts to end criminalization of homosexuality around the world and to demonstrate our solidarity with the LGTBI individuals that are living under threat in 69 of the countries that still criminalize persons for being members of the LGBTI community.
In addition to mandated meetings and outside events, I’m going to have the great pleasure of hosting the Security Council in my home state of Kentucky on the weekend of the 13th through Sunday the 15th. And this is going to be another opportunity for the Council to be together in informal – in an informal setting and to hold conversations and to really get to know one another, and we’re going to start out on Friday evening with dinner at the governor’s mansion in Frankfort, Kentucky, which is my capital. This will be an opportunity for the Council to be able to hear from our newly elected governor, Andy Beshear, and his views and ideals for how we are going to best implement our trade on a global scale.
Kentucky has been a farming community, and it’s a wonderful example of a state within the United States that has taken farming and put that into agri-business and also highlighting the fact that we have UPS, we have Amazon, we have Toyota, we have Ford Motor Company, we have a company called Alltech, which is where I’m going to be hosting Saturday’s talks. And it is a Kentucky-based company with owners from Ireland. The CEO and president, Mark Lyons, will be talking with the Council during our meeting at Alltech just about the areas from which they are engaged in. They started out with feed – nutritional feed for livestock, and now they have moved on to feeding the world with a lot of their nutritional sustainability with crops. And they’ve also signed on to nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and Mark is going to further elaborate with the Council on how important they find that eradicating poverty is around the world. And they’re an amazing company and I’m very thankful that they’ve offered to host us for the afternoon.
And then of course, that evening, we’re going to be entertaining the Council at their first University of Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena, and I’m very anxious for them to see how they’re reacting to all of the – Kentucky, we have – normally have several of the first-round draft picks and we have a great team this year, so we’re excited to host them there. And we’ll follow up that evening with dinner at one of my favorite places in Lexington. And on Sunday morning, we will all travel to Frankfort, Kentucky to Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is one of the bourbon distilleries, and we are going to have a barrel pick. So the Council will have to all be – we’ll all be tasting barrels – bourbon on Sunday morning, of all mornings, in Kentucky. And we will have to come to a consensus as to which of the barrels will be our favorite because then we are going to – depending on the barrel and the age of the barrel – if it’s a newer barrel, we’ll have 300 bottles.
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s (inaudible). (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: We’re going to be bringing back our own bottled bourbon, so we will – they will have a great memory of the Kentucky trip. Bourbon is all over the world. Just being the ambassador to Canada, it was kind of the thing that Prime Minister Trudeau always talked to me about, were the tariffs on bourbon. So it is really important, and everybody around the world loves bourbon, and we have the Bourbon Trail, which has become an international hotspot for people around the world to come and visit. So we are very excited, and I’m hoping that when they all get on the plane to come back to New York, that they’re feeling great, and that on Monday morning, we have a really very lively meeting and discussions on our trip to Kentucky.
I hope that these comments provide you with a useful picture of the Council’s work, and I’m going to be keeping you guys apprised of all the additional details that the Council activities are going to be having.
I’d just like to thank each of you for your interest in me and for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today, and I’m looking forward to answering as many questions as I possibly can.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Yes. Thank you, ma’am. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to navigate questions today. So I know there’s a universe of topics of interest to you, but please, if we could restrict questions to those matters that fall within the December program of work, that would be very, very helpful. Please take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to the Ambassador when I call on you. Madam Ambassador, by tradition, the first question goes to the president of the UN Correspondents Association, and that is Valeria Robecco.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Hi, Valeria.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you on behalf of UNCA for this press conference. We really hope that we will have the chance to meet you more often because we always have a lot of questions to ask. And on another note, we really hope you will be join us next year for our annual UNCA award that we’ll be having tonight. So we hope you – to see you next year.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you.
QUESTION: So now turning to my question is on Syria. Turkey’s operation continue against Kurdish and Christian villages, who claim that is underway a systematic ethnic cleansing. Will you speak about that during the meeting in the months of president of the U.S.? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: I think – thank you for the question. I think our focus on Syria is going to be the Assad regime and just the atrocities that he’s committed against the Syrian people. What we really are going to be focused on are the Syrian people and how we can best – this is, once again, Iran and how we can best focus on helping the Syrian people. It is inexcusable, the chemical weapons. We all agree upon the fact that this is something that we cannot stand for. We are going to hold the Assad regime accountable. We are going to hold the Iranians accountable. And once again, I mean, we are going to stay very focused and hope that we can come to a consensus, but we all do agree upon what we care about are the Syrian people.
MR. SCHLACHTER: David Wainer, I see your hand.
QUESTION: Thank you. David Wainer from Bloomberg News.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Hi.
QUESTION: A question on North Korea. Do you believe there’s going to be a debate on North Korean human rights during your presidency? And do you think there are enough votes to get – to get that meeting to take place, the nine votes, that is? And if not, is there – are there – is there one country perhaps that is making this a harder task? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: What we’re focused on – our close consultations on North Korea are confidential, as I’m sure you respect and you well know. But what we are all very focused on is the danger that the world faces, and the Security Council, each of us are very, very concerned about the series of the 13 missiles, the attacks, the ballistic missile launches. And that is something that we all agree upon, we are very focused upon, and this is a situation that we will probably make public at some point.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Pamela Falk, please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you, Ambassador. We’re looking forward to the month. It’s Pamela Falk from CBS News.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you.
QUESTION: My question is a follow-up on North Korea. You’ve mentioned the 13 launches; the North Koreans have talked about a Christmas gift, which may change your plans for ending the presidency on the 20th. And what is your view about what the Council could do next? We’ve heard from the EU3 on violations with the ballistic missiles. What can the Council do in addition to perhaps the human rights questions, but on the missiles themselves?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you for that question, Pamela. I think what’s important as the Council continues conversations, whether it’s in – as you understand, in closed consultations, those are confidential – but I think it’s important that as the Council, as a whole, that we continue the conversations of the concern we are for the world, and that we highlight our concern for any future ballistic missile launches. And when it comes to human rights, I care about human rights around the world. I mean, there are – every corner of the world we’ve got human rights issues. And so you can understand that everybody cares about the human rights, but what we discuss in closed consultations are confidential. But I can promise you that the Council is very unified on the fact that we are all very concerned, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Christmas or whether it’s tomorrow or whether it’s February. We’re all very concerned.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: You’re welcome.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Michelle Nichols.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Hi.
QUESTION: Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Thanks so much for doing this press conference.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on North Korea. Sorry to harp on the topic, but as many of your colleagues have said, this is – they’ve described it as the most dangerous situation facing the world, and therefore the most – the top priority for the Council. Was it discussed yesterday during lunch? Are you having any conversations with your colleagues here in preparation for possible Security Council action once you’ve received whatever gift the North Koreans might be delivering?
And just a quick question on Iran. You were talking about the Council taking action. Are you planning to propose any sort of Council action on Iran, and will there be any special guests during the December 19 meeting? We had Secretary Pompeo in December last year.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you for your question. For your – the first part of your question, on North Korea, yesterday’s discussion at lunch is something that I’m not going to go out and talk about what exactly was spoken, but I will tell you that the Council is all unified, as we discussed at lunch, that we are very concerned about any missile launch from North Korea. Everybody understands that this is a world issue, and it – as I stated, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Christmas gift in December or when it is. It’s a concern to all of us, and we all were in agreement on that at lunch yesterday.
Concerning other issues on human rights, human rights to me are important, I don’t care where it is. It’s something I follow very closely. As the U.S. UN ambassador, as an American, I’m very concerned about human rights all over the world. We have not made a decision on whether or not there’s a December 10th meeting – I hope that that’s okay – and I can promise you that – I can promise you that it is an area that we are all very concerned about, and I appreciate your question.
QUESTION: And on Iran?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: And on Iran, there are a lot of tools we can use. Their behavior has – we have not seen any change in this behavior. The – they’re – they continue to interfere with our humanitarian situation in Yemen; they’re in Syria; they’re everywhere. They’re in Iraq, and I think that what I care about are the Iranian people and the effect that this is having on the people, and that the government is mistreating and abusing the people. And this is happening all over the region, and I think we need to be very careful. We need to understand that we have a lot of tools to use, and we will continue to use those with Iran.
MR. SCHLACHTER: David Lee Miller.
QUESTION: Ambassador, one more time on North Korea, if you don’t mind.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: That’s fine.
QUESTION: David Miller with FOX News. The North Korean ambassador sent out a letter to the 15 member stations – countries. Some of the language was bellicose. How do you respond to the accusations that the United States has a hostile policy – I believe that’s a quote from the letter – towards North Korea and that there would be consequences if this meeting goes ahead to discuss human rights, which North Korea says is not in the Council’s purview according to the charter?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you for that question. The United States is going to respond to human rights all over the world. That’s an area that none of us can stand by and allow anyone to be – their human rights to be abused. That being said, yes, I have read the letter. We care about human rights. I care about human rights. It is an issue that our President cares about. It is something that is a confidential conversation within the closed consultations that is being discussed. What we all agree upon is that we are very concerned about any more ballistic missile launches and that we have to make sure that the world understands that this is a serious situation, I mean, whether it be in December, whenever it is. We all here today understand the importance of being alert and also keeping abreast of the situation is what I would say, right – I mean, every day – and understanding that there are human rights abuses all over the world, whether it be in North Korea, wherever it is.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Very good. Edie Lederer, more on North Korea? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I think you’re North – Edith Lederer from the Associated Press – I think you’re North Koreaed out. Let me pursue something that’s on the Council agenda, which is the renewal of the cross-border resolution on delivering aid to Syria. Have you had any negotiations? Are you concerned about possible blockage from Syria’s close ally Russia, or do you expect this resolution to be adopted? And we know that there had been some talk about adding an additional crossing point or two, so I think we’d all like an update on that.
And just as one follow-up to your White House lunch, we heard the German ambassador say that – ask the President about the U.S. paying all of its back dues or current dues to the United Nations. Was there an answer that we didn’t hear?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Well, I’m – because that’s really important to me, the burden sharing, so let me just talk to you about burden sharing. Whether it be NATO paying their 2 percent or whether it be the UN burden sharing, we are the number one donor. We are the number one contributor both to NATO and to the UN. And I understand the German ambassador’s concern, but we expect countries to pay their fair share. With NATO that’s 2 percent. With the UN that is whatever they’re allocated. The U.S. by far is the largest contributor. We are always there. The institutions which you have U.S. as the head of, whether it be UNICEF, whether it be the World Food Program, those are institutions where we have accountability and transparency. And as an American, I owe it to our taxpayers to make certain that we hold the secretariat, the UN responsible for making certain that our money is spent wisely.
Regardless – and I appreciate the German ambassador, I understand where he’s coming from – but he also understands that the U.S. is by far the largest donor to the UN and NATO.
QUESTION: And Syria, cross-border —
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry about that. I don’t want to get ahead of Geir Pedersen. It’s very important that we allow the special envoy to continue his work. But millions of people rely on this UN cross-border – this aid to survive. And there is no Plan B, so this has to happen. There is no alternative. We’re going to strongly support this aid mandate for the next 12 months. We support Turkey adding the fifth border. That is very important in order to access the growing number of humanitarian needs. And I hope that answered your question.
QUESTION: I just wanted to know whether you’ve discussed it yet, whether you’re expecting any opposition, whether there have been negotiations on the text yet.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: We have not negotiated the text. And like any UN Security Council meeting, it’s always very robust, and there – not everybody agrees, but I think we’re all coming to a – we have a common theme, and that is making sure that the Syrian people are taken care of with their humanitarian aid.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Kristen Saloomey.
QUESTION: Hi, Kristen Saloomey from Al Jazeera English.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Hi.
QUESTION: I wonder if you can just speak generally about your approach to the United Nations, and particularly the situation in the Middle East right now. You’ve got prime ministers who stepped down in Iraq and Lebanon, reports that Iran has missiles in Iraq. We just had a meeting on Iraq. Is there any statement coming out of the Middle East, and just generally the administration, does it have any plans to use the UN to address any of these concerns given the escalation of problems there? Do you think the maximum pressure campaign in Iran is working? And how will this translate to what you do at the UN? How will you use the UN to address these issues? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: You’re welcome. I think with the Middle East – first of all, with Iran, we are going to continue our maximum pressure campaign. When you speak about the Middle East, they continue to be engaged and involved in being the bad actor in the Middle East. That is why it’s so important that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen was – has been very helpful and is continuing to be helpful for us to access those people that are in need. What we care about are the people – whether – is it Iran, Iraq, it’s the people that are being – that are – especially the youth that are taking to the streets. We want them to be able to have that access, to be able to speak out. What we disagree with are the fact that the government is taking forces upon the protesters, because I think it’s important that the youth have their voice heard. They are the future for tomorrow, and they are the ones that are watching the UN. And what our concern is that any government forces is – that’s not okay with us.
QUESTION: Just quick, any action, any statements on Iraq coming up?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: I think the main statement is going to be that we’re very concerned about the government use of force against the people that are wanting to have their voice heard, and that’s going to be our message within the Council. I mean, we had a robust meeting on Iraq. I mean, I think it’s very important that their leaders understand that it’s – this is not okay with us, that the government is taking action against those that are protesting. And we want there to be a peaceful solution there, but it’s an area where the government must step back and allow those people to have a peaceful demonstration.
QUESTION: In addressing Hizballah in Lebanon (inaudible) by Iran as a coercive force against the peaceful protesters in Lebanon, and Hizballah is playing a role in the war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Can you address this issue, please? Thank you.
MR. SCHLACHTER: You forgot to introduce yourself.
QUESTION: My name is Ali Barada. I’m with France 24, and Asharq al-Awsat newspaper – this is a Saudi newspaper. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Thank you. And one more – once again, it is Iran. And just like you said, they – whether it be with Hizballah, Iran is a bad actor. And until we address the maximum pressure campaign continuing to apply pressure on Iran, we are going to see upheaval, whether in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen – wherever it is. And we are taking this very serious, and there are other tools that we will use against Iran if they continue this malicious behavior.
MR. SCHLACHTER: We now have time for a couple of – I’m sorry?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: I don’t – I just – because I want to have more of a response. Michael, do you have anything that – I think it’s a very important question, and I think that —
MR BARKIN: No, I think you said it very well, that Hizballah is a problem, and that Iran’s support for Hizballah continues to feed that.
QUESTION: Can I just follow with this question? Sorry.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Wait, wait, we had a follow-up.
MR. SCHLACHTER: I’m sorry, right in front.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Iran. Iran is being criticized all around the world for their behavior with regard to their commitment to the 2231 nuclear file, their treatment of their demonstrators – more than a thousand killed, 7,000 detained – what they did with the ships, four ships in the Emirates, the downing of a drone, and the shipment of arms, sophisticated arms to Yemen. We can go on and on and on. The world is asking: Has Iran became immune to being held accountable by the Security Council, which you preside on now, due to the divisions in the Council which goes into the heart of the credibility of the Council, which you spoke about —
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Exactly.
QUESTION: — in the beginning of your – and I have a small question in Iraq. Iraq has lost 460 demonstrators, more than 17,400 injured. Is the Council going to hold the Iraqi officials that have part in this accountable? If not, in your capacity as an ambassador for the United States, is your government going to hold these officials accountable and sanction them? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: You’re welcome. I think that as far as Iran, the threats to the security of the Middle East continue to grow. We will have to continue to apply the maximum pressure campaign. It is a discussion within the Security Council; it is a very robust discussion. We also obviously take this into closed consultations, which are – which become an area where we all can speak freely. I think that we will make progress. More importantly, when we’re speaking about being credible, it’s important that in our open consultations that we all speak from the heart. And there will be – as you well know, there will be disagreements, but I think that’s very important as to getting that out in the open and being held accountable. And when you’re in the open consultations and you can apply that rule or the pressure of – let’s speak not only on behalf of your country but you’re speaking to the world – it will let the world know how you feel about the Iranian people, because that’s really what we’re – that’s really what we care about at the end of the day. And I can promise you that it will be a discussion that I will continue having. It doesn’t matter that there are disagreements, because there are people that are suffering, and we will hold everyone accountable.
And your second part of your question, if you can —
QUESTION: In Iraq —
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: In Iraq with the prime minister resigning, I think it’s important that we hold them accountable. With their religious discrimination, we had the Archbishop Warda in. It was very important to hear from him and understanding how the faith-based communities are helping this – the discriminations against different religions. I mean, that was promising to hear his report. I’m trying to find positive in – within Iraq. I think the problem is that the government is – doesn’t understand the fact that they cannot use their force against the people that are just trying to have their voice heard. And it will be a discussion that we will continue.
QUESTION: But as in your capacity as an American ambassador, does the administration have any plans to sanction Iraqi officials that took part in the killing, detaining, injuring 17,000 and more?
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: I’m not going to get ahead of what our National Security Council is making decision upon, but I can tell you that we are watching it very closely.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Folks, I’ve got to get the ambassador to the ECOSOC Chamber. Let’s take one more. One more.
QUESTION: Thank you. Joseph Klein —
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Where —
QUESTION: Joseph Klein of Canada Free Press. Going back to your theme of credibility of the Security Council – and you did refer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – do you believe that the Security Council in Resolution 2334 damaged its credibility by assuming a judicial role rather than the political role that it was assigned under the charter when it declared the Israeli settlements to be flagrant violations of international law? The International Court of Justice issued a non-binding advisory opinion. That’s all we have from the judicial side on this. And Secretary of State Pompeo, as you well know, has questioned the proposition that the settlements violate international law. So is this an issue of credibility of the Security Council that you can comment on? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: I think what’s important is that we understand that each settlement is going to be case by case in making these decisions. What we want is a peaceful process with the – with Israel and Palestine. I mean, that’s what’s important to us. But when it comes to the settlements, those are going to be case by case on making the decision whether or not they’re illegal or they’re legal, if that’s what you’re speaking about. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: It’s the overall process of the Security Council having declared and assumed a judicial role in making the statement and legal conclusion that the settlements as a whole, from their very beginning, are a flagrant violation of international law. Secretary of State Pompeo disagrees with that. And I’m just going to the issue of credibility because the Security Council’s mission is international peace and security. It’s a political body, not a judicial body.
AMBASSADOR CRAFT: Correct. I represent the United States of America, and I would have vetoed in a heartbeat. What’s important is it is not okay that every time we’re in the Security Council or anywhere else that they use Israel as their punching bag. That is not okay with me. I’m going to continue to highlight every chance I can the support, that the United States stands with Israel, that I stand with Israel. That being said, I also want to foster a dialogue to where we can have open conversations concerning Israel and the Palestinians, because we do care about the Palestinian refugees. We care about the people there. But it’s very important that, when we have this dialogue, that it’s not one-sided, which is what it has been. And I will continue to be very firm on my stance with Israel and continue to also highlight the fact that we care about the Palestinian refugees.
MR. SCHLACHTER: Thank you, ma’am. Folks, I’ve got to get the ambassador out (inaudible).
QUESTION: Snapback on Iran?
MR. SCHLACHTER: Thank you very much. That’s all for today.