Remarks On the Withdrawal from the Optional Protocol on Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
delivered 3 October 2018, White House, Washington, D.C.
Thank you, Sarah.
Earlier today, Secretary of State Pompeo made a very important announcement regarding the Presidentís decision to terminate the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran1 -- a treaty Iran made a mockery of with its support for terrorism, provocative ballistic missiles proliferation, and malign behavior throughout the Middle East.
Todayís decision by the International Court of Justice was a defeat for Iran. It correctly rejected nearly all of Iranís requests, but we are disappointed that the ICJ failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order with respect to sanctions the United States imposes to protect its own essential security under the treaty.
Instead, the court allowed Iran to use it as a forum for propaganda. The Iranian regime has systematically pursued a policy of hostility toward the United States that defames the central premise of the Treaty of Amity. The regime cannot practice animosity in its conduct and then ask for amity under international law.
In addition to the Treaty of Amity, I am announcing that the President has decided that the United States will withdraw from the Optional Protocol and Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.2 This is in connection with a case brought by the so-called ďState of Palestine,Ē naming the United States as a defendant, challenging our move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Iíd like to stress: The United States remains a party to the underlying Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and we expect all other parties to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
Our actions today are consistent with the decisions President Reagan made in the 1980s in the wake of the politicized suits against the United States by Nicaragua to terminate our acceptance of the Optional Compulsory Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice under Article 36(2) of the ICJ statute and his decision to withdraw from a bilateral treaty with Nicaragua.
It is also consistent with the decision President Bush made in 2005 to withdraw from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations following the ICJís interference in our domestic criminal justice system.3
So our actions today deal with the treaties and current litigation involving the United States before the International Court of Justice. Given this history and Iranís abuse of the ICJ, we will commence a review of all international agreements that may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction dispute resolution in the International Court of Justice. The United States will not sit idly by as baseless, politicized claims are brought against us.
That concludes the statement. Iíd be happy to try and answer a few questions. Yes, sir.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. In response to the actions that youíve just announced, Iranís foreign minister has called the U.S. ďan outlaw regime.Ē I wanted to get your reaction to that.
And I also wanted to ask you, if I may, Mr. Ambassador, about North Korea with the announcement that the Secretary of State is going to be traveling to Pyongyang. Do you trust Kim Jong Un? Do you personally trust Kim Jong Un?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, with respect to questions outside the scope of our withdrawal from these two treaties, Iím going to pass on those because we want to emphasize the steps that the President authorized in connection with those two treaties.
You know, Iran is a rogue regime. It has been a threat throughout the Middle East not only for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, but itís acted for decades as the central banker of international terrorism. And its hostile and aggressive military behavior in the region today is a breach of international peace and security. So I donít take what they say seriously at all.
Question: Thank you, Ambassador. Two questions for you. First, on Treaty of Amity: Are there any practical effects for Iran in their ability to keep an interests section here in the United States, first off?
And second, are you at all concerned about -- is the United States -- is the President concerned about the message this sends to the people of Iran, sort of cancelling this Treaty of Amity -- that this could be used by the Iranian government for domestic purposes, for propaganda against the United States?
Ambassador Bolton: No, look. Our dispute is with the ayatollahs who have taken Iran from a respected position in the international community to being a rogue state. Our dispute has never been with the people of Iran. We only wish they had the ability to control their own government.
Question: And then on the interests section part?
Ambassador Bolton: No, it wonít have any effect on that.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Cancelling those two treaties -- Iím trying to figure out what are the open paths for potential talks do you still have with Iran and, actually, the Palestinians?
Ambassador Bolton: Look, this is really -- has less to do with Iran and the Palestinians than with the continued consistent policy of the United States to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which we think is politicized and ineffective. It relates, obviously, in part, to our views on the International Criminal Court and to the nature of so-called purported international courts to be able to bind the United States.
Question: [Inaudible] is closing doors in the end. You wonít be able to use --
Ambassador Bolton: Itís closing doors that shouldnít be opened to politicized abuse, which is what weíve consistently seen in the ICJ.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. As you know, yesterday, the French government denounced the Iranian government for a terror plot in Paris against the National Council of Iranian Resistance, the leading group opposing the ayatollahs. Youíre aware of that -- was that a factor in any of the decisions that youíve made withdrawing from these two protocols?
Ambassador Bolton: No, these decisions were made before we were aware of the French decision. But I have to say, what the French have done is exactly the right thing. They arrested, and other European governments arrested accredited Iranian diplomats -- accredited Iranian diplomats -- for conspiracy to conduct this attempted assault on the rally in Paris. So that tells you, I think, everything you need to know about how the government of Iran views its responsibilities in connection with diplomatic relations. And I hope itís a wake-up call across Europe to the nature of the regime and the threat that they pose.
Question: Are these actions ramping up tensions between the United States and Iran? And what is our intelligence when it comes to their systems, their nuclear weapons, et cetera -- at this moment?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, Iím not going to get into the -- what our intelligence states, but the issue is protecting the United States against the politicized use of these international institutions.
As Iíve said, this goes back, now, close to over 30 years really, in connection with U.S. policy of rejecting jurisdiction of these courts. And itís a continuation, I think, in the interests of the American people.
Question: So does this further divide any kind of attempt to try to come together on what was prior to trying to work with them in closing --
Ambassador Bolton: Theyíre bringing a lawsuit against us, and the ICJ has nothing whatever to do to a diplomatic effort to resolve our differences. It was a politicized use of the court that exacerbated the differences.
Question: Can you respond to the Iranian Foreign Minister saying that the U.S. is driven by regime change? How do you respond to that?
Ambassador Bolton: Iíll say it again -- maybe heíll listen this time -- our policy is not regime change, but we do expect substantial change in their behavior. Thatís why the President has directed all of us in the government to come up with steps to re-impose the economic sanctions and to do whatever else is necessary to ensure we bring maximum pressure on the regime to stop its malign behavior across the board -- not just in the nuclear field, but across the board.
Question: And given that the EU and other partners are still a part of the nuclear deal, does it make the United Statesí efforts to try to force Iran to abandon or at least try to dismantle its nuclear program any weaker? In other words, what -- how much leverage do you have at this point?
Ambassador Bolton: I donít think Iran is dismantling its nuclear program. If anything, recent reports that are public indicate that itís increasing its activity.
Question: So how do you convince them if you donít have the EU partners onboard?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think weíre going to apply the maximum amount of leverage we can. Weíre working with our European partners, with the British, the French, the Germans, and others. They have chosen to remain in the Iran nuclear deal. But as Iíve said to them, itís like a book that was written several decades ago in this country -- it was called something like the ďSix Stages of Grief.Ē You know, first you have denial, then you have anger. Eventually, you get to acceptance. And I think thatís the direction the Europeans are moving in.
I can tell you, European companies, in droves, are forswearing business opportunities in Iran because they donít want to be caught up in the pressure campaign that weíre applying.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. You just addressed Palestine and said it is a ďso-called state.Ē Is that language productive in achieving the Presidentís --
Ambassador Bolton: Itís accurate.
Question: So -- when the President recommitted to --
Ambassador Bolton: It is not a state.
Question: -- the President, in New York City, as you know, recommitted his goal to achieving a two-state solution.
Ambassador Bolton: Thatís right.
Question: So, is using that sort of language productive in his goal?
Ambassador Bolton: Yeah, sure. Of course. Itís not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesnít control defined boundaries. It doesnít fulfill the normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why itís not a state. It could become a state, as the President said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others.
So, calling it the ďso-called State of PalestineĒ defines exactly what it has been: a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988, when the Palestinian Authority declared itself to be the State of Palestine. We donít recognize it as the State of Palestine. We have consistently -- across Democratic and Republican administrations, opposed the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a state because itís not a state.
Question: A quick follow-up on that?
Ambassador Bolton: Sir.
Question: Yes, sir. The IAEA is saying it doesnít take at face value Netanyahuís claims that Iran is harboring a secret atomic warehouse. Do you agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that this should -- there should be an inspection? And whatís your reaction to Amanoís comments on this?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I havenít seen those comments. I will say, we have been -- our intelligence community has been reviewing the material that Israel extracted from Iran, and going over it in quite some detail. And Iíll say itís extremely impressive. And weíve been very supportive of the Israeli effort and supportive of the IAEA taking new steps to follow up on it.
The Senate just confirmed, a few days ago, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, who will be taking up her new position as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Vienna, specifically the International Atomic Energy Agency, and sheíll be on the job shortly, making our case there.
Question: Thank you, sir. When the President came out in support of a two-state solution at the U.N. last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that heís confident Israel would retain security control of the West Bank under any White House plan. Is that correct? Or are you open to a Palestinian state with no security presence from Israel inside their borders?
Ambassador Bolton: Weíve been working, as you well know, on a peace plan involving Israel and the Palestinians. Weíll be rolling it out in due course when we decide itís the most appropriate time to do it. And Iím sure that will answer your question then.
And I see the lady with the hook over here. So --
Press Secretary Sanders: Weíll take one last question.
Ambassador Bolton: So, yeah. Iím sorry, I actually did try and recognize this gentleman. I guess I didnít point accurately enough. So my apologies.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, he has not met with the Iranians since the U.S. pulled out of the deal. But he has met with them on several occasions before. Do you think he violated the Logan Act by doing so? And was he subverting the policy of the United States?
Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think Secretary Pompeo addressed that previously, and Iíll stick with his remarks. Thank you very much.
1 Extended quotation from remarks: "Iím announcing that the United States is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue. In July, Iran brought a meritless case in the International Court of Justice alleging violations of the Treaty of Amity. Iran seeks to challenge the United States decision to cease participation in the Iran nuclear deal and to re-impose the sanctions that were lifted as a part of that deal. Iran is attempting to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions necessary to protect our national security. And Iran is abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes and their case, as you can see from the decision, lacked merit,"
2 See also: Vienna Convention on Relations on Optional Protocol and Disputes.pdf. [Source: State.gov]
3 Announced by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a two paragraph letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Original Text Source: WhiteHouse.gov
Original Audio and Video Source: C-SPAN.org
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