Robert Palladino, Deputy Spokesperson, Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC, April 11, 2019
Excerpt of remarks about Sudan:
QUESTION: So I wanted to know what the U.S. position on the coup – military coup to brought down President Bashir, which whom the U.S. have been engaging quite consistently in the last years after a more tense period.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah. The United States strongly supports a peaceful and democratic Sudan. As events unfold, the United States continues to call on transitional authorities to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government. We commend the people of Sudan for their resiliency and their commitment to nonviolence as they express their legitimate demand for inclusive and representative government that respects and protects human rights.
We are coordinating with our international partners as we monitor how best to respond to this evolving situation, and of course, a big focus for the United States right now is the safety and welfare of our embassy team on the ground as well as private citizens, American citizens in Sudan. So I'll stop there.
QUESTION: So you just --
MR PALLADINO: Go – please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, you just asked to allow space for civilians in the transitional authorities. You agree that the military will lead this transitional authority? You're ready to recognize a military transitional power in Sudan for two years?
MR PALLADINO: The Sudanese people should determine who leads them and their future. The Sudanese people have been clear that they are demanding a civilian-led transition. They should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.
QUESTION: So how do you consider what's happening? Is it a transition or a coup?
MR PALLADINO: As we mentioned earlier this week in our Troika statement, if you saw that, that the Sudanese people are demanding a transition to a political system that is inclusive and has greater legitimacy. The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition. What we've seen in Khartoum is certainly a historic moment for the people of Sudan. People have clearly voiced their opinion on wanting a new, inclusive, and representative government.
QUESTION: He – but the leader, he's still in your OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] list. Today the State Department confirmed that for me, State Department spokesperson, so are you going to deal with him?
MR PALLADINO: I'm sorry, what is your question?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) defense minister who's – he's sanctioned by – that's (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Yes, the OFAC list.
MR PALLADINO: Well, what I would --
MR PALLADINO: Excuse me?
MR PALLADINO: Right, okay. We are suspending upcoming phase two meetings. However, we remain open to engagement that would support meaningful progress in key areas of mutual interest with leaders who are willing to address the Sudanese people's legitimate demands. And as far as how we go – we are continually assessing how best to respond and support the rights of those in Sudan as they express their legitimate grievances.
QUESTION: When was the – when was the next phase two meeting?
QUESTION: Just to clarify, are you saying that the U.S. backs a civilian-led transitional government, as the protesters are demanding?
MR PALLADINO: What I said is the Sudanese people should determine who leads them in their future, and the Sudanese people have been clear and are demanding a civilian-led tradition. And the United States position is the Sudanese people should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.
QUESTION: When was the phase two meeting that you're suspending?
MR PALLADINO: I don't have the exact dates on when those next meetings were scheduled for.
QUESTION: Robert, Robert --
QUESTION: The U.S. don't – doesn't support the two years' military transition that has been announced today?
MR PALLADINO: Should be done sooner than two years, correct.
Please, go ahead, Reuters. Lesley.
QUESTION: Can you please explain to me what the phase two meetings are, number one? And number two, can you explain what do you believe should happen to Bashir? Previous administrations have called for him to face the ICC for atrocities in Darfur and others. Would this administration support the same?
MR PALLADINO: Start with your second question. We have been consistent on that question in the past, and we believe that the victims of Darfur deserve justice and that accountability is essential for achieving a stable and lasting peace in Darfur. And the United States continues to call for those responsible for the horrific crimes that were committed in Darfur to be held accountable for those actions.
QUESTION: Held accountable by the ICC?
MR PALLADINO: I'm not going to get into specifics on how accountability is held today, but we continue to call for accountability. Please.
QUESTION: And then on the first one, I didn't understand. What are the phase two? Are they to do with military discussions, diplomatic?
MR PALLADINO: Phase two had – as I understand them – have to do with the overall relations and include both those subsets, but I can get more detail on what they --
QUESTION: Don't they also have to do with them making – the Sudanese Government making reforms enough so they can get off the state sponsor of terrorism list?
MR PALLADINO: Thank you, Matt. That is correct. And it has to do with evaluation of government actions, et cetera. Yes.
QUESTION: Robert, do you consider what happened as a coup d'etat in Sudan?
MR PALLADINO: It's a historic moment for the people of Sudan. The Sudanese people --
QUESTION: We know that, but do you consider it as a coup?
MR PALLADINO: -- have clearly voiced their opinion, and we continue to monitor the situation there. It remains fluid. At this time, we don't have a final assessment on that situation. As facts become more clear, then we may be able to make an assessment.
QUESTION: And will you deal with the minister of defense as the head of the executive branch now?
MR PALLADINO: I don't have anything on specific individuals to share at this time, Michel. All right.
QUESTION: Robert --
QUESTION: And will you – one more, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) too long, so you're ready to accept a shorter military-led transition?
MR PALLADINO: We are – we'd like to see the will of the Sudanese people come to fruition as quickly as possible. Please.
QUESTION: Robert, one more on the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.
MR PALLADINO: Right.
QUESTION: Will you keep the U.S. embassy open there?
MR PALLADINO: Well, of course, looking – we always have to look very carefully and evaluate the security situation for United States missions overseas. We do this on a regular basis, and what's going on in Khartoum, of course, is no different. It's something that we'll continue to look at closely and evaluate. I've got nothing to announce at this time.
And the other part of that, of course, are the American citizens that are there as well, and they're – for us, the Department of State and our embassies and our consulates abroad, we have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of those facilities and to American citizens overseas. And we've put out an alert today to American citizens there. We're asking, at this time, for U.S. citizens to shelter in place. The most recent alert specifically asked for citizens to avoid the areas of the demonstrations, advised for them to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid crowds, to keep a low profile, and to monitor for updates. You can be sure that we will be offering regular updates, consular emergency updates to American citizens in the area, and I'll stop there.
QUESTION: So you're not asking them to leave, Robert?
QUESTION: Do you have any benchmarks for how – benchmarks for determining as you go forward how you're going to throw your support behind this? Because you say it should reflect the will of the people, but you're not speaking about individuals, including the individual who says he's running the country. So what are your benchmarks for determining how you support this (inaudible)?
MR PALLADINO: We're continuing to monitor the situation. I've got nothing to announce today. The situation is fluid, and we'll be watching it closely.
MR PALLADINO: Is there – okay, last one on Sudan, okay?
MR PALLADINO: Not – are we off of Sudan?
MR PALLADINO: Okay, go ahead, Nadia. Last one.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify, so is Mr. Awad Ibn Auf, who is the current defense minister, is he under American sanctions as we speak now? Is he on the list?
MR PALLADINO: I'm checking; it's a long list.
QUESTION: It gets longer every day.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah. I'll take that question. I don't have anything specific on that, Nadia.
QUESTION: Please, I need to confirm that. And second --
QUESTION: The answer is yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, the answer is yes. 2007.
QUESTION: -- you have called – hold on, guys – you have called for the Security Council to convene tomorrow, along with your European allies. What exactly do you hope to achieve or to discuss? What's on the agenda? Is it – are you concerned about the security situation or about the military taking over? What exactly that's on the agenda?
MR PALLADINO: I think we've – I spoken about what our aspirations are for the Sudanese people and Sudan and the current position of the United States. We're looking at this very fluid situation. We will be talking with our partners on the best way forward.