US Secretary of State Pompeo answers questions on China, Iran and Turkey
Sherry El Gergawi, , Tuesday 26 Nov 2019
Pompeo said the US will keep sanctioning Iranian officials, stated his concern about Turkey's action regarding Russian weapons, and assailed China for rights abuses


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press conference at the State Department in Washington on Tuesday during which he answered questions on different topics including Turkey, Iran, China, the Trump impeachment and other subjects.

Turkey

Speaking at the news conference, Pompeo said the United States has made it clear to Turkey that Washington wants to see Ankara move away from full operation of the S400 air defence system.

"Yes it is concerning," he said, when he was asked about the reports that Turkish F-16 warplanes flew over the country's capital Ankara on Monday to test its new Russian S-400 missile system.

"We are hopeful. We are still talking to the Turks, still trying to figure out our way through this thing," he said.

Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey's purchase of the S-400 system, which Washington says is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to its F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Lockheed Martin is developing.

Iran

The United States will keep sanctioning Iranian officials responsible for human rights abuses, Pompeo said on Tuesday

"We have received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime's abuses ... and hope they will continue to be sent to us."

"We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses."

"To the courageous people of Iran who refuse to stay silent about 40 years of abuses by the ruling regime, I say simply this: the United States hears you, we support you and will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation," Pompeo said.

In response to Iran's effort to shut down the internet, the United States has imposed sanctions on the communications minister and pressed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to suspend the accounts of Iranian government leaders.

Amnesty International said Monday that at least 143 demonstrators have been killed since November 15 as the regime tries to repress protests violently.

China

Pompeo said a cache of leaked documents proves that Chinese authorities are engaged in massive and systemic repression of Muslims and other minorities in western China.

He added, the documents leave no doubt as to the scale of the campaign in China's Xinjiang region.

He says an estimated million people have been forced into detention camps and that China should release all those it has arbitrarily detained.

"These reports are consistent with an overwhelming and growing body of evidence that the Chinese Communist Party is committing human rights violations and abuses against individuals in mass detention," Pompeo said in the news conference, calling on Beijing to release all those arbitrarily detained.

His comments follow the release this week of classified documents showing the camps are not for voluntary job training as Beijing says.

The documents say the camps are used for forced ideological and behavioral re-education.

They also show how Beijing is using a high-tech surveillance system to target people for detention and to predict who will commit a crime.

"It shows that it's not random, that it is intentional and that it's ongoing," he said.

Beijing denies any mistreatment of Uighurs or others in Xinjiang, saying it is providing vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism and to teach new skills. It dismissed the latest reports as slander.

The leaks have come amid a rising international outcry over China's broader human rights record in Xinjiang. The United States has led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called a "horrific campaign of repression.

Ukraine

Pompeo was asked at the news conference if the United States should probe accusations of Ukrainian election meddling that Trump's fellow Republicans have raised in the Democrat-led US House of Representatives probe into whether Trump abused his power for domestic political gain.

"Any time there is information that indicates that any time any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure that we chase that down,” Pompeo replied without naming Ukraine. He added that even a suggestion of interference should be probed.

Pompeo said that in his first administration post of CIA director, the agency used “every tool of American power” to deal with efforts by many countries and groups to “undermine American democracy.” He did not identify any of those entities.

His comments contrasted with his own endorsement of a 2017 US intelligence community assessment that Russia pursued an influence operation of theft and dissemination of Democratic Party documents, fake news and other means to benefit Trump over his 2016 Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton. Russia denies interfering.

Trump impeachment

Pompeo dodged a question on whether he would testify in the inquiry after Trump tweeted that he would “love” for senior officials to appear.

"When time is right all good things happen," he said in response to the query.

The impeachment inquiry is focused on whether Trump abused his power by pushing Ukraine to probe alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden in return for a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the unfreezing of US security aid.

Pakistan

Pompeo urged justice for the victims of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai after Pakistan arrested the alleged mastermind of the bloodbath.

Addressing reporters on the 11th anniversary of the siege that killed more than 160 people including six Americans, Pompeo said the "brutality of the attack shocked the entire world."

"It is an affront to the victims and their families that those who planned the Mumbai attacks have still not been convicted," Pompeo said.

Pakistan in July arrested Hafiz Saeed, a firebrand cleric who heads the UN-designated terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, shortly before Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the United States.

Saeed has mostly lived freely in Pakistan since the attacks, enraging India which demanded his prosecution. The United States also put a $10 million bounty on his head.

Saeed has denied involvement in the attack, which targeted emblematic sites of the Indian metropolis including the Taj Hotel as well as a Jewish center.



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