WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. State Department held a press briefing on November 5, 2021, touching on subjects ranging from war in Africa, buildup of Russian troops at Ukrainian border, and Nicaraguan elections.
Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson
2:02 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Hello and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s press briefing, and Happy Friday. I don’t have any announcements to make up at the top, so I’ll just give it a few minutes for those to filter in the queue before I start taking your questions.
Let’s go to Francesco Fontemaggi, please.
OPERATOR: Francesco, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Happy Friday. I have two questions. The first one is on Sudan, since the Secretary spoke yesterday with General Burhan. Did he sense any opening from him on a return to the status quo ante? And is there any opening for Special Envoy Feltman to travel from Ethiopia to Sudan when he’s done in Addis Ababa to go on with the consultations with the military?
And then on Ethiopia, there was an announcement here in Washington, D.C. today of an alliance of nine rebel groups against the government of Prime Minister Abiy. What do you have to say to that, which happens while Special Envoy Feltman is in Addis Ababa calling for a peaceful solution? Many thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. I’ll take the first part first. On Special Envoy Feltman’s travel, we don’t have anything to announce, but I can underscore that yesterday Secretary Blinken did speak to Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok and General Burhan. And in both of those calls, he underscored the United States’ strong commitment for the Sudanese people who repeatedly made clear their aspirations for democracy. In those calls, he also called for an immediate restoration of the civilian-led transition to democracy, and he also urged the dialogue for – that returns Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian members of the transitional government to their original positions.
In addition to that, we reiterated our urgent call for the Sudanese military to immediately release all those who are detained in connection to the recent events that were amplified by – in the statement with Quad members, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the UK. Outside of that, I can refer you to our readouts that are on our website.
To your second question, we are certainly aware of the reports that indicated nine antigovernment factions will form an alliance to push for a political transition in Ethiopia. And that’s all I have on that for you today.
Let’s go over to Jenny Hansler, please.
OPERATOR: Once again, please, hold your question until your line is open. Jenny Hansler, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on Francesco’s questions. Do you have any readout of Ambassador Feltman’s meetings today in Ethiopia? Do you sense that there was any progress in those meetings? Did he meet with any TPLF representatives while he was there?
And then separately on Russia and Ukraine, how much concern is there in this building about the buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Jenny. I’ll take the first part of your question. So we don’t have any specific readouts to provide at this time. But what I’ll say broadly speaking is that we remain gravely concerned about the escalating violence, the expansion of fighting throughout the country, and also the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state. As you know and as we continue to underscore, the safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and the security of our facilities remains our highest priority.
Just taking it back to Special Envoy Feltman, he’s in Ethiopia. And while there, he’s continuing to press all parties to de-escalate the conflict and negotiate a ceasefire. He also continues to raise concerns about the risk of intercommunal violence and we continue to work with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, and that includes through action at the UN, the AU, and other relevant bodies as well.
If you are still on the line, I need to – if you can repeat your second question. I apologize for that.
Jenny, I don’t know if we have you, but I think you asked about Russia-Ukraine buildup of troops. If that’s the case, I’ll just underscore that we have made clear in the past that any escalatory or any aggressive type of actions would be of great concern to United States, and we’re certainly concerned with any public reports of unusual Russian military activity near the Ukraine – excuse me, near Ukraine.
Let’s please go over to Lara Jakes.
OPERATOR: Lara Jakes, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thanks, Jalina. Just to follow up on Francesco’s question about this coalition of the nine rebel groups, do you – does the State Department see this coalition as legitimate? They asked for American and Biden administration support. They call themselves the true stewards of democracy in Ethiopia. As you know, Prime Minister Abiy has said the same about his political party. So there’s a question of legitimacy here and I’m wondering, again, if you have any comment about whether the State Department considers this coalition as legitimate.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Lara. I don’t have anything for you on your question to labels of legitimacy – excuse me. But what I will say is that we continue to urge all parties to the conflict to end hostilities immediately, and we also call on the Ethiopian Government and the TPLF to enter negotiations without preconditions towards a sustainable ceasefire and for Eritrean forces to withdraw immediately and permanently from Ethiopia.
Let’s go over to Pearl Matibe.
OPERATOR: Pearl Matibe, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Happy Friday, Jalina. I have two questions for you. Question one is on Ethiopia. I’m wondering, because there’s been this call by President Abiy for citizens to pick up arms to defend the capital, do you have anything that you might want to share in terms of arms sales, resupply? How would citizens – where might these arms be coming from? There’s reports that maybe they’re from foreign powers or governments or other state – other actors. Maybe if you could provide some comment on that.
My second question is regarding Cabo Verde. I know Secretary Blinken had a call with the newly elected leader there. Could you comment maybe on the extradition of Alex Saab? Did that come up on the call? I’m wondering if maybe corruption or democracy issues came up on that call regarding that Cabo Verde’s been regarded as a model for the rest of Africa.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Pearl. I will try to answer both of your questions as thoroughly as possible. To your first point, on arms sales, we don’t have anything for you on arms sales at this time. Where our focus is, is ending the conflict in Ethiopia. What we know now is that we continue to call on parties to end the fighting and to also allow unhindered humanitarian assistance to reach the millions across Ethiopia who are in dire need at this time.
To your second question, on Cabo Verde, I had nothing for you on extraditions, but what I can say broadly speaking is that we value our strong relationship with Cabo Verde, which is one of the strongest democratic partners in Africa, and we certainly welcoming – welcome our deepening partnership. As you may know, President Biden today announced the designation of a presidential delegation to Cabo Verde to attend the inauguration of President-elect José Maria Neves on November 9th, 2021, in Praia, Cabo Verde. Again, this is going to be one of the highest-ranking – he’s sending one of the highest-ranking U.S. delegations ever to Praia, which continues to underscore our support for Cabo Verde’s commitment to the path of democracy as well as good government – good governance and our interest in strengthening the bilateral relationship.
Let’s go over to Cindy Saine, please.
OPERATOR: Cindy, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Jalina. Did Special Envoy Feltman have the chance to meet with Prime Minister Abiy? And can you give us any details? Was he invited by the Ethiopian Government? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Cindy. We don’t have any additional information on meetings for Special Envoy Feltman at this time, but we can talk about why he’s there, and he’s there to continue to urgently press the parties to de-escalate the conflict in Ethiopia and also negotiate a ceasefire. And again, he continues to raise our concerns about the risk of inter-communal violence, and we continue to work with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia. That includes with action in the UN, the AU, and other partners and bodies as well.
Let’s go over to Luis Felipe Rojas, please.
OPERATOR: Luis Felipe, your line is open. Please, go ahead. Once again, Luis Felipe, your line is open. You may proceed with your question.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. Hi Jalina, can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Yes, yeah. We want to know if State Department has any comment or any update about the RENACER Act in Nicaragua or any comment about the Nicaraguan situation in face the next election on 7 – November 7. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Luis. What I would say is that the United States calls on the Ortega-Murillo government to cease its repression and allow Nicaraguans to exercise their rights of peaceful assembly as well as their rights for freedom of expression. We will continue to use the diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support Nicaraguans’ call for greater freedom as well as their accountability and free and fair elections.
The United States also calls on President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and the Nicaraguan Government to immediately and unconditionally release imprisoned presidential contenders, political activists, journalists, students, and other members of civil society and the business community arrested in the current wave of the repression. President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and those complicit in these actions are responsible for the detainees’ safety and well-being.
Let’s take the final question from Eunjung Cho.
OPERATOR: Eunjung, your line is open. Please, proceed.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina, for taking my question. I have a question on North Korea. The European Union tabled draft resolution on North Korean human rights to the UN Third Committee late October. The draft resolution lists 35 co-sponsoring countries, and the U.S. is not among them. Does the U.S. plan to co-sponsor this resolution as it did every year, and what is State Department’s position on the human rights situation in North Korea?
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question, Eunjung. We’re going to have to take that question back to the team to make sure we have all the up-to-date information that you need for reporting today.
That concludes today’s briefing. Thank you all so much for joining, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)