Department Press Briefing – September 28, 2022

29 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

2:17 p.m. EDT

MR PRICE: Good afternoon, everyone. Another full house today; very good to see. I understand the house is particularly full because we have some guests today, some graduate students from American University who are here to observe. So I must ask that everyone be on their best behavior. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Why do you look at me?

MR PRICE: Before —

QUESTION: I’m always on my best —

MR PRICE: Before we get to your questions, let me say a few things at the top. First, Russia has now announced the pre-baked results of its sham referenda. These results were concocted in Moscow, not collected in Ukraine. Let’s be clear: The results are completely fabricated and do not reflect the will of the people of Ukraine. This is the will of Moscow, not the free will of Ukraine or its people.

Because we’ve seen this movie before, we know what will come next. We expect Russia to use these sham referenda as a false pretext to attempt to annex Ukraine’s territory.

But no matter what President Putin and his enablers try to claim, these areas are and will remain part of Ukraine. Ukraine has every right to continue to defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.

The United States will never recognize Russia’s attempts to annex parts of Ukraine. Quite the opposite. We will continue to work with allies and partners to bring even more pressure on Russia and the individuals and entities that are helping support its attempted land grab. You can expect additional measures from us in the coming days. At the same time, we will not be deterred from supporting Ukraine, and as my colleagues at the White House and soon the Defense Department will announce, we will continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine so it can defend itself and its sovereign territory for as long as it takes.

Next, we are deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank. This year alone, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and more than 30 in Gaza, while more than 20 Israelis and other civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks.

We call on all parties to do everything in their power to de-escalate the situation and return to a period of calm. This is in the interest of all Israelis and Palestinians.  As we have said for some time, we call on the parties themselves to contain the violence. The United States and other international partners stand ready to help but we cannot substitute for vital actions by the parties to mitigate conflict and to restore calm.

And finally, I am pleased to announce that Secretary Blinken has designated Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina as special envoy for biodiversity and water resources. She will take on the special envoy designation in addition to her current responsibilities.

The months ahead are essential for advancing efforts to confront the loss of nature and rising water insecurity crises, as there is a unique confluence of global events that will determine the health of the planet for generations to come. Special Envoy Medina will be uniquely positioned to coordinate an all-of-government effort to address these crises – leveraging the talent and expertise in the department as well as across the federal government.

With that, turn to your questions.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks, Ned. On your first – two things on your – your very first opening remarks. The – I presume from what you said that should Russia go ahead and – after the referendum and annex these parts – these four parts of Ukraine, that the U.S. guidance or perhaps prohibition on Ukraine using U.S.-supplied weaponry to launch attacks into those areas will not – it won’t apply. Is that correct?

MR PRICE: So since the start of this conflict, and in fact even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, we have provided our Ukrainian partners with the supplies, with the systems that they need to do one thing – that is to defend themselves, to defend their independence, to defend their sovereignty, to defend their territorial integrity. We have provided different systems and supplies at every stage of this conflict, contouring the nature of that assistance and the specifics of it to precisely the battle that our Ukrainian partners were facing at the time. It was true as the Ukrainians were fighting for their capital city, Kyiv. It was true as they won that battle of Kyiv. It was true and it is true as the fighting has intensified in the south and the east. And now that Ukraine is mounting its effective – and heretofore successful – counteroffensive in the north and the south as well, we’ve done the same. At every step of the way, we’ve been very clear that everything we’re providing is for the defense of Ukraine’s own territory, the defense of its sovereignty, the defense of its independence, the defense of its territorial integrity. We have been clear when it comes to certain longer-range systems with our Ukrainian partners that these systems are for use on sovereign Ukrainian territory. If and when this annexation occurs, as we expect it will, these areas will remain sovereign Ukrainian territory.

QUESTION: Okay. And that also applies to Crimea. Right?

MR PRICE: Crimea is Ukraine. Obviously —

QUESTION: Okay. So then you would have no objections to the Ukrainians using your weaponry to launch strikes on Russian targets in Crimea, either.

MR PRICE: We don’t select targets for our Ukrainian partners. It is up to them to devise —

QUESTION: I know. I’m just saying – well, you – but you told – you’ve told – but you’ve told them that you don’t want them to use your weaponry to launch strikes into Russia, what is Russia now. Correct?

MR PRICE: And Crimea is not Russia. But —

QUESTION: I know. So —

MR PRICE: But I mean —

QUESTION: So why haven’t – so it’s all on the Ukrainians that they haven’t launched – used U.S. weapons to attack Crimea?

MR PRICE: I think what we can say for the Ukrainians is – well, in the first instance I will let the Ukrainians speak to their military strategy. But just at a very high level, I think we’ve seen the effectiveness of the strategy that undergirds their counter-offensive. The fact that within hours of launching it in August they retook hundreds and subsequently thousands of square miles of territory that Russia had for a time, at least, wrested from them – their military strategy is their military strategy. The targets they select are the targets they select.

Now, of course, our Department of Defense is a source of guidance and can provide advice and counsel, just as we provide advice and counsel when it comes to questions of foreign policy and broader questions of national security.

QUESTION: All right. And then lastly, and your colleague at the White House just went – spoke about this in depth, so I just want to ask you about it – the Nord Stream explosion/leaks. We saw last night that the Secretary had a conversation with the Danish foreign minister about this. Has he had any additional conversations specifically related to these incidents? And if he has or even if he hasn’t, has there been any change in your assessment of what happened?

MR PRICE: So you’re right. The Secretary last night did have an opportunity to speak to his Danish counterpart, Foreign Minister Kofod. Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, had an opportunity last night to speak to his Danish counterpart as well. The Secretary, I would expect within the coming day, potentially as soon as later today, will have an opportunity to speak to other European partners regarding what seem to be apparent acts of sabotage against the Nord Stream pipeline.

We have seen the statements from our Danish partners and from others. We are supporting European efforts to investigate this, and we’re also – we also stand ready to support European efforts to mitigate any potential environmental impact. As you know, the energy impact of this apparent sabotage is and was mitigated by the fact that neither Nord Stream 2, which of course was never operational, and Nord Stream 1, because the Russians had already weaponized Nord Stream 1 by essentially turning it off – neither of these pipelines were pumping gas into Europe at the time. And so, of course, the impacts on Europe’s broader energy security and energy resilience will therefore be mitigated.

QUESTION: Well, in the short term.

MR PRICE: In the short term.

QUESTION: So who do you suspect – who is behind it? And I welcome the student from AU, of course. So who – you suspect anyone did this?

MR PRICE: We have more questions than answers at this point, Said. We’re not going to get ahead of the investigation. An investigation like this, owing to the nature of the investigation, — underwater, for one – could well take time. So we’re going to allow the investigation to play out before we start to lay out theories or hypotheses.

QUESTION: But you call it apparent sabotage. You used the word “apparent.”

MR PRICE: That’s right.

QUESTION: So what are you basing that on exactly? Just your conversations with the European counterparts, or do you have other information? Then why are you not ready to go a little bit further than that?

MR PRICE: We’re basing it primarily on the conversations that we’ve had with our European partners. They, of course, are much closer to the site of this apparent sabotage. We are, as part of our assistance to the investigation, sharing information we may have on these acts, on these apparent acts of sabotage. But this moniker, “apparent sabotage,” is based on what we know but primarily what we’re hearing from our European counterparts.

Yes, Simon.

QUESTION: If it did turn out to be sabotage by a nation state, do you think that could rise to the level of NATO Article 5 infringement?

MR PRICE: Again, that is a hypothetical perhaps wrapped within another hypothetical, so I just wouldn’t want to entertain it at this point. There is an investigation that’s underway. We’re prepared to support that investigation. We’re prepared to support the environmental mitigation efforts, the efforts to mitigate the environmental impact, but I just wouldn’t want to weigh in before any conclusion is reached in that investigation.

Alex.

QUESTION: If this turns out to be sabotage, how vulnerable the alternative pipelines are, do you think? And will the U.S. step up and help countries such as Norway, Azerbaijan, and others to boost up the security of their pipelines?

Secondly, there are reports that the U.S. actually did see this coming. There were some intelligence reports and the U.S. did inform Germans and others. Are you in a position to confirm or deny those reports?

MR PRICE: Of course, I’m not in a position to speak to any intelligence, or any intelligence that may have been passed to Germany or any other ally. What we did see coming, what many countries around the world saw coming, was Russia’s attempts – broadly speaking, not speaking to events of the past 24 hours, but broadly speaking – to weaponize energy. And we’ve seen that since the earliest days of this conflict. We’ve seen that since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

You asked what we are prepared to do when it comes to Europe’s energy security and energy resilience. Well, let me just remind you of what we are already doing. We’ve been deeply engaged in this task again – even prior to February 24th. We have worked with our European partners and European allies to surge LNG supplies, oftentimes in cooperation with partners on the other side of the world. Countries such as Japan have been in a position to help us surge LNG supplies to Europe. Various countries have tapped their own strategic petroleum reserves. We’ve done that to an unprecedented tune in recent months. U.S. oil production is up by more than 500,000 barrels per day. Our LNG exports, oftentimes to Europe, are up more than 20 percent since last year. We became the largest – this year we became the largest LNG supplier both to the EU and to the UK. And we will become the overall largest global LNG exporter this year.

That is what we’re doing in the short term. What we have been doing – knowing, as I alluded to before, that the Russians could seek to weaponize energy as part of their aggression against Ukraine – over the longer term, because as you alluded to, or someone alluded to, and I think it was you in your question – this will be a longer-term challenge. This is not a challenge that will only be with us for the coming weeks or through this winter; this will be something that we’ll have to confront year after year. That is in large part why President Biden and President von der Leyen of the – of the EU set up a taskforce earlier this year to work on energy security issues. And as you know, through various auspices and mechanisms, we are working with partners not only in Europe but around the world to lessen our dependence on Russian energy – Russia, of course, has proven itself to be a wholly unreliable energy supplier – but also to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels as we accelerate that transition to renewables, which will also be part of the answer.

Yes, Courtney.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. been formally asked to assist in that investigation? And then separately, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow warned American citizens that Russia may not recognize dual nationality when it comes to mass mobilization and conscription. And I’m just wondering whether you’ve seen evidence that this is occurring, that Americans are being conscripted or being denied consular access.

MR PRICE: So a couple points. On your first question, we have been in close touch with our Danish partners since reports of this started to emerge. Beyond the Secretary – and I meant to note this earlier – beyond the Secretary, senior officials in this building have engaged with their Danish partners, others – other partners and allies in the region as well. We have offered assistance for any environmental response, but we haven’t yet received any such requests for assistance from our Danish partners. As I said before, we’re already sharing information that is in our possession regarding these apparent acts of sabotage, and we’ll continue to do that.

When it comes to your question on – regarding Russia, we did – our embassy in Moscow did issue a security alert last night Washington time – Eastern time, at least – notified U.S. citizens about Russia’s mobilization of Russia’s citizens to the armed forces in support of its invasion in Ukraine. Of course, we are concerned about potential implications for dual U.S.-Russian nationals. We’re not yet aware of any reports of dual U.S.-Russian nationals who have been called or conscripted into service as a result of this. But the security alert that you saw last night was triggered primarily by President Putin’s so-called partial mobilization, the 300,000 additional Russian citizens who President Putin is seeking to enlist in his brutal war in Ukraine. A consequence of that mobilization is, one, the possibility of conscription of dual nationals – in this case, dual U.S.-Russian nationals.

But as we’ve seen, this call for a partial mobilization has also engendered protests across Russia. And of course, we have concern that any Americans could be caught up in such acts; they could be specifically targeted. We’ve previously made clear our concerns that Americans have been specifically targeted because of their American nationality by Russian security officials. So that, too, is a concern. But we are not yet aware of any Americans who have been arrested as part of the demonstrations in response to the partial mobilization.

QUESTION: As it relates to conscription, though – I mean, you noted the other day that Edward Snowden might now be subject to it. You haven’t heard anything about him being conscripted, have you? And you would still urge him, as with other Americans, to come back home? So he has the – he has the opportunity to stay in Russia and potentially be conscripted or come back and be put on trial, right?

MR PRICE: So we have issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory for Russia since last August. Starting in February —

QUESTION: He wasn’t a Russian citizen until just the other day. He wasn’t a dual citizen until just the other day.

MR PRICE: No, of course, and I’m not talking to any specific American citizen at this point. I may come to that. But then, of course, in February we urged all American citizens not only not to travel to Russia, but those American citizens who were in Russia to leave Russia.

When it comes to Mr. Snowden, our position on him has been consistent. It has been clear. He should return to the United States where he would be afforded due process, which, by the way, is not a right he would be afforded were he to stay in Russia and to be accused of a crime there.

Said?

QUESTION: Can I change topics?

MR PRICE: Sure.

QUESTION: I want to go to where you began or the second item about the possible violence erupting in the West Bank, and in fact there was an interview with Ambassador Nides where he actually warns against such a thing. But I tell you, I mean, the Palestinians don’t have much hope other than perhaps resort to violence. They keep hitting a brick wall. I mean, you talk about both sides. Now, only one side occupies the other, torments the other, and so on. Even the most modest of actions – well, to sort of follow through on your commitment to the two-state solution, which is the reopening of the consulate that was open and so on – it’s not open. So what do you say to the Palestinians that are almost hopeless?

MR PRICE: Said, I will start where you started, because that has been a core premise of our policy: to afford a greater degree of hope, a greater degree of opportunity to the Palestinian people. Now, the first element of that was re-engaging with the Palestinian Authority, re‑engaging with the Palestinian people, something we did nearly as soon as we came into offer – into office. Re-engagement, of course, is only one part of that.

What is perhaps more meaningful when it comes to that hope and that opportunity is what we have provided, what we have been in a sense – in a sense able to deliver to and for the Palestinian people. And in addition to the more than half-billion dollars the United States has provided to the Palestinian people since January of 2021, when this administration came into office, President Biden when he was in the region in May announced an additional $316 million to support the Palestinian people when he was in the West Bank. And last week, this department, we were in a position to announce nearly $64 million, additional funding for UNRWA providing health care, providing emergency relief to hundreds of thousands of potentially vulnerable Palestinian children and families.

Together, this brings total support in 2022 to nearly $350 million. It brings our total assistance to the Palestinian people to some $680 million since April of 2021. This assistance, of course, is not a panacea. This is assistance that can help to do what we talked about the other day – to lay the predicate for greater levels of opportunity and optimism and opportunity and hope for the Palestinian people so that this can be cemented and ultimately can translate into progress in what is our ultimate goal, and that’s the two-state solution, a negotiated two-state solution negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

QUESTION: That’s all well and good and so on, the money, and I’m sure the Palestinians appreciate that. You keep saying you want Palestinians and Israelis to enjoy the same level of dignity. I mean, they look – the Palestinians look at what you have done with, let’s say, the Shireen Abu Akleh case. I mean, you have sanctions the Iranian morality police, as you should have, because a young woman died in their custody and so on. Palestinians die in Israeli custody all the time. You have not spoken about – I mean, you’ve spoken about Shireen Abu Akleh; you have not pursued any kind of independent investigation. And as far as they’re concerned, this issue is dead. It’s gone.

So, I mean, they look at your actions and they lose faith, Ned.

MR PRICE: Said, it is extraordinarily difficult to compare cases like this, and I can spend just a moment —

QUESTION: Yeah, but in principle.

MR PRICE: — talking about the profound differences between the case, between the two cases that you referenced.

With Mahsa Amini in Iran – a young woman who was arrested for exercising what should have been a universal right to freedom of expression, in this case specifically the right to determine for herself her appearance, what she chose to wear – she was arrested by the so-called morality police. Within days she was dead. Of course we took a firm response in the form of sanctions and the efforts we’ve taken to support the universal right of the Iranian people to have their voices heard.

When it comes to the tragic killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, we of course spoke out within – at the first opportunity, upon learning of her – of her killing. We – our U.S. security coordinator worked very closely with Palestinian authorities, worked very closely with the IDF, and ultimately not only did the IDF but also the U.S. security coordinator came to a number of conclusions, one of which was the fact that there was – appeared to be no intentionality behind her killing.

So I think these cases are different on – for a number of reasons. We always speak out in favor of universal rights. We always speak out in favor of the human rights of people around the world. It’s no different whether that’s within Israel, whether that’s in the West Bank, in Gaza, or in Iran for that matter.

QUESTION: Okay. But just one —

QUESTION: They’re also different because Shireen Abu Akleh was a U.S. citizen.

MR PRICE: Correct.

QUESTION: But you didn’t mention that.

MR PRICE: Of course. She was a U.S. citizen.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but —

MR PRICE: Of course.

QUESTION: — you didn’t mention that in your little spiel there. Respond.

MR PRICE: It is —

QUESTION: Okay, so you —

QUESTION: Can I —

MR PRICE: Let me move around because —

QUESTION: Ned, one —

MR PRICE: — we have many people here today.

QUESTION: — last thing. One last thing.

MR PRICE: Said, we have many —

QUESTION: Please, Ned.

MR PRICE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Please, Ned.

QUESTION: You put —

MR PRICE: Go ahead, Guita.

QUESTION: You put out a statement condemning the missile and drone attack by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Iraqi Kurdistan. What is the U.S. Government doing to protect – to help protect the region, especially given that there are U.S. forces stationed there as well?

MR PRICE: So you’re right. We did put out a statement. We put out a statement in my name. The National Security Advisor also condemned these drone and missile attacks against Iraq’s Kurdistan region earlier today. We’ve made the point that we stand with Iraq’s leaders, its leaders in its Kurdistan region as well as in Baghdad, in condemning what was a brazen assault on Iraq’s own sovereignty and Iraq’s own territorial integrity. This is unfortunately just another instance of Iran’s flagrant disregard for not only the lives of their own people but also for their neighbors and for what are core principles at the crux of the UN Charter: sovereignty, territorial integrity.

This is not the first time that we have seen Iran use these tactics – ballistic missiles and drones – but we are going to continue working with our partners in the region to help them defend against these types of threats. And we can do that in a number of different ways. We have levied sanctions when it comes to networks of UAV – when it comes to UAV networks in Iran. We have taken a number of steps with partners in the region to provide them with supplies and assistance that they would need to defend themselves against the types of Iranian-provided weapons systems that are such a destabilizing force. So we’ll continue to do that. Ultimately this was an attack – a brazen assault on the sovereignty of Iraq. And the most important thing we can do in many ways is to stand with Iraq’s leaders, Iraq’s leaders in Baghdad, Iraq’s leader in the region – leaders of Kurdistan and Erbil going forward.

QUESTION: Have they reached out for any assistance?

MR PRICE: I’m not aware of any requests for assistance?

QUESTION: Same topic.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? So a duel citizen or an American citizen was actually confirmed to be among the killed. We just confirmed that. But also the CENTCOM put out a statement saying that they shot down a drone that they believe was going towards American forces. So is there any safety concerns for Americans in Kurdistan region?

MR PRICE: In the aftermath of these attacks, we did an accountability check. In the aftermath of that, we determined that there were no casualties on the part of American officials in the region. Of course, we take threats – potential threats like this very seriously but in this case there’s nothing to suggest that American officials were injured.

QUESTION: So I know that you guys have two statements out, but I am just curious what’s the understanding here. Why is Kurdistan region a target of Iranian attack?

MR PRICE: That would be a question for Tehran, not for Washington.

QUESTION: And last question. During the Obama administration and then early Trump administration, the Iranian opposition were able to engage with U.S. officials, but then former Secretary Mike Pompeo put out an order to kind of refrain from engaging with the Iranian opposition. What is the position of your administration? Do you guys engage with them? If not, why not?

MR PRICE: The Iranian opposition inside of Iran?

QUESTION: Or here, like —

MR PRICE: Of course, we’re always open to listening to those who have a perspective when it comes to Iran and its people. I think the most important thing we can do is to listen to those brave Iranians who were peacefully taking to the streets to exercise and to make clear their aspirations for greater levels of democracy, of freedom, of human rights. It’s important that the world not only listen but important that the world be able to hear them in the first place.

And so that’s why we’ve taken some of the steps we have not only in recent years, including the general license that was issued in 2014 but the so-called General License D-2 that we issued late last week, whose primary purpose was to allow the voice of the Iranian people to be heard by the outside world. It’s an important tool, and it’s – since the issuance of this general license last Friday, we’ve seen indications that U.S. technology companies have availed themselves of this newfound ability to provide services to the Iranian people. It is our hope that the Iranian people are in a position to take advantage of these – of this new technology, of these new services, not only to communicate with one another but to see to it that their voices are heard around the world.

Yes, in back.

QUESTION: You said there were no U.S. officials among the victims. There was one U.S. citizen. His name is Omar (inaudible), known as Chichu. So do you have any response other than the statement you put out?

MR PRICE: I am not aware that we’ve been able to confirm that just yet, but if and when we are, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Also, I have a question about sanctions, because you were talking about sanctioning the morality police. I want to ask about the – about the existing sanctions that we already have in place regarding specifically Iranian oil sanctions. Do you believe that these sanctions at the moment are properly executed? Because based on statistics, we know Iran boost its own oil exports, specifically to China.

MR PRICE: So some of the – and these are all, of course, open-source estimates, and so to some extent there is always going to be a margin of error when you look at statistics like that. I think what we can say with some confidence is that some of the open-source statistics have been inflated, and that is the case when it comes to certain reports of Iranian oil exports to the PRC.

But the fact of the matter is that sanctions and sanctions enforcement, it is an iterative – it requires an iterative approach. We are always looking at ways we can optimize the sanctions regimes that are in place around the world. We can optimize them in two important ways. One is to ensure that there aren’t humanitarian implications and to make sure there aren’t spillover effects on arenas that are important to us – like humanitarian arenas, for example – but also to ensure that the limitations and the restrictions that these sanctions are designed to impose are as constricting as possible.

So even in the case of Iran, in recent weeks not only have we leveled – and levied, excuse me – new sanctions against Iran’s petrochemical and – petrochemical industry, but we’ve taken action against sanction evasion networks precisely for the reason that you highlight. We’re always in discussion not only with our interagency to determine what more we can do as a government, but also with other governments as well to make sure that we’re all working together to see to it that these sanctions regimes are as biting as possible.

Yes.

QUESTION: Separate topic. Turkey has issued a diplomatic protest to the United States and Greece for deploying U.S.-provided armored vehicles to the Aegean Islands of non-military status under existing agreements. Have you provided an official response to Turkey?

MR PRICE: Look, we would refer you to specific governments regarding any deployment of their own defense equipment. That is not something for us to speak to. More broadly, and I believe I said this the other day, we continue to encourage our NATO Allies – Turkey and Greece, in this case – to work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve their differences diplomatically. We urge all the parties to avoid rhetoric and to avoid taking actions that could further exacerbate tensions. The sovereignty, the territorial integrity of all countries should be respected. Greece’s sovereignty over these islands is not in question, but we call on all countries, including our allies, to respect territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to avoid actions that could inflame tensions.

QUESTION: We just – moments ago we talked about Ukraine and the provisions under arms provided to Ukraine. Now, I know that all defense articles of the United States are provided on certain provisions. Aren’t there any provisions on those equipment provided to Greece in – being used in violation of international agreements, as Turkish Government deems it?

MR PRICE: We are always taking a close look at the security assistance, including potential weapon systems and supplies, that we’re providing to allies and partners around the world. We are in a fortunate position to have a number of close security partners around the world, people – countries that look to the United States as a supplier for the security that they need to confront what are often shared challenges and shared threats. Oftentimes this will come in the form of terrorism threats and other collective challenges, but there is a constant evaluative process when it comes to looking at the security assistance we provide to any country around the world.

QUESTION: Does that apply to Turkey and the S-400s as well, when you talk about how it’s up to each country to oversee or to determine the deployment of their own defense equipment?

MR PRICE: Of course it is. And their – and —

QUESTION: It is. Okay, well then, why are you telling the Turks constantly not to deploy this and not to buy it in the first place, but —

MR PRICE: And we have also made clear that there will be implications given certain choices.

QUESTION: Then I think, then, the logical next question is if – and we’re talking about U.S.-supplied military here in Greece, right? Are there not any implications?

MR PRICE: Matt, I don’t think our – this ally is interested in purchasing the S-400 system in question here. This is the purchase of a particular Russian system that ran afoul of —

QUESTION: I know. It’s a question of consistency —

MR PRICE: — of congressionally mandated sanctions. So these are different cases. Of course, countries around the world are open to make their own choices. There will be cases – extreme cases – where certain choices will have implications on the part of the United States and our bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: There are also – yeah, for example, F-16s. About – we talk about F-16s, and Congress is trying to bring some provisions that F-16s should not be used in kind of a violation of Greek airspace, something like this. The question is: If provision applies to one partner and not the other, what is the standard? How should we trace those provisions and see that, okay, here is the standard, and here is double standard?

MR PRICE: The standard we use is what is in America’s national interests, and it just so happens that when it comes to our allies and partners, what tends to be in our national interest is in the collective interest as well.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is it in the national interest of the United States —

MR PRICE: Let me move around, so yes.

QUESTION: Turkey uses its drone technology to spy illegally on the Greek islands, and also, as a matter of fact, they don’t even try to hide it; they release themselves the picture. So my question is: What is your reactions to this incident? And second, is it unacceptable for a NATO Ally to spy on another NATO Ally?

MR PRICE: As I said in response to your colleague’s question, we encourage countries around the world, particularly our NATO Allies, particularly as we are facing a collective threat from the Russian Federation – not only what it’s doing in Ukraine but the threat it poses to the broader region – to remain focused, to remain focused on the threats that are a challenge to all of us. And in so doing, we encourage all of our NATO Allies to work together to resolve any differences through dialogue and diplomacy.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. I would like to go back to the energy crisis and rising costs of gas and electricity, and I would like to ask you, what do you think about the strategy Liz Truss has in the United Kingdom, where she’s doing these tax cuts that includes an energy package that is going to help families and businesses pay their energy bills? Is this something that the U.S. is looking to copy? And is there going to be any global strategy for every country that they can implement then on a national level that can help offset the energy cost due to the war in Ukraine?

MR PRICE: This is a question for the British people to decide, the sort of energy policy they want in their country. When it comes to the United States, what we have sought to do is to increase the resilience on the part of our partners and allies around the world. That includes in the UK, that includes our allies in the EU and elsewhere. I’ve spoken already to some of the steps we have taken. We, of course, are acting in concert and in some cases in coordination with allies and partners in terms of tapping into strategic petroleum reserves, in terms of moving supplies of LNG where it’s needed most, and then, of course, executing and devising policies that will help lessen dependence over time on Russian energy but also on fossil fuels more broadly as we transition to renewables.

Yes.

QUESTION: Segueing into a British person is a beautiful segue.

MR PRICE: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Hello, Ned. Good afternoon. New topic: The security situation in Haiti has deteriorated over the past 12 months dramatically. American citizens are told not to go to Haiti, but at least 25,000 Haitians seeking asylum have been deported in the past 12 months. Does the State Department have any misgivings about deporting Haitians when their country is so dangerous?

And then picking up on how you started the briefing, with the Ukraine crisis, 100,000 Ukrainians have been given asylum in the United States, approximately. Haitians are seeing this and saying there’s a double standard. What would you say to Haitians about that?

MR PRICE: So a couple points. Number one, we are and we have consistently partnered with Haitian authorities to try to address the underlying security challenges that are at the root of what you point to, the violence, the kidnappings, the transnational crime that has plagued Haiti for far too long. We are in frequent touch with the leadership of the Government of Haiti, with the Haitian National Police as well, including through embedded police advisors to evaluate and to address many of these most urgent security needs.

For example, at the request of the Haitian National Police, we have provided 60 vehicles to address some of their mobility issues, and we’re working to provide more critical equipment as well. This summer, we committed an additional $48 million to support holistic anti-gang programming, which includes specialized training and vetting of the Haitian National Police counter-gang units, community development, violence prevention programming in partnership with USAID and the OAS, and programming that begins to address other gaps, such as Haiti’s ports and firearms trafficking.

We have a bureau here at the department, bureau of – our INL Bureau. We also support counternarcotics efforts in Haiti, crowd control, counter-gang programming, community policing, corrections and border security units. All the while we put an emphasis on human rights training and enhancing police transparency, knowing that that is a key component of our assistance as well.

There are another – a number of examples of our collaboration with Haitian authorities, including the Haitian National Police, but the point is that we are determined to work with them to address these underlying security challenges just as we continue to work with Haiti to encourage a government that is responsive to the profound needs of its people.

QUESTION: But returning 25,000 – more than 25,000 Haitians when you actually know the situation is dangerous – the State Department is comfortable with that?

MR PRICE: Of course we are not comfortable with the security situation in Haiti at the moment. It is a security situation that is precarious. It has become increasingly precarious. That is why we’ve become increasingly focused on working with Haitian authorities to do what we can as appropriate to help address – to help them address the security situation. We always have an eye to security situations in countries around the world when we are in the position to have to deport nationals back to their home countries, and we’ll continue to work with our Haitian partners to address these longer-term challenges.

QUESTION: Last question. Your Haitian partners – does that mean that the U.S. supports Ariel Henry, the prime minister, as long as he takes back deportees?

MR PRICE: We support Haiti’s constitutional process. We believe not in people but in institutions, and in this case Haiti has a constitution that has stood the test of time, that we think lays out an appropriate roadmap for the next steps. So that’s what we support.

Yes, Shannon.

QUESTION: Also asylum. So we’ve seen a checkered response so far from EU countries on whether to accept Russians avoiding conscription. Will the U.S. support or encourage, as allied countries, to hear these asylum claims? And of course the White House has said that Russians are more than welcome to come and apply for asylum here and they’ll be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Just wondering if you could say if the administration views fleeing conscription alone as a legitimate grounds for an asylum claim.

MR PRICE: So on the last part of your question, DHS processes – processes asylum claims, so that would be a question for them, not for us. I think it’s fair to say they look holistically at each case, and all relevant factors would be taken into consideration.

When it comes to our engagement with countries in the region and potentially beyond, each country is going to have to make its own sovereign decision about how to respond to Russians that are seeking refuge and safety within their borders. That is not something that we are going to prescribe; that is not something we would prescribe. What we have made clear is the distinction we make and that a number of countries have made around the world, the distinction between the Russian Government and the Russian people. And I think the events of the past week or so put a spotlight on that dynamic.

In response to the actions of the Russian Government, we have seen an equal and opposite reaction on the part of the Russian people, and we have seen thousands of Russians take to the streets once again, just as they did in the earliest hours of President Putin’s war against Ukraine, to make clear that they are not supportive of this war effort, they are not endorsing the decision on the part of their leadership to potentially – to potentially send hundreds of thousands of additional Russians to face injury or potentially death inside of Ukraine.

We think it’s important, for our part, to continue to have our doors open to Russians who are in a position to come to this country, and we have seen over the course of this war potentially hundreds of thousands of Russians quite literally vote with their feet – Russians who have never had the genuine opportunity to have their voice heard at the ballot box are now in a position to vote with their feet. In the aftermath of the announcement of this partial mobilization, airfare sold out to the few places Russians are in a position to fly. We’ve seen border crossings with long lines of cars, individuals trying to get out of the United States, and Russian nationals around the world seeking to apply for asylum or other forms of safe haven wherever it is they are.

QUESTION: So, wait, I just want to – it’s up to DHS to decide whether fleeing conscription is a legitimate ground for an asylum claim, but you’ll welcome them here, but it’s up to DHS?

MR PRICE: As they process asylum applications.

QUESTION: Right, but do you take – does the administration as a whole, outside – you take a position on whether that’s a legitimate – a legitimate – that that’s —

MR PRICE: Again, that’s a question for DHS because they adjudicate asylum claims.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I just remember that back in the ’60s and ’70s, the U.S. administrations at the time took a very different position with Americans running to Canada to avoid the draft then, and until they were pardoned en masse, they were still wanted criminals.

MR PRICE: Matt, that’s a —

QUESTION: All right.

MR PRICE: It’s a question for DHS.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), Australian Broadcasting Corporation. At the Pacific Islands Summit today, Secretary Blinken said that a declaration of partnership had been agreed upon. Can I just confirm: Have all of the Pacific Island leaders here today agreed to that declaration? Specifically, has Solomon Islands agreed to that declaration?

MR PRICE: As is typically the case ahead of summits and ministerials, multilateral gatherings, we are engaged in deep and constructive conversations with participants in that gathering. This has been no exception. We’ve been discussing our shared vision for the region, a vision that could be reflected in anything that could possibly emerge tomorrow as a result of the summit that President Biden is convening. We’ve made tremendous progress when it comes to those conversations, and I’m confident you will hear more and you will see more from President Biden tomorrow.

QUESTION: Is it accurate to say, though, that that still hasn’t been agreed to yet, that discussions are still underway?

MR PRICE: I will for now, so as not to spoil some of the surprise for tomorrow, just say that we’ve been in a position to make tremendous progress. We’ve been gratified by the constructive conversations that we’ve had with Pacific Island attendees. And we’ll have more to say on this tomorrow.

QUESTION: And how would you characterize Solomon Islands’ concerns?

MR PRICE: It is not for me to characterize the concerns of another country. You’re welcome to ask them; they happen to be in the building.

Yes.

QUESTION: So, Ned, Belarussian President Lukashenka arrived today in occupied Abkhazia and met local leader. As Lukashenka mentioned, he wants, and I quote, to build not only a “bridge of friendship… very serious relations” as well. I wonder if you could give me your reaction on that, please.

MR PRICE: Well, as you know, we remain steadfast in our support for Georgia and for its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We believe that Russia must be held accountable for the commitments it made under the 2008 ceasefire. Russia must withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions and reverse its recognition of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. The Georgian ministry of foreign affairs did, as you know, release a statement today condemning the visit of Alexander Lukashenka, condemned his visit to Abkhazia, and we’d refer you to the Georgian Government for additional details.

QUESTION: Is —

MR PRICE: Simon.

QUESTION: Just to come back to the Solomon Islands, like, could you just clarify in plain language – the Secretary said – he held up a document and said we’ve agreed on this. Your answer just now suggests that that’s not the case.

MR PRICE: No, I didn’t mean to suggest that’s not the case. I just —

QUESTION: Hasn’t – it hasn’t been agreed?

MR PRICE: I was suggesting that you will hear more on this tomorrow. I think what the Secretary said is that we’ve come to agreement on the vision we share for the region, a vision that will be reflected in everything that emanates from this summit, including any documents you may see tomorrow.

QUESTION: That doesn’t mean that all the countries have agreed to sign on to it.

MR PRICE: I think the Secretary was clear that we’ve been able to come to an agreement on a shared vision, something we’re very gratified about.

Abbie.

QUESTION: Separate topic.

MR PRICE: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about a report out today from the Foley Foundation on U.S. hostages and Americans being wrongfully detained abroad. The report shows a dramatic increase in the number of incidents of U.S. nationals being wrongfully detained overseas. It’s up almost 200 percent this decade compared to last decade, and there’s been a 60 percent increase in the average length of time that these hostages are being held, with over half being held for a decade or longer. Does the State Department agree that over the past decade some of the – that the cases of U.S. hostages being held have become more difficult to resolve? And what do you attribute that to? And what is the Biden administration doing to ensure that countries are not taking Americans to be used as political leverage?

MR PRICE: So as you know, we often, and as a general rule, we don’t speak to numbers even in the aggregate when it comes to American hostages or wrongful detainees around the world. I think what is true is that the broader assessment that this report paints is one that is reflective of the reality of the past decade, reflective of the scale and the scope of the challenge that not only the United States faces, but that so many countries face when it comes to the taking of hostages, when it comes to the holding of wrongful detainees around the world.

This has been a priority of ours since the earliest days of this administration. We are working with experts inside of government, outside of government, including of course with the Foley Foundation and other institutions, to defy – devise ways to not only bring Americans home who are subject to being held hostage or being held or being wrongfully detained, but also to deter countries from this abhorrent practice going forward. We have really two imperatives. Number one is to see to it that the Americans who are – have been kept from their families for far too long, in some cases years, are returned to their families and loved ones as soon and as quickly as we can possibly manage; but number two, to create and ultimately to reinforce a norm against this type of despicable behavior on the part of certain states. We want to make sure that every government who would engage in this practice understand that there are economic, there are financial, there are diplomatic consequences for their actions.

And we’re starting to do that. We are starting to raise the costs on those countries who engage in this. We have worked very closely with our Canadian allies. They have demonstrated leadership in the fight against this practice. The Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, as it’s called, now has nearly 70 endorsements – 68 endorsements – from countries around the world. We’ve called on others to support this as well. As you know, earlier this year President Biden signed a new executive order directing this department and the interagency to recommend options to the White House to counter and to deter hostage-taking and wrongful detentions. And we’re working on ways to do that – again, to make clear to countries around the world that engage in this that there will – there would be and will be costs for their actions.

We’re also working on ways to educate and to protect U.S. travelers, including by publishing transparent and accurate travel information, including risk indicators, on the relevant country’s Travel Advisory page on our State Department website. Two of our nine current risk indicators identify countries where kidnapping and hostage-taking of U.S. nationals and wrongful detention of U.S. nationals occur. As you know, the newest indicator we rolled out just a couple months ago – the so-called “D” indicator – indicates around the world those countries where Americans may find themself – find themselves at risk of wrongful detention. And we continue to explore options to further amplify information to ensure that Americans, when they travel around the world, are aware of these potential risks.

Our hope is that over time, with careful planning and an eye towards developing a common approach with partners and allies around the world, the cost-benefit analysis of countries that have engaged in this will change and that over time this will be a practice that is ultimately relegated to the dustbin of history.

Yes.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that. One of the findings in the Foley Foundation’s report was that the families – many families say they’re left in the dark when it comes to the State Department’s process for determining whether their loved one is wrongfully detained or not. One person surveyed said they’d been left to wait nine months before knowing if their case would be handled by SPEHA. So my question is: Can the State Department be doing more to speed up this process for identifying wrongful detainee cases?

MR PRICE: What we’ve learned over the years – and there are many people in this administration who worked in the Obama-Biden administration who have firsthand – who had firsthand experience with this then – is that engagement with the families, early and frequent engagement with the families, is one of the most important ingredients to the handling and to the ultimate successful resolution of a case of a U.S. hostage or an American who may be wrongfully detained around the world. We have, both through the course of this executive order and through a presidential policy directive that President Obama signed in 2015, devised new authorities and means by which the Executive Branch can engage with families, can share with them updates on their loved ones, updates that can sometimes contain sensitive or classified or otherwise sensitive information. So our goal, of course, is to always be as transparent and communicative and responsive to these families as possible.

Now, there are always going to be limitations, but no one knows better than we do that oftentimes these cases can benefit from families and from engagement with families. After all, no one knows the circumstances, the broader context, the unique considerations of any particular case better than family members and other loved ones. So we always strive to involve them in the process.

Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. So Polish Foreign Minister Rau said this today in an interview with NBC News that if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the – NATO’s response should be conventional but devastating. Is that something – I mean, is that an agreed approach? And speaking of Polish foreign ministers, the former one – Radek Sikorski – thanked the U.S. for this apparent sabotage of Nord Stream. And Senator Cruz asked today Ambassador O’Brien in the Senate if the U.S. was in fact behind it, and he didn’t get a very clear answer, so can you clarify that?

MR PRICE: I’d be happy to clarify that. The idea that the United States was in any way involved in the apparent sabotage of these pipelines is preposterous. It is nothing more than a function of Russian disinformation and should be treated as such.

When it comes to the contingency planning that we’ve engaged in for the potential use of a nuclear weapon by Russia in Ukraine, we have spoken very clearly of the implications for Russia were that to happen. We’ve used a number of adjectives. We have said there would be catastrophic, severe, strong, profound implications for Russia. All of those are accurate. We are – we stand by all of those descriptors. The point that we have made both publicly and privately to the Russians is that the consequences would be real, and they would be extraordinary.

QUESTION: That —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: That does imply a military strike —

MR PRICE: We’re just —

QUESTION: — because that’s what —

MR PRICE: — not going to go into specifics for reasons I think you could understand.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up on that?

MR PRICE: Sure. A couple final questions.

QUESTION: Yeah, so people are talking about two types of nuclear – usage of nuclear arms: tactical nuclear arms and strategic nuclear arms. When we say catastrophic response, do we mean about strategic use of nuclear arms or will it be the same if Russians use tactical, low-yield nuclear missiles?

MR PRICE: The use of any nuclear weapons in this conflict would carry those consequences.

Yes.

QUESTION: This is question on a completely different topic: Mexico and U.S. COVID-19 donate – vaccination donations. Mexico is the top recipient in Latin America of U.S. COVID vaccine donations. Per State Department data, the U.S. has donated Mexico nearly 18 million doses of COVID vaccines. This past weekend there was big news in Mexico because we learned that from those 18 million that the U.S. has donated, 3.5 million will be flushed down the toilet because Mexico didn’t use them before their expiry date. The question here is: Did the U.S. make a wrong assessment of Mexico’s capacities to administer vaccines? Are you concerned that such a large number of vaccines donated to Mexico have been wasted? Let’s consider that Haiti only received 1 million doses.

MR PRICE: I would need to refer you to our Mexican partners to speak to their ability to have used the vaccines that we’ve made available to them. What I can say is that we’ve recognized in the broader context – something we’ve really focused on over the course of the past year or so – is not only the challenge associated with vaccine donations but also vaccine distribution and also something we call the last mile challenge. It is one thing to provide large-scale shipments of vaccines, either bilaterally or through COVAX as we have to so many countries around the world, to hundreds of millions of doses around the world. In some cases the challenge, in some cases the biggest challenge, is the challenge associated with actually putting those shots in arms. And so not only have we been in a position to provide support in the term – in terms of vaccine dosage, but we have worked with countries around the world, including last Friday in New York City, where countries came together to discuss what we call our GAP plan, our Global Action Plan on COVID. And one key element of that is this so-called last mile challenge, the distribution challenge that comes with that. We’re very focused on it, focused on it not in the context of any – not only in the context of particular countries, but also working together with countries around the world to address how we might overcome these challenges.

QUESTION: Just a clarification. Is the U.S. State Department looking at this issue, or it’s just something that doesn’t concern at all? The number is huge, 3.5 million more than what Peru got, 2 million more than what Haiti got, 1 million. It’s a quite impressive number; it’s not like small potatoes.

MR PRICE: Well, of course, we’re concerned with global health and the public health situation in our hemisphere, certainly the situation in our own backyard. That’s why we’ve worked very closely with our Mexican partners over the course of the past 18 months to do what we can together through vaccines, through other mechanisms – first to stop the spread of COVID, and second to build broader and greater resilience on the part of not only Mexico, but also countries in the region, knowing that this will not be the last outbreak, epidemic, or potentially even pandemic that we face in this hemisphere. So we’ve started to focus, too, on the next challenge.

Alex.

QUESTION: Thanks so much, Ned. Two questions. Let me go back to sham referenda first. In your opening statement, you said we have seen this movie before, and more pressure is coming in the coming days. Is there any reason why the administration has been in the wait-and-see mode in this particular case? You knew the actors involved. I’m just trying to figure out what is taking —

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t call our approach “wait and see,” Alex. In fact, quite the opposite. As you know, we have been warning about this for months and months now. In some cases, our multiple warnings have engendered some frustration, including from some in this room asking why we’re covering the same thing over and over again. And that’s precisely because we were and have been concerned that the Russians would go back to this playbook. You can say a lot about the Russians in terms of their – you can say a lot about the Kremlin in terms of its brutality, in terms of its aggression. One thing it is not is perhaps all that creative, because they have used these very tactics before. Every aspect of this process, based on our information, was pre-staged and orchestrated by the Kremlin weeks, in some cases months ago. We have information indicating that officials planned to announce these predetermined outcomes. In some cases, they even set the target approval rates, the target voter turnout rates.

So we wanted to be very clear as early as we could, and our warnings on this started shortly after Russia’s aggression began.

QUESTION: Thanks. Shifting gears to South Caucasus, yesterday National Security Advisor met with senior representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia at the White House. Is there any reason why we did not see Ambassador Reeker in the room?

MR PRICE: Ambassador Reeker has been actively engaged with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts. He was, of course, up in New York City last week with us, with the Secretary. He took part in the trilateral meeting he had – we had with Armenia and Azerbaijan. He’s recently been in the South Caucasus, meeting in person with senior officials there. So he’s been deeply engaged in this.

QUESTION: Just so – clarify, yesterday’s meeting was part of the sustainable process that you guys kicked in New York, or is it —

MR PRICE: Yesterday’s meeting, as I understand it, was a meeting between the national security advisors. We have engaged – the Secretary has engaged with his foreign minister counterparts. The Secretary has also engaged at the leader level with Armenia and Azerbaijan. So we are engaging at multiple levels, through multiple channels, to reinforce the need to de-escalate and to disengage.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:23 p.m.)

  1. Russia

 

Iranian Attacks on the IKR

28 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

We strongly condemn Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan Region as an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.  We are also aware of reports of civilian casualties and deplore any loss of life caused by today’s attack. Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq. We stand with the people and government of Iraq in the face of these brazen attacks on their sovereignty.

The United States Congratulates São Tomé and Príncipe on Elections

27 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States congratulates São Tomé and Príncipe on its elections. The Santomean people have had the opportunity to have their votes counted and their voices heard in building their own future. We expect that the incoming government will continue to build on São Tomé and Príncipe’s democratic traditions and give diverse perspectives a chance to help develop a safe, prosperous, and healthy future for all Santomeans.

U.S. Support of ECOWAS Sanctions on Guinea

27 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States commends the strong actions taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in defense of democracy in Guinea following its Extraordinary Summit on September 20 in New York City. We share ECOWAS’ concern that the transition government has not made progress towards establishing a transition timeline and organizing elections. The United States supports ECOWAS’ actions designed to encourage the transition government to move Guinea quickly toward a constitutional, civilian-led democracy through a transparent and consultative process.

Department Press Briefing – September 26, 2022

27 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Washington, D.C.

1:52 p.m. EDT

MR PRICE: We saw many of you last week in New York. Speaking of last week in New York, the world came together last week to spotlight and – in nearly all cases – reaffirm the principles at the core of the UN Charter. President Biden cited one of his predecessors, President Truman, who heralded the charter as proof that nations can, quote “state their differences, can face them, and then can find common ground on which to stand.”

And last week we witnessed a tremendous amount of common ground among the UN’s member- states regarding Russia’s illegal, unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Country after country – in both the Security Council and General Assembly – condemned Russia’s war and called for an end to the invasion.

They did so because not only is the Kremlin’s war an assault on Ukraine, but it is also a stark affront to the principles at the heart of the UN Charter: sovereignty, the independence of states, the inviolability of national borders, the tenets of peace and security.

These are the principles that apply equally in Europe as they do anywhere – and everywhere – around the world.

The statements from world leaders in New York crystallized the stakes, but so too did the statements and actions that emanated from Moscow. President Putin did perhaps as much as anyone last week to further isolate Russia and bolster international resolve to stand with Ukraine.

His nuclear saber-rattling, the sham referenda, his partial mobilization, and the broad – and sometimes violent – crackdown on Russians exercising their universal rights were galvanizing, but almost certainly not in the way that President Putin intended.

These actions from President Putin signal very – signal very clearly that he knows he is losing. He’s on his back heels. And he’s making every attempt to intimidate those who would stand up to him. We – along with our allies and partners around the world – are not going to bow to intimidation.

So let me state once again: the so-called referenda Russia is holding right now in the sovereign Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Donetsk are a total sham. The United States will never recognize seized Ukrainian territory as anything other than part of Ukraine. We stand by Ukraine’s sovereignty.

As you saw today, we are increasing our support to our Ukrainian partners. The Secretary announced an additional $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to enhance the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to improve their operational capacity and save lives as they continue to help defend the Ukrainian people, their freedom, and their democracy from the Kremlin’s brutal war of aggression.

This new tranche of aid brings the total – brings the total the United States has committed to our Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice partners, since mid-December 2021, to more than $645 million. The provision of additional protective equipment, medical supplies, and armored vehicles to the National Police of Ukraine and the State Border Guard Service has significantly reduced casualties for Ukrainian civilians and their defenders.

In addition to continuing and expanding our direct assistance to Ukrainian law enforcement, a portion of this new assistance will also continue U.S. support for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia’s forces, drawing on our longstanding relationship with the Ukrainian criminal justice agencies.

The United States stands side by side with the Ukrainian people, and we remain committed to supporting a democratic, independent, and sovereign Ukraine.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Just on the additional aid, is it possible – you don’t have to do it here, but if someone’s got it – to break that down in terms of what goes to – I’m particularly interested in how much is going to go to the prosecutors and the – for the investigation, but it would be good to know if we could get – how much is going to go armored vehicles and how much is going to go to PPE and that kind of thing.

MR PRICE: Understood.

QUESTION: Is that possible to do?

MR PRICE: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, which is not Ukraine specifically – and I know that your colleague at the White House was asked about this – but you’ve seen President Putin giving Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden. Back in 2013 when you guys – this building, the State Department during the Obama administration – revoked his passport, it was made clear by one of your predecessors that this did not affect his citizenship; that he was still, as far as the U.S. Government is concerned, an American citizen. And I just want to know if that is still – and I’m not asking about any kind of prosecution, so please don’t refer me to the Justice Department. Is it still the belief of the administration that he is a U.S. citizen?

MR PRICE: I’m not aware of any change in his citizenship status. I am —

QUESTION: Right.

MR PRICE: — familiar with the fact that he has in some ways denounced his American citizenship. I don’t know that he’s renounced it.

QUESTION: Right. Well, no, he hasn’t. And in fact, when he applied for citizenship, he said he wasn’t going to renounce it. But I just —

MR PRICE: And —

QUESTION: But there are ways in which the U.S. Government can revoke one’s citizenship. And as far as I know, he doesn’t meet any of the – or hasn’t met any of the criteria yet. One of the four is committing an act of treason, which I know you’ll refer to the Justice Department on. But I just want to make sure that as far as you’re concerned, he remains an American citizen, so he is now a dual U.S.-Russian citizen.

MR PRICE: Our position has not changed. Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he should face justice as any other American citizen would. Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that, as a result of his Russian citizenship, apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

QUESTION: All right, last thing and this has to do specifically with your comments about President Putin and his – what he did last – the reaction to what he has recently announced last week at the UN as it – or during the UN as it relates to sovereignty and territorial integrity. And I just want to make sure that I understand correctly that your “one China” policy, right, means that Taiwan is part of China and that you respect Chinese territorial integrity and sovereignty over Taiwan.

MR PRICE: Matt, our “one China” policy has not changed. Our “one China” policy has not changed in the sum of 40 years.

QUESTION: Well, what does your “one China” policy say about Chinese territorial integrity for —

MR PRICE: Very, very basically, we don’t take a position on sovereignty. But our “one China” policy has not changed. That is a – that is a position we made very clear in public. It is a position that Secretary Blinken made very clear in private to Wang Yi when he met with him on Friday.

QUESTION: Does that mean that Taiwan is part of China? I mean, it’s one China, right?

MR PRICE: Again, Said, our one policy – our “one China” policy has not changed. We don’t take a position on s sovereignty. But the policy that has been at the crux of our approach to Taiwan since 1979 remains in effect today.

What we want to see continue, what we want to see preserved, is the status quo – precisely because the status quo since 1979, more than 40 years now, has undergirded peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We want to see that continue. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the same could be said of the PRC, which has become only more coercive and intimidating in its actions and its maneuvers across the Taiwan Strait.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, can – if Vladimir Putin has conferred Russian citizenship on Edward Snowden today as they say, does that mean he automatically loses his American citizenship, whether or not he’s renounced it?

MR PRICE: I’m not aware of any change in his American citizenship status. I’m not aware that anything has happened yet when it comes to that. Mr. Snowden is apparently now a Russian citizen, and again, that makes him subject to any Russian decrees that may come down, including the one we heard about last week.

QUESTION: What are your bets on that? Let me ask you a China question —

QUESTION: One second. This is kind of interesting. Because if he is now – you say he’s now a Russian citizen, but he’s also an American citizen, right?

MR PRICE: Well, I didn’t say that. I said the – obviously, the Russians have put out a formal decree.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly.

MR PRICE: Yes.

QUESTION: But, so apparently he is both, U.S. and Russian citizen. Now, when it comes to Iran – so U.S. – American – the Iranian Government does not treat U.S. dual-nationals as dual‑nationals, right? They treat them only as single, and you deplore that and you denounce it when they get arrested and charged under Iranian law. And yet here, you seem to be happy by the – or you seem to be enjoying the idea —

MR PRICE: There’s —

QUESTION: — that somehow now as a Russian citizen, Ed Snowden could – Edward Snowden could be conscripted.

MR PRICE: There’s no emotion attached to my voice, Matt. I am just saying that a Russian citizen – he would presumably be subject to Russian laws.

Andrea.

QUESTION: A related question on China. Can you tell us whether during the President’s – excuse me, the Secretary of State’s meeting with Wang Yi on Friday he brought up the issue of wrongfully detained American Kai Li who’s been detained for five years in China?

MR PRICE: In just about every single one of our engagements around the world at senior levels, we raise cases of American detainees, Americans who are wrongfully detained; when appropriate and applicable, Americans who are being held hostage around the world. We have consistently raised cases of Americans who are wrongfully detained in China or who are otherwise unable to freely depart the PRC. We will continue to do that until such cases are resolved.

QUESTION: Well, was it raised in this instance on Friday?

MR PRICE: I’m – it is something we consistently raise.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t – that doesn’t – can you take the question of whether it was raised on Friday?

MR PRICE: It is – we issued a readout of this. It’s something we consistently raise. But we’re not in a position to go beyond that readout.

QUESTION: What is the latest on Kai Li case, and do we have consular access?

MR PRICE: We’ll have to get back to you on the question of consular access. But these are cases that we regularly do discuss with our PRC counterparts. These are cases that the embassy in Beijing routinely works on, just in the same way that our embassies around the world work on behalf of American citizens who are wrongfully detained, but when it comes to all instances of Americans who are detained around the world to provide them appropriate consular support in line with the Vienna Convention on consular access.

QUESTION: One last China and Russia and Korea, okay, Chinese issues. There are reports that Russia is pushing to recruit Chinese Russian soldiers to fight Ukraine. If this is true, then China will engage in military cooperation with Russia. How would you assess this? Did you ever hear about this?

MR PRICE: Could you repeat the first part of the question?

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that Russia is pushing to China – I mean Chinese Russian soldiers to fight Ukraine – I mean, this – who are Chinese living in Russia (inaudible).

MR PRICE: Chinese nationals living in Russia who wouldn’t go fight in Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR PRICE: I am not familiar with these reports. With – as I mentioned a moment ago, when it comes to the Secretary’s engagement with Wang Yi on Friday, there was a discussion of Russia and its illegal, unjustified invasion of Ukraine. This, of course, was also a topic of conversation at the UN. We heard from Wang Yi himself in the UN Security Council. Wang Yi, during that setting, made very clear that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be safeguarded, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be abided by, all parties concerned should exercise restraint and avoid words and deeds that aggravate confrontation.

So the test will be whether these words from the PRC are actually implemented. We have made clear, and the Secretary made clear again to his PRC counterpart on Friday, that we are watching very closely. We know that Russia has sought assistance from the PRC. We know early on in this conflict that Russia lodged a request for military assistance. We made that public at the time. We warned both publicly and privately at the time that the PRC would face consequences if it provided security assistance to Russia or if it assisted Russia, in a systematic way, evade sanctions.

We haven’t seen the PRC do either of those. We’re continuing to watch very closely. But again, our message to the PRC has been a simple one: China should not make Russia’s problems China’s problems.

QUESTION: But recently Xi Jinping, Chinese prime – I mean, President Xi Jinping and the Russian President Putin have a meeting together. You never know what they – they’re talking about, what kind of conversation they did. So how you going to trust China and Russia? That’s – their trust is very important.

MR PRICE: We’re not trusting, we’re verifying. We are looking at every single bit of information we have. We have seen nothing as of yet, at least, to indicate that the PRC is taking a different approach when it comes to security assistance, when it comes to efforts to systematically help Russia evade sanctions. But we’re continuing to watch. We know that conversations – including at high levels, as we saw in Samarkand the other week – between the PRC and Russia are ongoing.

What I will say is that if you look at President Putin’s words, if you look at President Xi’s words, if you read Wang Yi’s words, the very words I just referred to, you hear the PRC expressing a degree of unease with what Russia is doing in Ukraine. And that’s really no surprise. It’s no surprise because Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine is not only, as I said at the top, an assault on Ukraine, it is an assault, a brutal assault on the UN Charter, on the UN system, on every member state of the United Nations that subscribes to them.

So it’s no wonder that the PRC is expressing varying degrees of reservations. The real test, though, will be if those apparent reservations, this apparent discomfort with what Russia is doing in Ukraine, will actually contour what the PRC does in its approach.

QUESTION: One more quick. The South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said that yesterday in the event of dispute between China and Taiwan, the possibility of a North Korean provocation would increase. Does the United States wants South Korea to support U.S. defense to Taiwan?

MR PRICE: We have an ironclad alliance with our South Korean partners. It is an alliance that is built not only on shared interests in the Indo-Pacific but also on shared values. And one of the many reasons for our support for the people on Taiwan is the fact that we share values with the people on Taiwan. That is also true of our South Korean allies. So we have a shared interest, together with South Korea, together with our other allies in the region, in upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific. That’s something we routinely discuss and something we routinely act upon.

Yes, Guita.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR PRICE: Sure. Anything else on China?

QUESTION: Russia?

MR PRICE: Let’s – we’ll go to Iran, then we’ll come back to Russia.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you, Ned. Today was the tenth day of continuous protests in Iran. The Biden administration has sanctioned people and in today’s – it has issued the general license for providing technology to Iranian people for communication. But that hasn’t stopped the law enforcement from killing people, and their number is rising. What can the U.S. administration to stop the killing?

MR PRICE: Let me first start by saying that we, of course, condemn the violence, the brutality that is being exhibited by Iran’s security forces. The ongoing violent suppression of what are peaceful protests following Mahsa Amini’s death is appalling. We are aware that security forces have killed dozens of protesters. We believe it is incumbent upon the international community to speak out, to make clear where they stand when it comes to the exercise of what should be universal rights, rights that are – belong to the people of Iran as much as they do to people anywhere and everywhere across the globe. We’re closely following these developments. Iran’s leaders should be listening to the protesters, not firing on them. Unfortunately, this regime is one that has a long history of using violence against those who would peacefully exercise those universal rights.

The United States, whether it is protesters in Iran, whether it is protesters in Russia, whether it is peaceful protesters around the world, we support the rights of these individuals – these Iranians, in this case – to peacefully assemble and to express themselves without fear of violence or detention by security forces. We are going to continue to do a couple things. We, as you know, as you alluded to, are holding to account the so-called morality police, the entity that is responsible for Mahsa Amini’s death. We sanctioned seven other individuals who have been involved in Iran’s repression over the years. And we are doing what we can to enable the people of Iran to exercise those universal rights.

And you mentioned the general license that we issued on Friday. People – countries around the world have an interest in seeing to it that the people of Iran can communicate freely with one another, can communicate freely with the rest of the world. And we all have an interest in knowing about what’s going on inside of Iran, what the brave Iranian people are peacefully doing in response to the tragic death of Mahsa Amini.

QUESTION:  You mentioned the Biden administration urges the international community to speak out. Well, Germany has summoned – today summoned the Iranian ambassador to Berlin and apparently asked him not to suppress the people. But that’s not going to stop the law enforcement. And would – do you think maybe he’s recalling ambassadors from Iran? Would that be a more effective means of Iran’s isolation and maybe rethinking of their policy?

MR PRICE:  This is going to be a sovereign decision on the part of countries around the world. We have encouraged and we do encourage, we are encouraging, countries around the world to lend, of course, rhetorical support to these Iranians who are doing nothing more than exercising peacefully their universal rights. For our part, we have used our own authorities. We have granted a license using a Treasury Department authority. But different countries are going to have different approaches. What is less important to us is that these approaches are identical. What is more important to us is that these approaches are complementary, that they work together to support both the rights and the aspirations of the people of Iran.

QUESTION:  Can I follow up on Iran?

MR PRICE:  Well, Said, you’ve already asked. Let me go over here. Please.

QUESTION:  So not that I question how Mahsa Amini, or Jina Amini, as she was calling herself, died. We’ve spoken to her family members, that they’ve kind of confirmed how she died. But I’m just curious: How did you determine that she was killed by morality police? Because the Iranian Government is trying to float the idea that she died as a result of heart attack, this attack or that – not other issue.

MR PRICE:  There are certain facts of this case that don’t seem to be in dispute. Mahsa Amini was arrested. Mahsa Amini, of course, was alive at the time of her arrest. There is video of her after her arrest. And some time later, she was dead, after spending time in the custody of the so-called morality police. The facts don’t seem that complicated.

QUESTION:  And then on the General License D-2, there are – so the Starlink services that has kind of given a lot of hope to a lot of Iranians. But does the general license, does that also include hardware? Because the terminals and the dishes that requires to use some service like the Starlink, does that also include hardware for – to give to Iran?

MR PRICE:  So the short answer is yes. Both GLD-2, the general license we issued last week, but also GLD-1, the general license that we issued in 2014 under the Obama-Biden administration, includes some forms of hardware. Let me – this is not a simple issue, so let me give you a little bit more context.

GLD-2 expands authorizations for software services, but it does continue to authorize certain hardware, including residential consumer satellite terminals that were already authorized under GLD-1, the general license from 2014. General licenses are self-executing. What that means is that anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions from the U.S. Government.

Now, some types of equipment, including some – including certain commercial uses and worked with – work with sanctioned entities, still require a specific license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, before they can be exported to Iran. But on Friday, OFAC also expanded its policy for issuing case-by-case specific licenses, and now OFAC will prioritize any request for a specific license pertaining to internet freedom in Iran.

So back to your question on Starlink. If SpaceX, in this case, were to determine that some activity aimed at Iranians requires a specific license – again, this would need to be a judgment that SpaceX and its lawyers would come to on their own – OFAC would welcome it and would prioritize it. By the same token, if SpaceX determines that its activity is already authorized – again, owing to the self-executing nature of these general licenses – OFAC would welcome any engagement, including if SpaceX or any other company were to have questions about the applicability of this general license or the 2014 general license to their envisioned activity.

QUESTION: And just quickly, to revisit her question, so more than 30 people have died on the hands of Iranian authorities. Will we see tougher reaction from the U.S. or just that first sanction on the Iranian morality police?

MR PRICE: We’re doing two things. As we were talking about in the context of this general license, we are taking steps that we can to facilitate the ability of the Iranian people to communicate with one another, to communicate with the rest of the world – essentially doing what we can to support the peaceful aspirations of the Iranian people for greater levels of freedom and for the respect of rights that are universal to them.

At the same time, we’re also going – we have held to account and we will continue to hold to account those Iranians who are responsible for acts of violence, for acts of repression against their own people. Of course, the sanctions that we issued on Thursday of last week, the sanctions against morality – so-called morality police and the seven other individuals, those are not the first human rights sanctions we’ve levied against Iran. They will not be the last human rights sanctions we levy against Iran.

Let me move around to people who have not asked questions. Kylie.

QUESTION: So Elon Musk has said in recent days that in order for Starlink to work in Iran, there would have to be a terminal in the country that would enable it to actually be activated, and he said that would require someone smuggling that terminal into the country, which would be challenging because the Iranian Government doesn’t want it there. Does the U.S. support someone smuggling that into the country if you are in a position right now where you are supporting bringing freedom of internet to the Iranians?

MR PRICE: We have – the Treasury Department through the general license has taken steps that, through its self-executing capacity, authorizes additional companies to provide software – in some cases hardware – that would be operational in Iran. Of course, we’re not going to speak to what would be required for any such hardware to get into Iran. It is our charge, it is our responsibility to see to it that there are no restrictions – U.S. Government restrictions – that would prevent relevant software and in some cases hardware from being operational inside of Iran.

QUESTION: But isn’t that action on behalf of Treasury a bit meaningless if they can’t actually get the hardware into the country?

MR PRICE: Again, it is our charge to see to it that the Iranian people have what they need to communicate with one another, to communicate with the rest of the world. Private companies are going to take steps that they deem appropriate, whether it’s the authorization, the use of software inside of Iran, or the provision of hardware to the people of Iran.

QUESTION: And just one more question. Are you encouraging allies of the United States to support this effort, allies that may have diplomats or diplomatic presence in Iran?

MR PRICE: We are supporting countries around the world to do what they can to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for greater freedom, greater respect for human rights.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that, just very briefly?

MR PRICE: Okay.

QUESTION: Our correspondent there an hour or so ago was telling me that there has been no evidence of any internet right now. It’s completely shut down. Have you seen any tangible evidence since Treasury’s announcement on Friday that there is more internet access for people?

MR PRICE: So I couldn’t speak to internet access broadly. What is true is that the Iranian Government has consistently since these protests began cut off or attempted to cut off internet access to large swaths of the Iranian people. By some accounts, the Iranian Government has cut off access for most of its 80 million citizens to prevent them and to prevent the rest of the world from watching the regime’s ongoing violent crackdown against peaceful protesters. And it’s clear from these actions that Iran’s leaders are, in essence, afraid of their own people. And so we are committed to ensuring that the Iranian people can exercise what is, again, a universal right, the universal right to freedom of expression, the universal right to freely access information via the internet, and that’s why we took this step on Friday.

There is reason to believe that companies are taking action pursuant to the general license that was issued on Thursday of last week. We do encourage companies that have questions as to whether their software or whether their capabilities are authorized under this general license to reach out to OFAC, and again, even if this general license doesn’t authorize the specific piece of software or hardware that a company may have in mind, OFAC, as a result of action we took last week, will prioritize a review of specific license. And that is for a very simple reason: We want to do everything we possibly can to support the Iranian people’s exercise of their universal right.

QUESTION: Ned, I – one on this issue. How do you expect this tragic incident to impact the talks, Vienna talks on going back to the deal or not going back to the deal? I mean, does the incident such as the – you, in this case – of going back so quickly or, let’s say, in a short period of time, considering that there’s so much, apparently, opposition to the government in Iran? How do you factor that into it?

MR PRICE: This does – this in no way changes our determination to see to it that Iran can – is permanently and verifiably barred from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It is, of course, a fact, as we’ve made clear, that these negotiations are not in a healthy place right now. We’ve made clear that while we have been sincere and steadfast in our efforts to see to it that Iran is once again permanently and verifiably barred from a nuclear weapon, we haven’t seen the Iranians make the decision, the Iranian Government make the decision that it would need to make if it were to commit to a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

But the simple fact remains that every single challenge we face with the Iranian Government would become more difficult, in some ways more intractable, if Iran were in the possession of a nuclear weapon. We think about that not only in terms of Iran’s ballistic missile program, not only in terms of its support for terrorist groups and proxies, not only in terms of its support in malign activity in cyberspace, but also for the types of human rights abuses that we’re talking about now. Every single challenge we face would become more difficult if Iran were to be in possession of one.

Yes.

QUESTION: The Iranian foreign minister said, I guess on Sunday, that U.S. is still reaching out, saying that we have goodwills, we have good faith, and we want to tailor a deal. Can you confirm that comment?

MR PRICE: Like I said a moment ago, we are determined – the President has a commitment to see to it that Iran can never and will never acquire a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Have you sent any messages in the last 10 days?

MR PRICE: Look, we have made very clear to Iran that we have certain requirements, and we are not going to accept a bad deal. As you heard the Secretary say last night, Iran responded to the most recent proposal in such a way that did not put us in a position to close the deal but actually moved us backwards somewhat. I’m not aware of any further back-and-forth with the EU from Iran. As of now, based on Iran’s positions which it reaffirmed very publicly in New York this week, we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.

QUESTION: And do you see any urgency to change your policy towards Iran? There are so many different op-eds being published in recent days urging Biden to change its Iran policy at the moment with what is going on inside Iran. Do you see any urgency to change your policy towards Iran?

MR PRICE: Our policy when it comes to the protests that are ongoing inside Iran?

QUESTION: Protests and also the nuclear.

MR PRICE: Well, these are, of course, separate issues. When it comes to —

QUESTION: Maybe not for Iranian people.

MR PRICE: When it comes to the Iranian people and when it comes to the protests, of course we’re taking action and we have taken action in response to the peaceful protests. We’ve talked – we’ve already spoken to two of those steps, the issuance of the general license and the levying of sanctions against the so-called morality police and the seven individuals. We are going to continue to take steps both on that path towards accountability and to continue to look at steps that would facilitate the Iranian people exercising what are universal rights.

Right now, when it comes to the nuclear path, there doesn’t seem to be a near-term path ahead for us. We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best option to see to it that Iran is never in possession of a nuclear weapon. And we are going to pursue the path of a potential mutual return to the JCPOA for as long as it’s in our national interest but only for as long as it’s in our national interest.

QUESTION: But Ned, I think the point is – is that if you go ahead and get a deal, you’re going to be giving or Iran is going to be getting hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, in both sanctions relief plus oil revenue. It’s not like they’re going to be using that money to plant flowers around downtown Tehran. Some of that money is going to be – go to further repress the Iranian people, the kind of things that you’re seeing right now. So I guess the question is – her – or another way to phrase that question is, are you okay with that? Are you okay with giving them that massive amount of sanctions relief and allowing them to sell their oil on the open market when you know that some of that money is going to be used to commit human rights abuses?

MR PRICE: Two things, Matt. If – and this is a big if right now – if there is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, it would remove what would be the most dangerous elements of an Iranian regime into – for perpetuity.

QUESTION: I get that, but you keep saying if. But you also at the same time say that you still believe it is in the U.S. national interest to get a deal.

MR PRICE: As of —

QUESTION: As of today, right?

MR PRICE: As of right now.

QUESTION: So that – that suggests the administration is okay with getting a deal even if it gives them billions potentially of – billions of dollars that they can use to further repress their own people.

MR PRICE: So the first point was the big if associated with a mutual return to compliance, but we remain committed and President Biden has personally made a commitment that Iran will never possess a nuclear weapon. We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that. If we find ourselves in a position to return to the JCPOA, that does not remove from our arsenal a single tool when it comes to holding Iran accountable for the types of things that we’re talking about now.

QUESTION: But it gives them hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in cash.

MR PRICE: And we would – the sanctions relief, the limited sanctions relief that would come with a mutual return to compliance on Iran’s nuclear program, of course, would be accompanied by the same set of policy options that we have today to take action to hold accountable actors and entities who engage in the very human rights abuses that we’re seeing in the absence of a nuclear deal.

QUESTION: So you’re suggesting that there could be a net zero for Iran if they – if you agree to a deal that you would give them this relief and then take it all back again under the – under the human rights rubric?

MR PRICE: We’re talking about a hypothetical. We’re talking about a hypothetical that —

QUESTION: Or their support for terrorism rubric?

MR PRICE: — is under the umbrella of another hypothetical, so I’m – I’m loathe to continue too far down this path.

QUESTION: Well, but it just seems like you’re willing to make that tradeoff, that you’re willing to give in exchange for a deal, which may or may not work for however long it would last for, but in exchange for that you’re willing to give them all this money, which you know they will use at least some of to further repress these people, to further support their proxies in Yemen and Syria and elsewhere. That’s correct?

MR PRICE: Matt, what is correct is that we have a commitment that Iran will never be in a position to acquire a nuclear weapon. We are going to abide by – we are going to see that commitment carried out. Our preference, our strong preference of course, is to do that diplomatically. If there’s not a deal, we have tools on the table to respond to Iran’s repression. That, by the way, is taking place in a context that is in the absence of a deal. And if there is a deal, if Iran changes course and agrees to the terms that the United States and our European allies are comfortable with, that won’t remove a single tool that we have to respond to Iran’s repression, to respond to its corporate proxies, to respond for its support for terrorist groups.

The simple point is the one I’ve already made. If Iran is in possession of a nuclear weapon or is not permanently and verifiably barred from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, Iran would and potentially could benefit from a sense of impunity that would come with that – come with that to act even more boldly on – both at home and on the world stage. It is not like Iran is a benevolent actor in the absence of a deal, and there are many data points to suggest that from the period at which the last administration left the JCPOA, at a time when Iran was complying with it, through the period of so-called maximum pressure, Iran’s behavior in the region, its actions against our partners, the potential targeting even of American facilities and personnel – it didn’t become more docile. It became more aggressive, and for our interests it became deadlier.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) – the suppression of people was always there, with JCPOA or without JCPOA. The suppression of people inside Iran was always there. It doesn’t matter if you had a nuclear deal or not.

I want to ask you this, and I want you to please be very clear. Which one is more within your national interest – supporting Iranian people, to be more precise brave Iranian women, or reaching a nuclear deal with Iran? Which one is within your national interest more?

MR PRICE: Both are a national interest of ours. These are core to our interests and to our values. So of course, we are committed, President Biden is committed, to seeing to it that Iran is never in possession of a nuclear weapon. The JCPOA is one diplomatic means by which to achieve that. But we’re also committed to the idea that human rights are at the center of our foreign policy, and you’ve seen us illustrate that. You’ve seen us live up to that even in recent days when it comes to Iran – taking action against the so-called morality police, against individuals, providing the general license, the other steps that we have taken to support the universal rights of the Iranian people. And these are steps that we’ve taken around the world to support the peaceful exercise of universal rights in countries around the world.

Yes, Alex.

QUESTION: I think what we are trying to figure out here is that when you speak to any Iranian activist, they will tell you hey, each time we go out to streets to challenge our leadership, the U.S. supports us, but then U.S. turns behind our back and starts talking to the very regime that actually we question its legitimacy – so that you can’t have both when Iranian people are out there and trying to overthrow the regime.

MR PRICE: Well, to be very clear, the protests that we’re seeing aren’t about the United States. They’re not about us. These protests are about the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people to exercise peacefully the rights that are as much theirs as they are anywhere else. We think all people’s basic rights should be respected. Of course that includes inside Iran. We think that all people should be able to peacefully protest when their basic and universal rights are violated. That includes Iran. We are helping people around the world, including in Iran, access personal telecommunications technology. This, of course, is not a regime change policy. If any government, including the government in Iran, thinks that this is or amounts to a regime change policy, it poses some pretty difficult questions to them about the nature of their regime and why they would fear their own people.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. So you just announced today, before this meeting – before this briefing – that the United States is designating Diana Kajmakovic, a state prosecutor in the Bosnia and Herzegovina – she’s in the state prosecutor’s office. What can you tell us about this case, and can you expect more sanctions in the other countries of the Western Balkans?

MR PRICE: So one of our goals when it comes to the Western Balkans is working with governments and working with people of the region to target and to take out and to root out corruption. And sanctions are one important tool to do that. We did announce and Treasury did announce sanctions this morning on a state prosecutor general who had engaged in acts of corruption. We provided information in that statement. Treasury may have additional information regarding the basis for that designation. And sanctions will remain an important tool – one important tool, not the only important tool, but one important tool – when it comes to the region and it comes to our goal, the goal that we share with governments and people in the region of rooting out corruption.

QUESTION: Just one more on the Western Balkans. I have interviewed last week the Prime Minister of Montenegro Dritan Abazović, and he called on U.S. to help Western Balkans against influence of Russia and China in the region. So what has been your assessment of those influences in the Western Balkans, and what specifically – which steps can you take in order to counter that influence?

MR PRICE: Well, it’s no question that the Western Balkans is a dynamic region that is attractive to countries around the world. Of course, it’s attractive for different reasons to both the PRC and Russia. We believe – and this is the point that we’ve made both publicly and in our private engagements with countries in the Western Balkans – that our shared interests and our shared values form the predicate for a relationship that in many ways is unique and distinct from the visions of a relationship that Russia or the PRC would have for the region. So whether it is development, whether it is security, whether it’s economics, whether it is humanitarian assistance, we have made very clear our desire to be a partner to the countries of the Western Balkans and to have both implicitly – and in some cases, explicitly – also been very clear about what – the partnership that we bring is distinct from the relationship that countries like the two you mentioned would seek to have in the region.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Thank you. Switch topics very quickly: We heard the President last week, the President of the United States, President Biden, call for a two-state solution. We heard the Israeli prime minister call for the two-state solution and so on. So what is the holdup? I mean, why can’t we – I’m not getting any younger, so what is the holdup? Why can we get this process going, perhaps by maybe U.S. sponsoring some sort of a negotiation between the two?

MR PRICE: Said, in some ways, if only there were a holdup. This is not something that can be dictated by any one country, by any one entity, not by the United States, not by anyone else. The conditions have to be right for Israelis and Palestinians to sit together and to make progress on the very complex and controversial issues that are at the core of a two-state solution. So just as you and I have discussed many times, it is our charge in the intervening period to try to set the stage, to try to set the conditions, the conditions for when making actual progress would be in the offing.

We have re-engaged with the Palestinian Authority, we have re-engaged with the Palestinian people just within recent days. We have announced additional funding for UNRWA. The United States is now once again engaged in the region. We’re of course also deeply engaged with our Israeli partners as well. But you’ve heard us say many times that the time isn’t right, doesn’t appear to be right for the parties to actually make progress.

QUESTION: But – I mean, this is the point. Why isn’t it right? I mean, no issue has been so negotiated over so many decades with every little detail, and basically everybody knows what the outcome ought to look like. You all agree there is a territory occupied. I mean, you began by saying country after country condemned the Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine, and so on. Well, country after country has condemned the Israeli occupation of parts of Syria, parts of the Palestinian territories, and parts of Lebanon and so on. So everybody really knows what’s going on. I mean, what is the hold-up? Why can’t we get this – instead of kicking the can down the road, take the initiative and say, well, this is it? Or for the United States perhaps to say, this is how I envision this two-state solution ought to look like.

MR PRICE: Said, I don’t think any of us are under any illusions that the United States taking this matter into our own hands in a unilateral way and presenting it as a fait accompli or something along those lines would be – would in any way further the cause of a two-state solution, would further the cause for peace – lasting, negotiated peace – between Israelis and Palestinians. We want to see a two-state solution. Equally, we don’t want to do anything that would aggravate tensions that would make achieving a two-state solution all the more difficult.

So in this intervening period, it’s our task to do what we can to little by little fulfill what is our overriding policy goal, to see to it that Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal measures of security, of stability, of prosperity, of opportunity, and of dignity. And that’s something that can’t take place overnight, but it is something that we have worked on since the earliest days of this administration and it’s something that we’ll continue to work on going forward.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah. And to follow up on Iran. So you said that the protests in Iran are not about us and it’s not related to JCPOA, but now the United States is part of the protests because you have sanctioned several officials and institutions; also, a U.S. company is providing Starlink and you encouraged U.S. companies to provide hardware, software to the area for communications. So can you promise the people of Iran who are on streets now that even if you reach an agreement with Iran on JCPOA, you will continue your support to these people and you will continue to sanction Iranian institution and officials?

MR PRICE: Absolutely, 100 percent. These protests are not about us, as I said before. They are about the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people. The Iranian people know these are not about us. They know that they are peacefully taking to the streets because they saw what happened to Mahsa Amini. They have seen years, they have seen decades of mismanagement, of corruption, of repression, of human rights abuses.

No one would like this – like these protests to be about us more than the Iranian regime. What frightens, I think, the Iranian regime more than anything is the knowledge that these are the organic expressions of the legitimate aspirations of their own people. Only the Iranian regime can fully satisfy their aspirations, but we will continue to do everything we can to support the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people to exercise rights that are as universal to them as they are to people anywhere and everywhere.

QUESTION: And a separate topic, sorry.

MR PRICE: Yeah.

QUESTION: Greece has recently deployed tens of armored vehicles and tanks to the islands of non-military status just close to Turkish mainland. And are you – aren’t you concerned that these tensions or escalations provoked by Greece is actually mounting?

MR PRICE: Our basic premise is that at a time when Russia has once again invaded a sovereign state and the transatlantic community and the international community is standing with the people of Ukraine and against Russian aggression, now is not the time for statements or any actions that could raise tensions between NATO Allies. We continue to encourage our NATO Allies to work together to maintain peace and security in the region and to resolve any differences they may have diplomatically.

QUESTION: But on this, can you tell us if these islands are – belong to Greece or to Turkey?

MR PRICE: Again, it is – we are encouraging our NATO Allies to resolve any disagreements they may have diplomatically. We think —

QUESTION: But what is the U.S. position on this?

MR PRICE: We think we should remain focused on what is a collective threat to all of us, and that’s Russia’s aggression.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. I have a question about Ethiopia. First one is millions of Ethiopians believe that the Biden administration blocks the economic opportunity for many Ethiopian workers when the Biden administration decided to terminate the African Opportunity Act – which is known as AGOA – trade preference program for Ethiopia. The suspension of Ethiopia from AGOA harms many hardworking Ethiopians. If the United States supports Ethiopians with economic opportunity, which Secretary Blinken said many times, does the U.S. administration plans to reinstate Ethiopia’s eligibility to AGOA?

MR PRICE: So AGOA, or the African Growth and Opportunity Act, as the name suggests, is a piece of legislation. It is – because it is legislation, it is written into law the criteria under which any country is eligible for AGOA and the requirements that any country – in this case in Africa – must meet in order to remain a part of AGOA. We did determine late last year that Ethiopia, given the statutory language written into law passed by Congress, was no longer – was not eligible for AGOA, but of course we want to see to it that the conditions that led to that suspension are reversed. We would love to be able to re-engage with Ethiopia under AGOA knowing the tremendous economic opportunity that it has brought not only to Ethiopia in the past but to other parts of the continent as well.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question: As you know, you have been talk many times about the conflict in Ethiopia. When the Ethiopian military entered the Tigray region, the State Department repeatedly demanded that the Ethiopian Government withdraw its troops from the Tigray region. But when the TPLF forces entered Amhara and Afar region, the State Department – instead of demanding the TPLF to withdraw its forces from Amhara and Afar region, the State Department demanded that both parties need to find a peaceful solution. And once again most Ethiopians believe that the United States supports TPLF and ask why does the United States support TPLF. What is your response to the Ethiopian people who say that the United States supports TPLF?

MR PRICE: We support the cause of peace. We support stability and security for the people of Ethiopia. Our message has been a simple one. We’ve called on the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray regional authorities to immediately halt their military offensives and to pursue a negotiated settlement through peace talks under the auspices of the African Union. We have worked very closely with the African Union, with other partners on the continent to engage in that process of diplomacy.

We’ve also been very clear with Eritrea and Eritrean authorities that they must withdraw to their borders immediately and for Eritrea and others to cease fueling the conflict. We’re deeply concerned by the human rights abuses that this conflict has brought about. We know, again alluding to your question, the opportunity that – for the people of Ethiopia that would come with and for a while that did come with a negotiated truce and a negotiated ceasefire are tremendous. We are doing everything we can to see to it that the African Union through its diplomatic efforts is successful in bringing a halt to the violence, which in turn would allow humanitarian access to parts of northern Ethiopia and once again bring levels of opportunity for all of the people of Ethiopia.

Yes.

QUESTION: Is there a draft agreement ready to be delivered this week to Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border?

MR PRICE: I don’t have any updates to offer you on our diplomacy when it comes to Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border. You know that the Secretary met with Prime Minister Mikati of Lebanon last week. Amos Hochstein was also in New York last week, where he held engagements with Israeli and Lebanese officials. We’ve stressed in all of our engagements the need to conclude a maritime agreement to ensure stability and to help support Lebanon’s economy. We are working as diligently as we can to narrow the divide and to continue the progress that we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Move – yeah, Simon.

QUESTION: Yeah, since the Secretary is meeting the foreign minister of Pakistan today, a couple of questions about that. In the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the Secretary was in Congress, and he was asked about U.S. relations with Pakistan and particularly the question of whether Pakistan offered support to the Taliban during the – obviously the 20-year war there. And the Secretary said that’s something we’re looking at. We’re – in the coming days, weeks, and months, I think he said, we’re going to look at that and look at the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. So I wonder whatever came of that sort of review within the State Department or within the administration on whether Pakistan was aiding the Taliban and what response you’ve had to that in terms of your relationship.

And just additional to that, since the Secretary is also meeting foreign minister of India later, Foreign Minister Jaishankar said in a speech yesterday – was – well, it was very critical of the U.S. money to the F-16 program in Pakistan and raising the same – similar questions, I guess, over what benefit the U.S. has had – what are the merits of its relationship with Pakistan? So I wonder if you could respond to that as well.

MR PRICE: It would be difficult for me to attempt to summarize 20 years of U.S.-Pakistani relationships – relations between 2001 and 2021. I suppose what I would say broadly, of course, is that Pakistan was not a monolith during that time. We saw different governments, and we saw with the passage of years different approaches to the Taliban and to Afghanistan at the time.

Now, we recognize this government – which, by the way, came into office following the fall of the government in Kabul last year – but we recognize and one of the many reasons we’re meeting with Pakistan is because of the shared security interests that we do have. It is neither in our interests nor in Pakistan’s interest to see instability, to see violence in Afghanistan. So as the Secretary meets with Foreign Minister Zardari today, I would imagine that security and shared security interests will be high on the agenda, as will humanitarian concerns.

And, of course, the United States has been intently focused on the devastation that has resulted and the loss of life that has been – that has resulted from the torrential floods that have devasted large areas of Pakistan. We have provided tens of millions of dollars in relief for these floods. The Secretary today will have additional details on further U.S. assistance for the Pakistani people in light of this humanitarian emergency that Pakistanis are facing.

Remind me of the second part of your question?

QUESTION: And Foreign Minister Jaishankar’s comments basically calling on the U.S. to review its relationship with Pakistan and criticizing the fact that you recently authorized funds, I think $450 million, for the F-16 program.

MR PRICE: Well, we don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and on the other hand we don’t view our relationship with India as in relation to one another. These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each, and we look to both as partners because we do have in many cases shared values, we do have in many cases shared interests. And the relationship we have with India stands on its own; the relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own. We also want to do everything we can to see to it that these neighbors have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible. And so that’s another point of emphasis. (Inaudible).

QUESTION: Specifically, on – yes, I get your point on there being a new government. But it’s the Pakistani military, the establishment there, was sort of what the Secretary was being asked about last year. So was there a review of – and specifically, I guess, not just over the 20 years but in the – in the last phase of the war, did Pakistan aid the Taliban in a way that allowed them to come into Kabul? Was that something that was reviewed? Was there a conclusion? Did it have any impact on the relations?

MR PRICE: When it comes to security partners of ours, we’re always taking a close look at their actions, at their activities. I’m not in a position to detail for you precisely what we found, but the bottom line, as I believe the Secretary said at the time and it remains true now, is that it was not in Pakistan’s interest to see instability and violence in Afghanistan. It is not in Pakistan’s interest to see instability and violence in Afghanistan.

The support for the people of Afghanistan is something we discuss regularly with our Pakistani partners – our efforts to improve the lives and livelihoods, the humanitarian conditions of the Afghan people, and to see to it that the Taliban live up to the commitments that they have made.

And of course, Pakistan is implicated in many of these same commitments – the counterterrorism commitments, commitments to safe passage, commitments to the citizens of Afghanistan. The unwillingness or the inability on the part of the Taliban to live up to these commitments would have significant implications for Pakistan as well, and so for that reason we do share a number of interests with Pakistan regarding its neighbor.

Yes.

QUESTION: Hi.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I have a question on – about the last election in Italy, in our country yesterday. What do you expect from the next Italian government after this election, and do you share the alarm for democracy in Italy after this election?

MR PRICE: Well, the next Italian government hasn’t been formed, so it is not my place to speak to any future government in Italy. But of course, Italy and the United States are close allies, we’re partners, we’re friends. Last year, if I recall, we celebrated 160 years of diplomatic relations. Secretary Blinken’s Italian counterpart was the first in-person bilateral engagement we had here at the department. He and Secretary Blinken wrote an op-ed together on the occasion of our 160 years of diplomatic relations heralding our commitment over the course of decades for human rights and the values that we share in the world.

The fact is that we stand ready and eager to work with any Italian government that emerges from the electoral process to advance our many shared goals and interests. And when it comes to that cooperation, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a word about outgoing Prime Minister Draghi. We thank him for his strong, for his visionary leadership through a critical time in Italian, in European, in world history – again, as well as his dedication to the values that our countries have shared for decades now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PRICE: Okay, okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks much. Ned, on Armenia-Azerbaijan, you were in the room when the Secretary met with foreign ministers last week. What was your sense in the room? Are the sides genuinely interested in peacemaking process?

MR PRICE: I will let the two sides speak to their attitudes. It was important for us and for the Secretary in particular to bring the two sides together. Of course, the Secretary had had conversations with the two leaders, but this was the first face-to-face meeting that the two foreign ministers had since the latest outbreak of violence.

The Secretary noted to both leaders the importance of maintaining the ceasefire, of maintaining the calm, said – noted that we’re dedicated to a sustainable ceasefire and to a peaceful resolution. We made clear to both foreign ministers that the United States stands ready to support – to support this bilaterally, multilaterally, together with partners. This includes our support for efforts by EU Council President Charles Michel bring the leaders together.

They during the course of that meeting discussed the best path forward, and the Secretary suggested the sides share ideas for how to meaningfully advance the peace process before the end of the month.

Our message has been consistent for some time. We call on Azerbaijan to return troops to their initial positions. We urge disengagement of military forces and work to resolve all outstanding issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan through peaceful negotiations. The use of force is not an acceptable path. We’ve made that clear privately. We’ve also made that clear publicly, and we’re glad that our continued engagement, including at high levels, including last week in New York, with both countries has helped to halt the hostilities, and we’ll continue to engage and encourage the work needed to reach a lasting peace because there can be and there is no military solution to this conflict.

QUESTION: The Secretary urged them to meet again before the end of the month. Do you have any particular venue and date in your mind?

MR PRICE: This will be up to the two countries to decide, but we do think that continued engagement directly between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not only in their interests, it’s in the interests of the region and beyond. We have offered to be of assistance, again, bilaterally, trilaterally, multilaterally, and of course the EU is playing an important role as well.

QUESTION: The Azeri president’s advisor is in town, and in fact he met with Assistant Secretary Donfried this morning. Do you have any readout, or is it part of the process that you guys are putting together?

MR PRICE: We are in regular contact with both Armenian and Azeri officials. That will continue.

QUESTION: The experts say that the U.S. suggests – urging or encouraging the sides meeting again suggests that U.S. now has no plan to move the process forward. Do you have —

MR PRICE: Again, as we’ve discussed in other contexts, the United States is not and cannot be in a position to submit a plan as a fait accompli. Our task is to bring the sides together, to facilitate dialogue, to help the sides together work through differences, to work through disagreements peacefully and diplomatically. That’s what last week was about. That’s what our continued engagement is about.

Final question in the back.

QUESTION: Yes. Can you take a question – and you can answer me later or tomorrow – about the Greek islands? Because I see a note here from your press office saying, quote: the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and protected. Greece has sovereignty over these islands; it’s not a question. Can you take my question and answer me tomorrow?

MR PRICE: I’ll see if we have any more details to provide you then.

QUESTION: Please.

MR PRICE: All right.

QUESTION: Ned, can I have last question, please? Thank you. On North Korea. As you know, North Korea fired ballistic missiles into the east sea yesterday. Can you presume that there is a possibility of North Korea’s further provocation, such as (inaudible) or seventh nuclear test?

MR PRICE: We’ve spoken of North Korea’s pattern of provocations in recent months. We’ve warned repeatedly that North Korea could well conduct another nuclear test, its seventh nuclear test, with no warning. We’ve seen North Korea test ICBMs, shorter-range systems as well. None of these provocations have or will change our essential orientation – that is, our stalwart commitment to the defense of the ROK and Japan, our treaty allies. Of course, the Vice President is in the region now to represent the United States at the funeral of Prime Minister Abe. She’ll travel to the ROK as well to show our support for our treaty allies.

We have made clear together with our allies in the region that we are prepared for meaningful dialogue, meaningful diplomacy to help advance the prospects for a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This offer of dialogue and diplomacy has, at least so far, been met only with additional provocations. North Korea tends to go through – the DPRK tends to go through periods of provocation, periods of engagement. It’s very clear that we’re in a period of provocation now. We are going to continue to work with our treaty allies to enhance their defense and their deterrence and to be ready if and when North Korea – the DPRK, excuse me – is ready to engage in diplomacy.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Designation of a Person in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Corruption and Undermining Democratic Institutions and Processes

26 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States is designating Diana Kajmakovic, a state prosecutor in the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) State Prosecutor’s Office, for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption related to the Western Balkans as well as for being responsible for, complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the Western Balkans. Her abuse of her position as a state prosecutor to assist criminals, including drug traffickers, in avoiding justice is emblematic of the endemic corruption in BiH’s public institutions and representative of a system in which people in power put their own personal and political gain before the needs of citizens.

The United States’ Western Balkans sanctions program targets individuals and entities that undermine or threaten the postwar agreements and institutions established as part of the hard-won peace and Dayton Peace Agreement. BiH is facing its most serious political crisis since 1995, constrained by ethno-nationalist political parties that exploit patronage networks to retain power and wealth. Moreover, the country’s justice system is increasingly captured by, and under the control of, political parties and their patronage networks.

The United States will continue to use all authorities at its disposal to promote accountability for those who engage in corrupt activities or undermine BiH’s democratic processes and institutions.

For more information on today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.

Welcoming the Release of Political Prisoners in Belarus

26 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States welcomes the release of several political prisoners in Belarus including Aleh Hurzdzilovich, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist.

While the release of these political prisoners is a step in the right direction, too many political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus.  We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

The Moscow Mechanism Report on Russia’s Failure to Fulfill its Human Dimension Commitments

22 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States and 37 other countries invoked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism on July 28 to examine the Russia’s adherence to its OSCE Human Dimension commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In the report released today in Vienna, the expert mission found that a decade of legislation in Russia “has completely changed the scope of Russian civil society, cutting it off from foreign and international partners, suppressing independent initiatives, stifling critical attitudes towards the authorities, silencing the media, and suppressing political opposition.”

Specifically, this report documents that the Kremlin has centralized all federal and regional law enforcement authorities under Kremlin control; used so-called “foreign agent” laws to impose draconian penalties and fines on individuals and civil society organizations with any foreign contacts; effectively silenced freedom of expression, including independent media and criticism of the government through harsh censorship laws; and “created a climate of fear and intimidation…that is not in line with OSCE standards based on pluralism and a strong and independent civil society.”  The report also makes clear that Russia’s “(r)epression on the inside and war on the outside are connected to each other as if in a communicating tube.”

The United States and our Allies and partners will continue to hold Russia accountable for its sweeping failure to fulfill its OSCE commitments and obligations under international law to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states.

Lifting of Defense Trade Restrictions on the Republic of Cyprus for Fiscal Year 2023

17 Sep

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken determined and certified to Congress that the Republic of Cyprus has met the necessary conditions under relevant legislation to allow the approval of exports, re-exports, and transfers of defense articles to the Republic of Cyprus for fiscal year 2023. Compliance with the conditions is assessed on an annual basis. As a result of this determination and certification, the Secretary lifted the defense trade restrictions for the Republic of Cyprus for fiscal year 2023. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations will be amended to reflect the new policy, effective October 1, 2022.

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 and the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 require that the policy of denial for exports, re-exports, or transfers of defense articles on the United States Munitions List to the Republic of Cyprus remain in place unless the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees not less than annually that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus is continuing to cooperate with the United States government in efforts to implement reforms on anti-money laundering regulations and financial regulatory oversight, and that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has made and is continuing to take the steps necessary to deny Russian military vessels access to ports for refueling and servicing. In accordance with both Acts, the Department reviews compliance with the Acts annually.